Legacy 1:03, A Lesser Evil
Sunday, November 13, 2005

If you thought surviving the Reavers was hard, try explaining to Adelai Niska what happened to his first ship.


Third episode, this one setting my boys and girls loose into the verse after one last bit of unpleasant business. Also, might be a bit on the NC-17 side if you're all hot and bothered by implications and such. This also starts to set up some of the season arcs that will take place over this and the next 17 episodes, and brings in the first of the 'Familiar Faces' that'll show up from time to time. Here you go, and by all means, tell me what y'all think of it. A Lesser Evil

Sylvia paced outside the open doors of the Firefly as the crowds milled around them. She was supposed to be drumming up business, passengers and whatnot, but she was having a rough go of it. She couldn't at first tell why, she was a decent enough form to look at, fine enough face. Still, thought, the people tended to give her wide berth. She looked out at Zane, who was relaxing not too far away, stretched out over a set of crates luxuriating in the late afternoon sun. The crowds would be thinning out soon, and the docks were already a lot quieter than when she'd opened up. And not a single person came in. Not one. Maybe it was that the ship didn't have a name. Or registration. Or a pilot's license. She shook her head; she knew what was wrong. In some sort of dark, undefinable way, something Reaver had seeped into this. Something dark and sinister from out the Belt. Weren't nothing to look at and see, but they knew. It was going to be a damned long flight to Ezra. She walked down to where the sign stood, declaring a ship with rooms to let, and turned the thing off. Not worth spending more time whipping a horse that was already steak. The three-dimensional model of the Firefly warped slightly as the power went out. It distended and flickered, an unnatural thing. A thing alive and unhappy. The image vanished, and she attributed it to an overactive imagination. There was a man behind her. She jumped and let out a bit of a yelp, even as she chided herself for not noticing this rather large man coming out of the crowds. He was staring up at the plating of the ship, the section where most craft would have proudly displayed their names. She wondered for a moment how a man this large and carrying two large cases could have snuck past a blind-man, let alone her. "Where is it headed?" His voice was full and rich, his eyes rock solid when the turned to fall on her. When he looked into her eyes, an expression of surprise, then disbelief, then pensivity overtook him, in that order. She had to admire this dark stranger. He certainly had an overpowering presense about him. "Headed to Ezra," She said, her voice smaller than she would have liked. How dare he? Nobody made her feel all little and powerless. Still, though, she couldn't help but be pulled into those eyes. "Ship have a name?" He asked with a small smile. "Not yet," she found herself admitting. "First run. Don't know what to call her yet?" "So the ship ain't named, but already a she?" his smirk turned to a grin. She felt herself join him. "Got that sort of feeling to her," She laced her fingers together. "You ever sail on a Firefly?" The man's smile dropped off, an overripe fruit off the vine, hitting the ground only to be ignored and left to rot away. "Only once, Syl. Only once." In the back of her mind, she wondered where he'd found her name. "Ain't you gonna ask what the fare is?" The man shrugged. "If I had to ask, I'dn't be able to afford it," he reached into one of his pockets and extracted a small, cherry-wood box. "I ain't takin' bribes, mister," she took a step back. "No bribe, miss, just a little gift," for some reason there was a sincerity to him that wouldn't be denied. He set the box in her hands. "Payment in full on top of it." He turned and made his way up the ramp, pausing as he reached the threshold of the outer airlock. His hand reached out and ran along the door's edge. She saw him utter something, a word just outside the realm of hearing. "Wait," she called. "What's your name?" he cast his gaze over his shoulder. "Elias." <> "That's all?" Anne asked as she spun the engines down to lift off. "One gorram passenger?" Zane shrugged. "Couldn't pick up more. Hell, at least we got a guy who could afford to pay us. I hear them's not exactly a common breed, in these parts." She grunted the admission as the ground receeded into the distance. The sky peeled back in layers, first clouds, then the icy wisps that hovered above them. Finally, they broke atmo and the 'verse reverted to its usual black. Zane turned and walked out of the cockpit, Anne twirling the chair to watch him leave. When he reached the door, he let out a clipped yell. Anne peered over the young engineer's shoulder, and saw Jacob's familiar grin. "Boo," he said quietly. Half of his face was covered in white gauze, most of which was pink-stained. The new doc had better know her craft, Anne thought, or she'd have some sharp words with the woman. Zane pushed past the Boss... no, he was Captain now, weren't he? He pushed past the Captain and moved out into to the bunk-area. She felt the grin which grew in her, stood up and saluted Greyson. It must have been utterly ridiculous, because Jacob chuckled a bit. "How do you feel?" she asked, already realizing the innanity of the question. "Like I'd got a box-knife through the eye," he said with a smirk of his own. "I've had worse." "Really?" She grasped the suspenders that were laid over his shoulders and maneuvered him