Shadow War - Chapter Seven
Sunday, July 18, 2004

A little wing repair, IN DEEP SPACE!!!


Mal got done prepping the three suits and walked past Jayne and Zoe to get to the engine room. They only grunted in greeting and continued strapping down equipment. It wasn't the sort of thing Mal would normally ask them to do, but he had a strange feeling about this prospective job. While it wasn't the sort of feeling he would ever give into, he had the feeling he was walking into something angry. An emissary of Red Veil, someone Mal had never heard of, gave them a wave to meet them on Planet Pegasus, a newly terraformed world that Mal had heard nothing but bad things about. A payoff was mentioned, and the price was right, as far as Mal was concerned. He had heard that almost anything went, legally speaking, on Pegasus, as there wasn't much in the way of law there. There were a few constables and magistrates around, but they preferred to live, as the planet was almost overrun with criminal lowlifes trying to scrabble out a living robbing each other. Made for the lowest common denominator when it came to survival. When Mal got to the engine room to find Book and Kaylee mixing a batch of cerepoxy, he was horrified to hear Kaylee singing an all too familiar song. When he thought it couldn't get worse, he heard Book chime in for the chorus. "Are the fumes from that cerepoxy getting to the two of you, or am I hearin' "The Hero of Canton" seeping out of your windpipes?" Caught offguard, the pair looked at him sheepishly. Book was actually embarassed to be singing Jayne's theme song from a little town that produced mud. The town had fallen in love with the legend of Jayne Cobb, but the crew had come to hate the song because once it got stuck in your head, apparently, it took weeks to get out. "Nothing wrong with a little hero worship, Captain. And, no, the fumes are not getting to us, much." "Yeah, Cap'n. Look here on the cerepoxy package." Mal took one of the unopened tubes of the ceramic epoxy and saw that it was made with mud from Higgin's moon, the township of Canton. he rolled his eyes and tossed it back into the box. "The suits are prepped, and as soon as you get that loaded into the sticky gun, we're good to go. Silently, if need be, because I don't want that song sung at the dinner table anymore. Please?" he seemed on the verge of begging. He turned and started out of the engine room before he noticed that he was humming the very song he had warned the Shepherd and his mechanic not to sing. He paused, and with great physical will, stopped himself and continued back into the cargo bay. Kaylee loaded the sticky gun with the amount she thought she would need with the crack. Shepherd Book took Kaylee's tool bag and loaded it with whatever he thought they would need. Kaylee watched him silently, not wanting to intrude on him. The Shepherd felt he didn't belong sometimes, and Kaylee knew that the Captain felt this as well. He obviously gave Shepherd his part in this detail to make him feel useful to the ship and the crew, and Kaylee wouldn't have done anything the 'verse to make him feel otherwise. Which is why she silently picked up a spanner when Book wasn't looking and slipped it into her pocket. Of course, they had both been singing "The Hero of Canton" under their collective breaths. On Inara's shuttle, River and the companion were actually enjoying a quiet tea. River was learning the finer points of tea time etiquette, which Inara was only too happy to point out. Kaylee had tried, but in the end, Inara was just too happy to have a female friend as unprepossesing as Kaylee to try and force etiquette on her. Zoe never wanted tea, opting instead for coffee. Wash had given it a try, but he seemed to be too interested in the biscuits. That, and making too many jokes that he had frustrated Inara to the point of distraction. Mal seemed to think a tea offering was an excuse to talk business, which it was, most of the time. River took to it like she was born to it. Inara thought that perhaps she had been, but had lost a lot of it when she had been taken by the government and experimented on. She was deeply intuitive, however, and seemed to be enjoying herself with a kind of giddiness that was bordering on bubbly. It was a state that Inara had never seen in River, and one that she found that she enjoyed immensely. Whatever movement Inara made, River copied exactly. It was eerie in a strangely beautiful way. River seemed to have an unending smile on her face, and Inara thought it suited her. This girl had been forced to grow up far too fast, and Inara liked that she was able to bring a little friviolous girlishness back to her. "You know, River, I'm not a recruiter of any kind, but you might have made a good diplomat...or a companion." River never blinked when she said, "Given adequate dispersal devices, liquid can be shaped into a perfect sphere in a vacuum." She smiled and took a sip of tea with a ladylike grace. "Really. Well, perhaps we'll keep that