BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 1:12, Annulment
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sometimes, it ain't the job that don't go smooth, it's the after part. Well, Greyson and crew are happily sleeping off a bender for a job well done, and one of them wakes up in an unusual matrimonial position. Hilarity ensues.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1608    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

With this episode I drew my inspiration from two very divergent and mutually exclusive works, first being 'Our Mrs. Reynolds'. I had to do it, you know. The second bit I worked from was 'Reservoir Dogs', in that you never actually see what happens, but get a lot of the before and after. And just when you think you've got my number, I pull out the mean left hook and leave you in the end sayin' what in the flyin' hell happened? Trust me, you won't see this one coming till the blood hits the floor. All your Firefly are belong to Joss. GEI WOH FUNG KWEH! (GIVE ME FEEDBACK!) Annulment

Jacob snorted himself awake, finding himself lying face down in his bunk. He had absolutely no damn idea how he got here. There was a pleasant weight on his bare back, and a glance over his shoulder confirmed that it was Anne, lying face down atop him. His head felt a couple sizes too tight, and the dim lights of his bunk were entirely too bright, but he felt rather good about himself. The job went smooth, wonder of wonders, and he'd gotten paid. Almost like a normal spacer, now that he thought of it. He tried to get up. "Don't move," Anne demanded groggily. "Hey," he said. "What?" "How'd I get here?" "Don't rightly know, bao bei," Jacob nodded. "Did... that happen?" he asked. A smile spread across her face. "Nope. You're still among the ranks of the bachelors," Jacob grinned for a moment, an entirely uncomfortable expression this morning, so he reduced it to a smirk and turned over, dropping Anne back onto the mattress. She made a disappointed face. "That was a hell of a party," Jacob laughed. "And did you see that shot I made? Right in the throat!" "Mine was better," Anne said. "Oh, right that kick you planted in his rectum that got him to pop up? Brilliant, but that's a different sort. Who'd'a thunk he'd be in for the tiny women?" Jacob chuckled. "Everybody likes a petite woman," Anne said. "Most just don't realize it." "Really? So you're petite now? Thought they called your sort runts." She raised an eyebrow at him, and favored him with a elbow to the ribs. He laughed anyway. "You're lucky I'm forgivin', else..." she let the threat trail off. "I think I'll need to get me some fresh air," Jacob said, making to stand up. "Not so much," Anne laughed. "Bit cold outside. And black." "We're in space?" Jacob said slowly. She nodded. "You flew last night?" she nodded again. "Drunk?" This time she outright laughed. "I've done plenty worse, bao bei. And we're in one piece." "Shouldn't be tempting fate," he groused. "Last time you were drunk, didn't I have to drop the ship on Three Hills on one working engine pylon and an overfull bay?" that earned him another elbow to the ribs. He smiled wide. "Fine," she said, sliding out of the covers and snatching one of his shirts from the chair. She let the thing slide on, its hem dropping well down her thighs, before she pulled on one of her own pairs of pants. He already missed the sight of her naked, but knew he wouldn't get another opportunity to gaze upon that sight unless he done good. He hauled himself out of bed and got himself dressed. The room still felt a bit tippy, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it was the last time he had a memory, of him attempting to be a part of some sort of involved dance involving much more rotation than was safe in the presence of alcohol. Now decent enough for presentin', he scaled the ladder after Anne. The array of stars perked him up a bit, and he made to follow her when he was caught by Zane's voice. "Uh, boss?" he said hesitantly, running a hand through his mop of golden hair. "I think I've gotten myself a bit of a problem." "And what sort of a problem would that be?" Jacob asked. Zane took a step to the left, and the captain could only stare, jaw unfixed. He chewed through his vocal options, finally settling on the one that was the most damn relevant. "Son of a bitch." <> "Hey, Early!" Jacob called as he made his way into the common area. The large man looked up to the approaching captain with no small amount of concern. The man was smiling entirely too wide. "What is it?" he asked. "How do you feel like actually gorram earning your keep on this boat?" Jacob asked. His hands were behind his back. "Ain't afraid of a bit of work, but it's been a long damn while since I've had myself a bit of violence you didn't invite for dinner. What's the job?" "Don't you mind that, Jacob said, tossing the bundle