BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 1:10, Eerie-Ass Days
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Anne makes a personal request that Jacob cannot deny, which sends Legacy flying into hazard. Now, they must find a way to get onto Hera, which is under Alliance blockade, and escape with a priceless cargo.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1723    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Well, this chapter turned out to be a far sight longer than I expected it to be. As well, it turned out to have taken a lot longer to release, much to the chagrin of my four or five regular readers :-) Well, the familiar faces keep popping up. I intended this to be Anne's little bit of story, but other's kept walking her down, so I figure; eh, they still got a corpse on board and Anne's still at the helm, she can do her bit next episode. Might want to keep the kiddies away, cause the language gets a bit more colorful (in both English and otherwise) than it has in the past. No F@#% words though. Can do perfectly well without them All your Firefly are belong to Joss GIVE ME GORRAM FEEDBACK, YE PANTYWAIST IDJITS! Translations: Woh xi wang xian gui di nen ya (I will @@@@ing shoot you) gah ni niang (Mother@@@@er) sha gua (Retard)

Eerie-Ass Days

Somewhere on Legacy, someone was crying. Jacob sat in the pilot's seat, staring over the little models Anne had accumulated over the last few months, past the bulkheads and the cockpit itself. He stared off into the black, wondering what he was becoming. Wondering if he was losing his mind. He'd almost killed a man. He'd tried to killed a man. His hands shook and twitched on his knee as he thought about the instant decisions he'd made. Once, the bullet tore through the innards of a man named Billy, leaving him screaming on the ground. Once, the bullet burst through the sternum of a man named Kurt Cogley. One lived. One died. He regretted neither. And that was what worried him. Jacob's eye was dry. Early paced around the common area, fingers poking through the holes in his old shirt. He looked back on his life, and he wondered why everything had to go so badly. He didn't know who he was. He'd lost his job, which had dominated his life in a quite pleasant fashion. When he lost bounty hunting, he was stranded without purpose. Like his room once he left it. Empty. Early's eyes were dry. Zane flipped through some pages as he referred between a pamphlet and a thick tome. He'd never learned a word of Mandarin in all his life. Niether his father nor his mother knew how to speak it, and since he'd never seen the inside of a schoolroom until he was eighteen, he didn't exactly have much of a chance to pick it up. Again, a symbol caught his eye that he couldn't decipher, and he had to flip through the massive tome again, looking for its meaning. He uttered some poorly pronounced curses in Mandarin and began scanning the pages. Zane's eyes were dry. Sylvia was awash with them. All of them. She could feel Zane's frustration. She could feel Early's indecision. She could feel Jacob's doubt. She felt everything now. She couldn't not. And there was that one who cried. Sylvia felt her even now, although she couldn't understand why. She didn't have the context. Didn't have the prerequisites. The ship hummed wonderously, a heartbeat against the Black. The Black had its own beat, she'd come to realize. Only nobody ever noticed it, cause it was subtle. Quiet. She sat in the center of the cargo bay. Surrounded by light, for it was just short of noon, by the ship's clocks, but it felt like she was being obscured. Since she'd started looking, she'd found a number of spots like that corner. She was giving this one a spin as she felt through the somewhat more orderly deluge of emotion and rogue thought as it deflected through the ship. She was very afraid of what was happening to her, but she knew she wouldn't have to face it alone. Sylvia's eyes were dry. Anne stared at the screen, watching as the words slid slowly across it one more time. She'd been afraid of this news for years. The fear had become so deeply ingrained in her that she didn't even really register it any more, but it still was a horrible thing when it finally came. She'd been rather close with her brother, and he'd always looked out for her. He'd comforted her when their father died, even worked so the family wouldn't have to starve. He'd worked in the mines since he was fourteen, and he'd put food on the table. Then he caught Bowden's. Everybody got it, working in Ezra's infamous mines. When Anne joined Niska's crews and her mother died, he tried to raise his own family, but the disease got the better of him. With the Pascelin no longer keeping Bowden's Malady at bay, his condition deteriorated at a rapid pace. He'd made a valiant effort to get medical help on Hera. That's where the Wave came from. Hera. James was dead. And he was trapped, so far from his wife and loved ones. Anne's eyes were not dry. Alone in her room, she wept for her brother. <> Jacob grunted as he came awake. It had taken him a long time to sort himself even to the point where he could crawl back into his bed and go to sleep. Understandably, he woke up feeling liked he'd been delivered a right beating with a stout club. He shook off the cobwebs that had taken lodging in his brain, and went to the sink. He looked at his chin. He was either going to have to shave, or just gorram grow a beard. He decided to shave. When he laid his razor down and toweled off his face, he looked at himself again. Was he a killer? What was he? At least he could still do this; at least he could still look at himself without cringing. This part of his new daily ritual completed, he pulled on a fresh shirt and made his way to the ladder, his suspenders still dangling about his knees. With a heavy head, he hauled himself up into the corridor. "Show me that beautiful blue sky!" he declared as he hauled himself into the corridor. His declaration was followed by a stunned moment as he stared out the front of the cockpit to find it still black and filled with stars. "Ain't exactly blue, boss," Zane said from the kitchen. "Kinda... What's that word? Black?" "Bi zway, Zane," Jacob said, not even registering that the mechanic didn't know what he said. He stormed into the cockpit. "Anne," he asked. "Where the hell is Boros? Why aren't we on Boros? Did we miss Boros?" Anne gave him a level look. He continued. "Did I oversleep and miss the part where we sold our cargo? Was I comatose? Should I go talk to Friday about possible brain damage?" "Jacob," Anne said. "Shuh muh?" Jacob responded. "Shut up," she said simply, before returning her attention to