into her seat. He smiled, light glinting in his one good eye as he plunked down, with her following to come to rest on his lap. He laughed as he spun the chair back around, bringing the black back into his view over her shoulder. She smiled down on him. "Let's go away," she said. "Can't," Greyson's smile dimmed a mite. "That weren't a request," she knew her voice took on a ragged edge. All the better. Jacob growled, trying to begin pacing, but her weight kept him on his seat. "Just that simple, eh? Just take this ship and vanish to anywhere in the 'Verse, is it?" She nodded gravely. "Sad to say, ain't that easy. This is Niska, Anne. Adelai Niska. You put him and a dozen Reavers into a room together, he'll have them sitting up straight and eating human flesh with a fork. Hell, he'll probably join them at the entree." She dispelled the mental image before it fully formed. Better that way, she decided. "There's got to be a better way. I ain't puttin' my life at the mercy of a man ain't got none." "What's the alternative?" Jacob asked. "Run? He'll run us down. Hide? He'll find us. It's what he does. Nobody gets away forever. Nobody." Anne rested her shoulder on Jacob's shoulder, she felt a sob trying to escape. If he went back, Niska would probably kill him. If he didn't go back, Niska would definitely kill him, just take a bit of time a'doin' it. "I hate this," she whispered. Jacob leaned down and placed a kiss on her forehead. Something rekindled inside her, a lascivious look painted across her figures. Her eyes shone with desperate need as she pulled his suspenders off his shoulders and reached down for what she wanted. <> Sylvia wondered how he could have known. She hated when men could read her, hated that she might be getting obvious. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, to be sure. She turned the thing over in her hands again. It was smooth and white, carved from something like bone, but not quite. Its form was wide bodied and deep chested, legs like trunks of trees and a long snout curling up in an 'S'. She'd never seen an elephant before. It was just another of the myths of Earth-that-was, a part of their ancesteral home that couldn't be brought with them. A creature lost to almost everything, and here it was, a small figure carved out of the creature's own tusk. It was at least three hundred years old. And Elias had given this priceless thing to her. She set it down, real careful like, under the rack which held the previous occupant's sizable armory. She finally pulled out the pistol she'd secreted and set it into its place, looking at the scene as a whole. It was an odd pairing. Symbols of death and a symbol of beauty. She had to know. She shucked her boots and let them sit on the deck as she pulled herself up the ladder and back into the walkway that connected nose to engine. A quick glance toward the cockpit gave her far more information than she ever wanted to know about Anne and Jacob's relationship. She set about ridding herself of that damned disturbing image so thoroughly that she tripped and rolled down the stairway, depositing herself rather gracelessly into the common area. She looked up to where she was standing, and couldn't help but laugh. Her pa always said she was a bit leaky in the brainpan. "She wasn't entirely incorrect," Elias' rich voice came from the shadows at the back of the room. Her eyes adjusted, and she saw him sitting cross-legged in the corner. Had she actually said that out loud? He looked up at her, with those bright silver eyes and smiled. She felt a part of herself melt. Focus, she chastized herself. No time to go moon-eyed. "You know, you've got your own bed?" she quipped. "I know," he said, a paragon of calm and control, "I've already put my things there. I just like this spot. It's a calm spot. Like nobody's ever said a cross word here." She wondered briefly what that meant, but plunged right into the heart of the matter. "Do you know what that was?" "A miniature elephant carved from ivory?" Elias responded. "One in particular that was created in the year 1921 on Earth-that-was?" Her mouth fell open. Six hundred years old? "Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze," she swore. "Don't you gorram know how much that thing'd be worth?" Elias smiled lightly. "Not nearly enough," He stood, bringing his full height to bear on her. He was looking rather intently at her again. "You don't know yet, do you?" "Know what?" "You're a Natural," he smirked and moved around her with a chuckle. She reached out and grasped his arm as he passed. Niska smiled lethally as he ran a wicked dagger along his fingernail, leaning very close and whispering... "What in the everliving hell?" she demanded. She realized then, that she was covered in a heavy sheen of sweat, and lying on the edge of the dull carpet that filled the heart of the room. Friday, the ship's new medic, sat sedately in one of the chairs. The Asian woman regarded her with interest. "What are you doing here? Where's Elias?" The woman smiled and shook her head, "Weren't anybody else when I got here," she let out a sudden laugh. "And why didn't you get me off the floor, at least?" Her snicker turned then into a full bodied laugh. "I ain't sly, Syl. Didn't feel like interrupting the time you were having with yourself." "What?" she demanded. "I ain't been," she trailed off as she pulled herself to a stand, feeling the sensitivity of her nethers. What the hell had he done to her? "I'm gonna kill him," she snarled, making her way back to her room. She pulled the handgun off of its spike and thundered to