BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 2:11, Sibling Rivalry
Thursday, February 9, 2006

While Legacy slips through the black, the Alliance has its hands full due to a Reaver attack on Persephone. But Legacy isn't alone slipping through the darkness.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1542    RATING:     SERIES: FIREFLY

This chapter is a testament to how to overcome writer's block: Steal. When it gets hard to write, sit down and skim through things until you've gathered enough ideas to hammer something out. Which is exactly what I did. Two parts Objects In Space, a few lines from other episodes when they fit, a new character to keep track of, and viola! The title may seem a bit misleading, because this chapter really doesn't deal with the sisters on the ship, rather with Casher, and the new character who knows more about his past than he does. Don't worry, if you're just getting on the Casher train, not much is given away yet. Also, Sylvia hides in plain sight and give teasers for what's coming later in the season. Same old, same old. Also... Shouting Match! Firefly and Serenity are property of Joss and Mutant Enemy. Jacob and Co. are all ruttin' mine. Feedback: Give.

Sibling Rivalry

"These are only a few images of the carnage which has come to Persopine city not one week ago, images that can only be described as nightmarish," the newscaster said. Casher winced as he rotated his arm. He'd pulled something at the weight deck, earlier in the evening, and now he was going to pay for it. It seemed like a good enough distraction, at the time, but now, he wished he was right here. Watching this. Because it was so incredibly relevant. Persephone, he'd never been there himself, but he'd heard great things about it. Especially about its thriving underworld. A man could lose himself for months in that den of thieves. It almost made him consider moving there. But was starting to like this ship, its crotchety and paranoid captain notwithstanding. Add to it that even the warrens of Southdown were an attractive place to his eyes, and it became a struggle, from time to time. Not so much a struggle now. The city and its slums looked as though a burning brand had been dragged along them in a straight line. Starting from the Southdown Abbey and its environs, and moving directly north into the heart of Persopine, a warpath of fire and death and destruction. In the slums, bodies were gathered in alleys, where they tried to defend themselves. In the city, they died out in the streets. They had no concept of the darkness which was advancing on them. No concept at all. "For years," the newscaster continued, "the Union of Allied Planets has staunchly denied the existence of the group that the public has called 'Reavers', claiming them to be alternatively pirates, former Browncoat soldiers, or simple folklore." He frowned as he watched the feeds collected from personal captures as they went about their daily lives, until the first Reaver swarmed into view. The captures were always cut off quickly, moved onto the next clip. There was little the Reavers did that was viewable by the general public. It strained the mind a bit that while Legacy was on Londinum, Persephone actually got hit by Reavers. "Initial estimates placed the death toll at twenty five thousand, but the estimates are being consistently revised as those presumed dead are not found. This attack could not have come at a worse time, due to their appearant target, the Persopine Opera House, which was, at the time, housing a sold-out audience." Casher was still taking notes, even as he watched. The Reavers were a component of his book, and this just showed him an orginization that he hadn't predicted. He'd always sort of assumed that they were wild animals, attacking the first thing which came into reach. That, he'd realized, was quite wrong. They had landed well away from the city, getting into the slums on foot. When the time was right, after almost a day, they started their rampage. Something was controling them, making them more dangerous. The picture of the opera house, as it was found, returned to the screen. The shot, from an overhead angle, showed the building in flames. On its expansive grounds, more than a thousand bodies had been laid out into letters, broken into position when they would not bend. We Exist, the message read. "More disturbing is the fact that the final estimate of the number of Reavers that took place in this assault was numbered only at five thousand. These five thousand managed to take twice their number in prisoners when they left the ruins they had created. Our prayers go out to those poor souls." Casher shook his head. Prayer wasn't what those people needed right about now. A bullet to the brainpan. That's what'd set them straight. He didn't like the idea all too much, but given the choice between a dead person and a living Reaver... he had to pick the less lethal of two evils. "Among the lost were figures such as Archibold Miller and Reginald Hsu. Sir Warrick Harrow had some words on the situation," the newscaster said, and a stocky man with a red sash appeared on the screen. "We will rebuild," Harrow said. "We will rebuild, and we will be stronger. We will stand on our own legs, and we will never let this happen again. We have depended on the beneficence of the Alliance for far too long, and this is what results of it. They were too busy guarding Hera... Hera!... to defend those that they swore to protect. Their word is the worth of dust." "Are you saying that Persephone ought succeed from the Union?" the interviewer asked, but Harrow