BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Volcano's Edge - Part IV
Thursday, July 3, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. A discovery, and a capture tab, but still no closer to finding out who's dogging them. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2050    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The cargo bay doors slid open, but not fast enough for Mal. He slipped through a gap not wide enough, and banged his elbow on the thick metal, but he ignored the pins and needles it set up down his arm. Instead he skidded to a halt in his stocking feet at the bottom of the ramp.

“Hank?”

The pilot gave a shaky smile as he helped support Peter Frye. “We’re okay, Mal,” he said, his speech somewhat slurred. “Well, maybe not okay, but we’re not hurt particularly.” The young man almost slipped from his shoulder, but Mal was there in a moment, taking his weight, letting Hank gather himself. “Thanks.”

Freya had followed her husband and was staring out into the darkness, her shotgun still cocked. “Is there anyone still out there?” she asked.

“Just us chickens,” Hank said, tripping and falling to his hands and knees. “Chun ben.

“Stay there,” Simon called, pulling a sweater on over his sweat pants as he ran through the bay.

“Don’t think I can move far, doc.” Hank tried to grin but it wasn’t quite right, twisting his mouth as it did. “And I think a marathon is out of the question.”

“Pete?” Kaylee was behind him, and tried to dart out but Mal’s voice stopped her.

“Kaylee, call Jayne,” Mal said quickly. “Get him to bring your folks here. We’ll look to your brother.”

The young mechanic glared at him but his tone was the one he used when he expected to be obeyed, no matter what. “I’ll be right back,” she promised Pete, running up the stairs towards the bridge, crossing with Zoe as she ran down, her gun in her hand.

Simon was already examining Hank. “No major wounds or anything?” he asked.

“Nope. Nothing that a few weeks sleep won’t cure.”

“Headache? Any –“

“Doc,” Mal interrupted. “Can we do this in the infirmary? Pete ain’t exactly a lightweight, and I’d rather we all got out of the light soon as we can. Seeing as we’re very pretty targets right now.”

“Oh. Yes, I'm sorry.” Simon lifted Hank to his feet. “Can you walk?”

“Got this far, didn’t I?” He looked into Zoe’s face. “Hi, honey.”

“Can’t let you go out alone at all without you getting into trouble, can I?”

“Nope. Think you’d better come with me wherever I go from now on.”

“I think maybe I should.” She touched his face, and it was all Hank could do not to throw his arms around her and kiss her.

“Zoe?” Mal again.

“Sir?”

“A hand wouldn’t go amiss.”

“Sir.” She ran her thumb across Hank’s lips just once, then went to take some of Pete’s weight.

As they all headed for the infirmary, Freya closed the cargo bay doors behind them, but stayed put, waiting for Jayne and River to bring the Fryes along.

“Hop up,” Simon said, leaning Hank against the medbed as he busied himself getting bits and pieces out of the cupboard.

“Hop?” Hank laughed, sounding more normal. “Man in my condition can’t hop. ‘Sides, I think you need to see to Pete here first.” The humour dropped out of him. “He was conscious earlier, but he seems to be out of it again.”

Simon looked up, concern on his smooth features as Mal and Zoe deposited Pete on the bed, lifting his legs up. “How long’s he been out?” he asked, opening a drawer with a jerk.

“I don’t know.” Hank let Zoe help him onto the side counter. “Ten minutes? Maybe fifteen?”

Simon ran his portable sensor across Pete’s chest, and his face tightened. “He’s having a reaction to whatever it is they used on you.”

“Oh, no.” This was from Kaylee, staring into the infirmary, her hand to her mouth.

“Some of his systems are affected and are shutting down. I need to …” He turned back to the cupboards, pushing various bottles out of the way.

Mal stepped outside, blocking Kaylee’s view. “He’ll be fine, mei-mei. You know that husband of yours is the best there is.”

She tried to see past him, but he wouldn’t let her. “I know,” she murmured. “But I want to be with Pete.”

