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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Conclusion to the Power story. As always, let me know what you think ...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1787 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Freya hurt. Her whole body ached, starting from a point about a foot above her head and extending out to an area about the size of Serenity’s cargo bay. She groaned slightly, and forced her eyes open. Sand. Yellow and gritty. Great. She seemed to be lying on a beach. Now, if only there was a cool blue ocean just a few steps away …
She lifted her head, and realised she was inside somewhere she recognised all too well. “Gos se.”
“Miss Nordstrom. How nice to see you again.”
Freya got shakily to her feet and looked around. “Wish I could say the same.”
She stood in the centre of an arena, built from blocks of the yellow stone. About thirty yards across, the perimeter was a wall about fifteen feet high, with a much smaller, knee high wall six feet inside that. Guards stood at intervals between the two. In front of Freya, though, was a raised dais, surrounded by rich brocades, with a chair that could only be described as a throne on it. A man sat there, leaning back and studying her intently, a smile playing around his lips. He was in early middle age, and might once have been described as handsome, but his appetites had outgrown his body.
Freya, aware that her gunbelt and knife sheath had been taken off her, tried to move forward, but an odd sensation stopped her. She lifted a hand and pushed slowly, encountering a field that flashed green and stung like a thousand bees. She stepped back quickly, trying to shake the pain from her hand. “This is new,” she said.
“Yes. I've made quite a few improvements since you were here last. Just out of interest, how did you get away?” Edwin Maice leaned forward.
“Magic.” Freya glared insolently at him.
“You won’t be quite so flippant soon enough,” Maice said, waving a hand in dismissal. “So waste your time on your witticisms now.” He took a small box from his waistcoat pocket and pressed a sequence of buttons. He pointed over to the far side of the arena, to where a break in the wall indicated an entrance. “Please. Be funny now.”
Simon dragged Inara through the gate, his face blank. His grip, however, was obviously powerful, for Inara’s face was twisted in pain.
Freya cursed, glancing at Maice, fury in her eyes. “Ne tah muh duh, hwoon dahn!”
Simon stopped just the other side of the force field.
“What happened?” Freya asked quietly.
“River let him loose.” Inara tried to pry Simon’s fingers from her arm, but his grip was like steel.
“Where is she now?”
“Still on the shuttle, back the way she was.”
“Great,” Freya whispered. “Just when we need a homicidal maniac, she’s asleep.”
Maice clapped his hands. “Enough of this chit chat. I have spent a large amount of money to find you, and I –“
Freya interrupted. “Why? Were you pissed because you lost?”
Maice slammed his fist onto the arm of his throne. “I did not lose! I never lose!”
“You’re insane,” Freya said.
Maice lifted a hand, and one of the guards behind Freya touched her in the back with his stick. Pain flashed through her and she let out an involuntary cry, falling to her knees and trying to breathe.
“I’d be careful what I say, Miss Nordstrom.” Maice settled himself, watching her climb unsteadily to her feet. “As I said, I spent money to find you. I had hoped that there would be more people with you, but I'm sure we can make this interesting.” He pressed a button on his chair, and a door slid open in the wall a little way along from the dais. A column of stone moved forward, a male figure strapped securely to it, bound and gagged: Mal.
“And this will be such fun,” Maice continued. “Money can buy so much information. For instance, it can buy the fact that you both have feelings for Captain Reynolds here. And that is something that will make this game very special.” He stood up, like a Roman Emperor about to pass judgement. “You will fight each other. I know you both can, so there’s no need to deny it. I am well aware of Miss Nordstrom’s skills, and a Companion is trained in the art of … shall we say, extreme self defence? So tomorrow you will fight. And the winner gets to keep the good captain.”
“And the loser?” Inara asked defiantly.
“Oh don’t be mistaken. There will be no loser. Just alive – or dead.”
“I was right: you are insane.” This time Freya was ready for the pain, but it didn’t stoop her whole left side going numb. This time she fell forward, unable to stop herself hitting the force field and being thrown back.
“Freya!” Inara tried in vain to release Simon’s grip, twisting and pulling until it felt as if her arm were going to come out of its socket.
Maice pressed his control box again and Simon let go, going to sit on the low wall in front of Mal, who was himself struggling against his bonds, unintelligible noises coming from behind the gag.
The force field dropped, and Inara knelt by Freya, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “Freya?”
“I'm okay.” She tried to sit up. “I think.”
