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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"All kinds of revelations bering everybody to a point of conflict that cannot be avoided."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1783 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "HITTING THE FAN"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "EPICENTRE"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "All kinds of revelations bring everybody to
a point of conflict that cannot be avoided."
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.
"HITTING THE FAN"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
It was the strangest thing. Even though all the gorram corridors looked the same Jayne knew exactly which ones to take. He was tense and all manner of keyed up, ready to do whatever was needful when he came to an abrupt halt. The mercenary stood irresolute, not sure why he had stopped but no longer feeling the over riding imperative to keep going. His mind was empty, thoughts derailed. Feeling the sudden impulse to rest a moment he sat, his back against the wall. Alert. Waiting. Jayne had no notion of the passage of time but turned his head at a slight noise coming down the corridor from the direction he had come. He rose to his feet and awaited his destiny.
Chin Li emerged in his red battle armour, two swords in scabbards on his back, a gun in his right hand with laser sight and hairline trigger. Jayne did not have to ask its' specifications to know how deadly it could be. The mercenary felt an itch beneath his scalp like some buried memory trying to get out but nothing penetrated except his mission. Not even the incongruity of joining forces with his enemy to take down his friends.
Inara stared, not sure what she could say or do to turn this around. Then she caught the look in the Senator's eyes and realised there was nothing she could do or say. No argument that would mean a thing to the man standing next to her with all the grace and charm of a politician. He appeared harmless but elegant until you looked into his eyes. That was where the cold emptiness stared back at you, frosted with the humour of the grave. Man could have been a walking cadaver except for the flesh on him. As they settled into geostationary orbit above the proto-moon Senator Lang became animated. In that moment her dislike of him was elevated to hate.
"You don't have to do this, Senator. *Qing*, it's not too late."
His smile made her skin crawl. "I'm not going to do anything, Miss Serra. And just as importantly," he paused to make the calm mild words a threat. "neither are you!"
The Companion refused to be cowed, she had to keep her control. Falling to pieces or just giving in was not an option her friends could afford. "Senator?"
The man turned to face her, a vague look of amused patience on his face.
"What are we waiting for?"
An eyebrow rose. "Are you so impatient to see your friends die?"
Inara managed to hide her reaction though it cost her dear. "I can see that would be a foolish waste of effort."
Now he looked intrigued. Good. Inara did not smile, made no pretence that she was about to enjoy any of this, but she did effect a slight air of boredom. As if it was the waiting that was tiresome not the coming event. "I need to freshen up. If there is somewhere I can...?"
For a moment she thought he was going to refuse, but after staring at her for a couple of seconds he nodded. "*Dang ran*." He clicked his fingers and one of his men appeared beside them. "Conley, show Miss Serra where the amenities are. Be sure to escort her back when she is quite ready."
Conley nodded then led Inara off the bridge. With a little smug smile, Senator Lang clasped his hands behind his back and returned his attention to the view. Waiting for the entertainment to begin.
"Where d'ya suppose we're going?" Kaylee huffed. Keeping up with the Captain was not as easy as it would have been had she not had such an excitable entourage.
Simon eyed the monkeys warily, trying at the same time to ignore the emu who was gradually drawing closer to him. "What makes you think the Captain told me where we were going? It's not like the man confides in me, Kaylee."
The mechanic nodded ahead to where River was dancing and twirling just behind the Captain and panther as if things like this happened to her every day. The bright flurry of butterflies fluttering around her head forming a colourful cloud that took turns alighting on her laughing head before taking once more to the wing. "No need t'be so tetchy Simon just 'cause the emu's givin' ya the eye."
He looked affronted until he saw the smirk on her face and the laughter in her eyes. "*Hen haoxiao*."
"She ain't gonna hurt ya."
"I wish people would stop saying that."
Wash side stepped a couple of stray monkeys who then scrambled to climb up Kaylee's back and join the ones on her shoulder searching diligently through her hair for fleas. Not that Kaylee had vermin in her hair but some instincts were hard to break even on Savanna. "We're goin' to the centre, *jide*?"
"Oh, how could I forget our masterplan? The one our glorious leader failed to share with us."
Kaylee smiled at his sarcasm not taking his words to heart but Zoe's eyes narrowed, not amused. "Cap'n's got a plan, should be good enough for you, doctor."
