BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Slender Thread - Part XII: Epilogue
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The danger is over for the Firefly, but Mal doesn't want to leave it at that. FINAL CHAPTER OF THIS ARC


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2015    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

A Firefly didn’t carry weapons. Transport ships rarely did, in case it attracted scavengers and pirates. It was something certain lower levels of society thought humorous, but ship’s captains were a superstitious lot, even if they never admitted to it. Mostly they considered that if they couldn’t run from danger, or at least talk their way out of it, having a big gun attached to the front of the boat was just asking for trouble.

In this instance, though, Mal almost wished he had something huge to take out the ship hanging darkly in front of them.

“You sure this is gonna work?” he asked Kaylee for the eighteenth time.

“Positive,” she said, looking up from where she was making the final adjustments to the timing mechanism.

“And it ain't gonna be able to take it over? Turn it back on us?”

She shook her head. “That’s why this is mechanical. No electronic parts at all.” She stood up. “Kinda feels old fashioned, but that’s worked for us before.”

“Okay,” he said, still not quite believing her.

She grinned. “Cap’n, these barrels are full of V59.” She patted one of the metal containers, trying not to laugh when he winced visibly. “Mix it right with the catalyst and it makes a pretty bang.”

“So Dillon said.”

“I'm surprised he could get his hands on it, and so much,” Kaylee mused. “Being as how he’s such a law-abiding person ‘n’all.”

“I’ll have to tell Dillon that you said that,” Freya laughed, coming out of the common area towards them, Jesse sitting on her hip. “He’d love to know someone called him law-abiding.”

“You mean he ain’t?” Kaylee feigned shock. “And him that little girl’s godfather at that.”

“There are tales in Dillon’s past that would take your breath away.” She smiled as she remembered. “And definitely outdo any of Hank’s books.” She sighed. “Ah, happy days.”

Mal snorted. “You keep saying that, but you never tell me any.”

“I'm keeping them for when we’re old and grey and need something new to talk about.”

“You mean like next week?”

Her smile widened to a grin. “About right.”

Jesse reached out for her father and said, “Dada!”

Mal took her from her mother. “How’re you doing, sweetpea?” he asked.

“She needs changing,” Freya said, then laughed at the look on his face. “I’m teasing,” she added quickly. “We came to see the explosion.”

“Should you be encouraging my girl here to enjoy such things?” Mal let his brows draw together. “Ain't exactly feminine.”

“Frey ain't,” Jayne put in from next to the EVA locker as Zoe helped him with his suit. “Don’t see why the half-pint’s gonna be any different.”

“Jayne, I think I should point out to you, you’re perilously close to an airlock,” Mal said darkly.

“You wanna explain to River, in her condition, how come her husband’s driftin’ around the ‘verse all on his lonesome?” the big man asked.

“Husband.” Mal rolled his eyes. “God, I’d forgotten.”

“Well, I ain’t. And if you don’t get that damn thing into the airlock, I'm gonna go on strike and refuse to deal with it.”

“Now, now,” Kaylee said. “It’s all ready. You just need to push this lever into place, lock it, and run.”

“Run?”

“So to speak.”

He squinted at her. “How long will I have?”

“Plenty of time. I've set it to fifteen minutes, and it’s got grapplers, so even if you miss the open hatch, it’ll still stick. Take more time to work, a’course.”

“Miss? Ain’t gonna miss,” Jayne muttered. “’Though I'm still wondering how I got talked into this gorram thing in the first place.”

“Because I'm Captain,” Mal said. “And don’t curse in front of my daughter.”

“Too gorram late,” Jayne grumbled, then was silenced at Zoe dropped the helmet over his head.

“Thanks,” Freya said.

Zoe smiled. “My pleasure.”

“Mal, we’re in position,” Hank’s voice reverberated through the cargo bay. “I don’t wanna get too close, in case that tractor net’s back up.”

The short hairs on the back of Mal’s neck lifted uneasily. “Any sign of it?”

