BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 1:18, Matilda
Monday, January 9, 2006

It was supposed to be simple. Transport a little damsel named Matilda from Boros to Bellerophon. Simple, though, doesn't cover thousand pound crocodiles.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1470    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Coming up on the end now, only two more chapters remain in this, the first season of the Legacy series. The events of the last episode have indelibly changed the relationships of the crew toward Zane, and they find themselves unable to trust him. Meanwhile, the ship now has to perform its job, transporting Matilda to her owner on Bellerophon. Of course, it just wouldn't be worth writing if Matilda weren't a 1000 pound, 10 foot long saltwater crocodile, now would it? When this was played, the crew was having terrible luck. In the end, they all got together when the ship was a few hours out of atmo and bought a miracle. You'll see the miracle near the end. As well, this brings closure to one of the charactors from earlier in the season. Or does it?

Matilda

"Take it easy," Jacob said, as Anne half-flinched behind him for the fourth time since they'd left the ship. Anne could be called a great many things, but timid weren't one of them. Sometimes, he thought she could do well with a dose of timidity. Regardless, her behaviour was more than a bit unsettling. "Surest way to get found is to act like you're hidin'." Anne grunted, whether as a scoff or as an affirmative, he didn't know. For some reason, walking the streets of Boros' capitol city didn't sit well for her. He discounted out of hand the press of the crowd; she'd done plenty well in New Duinsmire, and that had four times the population. He wondered if it had anything to do with the Feds which seemed placed on every ruttin' corner. The trip had taken every bit as long as the twins had said it would. With Beaumonde on one side of the system and Boros on the other, it was a damn long flight. Especially long, with them having to look over Zane's shoulder every couple minutes. Jacob really had thought he knew that kid. "Something on your mind?" she asked, as he bumped into a man. He didn't often collide with folk. He glanced over his shoulder, but she was at his right side and in his blind spot. Jacob released a sigh, staring up at the misshapen spot of a moon that hung in the sky. Ares, site of the Iskellian Shipyards. And most of the reason a gorram regiment of Feds was making itself known, point of fact. "Zane," Jacob said at last. "Thought I could trust that kid not to go and do something stupid like that." "Stupid?" she asked. "Ruttin' idiot killed twenty people!" "Bi zuai!" he hissed, noting a clutch of four federals drifting their collective gaze along the crowd. "I ain't sayin'... Hell, you know what I ain't sayin'. Zane humped himself pretty hard. Of them twenty odd, seven didn't have it coming." He could feel her glaring at him. "So it comes to bad folk harmed versus good folk killed, does it?" Jacob turned and stared at her. "Zane has seven lives he's taken weren't forfieted. Slavers've burned throught their second chance a damn long while ago, what they got is what they're due." "But still," Anne continued. "It's the seven who didn't have it comin' that Zane's going to have to get forgiven for," Jacob said. "I thought you wasn't," she began. "And I ain't talkin' like that," he said bitterly, forcing the notion out of his head before it took hold and ruined his day. "Some seven families ain't whole, and its them he's beholden to." They continued in silence for a while, this time with her on his left side. Finally, she spoke again. "So, why ain't he been thrown off the boat?" Jacob sighed again. He knew the question'd come up eventually, but he didn't like it any more for havin' come so quick. "Because he's the best damn mechanic I ever seen. Because outside them seven, he's the kindest and best damn man I know. Because he's perky and cheerful, somethin' we've been havin' a need of for the last few weeks," He smiled at a passing Fed. Zane also managed to get off scott-free from the deed, with nothing but hearsay to tie the crime to a man who looked kinda like him. "Because he loves that ship and knows her better than anyone." "Still," Anne said. "Can't be too hard to find a new mechanic?" "Ain't gonna happen," Jacob said. "Why the hell not?" "Because he's family," he whispered, "and everybody deserves a second chance. Ai ya! Damn near missed the place." The place, as he called it, was a rather unimpressive looking building in a non-descript part of town. All in all, it was more than a bit unlikely that a soul in the 'Verse would associate this spot with illicit practices of any description, which was probably why it was chosen to be the main hub for blackmarket trading and transport in the city, if not the entire world. Jacob knocked on the door, and a slide panel opened up, showing a