space. He leaned down next to her, pushing aside a model Bumblebee for a place to set his hand. Anne gave him one of those patented female looks. "Really, Anne," Jacob said. "Where are we?" She locked the controls and stood. He rose with her. "Captain," she said. "We need to have a talk." Which is how he found himself sitting at the table in the kitchen, the entire crew arranged around it as they would. Even Early had made a showing. They all waited in patience and silence as Anne spoke her piece, her intentions, and her plan. "I just need to know if you all are willing to do this," she finally said. "Well," Early said. "It's a good plan," Anne smiled a bit, "'cept for the part where it's entirely insane, ill-advised and foolhardy." Anne glared at him. "How do you figure it?" she demanded. "How about the first part, where we punch through the Alliance blockade to gorram reach Hera?" Zane offered. "They ain't exactly lettin' most get in there." "Of course," Sylvia picked up, "getting off of Hera will make getting onto it look like a cakewalk. They're even less friendly to them trying to escape." "Then there's that part where if we set foot on Ezra," Jacob filled in, "our old benefactor Adelai Niska will fricassee my testicles and eat them with mashed potatoes." "He wouldn't?" Early asked. "Oh, you'd better believe he would," Jacob said. He then turned to Anne. "Is there any particular reason you thought your choice in destination was better than mine? You mentioned cargo. What could possibly be that important that it's worth me getting tortured and/or killed three individual times?" Anne rose from her seat and paced around the room. After she'd completed a full circuit, she gripped the back of the chair and leaned foward. "It's a body." Friday scowled. "A body? As in, a corpse?" "James, my brother," she said. "He died a few days ago on Hera, and his family is on Ezra. They deserve to have his remains to bury." Jacob looked her in the eye. "I'm sorry, Anne, but as your captain, I can't do this. Too much risk, zero reward." She nodded. "Then I won't ask you as your pilot." Jacob swallowed. He moved to the door, watching as a particular speck through the nose of the craft grew ever so slowly. He felt her hand on his back. "How can I ever say no to you?" he asked. Early shook his head. "While I'm sure this is right sentimental, I ain't buying it. Only idiots do good deeds for free, and I don't rightly figure myself for an idiot." "I'll pay you myself," Anne sniped. "Then I'm your man," Jubel said. Zane let out a short laugh. "Well, now that we're all in on this fool's errand, how are we going to get past a rather impressive force of Alliance Tohoku Cruisers and Trafalger Corvettes? Hell, they might even bring in those new Minarets to fill the gaps." "Getting to Hera's the simple bit," Anne said. It's getting away which will be a problem," She nodded to Early. "Would you mind bringing up the Tall deck I left in the commons, and close the door on your way back up?" "Why?" he said, eyes narrowing a touch. "Because it'll be easier to get it now than when I pull atmo and that portion of the ship makes a hard reach for zero Kelvins," she said sweetly. Zane laughed at this. "We're going to junk past them?" he asked. "Can you think of a better way," she replied, "to reach Hera, attract no attention to our presense, and thumb our noses at the Alliance while we're here?" "Well," Zane said. "I didn't know you had an aversion to them Purplebellies." She smirked. "There's a lot of things about me you don't know." <> Sylvia was awash in whispers as she made her way off the ship. This town, on the edge of Serenity Valley, had exploded in size in the last few months as more and more Independants flooded back to the site of their final battle. While their numbers were huge, they didn't account for the buzz that had worked its way into her spine. There were others that were talking here. Tens of thousands of others, trying to be heard, despite the fact that nobody'd been listening for almost a decade. Anne's ploy had worked like a charm. The entire crew sat around playing Tall for three hours as the ship slowly drifted past the blockade. She'd cleaned house until everybody got together and told her to stop playing. Jacob knew why she was winning, but he'd had the decency not to tell anybody else. He said she was underchecking, an underhanded but legal means to hedge one's own odds of winning. He was a sweet one, sometimes. Once Legacy was tickling the upper atmosphere, Anne threw on the brakes and guided the Firefly down on the roughest landing she'd ever made. Still, they were in one piece, the Alliance never saw them till they were kissing air, and they were on Hera. Anne had directed Jacob and Early to wherever it was her brother was being stored, and the rest of the crew, such as it was, was given time to restock on a few things, and just plain wander. She had lost track of herself for quite a while when she found herself at the steps of the Serenity Memorial, a listing of the tens of thousands who had died during the Unification War not thirty miles away. Row upon row and column upon column of names were etched deep into the black basalt; they seemed to hum as she ran her fingers along them. Lionel Baker, lieutenant. He'd been breveted moments before shrapnel made him rather deader than something quite undeniably dead. Joe Bendis. Killed in the last seconds of the war. He was standing when they got him. He was too damned pretty to die. So many others, her fingers drifted down. Finally, she felt something she didn't expect. A name her fingers could not touch. Something they'd forgotten to carve into the stone. Malcolm Reynolds. Sergeant. Wouldn't lay down arms. Never laid down... "Anybody you recognize?" came a very familiar voice. Sylvia turned and was greeted by a particularly exhausted looking black woman. A large man with a hideous hat was acting very effectively as her shadow, ready to catch her if she were to fall. She looked rather close to it. "A few," Sylvia said. "I had a brother who fought in Serenity Valley," her fingers drifted along until she found him. Richard Witherell. "He was so damned proud when he'd gotten word that he was shipping out. Never knew where he was going, and I never saw him again." Richard's name sang under her fingers. For a moment, she was standing there at the door again as he waved goodbye, his dark brown coat barely stopping above his ankles. For a moment, she saw that incredible optimism, that smile that would never fade away. Then she saw the dirt and mud and blood of the Valley, of her brother limping into a foxhole with a bullet-shattered leg. Of him firing until his gun clicked at