“It will wear off soon, Miss Nordstrom. Certainly by tomorrow. I can’t have my games pieces in any way unfit. It wouldn’t be playing by the rules.” He laughed and pointed to Simon. “Which is also why, in case you were wondering, I haven’t used my control device on the pair of you. When you fight – and you will fight – it will be you in control. You who kill.” He nodded to one of the guards, who hauled Freya to her feet. “Now, I suggest you get some rest. It will be a big day for you tomorrow. Although for one of you it will be your last.” He laughed again as the guards hustled the two women out of the arena.
Mal watched them go, struggling futilely, anger burning white hot inside him.
The room the guards took them to was dark, bare of furniture except for stone benches that ran along the length of each wall. A single high window let in the bright afternoon light.
Freya managed to sit on one of the benches before she fell down. She rubbed her leg, trying to get some feeling back.
“Does he mean what he says?” Inara asked, sitting next to her.
Freya looked into the Companion’s worried face. “He means every word. If we don’t fight, he’ll kill us all.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Inara, you must.”
“You don’t, we die.” Freya looked into Inara’s face, and the Companion was shocked to see something other than friendship in her eyes. “Ain’t it the way? I shoulda known you couldn’t.”
“Freya? I don’t understand.”
“You make me sick.” Inara pulled back but Freya went on. “You with your fancy ways, your manipulations … you say the same things to everyone to make them think they’re special, when all you are is a whore.”
Inara was shocked – Freya never used that word, and berated Mal when he did. “Freya, you don’t mean that.”
“Don’t.” Inara felt her knees give way and she sat down quickly.
“Don’t?” Freya stood up, leaning over her. “Don’t what? Don’t tell the truth? Don’t call you on how you use people?”
“What are you doing?”
“Inara, tomorrow we will fight. There’s no choice. But don’t think that I won’t try to kill you, because I will.” She walked across the room, getting feeling back in her leg. “You really think this isn’t the opportunity I've been waiting for?” She laughed, but there was no humour in it.
“I don’t –“
“You think we’re friends? We’re not. I've had enough experience at lying that it comes as second nature.” She faced the other woman and leaned close. “I hate you, Inara. I hate what you’ve made of me. But mostly I hate that Mal still loves you.”
“I know, when he’s kissing me, it’s your lips he thinking of; when he’s holding my flesh he’s wishing it was yours, and when we lie together he dreams of you.”
“That isn’t true, Freya.”
“You think I don’t know?” Freya slammed her fist into the wall beside Inara’s head.
“You’re lying.” Inara stood up, face to face.
“Am I?” Freya gave a short bark of laughter, ignoring the blood dripping from the grazes on her knuckles. “Use all that Companion training, all those instincts, and you tell me I'm not telling the truth! You’d better prepare to fight me tomorrow, Inara. Or I will kill you where you stand.”
“No! Now, I need to try and get some sleep. Got some killing to do tomorrow.” She backed up and sat on the stone bench, lifting her legs up. She leaned on the wall and closed her eyes, trying to breathe deeply, holding her emotions in check.
Inara stared at her, her thoughts confused, and felt an anger building inside.
In another part of the compound, in a cell very much like the one Freya and Inara were occupying, Mal was pacing backwards and forwards. His anger was about at top level, but he knew from bitter experience that it was capable of going higher. Although most of it was directed at Maice, he was more than a little annoyed at Freya: she had known what was likely to happen, but hadn’t taken account of what Maice would do when he found out his tame puppet hadn’t delivered them all. He could guess what happened.
There was a sound at the door, and he quickly stood to one side, waiting for whoever to come through. It was a guard, and Mal used the moment of surprise he had to pull him into the room, punching him deep in the stomach, then pulling the man’s head down to his knee, feeling his nose break on impact. Then a searing pain coursed through him, emanating from a point in the small of his back, but extending throughout his body. He collapsed to his knees, his palms in the dirt.
“Really, Captain Reynolds, did you think you’d be able to get away that easily?” Maice asked, stepping inside the cell and looking down at the incapacitated man.
“Nope, not really. Just wanted to kill someone, is all,” Mal gasped.
“Well, you’ve done an almost perfect job.” Maice touched the unconscious guard with his foot. “Get him out of here,” he ordered.
Two other guards grabbed their comrade by the arms and dragged him unceremoniously out. Maice stood looking at Mal in a calculated fashion, the other two guards ready with their pain sticks should Serenity’s captain attempt to do anything more than just try to breathe.
