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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
Second and final part. Broken into two for length. Feedback, please!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1921 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“It don’t look no different to any other moon,” Kaylee said, watching the image of Tetris as they slid on by.
“That’s terraforming for you,” Freya replied. “Makes everything look the same. Just like the Alliance. It’s only in the little details that you can spot the differences.”
“Like the mines being lethal to women.”
“So how’re we gonna do this?”
“Well, I'm hoping these scans will give me some ideas, but right now I intend swinging Serenity in a wide arc and parking on the far side of that other moon.” She tapped an irregularly shaped rock on the screen. “There’s gullies big enough to hide her in. Then I take the shuttle.”
“You take?” Kaylee looked at her friend sharply. “What do you mean – you take?”
“I’m going in alone, Kaylee. I thought that was understood.”
“No, it ain’t. I'm coming with you.”
“No, you’re not. You’re staying with Serenity.”
“To do what? Worry myself to death? Freya, they’re my family too. I'm not staying here.”
“You are. Kaylee, we’ve already had this conversation. I'm not putting you in harm’s way, and that’s a fact.” She put on her lieutenant’s voice, but this time it didn’t work.
“You’re not my captain!” Kaylee shouted. “You can’t order me around!” Her face was flushed.
“Kaylee, calm down,” Freya said, putting her hand on the young woman’s arm, mindful that this wasn’t doing her any good at all. “In your condition –“
Kaylee pulled her arm away. “My condition? I'm pregnant, Freya, not broken.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “You need me. You need my help. And I won’t just sit here.”
“Kaylee, listen to me –“
“No.” She radiated stubbornness. “And don’t think you can sneak onto the shuttle and take off without me knowing.” Freya started guiltily. “I'm coming with you. We need to bring them home together.”
Freya checked the drip running into Zoe’s arm, and ran her eye over the makeshift connections. She’d done the best she could, linking several bags of saline and vitamins to hang from the ceiling, but it still didn’t give them long. If they weren’t back within a day, maybe thirty hours at the most, the women on board Serenity would begin to dehydrate, and brain damage would occur, followed pretty swiftly by death.
“Freya?” Kaylee called from the corridor.
“Coming.” Freya climbed up the ladder to join the younger woman.
“I've downloaded the scans to the shuttle,” the young mechanic said. “Looks like there’s a dead area in their defences about three miles from the mines.”
“Three miles? That’s going to be a fair hike, over unstable terrain. You sure you –“
Freya shrugged. “Okay. Then we’d better get moving.”
The shuttle took off smoothly from Serenity’s hull, her stabilisers swinging out and engine glowing. Kaylee watched the rear vid as the Firefly disappeared among the landscape. “I hate to leave her all alone like this,” she said quietly.
“She isn’t alone.” Freya set a course to bring them around on the far side of Tetris to the mines. “And if she is, she won’t be for long.”
“What if someone finds her?”
“Xiao mei-mei, we’ll cross that bridge when – and if – we come to it. Stay focused, remember?”
Freya ran a practised eye over the scans. “Well, it appears they’ve got themselves a regular little town down there,” she said, tapping the screen. “May be our way in.”
“The power grid links into this generator.” Kaylee pursed her lips. “Looks like the weak point.”
“It’s drawing a lot of wattage,” Freya said, equally thoughtfully. “More’n just lights.”
“Probably. But I picked up two, very brief spikes as we passed.” She switched images. “Here, and here.”
“Any idea what they are?”
“Unfortunately I do. I recognise the pattern. These spikes, slavers and Tetris tends to put me in mind of pacifiers.”
“What, you mean …” She mimed a ring around her neck.
“Yeah. Not good news for us. Or them. Unless we can … Kaylee, if we knock out the main power grid, at that generator, maybe, the pacifiers should cut out, at least for a while.”
“They’ve got back-ups,” Kaylee pointed out. “Won’t take long for them to kick in.”
