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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Maya. Post-BDM. Machinations in Blue Sun, and Serenity is learning to live without its children. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1179 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Two days previously …
Chiang Goff glanced around the other members of the small sub-committee, and sighed. As one of the Parliamentary representatives to Blue Sun, he found it increasingly tedious to deal with these scientific types, and was close to forgetting he was a politician. However, he held back on saying exactly what he thought of them, and merely listened to the conversation.
“And she was able to direct them?” Amelia Ross asked, peering over the top of her glasses at the man on the vidscreen.
Goff looked down at his hand, making a mental note with one part of his mind to have a manicure appointment made, while another part wondered why Ms Ross didn’t just have corrective surgery on her vision. Probably just liked the effect, he decided. There certainly couldn’t be any other reason why she hid her curves in that ridiculous white coat, nor put her hair up in a bun at the back of her neck. He entertained himself for a moment with picturing her naked, her reddish-brown locks draped over pearly white shoulders, glasses held in one long-fingered hand, tapping against bright red lips as she gave a lecture in front of an audience of one. Namely, him.
“Yes, with surprising accuracy.” Dr Forrest Petty looked satisfied, like a cat who’d just cleaned the bowl of cream. “The mission fell well within acceptable parameters, and although there was some resistance the withdrawal was completed on schedule.”
He made it sound like an exercise, Goff thought. Although to Petty it probably was. Still, it was time to take matters forward. He coughed slightly, getting everyone’s attention, before speaking, his voice carrying clearly. “Dr Petty, I am sure we are all fascinated by your findings, but I for one fail to see any concrete proof. None at all.”
The new link was working well, making it possible to have an almost real-time conversation with the facility, and there was only a slight delay before Dr Petty responded.
“I actually don’t understand your comments,” he said. “My report was perfectly clear. How can I not have furnished you with proof?”
“How do we know this wasn’t just coincidence?” Goff asked. “This experiment of yours doesn’t seem to me to have been observed by anyone but yourself, and I for one find that … disturbing.”
“Are you doubting my veracity?” Dr Petty was getting angry.
“Of course not.” Goff smiled. “But you have to understand, a great deal of money has been put into this project. If there is any likelihood that you have mistaken luck for control, then we must -”
“I can assure you, there was no luck. The subject was in control for the whole time.”
“Really. And yet I see that there were a number of children listed among the dead. I was of the belief that such civilian casualties were to be kept to a minimum. And that the test sites were to be those most strongly linked with the Independent movement. As far as I can see, this latest was simply a collection of homes.”
“Casualties fell within accepted constraints, and as for -”
“However, I am more concerned with your comment that there was resistance to the withdrawal. That suggests you don’t have the full control you have been working for. Or claim.”
“There are bound to be some setbacks in any work, and in this -”
“I wish to see her.”
Petty stared out of the screen. “What?”
“The girl. I wish to have a more … first hand experience. We will choose a test site together, and then I -” He stopped, and swung his hand around to include the entire sub-committee. “ … we can watch from start to finish. Nothing like seeing it for oneself, is there?”
“That is impossible.”
“I’m sure that isn’t the case.”
“She can’t be moved. This entire facility has been designed around her, and it simply isn’t feasible to consider moving her.”
“Not even for a few days?”
“That is … unfortunate. In so many more ways than you can possibly imagine.”
Petty was going red in the face. “Are you threatening me?”
“Of course not.” Goff smiled, at the same time noting with some satisfaction that none of his other committee members were standing up for the good doctor, not even Amelia Ross. “And I’m sure I don’t have to.”
“I honestly don’t think -”
“Dr Quintana wouldn’t have been so difficult,” Goff pointed out.
Petty bridled. “Dr Quintana is no longer in charge of this project.”
“And you are simply by the good auspices of this committee.”
“I’ll have you know my qualifications are -”
Goff spoke over him. “Undoubtedly excellent, Dr Petty, I am sure. But I am merely pointing out that you are an employee, and as such are our responsibility. As is the girl.” He leaned forwards, his hands clasped lightly on the mahogany table top. “We wish to see her. Meet her. Make sure that this …” He nodded towards the bound reports. “… is an accurate representation.”
“Member Goff, she doesn’t see anyone except myself and my technicians. Her abilities are … unpredictable. I can’t necessarily guarantee -”
“But you have guaranteed. Your progress reports haven’t given any indication that she is unreliable.”
Petty quickly backtracked. “I didn’t say that. But I have no idea how having strangers in close proximity may affect her.”