“You know, Frey was right,” Mal managed to say, taking air into lungs that didn’t really want to work.
“You mean about me being insane?” Maice smiled coldly. “Perhaps. But when you have as much money as I have, it isn’t really insanity. It’s eccentricity.”
Mal struggled to his feet. “And that gives you the right to play judge and jury?”
“Oh, I'm not judging you, Captain,” Maice assured him. “I don’t care what you’ve done. Or had planned to do, for that matter. All that I care about is the game. The fight. To the death. And it will be glorious.” He walked across the room and sat down on the bench, his guards close. “I have waited a long time to get that woman back in my arena, and I intend to get every ounce of satisfaction out of her.”
Mal glared at him. “Her name’s Freya.”
“I don’t care.”
“Why don’t you just start a war somewhere?” Mal asked. “Then you’d see all the death you want.”
“Ah, you see, that’s where you’re mistaken. Again. The death itself is almost incidental. But to make friends – lovers, perhaps – fight each other, with all the emotion and grief that entails, that is the prize. That makes all of this,” he indicated the compound, “worth it.”
“You’re going to die, you know that, don’t you?” Mal said.
“No, Captain Reynolds. But you might. It depends on whether your little friends decide to do the decent thing and face each other tomorrow.”
“They won’t kill each other.”
“No?” Maice took a small personal vid from his pocket, tapping the control until he found the clip he wanted. “You think not?” He handed the pad to a guard, who passed it to Mal. “Take a look. See for yourself.”
Mal stared at him then looked down at the vid. He touched the play button. Freya and Inara appeared on the screen, in a cell.
Freya spoke. “He means every word. If we don’t fight, he’ll kill us all.”
Inara shook her head. “I don’t think I can.”
“You don’t, we die.” Freya, even on this small screen, showed utter contempt. “Ain’t it the way? I shoulda known you couldn’t.”
Mal watched the screen with a sinking heart, hearing words he never expected to come from Freya.
“Inara, tomorrow we will fight. There’s no choice. But don’t think that I won’t try to kill you, because I will. You really think this isn’t the opportunity I've been waiting for?” She laughed, so coldly that Mal could feel ice in it.
“You see?” Maice said as the vid ended. “I think I shall be getting something worth seeing tomorrow.”
Mal threw the screen against the wall in disgust, seeing it shatter. “Ching wah tsao dul liou mahng!”
“Now, now, Captain Reynolds. Keep yourself calm. After all, you might need all that rage yourself.” Maice stood up and laughed, leaving the cell as his guards kept watchful eyes on Mal.
Mal watched impotently as the door closed again, noting almost on the edge of his consciousness that he had been right, and his anger was greater than ever. If what he had seen on that screen was true, and there was no reason to believe that Maice would fabricate such a thing, Freya was going to try and kill Inara tomorrow. And she could do it, too, that much he knew. Her skills, her talents, had been honed in battle, apart from anything she’d learned since. But Inara wasn’t helpless, and it occurred to him that he might be watching them both die. He started to pace again. “Ai ya, hwai leh!” he muttered.
The sun had come up, but the room in which Freya and Inara were held was still dark, so when the door opened they blinked in the sudden light. One of the guards stood in the doorway.
Freya stood, shaking some life back into her limbs. “Good. Let’s do this.”
The guard tossed something to her which hit her in the chest, and she grabbed hold. “Put these on.” He threw another to Inara.
Freya opened out the package – it was a one-piece red suit, fitted and padded about the shoulders. “Shiny.”
The sunlight angled down into the area, and heat was already building, bouncing up off the sand. Maice was already sitting on his throne, and Simon was still in the same place they had last seen him. Mal, on the other hand, had been put into a cage about a quarter of the way around. He looked unharmed, but exceptionally angry. One of the guards stood next to him, his stick at the ready.
Freya and Inara entered the arena, dressed in red and white respectively, the differences between them marked in their outfits. Inara, shorter than Freya, slighter, holding herself with a majestic bearing, but clearly frightened. Freya, tall, curvaceous but muscular, proud. She led the way to the centre of the arena, deliberately not making eye contact with Mal, no matter that he called their names several times.
She spoke, her voice clear and strong. “Maice. Do you promise that the winner will be released? That no harm will come to them or Captain Reynolds?”
“You’re here to fight. Not talk.”
“Do you promise?”