pair of dark, Oriental eyes. "Shi zhi jin?" the man asked. "At length did cross and Albatross, Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God's name." Jacob recited. Anne looked at him strangely, and the eyes glanced away for a moment. "Shr ah, jin ruh," the man answered, opening the door. "What the hell?" she asked. "I read a poem. Try not to faint," he said. "It was the gorram twins' idea. Said my password was to recite some bit of poetry." "Really?" she said as the pair entered the building. The doorman was a middle aged man who nodded to them, then took his place back on a stool next to the door. Next to him were a list of expected passwords. If a person didn't offer one, or used a wrong one, he'd be called to run them off. If a fella used a password what already been used, the doorman had a shotgun to clear him out. More'n a touch paranoid, Jacob thought. Jacob knew about how this building operated. The doorman had a woman who lived in here, posing as a husband and wife. Their job was to discourage the law from snooping around by appearing depressingly normal. Once folk got into the building, no mean feat unless one had the right contacts, she'd bring him down into the basement, which was considerably larger than the building above it. The way down had been busted into the floor decades ago, so the story went, and the as the operation grew in size and scope, the operators began knocking out walls of the nearby sewers, eventually creating a cavern of impressive dimension, complete with its own generators, sewage, and living area. Didn't smell half bad, either. With the subterranian hold extending surprisingly far, the sight of thousands of crates, barrels, and other containers of note made the place seem like some sort of prehistoric storage warehouse. A steward, or whatever they called his sort, noticed them and gave them a nod. He had the calm of somebody not quite important enough to assassinate, but too important to kill for no reason. He flipped through a sheaf of papers on a clipboard, finally linking password to product. "You would be Captain Greyson?" the man asked, giving Anne a suspicious glance. "I would. Don't fret, if I can't trust her, I can't trust noone," Jacob said, but the man didn't look mollified. "Fitch," the man said. "You're here for Matilda, correct?" "That's the reckoning," Jacob said. Anne was glancing around, no doubt picking out the things she'd like to own. Fitch led them past a few tons of silk bolts, more contraband spices than he'd eat in a lifetime, enough weapons to start the Unification War over again, and then some. "Who do you think'd want all of those?" Anne asked quietly. "Best not to ask, shao jeh," Jacob replied, voice also low. "They don't reveal their clients, and might take it askance were you to ask." "I think you should know," Fitch said, as they finally, finally made it past the army's worth of weapons, "regarding Matilda. There's a bit of a... ma fuhn... with her." Jacob let out a laugh. "Hell, so long as she don't guai ma jeow in my operation, won't be no problem at all." Fitch cast a smirk over his shoulder as he shouted a command in Mandarin. Several fellows carefully maneouvered a massive crate down from near the middle of a strengthened shelving unit, letting the thing, perhaps fifteen feet long and six wide, land gently on the floor. Fitch threw back the hinged section on the lid and bade Jacob come over. He approached, looking into the dark recesses of the crate. His eyes ran along a half-ton of mighty pissed lookin' Matilda. "Huh," he said. "That certainly has an effect on the landscape." <> Zane knew that Sylvia was watching him as he sauntered over to the crate. She was in the middle of her workout, benchpressing more weight than he would have readily though possible for a woman of such light frame. Or, a woman formerly possessing such a light frame. In the interum, she had bulked up a bit. Still, seeing her able to lift more than him was a mite disconcerting. "They don't trust me, do they?" He said, putting down his tools and sauntering over to the crate which took up most of the room in the middle of the hold. He heard a clank as she set her weights to rest. "You did set a bomb that killed some folk," she explained. "Some folk call that terrorism." Zane sighed, glancing over his shoulder at her. "I just... got so damn mad. Couldn't just let them slide on by again. Not after..." "You don't need to explain yourself to me, kid," Syl said again, this time significantly closer to where he was standing. "Telepath, remember?" Zane let out a short laugh. "I didn't mean to... but I just couldn't let that slide," he turned back to her. "And stop callin' me kid. I've seen more'n a turn in the worlds, have you know!" She smiled, her sweat dampened face gleaming in the lights. "I'll stop calling you a kid when you stop acting like one." "So," Zane took the conversation in an entirely new, entirely not killin' people direction. "I heard we was