BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Volcano's Edge - Part VII
Friday, July 11, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal talks to Simon, and Serenity lands on Ephesus for the meet with Dillon. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2018    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal waited until all the congratulations had stopped ringing through the ship, and everyone went off to do whatever jobs they needed to, then faced Simon. “Not that I ain’t happy you’re expecting again, but I actually came down here for a reason.”

“Oh?” The young man seemed almost drunk with delight, but the look on Mal’s face made him try to pull himself together. “What can I do for you, captain?”

Mal dragged a white handkerchief from his pocket. “Well, for a start you can wipe that lipstick off your cheek.”

“What?” Simon turned so he could see his reflection in the glass. “Oh.” He took the linen from Mal’s outstretched hand and rubbed at the offending marks. “Kaylee,” he explained. “She got a little bit ... over-emotional.”

“I don't think she’s the only one. There’s more’n one colour there.” Mal hitched his thumbs into his pockets and shook his head in mock-disbelief. “I think one of ‘em’s even my first mate’s.”

“I’d be more worried if it was Hank’s.” Simon grinned and turned back. “Thanks.” He held out the handkerchief.

“No, you keep it. You’ve got laundry duty this week, ain't you?”

“For my sins.”

“Give it back to me after.”

“Okay.” Simon thrust it into his own pocket. “So what did you want to see me about?”

“The Reaver antidote.”

Simon’s professional persona fell into place. “I haven’t got any further. As you know, I don’t want to use any more of what we have, just in case –“

“I understand that. But I was thinking about that machine we’re planning on obtaining. The one that makes vaccines. Could you use it to make more?”

“Hmmn.” Simon leaned against the counter, letting his analytical mind ponder the problem. “Well, the antidote does seem to act like an antiviral. Not in the conventional way, but ...” He pursed his lips and stood straight, turning to one of the drawers and taking out a memory tab. Sliding it home, he continued, “I have to admit I hadn’t thought about it.” The screen lit up with a maze of coloured lines, some intersecting, others spiralling in on themselves. “This is the antidote, and you can see here that it mimics –“

“Doc,” Mal interrupted.

“Captain dummy talk?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.”

“No problem.” Simon exhaled slowly. “G-32 Paxilon Hydrochlorate was, as far as I can tell, based on a drug that was used to counteract the effects of a particular type of radiation poisoning. It boosted the body’s immune system, allowed it to heal itself to a certain degree. In fact, it acted almost like a virus but with some unexpected side effects, including repression of aggression.”

“I think there’s worse ones than that.”

“As I said, that was the original drug. What Blue Sun did with it, what Andrew Brooks was involved in ...” He stopped, seeing the man who was his mentor sitting next to him in the early morning light as the sun rose above the Corvus’ horizon, telling him that there were those in the Alliance who know what would happen if the Pax were unleashed on people.

“He was a good man,” Mal said quietly, knowing exactly what was going through his friend’s mind.

Simon nodded. “He was. He tried to warn us, and they killed him for it.”

“Well, like I always say, the wheel never stops turning. So you’d better go on and finish lecturing me.”

“Lecturing?”

“Simon.”

“Okay.” He touched the screen. “The antidote was developed from the G-32 derivative, the one Freya said Niska called the Reduced Pax, but it still has certain characteristics that indicate its origins, and maybe that’s something we could ...” His voice died away as he stared at the information, almost as if it was speaking to him.

“Doctor. Simon.”

“Mmn? Oh, sorry. Just thinking.” He changed images, showing a view of what appeared to be blood cells. “This is the blood I took from Hank after he was exposed to the RePax, if I can call it that. You can see these cells are damaged –“ He tapped the screen, indicating the minute black specks some of them had. “– but the antidote has stopped it in its tracks.” His face tightened and he stood straight. “Only ...” Quickly flicking through other tabs in the drawer, he pulled out a second and slotted it into place next to the first. The image on the screen whirled, making Mal feel somewhat nauseous, but settled after a minute as Simon found what he wanted. “Run-tse de fuo-tzoo.”

Mal looked at the mess of coloured lines on the screen, looking remarkably like the initial picture Simon had shown him. “That good or bad?”

“I took some of Hank’s blood to figure out what it was they used to knock out him and Peter, remember?”