“Nope. But I ain’t doing an active sensor sweep, just in case.”

“Then keep us well back.” He turned to Jayne. “You ready?” Inside the suit, Jayne read Mal’s lips and gave the thumbs up sign. “Then it’s time.”

Jayne pushed the barrels into the airlock, grunting with the effort, and Kaylee closed it up behind him. As the lights turned red, he opened the outer bay door, glaring out at the AI ship. “You ain't got no idea what’s coming,” he muttered, scowling. “And it serves you right for nearly killing ‘em all.”

Kaylee grinned at Mal, who had to smile. Jayne probably didn’t care that his com unit was open, and besides, he was right. It was just surprising sometimes to hear how much he cared for his adopted family.

Unaware of the feelings he was engendering, Jayne manoeuvred the payload out through the airlock, moving it easily now it was comparatively weightless. The targeting device Kaylee had set up on it gave him a good lock, and the mercenary in him knew it was going to go in dead centre.

“Got any last requests?” he asked, one eyebrow raised as he paused a moment, like he was expecting an answer. “Nope? Then how about saying goodbye?” He activated Kaylee’s timer.

Inside Serenity the mechanic pressed the button on her stopwatch. “Fifteen minutes,” she said.

Mal nodded.

Jayne, meanwhile, had checked the cross-hairs one final time, and metaphorically lit the blue touchpaper. With a well-directed shove, he pushed it away from Serenity, the two small booster rockets attached to the back firing after a few seconds. The device sailed towards the derelict, and after what seemed like an age, but was probably no more than a few minutes, it disappeared into the gaping maw left by the blown hatch. Jayne had already turned back into the airlock, not needing proof that his aim was good.

---

“One minute to go.” Kaylee had been counting down, even as Hank had eased Serenity further away, until the AI ship hung like a matt black jewel against velvet, absorbing everything. If they didn’t know it was there, didn’t know the Firefly was facing it, every single crewmember would have said they were alone in space.

Jayne leaned against the wall and picked at one of the calluses on his hands. “So what’ll happen? Lots of fireworks?”

“Might be some,” Kaylee said softly. “Soon as the catalyst hits the V59 it’ll explode, but the real work is done through the amalgam burning through the metalwork. It don’t even need oxygen. And if it hits something flammable it’ll blow, but I think we’re too far away to see much.” She almost sounded reproachful.

“Better safe than sorry, mei-mei,” Mal said, putting his arm around her briefly.

“And I for one ain't getting any closer,” Hank added. “Time?”

Kaylee looked at the stopwatch in her hand. “Four, three, two, one …”

Everyone stared out of the window, gazing at the speck of black. And gazed. And then some more.

Jayne shifted uncomfortably. “Ya think it was a dud?”

“I don’t see how,” Kaylee said, screwing her face up. “Dillon knew what he –“

She stopped as the entire bridge was illuminated by a golden light that retreated almost immediately to a point where the derelict was. Or should have been.

“Wow.” Only Hank seemed to have breath to speak as a fireball engulfed the distant ship. “I’d ask if you think you used enough, Kaylee, but I think that would be redundant.”

Kaylee’s eyes reflected the glow outside. “I didn’t think it would … that’s pretty …”

“Impressive,” Mal finished, hearing Jesse clap her hands delightedly.

“And you said I didn’t need to be this far back,” Hank added.

“But it shouldn’t … I mean, not like that …” Kaylee couldn’t stop staring.

“Well, it did,” Simon said. “In something of a spectacular fashion.”

“Made from hopes and dreams that wanted to burn to freedom,” River said softly from the co-pilot’s seat.

The others looked at each other, but Jayne just said, quite firmly, “Moonbrain.”

She rolled her eyes but explained slowly, “A lot of the connections were highly flammable in order to carry the necessary proto-thought processes. And much of the metal was prone to ignition, particularly the hull.”

“Thanks,” Mal said dryly. “Okay, it’s late,” he added, knowing the V59 would continue to burn through the derelict until there was nothing left, then dissipate harmlessly. “I think we’ve seen all there is to see.”

