Legacy 3:09, Quiet Emptiness
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A new job for Legacy means that it must stop off in Three Hills, where Sylvia suddenly finds herself confronting her past.


These updates are just getting further and further apart, aren't they? I know, it's a failing of mine. Coupled with the fairly stark lack of inspiration I've been suffering, it's been understandably rough going. I still have every intention of finishing this. It's just going to take a while. First of all, I have to give a shout-out to Mal4Prez, both as an inspiration for, and for providing the backdrop of, the next portion of the story. Niflheim is too good not to use again, and credit ought be given where credit is due. Way to make an unforgettable world, Mal4Prez! Also, please don't be too angry if the next one looks at first blush a bit similar to TFJ. I've had this plotline for a while, and I don't want you to think I'm stealing your stories. Thirdly, you'll probably notice that this chapter is arguably the least violent one I've ever wrote, with the solitary exception of when Jacob gets slugged. It's also the smuttiest one yet, with content definitely NC-17 right at the end. If you're sensitive to that sort of stuff, you can read right up until the last chapterlet, because that's where all of it's stuffed.

Serenity, Firefly, and the 'Verse are property of Joss Whedon, Niflheim is the creation of Mal4Prez, and all the rest I claim in the name of Fatherland!

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Quiet Emptiness

The clamor in the cargo bay was intense, with the crowds outside milling about in the early evening, likely in response to one of the hundred or so celebrations that the locals threw for pretty much no conceivable reason. Why they felt the need to celebrate one of those holidays at the foot of Legacy's ramp was anybody's guess, but it made for a festive atmosphere on the ship, which was especially a blessing considering the circumstances. "Good lord, how can you lift that?" Fiona asked, leaning on the stairs and watching as Sylvia set the weights back onto their rest. Sylvia gave her face a quick swipe with her towel before turning to the young woman. "Repetition. Keep lifting heavy things, and you'll be able to do likewise," she pointed out. "Until you can do some pretty incredible things," Zane agreed, curling his own hand-weights without letting any of the strain reach his voice. "You should have seen Casher exercising. Seriously, I had to give him the fuel-tank's blast shielding so he could do some worthwhile reps." "Ixnay on the Ashercay," Daniel whispered, giving a glance down into the commons and the infirmary within. "I was really starting to wonder about that, but nobody wanted to mention it..." Fiona began. "Not now," Sylvia said, rising and stretching her shoulders. "She won't like to hear that sort of talk. She's not in the best of moods." "I could tell," Fi muttered, shifting uncomfortably. "She was a bit rough with my... examination." Zane cracked a smirk. "It was your first, wasn't it?" he asked. He let out a laugh, setting down his weights. "Friday always wants to keep the ladies on board up to date on their health. I can still remember the squawking Syl here put up when Friday boarded on Qartuph." "Hey," Syl countered, "I'd never had a hand down there before!" "Really?" Dan and Zane asked in unison. "Perverts," Sylvia muttered, fitting another weight onto the bar. Zane held back a chuckle; she could already press more than he could by a fair margin. Sylvia gave the barest of glances toward Elias, standing insubstantially by the door, before laying back and preparing for her next set. "What is it now?" Zane asked silently, setting his weights down. "What?" Elias glanced up. "Oh, sorry. I was just lost in thought." "Lost in my thought, you mean?" Zane countered. "Ha ha, I'm a figment of your imagination," Elias' voice dripped with sarcasm. "Those jibes never do get old." "Seriously," Zane asked. "What's crossing my brain on your side of the line?" Elias, though, shook his head with a dismissive wave. "I'd just remembered something I heard, once. It's not easy to explain." "Well?" Fiona asked. Zane started back when he realized she was standing right in front of him. "Well what?" he asked. "Would you... what's the term," Sylvia provided it for her, "spot me?" Zane couldn't restrain himself from a laugh. "A pretty thing like you pumping iron?" he asked, shaking his head. "I just can't see it." "It's no fair," she complained. "Everybody has something to do around here except me." "You could just leave," Daniel pointed out. "I'm sure you could find work around here." Fiona shook her head. "I told Jack I'd be getting of the next time he reached civilization, and this," she cast her hand toward the jubilant folk past the ramp, "is hardly what I'd consider civilization." "Are you kidding?" Zane asked. "Planet I was from, if somebody lived to be as old as that guy," he pointed out one of the greyer-haired individuals dancing about the bonfire, "he'd be a medical marvel. Where I come from ain't any kind of civilization." "That doesn't change the fact that I've been stuck on a backwater moon for the last month," she pouted. Zane sighed, then reached behind him, grabbing the smallest weight he could find, and holding it toward her. "Start with these, then work your way up," he offered. "But yours are so much bigger," she complained. "An' I've been workin' my way up to them for more'n a year," Zane finished. He let the weights drop into her hand. "Just take it slow so you don't injure y'self." She scowled, but glanced up as Jacob entered the cargo bay, hands akimbo on his hips and a look of mock-scorn on his face. "I have never seen so slothful a crew in all my years," he exclaimed, before strutting down the stairs to the group. "Pretty easy being slothful when there's nothing to do, Jacob," Syl pointed out without pausing in her press. Still, she aborted the set and set the bar in its rest to face him. "It's just lucky we stocked up on Shadow before the fighting broke out, or we'd be in some dire straits by now." "Well, that's about to change," Jacob smiled. "We've got a job?" Zane asked. "Yup; we're meeting the Burggs from their command post on Three Hills." Fiona's brow rose. "That's a long way away." "Three Hills..." the blonde whispered. "Still a hell of a lot closer than Shadow," he pointed out, waving a silencing hand toward her as she tried to get another word in. "And I realize that Three Hills ain't much of a civilization either, so you just listen to the captain for a moment, would you?" When Fiona settled silently with a pout, Jacob continued, "Anne's got her hands full with Achilles, and she won't be available at all hours of the day like she needs to in case something untoward happens. You're a fairly decent pilot, so I'd like to hire you to fill the breach." "You're offering me a job?" she asked, suspicion on her face. "This ship needs a pilot, and at the moment, my wife has our son to deal with before anything else. Besides, it means you'll get to see all manner of interesting places, and take part in all manner of illegal activities," he offered with a smirk. Fi shook her head with a chuckle. "You know, phrasing it like that makes it insurmountably hard to refuse," Her blue eyes came back up to Jacob's. "What's the pay?" "Five percent," he forestalled her needlessly with a raised hand, "I realize that's less than the going rate for pilots, but it's all I can afford to give, and room an' board is gratis." She frowned for a moment, then shrugged and took his hand in a shake. "I guess I'm your girl." Jacob just stared at her for a moment, and Fiona glanced around to the other people in the hold, then back to Jacob. "What's wrong?" she asked. "Was I supposed to spit in my hand first?" "No," Jacob said, quickly pulling back his hand before she attempted to do that very thing, "I was just surprised that you didn't complain," he quickly flashed a grin, before moving toward the stairs. "Hey, boss," Zane caught him. "Do you like what I did with your room?" Jacob paused, looking back with a shrug, "It's a bit snug, but it beats the hell out of sleeping in the nook. Soundproofing doesn't work very well, though." Zane scowled, turning back to his weights, and Jacob took a step toward him. "Get all the cats?" Zane glanced up, then toward the open ramp. "No cats, boss." Jacob nodded. "Then close 'er up. It's time all of us start earning our keep." Daniel glanced toward Jacob as the captain strode away. With a skeptical look on his face, he turned to Zane. "All the cats?" Zane shrugged. "Rats get everywhere when a ship's landed for any amount of time. That's why we leave the ramp down, so the cats'll get into the bulkheads and thin 'em out." "So we have a bunch of cats running around inside Legacy?" Fiona perked up visibly. Zane shook his head. "When the ship leaves atmo, the only food that's left is other rats. They can't digest raw protein, so they either starve to death, or they eat the protein, get toxic shock, and die in a hole. And there's nothing more foul than a rotting kitty you can't get at," Zane explained as he pounded on the buttons closing both the ramp and the airlock. "So we blast some steam in there, sends 'em all running." "That's so cruel!" Fiona exclaimed. "Crueler than a slow death by starvation?" Zane asked, then frowned. "No, you lift with just your arms. Using your legs defeats the purpose," he put her back into proper position. When she was hefting properly, Zane draped his towel across his shoulders and moved toward the shower. On the way, Daniel caught his arm. "She's mine," he said with a smirk. Zane glanced back to Fi, then to Dan again. "What gives you that impression?" he asked. "She's closer to my age," he said. "That just means I've got both experience and seniority," Zane replied smoothly, taking another step toward the door. He glanced back, noting that Dan had finished shaking his head scornfully and turned back to Fiona. With a grin, Zane quickly snapped the towel into his thigh. The youth leapt up with a startled yelp, clinging his wounded leg and staring balefully at the grinning mechanic. "The game's afoot, dear Watson." With Daniel's burning eyes on his back, Zane made his whistling way to the shower.

