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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"In the aftermath of the Dreadnought's destruction Inara is surprised to find help closer at hand than she dreamt. Meanwhile Book suggests a solution to the Captain that is all manner of creepifying."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1826 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "HELP UNLOOKED FOR"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "SYMMETRY"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "In the aftermath of the Dreadnought's destruction
Inara is surprised to find help closer at hand than she dreamt.
Meanwhile Book suggests a solution to the Captain that is all
manner of creepifying."
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.
"HELP UNLOOKED FOR"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Senator William Lang stared at the impossible made flesh. Not a word escaped the strangled barely articulate gurgle of emotion. He looked distraught, frozen in shock. Inara made herself turn her head and look at the screen. Her eyes widened, surprised and stunned by what she was seeing. It was the last thing she had expected and had her heart leaping in her breast, a cry of triumphant joy smothered by sheer force of will. To lose her composure now would be an error she might not survive.
The plume of debris as the flash flared across the Black was like a sheet of lightening but far more powerful and no longer than a fraction of a second in duration. The flash doused by vacuum almost the instant it had formed. A brief taste of hellfire yet it wrought such terrible destruction in its' wake. Their vessel rocked then the lights flickered and went out as if it was a candle with the wick snuffed. That quick. The men scrambled in their frantic efforts to bring their equipment back on line. Nothing worked. But at least the small sleek ship was still intact albeit without power. The huge blocky presence of the Alliance dreadnought had shielded them but there was nothing so benign to shield the dreadnought. Seeing it come undone was as chilling as it was spectacular. Then they were rocked again, this time by smaller collisons like fierce aftershocks, bits of metal and twisted superstructure impacting on their shiny hull but too small to puncture the iron lung that allowed them to keep breathing.
"*Wode ma*!" The Senator exclaimed. "What the *diyu* is going on?"
"*Wo bu zhidao*." Answered the navigator. He gave up trying to get his instruments to work. "It just... blew up, *shifu*."
Inara blinked in the dark, the flare having illuminated the Senator and Alliance crew only for the sudden loss of light to underline how truly alone they were out here on the edge of known space. The men were beginning to stir out of their shock, one of them managing to locate some torches, the low tech solution striking Inara as so bizzare it was almost funny. The Senator moved away from the screen to stare through the plexiglass into the Black, his eyes wide as he searched for some small bit of hope that not all had been lost. Then their ship shuddered, a dull metallic clang that the Senator ignored until one of his men turned to face him, the torchlight making sharp angles of his face. "Sir! We have to do something."
The Senator gave the man an incredulous look, his whole manner telegraphing how utterly stupid that comment was. "What do you suggest, lieutenant?"
Another clang, louder and heavier with a dull tone. This time the Senator took notice. "What was that?"
The navigator spoke up, his voice muted in fearful apprehension but ringing clear in the sudden silence. "We're bein' boarded, sir."
Stunned looks were exhanged with shock and a failure to grasp the reality of the situation unfolding around them. Everything had a kind of surreal quality to it. Slowly the Senator gazed around at his men before saying what each of them were thinking. Confusion evident in his voice and expression. "Who by?"
It should have been hi-larious. The kind of thing to tell your children and have them in fits of laughter over only it wasn't. The sight of the big mercenary sitting cross legged on the ground refusing to budge actually made Kaylee feel proud of him. The Captain? Not so much.
Mal put his hands on his hips in frustration, trying hard to keep his temper in check. "For the last time Jayne we are not taking that elephant on my boat!"
"Why the *guai* not? Wasn't that what you fought that great ruttin' war for?"
The Captain blinked. Zoe frowned and Wash shook his head in disbelief. Simon wanted nothing more than for the madness to end and for them to be airborn again but right now the ship was in a worst state than they were and that was saying something.
"You wanna explain that fun little comment, Jayne?" Said the Captain softly.
Jayne missed the way Zoe tried to hide a wince. "Yeah, I do. Always talkin' about not leavin' nobody behind."
"Jayne, I was talkin' about *people*. Sara ain't people."
"Ha!" The mercenary shouted jumping to his feet. The Captain took an involuntary step back, not afraid just startled. Mal quickly recovered and narrowed his eyes at Jayne. The big man shook a finger at the Captain. "You said Sara, that means she ain't a nobody, *dong ma*?"
