BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Slender Thread - Part VII
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Things are going from bad to worse, and Mal has to make a hard decision. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1777    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

While Freya went to get the other torches out of the supply locker, Hank felt his way along the corridor to the bridge. “You know,” he said conversationally, trying to drown out the panic roaring in his ears, “this is one of the times I’m glad Jayne ain’t on board. Big lunk like him, I’d probably be falling over him.”

“I doubt that,” Zoe said behind him, barely able to see him moving against the dull glow from the stars. “He can be pretty light on his feet when he wants to be.”

“Yeah, but I’m not. Gorram it.” He leaned down to rub at his shin where he’d just whacked it on the bottom step. “Why can’t this place all be on one level?” he complained. “Steps, stairs, ladders … I get more exercise just going for a coffee than is needful.”

“You know it’s there,” his wife pointed out.

“Hey, I'm just generally moaning here,” Hank said, turning to look at her but only getting an impression of her eyes, smiling gently at him. “I hate to admit it, seeing as I'm a strong, silent kind of guy, but I’m more than a little scared.” He jumped as he felt her hand on his chest.

“I'm here, honey. Not going anywhere. You need to hold onto that, not think about the dark.” She knew, as she always did, that his claustrophobia was playing up, and she tried to emulate Freya by projecting calming thoughts.

“I’ll be better when I can see the stars,” he admitted, taking hold of her fingers and leading her up the steps.

“I can see what you mean,” she said, staring out at the expanse of black, amazed at the light that was coming from so far distant. It gave the bridge an unworldly glow that seemed appropriately in keeping with their current circumstances.

Hank let the sight wash through him, and the tightness in his chest relaxed a little. Letting go of Zoe’s hand he sat down, attempting to find anything alive in the system. Despite his best efforts, button after button remained unlit, and switches just clicked.

Ezri san zhi jiao mao lu,” he said under his breath, adding out loud, ”This is ridiculous,”

“You could try the age old remedy of kicking something,” Zoe suggested, squeezing his shoulder. “Kaylee swears by it sometimes.”

At it, maybe. Heard her do it.” He pursed his lips. “Still, if the mechanic gets away with it ...” He gave the housing under the console a hefty wallop with his boot.

The lights came on, bridge first, running through the ship in a wave, leaving darkness behind them again. Then again, like they were chasing something down the corridor.

“Okay, that was creepy,” Hank muttered.

All at once the board lit up like a Christmas tree, and the Cortex flared into life, filling the bridge with the brain-wilting jingle of a Blue Sun commercial. With a wince and a growl, Hank turned the sound down, even as he took advantage of the link to try and update their position. It died under his fingers as he saw a sequence of numbers flash across the screen.

“I think I prefer it this way,” Zoe said quietly.

“Hank?” Mal jumped up the steps, a torch in his hand. “Was that –“

“The Cortex. For about ten seconds.”

“Did you manage to figure out where we are?”

“You mean did I reset the nav sat in the short time it was up? No. But I got a kind of fix on Persephone. I might be able to do some old-fashioned trig and make a better guess.”

Mal nodded, relief warming him a little. “Then I think you’ve earned a reprieve.”

“A reprieve, sir?” Zoe asked, one eyebrow raised.

Anything Mal might have responded was cut short by a sudden grinding noise, and they all turned to look down the corridor towards the engine room. A beam of light was playing across the internal workings, and a moment later they heard a whoop of joy as the heart of the Firefly began to revolve, a warm orange glow moving through the ship towards them.

“I’d say we had power,” Mal commented.

“Thank God,” Zoe breathed.

“Seconded,” Hank added fervently, turning back to his board. “And I got life!”

Mal leaned on the back of the chair. “How much?”

“Some. External sensors are up, so we won’t be likely to crash into anything. Looks like internal coms are back too –“

“Cortex?”

Hank checked, then shook his head. “Nope. Still off-line.”

“And I can see we still ain't got no lights.”

“It’s not perfect,” Hank agreed. “But we’ve got steering. And, even more importantly, stopping capabilities.”

“Are they gonna stay up?” Mal asked, scanning the console himself. “Hate to be coming into Eavesdown and finding we’ve got no thrusters.”

“That I can’t promise.” Something flashed and went out. “Shit!”

“What was that?”

“Spoke too soon about the com.”

Mal was beginning to get more than a little exasperated. “Is there anything you can do?” When Hank didn’t say anything, just stared at the screens, Mal added, “Well?”

“Yeah.” Hank looked up, his face pale in the torchlight. “Get the kids off.”

“What?”

“Life support just went down. Just a flash, and it’s back up now, but it was main and auxiliary. And if it’s gone once …” He didn’t finish.

He didn’t have to. Mal felt the ice that had been forming in his innards grow another layer. Ethan and Jesse, let alone the other children … they had to be kept safe. He looked into Zoe’s eyes, seeing the same emotions reflected there, then turned back to his pilot. “The shuttle?”

“For the best.” Hank ran his hands through his hair. “Far as I can see, they’re not affected, least as yet. Get the kids into one and take off. Then at least we know they’re okay.”