had already turned away, and was dealing with overseeing the relief efforts. Harrow didn't reply, and the image returned to the newscaster. "Although the Alliance froze transmissions after the attack, a number of ships in the Hera barricade were sighted moving as far afield as Lilac. It is not certain, as yet, whether these ships relocated as a result of orders or due to defection, but as it stands, two Cruisers are currently in orbet of Persephone. Updates as more information comes in." Casher leaned back, feeling the burning of his overtaxed muscles. The upper class believed that Reavers were a myth. They had until now, at least. He finally understood why they had gotten away from Londinum. The entire Alliance was in chaos. If Persephone succeeded, that would be two border worlds which declared independance, both self-sufficient and self-reliant. It would be a threat the Alliance wouldn't be able to bear. Casher wasn't sure why, but the idea appealed to him. For some reason he couldn't quite remember, he had a grudge. He stood, making sure he didn't let his neck extend. He'd banged his head on that part of the ceiling more than enough times to learn that most ships in the Black just weren't built for folks like him. Maybe he'd forgotten to stretch? He did that by times. He set his work down on the mattress and briefly considered collecting a shirt. Not much use, that he saw. He needed to shower anyway. As he came into the common, he cast a glance toward the infirmery, and to the woman who had literally fallen asleep at her desk. Long black hair pooled around her, and her lidded eyes were turned his direction. She was an attractive one, but women always made him feel... out of his element. He always had to be careful around them. He was a strong man. Might just break them. Next, he saw Zane. The young man seemed to have aged significantly since Casher first came on board. Him being famished and comatose didn't help things. Casher had been the one to find him, lying alone in that plains. He'd carried him back to Legacy, draped over his shoulder like a side of beef. Had he handled beef? He couldn't quite recall. For all he knew, he'd done the lad some further injury. Damn him and his clumsy hands. As usual, the long couch was blocking the door, so Casher shoved it away with his foot. A grunt sounded from the darkest corner, near the hold's portal. He focused there and finally saw Sylvia slide away from the incroaching couch. Her eyes were still closed as she sonambulantly wandered into the hold. He watched her a few more seconds, as she settled into the center of the hold, lying belly-to-deckplates. How had he not noticed her before. His sight was poor, to his shame, but not that gorram poor. He grunted and opened the door, and had to turn sideways to get into the bathroom. <> She propped her chin up on his chest, noting that he was still staring at the ceiling. He hadn't slept so well the last little while. She didn't know why he was acting this way. She was the one who had a right to be angry, since he'd just dragged her into the heart of the Alliance, and assaulted a top secret instillation to steal back an insane telepath. The plan was feng kuang to begin with, but somehow he pulled it off. She was going to have to learn to wager on her husband more often. "You're not sleeping," she said mushily. She, unlike her man, was tired, and wanted to sleep. But he had such a habit of shifting about when he was awake. It was frustrating. "Neither are you," he answered shortly. It wasn't like him to talk like that in bed. Of course, it wasn't like him to talk in English in bed, either. Especially not when he was naked. Another little facet of himself he hadn't gotten around to explaining yet. She wanted to just tell him to snap out of it. Were it anybody else, she wouldn't hesitate for a second. Hell, she was of half a mind to give him some words. Putting his wife in jeopardy to save a crazy woman. Well, two crazy women, to be honest, but only one that mattered. If this weren't so small a ship, she might have suspected her husband of doing something outside the traditional marriage vows. Might have, had she not known in her heart of hearts that Jacob was hers down to his toes. This wasn't the sort of thing she was raised to deal with. Meet adversity head on. Crush the competition and reap the rewards. Don't go near daddy while he's drunk... That didn't apply now, but it always seemed to creep up when she got to remembering her credoes. She was just so tired of being afraid. She opted to do the gentle thing, for a change, if nothing else. "Something is wrong," she said, staring at him. His one eye flit down to hers for a moment, sad and crushed and defeated. She hated to see her Jacob like that. It didn't fit him. He was always a smiler, a believer in the Divine Comedy, that all the world was a joke, that a body had to understand. For the last few days, he wasn't laughing. He looked like he'd been pushed too damn hard for too damn long. "Might say that," he responded, turning his gaze back to the cieling. "You can't just leave it at that," she said. "Can, and I will." "Damn it, Jacob, you're tense as a board, and I can't sleep on no ruttin' board," she complained. Her husband sighed. Not exactly the reaction she was lookin' for. She'd have to be more careful with the next salvo. "Sorry," he said softly. "I just can't get my mind off of..." "Early," she answered. "Of all the things to be thinkin' on right now, only you'd be ponderin' a man. And a dead one, no less." Jacob's brow drew down, and he shifted his weight, sliding her off of him. "He died