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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Monday sends a Wave to her sister from Boros askin' for a visit, even though Legacy's on its way off world. Jacob figures she's the bait for a trap, and he goes back to the planet to see who's got their sights on him.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 783 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
In this episode, our Big Damn Heroes finally meet our Big Damn Villians, and as one should expect for an encounter this early in the season, things do not go so well for friend Jacob. He gets his pi gu kicked, in point of fact. As well, we get to look a bit deeper into the addled brainpan which is Sylvia, and start to learn a bit about the Reavers from the time she spent with them.
Here marks the return of Monday, as well. I know, this episode does borrow from the Big Damn Movie a bit for the hospital showdown, but it also sets up the unknowns in Anne's past. What did she do to get so damn wanted? Only time will tell.
Serenity and Co. are the property of Joss, Legacy is all mine
Feedback? Yes. Please. Don't make me beg.
A Better World
She opened her eyes and watched them screaming.
"It will learn," the Faceless Man said, his words cold and dark and cruel. Its words in Tobrik, slow to sort out in her ears. "It will learn."
This ship was cavernous, its walls knocked out wherever they could be. Only the back wall, the shielding the Reaver's left on the engine on this one ship, was whole and undisturbed. A ship made special for her. Her own chariot into hell. Cold fingers held the back of her neck, holding her on the paneling, holding her on her belly. She forced her eyes back shut.
She should have been afraid. She wasn't though. She was just cold. Surrounded by Reavers, held down, but unafraid. Insanity.
And that was before she felt her eyes being dragged open by the subtle fingers of gentle, but unshakable force. She watched as the other inhabitants of this horrible cruise suffered, and were tormented by their captors. There were hundreds to a floor, and four floors that she could see. The deepest was the pit. The feeding pit... No, force it out. Hold on, Sylvia, she bade herself. Keep them out.
The cold hands dragged her back up, forcing her ahead of the Faceless Man as she stumbled. She was thirsty. Hungry, but thirsty more. It had been days since the 'lessons' began, and there wasn't so much as a drop offered to her. She tried to turn back to her captor, but he forced her forward effortlessly.
"It will learn," the creature repeated.
"Go to hell," she muttered back over parched tongue, in the Reaver's own language, just to be sure she got the message across. As she was forced around, those chained to the walls huddled away from the robed figure. Whatever depredations they had suffered from the Reavers would be a paradise compared to what the Faceless Men could do to them. A Reaver's torment was a brutal violation, remitted only by the promise of death. What a Faceless Man could do, she learned, was far, so very far worse. It was a never ending storm of violation that carried no possibilities of death's sweet release. Some begged to be taken by Reavers, or even Eyes of Pax, just to avoid a Faceless Man's attention.
Sometimes, though, one would just snap. They would lunge against their chains, biting and kicking at those around them. They would smash their heads against the wall and the floor, violate themselves. Those ones, the Reaver's released. Helped into the fold. New recruits. They would tear at their clothes, and begin to violate their fellows, even their family. Some women were released without that behaviour, but she could see it in their eyes. The person they were when they were dragged onto this ship was eternally gone.
Others would snap another way, simply laying down in their bonds, oblivious to the desecrations of their flesh. They would stare blindly as they were cut and... worse things. These ones too were unchained. And thrown into the feeding pit. She finally understood, when she kept track of number to number.
The first Reavers were a tenth of a percent of the population. One in one thousand. On this ship, one of every two became Reavers or Eyes. One of two. The PAX. G-32 Paxilon Hydroclorate. But not. Stronger. More potent. More... focused. Not on lying down, anymore. On standing up.
The Faceless man was staring at her. "What?" she demanded.
"It learns," the thing said, shoving her over the edge of the feeding pit. The fall was short, and an apathetic body broke her fall. She glanced around, noting the Reavers butchering their sentient food. "The flow is here. It undoes the thirst." Her desperate eyes flit around the dimly lit hole. She ignored the screams that surrounded her, and fixated on finding it. There. A rivulet of running water. She leapt on it, lapping it off the very ground. It was stale and foul and tasted of blood.
It was the nectar of the gods.
Sylvia opened her eyes.
"Syl?" Zane asked. She glanced about, noting that she was in his tiny room. It was the smallest of the bunks on this ship, and considering that he spent so little of his time here, it was the most fitting. Didn't sleep. Didn't lie down. He should lie down, but didn't. Afraid of the dark. No, afraid of the things that came in the dark.
"It was lying. Had to find the truth," she said. "The truth that was hiding. Had to dig. Dig for it."
"Syl, that's my bed."
"It's lying to you!" she said again, trying to make him understand. "It digs and it digs and it digs until its inside, seeing out. Looking out. Trying to take hold. They find you when you lie down, waiting patient."
"Boss?" Zane shouted up the ladder.
"No! Don't make me go back there. You're not safe yet. They lie in wait. Have to kill them. Have to kill them all!"
"Boss! Get the doc!"
"Tiny white jumping biting parasites," she said, tearing at the mattress again, feeling as her nails began to peel back as she teared at the innards of the thing. Odd creature. White on the outside, grey on the inside, and white things everywhere between. "No place. Just grab on and hold."
She was continuing her mission... Her mission... yes. That's what it was... Kill them. Kill them all, when she heard the soft silk and footfalls of the doctor. Doctor-whore. Whore-doctor. Somewhere between. Something outside. She held a hypo.
"No!" Sylvia screamed trying to scramble away. Between the two of them, they managed to hold her down. She should have been able to fight them off. She should have, but the bad place had made her weak, hunger and atrophy after it. "Please, don't send me back to the dark place. I don't want to go back."
She felt the needle sting into her arm, vomit out its blackening contents. She wept as the darkness overwhelmed her and she disappeared from her own mind.
