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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Simon treats the Captain and worries about the others. Kaylee finds all manner of things to enthuse about but they still aren't out of the woods."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1973 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "HANNIBAL COBB"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Simon treats the Captain and worries about
the others. Kaylee finds all manner of things to enthuse
about but they still aren't out of the woods."
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.
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
At first it had been creepy and not a little scary but as soon as Simon started working on the Captain everything else became so much background noise that he could simply block out. Focus. It was one of Simon Tam's true strengths and he weilded it with all the precision of a laser. The beast watched him but did not interfere, some instinct telling the panther that Simon was helping. River knew the Captain was in the best of hands and observed the cat watching with interest.
"Lost your cubs, don't want to lose another." She murmured softly, her voice taking on an air of sadness that was not her own. As the echoes of pain touched her own tender heart River felt the depth of it too. River was more than a Reader she was an Empath and right now the creature's emotional pain was speaking to her as loudly as the Captain's physical one, almost drowning out Simon's thoughts. The panther was grieving.
Mal wasn't as badly hurt as Simon feared. The Captain had torn his shoulder, literally. That was where most of the blood had come from, that and a gash on the side of his head. The head wound explained why he was unconscious. Zoe and Wash had mentioned that Mal had not been able to see and that meant he probably had a concussion as well. Simon sewed up the jagged tear in the Captain's shoulder, pleased not to have to dig a bullet out of it first. Then cleaned and stitched the head wound, all the while the big cat's golden eyes following his every move. It didn't exactly bother him but now that his anxiety had tapered off he became more aware of the animal's presence.
"How in the nine hells did the Captain make friends with a panther?" Simon mused softly.
Simon turned his head to look at his sister. She sat Indian style, legs crossed, completely relaxed. Simon frowned. "What do you mean?"
"She came to him, could feel, sense, almost taste his pain. It drew her. The Captain didn't see her. Lost in darkness there was only pain and the confusion of thoughts refusing to separate from each other. He was dizzy with it. She went to him and because he couldn't see the Captain wasn't afraid. It saved his life."
The doctor looked away from his sister and back to the Captain, his sensitive hands carefully checking the man for other injuries. "Are you saying the beast saved the Captaiin?"
River shook her head. Silly Simon but his heart was in the right place. "*Bu qu*. If he had panicked she would have killed him."
His hands froze and Simon looked at her again. "*Shenme*?"
"Instinct. It's how they navigate the food chain."
At her brother's baffled look River slowed down her speeding brain to explain.
"Instinct. Animals react to the prompts unconsciously given. Fear equals prey. She couldn't smell it in his sweat but she could feel his pain. Knew he was hurting."
Simon got back to work and discovered two maybe three cracked ribs. He hoped there was no internal bleeding. "Surely the smell of fresh blood would have tempted her to feed?"
Again River shook her head. "Not hungry. The grief over rode everything else."
For a few minutes no one spoke. River projecting an air of calm, Simon finishing up binding the Captain's ribs. A low moan alerted the doctor that his patient was waking. "Captain? Can you hear me? It's Simon."
The cat moved closer. Slow sinuous grace. Catching the movement out of the corner of his eyes Simon almost moved aside but he couldn't do that. The Captain was injured and whether the *wangu wangba dan* would ever admit it he needed him. He watched warily as the animal dipped her magnificent head and gently nudged the Captain. Simon wanted to shout to the animal to move away but River shook her head warning him to let the animal be.
He had to admit, that once you pushed past the initial terror it was kind of fascinating. The beast paused by the Captain's head, this time her nudge was so gentle it mesmerised the healer in Simon, a big furry paw patting the side of Mal's face as if she knew not to touch his wounded shoulder, the claws fortunately fully retracted. Another nudge then warmth puffs of soured air huffed across the Captain's face. He stirred. The cat licked his face and Simon couldn't help but smile, imagining how much the Captain would hate it were he fully conscious. Mal moaned and the cat responded with a low cough in the back of her throat.
"*Rongyi*, Captain, don't try to move too quickly."
The Captain rolled his head, another warm wet abrasive lick penetrating his befogged brain like two crossed wires. His eyes fluttered open and all the air in his lungs froze. Blue eyes looked up and locked with pure gold. Simon hardly dared to breathe. A wrong move now would quite literally be the death of his patient. The beast coughed again, the low wracking sound sending warm puffs of her scent into Mals' face. Not taking his eyes off the cat Mal spoke. "Doc?"
"How hard did I hit my head?"