“You want me to set a course back to Persephone? Pick up Gilford and Matty?” Hank asked, stretching the muscles in his shoulders. He still felt cramped, as if he was back in that suit, like it was tight all around him.

Mal shook his head. Zoe had mentioned that the pilot hadn’t slept properly since they’d got back. “I’ll do it. You go on to your bed.”

Hank got quickly to his feet. “You sure?”

“Sure I'm sure. And don’t go looking a gift-horse in the mouth.”

“Safer than the other end. Oh, sorry, Jayne.”

“You callin’ me a horse’s ass?” the big man growled.

“Did I say that?” Hank managed to look shocked that he was being accused of something so heinous.

“Sure as hell sounded like it.” Jayne loomed very convincingly over the other man. “I just put paid to something a lot more intelligent than you, even if it was crazy. You think I can’t do the same to you?”

“There’s nothing wrong with crazy,” River put in. “So I've been told.”

“Well, maybe not, girl,” Jayne backpedalled. “But I ain't sleepin’ with him, and his kinda crazy I could do without.”

“Bed!” Mal said loudly, drowning out the bickering. “Or I’ll decide the septic vat needs scrubbing until you could eat your breakfast off it.”

“Mal, that’s disgusting,” Simon said, wincing.

“Well, that’s what you get for riling your captain.” He made shooing motions with his hands. “Go!”

“Going,” Kaylee said, pushing Simon out in front of her, and collecting Jayne on the way.

“Hey, I ain't one of your kids,” he complained.

“And I don’t want to be breaking up a schoolyard fight anytime soon,” she said determinedly as they walked down the stairs.

Mal shook his head and slipped into the pilot’s seat.

“Don’t be long,” Freya murmured to him, bending down and brushing her lips across his cheek.

He felt himself tremble as he always did at her touch, and smiled. “I won’t be,” he promised.

She ran her fingers up his neck to his cheek, cupping him for a moment, then was gone.

“Think anyone’s going to notice it’s disappeared, sir?” Zoe asked, taking one last look at the burning ship as Mal input new co-ordinates.

“They might. Somehow I doubt its makers didn’t keep tabs on it. Still, if they come to look see, all they’re gonna find is a few bits of twisted metal and some ash. If that.”

“And good riddance,” Hank added. He twisted his arm around his wife’s waist. “Didn’t I hear something about bed?”

“You did.” She pushed her hand through his untidy brown hair, vainly trying to make it lie flat, then glanced back at Mal. “Goodnight, sir.”

“’Night.”

As the stars whirled by before settling into a new alignment, Mal heard the last of the footsteps fade away, and sighed in contentment. His sky certainly looked far friendlier now that the derelict was disposed of.

Eventually he turned to look at the young woman still sitting next to him. “Not sleepy, xiao nu?” he asked, his toffee voice warm with affection.

River shook her head. “Too many things to think about. Too much to remember to have to think about. And too little time to tell.”

“You got everything for the baby?”

She shrugged. “Jayne went shopping.”

Mal had to chuckle. “So you’ve got plenty of ammo and no diapers.”

“He had a list.”

“And?”

Now she sighed. “He bought three of everything.”

The chuckle deepened. “So that’s how come he was carryin’ all those boxes back on board?”

She nodded. “Afraid we’ll run out.”

“He’s gonna make a good dad, ain't he?”

“You don’t have to sound so surprised.”

“Hell, I'm not, River. I know how he is with the other kids. It’s just … you know … Jayne …”

“I know.” She smiled and rubbed her belly.

“So … was your bro right?” Mal asked, somewhat tentatively. “They were trying to build a psychic brain?”

“I don’t know,” River admitted. “But from a certain point of view it would make sense. What they did at the Academy, to Freya, to me … it loosened our hold on reality. Perhaps they considered it more effective if they created one from scratch, and that would give them perfect control.”

“That’s what Simon said.”