Mal could feel a headache coming on. Sometimes talking to Jayne was only marginally less painful that Chinese water torture mainly on account of there being no water. The Captain rubbed his hands over his face. Wash watched with interest, a thought occurring to him as he noticed the way Jayne fussed over the elephant and the proprietorial way she leaned slightly against him. "Um Jayne, didn't you say there was a whole herd of elephants?"
Jayne was rubbing and patting the elephant's leathery flank and looking happier and more relaxed than any of them had seen him in a good long while. Perhaps ever. "Yeah, so?"
"I get that you want to save Sara." Wash paused to choose his words with care. "What about the rest of the herd?"
For a moment the mercenary looked stricken. He had plumb forgotten about the others. The Shepherd stepped up to the other side of the elephant and began to pat her as well, his eyes moving from one immovable object to another. "A herd is like a family." He said mildly. Jayne didn't look at him but was listening intently. He had always respected the Preacher. "You don't split up family, Jayne. Not if you can help it."
Now the big man looked hurt, torn even. "But she'll die!"
Simon shook his head. "You don't know that."
Kaylee looked almost as upset as Jayne. She didn't like the thought of anything so magnificent dying on this middle of nowhere moon that wasn't a moon. "What about the others?"
"Ya know, the monkeys an' butterfies an' such. Ya gonna let the panther die, Cap'n?"
The Captain closed his eyes. He was not having this conversation. His gorram headache had brought along a whole host of friends. Kaylee could sense him weakening a bit and sent a plea to Zoe. "An' what about your snake?"
"Ain't mine." Said the first mate crisply.
Zoe shook her head. "Kaylee, animals don't belong to people any more'n people do."
The mechanic looked a mite baffled and hurt. "They don't?"
"*Bu qu*. They ain't domesticated. These are wild animals, they need to be free."
"But this ain't freedom..."
The Captain took a breath. "It is if they ain't caged, little Kaylee. If there ain't no boot on their necks, no one proddin' an' testin' 'em, makin' 'em into somethin' they ain't meant to be."
Wash raised a hand. Zoe gave him a look but he ignored it. With a sigh the Captain nodded. At times his pilot made him feel like a Headmaster with a class of unruly kids. "Here's a thought, Cap'n. If we leave what happens to the animals?"
"They'll be free as in 'not in cages' but what will they do for food?"
"The same as they did before we came along."
"I think I know where Wash is goin' with this, sir." Zoe chipped in.
"That bein' the case suppose you make a short cut an' spell it out for your Cap'n."
"Before we came that brain was runnin' everythin'. Wired into the technology of this place an' using nanotech an' who knows what else to keep everythin' runnin'. But the brain died, River almost swapped places with it which would have made her a prisoner too an' there's no way of knowin' if it would have meant we could get free."
"That point you were gonna make, Zoe?"
"Just this, sir. If we leave with out fixin' this everythin' dies."
It wasn't often that Inara Serra came across moments she wanted to capture for prosperity but this was surely one of them. The men that came pouring on to the ship were the unlikeliest of heroes. Rough, homespun folk of all shapes and sizes but one thing in common. A single objective to which each had wed his purpose to. Being that each man was heavily armed the Senator's crew made no attempt to go for their concealed weapons. Senator Lang felt his shock turn to quickly flaring anger. "What in *diyu* do you think you're doing on my ship?"
The biggest of the men moved to the front of the rag taggle band, his bushy beard and moustache as distinctive as his bright sparkling eyes and girth. Inara could not believe her eyes. "Monty? What the *guai* are you doing here?"
His grin was unrestrained and infectious. "Come to rescue the lady!" He winked at her and bowed, angling his head so he could watch her face before straightening up again. "That's if any here are wantin' t'be rescued."
Smiling back she felt her spirits revive. "I think I would like that very much."
Senator Lang's face darkened. "The Companion is with me."
"No, Senator. I am not with you and never have been. You lied to me then sought to keep me here against my will to watch my friends die!"
Silence fell so completely that for a moment it was as if anything could happen. The Senator made a move to grab Inara but as big as Monty Reynolds was he had a turn of speed that fooled many a man. Those with him knew better than to stand in his way. The shot rang out and found its' target, a slow bloom of crimson spreading across William Lang's chest. His eyes widened in surprise. Frozen in shock his men hesitated. Monty turned slowly so that his gun barrel pointed from one man to the next in mute warning, a hand held out to Inara. The Companion did not hesitate but took the hand and was swiftly pulled behind the Captain of the Kingfisher.
