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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The heist goes on, but some unexpected and unwanted visitors drop in. My apologies for the delay. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1812 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“I was twenty,” Breed said, sitting back in his chair and smiling in remembrance. “She was a year younger than me but she’d been on board the old Lancaster for almost two years already, doing whatever was needed.”
“Why do I find the idea of the phrase ‘whatever was needed’ somewhat daunting?” Alex asked, nursing his brandy.
They’d just enjoyed a rather good dinner, and he and Breed had gone to wait for Dillon who had been called to an urgent wave. The windows in the drawing room of the summer estate house were open, letting in cool Persephone air that was delicately perfumed with the scent of nightshade and twilight roses.
Breed managed to look innocent, running his hand through his short, black hair. “I gather she hasn’t told you about the things she got up to?”
“She doesn’t tell me what she’s doing now, let alone before.” Alex shook his head somewhat ruefully. “If truth be told, we haven’t really spent enough time together to be comfortable. A few days in twenty odd years … well, it isn’t sufficient.”
“Yes, it is strange to think that I’ve had more time with her since she was a child than you have.”
Alex sipped his brandy. “Actually, I am curious as to why you were on that ship in the first place. You don’t seem the type.”
“You’re well-bred, possibly even Core.” As soon as he’d said it, Alex wondered if he hadn’t overstepped some boundary or other.
Luckily Breed laughed. “Core, yes. Well-bred … that’s another matter. The former is probably why Frey and I became friends in the first place, or at least why we gravitated towards one another. But I hope we’ve stayed friends because we like each other.”
“Oh, I think that’s the case.” Alex grinned. “So what was she –“
Any further conversation was disrupted by Dillon throwing the door open and storming into the room.
“Cao ni zuzong shi ba dai!” he swore, dropping into one of the other armchairs with all the grace of a leaden weight.
“Problems?” Breed asked quietly. He knew his lover, and that kind of swearing meant Dillon was more than aggravated.
“Emerson just got back to me. He’s got some information I really need to pass on to Mal, but …” He leaned forward, his hands tightly clasped in front of him. “I can’t wave him, I can’t get anyone to pass on a message …” He looked intensely annoyed. “How the diyu am I supposed to contact that stupid hwoon dahn?”
“Well, there is one option,” Alex said slowly. “If what you’ve found out is really important.”
“I think it is.” Dillon’s lips twitched. “But are you willing? I mean, if what we suspect is true, it could be seriously dangerous.”
Alex gazed at him steadily. “Dillon, it’s my sister out there. My brother-in-law. My family.” He stressed the last word. “I walked into the lion’s den before for them. What makes you think I won’t again?”
For a moment Dillon didn‘t answer, then, “There really must be something in the water on Osiris to turn out a pair like you two,” he said finally, relaxing just a shade. “Your ship?”
“She can ready to go in a couple of hours. Just need to make sure she’s fuelled and got enough supplies to last us a while.” He paused. “Do you have any idea where to begin looking?”
“Are you going to tell me?”
“Not until we’re on board.” Dillon glanced around the room. “I'm not saying we’re bugged, but nowadays I don’t want to take the chance.”
Alex got to his feet, placing his brandy glass carefully on the table. “Then I’ll make sure we’re carrying as much as we can.” He strode out of the room, purpose in his step.
Breed looked at his lover. “I take it this is really important,” he said softly.
“I think so.”
“Then don’t tell me. Just in case. We can talk on the voyage.”
Dillon’s eyebrows raised. “You’re coming with me?”
“Of course.” He slid to his knees and crossed the small distance between them, resting his chin on the other man’s bent leg. “One, I’m not letting you go without me again. Two, I’m damn good with a gun, as you well know –“
“I know,” Dillon said, running his fingers lightly across Breed’s cheek.
“Good. Three, Freya is my oldest friend. And four … I'm not letting you go without me again.”
“You already said that.”
“I mean it double.”
Dillon sighed. “If you get hurt –“
“You just told Alex this is going to be dangerous. I understand that. And I’m prepared for it. I'm not a hot-house flower, you know.”
