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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Zoe, Wash and Jayne cannot believe what Max has to tell them. If true the nightmare scenario he paints is on a scale that beggars belief. Meanwhile River is close to total panic and Simon struggles to do what is right."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2267 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "CANNON FODDER".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Zoe, Wash and Jayne cannot believe what Max
has to tell them. If true the nightmare scenario he paints is on
a scale that beggars belief. Meanwhile River is close to total
panic and Simon struggles to do what is right."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Zoe didn't have words for how wrong this all felt. Though she did not know Max as well as she had known Tracey she found herself thinking back on all the hare brained schemes their friend had tried. Usually getting himself in the kind of *goushi* it took both Mal and herself to get him out of. Seemed like his older brother was cut from the same cloth. It was not a happy thought. Max watched her for a moment or two. "Where's Mal an' just how much trouble is he in?"
A strange reluctance came over her. It was weird, stupid even. They knew Max well so why was she hesitant? Jayne had no such reservation. "He's gone to fight in some gorram rebellion the *chunren baichi*."
Max finally took notice of Jayne. "How in the nine hells did he get suckered into that?"
Jayne snorted, amused despite the situation. He missed the steely look in Zoe's eyes but Wash didn't. Clem eased up but did not put his gun away. Relaxed he remained wary and Zoe made sure to track his movements on the catwalk without so much as tilting her head or looking up. Every instinct sharp and alert. Jayne seemed not to notice, enjoying the fact that he was now the one being looked to for information and only too happy to provide it. "Ya can blame that brain damaged brother of his."
"What you talkin' about?"
The mercenary sneered. "Davy. Damn near had Mal leapin' through hoops of gorram fire."
Max blinked. "Davy's dead."
Something in Zoe tensed but it was so subtle only Wash noticed. He watched the interplay feigning only casual interest as if the whole conversation was beginning to bore him but poised to react to whatever Zoe asked of him. There were times when it was actually good to let Jayne do all the talking.
"Looked pretty good for a gorram stiff."
Max glanced at Zoe, eyes narrowing slightly. "Where you think you see him?"
"No think about it," She replied crisply, deliberately keeping her tone light. "He's with the Cap'n. We dropped them off on Shadow."
A stream of invective poured out of Max's mouth.
"What the good gorram is goin' on, Max? You look like you've seen a ghost."
The man was shaking his head. "Davy's dead."
"Ya already said that," Said Jayne impatiently.
Zoe glared at the mercenary. "*Bizui*, Jayne!" She turned back to Max. "Why you keep sayin' he's dead? I've seen him, so has Wash an' Jayne."
"You near grew up with Mal and Davy." Said Max slowly.
She nodded. "*Dui*."
"So you'd be hard to fool."
Zoe noticed all the colour had fled Max's face. "Max, what're you not tellin' me?"
He shook his head, looking dazed. "Davy 'is' dead, Zoe." Max quickly raised a hand to stop any further interruptions. "Davy died with the rest of his unit. Slaughtered to a man. Not a one of 'em survived an' I know that for a fact. We moved in to retrieve what we could before the ruttin' Alliance *wangba dans* got there." He paused and swallowed hard, biting back some strong emotion. A painful memory relived. "Some of the fallen were missin'. Davy included."
"'Cause he weren't dead." Avowed Jayne. Seemed straight forward to him so what was everyone tip-toing around it for?
"You don't understand. Alliance took 'em."
Before Zoe could say anything Jayne spoke, his voice dark with suspicion. "Thought you said he was dead? Or ya sayin' the dead can walk?"
Max's voice dropped to just above a whisper. "He was." There was a stunned silence. Max wet his lips before speaking again, his voice a little louder this time. "They 'all' were."
"Not makin' much sense here, Max." Said Zoe.
"When you saw Davy was there anythin' 'different' about him?"
She shook her head, more disturbed by the oddness of this conversation than she cared to admit even to herself. "No, except he seemed mighty anxious for the Cap'n to go with him. Come to think of it that whole thing was kind'a strange. Davy hated violence an' war."
Jayne frowned. "Then why'd he follow the Cap to war?"
"Davy idolised Mal, Jayne. Went both ways. The two were thicker than thieves an' twice as devoted."