“And when it went wrong, it did so on a much bigger scale.” She looked at him, her dark eyes huge in the subdued light. “Sam Nazir said once that he had treated a number of people with abilities, and he wondered whether it was possible for a psychic to be truly sane. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps being crazy is the price we have to pay to be a Reader.”

“And Bethany? Ethan?” He swallowed. “What about them?”

“They have us.” She said it simply, a statement that everything would be better for them because of their family. He had to agree.

“Surprised that brain didn’t send the crew mad,” he went on, glad to be back to a safer topic.

“Maybe it did. Who’s to say the ship killed them? Perhaps they killed each other, and blew the hatch themselves.”

“Do you know this, or are you just guessing?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

“An informed opinion. But who knows? Maybe Blue Sun wanted to try and control the Reavers with it.”

He shuddered. “That, albatross, is one of the scariest ideas I think I’ve heard.”

“It is.” She laughed. “I think I've just scared myself.” After a minute’s more silence, she said, “Dillon didn’t want you to destroy it, did he?”

Mal shrugged. “Let’s just say he took a little persuasion.”

“It’s proof, Mal. Proof those lying hwoon-dahns have been interfering longer than anyone realises. Even before Miranda.”

“And how do we get that proof to anyone, Dillon?” Mal asked, sitting back in the comfortable chair, warming his hands in front of the fire, remembering what had nearly happened to him, to his crew, to his wife and children out in the cold darkness of space …

“You know where it is. You said.”

“And anything that goes near it probably ends up a pile of blown apart junk.”

“But we can –“

“No. We can’t. And you’re gonna help me destroy it.”

“But that won’t –“

“It’s sat there, like some kinda spider in the middle of a web for God knows how long, and I don’t have a notion as to how many other poor bastards it’s caught. But it won’t catch any more.”

“He was thinking of Breed nearly dying,” River said softly. “Of Freya, of Kaylee … He thought it would lend weight to the argument that Blue Sun were responsible.” She shivered, as if someone had walked over her grave.

“Come here.” Mal held out his hand, and she got to her feet, ungainly now, even in the couple of weeks she’d been gone from Serenity. She crossed the bridge and settled carefully into his lap.

“Too heavy for you,” she whispered.

“Nope. You’re not. No heavier than Frey when she was carrying. In fact, if memory serves, quite a bit lighter.”

River giggled. “I’ll tell her you said that.”

“I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t. I'm kinda attached to all my extremities.”

“Then I won’t.”

“Anyway,” Mal went on, “you keep going around telling everyone I'm your Pa, so that little baby in there’s my grandchild. Well, kind of.”

“He’s going to call you Granpa,” River said, leaning her head on Mal’s shoulder.

“In your dreams.” He grunted softly. “That’ll be for Ethan and Jesse’s kids, and not for a long time yet.”

“More than that. Granpa,” River repeated, and was rewarded by him glaring at her.

“No.”

“We’ll see.”

Unfortunately Mal was pretty sure he wasn't going to win this argument, so he changed tack to something that had been bothering him somewhat. “So what exactly did Wash’s whatchamathing do?”

“Ate the bad guys.”

Mal looked at her under his eyebrows. “Ate them?”

“More or less. It compared the infected programmes and systems with previously held examples, and destroyed each piece of different code. Obliterated them from the hard structure and rebuilt any sections that were damaged by cloning from adjoining lines.”

He nodded, not understanding half of what she said. “So it ate them.”

“Exactly.”

“Sounds like it should’ve taken a lot longer than five minutes.”

“Actually, it was done within the first two, but Kaylee always was conservative.” She gazed contemplatively out of the window. “It wasn't actually possessing Serenity, you know.”

“Sure felt like it. And I have a severe problem with some kind of intelligence trying to take over my boat.”

“Not an intelligence. Not really. The things that were happening were a response, not pre-ordained.”

Mal sighed. “River, as you can tell, I ain't exactly feeling too bright this evening, so I’d be beholden if you’d only use words of one syllable. For the sake of my health,” he added.

