BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 2:17, Statue
Monday, March 13, 2006

No good deed goes unpunished as something Jacob did in the recent past comes back to bite him in the ass. At least they captured his essence. And got a decent actor.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1618    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

I know. Jaynestown. But I just couldn't get the image of Jacob staring at his own statue out fo my head, and the crew desparately needed a bit of silliness. Of course, once they go to the theater, things go from silly to sublime. Folk-status is a hell of a thing. Also included in this chapter are some explainations, partial though they may be, on the nature of telepaths. Specifically, how and why she started goin' all second sight on folk at the beginning of the first season. And... The return of Commander Harken. Joss created Canton and the Jayne-statue. I simply stole them. And I stole the movie rights too. Feedback is love. Love me.

Statue

Her eyes were closed, pressed shut as she tried to do something she'd been fighting against since that horrible night near Miranda; she tried to hear the whispers. Everything had gone so sideways, since the cave. Sure, she had her mind back, if she didn't immediately like the price it exacted. How was she going to explain it to him? Did she even dare? She growled a Mandarin curse as she ran a hand down the long braid she'd adopted rather than have to cut her hair. It wasn't working. In those days, she'd have literally killed for peace and quiet. Now, all she wanted was to hear something. Anything. "Son of a bitch!" Jacob shouted from the infirmery, and for an instant, Sylvia felt him flinch. She could feel him. It was part of the price, the price she would not have to pay alone. The pain. The frustration. Fear and anger. She opened her eyes, seeing Casher standing at the captain's side. The large man rubbed a hand across his face. His other hand held a suture needle which seemed entirely too small. "I told you not to pick at it, sir," Casher said, a worried look plain upon him. She should have felt something, coming off a look like that, but all she felt was Jacob. "The sutures won't hold if you pick at it, and this is the third time you've torn it." "Just ruttin' fix it," Jacob said harshly. Sylvia winced a bit at the words, and moreso at the abrasiveness behind it. She'd felt him before. Before she... got took by the Reavers. It still gave her a shiver to think that she'd been to that place of darkness, looked evil right in the eye and didn't lose herself completely to it. She had felt two Jacobs, and they were as different as two men could be. "Are you sure that's all your troubles, sir?" Casher asked. Jacob scowled at him, then sat up from the chair. "You might want to keep your mind on your job, Casher," Jacob hissed, pulling his shirt back on. She recoiled a moment looking at the scarred hell of his torso. Her talent... her gift, should have removed all of that. Reverted it. Hell, she should have given him back his ear, whole and untouched, rather than this needing Casher to stitch it back on. And then then there was that ache. Casher watched at the captain stormed out of the room. Jacob cast her one look as he moved around, heading up the stairs. Calculation. That's what it was. Calculation. She looked to Casher next, who was shaking his head and beginning to put his things away. Friday's things away, she corrected herself. He was only a substitute, and a pale one at that. She growled, rising from her place. There was no peace to be had here. Silence, yes, but not peace. And not focus, which she needed desparately more. Casher turned and noticed her. "Ah," Casher said. "I assume you heard that?" "He didn't have the right to say those things," she said, picking up some of his impliments. Casher shrugged. "He's the captain," Casher muttered, as if that were the whole of the matter. "I... Well, he's the captain." "That doesn't give him the right to use you like that," she whispered. "I don't know," Casher paused, staring at the wall for a moment, staring beyond the panels and into the black beyond. "Sometimes, I feel like... but that's not the way of the 'Verse. He orders, I obey. That's just the way it works." "No," she retorted. "That's the way of slavery." Casher didn't respond to that. Sylvia tried one last time to reach out to him. Once more... but there was nothing there. As if there was no mind sharing the room with her. Nothing but her, and somewhere above, Jacob. She paused a moment, just before leaving the room. A panel was resting on the edge of the