BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 1:20, The Big Damn Job, Part 2 (Got Took)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

With time running out, Legacy and the rest of the Independant Fleet make their way to Boros to fight of the Reavers. The battle will be brutal, and not everybody will make it back.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1716    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Ah. The Season Finale. It took a damn long time to reach this place, and it feels good to have come so far. With this out of the way, I'll be able to start the next season as soon as the inspiration hits. And next season's gonna be a hell of a doozy. This is the last session my group actually played. With it havin' pretty much dissolved out from under me, that makes the storyline here on out entirely mine. Also, enjoy the plot twist I put at the end. All your Serenity are Belong to Joss, everythin' else is ruttin' mine! Feedback would be a great niceness The Big Damn Job, Part 2 (Got Took)

"Well?" The entire crew of Legacy had appeared on the bridge, sidling up in pairs or alone. Jacob watched the screen, which was watching directly astern. Anne, having changed back into her usual attire of one of his shirts and her own pants, was focused on keeping up with the fleet, which was following in the wake of the Alpha Wolf, so far ahead that it had vanished from sight. Jacob, on the other hand, was watching as the vaunted blockade around Hera fell right the hell apart as they recognized Kell's ship. Too many stories had been circulated about that Lady Pirate class ship, too many stories about the pyrrhic battle that had been won against him, and by definition, lost against him. The Rachel Wall was a thing of myth and terror. And it opened the way out of Hera rather effectively. "Only problem is, ain't nobody followin' us," Jayne pointed out. Inara turned to him, seeming astounded that he even had the faculty to point out the obvious. "Weren't that the cunnin' plan? Get'm all runnin' after us?" "Even the best laid plans never survive the first engagement," Jacob said, leaning back in his chair. "If we can't get somebody after us, we're humped. Reaver's'll be there less than two hours after we are, unless..." "Jacob?" Anne asked. "Open a Cortex link. I've got to talk to the Magellan." "What?" several people asked as one. Not Sylvia, though. She already knew. "You're going to sell them out, boss?" Zane seemed a bit horrified. The sound of a pistol being drawn brought his gaze to Jayne, who didn't seem to have moved, but his holster was now empty. "That's low," the large man said. "And it don't get us paid." "For your information, the Magellan would be right behind them by now," Jacob said. "If we can't slow them down, might want to thin them out a bit before they reach us, dong ma?" Jayne scowled, but uncrossed his arms and returned his large revolver to its place. Jacob wasted no time setting up the link. "Ni How?" Barclay answered. He seemed to have gone rather a long time without shaving, recently. "Captain... Greyson, was it?" "Happy you remember me," Jacob said, "but I'm afraid we haven't time for pleasantries." "I suppose not," Barclay responded. "You're lucky to have Waved when you did. I was about to..." "You need to run a residual heat sweep," Jacob said. "Excuse me?" the Colonel seemed shocked that he'd have demands made of him, by a civilian, no less. Jacob would have, too, were situation reversed. "If I'm wrong, you've just wasted thirty seconds, and you can cite me for whatever charge you think is appropriate. If I'm right, you're in a peck of trouble." Barclay sighed, seeming more tired than he had been before. Almost too tired to care, now that he thought about it. "Run a sweep, low level residual heat," he ordered to something out of view. "Mister Greyson, now that this bit of innanity is over with, how did you find this..." "Colonel!" came another voice. "We've got a... fourty... seventy... I can't even tell how many. They're spoofing our long range sweeps." "What are they?" the back of Barclay's head was to the screen, now. "Unknown. Strike that, we have confirmed Crabs. It's the Reavers, sir." Barclay whirled around. "How did you know about them?" he demanded. "Call it a hunch," Jacob replied. The Colonel ground his teeth for just a moment, then began to shout orders. The line went dead. "Well," Sylvia said. "At least we're gettin' people's attention." The screen flicked on once more, revealing a more-than-a-little pissed off looking Logan Kell. "What in the nine hells are you doin' talking to the enemy? I have half a mind to open fire." "You were listening in, I take it?" Jacob responded calmly. Kell nodded. "Then you heard me sic him on the Reavers' flanks." "That won't even slow them down," Kell pointed out. "No, it certainly won't, but it'll thin them out. And if all the scorn we can pull down is the Magellan, we're going to need their numbers as low as possible." Kell conceded the point, and Jacob continued. "He's going to defect," he muttered. Kell arched an eyebrow. "Defect? How do you know this?" Kell asked. Jacob smiled. "Call it a hunch." Kell shook his head, then frowned at something Greyson couldn't see. "We have a problem." "What is it?" "They've moved the Tohoku's. Damn, I was counting on them to back us up," he paused. "I can't believe I just said that." "What's their... Damn it," Zane said, forcing his way through the press, up to Jacob's side. "What's left in that yard?" "A