“Juto-something or other.”

“Jutoprocaine, yes. But to make that determination I did a molecular breakdown through the analyser, and this is the result.”

“And? Doc, you’re beginning to get to the end of my somewhat short temper.”

“I think Hank’s immune to the RePax.”

“What?” Now Simon had his full attention.

The young man turned to face him. “I hadn’t thought to look before, but his blood is still showing the antidote.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Simon ran his hands through his hair. “I’m sorry, Mal. It didn't even occur to me that it might still be active in his bloodstream.”

“So Hank ain't gonna turn Reaver?”

“He wouldn’t have anyway, but he won’t lay down and die either.”

Mal felt a smile lift his lips. “Figure Zoe might be a bit pleased over that.”

“And you’re right. The structure of the antidote makes it ideal for replication. As soon as we get one of the machines, I can start making batches.”

“And Freya? Bethie? Your sis?” Mal stepped forward. “If this’ll stop anything happening to –“

“It won’t.” Simon could see the effect his words were having. “I'm sorry, but it will only be effective on those of us with no psychic tendencies.”

“So they’re still in danger.”

“I'm afraid so.”

“Is there any way to figure out who this is gonna work on? I mean, Frey thinks Kaylee’s a potential, and probably you. And Ethan ...” He couldn’t go on, his mind assaulted by the nightmare of his children being turned.

“Soon as I have enough of the antidote to use, I can begin experimenting. But without some of the RePax itself, it might be difficult.”

“Ain't having that stuff on board my boat, Simon.” Mal pulled himself together. “’Sides, might be you can figure out a way of making that antidote work for all of us.”

“I'm not actually a miracle worker,” the young doctor pointed out.

“Sure you are. Just ask your wife. And your brand new baby-to-be.”

The glow started to come back over Simon’s face. “You know, this really shouldn’t be possible.”

“Exactly. Now why don’t you go and pry Kaylee off the Cortex ‘fore she waves the whole ‘verse? I wouldn’t mind betting she’s on to her folks right now.”

“You know, I think I will.” Simon grinned.

“And take some hankies with you.”

Simon paused in the doorway. “Why?”

“Hormones.”

He laughed and hurried up the stairs.

Mal smiled. No matter how much he wanted more kids himself, to see Freya with child again, he couldn’t feel jealous, not with Kaylee’s infectious enthusiasm warming him. “Girl’s gonna have my Firefly full to the brim with diapers ‘fore she and Simon’re finished,” he murmured to himself, then chuckled. Along with Frey’s, and River’s, and Zoe’s, truth to tell, he thought with amusement.

He turned back to the screen, staring at the complexity he could never hope to understand. Ever since Simon first stepped foot on board, he’d proved his worth, over and again. First as crew, then as family, and not just in patching up bullet wounds or similar. He’d made Kaylee happy – finally – and even found his sister a husband, although that wasn’t without incident and entirely inadvertently. And now here was Mal, relying on him once again.

“Just be as smart as we all think you are,” Serenity’s captain muttered, then strode out of the infirmary.

---

Ephesus was a small planet that resembled a sapphire hung, as River rather poetically put it, “Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.”

“You’re plagiarising,” Freya said quietly.

“But only from the best.”

“Romeo and Juliet.”

“A tragedy.”

Freya looked into her face, caught by the sadness in the young woman’s voice. “Are you okay?”

“Shiny.”

“Only you seem somewhat out of sorts.”

“Bad dreams,” River admitted.

“Mal told me what you said. About Niska.”

“He didn’t believe me.”

Xiao nu, I think we need to talk later.”

The young woman looked up, surprised. “You too?”

“Later.”

River nodded, feeling some of the stress that was gnawing away at her insides lessen a little. “Later,” she agreed.

“How come most of these places look fine from up here, but are so much crud down there?” Hank asked idly, adjusting their vector.

“Distance makes everything look prettier,” Zoe agreed.

“Not just distance. Alcohol does pretty much the same. And when’s Kaylee gonna be fixing her still? It’s been weeks.”

“She’s been busy,” Mal said shortly, his arms crossed as he watched his pilot prepare for descending into atmo.

“I know that.” Hank sighed. “Only now she’s pregnant, and pregnant women don’t drink.”

“You’ll just have to buy your own.”