Simon wanted to laugh, something about the normalacy of the question flooding him with relief despite their precarious predicament. "If you think you are hallucinating the panther I'm sorry to have to disabuse you of that fiction."
A look of confusion crossed the Captain's face. "Huh?"
"The cat is real."
Mal blinked, so weary plus his back was killing him. "How come I got a panther standing over me?"
River stood gracefully and went to the other side of the Captain, kneeling she smiled down at him as if having a panther among them happened every day of the week. "She likes you."
Another rasping lick across the Captain's cheek brought protests along with a reality check. "*Wei*!" He turned to stare up at the cat, her mouth open, panting lightly as her eyes shone down on him like miniature suns. He had meant to tell her off, to back away and leave him the *diyu* alone but he couldn't. Something about her tempered his reaction. Indistinct memories coming back to him, the definite feel of thick glossy fur beneath his hands, a heavy warm cloak lying over him, warm breath on his cheek. Another heart laid unerringly over his own. The steady beat of it a comfort he had not known he was needing. The feeling of being safe. Protected. He didn't know what the good gorram this was but he did know the last thing this noble creature needed was his wrath or pissy temper. She deserved neither.
"*Wei*," He said softly, his voice low and soothing. Mal raised his right hand and stroked slowly down the animal's muscled flank. She dipped her head under his hand and nudged it higher making the Captain smile. He rubbed the side of her neck and face, then up behind her ear, the cat angling her head so he could scratch the itch she could never reach. "Well, ain't you the demandin' one." He murmured, voice calm and tinged with both wonder and affection.
The cat's low coughing turned to something like a loud purr but deeper and throatier. Before anyone could think what that meant the cat lay down beside the Captain, her flank warm and comforting along his injured side, her great head tilted so he could keep petting her, those golden eyes fixed on his and captivating him completely.
Simon looked at River, not sure what to do.
"Don't have to do anything, Simon."
Simon glanced around, nonplussed. It didn't help that the others weren't back yet. What if something had happened to them? What if he, River and the cat-napped Captain were the only ones left alive? He swallowed slowly then caught River's amused smile, her eyes openly laughing at him.
"More surprises not less."
He didn't like the sound of that but before Simon could ask what she meant he looked behind him, sure he had heard something. "What was that?"
River danced over to him, all excitement and fevered anticipation. She wanted to run ahead but if she did Simon would panic. If Simon panicked the cat might attack. Instead she cut her brother a little slack and told him what he needed to know. Simon was not prone to heart attacks but his sister was the only one to test that theory on a regular basis. "They're coming back."
Hope lit Simon's wary tone. "They are?"
She smiled at her brother. "Yes." River did not add that they were not alone.
He was mad. *Shenjingbing*. Incensed. Chin Li watched helplessly as his men were mercilessly trampled under foot. Their armour no match for tons of furious muscle and bone moving like an unholy tide. Even firing everything they had the elephants did not slow down and not a single one of the huge beasts fell. Then the Chinaman's eyes picked out the single rider atop one of the lead creatures. He knew that face. Recognised it from the unruly band that made up Captain Reynolds' rag tag crew. It was the mercenary, Jayne Cobb.
Anger and vengeance in every cell of his being Chin Li silently ordered his men to stop wasting ammunition. Instead he gave them one target. Maybe he and his men would be trampled to death, not a one of them escape this unstoppable madness, but they would not be the only ones.
Jayne was lost to his euphoria, the blood pounding like a call to arms in his ears, carrying the beat of his heart above and beyond the noise and mayhem all around him. Proud as the *guai* of Sara and her kind. In this respect the truth was actually more incredible and inspiring than all the tales from Earth-that-Was. He didn't know when he first became aware that the enemy had changed tactics but suddenly the elite soldiers of the Alliance had stopped firing at the elephants. That relieved Jayne for only a moment as he realised the reason why.
""*Cao ni zuxian shi ba dai*! You want me, come an' get me you *qingwa cao de liumang*!"
The hail of gunfire only served to make Jayne madder, so mad he didn't see or apprehend his danger but Sara did. Raising her trunk she changed her call and even as Jayne felt little sharp stings in his arms and chest he was so pumped up on adrenaline that nothing short of having his head lopped off would stop him. The elephants continued to charge but now the ones at the back had moved forward. Dazed it was a while before Jayne realised why the elite red division were no longer concentating their fire on him. The elephants had formed a moving cordon around him, then at Sara's command the charge had upped a pace, a speed he had not known pachyderms were capable of now unleashed upon the remnants of Chin Li's army.
