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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal and the Operative get into the lab, and Serenity's crew faces problems of their own.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 807 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“I didn’t know there would be four trunks, Jayne. I’m sorry.” Inara stood beside the mule, watching Jayne try to fit her belongings in such a way that nothing would be lost on the return trip to Serenity. She noticed him wince as he lifted the top trunk out once again to rebalance the load.
“Are you hurt?” she asked in genuine concern.
Jayne grunted, unwilling to confess to temporary weakness. “Just a little twinge ‘tween the shoulders. Ain’t nothin’.”
Inara reached up to touch the area lightly. “Just rest a minute. We’ve got time yet.”
Jayne paused at the feather-light touch of Inara’s hand, then sat down on the trunk he’d just moved. He shook his head. “Can’t see as we’re gonna be able to fit it in one trip.”
Inara sat beside him gingerly. “I don’t imagine we’ll have time to come back, if things with Mal go as they usually do.” She looked longingly at the trunks, trying to think of how the impossible could be achieved.
“D’ya suppose you need it all, ‘Nara?” Jayne asked hopefully. “Mebbe we could fit three in with not much trouble.”
Inara looked at the mercenary sitting awkwardly on her trunk, sweat dripping from his brow. “I’ll go through a few things,” she said softly. “I’m sure I can narrow down what needs to be taken.”
She opened each trunk, running her hands lovingly over the beautiful things she had accumulated by nothing more than her sheer determination to do so. She began to reluctantly set one pile aside to leave behind.
Jayne watched her closely, interested of course in the things contained in the trunks, but somehow much more interested in Inara’s reaction to them.
When she had rearranged the contents of the trunks and consolidated them, she had three very full trunks to take home and one partially filled trunk to leave behind. Turning to Jayne with a small, wistful smile, she said, “Can we carry just these three?”
Jayne nodded, pained unaccountably by the thought of Inara leaving any of her things on the dock. Clearing his head of the sentimental thought, he answered, “Yeah, think mebbe that’ll work.”
He repositioned the three trunks in the mule to achieve the best balance, and motioned for Inara to climb in. Then, he settled himself in beside the Companion. “Looks like we ain’t gonna make it ‘fore dark. Zoe’ll be pissed.”
“I imagine we’ll still make it back before Mal. It should be all right,” Inara soothed.
The mule’s engine roared to life, and the two headed back to Serenity, leaving a trunk of treasures for the next scavenger at the dock.
Zoe sat in the common area utilizing one of the decks of cards there to play a number game with Anya. She was amazed and a little nervous about how much the child seemed to know. Anya was currently rattling off her multiplication tables, a thing Zoe was fairly certain she had not done at the age of five.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” she asked curiously.
Anya looked up from her cards quickly. “Daddy taught me,” she answered. “He was always home and when he weren’t too sick, we’d play like this lots and lots.”
Zoe smiled at the beautiful child. “I see. And what else did you do?”
“We’d read stories and act ‘em out. Wanna see one?”
“I most certainly do,” Zoe said, intrigued by what the child would come up with next.
Anya jumped down from the chair to gather supplies for her costume. She was thus occupied when Zoe felt the unmistakable lift of Serenity leaving the ground. “Anya,” she said calmly. “Come sit on the couch until I get back.”
Seeing that Anya was heeding her words, Zoe sprinted to the bridge. “What’s goin’ on here, River?” she asked when she entered the cockpit. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Had to leave right away. He is betrayed.”
“Who…Mal?” Zoe asked, calling his name as she so very rarely did.
River shook her head. “No, the other one. Knew he would be here. Came to stop him before he stopped them.”
“Who, River? Who came to stop him?” Zoe persisted.
“Foxes,” River whispered.
“That’s weird,” Jayne said, squinting into the distance in the direction of Serenity.
“What?” Inara asked, a little concerned that darkness has fallen so completely around them.
“Up ahead. I wouldn’t have thought Zoe’d light such a fire as that, seein’ as how we’re ‘sposed to be all inconspicuous-like.”
A feeling of dread engulfed Inara. “You don’t suppose…?”
