BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 2:19, Running Ain't A Plan?
Sunday, April 2, 2006

Jacob's paranoia comes to a head when Legacy lands outside the tiny community of Frisco, and the crew is even more divided then ever before. Can they reconcile before it's too late? Or will the get run down?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1453    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

For those of you who have been following the series (All four of you, I know), I realize it's been a few weeks since my last chapter went up. That's mainly because my muse decided to take a nice long vacation, and writing without inspiration is hard. This, suffer to say, is the result of that labor. First of all, a familiar, and several ancillary faces to the Big Damn Crew. Sylvia's still having great problems controling her powers, and now she's gone and pissed off Jacob. As well, a figure mentioned earlier in the series is finally introduced. And somebody gets shot. Eight guesses who it is. YoSafBrig and Matty Cobb are property of Joss, I'm just usin' them for a spell. Feedback is love. Love me.

Runnin' Ain't A Plan?

She was gettin' annoyed. As she guided the ship through the burning air, she cursed softly under her breath in the otherwise vacant cockpit. Jacob had a headache... bah! He'd had a headache the last two weeks, and with that little miracle Syl pulled gettin' him his eye back, now he was afraid to mess with it. She always kinda liked havin' him as a matress, but now he found his way to one edge of the bed and didn't let her near him. She was gettin' lonely. Nobody'd ever told her it'd be like this, she admitted. Of course, she ammended, she didn't exactly have a maternal figure to speak on growin' up, so there weren't nobody could have told her anyway. Sure, she could've heard from her friends... had she ever accumulated any. She was starting to feel more alone on this boat than anybody. She didn't like that, though. Not one bit. The intercomm crackled to life. "Anne," Zane said with a bit of concern. "Might be you want to even it out a bit?" "What are you talking about?" she asked. "Reactor's pullin' redline levels, s'if it's compensatin' for burnthrough. Did we lose a primary buffer panel or somethin'?" Anne checked her sensors. She was indeed coming in entirely too steep. She pulled back a bit and let Legacy slow down, rather than experience some minor turbulence and then explode. She had to shake this funk she was in. Couldn't let it get in the way of her job; if she did, they would... well... suffer some turbulance, and then explode. This rock was pretty much like any of them she'd seen before in her life, and she'd just about seen 'em all. Excepting Miranda, which was a suicide run at best, by which she meant. One of these dust balls was pretty much like like any of the others, in her opinion. Pretty damn small compared to the Black. The clouds pulled away under her and the ground rushed up toward the plummeting craft. As she had done since she was twelve years old, she subtly shifted the ship into lower and lower strata of the sky as Legacy's spead lowered. Finally, when the ship was at a virtual standstill, she let it settle onto the blasted turf which was as close to a landing strip as Frisco had to offer. She almost scowled at the di nao tahn keh community all laid out with dirt roads and dust blasted buildings an' such. She wondered for a fractured moment what they could possibly find here equallin' the worth of a turd. "This the place?" Jacob said, startling her a bit. She never could hear him when he got to sneaking about, and pretty much any time he took to moving, it seemed in a sneakin' manner. His hand rested briefly on her shoulder as he stared out at the tiny mining community. She glanced up at him. The scar still ran down his face, but his right eye, actual and whole, now stared out of what had once been an empty socket. If there was one thing she was going to have to thank Syl for, that was certainly it. "Only Frisco on this backwater moon," she replied. "You never did say why we's here." Jacob shook his head. "Maybe best y'don't, bao bei," he muttered darkly. His hand, warm comfort that it briefly was, slid away, and he pulled down the intercomm. "Zane, get the scratch and meet me on the ramp." "We got scratch?" Anne said incredulously. "Since when did we have cargo?" "I already said, ain't the best idea to talk on it," he responded. She gave him her very best 'what do you think I am, an idiot?' look. "Trying to protect my via ignorance is kinda pointless, dear," she noted. "Already got some folk want to kill me just for somethin' I don't remember seein' back when I was seventeen." Jacob paused a moment, but said nothing. "Zane?" "I'm a-comin' boss," Zane's voice sounded from down the hall. The mechanic loped through the kitchen and handed something small to Jacob. Anne rose from her seat. "Might be best if y'all stay here and keep the ship nice an' warm for me," her husband said, not looking at anybody in particular. After another moment of silence, he silently strode out of the cockpit and down the catwalk stairway. "Did I interrupt somethin'," Zane asked. "I ain't even sure no more," Anne replied, needing almost to jog to catch up to her husband. Once again in her life, she cursed her miniscule frame and it's therefore understandably short legs. She managed to meet him at the airlock as the massive bulkheads slid apart. He glanced down at her for a moment, and she pulled him down into a short kiss. "Don't get yourself shot," she whispered into his ear. He grinned for just an instant, and she felt herself joining him. He did have an energy about him. Of late, it seemed to have become sickly and virulent, but every now and again... Jacob was now staring away, his dark eyes watching the horizon as it appeared beyond the descending ramp. Zane's relatively loud footfalls betrayed his presence at the foot of the stairs, while another came out from the back of the ship. Anne only saw one man, though. The one which now was making his slow way downt he ramp. The unnamed footfalls passed Anne, and she put a name to them as she spied the long braid of blonde hair swinging with the rapid, deck eating strides. "Jacob," Sylvia said, catching