Jacob waited at the top of the ladder, hauling up the limp body when she was forced upward by the mechanic. Sylvia positively seemed to have wasted away; she was almost as light as Anne. Once he had her gathered up, he waited on Zane's arrival to get her back into her own room.
"That was all sorts of interesting," Friday muttered, wiping her hands on her robe. "Seem's our girl here's got a mighty aversion to bed mites."
"Bed mites?" Jacob said as he passed the deadweight body down to Zane. "Them little tiny things?"
"Appearantly. Tore the kid's mattress apart, screamin' about 'em."
Jacob sighed. "She's getting worse, ain't she?"
Friday paused. "I have no idea. She's in an entirely different place mentally from where she was. I don't know if that means she's getting worse right now. Hell, all I know, she could be getting better."
"I know. That's wildly damn optomistic. I'm just saying, I ain't never seen mental disorder on this level before. I don't know whether she's gonna..." she reached for a comparison, "rub soup in our hair or blow us all up."
"I vote for the soup thing," Zane said, clambering back up the ladder. "It's always a hoot and we don't all die."
"Bi zwei," Jacob said, staring beyond the walls of Legacy's gentle interior. This was his home, and these people were his damn family. One of them was hurting, and he didn't know how to fix it. She was hurting because of him. Because he wanted money. No, that wasn't it at all. She was hurting because of something he wanted that was far less smart; she got took 'cause he wanted to do the right thing. "Just... don't."
"I say somethin'?" Zane asked. Friday departed as Jacob turned to the cockpit, noting Anne lounging in the pilot's seat, as she often did. Jacob kneeled beside her and watched as the black slowly slid by. He might have been there a while, him on one knee, her with a hand on his shoulder, just staring out, when something cut into his empty fugue.
"We're getting a Wave," Zane said from the gunner's seat. He flicked switches and typed on keyboards for a second. "Hey, ain't this shiny? It's Monday, back Boros way."
"Pipe it to Friday," Jacob said, feeling a bit suspicious. Friday had a private line in the infirmery, and Monday had used it before. "Pipe it to the middle screen, too."
The middle screen was a new acquisition, a big old screen hangin' between the consoles, staring straight at the back wall for any what cared to see it. He'd had this installed during their reprieve on Mister Universe's rock. He'd also installed a bathtub, which made him wildly popular with the womenfolk of the ship.
"Friday," Zane said into the hanging intercom. "We've got a Wave for you. Piping it down."
The screen flit on, showing Monday staring through them from a wheelchair. She was wearing simple white hospital attire, hands folded demurely as she waited.
"Well," Friday's voice came from the feed. "I'm here. What's this about?"
"There's been a bit of an accident," Monday said.
"What do you mean?"
"I was... I was out in the country, horseback riding, when," Monday began. Jacob's brow knitted. Weren't no way she was out in the country this soon after being almost dead. Hell, Friday had to remove the bullet from her chest on the way to Boros, even though Syl had done her magic and closed the wound. "And didn't that just spook the horse?"
"It would," Friday agreed. "Still, don't know why you'd call me on this."
"What?" Monday said sweetly. "Can't I call my favorite sister?"
This was just striking Jacob as odd. In the time Monday spent awake on this ship, she and Friday fought like cats in a bag. Wet cats.
"No reason not to," Friday agreed. "Where are you?"
"Boros," she said. "I was thinking, maybe you could come and visit me?"
"I'd love to. Have to run it by the captain, though."
"You do that. I'd really like to meet this man who has snared your womanly attentions," even Anne glanced at the side of the screen at that comment. She was the only one what couldn't see the image. Seemed she didn't like lettin' people see her, what since ain't a screen in the 'Verse don't look both ways.
"We can make it to Boros in a few hours. See you then, mei-mei."
"Ain't but a moment, jei-jei," Monday replied. Something was seriously wrong with this. Ain't? What sorta soft-stuffed Core type said 'ain't'? Weren't that against some sorta linguistic rule or something? He pondered this as Friday came up from the ship.
"Well," Jacob said. "That was sorta odd."
Friday nodded. "Wait, I though they was just talkin'," Zane said.
"So," the captain ignored the rather naive mechanic. "Trap?"
"Trap," Friday confirmed.
"Wait, this is a trap?" Zane said, as Anne piped up opposite him.
"How is this a trap?"
She glanced around the cockpit. "Y'all were watchin', I take it?"
"Yes," Jacob said quickly, motioning her to begin.
Friday pushed up her spectacles and held up her fingers. "First of all, she called me jei-jei, something she's made a point of never doing in her life," she began to tick off fingers for points. "She made the implication that we haven't been to Boros, even though she knows full well that we spent better than a fortnight there, she implied that I was grappling with you, captain. We both know damn well that she weren't hurt in no horseback ridin' incident, she called me her favorite sister, and we both know that woman would only use the word ain't if a gun was to her head."
"But... what about the," Zane began, looking for the silver lining as best he could.
"Did you see us fight?" Friday interrupted.
"Did you see us fight? Yes or no?" she demanded.
"TRAP!" Friday screamed, forcing everybody nearby back a few inches. She wisked back a strand of hair which had found its way free of her combs and readjusted her glasses. "Of course, that means she's already caught in it."
"You made an implication you don't care much what happens to her," Jacob said. "Especial' with that performance you pulled on Persephone," that just made his blood run cold thinking on. His caring doctor going absolutely homicidal, not just threatening her own flesh and blood but putting down Dmitri Niska but good.
"I promised, a damn, damn long time ago that I'd look out for her," Friday said distantly, quietly. "I ain't gonna be made a liar. I love my sister, captain. I just don't like her. And she takes such takin' care of."