It was a good idea to have the elite force outfitted in red body armour to hide the blood. Who would have thought it would be to hide their own?
Silence fell heavy, an emptiness descending on the battleground. Concrete soaked red with blood and entrails, ragged bits of skin flapping against exposed and partly crushed bones like an impromptu flag of surrender, sky broody and threatening a storm. Not one of the enemy soldiers left standing. Jayne called that a win but the thought was fleeting, insubstantial, already fragmenting in his mind. Jayne could not connect one thought to another. Swayed where he sat perched on the roof of the world. Oh right, this wasn't a gorram world. It was a moon. Who the *diyu* cared anyway? They'd won, hadn't they? He tried to focus but his eyes stung and nothing penetrated through the red misty haze. Gorrammit he was so rutting tired but he couldn't stop now. Had to find the others. As the thought formed his consciousness faded to black, his body slipping from the grey tower of muscle not aware of the many trunks that reached out gently to break his fall, or the sorrowful sound of Sara trying to wake him. Gorrammit, if he didn't know better he'd think the rutting pachyderm cared. As his eyes closed and his mind began to drift on an outgoing tide he conceded that his ma was right. Elephants really were rutting smart critters.
"What do you mean it's too dangerous?"
Senator Lang looked sorry, truly he did. "Inara, were you to ask anything else you know that I would move heaven and 'verse to get it for you."
"But not a ship?"
The Senator sighed and all at once Inara knew. She had been stupid. Very very stupid. Only her Companion training enabled her to hide the fact and try to salvage something from this doomed attempt. Smiling, Inara still knew how to dazzle. To rob a man of his breath and steal the beat from the rythym of his heart. "It doesn't matter, it was just something I would have liked. Reckless of me I know but when your whole life is so tightly controlled by upbringing and duty the opportunity to just break loose once in a while and do something as irresponsible and 'fun' as go for a joy ride in a top of the range starship..." Inara broke off, flushed beautifully, then looked up again at the Senator through her lashes. She could pretty much see the man's resolve crumbling before her. The man had two daughters and doted on them both. "Forgive me, it was too much to ask and you could get into trouble."
Inara reached out to disconnect when Senator Lang leaned close to his screen, one hand upraised in entreaty. "*Deng*! Perhaps there is something I can do."
The slow appreciative smile on Inara's face was better than watching the sun come up.
Simon heard them before he saw them. Kaylee's voice carrying around the bend in the corridor a moment before she appeared. Zoe and Wash looked bemused. Shepherd Book had his hands clasped carefully in front of him but none of that impinged on the doctor's consciousness as he focused on what the mechanic was actually saying. Her voice as full of joy and excitement as he had ever witnessed. The need to share what she had seen with Simon and River was overpowering. The words just pouring out of her mouth.
"Ya should'a seen it, Simon! There's even a bear with two black eyes! Wonder what the *guai* happened to him?"
Book smiled gently as he came alongside her. "That wasn't a bear, Kaylee. Unless I'm much mistaken that was a Giant Panda."
Kaylee was not put off. "Huh? Looked like a bear to me."
River hugged Kaylee, Simon stared from face to face. Zoe looked past him towards the Captain, surprised to see that her friend was awake and appeared to talking to a panther. It was kind of freaking her out. Had to be a figment of her imagination. Zoe blinked but the cat was still there. Shaken she tried to ignore the evidence of her eyes. "How's the Cap'n?"
"Awake and not as badly injured as we feared."
"Can he..." Wash broke off, wondering if the Captain could hear him. Just in case, he lowered his voice and spoke soft. Not sure what to make of the giant cat. "What about his sight? I mean..."
"Relax Wash, the Captain's sight came back when he woke. I'm guessing he had a mild concussion caused by the cut to his head."
Zoe and Wash forgot about the panther and exchanged a look at Simon's words. "A cut to the head? When did that happen?"
It was River who interrupted any further discussion. "We need to go up, down is no longer the right direction."
Book exchanged a look with Zoe then turned to Simon. "We found the centre of the ship, Simon."
He blinked. Kaylee and River were grinning and whispering excitedly to each other. Simon might be Top Three Per Cent but that didn't help him understand any of this. "And you thought I should know this because...?"
River broke off her conversation with Kaylee to answer. "It controls everything."
"I..." Simon paused and looked a bit dazed. "When is someone going to tell me what is going on?"