“Maybe thirty seconds.”
“That’s not long to take off a pacifier.”
“It is if you know the power’s going down.”
“But how do we let them know?”
“Still working on that. May involve corruption.”
Kaylee looked at her friend, shaking her head. She was certainly seeing her in a new light these past few hours.
“I don’t know.” The guard was young, still wet behind the ears, and Freya felt almost guilty for hastening his slide into dishonesty. Still …
“I just need some help. And the money’s all I said.”
“Yeah, the money’s good.” He still looked indecisive. “Enough to get me away from here, anyways.”
“Fresh start. Best thing for you.”
“All I need is for you to get us the antidote, and then let us into the compound. We’ll disable the generator. Then you just let my people know – they’ll do the rest.”
“I don’t know,” he repeated.
“If you want a ride, we can take you.” Freya glanced around the bar. “But I need a decision now.”
He looked at her unhappily. “I don’t have too much of a choice here, do I? You’ll kill me if I say no, just to keep me quiet.”
“Would you talk?”
“Then I won’t kill you.” She sighed. “Look, of course you have a choice. Just make the right one.”
“Okay.” He looked around the room himself. “But I want off this rock. I hate this place with a vengeance.”
Now he had committed himself, he was anxious to get going. “Be at the south fence just after nightfall. There’s a gap in the security field: I can get you in. It’s close to the generator too. But you can’t wear a gun – it’ll be detected.”
“What about the explosive?”
“That should be okay. Too many to check for.”
“And the antidote?”
“I’ll bring it.”
“Good.” She leaned forward, so she was very close to him. “And you know what will happen if you betray me, don’t you?”
He felt something cold walk across his grave. “I know. And I won’t. I want to get away from here.”
She smiled. “You will. I promise.”
As the light faded, Kaylee and Freya waited at the prearranged spot.
“Is this a good idea?” Kaylee asked.
“We need his help.”
“I know, it just …”
“It will. Until this is all over you’re going to be feeling anxious.”
“It’s more than anxiety. I have a really bad feeling about this.”
“Well, keep it under control. There he is.” Freya nodded to the guard who was walking towards them, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, but managing to look just the opposite. “I really hope no-one’s watching,” she commented quietly.
“Hey,” he whispered loudly. “You there?”
“Yes.” Freya came out from behind the rock, Kaylee close behind.
“Come on. I don’t have much time – I have to be on shift in ten minutes.”
“Great. Make your way to my group, let them know what’s going to happen.”
“I said I would. But … how do I know them?” He looked unhappy.
“They’re new, there’s four of them, and one of them is a hell of a lot taller than you. Oh, and they answer to the name of Serenity’s crew,” Freya said ironically.
“Ok.” He didn’t suspect sarcasm, which was one of the reasons Freya had chosen him – intelligence was unlikely to get in his way. “Right. Look, the generator’s over here.” He led the way to a small building. “There’s no-one inside – it’s all automated.” He punched in a combination on the lock and the door swung silently inwards. “I have to go.”
“Wait – what about the antidote?” Freya asked, putting her hand on his arm. She squeezed, just a little.
“Oh yeah.” He reached into the breast pocket of his uniform and withdrew a phial. “Here it is.” He handed it to Freya.
“Don’t seem much,” Kaylee commented.
“Don’t need much. Just 10 cc for each person.” He tried to pull away but Freya held him firm. “Look, you want me to find your crew? Then let me get along.”
“Okay.” She let go. “But you be back here with my people, or you get left on this rock.”
“Don’t worry – I’ll be here.” He hurried off into the darkness.
Freya watched and listened for a moment, then turned to Kaylee. “Come on, we need to get this done.”
Inside the building banks of equipment glowed red, green and amber, with dials and readouts chattering away. Kaylee ran an experienced eye over it, then walked to a particular block of relays. “Here,” she said. “This is the main array – we take this out we give them maybe a minute.”
