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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Alex explains, and Kaylee comes up trumps. Only ... NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1703 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Everyone but Kaylee and Hank was congregated in the dining area. The children, threatened with withdrawal of treats for a month, had dug their feet in and were sitting in the easy chairs, dog and cat at their feet.
Alex couldn’t help looking at two of them from where he stood just a few paces away, hands clasped behind him as if he was about to give a report. The little boy he recognised from his previous, very brief visit, and both of them from the captures he’d occasionally received. Ethan and Jesse. He smiled a little, and the boy smiled briefly back. Jesse waved her fingers at him, beaming shyly, and his heart skipped a beat. She looked so like Freya when she was young. Not that he remembered, since he’d been that young at the same time, being twins, but his mother regularly used to get out the albums, poring over them. Even his father, at least later on, had spent a long time staring at pictures of Elena … Freya. His lips twitched. He still found it hard to get it straight in his mind sometimes, and it was always shocking to realise she’d been Freya three times as long as she’d ever been Elena.
Mal coughed, and Alex turned back, seeing everyone waiting patiently.
“If you don’t mind,” Serenity’s captain said, standing square behind the chair at the head of the table. “I’m kinda anxious to hear this story of yours.” He crossed his arms. “And quite why you had to come all this way to tell it.”
They faced each other above the heads of the other crew. “I thought it was important,” Alex said, not wanting to let himself be intimidated, and failing miserably.
Mal’s features softened just a degree. “Then go ahead.”
Alex cleared his throat. “After I found that Ele … that Freya was still alive, after we’d got back to Osiris, I started digging.” He looked at his sister. “The Rostovs have a lot of connections, and the money to make those connections profitable.”
Freya shook her head. “You shouldn’t have. The people at the back of this are too powerful, and you have a family.”
“Yes, I do. And you’re part of it.” He watched her face pale a little as the realisation hit home, and felt such sadness that she honestly believed she’d been alone in the ‘verse for all that time. “Anyway, people who should have been happy to see me started not taking my waves –“
“Alex.” She said his name on a sigh.
He ignored his sister and went on, “But one of them came up with something.” He pulled a small recording device from his pocket and pressed play.
A man’s voice issued from the tiny speaker, unrecognisable to any of them except for the fact that he had a heavy Osiran accept. “… but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. The success of the AntiPax is limited to those newly exposed, as the incident with the Normandy has since proved. Our original experiments should therefore be considered of restricted interest only. However, the initial results of our other venture have always been far more promising. The subject is responding well to the latest round of conditioning, and …” The voice cut off.
“AntiPax?” Simon leaned forward.
“I think maybe someone’s found what we were looking for,” Mal responded, then looked back at Alex. “How old’s this recording?”
“A couple of years. Maybe more. My friend found it buried in another message, just this fragment. He kept hold of it.” Alex chuckled. “I think he was considering blackmailing someone, but he never found out where it originated.”
“He’d probably have ended up dead if he’d tried.” The dryness of his tone hid nothing of the seriousness of his words. He glanced at Zoe. “The Normandy. You figuring it’s a ship?”
“I've never heard of her if she is, sir.”
“The Alliance Scout Vessel Normandy.” Alex surprised everyone. “What, did you think I was just going to leave it at that?”
Mal studied him for a moment. “Go on.”
“The Normandy disappeared almost three years ago, probably shortly before this recording was made. She was supposed to be on routine patrol out near the borders, after some nefarious types who were preying on shipping. But according to official sources, there was a problem with their core, and she blew up with all hands.”
“Official sources.” Mal scoffed. “About as trustworthy as anything outta the Alliance.” He sat down and motioned Alex to a chair, giving him grudging if temporary acceptance. “I’m guessing there’s more.”
“There is. I managed to find a crew roster, and … well, like I said, money talks. I spoke to three different family members, including the sister of the Commander of the Normandy, one Catherina Allard. They were all told that it was an accident, and the Alliance were most apologetic, offering all sorts of financial assistance. Which is odd, since normally they’re somewhat loathe to do more than just pay out the minimum required.”
“Don’t tell me. That made someone get curious.”
Alex nodded. “That same sister. She asked around, and someone told her the Normandy was on a secret mission. They couldn’t be specific, but it was something to do with testing some chemical.”