protecting an infant." "He died because you wanted Sylvia back," Anne said angrily. Damn it, a tiny voice in her head screamed. This ain't what I was goin' for! The little voice was shouted down by the overwhelming one that said to go forward, which is exactly what she did. "Because you couldn't stand to be parted from that little blonde, one of your crew got killed." "He died helping them escape, and keeping the Operative from running them down." "He died for nothing, Jacob," she shouted. "For other folk's problems. He sure as hell didn't die for me." "If he hadn't been here, that Operative would have run them down, tortured our location out of the doc or Kaylee... probably Kaylee... and you'd..." Jacob said, but she cut him off. "If you hadn't taken this job in the first gorramn place," she interrupted loudly, "ain't none of us'd be in danger at all! And now we ain't even got enough money for fuel, if our next stop goes bust. We should have..." "What?" Jacob asked, sitting up. "Left her there? To be used by the Operatives as a scent hound? To be bred into those blue-handed bastards' breedin' program?" "Why not?" she shouted back. "Woman's so damn crazy they wouldn't get a straight answer out of her if they asked her which ruttin' way was down. Honestly, husband, why the hell did you have to go back to that place? Is she worth so much to you?" "Hou shi sung chung, just what this relationship needs; another shouting match," Jacob said darkly. "What this relationship needs is one less wife," Anne countered bleakly. "Cause it's gettin' awful crowded in here." She rose from the bed, pulling on one of Jacob's shirts and headed for the ladder. "Where are you going?" she heard him say toward her back. She didn't answer as she climbed the hell away from him. <> Well, that was helpful, she thought as she pulled herself delicatedly across the hull. One less to worry about. Early had been a bit of a snag in her plans when she decided to run down this bounty. A bounty which just got more interesting every day, it seemed. Two weeks ago, it gets cancelled, and now, it's back up with a quadrupled reward. He wondered just how much that woman must have done to get a reward of twenty thousand on her head. Not her business, she decided. She lived for the job. That was it. Money was secondary, something to keep her going, both metaphorically and literally, between jobs. Sometimes, like now, the job took longer than she would have liked, and it was comforting to know she had a stockpile of medication. She wouldn't be much use to anybody if she were flopping about or comatose. The Firefly was a good design, to her mind. Not particularly pretty, some would say. Lacked flash. But the thing was solid. Solid as Niska's reputation, as the old psychopath would say. Fly forever with a mechanic half awake. That was a bit of a problem with this boat, though, considering its man was entirely asleep. She had spent the better part of a day listening in on them, and she'd learned some surprising things. First of all, it wasn't often that a ship had a pair of identical twins on it, and even less common that they would square off like fight-cocks every time they shared a room. She hadn't heard how the mechanic, Zane by name, had landed in that coma, but she had overheard the lad's prognosis, being bleak. Seven people on that boat, two of them in no condition to fight, two of them with no martial ability to speak on. One, she hadn't a measure of. He seldom spoke, and nobody referred to him by name. He was in the shower right now. As good a time as any, she decided. She scuttled across the skin of this ship, inserting her small, wrist mounted computer into the socket beside the airlock. These things were usually disabled immediatly after construction was completed, but most never got around to isolating them by rewiring, which worked to her favor. She pondered going back to her ship for more supplies, but decided that if there was any one moment to board this boat, it would be now. The hatch obediently swung open, and she dropped herself into the ship, letting the fullness of gravity settle upon her once more. It was a disorienting thing, having to deal with that change in gravity. She pulled off her helmet, letting her jaw-length hair free to hang about her face. She was always told that she had lovely hair, usually by her targets before she killed them. Or captured them, as the bounty demanded. They tried to keep her off balance, but it didn't work. She never let it. She was better. Truth be told, she never cared for her hair. She opened the lower hatch and set her helm out of sight, adding the back-mounted air tank next to it. Wouldn't be much of a purpose hefting that thing around. She clambered down the ladder and reached for her belt. Damn her addle-pated decision! She'd left her gun on the ship. Of course, she had to leave it the one time she had to board the ship. She shook her head, peeking around the corner. Nobody in the kitchen. She stepped out from the stairwell. And came face to face with Jacob. The man was only wearing a pair of pants, and seemed all manner of confounded to have her on his ship. She didn't wait for him to raise an alarm call, driving her fist into his throat and rendering him silent. His right hand clutched his throat, and she moved in for the next attack. That was about when his left hand shot to his belt, and to the large pistol holstered there. Damn it all! Why did he have to be a lefty? She cut across him, catching his hand and smashing an elbow into his jaw in the processes. Her next blow was a paralyzing chop to the wrist, dropping the gun