the squad of armored enemies as they approached. Of him smiling as he dropped his rifle, pulling out his knife instead. Sylvia recoiled in shock for a moment. The woman gave her a level gaze, and Sylvia shook herself a bit. "You," she said, to the man behind the woman. "You loose anybody in the war?" "Hell," Jayne said. "Ain't never fought in no war. Matty's too little at the time, and I had better things to do." "Like fighting, drinking and whoring?" Zoe asked levelly. Jayne grinned. Sylvia felt something. A smaller presense than the two of them. She reached out and felt her hand flatten against Zoe's stomach, which understandably brought a wary look from Zoe, and a should-I-smash-her? look from Jayne. Zoe's belly had become a great deal larger since last time Sylvia saw it. "Gorram," she muttered. She felt a smile growing on her face, one that seemed to catch on Zoe's as well. She threw her arms around the other woman, laughing. Zoe seemed shocked at first, even struggling to free herself, but even she couldn't resist the good-will of the gesture forever. "Wait," Sylvia said, separating. "Third?" "Ready to pop," Jayne muttered, wondering how anybody managed to hug the impressive woman without loosing a tooth, at least. "Or so the doc says." "That means," Sylvia began. "I was five months pregnant when I worked Persephony," Zoe affirmed. "That armor does a good job of hiding it. Or it did." Sylvia grinned. "It's good that you still have a part of him," the words came out, even though she didn't rightly understand what they ment. "Boy or girl?" "River says it's a boy," Zoe said cautiously. "Like she's some kinda gorram doctor," she heard Jayne mutter. "Just crazy, that one. Still, don't have to be all sane." His mouth hadn't moved. She ignored him for the moment and turned to Zoe. "Is she about? I need to talk to her." Zoe arched an eyebrow. "She was with us for a while. Could be just about anywhere, though. I think you've got a better chance of finding her than I do," She winced as the unborn infant kicked inside her. "Need any help to go back to Serenity?" Sylvia offered. Zoe shook her head. "I've got all I need. I'm just saying goodbye to some old friends." With that, Zoe returned her attention to the wall of names, occasionally pausing on one for a bit longer. Sylvia turned and walked away. "I wonder if she'll like my hat?" Sylvia heard Jayne's mutter. She had to restrain herself from laughing. What matter of coincidence was that, to find them here? No coincidence. All things by their time. All things by their pattern. It wasn't her thought. She scowled around at the crowd for a moment. What an eerie-ass thing to happen on this eerie-ass day. She felt a sort of flame not too far away, an inconstant thing, flaring and guttering. It stood out from the plethora of low-banked coals who she forced her way through. No voice came from it. No whispers. Just the heat, and the cold, fluxuating with no reason to it. She followed this inconstant flame, this lone spot of silence in the world of cacaphony... where had she picked up that word, she wondered? Ain't never used it before, and she didn't remember ever reading it. She shook her head, letting her gaze fall upon a church. With a small scowl, she pushed open the doors. The building was almost empty, its pews practically deserted, its candles all unlit. The large crucafix, merely two straigth boards jointed together, hung over a tiny altar. Sylvia could hear something happening below. Familiar voices, but it was the inconstant flame sitting in the front pew that drew her attention. She sat down beside the dark-haired girl in the blue dress. "You know what you are?" River asked. Sylvia shook her head. "You're lying." "I don't understand why this had to happen to me," Sylvia whispered into the air. "I didn't ask for this." "You did," River said shortly. "When the chance came, you took it and held no reservations. What you wanted, you got, but now you don't know what to do with it." "I don't understand," Sylvia's head fell into her hands. "Don't understand. Must not understand," River chided. "Comprehend." "How do you do it?" Sylvia asked. "How do you keep them out?" River turned to face the older woman, her far-seeing gaze tranforming into an innocent smile, the smile of a teenager up to no good. "I steal Jayne's hat." "And that helps?" she asked. River gave her a 'what do you think' face. "Did you ever see any others?" River tensed up solid. "Can't talk about the others. Not safe there." Sylvia reached for River's shoulder, only to be cut short as the girl's hand closed around Sylvia's questing fingers and twisted, forcing the woman into a compromising position to keep from breaking her hand. River's eyes flashed with fear and anger. "Don't ask about the others. Too many voices, and too many ears." "River, let go of my hand," Sylvia said quietly. "Two by two," River said. "Hands of blue." Sylvia was shocked, so shocked that when River let go of her, she almost fell back into the pew. She stared at River's retreating back for a long moment as she pondered that message she'd been given those months ago. Two by two, they come for you. River had seen them. Dealt with them. Still, the girl didn't give off so much as a peep. It was as if there was nothing inside her, only outside. Nothing to hear, nothing to see. Move along. Sylvia slowly pushed away from the pew, wandering the church for a few minutes as she tried to gather herself. Finally, she took a deep breath and marched back out the door. And marched straight into Jacob. His weight shifted forward, almost making him drop the coffin he and Early were hefting. Only her quick hands taking up the weight he'd let slip kept the thing from landing on the ground. A small smirk spread on Jacob's face. "Didn't know you were deep into that religiosity gos-se," he said. "Well, now that you're here, you mind taking a handle?" She obliged him, helping the effectively one-armed man heft the weight. "Jacob," she started, he tried to glance at her, but she was firmly on his blindside. "Serenity's ported on Hera." "Shiny. And I need to know this why?" "Just sayin's all," she said as they began their weaving way through the marketplace. "Hell, little River was in the church back there." She looked back just in time to see the sour expression on Early's face. More than that, she felt a wave of embarrassment coming off the large black man. Embarrassment and... worry? Small, and well contained, but there was definitely worry there. She knew he'd dealt with River before, but she never thought the ninty pound teenager could possibly pull this sort of a reaction. He didn't let so much as a peek of it reach his face, but what she felt