Legacy 1:09, Conflict of Interests
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Legacy is back on the mend, and running supplies like any self-respecting Firefly would. Only problem is that Sylvia is beginning to frighten and alienate the crew. Will they be able to come to terms with her the way she is now?


Well, that didn't take quite as long as I thought it would. Back on track then, no? While physically, the crew and sole passenger of Legacy are all on the mend, Sylvia sets about seriously disturbing Jacob's calm. He finds himself wondering whether he can really share the ship with her. All your Firefly are belong to Joss GIVE ME FEEDBACK, GORRAM IT! Conflict of Interests

Happy birthday to me, Jacob thought, as the clock ticked over midnight. Anne turned over, rolling off of his chest and dragging most of the covers with her. Knowing he was not getting any sleep naked in the chill of space, he silently pulled his pants back on and climbed up the ladder exiting his room. The night was still long ahead of him, and since he didn't think he had it in him to wake Anne again just to get some covers, he began his near nightly tour of this ship. His ship. The cool of the night played across his bare chest as he wandered into the kitchen. It was such a simple thing, a simple place, on a simple ship. A table flanked by ten chairs. A hotplate, a sink and a wall covered in cupboards. A tiny nook with its wall bench. Simple components, but often enough, it was the most alive place on the ship. People didn't simply eat here; they lived here. They spread their lives on the table along with their fare. They spoke of things Jacob had never seen. Things he would never see. He thought of their simple lives, almost wishing he could live them. But the call of the Black was strong. And this was his home. He hadn't thought it possible. It certainly wasn't so on the BlackJack, with its far too many people packed into far too little space. That was a job, something to pay his bills until he could pull free of Niska. Legacy was different. The small room was his and Anne's. He finally had time alone with her, free of the dozens of others. His meanderings took him past the table, into the corridor toward the engine. He could hear it humming contently, spinning slowly in its mounting. He also heard a snoring drifting from the near corner. He leaned to one side. Zane had restrung his hammock in the engine room, and he was face down asleep in it. Jacob smiled at the mental image of Zane appearing for breakfast with a netting pattern pressed into his face. For a long moment, he contemplated the engine. How poorly everything would go if any of a thousand parts simply broke. His smile had died away by the time he turned and left the engine room. He wandered then to the infirmary, with its constantly open doors. He'd seen Serenity's infirmary, once, and it was far and wide a different animal to Legacy's. Most of that was due to the colorful silks which had been affixed to the ceiling, the hangings on the walls, the long mural Friday had slowly spread across all of the cabinets. He leaned against the threshold; he noted that the only part of the room that was undecorated, still pure and white, was the surgical slab and the floor around it. He shook his head at how quickly everybody had claimed a part of this ship for their own. He turned around, taking a seat in the darkened common area. His fingers played across the cover of the Art of War, on the verge of reading it, but not. He didn't want to turn on the lights. Not now. "Better to be quiet," Sylvia's voice came, disturbingly close. He glanced around in the darkness, the emptiness of the passenger rooms, save of course for Early, who was still healing from his rather brutal injury. Finally, he turned his head to the corner where the shadows were darkest, and he saw her. She was sitting less than twenty four inches away, and it took him fifteen seconds to find her. He shook his head. "Sometimes it's hard to see what is in front of you," Sylvia whispered. Jacob nodded, unable to think of anything to say. "Hard to see what is obvious. Harder to do it." "When did you learn?" Jacob finally said. "I didn't," she said. "I was born to it, I think. I started hearing things back before Whitefall, I think it was," Jacob scratched his chin, and the stubble grated against his fingertips. How could he ask this delicately? "Don't ask delicately," Syl leaned forward, her blue-green eyes catching the meager light. "I've accepted it, Jacob." She leaned back, taking