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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal, Zoe and Jayne encounter more problems, but the rest of the crew aren't doing too well either. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1869 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“You know, Simon found out more about that plaque,” Hank said, swivelling backwards and forwards in his seat until Freya began to feel a little seasick.
“Oh?” she said, turning to look out of the window into the Aegis sunshine.
“What?” She wasn’t really listening to him.
“Cursed. There’s some old document that says anyone removing it from its home will …” He stopped swivelling and looked at her. “Did you hear a word I said?”
“I was just wondering why it’s gone quiet.”
Hank stared, then said, “You don’t think they touched that statue, do you? After I told them not to.”
“No.” She concentrated, pushing through the static River was still putting out. “No, they’ve okay. Just …”
Hank fiddled with the switches on the com. “Well, there’s no reason this end for us not to hear them.” He kept trying different combinations.
Freya leaned forward, running her eyes over the console. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, certainly no indication there should be anything wrong. She got to her feet. “I’ll go check the array, make sure that’s functioning.”
He looked round at her. “Can you pick anything else up from them?”
She unfocused, feeling as if she was digging through the rock herself. “Mal’s annoyed, but that’s about it. They’re okay otherwise.”
“Can you talk to him?”
“No.” She felt annoyed herself. “I … no.”
“But they’re okay?”
“I think they’re on their way back.”
“Well, you don’t need to climb up on Serenity. Diagnostics show the array’s working fine. I think it’s just that booster Kaylee put together.”
“I still think someone should –“
“Then I’ll go.” He thumbed the com. “Kaylee, can you come and babysit for a while?”
“Sure, Hank,” her voice came back. “Where’re you going?”
“Up top to check the array.”
“We got problems?” Instantly her tone changed.
“No. Not like that. Probably just a short somewhere.”
“Nope. Your shoulder still ain’t one hundred percent, and I ain't having your husband shout at me. Something about a doctor mad at me makes me … perturbed. All those potions he’s got down in the infirmary …”
They heard Kaylee laugh. “He wouldn’t hurt you.”
“I want to be on the safe side of that. Just come up and keep an eye on things, will you?”
“On my way.”
Hank turned to Freya. “See? No problem. You go down to the temple, see if you can fix the booster. Anyway, by the time you get there, I expect they’ll be coming out.” He smiled for her. “Be a nice welcome back, have you waiting for ‘em.”
“Yeah.” She hurried off the bridge, her brow furrowed nevertheless.
“Hank?” Mal was getting to the end of his short tether. “Gorram it, where the hell are you?”
“I doubt he’s doing this on purpose, sir,” Zoe said.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.” For a moment he closed his eyes, centring himself, then he looked at the others. “Best get back, then.”
“About time,” Jayne said, glancing at the golden statue. It looked so real, and the coloured gems were calling out to him. He shivered. “Yeah. ‘Bout time.”
Mal switched on his torch. Or tried to. “What the …?” He shook it, staring into the business end, but there was nothing. He shook it again, harder, hearing something rattle inside.
“I don’t think that’s going to work, sir,” his first mate said, switching her own on, the beam pale in the sunlight through the vent.
“It might.” Mal gave up. “At least we got two left,” he said, then wished he hadn’t spoken as the one in Zoe’s hands died as well.
“You were saying?” Zoe inquired, one eyebrow raised.
“I know these things have a limited life span, but I thought Kaylee charged ‘em up ‘fore we left.”
“Well, something ain't right.” He shook his torch again but there wasn’t even a glimmer. “Okay, Jayne, gimme yours.”
“Hey, no, I need this,” the big man protested, taking a step back.
“And I'm going first.”
“But Mal –“
“You want to be the one to walk into any traps Hank neglected to tell us about?” Mal waved his hand towards the tunnel. “Shiny. Just sing out when you fall into one of those pits.”
Jayne glared, but handed his torch over. “You do the same,” he grumbled.
Mal settled the pack more securely on his shoulders. “Come on. Better get going ‘fore this last one gives out. I really don’t wanna be feeling around this place in the dark.”
“Cap, you really need to be careful what you say,” Jayne pointed out, eyeing the torch beam as it flickered briefly. “Preferably by not saying nothing at all.”