"She would at that. Plus, it'll give me a chance to see who's after us. Might be Niska, sore on losin' his youngest. Or maybe Wing, trying to get some revenge on us walkin' out with his blushin', nearly dead concubine. Hell, might even be them gloved hun dahn what made our lives so interesting last year. Point is, I want to see these bungers. I want to look this devil in the eye, and I don't much like the idea of running."
"Running would keep us alive," Zane offered. Jacob scoffed.
"Plus, we gotta get your little sis out of that trap," the captain said. "Anne, turn us about. We're headed back to Boros."
"So," Zane asked. "What's the plan, boss? Charge in like the old cavalry, bust the place up, make off with the damsel in distress?"
"Actually, thinkin' on something a bit more discrete. Just me. Anne, you go to the warehouse and find us some cargo needs movin'. Ain't got doubts as that there'll be be something somebody wants taken off-world, and runnin' with an empty hold don't do no good. What Early pulled down from the vault didn't help near enough."
"What about Sylvia?" Friday asked.
"Her body is metabolizing the sedative at an incredible rate. She'll be conscious again before we reach the city, and that leaves me all manner of worried," Friday pulled off her spectacles. "This morning it was mattresses. This afternoon, ain't even sure what."
"It'll be near midnight when we hit the city," Jacob said. "Don't much care what you do with her, just don't let her out of your sight."
"What about you?" Anne asked quietly. Jacob smiled to her.
"If I'm gonna meet the whore, might as well go in lookin' my best."
"Are you sure this is wise?" Anne asked, as the smallish party approached the non-descript building that she'd visited last time she came to this part of the city. She was referring to the fact that she and Friday were flanking Sylvia, who was staring about the side street as if it were the City of Lights on Sihnon. Of course, last time she'd walked this path, she'd had a job from Fanty and Mingo... Mingleberry, ha! She still got a charge out of that. Point was, though, they ended up with a wino reptile in their hold, which was all kinds of not-fun. This time, she was going to see if she could freerun something a touch less unpredictable. Like bombs. Lots of real touchy, badly put together bombs. Somethin' safe like that.
"Ain't nearly sure," Friday admitted. "But it ain't like we got much of a choice."
"Zane?" Anne offered.
"Bomber of Beaumonde," Friday pointed out.
"What about Early?"
"Shi zhi jin?" the door man asked, interrupting their little argument. Same fellow, as if she really expected that would change. This spot survived by being the absolute last thing a body'd expect it to be.
"I am the very model of a modern major-general. Please, tell me I don't need to say any more of that gos-se." Anne said sourly. The doorman squinted at her a moment, recognizing the freelancer code. Finally, he nodded and opened the door.
"Shr ah, jin ruh," he said. "But I'll have to get Fitch."
The doorman's 'wife' escorted them into the cramped kitchen, which was made all the more cramped by the presense of three people in it. The woman poured them all a cup of tea while they waited. Friday took a sip.
"Tzao gao!" she said. Anne sniffed it. "What the hell'd she put in it?"
"Wood alcohol," Sylvia answered distantly. The two women glanced at her, and Friday finished off her cup.
"Not bad," Friday commented. Anne was shaking her head and replacing the cup when a new arrival appeared in the room. This was a shortish man, and by shortish, it meant he still towered over her, in a rather worn looking coat and a bowler hat. Sylvia's eyes focused on him in an instant.
"Badger?" Sylvia said, suddenly, adopting a perfect Dyton accent. The psychotic lowlife did a double take noticing her here. She rose from her seat, a slow and sultry smile on her face.
"Well, ain't you a sight for a weary eye?" Badger commented. "Greyson still got you on that piece a' crap boat?"
"For the moment," she said, slinking closer to him. Anne made as if to rise, but Friday's hand restrained her.
"I need to see how this plays out," Friday confided. Her hand was on the purse she took to keeping a sedative hypo in, though.
"S'I sees it, a creature like you don't got no proper place in a fei-oo bucket like that," Badger said, watching as she began to circle him. "Might find better opportunities, were y' to go with... a different crowd," he was distracted momentarily as she ran a finger along the brim of his hat.
"I know your li'l secret," she said playfully. "Tiny, li'l secret. Embarrasin', dirty li'l secret."
"This some sort of threat, li'l girl?" Badger took a step back. Syl leaned forward, almost brushing nose to nose with the shorter man.
"Maybe I like a man with secrets," she said, rich and sultry, in that accent. "Maybe I like the not knowing, or the knowin' what others don't. Don't seem like much fun if all's know it, do it?"
"Maybe not," Badger admitted.
"You want..." she ran a finger down his lapel, "to know... my secrets, don't ye?"
"Might at that," he said shakily.
"Sad t'say, m'work keeps me out of the way for a while," she said, pulling away, leaving the poor man standing a bit out of balance. "Might have some time later, though. Before the holidays."
"When?" the man asked. "Where?"
She leaned forward, whispering quietly. He was smiling a bit when she leaned back. "Now," she said, still in that accent. "You're done checkin' on your business, I've gotta take care a' mine," Sylvia sashayed away, headed toward where the bathroom was located. Anne nodded Friday to follow her, and she herself kept her seat. Badger stared after the woman, captivated, for a moment. Then he turned back to her.
"I like her," he said, somewhat unnecessarily. If she'd ever seen a man driven libidinous by a woman he barely knew, it was Badger. She knew the man had interests off Persephone, but she didn't think that he'd go as far as Boros. Turns out, she was wrong.
"She does have a uniqueness to her," Anne agreed vaguely. Best not let on that her uniqueness was that she was a psychotic telepath. That wouldn't go over well with anybody. Badger tipped his hat to her with a "ma'am" and took his leave. It was about then that Fitch appeared from the warehouse in the sewers. He noted her presence and the absence of her mister, and quickly jotted it down in his mental notes.
"Miss Roykerk?" he said.
