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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"River is frantic to get to Mal but first they have to get Zoe and the others back to the ship. Pepper has more immediate concerns such as how to keep Mal alive long enough for any of it to matter."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2242 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "EXTREME MEASURES"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "DESCENT INTO HELL".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "River is frantic to get to Mal but first they have to get Zoe and the others back to the ship. Pepper has more immediate concerns such as how to keep Mal alive long enough
for any of it to matter."
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
* * * * *
Sheriff Martin Bowman at last broke the stunned and stricken silence as they gazed across the Black at the field of destruction. "Take a good look boys. This is what hell looks like."
Deputy Andy Crowther turned his head slowly, hardly daring to believe that all that was left of the fledgling rebellion was a gorram debris field. Tyrone Garvin was sitting on the floor, head in his hands, feeling as if his whole gorram 'verse had been torn into itty bitty little pieces. Why hadn't he found help sooner? Why hadn't he got a warning to them in time? Now they were dead. All of them. Friends and comrades. The last of the true believers. Heroes one and all. They filled his soul with the bitter ache of not being among them. Not being with them when it mattered the most. To live or die beside them, win or lose, was more glory and honour than a man would find in a 'verse without them. Thousands of loyal brave browncoats slaughtered because of his brother-in-law's duplicity. He slowly raised a tearstained face and stared unseeing at the Sheriff, as if the man in whom he had placed his trust had just lost all command of his senses.
"Now Peter, turn her round and take a slow sweep."
Ty drove himself to his feet, hardly able to believe his ears. "*Shenme*? One look not enough for you, Sheriff? They're *si, dong ma*? Dead. Gone. Blown to ruttin' pieces. What you lookin' to find? Souveniers?"
The Sheriff knew he was upset and did not take any of his anger personally. The misplaced accusations were simply a reaction, a coping mechanism for something one so young could never find an outlet for. "No, Ty, survivors. An' if'n no one survived then we'll take any bodies we find home. Give 'em a proper burial."
The boy was choking on the strength of his emotions, heart riven by uncontrollable grief. He had no answer to that. Head spinning and looking for a target to pin his anger on but sorrow robbed him of that outlet too. He felt worse than useless, he felt empty. Bereft. The lone survivor in the pit of hell. The Sheriff turned away from him, all his attention focused on the burden of his solemn duty. If any of those boys were still whole he intended to retrieve the bodies. Give them a fitting burial. It was the least he could do.
"Follow the rotation of the planet but let's go the other way round, *dong ma*?"
Shorty Pierce was their pilot of choice but even he was thinking along the same lines as Ty. What the good gorram did the Sheriff expect to find? A finger? A thumb? But he knew better than to ask questions. Experience had taught him that there was more to the Sheriff than a little tin badge and the will to do what was right. Man was all kinds of perceptive and had smarts that didn't show on his face.
Ty had not intended to take any further notice wanting only to withdraw into his own personal corner of *diyu* but as the minutes rolled by he found himself drawn to the morbid task they had set themselves. A grudging respect at war with his desire to distance himself emotionally from the scene of the slaughter. Wasn't the total destruction enough clue that they had come too late? So he turned his head and watched with them, his sullen features marking the slowing spinning flotsam and jetsom that passed them by like unmarked graves. Kind of chilled his blood but now that he was looking, as morbid and creepifying as it was, he could not look away.
"I can't let ya do that."
Jayne blinked. "Why not?"
Something unreadable flashed briefly in Max's eyes then he took a step towards Jayne. Zoe watched him like a hawk, her gaze flicking upwards occasionally to the catwalk above. She knew Clem was there, didn't need to raise her gorram head to pinpoint his position, but the motion would remind him she knew and was keeping track of him. Wash was baffled at the sudden change in temperature. Oh it was subtle but there. He found himself wishing he knew a whole lot more about Max. Hell. He even wished he knew more about Tracey other than the old buddy act Zoe had given him after they returned his body to his family. Too many secrets, too many stories he had yet to hear. But then did he really want to know? Would lifting the lid on his lover's past be a comfort or a glimpse of *diyu* he could live without?
