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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Legacy lands on Beaumonde so Jacob and the crew can pick up a job from Fanty and Mingo. Only problem is that Zane recognizes somebody from his past, somebody who done the mechanic wrong.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 761 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Darkest chapter yet, and one that sent the whole thing spinning for a bit. I didn't know how to properly write this one for a bit, and I had to call in some help from some other writers to steer me proper. This one deals with Zane and his past, specifically how he comes to terms the way he grew up. This one takes cues from the unaired script Dead or Alive, if any took the time to read it.
This is also coming up on the end of the season, which means the season arcs are pulling together rather rapidly. The characters have been established, and now its just a matter of time.
All your Firefly are belong to Joss.
I need feedback. Don't hold out on me!
Holdin' a Grudge
She'd seen the building before. Not her own self, but in pictures and over the Cortex, the massive structure they'd put together to house them's came to see the real reason for the building being there. Just behind where the admittedly impressive building stood, loomed the overawing bulk of Prometheus, the only remaining ark-ship what took humanity away from Earth-that-was.
At least, when she saw the pictures, the ship was there. Now, it was surprisingly missing. And the building was on fire.
"It didn't work," came Jacob's voice. She turned to look at him, staring sadly at the building. "Did it?"
When she saw him, she knew she was dreaming. Jacob still had that scar, but it was faded, and two brown eyes watched, steady as steel, as she took him in. How long had it been, that his hair could have gone so grey?
"No," came a woman's voice, and she turned to her other side. At first, she thought it was River Tam, but then she wasn't sure. After a moment, she was sure again, but once more it seemed time had slipped past her. This River was a woman, and a lovely one. Quite lovely, and quite pregnant. "They wouldn't listen to us."
Jacob sighed. "So there's nothin'. Nothin' but Reavers in the 'Verse."
A part of Sylvia calmly replied that there were only thirty thousand Reavers in the universe, but another part, a stronger part, denied her. Said that there were billions. Billions.
"Don't worry," she found herself saying. "The rest got away. Start again somewhere else."
Jacob's sad eyes locked onto her own. "Why even bother?" he said flatly. Where was his energy? It was as if the better part of him had simply died and he was waiting for his body to follow. A form came sprinting around the corner, skidding to a halt in the otherwise empty street. It was Reynolds' mercenary, Jayne Cobb. He, quite unlike Greyson, hadn't seemed to age a jot.
River and Jayne shared a look. "They're comin'," he said simply, dropping his rifle to the ground. A tear ran down River's cheek, and then she pulled a pistol out and shot him in the head.
Sylvia was horrified when she found herself doing the exact same thing, but to Jacob. He smiled as the bullet tore through him, and she could feel him thanking her. River's gun turned on Sylvia next. From the distance, she could hear the glutteral shrieks of Reavers. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands.
"It's the only mercy I have left to give," the woman said quietly.
Sylvia bolted upright in her bed, body shaking. It was so vivid. She could still feel the wind on her face, the heat of the flames from the buildings which still burned. She could still feel the gun in her hand. She pulled on the robe Friday made for her and got out of the room. Somehow, it was entirely too dark.
She wandered into the kitchen, and past it. Through the hall, she could see Zane fiddling with something or other. He never did go to sleep of his own volition it seemed. He once told her, with a grin on his face, that he'd sleep when he died. She responded that he'd die if he didn't sleep. He spoke quietly as he adjusted, soothing words as if to calm a fussy child. He did that a lot. Legacy was like a child to him, she reckoned, something he cared for without reservation, no matter what it did to him. Something he loved unconditionally.
Without making a sound, she slid down the stairs, down to that place where she often went to collect herself. She almost wasn't surprised to see Jacob sitting at that long couch, reading his ancient books. She counted his eyes, just to be sure. Yup. One.
He glanced up, then back down and motioned her over. She took her usual place, on the floor next to the couch. "I'm happy for you," she said. He glanced up.
"Really?" he said. "Thanks."
She waited. "Just 'thanks'?" she asked.
"You expect me to say more?" Jacob replied. "Anne is a singular woman, and I'm going to marry her. I don't need anybody's permission."
"That isn't what," she began.