table, singularly unimpressive in its position and appearance. Casher must have noticed her, because his large hand plucked it up. "This was the last thing she was working on," Casher said softly, his eyes going a bit soft. Friday. It was a sore point to everybody on this ship, right now. Something horrible that she'd missed, a travesty which everybody but her understood but nobody felt like they could talk about. Whatever happened to the ship's doctor, it had broken Jacob just a bit. Perhaps it was just another pound on top of a camel with an already broken back, but the 'Verse was darker for Friday not being part of it. It was almost as if the woman who'd made this place her own had died. "What is it?" Sylvia asked. "Well," Casher said. "When you were taken to Londinum by the... those people with the blue gloves, she found a stockpile of information on those like you. Telepaths and the like," He pressed the switch, and the screen came on, a page of text, with more text behind it, as if scribbled notes. "This is about me, isn't it?" she said, reading the entry which was perhaps one or two words short of being finished. Casher leaned, or rather loomed, over her shoulder. He frowned. "I guess that is," the large man muttered. She turned on her heel and strode out the door, the words spinning in her head. Of course. It made perfect sense. That's why it all started that day on the BlackJack. It didn't explain this current lack of control that she suffered, but this was the beginning. Sylvia wondered how much Friday still had in there, the words she hadn't scribed. If only she could take away the woman's pain. If only she could do... something. But that pain was beyond her ability to heal, even were she able to do as she once was. She made her way up the stairs, passing Anne as she made her way down. Sylvia didn't even notice if the woman gave her one of her usual scathing glares. She had to know something, now. When she popped up next to the kitchen, she gave a start, seeing the broad shouldered form leaning over the counter at Zane, who was pointedly staring at the remnants of dinner. She quietly walked forward, turning at the last possible second to face the dark man at the counter. "Why didn't you tell me?" she demanded. Silver eyes went wide, and the man vanished as if a trick of the mind. Zane glanced over his shoulder. "Tell you what?" "G-32 Paxilon hydrochlorate," Sylvia said, making her way forward, into the nose of the ship. There were nearly a hundred thousand four-crosses alive in the 'Verse, but less than two hundred telepaths of any description. The reason for the disparity was the necessity of a compound, unique to each individual, to activate them. There was one ace in the hole, according to Friday's research. A universal activator. It was dumb, black luck that it would find a second, more sinister use on the sun-bleached plains of Miranda. Jacob was sitting in Anne's chair in the cockpit, staring coldly at the black. Sylvia got a feeling of loss from her captain, like just looking out here conjured up a memory he really didn't want to have to deal with. There was still that kernel of child-like wonder that pulsed beneath it, but it was weak, muted. Almost strangled. "Captain," Sylvia said. Jacob shifted himself, glancing backward at her. She cast a look to a nearby planet out the window. "Which planet is that?" "Excuse me?" he asked. "I asked a simple question. Which planet is that?" "Liann Juin," Jacob answered, suddenly throwing off suspcion. "We need to land there," Sylvia said. She knew she was right, even as she said it. Jacob's eyebrow rose. "Oh," Jacob scoffed. "Suddenly the feng kuang duh nu hai outranks the captain on my ship?" "It's partially my ship too, you realize," Sylvia pointed out. "When you registered this ship, it was under Salvager's Right. All occupants are considered owners unless stipulated not, and you failed to stipulate. You, Anne, Zane and myself all own one quarter of this boat." Jacob rose to his feet. When had he gotten like this? Taller than her, by which she meant. They had always been the same height. It was then she realized he'd always slouched. A spacer habit, keeping out of the way of cielings. "Is there some particular reason you feel you need to remind me of the specifics of this boat's ownership?" Jacob asked, staring her down. She didn't give an inch. She couldn't afford to. "We need to land on Liann Juin. If we don't, things will go very badly," she said simply. Jacob frowned. Sylvia heard the fall of footsteps behind her, and she didn't need to turn to recognize the light falling of Anne's feet. "Badly, you say?" Anne asked. "How