"War's over, Jayne." Said Max softly.
"Not for everyone." Zoe reminded him.
Max turned to look at her, *really* look at her. "If Mal jumped off a gorram cliff would ya jump too?"
"Lot of reasons."
"Name some of 'em." When Zoe remained tight lipped Max insisted. "Just a few, humour me."
"It would depend on why he wanted to jump. For instance if the ruttin' Alliance were after us or worse yet Reavers, I'd jump an' not think twice."
"An' if nobody was after ya, what then?"
Wash looked from one to the other wondering the hell this was really all about. He wanted to go, get back to Serenity and leave this madhouse far behind him. He didn't care about what ill gotten treasures were stored here, all that was running through his mind was the passage of time. It made him uneasy.
"I'd figure there had to be some other reason." She paused. "What the gorram has got into ya Max?"
"You trust Mal that much?"
She didn't answer him. If he didn't know that already he was even dumber than Tracey on a bad day. And that was pretty dumb. The silence lengthened a minute or two then Zoe came to a decision. "I think we're done here."
Without another word she gave Wash a nod and they climbed back on the mule. Jayne watched everything through narrowed eyes and walked backwards, keeping pace with the mule and watching their backs. Max looked amused, his lip twitching slightly. "Don't ya want your money?"
Wash looked at Zoe. She was so pissed off it was an effort for her not to grab the bag of coin and shove it down Max's rutting neck. But she recalled only too well the Captain and his insistence - *we do the job, get paid*. It would be what he wanted her to do. What he'd expect. She didn't have it in her to turn her back on that. She had Wash stop and stepped down, stalking back to Max, her eyes locked on his. Holding out her left hand she waited. Keeping her right hand free in case Max got real stupid. He didn't. With a poorly disguised smirk he handed over the pouch and watched them leave. When the door clanged shut behind them Clem leaned over the catwalk rail and spat out a plug of tobacco before saying what was on his mind.
"Gonna just let 'em leave?"
"We did what needed doin'. Not our problem no more."
Max started walking away but Clem wasn't done. "What if they come back?"
"They're gonna be too busy for that."
Clem said nothing, his eyes moving from Max to the closed door, his thoughts a-whirl with possibilities. When he turned his head again Max was gone. The warehouse for all its' shiny equipment and wealth had an emptiness to it that gnawed at the soul. Clem broke off another plug of tobacco from the block he kept in his top pocket and shoved it in his mouth, then began a slow thoughtful chew as he got back to work.
The ship was listing a mite but considering no one was firing at them any more Pepper regarded that as a plus. Least they were still flying even if just on a wing and a prayer. The state of Malcolm Reynolds though was not so shiny. Man was bleeding like a stuck pig, most of his knee shot away leaving a messy red pulp and a hole big enough to take his fist. But that wasn't what was worrying him most. It was the blood loss. Charlie Watson was the closest thing they had to a medic but all they had was a few basic first aid supplies and most of them Charlie had already stuffed in the hole to try to stem the flow. A quiet nervous type, Charlie was the kind of man who steadied under pressure. His shaking hands now calm as he stripped Davy's shirt off his torso and hurriedly began to tear it into strips to make makeshift bandages. The others were quick to help, sensing that time was of the essence.
"Charlie, how's he doin'?"
Charlie shook his head but didn't take his eyes off the injured man. All of them had Mal's blood on them now. The wash of it stained Charlie's hands up to the elbows. "*Bu hao*. We're losin' him."
Anger flared in Pepper. "*Bushi*! Ain't gonna let him die, gorrammit."
That did make Charlie look up, surprise on his face highlighting the worry lines taking the anger out of Pepper though it did not affect his resolve.