“Breed, darling, I have never considered you to be anything other than you are.”
“And what’s that?”
In response Dillon leaned over and kissed him gently. “You’re mine,” he whispered.
Zoe looked up at the bulk of the hospital, lit windows illuminating it against the night sky, and adjusted her uniform a little. It was really an inch too short in the body, but if she didn’t do a lot of bending she should be okay.
“How’s reception?” she asked, apparently into thin air.
“Good,” Hank said tinnily in her ear.
“Me too,”Freya echoed.
Jayne strode up behind her. “We ready?” he asked, his deep voice low in the still air.
“Ready.” She led the way into the hospital, her clipboard held in front of her breasts like a shield. She strode up to the desk, Jayne at her back like a shadow.
“Yes?” the attendant behind asked, not even bothering to look up from her screen.
Zoe dropped the two IDs onto the desk in front of her, praying they were as good as the man they collected them from had promised. “Annual Alliance maintenance survey,” she said succinctly. “Please inform your manager that we’re here.”
The woman looked up in surprise. “But you’re not due for –“
“Of course not,” Zoe snapped back. “But if we always came when we were due, it would give you far too much opportunity to paper over the cracks, wouldn’t it?”
“There are no –“
“Well, that’s for me to find out, isn’t it?” Her voice had lowered a tone, and there was ice in it.
“Yes, I …” The woman attempted to regain her poise. “If you wouldn’t mind just waiting here …” She hurried away down the corridor, leaving her colleagues to stare openly at the newcomers.
“I think you scared her,” Jayne murmured. “Hell, you scared me.”
“Yeah, but that’s ‘cause you’re a pussycat,” Hank said in both their ears.
Zoe saw the look on the ex-mercenary’s face. “Hubby.”
“Don’t rile the big man,” she muttered. “He doesn’t like it.”
The woman came back accompanied by a man in a navy suit which he was hurriedly buttoning. “I’m Doctor Naylor, the hospital administrator,” he said. “And you are …?”
“Here to inspect your equipment,” Zoe finished, flashing her ID again. “Unless you’re not prepared, and I have to file a report stating that -”
“No, no, of course we’re ready,” Naylor interrupted hurriedly. “I wouldn’t want to … that is, I mean to say …” He took a deep breath, aware he wasn’t giving a very good impression of himself. “What would you like to see first?”
Zoe glanced down at her clipboard, mentally thanking any convenient deity that scaring folks a little made them that much more pliable. “The Holoimager.”
Naylor nodded. “Of course. Of course. This way.”
“Full run!” Kaylee announced, laying down her cards and grinning widely.
River stared at them, then at her own hand, and sighed. “You win,” she murmured. “Again.”
Kaylee gathered up the cards, and looked at her friend, her own good humour dimming a little. “What is it, sweetie? Are you upset because you haven’t been able to beat me today? I mean, I know that ain’t usual, so … Look, we can always play something else. Jacks, maybe. Or … or Double Clock, or …” She watched River glance towards her sketch pad. “Or maybe you could just show me what you’ve been drawing.”
The young woman looked up guiltily. “Drawing?”
“You keep looking at it. I just thought there might be something you wanted me to see.”
“No.” River licked her lips. “And I’m sorry. I’m not good company.”
“You’re worried about Jayne, I know that.” Kaylee patted her friend on the hand. “But he’ll be fine. Simon worked out this plan, and it’s gonna be easy as pie.”
“Simon is jing tsai at planning,” River admitted, a smile beginning to form on her lips. “Just not so brilliant at not putting his foot in his mouth.”
Kaylee laughed. “He’s getting better at that.”
“Still a boob.”
“Yeah, but he’s my boob.”
River nodded. “But I am sorry. I feel … odd.”
They hadn’t talked about what had happened, skirting carefully around the issue of the number of legs a person should have as much as possible, but now Kaylee felt the opening was there, waiting.
“How … odd?” she asked. “Like it ain’t just you?”
River was surprised at the insight. “Yes. More than me. Double. Mirror image.”
