BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

HERMITSREST

Reavers Return - Part Four
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Serenity and the Rosalyn cross paths on Lilac. 18th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for the beta. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 4 of 4.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1457    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mary Francis adjusted the little bonnet on Corren’s head. Lilac was hot and she didn’t want her son to get sunburn. She was nervous, unsure whether her mother and step-father would take her back, especially with a baby in tow. Her time on the Rosalyn had been nothing but warmth and friendliness and she would be sorry to say goodbye to them all. “If you ever find yourself on Haven, Mary, you must come an’ visit,” said Sarah. During the three day journey to Lilac, they had talked a lot. Mary was interested in Sarah’s skills as a midwife, having gone through childbirth in the way she had, she wanted to know all about it, to help others when their time came. Mary flushed with pleasure at Sarah’s words, but didn’t really imagine that she would be going anywhere. It cost money to go off-world and she would hardly earn enough to support her son and herself, let alone make any trips. But all these thoughts she kept to herself, as it was the gesture of friendship more than the confirmation that counted. “I will. But until I do, I’ll write.” The noise around them grew louder as the pots and pans of cooking were set up to start the Eatings. Tony, ever resourceful, had roped David and his family into helping and they had five counters producing food. Now if he could just keep David Junior out of Abe’s engine room then everything would be shiny. The fourteen year old had already received a clip around the ear from the old man, who now threatened worse. Tony wanted Ross to come and work on the Rosalyn, but things were still touchy with his mother, though less so since the funeral. It was a shame Binan Chu was too young, as she had a genuine gift. But there was nothing stopping him from recruiting her in a couple of years’ time – if he got Ross first. Tony pressed the button for the ramp to go down, signalling the start of the Eatings. Mary Francis hugged them all warmly and left to find her family, with the promise to return before they lifted off again in a week’s time. David Pye put his arm around his wife’s shoulders as they watched their eldest children experience their first Eatings as workers instead of customers. For him it was a proud moment, but for Sarah it was still tainted. But, she reasoned to herself, if that was what Ross really wanted to do, how could she stop him? Binny was another matter altogether, she was too young to be out in the Black on her own and there was no way that Tony Pye would talk her into agreeing to the arrangement. River Tam walked up the ramp of the Rosalyn. She had been overjoyed to discover that the Rosalyn was on Lilac, as the chances of them meeting again so soon were – well her genius brain was not going to waste time now to calculate it. Anna Pye saw her straight away and came up to her, smiling kindly. “He’s in his new bunk,” she stated, too busy to show her. “Up those steps, through that door and fourth along the corridor.” “Thank you,” River said cheerily. “When are you lifting off?” she added. “In a week or so – the usual.” “Captain Reynolds has only given me one day,” River retorted, rolling her eyes. River was already nearly at the top of the stairs and then she slowed down, savouring the anticipation. She walked down the corridor and stopped at door number four, messily painted with the word ‘Pilot’, she noticed with a smirk. She put her ear to the door and listened, reaching out her mind as well. Stan was asleep, and dreaming about her, pretty racy stuff it was too. She turned the handle on the door and opened it without making a sound. He was sprawled facedown on the bed, feet overhanging at the end, dressed in just a pair of shorts. River closed the door behind her and shot the bolt across, almost without a sound. Stan’s face was covered partly by his hair and partly by his pillow. She admired his sleek smooth form before approaching him. His dreams were jumbled and brief, like many she had listened to. They were mainly of the both of them dancing, but there were also some featuring her naked, both of them naked, in fact. River undressed quickly and lay on the bed beside him, reaching out her hand and caressing his skin. Stan made a soft moan and she continued, enjoying seeing the image of herself become stronger in his mind. She touched the back of his thigh, running a single finger up and down, tickling across the hairs. He moved with surprising quickness, hand clamping on her buttock as he shifted onto his side, still asleep, but drawing her against him. She responded and felt the sleepy warmth of his smooth chest against her breasts making her arch further into him. His dreams more vivid, Stan’s subconscious was acute enough to realise that he would have to stop soon and wake up. Washing his sheets three times in one week would start to look very suspicious but, whoa – it was like she was right there with him. Just a little longer before I wake up, he told himself, caressing River’s breasts