"We gotta do somethin'." He all but pleaded.
Truth to tell Pepper felt more than a mite responsible. Hadn't he gone with Davy and his men to force Mal's hand? Using his brother to coerce Mal into taking on this forlorn hope? What the *diyu* had he been thinking? Scratch that, he hadn't been thinking. It had all been an emotional response. He stared without seeing for a moment as memories stirred and scenes replayed inside his head. The others had got back to work binding the wound as best they could, the strips turning crimson quicker than they could wrap them. Their hands slipping slick with another man's blood until they ran out of cloth. The pulse growing weaker all the time. The unconscious man not stirring.
"He's losin' too much blood." Said Charlie in a voice that ached with sorrow and verged on panic.
Pepper snapped back to attention. They had to do something but what? He stared at his friends, fellow browncoats every one. Each one more precious to him than all the wealth of the rutting Alliance. As he glanced from face to face his eye caught the shirtless body on the deck. Most of the head missing there would be no reviving Davy Reynolds.
Charlie had done all he could. A hand on Mal's neck he counted off the flagging pulse. "What do we do, Pepper? We can't get him to a hospital or doctor in time."
The big man took a quick steadying breath, his expression grim. Even if they could somehow limp back to Shadow it would be slow and torturous with everything in the ship shot to pieces except some very basic propulsion and even that was unreliable. And Shadow had no hospital and no doctors to speak of. A pretty bleak place now it was a land of bitter ashes and sorrow. Certainly landing would be like freefall but without a parachute. Like to drop and kill them all. "We do what we do in all extreme circumstances."
A weary Lenny Goss looked up and fixed him with a questioning stare. "An' what's that?"
Pepper looked at Davy Reynold's inert form. "We take extreme measures."
The others exchanged a look then Pepper turned to face them. "Charlie, get the iv kit out. It's time Davy Reynolds did somethin' to help his brother."
Gary Wright raised his eyebrows so high they got lost in his grimey shock of mousey brown hair. "You're gonna do a blood transfusion from Davy to Mal?"
Pepper was already dragging Davy's body closer to where Mal lay. "Got a better idea?" Gary fell silent, too stunned to comment further. Turner, Slim and Porter quickly helped Pepper. Charlie rumaged around in the box until he located the kit and began to play out the iv line.
"This gonna work?" Asked Porter quietly.
"Seems the thing to do," Said Pepper gruffly, the shrug in his voice. They settled what was left of Davy alongside his brother. Slim could not bear to look at the place where his head had been. The whole deck now awash with the blood of two brothers, bits of fleshy pulp sticking to the gorram seats and floor where they had dragged Davy's body.
"I'm guessin' that bein' brothers they share the same blood type. Got no way to check so best pray we get this right first time people or we'll be buryin' Malcolm Reynolds when we bury his brother."
The men swallowed, sad looks on their tired faces. They looked a grim dispirited crew and Pepper knew exactly how they felt. If they could somehow save the man they had chosen to save them, it might in some small part repay the debt they owed him. Trouble was, no price in the 'verse could adequatedly reward stupidity.
Simon was frantic as River slumped to the floor. "River, River!"
The look of anguish on the doctor's face tore at Kaylee's heart. She could not believe how many things were going wrong. First they had lost the Captain and now everything else was falling apart at the seams. "What's wrong with her, Simon?"
Simon lifted his sister carefully and placed her on another infirmary bed. She looked so small and fragile, her face even paler than normal in the harsh infirmary light. "I don't know but I think she may have fainted."
His hands were rapidly checking her, the Shepherd watching in solemn detachment. They ignored him. After a few minutes Simon looked up, relief on his face but concern too. Beneath his hand River was beginning to stir. He turned to reach for a smoother but to his surprise the Shepherd spoke, his words freezing the doctor in place as shock slowing ripped through his sluggish brain.