into her hand. She took one step forward to compensate for his involuntary retreat, then cracked him upside the head with his own weapon. It seemed somewhat fitting. He fell headfirst down the ladderway, and she had to grab his leg. She was pulled brutally into the deck, but she'd managed to cushion her fall somewhat so that it was almost silent. Her arm ached fiercely from trying to hold a man's weight in one hand. She might be stronger than most, but that was asking entirely too much. She let the man fall, after a moment, noting that he landed in a somewhat ridiculous position at the bottom. She could have been more careful, but she hadn't had any inclination to do so. She dropped down the ladder part way, confirming that the pilot, Anne, wasn't here. That would have been bad. As she had expected, the room was empty. She pressed her ear to the panelling, and still heard running water. Good. Still had time to prepare for the unexpected element. She clambered back up and glanced at the kitchen. There she was. Anne must have been in the pantry. Hefting Jacob's pistol, the woman unzipped a long portion of the front of her suit. It got hot when she had to fight in that thing, and her milk-colored skin relished in the opportunity to cool. Anne turned away from her again, reaching for something in the shelves behind her, and the woman made her move. She crossed the distance quickly and silently, grateful that the hun dahn she commissioned to make this suit had the decency to provide her with flat bottom boots. The first one tried to give her heels. What the hell was she going to do in heels? He wouldn't ever make that particularly sexist mistake again, she saw to that. Anne turned around to stare down the barrel of her husband's Mauser. Instantly, Anne went almost as pale as the intruder. "You might think against screaming," the intruder said softly. "Unless of course you want a bullet in you?" Anne simply shook her head, back flat against the far wall. The intruder skirted the edge of the counter and looked the woman up and down. She was wearing a man's shirt, one too big for her by a solid measure. She didn't appear to be clad in anything else. Just as well the shirt was big, she pondered. "I don't want to die," Anne said weakly, quietly. Good for her. She could follow directions. And speak in less than full voice. "And you don't have to. Just tell me where Sylvia is, and I disappear. Hell, I'll even do you the favor of removing that little marital obstacle that seems to have cropped up," the intruder said. "Jacob's right over there, he can..." "Jacob's unconscious at the foot of your door," the intruder interrupted, annoyed at having to do so. Most would give up things in a heartbeat, with a gun in their face. Especially a gun of this description. The Mauser was nothing if not a pragmatic style, and the woman at its trigger was exotic enough to give most folk pause even were she not carrying said weapon. "There's nobody who can help you." Anne's eyes flit about, dark against dark of the room. The intruder moved closer, pressing the gun to the woman's temple. "Say it," she demanded. "Ain't nobody can help me," she wept. Usually she would have had to cut on folk to make them like this. The pilot must be walking around with a lot of fear to her. Still, it suited her purposes perfectly well, so she let it work for her. "Good. Now, take me to Sylvia's room." The pilot wasted no time leading her out of the kitchen and toward the front of the craft. Somehow, she rather expected that the woman would be strapped to the slab at night, certainly not in a crew bunk. Anne quickly went about releasing the lock, but the computer spat the command back out. The small woman shook in fear as she nudged the door, noting that it opened without resistence. The intruder frowned, and Anne turned back toward her. "You first," the intruder demanded. "Why?" The intruder smiled coldly. "Two reasons. One, if I go down first, you take the opportunity to run away and find a gun. Second, if I go first and you don't run, the only thing I'll be able to see is your genitals as you descend," She leaned closer for a moment. "Might have wanted to spend a few seconds putting on pants, you know." She leaned back. "Now, go." Anne glanced down at the gun for a moment, then scampered down the ladder. The intruder quickly followed her, making sure she didn't try anything funny. Considering the general opinion of Sylvia was that she was a madwoman, the intruder had a fairly steady belief that Anne wouldn't find anything capable of being used as a weapon down here. Of course, there wasn't really anything at all to be found here. Just a bed, a pile of torn paper, and a small ivory elephant sitting on the dresser. Sylvia was nowhere to be found. "I'm not appreciating this," the intruder said. Anne spun around, eyes pleading. "The door was locked, she's supposed to be here," she said. "I'm surprised you sell her out so cheap," the intruder said flatly. "You must really hate her." Anne goggled for a moment, and the intruder cracked her in the head with the weapon. The small, half naked woman collapsed to the deck, and the intruder turned away, going back up and locking the door. Let her stew there, a while. Still, there were other things she had to deal with. She pressed her ear to the wall again. Yup. Running water. She smiled as she moved down the stairs toward the shower. <> The shower was fine and soothing, in its way. A warm shower was always a fine thing to experience. Somehow, he got the feeling that he suffered a number of cold ones in his life. He couldn't recall when, though. Truth