"Now," Said Monty calmly. "we're leavin'. No need to add your ownselves to the death toll 'less you insist, *dong ma*?"
The men nodded, speechless. Not a one of them rushed to go to the Senator's side as the man crumpled to the deck, his face as white as parchment.
"Anyone asks," Pie Crust chipped in "we was never here."
Within minutes the bridge was clear, the men exchanged dazed glances as the distinctive sound of a ship undocking reverberated through their vessel. The only difference being the other ship had power and they did not. The navigator finally moved and checked the Senator's life signs. He looked up and shook his head, confirming what the others already suspected. The Senator had already left the 'verse.
The Special Envoy was finding it hard to concentrate but silence covered a multitude of sins. Only when you opened your mouth to speak did complications set in. No. He would not let his clashing emotions hang him by his own petard. This was a time to trust. To be patient. And in the absence of anything else to do, maintain the cultured fiction that was his lot in life. The Minister nodded to him and Special Envoy Clarkson gave a grave nod back. The motion was carried. As the Parliamentary Oversight Committee excused itself, the Special Envoy stood slowly, losing himself in the gathering of his things before taking his leave. The delay an excuse to be the last to leave. When he moved towards the door he noticed that his tardy exit had been noted. Dark solemn eyes held his and for a moment the world stopped spinning. Alliance fashioned or not, Clarkson could not look away from the chocholate brown eyes that stared deep into his soul as if he owned it.
No word was spoken yet the tension was there. A mute poisonous thread that would not survive the breaking. For a long moment Sir Edward held his gaze then gave an abrupt nod and left. The Special Envoy took a long calming breath, one hand braced on a nearby table. Did the man know? No. If Sir Edward had so much as suspected he would be deep inside the building where dissidents and enemies of the State languished between torture sessions. The building that the Alliance claimed did not exist. The one with only one door for no one entering ever left alive. No. Sir Edward did not know and that was the way it had to stay.
"We can't leave 'em, Cap'n!" Kaylee wailed.
Simon tried to distract her but though she took comfort from his arm around her she would not be detered. The Captain was about to reply when Shepherd Book intervened. "With your permission Captain? I think I might have a solution to our dilemna."
Everybody turned surprised gazes on the Preacher then glanced at Mal. The Captain was weary and feeling more than a little in pain, his injuries firing up to hurting all over again though Simon had dulled the pain for him the medication was already wearing off. "Anythin' you got that can help would be welcome, Shepherd."
They watched as Book put his hand in his pocket, Kaylee's eyes widening in alarm as he opened his hand to reveal the damaged Scorpion. The Captain took a hasty step back.
"*Wei*! That what I think it is?"
For the first time in what felt like a lifetime the Shepherd smiled. Only to God would he confess how much he enjoyed disconcerting their noble but stubborn Captain. After all, every man needed a hobby. "It is."
Jayne scowled and kept his distance, eyes wary and suspicious. "Well I say we smash it to pieces! Don't want that thing turnin' this whole twisted theme park into a let's kill everybody machine."
"Jayne," said Book, not disguising his dark amusement. "it's broken."
"Um, not to be rude or anything Book but how do we know we can trust you?" Simon asked.
Laughter was not the response any of them had expected. "*Fang xin* Simon, I'm not under anyone's control. Not any more."
"An' we can believe that because...?"
Kaylee looked at the Captain with a disapproving frown, all affronted that he should be speaking to the Shepherd like that. "Cap'n!"
"Well, it's true little Kaylee. Just want some reassurances here is all."
"Sir, I think if the Shepherd were still under their control we would be fightin' not talkin'."
"Okay." The Captain conceded not taking his eyes off Book. "Best you explain, Shepherd."
The crew listened in silence. When Book had finished speaking there was a minute or two of silence. Kaylee ignored the explanation and cut through to Book's plan. "You sayin' you want me to *fix* it?"
"No ruttin' way!" Yelled Jayne, his face twisting in anger though whether the anger was at Book or the machine it was hard to tell.
Before the Captain could dismiss the idea out of hand Zoe spoke. Her voice quiet, calm and oddly soothing to the ear. "Stands to reason that if this piece of technology ran the moon before it can do so again sir, on'y if it's fixed an' reactivated there should be some failsafes."
"Oh, I agree." Said Book nodding enthusiastically. The Shepherd looked at Kaylee. "An' I'm thinkin' we could build in failsafes a-plenty."