Jayne did not like the idea that she was speaking about the Captain in the past tense. Did she think they were dead for real? Max seemed to have got himself back under control but he still looked shaken. "You might have seen him but it wouldn't have been the man you knew."
Everybody stared at him. It was Wash who said what they were all thinking. "Why not?"
Max sat down. He had to before his gorram legs gave way under him. No one noticed that Clem was no longer on the catwalk. Zoe thought he looked decidedly ill. They waited for him to continue. "Alliance were conductin' experiments."
"*Wo zhidao*. Called it re-education. Just a fancy word for torture. Been there, done that."
He shook his head. "Not that. They only used that on the livin'."
Zoe went cold. Wash moved a step closer and put a hand on her arm. Wash's face was pale and Jayne looked even more confused than he had before.
"After a victory some Alliance *liumang* would go onto the field, select a few of the dead. Ones not too ripped apart, faces intact. Would have 'em taken from the field an' have the bodies put on ice. They would then be taken to some secret facility where they would be fixed up then have their gorram heads opened up. They messed with their brains, Zoe. Not sure of the why an' how of it but those poor *huai le hundan* were brought back to ruttin' life. Called it 'reanimation'. Only once the Alliance had finished messin' with 'em they weren't Independent soldiers no more, they were gorram Alliance. Manipulated by some kind of tamperin' an' completely head fucked." He paused and hung his head. When no one spoke to break the stunned silence he continued talking, not raising his head or voice. The words bleeding out of his mouth like puss from an open wound. "Thought it was just rumour, *dong ma*? Knew they was body stealin' but not the why of it. Thought the rest was just some Alliance horror story to scare to death them as they didn't kill in battle."
"*Wode tiana*! We left Mal with Davy. He wants him to lead some Independent uprisin' on Shadow."
Max's head snapped up, his eyes pained and haunted pools awash with alarm. "It's a trap, Zoe. Yes, there is an underground Independent movement. It's called the Order of the Phoenix but this ain't them an' their time ain't now."
"How the good gorram you know that, Max?" Asked Zoe.
"I know 'cause I'm one of 'em."
Jayne was trying to wrap his head around the rapidly changing landscape. "Cap's gotta ring."
Max hissed in surprise. They stared at him. He sighed unhappily. "The poison chalice."
"What's that?" Asked Wash.
"Many years ago on Earth-that-was secret societies an' the like had specially crafted poison rings. They came in all manner of shapes an' sizes but each had one thing in common intricate to their purpose an' design. A tiny hidden compartment for either a poison pill or a small fluid reservoir activatin' a microswitch which would discharge poison from a very fine needle directly into the wearer's skin. They were used by assassins, crime bosses an' such like."
Jayne stared at Max as the import of what he said slowly began to sink in. "Why would Davy give such a thing to Mal? Or ya sayin' Davy ain't Davy?"
"I'm sayin' the man wearin' his face is a stranger, Jayne. Got the memories, got the body, but the personality ain't him. Davy died. Whoever or whatever is walkin' an' talkin' with his memories don't serve the Independents an' don't give a good gorram about what happens to Mal."
"I don't believe you." Said Zoe, her hands balling into fists at her side. Only Wash's hand gently cradling one fist eased her enough to keep her in place.
"Mal is in a lotta danger an' not from the Alliance."
For several seconds no one spoke. Zoe wanted to challenge Max, tell him he was crazy but a small voice inside was dithering. Hesitant and mad with worry. What if he was right? What if this nightmare were true? It took a moment to realise that Wash was speaking to her.
"*Bao bei*, do you remember when Mal's Uncle Frank turned up? He told the Captain that Davy was dead. Tried to give him that pendant."
"Reliquary." Mumbled Jayne.
They all stared at him. Jayne shifted awkwardly, wondering why they were gawping at him and not liking it. "*Shenme*? Just sayin' that's what Frank called it."
Wash nodded. "You remember River's reaction?"
Even though Max did not know what they were talking about he listened with avid interest.
Jayne shrugged and huffed. "Who could forget? Gorram crazy girl ripped it off the Cap's neck, told him Davy wasn't in there. That it was all lies."