“Then perhaps it is time we found out.”
He tried once more. “But we are so close to our final goal -”
Even now, Goff wouldn’t let him finish, his voice hard. “Tell me, Dr Petty. Did you really believe we would allow the first full strike against these Independents to be directed from your facility? When the war starts - and it will, very soon, I can assure you - the girl will have to be here on Osiris anyway, well away from any fighting or possibility of exposure.” He softened his tone. “You knew this day was coming, Dr Petty.”
“But so soon, I -”
“Just think of it as … foresight.” Goff looked around the other members, all of them nodding in agreement with him like so many sheep. “You are to bring her here. A supply ship will be docking at your facility in less than twenty-four hours. You and anyone you see fit are to be on it when it leaves. The captain will have my orders to bring you to Osiris.” He leaned forward. “I’m sure that will give you sufficient time to make any arrangements that are necessary. Thank you so much for your co-operation, Dr Petty.” He hit the main switch, and the screen went blank, cutting the doctor off before he had a chance to complain.
“Member Goff, I know you have your reasons, but is it necessary to treat Dr Petty in this fashion?” Amelia Ross asked, looking over her glasses at him.
Goff stood up, allowing his expensive silk suit to fall smoothly into place. “I am merely doing my job. As you should be.” He picked up his papers, sliding them into the leather briefcase. “You have a little over a week to prepare. I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to have to inform my superiors that you are procrastinating. They would be most displeased.”
“No, no, of course not. Everything will be ready.”
Inwardly Goff sighed. Even the threat of those higher up was enough to make these wimps tremble in their seats. “Very well, then.” He smiled. “I’ll be in touch.”
He walked away from the table, closing the door firmly behind him, but waiting just outside. As anticipated, as soon as they thought he’d gone the sub-committee erupted.
“Who does he think he is?” came one voice.
“Telling us what we have to do. We’re scientists,” came another.
“We should report him. The Chairman would be furious if he found out how we are being treated.”
“If he’s not careful, it could be him on one of my slabs.”
“I really think we should …”
Goff strode down the corridor, not needing to hear any more, although he was interested to note that Amelia Ross had stayed silent. She, at least, knew better than to vocalise her displeasure, and quite rightly too. Never know who might be listening in.
He tapped the handle of his briefcase, the tiny recording device doing its work as he left them to it. Stepping out into the bright Osiran sunshine, he looked up into the perpetually blue sky and allowed himself a cold smile. “Time to come home, Mara Tam,” he murmured. “Time to come home.”
“Hank, I know you love your job, but it’s pretty much time for breakfast,” Mal said as he climbed the steps to the bridge.
“There’s been another one.”
“Reaver attack.” The pilot turned back to the screen, his grey eyes tight as he scanned the information. “I’ve picked up some traffic out near Highgate. Greenleaf was hit, three days ago.”
Mal leaned over his shoulder and read for himself. “Gorramit. Same as the others.”
“It’s more like a surgical strike than a hit, though,” Hank said worriedly. “I mean, they left survivors, and Reavers don’t do that. Thing is, if they hadn’t, I doubt anyone’d believe it was Reavers at all.”
“Any sign they took a detour and headed for Jangyin?”
Hank looked up. “You thinking about Simon Cobb?”
“Might have crossed my mind.”
“Then no. They just vanished again, like the boogeymen of folk tales.”
“They’re very real, Hank.”
“Oh, I know that. Ain't gonna forget what happened on Corvus any time soon.”
“What about Sam’s daughter? She lives on Greenleaf.”
“Nah, I checked that too. It was a small township out in the middle of nowhere got it. She lives in the city. I think she’s safe.”
“Township?” Mal felt a familiar tightening in his gut as he glanced back at the screen. “It doesn’t say which one. Can you find out?”
“Already did.” Hank shook his head. “Some place called Fogle’s Creek. Kinda like the sound of it, but I doubt …” His eyes narrowed slightly. “That mean something to you?”
“No. Why should it?”
“Because you went about as pale as you can get, given your natural pallor.”
“Mal. Look, I’m just the pilot, but we’re all in this together. You gonna tell me?”
Mal looked down into Hank’s grey eyes, and realised there was no point in lying. “I know some folks live there.”
“Really?” Hank swallowed. “Hey, look, I’m sorry. You want me to find out if they’re okay?”
“Probably not a good idea, since we’re supposed to be staying under the radar.”