"That won't be necessary, doctor. Your sister doesn't need any more medication in her system. It would be bad for the baby."
He stared at Book. Utterly stunned. "What did you say?"
"The baby. Your sister isn't ill, Simon, she's *huaiyun*."
Kaylee's mouth formed a complete circle, her eyes wide with astonishment. Pregnant?
"And how do you know that?"
"I would have thought it was obvious. The signs were all there and, if I may be a little indelicate, your sister and the Captain were doing nothing to curb their need for each other."
Simon flushed at the reference to his sister having sex with the Captain. He had only just been getting used to the two of them being in love, or whatever the hell it was they were sharing. Hormones was not the answer he was wanting to hear. It made sense but it didn't make anything easier. In fact, it complicated things even more. If River was carrying the Captain's baby what would happen if he did not return? In her distressed state she could easily lose it and if that happened he did not want to think of the deleterious effect it would have on her already fragile mental state. When she was with the Captain she achieved a level of normalacy he had been unable to replicate with drugs. Plus she was happier than at any time he could remember since she had disappeared. Her assertion that the Captain could heal her appeared to be true yet he feared all that had been gained would be lost if they failed to get him back.
Ty wanted to tell the Sheriff to turn the transport around and head back to Porchester. Perhaps he could persuade them to drop him off along the way? Apathy kept his mouth closed. What did it matter? It was all lost now, no putting it right, no bringing back the dead. No apology to the fallen. Lambs to the rutting slaughter. It was Andy Crowther's excited voice that stirred him from his dark thoughts. The thrum of the transport picking up speed in a manner that was almost reckless. As Ty looked up to see what all the fuss was about he felt his pulse quicken, his breath hitch in stunned surprise, his eyes widening in disbelief. What the rutting...?
"Hail them!" Snapped the Sheriff.
Deputy Crowther opened a channel. "This is the Alliance Prisoner Transport Dauntless, may we offer you assistance?"
Silence greeted the hail. Deputy Crowther repeated his offer, everybody held their breath. Shorty Pierce slowed their speed, bringing them almost alongside the stricken vessel. "It's in a bad way, sir."
They could all see that it was listing heavily to port, hardly capable of forward momentum though it did appear to have some rudimentary propulsion. Sheriff Bowman flicked the com switch. "This is Sheriff Bowman out of Porchester aboard the transport Dauntless. You are adrift an' damaged. Do you require assistance? Please respond."
The com line crackled a moment then a gruff voice rasped back over the airwaves. "This is Pepper Rawlings, we have injured. I repeat, we have injured. Do ya have a doc aboard, over?"
"We got no doctor, Mr Rawlings," Said the Sheriff. "But a couple of my men were field medics an' we got medical supplies. What ya needin'?"
"All the prayers ya can spare plus a fast burn to the nearest hospital, over."
"Then best we get ya aboard."
"*Bu qu*, Dauntless. We cannot comply. Our man is down an' we have him set up with an iv line. Lost too much blood, we move him, he dies. Ya try to take him an' I swear on my mama's life I will ram this sorry excuse for a boat into yours an' take you thievin' lyin' scum to *diyu* with me!"
Porter Knowles leant close to the com switch. "Ya appear to be under some misapprehension," He said. "We ain't purplebellies an' we ain't Alliance."
Suspicion floated back across the airwaves almost thick enough to break atmo. "Then who the good gorram are ya?"
It was Tyrone Garvin who replied, unable to keep the smile out of his voice and unable to keep silent a moment longer. "Who the ruttin' *diyu* do ya think would come all this way to pull your *baichi* ass outta the fire Pepper?"
Silence. Then the line crackled. "Ty? That you?"
"Yeah, an' I'm gettin' weary of missin' your ugly gorram mug so ya gonna let us dock or talk us to gorram death?"