“Guess I will.” He grinned. “Can I have a rise?”

“Nope.”

“Somehow I knew you were gonna say that.”

“And yet you still asked.”

“Have to live up to my rep, Mal.”

“Just get us down.”

“No problem.” Ephesus was much bigger now in the bridge windows, and he began to lift Serenity’s nose, turning her underbelly to the atmosphere. “Still don't see why places like this just look so different from up here.”

“The terraforming company miscalculated the depth of the ice at the poles,” River said. “Their equipment melted the majority of it and flooded the low-lying land, leaving only a few archipelagos. Unfortunately the high levels of sodium nitrate and other salts were dissolved easily out of the friable rock structure, making the water brackish and unsuitable for drinking. Desalination plants have been built, but the remaining land isn’t very fertile.” She shrugged. “They make more out of selling salt than they do out of farming.”

There was silence for a moment, then Freya put her arm around her and squeezed.

“Well, after that geology lesson, I think we’re ready to land,” Mal said dryly.

“Sorry,” River said.

He flashed her a warm smile. “Don’t be. Some of us could do with a little education now and again.”

“You having a go at me, Mal?” Hank asked, the sky turning red.

“Yes.”

“Shiny. Just so’s I know.” He lifted down the comlink. “Kaylee, I need a bit more power to the injectors.”

“On it. Only be gentle. She’s feeling a bit fragile today.”

“Will do.”

“We likely to fall apart?” Mal asked, with only a breath of concern in his voice.

“Cap, how can you say that?” Kaylee laughed. “You think I'm gonna let anything happen to my baby?”

“Um, right.” Mal watched Hank hang the com back up and he glanced at Zoe. “Do you think she meant ...” He indicated his belly.

“Honestly, sir, I'm not sure it matters.”

“No. You’re probably right.” He coughed slightly and moved forward. “We need to land on Rico. It’s the biggest island in the southern hemisphere.”

“Looks like we’ll be down in time for dawn,” the pilot said. “Be good to see a sunrise.”

---

As the ramp dropped, cool air filtered into the cargo bay, and Freya buttoned up her coat. Hank had been right – the sun was only now lifting high enough to colour the sky pink. There was no port as such, just a dozen or so low warehouses where the salt was stored before collection. Some distance away, maybe a kilometre or so, were homes, some with lit windows as people began to prepare for the day.

“Hank says we’re the only ship in the immediate vicinity,” Mal said, heading slowly down the stairs towards her, buckling his gunbelt.

“He’ll be here.”

“When?”

She turned and looked up at him. “An hour. Maybe two.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Dillon was.”

“He’d better have something. I ain’t too happy coming all this way for nothing.”

“He has.”

Mal reached the bay floor. “Frey, what River was talking about yesterday –“

Jayne stomped out of the shuttle. “We goin’ or not?”

Later, Mal.

He sighed. Later. “That we are.” He tied his holster down to his leg.

“Cap, before you go ... can I have a word?”

He looked up, seeing his mechanic in the doorway to the common area. “We were just on our way out the door, Kaylee. Can’t it wait?”

“I ... don't think so.”

Mal glanced at Freya, who shrugged slightly. “Okay, mei-mei. What’s so all-fire important?”

“Well, I’ve been working on the beacons for Simon and River, and they got me thinking,” Kaylee began, somewhat diffidently. “I think we might’ve been tagged.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed as he stared at her. “What do you mean?”

“Something on board with a transmitter. Maybe not even on board, but on the outside.” She stepped forward. “Wouldn’t need to be big. And you might not be able to tell by looking. Just something looked like it belonged.” Mal hadn’t shouted her down, and that encouraged her. “That’s what I mean about the beacons ... they ain’t active ‘til we send a signal from here. Why not for a tag?”

“Then how’d you figure to find it?”

“I can rig a hand sensor, and put a charge through the hull. Might take some time, but I should be able to find anything that shouldn’t be there.”

“And if it’s inside?”

“Maybe we can adjust the internals. Hank should be able to help with that.”

“It’d explain how come they knew where we were,” Jayne said, settling Binky in her sheath more comfortably at the back of his waist.

Mal nodded. “It would.” He looked back at Kaylee. “Okay. But if you’re going outside you take Zoe and River with you, and they’re to be fully armed.”