“AntiPax?” Mal looked at Freya. “You don’t think …”
She nodded. “They probably thought it was worth it. See if it works on Reavers close up.”
“Ai ya. No wonder they lost the ship.” He sat back, a long slow breathe escaping his lips.
“Do you mean they sent people into Reaver space on purpose?” Simon couldn’t get it into his mind. “To see what happened?”
“Alliance don’t care about folks,” Mal pointed out. “Not small numbers like that.”
“Small? A Scout Vessel … there’d have been more than fifty people on board!”
“Drop in the ocean, doctor. Fifty purplebellies on a boat or thirty million on Miranda, it’s all the same to them.” He stopped, knowing he’d sounded harsh. He moderated his tone. “I wish it weren't so, but …”
“They were sitting ducks.” Simon shook his head, still in shock. “God, how must they have felt, knowing …” His voice died away to nothing.
“Play it again,” Zoe ordered, and Alex obliged. “Sounds like they’ve got their hands on someone else,” she said as it finished once more. “Talking about ‘conditioning’ like that.”
Mal nodded. “Someone like –“
“Me.” River spoke for the first time. She was sitting in her chair, her feet on the seat in front of her, arms hugging her legs. She started to rock again. “All about control …”
“You know, I really don’t like the sound of that,” Dillon commented.
“It’s something we’ve considered before,” Freya explained. “That someone’s trying to control the Reavers.”
“Sure sounds like it.” Mal’s lips twisted a little. “Looks like maybe you’ve got a bit of that proof you wanted,” he added.
Dillon shook his head. “Nothing that’s going to stand up in court, though. Unless that contact of yours would agree to testify.”
“You mean Commander Allard’s sister?” Alex looked unhappy. “She’s dead. She had an … accident, shortly after I talked to her.”
Freya couldn’t help it. “And yet you still pursued it?” She got to her feet. “I don’t believe you, Alex. You’ve got a wife, two daughters … do you really want to leave them alone in the ‘verse?”
“I thought it was important. After what they did to you –“
“Thinking? I don’t imagine you were thinking at all! It just seemed like a game to you, something to play at. Well it isn’t. People are dying here, Alex.”
He could feel her glare right the way through to the back of his skull, and it set his teeth on edge. He stood up. “You think I don’t know that? You think I'm so cocooned in my life that I don’t know what’s happening in the real world?”
“I’d say that pretty much covers it.”
“You don’t know anything about me, Elena.” He put emphasis on the last word, knowing it would anger her.
“Freya,” she ground out. “My name is Freya. You call me by that name once more and I –“
“Are you two gonna fight? I mean, get down and dirty, maybe with kicking and gouging?” Mal asked sardonically, leaning back in his chair and resting one booted foot against the edge of the table. “’Cause if you are, you need to take this into the cargo bay. It’s easier to clean the blood.”
“Jayne would have put money on Freya,” River whispered, but they all heard.
“He will again, xiao nu.” Mal looked between his wife and brother-in-law and his face hardened. “As interesting as this promises to be, you’re gonna have to put it on hold for a while. When we’ve got Jayne back, got ourselves out of this mess, then you can get back to it. Hell, I’ll hold your coats.” He moved his foot and his chair settled to the floor again with a bang. “But right now we gotta focus, dong mah?”
Freya and Alex stared at each other, then she blinked. “I'm sorry.”
“No, I am.” Alex reached out tentatively. “This is all new to me, and it … it scares me. I didn’t mean to lash out at you.” He took her hand. “And I worry about you.”
She had to smile. “Worry about me? You’re the one trying to find dirt on the Alliance.”
“And you’re out here in the middle of nowhere being pursued by a madman.”
“Good point.” She lifted her chin. “Agree we’re both crazy?”
“We are twins.”
“I suppose we are.”
The tension in the room eased a notch.
“Shiny.” Mal nodded. “Now, can we get back to the business in hand?”
“You could call Jeremiah Smith,” Simon suggested. “He still owes you.”
“And he’s still Alliance. Necessity is one thing, but I ain’t asking those kinda questions of a man I don’t really know.”
“He saved my life,” Freya said quietly. “And … others.” She glanced towards the rest area, where Bethie’s gaze met hers.