"Greyson, now," she corrected.
"Right. You are looking for freelance freight?" the officious man asked.
"What do you got?"
"Well," he said, motioning her to follow. "Haymer vouches for you, and that's no lean feat. I have..." he snatched a clipboard from the side of the stairs as he descended. Anne took the moment to whistle to Friday, who was guiding Syl. The two followed him. "Ah, yes. Machinery. Parts and scrapware, mostly, but the bits are from chopshopped Alliance vehicles. Might be a bit touchy, were they to find them. Discretion is a must, so say the owners."
"I'm sure," Anne said.
"Death," Syl whispered as she glanced around the warehouse.
"Excuse me?" Fitch asked idly.
"So, so much death. All of it," she continued to mutter.
Fitch glanced at Anne. "Is she always like this?"
"Didn't use to be. She's hit a rough patch," she tried to explain. Odd how it'd be her explainin' this gos-se, considering she had half a mind to leave her in a bughouse. Sylvia was staring at her. Oh, hell, did she hear that?
"I'd say," Fitch grumbled in agreement.
"It's my party and I'll die if I want to," Sylvia declared. "All sliding down. Going down the up stairs. They want to come to the ball but the ball doesn't want them."
"Could you please look to her," Fitch asked. "She's somewhat distracting."
"No touching guns," Sylvia blurted. "That's cheating. They knock and they know and they walk right in. But they weren't invited to the party, come to eat the treats and... they're going to die."
"Nobody's going to die, Syl," Friday placated.
"He is," she said, pointing out a man driving a loader. He didn't seem to notice her. "Bullet to the brainpan, squish!"
"That's enough," Fitch said, "If you do not quiet her, I'll have the guards escort her out. This is a place of business, not a circus."
"No," Sylvia said. "It's a party. And the party crashers are come."
"Very well," Fitch said, he waved over a guard. "Escort this woman back outside."
"It won't be enough," she said, pulling free of Friday. They have the doors, the passwords are spoken. Too many," her eyes were wide as she back into a wall of crates. "It's getting very crowded in here!"
"Miss, you'll have to come with me," the guard said, trying to catch the emaciated woman but his hands caught nothing but air as she darted away into a corner, huddling her frail form into a ball.
That's when the first gunshot rang out, bursting the skull of the loader-driver as the tong members streamed down the stairs.
He grinned widely as he glanced at the occupant listing for the room he was standing at. Monday Yiao, in her own damn room. Musta been nice to have enough money to pull a trick like that. He pushed open the door, pulling on the edge of the gloves he'd pilfered from a storage locker on his way in. He'd pilfered the whole damn outfit, truth be told, but the gloves were just too shiny to leave. As he entered the room, his mask firmly in place, he let the latex snap back against his arm.
"Miss Yiao!" he declared, using his arrogant-colonel voice. "I'm sorry, but we have to operate!"
"Jacob?" she asked, immediately recognizing him. He smirked and pulled down his mask. From what he'd heard from Friday, she'd usually be sweatin' and fearing the worst by now, gullible one she was. He must have tipped his hand somehow.
"You said you wanted to see me? What with me attracting the feminine wiles of your dear sister?" Jacob said sarcastically.
"Wiles?" She said, still surprised and a bit confused.
"Wiles," Jacob explained. "The uncanny ability for Companions to make men sweaty, and/or compliant. You know, wiles!"
She stared up at him. "You're insane," she muttered.
"Thank you. What's this about?"
"About? It's about nothing. Nothing at all. Get out," Monday said.
"Oh, come now, my company can't be that atrocious, can it?" Jacob joked. "Weren't according too close to reality on that Wave you sent us, which leads my little self to believe that you're..."
"Leave, now," Monday said. "Trust me, you cannot handle these people."
"What people?" he asked, just as the door opened. An asian man with a neatly trimmed beard strode into the room. The way he walked around, looked like he never wun guo pi. Hell man like that probably wouldn't believe he had a pi gu of his own. He looked Jacob up and down, finally settling into a chair beside the door.
"I must say, I'm somewhat surprised that you came for her yourself," he said as Jacob pulled off the scrubs and let them fall to the floor. The man gave him a slanted look as he beheld what Jacob wore under it. "Even more so, I believe, that you would venture outside, in so Core-centric a Border World, wearing that outfit."
Jacob glanced down at the long brown duster he'd earned from Kell during the fight not more'n twenty thousand miles away. "It was cold outside, and nothing else seemed to do the job."
"A great many dyers found great profit in making brown coats grey or blue at the end of the war," this man said. "Those who wear the brown, wear it for a reason."
Jacob shrugged. "I look damn swai in earthtones, can't begrudge a man that."
The man shrugged. "There is a reason I don't deal with people," the Asian man muttered. "This is not a thing for now, mister Greyson. I am trying to be reasonable. I am not threatening you; I am unarmed."
Jacob nodded for a moment, then pointed at the tray table. "Is that tea?" he asked, raising the eyebrows of the yet unidentified man. Jacob favored himself a moment to pour a cup and seated himself next to Monday. The man shook his head in disbelief.
"You are a somewhat unpredictable man, mister Greyson," the man said. "I rather expected you would take that opportunity to shoot me."
Jacob laughed. "Shoot you? In a hospital at midnight? How fong luh do you think I am? Or stupid, for that matter. You may be unarmed," Jacob said, looking very closely at the barely visible shoulder straps just barely peeking out of the collar of his green tunic, "but unless I miss my guess, you're still wearing full body armor."
Jacob flung his spoon away, letting it hit the doors to the closet. Jacob heard a catching of breath, somebody hiding who thought she was discovered. And by believing it, was. He smiled at the unnamed man before him.