Max looked from Jayne to Zoe to Wash. "What girl?"
They ignored him, Zoe fixing her gaze on Jayne as the dime dropped with a clang. "She knew the body was missin'."
No one spoke. Dread and sorrow keeping pace in some ghastly race where time was not on their side.
River was frantic. He knew, he knew, he KNEW. Her heartbeat was racing, mouth dry, panic making a wasteland of her ability to think straight. Alarmed, Simon tried to reassure her but she could not stop staring at the Preacher as if her life depended on it. Kaylee looked up from Yen Mah's still face and noticed the tension. Realised something else was going on. Something she did not understand.
"It's alright, River." Said Simon soothingly.
She shook her head and shrank back, not from him but from the Preacher's eyes. Fire and brimstone lurked in those deep emotionless wells. She did not like what was staring back at her. She wanted Mal, needed him more than the air she breathed but he wasn't there.
"You should let me go." Said Book calmly.
For some reason his mild words made Simon angry. "Will you shut up? You're not helping."
He raised his eyebrows. "Do you always tie up people you want to help you?"
"No, just the ones called Judas."
"And I thought you only read the wanted posters on the cortex."
Simon glared at him but before he could respond he felt River tremble violently and turned his attention back to her. Kaylee was more than a little worried about Yen Mah. Why wouldn't she wake up? Was she dying? Had they saved her only to lose her anyway? And what in *diyu* was keeping the others? Book turned his attention to her, a sweet smile stealing across his lips to match the benign look on his face.
"It would be a kindness if you could loosen these bindings, Kaylee. A man could lose all circulation in his body with rope this tight."
Simon's head snapped round. "Don't touch the rope, Kaylee. He's trying to manipulate you and we can't trust him."
"Where is your faith, doctor?"
Simon's eyes narrowed. "Don't even think of trying to play me, Shepherd. Or are you even that? As I recall you seem to know too much about a good too many things to be a man of the cloth."
"No man is born a Preacher, Simon, just as no man is born a doctor. We all used to be something else."
"What were you?"
"Ah, now that would be telling."
"What is it you're really after?"
For a moment Book said nothing then his eyes flicked passed Simon and regarded the cowering girl. When he looked back at Simon it was to see a cold look upon the doctor's face. His lips compressing into a thin implaccable line.
"Perhaps you'd better not answer that question." Said Simon. "I have a feeling you'd only lie to me anyway."
After taking off the Alliance ships launched hell at them, firing at anything that moved as they sought to tighten the noose. The ships left on the ground did provide some highly entertaining distraction but it was all too brief and the Alliance were all too many. It was the Valley all over again except the fighting was in the Black this time not on the land. For some reason he got an inordinate amount of comfort from that thought. No more scorched earth. No more folks rounded up into buildings and set on fire. No more families extinguished with no more thought than the squashing of a bug underfoot.
What occurred next happened so fast that it took minutes for it to register. The ship shuddered under an intensifying barage of fire then time seemed to yaw and warp around him as the vessel lurched, sounds stretched, images bleeding into each other in a chaotic blur as Mal struggled to stay upright. He could taste the blood in his mouth where he had bitten his tongue. The rushing roar of heat in his ears blocking out anything but the battle raging fiercely all around him. The ship juddering with multiple impacts. Past, present and future all seguing into an endless now of death and destruction. His left leg seared in a bright flash of intense pain, the bullet lodging in his knee cap before exploding and fragmenting taking pieces of flesh and bone with it as the kneecap shattered making it all kinds of impossible for Mal to stand. Only the press of soldiers around him prevented him from falling. His agonised scream cutting through the din of battle and filling them with alarm. Sagging heavily he hovered on the brink of consciousness. Unable to move or shift his position because of his shattered leg, the slightest pressure making him cry out, dizzy with the pain of it. How the *diyu* had they shot him through the hull of a rutting space ship? It should not have been possible, gorrammit.
As soon as they had taken off from Shadow the ships had split up, immediately fanning out as per his instructions. Better for some to get through than none. He had not counted on his luck running out at that exact moment, the barage of weaponry seeming to home in on his ship. He was being paranoid, that had to be the answer, but some weird instinct said not. He was fast beginning to lose his battle to stay conscious.