To their surprise the Captain's voice interrupted. "Not to take the shine off your discoveries - of which it seems there are many - but I ain't seein' Jayne in all this."
Guilty looks flickered around his remaining crew then Zoe cleared her throat slowly. "We got split up leaving the ship, sir. Seemed the thing to do. Stayin' would'a made us sittin' ducks for the gorram purplebellies. You didn't see it but they were right on our heels, too gorram close to shake off an' about to set down right alongside Serenity. You were injured, didn't know how bad, but seems you couldn't see. Had us more'n a mite worried an' with no doctor to speak of. Didn't know where the others were so me an' Wash found an empty cave, shelter. Somewhere to hide out 'til we could find Simon. Hid you inside."
It made sense, as fantastical as their story was it was no more bizarre than his own. "Wasn't empty." Said the Captain in a calm even voice. He wasn't angry, just stating a fact.
The big cat and the Captain were sitting side by side. Made a weird image in Zoe's head but the sight of her friend conscious and on the mend was worth the incongruity of the setting. The cat nudged the Captain's good shoulder and without looking at the animal he began to rub his hand through her fur just the way she liked it, the cat's eyes half closing in bliss but as alert as she had been with both eyes open. Zoe knew better than to underestimate a wild animal even if the Captain seemed to domesticate her some. Buying into the illusion could get them all killed. Maybe this was just one big gorram dream? Or should that be nightmare?
"What do we do now, sir?"
That almost made the Captain smile. "First off, reckon you should all gather round. Don't feel like chasin' around after nobody right now an' I'm thinkin' it would harm my manly image if'n I fell flat on my face tryin'."
Zoe smirked. The crew settled round him in a semi-circle, wary of getting too close and upsetting his feline friend. At a nod from the Captain they sat and waited. Kaylee was itching to wriggle closer to the Captain so she could fuss over the shiny new addition but River shook her head gently. Trying to hide her disappointment Kaylee looked from the magnificent beast to her Captain and back again, a smile blossoming into a grin. They were kind'a cute together.
"Suppose you tell me what you found?"
Zoe looked at Book and he took up the challenge on behalf of them all. Seeing that no one was making any threatening moves, the big cat dropped into a prone position and laid her head in the Captain's lap. Kaylee's mouth dropped open in shock. The Captain barely noticed, his hand still rubbing and stroking through the cat's fur, his attention on the Shepherd.
"We had a good look around, Captain." Said Book, his deep voice a welcome rumble that steadied them all. "There are many levels..."
"Fourteeen." Said River without looking at the Shepherd.
Book continued with a slow nod, his eyes fixed on the Captain. "Fourteen levels including this one to the centre."
"Meaning there's probably another fourteen to the other side?" Said Simon.
"*Qu*," Book agreed. "Symetry does seem to be a constant on this orb."
The Captain looked a mite unsettled. The cat raised its' head and Mal continued to soothe her with some fussing. She quickly set her head back into his lap. Her contentment oozing from her body into his own. Weird. Calming. Addictive. "Meanin' what exactly?"
"*Wo bu zhidao* but it reinforces the not bein' a natural moon notion."
"They were terraformin' it."
"The outside yes, but the inside..." Book trailed off for a moment, trying to choose the right words to make his meaning plain. "Captain, this 'moon' has been created from start to finish. It was not found here in the Black then adopted by the Alliance."
Mal's eyebrows rose. "They can do that?"
"They can do anything." Said Simon in a dispassionate voice.
"Not anything," River corrected. Simon wasn't sure how to feel about that.
"You were sayin', Preacher?"
"I suspected it from the start but going into the heart of the machine confirmed it."
That tweaked Kaylee's interest something fierce. "Did you say *machine*?"
Book nodded. "Yes. Savanna is a machine but its' even more than that."
"Don't keep us in suspense, Shepherd." Zoe urged. Wash gripped her hand and squeezed tight. Without looking at him she squeezed back.
"It's a state of the art terraformin' ship."
Silence, total and utter fell. The only sound was the light pant of the big cat. The Captain felt dazed. "You sayin' this big piece of real estate ain't?"
"It is what it is, Cap'n. I couldn't begin to tell you how much this project must have cost."
Wash was baffled. "But why? I mean it's shiny that they can do all that an' I am mightily impressed - an' horrified an' creepified if the truth be told - but why? None of this makes sense. There's nothin' here."
"*Cuode*." Said Book, looking at the panther lounging beside the Captain.