him as he hit the dirt. "We need to talk." "It can wait till the job is done," Jacob said. "No, Jacob," she pressed, an odd look in her eyes. "It can't. We have to talk. Now." Jacob cast a glance at the two standing in the hold. "Speak your piece, then." "Not here," she said, nodding toward the buildings a bit. "Fine then," he replied, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. The two moved off a bit, and she no longer could hear what they'd said. She sighed. All Syl needed for some of Jacob's time and attention was to ask, and Anne couldn't get it if she begged. Not that she would, of course, but it weren't right. Jacob was her husband. Hers. Zane had plucked up his lawn chair and set it on the ramp, kicking up his feet. Whatever those two were talkin' about, they were gettin' a bit involved, now. "Zane," she said softly. The mechanic glanced over his shoulder at her. "Hm?" "Am I pretty?" she asked. Zane chuckled a bit. "Were you unwed, I would take you in a manful fashion," he said, settling back into his seat. "Because I'm pretty?" "Because you're pretty." She had just finished another sigh when Jacob did something quite unexpected. He pulled out his Mauser and pointed it at Sylvia's head. She took a step forward, but Zane's strong, calloused hand caught her arm. Sylvia didn't look in the slightest bit frightened. Sad, definitely not frightened. She spoke a bit more, then turned and walked away, throwing a laden pack over her shoulder. Was that it? Was Sylvia leaving? Was Jacob starting to drive this ship apart? "That..." Zane said, finally releasing her. "Didn't go well." "You knew?" "Call it a hunch," Zane responded neutrally. Jacob reholstered his gun, staring daggers at the telepath for a long moment before spinning and pounding away into the ramshackle buildings. She backed away a step, finally turning to face the back of the hold. "God damn it, Jacob," she muttered to herself, "why are you pushing us away?" <> "What's this about, Syl?" Jacob asked, staring at her darkly with his whole and undamaged eyes. It was something of a miracle, considering when she tried to heal him, she almost failed entirely. And when she succeeded, this happened. She took a deep breath, finding herself unable to meet his gaze. "You asked me what happened in that cave on Saint Albans," she said. Jacob paused a moment, finally motioning her to continued. "I went in there as a catatonic crazy woman and came out more or less whole." "More or less?" Jacob asked suspiciously. "You may have noticed that... well, I ain't read anybody in a while. And I almost couldn't heal you," he stared blankly. "And with Friday..." "Little miracle, that," Jacob muttered. "It said in the file that Surrogation is the 'wild form' of healing. Something raw and unfocused. Dangerous for everybody. I've had to relearn everything," she said softly. Jacob stared at her. "Why?" "Because of something that happened at that cave," she said. He scowled. "Because of something I did." "What did you do?" he asked. She took a deep breath. "Can't you feel it?" He gave her a suspicious glance. "Feel what?" "You know exactly what I'm talking about, Jacob," she said. After a brief pause, the realization dawned on him. "What did you..." "There is a thing which telepaths can do," she explained. "A unique ability, to form an empathic link with another person," Jacob just stared at her. "River Tam used this bond to regain what was left of her sanity. And so did I." "By... linking with me?" she nodded. "Then unlink us. Now." "It doesn't work like that, Jacob," she growled. "Once the link is made, it's inviolate. There is no way to break it." "You did this to me... while I was asleep?" he hissed. She grudgingly nodded. "What gave you the right?" "Nothing," she responded. "What I did was wrong." "No shit!" Jacob shouted. "Get out of my sight. Or I swear I will shoot you." "Jacob, I can't ask you to forgive me," she said. With a rictus of rage, he pulled his pistol and leveled it squarely at her head. "You're damn right you can't," he raged. She shook her head sadly. "I wouldn't do that, Jacob," she whispered. "Why'n the hell not?" "That's a drawback of the link," she explained. "If I die, so do you. And the same of the reverse. If you don't want me on Legacy, I'll leave, and you'll never see me again." "Might just be a good thing," Jacob hissed. "'Cause if'n I see you again, I swear by Early's pretty floral bonnet I will shoot you." She nodded once, then turned away, heaving her pack over her back. To think all of her life could be packed into one bag. She'd left all of the ship's weapons in her bunk, all the way to Tony's shotgun. It was her very favorite gun, but it wasn't really hers. Hell, the only weapon she had right now was that six-gun which Fat-Cho had given her, those years back. Had she the option, she mighta put one bullet into it, but she couldn't do that. Not to Jacob. Her life hadn't exactly turned out the way she thought it would. Course, when she'd been runnin' round barefoot in the grit of Silverhold, there weren't exactly much she'd thought on doing. Richard would take care of the ranch, and she'd end up married to one of the boys in at town. Well, that's what her pa had wanted, once a very long time ago. Before his workers went and turned her into the tomboy who was forced to skip away from the world two steps in front of either a noose or a wedding bell. Either would have been... unpleasant, now that she thought on it. The buildings thinned out behind her as the admittedly pathetic town faded into wilderness. She stared out at the horizon, a very close thing, considering how small this moon was. Her life certainly hadn't turned out the way she'd thought it would, but that's just the way life went. Why must it hurt? She almost stumbled as the words wafted to her mind's ear. Whispers. Two in as many weeks, that was now. She'd been so terrified that she'd be deaf forever to it. Now she was getting a little worried that it'd get all overwhelming like it had when she'd started picking up on them. But that was a problem for a different time. She glanced around. There weren't any real buildings of note, now. Just the packed dirt road leading out into the country. She scowled, staring at the sun which was in the process