he'd secreted behind his back to Early's lap. "Just pull that on and grab your gun." "Ain't got a gun," Early said. Jacob gave him an odd look. "Gave it away. And what is this gos-se?" he unraveled the bundle. "I'll lend you one of my guns, ain't a problem. Just pull that on, meet me by the Mule," the captain's timing was exquisite, because as he finished speaking, Jubel finished opening up the floral dress. "And remember that I love you." "What?!" Early exclaimed, almost leaping out of his skin. "You what?" "I love you," he said with a broad grin. "Because you'll be my wife." Early let the thing slide from his hands and backed slowly away from the captain. "You are rutting insane," he managed. "Just think of the element of surprise!" Jacob laughed. Early was storming away, torn between blushing and just damn running away. He went into his room, throwing all of the things he'd unpacked back into his case. Just get off. No fuss, no muss, no gorram insane crew. When he turned about, Jacob was right there behind him, still grinning madly. "One of these days," Early warned, "somebody's gonna see that face and decide to punch it." "Don't doubt that," Jacob said. "Getting off here? This's Liann Juin, Early. People juggle geese here. What are the chances of finding a ship going anywhere?" "Better than my chances of survivin' with my sanity on this gorram ship," Early said. "You know," Jacob said, leaning back out of Early's room. "I don't think he's like to do it." "Ah," came Friday's voice. "And he'd've looked so cute in that dress." He should have known. Gorram Friday. Jacob turned back, the grin still light upon him. "Course, I could let you just walk off this ship, but that'd be leavin' you to the wolves." "I can deal with these bumpkins," Early said. Jacob shook his head. "I was referring to letting Friday have you," Jacob threatened. Early gulped as Friday came into view. Gorram. "Fine. I better get a good cut on this, though," he said. He hated when somebody else had him over a barrel. A certain fire-loving midget sprang to mind. "Room, meals that may or may not contain food, and ten percent of whatever the job's worth. Sound good?" "Sound's better than being Friday's..." he struggled to find the words in English, then gave up, "Shing nu lei to earn my keep." "Good, all's settled then," Jacob said. Did Friday look a bit dejected, just then? Jacob held up the dress. With a scowl, Jubel grabbed the dress and reached into the bottom of the case, pulling up his red armored vac-suit and opening it up. He hadn't used it since he landed on Londinum. Damn, weren't that a long time ago? He slid one layer of skin over himself, sheathing himself in a bullet-resistant red skin. Then, he swallowed his pride... if he had any left... and pulled the dress down over his head. Surprisingly, it seemed to be tailored to him, covering his broad shoulders without being restraining. He looked up. Gorram Friday probably had the thing custom made for him when he'd walked on the ship. Still, it smelled better than his shirts usually did. He pulled on the bonnet and walked out into the cargo bay. How in the nine hells was he going to live this one down? <> Jacob kneaded his one good eye, half believing that a good rub would wipe this unusual sight away. "There some reason you've got a meek lookin' woman standin' behind you?" "You remember that little party they had after the job?" Zane said slowly, looking more than a little embarrassed. Jacob nodded. "Well, I think I might have tipped back a few too many." Jacob stared between the two of them for a moment. "Gao yang jong duh gu yang, Zane. What were you thinking?" "Well," he began, but Jacob was on a tangent. "Don't you ever listen to me? What's the rule on this?" "Don't get hammered and wake up with a wife?" Zane said slowly. "And what exactly did you do?" "I... uh... got hammered and woke up with a wife." "Um, sir," the woman piped up. "Not now, I'm bein' angry with your darlin' husband. When I'm done, I'll have my words with you," Jacob said. "There was a very specific rule, Zane. A rule so damn simple that I almost didn't gorram write it down. Only ever heard of the sort happ'nin' on Triumph, and that's on the other side of the 'Verse." "Are you done?" the woman asked. "Hell no, ain't done. What were you thinkin'? Who gorram married you, anyway?" "I did," the woman answered. "Weren't talkin' 'bout you," Zane whispered. "Don't know. I kinda came back at the end of the reception." "Fine, Zane, you talk to the Shepherd holed up downstairs and get that wedding annuled. This is a complication we definitely don't need." "What about me?" the woman asked. "That's a good question. Zane, go talk to Jobe. You... woman person, take a seat at the table," The dark skinned lass turned in a huff and took her seat. Jacob looked over his shoulder and took in Anne lounging in her chair, staring down at him with a