with a large hand before moving his mouth to take over the task. She made a loud noise which penetrated his mind oddly. It was so real. Whereas he had been dreaming he was naked, he could now feel River’s pushing down his shorts. But that was the nature of dreams, no rules, no reason. He groaned with pleasure as she used her toes to pull his shorts down further, freeing him from their confines. He entered her and his eyes flew open in surprise. “Don’t stop!” hissed River, her head thrown back. Stan blinked. She was real and here in his bed, not part of another frustrating dream. Merciful Buddha, but he could not stop. River clung to him as Stan let his body rule them. It was quick and satisfying for the two of them and afterwards River snuggled into the curve of his body. It was then she could feel Stan’s doubts and uncertainty, explaining all the troubling thoughts she had lately. “You don’t know how to treat me now you know I’m a reader,” she began, truly not knowing whether this would be the last time they would be together and whether Stan was about to end things. She wasn’t a normal person and he likely had every right to find someone who was. Stan, although confused about his feelings, could not help the way River Tam made him feel, or the plain fact that he liked her. Well, more than liked her. “I dint know you were a reader, Anna told me. Wish you had.” River opened her mouth to defend herself and then decided to wait for him to finish. “I just felt so shamed to think you knew everythin’ goin’ on in my head. All them sexin’ thoughts.” His voice petered out and River sat up to look at him lying next to her. “I wanted you too. From that night we first met, when you danced with me.” “I was drunk,” he protested. “Drunk but sexy,” River said, and watched Stan’s mouth curve into a grin. He took in her young adult and athletic body, wondering if she could do... “I can be athletic, if you want me to be.” Stan flushed in embarrassment and River’s face became serious. “I can no more stop being a reader than you can stop breathing, or thinking racy thoughts. If you don’t want to be with me, I’ll understand.” And then Stan did understand. He understood that River Tam could never hope to have a normal life as long as people thought of her as a mind reading assassin. He had never thought of her in that way, so why start now? He laced his fingers gently through hers. “Jus’ promise me that you won’t tell me everythin’ that’s in my head. There are some things a man likes to keep private.” “Like what?” He rolled her over swiftly and pinned her. “Like whether you’re athletic or not. There’s just some things I wanna find out first hand.” After they had recovered enough energy to more than just lie there, Stan went and got food and drink from the galley. It was very late, early hours in fact, and the ship was quiet. While he was away River got nosey and looked around his room. It was compact but private. She opened a small cupboard and found Stan’s collection of hats. She tried on a multi-coloured one of woven cotton and looked at herself in the tiny mirror. Shiny, she thought. The door opened and Stan came in with a tray of food and drink. She spun around guiltily. “What do you think?” she giggled. Stan was not looking at the hat, but rather River’s naked body. “Of what?” he said, taking in the legs – God, her legs, he could nibble all night on those legs. River rolled her eyes. “The hat!” she exclaimed. “Oh. The hat. It’s pretty on you. Maybe you should keep it. It worries me that I might look that pretty in it now.” River laughed and took some food off the plate and popped it in her mouth. She realised she was starving. Stan watched her demolish the plateful of angel wafers that he had nabbed from the galley, along with other leftovers and some cider. “You know what I like about you River?” River tilted her head at Stan. She knew, but she wanted him to talk to her, to say the words, so she shook her head. “You’re smart, an’ funny. Most of the girls I’ve known afore were either thicker’n wood or way too serious. You’re a pilot – you know that things get hairy. You know that we have to let off steam.” He took a mouthful of food and chewed and River waited. “’You’re pretty too,” he grinned. “Liable to break more hearts than just mine.” River raised an eyebrow and then leaned forward to push his hair away from his dark eyes. She wished she could say she loved him, but she was too frightened. Instead, she said something else. “You’re tall. I like you tall.” “An’ I like you naked in my bunk,” he countered. “Maybe Tony’ll let you be a backup pilot. Can you cook?” “My cooking is problematic,” admitted River with a rueful smile. “It doesn’t always do as it’s supposed to.” Stan shrugged. “I have the same issues.” Stan shrugged in a final gesture. “S’pose thats the problem of bein’ in the same line of work. Still, I’m game, if you are.” River picked up her beaker of cider and raised it in a toasting gesture. “Two of a kind.” Stan raised his cup too. “Two of a kind,” he confirmed. River beamed, her worries forgotten and a whole nineteen hours, forty two minutes more of time to immerse herself in nothing but Stan. ~ “Mary! You came back to visit. I’m so glad.” Sarah hugged Mary Francis before she had barely set foot on the ship. Mary beamed with pleasure to see them all again. Anna