a deep breath. "I am," she said, with a long pause. "I am a... Reader." "Told you," Jacob smiled. Sylvia scowled at him. "Greatness and all that." "Do you want me to go upside your head?" Sylvia asked. Jacob shrugged. "Will it make you feel better?" he asked. She reached out and swatted him. "Actually did," she smiled. It was a pretty smile. Her smile dropped off as she stared up at where the crew bunks were. "Wuh de tyen-ah! Can't she get away from that for five gorram minutes?" "Who?" Jacob asked, mouth outrunning brain by just enough of a margin. "Friday. She's... she's..." Sylvia's eyes were glazing over. At a loss for what to do, Jacob swatted her in the head. Her eyes refocused, and she gave Jacob an appreciative smile. "Xie xie, it's so easy to get pulled in." The two sat in silence for a time. "Sorry," Jacob finally said. "About earlier." "I don't mind that," she said distantly. "Your's is quiet. I'm starting to like quiet." "You actually watched?" Jacob was more than a little disturbed. "Can't watch," she answered, her face comforting. "Only listen, and not much to hear. I guess it's more of a feel." "Stay the hell out of my head," Jacob said, forcing himself to stand. "Ain't any right to be in there!" "I'm sorry, Jacob," Sylvia said quietly. From the passenger rooms, Jacob heard Early groan and toss in his bed. Jacob stormed, as quietly as he could, away. Didn't really matter where he went. Wasn't far to go, in a ship this size, and not nearly far enough, he'd come to realize. Still, he went to the farthest point on the ship from her, the lowered deck in the cockpit. As he stretched himself out under the stars, he realized how small a place his home was, and he wondered whether his life would ever be simple again. <> Early woke with a start, about half a second before making contact with the floor. His head rebounded on the floor, leaving stars dancing in his eyes. He shook his head to dispell them, then hauled himself back up. His feet easily found their way under him, and he stretched himself up, testing to see where he hurt. He'd gotten shot, before. And cut on. Once, when chasing a dangerous and unpredictable pyromaniac midget, he'd been shot, stabbed, and set on fire within a six hour period. Never healed up quite this quick, though. With curious hands, he pulled away the layers of gauze and tape, looking for the four new bullet scars across his muscular chest. He ran his fingertips along the dried blood, but couldn't find them. He wandered out into the ship. He'd walked a very similar ship, once. He took a moment to note how all of the passenger doors on this Firefly stood open. No secrets. He smiled small. Everybody had secrets. He had his own. Of the neighbor's dog. Of the little man who loved fire. Of River. But he held his secrets close. They were his. This captain obviously didn't believe in that, and held his secrets close to the surface. Almost, but not quite, visible. Which made them that much harder to find. His eyes were still heavy when he found his way into the common area. The lights flickered on as he flipped the switch, showing that woman in the corner. She seemed to gravitate there rather often. Her hair, a brown so light it was almost golden, had drifted down to obscure her face. As he was moving, he walked directly into her line of stare, her eyes locking on his. For just an instant, she reminded him severely of that little girl who'd humped him so damn hard. "You can't fight it forever," the woman said. It was then that he recognized her. Sylvia. When had she started looking like that, he wondered? Course, when he'd seen her, she was half-dead sick. Not that bad looking, either. Too bad she was spouting the same nonsense River had taken to. Seemed like all the pretty ones had to come up crazy. Does that seem right to you, he wondered? "I don't have to fight it," he attempted. "Ain't right," she responded. "But it is. It is because it is. S'all there is to say." Early shook his head. That was somewhat unsettling. "Can't buy redemption," she said quietly. "Price is too high, that way. Much cheaper to barter, but y'ain't got a thing to trade." "Hey," he shouted. "Don't you go visiting on my intentions," he forced himself up the stairs, ignoring the tightness of his chest. He leaned back, and Sylvia was gone. "Don't ever," he whispered alone. He appeared next to the kitchen, walking on bare feet upon cold metal. He didn't even know what time in the AM it was. Or even if it had reached the AM. Course, that particular notion was dispelled when he came