BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Eden - Part VI
Sunday, April 29, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Things just go from bad to much, much worse as traps are sprung ... PG to be on the safe side. Thanks so much to everyone who comments - it means a great deal to me!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2498    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“I’m not the man you were.”

“Nope.”

“That’s not helpful.”

“Sorry, was I supposed to be?”

“Yeah. Tell me how you survived this.”

“You think I …” There was a chuckle. “If it hadn’t been for Zoe I’d be dead. Well, dead before I actually … you know … died. So would Mal.”

“I’m too weak.”

“It ain’t weakness, Hank. Just humanity. Something these creeps are sadly lacking in.” There was a pause. “So what do you think Mal would do?”

“Spit in his eye?”

“Damn straight.”

“I don’t know that I’ve got any spit left.”

“Metaphorically, then.”

“Oh, that I can probably manage.”

“Hank, my cupcake needs you. Be strong for her.”

“I’ll try.”

“Good lad.”

“They’re here,” Donaldson said.

“Shit,” Hank groaned.

“I second that,” Wash admitted, his voice fading away.

---

They’d barely spoken more than a dozen words since they’d detached the shuttle from Serenity and flown it back to Wayborn Skyplex. Now Zoe and Freya were walking through the crowds towards the centre of the complex, ignoring the vendors calling out to them, pushing through knots of people to get to their goal.

Hustle and bustle gave way to people huddled in small groups, their clothes old and ragged, no money to go anywhere so eking out some kind of living on the edge. Then only crates and dust.

“You really think he’s here?” Zoe asked.

“I don’t know.” Freya was watching ahead of them.

“How come you can’t feel him?”

“I can’t always. Even when I was … before the Naxom … it was hard to reach out to people sometimes.”

“River can’t either.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s dead,” Freya said quickly, knowing that was worrying Mal’s closest friend.

“I know.”

“Yet you can’t quite believe it.”

“I don’t see why anyone would take him in the first place.”

Freya stopped, putting her hand on Zoe’s arm, making her halt too. “When I was … when Wing … Hank believed for me. Believe for him now.”

“I do,” Zoe insisted. “But I’ve been proved wrong too many times.” She walked on. “He’s not like Wash, Frey. There was something about my husband that … he could be so strong, sometimes. So determined.”

“And you think Hank isn’t?”

“They ain’t the same.”

“No. But that’s a good thing too. And I think Hank’ll surprise you.”

Zoe allowed a small smile. “You always did get on well with him.”

“Unrequited love,” Freya said softly. “I know how it felt.”

“And if I hadn’t let him in I wouldn’t be feeling like this now.”

“Feeling like what?”

“Out of control.” She’d always, even in the depths of the fighting on moons she barely knew the name of, all the way to Serenity Valley, she’d always known a sense of purpose, of certainty. Not like Mal, who had a total conviction that they’d be victorious, a conviction so solid that it shattered when the command came through to lay down arms, but a certainty of her own survival. That she knew what she was doing. Now it felt like she was wading through a quagmire of insecurity.

“You love him,” Freya pointed out, seeing the thoughts as clearly as if Zoe had been speaking.

“I loved Wash.”

“And you felt the same about him.”

“I …” She paused. “Yes, I suppose I did.” And look where that got me, she thought.

“Hank isn’t going to die, Zoe.”

“I thought that about Wash too.”

“Then let’s make sure of it.” Freya moved ahead, her limp mostly under control. “This is it.” She nodded towards a blank wall.

“There’s nothing there.”

“The plans say different.”

Zoe stepped forward, running her hands over the plain grey metal. It felt so smooth to the touch, so unlike the panels they’d been passing for a while, where rust seemed to have taken up a permanent home. “This is new,” she breathed.

“Is that a good sign or not?” Freya murmured as quietly.

“Only one way to find out.” She moved along, her fingertips testing each rivet and bolt, until suddenly there was a click and the whole section moved smoothly away. In front of them was a small room, another doorway at the end. She heard Freya scratching something into the paint, then they both stepped inside.