was next in line to hug her. Mary had arrived before the Eatings opened for the day, so as not to take up too much of their time. Anna thought it typical of her thoughtful and good nature. She wasn’t the only one, and had seen young Ross unable to stop staring. “How did it go with your family?” Mary could not stop smiling. “They thought I was dead – nothing else matters. They said they might come down here tomorrow, to see you all.” “That would be wonderful,” said Anna. “I see that Corren has a little bit of sunburn on his nose,” said Sarah, taking him from her. He was a quiet baby, much quieter than her experience of Rosie, Anna’s daughter. “Yes, I know. I’ll have to be careful. Who’s that?” Mary asked, seeing Stan fervently kissing a woman just beyond the ramp. “Oh that’s River. She’s from the ship that Tony’s sister crews on. It’s been pilot to pilot sexin’ for a whole day,” said Anna, feigning maternal disapproval. Mary giggled as she watched them walk away, thinking there was something familiar about the woman, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. * Stan saw River back to Serenity. She really did look good in his woolly hat, but all them clothes were now spoiling the effect. All was well between them and they had a memorable night in his wonderfully private bunk. “Reckon I’ll miss you more this time,” said Stan. River pressed herself against him, not wanting to be parted again so soon. “How about you wave when you’re next en route to Deutschland? Ask Tony for leave and I’ll do the same, if you give me enough notice.” Stan pressed his hands into the small of River’s back and kissed her hard. When they emerged for breath he spoke with a broken hunger to his voice. “It’s a deal. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with our little coded messages. Mal’s not found out about that yet?” River shook her head. She didn’t want to part from him though her neck ached from having to keep looking up at him, and her nethers were sore from all the sexing, but she wouldn’t take it back for anything. Stan was so tall that his hugs engulfed her completely and she loved it. Her mind was filled with his and she longed to have just a few more moments with him. “Do you want to christen my bunk again, before we go?” River suggested. Stan smirked and groped one of River’s firm buttocks and she giggled. “As if I would say no, my little mind reader.” “Well I can,” said Mal, coming up to them. “We’re leavin’, River. Let the pretty pilot go.” Stan watched River’s eyes narrow in annoyance and he stroked her chin, bringing her back to focus on him. “Until Deutschland then, my little ballet dancer.” He placed a final kiss on her lips and stepped off Serenity’s ramp, waving before turning away. Stan wandered a short distance to the settlement and walked down the main street, trying to not too hard to choose which of the bars to go in, but mostly thinking about River. The bartender made some comment about him looking real pleased with himself and Stan said he’d got a sweetie and he was in love. The bartender, used to such drivel, rolled his eyes in disgust and plonked a glass in front of him. The bar was empty and there was no one to talk to at this time of day, so Stan finished his drink quickly. The sound of a vessel passed overhead and Stan smiled, thinking it was Serenity leaving Lilac. He walked to the door to look out, wondering how to spend the rest of the time on Lilac. Moments later the screams started. * Tony had been on the ramp watching Serenity getting ready to lift off when he heard the distant sounds of gunfire and screams. There were several ships hovering over the town, flying without containment, people descending to the down using cables. Reavers, he concluded, with a sickening lurch before turning swiftly to run into his ship. “Close up, now. We’re leavin’!” he shouted, hitting the alarm that was usually reserved for alerting to rowdy customers. “What’s happenin’?” asked Anna, watching Tony’s gun clear the holster, something she’d never seen him do. “Reavers!” he shouted so they could all hear. The cold dread stunned people into a petrified state, customers and crew alike. It was momentary and other people on the ship started to run in all directions. Anna took charge and pulled out the com. “People! We’re leavin’. Stay on board an’ we’ll try an’ keep you safe.” Her words did little to dampen the panic and Anna turned to Sarah Pye for help. Sarah put her fingers in her mouth and let out an ear splitting whistle which silenced everyone. “Stan’s not here!” shouted Maloranty, running up to Tony. They sprinted down the ramp again and Tony realised he was the only one armed with a weapon. Inside, face grim with memories, Mary Francis shoved her baby at Binny Pye and followed them outside, along with customers who had decided to take their chances – the headless chickens, she thought. * “Get us outta here!” Mal ordered, reading the scope. River finished strapping herself in, already at the controls and Zoe entered the cockpit and strapped herself in as well. Mal got on the com to get the crew to do the same. River was focused on getting into the Black as quick as possible and lift-off happened milliseconds after Mal’s order. They headed at full burn into atmo and River had the cold feeling of dread in her belly, as she reached out her mind to Stan