was a far sight from what he showed. The crowd didn't part in the slightest when they'd reached the impromptu docks that had been set up in what was now approaching the middle of the exploding city, and in fact, a number where talking to Zane about possibly securing passage off of Hera. Not everybody here had a desire to put on a brown coat. He was beginning to wave them's couldn't be took off, but still they pushed in. Finally Anne came to the Ramp carrying one of the larger of Sylvia's guns. "Woh xi wang xian gui di nen ya if any of you hits my ramp," she shouted, leveling the impressive firearm at the mob. The mob, strangly enough, had the wisdom to back down. The press grew more as Syl and Jacob reached the edge of the receding crowd. Finally, they burst through into the clear, and for a moment, Anne's new target was them and their shiny box. After a tense instant, she lowered her weapon and waved them on. Even as they boarded, she noticed Zane bounding through the press onto the raising ramp. The crowd chose about that moment to get ugly, a perfect moment, as they could now no longer get onto the ship. Jacob gave Anne a smile and let go of his end of the box, leaving Sylvia to catch the thing before it hit the deck. She gave a glance to Early, who shrugged and moved into the center of the cargo bay, where they set down the coffin. Jacob was suffocating her. Anne was worse. She sat down next to the box, resting her arm on it. As her hand contacted the container, the voices went silent. Silent as dead. Of course, she could still hear their voices, but that devotion, that love, and sorrow and everything else, was gone. Early gave her a look, and she could only guess as to its meaning. It was nice to have to guess. "Your brother," Jacob said simply. He shook his head, taking in a deep breath. "We should hit the sky." Anne smiled at him, a sad thing possibly just for his mollification. His left hand touched her ear, something he seldom did in public, she knew. Finally, she handed Jacob the weapon and made her way into the cockpit. Greyson hadn't moved in the sixty seconds it took her to reach her seat and activate the engines. Her voice came over the loud speaker. "Everybody better clear out, or you'll be leaving Hera in a way y'ain't predicted for," she said, her voice echoing both from within the craft and from without. "Y'all got thirty seconds. Ain't warning you again." Zane finished closing the airlock doors and swatted the mind-blown Greyson in his shoulder to get his attention. Greyson stiffened in pain, and Zane's face immediately dropped into an expression saying holy shit and oh, sorry. "What is it," he said evenly, a supreme effort by the look on his face. "You figure on how we're getting off this rock?" Zane asked. "Not rightly," he said, walking for the exit. Jubel finally moved past her, still eyeing her somewhat oddly. Finally, he shook his head and went to his bunk. Zane scowled for a moment as the ship bucked a bit, raising into the air. She wondered whether those people had cleared out, and Zane made his sprining way up to the engine room, muttering over some such that she didn't understand. Finally, Greyson turned back to her. "You alright?" he asked. Mercifully, divinely, she didn't know what was going through his head. He took a few steps toward her before she waved him away. "I'm just shiny," she said tiredly. She hadn't slept well in what seemed like a lifetime. She was starting to feel very drowsy now. "I'm very comfortable." Jacob smirked and turned away as Sylvia felt her head lowering toward the plating. She snugged up close to the box, with her arm still across the coffin's lid. Her eyes slid shut. "Very comfortable." <> Jacob took a moment to replace Sylvia's gun in her bunk before going into the cockpit. No telling what a loose firearm might do if they had to get creative with their maneuvers. When he reached the bottom of the ladder, however, he was shocked to see a massive pile of discarded books by her bunk. Massive was not the word for it, he thought. Dominating. The book overwhelmed the corner of the room where the closet was, and it was then that he realized that she'd been storing them in there nice and orderly like until they started spilling out. He did a quick count in his head, reaching a hundred way too damn fast for his liking. When did she find the time to read all these? He knew this was the cast-off pile, because an infinitely smaller pile sat on the foot of her bed. He plunked the weapon into its rack and climbed back up the ladder, a bit less settled in his calm. The Firefly seemed to slow a mite as he reached the top of the ladder and hauled himself onto the corridor. Most had a tendency to climb to the top and step backward, but he never did. Wasn't sure why. He felt a twinge in his shoulder, and was surprised it wasn't less. Well, not really surprised, but he kept the arm in the sling anyways. No good would come of recovering too damn quick from this sort of wound. He leaned into the cockpit, noting Anne was hugging the terrain pretty close as they crossed the breadth of Serenity Valley. Finally, Legacy set down on its far side, the side that the Browncoats had held for five weeks in what the Alliance called a twenty-four hour engagement. "Got a reason to stop here?" Jacob asked. "Still a lot of air between us and the Feds." Anne smiled back at him. It was a sad smile, something she showed him in a bid to give him strength. He wished he didn't know that, 'cause he'd really have liked for it to have worked. "Got no plan and a couple of paying passengers," she said. Jacob raised his eyebrow at this. "Price a fellow can demand to take them off this rock reaches pretty high, these days. Hell, what I asked got tripled five minutes after I run out of rooms by the ship right next to us." "Didn't know we was in the business of gouging folk," Jacob said softly. Anne scowled. "We need something to earn us a bit of money, and they've certainly brought it. Besides, ain't like the Feds got any reason to be after us save for we're leaving Hera. Just a wonder how we do that." Jacob forced a smile. "Well," he said. "Might as well sit a spell and meet the new faces, eh?" Anne gave a bit of a smile, rising from her seat. He offered his hand, and she gratefully took it. The two of them moved down into the common area. The common area was filled with shifty, nervous or outright panicked people. Not surprising, in Jacob's mind, considering they were on a ship that was about to defy the nigh-undefiable will of the mighty Alliance. That sort of thing usually got a fellow killed very very dead. Friday went through the introductions one by one. A farmer, the first who got on