wide, pixie grin. "Got something to say?" "I'm so glad the two of them got together," Her eyebrow rose. "And who was she again?" Jacob waved her off. With long steps, he made his way into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of old tea, a bitter tasting wash for a bitter tasting mouth. He took his cup of swill and plunked himself down opposite her. "Well," he said. "We seem to have ourselves a whole lot of interesting bundled into a right small lass, don't we?" The woman... now that he thought of it she weren't any older than Zane, maybe a bit younger, even... shrugged uncomfortably under Jacob's stare. "What's your business on my ship?" he asked. "Goin' with my husband," she answered. "He ain't your husband. He's my mechanic. Ain't nothing else." "We matched vows. Guay, I even got a ring," she showed him the brass fob. "He's my husband." "Not for long," Jacob said. "Just 's soon as we get Shepherd to pull you out of this, we drop your ass back on the rock and that's that." "Not gonna happen," Anne yelled. He turned and faced her. "Why not?" "Ain't got the gas," she said. "Told you to fill up on Ezra." Jacob ground his teeth. "Fine. We're headed for Persephone. Nice enough place." "Why aren't you even entertainin' the..." "You ain't a part of this crew. I've heard enough horror stories to know that for damned sure," Jacob interrupted. "So what'm I supposed to do?" she demanded. "Don't know. Don't rightly care. Ain't my problem, and y'ain't gonna make yourself one, dong ma?" "So you're just going to leave me on another world, far from my entire family, and let me starve? How could you possibly be so cruel?" Jacob pursed his lips a moment, then sipped the foul fluid. "Six years ago, I was a hand on a ship that got hijacked out of Triumph. She came on as an instant-wife after we dropped a couple of boxes of grains. That bitch fooled us blind. Locked down the ship, left it driftin' into a net. I bolted, takin a shuttle along with a couple of others. All the rest got fried when the hit the net, and her junkers had the gall to sell the ship back to us when they's done with it. So you'll forgive me if I'm a fair bit suspicious of anybody who suddenly shows up on my boat as somebody's wife." "Hell," she said, eyes wide. "You should be glad I ain't angry like Tony was. He were here, you'd be takin' a long walk out a short airlock, and no howevers about it. Now git to the passenger dorms and stay out of our way." She rose from her seat, walking carefully to the stairs. "I ain't even told you my name, yet," she said. "And I honestly don't want to know," Jacob said. He raised a cup to her retreating back. <> "How long?" Jacob asked as Liann Juin came up in his sight. With the sun hovering over the horizon, it was quite literally flying into a sunrise. "About eight minutes," Anne said. "Then comes the part where we kissin' dirt." "Shouldn't say things like that," Jacob said idly. "Might send a jealous man like me into a frenzy." "Don't worry. I'll get us down," she smiled. "That's happenin' pretty definitely," he said. "I trust you, bao bei." She beamed back at him, and he made his way down the ship, sliding down the ladder into Syl's bunk. "How's she coming along?" Elias looked up at Jacob and nodded. "Feel like telling me what that was?" "Like as not to call them growing pains. A decent enough analogy, I think, is to the gearshift on that Mule you have out there," he raised an eyebrow, pulling Jacob's attention back from the cross-legged and still form of Sylvia. "Most humans operate in first gear. It gets the job done, but if you push it too hard, it'll tear itself apart, and you can never get too much speed out of it. So, what do you do when you need to get some speed?" he waited for Jacob to answer, but since the captain wasn't in the mood, he let the man continue. "Switch gears. Second gear is the upper echelon, the geniuses and razor witted. Not just those who graduate in the top three percent, but those who can see a dozen things, and find connections between them. People who know, and people who understand." "You sayin' I'm workin' second gear?" Jacob said flatly. "You may very well be. My point is this, though. Second gear is fine and good, but what happens next?" he asked. Sylvia's eyes stared off forward, well past where she was going and off into something else. "Third gear, seeing everything, understanding everything. Correlating and comprehending. A gear higher, and they're hearing things. A gear higher, and they understand things." "A gear higher than that?" Jacob prodded. "Sixth gear, and you know more than God," Elias said evenly. "Right now, she's having trouble with the shift, as it were. Can't reach the next gear, even though things would run smoother." "And where did you gather all this shiny information?" Jacob said. "Most go through their pains in the... where I come from. There are those that... get us