the passenger dorms. Friday gave her a 'you go, girlfriend' as she passed again, and Sylvia threw open the door to the small bunk. He was lying sedately in his bed, reading a rather large book. Without looking, he pointed toward her. "Stand over there for a moment, would you?" She found herself standing exactly where he indicated, with no memory of how she got there. With a snarl, she raised the gun and pointed it directly at his groin. "Put that down," his voice came again, seeming to reverberate in her skull. She'd almost dropped the weapon before she caught herself, she pointed the weapon at him again. He was standing now, his hand sliding down the barrel of the weapon. "What are you doing to me?" she whispered. "I am sorry," he said, his fingers touching hers. "I shouldn't have let you touch me just then. I didn't know it would affect you that strongly." What are you, she thought? "I thought it was obvious," he replied. "Please, put your gun down." She smiled. "Only because you said please. If you're really some kinda Reader, I'm thinking of a number 'tween one and a hundred. "Negative six," He answered without hesitation. She stumbled a bit inside. He was right. "Ta ma duh!" she whispered. "How? Why? Why me?" Elias smiled and cupped her cheek with his hand. <> Zane was woke up when his hammock fell free of the bulkhead just inside of the shuttle airlock. His head managed to break his fall, leaving a new set of stars dancing before his eyes. How long had he been asleep, now? He looked at his wrist. Right, he'd sold that useless old watch. Scowling, he moved along the grating to where he'd left the Bo... the Captain cavorting with the pilot. Shielding his eyes, he cautiously entered the cockpit. "Ah, God! It burns my eyes!" he shouted, then noticed that the cockpit was empty. Of course, the smell of desperation and sex filled the air, but that wasn't quite so bad. Not really. He shook his head and choked back a curse. He grabbed the intercom and dragged it down. "Anne, you mind getting off the Captain and into your seat. Ezra's comin' up awful damn'd quick!" He laughed inwardly as he heard a string of Mandarin profanities coming from the bathroom beneath him, moving out into the hall, and finally into the cockpit. Anne's shirt was hanging out of her pants, and the Captain's pants were being held up with his left hand. "What's this about?" Greyson demanded. Then he looked past Zane and blanched rather impressively. Anne had already thrown herself into her chair and was pulling the ship away from its impending doom. "You got this under control?" Jacob asked. "Just shiny," Anne grunted through gritted teeth. "Course, I could be wrong and leave us very dead in a right-big hole." "See that you don't," Jacob chuckled. He scratched the verge where bandage met face. "Niska's 'Plex is hoverin' 'bout midday, I think." "If we see midday, I'll let you know," She smiled over her shoulder for just a moment. "See that you do," Greyson nodded out the door. As they cleared the threshold, he glanced at his watch. "Gorram if that weren't the fastest eight hours I ever spent." "Last thrust for the damned before he meets his fate?" came Friday's voice from the end of the hall. "Damn, girl," Jacob chortled. "You got a smutty mind," Friday laughed, oh, so very richly as she vanished down the stairs. "I'm telling you, Boss, we're drowning in the estrogen ocean here," Zane ran a hand through his hair. "I'm tellin' you. Ain't a moment of peace with that smutty doc, that Reaver-hunter new hire, and with you shacked up with the pilot." "You sayin' somethin'?" Jacob asked, eye drawing down. "You should really cover up, your chauvenism's showin'." "Har har," Zane mocked. "Ain't what I's meanin' and you know it." "Well, whatever it is, in not more'n an hour, I'll be danglin' from Niska's roof with a fair bit o' m'self lying in a pool around me. And 's I see it, that'll leave either you or dear-little-Anne as the operator of this little boat." "Not too hopeful?" "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ezra Skyplex, a short stop-over before setting down on the planet. Docking is almost complete, hold on for the bump," came Anne's voice over the intercomm. So she could sound professional sometimes! The clangor of the ship coming to a complete stop coincided with the bay doors slowly coming open. Jacob raised his remaining eyebrow and moved into the cargo bay, pausing in the midst of the stairway 'X' to stare at the the opening doors. "Might not be so bad," Zane hazarded, only to be cut short as several dozen armed men poured through the opening, training all weapons on the pair. Jacob surveyed the situation with an odd calm. He took in a breath of air and proclaimed quietly. "Son of a bitch." <> "Have you ever read the words of Sha Yu?" came that oh-so-memorable voice, with its quiet menace. "Take off the bag." The black bag which had covered his head was stripped away, revealing that almost benign face. He looked more like a kindly old farmer than a fearsome gangster, a mob Don with enough clout to bring down a planetary government if he chose to exersize it. He pushed the small spectacles up his face and smiled, that grandfatherly smile that made so many other men loose control of a bodily functions. Niska smiled lethally as he ran a wicked dagger along his fingernail, leaning very close and whispering. "You had reputation, mister Greyson. Reputation was solid, not gossip," he waved a finger under Jacob's nose. "Now, you come back, and my ship is gone. You had reputation, but now, your reputation is like my ship," Niska gave an