"It would be if I knew what it was."
"No, no it wouldn't."
Simon stared at Wash as if he had two heads. Come to think of it when the parakeet moved like that he almost did have. Optical illusions. Had to love them. After all, some people juggled geese. "Why is that?"
Wash just stared at him. It took a moment then Simon remembered they were being monitored. Feeling somewhat chastened he gave a small nod. "You're probably right, Wash."
The emu had finally closed the gap and butted her head against Simon's shoulder. The doctor jumped back as if he had been stung. Wash laughed but Kaylee slapped Simon lightly on his other arm. "*Wei*, don't do that, you'll startle her!"
Simon blinked and momentarily forgot about the bright beady eyes considering him with the kind of intent that was unnerving. "Startle her? What about me?"
Kaylee smiled and leaned in to drop a kiss on Simon's cheek, alarming him further as a couple of the monkeys began to take more notice of him. Simon jumped back a pace and the emu crowded in so close that he couldn't shake her off without provoking a possible attack. Trying to calm down he kept telling himself that if she was going to hurt him she would have done it by now. Funny how hollow that reassurance sounded when faced with a bird that towered over him and could run like the wind.
They continued their downward trend until the decline seemed to be levelling off. Simon did not dare to think it would all go smooth from here on. He flicked a glance at Zoe, the emu nudging him again to get his attention. Simon ignored the bird hoping she would give him the same courtesy. It didn't work. Zoe murmured something to Wash that Simon couldn't hear. The pilot did not look happy but nodded. Kaylee craned her neck trying to see what the Captain was doing, it was hard to get a clear view with the way River was obscuring her view. Then the panther caught her eye and Kaylee just stared.
The noble beast was pacing up and down alongside the inner side of the corridor wall, her mouth half open and lips back in a partly formed snarl. The Captain's voice sound very far away, but every word was distinct.
"Okay girl, time to show us what you got."
The panther rubbed her body carefully alongside the wall, everyone holding their breath as a panel slid aside leaving a large doorway. Simon suddenly was not so anxious to follow through on the Captain's plan. What was that about the spider and the fly? This felt like a trap. Here they were in the bowels of a moon that wasn't a moon, surrounded by all manner of animals that were supposed to be extinct and being run by the kind of people who liked cutting into little girl's brains. Might not be the Hands of Blue behind this but it was certainly the same paymasters and that chilled him to the bone. If it looks like a trap and it feels like a trap it most probably is a trap.
"*Shenme*?" Said Kaylee.
Simon realised he must have said that last part out loud. "*Duibuqi*, I just don't like this."
The doctor turned his head and looked at Zoe, trying not to freak out over the way the snake was undulating around the first mate in a wave of sinuous muscles. It looked a bit like pictures he had seen from Earth's archives of an anaconda though what a water-boa was doing on a proto-moon with no obvious water source he had no idea. Much like the other animals it was out of its' element. Zoe jerked her head towards the open panel, Simon's heartbeat doubling as the Captain, his sister and the panther calmly disappeared through it. He wanted to argue, to talk sense into them but they were way past common sense and well on the road to no way back. He bit back a sigh and nodded. The emu nudged him again and when he looked her in the eye he had the distinct suspicion she was urging him to follow the others as well. Kaylee grinned at him then stepped through the doorway. Zoe paused, Simon swallowed and watched her go through then did the same. Wash's chattering voice now subdued as he brought up the rear, giving his parakeet a blow by blow account of what the bird could see with her own very sharp eyes. But this was something Simon could understand. The need to talk a safety valve for building fears. If only he weren't so tongue tied he might try the same thing himself.
So intent were the crew on getting through the doorway, none of them realised not all of the animals followed. Forgotten, the Giant Panda and the crocodile hung back. Not until the door shut seamlessly behind them did the Panda move off, not going back the way they had come but going in the opposite direction. The crocodile swished his hips from side to side as he followed in her wake. The sad-eyed Panda picking her way with a grace belied by her size and build. The sharp analytical mind of the crocodile a perfect counterbalance for her beauty.
Chin Li paused, his head jerking up. Jayne looked over his shoulder and scowled at him. "*Shenme shi*?"
The man did not look happy. "They are approaching the chamber, we must hurry!"