“Simon’s looking to him.”

She glared at him. “He’s my brother!”

“And there’s more’n enough people around him at the moment. I need you to keep a cool head, dong mah?”

She bit back the sharp words she wanted to use, telling herself that this was her captain, that she trusted him implicitly, and he just wanted to shield her from anything bad. So instead of sniping at him she just said, “Dang rahn.”

“Good. Your folks on their way?”

“Before Jayne could even sign off.”

“Then why don’t you go wait in the bay for ‘em? Keep Frey company.”

“Cap –“

“Go on. They’ll be here soon, from what you said. You can tell ‘em they’re both alive, at least.”

“But –“

He put his hands on her shoulders. “Do this for me, Kaylee.”

Her gaze flicked up to his face, then she nodded. “Call me if anything …”

“You know it.” With a single glance back into the infirmary, she scampered off to wait for her family, and Mal glanced towards a little figure hiding around the corner by the lower crew quarters. “And you go on back to bed too.”

Bethie shook her head. “Want to make sure everyone’s all right.”

“And your sis needs you.”

“But Uncle Mal –“

“No buts. You know damn well you’ll know soon as we do, if not sooner.”

She looked ready to argue, but then her shoulders slumped and she slouched back to her room. “And you shouldn’t swear,” her voice opined pitifully.

He had to smile, even if it was just a swift lift of the lips.

Simon, in the meantime, had quickly prepared and injected a clear green liquid into the young man’s neck. “This is a broad antihistamine. If it doesn’t work it’ll take time to analyse whatever they used, find the right treatment.”

“Doc, if I’d known, I would have asked,” Hank said, feeling Zoe slip her hand into his.

“How long does it take, Simon?” Mal asked, watching him work.

“A few minutes. If it’s going to.”

Mal turned to Hank. “Then you can tell me what the hell happened out there.”

“I wish I knew,” his pilot said apologetically. “There we were, minding our own business, just got to the fishing hole, and … that’s it. Nothing. Not ‘til I woke up in the dark and thought I was dead and buried.” He looked at Zoe. “Grateful I ain’t, though.”

“No more than me,” she said softly, only loud enough for him to hear, but it warmed him through. Maybe she really had forgiven him for breaking his word, and nearly getting hanged back on Newhall.

“No-one came up to you, no mules or nothing?” Mal pressed.

“Nothing. I was looking at the water, trying to see if they were biting, and …” He stopped, and his hand raised to his neck. “Something bit me.”

Simon quickly moved closer, examining the area. “Looks like a dart.” He went back to Pete, lifting away his slightly longer hair. “Here too.”

“How did you get away?” Zoe asked, her thumb rubbing circles on Hank’s skin.

“We didn’t. I told you, I woke up in the dark. Took me forever just to open my eyes, then I managed to roll over, found Pete next to me. He was muttering something, then went out again.”

“Where did they dump you?”

“Outside.”

Mal straightened up. “What?”

“Outside.” Hank hitched his thumb over his shoulder. “Maybe ten yards from our own front door.”

He scowled. All the time he and Frey were talking, maybe longer … “Go on.”

“That’s it. I managed to get him to his feet, tried to remember the code to get in … and you damn near brained me with the ramp.”

“If I had I'm not sure we’d’ve been able to tell the difference.”

“Hey, that’s not nice,” Hank complained tiredly then tried to smile. “And I was about to say the same thing.”

“Someone had to,” Zoe said, glaring at her captain.

Mal was about to make some snappy rejoinder, but it fled from his mind as the man on the medbed groaned.

“Peter?” Simon leaned forward, shining a small torch into his eyes.

The young man tried to bat his hand away and wrinkled his face up. “Cao,” he muttered. “You trying to blind me or something too?”

The tension in the infirmary lessened by several degrees, and in response Simon put the torch down and picked up his stethoscope. “How do you feel?”

“Like shit.” Pete tried to sit up but failed. “Anyone get the number of that mule that hit me?”