“Oh, very well. Yes, I promise that the winner will be able to leave, unmolested, with your captain. Happy?”
Freya ignored him. She turned to Inara. “Fight me. Or I will end you. Believe it.”
“Maybe. But I'm not going to die to prove you wrong.”
“Freya, Inara – don’t do this!” Mal shouted, pulling at the door to the cage.
“Come, come. I don’t have all day.” Maice clicked his fingers.
“No, neither do I,” Freya muttered, and backed away from Inara.
A guard threw two swords into the centre of the arena. They lay on the sand, catching the light, looking hellishly sharp.
“It’s time,” Freya said, doing a running roll over the sand and picking up one of the swords on route. Inara ran to follow, and they faced each other off.
Freya attacked, and the swords sang in the morning air. Sparks flew as they parried and thrust, moving around the arena, each gaining then losing the advantage.
Mal watched, unable to do anything but that, not calling, not wanting to distract either, but equally not wanting to see either of them die. He was no good with a blade, not really, but he knew enough to realise that what he was watching was real skill, and gradually he understood that most of that skill lay on Freya’s side. She was controlling the fight more, moving smoothly around the arena, but for some reason not taking advantage when Inara made a mistake, left herself open. His brow furrowed – something else was going on here.
Suddenly Freya seemed to misstep, and Inara lunged forward. The look on Freya’s face was pure surprise as the blade slid through her, a sharp intake of breath her only sound.
“Freya!” Mal shouted.
Freya looked down at the blade, amazed at the fire it had ignited within her. She knew it had gone all the way through, and she was aware of blood seeping out around it.
Inara, in shock at what she’d done, pulled the sword slowly out, not realising that Freya felt every molecule as a white-hot shard of pain in her belly. Blood dropped from the sword, and as the tip came free Freya fell to her knees, sitting back on her heels.
“Finish it,” Maice commanded.
“You have to,” Freya mouthed, no sound coming from her throat.
Inara, as if hypnotised, raised her sword.
“Inara – no!” Mal was fighting with the bars of his cage, trying desperately to break the lock. “Inara!”
Then it was too late. The Companion plunged the sword down, into Freya’s chest, and she reared back, her mouth open in a soundless scream. Then as Inara withdrew the blade she slumped forward, sitting upright but her head fallen forward. Mal staggered back from the cage bars.
Inara turned to face Maice. “It’s over,” she said. “Keep your promise.” Blood dripped from the point of the sword, staining the yellow sand a deep red.
“Oh, I shall,” Maice smiled, very unpleasantly. “And the winner shall have Captain Reynolds. At least for tonight. Then you shall fight each other.”
“That’s not right!” Inara protested.
“Do you think I would let you leave here alive?” Maice sneered.
“No,” said Freya.
Inara had been standing between Maice and Freya, and only Mal had seen Freya slowly move her hand and pick up her sword from the sand. He held his breath as she managed to get to her feet, leaning on her thighs, darker blood running down the red suit. Now she moved around Inara.
“No,” she repeated. “I never did.” With that she lunged forward, pushing the point of her sword through Maice with such force that it impaled him to the chair. He fluttered his hands ineffectually at the blade as Freya leaned closer and said, direct to his face, “You lose.”
She watched as he tried to speak, to formulate words and deny it, but his voice wouldn’t respond. After a moment his jaw fell, and the light died in his eyes.
Maice’s guards, in shock at the death of their boss at the hands of an apparent corpse, raised their weapons. Two shots rang out almost simultaneously, followed immediately by a third, and three guards fell twitching to the sand.
“I think it’s the cavalry,” Freya said, turning slowly to Inara, the control box in her hand.
Zoe and Jayne stood on the arena wall, firing expertly. Maice’s guards, employed for their brutality rather than their bravery or skill with weapons, were rapidly overcome. As Serenity’s crew leaped down and ran towards the others, Freya tossed the box to Inara, wincing in pain. “Smash it,” she said.
Inara dropped it onto the ground and brought her heel down on it. The thing died in a shower of sparks.
Simon jerked to his feet. “What –“
“Simon, let me out of here,” Mal shouted. “That guard has the key.” He pointed to one of the bodies.
Simon hurriedly went through the dead man’s pockets, finding the key and taking it to Mal. Freya watched, smiling a little, then took a step forward. She fell, not aware enough to put her hands out to cushion her fall.
“Frey!” Mal shouted, pushing the cage door open and vaulting the wall.