to pick up a passenger on Boros. Why didn't she show?" "Oh, Matilda's here. She was sedated, and locked in here for our protection," Sylvia answered. Zane turned back to the swingin' hatch and fiddled with its lock. "So she's a proper wei shian dohn woo, right?" Zane asked. And his mama never said he'd pick up a word of Mandarin. Ha! "You could say that," Sylvia said, a smirk on her face. Finally, Zane got the thing open, and glanced inside. Inside at an enormous toothy maw standing open. "Son of a bitch!" the mechanic shrieked in horror. "Syl, that croc done et Matilda!" "No," she said between laughing fits. "That saltwater crocodile is Matilda." Befuddled, Zane glanced between the reptile and the telepath, finally pointing at her. "You knew all along, din't ya?" he demanded. She nodded with a grin. "That's just low," Zane said, locking the hatch back down. "Takin' advantage of folks." "Low," she agreed, "but endlessly hi-larious." Zane grunted, stomping his way up the stairs away from his crewmate's laughter. He was feeling more than a bit disgruntled, until of course he peered into the kitchen and beheld Friday cooking. She was the second best cook on this boat, after him, of course, and was more than a little talented at turnin' protein into something edible. "What's cookin', good lookin'?" he asked, sidling up on her wok and trying to pluck some of the food out of its bottom. She slapped his hand with a hot spatula to dissuade him. "Flattery will get you everywhere," Friday said. "But not 'till it's done." "Didn't answer my question," Zane said. "You'll see when it's done," she smiled, shooing him away. Zane sat in the spot he'd kinda gravitated to, at the foot of the table pointed directly at the engine. Jacob silently made his way to the head, and a moment later, Anne joined him. "So," Jacob said, his face deadpan. "Did you meet Matilda yet?" Friday, Anne and Syl, who'd snuck up behind him, began to laugh. Hissing, restrained laughter, but laughter nonetheless. "You are psychotic," Zane groused. He continued grousing until Friday dropped a plate of something that looked very nearly like food in front of him. And it smelled like food. That was the real trick. He ate like it would run away from him. "So," Zane said between mouthfuls, wondering when Early had appeared at the table. "Why in the puckered sphincter a' hell are we smugglin' a croc?" "Appearantly," Jacob said, also around a wad of dinner, "It ain't strictly legal to transport dangerous animals across planetary lines. And Tilda ain't exactl what y'd call cuddly, dong ma?" "I don't know," Syl countered. "I wouldn't mind cuddlin' up next to her." Everybody at the table stared at her for a moment. She looked about. "Too much?" "A bit, yeah," Anne agreed. It was then that the ship resounded as the sound of metal tearing ended with a loud bang. Everybody sat stock still, waiting for the air to either begin blowing out, or gravity to quit, or the engine to explode. Or some combination of the three. When none occured, Jacob stood. "What the hell was that?" Anne was already off like a shot to her seat in the cockpit. "Are parts falling off my ship?" "One gorram minute, Jacob," Anne shouted. "Did something just fly off my ship for no gorram reason?" Greyson shouted. "One ruttin' minute!" she shrieked. His jaw was tight she perused her scanners, out of Zane's view. Finally, she rose and turned back to him. "That's a neg, captain. Whole ship right and shiny." "Then what was that gorram noise?" Early said. Zane noted that he'd pilfered from both Jacob and Anne's plates while they were otherwise diverted. It didn't take him long to make the stolen portions disappear. "Well," Zane offered. "Only thing I can think on might make a sound like that would be that..." All eyes locked on him. Then they all broke for the stairs. In a mob, all six crowded the catwalks overlooking the cargobay. Beneath them, the metal obelisk of Matilda's crate was partially collapsed, one of its sides lying out on the floor. Syl pelted down the stairs, pulling out her sidearm... how in the hell'd she get armed so quick?... and examined the box. "Empty, boss," she called. "No," he said. "No. No rutting way." "Boss?" Friday asked. "Bao bei?" Anne said from his side. "Ain't no gorram way I'm spending a week with a crocodile crawlin' 'round in my hold." "Captain?" Early asked. "Don't just stand there," he said. "Find the ruttin' thing!" <> "Well?" Jacob asked, voice near to cracking. They'd been up until the wee hours of the morning, if there was such a thing in the black, looking for the half-ton, ten foot long reptile, but somehow it had slipped clean away. How anything of those dimensions could 'slip about' was beyond even Jacob's open imagination. "Not a jot, captain," Friday said. She and Early had ransacked the passenger dorms top to bottom. It was a good place to start, since that door was the only one leadin' in a downwardly direction. "Zane?" he called up the the