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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The crew starts repairs in earnest, and Simon and Kaylee find a cortex screen.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 707 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River lay on her side beside the engine, craning her neck underneath so that she could watch Mal’s hands. She was frustrated beyond belief by the fact that her swollen body would not slip under the engine so that she could do the intricate wiring herself.
She knew more intimately than anyone on Serenity how very talented Mal’s hands could be, but his fingers were large enough to be a hindrance as he tried to do the delicate work. At first, River had tried to use Zoe and then Inara to help her, but neither woman had a natural aptitude for it, and River, nerves stretched paper thin, could not express clearly what needed to be done. Finally, she had sent Zoe off with Jayne to remove access panels throughout the ship and check all the wiring for damage that may have escaped their notice in the first day, while Inara entertained Anya.
River had to admit there were advantages to working with Mal rather than the two women. Mal had at least a rudimentary understanding of how Serenity actually worked, though he had relied on Kaylee for so long now that he’d forgotten some of what he had once known. But the larger advantage was that River could communicate with him both verbally and mentally, and he could see the pictures she drew in his mind as he worked.
While normally such an intrusion would be uncomfortable for him, Mal was glad for River’s ability to plant such images in his mind now. He was realistic enough to know that, without her special gifts, Serenity would be grounded on this moon indefinitely.
Even with the extra advantage, Mal estimated that the re-wiring and assorted other repairs from the collision with the Reaver ship and subsequent rough landing would take at least a couple of weeks of steady work on the part of the entire crew, things being as they were.
He could feel River’s frustration, vibrating like a live wire in his mind and combining dangerously with his own impatience. So, he tried to work as quickly as possible without making a mistake that would blow them all to the hot place when they fired Serenity up again.
Hearing a small grunt from River, he turned his eyes away from the confusing tangle of wires for a moment. “You okay, darlin’?” he asked.
River stretched her legs and arched her back. “Just sore and stiff,” she answered, dismissing how badly she really ached in the difficult position.
Mal wriggled out from under the engine and pulled her to her feet. “We’re takin’ a break,” he said in his most serious Captainy voice.
“I’m fine, Mal. Really,” she protested. “There’s so much to be done and…”
“And it can wait for half an hour while we take a walk around the ship,” Mal interrupted. “I ain’t the youngest of men, and I need to stretch a mite.”
“Liar,” River said, knowing exactly what he was doing.
“Maybehaps I am, at that,” Mal said, smiling. “But it’s rude to point it out.”
For just a moment, River smiled, and the horrible tension that she felt receded into the background just a little. Grateful to see the fleeting expression, Mal took her hand and moved out of the engine room.
All along Serenity’s corridors, they encountered signs of the damage to the ship. Per River’s instructions, Jayne and Zoe were making their way through the ship, tagging areas touched by the fire. Mal and River stopped at each tagged spot, assessing the damage for themselves. Grimacing, Mal added a few additional days to his mental estimate for completion times for the repairs.
River rubbed her belly distractedly. “Need to eat. Baby’s hungry.”
Taking that as the most pleasant thing he’d heard all day, Mal herded River quickly into the galley and started preparing something to eat before she changed her mind.
River pulled out the chair beside her and propped her feet up. She was somewhat startled to see how swollen her ankles were, and wondered briefly if it was perfectly normal or a sign of impending trouble. Sighing, she took the drink Mal held out to her and drank long and deeply from it, wishing her brother was there to ease her mind. The thought led to even less pleasant musings, so she tried not to dwell on it further.
Mal sat down across from her, eyeing her critically from head to toe. Most of what he saw was troubling. She looked so tired, he thought, as if worry and grief had added years to her real age. Her eyes were dull and ringed with faintly purple circles, and her hands and feet were swollen painfully tight. He wondered if such things were normal in the late stages of pregnancy, or if they were indicative of a problem developing.
It suddenly occurred to him that, if they did not get Serenity repaired quickly, there was every likelihood that River would go into labor with no medic on board to help her. In the best case scenario, Simon was still alive on Athens and they would get to him sometime within River’s eighth month. And Mal didn’t even want to consider the worst case scenario. The food he was eating suddenly stuck in his dry throat, almost choking him.
“They’re alive,” River said softly.
Mal swallowed the lump of food down quickly. “You know that for a fact?” he asked hopefully.
“No, but I think it,” River said. “Would feel it if he died, I think.”
Mal nodded. “I conjure you would, at that,” he agreed, daring to hope that she was right. “That’s the case, I think we’d best get back to work.”
“I found one,” Kaylee called excitedly.
Simon ran to join her in front of one of the most beautiful things he thought he had ever seen, a working cortex link. Grinning like a man who’d just won the ‘verse’s biggest lottery, he eagerly began to type in the information that would send a wave to Serenity.