"You can come out, Jane," the man said, and the door opened. The woman who appeared out of the closet was very tall and slim, dressed in some sort of form-fitting dress. It didn't show off much curves, as this Jane didn't have any to speak on. She stared at him in a most unnerving manner, and he returned his attention to the man.
"I take it that she's with you?" Jacob commented, taking a sip of his tea. Bah, not very good. Not poisoned or drugged, just bad.
"Mister Greyson, I can see that you are not a patient man," Jane purred.
"We are looking for a dangerous fugitive," the man said. "A woman."
"Wouldn't know any of that sort," Jacob said, putting his cup aside. "Don't see how I could, neither. I just fly my own way."
"I'm sure you do," Jane said. Somethin' about her weren't quite right. "John, tell him."
"Some years ago," John said, "you were involved in an altercation with a young woman. You are the last person to have spoken to her that we know of."
Huh, so this wasn't about Sylvia at all. He leaned forward, feigning listening. Probably some floozy he'd knocked around with back in his bachelor days, he considered.
"This is the last known picture of her," he said, reaching under his seat and retrieving a briefcase. He pulled the capture out of the case and somehow flicked it through the air, landing it squarely against Greyson's chest. He flicked it on. There was a close picture of a woman with long black hair and an angry look on her face. She looked very, very familiar. Almost uncanny.
"Can't say as I know her. What's this about?"
"Not your business," Jane said, leaning in the windowbox, then stretching out to lounge when that option became open. She pulled out a small nail file.
"That was her approximately six years ago," John said, pulling a remote control from his case and flicking a button. The image on the capture changed. "This is how she would appear today."
Wuh duh ma hah ta duh feng-kuang duh wei-shung doh. He knew that face, now. He was married to it. He tried to keep his face flat, empty. No, he willed himself. Don't let them know.
"I still don't follow," he said. Jane was staring at him very intently now.
"She stole something of great value during the Unification Wars," John said.
"Information," Jacob said. Why as Jane lookin' at him like that? John caught himself nodding.
"We wish to retrieve it," he said.
"By killing her," Jacob muttered.
"He knows where she is," Jane said, green eyes very wide. Her filing at her nails ceased as she comprehended. "He knows she is close. Close to him."
John nodded approvingly. "Really?" he said, his chuckle, oh, so very rich. "I was going to offer you the line of doing what is right, but it is now obvious to me you are in a highly unreasonable mood."
"I might be that," Jacob admitted.
"She doesn't need to die, captain Greyson. Roykerk can simply be... purged. Few do not survive the procedure," John offered.
"I heard how that works," Jacob said. "Strip a mind down, piece by piece, build it back the way you like. Cuttin' and such is involved, and more drugs than I can endorse."
"And still he takes umbrage?" John asked Jane.
"I'm takin' umbrage at the fact that you're like to cut up her brain. Just like you done with River Tam, and God-only-knows how many others like her," John shook his head at the girl's mention. She was becoming quite the celebrity in the anti-Alliance circles.
"The situation is much more complicated than you know," John said calmly.
"It usually is," Jacob muttered, turning to Monday. "Get up, we're leaving."
"I can't," Monday said.
"Why the hell not?"
"Muscle relaxers," Jane said, focused on her black-painted nails as she filed them.
Jacob grit his teeth. "This is a fine fahng-tzang feng-kuang duh juh, but I ain't got time or tolerance to unwind it."
"You will tell us where she is, and you may then leave. If you do not, we will find ways of making you tell us. Trust me, Jane in particular is highly skilled at extracting accurate information," John pointed out.
"Reasonable my muscular buttocks," Jacob said. "Y'all wanted to show me reason, they wouldn't have sent out a torturer."
"Very close to him," Jane said, glancing up, noticing something, and staring once more. "Close around his neck. Around his heart."
Even John looked no small bit surprised at that last bit.
"He is married to her?" John asked.
"I know it," She said, a wide smile growing on her face. A wide, mad smile. John rose from his seat.
"I guess we both know how far from reason this exchange has wandered," John said. Jacob shrugged. Then quickdrew his pistol and shot him.
Bullets wizzed over Anne's head as the tongsmen fought it out with the local mafia bosses over who had the rights to this scrap of territory. It was madness, with gunfire going off next to explosives, and possibly millions worth of goods destroyed by stray shots.
"The tongs are going to kill us," Friday shouted over the din.
"Keeps up, the mafia's gonna kill us first," Anne shouted back. The two were hiding behind the one thing they were sure wasn't going to explode, the cargo bin full of parts that they were going to transport. Shots did hit the far side, but with several tons of metal between the bullet and them, they never even saw an indentation.
"Where's Sylvia?" Anne shouted.
"Sylvia's right..." she looked behind her, to that corner where she'd seen the woman run off to huddle. She wasn't there anymore, not by a long piece. "Son of a bitch," she swore as she peeked out above the edge of her container. She let out a yelp as a bullet pinged very close to taking out her eye, and dropped back down.
"How many of them are there?" Anne asked.
"More than I'd like to count," Friday grumbled. "You said they had an assload of weapons here last time, right?"
"More than an assload," Anne corrected. "Several, in point of fact. But they way the hell at the back of the lot."
"Well, back of the lot's lookin' a damn fair sight better than the front, what with the," Friday stopped a moment as a louder bang shoved a dimple in the metal she was leaning against into her lower back. She glanced down at it. A bit more power, and that would have gone right through and lodged in her intestines. The doctor shook her head in shock, forcing Anne to slap her to bring her back around.