upon the darling doctor, Friday. She turned from her making tea and gave him a long, caressing look. Up, and down. Especially down. If Early was a man for it, he might have blushed. "Well," She said with a positively predatory grin. "Looks like my day is off to a good start." Early raised his hands in a dissuading gesture. She still licked her lips. He'd had his share of womanly attention, but nobody had ever made him feel so instantaneously hunted as Friday. He pointed backward and said, "I'm just going to... ah..." he was walking back down the stairs before he finished his sentence, and just as well. That woman in the corner must have seriously damaged his calm. He usually didn't stammer around like a gorram teenager. He took a moment. Calm. Composed. He was Jubel Early. He was a professional. Sure, he didn't have a job, at the moment, but he was still a professional, and gorramit, he was going to act like it. With his mind reordered and proper, he remembered where it was he was going. Fireflys had two places a man could give himself a half decent wash. The shower was quite a ways off, and that woman-doctor was standing between him and it. Second was a basin a short ways from the infirmary. The choice was elementary. He squeezed his way into the tiny washroom, turning on the lights as he did. A pair of blue-green eyes was staring at him. She was sitting on the sink. "Not damaged. As if never," she said. "You," he said flatly, "are damned leaky in the brainpan, dong ma?" She smiled then, a brilliant, radiant smile. Her voice was so sweet when she spoke. "Understand, yes. Comprehension is the problem." "You're sitting on the sink," he said. Her eyes went wide and she stared down. As if discovering she'd wandered into a marketplace stark naked, she bolted out of the bathroom with a shriek. Early shook his head. This whole damn crew was insane. He took a moment to pull off his pants before giving himself a rough scrub with his hands. Weren't even a sponge to be had on this gorram ship. When he was finished, he took a look in the mirror. Well, ain't that just the damnedest thing? He didn't have so much as a mark from his unfortunate shooting. He shook his head as he pulled on his pants, then shoved the door open. He'd been a bit apprehensive that maybe that gorram doctor would be waiting for him. It surprised him somewhat he was relieved when she wasn't there. Weren't like he was averse to a female form. Was just a body to him, and he could find all manner of use for it. He shook his head and went back to the bed, pulling out the case of clothing. He picked out another shirt, one without bullet holes in it. He pulled the thing over his arms, which still hurt like all hell, and slowly buttoned the thing closed. When he left his room again, he saw Greyson staggering down the stairs. He was shirtless, and seemed to be headed for the cargo bay. "Something runnin' your mind?" Early asked cautiously. Jacob turned back to him, his one eye red rimmed and bleary. "Just got to sell our cargo. Keep flying," he said. "Any 'ticular reason y'ain't wearing a shirt?" Early asked. Grayson glanced down and realized his state of undress. His jaw tightened. "You get any sort of sleep last night?" Greyson grunted as he shook his head. "Ain't safe anymore. Ain't safe to sleep. Folk's watching," he slowly made his way back up the stairs, leaving Early glancing toward the cargo bay. The doors were still closed, and unless he missed his guess, Early and this ship were still a few hours out of Whitefall. Captain Greyson was still mumbling as he vanished from sight. Early shook his head. Whole damn crew was insane. <> Jacob felt like hell. Ain't no two ways about it, he thought to himself. He felt like hell as he set down the craft a few miles from the suddenly expanded town that had leapt into existence since last he'd been here. Mostly, he'd picked the spot 'cause it was the only one within a hell of a stretch flat enough to land without tipping, now that Patience had her town back. Still, he was happy to have that mile long drive on the mule alone. Since learning the way it was with Sylvia, he just wasn't comfortable with her around. He knew it weren't rational, and wasn't malicious on her part, but how could any man feel comfortable with a woman who can literally tell what he's thinking? Jacob felt like hell, and most of it was from not getting any sleep. Once he'd talked to Sylvia, he was afraid to sleep. Would she find him there? What did he have in there that he didn't want her to see? He imagined the hell he'd have to go through if Sylvia'd gone and talked to Anne, not 'cause the talk would be uninteresting, but because Anne had a bit of a draw toward jealousy, and if she felt like she was in competetion with a woman who could literally read Jacob's mind, she might start takin' things in a new and unpleasant direction. 