and haggled the lowest price. A prostitute, second aboard and the price for her had increased by half again. A fellow who didn't give his occupation, just sat in Jacob's spot reading his book. The cheek of the man. The last two were a lawyer and his darling trophy wife. Anne had no great love of lawyers, and Jacob was not surprised to hear she gouged them mercilessly. They could afford it. They were gorram lawyers. "Good to meet you," Greyson lied as he met the lawyer. "My name is Jacob, I'll be your captain for the day. We'll be underway for Ezra in no time at all, just some last minute prep work we need to do before we leave atmo. Best case scenario, we suffer some minor turbulence and we slip past the blockade like a fart in a gale." "And the worst case scenario?" the lawyer asked. Their kind always had to ask, didn't they? Jacob shrugged in the most disarming way he knew how, a somewhat difficult task with an arm in a sling. "We suffer massive turbulence, our engine eats its way out of its casing, and we all become part of a big, shiny fireball. 'Course, in the event of that happening, I'm sure you'll survive to collect your refund," He said sardonically. "You all got on my boat to get off of Hera. That's what you paid for. You second guess yourself, we'll give you back your money, but it's a thirty mile walk through a ten year old battlefield to reach civilization. I don't want to hear anything more on the worst case, dong ma?" there was an uneven chorus of affirmatives. "Good. Now, there's proper seats up in the kitchen, with harnesses and such. Might figure on strapping yourselves in." "And why is that?" that gorram lawyer asked again. Every twitch that man had made Jacob want to shoot him. Of course... he never would... Was that laughter he could hear in the back of his mind? "Because my pilot is a bit leaky in the brainpan and she can come up with some rather interesting maneuvers, such that the gravity can't keep up with her," Jacob caught himself. "Why am I explaining this to you? You paid me to get off this rock. I'm tellin' you how you will. Now git to them seats and strap yourself in. I have no want for my passengers to damage my ship with their floppin'," he waited a long moment. "Git!" The first three to board the ship were the most reasonable, leaving before he had to shoo them. The lawyer stammered and stuttered and generally made an ass of himself, which amused Anne to no end, until she had to physically haul the man and his mostly artificial spouse into the kitchen with its harnassed seats. Jacob smiled to himself. What a shiny day this was becoming. He noticed a flash of blonde hair from the cargo bay and bounded out to intercept his mechanic. "Zane!" he shouted, stopping the lad in his tracks. "Couple of things we need done before we lift off. First, gotta disable the pulse beacon. Fat lot of good that ever done us," he said, even as Zane tossed a bundle of wires with a flashing bulb to him. "Pulse beacon. And we gotta get rid of those identifying marks on our bow. Not doing us any good to break that barricade if we can't show our faces ever again." "What identification marks?" Zane asked deviously. "We don't have IDs running on our nose?" Jacob asked. "Since when?" "Since I chalked them on to pass inspection and let the rain take them the next day?" Zane offered, his grin barely contained. Jacob couldn't help but chuckle. "One of these days, you're going to get too smart for your own damn good," Jacob warned. "And on that day, I'll strive to be far, far away," the lad replied as he bounded up the stairs. Like a child, sometimes, that mechanic. As Greyson turned to leave, he noticed Sylvia sleeping practically atop Anne's brother's coffin. He shook his head and let her be. When she slid into a crate, she'd wake up and find something to hold on to. For the time being, he just let her be. Jacob took his time as he sauntered back through the ship. Friday was coralling the less cooperative, being the richest, into their secured seats as the rest rolled their eyes and obediantly buckled. Common sense said that if a ship was going to be flippin' which-a-whatever-way, a fellow should be strapped down nice and solid for the ride. Sad thing was, the presense of money seemed to cloud that little bit of wisdom. Finally, Friday surrendered with a cry of "Fine, smash into the bulkheads if you want. I ain't patching you up." Of course, Jacob knew she was lying, that she'd patch him up regardless, but she was in a huff, and one did not wisely trifle with a doctor in a huff. Jacob was at about the part where he wondered whether he would become so brain-blown if he ever got some money together when he finally crossed the threshold into the cockpit, taking in Anne buried up to her waist in the flight controls. Jacob quietly strode to the controls, crouched down, and waited for her to notice he was there. When that failed for too long, he rapped on the top of the console. He then proceeded to wince as he heard her head smash against something hard and possibly vital to flight. "What's the issue?" he asked. Normally taking off from a planet didn't involve vivisecting the controls. He told her as much, in Captain-Dummy talk. She smiled at him. "Just rewiring in the new pulse beacon." He frowned. "You know, Anne," he muttered. "There was a very specific reason I had Zane pull that thing out." She nodded. "So they couldn't ID us, I know. What you got to know is that there's about a hundred Fireflys on Hera right now, and every single one of them is throwing ID as Harbatkin's Glory," she pulled herself out of the console and flicked a switch. "A number that is now including us." Jacob stared in awe at the cunning of the plan. He also chastized himself for not coming up with it. "You sneaky little monkey," he said with a smile, and she responded with an 'I know, I'm a genius' look. Zane's arrival broke the moment. "What are you doing here?" he asked Zane. "I'm here in case we need to shoot something." For a long moment, Jacob could only stare at him. "How is it something hasn't killed you yet?" he whispered, only Anne hearing. "You don't seem to understand the situation that well. We run. We get through, shiny, they won't send anyone after us because we're one damn small ship throwing a false ID that ain't worth their time. We shoot, a plan which I might add is patently insane, and they'll be following us, with revenge on their minds," he stood, facing down the mechanic. "And explain that part to me where we get into a slugging match with the Magellan, with one puny missile launcher with grand total of five shots, and win? Hell, we'd be dusted before we could even get in range. You know how far a cruiser's