“I ain't denying that. But it’s been a while since he was obligated, and he might just have forgotten. ‘Sides, there ain't no proof he ain't involved.”
“You think he is?” she asked.
“Andrew Brooks was. I ain't taking anything for granted at the moment.” He looked at the doctor. “Sorry, Simon.”
The young man didn’t take offence. “No, you’re right. That’s what Theo said, wasn't it? That you have to be very careful who you trust.”
“Well, right now, most of the folks I trust are in this room.”
“Except for Jayne,” River added, picking at the hem of her dress.
“I'm including him, albatross.”
“He will be pleased to hear that.”
“You’ll be able to tell him soon, River. I promise.”
Thank you, he heard in his head as she flashed a weak smile before going back to the threads hanging from the fabric. Then her head snapped up. “News,” she said, her tone sharp. She lowered her feet to the floor, now resembling nothing less than a hound waiting to be let loose on the prey.
“We got it!” Kaylee ran into the dining area, Hank at her heels.
Mal raised an eyebrow. “That was quick.”
“I expected them to be shielded, but they weren’t. We only needed to –“
“Them?” He interrupted before she could relapse into jargon. “There’s more than one?”
“More than one receiver, yes.” Kaylee put the tag down on the table, now with half its innards on display.
“No.” She shook her head. “And I can’t be accurate enough to say exactly where, just the general areas.”
“Good enough.” Mal stood up. “We split into two teams, each take one. Whichever one finds Jayne, shout.”
Zoe was already on her feet, checking the ammunition in her Mare’s Leg. “We’ll find him, River.”
The young psychic wasn’t looking at her. She wasn't looking at anyone, just staring into the distance, trying to see past metal and wiring to where her husband was being held, almost trembling with the control she was exhibiting over her muscles.
Mal put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly. “River, Alex, you’re with me. Zoe, take Dillon and Hank and -”
Freya’s head jolted up. “Wait a minute - what about me?”
“Need you here.”
“I’m coming, Mal. I -”
“There’s no way I’m gonna get River to stay, Frey. You know that. So I need someone I know can defend Serenity. Simon has to stay behind, in case we find Jayne – more central, you might say – but he’s none too happy still with a gun. So that leaves you.”
“Hank could -”
He sighed in exasperation. “Frey, we gonna have this argument every time? ‘Cause if we are, you let me know. Or better yet, let the bad guys know so they give us a few more minutes ‘fore they start cutting on Jayne.”
Her eyes flashed. “That’s low, Mal.”
“And I need you here.”
“I’ll stay,” Alex offered. “I was Osiris champion with a small bore.”
Mal looked at him, struck once again by the twins’ resemblance. “Alex, no offence, but I don’t trust you. You might be my brother-in-law, but I don’t know you, and your arrival here right now just tweaks the edge of coincidence a mite too much. I’d rather have you where I can keep an eye on you.” He turned back to Freya. “’Sides, Kaylee’s staying. I ain’t letting her search, not in her condition.”
The mechanic bristled, about to argue herself, but saw the look on his face. “I can try and narrow down the search area,” she offered.
“You do that.”
“Are we taking the shuttles?” Hank asked, feeling his heart beginning to beat faster.
“Mine’s back by the church,” Alex put in. “But it’s at your disposal.”
Mal considered. “Kaylee? How far?”
She stared down at the disembowelled tag. “Coupla miles. Maybe a bit more. Each side of town. Like I said, I can’t be too accurate.”
He stood straight. “Then no. Can’t afford to be letting ‘em know we’re looking, in case they decide to cut and run.” Inwardly he winced at the word cut. “Better give us the co-ordinates.”
Kaylee had been right. The location of the tag readers were either end of the town, and as they jogged around the back of the empty streets, Mal had time to consider why his instincts were suddenly telling him this was a bad idea. He glanced over at River, but she was focused, intent on getting to the men who took her man, on making them talk.
“How much further?” He spoke into the comlink in his hand.
“Close. Closer you get the more accurate readings I’m getting.” She seemed to have got over her annoyance at being left out of matters, probably because Freya was with her.
“There,” River said, pointing.
“You sure, albatross?” Mal asked.
“’Bout hundred yards in front of ya,” Kaylee confirmed.