catwalks. The lanky mechanic appeared fromt he door and shrugged. "Ain't so much as a scale, boss," he informed, then bounded off to do whatever it was he felt needed doing. Jacob swallowed a curse, then turned to Anne. "Well?" She looked up at him with an expression of one part confusion and one part amusement. "What? I was supposed to look?" Jacob shook his head. "Syl?" She appeared from the shuttles - leave no stone, no matter how unlikely, unturned - and shook her head. He paced for a moment, wondering how he was going to explain losing a lizard of that size to her owner. "Fine. We're all tired, and it don't look like Matilda's gonna go anywhere in particular. Is mighty cold outside. Catch some shuteye, we'll pick up in the mornin'," he announced. The headache which had worked its way behind his bad eye was starting to drive him loopy, and he did desperately want to lay down his head. The crew filed into the places they would be found, some talking, some joking. Most laughing at the ease in which Matilda avoided them. Laughing uneasily. Jacob had waited till the cargo hold was empty before slipping his arm 'round Anne's waist and walking with her. She smiled up at him, a reassuring thing she sometimes tried. He smiled back. The two went through the length of the ship, up to the upper floor and to the bunks, where everybody else had already descended and made ready for bed. The bed seemed more comfortable than it usually did, for some reason. So comfortable, he'd barely managed to kick off his boots when he felt himself falling asleep. He had just enough alertness left to him to notice the small but reassuring weight of Anne stretching out, using him as a mattress. He drifted off into sleep almost immediately. He heard something. His eyes shot open, and the tried to rise from the comfortable bed. Only, he couldn't. Anne was asleep, and had entered grapple-mode, her fingers almost digging into the back of his shoulders to stay close to him. He knew she had nightmares, fairly frequently, point of fact, but he never could ask her about them. She denied having them, anyway. As he began prying her off of his chest, she began to make pathetic, sleeping murmurs. Hearing them almost made Jacob stop, let her have her rest, but the sound came again, the scraping of something hard on something harder. "Wake up," he whispered. He repeated himself a touch louder, shaking her a bit, and finally her murmuring stopped and her dark eyes slid open. "Wha?" she groaned. "S'it mornin' already?" "I need up," he said, staring in the general direction of the noise. Sliding past his room, but beyond his room. Like something bumping along the hull, but a mite closer. She sighed but released her death-grip and rolled over. He rose and placed his ear to the wall. For a moment, there was nothing. Then he heard it again. A snort, then the scraping. It was headed forward, toward the nose of the ship. And toward Friday's room. Not even bothering to pull on his discarded boots, he made his way back up the ladder and into the corridor, slowly, quietly padding toward Friday's room. Anne's head appeared from the ladder. "What are," she began, but Jacob instantly shushed her. He mimed a monster figure, and pointed at Friday's bunk. Anne glanced at his target and mouthed the word 'Matilda?'. Jacob shrugged. Hopefully wrong, he thought, with my luck, not. As he quietly pushed open his doctor's door, he realized that he hadn't been in this room since she'd taken it as her own. His bare feet landed silently on the floor, and he groped quietly for the lights. When they came on, he was startled by the sheer... extravagance of the room. Her room was like her infirmery, but tenfold. The bulkheads were covered in decorative hangings and art, and what wasn't holding a work of art was supporting a bolt of silk. Her closet stood open, showcasing silk robes, a few leather outfits, and a single set of medical attire he'd expect to see on a doctorish person. Sitting furthest in the corner, on its own rack, was the armor Jacob had taken off of the Reaver woman. It had been cleaned of its blood and viscera, and she'd even gone to patching it where Sylvia had damaged it. It was striking, he decided, a brutal counterpoint to much of the rest of the room's contents. The bed, which dominated the small area, was heaped over and again with silks and fluffy looking pillows. Under those blankets was the sleeping form of Friday. And right beside her unconcious head was a very large, scaly, toothy snout. "Friday," he said calmly, eye firmly locked onto the reptile. "Tui zai deh chun luh, shang de neh bah yang kin, Monday," Friday muttered, still half asleep. "Friday," Jacob said, taking a cautious step forward. "Don't move." "Weren't plannin' on it, boss," she said. The crocodile snorted, swinging its jaws closer to her face. She chose that moment to open her eyes. "Friday, don't," he managed to say. He'd intended to say 'Friday, don't scream.' Of course, that was