“It was more … a memory. Of how it was supposed to be before Blue Sun pushed too far and damaged it. Perhaps even of how it wanted to be. Of the power it could have known.” She looked down at her belly. “Simon was right. An infection, growing and spreading from one open wound to another.”

His nostrils flared. “That’s … pretty disgusting, even for you,” Mal pointed out.

She smiled winningly at him. “You’ve been through a war, been shot, stabbed, beaten up more times than you care to admit … seen both your children born … and you still find images disgusting?”

“Only from you, albatross. And you missed out watching Jayne eat.”

“He could take offence at that.”

“He ain't here.”

“Wanna bet?” growled the big man from the shadows in the doorway. “And is there something going on here I need to worry about?”

Mal turned the chair so he could look at the mercenary. “Yes, Jayne. You’ve found us,” he deadpanned. “River and I are going to run away together and start a new life.”

“If I even begun to think that might be true, Serenity’d be missing a captain.” Jayne crossed the floor and lifted his wife into his arms. “Pair of you need to come to bed now,” he said gently, glancing down at her swollen stomach.

She followed his gaze, and tilted her head slightly as if she was listening. Then she smiled. “That will be acceptable,” River said, putting her arms around his neck as he took her back to their shuttle.

Mal chuckled and turned back to the controls. Setting the autopilot quickly, he ran his hands lovingly across the console and up the neck of one of the dinosaurs still sitting there.

“Wash, I can’t help but think you were watching out for us,” he murmured. “Only reason we’re still around is ‘cause of your system. Your modification, Wash. Wouldn’t’ve survived otherwise.” He nodded once. “Thanks.” He waited for a moment, to see if there’d be a ghostly you’re welcome, but there was nothing. Just the sound of his Firefly, powering through the black.

Mal stood up and stretched. Time to get to his bed. And his wife. She was probably already asleep, knowing her. Unless she made an effort, she was in dreamland as soon as her head hit the pillow, so there was no chance of getting amorous now. Unless he made a lot of noise climbing down the ladder. Perhaps he could knock something over …

“Oh, and I promise, next time we’re near anything resembling a toy store, I’ll buy you a new dinosaur.” Now he could have sworn he heard a laugh from a blond, Hawaiian-shirted pilot. Smiling to himself he left the bridge.

On the console behind him, a single light under the foot of the plastic stegosaurus winked and went out.

-----

COMMENTS

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 3:54 AM

SLUMMING


Lovley ending to one of the most tension-filled stories I have had the privilege to read! Brava!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 4:29 AM

COLT999


Very cool ending to a great story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 11:34 AM

BADKARMA00


Wonderful endcap there! Especially the light blinking under the dino's foot!
Wash still looking after them after all this time. I love it. What a story, Jane.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 1:00 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved this whole gorram story to bits. I loved the conversation between Mal and River at the end and had a smile a mile wide at Mal talking to Wash and thanking him then the light blinking under the dinosaur's foot when he left, kind of like Wash was winking at him. This was superb, thanks! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 6:29 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


I don't have any fingernails left and I was getting ready to start on the toenails when this ended.

Loved it to pieces. And the ending was perfect.

Thursday, February 7, 2008 5:38 PM

KATESFRIEND


I think this may be my newest favorite thread of yours - until you write the next my favorite thread of yours! Loved the Mal and River moment at the end - pure sweetness. One could only hope that the future incarnation of Firefly will have a relationship with them half so sweet. And the Wash flavoring at the end was perfection itself. Glad to see tha your other characters like Dillon get recurring roles - kepps the world a little tighter. The humor was perfect.

Friday, February 8, 2008 12:20 AM

WYTCHCROFT


a very fine arc indeed

Saturday, April 26, 2008 1:36 PM

JOLY


If I had nails to bite they would be gone. I bout wet myself on several occasions through this whole arc. You scared the bejeebus out of me. I'm hoping thaty there is smutty goodness in the offing for the next bits. I'm off to see. You rock!

Peace & Blessings,

Joanna


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