"Focus!" Anne said. "The back of the lot. Are you ready?" She barely waited for the doctor's nod, and the two of them took off running. Heads bowed down, they couldn't rightly see which way they was headed, but it was away from the gunshots and such, so bets were good it was the best direction to run. Finally, they reached the crates filled to the brim with weapons of all description. Anne pulled out a pistol for herself. She was kicking herself for leaving the ship without her own proper weapon, and this was heavier than she was used to. It would do, however, for the time. She scuttled over to the next crate and pulled out a box of ammunition. It wasn't the right kind, so she threw it aside. The next was a luckier thing, with it being exactly what she needed. She began to insert bullets into the weapon. Friday had chosen a rifle of some description, and had taken to loading it with them what Anne had thrown away. The fight was getting closer.
Several Asian men, and men with Asian style garb were roaming the stacks, looking for mafiosos to put down. The tongs, these people were. Another sort of seedy underbelly to the seedy underbelly of Boros. They called it the City of Two Bellies sometimes, which some mistook for some damn odd sexual slant, rather than just meanin' however much the Alliance thought they was in control, it was the mob who really pulled the strings.
Anne fired as best she could at them, only managing to graze one before they scattered and went for cover. She hissed as the gun ran out of ammo. Friday still hadn't fired a shot. Her dark eyes flit around, and her hands shook, but it was obvious she was terrified. Anne didn't blame the doc. Killin' wasn't an easy thing. Though, she did hear tales of what the Asian woman done to Niska to pay back what he done to her sister. Rage did funny things to a body sometimes. This time, however, Friday couldn't. She could tell, the doc was about to break and run.
"Friday!" Anne shouted, attracting the woman's attention.
"Stay with me," she said, tossing the woman the empty pistol. She looked confused for a moment, then tossed the still fully loaded rifle to Anne. She stared down the barrel for an instant, before realizing that there were several automatic weapons pointed vaguely at her. "Get down!" she shouted as the weapons began to bark and spit, peppering pretty much everything not where they were huddled with lead. Friday clutched her sides, eyes wide and staring straight through her. She was going to lose it.
"Don't you move!" Anne shouted. If Friday moved so much as an inch, she'd be cut down. The doctor shook her head, but didn't move. Smart woman.
A scream sounded from where those hun dahn were firing at them. Anne peeked out, noting a stream of crimson arching away from the rearmost position. From out that grisly fountain came a sight she really, really did not expect.
The woman's red robe was slick and dripping, making it seem like her body was melting, as she calmly proceeded to the next person targeting them, pulling his head back and gashing open his throat. The next went the same way, falling before he even realized he was in jeopardy. The last noticed her coming up beside him, spinning his gun around to face her. Anne prepared her rifle again for a shot, but Sylvia didn't dodge an inch. The gunman did, though.
He twitched right into the far stack. At surprising velocity.
Sylvia watched the man try to get up, and then be slammed in the other direction. A red splat surrounded him and he slumped to the floor.
"No power in the 'Verse can stop me," Anne heard the words with more than just her ears. Sylvia's blue-green eyes were locked with her own.
"How the hell?" she asked. "Friday, dope?"
"No," Sylvia said, head suddenly cocked to one side, as if listening to something distant. Quite possibly she could be, because gunfire still sounded throughout the complex. "Oh no."
"Sylvia, how did you do that?"
"I move but there is no motion," she said, still staring at nothing. "Power without force, force without will, will without focus. Without mission."
"Get over here!" Anne shouted, noting with dismay how slowly the crazy woman moved to their side. She growled, shaking her head. Oh, the stories she'd be able to tell Jacob when she got back. Probably had a cakewalk in for him.
"Not quite," Sylvia answered Anne's unspoken remark. "Got a story of his own. Not a cakewalk."
"Is he okay?" she asked cautiously. She hadn't like the things Syl had said when she was sane.
"Battered a bit," Sylvia answered. She brightened as though she had a thought, "He's left handed."
Anne gave the woman a look. "What the hell does that mean?"
The bullet knocked John back a moment, but he returned with a vengeance, kicking the gun from Jacob's hand and landing it on the far side of Monday's bed, far closer to Jane than he. Jacob lashed out with a fist, but the man effortlessly dodged it, managing to slip in three strikes of his own. And a kick to the head, also. Jacob couldn't quite figure out how the fella pulled that one off. Having just taken a cranium crack didn't help.
He caught himself on the bed, Monday's eyes flitting around, terrified but physically unable to move. Jane still lounged in the wondowbox, filing her nails and giving absolutely no acknowledgement that there was a fight going on.
"Kind a' ya to keep this a fair fight," Jacob said as he was dragged back to his feet. John landed a series of brutal chops to his neck and chest, this time throwing him to the other side of the rather large room, just about to where John had been sitting. Jacob's fingers fell upon the briefcase the man had pulled Anne's capture from, flipping it open. He almost laughed at what he saw. His fingers tightened around the weapon's hilt and he drew it up, holding it before him. Monday looked ready to faint. John looked disdainful. Jane looked amused. She still hadn't left her lounging pose.
"You're embarrassing yourself," John said flatly. "I'm surprised you knew which end to hold."
"Might want to be careful," Jane said idly, inspecting one of her nails. John frowned at her, and Jacob leapt forward with a thrust. John allowed him to carry past, striking him in the sternum and snatching the sword away. As Jacob staggered back, the man casually tossed the sword to his counterpart. She caught it, and jammed its tip into the ground in front of her. She then went right back to filing her gorram nails. Jacob's hand closed around something else. Long, strandy. Rubber.
John took a calm step toward Greyson, then swung in for a quick chop. This time, Jacob was ready for him, looping the surgical tubing around his right arm. John's left followed almost instantly, but Jacob managed to catch this one too. With both arms temporarily immobilized, Jacob took a moment to punch this hun dahn right in the chops. He was throwing his second when he noticed Jane still hadn't rutting moved.
"Not gonna help?" Jacob asked.
"Oh," she said with a smile, "John has things well in hand."