"You seem to be healing nicely," the doctor said, slowly binding her hand back up. He glanced back up at her for a moment before reaching for the bag. Her dark eyes were locked on his hands as they moved slowly about their task. "I'm surprised that you didn't go to a hospital though..." As the bindings were tied in place and snipped to length, his palsied hands moved back to his spectacles, sitting on the table, shakingly moving them to his face as he leaned over her bosom "Plenty of good... good hospitals here..." he continued quietly, prodding the tender tissue and the painful stitches that held it together. He was a sloppy butcher, his hands palsied then as much as now when they drew thread through her skin. "Well... the wound is closing... nicely." Nicely. Interesting choice of words. It would scar for sure, and the hand would too. She shook her head at the thought that suddenly she was going to look exactly like her sister again. "No reason not to go to a good hospital," the old fart rambled. "Just tell me I'm getting better, leave a bottle of painkillers, and get out," Monday ordered through gritted teeth. The old bugger gave her a surprised look, then leaned back. "I have to do my job," he complained, pointing a shaking figure at her. "The..." "Your job was to deal with my injuries -- which you did, if poorly -- and not to mention that I was living here," she pointed out, reaching with her uninjured hand to snatch a fistful of money and place it in his shaking hand. "No word shall pass these lips, madam," he said, slowly turning to gather his effects and shuffle listlessly toward the door. Monday waited, chewing her lips with impatience, until the door clicked to his departure before launching herself off of her seat despite the pain in her body and swiftly ducking out the window. The cold, cold rain fell in large droplets as it worked its way through the upper levels of the fire-escape to where she was situated. She didn't wait long to snag her umbrella and head down to the filth of the alley, keeping her wounded hand close to her breast. "Did you hear?" a voice came from the alley-mouth as she opened her umbrella and took refuge from the rain. "The Sorceror turned the Wolf." "Fei hua!" another voice countered. "They only started a day ago." "I kid you not," the first picked up. "Tore him up good." Monday pushed the conversation out of her mind, focusing on making her way through the unremitting deluge and ignoring the pain in her hand and neck. People had been abuzz the last few days as a Confederate Fleet approached the planet, and arguments had even turned into riots, coming to a head a week earlier when the local garrisons had to mobilize to put down the Confederate-sympathizers. People on both sides were watching eagerly to see if the Wolf could repeat his performance over Hera. Apparently, he hadn't. Monday had met Zhao Harris once. She thought back to that time, when she was still a Companion in more than name. She'd never met a man so high in the military yet so down-to-earth. Needless to say, she'd avoided him like he carried a transmittable disease. Now, she quietly regretted the opportunity missed. She'd love to have his help right now. Or anybody's help. She shook her head, wild streamers of her hair flicking arks of rain off of her in the process. It wasn't the time to think about what could have been, nor was it the time to be distracted. Distraction would put one of those burly men directly at her back, a sharp blade through her ribs. Glancing about furtively, she darted down an even darker alley, navigating along the running cess and foetor until she reached the too-short, splintering door. She pulled out the tiny, tarnished key and unlocked it, ducking through and into her den. She shook out her hair and set her umbrella down before realizing she wasn't alone. She pulled up the crude knife she'd plucked from the trash, holding it toward the figure at the far end of the room as her injured hand quested for the door-handle. "Monday, calm down," the familiar voice placated, his hands making a calming motion. Her brow furrowed. "Lex?" She asked, her hand still searching. He took a step forward, into the meager pool of light the room's single lamp dropped. It was him, but he looked very different than he usually did. Now, he was wearing a long, red coat with a high neck, and a hatchet hung from his belt. "Calm down, Monday, I'm not going to hurt you," he said. She gave him a skeptical look. "I'm ready to believe that one," she muttered, finally finding the handle with her aching left hand, and yanking the door open. Lex took a long step forward and slammed his foot into it just beside her hand, slamming it back shut, and sending a shard of agony up her arm. Almost blind, she jabbed out at him, but she felt her world begin to spin. After a moment, she discovered herself lying on her tiny mattress, her back aching and her head pointed toward the door. She flipped herself over, on all fours like a feral cat trying to find another way out. There wasn't. She knew that for a fact. "You're going to have to calm down," Lex said, slamming her pilfered knife into the doorframe. "I never wanted to hurt you. It was a mistake. You shouldn't have come to the gathering hall." "What the hell are you?" she demanded. Lex seemed about to say something flip, but then caught himself, and nodded toward the room's single chair. "You don't mind if I sit, do you?" he asked. Without waiting for her answer, he pulled the chair to him and sat with his back to the door. "You deserve an answer, Monday. So I'll give you one. I, and those you saw earlier, walk La Via Wendigo." "That's what the last one said," Monday reported, her burning muscles vibrating with their desire to be doing something. Something to run, something to fight. Well, something to run, if her recent performance was anything but a fluke. "It means we follow the path of Wendigo," he leaned forward, wringing his hands as he looked up to her. He had an uneasy look on his face. "I'm sorry for my apprehension, but most of us take this in with mother's milk. I never thought I'd be telling it to somebody how has no background in it." Lex cleared his throat. "You know your Universal History?" he waited for her nod to continue. "Therefore you'd know about the Terraformer's Triumph, and the Expansion?" She nodded again, pulling back so her spine was against the back wall. More comfortable, this way. "The terraforming of the Border Worlds was a arduous undertaking," Lex continued. "When Boros was first terraformed, the crews thought they'd done their jobs, and moved on to the next world, dropping families -- our families -- to build cities and farms and whatever else we needed. The problem was... they didn't terraform the planet properly. The terraforming failed, and the heat that'd been built up leached off into space. Two million people were living on the planet when La Tiempo de Congelación first came. When it ended, five years later... there were about twenty thousand." "I heard about the early mistakes that were made," Monday replied flatly. Lex scowled. "Mistakes... They were negligent and we were forced to pay the price for it. Do you know how many people starved to death the first year? The second? Desperate times made for desperate people. We did what we had to do to survive." "Oh, god..." "Yes," Lex nodded, looking her squarely in the eye. "When the crops failed, we ate our herds. When our herds ran out, we started to starve. When we would starve no more... we ate the dead." "That's..." Monday whispered. "Gruesome? Disgusting?" Lex asked. He waved his hands grandly. "An entire planet was dying, on a scale not seen since, until Niflheim anyway. Can you say that you wouldn't eat the only source of food on the world, simply because it happened to share your species? I thought not. We did what we had to do to survive." "You ate people," she stressed. "Dead people," Lex countered. "We never killed for flesh. Those who fell gave us a means to continue. We honored those who gave up their bodies for our hunger. Posthumously. It was then, in that bleakest year, that Wendigo came." Lex leaned back, taking in a deep breath. "Wendigo was our redemption. He showed us what was coming. When the storms would strike, where the waters were still pure. Those who could speak to him were called Seekers. We would have a visión de la carne... a flesh vision, and he would speak to us. It was Wendigo who brought our broken people to Knockenjard, where the Anglo-Sino Alliance found us, and put a dome over our heads. Do you know what that means?" "What?" "Knockenjard. It means 'bone-yard' in one of the dead tongues. We called it that because we were sure it would be the place we would be buried. We'd picked out our graves nice and early," he chuckled darkly. "That's sort of grim," Monday's voice was flat. "It was a grim time," he acknowledged. "Even in Knockenjard, life was unbelievably hard. The soil was infertile, the weather cold, the air stale and the water foul. It was a decade before we left that place, and a generation before Boros became what it is now," Lex leaned forward. "I am descended from the survivors of Knockenjard, child of the Ice Father's salvation, trained to prepare for the next eternal winter." Monday waited. "And?" "And what?" Lex asked, a smirk appearing on his face. "That can't be it," she pressured. "You've just admitted to cannibalism, belonging to an... insane cult... and claim heredity to the founding of Boros. That doesn't explain why you had your henchman attack me." "He wasn't my..." Lex snapped, before regaining himself. "Those weren't my men. I'm just a Seeker. I can't tell the others what to do. Their duty to protect the Oracle was foremost. If I posed a threat, they would cut me down in an instant." She smiled mirthlessly at him. "Out of your hands, not your fault." Lex sat back, a resigned look on his face. "I offered my help. You took it." "I took your help because... You know why. They were... Oh, god. They weren't coming after me were they? Was it all you?" she asked, stalking forward. Lex got an angry look on his face. "If I weren't as interested in your well being as I am... Oh, to hell with it," he muttered, then gave her a swift backhand which knocked her back into the wall. He leaned over the edge of her bed, staring at her. "I will never do something like that to any woman. I will never be a party to it. The Orthodox might, but I won't. And frankly, I'm insulted that you'd imply I would." He stood, taking a deep breath, and moved toward the door. He kicked the chair out of his way and threw the door open, staring into the freezing deluge. "If you don't want our help, well, you don't need to take it. I just didn't want to see you get hurt." "You're telling the truth, aren't you?" she asked, fighting the urge to rub her stinging cheek. He turned and nodded once over his shoulder. He didn't wait another moment before striding into the rain. She stared after him, her mind tumbling to fast for her to make sense of anything. Then something clicked into place. "Oh, goddammit," she whispered, forcing herself to her feet and out of the tiny room. She looked one way and another before she caught sight of Lex's bright red coat, moving swiftly away. "Lex!" He turned and stood stock still in the downpour as she made her resolute way to him. "This is so pathetic," she whispered to herself. Her eyes rose and she stared him in the eye. "I need