'Course, she'd need the convincing, even though she was the only woman for him. She just had that penchant. Jacob felt like hell, and he was sure it was Sylvia's fault. And that was what made it worst of all. A flicker of movement caught his eye, something silhouetted between the red-brown hills and the blue sky. Jacob shook his head. Just a tired mind playing tricks. He shook of another layer of exhaustion. Off in the distance, rounding the base of a hill, he spotted a pack of horses bearing down on him. He slowed the Mule to a stop, and checked his pistol in its holster. This wasn't part of the plan. Was there a plan? His brain refused to answer. So very simple. Take the goods from Triumph, sell them to Whitefall, lather, rinse, repeat. His head tipped at that last thought. When was the last time he'd really washed his hair? Too damn long, by his estimation. The horses were getting very close, now, four of them, to be precise. His blurry sight took a long moment to pick out Patience riding at the lead. His hand relaxed from his firearm and he levered himself out of his seat. Leaning against the Mule, he waited as the party finally reined in and came to a stop a good ten yards out. "Patience," he said, his voice entirely too loud in his ears. Hell, this was worse than being hung over! "Didn't know this was part of the deal." "Don't you worry, kid," she said. "Just picking up what's due us. Billy," she pointed toward the Mule, and one of the riders took a long step forward. Jacob held up his hand "Seeming to forget a bit of this business that's direly important. The part where I get paid for services rendered," Jacob said. "I didn't get to where I am by throwing around money," Patience started. "Y'ain't throwing around money when you're paying for food. Y'ain't throwing around money when folk are in business," Jacob leaned forward a bit. "We are in business, right?" "Y'see, ain't how I sees it," Patience said. "'S I sees it, there's four men on horses with rifles, all of which can knock down a sparrow at a mile with a bent scope, all inclined to take my side in the argument. There's another two sharpshooters in them hills got a bead on you. As I said, I ain't one for throwing around money." Jacob put on his most winning smile. "Patience, we're two respectable businesspersons. I'm sure we can come to some sort of a comprom..." That was when Patience chose to shoot him. <> The scope was pointed directly at Greyson's head, his left ear was centered in its crosshairs. The man behind the scope smiled a bit before raising the aim a bit, looking over Patience and her goons. A muffled groan sounded nearby, and Early kicked the hogtied fellow who thought he was going to be puttin' bullets to folk. "Be thankful," he said to nobody in particular, "that I sometimes listen to crazy folk." He sat down again, pondering the wisdom of a fool following a lunatic. Course, things were a great deal simpler when he'd worked alone. Needless to say. Only time that he'd had to deal with the crazies was when they was hogtied and gagged, rather like his pal who thrashed irregularly as he strained against his bonds. Times was different now, though. People are only objects in space. His momma had told him that. He wondered what became of her. Oh, he knew she was dead, but what happened after that? Did she ascend to some fluffy, shiny Heaven, like it said in that Book? Or did she just lie in the ground till the all of her sloughed away, leaving a pile of bones, patiently waiting to collapse to dust? Didn't like thinkin' on that, but couldn't help but, after that brief foray into the Black with a ship that didn't want to come back. Gorram, River was right, he thought. I do talk too much. Early raised the scope back to his eye just in time to see Patience quickdraw her pistol and plant a bullet into the youngish captain. The original sniper protested fuzzily again, and Early looked over to him. "Ain't got proper time for you right now," Early said. "But if you interrupt my intentions, your's ain't nothing but a body to me, and I can find all manner of unseemly use for it. Now hush up." He caught a glint of light reflecting off of metal on a hill opposite the gully the horses and the wounded