comment about you being a companion from Simon's ears." "He wouldn't hear it anyways.", River said, puzzling Inara. Did she mean he wouldn't hear OF it, or did she mean that he physically wouldn't be able to hear it. Such inconclusive statements were a staple of conversation with the doctor's sister. Not pursuing the point and enjoying her time with River, Inara poured another cup of tea. Down in the cargo bay, Jayne and Zoe had finished their orders and Zoe had went to the bridge to speak with her husband. Jayne was working out on the weight bench. He was having a harder time than usual, still dealing with the blow to the spine that the Shepherd had dealt him. It didn't slow him down much, but what bothered him the most was that he knew that Book was holding back. It bothered him that a man of God could probably kill him where he stood without Jayne ever having seen him coming. It bothered him so much, in fact, that he pressed himself a little harder on the weight bench than was strictly necessary. His physique was impressive, he knew that, but a little more muscle couldn't hurt in a fight. Simon was just disposing of the last batch of needles that he had used to administer drugs to his sister. He wasn't sure if what he was doing was helping or hurting her. Psychiatry was not his forte, but he was doing his best, and she did seem to be getting better. The sharps almost stowed, he stopped for a minute to look over another of the films of her brain activity he had recorded at St. Lucy's hospital on Ariel, where he had come up with a brilliant crime just so he could examine his sister to find out what was wrong with her. He could care less how much money had been made from the job, and for truth, it hadn't lasted long. All he cared about was getting the brilliant sister back that the Academy had taken from him. To him, it didn't matter what it took. He would do anything. Even live aboard this ship on the edge of known space to keep his sister free. In the cockpit, Wash quickly stuffed a toy dinosaur into his pocket when his wife walked in. She saw it, of course, but said nothing. She found it endearing, even if he did play with them at the strangest times. She had even caught him absentmindedly rolling one over and over again in his hand when he was being chased planet side by an Alliance patrol that had come dangerously close to both ID'ing and catching Serenity for smuggling. The more he twirled the little critter in his hand, the more relaxed he had become, and the smoother his flying was. He had brilliantly gotten them away, again, but not everyone understood Wash the way that Zoe did. That suited her just fine. "We've got everything stowed. How far are we out from Pegasus?" "Oh, about 12 hours, with the stop for the lifesaving repair of the cracked extender. I don't know why Mal seems to think that I can't fly this rig? Haven't I proved more than once that I'm capable?" "Of course you have, sweety." Wash arched an eyebrow at this. "He told you what I was doing up here earlier, didn't he?" "No, but Kaylee had a few choice words about it. Most of them started with mother, by the way." "Yeah, I did get her a little steamed, didn't I?" "Steamed ain't the word for it, husband. Mal knows you know how to fly this boat. That's why you're here. The Captain may not say it all the time, but he knows." "Like Santa Claus in that respect, I suppose." Wash said. Jayne continued working out as Book, Mal, and Kaylee suited up. As youthful as Kaylee normally looked, it was nothing compared to how much like a little girl she looked in a space suit. All three of the crew getting ready to go outside were humming "The Hero of Canton". Jayne started to object, but slowly grinned and started humming it himself as he started to do some pull ups. Though they couldn't be heard in Inara's shuttle, River had started humming the song too. She also had started inexplicably rolling a piece of paper into a short tube. She experimentally blew through it and unrolled it, only to roll it up again. She repeated this a number times in a number of ways. When River's mind started to work, it was both frightening and wonderful to behold. Inara said nothing, though this was hardly in the vein of good etiquette. Suited up, Book, Mal and Kaylee stepped into the front airlock and gathered up what they would need. The cargo bay door proper opened, and Book felt the old familiar lightening of everything he was carrying. The immense starfield in front of him took his breath away. Through the radio in his helmet, he vaguely heard Kaylee ask if he was alright. He turned and nodded. He lifted one boot heavily from the magnetism that held it to the airlock floor, and thrust his leg out into space. Kaylee gave a little scream as the Shepherd flipped over the lip of the cargo door. Mal saw it just as he disappeared. He wasn't frightened, but marveled at just how precise and controlled the movement had to have been. Into his helmet mic, he said: "Shepherd Book. If you've had