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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
They got the rocks, now it's time to roll...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1033 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Scrap Belt. A terra-forming event gone awry, a whole planet split asunder and drifting, the rock and rubble held in a gravitational field too weak to draw them together, but too strong to release them completely. Dense, shifting danger - sometimes a larger asteroid will break free, spat loose by the force, or the shifting elements will exert a pull, attract passing and unwary ships to wreck. What no simulation can convey is the speed and the violence, the silent savagery of rocks the size of continents colliding, calving islands and shoals of debris, the vertiginous spin of the starscape.
Mal closes his eyes briefly. River seems unbothered, matching her screen to the reality before her with deft adjustments.
“Can’t fly too close, or the mass will pull us in. Need to wait for the object to pass beneath us.”
“And how are we going to venture into that?” The extra shielding will take small hits. But there’s rocks twice the size of Serenity going by. Already, small fragments are pinging off the hull, nothing big enough to dent. He understands why the large mesh panels were fitted over the windows now.
“Hold position, and lower the anchor.” She grins. “Jayne is a big fat maggot. Put him on a hook.”
Serenity will have to match the course of the asteroid, dipping low as the ‘current’ brings it to the surface, and snatching the crate before the rock gets pulled back down into the flow. There will be a fair amount of small debris to avoid, so they will need to sweep very low, and use the bulk of the ship to shield them.
It will take nerves of steel and a cool head to fly them that close and hold them there. Mal would have let Wash do it without a second’s halt, but he can’t help but worry a little...River’s grin fades.
“Can do this, Captain.”
“Ain’t ever tried it before, is all.”
“Trust me.” She says in a small voice.
“Every time we fly, li’l darlin’.” Mal finds a smile for her, which fades a little as he looks back at the Belt.
Gonna take more than nerves of steel to get lowered into that.
“Why does it have to be you?” Ilargia asks.
“They open up the belly of the ship over a mass of pointy, grinding hell, why does it have to be you they drop into it?”
“’Cos I done it before, bao bei. All I gotta do is winch down and put a hook on. Don’t hafta let go or nothin’. I done landed on a moving train one time. Can’t be harder’n that.”
Ilargia looks at him, shakes her head. Then she reaches out, grabs a handful of t-shirt.
“Well, if you’re going to put this body into danger, we’d best make some good use of it until then.”
Jayne smirks. Woman has a firm grasp of essentials. He got no problem with doin’ the job, but if Larji wants to reward him for it in advance, he’s ready and willin’...
“Where’n hell is Jayne?” Mal is ready to go. Zoe, who has a fair idea, gives him a tired look.
They are suited up, ready with the winch. The cargo bay is going to be isolated, so they can open the doors. Kaylee and Simon are in the engine room, ready to move on River’s command. And River is in the pilot’s chair. All that’s missing is the man on the end of the line.
Of course, Jayne strolls in then, helmet under his arm, grinning like a fiend.
“We ready to go?”
“We bin ready a while...” But Mal isn’t going to start shouting. This is gonna be a dangerous job; they need to be focused.
Jayne’s grin slips a mite when he looks down out of the bay. But his expression becomes that cold, remote look that means he’s doing the job. Wraps the heavy tow-cable around his arm, and signals the go.
There’s enough mass beneath him to exert a pull, and he drops, rather than floats. Steady burn from the main engine, small bursts from the thrusters swing the ship above him. He can see the target beneath him, turning to the surface, meagre light on the edges of it...
Drones go from A to B, unless someone hacks the flight computer, diverts them to C. However, getting to C presupposes that the flight will not intersect with anything going from D to E at mind-buggering speed. In which case, both parties are...F’d.
The ore drone is easy to spot, a cylinder of dull metal, nothing more than a crate with an engine, ploughed into the rock. However, there is something else. A slender needle of silver angled into it.
“Mal, we got a big damn problem down here...”
Mal rappels down the line with another cable, turns himself to look at what they’ve caught.
“We ain’t got time to work things free. Gonna have to go with the lifting power of the ship.”
Small rocks are battering past them even now, and a fist-sized one clips off the crate, makes them both duck.
“Might be a fine idea we do that soon. I ain’t keen on gettin’ perforated.” Jayne is working fast, attaching the tow-cable to the lifting handles of the crate.
“Hold on to something.” River says. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
Need to readjust the calculations to account for extra weight...She’s a storm of energy, eyes on the screens, hands on the controls. She loves this ship. The thrusters fire, short bursts, keeping her steady, lining her up for the big pull...
Mal and Jayne both flatten themselves against the side of the crate, take what cover they can, as the cables tighten. The rockstorm is getting worse, and the small asteroid they are on is pulling away, turning itself purposefully.
“Soon would be good, River.”
Through the suits, they can feel the grinding of metal under pressure, feel the thrum of the cables, as the engines fight. Then, suddenly, they are free, and Serenity soars. Mal turns his head, in time to see their recently vacated rock bounce off another and disappear into the maelstrom.
“Well, that was fun.” He remarks.
They decide to open the big doors and haul the whole thing in, in the end.