your help. If you can find me... so can they." "To your credit, it was a pain to find you," Lex offered. He reached into his coat and pulled out an umbrella. Like hers, it was bright red. She was beginning to see a motif. "You're going to need to move, though. Staying in one place for a month was a dangerous gamble, even if it was something as... out-of-character as this." She shrugged. "I guessed that they would never think to look here." "They would. It'd just take them a while. Gather your things. We have to leave the city for a while. I have a house in the country. It's remote, but it has everything a person needs," he ordered. She gathered her scant belongings, being a few changes of clothes, none of them flattering, and the diary she'd been scribbling in for the last month. After a moment's pause, she turned to him. "Couldn't you just get me off planet? It'd be easier than hiding in the wilderness," she pointed out. Lex let out a bitter laugh. "Despite the common conception, the Sorceror hasn't secured Boros yet. The entire atmosphere has been classified as a civilian no-fly zone. Anything moving above the commercial ceiling will be shot down. No, this is the only way, for now," he stated, handing her back the knife that he'd buried in the door. She slipped it into her dress and followed him back out the door, into the driving rain. She caught Lex before he moved away. "Is it really coming?" she asked quietly. "The Freezing Time?" Lex sighed, staring at the floor. "Yes. And soon. The terraforming is slipping, faster then last time. The streets of Vena will be buried in ice within a year. Two at the most. Feel the rain, Monday. Have you ever felt rain this cold since you came to Vena?" She shook her head, a shiver overtaking her as she hitched her hood higher. The clouds pressed down predatorily as the two of them began the long trek toward what she could only hope would be safety.
"So, how long have I got?" Fiona asked as she threw herself down in the infirmary's chair. Friday sighed as she turned and flicked on the screen. Her movements were slow, listless, she knew. She couldn't summon the energy to make them any faster or surer. "You're a healthy, twenty year old woman," Friday said woodenly. "Natural immunity to syphilis-family diseases..." "Really?" Fiona asked, surprise on her features. "What do you think the Harrows spent so much on gene-therapy for?" Friday countered. "Syphilis was a problem for them a hundred years ago, so they made their children immune to it. It's hereditary. You also have a slightly increased chance of senile dementia and a lowered probability for cancer of the breast and cervix. That, and the hair thing..." "Wait, the dementia thing?" Fi interrupted. "You won't need to worry about that for another sixty years or so," Friday dismissed. "Your reproductive areas are healthy, and you have a clean tox- and immuno-screen. I'd say you have a clean bill of health," she finished. She leaned against the slab, and then found herself sitting on it. Her hands folded into her lap, and she just stared at them for a while, until warm arms cradled her head. "Shh..." Fi's voice cooed. "It's alright. It's alright..." "No... It isn't," Friday countered, her voice shaking. "Do you want to talk about him?" she asked. Friday pulled back, looking at her pink-haired companion. She took a deep breath, and had to fight to keep it from turning into a sob. "Casher..." she said, intending to continue but being caught short. Her vision suddenly became blurry and she began to sob. "I loved him... I loved him like I've never loved a man before. I was so sure he'd..." Her words failed her, and she broke into uncompromised weeping as she felt the unending chasm of his departure opening up under her again. It was hardest at night, when she would roll over in her giant bed and not bump into him. He'd always joked that the bed was too 'frilly' for his liking, but that didn't stop him from sleeping in it any chance he could. It was a closeness she'd only felt once in her entire life. It was the first time in ten years she'd felt its like. The dark vortex of his abandonment remained, even when she'd exhausted her supply of tears and allowed herself to be set back into an upright sit by Fiona. "He promised he'd never... break my heart." "Men make that promise all the time," Fiona offered kindly, rubbing some warmth into Friday's shoulders.. "He might have even meant it." "When he looked at me... it was like he didn't even know who I was..." Friday sobbed, her face falling into her hand as she wept dryly. "Why did he do that?" "I don't know, Doc," Fi said, rubbing the doctor's back through her robe. There was a long pause. "Um, I was wondering about a few things." Friday sniffled, then looked up to the girl. "Like what?" "What does that do?" she asked, pointing out a tray of implements she'd left for cleaning on the counter. Friday found a smirk on her face despite herself. "Are you looking to become my nurse?" Friday asked through a sobbing chuckle. Fiona shrugged. "I like to learn new things," She hopped up with a grin. "Now, what does that do?" "Those are catheters," Friday said. "And what do they do?" "You insert them up the urethra to bypass..." "What? You shove them up...?" she parroted. Friday nodded. "Yes. Men, too. It's used to bypass bladder blockages and other urinary difficulties. You're serious about this, aren't you?" "I like to be able to do a little bit of everything," Fiona answered with a shrug. She picked up a device about the size of her fist. "What's this?" "That," she said, plucking it from her grasp, "is my new pregnancy detector. I picked it up on Shadow at Sylvia's request. Bless her heart, but she can be so paranoid at times." "Where do you pee on it?" Fi asked, her face a picture of befuddlement. Friday chuckled. "You don't. This one's used externally," the doctor pulled open the robe just below her navel and set the device against her skin. "You just turn it on, and put it directly over your womb. After a second, it'll let out a series of beeps." True to form, it began to beep. "When it finds the structure of the uterus, it lets out a long beep," Friday continued, and was greeted with a long beep. She looked up to the woman, who was watching intently. "Now, it'll do a scan. When it finds nothing, it'll let out the nasty tone. If it were to actually find a pregnancy, it'd let out a series of high, happy beeps." A series of high, happy beeps followed. "Just like that?" Fiona asked. Friday heard the device clatter to the floor, a sense of numbness spreading up away from her hands. "Oh... my... god," Friday whispered. Fiona stooped down and picked the device up, reading the back. "Hm. Ninety-nine point nine percent accurate," she muttered. She glanced up, a slanted smile on her face and a shrug in her shoulders. "Well... Congratulations?"
Eli smirked as he turned down the long corridor, noting that the doors which once capped it's end were still conspicuously and dramatically absent. Ranks of blue gloved agents turned in near unison to stare at him as he strode purposefully toward what had been annexed as the new Office of the Coordinator. None of them made a move to stop him. "That's worrisome," Greyson muttered to himself, running his old, calloused fingers through his two-weeks growth of beard. Blue must have smelled him coming if he'd told his watchdogs to not bother accosting the old man who made no illusions of slowing in his advance. Eli forced himself to not flip through the fist-thick file again as he walked. He'd seen all he needed to see, and then some. At last, he cleared the savaged door-frame and entered the long room with its likewise long table. Blue sat at its end, staring balefully at the screen inlaid onto the tabletop. "I see you've not improved the decor?" Greyson quipped. He could feel blue's eyes snap up to him, almost as if the temperature in the room warmed a few degrees, quite opposite to the glacial expression on the dark man's face. "I guessed that keeping a two foot thick, twelve-tonne door jutting out of reinforced concrete would send a message to be prudent," Blue answered distractedly. "That, and we couldn't fit the jack down the hall." Greyson shrugged. "I got your file," he said, throwing the massive document onto the end of the table, so far away from the Acting Coordinator. "I'd say we have a problem." Blue let out a harsh, mirthless laugh. "I've come to learn that the seat of Coordinator is fraught with more peril and migraines then even I could have predicted. Had I known it would be this unpleasant, I would had drowned myself in a toilet fifty years ago." "You are here now, however," Greyson offered with a second shrug. "That means it falls to you to deal with this... disloyalty." "Mass betrayal, you mean?" his eyes shot up again. He let out a snort. "The very day I take control of the Blue Sun Corporation, all but a handful of the Supervisors go rogue, in some cases leaving death and devastation in their collective wakes." "Some have remained," Greyson pointed out. Blue just shook his head. "The weakest. And one woman of limited ability and just-over-mediocre potential," Blue quickly got to his feet, running his long fingers along his short hair. "It's as though the Coordinator were holding their leashes, and when he left, he let them slip to their own devices." Greyson didn't like the idea much, but kept silent. "Something must be done. Those released from Heian Difeng are problem enough, knowing that they'll be arrayed against us if possible. These are absolute unknowns." "I don't like unknowns," Blue muttered, not halting in his pacing to and fro at the far end of the table. "You're probably going to like this less, then," Greyson murmured. He held up the file he'd been handed a few floors down. "I got this on my way in. Seems that one of the Supervisors what remained, just fell into a torpid state about an hour ago." "Damn and damnations," Blue shouted, swinging his hand to one side. Several chairs lept away from the table, shattering into splinters against the wall. "Drowned in a toilet. Definitely easier," he turned to Greyson, and began to advance on him. "You... I want you to deal with the finances. These... traitors... are my concern. I'll have them back under the Blue Sun, or drifting through the black bleeding their heat into the cosmos." Greyson cracked a grin before he could master himself. Of course, Blue would be blinded by the obvious problem. He felt the patterns of his schemes shifting slightly as an assumption became a fact. "I'll leave the dispensation of the Agents in your hands," he said, reaching for the folder. Blue's hand came down atop it. "No, I'm going after them myself," he countered. A look of genuine surprise lit across Greyson's face. Blue leaned closer. "I know the capabilities of these people better than any man alive. If there is to be any reasonable chance of success, I must be at its head." Greyson nodded, even as he checked the contingencies of his plans. Surprisingly, he found one for just this occasion. It was a long shot, and had a high probability of him ending up dead, but it was all he had. It would have to do. "If you believe it's necessary, Coordinator." "For now, I'm going to need all of the intelligence the spooks upstairs can gather about the renegades," he ordered. Greyson set his jaw and turned toward the exit. President. Second richest man in the universe, and he was playing gopher for somebody who ascended to his position through blackmail, extortion, and death-threats. Of course, that's exactly how Greyson would have done it himself, but he couldn't help but feel a little cheated that his junior managed to do so first. "One last thing," Blue muttered. "Make sure to send down the updated Witherell file." Greyson offered a nod, if simply to choke a sarcastic comment, and strode through the doorframe. Witherell. Blue's obsession might have worried him, if he didn't know its nature as well as he did. Several halls away, he caught one of the interns and relayed his need. The intern gave him a befuddled look. “Didn't you hear what I said, child?” Eli growled. “You asked that the Witherell file be sent to you five days ago,” the intern stammered. “If you want, I can get you another copy?” Greyson frowned. “No. No, that'll do. Just make sure to send a copy to Blue before he leaves.” Eli scowled as the intern made his scurrying way away. He couldn't recall asking for it. He could even concoct a reason why he'd ask for it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his messenger. “This is Eli,” he said, leaning against a tank of fish. He took a deep breath. “Put me through to Johner Marshal.”