of setting, over at the nearby horizon. Really, horizon that close, she could almost pitch a bottle over it. Disorienting is what it was. Made her want for the distant horizons of real planets like Persephone, or bigger moons like Silverhold. She sighed, chiding herself that what she really wanted was the infinite horizons of the black. But she'd burned that bridge. And the path she picked had to be walked. Why must it hurt? "Shut up," she muttered to nobody in particular, glancing about her. There was a house, a bit of a ways away. It wasn't a very big, nor very... attractive... structure, so it would have fit in with Frisco perfectly, but there it stood. All by its lonesome. Shaking her head at her own daftness, she started towards it. Not like she had anything particularly better to do with her time. I can't breathe. She hesitated a moment. What if somebody was getting killed? The thought hadn't occured to her that something might be seriously off its axle to call her like that. The closer she got, the more ramshackle the building looked. Finally, she was standing in front of the door, ready to knock. That's about when she realized how insane the whole thing was. What was she going to say to the occupant? Hello, I was just passing by when I heard the mental projections of somebody who's dying. Can I come in? Didn't exactly smack of sanity. Her hand lowered, pressing its fingertips to the rough, splintery wood of the door. She took a deep breath, then tried something she hadn't tried in a long while. She reached out, in that place where her body stopped and the rest of her was free to go. Old. Not in pain. Worried. Young. Liar. No good will come of her. Not in pain, though. There, that was the one. Her face was stretched with a wide smile. She was doing it. She was finally getting it back together. Matty. His name was Matty. And he'd been dying for a long, long time. Damplung, they'd called it. Laid him out flat on his back for the last five years. Now, all he had was the wife who had to work at the post office and the school-marm what tried to nurse him while she was away. A knock filled her ears, and like a rubber band released on one end, her mind snapped back. Had she knocked the door? "Unless you brought that beefsteak," an old woman's voice shouted as the door opened. "Don't you... who in the Lord's name are you?" The woman was fairly tall for a woman, almost six foot, and her hair was iron grey. Despite her leanness and her weather worn face, though, she seemed to have something of an extreme maternalness about her. Like she'd carried the world on her shoulders for her get, and expected nothing for the task. Sylvia put on a smile. "My name is Sylvia. I was told there was a young man named Matty who was feeling unwell?" she said. The whisper still drifted incessantly into her ear. She got the feeling if she didn't shut it it, it'd drive her mad. "Nobody said we'd be gettin' a nurse," the woman said. She looked Sylvia up and down. "If'n you are, in fact, a nurse." "Ain't a nurse," Sylvia said. "Just got me a way with them's sick, and them's got hurt." The woman scowled. "Don't need no hedgedoctorin' nor witchcraft over my boy. Got us a caretaker to look to him, and don't need to spend our money on another." "I'm not lookin' for money," Sylvia said. "Then you're as crazy my older boy," she said. The door inside the house opened and a flash of red hair drifted through it. "Naty, you mind tellin' this little drifter to shove off. We's already got help enough." "You heard missus Cobb," the newcomer said, engrossed in wiping her hands off on an apron. "It might be best if you just left." Sylvia stared at this woman. Last time she'd seen her, she was trying to steal a broken-down shuttle and make off with Jacob's payday after a long, hot, sweaty day in an Alliance holding facility. This was a woman of many names, or so Zane said about his greatly unloved sister. He'd rattled off twenty before Anne had told him to shut up and get back to cooking dinner. The woman stared back at her for just a moment, then her arm reached to beside the door frame. Syl's revolver was in her hand in a blink, leveled at this chameleon's head. Of course, Syl was staring down two barrels of ugly her own self. Missus Cobb... No. Too many coincidences. Not even possible that... But she had remembered the hulking mercenary casting about two seconds' worth of worry to his younger brother, a man named Matty. Sylvia tried to put it out of her mind and focus on the fact that Zane's sociopathic sister had a shotgun aimed at her head. "So," the Cobb matriarch said flatly. "I guess you've already met?" <> "Are you the man?" the tiny man said. Jacob stared down at him, a bit embarrased to be starring. Wasn't every day a body did business with a midget. "That depends," Jacob said quietly. Franco, the midget, scowled. "I don't need no dodgy gos-se from you," he said, crossing his stumpy arms across his chest. "You have the schematics right?" "I do," Jacob replied. "Well," Franco said. "You're the man, then. Come on." Jacob cleared his throat, stalling the little man hopping down from the bar stool. "If'n it's all the same to you, I'd rather just hand this thing off and get off this rock yesterday." Franco shook his head. "Don't work like that, scar. I ain't allowed even to touch it, till the boss say so." Jacob scowled. Scar? Well, it certainly fit, but it wasn't exactly an endearing term. "What the hell kinda rule is that?" "The kind which leads to me havin' a big damn paycheck every month. Come on." The little man made his slow way out of the bar, heading down the dusty streets to another building about two doors down from the only lockup the mining community had to offer. Jacob shook his head. "You got your spot on the same block as the 'lliance's only real foothold?" "Can you think of a less conspicuous place to settle in?" Franco said snidely as he pushed the door open. The doors open into what appeared to be a massively unsuccessful tailor's shop. The owner, if that's what he truely was, was leaning back in his chair, hat over his face, snoring loud enough to wake the dead. Franco sighed, shuffling his stunted frame next to the counter, taking a mannequin arm and using it to shove the tailor's boots off the