"I know, but still," he closed his book. "Bad dreams?"
He did that alot, it seemed. Guessing what she was about. She might be telepathic, but he was a gorram mind reader.
"Not exactly," she said. "More like, the same dream, but worse."
He put the book aside as she related the dream to him. New Paris in flames, Prometheus missing. His grey hair, and having two eyes. She left out River, not sure what that meant, and assumed the girl's duties herself.
When she finished, he simply sat, scratching his chin. "Don't know what t'make of that. You said the same dream, but worse?"
She nodded. "'Bout a week after we lost the 'Jack, I had a dream that I was standin' alone on Bernadette. Only the whole capitol was on fire, and there wasn't a soul to be found. There was just the screaming of the Reavers which come pouring around every corner. They're about to get me when I put a bullet to m'self. Time was, I just figured it was a nightmare. You know, with the Reavers so fresh in my mind, and all."
"Dreams do recurr, sometimes," he said. "Freud once said sometimes a cigar's just a cigar."
She'd read Freud's dissertations on the psyche, and those that came after it. She scoffed. "He was wrong about a lot of things. And had an unhealthy fixation with his mother."
"He may have done," Jacob said. "Might just want to think on this a bit."
She nodded, taking the cushion he offered and seating herself atop it. "Where are we headed, boss?" she asked, trying to change the subject.
"Beaumonde," he replied. "Fanty and Mingo got somethin' they say might be right up our alley. Figure I should pay them a little visit. See the sights, sniff the air. Maybe let Zane out for a spell. Seems to be gettin' a bit addled up there."
"Yeah," she said. "Might just be what he needs."
Jacob took in a deep breath, pulling in the... unique bouquet of the shadiest section of New Duinsmire. "Smell that air!" he said into the crowd as the crew streamed past him. Zane attempted it and coughed.
"Smell's kinda like my old home," Zane remarked.
"Boss?" Sylvia said. He still couldn't believe the transformation Friday had wrought on his telepath. Sylvia's hair had been dyed jet black, and tied back into a complex braid. As well, the doctor had made her up somehow, making her seem a few years older than Jacob, rather than of an age with Zane. Certainly not the woman the local Feds would be looking for.
"Come on, Zane. Got Friday to do your job now," he shouted. "'Sides, y'ain't lived 'till you've been through New Duinsmire at night."
The mechanic was in his usual temper, smiling about as he strutted down the ramp. Early remained behind, leaning against the inner wall of the airlock. Friday's protection. The woman herself was already setting up a chair and had her reading glasses on. How much freight she could pull in while reading, he didn't know, but it was her tack, and he wouldn't begrudge her it.
"Well?" Anne said, lacing her arm through his and hauling him along. "It's been a while since I was in the city. Wanna see what's changed."
"Only been a few months, bao bei," He replied. Anne smiled up at him, a private thing despite the ghastly din and stink and that same ruttin' male prostitute propositioning her in Mandarin. It was a measure of her change in temperament that she didn't take the time to insult him. Or joke at Jacob's expense. Or both, if such was possible. She never did turn down a chance for a good joke, particularly of the bawdy variety.
"More'n a little can change in a few months," she replied. "Like ain't were a meat dealer there last time we came through," she turned to him. "Feel like gettin' a dog?"
"I wouldn't," he said, looking over the stand's proprietor. "Like'r than not, the word 'dog' is a mite too accurate."
She chuckled. "Wouldn't be the first time I et one," she said. He gave her a slanted look. "What?" she demanded. "Pa'd blow his coin on what's not strictly nutritious. Had to make due somehow."
"You know," he said. "More I hear about your father, more I wish I could bring 'im back to life, just so's I could kick his ass."
She smiled again, staring off into the press. "More'n a few'd agree with you on that point."
The Maidenhead came into view. It was a bit surprising that Fanty and Mingo still operated here. First, the house-clearing River Tam had delivered, then them gettin' pinched by the Black Ops crowd in the Alliance military, and last havin' to pay two finder's fees for the same job. More'n a mite surpisin' they ain't moved on, in his humble opinion.
Sylvia of course went in first, and Jacob turned to wave in Zane, but he noticed the young man was staring off a side street. "Zane? You comin'?" he shouted over the din. The mechanic waved idly.