Inara Serra knew she was not being wise but doing the sensible thing, the 'intelligent' thing, had not accomplished any of the things she had hoped for. She knew they were never going to let her return to Sihnon. It was not a question of her being too valuable, too needed by the Alliance cause. No. This was more about making sure she had no contact with anyone other than her handlers and that did not sit well with her at all. After all she had done, all she had given up, Inara Serra decided she had finally repaid her debt to them.
Oddly enough once the decision had been made she felt a deep abiding peace. As if the 'verse was affirming that she was making the correct decision. Was it really that easy? A faint smile dusted her solemn lips. The recent past consigned to that locked and sealed vault where all her more troublesome moral dilemnas lived and breathed. She wondered what had happened to Diamond Harry. Assumed he must have been caught and executed though it was odd to hear nothing on the cortex. That meant it had been done stealthily. Either that or Harry had, for reasons of his own, decided the time had come to cut and run. She shook her head, slowly brushed her long hair as she gazed in the mirror. But she was not looking at her reflection. She was seeing something else. Memories of long ago, the day the Alliance had come to claim her. The background sound of someone weeping. Cold hands lifting her off her feet, no words of comfort, no explanation. Detached. Authorative. Strangers that uprooted her from one world to serve another - far, far away.
Sihnon. Home. It was the only place she wanted to be. They had promised her and if they couldn't keep that promise then she would no longer be bound by their rules. Their strictures. It was a daring defiance but suddenly she craved that defiance more than she had craved any other thing. She was the Queen of Assassins not some gorram pawn of the Alliance. Had done terrible things in the so-called name of the Greater Good only that good came at price that flew in the face of everything they were supposed to stand for. She had supported Unification. Believed passionately in the need to unite the planets, wipe out war and bring all lands under the rule of one benificent authority. But Inara had seen that authority close at hand. Been privvy to the horrors that had forced her further into the deepest places of her own mind. Places where the intelligence corps could not find her. Where her doubts and sorrow could be hidden and her mind retain the last small glimmer of sanity.
She had done her duty. And it had cost her dear. Now she wanted no more of it. No more blood. No more torture. No more manipulation and lies. It was time to drop the title and wash her hands of it. To not so much move on as reclaim what should have been. Time to go home. To Sihnon.
The Sheriff felt pain and shock go right through him, his steps unsteady as he crossed the deck to where Malcolm Reynolds lay. Dropping to his knees he reached for a cold hand and bent his head in sorrow, hardly noticing the strange ring on his third finger. The boy looked bad. Close to death most like. Ty choked back a cry. Pepper put a hand on his shoulder and took him to one side then quietly and calmly told him every rutting thing that had happened. Deputy Crowther exchanged an anxious look with Peter Bailey, trying not to look at what remained of Davy Reynolds' body.
Mal was insensate. Adrift on a dark ebbing tide that was going nowhere. The Sheriff leaned close, broken words tripping from his numb lips, eyes a little glazed. It had been more than a year since he had last set eyes on the Captain. A year in which his name often entered his mind prompted more than once by the girl left in his care. Yen Mah had oddly enough accepted the parting, stayed with the Sheriff and his family for close on a month then gone back to her *ye ye* in the hills. Hadn't expected to see her again after that though Mary wanted so badly to keep her. Girl had a right to choose what folks claimed her but she had already wormed her way unknowingly into their affections. Same as her Big Damn Hero had. They missed her and they missed him. The Sheriff smiled softly and gave the cold hand a gentle squeeze hardly noticing the faint prick in his hand.
"I'm gettin' mighty tired of seein' ya in danger, son. Best snap out of it, ya here me? I know none of this was your fault. Got the full tale of it from Pepper an' his men." He paused to chuckle drily. "I don't know how ya do it, Mal, drawin' folks from all walks of life into your gorram circle but I tell ya this. Don't give up now, I wanna hear all your stories, everythin' that's happened to ya since we last met *dong ma*? Don't make me go home empty handed son. Don't go an' break an old man's heart."