counter. This action also caused the unconscious man to fall straight back and out of his chair, landing on the floor with a resounding crash. "What in the seven merry hells?" the man shouted, ripping his hat off and struggling to his feet. He could see Jacob, but with Franco standing entirely too close to the counter, the short man was out of line of sight. "Why'n the hell'd you go'n do that?" Jacob pointed downward, and the tailor leaned over his counter to behold Franco staring peevishly up at him. "What'd I tell you about sleepin' on the job?" Franco demanded. "Don't get caught," the tailor replied. "And what'd I just do?" "Caught me," came the response. Franco shook his head. "Just open it up. The product has arrived." The tailor cast a glance to each of them in turn, then reached down and gave the counter a shove. The thing swung out a bit, on hinges appearantly placed next to the wall, revealing a ladder reaching down into the bedrock. Franco wasted no time sliding down the ladder, and Jacob didn't see any particularly good reason to be caught up here, so he followed. He noted, after almost falling, that this ladder had about twice the steps most ladders should. Probably since it was built for Franco. After a long descent marked mainly by scraped knees and aching knuckles, Greyson finally set his feet onto the hard stone which made up pretty much all of the tunnel. Just like its intended occupant, it was well too short for even Jacob to stand up straight in. Hunched over, he followed the little man, wondering if the rooms in this warren ever ruttin' got bigger. His internal question was answered when the darkness of the tunnels finally gave way to the light, allowing him to arch his back and relish in the sound of his vertebrea crunching back into position. After listening to that wonderful if disturbing sound, he looked around the area he now found himself in. Was that...? She turned to face him, statuesque and glorious as the old Gods of Earth-that-was. Her hair, spun gold, cascaded down her shoulders, and her clear blue eyes nailed his feet to the ground. She had that effect on a lot of men, he noted. And she was just about the last person he expected to see here. "Jacob?" Silke Niska said, pulling up the spectacles she seldom wore for more than a moment. "I had heard a Firefly came, I was not expecting you." "Can't say as I was either," he replied to Adelai's daughter. With Dmitri and Aleksandr Niska, the apple fell so damn close to the tree a body couldn't rightly tell where the old man ended and the sons began. But with Silke, her apple got scooped up and carried half way across the 'Verse. "What brings you to..." Silke frowned at him, taking several steps toward him and staring him in the eyes. "What happened to you?" she asked, her voice rife with genuine concern. She was very much attuned to the emotions of others, very likely the reason she couldn't live with her father's way of life. She'd rejected him and all he represented wholesale about a year after Jacob started working for Dmitri, moving off into the Rim, buying herself a Dragonfly freighter and running cargo. Some would call her the black sheep of the family. Jacob smiled a bit, feeling as the expression pulled at his still present scar. "Reaver took a box knife to it," he said, but she immediately shook her head. "No knife cuts that deep," she said soothingly. Franco rolled his eyes. "What?" "I've got to deal with this every damn day, is what," the dwarf muttered, heading away to other places in the cavernous room. Jacob turned back to Silke. In truth she looked like a combination of her mother and... well... something a great deal less evil than Niska. He simply met her gaze, waiting for her to speak first. Didn't feel like entering this arrangement at a sign of weakness, not this time. "Fear," Silke muttered. "It is not infinite. It burns bright, then it burns out. Enough of this. You have the schematics?" Jacob tapped his pocket, pretty much opposite where he'd stashed them. Never give away an option while it was still open. He'd learned that one the hard way, this last year. She likely caught on that little play of thought, because she frowned again, this time sadly. "Don't much know what they're s'posed to be, though," Jacob said. "Don't look like much'a anything." She raised an eyebrow. "You look at package, yes?" "Never accept cargo not knowin' what it is," Jacob replied. "Just good sense, that." Silke shrugged, reaching out her hand. He pulled out the disk and handed it to her. "Franco?" the dwarf looked to her. "Eanratnte etomy yerobkey, n he ctpenrnte ero." The short man glanced between them, then shrugged. "Business is business," Silke explained. "Complications are unseemly. Complications like Father. You have a weight of death to you, yes?" "Could say that," Jacob replied neutrally. "I do not mourn him," she said, turning toward the blackness of the deeper tunnels. These things ran for miles, before they hit the mineshafts in the hills. Anybody could find all manner of unseemly use for them. "But he had reputation. Kept things solid. Now, things are not so solid. Aleksandr is cruel man, Jacob. Like father, only worse, in many ways. No good will come of him." "Didn't 'spect any would, way he hung on Adelai's word like that," Jacob muttered. "So when exactly do we get to the me gettin' paid part of this transaction?" "Kahntah?" Franco said from somewhere rather distant in the caves. "We've got a bit of a problem." Silke cast a betrayed glance at Jacob. "You sell me out?" "What?" Jacob protested. "Who? Where? Do I need to ask the other principle questions?" "There is Alliance Patrol ship entering orbit," a new voice appeared, and a shortish, wide shouldered man stepped into the pool of light thrown by the cave's single overhead lamp. His accent was almost identical to Silke's. His thick hands were wrapped around a shotgun, aimed at Jacob's chest. "You do not sell out my wife easily, nedomrd." "You got married?" Jacob asked. Silke cast him a pointed 'are you gorram kidding me' look. "I see you did as well," Silke muttered. "What was my price?" "I didn't sell you out," Jacob said. "Hell, more'n like, they're here for... oh, juh jen shr geh kuai luh duh jien-jehn," he muttered, his knees giving out and