Jayne nodded reassuringly. “I’m sure everything’s shiny. Let’s just see when we get closer.”
When they got closer, they were horrified to discover that the source of the fire was the Operative’s sleek little ship. And worse yet, Serenity was nowhere to be found.
“Least we know they got off the ground,” Jayne said. “Can’t see too far, but from what I do see, they didn’t get blown outta the sky neither.”
Inara swallowed dryly. “But why would they have gone without us?”
Jayne answered grimly, “’Cause they had to, I expect.”
“Who did this?” Inara asked.
“Looks like a military hit, so I’m thinkin’ it has to be the Alliance. Maybe we better find some cover in case they decide to make another run just to be sure.”
He got back on the mule and drove toward the hills surrounding the landing area. Parking the mule carefully in a stand of trees, he hoped that daylight would not reveal its location too clearly. After fishing around the storage compartment in the front of the mule, he was rewarded for his efforts when he found a working flashlight. Taking Inara’s hand, he helped her climb from the mule and began searching for shelter of some sort. Fairly soon, they found a small cave in the hillside, just large enough to suit their purpose. Jayne checked it for dangers, and finding none, motioned Inara inside.
Shivering slightly from the night chill, Inara settled herself on the floor of the cave.
“Sorry I ain’t got anything to warm ya’ with,” Jayne said. “Don’t think it’d be a good idea to start a fire ‘til we find out what’s what.”
“It’s all right, Jayne. I’m just glad we found a safe place.”
He sat down beside her, offering her the warmth of his body. Careful to avoid his recent injuries, she lay lightly against him, soaking in the security he offered. He wrapped his arm around her as if she were made of fine porcelain, and said, “Well, night then, Inara. Nothin’ to do but wait ‘til mornin’.”
She closed her eyes and fell asleep to the sound of his steady breathing, knowing he watched over her.
Having dispatched the outside guard easily, Mal and the Operative used the man’s key card to open the lab’s outer door. Moving quietly through the darkened corridors, they managed to avoid the group of guards sitting in the staff lounge, laughing at a cortex vid they were watching. Mal was intensely grateful for their lapse in discipline.
“Should be just up ahead,” the Operative whispered, pointing down a narrow hallway. Mal looked at the situations carefully, noting the large number of surveillance cameras between them and the door.
“Got any notion as to how to get by those?” he asked.
The Operative nodded. “Not a problem. Only one guard is assigned to watch the security feed and his dinner did not agree with him this evening.”
“How’d you manage that?” Mal asked uneasily.
“He, as most are most people, is a creature of habit. Orders from the same restaurant every night. The cook was more than willing to do what was necessary for a week’s supply of drops,” the Operative answered nonchalantly.
“You killed him?” Mal asked, though not sure he cared.
“No, but I suppose that would have been a kindness, considering what will happen when it is discovered he was sleeping at his post while we enjoyed this little adventure.”
He stopped talking, as they had arrived at the door to the small laboratory where the samples were supposed to be stored. The Operative rummaged around in his pack and brought out an employee ident card for a Level 5 Technician. Handing it off to Mal, he motioned for him to scan it. Mal did so, and a rectangular screen beside the keypad began to glow. “Go se,” Mal muttered, looking at the image coalescing on the screen. “We’re gonna need a…”
The Operative pulled a severed hand from his bag, laying it carefully across the screen for scanning.
“Don’t wanna even ask where that came from,” Mal said, mildly creepified by the cavalier way the Operative had produced it.
“No, you don’t,” the Operative confirmed, pleased to see the indicator light go from red to green. The door swished open, and both men stepped inside. Locking the door carefully behind them, they stood for a moment, allowing their eyes to adjust to the dimmer light of the windowless room.
Moving as quickly as possible, they searched the room for the material they sought.
“Think maybehaps this is it,” Mal whispered softly after several minutes. He stood in front of a large refrigerated storage compartment that spanned the length of the far wall of the room. “We’re gonna have to get rid of it all here, if this thing is filled. Can’t hope to carry it all outta here.”