It was a house – little more than a two-storey shack, really - with a red light above the door, now extinguished. There was no sign of life, but a window was open upstairs, and a thin net curtain was flapping slightly in the breeze.
“Okay,” Mal said into the com. “We’re going in. If you don’t hear from us in ten minutes, let Zoe know she’s going to have to perform that heroic rescue she always wanted to.”
“Yes sir, captain.” Kaylee’s voice died as he switched off the com.
“Mal, everything okay?” Alex asked, out of breath from not being used to such physical exercise. He noted the tightness around the other man’s mouth, more so than before.
“Only you look –“
“Just want to get this over with.” He looked at River. “No killing, dong mah? I want to talk to ‘em, not have to clean blood off my boots.”
She nodded then ran silently towards the back of the house.
At the other end of town, Zoe peered through grimy windows into a saloon, where desultory music filtered through the open door.
“Kaylee says you’re right on top of it,” Freya said, her voice sounding odd over the ether.
“Got them,” Zoe breathed. “I see four. No, five. Looks like they got paid and split up.” She felt Dillon touch her arm, saw him indicate he was going to take a look around. She nodded and he vanished on soft feet.
“Honey, this is wrong,” Hank whispered.
“Freya, let Mal know we’ve got –“
Her husband pulled at her arm. “Zoe, wait.”
She turned on him, cold anger freezing his blood. “What?”
“Why would they be here? Why aren’t they guarding Jayne?”
“Maybe they don’t need to.”
“No, listen. Jayne’s big and dangerous, and you don’t just let your men go out on the town, not when you know we’re going to be looking for you.” He leaned forward, his chest touching her arm. “They know, Zoe.”
She stared at him, then something of the horror he was suggesting filtered into her face. “Damn.” She lifted the com to her lips. “Freya.”
There was no response.
Hank took it from her, trying other frequencies, even checking the connections he could reach. “It’s fine,” he said.
“What is it?” Dillon asked, sidling back up to them.
“I think we’re being jammed.” He held the comlink up.
“Jammed?” Immediately the older man was on alert. “But that means –“
“You still might be wrong. We need to check.”
“Dillon and I will. You get back to Serenity.”
“We all do,” Dillon interrupted. “They aren’t armed, Zoe. And men like that would be, all the time.”
She didn’t even wait to think, just turned and ran back towards where they had left their home.
River kneeled on the man’s chest, pressing him back into the thin mattress. Binky was in her hand, touching his throat. “Where is Jayne?”
“What?” He couldn’t have looked more shocked at the turn of events. Two men and a woman, crashing into the room where he was enjoying the whore’s attentions, had put thoughts of sex right out of his mind. Right now he wasn’t even sure he was going to survive.
“Jayne. Big man. Beard. My husband.” She pushed with the knife, drawing a thin line of red against his flesh. “Where is he?”
“Wh … Who?” he stammered, eyes so wide they would have fallen from their sockets if he’d been standing.
“River, wait.” Mal moved forward, and the naked woman in the corner cowered even more. “Read him.”
She glanced up at him, questioning, but he motioned with his gun. Turning back to the man under her, she leaned forward, not really needing to get closer, but knowing she was likely to be more intimidating if she did. Then she pushed at his mind, through the fog surrounding her, physical contact making it easier to do what she needed. It was like swimming in fear, thick and cloying, clutching at her as she kicked her way below the surface.
Her eyes widened, and she sat back in surprise. “He doesn’t know,” she admitted.
“You mean they ain't told him?”
“No. He’s not part of it. He was given money by someone, and a small box.” She nodded towards the man’s pants on the floor.
Mal picked them up, rifling through the pockets, coming up with a handful of coin, a roll of bills and a metal container. He opened it. “Gorramit,”
“What? What is it?” Alex asked from the doorway.
Mal held it up, showing a tiny transmitter still blinking with the power Serenity was putting through it. “We’ve been set up.” He dropped everything in his hands and tugged the comlink from his coat. “Kaylee, you there?” There was no response. “Kaylee? Frey?”
There was nothing, not even static.
River was off the bed as if teleported, and by his side. “Danger,” she whispered.
He looked down into her dark eyes. “Who to? Us?”
She shook her head. “Them.”