John proved this point by somehow slipping the bonds Jacob had managed to get him into, grabbing onto the shoulders of the brown duster, and tossing him over the corner of the bed. It took him a while to stop seein' stars. Weren't in space. Weren't no reason to see stars. The first thing he saw, staring up as he was, was John leaning over him, expression, as usual, dour.
"Give over," John said flatly. "You have lost."
"Hell," Jacob retorted. "I ain't even started yet."
John shook his head. "I cannot comprehend the mindset you and your kind possess. You are fighting a war you've already lost."
"We're famous for that."
John rolled his eyes. "I am not going to insult your integrity or your intelligence. I realize that you will not give up your woman, not for any justification, nor for any price," the man pulled away, giving Jacob a moment to shake off the dizziness and rise to an unsteady stand. "There is something I need to know, mister Greyson."
"What's that?" Jacob slurred past a bleeding nose.
"Why did you shoot me, when you knew I had body armor?"
"Seemed like the right thing to do."
John nodded, pointing at him. "Exactly my point. Futile, useless, but the right thing to do. Your gestures, as brave and glorious as they are, will not stand in the way of our dream."
"A better world," Jane said behind him. He glanced back at her, and she'd finally stood up.
"All of them," John continued, eyes distant. "Better worlds."
"You can't take away our right to be assholes," Jacob said. John seemed about to speak, but Jane managed to cut in before he did.
"Do you know what your sin is, Jacob?" she asked, her voice sultry and smoldering.
"I'm a fan of all seven," Jacob replied.
"Greed," she answered him. "You want everything. The happy ending. Not willing to give of yourself to ease the torment of those around you. You and your crew are your universe, and you keep everything for them," she leaned up next to his ear. "You, Jacob, are greedy."
He felt her rigid fingers dig into his side, and twist. There was a moment of shocking pain, and he felt every muscle in his body lock as tight as they could. Then there was nothing. From his chin down, there was no sensation at all.
No, that wasn't quite right.
"There is only one thing I can offer you," John said. "It is poor payment for what I am about to do, but it is all that I can offer. Freedom, mister Greyson, from the pain of losing your woman. Jane?"
He couldn't feel much, but it was as if his left hand and arm were merely asleep. He drew his hand closed, noting how much it hurt to do so, but also noting that the limb responded to his commands, after a fashion. Jacob heard a metallic ring as Jane pulled that sword out of the floor and walked up beside him.
"There is no shame in this," She said, smiling to him. She kneeled and placed the pommel of the sword against the floor, aiming the point directly at his heart. "No shame in a man's death. A man who has fought to the end for what he believes in."
Jacob felt his center of balance pressing precariously forward. With the last shred of his will, he forced his hand to grip onto Monday's bed. She was weeping in terror, he noted as his numbed fingers contacted the metal. His senseless digits slipped a moment, and he leaned forward dangerously, then they stopped, and so did he. He was still looking at the sword point, waiting for him when his grip let out. Both of the damn odd folk stared at him a moment, as if he'd just done the impossible. Jane backed away, swinging the sword up with her, readying for a thrust.
"He's left handed!" she shouted in alarm, even as the door burst open again. Jacob must have been seein' things, 'cause it looked like a Shepherd had just knocked down the door and thrown in a grenade. That didn't make no kinda sense. It made even less sense as the grenade bounced up off the floor and a flash of light enveloped the 'Verse.
"You are in a great deal of trouble, mister Greyson," came a very familiar voice. Jacob opened his eyes, but the light, or the sun, or whatever was cruel enough to be throwing around light right now was entirely too bright. He squinted, even holding his hands against it. Holding it back, if he could.
"How'd'you figure?" Jacob slurred. His mouth still tasted like blood, and he knew at least a few of his teeth were looser in their sockets than they were yesterday. "Why? Am I dead?"
"No," the soft voice whispered. "Not dead. Not yet at least."
"Those bastards," he said, trying to rise but finding himself entirely too dizzy. "Where am I?"
"You, Jacob, are in your ship's infirmery," the words caught as Jacob tried again to rise. "Please, don't try to get up. You've been unconscious for quite a few hours."
"Where are we, then?" He said, noting how painful it was to move his jaw. Did they up and break it on him? Hun dahn.
"Suffice it to say," the soft voice replied, "we are no longer on Boros. Your pilot is a very brave woman, but even she knows that it is not wise to remain on a world in the midst of an underworld revolt."
"She is at that. Wait, is she alright?" The light finally switched off, and Jacob looked for the voice. He was more than a bit surprised to see Shepherd Job leaning against the wall near the door.
"She is perfectly fine, captain," Job placated. "Your cargo has a few bullet holes in it, but is otherwise unscathed."
Jacob ran his hand along his jaw, noting the stubble which had so quickly accumulated. Several hours at least. He recalled the last thing he saw before... A Shepherd. A dark Shepherd with wireframed glasses. "It was you, wasn't it? What got me out of there, by which I mean."
Job nodded. "Indeed it was."
"What the hell were those people?"
Job scowled a moment, suddenly looking so unlike a man of the cloth that Jacob his very own self was startled. "Anne has something of great value in her head. She might remember it, she probably doesn't, but just by being there, she's raised the ire of some powerful people."
"Impossible," Jacob said.
"Have you asked her about Bernadette?" Job asked, his sage voice suddenly bleak. "Or, more pertinantly, have you checked the Cortex for warrents on your bride?" Jacob nodded. "You will notice that there are none. As much as they want her silenced they want it done quietly. Which means short-lines on Core planets, and a closed file. Which means Operatives."
"Those two were?"
"Yes. They are a danger you have not known. If you try to fight them, you will die, as your recent... exploits have proven."
"So," Jacob asked. "You're sayin' that we hide?"
"It will do you for a spell," Job replied, adjusting his eyewear. "Not forever though."