Anne glanced up as Jacob leaned his head through the nursery door, and a beaming grin instantly replaced her disinterested scowl. Achilles squirmed in her grasp, his tiny arms reaching toward Jacob, who scooped him up with a joyous whoop. When he finished his quick corkscrew, he tucked the infant under his arm. “What's the news?” she asked. “Leez been eating?” Jacob queried over top of her. There was a short pause before Anne realized he was going to wait for her. “Yes,” she said, running fingers through her lengthening hair, grimacing when it got caught in the disgusting sputum the little beast had saw fit to grace her with. She was going through three of Jacob's shirts a day. She held up the tangled strand for her husband. “He's burped too, so no need to worry about that.” “How are you holding up,” Jacob asked, his voice much softer. Leez decided that it was the proper moment to begin exploring Jacob's nose, and did so with great gusto as Anne rose to her feet and left the tiny room that Zane had cobbled together in what used to be the largest crew-quarters on Legacy. Now, it was two rooms, one for the parents, one for the child, and a separate bathroom, with a hallway connecting the three. “I haven't gotten a full night's sleep in a month,” she grumbled, rubbing her eyes. “I'm covered in vomit and I smell like baby-shit.” “Ah, parenthood,” Jacob laughed. His expression dimmed quickly. “I could take over some of the...” “No,” Anne interrupted, quickly pulling the infant back toward herself. “It's my job.” “Anne...” “No. There's a reason God gave Woman breasts, wide hips, and a caring nature,” she snipped. Leez grunted his displeasure at being snatched, but didn't break out into his horrible screaming, so she was relieved somewhat. Jacob gritted his teeth for a moment. “You said you wouldn't talk like that in front of the child,” he whispered through his teeth. “He's gonna learn to cuss sooner or later,” she protested quietly as she sat on the edge of their marital bed. “It wasn't the cussin' I was talking about,” Jacob countered. After a second, he shook his head. “I'm sorry. I know you're tired. Hell, exhausted. But I'm here too, Anne. I can help you. You just need to let me help you.” She nodded slowly, her eyes at her feet, Achilles' flailing notwithstanding. Jacob's arm slipped around her waist, and she felt herself leaning into his solid weight. “I know you want to help,” she whispered. “I love you for that... Say,” she looked up at him. “Did you get word from the Kell?” “Not from Kell, but the Confederates have something lined up,” Jacob answered with a smile. “We're meeting Gannon Burgg on Three Hills.” “I'll get us underway,” she muttered, shifting Jacob's son back into his grasp, but her husband's other arm came up quickly to restrain her. “Huh?” “We've been underway for the last few hours,” he informed her. She stared at him for a moment. “Then... who's flying?” she asked quietly. “Fiona,” he said. She must have had a blank look on her face, because he clarified with, “the rich girl we picked up over Shadow.” “Are we in the habit a' pickin' up strays, now?” she asked. “She's a half-decent pilot, and you're not going to be up to fly our lady for a while. At least until Leez is sleeping through the night more often than not,” he offered. She sighed, then nodded. “Not like you've left me much of a choice,” she groused, not fighting the slow smile which spread across her face. Jacob plucked his son back from her arms and rocked the fussing baby until it quieted back down. “You just rest, and I'll take care of Achilles,” Jacob whispered, planting a gentle kiss on her as he guided her back down toward the comfortable mattress below. She quickly felt the vice-like fingers of sleep pulling at her eyelids, but fought it off, leaning back up as Jacob started closing the door. “Are you bringing... her... with you when you go?” she demanded mushily. Jacob frowned at her question. “Who?” “Sylvia,” she clarified, putting all the venom she could inject into a single word into its expression. Jacob didn't seem to catch it, though; he let out a chortle, a wide grin on his face. “Why would I?” he asked. “Three Hill's is as safe as Achilles' cradle.” With that, Jacob let the door click closed. She ground her teeth as the lift Zane installed to help them move about without the fear of dropping an infant whilst clambering a ladder began to sound its ascent. She intended to fume about the intractability of her husband, but before long, she was drifting into the silent embrace of sleep.
Sylvia cast a furtive glance behind her as the rest of Zane and Fiona chatted about something or other at the far end of the hold. They didn't even bat a eyelash as she let her boots carry her down the ramp and onto the tarmac. She pulled the frayed and tattered shard of parchment paper and glanced down at it as she moved away from Legacy, into the activity of the space-port. She'd never been to Three Hills in her entire life. Her father had, but that was decades ago, when he was a young man. He didn't talk about those times very often, and she'd tried to get it out of him on occasion. She'd just been idly curious then. Now she was driven. She could still remember the day she found this little scrap of paper. It was just about four years ago, now, and she could barely understand some of the words at the time. But she did understand what it meant. It was then that she decided that she'd have to leave the dry, wind blasted surface of Silverhold, possibly forever. A strapping young Asian man, dirty as many of the other dockworkers although his was a chronic patina to their only hours-old stains, perked up when she crossed his path. He grasped the poles of his rickshaw and took a bold step toward her, flashing her a confident, if crooked-toothed, grin. “Lady need go?” he asked, his English worse than broken. “I take. You get on.” She nodded to him, vaulting onto the back of his conveyance. “Acropolis Feng Kuang Fangzi, xie xie?” she asked. The driver nodded thankfully and with a moment's lurching, he got the small vehicle underway. She could have just asked directions, but she was beyond tired. She hadn't been able to sleep for days, after she heard they would be landing on Three Hills. “Tell me 'bout mama!” she'd cried, staring way up into her father's blue-green eyes. So many years ago, now, but she could remember every single minutia of the conversation, such as it was. Fat Cho turned to her, a smirk on his face. “Well, your mama was...” he said, but was interrupted when her father cuffed him upside the head. Cho turned around, indignant, but blanched when he saw the look in her father's eyes. Rage. “Mayhaps y'd best be hearin' it from y'r father, then,” Cho offered. “Mayhaps,” Thurman growled. He turned from the fence, staring in at the herd which was currently huddled around the water-trough, almost at the horizon. He leaned slowly against the fence-post until he was sitting on the ground, and motioned her over. She came, unquestioningly, and plopped her then tiny body on his lap. “Your mother...” he began, then he sighed. The rage was gone from his eyes. Now, they looked bleak. Empty. She reached up and gave the beard he'd attempted to grow back in the day a tug. He looked down at her. “All ma' friends got's a mama,” Syl demanded, filled with childish righteousness. “I wanna know 'bout my mama.” Thurman nodded. “You deserve to know about her. You're too old to be left out on it,” he whispered. His eyes drifted to the horizon. At the time, she thought he was watching his herd, but now, she knew he was watching something else entirely, something so far away it couldn't be reached by anyone, by any means. “Your... mama... ain't ever comin' back, Chiplet,” he said, his words drawn out and painful. She stared up at him, unable to comprehend why, her innocence not yet cracked enough to understand. “How come?” she asked. “She's... far away,” he answered. “She's locked up.” “She's like a princess?” Syl asked, clapping her little hands in expectation. Her father laughed. Mirthlessly. “You could say that,” he offered. “She can't ever leave. No matter how much she wants to, they'll never let her go.” “You ought shoot 'em!” she demanded, but her father only shook her head. “I can't. Nobody on this moon can reach them, let alone shoot them. I'm sorry, Chiplet, but your mama's never going to see you grow up, never going to see the woman you become.” For a moment, Syl sulked, but then an idea occurred to her. “Papa?” she asked. “What is it, Chiplet?” “Is mama dead?” she asked. Thurman turned away, probably to hide the fact that a tear had begun to slide down his cheek. “No, Sylvia,” he answered. “If only God were that kind.” Sylvia snapped out of her childhood as the rickshaw took a particularly potent lurch, this one of the nature of a complete stop. The grungy bearer turned to her, flashing her another crooked grin. “Wo men zai zhei li,” the bearer announced proudly. He held up a hand so calloused it looked like gnarled wood. “Zhi fu wo.” She held out a credit bill, which vanished into the rickshaw bearer's shirt in a half-second flat, then he hefted his cart and moved back down the road. No doubt in search of a better place to offer his services then at the gates of an insane asylum. The building, sitting well at the foot of Acropolis' famed three mountains, was so unassuming that it wouldn't have passed for an asylum, save for under intense scrutiny. It had a wall, although many other buildings in the area did too. The gate was ornate, but she could tell by the electric hum when she passed through them that they could be electrified at a moment's notice. She took a deep breath, standing just outside the doors. It hung, quivering and expectant, waiting. She pulled open the doors and shut out the madness which scrambled at her with clawing, chattering, insistent claws. “Hello,” the desk-clerk said, looking up from the book which was occupying his attention. He set it aside. “Welcome to the Acropolis Institute for the Mentally Diseased.” “It's an insane asylum, just admit it,” Syl muttered under her breath. To the clerk, she offered a small, if forced smile. “I'm here to visit Veronica.” “Veronica...?” the clerk prodded. She just stood, silent. After