“You ain’t pregnant again, are you?” Kaylee touched her own belly, the intense feeling of joy that she experienced every time she thought of the new life inside her body warming her through.
River smiled slightly at the overflow reaching her, but said, “I don’t think so.”
“You could always get Simon to check.”
“But I knew last time. Felt … divided.”
“No. This is different.” River tried to put it into words. “Not part of me. More like … another me.”
“I don’t think I see the difference,” Kaylee admitted.
“Like the sun is a double helix, an electron pair split and half a universe apart …” River stopped, all too keenly aware of the confused look on Kaylee’s face. She sighed again, then lifted her head as the note of Serenity‘s engine changed. “We’re landing,” she said.
“See?” Kaylee said, relaxing somewhat. “Jayne’ll soon be back on board, then Frey and you can go do whatever it is you do to make you feel better again.”
“Perhaps.” River managed a smile, then it widened as Kaylee’s stomach rumbled loudly.
The young mechanic laughed, looking down. “I guess I’m hungry.”
River leaped to her feet. “Food for the baby!” she said, the most genuine grin she’d had for a while breaking across her face. “I’ll make something!” She picked up her sketchpad and ran out.
“No, look, I didn’t mean -” Kaylee followed her.
“No chillies,” the young woman promised, heading for the galley.
Up on the bridge Mal was watching Hank bring them in to land in the park, exactly as Kaylee had suggested. She’d been right - it was huge, so big that they could only just see the dim lights of civilisation around the edge.
As Hank cut the engines, he said conversationally, “It ever occur to you to wonder why most of these planets have the same name as the major city?”
“I mean, this is Parth, and out there’s Parth City. There’s Ariel, and Ariel City, then there’s -”
“What?” He turned to look at his captain.
“I know you like to talk when you get nervous, but you’re not helping.”
“Did I say I was nervous?”
“It’s warm in here.”
Mal crossed his arms. “Right.”
“No, really. I was thinking of getting Kaylee to check the environmental controls, because I’m sure the temperature’s gone up in the past few days, ‘cause I know it’s not -”
“It’s okay to be worried,” Mal interrupted again.
“Worried?” Hank shook his head. “I’m not worried.”
“No? It’s your wife out there.”
“And yours,” Hank pointed out.
“And I worry.”
This time Hank’s eyebrows threatened to disappear into his hair. “You do?”
“I just don’t talk about it all the time.”
“No, sorry. I get that.” The pilot managed to smile. “I just feel … split, you know? Zoe out there, Ben on Lazarus … It just feels wrong.”
“Yeah. But Inara’s taking good care of the kids, you know that.”
“Doesn’t help, does it?”
“No,” Mal agreed, wondering if his children were missing him as much as he missed them. “No, it doesn’t.”
No, he heard Freya echo mournfully in his mind.
Zoe stared at yet another piece of equipment and began to wish they’d gone with Mal’s usual method of going in, armed to the teeth, and demanding they hand it across. Anything but this. Jayne had glazed over long since, just letting his natural tracking abilities take control, pretending that as long as he was patient he was going to be able to kill something at the end.
“And of course our technicians are more than capable of fixing anything minor, and we know we can call on the Alliance if something should need more extensive repairs.” Naylor opened another door, leading the way through.
Zoe felt Jayne stiffen at her back as he recognised the machine sitting snugly against the wall.
“My God.” She put enough shocked surprise into her voice that Naylor turned to stare at her.
“What? What is it?”
“The VS896 Mark II,” she read off the side. “And it’s still connected?”
“Why shouldn’t it be?”
“Do you want your hospital closed down? Half your patients dying on you?” She walked up and began to ostensibly examine the equipment.
“It’s just a ViroStim. We hardly ever use it, except in cases of emergency.”
“Well, you’re lucky. Damn lucky.”
“Are you sure?” Naylor peered at the ViroStim. “It looks perfectly all right to me.”
“If we’d known you had this model, we’d have come here first,” Zoe said, not quite accusing him of anything, but making it plain that she thought it was his fault. “Haven’t you been reading the bulletins?”