much more bad can it get?" Sylvia answered her with a stare. "Fine," Anne said with a shrug, dodging around Jacob and pulling out the controls. Jacob cast his wife a look, a feeling of confusion and hopelessness tying him in knots. With Anne's hands in control, the planet squared itself directly in the front of the ship. "We'll be there in a few hours. Happy?" Jacob turned back to Sylvia, fixing her with a look which she would have called unreadable, had she not been physically able to read him. Finally, he scowled. "This ain't over, Syl." "No," Sylvia agreed. "It's only just begun." <> Everything hurt. His body still burned and ached from the effects of his brief stay with Niska, may he rest eternal in the icy pits of hell, and his head pounded. It didn't help that he now had to deal with his crew acting behind his back, making pacts and choosing destinations without him. He sat on the edge of his bed, facing the table. Was it worth getting up to run through the manifests? He doubted it. Nothing mattered but Anne, and she was somewhere doing something. Without him. He felt useless. Every day, he knew that those ruttin' Operatives got closer, and he was soon going to run out of places to hide. They'd get him. They'd get her. And that, he could not abide. With a curse that would have sent God tipping backward over his ruttin' throne, he pushed himself up. He'd stay in his bed when he was old and crippled, and not a moment sooner. He had a job to do. He had to keep her safe. From everything. Jacob pulled the shirt on, disregarding the razor still sitting on the basin. He didn't need to look pretty and fanciful, here. People juggled geese here. Baby geese... goslings even! Shaking his head grimly, he pulled on his gun. He was reaching for his sword when the comms cracked to life. "Uh, boss?" the mechanic said, torn between laughing and... Jacob couldn't tell what else, but it wasn't mirth by its one-sy. "What is it?" Jacob responded. There came a laugh from the other end of the line. "Well, I reckon you really ought see this yourself." "Could you be a bit less specific? For a second there I thought you were explaining," Jacob snipped. There was a pause. "Sir?" Casher now said. "You're going to want to see this for yourself." "You've got a half decent brain," Jacob muttered. "Can't you just describe it?" "Well," Casher said slowly. "Words fail me, at this moment." Growling, both from the pain in his body and the pain in his head, he hauled himself up the ladder. He had to do something about that ruttin' crew. Disrespecting the captain... come to think of it, that seemed to a captain's lot in life. He wondered for just a moment why folk put up with being captain. Then he remembered; because captains get last say, and no amount of pissin' an' moanin' in the 'Verse can run against a captain's decision. The sunlight outside was entirely too bright for him, havin' just woken up and all. That was the one thing he never did pick up on entirely; spacers usually had the most malleable sleeping habits of anybody in the 'Verse, but he took weeks to acclimate to a circadian rhythm other than his own. And in that amount of time, he was more often than not back into the black, and free to sleep whenever the hell he felt like it. Squinting against both a raging headache and the midafternoon sun, he stomped away from the ramp, letting the grasses be crushed under his heel as he moved away from the docks. It didn't take him long to locate his wayward crew, and it irked him a bit that they'd all be standing around, not finding work. He rather desparately needed work. His pockets were beginning to atrophy for lack of use. "What are all you lazy humps doin' just standin' around?" Jacob shouted, and Anne turned back to face him, her face beet red. She seemed to be stifling all out laughter. "Well, if it isn't the man of the hour?" Monday said, a small smile fighting to escape from her deadpan delivery. "When I set this ship down, it was on the promise of work," Jacob said, speaking directly at the long braid of blonde hair which stood beside Casher's singularly gargantuan frame. Syl cast a glance at him, then smiled brightly and turned back around. "Gotta say, boss, it's a hell of a thing," Zane remarked from one side of the group. "When I said find work," Jacob said, finally reaching the back of the group. "I meant today, and quickly. Now git!" "You sure you want us goin' all over the place, hon?" Anne said. She was just about to burst out laughin' from the sound of her. "What is so ruttin' funny?" Jacob demanded. Casher chuckled then stepped aside. After a moment, Jacob remembered to shut his