be told, he couldn't remember much of what happened more than two years ago. It was like his entire childhood was a haze. Still, it must have always been that way. Nothing else to do about it. He shut off the flow of water and wrapped the towel around himself. It was a large towel, he noted, and it barely sufficed. He pushed the door open. Well, that couldn't be normal, he thought. He'd been on this ship a while. It couldn't be usual to step out of the shower and be face to face with a stranger. Where had she come from? Why did she have Jacob's gun pointed at him? She was wearing a black vaccuum suit, which contrasted starkly with her white skin and hair. Her gaze was directed at Zane, but Casher noticed that every motion he expressed was precisely matched by the gun. "That's a hell of a beating he must have took," the intruder said, her voice vaguely familiar. "Almost miraculous that he survived it." "Who are you?" Casher demanded, and the woman turned toward him. Her eyes were blood red, and her face seemed to tickle hard at his memories. "Casher?" she asked, incredulous. "Alright, you know my name," Casher said, holding the towel around himself. "Doesn't answer my question, though." She frowned at him. "I guess he was right," she muttered. "Celia. I'm known to some." Casher glanced about. "Where's Friday?" "The doctor?" Celia asked. Casher noticed that she'd unzipped her suit most of the way to the navel, revealing a deep, narrow expanse of milky flesh. Such odd behaviour. Celia smiled, and nodded to the passenger dorm. Right in the fork of one set and the other, Friday was thrashing, bound hand and foot, and gagged besides. The doctor stared at him desparately, trying to scream. Casher took a step toward the doctor, but Celia adjusted her aim. "Might want to be taking a bit of care, Casher." Casher frowned at the doctor, and then launched himself at the intruder. He knew he was fast, and strong besides. If he got his hands on her, that would be that. Of course, things didn't exactly go as he planned. The woman managed to zip right out of his grasp like an oiled eel, tripping him and planting herself on his back. He had more than half a foot on the albino, and nearly two hundred pounds besides, and he was now belly down on the floor, with a gun at the back of his head. "Not smart," Celia said. "Quick, but not smart." "My mother would be so disappointed," Casher snarked. "No, no she wouldn't," Celia said. A pair of pants fell before his face. "Put those on, this might take a while. I'm kinda on the clock, you understand. It's a bit frustrating." Casher felt her weight disappear from him. How had she done that? Nobody was faster than him. Outside of her, appearantly. He grudgingly obliged, somewhat unsettled in that she didn't glance away for even an instant as he dropped the towel and pulled on the pants. "What do you want?" he asked. "A passenger of yours," Celia answered succinctly. "Somebody who appearantly has caused you all manner of injury and strife." "Oh. Must mean Monday," he joked. She gave him a wan expression. No sense of humor at all. "If you don't take me to Sylvia, I'm not going to shoot you," she said. He smiled a bit. "Mostly, because I know full well how many bullets you can swallow before you start to slow down. No, if you don't bring me Sylvia, I'll put a bullet into the little doctor. Elbows and knees at first. Then places a bit more vital." "Sadistic bitch," Casher said, drawing himself up. Celia laughed at him. "Don't try to intimidate me, Casher. I knew you when you were crapping your pants," she said. "What do you intend to do with her once you have her?" he demanded. "Intend? The intention is to take her, leave you all to your happy little fate, and collect my twenty thousand. That'll keep me in medication for the rest of my foreseeable life. The intention is not, however, to hurt you or anybody else on this boat. But if you disrupt my plans... well, intentions are a damnably fragile thing." She scowled at him, then, her expression going flat again. "Where is she?" Casher glanced left and right. "Have you checked her room?" "Empty," Celia motioned him out of the infirmery's door. Casher was struck by a notion. "If she's not in it, is it still her room?" he pondered aloud. "Does the room still have a purpose when it's empty, or do we embue it with..." "If you go whooly on me, I will shoot you," Celia said. "You always did go on. You talked too much. Then and now." "I really don't know what you're talking about," Casher said. "I think I would have remembered a six-foot albino." She smiled again. "Well, your memory never was particularly good, was it?" she motioned to the passenger dorms. "These ones first." <> "And this room is mine," Casher said, after being forced to turn the other dorms upside down at her order. Captain Greyson would not be impressed with this. He turned back to her. "As you can plainly see, there isn't much besides my effects and my..." "You're still writing?" she asked. "Uh... huh," Casher affirmed. Celia rolled her eyes. "What? Something wrong with me writing?" "Huh? No, not a thing," she glanced at his ongoing project. "Miranda. Huh. Well, if that's what you want." "Excuse me?" "Oh, nothing." "That sounded like something," Casher muttered. Celia frowned a moment. "Is she grappling with anybody?" Celia asked. "Who, Friday? Probably." Celia groaned. "No, Sylvia." "She's feng kuang," Casher said. "Your point?" "Zane's comatose and Jacob's married," he pointed out. She laughed. "Consciousness and marital status haven't stopped men before." "That's a bit sexist, you know," Casher said. "A bit