mister Greyson had taken to. He raised the scope again, laughing aloud as he saw another sniper, lying down with his eyes locked upon Greyson. His crosshairs drifted to the sniper's right shoulder, and an easy smile returned to Early's lips. "That," he said, "was not your moment, boy." <> Jacob was knocked back a step and down to one knee, his hand clutching his right shoulder where the bullet had torn through. "Now that," Patience said, "if Joe-Jack tells me proper, tore out a lot of your shoulder. Ain't gonna have any use in that arm for the next few weeks, if you take care of it proper. Course, you try anything right stupid, that arm's gonna be the least of your problems." "You shot me, you crazy bitch!" Jacob shouted. Patience rolled her eyes. "Ain't never spent a penny not needin' spending. Now you are gonna take a step back from that fine eatin's, dong ma?" Billy stepped forward again, hand caressing the large revolver strapped to his hip. Jacob let his arm dangle and pointed at Billy with his left hand. "Not another gorram step," he spat. "We are in business. I do the job, I get paid. Didn't have to complicate things," Jacob felt himself waver a bit, but he stayed not only standing, but forming a sort of one-man bulwark against Patience and her cronies. "But you gone and did. Only one problem with your plan though," Greyson turned to Billy. "You know, Bill, that's a damned fine coat, you got." Patience sneered. "What problem is that?" she asked. To answer, Jacob quickdrew his pistol and put a bullet into Billy's gut. With his left hand. "I'm left handed," Jacob said as he took a flying leap to get behind his Mule. He heard several bullets whiz over his head as he landed painfully on the hard ground. His shoulder screamed in agony. At least, to his satisfaction, so did Billy. The firing stopped soon after realizing that Patience would have to circle around the Mule to take a shot at him, something that would expose her and her boys to undue fire. "Don't have to go down like this," Patience made a stab at her namesake, tone falling far short of it. "Billy, shut up. Nobody has to die here." "Really," Jacob called. "Cause by the way bullet's been flying, I could have sworn it was otherwise." "I'm givin' you this one chance to walk away, son," Patience said tightly. Jacob remained silent, but for his panting against the pain. "Fine. Lenny, take him out," Jacob waited a long second, and finally the sound of a gunshot sounded across the sky. "You missed!" Jacob called. "Lenny, I don't pay you to miss. Do it now, and do it right!" She shouted. From the limited vantage point Jacob had, glancing over the edge of the Mule, he watched as her expression changed from rage to confusion and back to rage. One of the horses collapsed, dropping to the ground like so much rocks. About a half second later, a gunshot was heard. "Gorram it!" Patience called as she wheeled her horse around to get out of the gully. Before she'd made it a step, he saw a pair of hands reach out and pull her backward out of her saddle. Patience's horse took off, a few lengths behind the other two who still were saddled. Jacob painfully got to his feet. Billy was screaming again. With slow steps, carefull of moving his right arm in the slightest, he moved to Patience. "How in the nine hells did you get out here?" he asked Sylvia, who glanced back with a sweat-covered face. "And how in the good gorram did you know where to find me?" "I ran," she answered, easily restraining the old woman with a cunning looking arm bar. "Which his why I'm so gorram tired. Early kept up for a while, but fell behind in the end." "Is my whole gorram ship hiding behind the next hill?" he asked. "Just me and Early. Bitch to convince that man of anything," she smiled then. For that moment, it was almost like having the old Syl back, that comfortable presence with the easy smile and quick hands. "Course, once I felt that Patience had potted some snipers on them hills, knew I had to come quick," he heard it. Felt. That feeling was already slipping away. "You know how hard it is to lay so still even a horse won't notice you? When ants and such is crawling over you?" "Can't say as I do," Jacob said, pulling a leather purse from Patience's belt. It clinked appreciatively in his hand, and when he opened it, he was pleased to find it full of currency. So she'd come all this way with a pocketfull of cash just to not give it to him? "Plan was to pay if you had the upper hand," Sylvia said. "You came alone, so she capitolized." "What did I say about my