to make sure he was okay, her hands gripping the steering. * Stan ran down the street and into the waiting arms of three Reavers. He fought with skills he didn’t know he had, succeeding in using the lethal metal weapon from the hand of one Reaver to kill another. Stan kicked another with a sweeping leg, spinning himself around and to freedom. He almost succeeded in getting free of their grasp until another joined the fray and sliced his arm off. * River screamed, her right arm dropping from the controls. She recovered, whimpering in a quiet murmur before banking sharply, changing direction and heading back to the settlement on Lilac. “River, what are you playin’ at! Get us into atmo now!” ordered Mal, who had taken a few moments to realize what she was doing. “No, gotta save Stan. Kill Reavers. I can kill Reavers,” she kept repeating the last statement. Serenity was already heading back towards Lilac and now picking up speed. * Tony ran a little way towards the settlement to see if he could see Stan. Maloranty pointed and they saw him, missing his arm and screaming in pain. Tony aimed his gun at Stan, his hand wavering as he looked at his pilot of eight years, his friend. His severed arm was being held aloft by one of the Reavers before they pulled it down to their mouth to take a bite. “Shoot him!” urged Maloranty, sickened. Tony turned to him, face anxious. “Get the engine started! We’re leavin’ now!” he ordered, taking aim again. The Reavers were ripping off Stan’s clothes, trying to get at his skin, although one of them had just cut away an ear. The Rosalyn was being noticed by other Reavers who started to run in their direction. “I’m sorry, Stan,” he whispered, still delaying pulling the trigger due to his hand shaking. Mary Francis, running up unnoticed behind him, snatched the gun out of Tony Pye’s hand without a word, aimed, and fired. The shot went on target, right between Stan’s terrified eyes, putting him out of any more pain that the Reavers might inflict. Without pausing she then shot the four Reavers around him in exactly the same way. “Let’s go!” screamed Mary, pulling Tony back to the ship. In the same moment of Stan’s death, River screamed again and slumped forward causing Serenity to nose dive faster towards the ground. Mal pressed a few buttons and took over the piloting, turning Serenity back on course and out into the Black. River lifted her head and Mal noticed that he could hardly see any white in her eyes. “Take us back,” she uttered in a deadly voice that none of them had heard before. Mal ignored her increasing their burn, just aiming for the Black. River pressed the buttons to take over the controls again. This was not good, Mal thought. “Get out of that seat, that’s an order,” he demanded. River let out a colourful expletive and changed course back to the planet. Mal unbuckled himself and reached bodily for River. They could play musical pilot all day, but this was not the right ruttin’ time to be doing it. River drove her fist upwards into Mal’s chin and he staggered away. Mal was not so easily deterred and they both knew it. He deflected River’s next punch and managed to drag her out of the seat. Zoe had unbuckled herself and drew her weapon in that time. The ship was out of control. Before she could think about her move or where to shoot, she heard a sickening crunch, and Mal let out a sound that wasn’t a scream or a yell, but something in between. He fell backwards, half on his chair, River switched back the controls and Zoe uttered the words she had hoped not to ever use. “Eta Kooram Nah Smech,” and River slumped forward onto the steering, sending the ship once more spiraling to the earth. Mal, recovering, grasped the controls with one hand while Zoe unsympathetically pushed River to the floor. She got on the com calling crew to the cockpit urgently. At last, they broke atmo and were free but there were two Reaver ships waiting for them, probably wondering at this point if their own Reaver-kind was piloting the ship. “Sir?” she queried. Mal was white faced and sweating, trying to concentrate on the job in hand. “Collar bone,” he muttered. “Can I help?” Zoe asked, knowing Mal could only hold out so long. “No, just get her out of here and make sure she can’t do any more damage. Strap me in.” Zoe obeyed, tightening the restraints as much as she dared, Mal’s lips white with pain. One of the Reaver ships took pursuit of Serenity and Mal banked, letting out a pain filled groan. Inara, Simon and Karl appeared in the cockpit after being knocked into the corridor bulkheads on their way there. Zoe uttered a small prayer that Marcus was alright with Kaylee. “What the Hell’s going on?” said Karl. Zoe pointed to River on the floor. “Get her outta here, doc, an’ restrain her,” she said. “What happened?” said Simon horrified, bending down to examine her. Zoe let the anger out. “Just do it Simon - get her outta here now! Dose her – that’s an order!” Karl helped Simon pick up River and took her away. “Inara, can you handle the ship?” Inara looked at Zoe in brief surprise, until she realized that Zoe wouldn’t ask unless it was critical. “I’ll do the best I can,” she replied shortly, sitting in River’s seat. “What’s wrong with Mal?” “River broke his collar bone.” “Gun hoe-tze bee dio-se!” Inara said, her mouth falling open. “If Mal passes out, press