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask Hank that.” He opened Pete’s shirt a few buttons and put the stethoscope’s earpieces in.

Pete’s eyebrow raised slightly. “Hey, I ain't that way inclined.”

“I won’t look.” Simon smiled and recommenced his examination.

“Mal.” Hank spoke quietly.

“Yeah?”

“There is this.” Hank reached into this pocket and pulled out a capture tab. “Found it in here when I woke up. And before you ask, it’s not mine.”

Mal took it from his fingers, turning it over and over, the thing that had crawled up his spine now kicking him solidly in the hindbrain.

At that moment half the entire Frye clan clattered down the steps into the common area, although most of them hung back as Ellie and Eddie ran forward, stopping only when they were inside the infirmary.

“Peter?” his mother asked, barely vocalising.

“I do something wrong?” the young man asked, looking over at her. “Only you only ever call me Peter when I'm about to get a whupping from you.”

“I do not!” she said vehemently, then showed she was lying by stepping smartly up to the bed and hitting him on the arm. “Well, not since you got so tall. And what do you mean, going off and getting yourself snatched like that?”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea.” He winced as Simon drew a syringe full of blood. “And it wasn't just me.”

“And I intend to have words with Hank too,” Ellie threatened, her eyes full of unshed tears, then Eddie put his hands on his wife’s shoulders and squeezed gently.

Mal walked out of the infirmary, the Fryes parting to let him through, and continued up the stairs. Freya, Jayne and River were standing at the entrance to the cargo bay, able to see enough to know that both men were all right.

“What’s that?” Freya asked softly, looking at the tab Mal was still holding.

“I think we need to find out. That portable Cortex link to hand?”

“In the galley.”

“Sir?” Zoe had followed him, Kaylee at her side.

Making a fist around the tab, he said, “Come on. I think it’s time for a council of war.”

---

“Ready?” Freya asked, sitting down at the old wooden table and booting the Cortex screen up.

Mal nodded and handed over the tab. She inserted it into the side and touched PLAY on the screen. It went black for a moment, then there was a flash of static before it cleared, and even then there was a few seconds of uncontrolled motion, as if the person taking the capture wasn’t used to it, before it steadied. The quality still wasn’t good, but it was sharp enough.

“Cap’n …” Kaylee had to swallow hard, reminding herself that Pete and Hank were safe down in the infirmary and not as the capture showed them, lying on hard-packed dirt, eyes closed, bodies limp.

“So easy.” A voice, unrecognisable, nothing more than hissed sibilants. “Any time, Captain Reynolds. Any time. Anyone.” The picture changed to one of Freya carrying Jesse back on board Serenity, Ethan walking at her side. “Anyone at all.” The screen went back to static.

Mal felt his heartbeat quicken. His family … “That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Freya confirmed, her own palms damp.

“Today,” Jayne put in. “That last bit. They took that today. Jesse’s carrying that new doll Ms Frye bought her.”

“Yeah.” Mal took a deep breath. “Play it again.”

It didn’t take long to run through it a second time, nor a third.

“Can we trace anything off the tab?” Zoe asked, her hand on the butt of her gun.

“No,” River said quietly. “Standard type, low memory. Cheap. Available anywhere.”

“DNA? Fingerprints?”

“I can ask Simon to swab it,” Kaylee responded. “But it’s been in Hank’s pocket, and he ain't the only one handled it.”

“Besides,” Mal added, “you really think people who’d do this’re gonna be caught out by something that simple?”

“I think I’d like to meet them in a dark alley and explain a few things to them,” Zoe replied.

“You and me both.” He looked at her above Freya’s head. “Someone’s sending us a message, Zoe.”

“Well, I’d have to say we’re listening.”

“Any idea what they’re sayin’?” Jayne asked.

Mal shook his head. “Damned if I know. But one thing’s for sure – we’re getting off Phoros soon as we can.”

“But –“ Kaylee began to object, but he put his hand on her arm.