the very first thing she did. The reptile pulled its head out of the grating and vanished back into the bowels of the ship, even as Friday scrambled back from the grating, clutching the silk blankets around herself. "Calm down, get dressed, and..." He didn't know exactly what to do in this sort of situation, truth be known. He simply left it at that and pulled himself back out of the room. Sylvia was on her way up as he cleared the threshold, still clad in the sweat-stained tank top she'd been wearing earlier. Early was a bit slower in appearing, with his shirt unbuttoned in his haste. "What's going on?" Early asked. "Well," Jacob said, forcing his way past them all. "We've found Matilda." "You did?" Syl said. "And you didn't catch it?" Jacob paused, staring back at her with his good eye. When he'd made his point, he continued back into the guts of the ship. "Zane!" he shouted as he cleared the door into the engine room. There was a satisfying crash as the mechanic was tossed from his hammock onto the ground. "What is it, boss?" he asked, shaking off both sleep and a fall on the head. The kid really did seem to have the constitution of a bull. "Matilda's in the hull," Jacob said. "Really?" Zane said. "So are we." "I meant between the walls." Zane's face screwed up in disbelief. "She even fit in there?" "Appearantly she does," Jacob said. "And she's headed toward the nose. Probably pop up next in the forward lavatory, so," he pointed toward the front of the ship. "You want me to catch it?" Zane asked incredulously. "Just box her in. We'll deal with the catchin' later. Now git!" The mechanic bolted into action, grabbing a belt of tools as he went. Early shook his head and went back toward his room. Sylvia just sighed. "Well, that'll deal with that little difficulty," Jacob said. "Although, had'ya done that killin' with the brain thing, we'd never have had to go through this messy business." She scowled a moment. "Not for lack of trying, boss," he arched an eyebrow. "I think it only works on people." "Damn," he said. "I had a couple lawyers in mind for that talent next." She smiled then, acknowledging his poor jest. "Must have something to do with sentience. Can't properly explain it." "Well," he said. "We should probably help the kid 'fore he gets himself et." The pair sauntered back toward the cockpit, with Jacob going down as Syl went up. Anne had already settled into her chair and was doing those piloty things that made Jacob's head hurt when she took to listing them all off. Zane was already hard at work, messing with cords and the like on a panel right beside the shower stall. "This ain't gonna break the shower, is it?" he asked the younger man. Zane didn't even look back. "Shouldn't. Ain't no simple thing boxing in anything on this boat. Firefly's are a lean design. Ain't exactly noted for their redundancy," There came a hiss from behind the wall, like something falling into place. "But with a bit of creative programming, we can make the ship reckon it's being decompressed and..." A second hiss sounded, and Zane drew back with a grin. "Bin geh!" "You've got her?" Jacob asked. "Sure do, boss!" he said. And then another crash sounded, spinning both men back to the wall. Zane's gaze sheepishly rose to his captain's. "Or... maybe I don't." Jacob's forehead fell into the palm of his hand as he seriously considered strangling Fanty and Mingo. <> It had been a damn long week. Of course, any week spent with a saltwater crocodile wandering around the inside of a decidedly not large ship was bound to be an interesting one. The women took to sleeping in the shuttle, for which Zane couldn't rightly blame them. Early took the other shuttle to his lonesome, and Anne, being Anne, remained with Jacob. Zane stayed in his hammock, when he could sleep. Which wasn't often, that he could think of. They'd thought they had that sneaky reptile dead to rights a couple of times, but each time she'd just slip right past them. Zane was still a bit amused by her, but time is, he was getting sick of havin' to track her down all the damn time. Finally, he'd thrown up his hands and gone into the kitchen for a bit of supper. He checked behind the counter before stomping in. Early found her there one morning, much to Zane's amusement. She was gone when they arrived thirty seconds later. Definitely had a turn of quickness to her, that one. Zane was idly pulling ingredients out of shelves as Jacob and Anne appeared. "Finally, real dinner?" she asked. He smiled back to her. It was once said that he could turn anything into food. "Surely will be. Ain't time for grub, yet, is it though?" he said, making as if to put everything back. "You're gonna cook," Jacob said, in his captainy voice. "That's an order. I ain't living with Early's cooking anymore." "Why don't you just forbid him from cookin'?" Anne asked. "Because it doubles as a punishment for a mutinous and crotchety crew. Get Early cookin' for them, and they'll think twice before