For once Kaylee did not look too confident. She stared at the Scorpion all twisted up and broken in the Shepherd's hand. Hating that the solution would depend on her natural talent. It was a hell of a responsibility working with technology she barely understood. While Serenity in particular and engines in general 'spoke to her' this piece of high tech wizzardry was ominiously silent. It was all manner of creepifying. "*Wo bu zhidao*, I ain't never worked on anythin' like this before."
River appeared next to her friend, none of the others having noticed her edge closer and closer. "I can help."
The mechanic stared at her. "You can?"
River nodded, her expression calm and confident. Kaylee grinned and turned to the Captain. "Don't know how long it'll take us so reckon we best get started."
"Shiny! Now, while you an' River examine that do-dad the rest of us'll go see what kind of mess them bloodsuckers left Serenity in."
"Yeah, an' make sure they ain't left no surprises." Grunted Jayne.
The Captain walked up the ramp and into the body of the ship, Wash and Zoe a few steps behind him. Wash paused which made Zoe stop abruptly. "You don't think it's booby trapped do you?"
Jayne gave a careless shrug. "Who knows? If the Cap flies out faster than he went in I'll say that's a yes."
"Jayne!" Mal bellowed from the innards of the ship.
The big man grunted and tightened his grip on Vera and pushed passed Zoe and Wash. "Keep your pants on Cap, I'm comin'!"
It was just a little troop transporter. Nothing fancy and certainly with no armaments. Just made for the fetch and carry, the pick up and desposit of men and equipment. Arty Morris kept taking a hand off the controls one at a time to surreptitiously wipe the sweat off his palms. Wasn't doing him a bit of good and now breathing was becoming kind of laboured making his chest ache. All dull and distant. The way sound muffled somewhat in his ears confirmed the suspicion that he was in shock. Odd that half his brain was stuck in inertia while the other half was observing the effects with clinical detachment.
"What do we do now?"
Sgt Hatton tried to swallow, his mouth dry, his eyes too bright. "Well, we know it isn't Reavers." He said slowly, his voice sounding like it was rusting up.
The men just stared, noting the flotilla of battered and dented ships weaving in and out of the debris where the Alliance Dreadnought had been but minutes before. What each one of them was thinking but not saying was how in the nine hells they were going to get out of here. Even if their air lasted several days their fuel wouldn't. Being in the back end of No and Where would not be a comfy place to be when the air ran out.
Inara was surprised. For some reason she had expected Monty and his people to blow the Senator's ship out of the sky but once she was safely escorted to the Kingfisher, the ship detached and left the Alliance vessel behind. Inara turned to look at Monty. "Are you just going to leave them there?"
Monty twitched his nose and ran the fingers of one hand through his bushy beard, a sure sign he was thinking. "Yep. You gotta problem with that?"
She did not know what to say. While she was relieved to be rescued it felt wrong to leave the stranded crew adrift in space. "I..." Inara shut her mouth. What did she want? Senator William Lang was dead. Would adding to that toll make her happy? No, it would not. And yet they were part of the evil regime that spawned men like Lang and rewarded the kind of sick individuals who cut on the brains of children to build a better world. A world she had once believed in. Inara shuddered and tried to hide how uncomfortable she was with that thought but Monty's eyes narrowed. The bear of a man was more shrewd than he looked.
"Ain't gonna kill 'em, wrong headed as they may be."
Her head jerked up, eyes searching his. Instead of explaining with words, Monty pointed over her shoulder. Inara turned her head and saw what she had missed first time round. It was an Alliance troop transporter. Her eyes widened as she turned back to Monty. "You can't be serious? We are days, if not weeks, from the nearest Alliance base."
"They don't have to get all the way back to the Core, Inara."
"*Wo bu dong*."
Monty gave a little smirk. "All they need is to be able to send a wave to the nearest base, the rest will be up to their political masters."
That surprised Inara. "Political masters?"
Now Monty's look had a deadly glitter. "They would've killed you without a second thought, you know that *dui*?"
"Were plannin' somethin' similar for the folks down on that piece o' rock."
Inara's heart faltered. Mal. Her voice took on a sense of urgency. "We have to find a place to land."
That gave her pause. "You know about Savanna?"
No, he didn't. *Diyu* he hadn't even known the name of the rock. All Monty had was co-ordinates and cryptic messages but he was smart enough to join the dots. "Suppose we pool our information while we get this Big Damn Rescue into high gear?"