brain?" Jacob snapped. Sylvia's expression became a rather downtrodden one. Like a puppy who was just kicked. Finally, Early made his wheezing way to the side of the Mule. "Don't," he said between gasps. "Know how... That crazy'n... runs so... gorram far..." Jacob disregarded him. "You broke the rules," he hissed to Patience. "Rules are, do the job, get paid," he nodded to Sylvia, who hauled the old woman up. He pointed toward Billy. "This is what comes of breaking the rules, Patience," He shook the bag of money. "This is the price of breaking the rules." "Are you going to kill me?" she asked savagely. Sylvia took one look at him and shook her head briskly. Was that a warning glance? Jacob pulled off her gunbelt and slung it onto the Mule. "Ain't gonna kill you," he said. "No justice in that. No lesson. You're gonna live with what you done. Billy don't make it, the blood's on your hands. Even if he do, he'll never be the same. Just look at that fine coat, all covered in blood," Billy did not cease screaming. "Now git, and take your prairie vermin with you." "I ain't forgetting this," Patience said. "Is that a fact?" Jacob said as he climbed onto the Mule. Early was already seated atop one of the crates. Jacob wondered for a second. Could he bring Sylvia back? Was it safe? Could he trust himself around her anymore?" "You know you can," Sylvia said as she tripped up the old woman and left her chewing on dust. The lithe fighter wasted no time climbing onto the back of the Mule. As Jacob turned the vehicle around, she leaned forward and whispered into his ear. "Happy birthday." <> "There," Friday said as she pulled the stitches closed. Jacob's eyes were locked on the bullet she'd spent the last few minutes digging out of his chest. Such a viscious little thing. He still couldn't move his arm without excrusiating pain, and the sling didn't help much. Some part of him was proud of the fact that he'd acted quickly, put a bullet in Billy before the other man even had his gun out. Hell, the fact that he even hit the boy would have had him leaping for joy a few months ago. Another part of him felt a little disgusted that he'd almost killed a man. Again. Jacob could still see that desparate look on Cogley's face when Jacob shot him, a look that was leveled against him in his nightmares. Was this it for him? Was he doomed to become another cold-blooded killer, like so many others in the 'Verse? Another ne'er-do-well punk preying on any who stood in his way? He shuddered a bit. Jacob sat up and left the medical bay, finding Sylvia in her usual spot. Friday gave him a head shake and closed the doors behind her, starting her daily tidying of the infirmary, in this case scrubbing his blood off of her implements. He wondered for a second where he was going to go. They were already out in the Black, and there weren't too far to go on this boat. He shook his head and carefully sat himself down on the sofa. "You know," he said. Sylvia opened her eyes, "that was damned helpful of you, back there." "You're welcome," she said, eyes sliding closed once more. "You're afraid of me, ain't you?" The question caught him off guard. He scratched his chin, and the stubble covering it. He really needed to shave. "Well, wouldn't say afraid..." "Unsettled. Don't like what I see. What I hear. Don't like where I go and what I do when I'm there," She said. "Well..." he said, unable to think of anything to say. "They think I'm crazy," Sylvia said. "Think that illness addled my brain. Made me fong luh." Jacob nodded. Sylvia made a face. "Gorram, can't she stop thinking about that for ten minutes?" She pointedly glanced away from the infirmary, with Friday inside. Finally, she looked back up at him. "What are you going to do with me?" she asked. She was afraid. He could glean a lot from people from not a lot, but that was all he got from her. He lowered his head into his hand. "Don't rightly know." "You're not going to kick me off the boat, are you?" she asked, voice small and almost desparate. "You already know the answer to that, don't you?" he asked, kindly. "I want to hear it." Jacob took a deep breath. "As long as you don't bring trouble to this crew, as long as you protect this crew, you're a part of it. And I don't give up what's mine without a fight." "As you proved with Patience," she muttered. "Thank you." "You are still kinda creepifying, dong ma?" He said into the quiet hum of the ship alive. She fixed him with a damp-eyed smile. "I can live with that."



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