this button so the controls are yours.” She pointed to the view screen - just do anything to avoid them.” Inara went white as she saw the Reaver ships, as white as Mal, but she said nothing. Desperation made this necessary. Mal banked again as Zoe went for the com, slamming herself into the lockers. She steadied herself, reaching again for the com. “Serenity to Rosalyn, come in. COME IN!” Zoe held on as Mal made some more interesting moves. She prayed that the cord to the com would not break. “SERENITY TO ROSALYN, COME IN!” she shouted again. “Rosalyn here,” came the reply at last. Zoe spoke without preamble. “Don’t come out the same way as us – there’s Reaver ships waitin’.” “Received,” came the curt reply. Mal’s eyes rolled back into his head and Serenity dipped as his hands dropped off the controls. Inara pressed the button to take over, having absolutely no idea what to do. Zoe stretched the com lead over and put her hand on the back of her chair to look at the view screen. The Reavers were closing in, the second ship deciding to be in on the chase too. “Speed up,” she ordered. “How?” Inara shouted in panic. Zoe pressed a few buttons and they both felt the ship lurch in response. “You wanna take over, you just say,” she hissed through her teeth. Zoe squeezed her shoulder. “Gotta make sure River is secure. Don’t reckon you’d be able to bring yourself to shoot her if you had to.” Inara’s eyes widened. “What’s going on? Why would you have to shoot River?” Zoe wasn’t about to go explaining that story. She also had to check up on her son. She gave Mal a quick once over to make sure he was secure, then grabbed the bulkhead to steady herself as she went out of the cockpit. Inara concentrated on the task at hand. She was used to flying her own little shuttle, but it had been a while since she had done that and this was much larger in scale. Inara banked and then arched the ship, watching Mal’s head bob alarmingly in her peripheral vision. They had to get clear of these ships, but it was the Reaver way to chase their prey. The ship jolted as something struck it and Inara veered the ship away from the blips on the monitor as best she could. Ragen Pye was at the helm of the Rosalyn when Serenity’s message had come through. He had been about to break atmo in her wake and now switched course. The Reaver ships on the planet were not following them, they must be having enough fun still on the planet. Tony appeared in the cockpit and got on the com, ship-wide. “Strap yourselves in, people. This ain’t over!” As soon as he was finished, Ragen updated him on Serenity’s message. Tony rubbed his face, unsure what to do. He had a ship full of people to save, but he had friends on Serenity who had walked straight into a Reaver net. He had already lost Anna’s brother to Reavers, and now Stan, and he wasn’t going to lose anyone else. There would be no more deaths this month - it was time to fight back. “Find Serenity and get us there,” he said. Ragen turned to his Captain, incredulous. “Are you kidding? What can we do? We’re unarmed! We’ll be banquet!” “Do it. That’s an order.” Tony brooked no argument and then got on the com. “Mal – get up here now!” “But Tony…it’s suicide!” Ragen tried again. “We’ve family on board an’ your sendin’ us to face Reavers?” “Paint the wall, Ragen, it’s time for me to win a hand,” said Tony, taking over the pilot controls and following the co-ordinates that Ragen had managed to calculate. Ragen didn’t move and just kept staring at Tony, who had clearly lost his mind. * “Is she secure?” Zoe demanded, coming into the Med Bay with Marcus cradled in one arm and her Mare’s Leg in the other. She had sent Kaylee to the engine room. When Simon didn’t answer, Karl did. “I’ve strapped her in, an’ Simon was about to dose her.” “No. Not until you tell me what’s going on,” River’s brother protested. Zoe still looked grim and angry, hiding her fears, because she needed to take charge with Mal unconscious. “River broke Mal’s collar bone and she tried to take us back to Lilac to fight Reavers.” Zoe held her gun to Simon, her face full of purpose. “Dose her. NOW!” Simon knew that Zoe could not be talked out of things like Mal, so he injected his sister with enough sedative to keep her out for half a day. They all had to brace themselves as the ship rocked again. River remained immobile, her new hat lying on the floor beside Simon’s foot. “What d’we do if they board us?” asked Karl. Inara felt the sweat dribble down the side of her face as she maneuvered the ship to avoid another crippling shot from the Reaver ship in pursuit. It wasn’t enough and Serenity gave a fatalistic lurch as they suffered another direct hit. She was terrified, beyond terrified enough to be paralysed. Mal was still unconscious and apart from that she was alone, and hoping she wouldn’t die that way. “You drivin’ now?” came a murmur, Mal was coming awake again. Serenity’s systems were making alarming beeps and Inara no longer knew what to do. They were dead in the water, the navigation system and piloting controls were down. “Not anymore. Direct hit, no power. Any suggestions?” she uttered in a petrified whisper. Mal moved his head so he could see Inara. Her emotions were stripped bare and she was petrified. “You still want to marry me?” Mal asked with a roguish curve to his smile. * Maloranty ran