a moment, the clerk nodded, catching her meaning. “Oh, that Veronica. Yes. She's popular today. She should be free for a few hours.” “Popular?” Syl asked. She could have simply searched out what the clerk meant, but that would mean letting down her guard, and in a place like this, she wouldn't dare. The clerk just turned and hammered a few keys on an older-style keyboard. “An orderly will escort you, presently,” the clerk said, then went right back to his book. She was about to say something, but he was quite correct in saying 'presently', because an older nurse opened the door, and beckoned. Sylvia pursed her lips, but moved to the woman's side. “Visiting Ronnie?” the nurse asked. She paused, looking Sylvia up and down. “Excuse me?” Sylvia asked. The nurse nodded to herself, as if satisfied, then waved that Sylvia should follow. Rolling her eyes, Syl did exactly that. “Oh, there ain't many folk who still visit her, anymore,” the nurse rambled. “Used to be, there'd be doctors by the barrel-full knocking on her door. Nowadays, she's alone a lot of the time,” the nurse clucked her tongue sadly. “They never told me why she's here,” Sylvia stated. The nurse looked at her, almost missing a step. “Oh, you poor dear...” she whispered. Her eyes went down for a moment, then came back up. “Gregory's Schizophrenia,” she said, as though it were a death sentence. “Meaning?” she asked. The nurse didn't answer, pushing open the doors to a wide room filled with people in white robes. Some of them talked to one another, other's watched shows on the holotank in the corner. Some of them, though, stared off at nothing, or talked to nobody, or wrung their red, raw hands while they paced a circuit across the room. “This is our general room,” the nurse explained. “Those who have less severe forms of illness usually come here during the day. They're used to people coming and going, for the most part. These are the best of them.” “What's Gregory's Schizophrenia?” Sylvia asked. “Hereditary mental illness,” one of the patients blurted out. His glassy eyes still stared at a spot that was definitely out of focus on the far wall. “Dominant. If present, causes irreversible... irreversible... irreversible...” “Jason,” the nurse shushed him, and he became silent again. She looked to Sylvia. “Some of them hear things. He's correct, though. Greg's Schiz' is a hereditary mental disorder. If one of your parent's had it, you've got only a fifty-fifty chance of avoiding it.” “And if you don't,” Sylvia asked. The nurse sighed. “Progressive worsening of dementia, delusions, hallucinations, and eventual catatonia. Onset begins in mid to late twenties, and gets worse as they get older,” the nurse swiped her keycard down a lock at the far end of the room. The doors swung open and she lead Sylvia deeper. The woman's expression became hopeful, then. “Of course, if it's caught nice and early, it can be treated, and the dementia can be halted. Not all the time, but often enough.” “That's... not much,” Sylvia muttered. “It's better than nothing,” the nurse replied. “This is where they live most of the time. Independent cells, which can be unlocked from within, save for when we need control of the building. When something goes wrong, we can prevent them from opening. This is the good part,” she pulled a manual-style key from her hip and unlocked a bulkhead that sat in the middle of the hall. “Here... we don't let them out. Ever.” “They're that dangerous?” Sylvia asked. The nurse just shuddered. “You wouldn't believe...” she whispered, but she trailed off as she pulled another key from her ring. She hustled silently to one of the doors and hurriedly unlocked it. She pulled the door open, and glanced inside. “If you need out, just bang on the door and tell us so.” “Thank you,” she said. She began to step forward, but the nurse caught her with a barring arm before she could. “You know...” the nurse said slowly. “You do kinda look like her.” Sylvia grit her teeth and stepped past the bulkhead. The room beyond was lit somewhat dimly, as though to make sure nothing was too clearly in focus. She barely cleared the threshold when the door slammed shut to her back. She gave a scowl to the woman now on the far side of the bulkhead and took a look around. This was almost like a foyer, an entry way. She could see another door not too far away. She strode to it and threw the door open, revealing a neglected lavatory. With a frown, she leaned back, spotting another door on the far end of the same wall. It had been painted the exact color of the wall behind it, and with the poor lighting, she hadn't immediately spotted it. She opened this one more carefully. It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the glare of the lights in this room, especially after the darkness of the room previous. It was barren of anything that could be considered homely. Just a cot pushed into one corner, a chest of drawers at its foot. She looked further, and took a step into the room. She saw her then, curled up against the far end of the room, her hair draped down around her like an ivory curtain. She pulled the door shut behind her. The click sounded almost like a gunshot in the silence of the room. Slowly, like a statue learning it had the facility of motion, the figure uncurled, a face separating from the featureless white, staring at her with crystalline green eyes. Sylvia moved to her, kneeling down before her. Almost at impulse, she reached out, laying a gentle hand on the woman's shoulder, as if to prove to herself that this person was really here. She could see what the nurse meant. Sylvia did look a lot like her. “Hello, mama,” Sylvia whispered.
“He's here,” Gannon Burgg whispered. His father turned to him, his rheumy eye almost condescending. “I heard him. I'm old, I'm not daft,” his father grumbled. His cough subsided, letting him have a chance to take recuperative breaths from the oxygen tank he now needed by his side at all times. “Let him in. Unlike you, I don't have all week.” “You shouldn't talk like that, Father,” Gannon protested quietly. “You'll be better soon.” McDonald snorted into his oxygen mask. Gannon thumbed the button to the buzzer, letting the pen-pushers outside know to let him in. A few seconds later, the door swung open, and the man silently entered the room. “Mister Greyson,” Gannon announced. “I don't believe we've had the honor of an introduction.” Greyson chuckled, running his fingers through his unkempt hair. “Honor. Yeah, that fits on me like a screen door over an airlock.” Gannon's smile slipped a little, but he could hear his father's hoarse chuckle. “If he wanted his ass wiped, he' d have gone to a wet-nurse,” Father wheezed. “I can only blame myself for his ingratiating manner. I was too soft on him.” “Father...” Gannon protested. “Greyson... You do have a bit of a following, you realize?” Father asked. “I don't visit my own fan club,” Greyson answered, his sarcastic smirk pulling the scar on his face. “That would just be tacky.” “One of these days, that attitude is going to get you shot,” Gannon muttered. “It already has,” Greyson pointed out. “Again,” he amended. Greyson shrugged, then turned to McDonald with intent in his dark eyes. “You said you had a job you needed somebody trustworthy for. I came because I need money, although not enough to take anything needlessly dangerous,” he stated, taking a seat in the chair at the far end of the room. He leaned forward over steepled fingers. “Now, why is it exactly that I'm doing the job you could no doubt have your own merchant marine doing?” “Discretion,” Father answered. “Much as I'd like to say I trust the men in Kell's fleet, I can't vouch for all of them. You, though, have been vouched for enough, and by enough of the right people, to catch my notice. I have something which could be...” he trailed off as his ague bent him over. Gannon took the moment to assert himself. “We have possession of something which would be extremely hazardous if it fell into the wrong hands. And the wrong hands abound, not just the Alliance, but any number of private operators. Kell's former cohorts would no doubt climb over each other for a chance to steal this,” he explained. “This, being?” Greyson asked. “Anti-deuterium,” Gannon announced. Greyson responded with a very suspicious raising of the eyebrow. “You don't seem to believe me.” “Antimatter,” Greyson repeated. “Isn't that something out of science fiction?” “You live on a spaceship,” Gannon pointed out. “So?” With a sigh, Gannon continued. “Anti-deuterium is a product that has only recently become... transportable. It's energy potential is exponentially greater than that of Transium, and we've gotten our hands on some for the first time,” he explained. “And you want to pirate somebody's research?” Greyson asked. “What could this possibly have to do with... anything?” “A power source,” Father's voice was now doubly hoarse. Red specks dotted the inside of his mask, “capable of producing thousands of times as much as the reactors in any currently existing ship or power facility, small enough to fit into a four-by-four foot box.” “And, if I understand antimatter properly, explosive enough to take out most of a planet,” Greyson finished. “You want me to carry something that dangerous on my ship?” “Nobody will expect you to have it,” Gannon said, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice. “Because they aren't insane!” Greyson protested. Gannon swept a glass off the otherwise clear table and fixed a scowl on his face as it shattered against the wall. “There are only a few atoms of it, and once it exits stasis, it'll have a few hundred billionths of a second to come into contact with it's counterpart before it breaks down. You're letting paranoia cloud your common sense.” Greyson ground his teeth as he let his glare drift between aging father and angry son. “And it won't get out of stasis.” “Not unless you decide you want to open it up and see what antimatter looks like,” Gannon assured. “Now, are you going to take this simple job, or not?” Greyson took a breath and sat back. “Fine,” he answered. “I'll take the job. Where's the pickup?” “Our contacts have smuggled the package to Niflheim,” Gannon said, reaching down to pull up a file. When he looked back to Greyson, the man had gone deathly pale. “Is something wrong, mister Greyson?” “Niflheim?” he asked. “You had it sent to Niflheim?” “Is there a problem with that?” McDonald asked. Greyson just stared for a moment, then mastered himself. He scrubbed a hand through the stubble on his chin, then stood. “No. Not at all,” he answered, his words wooden. “Where is it being stored.” “Everything you need is in this file,” Gannon smiled. Greyson took it without a second glance. “Your payment will be given to you when you deliver the package to Heian Difeng.” Greyson didn't say another word as he left the room. Gannon turned to his father, who still watched as the man vanished from view. “What is it, father?” “That man's going to cause trouble,” Father muttered. “What makes you say that?” Gannon asked. Father smirked. “He reminds me of me,” he answered. “And that was always such a tragedy,” a new, familiar voice boomed. Gannon spun, eyes wide, to the wide-shouldered figure which suddenly dominated the doorway. “Casimir?” Gannon asked, not readily willing to accept his eyes. “Your eyes doth not deceive you,” Cas responded, a slow smile on his face. He took a step forward, offering his left hand, which Gannon took gratefully. “You're still too skinny, xiong di,. Didn't I tell you to eat?” Cas chided. “He never was the eater you are, son,” McDonald chuckled. His chuckling died quickly, though. “It's been a very long time, Casimir. Where did you go? What did you do?” Casimir opened his arms, showing the unassuming clothing he wore. “Well, after loosing the... I felt a need to reexamine myself. I cloistered myself in a monastery. And time flies when you're postulating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.” “We didn't part on the best of terms,” Father muttered. Casimir nodded. “And I've always regretted that,” Cas turned to Gannon. “Would you give me some time with our father? I'd like some privacy, if you didn't mind.” Gannon forced a smile onto his face. “Of course I wouldn't mind,” he lied. “Just don't let him talk too long. He's got to keep up his strength.” Casimir nodded and knelt in front of Father's chair. Gannon ground his teeth as he strode toward the door, trying to silence the chiding voices that laughed in his head. Never as good as Casimir. Never as strong. Never as tough. He'd prove them wrong. Some day, he'd prove them wrong. He'd prove everybody wrong.