dropping him to the ground. "What the hell's going on?" Franco muttered, his voice disembodied as Jacob cradled his head in his hands. Was he ever going to be free of them? Would he ever find a place where they couldn't follow. A place that wasn't, in point of example, Miranda? "They," Jacob whispered, "are here for Anne." The crew of Silke's ship exchanged glances. Finally, Silke scowled down and said, "Who, in the hell, is Anne?" <> "Lady," Mrs. Cobb said, her fists on her hips. "Y'mind tellin' me why y'got a six pointed at the town school marm?" "Ain't a teacher, miss," Sylvia said, staring down the black barrels of a shotgun. "An' surer'n dirt she ain't named Natalie." "What's the meanin' of this?" Cobb demanded. "Last time I seen your face," Syl continued, "you was tryin' t steal a broken down shuttle. Not the best decision you ever made, especially since you tried to make off with our scratch. Near two years ago, now, that was." "Is that true?" Cobb asked. "You shouldn't believe anything that woman says," Zane's sister snarled down her firearm. "I ain't never seen her before in m'life." The elder Cobb cast the shapeshifter a slanted glance. "If y'ain't never seen her before, explain just why'n the hell you pulled my shotgun on her soon as seen?" NatYoSafBrig was at a loss. "'Sides, ain't like I keep that thing loaded. Not since Jayne near shot his pa back when I had Matty," Miss Cobb continued, turning her back on the two of them. "Don't let th'door hit y'r ass on the way out, 'Naty'." The red-haired woman shook her head, defeated. "I suppose that was my gracious invitation to leave Frisco?" she said, her voice flat. "Just git from my house. Don't much care what else you do after that," Cobb replied. She glanced back to Syl. "And you. What'n the hell you doin' darkenin' my door? Way you carry that six ain't no way you're a Meddy." "Matty Cobb is sick, isn't he? Terrible sick?" she said. NatYoSafBrig took her sweet time gathering her accouterments, even as Miss Cobb kept a wary eye on her. The old woman sighed. "Matty was always a sickly sort. Not weak, just had a catchin' way about him. When he took to the damplung four years back, it spread quick. Rachel, Sarah and Warren, all of 'em, took and gone. His wife and lil'uns. Only Matty stuck it out, an' its only been gettin' worse on him." "His wife was Rachel... what?" "Crichton," Miss Cobb answered, and a piece fell almost audibly into place in Sylvia's mind. She reached into her pack, pulling out the pad to the matriarch's confused and slightly insulted gaze and began to run through the bloodlines, particularly to one specific entry she'd spotted earlier. Jayne Cobb, plain as day. Siblings Matty and Timmy, although the latter seemed to be a woman. It didn't surprise Syl overmuch. That this family would have a man with a girls name and a woman with a boy's. One of these days she was going to have to hear the story of how that happened. Giving herself a mental slap, she refocused on the task. Matty Cobb and Rachel Crichton, together, created a potent four-cross, enough to create activateable telepaths. And a note was placed beside Matty's name. Problematic bloodline neutralized. She shifted to Timmy. The same notation was beside hers, but with an addition; Seeking conjunctor. Beside Jayne's was a different sort of memo. Neutralize at all costs. "Good God," she whispered, taking a step further into the house. She was halted by the sound of a shotgun's breach being snapped shut. "Gun mightn't a'been loaded then, but ain't a way in the 'Verse yer steppin' foot into my home, woman," the matriarch leveled the gun easily between the two women. "Y'might want be steppin' back, now." "Matty doesn't have damplung, Miss Cobb," Sylvia said simply, sliding the pad away. "Somebody's tryin' to remove him from the gene pool." NatYoSafBrig scowled a moment, finally packed enough to warrent leaving. After a long 'what, are you high?' look, she asked. "Why?" Sylvia ignored the question. "When did Timmy get took?" she asked the elder instead. She seemed taken aback by the question, as if shocked to hear that anybody even knew about it. Even Zane's sister seemed a bit surprised. "Near two months, s'goin' on," the mother said. "How'd you know...?" "I need to see him, now," Sylvia said. "It won't do him much good, Betty," NatYoSafBrig said to the elder, her face falling with sorrow. Or appearing to, at the very least. The woman had more shades to her than a butterfly. "He's..." "If he's still alive, that's enough," Syl said, waiting just long enough for Betty Cobb to nod before moving into the back room. The place smelled like death, lingering close and chuckling as it took its time. It smelled of persperation and desparation and other, more unsavory odors. The room was tiny, pretty much just big enough for one badly marred writing desk against the back wall and the two beds, one double decker, on either side of it. On the single bed lay Matty, his face awash with sweat, and his near skeletal hands pressed onto his chest. His eyes were closed as he breathed reedily, unsteadily, and weakly. Sylvia crouched down beside the body which looked dead enough to bury already, laying her hand upon the skin of his brow. She tried to do as she had before, letting that... energy, she guessed it was... flow out and into him. To correct his hurts and his maladies. Nothing happened. "I ain't said you can stick around for the spectacle," Betty shouted over her shoulder. "No," Sylvia said. "She stays. Somebody's got to look to him till better help can arrive." "Look to him why?" Betty asked. "Much as I love my baby boy, there ain't no power in the 'Verse can save him now." Sylvia reached for that bundle of emotion and sensation residing in the back of her mind. It seemed to be comprised of rotting fabric, poised to crumble to dust under her touch. He was so tired, so tired of running and hurting and fearing. It was almost criminal that anybody had to go through all of this, and that was exactly what he had to undergo. And now, she had to make it just a little bit worse. Because to not, would be far more criminal. "Come on," she whispered. "Help me, Jacob. You're the only one who can." The substance of the Link firmed, becoming more like iron, and she almost gasped in