The Operative agreed. “First, we’ll have to find a way to open it,” he said, looking at the lock doubtfully.
Mal examined the locking mechanism carefully as well, wishing for Kaylee’s skills for a brief moment. Then, he reached into his pocket, producing a small device which he attached carefully to the digital lock. The slight metallic smell of melting circuitry filled the small lab.
Answering the Operative’s questioning look, Mal smiled. “Sometimes it pays to be a petty thief.” Within seconds, the door swung open with a burst of cold air.
When the men saw the contents of the compartment, their smiles were instantly forgotten. “There must be thousands of samples here,” Mal whispered, horrified at the sight.
“It would seem so,” the Operative replied grimly.
“Got anything in that bag that’ll handle this?” Mal asked.
The Operative stared at Mal for a long moment. “If I use what’s in my bag, we may not make it out.”
Will it destroy the samples?”
“Then I don’t see the outstanding issue.”
The Operative nodded his agreement, and began to gingerly pull parts out of his bag, lying them carefully on the counter. “Put together, these components will create an explosive charge and a flash fire that should be of sufficient temperature to destroy everything in the compartment beyond all hope of being salvaged.”
“Okay, so what’s the catch?” Mal asked.
The Operative looked at him blandly. “Two actually, It has only a 30-second delay, and the resulting noise will certainly alert every guard in this facility.”
Mal smiled. “That all?” he asked wryly. “I thought it might be somethin’ difficult.”
“Captain Reynolds,” the Operative said, beginning to assemble the explosive device. “You have a very strange sense of humor.”
“So I’ve been told,” Mal replied.
The two mean worked in silence until the device was set in place. Glancing quickly at each other, they moved to the door of the room, sliding it open carefully.
“How far can we get before you lose detonation capability?” Mal whispered.
“No farther than the end of this corridor,” the Operative replied.
“Let’s go,” Mal answered.
Reaching the end of the corridor, the Operative hit the detonator, as the two men began to run toward the exit. Though the explosion shook the floor beneath their feet, neither man lost his balance as they rounded the corner leading to the entrance through which they’d arrived. Hearing the sound of chaotic activity behind them, they almost made it to the entrance before shots were fired.
The Operative dropped like a stone beside Mal. Cursing, Mal pulled him forward, ducking out of the immediate line of fire. The Operative stirred, trying to get to his feet.
“Gotta go right now,” Mal said, firing into the growing number of guards advancing down the corridor toward them. “Can you make it?”
The Operative nodded, clutching the wound in his side. Mal continued to cover the Operative’s unsteady progress to the exit. Bursting quickly through the door behind him, Mal pulled the Operative’s arm across his shoulders, half-dragging the solid man to the safety of the large boulder they’d sat behind earlier in the day.
Mal leaned the Operative against the rock and quickly tore through his shirt to assess the damage. The Operative, breathing raggedly, said, “There are bandages in the pack.”
Mal laughed hollowly. “Gotta see about getting’ me a handy bag like that. Seems to have all manner of uses,” he said, as he dumped its contents out onto the ground. He found the bandages more by feel than by sight, as it was pitch dark outside the radius of the facility lights. Wrapping the bandages tightly around the Operative’s torso, he said, “Can’t stay here much longer. They’ll be on us, soon enough.”
He helped the Operative to his feet, and shouldered his weight once again, wishing he had come into this little situation fully healed from his own recent bullet wound. Twenty kilometers back to Serenity carrying the other man’s weight was gonna be one gorram long trip, he thought tiredly.
River sat at Serenity’s helm, orbiting Osiris and tracking the air traffic over the small landing area they’d used earlier. Zoe watched her anxiously.
“They’re still doing reconnaissance,” she said, answering Zoe’s unasked question. “Unsafe to land.”
Zoe gritted her teeth in frustration and prayed to every God she knew that all of Serenity’s missing crew would be all right until the ship could land to retrieve them.
To be continued
Thursday, June 07, 2007 2:09 PM
Thursday, June 07, 2007 7:53 PM
Friday, June 08, 2007 8:29 AM
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