“First time I shipped out was with a salvage crew. S’why I got a top line construction suit, ‘stead of a military issue piece of go se. You lose your line and go floatin’, you want to get seen.” Jayne taps the yellow fabric. “Got this with my second wage packet.”
Tyler stands on the edge of the airlock, swallows hard. Next to him, Jayne can hear the kid’s breathing speed up as the hatch begins to open. Puts a hand on his shoulder.
“You got your line clipped?”
“Then go to it.”
A shove, and Tyler is spinning out on the end of the tether.
(Up on the bridge, River winces.
“Tyler’s going to be sick.” She reaches for the comm.)
No up, no down. Nothin’ to put his feet against, just a moving background of white specks on black, and the side of the ship spinning past...
“Close your eyes.” A voice says in his ear. River. He does. “Now, take a deep breath through your nose.”
“I got him.” His uncle’s voice. And the spinning stops as two large hands grab his shoulders. “Keep breathin’, boy.”
Jayne tows him back, shows him how to put his boots on the ships’ hull. And with Serenity beneath his feet, Tyler gawps happily at the stars, the desire to throw up forgotten.
“It’s real pretty...” Turns his head, looks at his uncle. “Lost my Pa out there, some place, din’t I?”
“So your Ma says.” Jayne snorts. “He weren’t much of a loss.”
“I know.” But Tyler hangs his head. “He din’t want me, did he?”
“No.” Jayne don’t see any point in soft-soapin’. ‘Verse is a tough place. “But you got a deal of kin as do want you.”
“Ain’t like havin’ a Pa of your own, though.” Brightens. “Still, better’n havin’ one as hits you or somethin’.”
“Or one that would ignore your cry for help.” River’s voice makes them both jump.
“You listenin’ in on folks again, li’l moon...beam?” Jayne growls.
“Have to monitor the comm.” River lies quickly. She knows that Jayne is grinning. “Think it’s real pretty out there, too.”
“When you’ve all quite finished admirin’ the stars,” Mal’s voice breaks in, “Could you maybe see your way clear to actually giving us a hand, Jayne?”
“We’re on it.”
There’s no denying, another pair of hands make the job easier. Tyler don’t have his full growth or strength, but he’s plenty strong enough to take a corner of the crate. He’s a lot less clumsy without gravity to bother him.
Doors shut, gravity and oxygen restored, and the rest of the crew can come and take a look at their catch. The little craft is barely more than a cockpit, one slim wing and engine buried within the crate, the other lost, swept away. It looks fast, just sitting on the deck. And it don’t look like anything they’ve seen before.
“That is one shiny piece of engineerin’.” Mal looks to Kaylee, who looks like her Christmas come early.
“Can I take a look at the engines, Cap’n?” Girls’s positively skippin’ to get greasy.
River is stroking the lines of the ship.
“So pretty.” She breathes. “Could dance with the sun...”
Mal has a sudden troubling vision of River in this thing...he wants it off his boat. Yesterday.
“Ship didn’t work.” River says quietly. “Going to bury the key in a garden, safe with the angels.” Shudders back from the chasm of darkness. Suddenly, there is a strong, warm arm round her.
“Best not touch that, ‘case there’s sharp edges.” Tyler is so very earnest. Mal almost laughs, at the idea of protecting River from anything, but she smiles up at the idiot boy, steps back.
Bernoulli’s crates are mostly undamaged. The same can’t be said for the pilot of the other ship.
“With the drone’s navbeacon scrambled, he wouldn’t have been able to avoid it if he was flying that fast. Wouldn’t have known it was there, until it parked in his ear.” Zoe remarks.
“Wonder who he was?” Kaylee asks softly.
“God knows.” Tyler says it simply, a statement of fact. “Get ‘em in the junkers sometimes, poor souls as didn’t make it clear. We take ‘em to the Garden, and Pastor says words for ‘em. Don’t matter if we don’t know their names, the Lord does.” He stops, suddenly embarrassed by their regard.
“S’what folks on Deadwood call the stranger’s cemetery.” Jayne shifts, too. “Never seemed right to just bury ‘em without a marker.”
“He was brave, whoever he was.”
“And crazier than a sack of snakes.”
“Test pilots usually are.”
Something else occurs to Mal.
“This is a short-range vessel. So where’d it come from?” That changes the mood.
The Columbus is a military craft, true, but it is an R&D vessel. The closest Captain Treutlen has ever been to combat is the firing range. His First Officer Upson holds rank by virtue of his academic qualifications. The vacuum left by the Miranda Incident had caused some rapid advancement; men who had foreseen nothing in their futures but desk jobs were suddenly finding themselves thrust out into the field. Entrusted with the testing of an important prototype. A very expensive important prototype.
And they’ve lost it.
This is the sort of thing that can halt a man’s career. Possibly with the kind of nosebleed that starts in your eyeballs.
“We aren’t cleared to be in that sector, Upson.”
“The last trace of the engine transmission was headed in that direction, sir.”
They look at each other. In both minds, the thought of going back and explaining that they have...misplaced Project Daedalus.
“Take a bearing on that heading, and proceed.”
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 9:00 AM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 9:49 AM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 10:32 AM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 2:41 PM
Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:43 AM
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