Jayne nodded and gripped Vera tighter, lengthening his stride only Chin Li called him back. The mercenary frowned. "*Wei*! You said hurry."
"The corridor is too long, we need to take a short cut."
The mercenary just stared at him. Chin Li flicked back the cuff on his left wrist and fiddled with a device seemingly moulded to his skin. After a moment or two a section of the corridor opened up revealing a darkness on the other side. Chun Li did not hesitate but stepped through the doorway, Jayne following him and not looking back as the entry closed and sealed behind them. Only when it did so was an ambient light source revealed, the light increasing as they hurried towards the source.
Rarely had Senator Lang had such amusing company. He really should thank the Companion for providing a little light relief. Inara tried to shrug the man off but Conley had a tight grip of her right wrist and a couple of the crew had moved closer in case she managed to break free. The look on Inara's face made the Senator's pleasure complete. Reluctantly she stopped struggling.
"Really, my dear. Did you think I would not expect you to try something?"
Inara couldn't speak. Conley let go of the Companion and handed his prize over to Senator Lang. The box was oblong, eight inches long by three inches wide. Only two inches deep and with a patterned geometric inlay that was heavily laquered. Only the lid was patterned. Opening the box the Senator took a moment to consider the ornate syringe with its' single measured dose of poison in the ampule alongside it. He closed the lid and looked at Inara with feigned disappointment.
"You would take your own life before seeing what you have come so far to find?"
She could not speak. Inara had failed. The poison had not been intended for her, she was going to use it on the Senator regardless of the fact that his death would be followed swiftly by her own. Or, if the Alliance had anything to do with it, not so swiftly. The Senator put the box in his pocket amused to see Inara's eyes track the movement with barely concealed distress. His smile became a smirk. "I think it is time you saw what was happening, don't you?"
The men turned and went back to their posts, Inara frowned. What did he mean? Seconds later she understood as the viewing screen went black then with hardly a flicker showed the inside of the proto-moon. At first all she saw were gleaming white corridors. It could have been almost anywhere. Then she gasped as the image jumped from camera to camera until it found its' goal. Open mouthed she stared at Mal, Zoe, Wash, River, Simon and Kaylee milling around in a gleaming corridor while what looked like the entire contents of a Zoo climbed, pawed, pecked and fluttered around them. Senator Lang enjoyed her shock though he too found the images a surprise. Not exactly what he had been expecting but then the crew's period of freedom would be short. They were on enemy territory after all.
Unable to tear her eyes away from the images, Inara managed to choke out a question. "*Renci de Fozu*, what in the nine hells is going on?"
The inner sanctum was like an oasis of light in the belly of hell. From the dim interior to the centre an oddly pristine room confounded their senses. Every wall and doorway into that room was transparent. The whole thing a huge glass orb easily twenty feet in diameter. Malcolm Reynolds stared, for suspended in the very centre of it was a much smaller spherical case, again transparent. He almost choked on what he was looking at. Hardly noticing River come up beside him, her butterflies sitting with wings folded up as if sorrowing along with her. "Ancient. Venerable. Wise until warped by power."
Kaylee wanted to scream. It was, it was just..horrible. Like a nightmare only this one was real. Eyes wide and frightened she turned to Simon. "Tell me that ain't... that it ain't..."
"It's a human brain." Said Zoe, her voice flat and emotionless but her eyes sparking with a deep anger.
"What's it doin' in that glass case or whatever it is?" Asked Wash, his voice tentative but curious to know what the *diyu* was going on.
River spread her right palm on the glass of the large orb, her eyes unblinking, the butterflies on that hand hurrying up her arm as if to get as far away from the glass surface as they could. Mal had to agree with their instincts though he couldn't look away from the disturbing sight either, a dark fascination rooting him to the spot. River's eyes looked sad. "Corrupted, twisted to their purpose not his."
Wash turned his head to look at the crazy girl. "*Shei*?"
"He was a scientist. Top of his class. Brilliant and so far ahead of his peers that they hated him even while their false smiles congratulated every new discovery."
The Captain wanted to move away but couldn't. The panther seemed to strengthen his suspicion that this place was the key. "You sayin' that brain is alive?"
River nodded, Kaylee gasped. Zoe looked like she wanted to shoot every round she had into it and smash the entire place to pieces. Wash looked sick. Simon began to stare more intently, taking in not just the brain itself but the mechanism by which life was being prolonged. Wash looked at Simon. "What do you think it does?"