“My name is Sylvia,” she whispered. Green eyes followed her as she stood back up. The woman didn't say a word, just watched her with that unblinking stare. Sylvia fidgeted under that intense, unwavering scrutiny. Even knowing the nature of the woman's illness, she felt as if she were being measured to the nanometer and weighed to the gram. “Don't know you...” Veronica muttered, beginning to rock on her heels. “We haven't met, before.” “I know that,” Veronica responded, her voice flat and unaltering as she rocked. Her eyes were still locked on Sylvia's but now, the sense of measuring had ended and it was as if she simply held them there for lack of a better place to put them. “Don't know you.” “Did you know a man named Thurman Witherell?” Sylvia asked, squatting down once more. Veronica's face tightened for a moment, but she remained silent. “I take it that's a yes?” “He finally sends somebody to visit, does he? Too good to come himself? Yes... Too good to come his'self. Don't deserve to be here,” her mother rambled quietly. Her eyes still locked onto Sylvia with all the cling of a Reaver onto a priest. “You're not making it easy to sugar coat this,” Sylvia muttered. “Nothing in life is easy.” Sylvia rolled her eyes. “I'm your daughter,” she stated. Veronica's rocking halted for a moment, then resumed. Finally, their locked gaze broke and the older woman's drifted to the far wall. “No. Don't believe it. Met'em all. Ain't any left,” she muttered. “Try to remember, mama,” Sylvia pleaded. “I was just little when you left. Just a baby.” “Had too many,” she rambled. “Can't remember their names. Too many names. Too many little faces. Too many little name-y faces.” “Silverhold,” she began. “Dead.” “Excuse me?” Sylvia was caught off guard. “Took her away from me. Left her to the dry wind,” Veronica's eyes now ran with tears. “I just wanted to say goodbye to my little girl. I wanted to keep her. She was so precious...” “Mama, I'm alive. They didn't leave me to die, Thurman raised me.” “Don't call me Mama,” Veronica snapped, lunging toward Sylvia. She startled back, but didn't need to, since Veronica's binds included a chain which kept her from moving too far from the wall. “I ain't nobody's Mama,” she growled. “Took'm all away. All my little angels. I just wanted to have one...” “Why won't you admit that I'm your daughter?” she whispered. Veronica responded by rocking slowly back and forth, rambling to herself. She let herself lean low against the wall near the door, letting her brow fall into her hand. Suddenly, she wished very much that Jacob was here to back her up. She'd never wanted it more right now, save for the... unpleasantness she survived three years ago. “You love him, don't you?” Veronica chided. “What are you talking about?” Sylvia asked. “You love him, but you can't tell him. He's not yours. 'Fraid he'll never be yours,” she let out a mirthless laugh. “Jacob.” Sylvia's blood went cold. Suddenly she realized why everybody here was so afraid of this woman. She wasn't just insane. In fact, it might have been that once, she wasn't insane at all. She was something much more sinister and threatening. “Pining away for years, now. All you want is for him to take you up and never let you down,” she let out another bitter laugh. “But it'll never happen. Too much... integrity. Too much goodness. He'll never choose you over her. Not now.” “How do you know about Jacob?” Sylvia asked carefully. “Do you think you had it rough on that ship?” Veronica asked, slowly rising to her feet. “With their dirty nails and beatings to keep you awake? With them always lookin' at you like you were a side of beef not-yet-butchered? No food?” her chuckle became very, very dry. She took a step toward her daughter, and was restrained by the chain at her back. “I have... seen... things... that you wouldn't imagine, dear child. Shadows in flux. Rage in surround-sound. Frenzy in all the colors of the gorramn rainbow. You think you've seen things rough?” “My god...” Sylvia whispered. Veronica shook her head, a twisted smile on her face. “God ain't got shit to do with this, little girl,” she chuckled. Her head tilted to one side. “Fix him? Oh, you'll have to. He'll be right broken by the time...” “You weren't crazy when they put you in here, were you?” Sylvia asked. “Blood on his hands... On his heart. Broken man...” “You're like me. You were special, like me,” Sylvia pressed. “Six. He'll have six. No, wait, it's seven. Seven greasy...” “They were afraid of you. Of what you knew. What did they do to you?” she asked. “It's my home!” she screamed at the walls. “Tryin' to take me from my home. But I won't leave... Oh, no, I won't ever leave. Not after I spent so much time decoratin'.” She took a step forward, but aborted when she heard the door open. A man ducked through, giving Veronica a drawn out look. He then caught a glance of Sylvia, and started. “Well, I guess you weren't kidding when you said she had a visitor,” the man chuckled. We'll be fine, nurse. Do you think one spindly old lady, however crazy, can take a man in his strapping prime?” Whatever response the nurse was going to deliver was cut off as the man pulled another woman through the door and slammed it shut. “It's getting harder every month to get in here,” he muttered to himself. “I wouldn't know,” Sylvia responded. “It wasn't that hard for me.” The man turned to her, and she felt herself under scrutiny once more. She was struck by the man's eyes, how they seemed weigh her to the gram and measure her to the nanometer. She'd been under that scrutiny not too long ago. The moment passed, however, and he extended his hand with a wide grin. “My name's Lars,” he said. He cast a glance over his shoulder to the meek woman standing near him. “That's my half-sister Yvonne. I must say I'm a bit surprised to see somebody else in here with her. Most folks think of Veronica as something of a boogeyman.” “Boogeywoman,” Yvonne corrected quietly. “Yes, boogeywoman,” he said, patronizingly. “So, what brings you to the innermost circle of the mad?” “You shouldn't call her that,” Sylvia countered. “Smells like steak, tastes like steak, must be steak,” he shrugged. “And you haven't answered my question.” “Veronica is my mother,” Sylvia said. Lars cracked a wide grin. “Join the club,” he said, his arms wide open for a hug. “What? No love?” rolling her eyes, Sylvia allowed herself to be embraced. “And here I'd thought I'd tracked all of them down,” he chuckled. She gave him a confused look, and he stepped back to take Yvonne's hand. “Veronica was my biological mother, and she abandoned me as an infant. A few years later, she did the same with Yvonne, not a half-mile from where I was living. About a decade back, I learned that she'd had another daughter on Regina, and a son who's living in Thermon, over Ezra way. Seems she dropped kids like a piss-poor baby juggler,” he turned to their mother. “No offense.” She didn't take any, as she'd contented herself to rocking in her corner, staring sightlessly. “So,” he wrapped up, tucking his thumbs into his belt, “which one would you be?” “Sylvia,” she offered, to which Lars gave a small smile. “Sylvia Witherell.” Lars' smile dropped off and shattered on the floor. “Witherell?” he repeated. She nodded, socially confused for the first time in years. “Is there something wrong with that?” “Every time she dropped a kid,” he said, his voice tight and short, “it was always Thurman she went running back to. Because of that man, we were denied a mother.” She shook her head. “Because of that man, you had a normal life,” she retorted. “I was raised by my father, alone. You had an adopted family, no doubt?” he nodded. “Can you really say that you'd rather have her like that,” she cast a nod toward the rocking Veronica, “than the life, and all of the joys and memories attendant with the family which just-so-happens to not be directly related to you?” “You're not the first to point that out,” Lars mumbled. “Doesn't make it any less grating,” Yvonne spoke quietly. “I had one brother, who I lost in the last war,” Sylvia continued. “I never knew I had any other family than my father. Even half-brothers and sisters who were twenty years older than me.” Lars gave his quiet half-sister a glance. “Is it just me, or was that an uncanny estimation of my age?” “You are the oldest son,” she confirmed, her voice low. “She doesn't talk much, does she?” Sylvia asked. Lars shook his head. “It's the curse. Until you, there was only the two of us living outside an asylum. And even then, I've still got to take these,” he produced a small bottle, “every day for the rest of my life so I don't get to thinking that I'm the Messiah, fun as that might sound.” “You have?” Sylvia began. “Yup,” he nodded. “So does Yvonne, and I have to keep an eye on her at pretty much all times so she doesn't do something...” “Wow,” she whispered. “We're just a family of crazies, ain't we?” The gaping silence was broken when Veronica ceased her rocking and turned to the group of her bastard children. Her eyes locked on Sylvia, bolting her to the ground. “You'll get what you want,” she said, sounding so lucid and so cogent it shook her to her toes. “But it will cost him everything.” Silence gratefully retook its place as Veronica resumed her silent rocking. “You know what?” Lars muttered with a baffled expression. “That might just have been about the sanest thing I've ever heard her say.”