mouth. "Well," Jacob muttered at last. "That don't make no kind a' sense." "No matter where I go," Monday remarked, leaning to and fro, "its eyes seem to follow me." "This is a joke, isn't it?" Jacob said. Everybody seemed in about the right setting for a joke, especially something like... this. "Who pulled this one?" the captain asked. "Thing's probably made a' styrofoam," he muttered, moving forward to give it a kick. He regretted it instantly as pain shot from his toe to his heel, and the iron statue didn't budge an inch. With a look of utter confusion, Jacob stared at his own, iron-wrought face. "This don't make no kind a' sense," Jacob repeated. "There's no reason these folk would make a statue... of me." "I must say I have to agree with that," Monday said. "Are you sure you didn't emancipate a horde of slaves without realizing it?" Casher remarked. "You know, if we keep coming across things like this, the next book I'm going to have to do is your biography." Jacob shook his head. "This don't mean nothin'. Just get out there and find me some work." "I don't know," his wife chuckled. "This 'ere's a spectacle warrentin' a moment's consideration." "Just shouts 'bwah!' don't it?" Syl agreed. "Really captured his essence." "He has an essence?" Anne said suspiciously. "How about we quit playin' art critic on this eerie-ass piece of sculpture," Jacob offered, "and instead get on with this increasingly eerie-ass day?" "There's got to be some sort of story here," Monday said. "For example, why did they arm the statue? And why was it made with the gun in his right hand?" "Must not know he's a lefty," Zane offered. "Enough!" Jacob shouted. "Everybody not talking about the statue, here. Everyone else; elsewhere!" "Kuh-wu duh luh bao-jun," Zane muttered, then wandered away. Jacob shook his head, turning back to the statue of himself, holding out a gun in an admittedly suai and intimidatin' manner. "These folk must be off their ruttin' axle," Jacob said, then leaned closer. He stifled another growl as he realized that this was one of his old guns. Hell, he'd lost this one last time he was on this little rock. He pried it out of the hand, an easy task the way the hand was made, and looked the weapon over. It looked to have been cleaned surprisingly regularly. And with the little roof that was set up over this jing ren feng kuang statue, the thing was probably still in working order. "Wei!" somebody shouted from across the square, running to close the distance. "You put that back!" Jacob turned, noting that his crew had gone and vanished on him. He held the revolver in one hand and caressed the Mauser with his good left. The man skidded to a stop about a good ten yards away. "Oh, my God," the man muttered. "You're him. You're really gorram him!" "I'm who?" Jacob asked, but the man was already running away. Jacob turned back to the statue. "What the hell did I ever do what earned me a statue?" <> Jacob found them nearly a half hour later, all seated in the back rows of a theater. Not a real cinema like they had on the Can-tse's, in the Triplexes, and those civilized spots. This was an old fashioned theater, like they had on Earth-that-was. No Cortex screen, just a big damn white sheet what had light thrown at it. Which was a relief to him. Anne didn't need gettin' seen on any screens. "I thought I told y'all to find me some work," Jacob said. "Sh!" bade a couple dozen others in the building. Weren't this just a shiny little situation. They holed themselves up in a place where he couldn't possibly yell at them without condemning himself to Job's 'Special Hell'. Scowling, Jacob made his way into the seats, setting himself down beside his wife. She offered a paper tub of popcorn to him, which he accepted. "So," Jacob said, in a quieter voice. "What the hell is this?" "It's starting," Syl hissed from further toward the center. The screen turned white, and the music, slow guitars and fiddles played melancholy filled the room. He recognized the scene. It was a town where he and the crew found a peck of trouble about a year and a half ago. The camera panned over to a squad of folk dressed in as close as Jacob figured was allowed to Alliance Federals. The townfolk were silent as the Fed took several long steps forward. "This township is now under the direct control of the Union of Allied Planets. Any attempts to circumvent our laws will be viewed as an act of sedition and punished by execution," the Federal barked. One of the people stepped forward. "Don't got no reason to be here, lawman. No reason to squeeze on us. Just let us go our own way," the young man said. The Fed glanced to the crowd a moment, then