enough, please rejoin us up here." "Actually, Captain, I think I'll meet you at the extender." Mal merely smiled. "Okay, but don't step in anything you shouldn't." While Mal and Kaylee took the most direct route to the extender, with Mal helping his mechanic along, Book walked along the underbelly of Serenity. He enjoyed the view of space as much as he did getting to see the ship from angles he rarely ever did. He paused, watching the grav drive spin lazily. The flashing lights and the movement reminded him of the last time he had a space walk, and he frowned, pushing thoughts he did not want to have to back of his head. He arrived at the extender at just the same time as Kaylee and the Captain. Mal quickly gave orders. He would use the spanner (which Kaylee had slipped into the tool bag while Book was putting on his suit) to keep the cerepoxy, which was too thick and viscous to escape into the absence of gravity out here, going exactly where it neeeded to go. Kaylee was on the sticky gun, and Book would use the large metal spatula to smooth out the goo. They got started quickly, and while the trio worked, Kaylee started frowning. The other two were oblivious to this as they were concentratin on their jobs at hand. Inside Inara's shuttle, River began to bounce up and down excitedly while taking a huge gulp of tea. The wiring for the grav booster was pushing up under the weight of the cerepoxy. Kaylee was trying to push it down as best she could, but to no avail. As she watched, helpless to stop, one of the thin wires snapped without much fanfare. But, Kaylee knew what was going on inside. Immediately, Inara's shuttle was a shower of beautiful cloth and pillows and other accoutrement that would regularly accompany one of the finest companions into space. While Mal would have called if "prostitute fixin's", it certainly looked lovely as River was happily floating in it. Inara was floating as well, but not nearly as happy as River was. Inara was tangled in one of the silky bed sheets that normally covered the bed in which she worked. River lifted the small tube she had fashioned up to her lips and from the end of it issued a small bubble, ever growing, of the violet colored tea she had made with Inara. River was concentrating while Inara was doing all she could to get down to the floor. Her hair was everywhere, as was River's, but River didn't seem to mind. The tea orb grew larger at an alarming rate. Just when Inara thought it could get no larger, River stopped fashioning it. She pirhouetted beautifully to face Inara and said simply: "The perfect sphere. Or at least it was for less than one sixteenth of a second." Inara, upside down, grabbed River's leg and pulled her down to try to find something to hold on to. Jayne was just on his way up on a pullup when the grav booster failed. He had been putting monstrous effort behind the exercise, and was rewarded when gravity failed by knocking himself unconscious on the underside of the stairs where his pullup handles were located. Simon was standing firmly with both feet planted on the ceiling, trying to dodge various medical instruments that were flying his way. He was just glad that he had gotten the sharps disposed of, or this could be a very dangerous situation. In the cockpit, Wash and Zoe were both alarmed, but laughing at the same time. They had taken the opportunity with no gravity to do a little mid air dancing. Wash had his foot hooked under the console, and Zoe had hers hooked under the pilot's chair, but they were having the time of their lives. Almost mournfully, outside the ship, Kaylee intoned in her helmet mic "Oh no, Cap'n. The grav boost has shut down." Mal and Book turned with alarm to see the spinning wheel outside of Serenity slowly come to a halt. Mal could only imagine what was happening inside his ship. He was sure that it was chaos, whatever it was. Kaylee was already in tears, and close to panic when the good Shepherd Book began a soliloqy: "Kaylee, I know that you don't read the work of Shan Yu. Its probably better that you didn't. But he mentioned something in his writings about the inner shadows of people and how they influenced their outside works." He had reached inside the tool bag. He knew that once you started laying down cerepoxy, you couldn't stop. It didn't harden, necessarily, but a broken bead or line of this stuff rendered the place where the break had occurred useless, or very weak, at least. Mal had grabbed the gun from Kaylee, keeping the bead solid, as Book gently moved Kaylee out of the way. He could clearly see the break in the wire. From the tool bag, he pulled a clamp, and an electric sparker. Sparkers were used to quickly weld very small things together, like chains, screws...and wires. With the clamp, he pulled the wire's ends together. He was running out of space, however, as the Captain was inching closer and closer to the break. Calmly, the Shepherd continued. "Inside of all people, there are great forces of light and shadow. The light shows