of a failing of mine. I notice you didn't include yourself in that." "What, me?" Casher said, aghast. "Why not?" the woman with the gun asked. "She's insane?" he offered. "Hasn't stopped..." "Bwah!" he cried, waving away the implication. "I am not..." "Fine, you're not grappling with the crazy woman. I get it," Celia said, motioning him out of the dorms. "How about Zane's room?" "Why would she go to Zane's room?" he asked. "Why would she go anywhere? Remember the not-sane being?" she reminded. Casher shrugged and made his way to the upper level. He didn't need to look back to know she had her gun exactly far enough away from his back that he couldn't beat it away, and not far enough away to miss a shot. "This is his room?" she asked. "Yes." "Go," he glanced back at her, then proceded down the ladder. She joined him after a moment, glancing about the room. "Not much in here, is there?" "He really doesn't," Casher nodded. "Might be that he spends most of his time in that hammock in the engine room." "Friday's room next," she instructed. Casher lead her to the doctor's boudoir next, no small amount surprised his own self when he saw it. Lavish silks as far as the eye could see, with the exception of a small heating vent, which seemed to have been reinforced to the point of comedy. He'd have to ask her about that, someday. "Well, unless she's hiding under that mountain of silk blankets..." she gave him a look. "Fine." It didn't take long to dig through the mound of siks, but he certainly didn't enjoy it. He didn't like the idea of being in her room, either. He wasn't invited. It was trespass. "Satisfied?" he asked when he at long last reached the actual cot. She tipped her head. "Who's next?" <> "Well, that room isn't sayin' a damn thing," Celia muttered. "It was Early's," Casher said. "He... well, he didn't make it back." "Sad. I might just start weeping," Celia deadpanned. "Where else on this boat could she hide?" "Well," he began. "Monday." "Shuh muh?" he asked. "She must be with Monday," Celia said. Casher let out a low laugh. "What?" "Obviously you don't know Monday," he chuckled. "Humor me." "No big change, there," Casher muttered, and Celia cracked him in the back of the head with the gun. He rubbed the hurt, casting her a glare for a moment. As he descended to the catwalks, he spied Sylvia, all laid out in the center of the hold. He didn't let his eyes rest on her more than a moment, moving toward the Companion's shuttle. The way the telepath was in plain sight, so's even Casher could see her... There was no way that Celia could have missed her. But that's exactly what she did. Casher tried the Companion's doors, but found them locked, so he knocked on them. Celia moved herself out of sight of the door. Casher knew the gun was still trained on his brainpan, though. Monday's face appeared, not impressed in the slightest for having been roused. She slid open the door. "What do you want, Casher?" she demanded coldly. It really boggled his mind how she could be such a polar opposite from her sister. He opened his mouth, but Celia shoved him forward, forcing him into the breach. Monday stared, startled, and froze solid when she saw Celia and her gun. However bad Friday was in a fight, her sister was worse. The Companion had a tendency to surrender before the first weapon was drawn, let alone fired. "Where is miss Sylvia Witherell?" Celia asked. Monday, frozen in fear, didn't register. Inside his own head, he laughed at her. She's right out there, spread out on the floor of the hold, he said inside the privacy of his brain. "You're going to have to ask her again in a few seconds," Casher said. "She's a touch gunshy." Celia growled, and then slapped the Companion in the face. The woman came about right then, holding her cheek and retreating into her 'room'. The place was furnished much like Friday's, but with a penchant more for blues than Friday's reds. "Where is Sylvia?" Celia asked again. "In her room, strapped down, if there's any justice," Monday responded, still glancing to the weapon nervously. "She's not there," Celia said. Monday smiled visciously. "Well, maybe the captain finally got sick of her and threw her out the airlock," she said harshly. How in the hells had this woman become a Companion, Casher wondered? "I told you you'd like her," Casher snipped. Celia smiled patronizingly. "I'm not going to hurt you," Celia said. "Any more than I already have, by which I mean. I am going to seal you in, though. So you just sit." As Casher was marched out of the shuttle, Celia released an angry groan. "Where the hell are you, Sylvia?" she asked, despite the woman in question being clearly in eyeshot. "Closer than you think," Sylvia responded. Celia glanced about, as if she couldn't tell where the voice was coming from. Perhaps she really couldn't. "I'm tired of playing games, woman," Celia shouted. How could she not see Syl? She was right there. If he could see her, anybody could. "You're playing now," Sylvia said. Celia rolled her eyes and made a face. "No making faces." "You're somewhere on this boat, playing with the sensors and the comms. Just come on out, and I won't be forced to put a bullet into Casher," Celia pressed the weapon to his head to demonstrate her point. Sylvia released a rather disturbing giggle. "That was somewhat unsettling." "You sure this is such a good idea?" Casher said. He was rather astounded that he hadn't made a move on her. Usually, he had absolutely no restraint once violence started to ensue. Mayhaps it was the absurdity of the situation. The fact that the woman Celia was searching for was right-rutting-there. "Less