where we need to go. Those in the Black need to find their own path." Jacob nodded for a moment. "Will she be up and about for today?" "Seems like, boss," Sylvia said, eyes sliding closed, then open at him. She certainly looked a great deal less insane, but he'd learned that looks, more often than not, are a gorram lie. Still, it was good to see her up. "Didn't wait a gorram fortnight to hear 'seems like', are you ready or are you not ready?" he asked. She blinked once, real slow. Having taken her moment, she nodded. "What do you need?" she said, swinging her legs off of the bed. Elias did not look happy, but to hell with him. "Another gun. Two would be nice, but I'll have go hook Early into it if that's the case," he said. "He is lookin' for work," Sylvia said. "Shiny. Well, you no doubt know what you have to do already, so I'll leave you to it." "I don't," she said. Jacob grunted in response. How did that work, he wondered? "How do you not know?" he demanded quietly. "Since that first night, when Elias got on, you've been Blockin' me. Keepin' me out," She said simply. "Huh." She arched a brow at him. "Didn't think it was possible?" "Guessed it was, didn't think m'self'd be the one to do it. Syl?" she pulled her attention back to him. "Get on your sunday best. We'll be landing in about... fourty seconds. Meet me down in the cargo bay, and I'll fill in the rest." She nodded with a slight smile. As she got up, she pulled a small figurine from her lap, an elephant. She'd gotten that from McKenna last time he was on board. Now that he connected the dots, it seemed like that was when things on this boat really started getting strange. Jacob shoved the thoughts into the back of his mind to deal with later, and made his way up the ladder. He turned and almost walked into Friday. Damn, these people all seemed to want a word, didn't they? "For the last time, no," Jacob said. "Y'ain't never even fired a gun at folk before, and I ain't losin' my doc to some pissant prairie punk who likes to shoot girls when he's nervous," Friday actually looked disappointed. Maybe Early was right, and his whole crew was insane. "'Sides, I got a much more interesting job lined up for you," she brightened a bit and he leaned in very close. "Do you have it?" he whispered. She nodded and vanished into her room for a moment. There was a few crashes and a sound not unlike an upended cot, then she returned, an oversized floral dress trailing behind her. He laughed out loud when he saw it. "I made it special for him," Friday said with pride. "Just waiting for the right moment." "Well, the time," he replied grandly, "is now. The bonnet?" she pulled a smaller bit, one that she was likely working on finishing the embroidery on even now. He grinned broadly at the two items and began rolling them into a very, very small bundle of indeterminate origin. "You'll know when to make an appearance," he said, walking toward the stairs. "Now, I've got to see a man about a dress." His grin was overbroad as he made his strutting way to the stairway. "Hey, Early!" he yelled. <> "So," the Shepherd said, the eyes behind his wire rimmed spectacles hard and indicting. "You married a girl in a bout of drunken reverie and now you want to extricate yourself from her?" Zane shifted in his seat, uncomfortable talking to this soft-spoken preacher. Especially under these sort of circumstances. He ran a hand through his blonde locks. "Look," he said. "Ain't that I'm doin' anything immoral with her. Just ain't signed up to have and to hold." "There is a very special hell," Jobe said. "It is a very deep pit, reserved for the very worst that mankind can produce. Specifically, they fall into one of two groups. If you take sexual advantage of that young lady, you will quickly find yourself a denizen of the special hell." "What is the other group?" Zane asked weakly. Jobe's face pulled into a sardonic smirk. "Those who talk during movies." "Shepherd," he said. "I'm just lookin' to annul what shouldn't have happened anyway. Ain't hard to think of 'er like that, eh?" "An annulment," Jobe said disapprovingly. "Very well. I'm sure I can coordinate something with my counterpart on Liann Juin." Zane rose and made to leave, but Jobe's words caught him before he could quite make it out the door. "You did not take sexual advantage of her, did you?" "Well," he said, not turning around. He could feel the Shepherd's eyes hot on his back. "Tell me you did not consumate this unholy union," the preacher demanded. "Um," he let out a nervous laugh. Zane looked over his shoulder, and saw the preacher's fingers digging hard into the cover of his bible. "Hey," he said, turning to place his back against the wall. "Weren't like that. Didn't force m'self on anyone. Hell, she was doin' all the forcin'." "A likely story," he said gravely. "Not only are you going to a very special hell, but you've just effectively annuled