Jacob slid down the the floor. "It's of interest how much you seem to know about that world," he muttered. Jacob looked up just in time to see a purse arcing toward him. Jacob caught it and glanced inside. "What the hell's this?"
"Price of passage," Job said simply.
"This is fong luh," Jacob growled. "Ain't nobody wants to get on a boat on this sort of rudder. Especial' not them's who spread 'the word'."
"Perhaps," Job said, walking out the door, "this is exactly where I need to be."
Jacob was sorta gettin' a feelin' off the man, like he ain't always been a man of words. Like he was something else. Something dangerous. He had a tendancy to trust his instincts, as they'd seldom steered him wrong before. Job was trouble. Trouble in a white collar, no less. He strode somewhat unsteadily to the door, following the man, when he noticed Friday on the couch. No, he revised himself. It wasn't Friday; Friday never wore a hospital gown. He took a moment to drop himself into his seat at the far end of the couch from her. The room had taken to spinning on him, so it seemed the right thing to do.
"So," Jacob said in his most helpful voice. "What's got you riled?"
Monday shot him a sour scowl, kinda like the one's her sister used, but far worse since they was genuine. "Do you have any idea what you just did?"
"Got beat up?" Jacob hazarded.
"You assaulted Parliamentary Operatives, you idiot!" Monday hissed. "I was an accessory to that. It comes very close to treason!"
"It might at that," Jacob said.
"Why did you have to do that? You could have just," the Companion began.
"I could have nothing," Jacob shut her down. "Not ever. I'd ask you were you want to be put off, but that ain't exactly an option."
"Excuse me?" she asked, a bit insulted that he was putting himself forward. She was used to being in control.
"I drop you on any of a hundred worlds, Dull and Crazy will be on you like flies on niou-se inside the hour. They'll use you to get at your sister, and that'll be doin' me some harm, since I don't like seein' my crew in any particular pain. That means, best bet you've got is stayin' on the move. Might not be as comfortable, and you won't be able to pull... what was it your sister said? Ten-over price? But you'll be alive, and that ain't nothin'," Jacob waited for her response.
"The House will," she began.
"I've had a damn long talk with your sister about House Celeste. How that one can't even sneeze without somebody else givin' permission first. Your House can't do nothin', and it's time you accepted that," Jacob said, rising to his feet again, what with the spinnin' slowed. "This ain't a game, woman. Yesterday, if you screw up, you might ruin a party. Now, you screw up, one of mine dies. And I don't hold to that."
"The way it's gonna be," Jacob interrupted. "Don't push me, and I won't push you, dohn luh muh?"
Monday's acid gaze finally lowered. "What do you want?" she asked meekly. Tryin' wiles, now, was she?
"Want nothing, just showing an option. I've got two shuttles, what don't see much use at all. Figure you could rent one of them to conduct your whoring," Monday's head snapped up, glare hotter than ever.
"I am a Registered Companion," she hissed, "not a whore."
"I always do get those mixed up," Jacob deadpanned.
"Fine. I will rent your f... your shuttle, but I have several rules you will follow," Jacob crossed his arms, and she took her feet, rather unsteadily he noted. Probably those drugs they'd pumped her with hadn't gotten out yet. "First, if I make an appointment, I expect to be in a position to keep that appointment. Second, I will require complete autonomy and privacy. That... shuttle... will be my home."
Jacob nodded. "Done and done. Just don't expect us to skunk our own work just for your little lonesome."
"I will also not service any of your crew," she added. Jacob laughed out loud, raising an insulted look from Friday's twin.
"Why in the hell would they come to you?" he said between chuckles. "'Sides, I'm married, Early's damn near a eunich, and Zane's not in the right way. Syl's off her nut, Anne ain't sly, and Friday's your sister. Who the hell's gonna want servicin'?"
She scowled for a moment. "Very well. I'll have payment wired to you when we reach the next..."
"No," Jacob said. "No wire transfers, no bank transactions. We ain't goin' back to the Core in any sorta time, and credits got a propensity to get tracked down. Don't want to give anybody after us any more of a trail than we can, dohn luh muh?"
"Then how will I?" she began.
"I'm sure we can work something out," Jacob replied. "Pick yourself out a shuttle, and start prettying it up. I hear clients like to to be pampered with silks and whatnot. Might see to your sister about that," she scowled at him as he finished, pulling herself up into a visage of icy dignity, somewhat tarnished in that she was wearin' a rather hideous hospital gown, and strode up the stairs for all the worlds as if she hadn't enough tranquilizers in her to put a horse onto its back. The whore almost walked right through Jacob's wife as she came down the stairs.
"I was going to ask what happened," she said sardonically, "but from the look on her face, I can already guess."
Jacob only stared at her. What could she know that was so dangerous? He'd known her for years, and she'd never ever let slip that she had something of grave import fryin' up in her brainpan. Of course, he hadn't known her forever. There were a great many years where he didn't know thing one about her. Like her last job. During the Unification War. He must have been staring a while, 'cause she glanced behind her like he was spookin' her.
"What?" she asked.
"No," he said, "Not a thing. You got some cargo?"
"We did. Hell of a time gettin' it though. While we was down there, we got hit by the tongs, and Syl... Jacob, are you listening?"
"What?" he asked, coming back to the conversation.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, brushing her delicate fingers along the bruised landscape of his face. "Outside the part where you look like you were just in a whorehouse riot, by which I mean?"
Jacob had a thousand questions. A thousand pointed, brutal, unpleasant questions. He could have asked any one of them and gotten his answer. Exchanged an answer for a heart, in other words. Instead, he forced a smile and drew her light form onto his lap.
"Nothing's wrong," he lied. "Nothin' at all."
And as he felt her smiling beside him, he listened real damn hard for that other shoe to fall.
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