pulled out a laser pistol and shot him. It was right about there that Jacob rolled his eye. The 'lliance didn't give lasers to their front line grunts. Hell, they didn't give lasers to their officers, more often than not. But it was a movie, and movies did tend to get things wrong. The film followed what might be called a cliched formula. Bad folk pressin' down hard on good folk. Some of them gettin' up the guts to stand their ground, then gettin' shot for their trouble. Women screaming and Feds in their black, dehumanizing armor walkin' about as if they'd never wun guo pi. Of course, a little more than half way in, things went from predictable to gorram confusing. That point hit exactly when a Firefly landed outside town and Jacob walked out of it. Of course, it wasn't Jacob himself, but rather somebody got up to look like him. He glanced to the rest of his crew, who were all hugging their sides to keep from bursting out laughin'. "Did y'all know about this?" Jacob asked. Anne simply smiled, still holding in a guffaw. This other Jacob musta overtopped the real one by about half a foot, and the scar runnin' down his face was all manner more hideous than Greyson's, an' the way he carried himself didn't say anything but soldier. Add the fact that the other Jacob was wearing a long brown duster, and he was the image of the Independant soldier. "This must be what going mad feels like," Jacob said lightly. "Hush," Syl said. "Look, there's me!" Sure enough, a blond, surprisingly buxom woman bounded down the ramp to his side. Didn't exactly look like Syl in any but a passing manner, but she managed to turn a few heads. Even Early was represented, Jacob noted. The crew made their way into town, finding one of the aforementioned gutsy havin'-been-shot folk, just on the cusp of kickin' it. Then, the crew went on some thrilling heroics, culminating in a gunfight in the center of town. The Syl actress got shot all manner of times, but just like the real Syl, she was fine for havin' a bullet proof vest on. The Jacob actor also got shot a few times, which most certainly never happened to him on Liann Juin, that he could recall. When the dust settled, the Jacob character gave a rousing speach, and the Zane character got hitched to the sweetheart he'd picked up while performing the earlier thrilling heroics. Then, the whole kit and kaboodle got back onto the Firefly and flew away. "They've got this all wrong," Jacob shook his head. "It weren't..." "Well," Casher said as the credits began to roll. "I guess it's more important than ever that I get exclusivity on your biography. Since you already seem to have a movie, I mean." "I don't have a movie!" Jacob exclaimed. "This tyen shiao duh shiong mao niao film didn't get a damn thing right. It weren't Feds what took over, it was bandits that broke from the 'lliance. And we didn't do half that crazy garbage. Just went into town, and shot some folk." "And the sweet romance between Zane and Penelope?" Casher asked. "Lasted two days," Zane answered. "Oh," Monday said. "Well, it wasn't a bad video." "Are you ruttin' kidding me?" Jacob said, standing from his seat. "I'm a soldier, Syl's a bimbo, Zane's a smooth talkin' lady's man, Anne ain't even there, an' Early was a stereotypical dumb muscle type." Casher smiled. "Do you think they'll send royalties, sir?" Jacob rolled his eye. "They didn't even mention my last name." "That would be an obstacle, sir." "This is a craziness that I truely do not need," Jacob muttered as he made his way down the aisle. "We are just going to go to the docks and find something needs movin'. Then, we're going to leave this mu yi rock behind us and all the crazies along with it." "You sure that's a good idea, boss?" Zane asked. "It could be worse," Casher pointed out. "If somebody got it into their heads to recognize you, there'd be a crowd waiting for us when we got out of... oh." Jacob turned to face the exit again, noting with dismay that the worst had, indeed, come to pass, once again. A horde of at least several hundred were waiting anxiously near the exit of the cinema. "On second thought," Jacob ammended himself. "This must be what going mad feels like." As he finished, the crowd began to surge forth with cries of jubliation. Many of them called his name, which was all manner of unnatural. When they'd gotten about five yards away, the dirt began to plume up around their feet, causing them to halt in place. The wail of engines burned overhead and a flight of ASREVs turned a slow, tight circle around the city. Jacob glanced up at the evening sky, noting the massive form of an Alliance patrol ship settling to land right