“Maybe?” Freya asked as the mechanic opened her bag. “How much less than a minute is maybe?”
Kaylee didn’t look up from her work. “Could be as little as … Frey, I don’t honestly know.” She stuck the timer above the first relay panel, running the cable down the side to the bag tucked underneath. “Maybe a couple of seconds.”
“That is not long enough,” Freya pointed out.
“I can’t be specific,” Kaylee admitted, standing up. “It depends on their system, and I haven’t had the chance to check it out.”
“So maybe a minute, maybe not. Okay. We have to live with that. Let’s just hope they get the chance to as well. Done?” she asked.
“Yeah. Just need to …” She pressed the button on the timer. “Thirty minutes.”
“Let’s hope that’s long enough too.”
They moved out of the building, closing the door behind them and hearing the combination reset itself. Walking back to the gap in the field, they began to head back to Serenity’s shuttle.
“Hold it!” a voice called from the darkness. “Or we fire.”
“Tzao gao,” Freya said quietly as five men materialised out of the dark, and she knew she had little chance against them all, not without her gun.
“What are you doing on my moon?” the man sitting at the desk asked, almost pleasantly.
“Looking for work,” Freya said, her thumbs hitched into her belt.
“Work? On Tetris?” He laughed. “You think I believe that?”
“I don’t mean down the mines. I'm not that stupid. We were looking at the town. Thought we might set up here.”
“Set up what?” He leaned forward, as if he was really interested in her reply.
“A whorehouse,” Freya smiled, lying blithely, hoping Kaylee would be able to keep up. “You have a lot of men here, and they might be wanting for female companionship. Thought we might be able to provide that.”
“A whorehouse? Just the two of you?”
Freya laughed. “No, not at all. And we don’t work in it. Just run the place.”
“And the women come from where?”
“We have our sources.”
“Oh come on. You think I’d tell you? You’d be as like to take my idea and make a mint from it yourself.”
“Believe me, nothing happens here I don’t know about. Or get a cut from.”
“Well, that’s something we could discuss.”
The mine manager stood up and came around the other side of the desk, standing only a couple of feet away from Freya. “So what were you doing out at the mine?”
“Yeah. Just wanted to see what went on there.”
“Is that true?” he asked Kaylee.
“We were curious. I mean, we heard tell what happens down there. Didn’t want to get too close, but … I mean, we’re all curious creatures, ain’t we?” Kaylee spoke firmly, and Freya was impressed.
“Mmmn. You know what curiosity did to the cat, don’t you?”
“Last time I looked we weren’t cats,” Freya put in, trying to get his attention back to her.
“No. But that don’t mean I believe you.” He moved closer, until she could smell the stink of his breath. “And I don’t. I want to know what you’re doing on this planet. And at my mine.”
“I told you.”
“Hell, my granny could come up with a better story than that.”
“Maybe that’s because it’s true.” She stared into his face.
“If you said you’d come to kill me I might believe it more.” He nodded to the guards. “Take them.”
The four men moved in, taking Freya and Kaylee by the arms.
“Wait,” Freya said. “Take us where?”
“Well, you were curious about the mine. I'm giving you the opportunity to experience it first hand.”
Freya began to struggle. “No, look, you can’t! Kaylee’s pregnant. She –“
“You think I care? Whatever you came here to do – and I really don’t care about that either – it’s all air through the intake. And pretty soon you won’t care about it either.”
“No!” Freya pulled herself loose from one of the guards, using the momentum to swing around and deliver a hook to the other. The two holding Kaylee let her go and weighed in, and against four brutal trained men Freya had little chance. In only a few moments she hung between two of them, dazed, almost unconscious.
“Get them out of here,” the Manager ordered.
Kaylee, as scared as she had ever been, watched as they dragged Freya out of the office, and then was forced to follow.
“How long do people last down here?” Hank asked, leaning his pick against the wall. Their shift had just finished, and they had a couple of minutes while the guard changed before being taken back to their cell.