Zoe had drawn her mare’s leg, holding it high, ready to blast anyone and anything to get to the man who had come to mean so much to her, and she knew Freya had her own weapon in her hand. Then movement behind them had her beginning to turn, but there was a flare of actinic light before pain spread across her back, a cry forcing itself from her lips, and she fell forwards into swirling black …

---

The sky swam, stars spinning around them.

“River, what the hell are you doing?” Mal demanded, grabbing hold of the back of the pilot’s chair to avoid being thrown across the bridge.

“Need to get back. Now.”

“Back? Back where?”

“Wayborn. Freya and Zoe …” She lifted her face to stare at him, and the look in her eyes made his face blanch.

“No …” Mal squeezed the back of the chair until he was sure he could feel the metal beneath give. “Who, River?”

“Niska.”

The full horror hit him, and he fought the churning urge to be physically sick. He wanted to swear, to say something, to shout and scream to release the terror in his mind that he’d just lost Freya for good, that the next time he saw her she’d be nothing but a blood-drenched corpse, yet all he could do was stand and stare at the young psychic …

“Captain?” Kaylee leaned into the bridge. “What’s going on? I thought we were chasing that ship. Why‘re we turning?”

He swallowed back the bile in his throat. “Niska’s got ‘em,” he managed to say.

Kaylee went white. “Niska? You sure?” She looked at River. “Niska?”

River nodded.

Wo de mah.” She collapsed back against the bulkhead.

---

Zoe opened her eyes. She didn’t want to, preferring to stay in the warm darkness, but something was dragging her back. A voice. Calling out. Making her wake up. Letting the pain in her back and arms force a groan from her.

“Zoe!”

She struggled to focus. “Hank?” She blinked hard, then her eyes cleared. Her lover was strapped to some kind of tripod, and there was something familiar about it. He was naked to the waist, and his left eye was swollen closed. His chest was covered in burns and cuts, some of which still bled. Horribly familiar. She got her feet under herself and stood up.

“Thank God!” he said, trying again to loosen the bindings enough so he could get to her. He'd seen them brought in, unconscious, and attached to the rings set into the wall, and that had hurt more than anything that had been done to him.

“Where’s Frey?” Zoe managed to whisper.

He nodded and Zoe turned her head. Freya was hanging in the manacles, still unconscious. Her head lolled on her chest.

“I didn’t think … it’s been so long since they brought you in here …” He was almost crying with relief that she was awake.

She looked back at him. “Are you okay?”

He managed a weak laugh. “Oh, apart from being tied down and someone cutting on me, sure, I'm shiny.” Then he glared at her. “Only I'm not so shiny when I wonder what the diyu you’re doing here!”

“Rescuing you.”

“Rescue –“ He shook his head in disbelief. “Hate to break this to you, sweetie, but you’re chained to a wall. “If this is a rescue, you’re going about it in a very odd way.” He glanced towards the door. “And where are the others? Are they tied up elsewhere?”

“They’re not here, Hank.” Freya was stirring next to her, and Zoe glanced across. “It’s just me and Freya.”

“The Cap let you come after me by yourselves?” The look on his face bordered on incredulity.

“We didn’t … we weren’t sure you were here. It was just an idea Freya had. Something to do with this Skyplex being built by a guy named Niska, and some hidden compartments.”

“Niska?” Hank said, nodding slightly. “Old, balding, wears glasses?”

“You’ve heard of him.”

“Not difficult when he’s using a knife on you.”

As an astonished Zoe was about to answer, a laugh came from the doorway. “This is a pleasant surprise. Is always so nice to meet old friends,” Niska said, stepping into the room.

Tah muh duh hwoon dahn,” Zoe breathed.

“I hope the stun weapons did not inconvenience you?” Niska asked as he crossed the floor towards her, almost as if he was really concerned. “Crude but effective.”

“I’ve had worse.”

“I am sure of that. Captain Reynolds is not so good at keeping his crew out of trouble.”

“What do you want?” Zoe could see Freya from the corner of her eye, managing to get her feet under her and stand upright, swaying a little.

“I want nothing. I already have it.” He realised the other woman was awake. “Ah, and another unknown guest to me. Perhaps I introduce myself. I am Adelai Niska. And you are …?”

Freya stared at him. This was the man who’d … She swallowed and deliberately looked over at Hank. “You okay?” she asked.