your annulment. Get out of my sight." Zane took the opportunity to leave. Damn it all, he was hooked into havin' and holdin' after all, weren't he? He heard his name getting shouted and turned around. A very unamused looking captain was standing with his arms crossed. "You get it dealt with?" he asked. Zane shook his head. "I'm goin' to a special hell." "And your parents said y'd never amount to anything," Jacob said deadpan. "The marriage is over, right?" "Um." "Tell me it's over," Greyson continued, more than a touch annoyed. "Well, I went in there for an annulment, but turns out that only can happen if y'ain't consummated the union," Zane said. The captain's face was motionless. "You got sexed, didn't you?" "Yup." "Yeh-su, ta ma duh..." Jacob swore. Zane only caught part of it, but knew enough to hear a profanity. "Couldn't keep your zipper shut, could you?" "Hey!" Zane interjected. "She was naked! And all... vulnerable." "Your mouth's talkin'. You really should look to that. Now you go and you get this fixed, dong ma?" Jacob said. "Don't know why you're so touchy 'bout it," Zane pouted. "Ain't like you're..." "Me and Anne ain't any of your business, now get to work. Jaw flappin' don't keep Legacy in the air." Jacob stormed away, growling under his breath. Zane just wondered how in the hell he was going to live this one down. <> Sylvia rubbed her shoulder, trying to work out the stiffness left from where she'd took a graze. It was the least of the bullets that hit her, small caliber and poorly aimed besides. A great many more got caught in her vest, bruising her breasts and stomach a rather shocking blue. Seemed like she attracted a lot of attention for herself. Still, despite the many bullets, the job went smoother than anybody would have expected. "You know," she turned over to face Elias, who was contently staring at the cieling, "for a telepath, you were wandering out there with an astounding amount of ignorance." He turned to her with a sardonic look. She could see where the bullet tore off his earlobe before he had the common sense to get the hell down. Sometimes he was a little addled. "I had things on my mind." She smiled. "Must have been pressing. Kinda hard to ignore that many people with killin' on their minds." "How many were there, anyway?" he asked. "About twenty, all told. Lucky the Boss has one reliable Reader," she gave him a pointed look, and he laughed. Then his face went a bit slack. "How did he?" he said. "Can't get in." "Boss has been Blockin' me since Ezra. Blocks don't discriminate. So he's Blockin' you too," She said. "Quick student," Elias muttered. "I wonder if he knows about... this?" "He knows," she said, staring up at the cieling. Elias nodded. "And he doesn't care?" the man asked. "Not exactly," she replied. "He knows that if you hurt me, he can put a bullet to you quick as not, and that's assuming I don't hand you your own head on a plate." "He has rather a lot of faith in you," Elias said. "No, I wouldn't say faith," Syl said. "Not faith." She forced her arguing body to stand, to find clothes, and to dress. Even the softest of her vestiments felt like hemp against her bruised flesh. Her boots were fine, though, pilfered from a man who tried to split her from crown to crotch with a fireaxe after she'd run out of ammo. She settled her bare feet inside, then began hauling herself up the ladder, listening to the large telepath behind her groan and pull on his own clothing. Zane was pacing up and down the corridor, obviously perturbed as to what to do with his new bride. "Wonderin' when you'd come out," he said. "Been in there long enough." "I had an interesting day," she smiled, and the mechanic smirked a bit. "What do you want?" "How drunk was I that night?" he asked. "Hell if I know," Syl said. "I passed out." "Look," Zane said with a touch of desparation. "I've got a problem, and I don't..." "You're trying to find a way to annul the annulling of your annulment," the young man stared at her, polaxed. "Jacob told me all about it. You really should know better. Heard stories about Triumph..." "I'm sick and gorram tired of hearin' 'bout gorram Triumph," Zane said. "Damn it all, what'm I supposed to do?" She gave him a smile. "Enjoy your honeymoon?" Zane threw up his hands. "Don't go, really. Just take some time. Things'll sort out once we hit Persephone." "You know, I almost believe it. Fool followin' the lunatic," Zane shook his head and walked away. He heard Elias coming up behind her. "It's astounding that they trust you at all, after the little fits you threw," he whispered. "Not really," she replied. "We all went through somethin' pretty horrible, and that galvanizes people. Friday's been through a lot since she got here, and that's pulled her in. Guay, before I know it, Early'll be part of the crew. "GORRAM WOMAN!" came Early's voice in perfect timing. It came from Friday's bunk, of all