The last words were so softly spoken it was doubtful if Mal would have heard them had he been conscious. It surprised the Sheriff his own self to put those feelings into words. Gorrammit he was getting a sentimental old fool in his later years. But it was hard to see him like this, to know that the boy's life's blood was ebbing away probably faster than the blood being pumped into him from his brother. His breath caught, head turned to gaze at Davy. He had heard the sorry tale and it made his heart ache anew. Looking up he caught Pepper Rawlings looking back at him. Serious as a gorram heart attack. With a sigh he leant over Mal's pale face, paused to brush the damp hair from his eyes then dropped a soft kiss on the boy's forehead as if he were another son. In the Bowman household there was always room at their table for one more. Then he got to his feet letting Ty take his place he drew Pepper to one side. "What ya gonna tell Mal about Davy?"
Pepper blinked, surprised that the Sheriff would assume Malcolm Reynolds was going to make it. "Ain't ya bein' a mite presumptious Sheriff?"
He resisted the urge to smile, especially as it would have been with more pain than humour. "Don't count him out just 'cause he's down. That boy has more grit an' steel to him than anythin' the Alliance can build or muster. I heard your tale about Davy, how he turned on Mal an' the like. I wanna know the why of it."
"Yeah, been thinkin' about that my own self, it don't seem right." Said Charlie slowly. "We discussed it after we rigged up the transfusion. Think maybe the Alliance messed Davy up some."
The Sheriff tilted his head and gave Pepper a sideways look. He could feel a dull throb forming behind his eyes. Just his luck to have a headache coming on when he needed his head clear. "Why'd'ya think that?"
Lenny snorted. "'Cause them brothers was close, *dong ma*? An' I don't mean in a casual way but real close. On'y had to look at 'em together to see it. The way Davy acted seemed off an' when he shot Mal there were no words for the shock that went through us. He went kind'a feral after that, unnatural like, an' Pepper had to take him down. Tied him up so's he stay put but it didn't stop him gettin' a hold of the gun when the madness left him. I'm tellin' ya Sheriff, it weren't natural."
"Ya sayin' he was manipulated?"
Pepper nodded. "Got no proof but gut instinct, plus Mal loved his brother right fierce. Can't see him bein' fooled by someone that close to him."
The Sheriff thought about that, not sure what to make of it. He was feeling tired and a little hot but soon it would be all over. How did Mal always end up in such complicated situations? He wiped the sweat from his brow. Boy surely had a gift for finding trouble.
"At the end," Said Pepper slowly. "When Davy realised what he'd done he put the gun under his chin an' blew his fool head off."
Stunned, the Sheriff blinked back the threat of tears from his eyes. He was beginning to feel more than a mite light headed. Must be the gorram shock. "*Wode tiana*. So what ya gonna tell Mal?"
Pepper looked at his men, a silent accord between them. When he looked at the Sheriff again he tilted his head in an almost belligerent manner as if daring and defying the man to argue with his decision. "Gonna tell Mal his brother fought alongside him an' died a hero to the cause."
The Sheriff could not speak. Numbly he nodded, his heart silently thanking them for not adding more burden to a man who had carried more than his fair share every year of his gorram life. Anything that would save the boy further pain and sorrow he would willingly endorse. The boy needed a break. Something good to wash away all the bad. He was determined that if there was anything in his power to make that wish happen he would do it but first he had to get the boy home. Not to Shadow, not even to Porchester, but the only home the boy had left. The only one that meant a damn. Serenity.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shenme* = what *si* = dead
*dong ma* = understand *diyu* = hell *bu hao* = not good *bushi* = not so *huaiyun* = pregnant *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *ye ye* = grandfather
*baichi* = idiot
Sunday, June 6, 2004 9:34 PM
Monday, June 7, 2004 12:36 AM
Monday, June 7, 2004 1:21 AM
Tuesday, June 8, 2004 3:59 AM
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