shock. Had he heard her? Had her quiet plea fallen on receptive ears? Her hand, still pressed to Matty's brow, tingled, then burned. She pulled it back, suddenly feeling like she'd been beaten for a few hours with a stout club. "What in the Sam-Hell happened?" Betty asked, her voice a mixture of confusion and fear. Sylvia let her back lay against the far bed, and she watched as Matty's eyes flickered open. His breathing evened out, becoming stronger. It wasn't what she'd expected, and it wasn't nearly enough, but she'd given him time. "He'll hang on for a while, I've done the best I can," Sylvia said. Zane's sister stared at her like she'd just grown horns, but Betty finally seemed to recognize her. "You're Syl, ain't you? The crazy one from Londinum," Sylvia shrugged, unable to summon enough energy to do more. "Jayne said you was a healin' sort, wasn't sure I caught his meanin'..." "We all do," she said slowly, "as we must." "Ma?" Matty whispered quietly from the bed. "Am I dead?" "No, y'ain't," the grey and weathered woman replied softly. Matty scowled. "Figures. When's dinner?" he asked. "Do all Cobbs think with their stomachs?" Zane's sister asked. "Why'd you do it?" Betty asked, her blue eyes burning in the dim light of the room. Sylvia forced herself slowly to her feet, not relishing in feeling like all the old wounds she'd pulled off of Friday had opened up. She was half tempted to check her pants to see if blood was running down the legs. "I didn't have a choice," Sylvia answered, knowing she was right even as the words came out. "Matty Cobb must live. Take care of him, Naty," Zane's sister seemed caught by surprise at finally being brought back into the conversation. "He'll do alright out there, just don't let him get stupid." She took her first step toward the door, but was forestalled by Betty's hand on her shoulder. "You can't just walk out of our lives like that. Angel of Mercy deserves something for givin' me back my boy." "Ain't an angel, ma'am," Sylvia said, flushed with guilt and shrugging off the hand. "Dug too damn deep in the quarries of sin to deserve bein' called that. Just doin' what needs be done. Soon as I'm gone, best send a Wave to your boy, Miss Cobb. Tell him that Matty was poisoned." Without another word, she marched achingly outside and let the door slam shut behind her. What was happening to her. It was like when she'd first gotten all of these gifts, but sideways. Couldn't control what she did one day, could barely begin it the next. And she direly missed the sound of them buffeting against her walls. It almost felt too quiet to be alone inside her own head. A sonic boom sounded overhead, dragging her attention to a drop pod which was tearing its way down toward the earth. Alliance. Her heart seemed to skip a beat as it impacted into the ground outside town, its sides spreading open and down like some sort of evil, metal flower bud, and the dark forms of Special Forces, replete with the heaviest armor and fanciest weaponry Iskellian could produce. These weren't the types which would often... or ever, in point of fact, be seen out in this part of space. Somethin' sent them here. And two names topped that list of somethin'. She glanced toward the town's port, such as it was. It was perpendicular to them, on the other side of town. She had to warn them. Put off and abandoned though she was, she owed it to them. Especially with Jacob's little ploy putting them all effectively on the chopping block. She wondered when he was going to inform the rest of them to his little gaff. With aching legs and aching heart, she began to stride the streets, headed back to her home. <> "Feel like answering her question, now?" Franco asked as Jacob hauled himself back to his feet. He didn't have time to be weak, to be slow. And he certainly didn't have time to wonder what the hell happened to that pulsey ball-thing what floated around in the back of his mind. These folk were a danger to Anne, and that he would not abide. "She's my wife," Jacob said, taking as step away. Silke's husband raised the shotgun to his shoulder. "Her name was Anne Roykerk." "Wuo de ma, tyen ah," the husband muttered in heavily accented Mandarin. Silke cast him a glance. "You know that name?" she asked. "She was pilot for William Kell," he said, lowering his weapon. "How did you...?" "No time for this now," Franco said, holstering his appropriately miniaturized weapon. "Feds find us here, we're humped. Feds find her here, she's dead. Boss, best we be headed out now." Silke stared at him a moment longer before nodding and heading back toward where they'd no doubt stashed the ship, leaving Jacob standing alone in the pool of darkness. "Great," he muttered to himself. "I'll just show myself out, then." He glanced around the smallish pool of light, finally noting where he'd come in. Once more, he scuttled back through the tunnel, back all bent as he made his blind way back the way he came. He found the ladder when he walked into to it, and made his equally blind way back up. Just his luck, the lazy hun dahn up top had the thing covered over. His assumption was proven when he banged his knuckles on the wood which covered the hole. He looked down, not even able to see his feet, but knowing it was a long way down. With a disgruntled sigh, he rapped on the underside of the counter. After a long moment of inactivity, he pounded harder. This time, there was a creaking noise, and the light from the tailor shop flooded his eyes, blinding him for a moment. When his pupils contracted to a more reasonable size, he was a bit dismayed to realize that his day wasn't going to end well. "Keep your hands where I can see them," the black-armored Fed said strongly, pointing a laser rifle directly at Jacob's head. "Oh, this is not my best day ever," Jacob muttered. The Fed grasped the collar of his shirt and dragged him away from the hole, leaving the captain prone on the floor. The Fed reached with his off hand to his helmet. "Shr Alpha four, I've found a hole," he said. Now! It had been a very long time since Jacob had heard that voice, Sylvia's tones voiced silently. And he knew enough that she didn't dick him around. He glanced up, noticing that if the Fed fired right this instant, he'd miss entirely, and a grin grew on