Inara was on her knees by the injured woman, and between them they rolled Freya gently over.
“Careful,” Simon ordered, kneeling down beside them. “She’s losing a lot of blood.”
“I didn’t hit any major organs,” Inara insisted. “I know I didn’t.”
Freya’s eyelids fluttered once, and she looked directly into Mal’s face before lying still.
“We’d have been back sooner, but Serenity wouldn’t let us turn,” Jayne said, standing next to them, covering the arena with Vera.
“And we couldn’t launch a shuttle until now,” Zoe added. “Kaylee finally managed to clear the lock.”
“MY decision,” Mal said, gathering Freya into his arms. Simon held her legs. “Where’s Serenity?”
“In orbit. But the shuttle’s just outside.”
“Good.” Mal’s face was carefully blank. “Let’s get Freya to the infirmary.”
Simon was busying himself putting his equipment away when he realised Freya was awake. He stepped to the side of the bed and looked down at her, glancing once at the monitor.
“Hey,” Freya managed to say.
“Hey. Lie still. Don’t try to move.”
“Couldn’t if wanted to.”
“Your injuries are severe, but not life threatening. Inara knew what she was doing.”
Freya smiled a little. “Did that. Y’okay?”
She raised a hand briefly, pointing to his neck. “Thing gone?”
“Zoe and Mal – under my supervision.”
“‘N I missed it. River?”
“She’s okay too. I'm sorry, by the way.”
“Not your fault.”
“I knew what was going on, but I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t stop myself.” He looked … distressed.
“Simon, it’s okay.” Freya smiled again, but it turned into a wince and she groaned slightly.
“Are you in pain?”
Simon went to his medbag and prepared a syringe.
Outside the infirmary Mal and Inara were talking, waiting for news.
“She goaded me, Mal,” Inara was saying, still shocked at what had happened. “Said things to make me – they were all lies. The only true thing she said was that she’d had so much practice lying – she made me believe her.”
“To make you fight.”
“I couldn’t have otherwise. And she knew, Mal, she knew if I won I would hurt her without killing her.”
“They teach you that at the Academy?”
“Anatomy was one of my best subjects.”
Mal gazed at her. “Was it. Not that I'm happy with what happened.”
“Oh, Mal, neither am I,” Inara agreed fervently.
“So what did she say?”
“Oh, no. That’s between her and me.”
He had a pretty good idea anyway, apart from what he’d seen on the vid. He knew what preyed on Freya’s mind occasionally, and no matter what he said, or did, she couldn’t quite rid herself of the nagging doubt.
“Why not ask her yourself?” Simon called from inside the infirmary, injecting a liquid into the drip running into Freya’s arm. “Only for a minute, though.”
Inara hurried through, Mal following at a slightly more leisurely pace. “Freya,” the Companion said.
Freya smiled slightly. “Hi.”
“So that was your plan?” Inara was still annoyed, you could tell.
“Spur of the moment. Had to make you mad enough to fight, but not to kill.”
“How did you know I wouldn’t?”
“You’re ‘Nara – my friend.”
Inara felt something inside her relax. “Why didn’t you just tell me?” she asked, letting some of her exasperation with this woman out.
“Listening. Watching and listening. All the time. Part of the way he got his kicks.” She looked at Mal standing behind Inara. “Did I kill him?”
“Yes, yes, you did,” Mal said.
“Good. Thought it might’ve been a dream.” Her eyes started to close, and she forced them open, but Simon saw.
“Time to get some rest.”
“He’s not wrong,” Freya agreed.
“I’ll see you soon,” Inara said firmly and left the infirmary.
“You too, Mal,” Simon added.
“In a minute.” He looked down at Freya quizzically. “So what did you say? To make Inara fight, I mean.”
“I imagine it was about me still wanting her.”
Freya felt a stab of jealousy. “Showed the darkness in my soul. Not pretty. Scary.”
“Can’t persuade you, can I?” Mal asked, shaking his head.
“Give me time. Like fifty years.” She smiled, then blinked several times. “Hey, doc, that was good stuff.”
“It has a sedative effect,” Simon replied.
“Oh.” Her eyes closing, she said, “Mal – be here when I wake?”
“I'm not going anywhere.”
“Good. Thas … good.” Her eyes closed finally, then smiled as sleep overtook her, feeling Mal take her hand in his.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 7:32 AM
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 5:58 PM
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