every passing moment," Celia muttered truthsomely. She leaned in close. "Why are you hiding her from me, anyways?" "I need a reason?" "The captain made it abundantly clear that you're not crew," she pointed out. "Hell, he's plotting on how to drop you on the next world spinning." "Don't matter," Casher said with a smile. For some reason, this didn't seem a life-and-death situation at all. More like sibling rivalry. "Still the right thing to do." "You're out of your mind," she said. "That's between me and my mind," Casher chuckled. Celia shook the gun downward, toward the lower hold. He slowly and obediently made his way down the stairs, taking them one at a time for good measure. Best not get her acting all skittish. "That's enough, Sylvia. Show yourself or Casher here swallows a bullet," she paused a long moment. "If that doesn't work, I'll run through this crew, one person at a time," she paused again, this time rubbing her scarlet eyes in frustration. "Don't you even care about the people on this boat?" Sylvia stood up, walking in a sort of sonambulant gait, coming to stop a scant pace from the intruder. Celia stared right through her. "I care," the telepath said, spooking Celia back a step, but she still didn't seem to see Sylvia. "Then are you going to see reason? Are you going to keep me from doing what I don't want to do?" Sylvia eased around the woman, her blue-green eyes still firmly closed. "Not going to do it. Don't have the will." "I'll show you will," she said, aiming the gun directly at Casher's cranium. "You won't, because you're not a murderer," Sylvia's words were breathy, listless, as if delivered from a dream. "Afraid, and broken. Born too soon, grown in a jar. Not finished." "You might want to be shutting up," she said, glancing at, through, and past the telepath as she walked between Celia and Casher. "They twisted and kneeded and carved and baked. Put you in a kiln," Sylvia made her way to the airlock controls. "But they didn't fire you right. Made you cracked. Like Casher. You're not right." "No!" she protested, then seemed to catch herself. "Well, I might be, but that's not your business." "What is your business?" Casher asked. "I'm a bounty hunter," Celia said. "No, you're not," Sylvia countered, making the intruder glance around for a moment. "A child. Virgin. A rose in the bud." "Well," she said. "I don't think I've ever been described like that." Sylvia's hand moved over the button which opened the airlock, and Casher knew what she was getting at. "You should. Not bad. Just different." "Wuh de tyen ah, gei wo ping jing," Celia muttered. "I'm tired of this. Come out. Now." Sylvia pressed the button, and the airlock doors began to slide open. Celia finally relocated both her gun and her attention to something not him, giving him exactly what he needed. An opening. He grasped her off hand and pulled her toward him, then her gun arm, keeping her from turning the gun on him, and lifted her clear of the ground. She flailed and kicked and made herself all manner of bendy, but his grip, once set, was unbreakable. Carrying her like a tantrumed child, he deposited her in the airlock, relieving her of the firearm in the process. Sylvia closed the door as he backed through it, leaving her stranded in that inner space. He looked to the women in turn. "Well?" he asked. "Should we get the captain?" <> Jacob stared at the woman in the airlock, at how she paced. Weren't natural, that woman. Not just that an albino managed to sneak onto his ship and beat the tar out of him. That was just unusual. But something about her just set him on edge. He looked to Sylvia, laid out again in the middle of the cargo bay, and to his wife, who stood shame-faced nearby. "What do you think we should do with her, sir?" Casher asked, leaning on the side of the stairwell. There was little else to lean on; the hold was pathetically empty. "I say we put a bullet to her," Anne said harshly, eyes still seeming to be in intense study of her feet. "No guns," Sylvia said from her place. "Alive." "But." "No guns," she repeated, not moving. "She must live." "Fine," Anne growled. "We ain't but a few minutes out of Newhall. We can drop her in a nice empty bit of nowhere. Satisfied?" Sylvia didn't answer. Jacob gave a nod, and his wife went up throught the ship. He had a distinct feeling like the argument had been called on account of rain, but hardly forfeited. "What about you?" he demanded of the woman in the black suit, which she still hadn't zipped up. How could she be comfortable exposing that much of herself? Of course, it wasn't that unpleasant to look upon... she was smooth and lithe as... Married, he reminded himself. Eye back in socket. "What do you mean? the woman asked. The door had been opened about an eighth of an inch, mostly 'cause Casher hadn't thought on throwing in a comm. Enough to talk through, if not much else. "Only reason you're livin' is cause my witch tells me you ought live. Care to provide some insight into that?" "Witch?" Celia asked. Then her face went slack as she heard Legacy burning through the atmosphere. "Oh god, my ship!" "Oh, that's right, she has a ship in our blind spot," Casher commented. Jacob cast him a look. Why the hell was Friday hovering around him like that? Not his worry. "Well," Jacob said with a grin. Weren't a ship in the 'Verse outside the military could break atmo on autopilot. And accordin' to Casher, her ship weren't nearly military. "It won't be there for long." "You don't understand," she said, sounding somewhat desperate. "All of my medicine is on that ship!" "Really?" "If I don't take it, I lapse