Victoria that almost got split in two, from the looks of it. Almost a dozen gorram Cranes, two Hammers," Kell seemed disgusted with them, but his face lit up. "And a Mountain. Perfect." The screen flickered, with his face reappearing after a moment. Kell was going public. "There's been a snag. You all should be reaching our position in a matter of about a half hour. All the unarmed ships, yes, that includes you Reynolds, dock inside the Mountain situated... here." a transluscent map of the docks appeared, indicating the target. "It's core isn't scheduled to be running for another week, which means our techs've got seven days worth of work and two hours to do it." "Is he seriously going to steal that ship?" Zane asked. With a smile, no less. "Seems more'n like," Anne responded. "There, I think I see him." Jacob nodded. "Alert the grunts in the hold," he said. "Bring us onto that Mountain. I want some real ammunition." As the crowd dispersed a bit, he noticed that Jayne and Inara had remained behind. "Jayne I guess you might be seein' some action after all," the large man swallowed, but didn't look away. "Sorry to say, this place ain't exactly safe anymore." <> Every ship that could keep up with a Firefly had been packed to the gills with Independent veterans, or folk with an Indedpendant mindset willing to fight. The name of Logan Kell worked wonders with recuitment, it seemed. These folk poured out of the small craft, sweeping through the ship from stem to stern. Orders were, don't kill, though. They needed the techs alive. <> "Whats the situation?" the man asked. Jacob was taken aback by his eyes, the exact golden color of Logan's. He wondered if the two were related. It seemed a bit unlikely, though, as this man had a Dytoner's accent. "Your grunts cleared the ship," Jacob said. "Truth told, I expected it wouldn't be so easy." "Most don't care that we wear the brown," the man responded, "once they caught word that Reavers were comin' next. My worry is why there weren't any marines." "Alliance is getting sloppy," Reynolds interjected. "William, didn't think I'd see you abouts." "Then you don't know me very well, do you?" He responded, just managing to dodge aside as a rack of missiles was sprinted up Legacy's ramp. "This situation seems all kinds of wrong. Too easy, seems like." "Anything too good to be true," Jacob said. "Exists for naughty men like us to exploit," Reynolds finished. Jacob shook his head, trying to dispell the notion that things were going too well. He noticed Zane and Serenity's mechanic, Kaylee, talking animatedly not far away. He noticed Early getting off his ship in his red armor, and the heated glare he drew from Mal. He noticed the other ships in the bay. Unarmed. Sitting ducks, one might call them. "Look," William said. "We've got all manner of ugly coming onto us. Get to your spots. Mechanics! You've got work to do!" "Don't need to be so pushy," he heard Kaylee grouse. "Should be restin' on a nice fluffy bed, 'stead of rummagin' round in..." Jacob ran his fingers along one of the longish missiles that now filled his cargo bay. Zane sauntered up and began cursing out them's took to reloading the missile launcher. Jacob couldn't understand half what came out of the young man's mouth, but he caught that they wasn't doin' it right somehow. Jayne looked sorta ridiculous, a hulking shadow sitting on the stairs with entirely too much weaponry draped about him. The captain squinted. "You really need all them weapons?" Jayne scowled. "We get hit by Reavers, ain't all of them'll be nearly enough." "Are those grenades?" "Might be," the mercenary glanced away. "My cargo hold is full of highly explosive ordinance. Grenades ain't exactly a good idea," he explained. "But," Jayne began, but Jacob cut him off. "No grenades." Jayne was positively pouting as he went to the room he'd been granted to stow his explosives. Sylvia was making her way down the stairs when Jayne vanished. She'd tied her hair back again, in that complex braid she was starting to favor. She had more weaponry than Jayne had hanging over her brown coat, and likely had as much underneath it. "Well?" he said. "Don't," she said. "Not a word. Anything you say right now will sound too much like goodbye." "We both know you're too tough to die," he retorted. "I'll see you on the other side." She smiled then, a distant, haunting smile. "Yes. Yes you will." He stared after her as she departed. Sometimes, she had a definite oddness about her. "And with you added to the tally, that would be all of them?" he said, hearing Inara's measured footprints. He flicked a glance over his left shoulder. "What do you bring to the table?" Serra looked him up and down, seeming to try and take a measure of him. "I can make myself useful," she replied evenly. "Good. Just stay the hell out of our way when the fire starts flyin', and it'll all be shiny," he turned and made his way to the bridge. The passage vanished behind, and he took his place hunching over the pilot's station. "We locked up?" "We are..." she paused, "now." "Well, take her out, nice and slow. Got a couple hundred tonnes of explosives in us, might do well with some discretion," he said. She gave him a glance and then bucked the craft out of the bay and into the airlock. It took more than a few seconds for Jacob to start breathing again. "What did I just say?" "Have a little faith, Jacob," she muttered as the area around the ship depressurized, and opened to space. "Not today, Anne. Not today." The two stood in