Jacob sighed with impatience as he flicked his lighter on, igniting the five year old cigarette. His eyes scanned the crowds again, trying to confirm what that little bundle of pulsating emotion in the back of his head already told him; that she was close, and getting closer with every passing second. Niflheim. He'd hoped he'd never have to go back to that horrible place. It was all the more horrible, he pondered, because he'd seen it Before, when the planet was still technically alive. Now, it was a nightmare planet, a place he'd rather go to Hell than be forced to live on. Lost in his unpleasant reminiscence, he almost missed as the cutpurse made off with his wallet. “Not so fast,” he growled, pulling the figure toward him. The thief turned faster than expected, leading with a right hook. Jacob didn't even have enough time to put a stupid expression on his face before the fist connected with his jaw at surprising velocity. Stars overtook his vision, and he found himself on his ass, shaking his head like a maul-struck cow. “I leave you alone for ten minutes, and this is what happens?” Sylvia's voice came, her tone sarcastic, and much divorced to her tumult of emotions. She offered her hand down to him. “I think I just got robbed,” Jacob responded. He checked for his wallet. “Yup. I got robbed.” “You take such taking care of,” she shook her head, her hand still offered. “How many teeth has Friday had to replace, now? Are we up to a dozen? You must buy them in bulk.” “I get a discount after ten,” he replied, not giving her the edge. His questing hands found the cigarette and he replaced it. “Where did you go, anyway?” “Since when do you smoke?” Sylvia asked, her face screwed up into a rictus. Jacob shook his head. “There's a lot you don't know about me, Syl. A lot.” She shrugged, likely deciding not to pursue the matter. “I was visiting my mother.” “Your mother?” Jacob parroted. “Not to sound insensitive, but ain't she the one who's supposed to be kinda insane?” She nodded, a tense look on her face. “And was it everything you were afraid it'd be?” She shrugged again. “I'm not really sure. I might have a degenerative illness that'll leave me incurably insane by the time I reach your age. But I did learn that my father was my mother's favorite. And that I have nearly a dozen half-siblings wandering around the 'Verse, most of them on powerful antipsychotic medication.” “Fun,” Jacob agreed. “How'd you know I was going to come this way, anyway? It doesn't work both ways like that,” she asked. “Had a conversation with a rickshaw man,” he shrugged, flicking ash off his smoke. “And that gate is the only way from Pariahsholm back into the city. I figured unless you wanted to climb a twenty foot wall, I'd spot you eventually.” She shook her head, but didn't speak. “You're looking pensive,” he pointed out. “I need to talk to my father,” she whispered. He raised an eyebrow. “I'm sorry. This doesn't have anything to do with you.” “Whatever you say...” he said, tossing away his cigarette as he vaulted up the side of the Mule and uncoupled it from the parking space. He scooched over to the passenger side, making Syl, in the process of climbing up, give him a raised eyebrow in question. He gave a self-deprecating smirk. “I nearly crashed this thing four times getting it this far. You're a way better driver than me. So, by all means, drive” She shook her head, crawling over him to the driver's side, all the while muttering about what a lazy ass he was. He knew she wasn't angry, or even remotely serious. In fact, all that he got from Syl was a heaping helping of confusion, doubt, and fear. The drive back to Legacy was almost silent, but for the squawking of people trying to get out of the way of the intimidating piece of floating fortress that Sylvia distractedly piloted. “Where are we headed?” Sylvia suddenly asked, as the dockyard came into view. Jacob found himself reaching for another cigarette. “Niflheim,” he answered. “That planet sounds familiar,” she muttered absently. “It might,” he responded, trying to heat up the cold feeling spreading through him by drawing in burning smoke. “I don't want to talk about it right now, alright?” “Something you don't want to talk about?” she asked, concerned. “What happened there?” Jacob ground his teeth, letting grey smoke billow from his nose. “Not... Just not today, alright?” Sylvia sighed, and nodded her assent as she carefully maneuvered the Mule up the ramp and into Legacy's belly. “Fine. You'll tell me later. I can live with that.” Jacob nodded, trying to shrug off the grimness which had enveloped him. He vaulted down to the deck plating, and made his distracted way toward the back of the ship. He was caught short when he heard footfalls following him, and he spun to find himself being thoroughly hugged by the blond telepath. “Thank you,” she whispered. He scowled in confusion. “What for?” “For being there,” she answered, releasing him and moving to stow the Mule. Shaking his head, Jacob set off on his circuit of the ship, thinking of all the things he'd need to pick up before they left for Niflheim.
Usurping bitch. It had become a mantra which repeated itself endlessly through her head as she secreted herself to the place she'd gone as a child, a cranny every Firefly had because of the way its hull was shaped. Usurping bitch. She was trying to take him away from her. Sylvia had left the ship not long after Jacob. She just knew that it was to ghost him. She was his shadow, always trying to tempt him. As much as the blond bitch claimed to be guileless and lacking all feminine wile, she knew better. She was trying to steal him. Secret him away. Since that confusing morning above Jiangyin, the blond had stepped up her attempts from distant longing to outright lusting, and Jacob, sweet, stupid Jacob, was too blind to see it. She rocked quietly in the cranny. It was safe here. Nobody ever looked here. Even Jacob didn't know about the dark hole. It was safe because nobody could ever find her. Between Jacob's son screaming, Friday's inexplicable panicking, and that secret embrace between Jacob and the whore in the cargo bay – she wagered they'd never even spotted her – things were just too much for her. She hid. Like she did when she was a child. “I'm not a child,” she growled to herself. She growled, but the feeling was still there. She still felt like she was ten years old, and she could hear daddy raving in the belly of the ship, smell the liquor that made up his breath every time he came close to her secret place. “I am not a child,” she whispered again, trying to quell her rocking. “And I'm going to prove it.” Whether she'd steeled her own nerves, or she'd just gotten uncomfortable from the hole which hadn't been that big when she'd squeezed into it as a child, she found herself sliding out into the hallway that connected the kitchen to the engine room. A glance over her shoulder confirmed that Zane was in his usual domain, but strangely, so was the new pilot, and both of them were engrossed with something which wasn't her, thank God. With bare, silent feet, she padded toward the front of the ship. The cockpit was empty, which she found a bit odd. Usually, when Jacob didn't have anything better to do, he'd come up here and just stare at the sky. Calling him a man with his head in the clouds was almost a laughable understatement. She pondered for a very long moment before she considered where he could be. Achilles. Ever since that'd been born, Jacob was spending all of his time with it. She turned back and took the little lift down to her room. Rooms, now, she figured. Zane's work was fairly good, she had to admit. She glanced into their bed, and noted that it was, of course, empty. Next, she pushed open the door to the nursery. She beheld Jacob squatted in the corner, holding the infant who flailed about slowly, if with great enthusiasm. As she watched him, she felt all of her anger, all of her fear melt away. She was his. And she would make sure he was always hers, no matter the intention of a blond-braided harlot. With him in the room, she felt safe. He looked up from the infant's face, a wide, exultant grin on his scarred face. She didn't say a word, taking the gurgling infant from his arms and placing it into its crib. She leaned down and took her husband's face in her hands and leaned into his breath, drinking it in like wine. “I am a woman,” she whispered. If Jacob thought anything about that, he didn't say anything.
Sylvia panted as her body finally cried 'no more!' and she staggered to a stop from her running circuit on the catwalks. Her feet hurt like hell, from the harsh metal digging into her bare pads, but it was the only way she could get a good run in without waking up everybody on the ship. With her body suffused in a quite pleasant ache, she slowly made her way down to the towel she'd causally tossed on the guard rail before beginning her run. Nothing like exercise to keep the brain from thinking. She'd had entirely too much on her mind, and it was a rare time, nowadays, that she had to spend entirely on thought. And the less the better, with fare such as this, she thought. She shook her head, unraveling her braid in the process. She knew she was going to have to sort through the day's events sooner or later. She just preferred later. There was too much to process, right at the moment. Right now, all she wanted to do was take a nice bath and let the day be done. She knocked on the bathroom door, to make sure that nobody was inside bathing, or in Friday's case, freaking out. She knew she could to the simple thing and find out why the doctor was so unsettled, but she'd made a promise a long time ago that she intended to keep. If Friday wanted her to know why, she'd have said so. The room was mercifully empty, and she strode inside, locking it behind her. It was still a bit steamy from the last person who used it, probably Dan, since there was only a faint scent of soap in the air. Breathing deep the warm, damp vapors, she shed her sweaty clothing and turned on the water, letting the steam once more flood the room. She had almost slid her foot into the rising water when she felt something strange. Like the heat wasn't just coming from outside. She was confused for a moment, before she recognized what it was. Jacob was having sex. It took her by surprise, because he'd gone so long without – for those two, a month was an eternity. She knew she could have shoved it to the back of her mind and ignored it. For some reason, she didn't. She wanted more. The heat intensified until she could practically feel his fingers sliding up her back, across her shoulders, hand cupping her breast. She felt a moan growing in her throat as the phantom hands slid lower, running patterns down her belly, around her navel. Lower. Her precarious stance finally betrayed her, and she slid forward into the tub. She collided with the far wall before slipping down into the water. Still, the pain in her shoulder and hip couldn't compete for a moment with the sensation climbing through her body. Her eyes pressed closed, and in her mind's eye, it wasn't just some shard of connection; he was there. His hands were on her, doing those things he'd done once before. Things she wanted him to do for a year before, and craved more than ever since their end. She could feel his lips on her shoulders as she leaned forward, gripping the edge of the tub, if only to keep her hands still. Higher she went as the water filled the space around her. She descended out of reason's domain and let herself drift gleefully in an ocean of lust. She wanted more. He was giving it to her. There was no petty, jealous wife. There was just the two of them, the heat, and the pleasure. As suddenly and unexpectedly as it had begun, it came to an end, with her last moan filling the room to almost thunderclap volume as her senses finally and suddenly cleared. For at least a minute, she panted, her eyes now wide as she gripped the edge of the tub, white-knuckle tight. Slowly, her heart slowed down, and she suddenly felt very glad she was already in a tub, because she felt more than a little dirty. It was like she'd spied on them. “Oh, Jacob,” she moaned as she slid into the bottom of the almost-overflowing, deep sided tub. “I wish... I wish...” She trailed off as she began to sob.