Before Simon could answer River spoke. "It runs this place. All the technology we've seen is controlled from here."
Wash blinked, confused. "I thought the scorpion was in control of everything?"
"*Bu qu*, it's the operating system. This is the operator, the originator, the focal point from which all action radiates."
"You sayin' that brain is runnin' this moon? Why can't we just tell it to stop, you know, let everyone go?"
The Captain could see where Wash was coming from but couldn't believe it would be that simple. Naturally it wasn't.
Kaylee found she could form words well enough if she didn't look inside the orb. "*Weishenme bu*?"
The mechanic blinked and tried not to be sick. River turned to look at her friend. "Can't hear us if we ask, can't answer either. No fingers, no toes, no mouth and no nose."
"How does it operate a place this size then?" Asked Zoe.
River looked from one well loved face to another. "I told Jayne I could kill him with my brain. It was a joke. This isn't a joke, it's the real thing."
The Captain wondered if in trying to get them out of hell he had inadvertently led them deeper into the Devil's playground.
The surface heat had lowered considerably. Not cold but cooler. Shepherd Book hardly felt the difference, the scorpion keeping his mind fixed on his objective. The concrete flats were a boring expanse of nothing but with each determined stride he drew closer and closer to the blocky concrete structures that housed the elephants. The scorpion stopped him short of the fence and Book held out his hand. The scorpion raised its' tail, the stinger pointed towards the invisible barrier. With an almost liquid shiver the fence was switched off and Book stepped over the threshold into the pachyderm habitat.
One by one he checked all the elephant houses. They were empty. A little puzzled frown stitched across his forehead, eyes trying to bore from the seen into the unseen. How the *guai* could a herd of elephants hide from him? He could tell the scorpion was annoyed. Not the hot flare of anger that would come from a living sentient being but the cold fury of artificial intelligence, the highly tuned nano technology that allowed the scorpion access to all the other systems yet denied it the gift of empathy.
Bewildered, Book tried to think where they could be. The scorpion was not so benign. The human had failed him and that was something that would not be tolerated. With a quick flick of its' tail, the scorpion sank its' stinger into the palm of Shepherd Book's hand. The Shepherd cried out as he shook his hand in reflex, the traitorous scorpion flung free of him. Free to scurry on pincer sharp legs across the compound, leaving Book to fall to the ground and writhe in agony as the poison began to work its' insidious way slowly towards his racing heart. Finding a crack in the concrete the scorpion headed towards it, its' inward antennae searching for the pachyderms. Determined to destroy every last one of them for giving their loyalty to Jayne Cobb. It didn't matter that the mercenary was now theirs, it mattered that the elephants were no longer under the control of the system.
Not knowing quite what to do the Captain turned to Simon. "What do you think, doc? Can we disconnect this gorram thing and get outta here?"
"I.. I'm not sure that would be the wise thing to do."
Mal stared at him. "Not wise? Simon, best you look round an' think again. Ain't nothin' about this whole mess screams wise, *dong ma*? We're in a fix, need to find a way out *mashang*. Unless you're thinkin' slow I mean *all* of us."
The doctor nodded, knew the Captain would not willingly leave anyone behind. Kaylee swallowed hard. "What about Jayne an' Book?"
"Still need to find Jayne." The Captain agreed, not looking at his mechanic.
The Captain looked over at Zoe, watching her casually help resettle the snake so it was more comfortable for the both of them. "What about the Shepherd?"
"Well, now, that's the question."
"We can't leave him behind, Cap'n!" Kaylee wailed, startling Simon's Emu.
"Never said we'd leave him behind, little Kaylee." Said the Captain roughly.
Wash picked up on what the Captain wasn't saying. "Didn't say he was comin' with us either." He put in mildly, his eyes keenly watching the Captain's face for a clue as to what he was thinking.
"That kind'a depends on the Preacher, Wash. He chose his side an' it ain't ours."
"No, he didn't."
Everyone turned to look at River. Suddenly she flinched and clutched her chest. Simon ran to her, the Emu pacing him. River could not cry out, the fierce stab of pain robbing her of her voice. Simon caught her and gently lowered her to the ground. Mal knelt the other side of her, his face a mask of concern. "What the good gorram happened?"