almost all the time. You see it everyday, in all good works, in books, in art, in dance. In charity. But, people are filled with shadows too. All people. You can't see it as well, but it is secondary in all people to be a little evil. Sometimes a lot evil. I don't think you have any in you girl. I think if Shan Yu had met you, he would say you're a creature of light. Of course after he said that, he would have..." A hard glance from Mal told Book that perhaps he had better stop. He was trying to position the sparker as quickly as he could. Mal was watching him and trying not to show that he was frightened he was going to have to go the rest of the way to Pegasus without any gravity. The ship might be a mess now, but he knew after a 12 hour trip that it would be much worse. Right now, specifically, he was thinking about the mule, which was probably destroying everything in the cargo bay. Later, when he got back inside, he remembered that Zoe and Jayne had strapped everything down, including the mule, and he was very grateful that things had gone his way for once. Right now, of course, that was no comfort to him. Where comfort was being applied was to Kaylee, who had calmed from listening to Book's voice, if not exactly what he was saying. Just as Mal's stream of cerepoxy had reached the wire, she had reached under Book's hand to steady the sparker. He triggered it, saw that the wire was repaired, and quickly threaded it back down where it had been. Mal was right on top of him when he covered the end of the extender crack. He quickly flipped the spatula down the repaired crack, and flung the excess cerepoxy out into space. For a quick fix, the extender looked great. What was not great was what was going on in the ship. Wash and Zoe weren't hurt when gravity quickly returned to Serenity. They merely looked at each as the bumped down to the floor, laughed, and got up to see what had happened. All told, there was a mess, but no damage to the ship. Jayne, however, had suffered yet another knock to his head. He had a few bruises, as apparently, he was floating 15 feet above the floor of the cargo hold when gravity returned. Simon, too, had bumped his head, but nowhere near as severely as Jayne had. The mess around him when he landed was not too bad. 15 minutes later, he had it cleaned up again. After he had checked on River, of course. Inara's shuttle was a disaster area. Her possessions, her clothes were all over the shuttle. As was a fair amount of tea. River was giggling like she was being tickled, but was disappointed that she was not still floating. She excitedly told Simon about the perfect sphere ("Impossible" Simon retorted, though whether he was talking about the orb or his sister was unclear) as she and her brother helped Inara right her shuttle. All the passenger and crew dorms were upended, but corrected with a little time and patience. Jayne was laying on Simon's table. Simon had wanted to check him for concussion, and found none. He just left Jayne there. He had narrowly missed having his skull crushed by his own weights, which were inches from his head when he was found by Book and Mal. Kaylee had immediately (after finding out that Jayne was okay) run to the engine room, where, suprisingly, the least amount of upset had occurred. There were stray dinosaurs all over the cockpit, however. The bridge looked like a two year old had been playing in it. Wash looked around, embarassed and thought that perhaps it might be time to find some more mature toys. As he was cleaning up the mess, he saw something that froze him as surely as if he had been deposited in a snow bank. "Captain! You might want to get up here. Actually, you want to get up here now!" The urgency in Wash's voice was not lost on Mal. He came on the run, and saw in the pilot's console what had elicitied such excitement. There were about thirty ships behind them. And they were all headed this way. Towards Serenity.


Sunday, July 18, 2004 8:51 PM

MANWITHPEZ is a longish chapter, I guess. This story is such a pain. I wish I could write it better, or had planned it better. I like this chapter, though.

Monday, July 19, 2004 5:34 AM


Gulp! Lucky they got the grav booster fixed just before the gorram ships showed up. Methinks this is not a goodly thing to happen to our intrepid crew right now. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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Somnambulism - Chapter Fourteen
It's back...well, this is actually a reposting of a lost chapter. Hey! I just refound it myself!

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Somnambulism - Chapter Ten
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Somnambulism - Chapter Nine
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Somnambulism - Chapter Eight
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Somnambulism - Chapter Seven
Memory, Atavism, Hera

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Somnambulism - Chapter Five
Malice, Theory, Opportunity