“Not long,” Simon said. “The dust will start to destroy lung tissue, then –“
“They have a pretty high turnover,” Mal finished. “That’s why slavers get involved. No-one wants to volunteer to work down here.”
“What about the guards? Don’t they get the same problems?”
“Yeah, but they aren’t hired for their intelligence.” Mal looked over at two of them who were standing talking. “And they get to leave here when they finish. Workers can never get away from it.”
“Great. Another interesting way to die.”
“Shh.” Simon signalled everyone to be quiet – one of the new guards was heading towards them.
“You,” he said quietly. “Are you from Serenity?”
Mal stood up straighter. “Why?” he asked.
“Thank the Lord for that. I didn’t think I’d find you in time.” The guard looked at his timepiece. “In about five minutes the power is going to go down. I don’t know how long for, but long enough to get those pacifiers off.”
“How do you know this?” Mal asked, but with an inkling of what the answer would be.
“She said her name’s Freya. Said for me to tell the Sergeant to be ready to ship out.” His brow wrinkled. “Does that make sense?”
“It does.” It was Freya’s way of making sure he knew the message came from her. From when he used to be a Sergeant and she was a mere Lieutenant. During the war. Mal could see Jayne grinning widely, while the others tried not to show their pleasure. “They blowing the generator?”
“What about the explosives in these damn things?” He touched the metal torque.
“Here.” The young man took a small box from his pocket and touched it to the pacifier around Mal’s neck. There was a hum and a click. “It’s deactivated.” He did the same to the others.
“How can we be sure?” Hank asked.
“You’ll have to trust me.”
“Trust you?” Mal almost laughed. “You think that’s likely?”
“If you’re dead you can’t take me with you. That was the deal. I help you and you take me off this rock. And pay me what she promised.”
“I don’t think we have a choice, Mal,” Simon said.
“No. I don’t reckon we do. Five minutes, you said?”
“Less. Maybe three.” He glanced about. “Look, we’d better head back towards your cell. Don’t want anyone to get suspicious at this late juncture.”
Mal nodded. “Come on.”
As they headed back towards the cell they passed the main shaft entrance, and they all heard the shaft elevator whine, the small cage descending into view. The doors opened.
“Breathe deep,” one of the guards inside laughed. “Manager wants you dead.”
“Wahng-ba dan duh biao-tse …” Mal breathed as they pushed two women out into the mine. Two women he recognised all too well.
The young doctor was less restrained. “Kaylee!” he shouted, lunging for her.
One of the guards touched the control at his belt and he fell, twitching, the pacifier flaring at his neck. Jayne tried to take him out, aiming a big fist at the guard’s chin, with the same result. The other guards didn’t wait to see what the rest of Serenity’s crew did, and all four were on the ground.
Through a haze of pain Mal watched Kaylee try to get to her feet, then collapse back, having some form of convulsion. Freya, looking groggy already, crawled towards her, trying to help her, before she too began to convulse. It took all his willpower and strength to pull himself to his feet, staggering towards them both. One of the guards raised his gun.
Then everything went black. For one awful moment Mal thought he was dead, that there truly wasn’t anything to come in the afterlife, then he realised the pain had stopped and the pacifier was no longer flaring. Reaching up he pulled it apart, tossing it away. “Power’s down!” he called. Get rid of them! It was only then he realised the thing hadn’t blown up.
“Doin’ it!” Jayne yelled.
A gun went off, the blast bright for a moment and a man screamed, then there was the sound of a scuffle, growing louder. Then the lights came back on. Jayne had one man down, another lying against the wall, probably dead from the angle of his neck. Another was futilely pounding on the pacifier control until Simon swung at him, knocking him out. The fourth was bringing his gun to bear on Jayne but fell as Mal punched him deep in the belly, then kicked him in the head on the way down.