into the Rosalyn’s cockpit breathing heavily. “What’s going on? Are we away?” he asked. Ragen turned to his cousin, almost hysterical. “Captain’s gone moonbrain – he’s headin’ straight for them. He thinks he can rescue Serenity!” “Are you nuts?” said Maloranty. Tony pressed his lips together, flipping switches and totally in control. “My sister’s nuts – I’m the normal one, remember? Ragen, get to the galley and open the panel above the stove, the one on the ceiling.” He kept his eyes on the view from the cockpit, the view of Serenity being pursued by two Reaver vessels, one slightly ahead of the other. Ragen didn’t move and Tony lost his temper. “Diu! That’s it.” He got on the com. “Anna – crank up Bane’s birthday present. Get help to do it. Ma-shong!” Tony was in full flow and he pointed to his cousin to sit beside him. “Mal – fire it up. Ragen – get the fuck outta my sight!” * “Report!” shouted Zoe, running into the cockpit. She had shoved a crying Marcus into the munitions workshop wrapped up in a blanket and locked it up. There was no way the Reavers were having baby fricassee, not in her lifetime. Inara pulled her hand away from touching Mal’s arm. He was awake, but frighteningly white-faced. “The last blast took out the nav systems. We’re dead in the water.” “There’s still two of them?” Inara looked around at the monitor and studied it. “Merciful Buddha! There’s another one coming up fast!” “Let me see,” insisted Zoe. “What’s the use? We’re toast!” cried Inara. “Toast?” murmured Mal, trying to laugh. “Companions don’t use the phrase ‘toast’.” Inara swore her full repertoire of spacer swearing, angry and afraid, but the anger was getting the better of her. Zoe had been studying the monitor further. “It’s the Rosalyn. Damn! I told them not to come out the same way.” * “Are you sure this’ll work?” muttered Maloranty after Ragen had left. “Nope, but I’m not willin’ to let ‘em die either. Is it up an’ runnin’?” “Yes, it’s ready. Just waiting for the nod from the galley.” Weapons were illegal on non-Alliance transports, but because of the Reaver threat, Bane had installed a back-up that could be hidden in the hydro pipes. Only it had to be manually levered into position first. “Get back on the com. I need to know the second it’s ready.” He banked the ship and swung her in a spiral – praying that everyone was strapped in, and the artificial gravity was not playing up. “In the meantime, it’s time to play chicken.” Maloranty felt his heart stiffen in fear as Tony’s face took on a calm insanity that he’d never witnessed before. In fact, very few people had seen outside of the War. * “Kaylee! Have you got anything yet?” Kaylee swung like a monkey from the higher level of the engine room to answer the com. “Give me a minute. I’m almost there.” “Hurry Kaylee – they’re sharp’nin’ their cutlery.” Kaylee had already returned to the job in hand, declining to waste precious moments on the com. Zoe, Inara and Mal fell silent as one of the Reaver ships came into view in the cockpit; menacing, red and slowing to a full stop. They watched as tow lines were fired and they heard the faint sounds of it coming into contact with the hull. Zoe went to one of the lockers and opened it. She threw a gun for Inara to catch, putting another in Mal’s hand and then another for herself. “Get me to the top hatch,” ordered Mal, swinging around in the chair. Zoe nodded and started to unbuckle him. Both the women then helped him to his feet. Once there, in a position of cover, he gave possibly his last order. “Go to the cargo bay, find cover – leave the last bullet for yourself.” Inara kissed Mal fiercely and left him, her fears replaced by purpose, a task to allay the panic. In the cargo bay, Zoe was already piling up the crates to provide cover in front of the workshop hatch. She had one grenade and a couple of clips of ammo. She was fully prepared to end her son’s own life rather than have him taken by the Reavers. Karl had the only automatic and positioned himself on the balcony, covering both the back door and the corridor to the top hatch. Simon’s hand shook as he held the pistol that Zoe had given him. * “It’s ready,” came Anna’s voice on the com. Tony had positioned the Rosalyn to come up behind and underneath the second ship. Both men breathed heavily. “Okay, Mal. Target the engines and thrusters.” Maloranty didn’t answer; he waited until he imagined that he saw the exposed underbelly of the Reaver ship. He pulled the lever to maximize the juice and then fired. A millisecond later, Tony had to spin the ship to avoid the Reavers’ own weapons systems firing at them. The EMP pulse ripped into the Reaver ship. Because the vessel was running without containment, the EMP pulse, instead of closing down the ship’s systems, overloaded them. It imploded from within and the Rosalyn banked swiftly, narrowly avoiding huge chunks of flying metal. * Mal breathed as shallowly as he could so as not to jerk his shoulder. His position was cramped and not exactly comfortable, but he did have cover. He heard the com beeping in the cockpit. Receiving waves were the least of his problems at the moment. “Rosalyn to Serenity. Come in!” Tony waited as long as he could before hailing them again. Still no response. He tried a different turn of phrase. “Jesus, Mal – I can’t fire without taking out you as well. Pick