silence for a while, watching as they drew abreast of Kell's ship. Zane interrupted that silence when he appeared on the bridge and readied the ship's weapons, but didn't say anything. How could they? "Dock with the Wolf," Jacob said. "I'm feelin' a mite antsy to hand over some of our cargo." She nodded, subtly manipulating her controls. Jacob forced himself upright, staring out into the black. "Where are you hiding?" he whispered. <> Kell smiled, a wolfish smile, as he saw this newest face appear on the screen. Barclay didn't seem to impressed to be facing this 'war-criminal', and was letting his displeasure be known. "I never thought I'd be talking to the infamous Logan Kell," Barclay said. "And I never thought we'd be on the same side," Kell pointed out. "So how abouts we just ignore those niggling little facts until they go away?" Barclay sighed. "How many?" "When we engaged the war-band, all the rest of them powered up and moved off. We managed to destroy about twenty... Cutters, I think you called them." Cutters. Naval particle weaponry, and it just had to be the Reavers who pulled it off first. Ordinarily, Kell would have grinned at the idea of the Alliance coming in second technologically, but this weapon was arrayed against him. That caused him no small amount of concern. The beam a Cutter fired could EMP a ship dead, at least until its backup power could be restored. If the ship was in atmosphere, that was. In space, that 'laser' was almost invisible, and had a tendency to melt the gorram plating. Twenty less cutters was a thing of beauty, but it wasn't near enough. "So," Kell asked. "What did you tell your crew? About the nature of this enemy, I mean?" Barclay ran his fingers through his short hair. "The truth." "Well, color me shocked," Kell laughed. "I didn't think you greychests had it in you." Barclay frowned sardonically. "Most don't. Our engines are pushing hard, but they've outrun us for the time being. I hate to say this... but what's the plan?" "You, get here. All you need to know," Kell terminated the transmission. "What a whiner." A screen popped out of the holotank, showing Sergeant Reynolds leaning toward a screen on that Mountain. "We've got a problem." "What is it?" Reynolds glanced about. "Have you seen how large this thing is? Reavers hit us, ain't a way in the 'Verse we're gonna be able to stop them." "Then come up with a plan," Kell ordered. "I hear you were rather imaginative back in the trenches. Think of something." Reynolds frowned for a moment, then that 'bingo' look lit up on his face, and he walked off, shouting orders. With nobody in front of the screen, it automatically shut itself off. Kell waited a moment, then asked for an update. "Well," Carson said. "The Mountain has started bleeding atmosphere. Badly, I might say. Almost everywhere." Brilliant, Kell thought. Give them one way in, make it impossible to get into the heart without coming through a wave of bullets. Another screen popped up. This time, it was captain Greyson. "We've got a problem," he said. "Well, who in the damn galaxy don't?" Kell asked. "This is too easy," the man said definitively. "How so?" "That ship must be worth millions," Jacob pointed out pacing into and out of shot. "Would any sane person leave something worth that much, and so heavily armed, I might add, completely without a contingent of marines?" "I can't say as they would," Kell answered. "And the Cruisers. Most of them aren't even complete yet. Somebody would have needed to order in tugs to get them out, dong ma?" "That's not in question," Kell replied, starting to see where the rails of this kid's thought processes were going. "No marines, no naval vanguard, no blockade following us, and a big, juicy prize waiting for us at the end," Jacob leaned forward. "To quote a member of my crew, does that seem right to you?" Kell picked up a book and hurled it across the room. "We're being set up!" he growled. "Contacts at extreme range. Verifying," Carson said. "It's the Reavers." "Ready the long-missiles, and prepare the med-missiles for switchover. What's the nearest target?" "Crab Colony, in range in five, four." Kell watched as the holotank began to process the information and project it into a three dimensional representation of the battlefield. The ships on the line, some twenty-odd in total, were all clear and distinct. The approaching Reavers, not so much. He waited three more seconds. "Open fire, tube one. Let's see how much these hun dahn can take." A missile streaked away, crossing the vast distance, its tiny marker blinking as it crossed the void, until it reached the foremost of the Reaver signals. A tiny stylized flash... and the first ship drifted apart in pieces. "We have confirmation of breakup," Carson said, "next target is a..." "Wait," Kell ordered. "Scan the debris. Is it moving under its own power?" Carson looked a bit confused, but ran a sweep. His face came up pale. "Sir," he said, "The debris is changing course and accelerating toward the Mountain." "Don't call me sir. Tell the cannon-ships to prepare for a close fight," He loped around the tank. "Where are the others headed?" "A direct line will put them straight through us, and into the Mountain." "The Mountain, the Mountain, always with the rutting Mountain," Kell growled. "Fire at will, one missile per target per shot. These Reavers are devious bastards. Be ready for anything." Golden eyes surveyed the black of the battlefield, his home for his entire life, as dozens of markers zipping away from