“Could be better, Frey,” the pilot conceded.

“We’ll get out of this. Mal‘ll see to that.”

“Whatever you say. Though I’m kinda wondering just how that’s gonna happen.”

Niska had listened to the conversation, and now his eyes widened slightly. “You are Captain Reynolds’ wife?” He stepped close to Freya, his glasses catching the light.

“What’s it to you?” Freya asked.

“I heard. Rumours, you understand. That Captain Reynolds had married a Freya Nordstrom. I keep my ear to the ground, as you say. Although I understand your husband might find that difficult.“ He chuckled, his words at odds with his benevolent aspect.

“Not so’s you’d notice.”

“Then he is complete?”

“If you mean did he get his ear reattached? Then yes.”

“Is good.” Niska clapped his hands. “And is so nice to meet you, Mrs Reynolds.”

“I’m so glad I can’t say the same.” She tugged on the chains.

The old man smiled. “Not the most comfortable of times, no. But, as I say, your reputation precedes you.”

Zoe swallowed. This man had a thing about reputation, and it had caused them a world of hurt before.

“Nice to know.”

“And how is the good captain? He is fit, I trust?”

“He’s fine.” Freya again tested the ring she was manacled to, but it was too firmly set into the wall. She might be able to use it to swing herself up, catch Niska with her feet, but she’d still be unable to free herself. “I’m sure he’d send his regards if he knew we were having this little … chat.”

Niska touched his hands together, almost as if in prayer. “So droll. It seems our good captain is an influence on you all.”

“Why don’t you let me free and we’ll see just what he influences.”

“No, no, Mrs Reynolds. I have other plans. Is a pity, but my employers wish results. But I think in this case, I can perhaps kill two birds with only one stone.” His eyes glittered behind the lenses. “And I hurt Captain Reynolds without touching him.”

“You’re going to torture me?” Despite the ice in the pit of her stomach she managed a laugh. “I’ve been worked over by professionals. I don’t think you’re going to be any kind of comparison.”

Niska looked at her, a pensive look on his face. Then he motioned to the man with him to come forward. “Perhaps we should show Mrs Reynolds what being a professional means.”

The man nodded and undid her shirt, a leer on his face. He pulled it open, then stepped back.

“Frey -” Zoe began.

“It’s okay,” her friend said, but there was the suspicion of a tremble in her voice.

Zoe could only observe, mentally pleading with Freya not to antagonise this man. She’d seen at first hand what he could do, and she would never forget the sight of his torturer using that knife on Mal, slicing through his ear, the sound of Mal‘s scream ripping into her. The feel of his flesh inside her waistcoat would stay with her for the rest of her life.

She watched Niska move closer, examining the fine scars on Freya’s skin. “This … is interesting.” He ran a finger along one.

Freya tried not to flinch away. But the memories of her bones being broken, her flesh violated made her heart beat faster.

Another man stepped forward out of the shadows, younger than Niska, in a fashionable suit. “We don’t have time for this,” he said, his eyes going from one woman to the other, disgust plain in his voice.

“You have more subjects?” Niska asked, pressing slightly harder on the scar, gratified by her intake of breath.

“They‘re coming. But do you need any right now? You have them.” He nodded towards the prisoners.

Niska smiled. “True.” He stepped reluctantly away from Freya. “Perhaps this will be equally interesting.”

“What do you intend?”

“Is a conundrum, such a choice. But perhaps we try Mr Mills.”

“What are you talking about?” Zoe asked, her heart pounding.

---

“You sure it’s the door?” Jayne asked, trying to wedge his fingers into the slight crack where the panel met the bolt plate.

“Positive,” River said. “It’s the way they went through. Look.” She pointed to a scratch in the paint.

“What’s that?” The big man peered at it. “Looks like a heart.”

“River’s right,” Mal said, jogging up and looking at the mark, Simon close behind. “That’s Frey.” It was the same as the one he’d carved into their tree on Lazarus.

“Don’t matter if it is,” Jayne said, his muscles straining, “cause it ain’t moving, Mal.”

“There has to be a catch, something to open it.”

River pointed to a rivet. “This is it, but it won’t work. They’ve locked us out.”