pushin' me out an airlock," the captain explained to his woman, in a voice like on one of them Cortex infomercials. Anne nodded sagely. As Zane added spices and artificial flavoring to the bland and textureless blob, he considered something. He quickly strode back into the engine room, rooting out a cup and placing it under the spigot he'd set up. He turned the valve slowly, waiting for the initial jet. It didn't come. He tapped the thing. Damn thing was on the fritz again. He'd set up a genius intraengine distillation system, capable of making liquor out of pretty much anything. He'd even rigged the thing to run a coil around the hydrogen tanks to make it come out nice and cold. That would have been the perfect addition to his cooking. Scowling, he sauntered back into the kitchen. "Oh, God, you're not actually going to drink that, are you?" Anne said, eyeing the pitcher in his hand. "What's wrong with it?" Zane protested. "It smells like bleach," Anne pointed out. "It tastes like bleach, too," Jacob chuckled. "You actually drank that rotgut?" she asked. "Not just any rotgut," Jacob proclaimed, standing in a heroic pose to make his point. "Zane's Rotgut. The very best of beverages that make ya blind!" Jacob earned a jab in the ribs for his trouble. Zane, though, went back to cooking. In a few minutes, the blob would take on all the properties of marinaded chicken, all the way down to the smell, and most importantly, the texture. The spices were already beginning to fill the air, and Sylvia sauntered in. She still had a towel round her neck, possibly straight up from her workout. "How is it you learned to cook like that?" Friday asked, as she appeared on Syl's heels. "I lived alone for three gorram years," Zane explained, making sure the pasta he'd bought on Beaumonde didn't boil over. Couldn't exactly spare the water. "I had the choice of either learning to cook for m'self, or to starve. I didn't starve." "Why didn't y'just pick up a w..." Friday said, but was cut off by a glare from Sylvia. Why didn't he just pick up a wife? He didn't know. What he did know was he thought of a dark skinned lass he picked up on Liann Juin. Wife for two days. And then him, a widower. Twenty two years old, and already damaged goods. As Early would say, does that seem right to you? He forced a smile onto his face. "Wives bring young'uns. And surnames, point of fact. Ain't got call for neither." "So," Sylvia asked. "Dinner is?" "Almost-Chicken and pasta," he announced, pouring the starchy water down the sink and mixing in the dressing and cheese. He divvied up the 'chicken' and pasta, loading up six plates, and bade them be passed around. Finally, he took his seat at the foot of the table. The meal was rather a lot better than their usual fare, especially because it mimiced meat to some close degree. Conversation was lively, too. If Matilda had done one good thing, it was distract them from Zane's indescretion. He found himself as much a part of the meal as any other, rather than relegated to shameful silence. He didn't like that, not one ruttin' bit. Zane finished first, despite being last to sit, and wandered down the stairs, that pitcher back in his hand as he went to where the line could've been interrupted. He saw the line appear out of the cieling at the catwalks, arcing between the overhead beams until it reached the large hydrogen tank at the back of the bay. There, it dropped pretty much straight down and entered near the bottom. He made his way down to the floor and sauntered over to the tank. Almost immediately, he started to smell a cloud of alcohol. "Da shiong, bao jah shr duh luh du-tze," Zane swore as he shoved a crate aside to get at the connection where the pool of liquor was leaking from. A scaly hide greeted him. He let out a clipped scream. "Boss!" he screamed. Matilda turned to face him, the severed hose 'twixt her teeth. And her eyes glassier than he remembered. Jacob didn't look impressed as he stomped down the stairs, likely for having to abandon a decent meal to Early's avaricious advances. When he saw Matilda, that look vanished. "Stand back," he ordered. Zane laughed. "What?" "She's drunk!" Zane noticed. "She must have sucked back half the batch!" "How can you tell?" "Pool's half the size the one was when I lost the whole batch," the mechanic pointed out. "And the pipe's right in her teeth. Woulda gone right down her gullet." "So now we have a drunk crocodile on my ship?" Jacob said. "Not to fret," Zane said. "Just hand me some patch tape and get me an arc welder." <> Legacy, a vision though she was, looked oddly out of place landed on Durran Haymer's private, floating estate. Jacob still found her all kind of appealing, but the 'high' folk sniffed and scoffed at looking at the craft on the landing area. Matilda's massive, inebriated form was hauled out of her makeshift cage by Haymer's help, and now he was walking to meet the man. Zane wasn't far behind. Why he tagged along, Jacob wasn't