“Yeah, but if they’re your friends -”
“Old soldiers, Hank. Clay Fogle and I were in the same unit when I first joined up. He stopped me making too much of a fool of myself when I was so wet behind the ears I left puddles if I stood still too long. Him and Solly Hancock.” Mal sat down in the co-pilot’s seat, staring into the black. “When the war ended they decided to make themselves a place, got together with some like-minded folk and took themselves out to Greenleaf. Set up a little bit called home. Fogle’s Creek. Ain’t seen ‘em in a long time.”
“Mal, I can find out -”
“No. Like I said, they were soldiers. And either they’re dead now or they ain’t, and if they’re not then they’re helping those that got hit.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Mal took a deep breath. “When this is done, though, maybe we’ll swing by. See if there’s anything they need.”
“Good idea.” Hank watched his captain for a moment. “Mal … this sounds like more of what we’ve heard about. Hitting ex-Browncoats. Taking out possible threats to the Alliance.”
“Fogle’s Creek was a threat to no-one, but I take your point. Tends to make me even more sure Niska wasn’t lying when he talked about control.”
“Well, that’s why we’re out here, isn’t it? Why we left the kids with Inara.”
“You’re right about that.”
“So shouldn’t we go and take a look? Maybe find a lead? Something to follow?”
“We don’t want to go where they’ve been,” Mal said with a sigh. “We need to stop ‘em getting to the next one by working out the why and the who.”
“And just exactly how are you planning on doing that?” Hank sounded more exasperated than usual. “I mean, I know you’re captain and all, but you got any idea where to start looking? I mean, it‘s a gorram big ‘verse out there, and if you‘re looking for one girl -”
“Not one girl, Hank. Whoever’s doing this has to have an organisation behind them, and I’m sure hoping it’s the Alliance.”
“Why? So you can take another pop at them?”
“No. But something as big as the Alliance has weak spots, and weak spots can give sometimes, haemorrhage information. And we’ve got a head start.”
“How do you figure that?”
“We know it’s a girl. That’s cut out half the population at a stroke.”
Hank looked disgusted at his captain‘s bad attempt at a joke. “Oh, ha ha.”
“And we’ve got friends in some very high places,” Mal added, smiling slightly. “And more in low ones. They’re looking.”
“And if they find it? Find her? What then? Do you have a plan?”
Mal shrugged, gazing out at the stars. “Still working on it.”
“’Cause if it’s just a case of snatch -”
Serenity’s captain turned back. “Hank, whatever happens, you and I both know it ain’t gonna be that easy.”
“No,” Hank admitted. “No, I was afraid of that. So we’re just gonna do our usual? Play it by ear? Basically wing it?”
“More or less.”
“Oh, good,” Hank said with feigned approval barely hiding his discomfort. “Just so's I know.”
Mal stood up. “Look, I wish I had a whole scheme worked out, but we’re gonna have to take things one step at a time. And Parth is first.”
“Speaking of which, what’s our ETA?”
Hank checked his systems. “Should be pulling into orbit in about thirty hours.”
“Good. Then there’s time for breakfast. Come on, otherwise your wife’ll be giving me those dagger looks because she thinks I’m starving you.”
“I’ll be along,” Hank promised. “Just want to check things again.”
“It won’t have changed in the last five minutes,” Mal pointed out.
“Fine. But when Zoe starts complaining that you’ve fainted from lack of food, I’ll gladly say it’s all your own fault.”
“Fine, fine.” Hank turned back, then called over his shoulder, “You want me to pass the info to Sam? About Greenleaf getting hit?”
Mal paused in the doorway. “I don’t think so. It’d only worry him, and he can’t exactly do anything about it. Besides, under the radar, remember?”
“Under the radar,” Hank repeated. “Yeah, got it.”
Mal dropped down the steps and was about to head to the galley when he heard a slight sound from his bunk, and realised Freya was still down there. “Hey,” he called. “Chow’s up.”
She didn’t respond.
Still no answer. With a slight thread of unease curling around his belly, Mal climbed down the ladder, and realised why Freya hadn’t heard him. She was standing by the bed, something clutched to her chest, her head down.
She jerked, looking around as if she didn’t quite know where she was. “What?”
“What are you doing?” he asked.
She licked her lips and lifted up a tiny stretchy sleepsuit. “I … uh … I was just going through some of the old baby clothes, see if anything might be useful for Kaylee.” She put it down, picking up something knitted and fluffy instead. “I mean, these little booties have a lot of life left in them, and Kaylee will be able to -”
Mal crossed the room and put his arms around her, pulling her into him. “It’s okay, Frey. They’ll be fine.”