fire can reach?" Zane could only shrug. "I just thought..." "No," Jacob said. "You didn't just think. We ain't soldiers, this ain't a war. And we ain't givin' them an excuse to start rainin' down their holy vengance on Hera. There an understanding between us?" Zane was pointedly studying his shoes. "Hey, I'm talkin' at you!" "I get it," he said weakly. "Good," Jacob said. "Now look to her engines. Legacy's got a long day ahead of her. Your job to make sure she's in one piece at the end of it." As Zane departed, Anne stared at Jacob for a spell. Finally, he turned to her. "What?" he asked. "Can't let him keep damn heroic notions in his head at a time like this. Need him calm, need him where he'll do the most good. And it sure as hell ain't here." "No," she said. "For a second, you kinda sounded... Captainy." The grin returned to Greyson's face. Best damned thing he'd heard all day. "Well, then," he said. "If we ain't got any other business, take us out of the world." The waving grass and dark brown stone slowly pushed away from sight, replaced with infinite blue, with the clouds white and fluffy, and finally with the infinite Black. She was already slipping into that realm of utmost concentration she reached when trying something either new or insanely difficult. "Got a plan?" he asked. She didn't even look his way. "Not so much." Jacob rolled his eye. "Shiny." The barricade was mere specks against the infinite, a wide web of ships spread entirely too thin to stop everything, and they knew it. Hell, a fellow could easily dodge the whole damned thing, just by tilting a few degrees up or down from the plane. Which is what Anne was doing. Not really a plan, just a damned simple notion, really. Then he noticed one of the specks drifting downward with them. He pointed it out. "I see it," Anne said flatly. She tilted down another few degrees. The speck, which was growing entirely too large entirely too quickly for Jacob's liking, matched Legacy perfectly, drifting downward to block her path once more. "Oh, juh jen sh guh quai luh duh jean-jan," Greyson muttered. She groaned. "It's a right fine party. They're matching us move for move. If I drop any further, it'll add ten days to the trip, and we ain't got so much food. We go up, the rest of the line gets us." A thought occured to Greyson, which grew into an idea as he watched Anne break out into a nervous sweat, and had matured into a plan not long after. "You pick up an extra fake beacon?" he asked. "Always do," she said, indicating it with a nod. "Why?" "You figure you could dodge a missile?" she gave him a 'what the hell?' look, and he continued. "Yes or no?" "For a little while, maybe," she said. "Define little while," he said. "A few seconds." "Shiny, that's all I'll need. Make like you're giving up and keep your hand on that throttle," Jacob pulled himself out of the seat, already yelling down the corridor past his passengers. "Zane!" At the far end of the ship, a blonde head popped out of the engine room. He stepped away from the spinning engine and into the corridor. When Jacob reached the table, he threw the pulse beacon to the mechanic, who barely managed to catch it. "New top priority is to get that onto a crybaby," Greyson said. Zane grinned immediately with comprehension and bounded down the stairs. Jacob took just a moment to give the folk a reassuring smile before launching himself down the other set of stairs, taking them four at a time and hitting the floor with a roll. He scrambled then to his destination, ripping open the locker and pulling out his space suit. <> A Trafalger is not a big ship, she said to herself. She'd seen the Dortmunder as it pulled enormous girth through a wasteland of scrap. She'd seen the giant, the monster from myth of Earth-that-was. She'd seen the manifestation of her every nightmare. That was a beast of a ship, a floating city, bristling with weapons and malevolent intent. This was more of a sky scraper. Compared to most of what the Alliance fielded, the Traflager was not a big ship. But it was a far sight bigger than little Legacy. Her hands were sweatting on the controls. She knew the problems that would present her, but she didn't exactly have control of her perspiration at the moment. She damned the Alliance for getting her into this position. To block her brother from his rightful grave. Her gaze flitted again to the airlock, which was just closing behind the man in the space suit. At the last possible second, an arm thrust through carrying a large coffee can and handing it off to the suit. The door slammed shut, and off camera, the ramp opened just a bit. Just enough to allow a coffee can to slip out. "By order of the Union of Allied Planets, we order you to power down and prepare to be boarded," the transmission came. She ignored it, squelching their attempts to hack into her cameras while still holding the ship dead steady. The perturbed officer repeated himself, but was every bit as ignored. The one good thing, she thought, about Trafalgers, was that they didn't have many gunships. She knew because as she barreled toward the thing, only one of them was seen drifting away. She really hoped this worked. The ship got really damned big in her sight, overwhelming everything else. The gunship tried to get itself between her and the ship, but realized that it was entirely too close to stop her. She smiled as she watched Jacob in his suit ready himself. With a hard pull on her controls, the ship flipped ninety degrees. A hard burn from the engines catapulted her on a course perpendicular to her original heading. The proximity alarms screamed in outright panic. She noticed, from the corner of her eye, that her belly was less than three feet from the armor plating of the Corvette. The panicked voice demanded that she stop, else they open fire, to which she scoffed. The sensors detected a missile launch, she noted, but considering how close she was, the weapon merely picked a pretty much random course and flew until its fuel ran out. She laughed as the edge of the craft finally drew close. She knew the plan, now. She knew she had to pull a Yaeger as she passed the edge. She pulled back on the stick, and everything lurched brutally, throwing her even harder into her seat as the craft pulled a rotation of at least 2Gs after the artificial gravity compensation. Jacob was thrown backward as well, but not before he managed to sling the can out the crack. Her sensors picked up the tiny bit of flotsam as it drifted away from the Trafalger. Her turning radius grew tighter as the ramp slid closed, and her sensors picked up another missile launch, as well as a divinely pissed off gunboat trying to get a bead on her ass. The