“You think I'm tempting fate?”
Mal glared at him again, then turned to head back down the tunnel, keeping to the left this time. Zoe followed close behind, Jayne bringing up the rear, his eyes clamped to the wavering light of the torch.
Freya ran down the steep slope towards the entrance to the gorge, ignoring the heat producing sweat that soaked her shirt. Gaining the gorge itself, she was in the welcome cool shade for a few minutes, then back into the bright sunlight as she hurried to the temple, dropping to her knees next to the booster unit. Taking a small roll of tools from her pocket, she began investigating every connection, doing her best to take no notice of the little voice at the back of her mind telling her to go and find Mal.
Hank opened the top airlock on the crest of Serenity’s neck, inching out. Looking around, he felt a shiver go through him. No matter that he did this on a semi-regular basis, there was something about knowing there was a drop to solid ground all around that made him nervous. No, not nervous, he told himself. Just tense. And tense was good. It meant he concentrated fully on the job in hand. Hooking his line onto one of the safety rings, he made his way towards the array.
“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum …” River was singing quietly to herself, not really taking notice of the words as she rocked Caleb. Something was unsettling, making waves in the ocean of normality she tried to live in, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t pin it down. It was like a stone dropped in the middle of a sea, where the ripples would reach land but with no indication of the original starting point.
She looked down at Bethie and Ethan, arguing over one of the coloured crayons. The sooner Jayne was back, the better.
“Cao!” Jayne’s voice filled the narrow tunnel.
“What?” Mal stopped, turning the torch back to the big man.
“Something just … I ran my hand on something.”
Mal moved next to Zoe, shining the torch down. “Where?”
Jayne was examining his right palm in the beam. “Gorram it,” he muttered, seeing something sticking out of the skin. He took hold of it and pulled, holding it up in the light even as the small wound bled.
“It looks like a piece of one of these paintings,” Zoe said, dragging a handkerchief from her pants pocket and flicking it open. She tied it around his hand. “Simon had better take a look soon as we get back,” she added. “There’s no knowing what kind of bacteria live down here.”
“Great,” Jayne said. “He’ll probably want to cut it off.”
“I don’t think River’ll let him,” Zoe assured him.
“First aid all done?” Mal asked, feeling the chill of the stone settling into his bones. “Can we get going again?”
He turned back, shaking his head. “Like dealing with an overgrown child …” he muttered to himself.
The sun was burning into the back of her neck, and Freya knew she should have brought a hat or something to protect herself, but it was too late now. Her fingers slippery with perspiration, she was having to blink hard to clear it from her eyes too. That made all the sharp shadows in the carved rocks look like they were moving, and when she dropped the small screwdriver into the dirt, she couldn’t help but shout in frustration. Scrabbling in the dust, she managed to find the tool, grit adhering to her fingers, but she knew there was nothing wrong with the booster. Standing up, she shielded her eyes and stared into the temple.
Hank knew there was nothing wrong with the array, even before he’d climbed up. He knew Serenity like the back of his hand, and like Kaylee he knew when something was amiss, and it wasn't the array. Sunlight beat up off the metal skin of the Firefly, sweat dripping from the end of his nose to splat on her plating, and he never knew if that was the cause, but suddenly his feet slipped out from under him and he went down onto his buttocks, sliding inexorably towards the edge and the drop some sixty-odd feet below. He tried to scramble back, but there was nothing to hold onto, and he knew he was going to fall.
“Simon!” River shouted, startling the children and making Fiddler howl.
“Rut it,” Mal breathed, as the torch in his hand went out.
“Mal, I don’t like the sound of that,” Jayne almost whined.
“It’s stopped working.”
“I can see that.” The big man tried to look about him, but there was just darkness. “Or rather, I can’t. What the hell do we do now?”
“All the torches? All at the same time?” Zoe asked softly. “That’s a bit more of a coincidence than I like.”
“How do we get out of here without light?” Jayne demanded.
“Hang on,” Mal said suddenly. “Just wait a minute.”