“Kaylee!” Simon cried again, rushing to her side. She was still convulsing, her eyes rolled back into her head, her breath rasping in her chest. “We have to get them out now!” He picked Kaylee up, cradling her head on his shoulder.
“Jayne,” Mal said, tossing him the gun from guard he’d disabled. The big man bent over and picked up two more, sticking one inside the waistband of his pants and hefting the others in both fists. Mal went to pick up Freya, gratefully accepting Hank’s assistance as Freya was jerking uncontrollably.
“What about … oh.” Hank looked back at the young man who’d helped them. He was lying on the ground, his eyes staring at nothing, his throat torn out by the bullet.
“We can’t help him,” Mal said quietly. “Let’s help those we can.”
They got into the cage and Jayne hit the up button. The elevator creaked into life, lifting them up the shaft. Mal watched as Simon tenderly put Kaylee down, checking her vitals.
“Doc? Are they going to be all right?” he asked.
“I don’t know. She’s stopped convulsing.” That was true. Kaylee now lay quietly, her eyes closed, her breathing very shallow. Freya too had stopped jolting.
“But they weren’t down there long,” Hank said. “Only a few minutes.”
“That’s all it takes,” Simon said, no expression in his voice. “I need to get them to Serenity.”
“Mal.” Freya had spoken. He looked down into her face. She was awake, just. “The shuttle … three miles east ... hole in field … Serenity’s …” She coughed.
“It’s okay, Frey, honey. We’ll find her. We’ll use the pulse beacon.” He slid down the wall so she was resting on his thighs. “Don’t worry.”
“I couldn’t … she …” Her eyes rolled back and she was out again.
“How much longer?” Mal asked no-one in particular.
Eventually the cage reached the surface, and Jayne opened the gates with care. But there was no-one around – the shift had started so there shouldn’t have been anyone leaving the mine. Still, he checked the minehead carefully, before waving the others out.
They headed east, past the remains of the generator building.
“Kaylee?” Jayne asked, nodding towards the ruins.
“Probably,” Mal replied, too intent on getting them back to the comparative safety of the shuttle.
“Hey!” A man’s voice, not angry, not yet. “What the hell are you doing –“ When they didn’t stop, he shouted, this time with more temper. “You stop or I’ll fire. I'm manager here – you will stop –“
Mal watched as Simon handed Kaylee to Jayne, then pulled the third gun from the front of the big man’s pants, raising it as he turned. He caught sight of the young doctor’s face, and a touch of guilt for what he’d made of this man washed through him. This was cold, white rage, scarcely hidden under his impassive expression. Aiming at the manager, who didn’t have time to do more than stop in his tracks, Simon fired.
“It’s done,” Mal said.
“Yes,” Simon agreed, barely looking at the body before taking Kaylee back into his arms. “Let’s go home.”
“I'm okay,” Frey insisted as the shuttle docked with Serenity. She’d woken up as the shuttle had taken off from Tetris, feeling stronger all the time. “See to Kaylee.”
“We are,” Mal said. “Simon’s going to be taking her to the infirmary.” Freya sat up, fighting for balance as she felt the room spin. “Which is exactly where you’re going too.”
“No. I … not while they’re … I want to change my clothes.” Mal looked at her, baffled. “I smell of that place. I need to get it off my skin, and we can’t do anything to help Simon. Or Kaylee.”
“No. Okay, I’ll help you back to the bunk. Help you wash the stink of that rock off.”
“You can all go change,” Simon said unexpectedly, picking Kaylee up in his arms as Jayne opened the airlock door. “I don’t know how long this is going to take.” He carried her out into Serenity.
“You stay with the others,” Freya insisted. “You’re captain. I can manage.” She stood up and nearly fell over, holding onto Mal’s arm for support.
“No, you can’t. And I can’t help Simon either.” He touched her face. “Let me help you.”
“It’s going off,” she insisted.