crybaby returned to her view, a tumbling speck against the black. She spun up the engines for a hard burn. "Cry baby cry," Jacob's voice came from the airlock. She saw him bracing for acceleration. "Make your momma sigh," she said, flicking on both the engine and the crybaby at the same time. Now, as she understood it, with a missile comming in on you, a fellow had one of two things he could do. He could launch a dummy or decoy, and hope the missile liked it better than him, or he could let the missile hit him and hope he didn't die. Most missiles locked onto a ship's pulse beacon, its surest means of intrastellar location. With two reading the exact same thing in close proximity, it was a crapshoot which of the two the missile would choose. And, to Anne's mind, a fifty-fifty chance was better than no chance. The crybaby flit on in an instant, and even her own sensors, powerful though they were, registered another Firefly called Harbatkin's Glory moving off at a different angle. The engines fired, and she was pressed against her seat again as the acceleration pushed the craft at a hell of a clip, out of harms way. She watched in the rear cameras as the missile wavered between following her and hitting the crybaby, finally deciding on hitting the slower target. The crybaby was pulverized. Legacy, on the other hand, was not so unfortunate. A miffed gunship pursued for a few minutes, but broke off when it found it wasn't making enough headway to catch them before its fuel ran out. As it disappeared into the black, she let out a breath she felt she was holding in since the encounter began. She lowered her speed and pointed Legacy in the right direction before engaging the autopilot and leaning back in her chair. She must have been leaning that way for a while, because Jacob walked into the cockpit, silent as he always was in such times, and noticed her head dangling upside down over the back of the chair. She gave him a broad, giddy smile. He shook his head, an expression of awe obvious upon him. "That was..." he said. "Hell, ain't ever seen anything like it." She beamed. "Nicest thing anybody's said today," she whispered. Reaching over backward, she grasped ahold of his belt-loop and pulled him into her chair, seating herself atop him once he was planted. <> Early was good at a great many things. In his time on Legacy, he'd come to learn that cooking was not one of them. He groaned again as his dinner went up in smoke and he was forced to throw the pan into the sink and pull one of the tasteless protein bars from the cupboards instead. He thought back on the admittedly stomach turning encounter they'd had with the Alliance blockade, and he found himself more than a little thankful to have a whole skin. Sometimes, he thought, fella's got to live with the little things. The joys and pleasures of being not dead were increased by the show he'd gotten to see as the thing went down. The lawyer man, confident in his ability to stay standing, refused to buckle himself in. The price he paid for his arrogance was being tossed around the kitchen a mite, smashing himself on the table a bit for good measure. Early had never been one to laugh at the stupidity of others but... no, wait, he was the sort to laugh at the stupidity of others. He allowed himself a chuckle, at that fool's expense. The hwoon dahn had been sent to the infirmary for a concussion, but Friday said he'd only given himself a shiner. She didn't exactly have patience for idiocy, either. The trip was a bit smoother now, with nobody trying to shoot them, chasing them, or the like. The last few hours had been pretty much a series of people checking themselves for holes and sighing with relief when there weren't none. As it was, the kitchen was occupied by Tamilla, the whore, and Carson, the drifter. The lawyer's wife was staying by his side, and the farmer had disappeared to whoever-knows-where. Milla, as she liked to be called, was deep in conversation over horticulture, of all things, a conversation which Carson managed to match point for point. What were the gorram odds that Anne'd pick up the two herbalists in that gorram crowd? And the chattiest ones, as well. Early shook his head and left them to their prattle. He went down the stairs, minding his head for that low lying pipe Legacy was graced with that he never noticed on Serenity, and walked into Friday. She gave him that predatory smile, and a part of him felt hunted. He didn't flip like first time, though. That was an improvement. Still, after a moment, her look softened into something a lot less man-eating. "Hear the latest Wave out of Hera?" she asked. "Not so much," he said. She closed the infirmary door just in time to cut off one of the lawyer's demands. "Five other Fireflys, all IDed as the Harbatkin's Glory, got out of the barricade since we made our run. The Feds are not happy, and they've been stripping the Rim garrisons to tighten up their gaps," she shook her head with a vexed look on her face. "Just like them, ain't it? Leave good folk to the mercies of them's ain't got none, just so they can throw weight." "To think," Early said, "that I used to agree with them. Peace, order, and a better world for everyone. Better worlds all. But they go and do something like this, dong ma? Threaten the lives of millions, maybe start a war and kill millions of people, just to keep their seat at the table after killing thirty million, literally in their sleep. 'Course, they still don't admit to Miranda," Early refrained from his rather uncivilized urge to spit. "Even with the proof of what they've done clearer than daylight on Londinum, they still won't publicly admit guilt. Does that seem right to you?" "Not too many things seem right," Friday said as she strode into the cargo bay. She was much easier to deal with once she started talking, he realized. When Friday stepped into the bay, she froze, forcing Early to walk around her. Then he saw why she froze. Sylvia's boots were sticking out, just in sight, beside the coffin. James' body was tossed out onto the floor next to it, and the farmer was hacking at the lining. "Where is it? Where is the gorram money, Jimmy?" the farmer kept repeating. Early would have laughed, had he not seen Syl's unconscious form. Instead he yelled. "Captain Greyson!" he shouted. "We've got a problem here." Friday took a few steps forward, her hands out in front of her placating. "What did you do to Sylvia?" she asked him. The man moved like a flash, faster than Early would have given credence had he not seen it with his eyes. He caught Friday's hand and pulled her into his fist. She let out a horrid scream, one the likes of which he used to be the source of, and the man