his ship. Now, he thought, comes the interesting part. <> Sylvia was getting sore. She'd been sitting here for almost a half hour now, ever since Reynolds pulled that plan out of his pi gu to herd the Reavers into a slaughteryard. She could feel the rest of her crew out there, worry punctuated by moments of panic, settling back out into worry. She didn't even know how the battle was going. All she knew was that Jacob felt betrayed. She checked her weapons again for the seventeenth time. She could feel them, too. The rage of them. The gruesome song they sang when they were at war. They hadn't sang it before. Hadn't been this united. They had a goal. She didn't know what it was. But they had it. A loud, shrieking sound tore through the bay, and the ship lurched no small amount. The bulkheads in the empty bay they'd selected distended inwards, finally splitting open with a whoosh of air being blown into space. The whoosh ended quickly, though, as bulkheads and air-tight gel filled in around the wound. But they were in. "They're here!" she called back, forcing herself back into the choke point. There was no use trying to engage them in the bay. Too much room for the Reavers to maneuver. Early, waiting not far away, backed with her to the barricades they'd set up, slim cover but far better than none. The screams began to fill the bay as the ship disgourged its horrid contents. The two shared a look, and Sylvia glanced back at Reynolds, who was staring at the chamber with a look of horror. "Where's River?" she asked. "I thought she was supposed to be a big, bad Reaver-killer?" Reynolds scowled as he brought up his rifle, aiming past them as they got behind the barricades. "She can't just turn it on like a tap, woman." "Well, she picked a sweet bung of a time to go helpless," Sylvia muttered. Reynolds smirked at her for a moment, but his attention snapped back as the first vaguely man-shaped form pounded into the corridor. At least ten guns belched rage and inferno, leaving the form a twitching mass. Three more followed, brandishing weapons that didn't look sharp enough to kill in one blow. As was their intention, she gathered. The pistol in her hand jumped with every shot, and soon these next three were on the ground as well. "Not too bright," one of the men nearby noted. The next group, considerably larger than the first, scuttled low into the hall, scooping up the bodies of their fallen as they went. This flesh they held before them, a shield against the bullets which were sent their way. They got twice as far as those behind them. "Aim for the legs!" Reynolds shouted, matching action to notion and knocking a kneecap out from under a Reaver. The rest followed suit, dropping the rest of them to the ground about half way to the barricade. More bullets followed, to make sure that them as fell, stayed fallen. Something wasn't right, she realized. Something beyond having to face down Reavers. She pulled a grenade out of her pocket and pulled its pin. With a glance, she tossed the thing just past the snarling near-corpses. The instant it hit the ground, another wave of Reavers poured around the corner, just reaching the device, oblivious to its threat, when it exploded. The nearest were blasted into oblivion, the furthest merely knocked back. "Good eye," Early muttered. She readied another one, tossing it at the crowd as it attempted to reclaim itself. This time, the Reaver nearest to it grabbed the thing and curled himself around it. The grenade went off, blasting that one into slivers, but leaving the rest of them almost unharmed. Altruism in the ranks of the Reavers? Impossible. Then she saw her, standing in the back, with that pale armor. In truth, she didn't see her, but rather her reflection in the corner mirror the Alliance bolted in so folk in a rush wouldn't collide with each other. They were being directed now. The crowd behind her swelled, then burst, streaming past her into the corridor. "Mal!" she screamed. "We need to pull back." "Like hell we do," He said, taking a shot at the first of the horde that barreled down on them. Even those at the front managed to reach the etched floor before their bodies gave up on them, but they were simply hefted by those directly behind and carried forward through the maelstrom. She shifted her aim downward, but that only succeeded in stumbling a few. They were getting entirely too close. "Fall back!" Reynolds shouted, firing as he retreated. The entire group backed away as the horde took control of their position. "What now?" she demanded. Malcolm glanced back, toward the second barricade they'd set up, just in case of this situation. "We hold them here," the captain said. "You, go find River." Syl nodded and backed away, sliding her pistols back into their holster and readying her shotgun. The others, Early included, stared at the milling mass before them in terror. "You listen to me," Mal shouted even as he fired. "We are going to make it through this. We just have to hold." "But, sir!" one protested. "You hold!" Reynolds shouted. "You hold, and our angel will be here in no time." The corridor behind her filled with the sounds of guns and screaming as she ran, seeking out that inconstant candle against the black. <> "Take over," Zane shouted as he vaulted up from the seat. Inara smoothly moved in to take his place. "Fire as soon as I get this thing reloaded, dong ma?" She was terrified. She wasn't often so, only a few times in recent memory, that she could think of. Her hands held the controls