"You should sit, *xiongdi*." Said Davy calmly.
Mal gritted his teeth and tried to block out the pain. Every uttered word an effort as tears streamed down his face. Oblivious of the tears mixing with his perspiration. "*Bu qu*, I sit I don't rise again *dong ma*?"
He sounded so faint Pepper Rawlings acted without asking. Driven by instinct. His great bear arms wrapping around Mal before he could protest. Lenny Goss and Charlie Wright then eased Davy to one side so they could carefully lift his brother and lay him gently on the shifting deck. Almost blacking out with the pain Mal was insensate to what they were saying. His eyes closing as if that could block out the pain. Gary Wright was frowning with deep concern, unable to fathom what the gorram had just happened. He quickly grabbed the first aid box then ripped open the bloody trouser leg, the movement wrenching a choked cry from Mal before he passed out.
Gary exchanged a quick look with Pepper then bent to his task, the dip and sway of the ship ignored as he concentrated on tending their fallen comrade. Pepper looked up, his face shadowed with a mix of anger and suspicion. Hull integrity had not been breached which meant only one thing. Only the pitch and roll of the ship under fire had prevented the shot being fatal but it was not that which worried Pepper. Slowly he turned his head, eyes narrowing and carefully taking in as much detail as possible. The others had yet to realise just what had happened, thinking the Alliance *tamade hundan* must be using armour piercing rounds but he was a seasoned soldier. He knew differently. A slight movement caught his eye and he snapped his head back round just in time to see a strange expression on Davy Reynolds' face as he looked down at his brother.
Charlie Watson looked frightened. Eyes wide with alarm at the crimson soaked bandage Gary was wrapping around Mal's torn knee. His fingers slipping and sliding in the grease of it. Made him feel gorram sick and queasy. "We ain't gonna lose him are we?"
Pepper fastened a firm eye on him, trying to calm the man down through sheer force of will. "*Bizui*, Charlie! No talkin' like that. Bullet hit his leg not his head, *dong ma*?"
"*Wo zhidao*, Pepper, it's just he looks so bad..."
Pepper did not say what he was thinking. He thought about the sly smug look he had caught on Davy's face and with a shock realised what that furtive movement had been. Not pausing to explain to the others in case he tipped his hand, Pepper pretended to turn away to speak to Lenny then suddenly turned back in a swift arc, using his body mass and motion to put as much strength behind the blow as he could manage in the limited space. His fist connected with a resounding crack on Davy's jaw throwing him backwards. Stunned browncoats stared at him as if he had gone rutting mad. Pepper followed the blow with a savage kick, Davy grunting and dropping something from his hand then a boot was shoved against his windpipe taking any fight he had left out of him as he struggled for breath.
"What the good gorram are ya doin'?" Yelled Porter Knowles.
The big man took a deep breath then spat in Davy Reynolds' face, his own features twisted in fury and revulsion. "We got us an assassin."
Shock. Horror. Disbelief. Each emotion a different colour of the rutting rainbow. Lenny went white, "What in the nine hells ya talkin' about, Pepper?"
Pepper huffed then knelt slowly, replacing his boot with his knee so he could keep enough pressure on the downed man to stop him getting up. Reaching out he retrieved the object Davy had dropped and held it up so his friends could see what it was. The gun hung in mute witness from his huge hand. Charlie swallowed hard as he stared at Davy. "You tried to kill your own brother? *Weishenme* ya do that?"
"'Cause he's a gorram Alliance assassin that's why!" Yelled Pepper furiously. Crazy mad at himself because he had trusted him. "Damn ruttin' stinkin' turncoat!"
The men were upset and angry but Davy did not look sorry. In fact he looked as if he was proud of himself. Pepper was sickened by him.
"Davy," Said Porter with a shaking voice. "The gun went off by accident didn't it?"
Davy shook his head, lips peeling back over bared teeth. A wild unrecognisable look in his eyes as if something inside him had snapped. It chilled them to look at him. "You are such *chunren baichi*. Think you can buck the might of the Alliance? You're fools an' imbeciles an' my heroic gorram *xiongdi* is the biggest *chunren* of all."