Standing back, they waited eagerly for someone from Serenity to appear onscreen. When nothing happened, Kaylee said hopefully, “Maybe we typed it in wrong.”
Simon tried again, and achieved the same dismal result. Quickly checking other screens, he realized with a sinking dread that the terminal was indeed working correctly, but Serenity was not there. Kaylee’s face revealed that she had come to the same heart-breaking conclusion. “They didn’t make it,” she whispered, eyes welling up with tears.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Simon said disconsolately. Somehow he had pinned all his hope on the thought that Serenity had evaded the Reavers and River would be waiting somewhere to come back for them. His disappointment was harsh and bitter in his throat.
“What are we gonna do, Simon?” Kaylee asked, despair in her voice.
Simon’s mind went into overdrive, forming and rejecting ideas for their rescue. He realized, with a certain amount of shock, that other than Serenity, he had no one whom he could trust to whom he would dare send a wave. He had known when he’d first gotten River out of the Academy that he was burning his bridges behind him, but somehow that fact had never been more painfully evident than it was right now. Other than his wife beside him, everyone he cared about or trusted was on that ship, which now seemed to be lost forever. He sat down heavily, and ran his hands over his face in frustration.
“I can’t think of one person who we can wave for help,” he said softly.
Kaylee sat down beside him, running through possibilities in her mind as well. Her folks would arrange help if they had the means, she thought, but they had no private cortex link. And realistically, since they had no ship either, even if she could reach them, they could do nothing but arrange transport somehow, an expensive endeavor well beyond their material wealth. She thought about the Captain’s old army buddy, Monty, who had a ship and had always been good to the crew. But she didn’t know how to contact him, and he wasn’t exactly likely to advertise his whereabouts publicly, considering his occupation. Sifting through her acquaintances in this manner, she came to the same conclusion her husband had reached. They were, in the most awful sense, alone.
“That should be it,” Mal said, connecting the last replaced wire under Serenity’s console. Getting to his feet, he looked over at River. Every hour of the past three weeks of repairing the ship was etched into her face, all the worry written there as boldly as the strokes of Inara’s paint brush. She moved slowly to the pilot’s chair, unable now to summon any speed or grace in this last month of her pregnancy.
Mal moved to the co-pilot’s seat, and together they began a systems check, Zoe and Jayne standing by in the engine room as a precaution. After several minutes of checking and re-checking the results, River declared the vessel ready for a short trial-run.
Mal held his breath as Serenity lifted smoothly into the air. Skimming low over the little moon, they observed a small settlement a great distance away from the site of their hasty landing. Coming in closer to the settlement, they realized just how fortunate Serenity had been to land so far away. Bodies lay strewn in the narrow streets, a sobering testament to the recent presence of Reavers, just as Mal had feared.
River shuddered at the images she saw, and the horrors whispering in her mind. Mal, with a shudder of his own, asked, “Think she’s ready to break atmo?”
“We both are,” River answered, fighting to block the sights bombarding her thoughts.
Mal reached for the newly repaired comm.. “This is the Captain. Brace yourselves. We’re leaving the world.”
Simon stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow. His back was burned from the relentless sun, and his arms felt like lead from the countless graves he had dug on Athens.
When the realization had sunk in that he and Kaylee were well and truly stranded for an indefinite period of time, Simon knew that they would either have to leave the settlement and fashion some sort of home elsewhere on the planet, or use what was available to them in the small town. But staying there meant that they would have to dispose of the decaying bodies to prevent contracting whatever horrendous diseases the Reavers may have left there.
So, he and Kaylee had spent their days on the unpleasant task of digging graves, and burying the remains of the dead. Kaylee insisted on Simon saying a few words over every grave, until it became too much to endure. Finally, they compromised, agreeing to say one final prayer for all the poor souls left. After that, they completed their grim task in relative silence every day, though Kaylee still said her secret prayers over each one as she helped lower them into the hard ground. She did not cry, as all her tears had already been spent. She wondered, somewhat numbly, if she’d ever be able to cry again.
Smoothing the dirt over the last grave, Simon stood and dusted his hands on his pants legs. “Guess that’s it,” he said wearily.
Kaylee wrapped her arms around his sweaty torso, proud and relieved that they had finished the macabre task. “Now what?” she asked.
“Well, I think a shower might be in order,” Simon said, brushing the smear of dust off her cheek. But Kaylee wasn’t paying attention. Her gaze was directed at the sky.
Simon raised his eyes as well, as the sound of a ship breaking atmo assaulted their ears, so used now to dead silence. He was almost afraid to see what type of ship it could be, imagining with icy dread that perhaps the Reavers had returned.
But Kaylee’s squeal told him differently. Wondering if perhaps they were suffering from a shared delusion, Simon saw what Kaylee saw as well, Serenity landing softly on the dirt of Athens, sending up little puffs of dust into the afternoon air.
To be continued
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