up the gorram com!” The silence while Tony waited for an answer seemed to last for hours. “Tony. What do you need?” came Mal’s voice, weaker than normal. “Just get outta the way,” Tony shouted. Mal slammed his fist onto another button. “You fix my engine yet, Kaylee? I need it now.” Kaylee didn’t answer, but twenty seconds later the console lit up with power. Mal cried out as he sat down, the pain making him feel faint again. Not yet, he told his body, just a little longer. He stared at the Reaver ship that was right on top of them, sending out people in space suits. He fired up his beloved ship and thrust forward and out to the side, clipping the Reaver vessel on his way. Serenity groaned and bucked, but kept going out into the Black. Whatever it takes, Mal begged, just stay in the air. He tried to bank in the opposite direction and then realized that he had taken out the left thruster when they had knocked the other ship. Mal pushed the controls forward and dived. Tony headed on a collision course for the other Reaver ship at full burn. Serenity was free, but the Reaver ship had already started to chase her. Tony hit the com. “Hold on, everyone!” he said, before looking across at Maloranty. “Has it re-powered?” “Another…twenty one seconds,” he confirmed stiffly. Karl arrived in the cockpit followed closely by Zoe. Now that Serenity was obviously on the move again, they had come to investigate. “Sir?” she queried. Mal’s nostrils flared and he spoke through his clenched teeth. “Just a little bit further away.” Mal flipped Serenity into a somersault, sending Karl and Zoe into the lockers, and pulled further away from the Reavers. “Now!” shouted Tony and Maloranty fired. Tony banked and the jolt of EMP hit the Reavers’ engine directly as they burned their way out of any weapons fire. The shot was enough – the Reaver ship had lost its systems, if not worse. Maloranty shouted in triumph and Tony took a huge lungful of air - what felt like his first breath, although he knew he must have been breathing all the way through it. * GANG KOU: Jayne felt about the happiest man alive, sitting in his new back garden, with his pregnant wife snuggled up to his side, looking out towards the river. It doesn’t get much better than this, he thought. They were just coming up on August and next month, according to the locals, the nights would start get chillier. “Jayne?” said Esper, finally breaking their long companionable silence. “Mmmm?” he answered. “Don’t you reckon your brother would love this place? Somewhere he won’t have to worry about his health? A decent outdoor job, you know?” Jayne chuckled softly, and here he was thinking they were just enjoying the moment, but Esper was planning away, just like most women. “Ain’t healthy on Muir, but it’s dangerous out here too.” “You could write an’ ask.” “You want him to come live with us?” “He would be an extra hand and it’d mean you could still go on jobs on Serenity an’ leave me with the knowledge that I’d have protection.” Jayne gave her shoulders a squeeze and the top off her head a kiss. She wasn’t wearing her headdress and he inhaled the soft meadow smell of her hair while he was at it. “Oh I ain’t leavin’, darlin’. This is what I want now. But you’re right, we could do with the help while the others are on jobs. I might write Ma an’ ask if Matty wants to come out here. Got enough coin to send him passage as well.” Esper looked up at him, her attention always drawn to his sweet mouth and then she stroked her already swelling tummy. She had everything she wanted in life. * * * * * * Jiangyin, half a day later: Both ships landed on Jiangyin a few minutes apart. Breaking atmo had been the hairiest part for Mal, especially with a malfunctioning left thruster. His shoulder was now braced and bandaged and he had taken a mountain of pain doses, but at least he could still fly his ship. The com beeped and Tony’s face appeared in the view screen, strained but smiling. “I reckon I’m still dreamin’ – did we really just survive a direct Reaver attack?” Mal was still in shock himself and tried to keep his tone as light as Tony’s, despite feeling the opposite. “Has your wife caught up with you yet? Not that I don’t appreciate it, but it might be she’s a few words to say ‘bout you riskin’ your lives like you did.” Tony snorted, but did look guilty. “Well before there were Reavers, there were space pirates, and we dealt with them in the same way.” “With weapons?” “Bane probably told you her talent was handed down through family. Can you imagine what a potential target a ship full of food and provisions possesses for space pirates?” “Yes. I can.” Mal’s face grew serious again. “I’m sorry about Stan.” Tony looked shocked. “How did you know?” “River,” he said, but didn’t want to go into it further. “Look, we’re in pretty bad shape. Certainly not spaceworthy and Kaylee’s flat out…” “I’ll send Abe over to lend a hand, if you want. Mal, we’re all still a little shook up here, both from our narrow escape an’ losing Stan. You take as much time as you need. Speak to you later.” Tony cut off the com and left the cockpit, opening the door to his quarters. His wife was lying on their bed, her belly obscuring her face, but he could see Rosie snuggled into her side, fast asleep. Anna was nearly eight months pregnant and he had played with all their lives in order to get revenge for Stan, and, he guessed, revenge for all those who’d died at the hands of the Reavers, including his cousin, Lee Shoo. Tony sat on the very edge of the bed so as not to disturb her sleep. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful, and he found tears in his eyes, tears of shame for what he had done, even if it had been successful. Anna’s hand moved onto his leg. “You did the right thing, my love.” Tony let his feelings out. “How can you say that? I could’ve got us all killed.” Anna couldn’t sit up without difficulty, so she was unable to hug her husband without a whole five minutes likely having to pass getting herself in the right position. “Tony. What would you have done if we’d no weapon on board?” “Run for our lives,” Tony answered after a long pause. “Exactly. Now help me up.” “No, you rest. I’ll go and see if the others are okay. I doubt very much that Sarah’ll let Ross work here now. I guess we’ll just have to go hirin’ outside of family.” Anna gave him the kind of smile that warmed his innards – kept him afloat. “Hurry back – I reckon my feet’ll need a good massage when you return.” Tony went out of the door, feeling a little better. A little while later, Anna called out a welcome when she heard a knock on the door. It was Mary with a tray of tea and some food and she fell on it ravenously. Though very young, Mary was extremely self-possessed and mature – especially for one who had survived on a slave ship. “How did you make those shots, Mary?” Mary dropped her hand to Rosie’s leg, stroking it. “Ain’t the first time we’ve had Reavers on Lilac. They came in 2518. The only people to survive were those of us in the bank, which was bein’ robbed at the time, of all things. I was with my Ma an’ we were told to get in the vault. When we came out again, two days later, we were the only ones alive. When we got to our home we saw my Pa an’ my two brothers dead. I took my Pa’s gun an’ taught myself to shoot, so’s if they came back, they wouldn’t get me afore I got them. I carried that gun everywhere ‘cept on the day the slavers came.” “I’m sorry about your family, Mary.” “I know you can’t go back until it’s over. An’ I know they weren’t near any bank vault this time.” Rosie snuffled in her sleep and both women glanced at her. “If they’re gone – you can have a place with us.” Mary smiled in gratitude, shoulders straightening. “I’m obliged to you, Anna, for the offer. It’s the second one I’ve had today – ‘part from Ross’s cow eyes,” she added, trying to bring some humour to the situation. “Sarah’s already insisted I come home with them to Haven. If’n there’s no one left for me on Lilac, I’d like to go with her.” Anna nodded and watched Mary leave, wondering if the experience of so much death at such a young age would taint her later life. ~ River came to, opening her eyes slowly. She felt extremely groggy and it was only after some moments that she realised she was in the Med Bay. Why was she in the Med Bay? She paused, thinking, the memories slow to reveal themselves, but sadness was prominent in her mind. A loss. A loss so big she didn’t want to recall it, but it was inevitable. Stan was dead. Stan had been mutilated by Reavers on Lilac. He’d fought; she’d delved into his mind to help him fight them off, but then Serenity had flown too far away, leaving him helpless. She tried to turn the ship around, but it hadn’t been successful and she couldn’t remember why. Then someone had shot him, putting him out of his pain. A tear trickled down her cheek and she made an attempt to move, finding she could not. She lifted her head to look down at her body, and saw the restraints. “Can I take those off now?” River turned her head to see Mal sitting on the couch next to her. He was pale with his arm and shoulder braced against his body with strapping. And the rest of River’s memories all flooded back at once, engulfing her like a tidal wave. In going back for Stan she had fought Mal, broken his collar bone and put everyone’s lives in jeopardy. She cried out and struggled against the strips of leather, wanting to hide away so she didn’t have to deal with all the pain. “I conjure you don’t wanna stay that way,” Mal continued. “You give me your word that you won’t try and take over like that again, an’ I’ll untie you.” River turned her head away from Mal to look at the wall opposite and in the quietest of voices she answered. “I promise.” It was over anyway. She wouldn’t see Stan ever again, or feel his touch on her skin. She felt Mal loosen the restraints, but she didn’t move until he had left the room and gone away. Then she crept to her own room and shut the door, wishing she could escape further, crawl into a dark hole, away from the raw knife-like pain.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 10:55 PM

JANE0904


Very well done action sequences, and I so feel for River, but the description of her trying to go back to help Stan was heartbreaking. As were the final moments with her and Mal.

Thursday, February 7, 2008 8:16 AM

JONDESU


Ouch, brutal. Can't believe you killed off Stan, though it made for a powerful reaction from River. Glad he at least didn't have to suffer through everything the Reaver's would've done, she might have completely lost it if that had happened.



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