“Grenade?”

Jayne shook his head. “Too thick. ‘N’ in this confined space the concussion’d prob’ly kill us.”

Mal’s fury threatened to overflow. “There must be some damn way to get in there!”

“Someone on this place may have some demolition charges. Want me to go look?”

“No time,” River said.

“What do you mean?” Simon asked.

“He won’t wait.” She held up a print-out. “But there is another way in. Kaylee found it on the original plans.” She handed it to Mal.

The others looked over his shoulder.

Mei-mei, it’s just a heating duct. It’s not large enough for anyone to get through,” Simon pointed out.

“I can.”

“No!”

“Why won’t he wait?” Mal asked over the young doctor.

River turned her big eyes on him. “He’s going to hurt them. Badly. Very soon.”

Mal’s brain furnished him with images he didn’t want, of his wife on a table, twisting in pain, his friends already dead … “Where is it?” he asked.

“A hundred yards down the corridor over there.”

“Can you make it?”

“No, Mal!” Simon shouted. “She’s not going in there!”

“We’re not going to be in time otherwise, da ge.” She settled the two gunbelts Jayne had adapted for her to sit across her chest, the pistols under the arms. “There is no-one else.”

Simon stared at her, her conviction, then nodded reluctantly. “Be careful, mei-mei,” he whispered.

“I always am.”

“Jayne, go with her. Make sure she’s inside, then come back.” Mal handed over a comlink. “You get into any trouble, yell.”

“I will, captain.” She looked into his blue eyes, dark with concern for his wife. “I’ll bring her back to you.”

“See that you do.”

She nodded and hurried down the corridor, Jayne at her heels.

“You gonna be okay?” he asked, following closely.

“I have to stay focused.” She glanced at him. “Will you help me?”

“You need me, you just … do what you do, okay?”

“Be strong for me, Jayne. And for the captain.”

“Sure thing, moonbrain.”

River flashed him a quick smile then stopped. “Here,” she said, looking up at a grating.

Jayne reached up and, using nothing but brute strength, heaved it from the wall. A dark, narrow passage presented itself. “You gonna be okay in there?” he asked, peering in.

“Lift me.” She held out her arms and he put his hands on her waist, lifting her up.

Just as she was about to slide into the duct, he pulled her back to him. “Listen, I just wanted you to know … in case you didn’t …” He stopped.

“What is it, Jayne?”

“It’s okay to kill these hwoon dahns.”

River gave a sigh. “Thank you.” She’d hoped it might be something else … then he kissed her on the cheek.

“You take care, River,” he said gruffly, manoeuvring her into the passage before heading back towards the others.

Her eyes went wide for a moment, but it was with a wide smile on her face that she began to snake along the duct.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Monday, April 30, 2007 6:40 AM

JANE0904


Come on, guys ... is it that bad?

Monday, April 30, 2007 8:43 AM

TAMSIBLING


Oh boy - this is just not going to end well, I can feel it!

Very interesting scene with Zoe, Freya and Hank in the torture room. I love Freya antagonizing Niska, even though it is ill-advised - it is so very in character for her!

Although I'm a little worried - did the stun weapon cause Zoe to lose the baby? I'm surprised she didn't think of that when she first woke up - or that Hank didn't either.

And of course, River charging to the rescue, while great, is also decidedly dangerous, for everyone. I can't wait for more!

Monday, April 30, 2007 1:33 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


This is going to be horrible, I know it. And like TamSibling said, I have a feeling too that it's not going end on a good note.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 3:15 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Definitely have to agree with the mob (TamSibling and ncbrowncoat, in this case) about Zoe finding out the littlest member of the crew has been taken from them by Niska's guards:(

Still...brilliant writing here, Jane0904! Between the skillful use of tension, and the superbly balanced "will he?/won't he?"
moment over Jayne telling River he loves her before she enters the heating duct...I was enraptured;D

BEB

Wednesday, May 9, 2007 10:04 AM

AMDOBELL


Oh yeah, River, time to kick bad ass something fierce I'm thinking! You really do like twisting the knife, just hope the Big Damn Rescue comes in time to get everyone out while they are still breathing. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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