into a coma and die," she said. Friday perked up a bit at the mention of a medical condition, but Casher just grinned. "Well, then. Might be wanting to spend some time in a clinic before chasing us again. Why did you do it, anyhow?" Jacob asked. Celia sighed. "I guess the money was too good. I got stupid." "And we're over Newhall... now," Anne announced. "Good," Jacob said, opening the ramp and the airlock together. Casher came to his side. "Careful, she's damn quick." "I know that," he replied confidently. He held up his gun before him as the airlock slid open, filling the hold with spray and salt-air. Newhall had its oceans, if little else. Casher stepped forward. "You're not going to kill me," she said, seeming a bit disturbed at knowning she was trapped on this little world without a thing but the clothes on her back. "Nope," Jacob said, and Casher gave her a mighty shove, which toppled her out of the airlock and into the surf, some ten feet below. The two men walked to the edge of the ramp, staring down at the bobbing albino as she sputtered and screamed. "You can't just leave me here!" she shouted. "Can and will, darlin'," Jacob pointed out. Casher reached into his pocket and dropped something small and cylindrical to her, and she managed to catch it without sinking. "Fillioaxalyn," Casher shouted down. "I've been 'round these parts. You see that island?" she glanced toward it. "On its far side's a quaint little spot. It'll tide you over. Take you more than a couple hours to reach, so you'd best start swimming." "You dirty sons of whores!" Celia bellowed up. Jacob laughed. Sometimes, one simply had to bow to the obsurd. "And that's our cue to gallantly fly away," Greyson said, into the comm, and the ramp began to slide closed. "You know, you didn't need to give her your meds." "Yes, sir, I did," Casher responded. "You also didn't need to do pretty much anything you did last night," Jacob continued. "Yes," Casher repeated. "I did, sir." Jacob took a breath, drawing in the last of the salty air, it seemed like. "We've got a hole in manpower, what with Early gone. Ain't got a proper soul to watch my back on jobs. You willin' to fight like that again?" "It'd be an honor to serve, sir." "Don't call me sir." "Will do, sir," Casher muttered, then stared up to the catwalks. "Sir, I think I should get around to unlocking Monday." "How long's she been in there?" Jacob asked. "Oh, about eight hours," Casher ballparked. Jacob chuckled genuinely. "Give her another two," Friday said with a smile. Jacob shook his head and washed his hands of the situation. He made his way back to Sylvia, who was spread on the floor. "You alright?" "No," she said, her eyes glazed and staring far away. Jacob frowned. "Not finished. Shattered. Broken into a thousand pieces. Bad men. Bad... Things are going to get much worse." "Ain't they always?" he said, "You ought go back to bed." "Very comfortable here," she said. "Well, we'll have all manner of folk comin' around soon, and I don't think they'll take to havin' a crazy woman literal underfoot," he pointed out. "Just a few minutes." Jacob shook his head. She'd know enough to know when to hide. Even insane, she had that going for her. He walked up the catwalks and to the front of the ship. Anne was piloting as she usually did, two hands on the stick, two eyes locked dead forward, no complications allowed. When he unlocked her from Sylvia's room, he had the presense of mind to bring pants. She was grateful. At the time anyways. He sat in the gunner's seat, staring at her. She didn't even glance his way. She wouldn't. She was flying. Usually she had a smile when she flew, but not now. Now she looked... she looked like she'd given away her child to slavers, is what. "I'm sorry," she said. "Excuse me?" he asked, not sure if he heard that right. Once in a dozen blue moons did she actually apologize for something. Didn't help that he didn't know what for. "When she came on... I was so afraid. I thought she was after me," the small woman said. "I told her where Sylvia was. I thought, maybe, if I got rid of her, maybe they'd just leave me alone." "You tried to sell her out," he summed up. She nodded glumly. "And I ain't sure I wouldn't do it again." "You've been afraid for years," Jacob said, moving to her side and placing a hand at her back. Her head hung for just an instant before she returned it to her task. "You did what any-damn-body would have done; preserve yourself. I can't fault you for not bein' the altruistic type." "That ain't all of it, though," she said, her words dragged out slow and painful. "I wanted her gone. I wanted her the hell elsewhere." "Because..." he said, a concept forming in his mind. "Because you don't want her to take me from you?" She stared dead forward, but here eyes welled up. "I ain't never leavin' you," He said. "Not in this life. Someone kills me, I'll just come back for you." "You mean that," she said. Not really a question. "Of course. I will never leave you in this world, Anne. I swore on that," she smiled then, short, but there. "Now, we gotta find ourselves a place to land, and some folk to do business with." "Ain't gon' be much business to be had," Anne noted. "What with the comin' festivities and all." "Festivities?" Jacob asked. "Didn't you remember?" Anne said tersely. "The big day." "What day is it?" Jacob muttered to himself. "You really don't have a clue, do you?" "What month is it?" he asked himself next. In the black, one month was pretty damn much the same as the last. Anne shook her head. "Tomorrow's Unification Day."

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