that aimed the missile, as Anne's held the stick which steered the ship. Her eyes grew wide as a massive ship loomed up on the viewscreen. "Anne, do you see that?" she asked. "I see it." "Would you turn?" "Bi zwai." "Would you turn!" "You want to drive?" Anne demanded, flipping the craft and pulling up along the Reaver ship's backbone. She pounded on the intercom. "Open the bomb bay." From a stern-facing camera, she watched as a handful of missiles were projected by her maneuver directly into the hide of the vessal, bursting the skin and doing some, but not nearly enough, damage. The screen came back on line, indicating Zane had started to reload this ship's weapons. She spotted a patchwork ship attempting to run down another of Kell's makeshift fleet, and she triggered the weapon. The grey contrail lept away, correcting itself until it slammed full and center into the hull of the craft, knocking it badly off course and shearing a portion of it clean away. It was a heady sensation, to have so much power at her fingertips. She finally understood why military men were so hard to work with. A heavy clang filled the ship, almost throwing Inara from her seat. "What was that?" she asked. "We've got Crabs," Anne said, now seeming to fight a bit harder with the controls. "They've latched onto our hull." "That means?" Anne's eyes hardened, and she leapt up from her seat. "Take the controls, woman," she shouted, pulling a small welder and a piece of nondescript metal from the storage locker. "We've just been boarded by Reavers." <> Vera let fly a stream of high velocity, high density slugs which tore the last one damn near in two. It fell twitchin' as the Captain kicked the face of one tryin' to crawl up his leg, despite havin' been spine-shot damn near five minutes ago. "Mighta been a good time for a GRENADE, don'tcha think?" Greyson shot Jayne a sour look with his one eye before pulling Zane to his feet. The kid looked more'n a little dazed, but takin' a cranium crack like that wouldn't do most folk much good, and he shrugged it off like a trooper. "You still here?" he asked. The kid didn't reply fast enough, so Jacob shook him and shouted again. "Ai ya! I'm here boss. Just a little addled, s'all," The mechanic went right back to work, loadin' them bigass missiles into the tank at the back of the hold. Seemed like 'Nara was firin' them off pretty damn quick, 'cause the kid ain't had a chance to stop since he come down. Jayne pulled out Petunia, his very favorite revolver, and put a big-ass slug into the last movin' Reaver's skull. Damn thing finally stopped movin'. "Anne, might want to be a bit greasier up there. We've already had more visitors than I'd like," the captain said. "Easier said, Jacob," the little'un replied. "With that Crab on our hull, we've lost some of our maneuverabilty." "Then shake it." "That'll decompress the cargo bay," she said. "And even if it don't it'll still tear us to merry hob." "Just keep us slick out there." Jayne shook his head at the exchange. He'd been through some tricky flyin' with both Wash and the crazy one. Couldn't have been that damn hard keepin' clear of the things. Space was kinda big. "Jayne," came an all too familiar, and all too impossible voice. "Gorramit!" he jumped, turning to see River standin' directly behind him. "How the hell'd you get here. We done left you on that..." "You did. You need to go up. Now," the girl said. He didn't move. "Go!" "Jacob, you see this?" Jacob turned toward him, but glared rather than say anything. Finally, the captain arched an eyebrow. "See what?" Jayne turned back to the crazy one with a frown. Maybe he was just goin' crazy too. "He can't see me. Only you can. Go now," Jayne opened his mouth, but the girl in the blue dress turned, and vanished. Fong luh. He was about to talk to the captain, but another tearing slam sounded, this one from directly above the the hold. Kitchen. Gorramit. Jacob didn't even spare a backward glance. He simply pointed at the mercenary and shouted. "Engine Room!" the man himself tore up the stairs like a bat out of hell, headed toward the cockpit. Jayne took the other route, poundin' past the infirmery - damn, but it din't look like the sissy doctor's, though. More like 'Nara's room, by his mind - and up the back stairway. He swung Vera out in front of him, lockin' it against his body to get some shots off in the close quarters. His other hand held Petunia. Up the hall, he saw sparks flyin' from the edge of the cockpit door. Smart girls, weldin' the damn door shut. Them Reaver's won't be gettin' through that any time soon. He turned back to the engines just in time to see a Reaver lauch itself at him. The two struggled a bit, finally landin' on the floor with the Reaver dead to rights under Vera's barrel. Didn't take too long to put a couple slugs in the hun dahn, but it kept on a-fightin'. Jayne was about to use Petunia to put a slug into its brainpan when he was struck, knockin' him off the Reaver and landin' him face down on the floor. He felt 'em clawin' at his back, at his pants. He knew how they fought. Odds bein' even, they'd kill ya quick as not, but if they had numbers, they played with ya first. And they had numbers. Vera was stuck under him, and Petunia was in his wrong hand. He could let go a' her to switch, but that meant he might lose'r entirely. Not a fun thing. He was decided as the Reaver on his back screamed in frustration as its fingers slid impotently along them metal pants River got him. Din't think he'd have them on