places. There was a string of curses as he made his way up the ladder and down the hallway past the two Readers. He didn't even seem to notice them, his mind entirely occupied on getting away. "Jubel," Friday's shout came. "You get back here and finish what you started!" Elias' eyebrow rose, and Sylvia outright laughed at the ideas that woman had. The next one she'd teach to Block would definitely be the dear doctor. Casting a smile at the now befuddled Elias, she walked away from the ranting doctor. How exactly was he supposed to... Oh. She mentally wished she never asked. She'd reached the kitchen when there was clank of the ship settling onto its legs, greating terra firma again with a hint of gusto. From the cargo bay, she could hear the doors beginning to slide open. It would be good to breath in the clean air of the big city. "no power" "no power" "Do you hear that?" Sylvia asked. "Hear what?" Elias asked. The whispers died away, and she shook her head. "Nothing. Let's go. The found Zane talking with his new bride on the floor of the cargo bay. Sylvia felt a chill looking at them. Something was very seriously sideways. "Preacher's up in the kitchen," she lied. "Wants to talk to you. Now." Zane gulped a bit and told her that he'd be right back. Elias leaned over to her. "Something wrong?" he asked. "Seriously," she looked out at the cityscape just outside the ship, the hustle and bustle of the port. HoverMules made their way down the broad avenues, zipping their cargo from one spot to another with alacrity. Border planets were an interesting mix of Core excess and Rim poverty, and this city was a perfect example of it. Only eight miles separated hovering chandeliers from twist-wire chicken coops. She turned back to Elias. "Maybe its just that I haven't been in a city since I was on Osiris?" "Maybe," He looked up, and choked back a curse, face draining of color in an instant. She turned to follow his gaze. Two men in fine grey suits were making their way up the ramp, hands clasped behind their respective backs. "no power in the 'verse" "no power in the 'verse" The whispers were much closer now, almost atop one another. The pair stared forward at them with piercing eyes of blue and green respectively. Cautiously, she reached out to them with her mind, and was shocked to find herself rebuked. It felt like somebody had slapped her. Zane's new wife just stared between the two parties in apprehension. "Subject McKenna, you have done good work," the one on the left said. "Not only have you carried out your objective, but you have tracked down a new specimen." "What?" She shouted, turning to Elias. The large man was backing away, abject terror framing his features, his jaw shaking but unable to produce sound. "Time to go home, Elias," the one on the right's tone was slightly softer, but he was the older of the two, with grey hair beginning to show in his black mane. "Eta kooram nah smech," he said. There came a loud thump behind her, and Sylvia glanced over her shoulder to find Elias totally unconscious, splayed out on the floor. "You will come with us, subject Witherell," left said as he reached into his pocket. Right remained as he was, a small smile affixed to his features. His hands crossed his chest to cross in front of himself, revealing them to be starkly blue. Two by two. River said two by two. Hands of blue. They come for you. Now in left's hand was a small stick perhaps four inches end to end and about the diameter of a weather scientific thermometer. He pressed a catch, and the thing extended another inch. The instant it did, a deafening shriek suffused her senses, an unending torment of pain that worked its way behind her eyes, up the base of her skull, gripped ahold of her brain, and tried mightily hard to rip it out both directions at once. She fell to her knees, hands holding her head as she tried to scream, but couldn't find the air. From the corner of her eye, she saw Zane's wife tip face forth, blood already streaming out of her eyes and ears. She landed with a crash and let out a gurgling moan, which only served to dislodge some of the blood from her throat, before shuddering one final time and lying still. Her unseeing eyes looked through Sylvia as she slipped into the arms of a grisly death. Sylvia wondered how long it would be until she herself joined the woman. No. She hadn't survived all of this to curl up and die on the floor like a child. She pulled the long knife she kept affixed to this pair of pants and took first one staggering step. Then another. Her eyes failed her then, leaving her to struggle forward blindly with the weapon clutched in a shaking fist. Another step, and her physical ears failed her, leaving her lurching forward, not even knowing if they were still there. She finally filled her lungs and bellowed as she faced down her own oblivion. "no power in the 'verse can stop us" <> The desperate