Simon answered without looking up, carefully checking his sister's pulse and the dilation of her eyes. "*Wo bu zhidao*."
River blinked and Simon pulled his hands up, letting them hover in the air while he stared down at his sister. Slowly she blinked and came back to herself. "This isn't a hold up Simon, you can put your hands down."
They helped her sit up. The Captain staring into her face looking more than a mite troubled. "What happened little albatross? You see somethin'?"
She nodded and stood, letting Simon keep a hold of her shoulder while she got her balance back. "*Qu*. When they had no more use for him they threw him away."
The doctor frowned, "*Shei, mei mei*?"
River looked at the Captain. "If we don't hurry he'll be singing in Heaven's choir."
"*Liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze*!" The Captain cursed.
Kaylee put a hand over her mouth, eyes wide and filling with tears. Zoe locked eyes with the Captain over the stricken mechanic's head. "Think she means Book, sir."
He nodded back. If it wasn't one complication it was another. It wasn't as if they even knew where in the spincter of hell Book was. River shook her head.
"We don't but we can find out."
Simon felt as if the bottom of his world was falling away beneath his feet and shot a wary look at the suspended brain. "River, you can't..."
"I can. No choice, Simon. This is the centre. The control room. All the answers are here."
The Captain put his hands on his hips. "What do we do, doc?"
Simon let go of his sister and turned slowly, taking in not only the large spherical room housing the brain but all the technology light years ahead of what he knew and understood. "I'm not sure I even know where to start."
"Best find out soon, we ain't got time nor the luxury of a committee *dong ma*?"
River crouched down and gently set the butterflies on the floor, the last place Kaylee thought would be safe for them. As she stepped away they took to the wing and fluttered past the crew's heads to settle on a far wall. "I can help."
Her brother closed his eyes. How did he know she was going to say that and why did it fill him with as much fear as finding a way out of this dilemna?
Inara forgot all about Senator Lang. Hardly acknowledged the seat placed beside her as the strength in her legs failed. She took the seat automatically and leaned forward to stare. They could hear the crew talking, saw the moment when they reached the centre, felt the shock go through her at their discovery. The animals no longer such a surprise with so many other worries to weigh in the balance. She wanted to ask the Senator what had happened to the Shepherd and where Jayne was but didn't dare. Anything that would give that man a moment's satisfaction was like giving succour to the enemy. Biting her lip and trying not to cry out, Inara watched in silence as the youngest most vulnerable member of Serenity's dysfunctional family set about telling the others how they could bring about their own escape.
A slow smile of satisfaction spread across Chin Li's face. He stopped and Jayne looked to him for instruction. "Close." Chin Li whispered.
Jayne nodded. He wanted this over with, his hands twitching to twist a few necks and let Vera do what she did best. He watched as Chin Li signalled for him to move behind him. Jayne did as instructed even though his body was vibrating and humming just to charge on ahead and kill anything in his path.
"We can't split up!" Wash exclaimed. "Divide an' conquer? You know, how the bad guys always get the edge?"
Mal put a hand on the pilot's shoulder, the parakeet tilting her head to watch him. "Wash, ain't nobody splittin' up, *dong ma*?"
"But you said..."
"I know what I said, wasn't suggestin' it as any kind'a alternative just sayin' we got folks here in the pit of this *diyu* an' the Shepherd an' Jayne who knows where."
Just as Wash began to breathe again a noise behind them made them all turn. River grinned brightly in contrast to the others' shocked faces. "Here comes the cavalry!"
Heart catching in her mouth, Kaylee clung to the now trembling monkeys and tried to stop her voice from trembling. "At least we found Jayne."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*qing* = please *dang ran* = of course *hen haoxiao* = very funny *wei* = hey!
*jide* = remember *shenme* = what? *duibuqi* = sorry *diyu* = hell
*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *Renci di Fozu* = Merciful Buddha
*shei* = who *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *weishenme bu* = why not?
*dong ma* = understand? *guai* = devil/ghost or demon *qu* = yes (lit. go)
*mashang* = immediately/quickly/right away/at once *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know
*liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze* = salivating son of a bitch and a monkey
*mei mei* = little sister
Friday, October 6, 2006 4:41 PM
Sunday, October 8, 2006 8:22 PM
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