Mal hitched his pants a little higher. “I conjure you’re right. Frey can –“

“Rather she stayed.” It said much that Hank was interrupting him. “She’s pretty good at some of this, and we could really use her help. Zoe can go.”

For a moment Mal treacherously wondered if the pilot just wanted his wife out of harm’s way, then guiltily questioned whether he’d done the same, suggesting Freya in the first place. Not that it mattered.

“I’m not going.” Zoe crossed her arms, defiance in every muscle.

“You have to,” Hank said. “Simon can’t fly the shuttle, and there’s no-one else.”

“I'm not leaving.”

“Honey –“

“You say one more word on this and I’ll …”

“What?” Hank stood up, turning to face her. “You’ll what, baby? I want Ben safe. Somewhere he ain't gonna be in danger. Him and the other children.”

They glared at each other, then Kaylee’s voice echoed along the corridor. “Can someone come and hold this for me?” she asked.

“Coming,” Zoe called, heading off the bridge.

Mal watched her in the dim light, her back straight and set, and he could almost see the determination bleeding off of her. “Right,” he muttered, then turned back to Hank. “You want Frey up here?”

“Yeah. She can run back-up for me, and … yeah, that’d be good.”

“I’ll get her.”

“And would you mind telling my wife she’s getting off?”

Mal’s lips twitched. “You planning on living beyond today?”

Hank laughed dryly. “Seriously hoping to, Mal.”

---

“I don’t understand,” Simon said, watching Kaylee quickly push some clothes into a bag in the emergency lamplight.

“We don’t know how long they’ll be,” she explained, adding a couple of Bethie’s toys as well.

“No, I didn’t mean that.” He stepped up next to her, handing her two books. “The shuttle … that has a Cortex link, doesn’t it? Why can’t we use that to figure out our heading? Or just call for help.”

Kaylee zipped the bag up. “Shuttles are short-range, and most of their systems are designed to work that way. No need for much else. Yeah, they’ve got Cortex, but it piggybacks off Serenity’s main signal, and since that’s down …”

“I see.” He picked up the tatty green rabbit Mal had won for his daughter. “Have you tried?”

Kaylee rubbed at her eyes, acutely aware she hadn’t slept more than a couple of hours in the last twenty. “Afraid to, Simon, if I'm honest. Scared it might be catching, and then the kids’d be …” She stopped, realising her cheeks were wet.

Bao bei …” Simon sat down next to her, pulling her close. “I'm sorry. Of course you know what you’re doing. I shouldn’t be second guessing.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” she agreed, leaning into him nevertheless. “And I want you to go with them.”

“What?” He looked down into her eyes. “No, Kaylee. That’s not going to happen.”

“You can’t do much here. Frey’s staying ‘cause she might be some use, but knowing about medicines and such ain't gonna help right now. And I gotta know you’re safe.”

He pushed her away so he could see her properly. “And I’m not leaving you. You think I could sit out there, watching this ship, knowing you were … no, Kaylee.”

“Simon –“

“There’s no discussion.” He dragged her back into his embrace again. “Besides, there’s another shuttle. If it comes down to it, I'm sure Mal will order us all off Serenity.”

“Like he did before?” Kaylee made a noise that could only be described as a harrumph. “Didn’t leave then, he won’t again. Not his ship.”

“Even for Freya?”

She paused, considering, and revised her opinion a little. “Well, maybe.”

“And she’s not going, and I'm pretty sure Zoe was arguing with Mal when he told her she had to. So don’t ask me again.”

“You putting your foot down?” she asked, looking up into his face.

“I am.”

“Just ‘cause you think I'm gonna let you get away with it.”

“It’s my turn.” He stood up. “Have you got everything?”

“Think so.” She wiped her cheeks. “Even got me an argumentative husband.”

“I think there’s a lot of those around.” Simon smiled a little. “Serenity’s women seem to attract them.”

---

Freya picked up the box of food and turned to leave the galley, but her footsteps paused. Mal was in front of her, Jesse on his hip, Ethan held by the hand.

“Just gonna put them in the shuttle,” he said softly. “Thought you might wanna say something.”

She swallowed hard, but the lump in her throat refused to move. Putting the box on the table, she crossed the dining area and lifted Ethan into her arms. “You …” She coughed, but it didn’t help. “You gonna be good for Auntie Zoe?” she asked, looking into his blue eyes.

He put his little hand on her face. “Always good,” he said quietly. “Don’t be scared,” he added, whispering now.

“Only for you,” Freya said, pulling him close to her. His little arms tightened around her neck.

Mal stood silent, watching the love between a mother and her son, and for the tiniest moment felt excluded. Then her love for him, different but so powerful it could make continents live again, warmed his mind.

Zhang fu, she said, and she looked at him.

Ai ren. He nodded.

“Come on,” she said to Ethan, kissing his cheek. “Time to go.”

“’Kay, Mama.” He touched her face. “We going to talk?”

“Well, the coms are down, so –“

“Not that kind of talk.” He laid a finger on her temple. “Talk.”

She half-smiled. “That we can.”