sure, but here he was. Finally, the doorman, a refined lookin' bloke, waved them into Haymer's study, a broad room with red carpets and a massive desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he noted that Zane turned on his heel and choked down a laugh the moment he entered the room. Jacob caught his shoulder and turned him about. The kid looked about ready to split his sides laughing. "What's this about?" Jacob asked gravely. Zane glanced up toward the back of the room, to the portrait hanging behind the desk. Jacob looked, and had to force his mouth shut. Hanging in oil paints was a massive rendition of Zane's lovely, duplicitous sister, smiling demurely out the door. Jacob seriously doubted the red-headed firebrand he saw those months ago could have been this woman. "You recognize her?" the grey haired man at the desk asked. "I'm sorry, no," Jacob said. "She is striking, though." The man, Haymer, if Fanty was honest, turned to glance at the portrait. "Yes. Yolanda, my darling wife." "Really?" Zane said quietly, and somehow, with a touch of composure. "I'd like to meet her." "I'm sorry, she's not available at the moment," Haymer said, a touch of bitterness in his voice. "But you didn't come for her, I know. You've delivered Matilda." "Yes, mister Haymer," Jacob said. "We have." "You delivered her full of alcohol," he said, face deadpan. "That is a long, damn long story," Jacob said. Haymer's face grew devious. "She got out, didn't she?" Durran asked. "Took her just twelve hours," Jacob admitted. Haymer seemed crestfallen. "Shuh muh?" "She's usually loose in half that," Haymer said, motioning the two to sit. As Jacob took his seat, he felt compelled to ask. "Yolanda... She's not here, is she?" he said slowly. Haymer's grey stubbled jaw flexed for a moment. "Yolanda... has difficulties. Issues, you might say." "But you want her back?" "Very much," Haymer said. Jacob cracked a smile. "Well," he said, "if our paths ever cross, I'll..." "I thank you for your aid in this matter, but I'd really prefer if you remained out of it," Haymer rose. "I'm going to get your payment." "Just one more thing," Jacob said. "Next time, could you acquire a pet beagle? They're a lot smaller, and they won't eat my crew." The man gave Jacob a condescending smile, then made his way out of the room. The instant the door closed, Zane dissolved into laughter. "Stop it," Jacob warned. "If he comes back and finds you off your nut..." "Just... Yolanda!" he vanished into another fit, almost falling out of this chair with it. "So," Jacob summed up aloud. "Durran Haymer is her husband, too." "Who in the damn galaxy ain't?" Zane managed to say. <> The men beat at the door in vain, trying to batter down something which was designed to withstand explosions. Agent Blue watched them for a moment before stepping forward. They would achieve nothing, and just waste his time. "Get out of my way," he said quietly. The soldiers glanced at him, noticed his blue hands, and backed away so quickly he almost said that they scuttled. His eyes ran along the profile of the door. "What happened?" he asked. Once more he cursed the fates which would give him just enough power to set him at the forefront of his fellow man, and yet not quite enough to set him above them. Some would call it a divine comedy. He just called it motivation. What he was not born with, he would acquire. By any means necessary. The closer of the men stepped forward. "The subject went berserk. It seem's he's manifested some new abilities since he was last in this facility. They were unprepared, and were killed." "And he has made no attempt at escape?" Blue asked. "No," the guard replied. "In fact, he jammed the doors out before doing anything else. He's been locked inside for about five minutes." "Stand clear," Agent Blue said, waiting just until the man had stepped aside before focusing his will. With a punch of mental force, he burst the door from its hinges, knocking it into the room with a cataclysmic crash. Blue was the very first into the room, with a Supervisor right behind him. Agent Blue took in the room. The mirror which split the room in twain was shattered, and a number of bodies lay about the floor on both sides. Blue frowned down at the large form slumped forward onto the table. His blue fingered hand laced its way into the hair, and pulled the head up, and he stared into the lifeless grey eyes. "This one is alive," the supervisor said, removing his black gloved hand from the bleeding woman's neck. "Subject McKenna is not," Blue said. "Impossible. Find a biorhythmist," the supervisor protested. "It will not be of any use," Blue pointed out. "Elias McKenna is dead. Not clinically dead. Dead. There is nothing of him in there." "And whatever he learned died with him," the supervisor said, his black fingered hand kneading his chin. "The Coordinator will not be pleased." "No," Agent Blue agreed. "No, he will not."

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