“Of course it is. I know it. Now let me help you.”
He put his arm around her waist. “We won’t be that long. I promise you.”
“You need to have this, too.” Freya pulled a small plastic phial from inside her shirt pocket.
Mal smiled a little. “The antidote?”
“Yeah. 10 cc to each of them. From what I can remember, it works pretty fast.”
“I believe it does.”
“That guard …” She looked around the shuttle, as if only now remembering. “Didn’t he come with us?”
“No. He didn’t.” He would explain later, as a lot of explanations would wait. “Come on, Frey.”
Simon stepped out of the infirmary, his face carefully composed.
“Doc?” Mal asked, standing in the middle of the common area, his arms crossed. The others hung back.
“Kaylee will be fine,” Simon said.
Mal exhaled. “Good. And the baby?”
“It’s …” His face collapsed and they were suddenly afraid, but … “It’s okay,” he said quickly, seeing their reactions. “She’s still pregnant.”
“Thank God!” Inara said.
Mal felt his heart start to beat again in his chest.
Freya stood up abruptly, knocking her chair over, and walked out of the room into the cargo bay. Mal watched her go.
“And Kaylee’s going to be okay?” Zoe said quietly.
“She’ll be fine,” Simon repeated. “She’s sleeping. I’d rather no-one … everybody ought to get some rest.”
“Yes.” Mal roused himself. “That’s a good idea. So best to go get … well, just rest. We can all go see her tomorrow.”
“Yes sir,” Zoe said, leading the way out of the common area.
“Don’t know how much sleep we’ll be getting, though,” Hank muttered as he followed her. “Feel like celebrating.”
“You can celebrate tomorrow,” Zoe said over her shoulder.
“With you?” he asked hopefully, but she ignored him.
Mal watched Simon go back into the infirmary to stand by Kaylee’s side, then himself went back to his bunk.
Freya was sitting on the bed, her feet drawn up, her head resting on her folded arms.
“You okay?” he asked as he climbed down the ladder.
“I was so scared,” she said quietly. “It could have been … it was all my fault.”
“How d’you figure that?” he asked, crossing to sit next to her.
“I should have made her stay on the ship. She’d have been safe on Serenity.”
“You know that for sure?” Mal sighed. “Frey, sweetheart, hindsight is perfect. And if we’re apportioning blame then it’s maybe my fault for ever giving her a job. This ain’t the first …” He stopped, thinking on past times, then went on, “Or are we going to blame her parents for sleeping together?”
Freya looked up at his words. “That wasn’t what I meant,” she said quickly, sudden anger in her tone.
“I know. And it wasn’t quite my intention here to get you mad,” Mal pointed out. “The point I was making is that it was no-one’s fault. Except the hwoon-dahn who put her in that mine. And he ain’t going to do that again. Simon saw to that.”
“I know what you’re saying, Mal. I really do.” Freya looked into his eyes, wanting to lose herself in them. “It just doesn’t help. I just feel so guilty.”
“You want me to order you to stop it?” He put his arm around her shoulders. “Little Kaylee isn’t going to blame you, and I'm damn sure Simon isn’t either. She's fine, Frey. She’ll have a beautiful, bouncing baby, who’s gonna puke and cry all over my ship. Simon’s won't take any chances in making sure she stays safe. He ain't gonna pass up a chance like this to be a good dad. Better’n his own.”
“You become a philosopher in your old age?” Freya asked, smiling at last.
“Oh, I am deep. Very deep. Can’t pick apart all my knots in only one day,” Mal agreed.
“I like your knots,” Freya admitted. “Tie me up in them, will you?”
“So tight you’ll never get loose.” He pulled her close to him and held her, her own arms around his waist.
“Don’t let go.” She sighed contentedly.
“Ain’t planning on it,” Mal said, tightening his grip and smiling down at her.
Thursday, October 12, 2006 12:23 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006 1:49 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006 9:58 PM
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