“Hey, wasn’t going to do anything else.” She grinned at him.

“Then I think we’d better be going ‘fore Freya bites through her leash.”

“Excuse me!” the woman in question said. “I'm not a dog.”

“I didn't say that.” Mal walked out down the ramp.

“You did.” She followed him.

“Don't recall mentioning a dog.”

“You said leash.”

“Don't recall saying any such thing.”

They disappeared into the gloom, still bickering.

Jayne looked at Kaylee and sighed, shaking his head at the same time. “Lock up after us,” he advised.

“I was intending to.”

He strode out of Serenity, muttering to himself something about people not taking things seriously.

Kaylee waited until he vanished too, then pushed the button to close the ramp. Jayne was wrong, as far as she considered. Mal was taking things very seriously. Very seriously indeed.

---

“It’s a church.”

“That’s right.”

“I thought you were kidding.” Mal looked at the large building as the sun rose above the sea.

“Nope.”

“You met Dillon for the first time in here.”

“I did.”

“Good a place as any,” Jayne said, joining them.

Freya hid the smile. “That it is.”

Mal glared, but said, “Take a look around. I don’t expect trouble, but that’s when it tends to find us.”

“You want me to find a good spot, case you need back-up?”

“Just keep an eye out.”

“No problems.” He strolled off, looking as if nothing was on his mind at all.

Freya walked up to the double doors, turning the large handle. “I was telling the truth, you know. I really was trying to decide whether to join the Independents or not, and there was some kind of festival going on in the town. This was the only place that was quiet enough to think.”

Mal pushed on the old wood with her, the door opening inwards without a sound. “So you weren’t seeking spiritual guidance.”

She grinned at him. “Maybe a little.”

“Did you find it?”

“Not really.” They walked into the darkness, taking a moment for their eyes to adjust. “You know, this was open last time, too. They’re very trusting.”

“Probably got nothing to steal.” He shook his head. “Anyway, you ain’t getting out of talking to me, not now you’ve started. What were you looking for, all those years ago?”

“A sign, maybe. All I wanted to do was kill anyone who followed the Alliance, even though my mentor he ... he’d tried to tell me there was good in most people, that I didn't have to hate everyone, but I –“ She stopped, biting her lip.

Mal couldn’t see the look on her face, but he didn’t have to. “You’re better than that, Frey. And you survived intact.”

“Sometimes I wonder.” There was a wealth of sadness in her tone, quiet as it was.

He walked down to the front of the church, giving her a moment to compose herself, coming to a halt in front of the simple altar, not much more than a long, narrow table, covered in the centre with an embroidered cloth. “You know, this reminds me of our church back on Shadow,” he said conversationally. “Next door to the school house. Every Sunday, folks’d pack inside, giving thanks for another week where we had enough to eat, clothes to wear.”

“And you were right along with them.” She came up behind him and took his hand.

“I was. My Ma brought me up right.”

“Would you like that for Ethan and Jesse?” She looked into his face, the gloom not letting her see the blueness of his eyes, but knowing they were there. “If you did, I wouldn’t object.”

“Even though it ain't something you follow yourself?”

She pulled him to the first of the long benches, made him sit. “When I was a little girl, when I was still Elena Rostov, my parents took Alex and me to a cathedral in Osiris City. It was ... breathtaking.” She could still see it, in her mind’s eye, huge to someone so little, with windows that stained the very air in a thousand different colours. And all the people, whispering instead of talking, in an intense feeling of calm. “They told us this was where they got married, because it was my father’s religion. My mother had converted to be with him.”

“I didn't know.”

She smiled a little. “One of those secrets. I guess.” She took a deep breath. “Mother said we would be inducted into it at our next birthday, that it was our heritage.”

“How old were you?” he asked gently.

“Nine.”

“Frey ...”

“I never was. That was the year I went to the Academy.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault. And it was a long time ago.” Freya lifted her feet onto the bench next to her.

“Should you be doing that?”

“It’s not hurting anyone.”

“Knowing our luck, that there’s a capital offence.”

“Fine.” She uncurled again, her boots hitting the flagstones with a gentle thud.

“Thanks.”

She looked at him from under her eyebrows. “Somehow I get the feeling you’re the one who was being offended.”