He nodded. “Good.”

“Come on,” Mal said quietly, his own voice in danger of cracking. “Let’s get you both into the shuttle.”

---

“Momma, I don’t want to,” Bethie said, her face beginning to screw up.

“You have to, baby.” Kaylee gathered her daughter into her arms as they stood in the common area. “It’s just to be on the safe side. Don’t want the lights going out and you falling down the stairs, do we? Daddy’d have to put another cast on your arm.”

“But –“

“You have to.”

“Want to stay with you. Help you fix Serenity.”

Kaylee looked into her daughter’s brown eyes. “Do you know what’s wrong with her? Can you feel it?”

Bethie shook her head, two fat tears rolling down her cheeks. “No. Just feels sick. Like it’s Serenity but it isn’t.”

“Sweetie, I need you to be safe. And Auntie Zoe’s gonna make sure of that. It’s not like you’re gonna be far. You’ll be able to look out of the window and see us.”

“Then why do I have to go?”

“For me. You gotta go for me, baby. So I know.”

“Not a baby.” She sniffed hard and wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve.

“No. No, I know you’re not. Which is why I know you’re gonna be able to take care of the other children for me. For Auntie Frey.” Kaylee could see Bethie take this on board, and was relieved when she nodded.

“’Kay.” She sniffed again. “Still scared.”

Kaylee managed a smile. “Then I know what’ll help.” She ran to her room, and was back in a moment. “Here,” she said, holding something out.

Bethie stared at the metal object in her mother’s palm. “What is it?”

“It’s called a Jefferson bolt. Came out of a ship, bigger’n Serenity. And it’s good luck.”

“No such thing. Uncle Mal says luck is something you shouldn’t rely on.”

“And Uncle Mal’s right. He don’t rely on it. But it don’t hurt to have something to fall back on.”

Bethany put her head on one side. “Looks like a flower.”

“That it does.”

“Pretty.”

“You keep it.”

“Not mine.”

“Then you keep it for me, dong mah?”

“For always?”

Kaylee had to grin. “You be good, and I’ll hang it up in your room when you get back. How’s that?”

“Shiny.”

Kaylee held out her hand. “Come on then.”

---

“Come on, Ethan,” Zoe said, Ben on one hip, Jesse on the other. “Help me get everyone strapped in.”

“’Kay, Auntie Zoe.” He looked at Mal. “Bye, Daddy.”

“Won’t be long,” Mal said, blinking hard a couple of times. “You be good.”

“Always good,” the little boy said seriously. “It’s Bethie who ain't.”

“Am too,” Bethie insisted, stepping into the cargo bay, Kaylee and Simon right behind.

“Are not.”

“Am too.” She ran up the stairs and grabbed his hand. “And I'm older’n you, so what I say goes.” She almost dragged him along the top catwalk.

“Well, I can see who wears the pants in that relationship,” Zoe said quietly, following them up into the shuttle. “See you soon, sir.”

Mal nodded, trying hard to push away the notion that he never would again.

The shuttle door slid to, and a minute later there was the sound of the shuttle base extending, and then a slight shudder as the locks disengaged.

“They’ve gone,” Kaylee said, sniffing hard.

Simon wrapped his arms around his wife. “They’ll be fine.”

“Sure they will.” She let him hold her for a moment, then she pulled away. “Got to get back. See what I can do to bring ‘em home again.” She ran up the stairs and through the doorway, the torchlight bobbing in her hand.

“I’ll be in the infirmary,” Simon said, watching her go. “If anyone needs me.”

“Just keep lots of stuff on hand, doc,” Mal warned. “Situation like this, people’re liable to fall, or hurry too much and cut themselves.”

“I’ll bear it in mind.” He walked slowly into the common area.

“You okay?” Mal asked Freya, sliding his arm around her waist. “Won’t be long, you know. ‘Til they’re back.”

“I know.” She still stared at the door.

“Frey?”

“Gotta go,” she said suddenly. “Help Hank.” She barely looked at him as she hurried away.

He was left standing alone in the cargo bay, the light of the torch barely making a dent in the darkness, and he felt the age old fears of man creeping up on him. With an effort, he shook himself. “Nope. Not gonna happen. We’ll figure it out,” he said aloud. “We will figure it out.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 4:31 AM

BADKARMA00


Oh the angst, the tension, the shivers up the spine! It's just so . . . supernatural! I love it! LOVE IT! MOre soon, before my imagination runs away with me!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:58 AM

AMDOBELL


Excellent! Talk about the tension building. I loved it when Hank kicked the console and some of the systems came back on line, reminded me of when Han did that to the Millenium Falcon. But my oh my, do I have a bad feeling about this. Can't wait for the next part, hope it comes before my fingernails are all gone. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 12:39 PM

SLUMMING


Heart-wrenching to have to send the kids away. And if it were me, I'd want to be wher Zoe is, because I'm fair certain she can handle anything that comes along! :D

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 12:50 PM

COLT999


Exciting stuff.

Thursday, January 31, 2008 12:09 AM

WYTCHCROFT


i can't get no relief!!!!:)


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