next to Legacy. Men in black armor slid down cords connected to hovering craft, leveling long rifles at the crowd. It was life imitating art, only both forwards and backwards at the same ruttin' time. Jacob found no few weapons pointed his direction, he noted. "Jacob Greyson," the closest to him said. "By the authority of the Union of Allied Planets, you are hereby bound by law to stand down." "What are the charges?" Monday demanded. "Sedition," came the answer. Jacob shook his head. He couldn't do anything. He was useless. Raising his hands in defeat, he muttered four simple words. "Son of a bitch." <> "Are you sure?" He leaned back a moment. He'd never particularly liked Pat Barclay too much, in the past, but now they had something in common. And since they each held an identical position, they had a bridge between them. He'd lost an older brother when the Reavers hit Persopine. A great many had lost family in that bloodbath, but they weren't him. Barclay had been part of the battle over Boros, but he himself had come face to face with that greater darkness oh, so much earlier. He literally looked one in the eyes, beheld the heart of the monster. Barclay could never claim that. "Unmistakably," he replied. With this, Barclay ran a hand along his very short-shorn hair, a worried expression on his face. "And they do not suspect?" Barclay asked. "No," he replied. "The crew believes Greyson is being brought in on a charge of sedition. I don't need to tell you what will happen if..." "No," Barclay interjected. "You don't. But if we can't get that to them... things won't go well." He shook his head slowly. "It certainly won't. We both know how far they're willing to go to keep a hold on their power. Exactly how far," he paused a moment, leaning closer to the screen. "You are perfectly sure he is the man for this job?" Barclay nodded, an uneasy grin on his face. "If there's one thing I know about Greyson, it is that he has a hero complex a mile long. I have utter faith that he'll perform admirably." He turned the screen off. Faith. He would have laughed, had the situation been even a slightest bit less sad. He'd lost his faith in God when he joined the Alliance, and his faith in the Alliance when that... thing... spat his soldier's blood into his eyes. The Miranda Broadwave was almost a prod in the gut, an affirmation of everything he now believed, but couldn't espouse. Couldn't, then. Now? He wasn't sure. Straightening the grey collar of his uniform, he pushed away from the desk in his room. It was a private line, something that held worth bordering on priceless on a Tohoku. Privacy was a hard thing to get on a ship of fourty thousand, even if it was a ship the size of a city block. He'd been in command of the Gallileo for eight years, now, but the last two were especially an onerous duty. To have to defend what he reviled... it was a compromise which he could only barely force himself to make. Mostly because while he was here, he could do something. As usual, he didn't take his hat. It was always uncomfortable, and gave him a headache if he wore it for anything more than ten minutes. Hatless, he made his way through the street-like corridors of the Gallileo, heading away from the residencial areas, past the medical wing and the barracks. Down, into the guts of the ship. Into the impenetrable bowels. "Sir!" a soldier called to him as he approached. "Are you here to observe the questioning of the prisoner, sir?" "I am, Sergeant Green," he replied. He made a point of knowing his men by name. And knowing them well. Of the fourty thousand on the ship, he knew the names and leanings of a strong half. Green paused a moment, then nodded and stepped aside. He continued into the room. The interrogation room was much what one would expect of such a room. Harsh lighting and unpleasant heating specifics, coupled with close walls and the long table made for a claustrophobic, even overwhelming spectacle. At this moment, Jacob Greyson sat at the far end of the table, his arms crossed over his chest. The interrogator broke off when he entered the room. "What is the situation?" he asked. "He will not admit to the charges," the interrogator responded in a whisper. "I suggest we take him to medical to continue the..." "You will do no such thing," he replied loudly. He knew this man, and knew that he was a child of Sihnon, indoctrinated in the more damaging of two dogmas. He was a liability, and a dangerous one. Jacob didn't flinch, staring at them both with his one good eye with what he could almost call casual interest. "I will conclude this interview. Dohn luh muh? Ni cho lien, yo mei yo?" The interrogator