apologetic look. "Gone." Adelai Niska snapped his fingers, shouting a command in Russian. Niska's men, just out of eyeshot, turned and left the room. Niska's look softened to one of sympathy and he set the knife onto his table. "This is bad wound, Jacob. Where it come?" Niska asked kindly. "That mission was suicide, Adelai. Why in the ever flying hell did you give it to us?" Niska shrugged. "That is privalige of being in command. Don't need to explain decisions." Jacob shrugged against his bonds. "We found the taskforce. Well, was left of it. They got took by Reavers," Niska took a seat on the edge of his desk, a position he seldom took, and only with those of his closest confidence. He understood why Niska sent him on these kinds of jobs, but wanted to hear it for himself. "So why did you send us on so blatantly lethal a mission?" "I was not thinking you would be dying. As to why I spoke with mister Fredesa, I was," he said, not a hint of remorse in his voice. "Curious," Jacob nodded. Niska leaned in close again, pulling up the edge of the bandage over Jacob's ruined eye. "That is cruel wound. Reavers give, yes?" the old man pulled the entire thing off, examining the wound as it stood open to the air. He counted the stitches it took to keep closed the massive injury, and then recounted them. It was a savage work of art. "Box-knife, yes?" Greyson chuckled quietly. Leave it to Niska to be able to determine what tool was used to make a wound just by the scar. "Yes, to both. And if you don't mind, It's kinda painful." "Must be. These are good stitches," He leaned close. "Not your doing, no?" "Anne brought on a medic when we hit a planet. Wasn't in quite so good a way, then." "A Firefly. I never like them to come here, now. Bad association." "You don't seem to angry about the Jack," Jacob prodded. "You know how much that ship cost?" Niska asked. "A winning hand, with your wife as the stakes," It was a story not told outside the family very often. Niska smiled. "She was not liking that so much, and I was young then. Not so much older than you, I think. That ship was worth little, easily replaced, now." "So, can we get this over with," Greyson asked. "I think I should get out of here before my crew hatches some hairbrained scheme at a cunning rescue operation." "Which is sad part of meeting," Niska whispered. "You were always solid, Jacob. Good to my child, to my family. Always solid. But I have reputation, not so pleasant, I think you know. And if you walk out that door as you walk in, my reputation is less," Niska picked up the knife and placed it over the stitches and his scar. "If you are smart, you will scream." Niska's hand swept down, splitting the flesh back open and making the blood flow once more. Jacob let out a scream of pain that likely carried to wherever the guards were waiting. Niska placed the bescarletted blade back onto his desk and moved to a small fridge that he kept in the next room. He returned with a whole eyeball, brown like his once was, sitting in the palm of his hand. "I am sorry for that, but reputation is reputation," He smiled again. "Good luck, Jacob. Do not come back here. Ever." <> Sylvia stretched out in the bed, watching Elias' back as he pulled his pants back on. She had a most pleasant ache, and still felt rather good about life in general. "You managed to dodge my question in about the most fun way concievable," Sylvia said. "What are you, and why are you doing this to me?" "There are seventy six of us on their leash. Seventy six. You were born free," Elias gave her a look of almost envy. "Enjoy it." "I don't understand." "I didn't at first, either," he admitted. "Just don't let it eat you." Finally fully clothed, he grasped both of his cases and walked out into the common area. She hurriedly wrapped the blanket around her and followed him. She caught up with him in the middle of the cargo bay. "Am I ever going to see you again?" she asked. He smiled then, a brilliant smile. "You know you will," He set down his case just long enough to cup her cheek with his hand. He leaned down, and she readied herself to be kissed again. Instead, he spoke in words so soft they barely reached her ear. "Two by two, they come for you. They are not few, whose hands are blue." She watched him leave with utter surprise. Two by two? Didn't make any sense. "Captain," Elias politely said as Jacob was thrown into the cargo bay by two rather large men. Elias moved onward, vanishing around the corner into the skyplex. Jacob picked himself up and brushed himself off. His face was bleeding profusely from where his wound had been reopened. Greyson smiled as he looked her up and down in her current disrobed way. "You naked under that?" he asked. "Do you need to ask?" she said flatly. "What about you?" "Still flying," he answered, still grinning under the sheets of blood which continued to move down his face. "Ain't much," Sylvia said quietly, staring after the man who'd so totally confused and upended her. Jacob took the moment to shut the ramp and airlock. He'd almost made his way to the stairs when he turned and looked at her again. "Sometimes," he said, "it's enough.



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Legacy 3:09, Quiet Emptiness
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Legacy 3:08, Running Away
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Legacy 3:07, Confederation, Part 3
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Legacy 3:05, Confederation, Part 1
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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?