"I'll be about," Zane replied, an odd look on his face. "I just got somethin' needs tendin' to."
Without another word, he broke into a long, ground eating stride which carried him quickly out of eyeshot. Jacob rolled his eye and escorted his lady... his fiance... into the seedy, criminal establishment.
"Don't know why y'ain't never brought me in here," Anne said as she took in the leg-show, the armored liquor bar, and the hired thug standing next to the gun cylinder. The man, who'd grown a cunning topknot since Jacob'd last seen him, tapped his wrist. No guns, it asked. Jacob shook his head and opened a box, placing first his Mauser and backups, and then Anne's smaller sidearm atop them. The guard smirked a bit as Jacob flipped him a coin.
"Keep mine near the top," he said in Mandarin, and the man grinned with surprisingly well kept teeth. Anne retook her place on his arm.
"Come to think," she said. "Smell's kinda like the day we met."
"Don't remember much of the day we met," Jacob replied.
"Really?" Came an accented voice from behind them.
"That sort of indiscretion might bring all sorts of discord," came an identical voice from a similar direction. Jacob turned and faced them, Anne still on his arm.
"No discord here. All's just shiny in the 'Verse," he said with a smile. "Fanty, Mingo."
"He's Fanty," Mingo said.
"No," Anne corrected him. "You're Fanty, he's Mingo."
The identical twins shared a look. "How do you always know?"
Anne laughed, deep and rich. "Fanty's prettier."
In truth, it was pretty much a given that the one who announced himself as Fanty was actually Mingo. Of course, Jacob had prepped her on the excuse. It just made it funnier.
The twins guided him toward their usual booth, right beside the fan-dancer, but were caught short when they found an appearantly middle-aged woman sitting in it.
"Excuse me, miss," Mingo said patiently. "This here is a private booth."
"Not to fret," Jacob said. "She's with us."
"Really?" Fanty frowned, but took his seat next to Sylvia. Anne was next, taking her place on Syl's other side, then the final two taking place next to their respective partners. "How'd she figure we were usin' this one?"
Sylvia smile with a slightly condescending look in her eyes. "Every screen in the 'Verse sees both ways. Fan-dancer where she is, gives this booth, by its lonesome, a jot of confidenciality. Mingo smirked.
"You know," said he, "how you manage to attract such wise and worldly crew is a topic of much discussion between myself and Fanty."
Jacob was calling over a drink, turning back to them with a stoic face. "Some just have a turn of luck, seems like," he replied, waiting until his glass arrived before turning back to the pair. Some what he'd read of called it the art of kings: Makin' folk wait for a fellow's attention. Set folk on all sorts of edge, and gave an alert fellow an opportunity. "But I don't think they're much the point of this meeting, dohn luh muh?"
"Of course not. But really, my good captain, you've been makin' rather a big name for y'self," Fanty said. "Might be that you've gotten so you don't wun guo pi."
"Fantastic Ramble," Sylvia interjected, and with disdain. "You've lost this round. Not a word from you either, Mingojerry."
"Mingojerry?" Anne laughed. "Your momma mustn't have liked you to good."
"Anne," Jacob said. She turned to face him, and he continued softly. "Bi zuay."
"Quite the setup," Fanty said. "One leads us on, the other smacks us when our backs are turned. I'm thinkin' we walk away from this," he made as if to leave.
"You might not want to do that," Jacob said.
"How do you figure it?" Mingo... Mingojerry, gorram if he weren't gonna have a good laugh on that, but later... demanded.
Jacob smiled, as cruel as he knew how, and repeated the single word which had been driven into his skull for twelve years. "Reputation."
Fanty hadn't risen entirely, but that one word sat him back down.
"Folk come to you for jobs 'cause you got a reputation of bein' reliable. In your line of work, reputation is everything. If your reputation is anything but solid, you lose. And if you flake, your reputation, well," he smiled then, that grandfatherly smile Niska used. He imagined it was quite the spectacle on his own disfigured mug. "Let's just say, your reputation is not so solid."
Fanty looked a touch irritated, but Mingo seemed a bit proud. "So," the latter said. "What's the business?"