frowned at him, but he had been given a direct order, and had no choice to obey. He snapped a salute, and strode out the door. With a frown on his face, he turned back to the table. "Wentil, if you would?" he asked. The private nodded and clicked a button on a remote control. The camera, housed through the directional mirror, deactivated, and the private moved next to the door. Private Wentil was from the Rim. He understood better than most. "I must apologize for the deceptions it took to bring you here," he said. "I am Derek Harken, commander of the Gallileo." "Really?" Greyson said slowly. "What have you done to my wife?" Harken frowned just a moment. Barclay hadn't mentioned a wife. "She would be?" "What have you done to Anne?" Jacob said, raising from his seat. Harken had a moment of worry. What if Barclay had been wrong? Harken made a placating gesture. "Your crew has been taken to a holding area. No one has been questioned, nor interrogated, nor harmed at all," he tried to reassure the man, but he seemed a bit in a taking. "There is no record of your marriage to Anne. Why would that be?" "Don't much hold with Alliance archives. Ain't had much call to be 'round them," Jacob responded. Harken began to flip through the file that had been left behind. Anne Roykerk. The name struck him, something he'd heard about during cadet's school. He gave himself a moment to sort through it. Yes, there it was. A short lived arrest warrant for an Anne Roykerk, on charges of treason. The warrant was removed less than a week after it was issued, and he'd assumed that she'd either died or been caught. Obviously not. "You don't hold with the Alliance at all, do you?" Harken asked. "Can't say as I do. Just want to go my own way," Greyson said, guardedly. Harken nodded. "Many seem to," Harken admitted. He flipped through a few more pages, most notably the one relating to his current status as folk hero of Liann Juin. It was surprising how quickly an event could be blown out of proportion, especially when the 'hero' doesn't stick around to tell what really happened. "Are there going to be any charges?" Jacob asked, after the long pause. "Or are we just gonna sit here an' scratch our nuts for a few hours?" Harken smirked. "I'm going to be honest with you," Harken said. "The Alliance is corrupt, decadent, and hopelessly broken." Jacob raised an eyebrow. "That's an odd thing for a fine, upstanding UAPAF commander," he noted. "That," Harken responded, "is operating under the preconception that I am a fine, upstanding commander." "Alright," Jacob said, thumping the table lightly. "That's enough. You can't fool me, Harken. I ain't gonna indict m'self by thinkin' you're anythin' but a ruttin' Fed." "You can believe whatever you want to believe," Harken nodded. "But you have something that I am denied. Anonymity. I have something that needs to be moved to a contact of mine in the town of Frisco. Unfortunately, there is nobody on this ship which can be trusted to make journey." "Are you givin' me a job?" Jacob said suspiciously. "I believe I just did," Harken said with a smirk. Jacob leaned back in his seat. "Why?" Harken frowned. "According to the Parliament, Liann Juin is a designated hotspot for insurrectionist activities. You, or rather somebody fitting your description, has been cited as a traitor against the lawful government. I know what happened that afternoon, Jacob. Unlike some of my superiors, I didn't base my outlook on this situation on an horrendously inaccurate motion picture put out by people who had about as much knowledge of the events as those who, sad to admit, sign my salary checks." "Moreover," Harken continued, beginning to pace in the open section of the room. "I was visited by a... friend, a few weeks ago. He warned me about the situation as it was taking place here. Of what will take place, several months from now." Jacob took notice at this. "What happens several months from now?" "If I, or whoever takes my place, fails to root out the 'sedition' from Liann Juin," Harken said, suddenly unable to speak for a moment, "I will be ordered to... interdict... the planet." "Interdict. You mean slaughter them. Glass the planet like Shadow," Jacob said. "No," Harken muttered. "Starve them." Harken retook his seat. "I have until next Unification Day to pacify this planet. And I cannot, because there is nothing here to pacify." Jacob stared at him for a long moment. "What is it you want?" "I have schematics for weapons and devices which were smuggled out of Osiris," Harken said. "They have been loaded into your ship by those I trust. These need to be taken to our contact in Frisco, and