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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The rescue mission gets underway, and Serenity heads to a safe haven.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 523 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Adam clung tightly to Mal’s neck, steadfastly refusing to let go despite River’s clear command to do so, and Mal’s assurances that everything was going to be all right. “You gotta’ go with your Mama, little fella,” Mal said, finally forcing Adam’s arms loose as gently as he could.
“Adam go wif Daddy,” he replied, all the Reynolds and Tam stubbornness evident in the jut of his chin.
“No, you can’t go with me this time,” Mal said. “Gotta go with Mama and look after her for me.”
Adam shook his head sorrowfully. “Adam yook after Daddy.”
Mal kissed the sweet-smelling skin of his son’s cheek. “No, Daddy will be fine. You need to go with Mama now.”
Still not content but responding to Mal’s firm tone, Adam went into River’s outstretched arms. River looked no happier than her son, though she was trying to maintain her composure better. When Mal asked her if she was aware of something he should know that made her so nervous about the trip, she had no clear answer for him, only fleeting glimpses of possible outcomes that did nothing to aid either one of them with their leave-taking.
Saying good-bye to the rest of the crew, Mal and Jayne watched as Serenity rose gracefully out of the clearing and soared into the atmosphere. Mal found himself praying for the safety of his family, though the action confounded him somewhat after spending so long avoiding such a ritual. Mildly embarrassed by his own strange behavior, he cleared his throat. “Well, guess we’d best be headin’ out too. No need to stand around waitin’ for the Alliance to show up.”
Jayne, who had been saying a little prayer of his own, agreed gruffly. “Sure would feel better about this whole thing if we had a gorram clue who’s got the Operative.”
“Yeah, would make things a mite smoother,” Mal said, sighing as he climbed into the small ship left by the Academy students. Taking his seat at the helm, he added, “’Course, I reckon we should just be grateful we found a way off this rock for everybody.”
Jayne snorted softly as the ship broke atmo. “Reckon you’re right,” he said, banging around in the locker units to find a good place to store additional weapons. “Hear any word yet from them other camps?”
“Some,” Mal replied. “Looks like everybody’s leaving on schedule so far. Anything different happens, they’ll wave Serenity and our folks’ll pass the news on to us if need be.”
Jayne nodded, and the two men sat in silence for a long time, each engrossed in his own thoughts. Osiris was three days away and the route, according to Monty, was strewn with Alliance ships that would need to be avoided. As Jayne had no piloting skills, Mal set the ship on auto-pilot and told his mercenary to take the first watch. Jayne looked at him uneasily. “And what am I supposed to do if’n somethin’ happens?” he asked.
Mal gestured to the small cot lying a scant few yards away. “You wake me up,” he answered, as if Jayne was a three-year-old. “I ‘spect I can get from there to here ‘fore we hit somethin’.” At Jayne’s irritated scowl, he added, “We can’t both stay up all three days, and I’m near ‘bout worn out already. So, less you got a major outstanding issue, I’ll be going to sleep now.”
“Nope, nothin’ ‘cept the fact I can’t fly this thing,” Jayne answered sarcastically.
Mal rolled his eyes and lay down on the cot, the exhaustion of the past few days sending him immediately into slumber.
The next two days passed without incident, as Mal managed to bypass any Alliance ships with minimal trouble. River had waved from Serenity, assuring him that they had reached Hera without incident as well. Mal found it vaguely unsettling that Hera was the safe haven chosen by the Academy students, but he understood the twisted logic behind the choice. From the perspective of the Alliance High Command, the planet that had hosted the cruelest battle of the first war for Independence would likely not be a place where a new Independent Army would be born. And Serenity Valley itself, according to rumor, was still nothing but a ruined landscape. Mal had planned never to revisit the place, except in nightmares beyond his control, but he was eager enough now to be reunited with his family that he would willingly go through hell’s gate to get to them if he had to do so.
As he was pondering that, an incoming hail interrupted him. “Unidentified vessel, be advised you are approaching a mandatory Alliance checkpoint. Prepare to dock with cruiser Megellan immediately.”
Swearing an imaginative string of Mandarin, Mal called out, “Jayne, best you be getting’ up here. We got trouble.”
Jayne had heard the Alliance order, and was already strapping on weapons. Glancing back at him, Mal said, “Take ‘em off, Jayne, and stow ‘em. Talented as you are with Vera, I ain’t firmly convinced you can take out an Alliance cruiser with her.”
“We ain’t gonna just let ‘em board us, are we?” Jayne asked incredulously.
“We try to run, they got every reason to blow us to hell and back,” Mal replied. “Best bet is to let ‘em board and hope the crew’s different folk than the ones boarded Serenity when Book was shot. Least that way maybehaps we won’t be recognized right away.” Still finishing the sentence, he felt the slight shudder of the ship as he maneuvered it into the indicated docking space. Drawing in a deep breath, he said, “Showtime.”