his face. Jacob exploded upward, grabbing the gun and pulling it away from its owner. The Fed managed to pull the trigger, causing a scar of burning wood to appear along the floor. Jacob continued his motion, dragging the soldier's open faceplate into his elbow. The officer's head snapped back and his grip on the weapon loosened, but did not, by any means, release. My luck, Jacob thought. I managed to find the one soldier with an iron jaw. The soldier dropped back to a knee, allowing Jacob to deliver a kick to the no doubt spinning head of the Fed. The black figure dropped to the floor. Jacob peered back toward the counter, to the tailor who was cowering against the wall. "Might be a good idea to find yourself a new place of business," Jacob pointed out, and the tailor nodded. "Command, I've found," the soldier said quietly, making Jacob roll his eyes and spin a kick into the helmeted head once more, interrupting him. "Why'n the hell won't you stay the hell down?" Jacob shouted. He shook his head, then cast a look to the tailor. "What? Waitin' for a gorram encore? Git!" When the bystander made his way into the back room, Jacob leaned down and scooped up the admittedly beautific rifle and slung it over his own shoulder. Sure as the black, it was bioformed to the soldier, but a bit of time and effort and it'd work for anybody. And it was a laser. How many spacers had a laser gun? "He's got my gun," the soldier whispered, and Jacob kicked him again. "Stay the hell down!" he hissed. Jaw of ruttin' steel, that one. Hell, he took a punch better than Zane, which was sayin' something. Rolling his eyes, he tucked the rifle into the folds of his long brown duster and made his way outside. The streets were devoid of people, odd even for a town like this. The fact that there were fully armored Alliance special forces makin' their way forward toward the docks was reason enough for the streets to be empty, he pondered. A black armored figure, then another, started to appear from alleyways down the streets that he could see. They were most definitely headed toward his ship. "Ain't gonna happen," Jacob muttered darkly, moving forward through the alleys, much faster than they. He vaulted fences and pounded through the sparse lawns of houses, both inhabited and vacant, down ran down littered passageways between the larger buildings. He sprinted past the local garrison building, which, oddly enough, was vacant. When he'd at last reached the ship, he practically collapsed to his knees, seeing Casher standing astride the ramp a welcome colossus, a large rifle seeming undersized in his massive hands. Jacob took a moment to catch is breath, and Casher took a step toward him. "Sir," Casher said. "We really should get into the air." "Ain't... disagreein'... wit'you... on any... particular... point," Jacob wheezed. Casher rolled his eyes, then seemed to tense, seeing something behind Jacob. Despite his total absense of oxygen in his lungs, he managed to spin, nimble as ever he was, and quickdraw his weapon. A shot was flying through the air before he even got a good look at who was behind him. Pain exploded through his side, as he felt his body collide with the ground. "Good God!" Casher shouted. "What the hell did you...? Zane!" "Damn it," Jacob muttered. "I got shot. Guess my day's complete." Jacob forced himself to his feet as Zane made his way out of the ship. The mechanic cast one look behind him, then his features took on a look of truely uncharacteristic fury. "We'd better get out of the world before..." He was interrupted when Zane punched him real damn hard in the jaw. "Ni tzao s'ma!?" Jacob screamed from the ground. "Ain't enough I get shot, now my crew's lookin' to beat on me?" "You shot Sylvia!" Zane roared back, the intensity of the voice starkly out of place coming from the spindly young man. It sounded like it had to have come from a man at least a hundred pounds heavier. Jacob craned his neck over, watching as Casher scooped up the wide eyed, pale faced, blonde form from the ground. Suddenly he felt decidely numb. He didn't exactly remember how he ended up on the couch outside the infirmery, or even why he was now shirtless. What truely surprised him was that even though he could still feel the burning, twisting agony working its way through his guts, there wasn't so much as a pin-prick. So he stared, disjointed, at Sylvia as she was fussed over on the slab. "I can't do this kind of thing," Casher said finally. Zane pounded his fist into a wall. "You've done it before!" he said. Who was this man and what had he done with the real Zane? Or was this just the real Zane coming out at long last? "I've pulled bullets," Casher nodded. "But this one's in her spleen. If I pull it, she bleeds to death. I'm not a trauma surgeon, Zane. I can't fix this." "What was that?" "I said I can't fix this," Casher said, his voice dropping. "No, the trauma surgeon part..." Jacob could almost see the wheels spinning in Zane's head. "You may not serve the part, but I know someone who would." The mechanic vaulted out of the sick bay, up the stairs and away from sight. After an uncomfortable wait, he came back down, rushing to the infirmery door. Not long after, the twins made an appearance, Monday leading the still uneasy looking Friday down into the common area. She'd stopped recoiling in fear at the sight of the menfolk of the ship, which was a definite advancement for her... "Friday," Zane said, taking her by the shoulders, despite the harsh glare delivered by her sister. "We need you." "What? Why?" she stammered. "Sylvia's got shot, shot bad. Casher can't pull the bullet without bleedin' Syl out." An odd and surprising calm seemed to fall over the doctor, and she shrugged off the hands of both Zane and her sister. "Where was she shot?" "Casher says spleen," Friday frowned. "Can you do it?" "I've had worse," Friday muttered, her eyes, for the first time he could recall in recent memory, focused and solid. She took a deep breath, then turned back to the slab, and to its bleeding, pale occupant. "Alright. Everybody, out of my Infirmery." Casher skirted out of the room, allowing the doctor to do her work. She's back, Jacob thought weakly. Hell if it didn't feel like he was leakin' right out. Might just do him some good