“Bulletins?” Naylor looked confused. “We don’t get -”
“You don’t receive them?“ Zoe shook her head, glancing at Jayne. “Heads are going to roll for this.”
“Sure are,” the big man rumbled, and Naylor got the distinct impression he was the one going to do the beheading.
“So this is actually … dangerous?”
Zoe sighed, somewhat dramatically. “There have been instances of entire wards being infected.”
“Infected? What with?”
She looked around. “I’m not actually allowed to say, but the vaccines that have been produced in these models can leave behind traces that combine and … well, you wouldn’t want to see the effects.”
Naylor swallowed, his imagination supplying in abundance what she hadn‘t said. “What … what should we do with it?”
“Disconnect it immediately. We’ll take it with us.”
“With you? But -”
“We can decontaminate it much more effectively ourselves back at headquarters, then dispose of it safely.”
Naylor clicked his fingers three times, then again with more urgency, and a technician hurried forward. “Do as they say,” he ordered.
“Yes sir.” The technician gingerly began to disengage the power supply, trying to touch it as little as possible.
“You know, I haven’t heard anything about any accidents,” Naylor said, hands wringing in front of him. “And I’m sure I’d -”
“Do you honestly expect the Alliance to broadwave it?” Zoe asked in turn. “The number of deaths alone would have caused a panic.”
“Oh. I see.” He motioned to the technician to hurry up. “And … the rest of the inspection?”
She looked at him, her face impassive. “Dr Naylor, I‘m choosing to believe that you did not receive the bulletins. I’m also giving you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t just ignore them. And I am hoping we caught this in time. I’m doing you a favour here by taking this off your hands.”
“I … I understand that.”
“And to that end I will recommend that your annual inspection is resumed in a few days.” She glanced at Jayne. “It won’t be us, and I suggest you treat the new inspectors as if we hadn’t been here. For your own good.”
“Sir.” The tech had straightened up. “It’s ready.”
“Then get the lifter.” Naylor was sharp, taking out his anxiety on his subordinate. “I shouldn’t have to be telling you your job.”
“No, sir.” The man hurried out.
Zoe held out her clipboard and pen. “Now, if you’d just sign here, stating that we have your permission to take the malfunctioning equipment off your hands …”
“Sign?” Naylor almost squeaked.
“Of course. We wouldn’t want you to be left high and dry, would we? Otherwise folks might think you allowed us to steal it.”
He gulped air and grabbed the pen, signing his name in a large, somewhat shaky, flourish. “There.”
Zoe allowed a smile to crack her face. “Then everything is in order.” She put her arm around his shoulders. “Why don’t you go back to your office? We’ll take care of the rest of it.”
“Yes, perhaps I … I do have a great deal of paperwork to be getting on with,” Naylor agreed, backing away from her. “And I’ll be looking into the matter of the bulletins, don‘t you worry. Of course, it is always possible that my secretary has neglected to pass them on to me.” He tossed the Christian to the lions. “If that’s the case then I will reprimand her severely.”
Jayne reached out and flicked the pen from between his nerveless fingers. “You do that,” he growled in his best intimidating manner.
“Yes. Yes.” Naylor straightened his suit. “Just … carry on.” He turned and almost fled down the corridor.
“I think he’s going to change his underwear,” Jayne said, his lips in a twisted grin.
“Just so long as we get what we came here for,” Zoe responded, not intending to relax until they were back on board Serenity.
Kaylee watched River preparing a quick meal from various protein packs and some of her mother’s home-baked bread. It had frozen really well, and made food that could have been sometimes bland seem like a feast.
River cut the bread carefully into even slices, spreading it sparingly with one of Mrs Boden’s contributions, a tomato relish that lit fires in the belly. To do so she’d had to put down her pad, and Kaylee idly picked it up, flicking through the pages. She smiled at the images of the children, laughing and playing, but the pang of the emptiness of the ship without them gnawed at her a little. Then she turned to the last sketch.
“This is?” she asked softly. “What you didn’t want no-one to see?”
River turned quickly, the knife in her hand. “It doesn’t quantify.” She reached for the pad, then realised and put the blade down. “Please.”