Jacob tipped his glass toward them. "That depends entirely on you. You said you have someone wants something transported quickly and quietly?"
"Indeed. Matilda, her name is. Needs passage from Boros to an estate on Bellerophon. Bit of a trip, what with the time of year and all, and double a problem with her... status."
"Ain't got a problem with that sort. So long as she don't act up, won't be no problem at all. How much will it take to set this up?"
Fanty pursed his lips as he ran through the figures. Mingo was the people person, but Fanty was certainly the brains. "Two hundred, in platinum, and up front."
"Highway robbery," Anne said.
"Anne," he warned gently.
"Should look to your woman, captain," Fanty said. "And that price is as it is."
"One hundred. Can't be worth more than that for one passenger, even with... complications," He hauled out his purse, letting it land with a thunk on the table.
Mingo smiled. Some might have found it swai, but Jacob just found it obsequious. "One seventy five."
Jacob made at grinding his teeth for a spell, then responded "One fifty."
The twins looked back and forth between themselves. "Fair enough. I'll send the wave for them to wait for you. Nice doin' business with you all." Fanty said. Mingo nodded his agreement, and the pair scurried out of sight. With the dancer's paymaster's gone, she resumed her normal dance, no longer blocking the screen which was trying to spy on them.
"That weren't so bad," Anne said.
"Boss," Sylvia said, quickly extricating herself from the back of the booth. "Something's gone south."
"Those lyin', sneakin'," Anne began, but Jacob placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Not sure. Lot of folk are screaming. We should leave," Sylvia glanced around. "Quickly."
Jacob leaned in closer. "Reavers?"
She gave her captain a 'what are you, retarded?' look.
"What's going on?" Anne asked. Jacob began walking her to the door.
"It's a little system we have. She says run, I run. Ain't never done me wrong," he said, letting the black braid lead him to the gun-check, then out the door. While having his iron back on his hip did appease him somewhat, he didn't reckon all'd be right with the world 'till he was back on his ship.
They were walking along the main througfare when a horde began to push its way through the crowd, a wave of disturbance rather like a squirt of oil into water. Sylvia shoved them all to one side, letting the stream of desperate looking folk in ratty clothes rush by.
"Are those?" Anne asked.
Sylvia watched as the group vanished into the press once more. "Not anymore, it'd seem."
"Might be that was it?" Jacob asked. "A little human stampede?"
"No, boss," Sylvia said. "Somebody out there's operatin' on a powerful hatred."
"Come on," Anne said. "It can't be that bad."
And as if spurred by her words, the dark sky burst into light, a concussive blast sweeping through the air and rattling the windows above in their panes. Another blast followed it, and a third, the sky brightening for each one. And all three from the docks.
The three crew shared a look. Then they began to run.
"Tell me that didn't happen to my gorram ship?" Jacob demanded when Early appeared, hauling a moaning person across his shoulders. Early gave Jacob a look.
"That didn't happen to your gorram ship," he said quietly. Barely audible above the din, point of fact.
Jacob finally came upon the scene. One massive hulk had been gutted, its parts and bits flung about and its hull one blink from collapsing on itself. He glanced around, expecting to see some moaning wounded, but the only one showing signs of life was on Early's back. These must have been the lucky ones. The one's who died instantly.
The ship next to it had taken a bit of a pinging, flyin' bits mostly. Jacob let out a sigh of relief when he beheld his own ship, sitting pristine, just beyond that one. Of course, it did have a line of bodies leading into it. Sylvia glanced back at him.
"Go," he said, letting her run ahead in search of a way to use her unique gifts. Despite her bluster and bravado, it seemed she really wanted to help people. Angel of mercy, seemed like.
"What's going on?" Anne asked. "Besides the obvious, by which I mean?"
"Ain't rightly sure," he said, still clasping her hand as they made their way past the bodies of the dying. They'd beaten the emergency crews, maybe by a few good minutes. First'd come the medics, then the firefighters. Then'd come the Feds. He didn't intend to be around when the Feds showed up, what with Sylvia all wanted and such.
The line of bodies proceded all the way into the cargobay, which was where Early unloaded his passenger. "Anne, get on the horn, lift our lock and get ready to take us out of the world."