Kaylee sat crossed-legged on the cargo-bay floor, staring at the portable Cortex screen in front of her. She’d rigged it so she could read the receivers without having to be on the bridge, wanting to be there when they brought Jayne home.
Next to her, sitting on the bench, Freya did a few lazy arm curls with one of the lighter weights.
“Did I tell you my Ma knew?” Kaylee said, still studying the screen.
“That I was pregnant. She knew before I did.”
“Your Ma’s gifted.”
“She said she could see it in my face.” She turned to look at Freya. “How’s my face any different?”
Freya smiled slightly. “You’re shining, Kaylee. Even now, worried about Jayne, you’re shining from the inside out. I’m not surprised your mother could tell.”
The young woman grinned. “Then how come you didn’t know?”
“Peeking is bad. Ask Bethie.” Freya laughed. “Besides, it’s an effort to see anything at the moment.”
“It’s getting better. Things aren’t quite so … woolly.” She glanced up towards shuttle two where they’d put all the children for safety. “Like I can tell Ben and Hope are asleep, as is Caleb. Bethie is dozing.”
“What about Ethan and Jesse?”
Freya’s smile widened. “They’re easy. Ethan is reading her a story.”
“He’s probably counting suture packets ready for Mal’s inevitable injury, but … I can’t tell.”
She shrugged. “He’s an adult, maybe. I don’t know. Adults have a lot more natural defences than children, since there’s a lot more going on in their minds at any one time. It creates a kind of … static.”
“Does it … does it hurt?” She’d always wanted to ask, worried Bethie might be in pain when she peeked. “I mean, when you have to read people.”
“No. But it’s like …” Freya searched for a suitable analogy. “You ever taken a capture that went wrong, and superimposed one image on top of another?”
“It’s a little like that. Seeing two things, both at the same time, and having to sort out which is which.”
“It sounds painful.”
“Okay, occasionally,” Freya admitted. “But you get used to it mostly.”
Kaylee smiled. “And I’m guessing it ain’t really like that, least not so easy.”
“Well, it’s usually multiple minds, it’s 3-D, there’s emotions, sounds, textures, smells … it’s complicated.” She laughed again. “You get good at filtering.”
“In which case I’m glad I ain’t psychic.”
“It can be useful. When it’s working.” Freya glanced down at the comlink in her hand. “You know, the others should really have called in by now.” She lifted it to her lips and pressed the button. “Zoe. You there?” There was only silence. She clicked the button a couple of times. “Zoe, you answer me.”
Kaylee tried with the other link. “Cap, are you listening?” At the lack of response she stared at the com, trying different frequencies and getting the same result. “You think they’re in trouble?” She looked up.
“Not … I …” Freya was trying to see, to contact Mal, but there was nothing. “I can’t tell.” This was so frustrating. She’d never had a problem with distance before, but now all she could pick up was River’s white anger, blinding her other senses. She stood up and ran for the stairs. “I’ll check the bridge, make sure the system isn’t down.”
Kaylee nodded, lifting the portable screen onto her lap. “I might be able to use this, boost the signal.”
“You do that.” She’d reached and stepped through the upper doorway when there was a noise as if something had hit Serenity’s hull. “What the hell was that?” she murmured, turning back. “Kaylee? What are you … wait!”
The young mechanic was on her feet, peering through the small window in the airlock door. “It’s Jayne!” she said excitedly, slamming her hand down on the controls.
“No! Stop!” Freya ran down the metal staircase, her gun in her hand, but Kaylee had already slipped through the widening gap and was outside in the Ephesian sunshine.
“Momma, wait!” Bethie yelled from the shuttle, trying to untangle her legs from the blankets.
Kaylee half-turned, hearing her daughter’s voice inside her head, but something stung the side of her neck.
“Kaylee!” Freya reached for her, but she was too late. Way, way too late.
Simon, alerted by Bethie’s shout, hurried into the cargo bay. He staggered to a halt by the open doors, seeing no sign of his wife or Freya. Only Jayne, tumbled into the dust.
to be continued
Saturday, July 19, 2008 4:27 AM
Saturday, July 19, 2008 4:41 AM
Saturday, July 19, 2008 7:23 AM
Saturday, July 19, 2008 2:11 PM
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