spun her about, pulling the now bloodied scalpel out as he did. His red fist held the implement to Friday's neck, and her shirt was quickly becoming red from the wound he'd planted between her lower ribs. Early heard Greyson crash his way onto the catwalks above, then heard him curse himself for leaving his gun in his bunk. "It doesn't have to be this way," Early said in his business voice. Calm. Collected. Cold. "This is a damn small ship to go doing something stupid. Moving that sharp any, by which I mean," the man... Leon, his name was, flicked his eyes between Early before him and Greyson above him. "You got nowhere to run. And it ain't exaclty like you can hide," Early pointed out. "Where is the gorram money?" Leon shouted. Friday's teeth were becoming flecked with red as she breathed. "What gorram money?" Jacob demanded. "This gah ni niang owes us money," Leon shouted, giving James' corpse a kick. Early heard Milla and Carson approach from the commons, but he gave them a painfully obvious stay-the-hell-there look, and they didn't come any further than the doorway. "He's dead, you sha gua! He don't owe nobody a'nothing," Jacob yelled back. There was a moment of thought as all the people realized he'd just successfully pulled off the use of a conversational triple negative, then the tension returned. "I'll be getting my five thousand plat, one way or another," he shouted, pressing the blade a bit harder against Friday's neck. Blood began to ooze down into her collar; at least it didn't pulse and gush. "Them shuttles sound like a good barter," he said. "I think I'll head off in one of those." Jacob laughed. Laughed! Anne came by his side and almost threw herself over the railing to get at this man who had desecrated her brother's coffin. Greyson mercifully restrained her. "Not much good'll come of that," Jacob said. "We're too damned far from anything to reach a port before you'd run out of fuel. You're beaten. Admit it. Hell, put that knife down and we might just let you luxuriate in a nice jail cell instead of takin' a walk into the Black." Leon seemed to consider for just a moment, then his eyes grew wild. Early threw himself forward, recognizing the look in Leon's eyes from when Early himself had adopted it. When he'd worn that look, he was on fire, and a midget was four seconds away from hotwiring his ship and leaving him to burn on a nothing backberth moon. That was the look of somebody without anything left to loose. Early watched, through his film of rage, as the wrist twitched incrementally and the scalpel began to bite wholesale into flesh. And just as suddenly as her death would have started, it stopped. Friday went tumbling to the floor, bleeding profusely, but without the intensity that heralded an arterial puncture. Sylvia continued sweeping his arm in a circle finally finishing with a loud crunch as she popped his arm out of its socket. She kicked the man's legs out from under him just as Early collided with him, catapulting him free of her grasp and sending his head directly into the floor. Leon's eyes rolled into his head, and he left the world of the conscious. <> Early had picked up the scalpel Leon had dropped and was moving toward the unconscious man even as Jacob screamed "Stop!" Early turned and faced the captain, who was rightly bristling with captainy dignity and authority. Sylvia wondered why she hadn't woken up sooner. She wondered what she missed. Had they gotten off of Hera yet? "You're not going to kill him," Jacob said with finality. Early looked over his shoulder at the man. "You have a particularly pressing reason as to why not?" he asked. Jacob glanced at the floor. "For one, you've dropped your knife. Second, I don't feel like making this eerie-ass day any worse by jumping any more conclusions." Early noticed he had, in fact dropped the scalpel, and that his hand was shaking badly. He caught himself and took a step toward the captain. "And what exactly do you want to do with him? Wait until he wakes up and gets it in his head to stab you next? Or maybe your little pilot?" Jacob's face adopted a hard look at that one. His teeth were grinding. "We throw him in the airlock," Greyson said. "Best place for him. And don't question me. This is my boat, and my laws are as God's laws here." Early frowned as he walked to the man's shoulders, dragging him to the airlock, then ineligantly dumping him inside. He shrugged as the doors closed, and Jacob nodded. He was already crouched beside Friday, and was helping her to stand. She couldn't. Help her. Sylvia caught the thought, clear as day, and moved to pick up the wounded doctor. Together, they hefted her into her own medical bay, dropping her on her own slab. After dumping the irritated lawyer off of it, of course. Jacob escorted him out with a boot and a curse for being a waste of space in Mandarin. In a raw voice, Friday spoke, "Any of you know how to close a wound?" she asked. A quick straw pole of all present turned up a unanimous string of no, save of course for Sylvia, who hadn't answered. I need them out, she thought. Jacob looked her in the eye for a moment, then nodded. "Everybody out. Syl knows what to do," everybody looked at him strangely, as if he was about to pull a flight of doves out of his cunning pants. Finally, he crowded them out and up the stairs, leaving Sylvia alone with Friday. I hope you know what you're doing. She smiled for a moment. I hope I do too, she thought. For just a moment, she could have sworn she felt him smirk. "When did you," Friday coughed, spraying a mist of blood down onto Sylvia's shirt, "learn to...?" she couldn't finish, as another cough overtook her, one possibly more painfull than her first. Sylvia didn't waste any time with doubt or fear. She just thought about the wounds. One, under the fingers of her right hand. Shallow, but long. Damn close to the neck. Another, under the fingers of her left hand. Small, but deep. Gorram, her lung was collapsed. Her eyes drifted closed. Friday grunted in pain, and Sylvia felt a burning on her own neck, in her own lung. The burning subsided quickly, and she felt her knees growing very weak. She managed to support herself with her forearms on the table, but she felt not only extremely tired, despite her quite restive sleep, but like she was going to vomit as well. The world was spinning as her eyes fell upon what remained of Friday's chest wound. It looked like it had been healing for a week under perfect conditions. No more bleeding. No more collapsed lung. Friday's eyes were very wide as she took in first her body, then Sylvia. Sylvia summoned the strength to speak. "Can you keep a secret?"

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