With a final pat of her hand, she bolted off up the stairs, vanishing as she reached the stairs into the fore-corridor. Jacob went by his own self to the infirmery. It was exactly what he expected to find. Friday, glasses still perched on her nose, working a dermal mender to close a rather gaping wound in a fella already rather badly burned. The pan beside the bed held a sizable chunk of metal, shrapnel from an explosion on a massive scale.
"Friday," he announced.
"Not now, boss," she said, closing up the end of the wound. "In fact, try again tomorrow.
"Not an option. These folk are going to have to wait for the locals. Get Zane on the horn and tell him to make ready for lift off."
"Zane?" she glanced at him. "He ain't been around."
"Ni ta ma duh tyen-shia suo-yo duh run doh gai si!" Jacob swore. "Why can't things ever go smooth? He comes in, you put him to work."
He was already on his way back out the ramp when the words of a man with a dislocated shoulder caught him.
"Shoulda waxed that little skunk when I had the chance," the man said. "Knew that hun dahn ain't up to no good."
"Excuse me?" Jacob interrupted. "What was that?"
"I's talkin' on the sneaky bastard what put the bomb on me ship," he said. A bomb. Terrorism? Maybe a tong making an example or getting revenge. Or maybe, something a bit more personal. He was about to ask this man if he'd seen Zane when the man continued. "I see that lanky blonde bastard again, I'll split his wig."
Lanky and blonde were two of the most common words used to describe his mechanic. Jacob stared out at the carnage, the fires still burning, and for a moment thought it was impossible. Zane'd never hurt a soul, he told himself... not unless they was slavers. He'd seen Zane shrug off a beating with a mallet once to beat the stuffing out of a proud slave-trader. It was the most brutal beatin' he'd ever played witness to, leaving both men bloody, but only one of them broken. As Anne put it, when Zane caught wind that a fella was dealin' in people, he went Wrath of God on them. It was the only power in the 'Verse stopped Zane from bein' cheerful. Jacob's shoulders sagged as he stared off into the bedlam.
"Son of a bitch," he said quietly into the moanings of the injured, and the screamings for the dead.
Zane watched as the fireball receded and the screaming began. His face was flat, and he fingered the brand which had been burned into the back of his shoulder as a child. The brand marked him as a slave of Magistrate Breen. Slave. Property. He'd recognized Breen's favorite taskmaster almost instantly, despite the years which had intervened. The man didn't have a clue, even when Zane sidled right up and said hello. It was a thing of maddening ease to get onto that ship. That damned, damned ship. He initially intended just to set the device and get the hell out of dodge, but the holds were full of other people, slaves and slaves-to-be all. He didn't wait an instant to free them. They deserved better. A small voice was taunting him in the back of his mind, but he ignored it.
"Dous vi dan ya, bastard," Zane said, spitting on the ground as the screaming reached a new height. He wondered if it was worth it. Remembering thirty sets of desparate eyes, he didn't wonder any more.
Legacy had been turned to a gorram triage, Jacob noted with dismay. When the local medics arrived, they hadn't said 'thank you, we'll take it from here,' like they was supposed to. They just moved right in and started treatin' them's could be treated right there in his hold. And Zane was still missing and assumed dangerous. He popped into the infirmery.
"You seen Zane about?" he asked without hope. Friday shook her head, letting her spectacles slip a bit before pushing them back up with her wrist. Her hands were coated in red, and unless he was mistaken, she was runnin' low on fresh gloves.
Nobody'd seen the young mechanic. Nobody who wasn't trying to finger him, was to say. He stomped out of the ship, running his hand through his hair as the fire crews finally began to show up and combat the flames. That meant the Feds weren't too far off.
He drew in a deep breath, tasting the smoke and burnt flesh, the blood. The stink of desperation and fear and pain. He turned and punched the side of his ship, relishing in the pain as it spread through his hand. He couldn't let it all fall apart. He wouldn't.
An idea struck him. There was one place in this town Zane knew his way to, one place he'd been shown. Weren't like he was going to go wandering in a strange place. He was fluff-brained, sometimes, but he weren't any kinda stupid. He retraced his steps from earlier in the night, making his way past the male prostitute who was still offering his services to unwilling women.