He didn't answer for a moment, then said, “Maybe. A little.”

“Then I'm the one who’s sorry.”

He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “Frey, what I tried to say before –“

“River’s not happy.”

Mal chuckled, but there wasn’t much mirth in it. “That’s putting it mildly.”

“She thinks you don’t believe her,” Freya said softly.

“It’s not that I don’t ... it’s just ...”

“Niska.”

“Frey, you told me yourself how you left him. No-one comes back from that.”

“I know. But I dreamed about him last night too, and it ... it scared me.”

He sat forward, his elbows on his knees. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Mal, you weren’t listening to River. Why would you listen to me?”

“Because you’re my wife?”

She smiled. “Since when did that guarantee anything?”

“That’s not fair.” He stood up so he could pace up and down the main aisle. “It’s just ... Frey, it can’t be him.”

“Saying it often enough still doesn’t make it true.”

He turned to face her. “Okay. Supposing you’re both right. That Niska’s orchestrating all this. How?”

“Mal, the Alliance found one kind of antidote to this Reduced Pax. Who says they haven’t got the other?”

“And they used it on Niska?”

“He was working for them. Maybe they thought he was valuable enough.”

Mal stared into the dark corners. “It’s all about control, isn’t it.”

“I think so.”

“Controlling Reavers, creating them ...” He exhaled heavily. “Why can't they just let people be?”

Whatever response Freya was about to make was forgotten as they both heard a slight sound from the back of the church. They drew their guns simultaneously, Mal belatedly realising that if it was the local priest they’d have some quick explaining to do, as well as a somewhat substantial contribution to the poor box.

“Now, why did I know we wouldn’t be able to walk up on the pair of you.” Dillon stood with his hands up in the universal gesture for ‘don’t shoot’.

“We could have shot you,” Freya said, smiling at her old friend and reholstering her weapon.

He laughed. “Oh, I don’t think I’ve pissed you off enough lately.”

“Don’t speak too soon,” Mal put in. “Jayne’s around somewhere. I'm sure he’d shoot you if Freya asked.”

“I should have known.”

“And ... ‘we’?” Freya asked.

Dillon’s smile grew. “At last. I think this must be the first time I’ve surprised you in years.” He moved to one side so they could see the open double doors of the church. “Come on in,” he called.

A figure moved into the light, silhouetted against the morning.

Freya’s jaw dropped. “Alex?”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Friday, July 11, 2008 6:51 AM

AMDOBELL


Oh thank goodness it wasn't Niska who walked in! With that build up I was expecting anything though I am really glad that Frey got around to telling Mal that she is dreaming of Niska hunting them down too. He needs to listen. Really impressed with Kaylee thinking they might be tagged, that was one of my suspicions. Really good as always and can't wait for more! Gorramit, you've turned me into a fic-junky. Thanks! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, July 11, 2008 6:56 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Oh, hell ya! Here comes those cliffhangers and so good. Yup, I am hooked on the fan fic too. :)

Friday, July 11, 2008 8:01 AM

KATESFRIEND


Another intersecting storyline, it seems - and a very interesting one at that. Glad to see Mal and Simon are on top of things with the antiviral, and that Mal really did listen to River.

Friday, July 11, 2008 9:11 AM

SERENITYRIDDLE


GAH!!! I have as of today finished reading ALL of your writings and I am so sad that it is over! Grrr Argh. Anyway.. This is amazing writing.. I am glad to see Mal was listening to River and I am so happy Kaylee is pregnant, please don't let her lose the baby.. and I hope this time... They are able to kill Niska Dead!

Friday, July 11, 2008 1:00 PM

SLUMMING


Excellent work, as always! Getting very antsy about this whole thing! More soon please!

Friday, July 11, 2008 1:18 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Between you and Slumming my little heart is going overtime. Two entirely different 'verses but the same gift for story telling.

And right now I'm intrigued why Alex is showing up all of a sudden. Anything to do with Dillon's digging?

BTW I would like to have coffee and a nice talk with Dillon. He seems to be a very interesting person. You will have to explain his back story some day.

Friday, July 11, 2008 3:12 PM

WYTCHCROFT


"Between you and Slumming my little heart is going overtime. Two entirely different 'verses but the same gift for story telling. "
nuff said:)


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