from there, our contact will transport them to Verbena and Athens." Jacob stared at him suspiciously for a long moment. "And for this, I get what?" "I can't pay you," Harken admitted. "Not in credits." "Then you can kindly go to hell," Jacob said. "There is a slush fund, set up by... a certain lupine friend of yours. He has already set aside a sizable amount to be given when you deliver the goods. Will you do this?" Jacob stared for a moment, hardly even seeming to blink. "Fine," he finally said. "So long as I get paid." Jacob rose from his seat again, silently making his way to the door. Just before he passed the end of the desk, Harken caught his arm. "I also have something for you," he reached back to Wentil, who handed him the heavy fabric. He handed it forward, and Jacob took it as if it were a venomous serpent. "I heard that you had given yours away?" Jacob stared at the long, brown duster. "He needed it more'n I did," the captain said slowly. "'sides, he looked damn suai in earth tones, too." Greyson took the coat and folded it over his arm. He glanced toward the door for a moment. "War's long done, you realize?" he said quietly. Harken almost let out a laugh. "This war has only just begun." <> Jacob hunched over the gunner's seat, watching the black as it slipped slowly by. His wife, whole and unmolested by even the gentlest of hands, sat in her chair, staring likewise out into space. This was going from strange to insane, and for once, it didn't end up with him getting shot. That was a miracle all by its lonesome. "So, he just let you go?" Anne asked, after a long silence. Jacob nodded. "Which is why we're headed to the ass-end corner of 'no' and 'where'," Jacob said. He noticed Syl as she appeared at the door. His headache still pounded brutally at him, and it seemed to be getting worse with every passing hour. He couldn't let it stop him, though. If he stopped, those hun dahn would get her. Anne glanced back to Syl, then to her husband. She stood, resting her small, delicate hand on Jacob's shoulder for a moment. "I'm turning in," she whispered, and glided away. Sylvia waited until she had vanished down the ladder before walking into the cockpit. She slumped into the third seat, spinning it to face Jacob. "You weren't much of a help back there," Jacob pointed out. Syl sighed. "I know," she responded. "I know?" Jacob repeated. "I know? You let me blunder blindly into an ambush, you put my wife in serious and unforgivable danger, and all you can give me is an 'I know'?" Sylvia's head slumped down to rest in her hands. "It's all gone, Jacob. It's like it was never there." "What's all gone?" "You know," Sylvia said hollowly. "Before the cave, I could read people without trying. Now, I can't read anybody but you. Before the cave, I could kill people with my brain, now, I can't even make them blink. And... I couldn't heal you. I couldn't heal Friday." She stood, walking past him and facing the stars. "I can't pull my weight on this boat anymore. I can't do what you pay me to do. I'm useless." Jacob scowled. "What happened in that cave?" he asked. "No reassurance, even," Sylvia said with a scowl over her shoulder. "It's a wonder you haven't driven them all off the boat already." "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked. "It means... You have to die," she blurted out. Jacob took a long step back, away from his chair. "You mind repeating that?" Jacob said, regretting that he hadn't put his pistol back on his hip. "Only one of you is getting out of this," she said sadly. "I wish that weren't the way, but it is." Jacob scowled. "And who's gon' be the one to do it?" he demanded. Syl shook her head, moving to the door. He tried to cut her off, but she shoved him away with a stiff arm to the chest. As he massaged his aching chest, she paused once more, at the threshold. "It'll be you. Your choice on who lives, and who dies. I just pray you make the right choice," she said. "Glad to see you ain't lost your ability to be all cryptic and obfuscatin'," Jacob muttered. He strode to the door, catching a glance of Syl just as she started to descend into her bunk. He growled, moving into the corridor. His head was killing him. He might just have to have it looked at. Not a pleasant thing, living with this. He glanced at Friday's bunk, wishing she were able... but like his pa always said, if wishes were horses, they'd all be eatin' steak. Shaking his head, he cast a final glance toward his first-mate's bunk. "Y'ain't even told me what happened in that cave," Jacob muttered as he descended into the darkness of his bunk.

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