to lay down a spell... <> "You lost them?" Jane demanded from the front of the ship. Most in her position would have been relieved at the limited range of transmission this screen had. Were it much larger, it would have been blatantly obvious to the grey jacketed Commander that she was at least half naked. The officer glanced away uneasily. Of course he would. "You had the target dead to rights," John said, his face dour and flat. She knew that he was seething inside, though. It absolutely consumed him every time she got away. Even though they were all targets of equal import, now, he was still fixated on her. "And they got away, as easily as you please. Your incompetence makes me phsysically ill." "We could not..." the commander began, but Jane made a slashing gesture. "Enough! Your failure will be discussed at a later time. For now, we have an opportunity which cannot be ignored," She leaned to one side in her seat, moving most of the way out of the screen's visual range, tapping a finger to her lower lip. John gave her a look, strictly eye to eye. He knew what he was permitted. A loyal, and more or less trustworthy hound. "What opportunity is that?" the commander asked, quietly, not looking at the screen. Jane smiled as the plan formed quickly, its minutiae collating swiftly into a wonderful pattern, elegant in its simplisity. John cast her another look, completely ignorant of what was happening in her mind. He was too stupid to live, sometimes. But he certainly had his uses. She smiled, her favorite, widest, most brilliant smile. The smile which usually drove men a good pace back. "Burn the land," she said. "And boil the sea. Find every place which has an association with that crew and that ship. Find them and send an attack platoon. I want every port of harbor which will aid or abet that ship burning by the end of the week, dohn luh mah?" The commander seemed a bit aghast, but nodded. She continued smiling, and continued speaking. "They cannot run forever. And when they fall into our web, we'll be ready for them." The commander nodded, bidding his stipulated farewells and terminating the communication. As soon as the screen went blank, John turned away, letting out a long and florid Mandarin profanity of such eloquence and debauchery that she was really going to have to remember it for future reference. At last, he turned back around, glancing down at her bare form. She smiled, waiting for the inevitable comment on her nudity. "Did you forget something this morning?" he asked, before seating himself at the helm. She shook her head in irritation. A loyal, useful hound, but not a particularly bright one. <> "Are y'all here?" Jacob asked, still feeling a bit light headed. The entire crew had gathered in the common, and Friday had even lowered the slab so Syl could sit up for the exchange. He stared around the room, at the crew that had taken their places. His crew. He'd taken them for granted, he'd done them wrong. And now he was damn near killin' them. "What is it, hon?" Anne asked. Jacob took a deep breath. He needed to get this out now. "I'm... an ass." There was a long pause. "And?" Zane asked. Jacob smirked at the mechanic's obviously good natured jibe. "I've done y'all wrong," he said quietly, leaning against the frame of the Infirmery door. "When I found out that they was after Anne... I got so wrapped up in keepin' her safe, that I couldn't see that I was tearin' us apart. We are all in this together, and I didn't see that until we was almost shattered to bits. I wasn't there for Syl when she needed me. Not really. I wasn't there for Friday, after Bena. I wasn't there for Zane, when he damn near got killed." Jacob sighed again, moving to Anne and kneeling before her. "And for the last year, I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry, bao bei. You didn't deserve that. You deserve better than what I gave you." And to his amazement, she smiled at him, taking his hand in both of hers. Even with both of hers over his, she still seemed so small, so delicate. "No. I wouldn't give up what I had these last months for anythin' in the 'Verse. You should know that." "Not that I'm not touched by this heartfelt, if baffling, apology, but I don't quite understand why you feel the need to give it, sir," Casher muttered. Jacob looked at each of them in turn. "I'm sayin' this because we're all targets. They're after all of us now. That Operative's got it in his head that Anne's spread the word, and that means we're all in this together. We fly together, we die together... well hopefully not the dyin' part," he paused with a shrug. "Yeah, it was kinda inspirin' until that last part," Friday noted. She had taken a seat in the farthest chair, in her infirmery and well away from her sister. He almost grinned seeing her like that, back straight and eyes forward. Maybe they wasn't all flyin' to hell after all. "What's the plan, Jacob?" Syl asked, her voice a bit quiet. She had lost a lot of blood before Friday got her patched up, and the one person on this boat she couldn't fix in any damn way was herself. In truth, he hadn't thought much on what they were going to do next, so he rubbed his chin. Gorram, he really needed to shave one of these days before he started lookin' like that big fella he'd seen on Hera. Monty, he thought the name was. "We either lie low, or die in the black," Jacob said after the moment of consideration. "Which means we find a place to lay low, naturally." "Meaning?" Syl asked. "Tomorrow, we set course for Paquin," Jacob said. "Brownlee'll take us in, sure as the void." "And until then?" Anne asked. He smiled. "Until then, just take us out, into the Black."

COMMENTS

Sunday, April 2, 2006 5:12 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Wow....glad some sense was final smacked into Jacob....though I worry the Legacy won't reach Paquin in time before the Alliance SpecOps teams hits Brownlee's place. Gonna have to face some awful truths with that issue....

Excellent chapter, JamesTheDark! Things are finally getting the point of clicking in the right way, and I wonder if we won't be seeing some interaction with our BDH soon...I doubt anyone survives long when ya mess with one of Jayne's kin;)

BEB


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