The last hundred new Independent recruits on Lilac milled about the camp, eagerly awaiting their turn for departure. Most of the men were content with the thought of going back to their home worlds without seeing any action. While the thought of freedom fighting had sounded glamorous when they had first answered the call to congregate, even the most inexperienced of them could see that they were not really equipped to do battle with the Alliance yet. And knowing that enemy troops were on the way made the men more than a little anxious to leave as soon as possible.
The commander of the small group stared at the blank cortex screen, wondering what to do with the information he had just received. John Ferguson had fought in Dhu Khang as an enlisted man, and as the most seasoned soldier in the camp, it had fallen upon his shoulders to oversee the final stage of its evacuation. But he’d just received a wave from the Captain of the Seafarer that the vessel was having mechanical difficulty that had forced it to land on the neighboring moon for repairs, effectively stranding the remaining troops on Lilac for at least several more hours. Ferguson knew of no other ships in the area, so he waved Serenity in hopes of speaking with Captain Reynolds.
To his disappointment, a beautiful dark-skinned woman appeared on the screen instead. Introducing herself as Reynolds’ second-in-command, she asked the nature of the problem. Ferguson explained crisply, and the woman consulted someone off-screen briefly before confirming that there were no other ships close enough to offer support. “Anywhere you can go dirtside to avoid detection?” she asked.
Ferguson shook his head. “Nearest settlement’s a day away on foot. If we made it there, we wouldn’t be able to get back in time to rendezvous with the Seafarer, if her Captain’s estimate on repair time is correct.”
Zoe sighed, wishing Mal was there. “Stay put. I’ll put in a wave to Captain Reynolds and talk to you soon.”
“Yes ma’am,” Ferguson replied, praying Reynolds knew something that would help his people.
Zoe sat on Serenity’s bridge, fighting the unaccustomed urge to pace the floor. She had waved Mal immediately after hearing about the situation on Lilac, but had so far received no response. Contacting the captain of the Seafarer, she had been assured that the repairs were progressing according to schedule. So, she did the only thing that seemed an option at the moment, contacting Ferguson to tell him to keep his men alert and ready for transport at the earliest opportunity.
It did not escape Zoe’s notice that life had seemingly brought her full circle, back to Hera anxiously awaiting Malcolm Reynolds’ next command. When the second hour had come and gone since her first wave, she tried again to reach Mal and Jayne. Once again, there was no response. Knowing this could only mean trouble for her best friend, Zoe was filled with dread.
River padded up silently behind her, taking her seat in the co-pilot’s chair. She did not need her abilities as a Reader to see the waves of tension emanating from the older woman. “Not dead,” she said, breaking the oppressive silence.
“You know that for a fact?” Zoe asked, her voice deceptively calm.
“Yes,” River said. “Can feel him.” She tilted her head, listening intently to something only she could hear. “Worried, but not hurt. Anxious, annoyed.”
Zoe’s lips canted in an almost-smile. “That pretty much sums up the usual way of it.”
River frowned. “Can’t make out more than that. Don’t know what’s happened.”
“Long’s you know he’s still breathin’, that’s a good thing,” Zoe said.
“Yes,” River replied. “It is.”
Thompson glared at the scientists as they finished their status report. “His mental defenses are quite formidable, sir,” one of them whined. “He was a trained Operative of Parliament, after all.”
“I wasn’t aware that Operatives are trained to withstand mental manipulation particularly,” Thompson said icily.
“Well, they’re not, exactly,” the first scientist explained. “But they are chosen as Operatives based on a certain psychological profile. And we believe this might account for our inability to achieve some of the more difficult of your goals with regard to his behavioral modifications.”
“Then, push harder,” Thompson said.
“If we push any harder, he may just shut down completely,” the second scientist said.
“You mean, die?” Thompson asked.
“No,” replied the man. “We mean, he may shut down psychologically. He’s virtually catatonic as it is. His reactions are becoming more and more difficult to register. If we go deeper, you may end up with a mental vegetable on your hands.”
Thompson gritted his teeth in irritation, longing to wrap his long fingers around their throats and squeeze until the blood vessels in their eyes burst into a pretty shade of red. Tamping down the sudden pleasure such a mental image provided him, he said, “Then what do you suggest, gentlemen? How do we proceed at this point?”
“We’ll continue to chip away at his defenses slowly, with your permission of course. He can still be controlled, given enough time. We feel he can still be of use to you, if you’ll grant us leave to continue.”
“Do it,” Thompson said. “I suppose I can wait a little longer. And the results had better be worth my time.”
As he swept out of the lab, the scientists looked at each other, both genuinely terrified to think of what their new employer might be capable of should they fail.
To be continued
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