As they stared at him, stunned, Davy edged to his knees, trying to get closer to Mal without making it obvious. A sudden presentiment of his intent alerted Pepper in time to lash out and kick him in the face just as Davy wrapped both hands around his unconscious brother's throat. The blow snapped Davy's head back, blood trickling down his face where the edge of the boot had cut his cheek but he would not let go. Lenny, Gary and Porter jumped him, frantically pulling at his hands and trying to prise his fingers open. Mal was rapidly turning from grey to blue, Pepper was desperate. Picking up Davy's gun he spun it in his hand and cracked Davy across the back of the head. He collapsed like a rag doll, Pepper breathing heavily. He nodded to Lenny who seemed to be about the calmest one among them. "Best tie him up."
Lenny nodded, dragged Davy to one side and did just that. Hands and feet. Charlie had tears in his eyes. Just turned nineteen years old the whole thing had shaken him badly. He watched in stunned silence as Gary checked Mal's pulse and Pepper rumaged around quietly for some blankets to make the injured man more comfortable. Blinking back tears he wondered when the Independent dream had turned into a rutting nightmare.
His thoughts punctuated by the sound of battle were muted now as if the enemy had turned on other prey. He felt their own guns firing in response, the ship swaying and swerving, dipping and rising in sudden curtsies to shake off their pursuers. Gradually the barage tapered off, an eerie silence falling as they sailed deeper and deeper into the Black. No one feeling much like talking. Charlie looked down at the sorry state of Mal's body and bit his bottom lip to stop it trembling. So much blood. Slowly he turned his head and looked at Davy Reynolds and his heart almost misgave him. If the Alliance could turn even brother against brother what hope did they have of victory? Enough to be fighting this insane war a second time without having to turn their guns on their own rutting people. He looked away and hung his head in sorrow. It was enough to make even the angels weep.
Max gave Zoe a pained look that bordered on sympathy. "You really don't know what they did to 'em, do you?"
She shook her head. "Suppose you tell me, Max, then we'll both know."
Hard as granite that was Zoe. Her and Mal, far back as he could remember. Two immovable objects for the price of one. "They reanimated 'em."
Jayne was not taking much notice of the conversation, he was glancing around wondering where Clem had got to. He didn't like the thought that the man could have a bead on him and not know where the rutting hell he was. Raised an itch between his shoulder blades that made him all kinds of nervous. Wash gave Max a blank look. Wondered what the *diyu* the man was talking about. "*Shenme*?"
"They were 'real' particular," Stressed Max. "Didn't just want no dead men, had to be recent kills. Wanted to get 'em before all brain function died. Bodies still warm if ya get my meanin'. Didn't matter that the heart had stopped beatin'. Heard they had ways to bring 'em back."
Wash shuddered, remembering all too vividly something Mal had told him after they got him back from the Skyplex. Seemed that *liumang* Adalei Niska had done just that. He could even recall the words he had said to Mal, reliving the soft pained voice of the Captain as he had confessed to Wash in a truthsome moment why he was afraid to close his gorram eyes even months after they got him back. *You died Mr Reynolds... When you die I can't hurt you. And I want two days at least. Minumum.* Zoe had said Niska would try to draw the torture out for days. His response had been as immediate and automatic as breathing. Fueled by a cold hard fury and growing hatred. *Bastard's not gonna get days*. Wash felt an icy shiver touch his heart. Now here was the gorram Alliance doing the same thing only their agenda went beyond the torment of a single man. This time it encompassed and threatened anyone who stood against them. Obliterating any notion of freedom until only the straight jacket of Alliance rule remained.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*goushi* = crap/dog shit *chunren* = fool/jerk *baichi* = idiot *bizui* = be quiet/shut up
*dui* = correct *wangba dan*/*hundan* = bastard *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what
*liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell
*wode tiana* = dear God in Heaven *bao bei* = precious/treasure *xiongdi* = brother
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *weishenme* = why *huai le hundan* = broken bastard
Friday, June 4, 2004 10:35 PM
Saturday, June 5, 2004 2:43 AM
Saturday, June 5, 2004 4:31 AM
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