under his trousers, did they? Silently, he thanked that feng kuang li'l 'un. She might be crazy, but she sure's all hell weren't stupid. He let the gun fall out of his left hand and snatched up up in his right. Pointing it blindly over his shoulder, he took some shots. The force holdin' him down let up, and he rolled over, tryin' to get a shot on the next 'un that come his way. He hurled a curse as one that was now behind him grabbed his arm, keepin' him from gettin a good shot. "No mercy, no resistance," the thing snarled at him, across filed down teeth. Jayne worked up a glob of spit and launched it right at the thing's eye. Seemed the right thing to do, ways he was in. Gunshots distracted the Reaver for a moment, and Jayne felt the thing holdin' his legs let go. He looked over the body lyin on his chest, which was lackin' pretty much anythin' above the jaw - Petunia wasn't a pretty girl, but she had a punch - and saw Jacob approachin', firin' that ugly lookin' gun he had at the Reaver at Jayne's feet. It twitched a bit, not quite risin', and Jacob's attention turned to the one behind the mercenary's head. Four more slugs tore into the thing, finally angerin' it enough to go after a new target. Greyson, point of fact. His arm finally free, Jayne took a moment to get aim, and fired. The bullet tore right through this'n's brainpan, scatterin' it in little bitty pieces along the inside of the corridor. "You bleedin'?" Jacob asked. "More'n a little. Where's the other 'un?" Jayne asked. "Other one?" "Them ships carry four, idjit," Jayne shouted, tryin' to push the Reaver corpse off his chest. "There's another'un around. Where is he?" "Ain't seen any oth..." Jacob said. He was cut off by a long jaggedy sword burstin' out the front of his chest. <> "River, where in the puckered sphincter of hell have you been?" Sylvia shouted, shaking the girl who stared blankly through the walls. Finally, the girl seemed to focus on something a little closer, her mouth closing, then opening again. "Gorramit, woman, come to!" she said, giving the girl a slap. River responded by returning the slap with interest. Sylvia rubbed her cheek as River stretched her back, as if she'd just been asleep. "Good to see you're back with us." "Had to warn them. Hard to do, yet. Haven't learned the trick," River seemed a bit purplexed at this. "Fun as it is to run through your little riddles, we got other things to do. Like staying alive, for one. You got it in you to kill some beasts?" "I don't know," River said sincerely. "I still can't really believe I did it last time." "Ni ta ma duh tyen-shia suo-yo duh run dah gai-si," Sylvia muttered quickly. "So our secret weapon is a helpless seventeen year old girl?" "Nearly nineteen," River corrected indignantly, "And not helpless." Sylvia ignored her for the moment and flicked on her transponder. "Reynolds, I've found her. Where are you now?" "In the hot place," Mal responded. "Entirely too close to the core for anyone's liking." "Come on," she grasped River's hand, but the girl slipped free of her, and ran off in another direction. With another colorful curse in Mandarin, Sylvia ran after her. She knew nobody else would have been able to keep up with the girl, because River was moving so fast even Sylvia was getting winded keeping up. River vanished around a corner, and when Sylvia rounded it, she almost ran into the girl. River was staring down the hall at three women, all in pale armor, as they advanced toward them. River's nimble hands pulled the combat knife Sylvia kept on her belt before bolting forward. Sylvia pulled out her shotgun and followed, but didn't even have the thing racked by the time the ninty-pound girl had flung herself at the three women who were all taller, heavier, and stronger than she. It was the oddest thing Sylvia had ever seen. River flowed among them as water, the knife turning blades and scraping along armor as she easily dodged every thrust, every swing, and every kick. None of the blows she was managing seemed to be of effect, though. Their hides were just too thick. Finally, River managed to turn a thrust by one Eye into the chest of another, and pulled the impaled one over her. Sylvia smiled at the girl, reading Sylvia's idea before she was even sure what it was. She'd loaded this weapon with firefly rounds, and now the girl was out protected from them. Sylvia squeezed the trigger, the weapon belching a cloud of fast-spreading fire which covered the two standing Eyes and the one drawn over River. The young woman kicked the burning corpse away and used the knife to turn another assault by the currently immolated Reavers. They didn't scream with the pain they should be feeling. Why would they? With a curse, Sylvia dropped the shotgun to the floor and pulled out a pistol, plugging rounds into the burning backs of the Eyes, even as River hacked at them with the knife. Soon, her fight brought her next to the still, burning corpse of the first to fall, and Sylvia kicked the sword into her grasp. "River!" she shouted, heaving the thing past the two who were still valiently trying to... wait, they weren't trying to kill her... River caught the weapon and swung first high, then low. The first swing took the first Eye from ear to ear through the face, the second hacked off the leg of the other, which was already beginning to flag as its body was consumed by napalm. River took just a moment to cut off a section of her dress which had some of the sticky, burning substance off of her, then looked up at