Sunday, May 6, 2007 8:12 PM


Oh....the sheer brilliance of what you've posted here boggles my mind, James! The level of tension and angst honest was on par with some of Joss & co.'s most complex works;D

Anne's PPD has gone to paranoid schizophrenia...Sylvia's probably destined to be raving bonkers by the time she's middle aged...Friday's pregnant with Casher's kid...the Legacy is gonna be hauling antimatter...and Blue is personally on the warpath to sort out the rouge Supervisors. Hmm...stating things have gotten massively pooched would probably be an understatement;)



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Legacy 3:13. Among the Ashes of Gahaan
At the farthest fringes of the system lies the Veldt. What secrets lie within its murky mass? What devils call it home?

Legacy 3:12. The Ecstacy, part 2
The crew of Legacy faces further dire straits in its bid to complete its mission. On Londinum, Eli comes to a hard decision.

Legacy 3:11. The Ecstacy, part 1
Niflheim is home to many who are desparate enough to do anything. When one of them comes into Legacy's path, the results prove to be catastrophic.

Legacy 3:10, The Agony
Niflheim. The world collapsed into anarchy as nature betrayed it. Today, it gets more visitors than it knows what to do with, with a cargo-drop on one hand, and a desperate and dangerous fugitive on the other. Something is going to have to give, and the 'Verse help whoever it is that's to do the giving.

Legacy 3:09, Quiet Emptiness
A new job for Legacy means that it must stop off in Three Hills, where Sylvia suddenly finds herself confronting her past.

Legacy 3:08, Running Away
On Boros, Monday begins to see the unpleasant truth that stalks her, while King Benjamin finds his breaking point on Londinum. In the end, they're just running from their problems.

Legacy 3:07, Confederation, Part 3
With the Battle for Hera coming to a climax outside, Anne find's her child's birth beset by soldiers, storming the ship. Jacob and those in the city must somehow find a way through the war-zone before they get killed, either by the Alliance, or by the Confederates.

Legacy 3:06, Confederation, Part 2
Legacy's crew is scattered across a city soon to be embroiled in a full-scale war, and time is running out before the bombs fall. In the sky, two of the greatest military minds clash, while on the ground, the best the crew can hope for is to not be crushed under foot.

Legacy 3:05, Confederation, Part 1
Finally arriving on Hera, Jacob settles down to unwind, but is interrupted by a startling revelation by a member of his crew. And not too far away, even as the Independant Planets sign their Confederation, somebody is waiting in the darkness for the perfect moment to strike.

Legacy 3:04, Definition of a Hero
With mere hours to go before Confederation, Jacob catches wind of a travesty taking place, perpetrated by his supposed allies. Will he jeopardize the conference for the sake of his principles?