"Ni keh neng, di yi yuh bao," Jacob shouted, and the man looked a bit offended at the notion. Proud of his scruff, it seemed. Jacob put him out of his mind and forced himself onward.
Soon, he found himself back at the Maidenhead. Without halting a jot, he tossed the doorman his Mauser and stormed in, not even waiting for the thing to be locked up. He found Zane sitting at the bar, not even glancing toward the leg-show a bit away. And not touching his drink, neither.
"You've put me in all kind of unpleasant position," Jacob said, taking a seat next to the young mechanic.
"What makes you think it was me?" he said blankly.
Jacob stared at the man. "Are you telling me you didn't?" Zane turned to face him for a moment, his blue eyes a bit glassier than usual. He returned to his drink.
"You know that I did."
"They was slavers. You don't understand what it is to be property, to be owned. You never could."
"No," Jacob agreed. "But that don't mean you can't rely on us. We're a crew. We do for each other. You've got a problem, then that mean's we've got a problem. And there are other ways to..."
"This one dealt in children, mainly," Zane said, swirling the dark liquid in his glass. "Sometimes brought their parents along. Or their grandparents. Didn't much care who they was, so long as they had arms for holdin' and legs for marchin'."
"How many you reckon died back there?" Jacob asked quietly.
"Too many," Zane said.
"You see what I'm comin' at, then?" the captain leaned back. "I say again, there are other ways of dealin' with things. You take issue with the way a man does business, you walk up to him and punch him in the head. The book says you should never hit a man with a closed fist, but it is by times hilarious."
This brought a ghost of a smile to the mechanic's lips. "I'm sorry," he said. "I can't come back now. They'll be after me."
"No," Jacob said. "Maybe a few angry ex-slavers'll be after you, but not a jot more'n that. 'Sides, I know for a fact you'll get missin' that ship the moment she breaks atmo, and then you'll get all kinda stupid."
"Boss, I..." Zane said.
"Don't you be backin' out on me, kiddo," Greyson overrode him. "If I have to, I'll slug you right out and drag you back to the ship."
Zane smiled then, setting his glass down. "You always this inspirational?" he asked.
"Only when the Feds are comin' to mess with me and mine," Zane rose from his seat, and Jacob caught his arm. "This will not happen again, dong ma?"
Zane looked down at him. "Next time," he replied. "I'll just punch him in the head."
"All's shiny then," Jacob said. "Now let's get out of the world before all sorts of unpleasantness come down on us."
Friday was strumming her guitar, as she often did when nothing was to be done. She was quite able at pretty much any instrument one cared to put in front of her, but she'd only brought that one guitar with her when she came on board, so that she played. The tune was a slower version of a song he'd heard her play whilst drunk one time. A song about how that hulking-man-ape-gone-wrong dropped a box of money on a village full of mudders. Hero of Canton, he thought that one was called.
Jacob found himself wandering, as he often did when there wasn't a thing to do before turning in. Her soft notes seemed to permeate the ship, filling it with the melancholy notes of a jaunty song slowed down just a bit too much. His wanderings took him to the engine room, where, unsurprisingly, he found Zane on his back fiddlin' with the inside of the engine housing. Once, Zane had tried to explain why the engine spun, but it'd just given Jacob a headache and he hadn't learned a thing. Best to leave that area to the professional, he'd decided.
"What's keeping you up?" Jacob asked.
"Got things to fix," Zane replied. Sounding a bit better, at least. "I'll sleep when I die."
Jacob laughed. "You'll die if you don't sleep."
Zane didn't respond to the jibe, so Jacob leaned over and looked the man in the eye. Tears were staining his face as he went about his work.
"It ain't easy," Jacob said kindly. "Havin' blood on your hands. Some can't get over it, and go buggy over it. Some get over it too easy, and don't never mind it happening again."
Zane's voice was remarkably flat for his expression. "Does it ever go away?"
Jacob sighed. "Ain't enough water in the 'Verse to wash the blood of one man's death off your hands, Zane," he said.
"So how do you and Syl and Early... how do you go on?" he asked.
"Can't never wash the blood off your hands," Jacob said. "But in time, I guess you learn to live with it."
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