The line snapped taut, and for a moment that seemed to last for the rest of his life, Hank hung suspended over the sheer drop, not just over Serenity’s side, but over the edge of the gorge too. He waited for the telltale sound of the rope giving way, but there was just the ragged sound of his own breathing. Eventually he managed to turn until he was facing the ship, and reached up to grab the safety line, his hands slipping a little with sweat, but holding on for dear life. Nervous wasn’t the word now, either, he decided. Gorram terrified seemed to fit a whole lot better. He started to pull himself up, the muscles in his shoulders and arms complaining with every movement.
Freya could feel the tension emanating from the people inside, and she could stand it no longer. She walked into the cold, the sweat on her body chilling her immediately. Without a torch she couldn’t see too far, and the deep blackness of the shadows seemed to be hiding a multitude of things waiting to pounce, but she didn’t stop. She carried on until her knee scraped against a large stone block, and she had to inch her way around it. “Mal?” she whispered.
“Xin gan?” Mal walked out of the darkness, his face the only thing reflecting the ambient light, and only as a pale blob at that.
“Thank God,” she said softly, hurrying into his arms, feeling her heart start to beat again.
He held her close. “Hey, no need for that.” He smiled, even as he knew she couldn’t see it. “I heard you calling me.”
“I didn’t –“
Yes you did, she heard in her mind. Led me home. “Come on,” he said, using words this time and taking her hand. “I really want to be back in daylight.”
“You and me both,” Jayne mumbled, heading for the entrance in front of them.
Outside in the air, the heat beating down on cold limbs, all four of them took a moment to reorient themselves.
“So was that the problem?” Mal asked, glancing down at the booster unit. “Why we couldn’t hear you?”
Freya shrugged. “If it was, I can’t figure out how.”
“Maybe Kaylee can. And tell me how come all our torches stopped working.”
Her eyebrows raised. “All?”
“Yeah.” He looked at Jayne. “Bring that with you, dong mah?”
The big man nodded and picked up the booster, wincing slightly.
“Did you hurt your hand?” Freya asked, seeing the makeshift bandage for the first time.
“It’s nothing.” He looked at his palm, where the handkerchief was stained red. “Just a scratch.”
“Simon’ll see to it, soon as we’re back on board.” Mal looked back over his shoulder. “Really glad to see the last of this place.”
“I'm fine,” Hank said, as the young doctor fussed around him.
“Why does nobody on board this ship take my word for it?” Simon asked, of no-one in particular. “I spent all that time training, doing my residency, then specialising in trauma surgery, and everyone on this crew thinks they know better than me.” He eased him through the top doorway into the cargo bay, Kaylee close behind.
“We just like to keep you on your toes,” Hank explained, grinning at River who stood in the entrance to the shuttle, the children clustered around her legs. “Hey, sweetie,” he said. “Thanks for sending him to help me.”
“What’s going on?” Mal asked, standing on the ramp and finding himself pushed unceremoniously out of the way as Zoe ran up the stairs to her husband.
“I slipped, but I'm fine,” Hank said, nevertheless letting Simon take most of his weight.
“Checking the array.” He smiled at Zoe as she put her arm around him from the other side. “I’m fine, honey.”
“I think he might have strained a few muscles, but he should be okay,” Simon confirmed.
“Just glad the line held,” Hank added. “Otherwise you’d be scraping me up off the cavern floor.”
“That would be … inconvenient,” Mal said, relieved his pilot didn’t appear to have sustained any permanent damage.
“Hell, for me too!” Hank agreed. He laughed. “It would kinda cramp my style.”
“I think he’s in shock,” Zoe said quietly.
“Probably.” Simon adjusted his grip. “Just help me get him into the infirmary so I can check him over.”
“Of course.” She looked stoically at the man hanging between them. “Although after I’m done talking with him, he might need your services again.”
Hank seemed to shrink into himself a little.
Mal glanced at Freya. “Can you take us out of atmo? Something about this place does nothing for my calm.”
She smiled. “I think I remember how.”
“Then get us on course back to Ariel.” He shrugged out of the pack and crossed to the bulkhead, dropping it next to the wall. “I wanna drop this thing off and get the rest of our money.”
to be continued
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 12:07 PM
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:03 PM
Thursday, March 27, 2008 12:34 PM
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