Kaylee glanced around, trying to work it all out. "What is this place? I mean, you say it's a ship an' all but they were terraformin' the surface. Why'd they stop?"
"I don't think they stopped, Kaylee." The Preacher said quietly.
Simon felt a prickle of apprehension shiver along his neck and spine. The big cat raised her head and coughed. Simon remembered that River had cautioned about how the animal acted on instinct, could smell fear. If you acted like prey the panther would treat you as prey. It was not a very reassuring thought. "If they didn't stop then why isn't it finished?"
The Captain had been staring at the Shepherd and now an inkling of what he was meaning solidified in his mind. "I'm thinkin' we interrupted 'em, that right?"
"That still doesn't explain the purpose of this place." Wash opined.
"Oh, but I think it does."
All eyes fixed on Book. Slowly he took one hand away, revealing what was cupped hidden in the palm of his other hand. Zoe did not look amused as the others gasped. "That what I think it is, Shepherd?"
"It's a scorpion."
River moved to get a closer look then tilted her head so she could look Book in the eyes through the curtain of hair half obscuring her pale face. "Doesn't have a soul."
"What's that, little albatross?"
The girl glanced at the Captain then back at Book. "Everything has a soul, everything that lives and breathes. Except the scorpion."
"*Mei mei*," Said Simon gently. "If all living things have a soul then so does the scorpion."
She shook her head. "It isn't a living thing."
Now shock shivered through them all. Kaylee actually pushed herself back, fright on her face. The panther stirred, sitting up and coughing quietly in the back of her throat, eyes now on Kaylee. Simon rushed to reassure the mechanic. "Kaylee, relax. The panther is picking up your distress."
Before Kaylee could say anything Book continued. "You're right, it's not alive. It's a machine."
Simon's mouth dropped open but nothing came out. He wondered if anyone would mind if he fainted.
"How does it work an' what's it for?" Zoe asked, her eyes narrowing as she tried to see as much detail as possible without touching it. Her reaction amused the Shepherd.
"It won't hurt you, Zoe."
A flat expression of not happy glared back at him. "Not givin' it the chance. What does it do?"
"Every operatin' system has a control panel, an operator to input commands an' such. This one is the exception." Book raised his hand so they could all see the ink black scorpion sitting in deadly pose with its' tail curled up over its' back, the deadly stinger like a warning of what would happen if they got too close. It was all kinds of disturbing how familiar and relaxed the Shepherd seemed with the thing, whatever it was.
Having recovered somewhat from her fright, Kaylee found the intrigue outpaced her fear. "How does it work?"
"It reacts to commands."
"So," Said the Captain slowly, not for a minute thinking anything so complex could be so simple. "We just tell it what to do an' that's it?"
A look of regret flickered across Book's face. "I'm afraid not."
Kaylee was staring at it, her fingers were itching to explore. "Want me to see what I can do?"
"I don't think that would be wise." Said Book.
A look of surprise settled on Kaylee's face. "*Weishenme bu*? You're holdin' it an' ya ain't come to no harm."
"Holdin' it isn't the same as tinkerin', Kaylee. This is state of the art technology. It probably has all manner of failsafes."
The mechanic flushed, suddenly feeling an idiot for not considering that the key to everything might be booby trapped. Would be just like the gorram Alliance. The Captain seemed to be thinking along the same lines. "You sayin' that thing is booby trapped, Shepherd?"
Shepherd Book almost smiled at Mal but the gravity of what he was saying wouldn't let him. "Oh, I'm sayin' more than that, Captain. I think this whole place is."
Shocked and stunned the crew let their eyes roam around the place where they had sought to take refuge. Only the Captain didn't do that, he was staring at Book. Something dark and sinister stirring in his gut and connecting with his back brain. He didn't like what he was thinking. If he still believed in God he would have prayed that he was wrong. Come to think of it, for the sake of his gorram crew, he just might pray anyway.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shenme* = what *wangu* = stubborn *diyu* = hell
*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *rongyi* = easy *wei* = hey! *deng* = wait"
*shenjingbing* = crazy *guai* = devil/ghost *weishenme bu* = why not?
*cao ni zuxian shi ba dai* = fuck 18 generations of your ancestors *qu* = yes (lit. go)
*qingwa cao de liumang* = frog humping sumbitch
Sunday, September 3, 2006 5:45 AM
Monday, September 4, 2006 9:09 AM
Monday, September 4, 2006 5:54 PM
Friday, September 8, 2006 9:12 AM
Monday, May 2, 2011 3:37 PM
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