“It’s just a drawing,” Kaylee said. “Won’t hurt you.”
“It’s my dreams,” she tried to explain. “What I see. But I don’t understand it.”
“Then maybe we can figure it out together.” Kaylee held the pad at arm’s length, her head slightly on one side. “Kinda looks like you,” she admitted.
“I … suppose it does.” River hadn’t really thought about it, but as she looked over her sister-in-law’s shoulder, she could see the resemblance.
“That why you’ve been talking about mirrors? You seeing yourself reflected somehow?”
River bit the inside of her thumb. “I don’t think so.”
“And who’s Mara?” Kaylee put the pad onto the worktop. “I mean, it’s a pretty name, n’all. Sounds familiar, though.”
“Simon uses it sometimes,” River said distantly, working on the skin. “When he has to go somewhere and not be a Tam.”
“Oh, sure, that’s right.” Kaylee shook her head. “Simon Mara. I shoulda remembered.” She chuckled slightly. “You think being pregnant again is gonna kill off what few brain cells I got left?”
“Too many to …” River’s voice faded, her eyes staring beyond the bulkhead.
“Honey? Everything okay?” Kaylee sat up, concerned. “You need Simon?”
In response River sprang around the counter, running hard and silent for the bridge.
The tech manoeuvred the lifter through the door onto the landing pad, Jayne assisting where he could. The air was colder than before, and a chill breeze was beginning to blow.
“Be glad to get back inside,” the man said, pushing it forward. “I could just do with a hot mug of …” His voice faded away as he saw the shuttle waiting. “Wait a minute. What’s this?” he asked suspiciously.
“Our transport,” Jayne explained, then walked into the lifter as it powered down. “Gorram it!” he muttered, having banged his knee on the support.
“This isn’t an official shuttle.” The tech looked from one to the other, edging backwards, away from them.
Freya leaned out of the doorway, the light behind her. “Is there a problem?” she asked.
“No, no problem,” Zoe said, looking at the technician. “This one’s a spare. Our usual’s down for repairs.”
“I think I’d better get Dr Naylor to check those details again.” He reached for the emergency button.
Jayne grabbed his wrist. “Don’t be making a nuisance of yourself,” he said quietly.
The tech stared at him, then opened his mouth to yell for assistance.
“Hell,” Zoe muttered, swinging her fist and catching him on the chin, knocking him off his feet so that only Jayne‘s grip stopped him from hitting the concrete. “Is he out?” she asked.
Jayne felt his pulse, then lowered him to the ground. “Well, he’s alive, but he ain’t getting up again anytime soon.”
“Then we’d better move.”
“Zoe? You okay?” It was Mal’s voice in their ears.
“We’re fine, sir,” Serenity’s first mate said, activating the lifter. “Jayne.”
The big man nodded, pushing it towards the shuttle’s open doorway.
“We’ll be with you in ten,” Zoe went on.
“Be glad to see you back.”
Using the lifter, they managed to get it on board, Freya helping where she could. Zoe leaped up next to her, and they manoeuvred it against the bulkhead.
“We’d better get going,” she said, hearing Jayne clambering up. “We don’t want to outstay our …” She realised he was still in the doorway. “What is it?” she asked.
“Can’t you hear it?” Jayne was standing still, his ears straining to catch something on the edge of his hearing, something that made the short hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
Freya hurried to the doorway, listening with him for the elusive sound. Then she reached out with her mind. “Tzao gao.” She looked at him, her face drained of all colour.
River jumped up the steps and pushed Mal to the floor, knocking Hank out of the pilot’s seat, slamming his head against the console. She was sorry, but there wasn’t time to apologise. She had to get them into the air, ready.
Hank lay on the floor, barely able to focus. “River?” he slurred.
“No time. Explain later. Need to do this.”
He felt Serenity lift off, her engines thrumming painfully as the young woman kept her low to the ground.
“What the hell’s going on?” Mal demanded, scrambling to his feet.
to be continued
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 7:56 AM
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 12:13 PM
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 12:20 PM
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 1:46 PM
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