Mei-mei, if someone’s after us, I've already put your family in harm’s way. Could’ve been we might’ve just found a couple of corpses, rather than two breathing men, and that would’ve been worse.” He looked into her brown eyes. “I ain’t endangering your kin any more, Kaylee. In fact, it might be better if –“

“Don’t!” she interrupted. “You say you think I’d be better off staying with them, and I’ll lay into you with one of my wrenches, I promise I will.”

He looked into her eyes, about as angry as he had ever seen them, and heard Freya’s voice in his mind.

It’ll be mutiny if you try to put her off.

I want her safe, ai ren.

Who says she won’t be, staying with us? They took Hank and Pete from under our noses. Leaving Kaylee here might be just what they want.

Jayne looked from Mal to Frey, then allowed his lips to curl. “You wanna have a conversation without us, go ahead,” he said, stomping across the kitchen to the cupboards. “Just let the rest of us know when you’ve decided what we’re gonna do.”

“I'm not leaving, Mal,” Kaylee said firmly, using his given name for emphasis. “What if something goes wrong with Serenity? Who’ve you got to fix her?”

He put his hand on her arm, once more positive she was the sister he never had. “It’s okay. I won’t try. But we’ve all got to be careful, ‘til we figure out who’s doing this. That means being sensible and not going anywhere we don’t have to.”

“So what are we going to do, sir?” Zoe asked.

He exhaled, long and slow. “We’ve got a little cash saved, enough to lay low for a week or so, but I’m not inclined to do that. If someone wants us that bad, all they have to do is wait us out. Have to take a job sometime.” He crossed his arms. “Better if we get a bit more active, see if we can’t flush the rats.” He looked down at Freya. “Think Dillon might be able to help?”

She stood up. “I can try. He’s got a lot of contacts, and they keep their ears to the ground.”

“Wave him.”

“What if someone’s listening in?” Jayne asked gruffly.

“They know where we are already,” Mal pointed out. “And we’ll scramble it best we can.”

“And I’ll be circumspect,” Freya said. “We know each other too well not to guess when something’s wrong.” She walked out of the galley towards the bridge.

Mal looked at Kaylee. “Best go see if your husband knows when Pete’s gonna be okay to move. If he needs doctoring –“

“I’ll find out.” The young mechanic ran the other way.

“Got a bad feeling about this,” Jayne growled.

“Not the only one,” Zoe agreed.

Mal looked down at the last image on the portable screen, frozen on Freya carrying Jesse. Not gonna happen, he said to himself.

River stood quietly, her eyes gazing into nothing, and only Jayne noticed a shudder run through her slight frame.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Thursday, July 3, 2008 9:54 AM

AMDOBELL


Yep, something definitely sending a message and to the Captain specifically. Whoever it is wants him to sweat and worry for a while so I'm thinking they won't do anything else for a little while, just watch and enjoy the panic building. I surely wish one of our gorram genuis Readers would pick up something useful. River's shudder at the end made me all manner of twitchy with worry, especially for the children. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, July 3, 2008 12:28 PM

WYTCHCROFT


great chapter - and the ending...
oh it was good - a lovely icy moment.

Thursday, July 3, 2008 12:54 PM

SLUMMING


Lovely, lovely, lovely work from start to finish. Last line with just enough menace to make me love it! :D

Thursday, July 3, 2008 1:16 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Pure genius, both you and River. You've got me hooked, especially with the last line.

Thursday, July 3, 2008 2:13 PM

KATESFRIEND


You are such a tease! Here I was all geared up for angst and all I get is tension and plot development and more escalation. Loved the interaction between Mal and Kaylee - he'll try to protect her from anything. You are making this story even more creepy by the prolongation of it - but you know that, don't you?

Thursday, July 3, 2008 3:15 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Wow! Still on vaca and here you are teasing and spinning your yarn without me. Great stuff! I can feel the tension mounting and am very curious where this one will end up!!


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