“That’s why we did it, isn’t it?” Freya said, looking up into his blue eyes. “Why we left them.”
“That’s why,” Mal agreed. “You know, I’ve seen Kaylee going around this past day or so with red eyes, but I thought you were stronger’n that.”
“Seems not.” She sniffed hard. “They’re my children, Mal. Our children.”
“And they’re going to be okay with Inara and Sam. You’ll see them soon.” He took the booties from her, remembering the day Badger had given them to him. Odd, but he had never gotten around to telling Freya where they came from. Now, though, he held them up, waggling them slightly. “And, you know, we’re gonna need these. Next time around. For ours.”
“You think there’s going to be more?” She turned to gaze fully into his face.
He smiled, knowing talk of more children could often pull her out of her darkness, even if it was only so she could tell him he was an idiot. “Of course there is,” he said, being entirely truthful. “You promised me hundreds, and I ain’t letting you renege on that.”
“If you think we’re going to … while all this is going on …”
“No. Not quite. But we can practice.” He dipped his lips to touch hers.
“I thought you said it was breakfast?”
“Not hungry. You?”
She didn’t answer, just fastened her mouth on his and wrapped her arms around him, letting his body heat warm her through.
Over in shuttle two, Jayne was having to deal with his own wife, who showed no signs on wanting to get out of bed. Or wake up, for that matter, although the twitching and whimpering she was doing was damaging his calm somewhat.
“Moonbrain?” Jayne pushed her shoulder again, ready to get out of the way if she became in the least bit violent. “Riv? You’re dreaming.”
She flinched, her mouth open, her eyes twitching beneath their lids as she tried to surface. Finally she managed to pry them open enough to look at him. “Go away.”
He smiled, not the leering grin he used to use on women, but the sensitive one he kept just for her. “Time for breakfast.”
“No, it isn’t.” She grabbed the blanket and rolled over, hugging herself into a little ball.
“What were you dreaming about? ‘Cause it didn’t seem to be the kinda thing you’d want to go back to.”
“Not dreaming. Sleeping.”
“Nope. Dreaming. And making little noises at that.”
She glared over her shoulder at him. “What sort of noises?”
“Like you were in pain.”
Now she could see the concern on his face, and she turned back to him. “Not in pain,” she said. “Only dreaming.”
“Something coming?” he asked, moving closer on his knees so that he could push her hair from her face.
“No. Yes.” Her brow furrowed. “I don’t know. Like a shadow. A dopple. A mirror.”
“You really were only dreaming.” Jayne smiled with relief and stood up. “Come on. Breakfast is ready.”
“You go. I need to wash.” She stretched under the blanket, and he laughed as he made his way out of the shuttle.
“You never get dirty,” he threw back over his shoulder.
She watched him disappear, then lay back onto the pillow. Now she was awake, she really didn't want to go back into the dreams. She stared into the ceiling above, trying to remember exactly what it was that had made her whimper.
Oh, she knew she’d been scared all right, trying to hide from something that walked barefoot through the corridors, with the impression of long dark hair and bottomless eyes hiding behind it.
She shivered. Maybe she should talk to someone ... but who would listen? Simon would just say she was picking up on the crew’s anxiety, and offer her a smoother. Mal would ask more pertinent questions, but there was nothing to tell him over trouble was coming, and he knew that already. Even Freya could only offer suggestions in control, and that probably wasn’t going to help right now.
No. Better she not say anything until there was something concrete to pass on. Still ... She got out of bed and picked up her sketch pad, sitting cross-legged on the floor and letting her pencil run across the page. She stared at it, something familiar and disturbing about it, trying to read beyond the soft strokes into the meaning behind it.
“Riv? You coming or am I gonna have to carry you?” Jayne’s voice broke into her reverie, and she glanced at the shuttle’s chronometer, surprised that a full ten minutes had gone past.
“Coming!” she shouted back, closing the pad before scrabbling to her feet and picking up her dress. Pausing only long enough to slip it over her head and step into a pair of panties, she ran out barefoot to join her husband for breakfast.
The pad slid to the floor behind her, flipping open to the page she’d been working on. A half-formed face, barely more than a pair of eyes and the impression of lips, with the same phrase written a dozen times around it. ‘Time to come home’ … ‘time to come home’ … And one other word, something that had meant nothing, but had seemed so very important. Mara.
to be continued
Monday, August 25, 2008 5:15 AM
Monday, August 25, 2008 6:01 AM
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