Inara Serra felt the worry ease, there was something very comforting about Monty. She gave him a blinding smile. "Sounds like a plan."
Between Kaylee swearing and River guiding her on the tricky bits, it was slow going. The mechanic still wasn't sure how she had agreed to do this when she should be working on getting Serenity back in the Black. Simon was busy redressing Jayne's wound after cleaning it and giving the mercenary the last shot of antibiotic they had on board. With a grunt of thanks Jayne then jerked his head towards the Captain. Simon moved to check on Mal, worried when the man neither complained nor tried to bat him off. Hiding his concern the doctor checked the head wound first but that was healing fine. Little more than a ugly scratch though it was obvious the Captain had a fiercesome headache. Something to dull the pain seemed to be in order then Mal's dressing was changed and Simon moved on to examine the others. Although battered and bruised the crew was in remarkably good shape. What Zoe called 'walking wounded'.
The Captain blinked at Book. "*Shenme shi*?"
Book took a slow look around at the rest of the crew. They were back on Serenity and loosely gathered in the commons room now that the assorted injuries had been seen to and none found to be life threatening. Kaylee and River worked on the Scorpion at one end of the table, everyone else sitting with shoulders' slumped and hands cupped around an assortment of chipped mugs. The tea seemed to be the only thing holding them upright, a fact Book was all aware of. "This crew is exhausted, Cap'n. Think we should rest while we have the chance."
"You expectin' trouble, Shepherd?" Asked Zoe. Wash squeezed her hand and she returned the gesture, each finding comfort in the other.
"*Bu qu* but it makes sense to rest while we can."
Mal nodded. "*Wo tongyi* but I'm thinkin' we need to keep a watch. Never know what else might be out here." The Captain paused and rubbed a hand through his hair, more weary than he liked to admit even to his ownself. "I'll take first watch."
"*Diyu* Mal, you're almost comotose. I'll do it."
The Captain blinked at Jayne, about to admonish him when good sense forced him not to pick a battle he could not win. "*Xie xie ni*, Jayne, you might not be wrong about that."
The big man nodded then got to his feet. As the Captain stood Zoe disentangled herself from Wash, dipped her head to kiss her husband and straightened her back. "I'll share this watch."
Zoe's look softened at the disappointment on her husband's face. "It's only for tonight, *zhangfu*. Once we're flyin' again we can get back to a happier routine."
Shepherd Book noted the shadows under the first mate's eyes. "You look dead on your feet." He said quietly.
"We're all tired, Shepherd, but that's not the point. *Wo shuibuzhao*. Might as well do somethin' useful 'til I can."
Cat napping got Inara through the next few hours, her mood swinging from relief to concern and back again, over and over and over. JJ found her sitting in the Kingfisher's tiny galley staring off into space. "You alright, ma'am?"
His words brought a smile to her face though the effort almost drained her. "*Qu*. I never was very good at waiting."
JJ looked over his shoulder as Charlie ambled past the doorway. The man didn't stop, just nodded and carried on. Most of Monty's crew were snatching what sleep they could, an uneasy calm settling on the little ship. Inara knew they were worrying about the people on the ground, hoping they would be completing a successful rescue not burying friends. Although Inara never said so, she was hoping the same thing. She had told Monty everything that had happened since Leylani's wave. Everybody now knew that Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity were the ones trapped on that proto-moon. The Companion's description of what she had seen on the monitor had seemed unbelievable until they looked into her face. That look had made believers out of them all.
Inara was nodding off when the com sounded. Sitting up too abruptly pained stiff muscles. The sound of people stirring whisked the last remnants of sleep from her eyes. Arty Morris's voice drifted over the com and made her heart beat like an overwound watch spring.
"Landing in thirty minutes, I repeat, we will be landing in the ass-end of *diyu* in thirty minutes!"
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*wode ma* = mother of God *diyu* = hell *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know
*shifu* = sir *guai* = devil/ghost *dong ma* = understand? *wei* = hey
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shenme* = what *wo tongyi* = I agree
*fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo bu dong* = I don't understand
*dui* = correct *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme shi* = what's the matter?
*xie xie ni* = thank you *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband
*wo shuibuzhao* = I can't sleep *qu* = yes (lit. go)
Friday, December 22, 2006 9:25 PM
Saturday, December 23, 2006 12:48 AM
Sunday, December 31, 2006 3:54 PM
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