Sylvia, who was carefully standing clear of the puddles. "No power in the 'Verse can stop me," she said, with a sweet, innocent smile. A horde poured around the corner somewhat distant, a mass of snarl and snap that advanced like a tide. Sylvia glanced back at her shotgun, too far behind to grab quickly, with a pit of fire between them. River, though, just smiled. "I think I just learned a new trick." Sylvia was frowning at the girl when the Reavers screams went from rage to alarm. As the girl watched the advancing crowd, they began to be slammed around as if by massive, invisible hands. One at a time, the foremost was swept aside and dashed against the walls. Telekinesis? Was that even possible? She was standing before evidence that it did. "You're killing them," Sylvia said between shots which were seeming to become increasingly redundant. "With my brain," River affirmed. She pointed through the badly thinned crowd to the hall from which they came. "That is the way." River slumped, and Sylvia caught her with her left arm, still plugging bullets into the last two Reavers advancing. "Are you here?" River answered by reaching into Sylvia's holster and pulling out a pistol. Without looking, one bullet went into each Reaver skull. "I'll take that as a yes," Sylvia muttered, walking the woman down the hall. "It's more tiring than I thought. So tiring," River said. Sylvia slapped her again, and River slapped her back. "Stop doing that!" "Stop slapping me," River protested. "Stop falling asleep." Sylvia heard something spoken in the din of the fire. Something she could have sworn she was supposed to know. She filed the sound down, and began to run it through her brain. It was a voice, and it was saying something. Obscure language, no verbal equivalent of 'to be'. Tobrik. Something was speaking Tobrik. Now what had they said? The two made their way into an intersection. Sylvia paused as she beheld a woman in pale armor standing shocked at the side of a bulkhead which had just been breached. The Eye turned back into the breach and shouted. It took Sylvia a moment to translate it. "That's the one!" the Reaver had shouted. "Get her. Bring her back alive!" Sylvia shoved River past the intersection and took aim with her pistol. "Go, they need you," she shouted to River. River looked from Sylvia through the bulkhead to where the woman was standing. Sylvia squeezed off her first shot, taking the woman in the shoulder. River nodded. "I'll see you on the other side," River's choice of words seemed very deliberate, and a tear spilt out onto her cheek as she ran toward the line. "Just you and me, Reaver bitch," Sylvia swore as she began to fire in earnest. The Eye was advancing, about to shout something, but one of Sylvia's shots struck the creature in the lung, driving out the wind. Still, it advanced, readying its sword for a gutting blow, still weaving to dodge as many of Syl's shots as it could. Finally, one of Syl's bullets caught the Reaver in the knee, dropping her for a moment. In that moment, the next bullet went through her skull. "Is that the best you've got?" she shouted in triumph. Until, that was, two figures appeared. Each was wearing a long black-brown robe, one which seemed to change its hue with every movement. She couldn't see the faces of either, but they advanced with straight backs. She almost lowered her gun, but she recognized the words they spoke. "Open them up, see what's inside," they said, in Tobrik. Sylvia leveled her gun on the first. With a shriek, she dropped the fire arm, which now glowed red on the floor. The rest of the bullets inside made the thing explode as they were cooked off. She nursed her burned hand as she watched the pair come closer. She reached out with her mind, attempting that trick River had done, that she had done. Not to incapacitate, this time. To tear their brains apart. To kill. With a sweeping gesture from her target, she felt her efforts dismissed, turned back. She felt herself struck across the jaw, and she staggered back. Another phantom blow came, this time driving the air out of her lungs. Another, buckling her knee. Another, again in the head. She was taking as sound a beating as she ever took and the two delivering it were still standing three yards away. She growled her defiance as she tried to take her feet, tried to strike back one last time before the end. The one on the left cocked his arm back, and then let it fly forward. The force slammed into her, knocking her onto the ground. She felt the blood begin to ooze out of her nose, and despite her greatest efforts, she couldn't rise. She tried to, tried desparately, but she couldn't. The world became very black. "He will be very happy to see you," they said as one. <> This was new, Jacob thought as he slumped to the ground. He'd had a lot happen to him in his life. He'd been drugged, beat up, shot more times than he'd like to admit, stabbed and cut on, but he'd never been impaled before. For some reason, he thought it wouldn't hurt like this, that the sharpness would prevent that somehow. Blind, bouncin' Buddha, weren't he wrong about that? Jayne's massively oversized pistol fired three times, knocking the malignant hand away from the hilt still protruding from Jacob's back. Jacob fell to his hands and knees, just barely keeping the sword's tip from catching on the floor grating and tearing at his insides. "You alive?" Jayne asked after a moment. "Get. It. Out!" Jacob screamed, noting the flecks of red which landed on the floor and on the backs of his hands. The pain amplified a hundred fold as the mercenary pulled the weapon out the way it had gone in, and Jacob screamed. The world went black. <> "What's going on?" Inara asked. Anne stared at the sight, unable to believe it her own self. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "But it kinda looks like the entire Reaver fleet's just up and leavin'." The Companion's eyes flit around. "But that's good, isn't it? That means we won?" Anne shook her head. "No, this isn't over. Somethin' ain't right. Reaver's don't just leave, 'specially when they're that damn close to winnin'." "What are you saying?" Inara demanded. Tzao gao, that woman could be pushy sometimes. A pounding came at the door which she'd welded shut a few minutes ago. Anne nodded to her controls, noting how quickly Inara took over. She pulled her own gun and creapt up to the door. "Gorramit woman, open the door," Jayne's booming voice came. "One minute," she said, grabbing the torch from the storage locker. On her way back, she grabbed the intercom. "Zane, get that engine spinning. I don't like being dead in the water up here." "Shr ah!" the mechanic replied. She began to melt the welds that held the door shut, noting that less than ten seconds passed before Zane was vaulting up the stairs, over the corpses of Reavers, and into the engine room. Finally, the door came open. "What is it, Jayne?" she asked. "You know first aid?" he demanded. "Not so much," Anne said, "Why?" "I do," Inara answered before the man spoke. "Good, Jacob done got spitted, and ain't noone else on the boat knows how to make it right." Anne felt herself slump to the floor, and barely even noticed Inara run past her, out into the ship. Jacob was... no. He couldn't be. Please, God, don't let it be true. She was running her own self before she knew it, almost overtaking the mercenary by the time they'd reached the infirmery. She was at his side in a heartbeat, holding his hand, begging for him to be alive. "Calm down," Inara said, herself calm. "He's still breathing. Mal's had worse on a number of occasions." "But you had a doctor to patch him up after," Anne pointed out. Inara was forced to nod to the admission. "You have biogel?" Inara asked. Anne shrugged in ignorance, and the Companion sicced the mercenary on the drawers and cupboards. After a disturbingly long time, Jayne held out a tube of something toward Inara. "We're lucky he's unconcious, because I hear this hurts." She injected the tube of foamy stuff into the wound, and Jacob's eyes snapped opened. His teeth clenched as the last of the tube was pumped out, forming a crest on his lower ribs. "Jacob?" Anne asked. "Yes?" Anne couldn't hold it any longer. She clutched his shoulder and felt the tears begin to flow. He almost left her again. She couldn't do this again. She just couldn't. "Does anybody else see her?" She didn't understand what he was saying. Possibly, neither did he. She was interrupted in her ruminations by Jayne, saying "You see her too?" "Huh." She looked up, noting that Jacob was staring at an unoccupied corner of the room. "Gorram," Jayne muttered at the same spot. "You sure, li'l 'un?" <> Malcolm stood from the makeshift barricade, noticing the screaming had at last stopped. There were a lot of injured during that last push they made. It was as if they'd pushed themselves beyond the constraints of their body, a final berserker advance that breached the lines. Slaughtered the lines. Not anymore, though. Now, the room was quiet. Simon and the rest of the doctors and such moved forward to help them as could be helped. Malcolm's eyes inexorably drifted to the one who stood in the middle of the ocean of dead. He'd seen a similar sight, so similar he almost laughed at the absurdity of it. River turned to him, her dark eyes, seeing well past him. In one hand, she held one of the Reaver's axes, in the other, a heavy pistol with its slide locked back. We are bound in this. He blinked at hearing her voice in his head. He took a step toward the young telepath, wincing as the wounds on both leg and arm burned. River's knees wobbled a bit as he drew close. "Going away," she said, her voice thin, her eyes locked somewhere very far away. "So far away." She dropped slowly to the ground, hair all laid out behind her like the wings on the angel of death. <> Zane and Inara exchanged a glance. "Anne," Jacob turned back to her. "They have Sylvia." "What?" "River just told me," he coughed, then turned and spat out a bit of red and white froth. "Told me that they have Sylvia." "Impossible," Zane muttered. "Impossible nothin'," Jayne interrupted. "Li'l girl's a telepath." "They have her?" Inara asked. She let out a surprisingly florid profanity that called into question the proclivities and heritage of the monsters which took her, her head shaking all the while. "Then..." Zane said, face logn and pale, "she's already dead. Or worse." Jayne shook his head. "Says she's alive. She says they wanted her alive." "Why would Reavers want her alive?" "That doesn't make any sense." "Does anybody else here think this is a bit feng kuang?" "Ni mun doh bi zwai!" Anne screamed, bringing them all into quiet. "Thank you," Jacob said. "Follow them. We're getting her back." "But, Jacob," she began. He grasped her face with weak, bloody hands. "Promise me," he said, red and white froth flecking through his teeth. "Set a course. Follow their wake..." he coughed painfully. "We're getting her back."

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