roar brought Early back to the world. He instantly recognized the voice as Sylvia, but wondered or about a quarter second what would make her sound like that. Pain, perhaps, but there was more than a bit of defiance in it. Early knew screams. He'd been the cause of many. He snatched up the gun he hadn't gotten around to giving back and forced himself out of the small room. He rounded the next two corners in an instant, but as he came into view of the cargo bay, a pounding headache appeared out of nowhere, working its way up the base of his spine. He immediately saw Zane's new little wife lying in a pool of her own brain-blood, and knew that they'd found him. He'd been so careful! How could they possibly...? He forced himself outward, despite his instinct for self preservation telling him to hide. The next body he saw was that of Elias. He was completely unbloodied, confirming a fact he'd learned a short while back. Early's gaze swept further, taking in the two men in immaculate suits standing in the center of the hold. Sylvia took one more step, then collapsed to her knees. She still tried to crawl toward her assailants, and assailants they were, with a long knife clutched in her hand. Early forced himself forward, ignoring the mounting pain working into his brain with every passing second and raising his firearm. He almost shouted in rage as Sylvia finally collapsed entirely, twitching on the ground, and could already feel the blood beginning to ooze out of his nose and ears. One shot took the out the arm of the one on the left, making him drop that gorram, muh keng xian ge stick. He laughed wetly as it snapped shut hitting the ground, and the pain ceased its mounting. He felt his eyes beginning to bleed, but ignored the pain and the blinding of the blood for just a moment, in which he squeezed a bullet into the brainpan of first one, then the other of the suits. His job done, he fell to his knees. "What the guay happened here?" Jacob called from the catwalk as he took in the mayhem, casting a wrathful eye at the bay until he took in the badly bleeding Early on the floor. "Get us out of here," Early barely managed to say. They found him. How? Unless... He looked at Sylvia. She wasn't bleeding. "We have to run." Jacob's jaw flexed for a moment, then he made his decision. "Anne!" he roared. "Get us into the air. Fuel will have to wait!" Early looked out the ramp as it closed. Weren't these places always full? The streets outside had become deserted. No, not deserted, just anybody nearby got hit by that gorram stick and went down like Zane's woman and... no, not Syl. She was a different case. Jubel coughed up a half-congealed gob and slid to his hip. His eyes hurt. His ears hurt. His brain hurt. Hell, even his hair hurt, and the pounding headache wouldn't recede soon. He remembered the last time they'd tried that on him. He was too quick then, and was too quick now. So the ship had Readers on it, did it? Interesting. He slid a bit further and let the black fill him. He dreamed of things he didn't want to do, of a child with big green eyes, of a midget with a can of petroleum, of a girl who looked into his soul and found it empty as the black she left him drifting in. He dreamed of a little mechanic, an innocent soul in the 'Verse, a virgin in her heart if not in her loins. He dreamed of watching her violated by beasts, and hearing those words uttered by his own tongue. "Ain't nothing but a body to me. And I can find all unseemly use for it," Early had said. "She will die weeping," Early had said. "Does that seem right to you?" Early had said. It didn't. Nothing did, anymore. He forced his eyes open, taking in a distracted looking Friday. "What the hell?" he asked. "I'm kind of surprised you survived that," Friday said, "though I ain't exactly sure what it was what did it." "Where are we?" he asked mushily. Had she sedated him? "The infirmary," she said flipantly. "You know what I meant," Early tried to lace his words with gravitas, but failed. His tongue felt a bit too big to enunciate properly. "Eavesdown docks. Didn't even have fuel to break atmo," Jacob said, forcing the doors open and striding into the room. Friday shot him a glance, but Greyson ignored it. "You and me are going to have a long damn talk, Early, and I want a straight answer. Damn sick of gettin' jerked around by folk on this ship, and now the only other one with answers is in a gorram coma," Jacob said, pulling up the only other chair in the room and having a seat. "'Lias was a Reader," Jubel said. Jacob shot Friday a not-a-gorram-word look. "Syl?" "Roughed up, but recovering," Friday said. Early grunted. "Then she is too," he whispered. Jacob's face took on a look of protectiveness bordering on fanaticism. "Well then," he said, a dangerous glint in his one eye. "We have a lot to talk about, don't we?"

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