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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The cattle are stampeding, and Jayne and Mal are in the way. But there's more going on in the 'verse ... NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1910 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chiang Goff paused at the cross-junction, checking left and right before continuing straight ahead. He’d encountered hardly anyone, not even guards, and in a perverse way that piqued his interest more than anything. When Quintana had given him the tour, he’d specifically said this corridor led to deeper layers, but more unstable and liable to collapse.
“We wouldn’t want you walled up down there, would we?” Quintana had joked, but something in his manner had been a little off.
What was more odd, though, was the lack of security cameras. He’d had a hard time avoiding them on his way from the docking area, but then he hadn’t always been a Member of the Alliance Parliament, or even a politician, and the training he’d received as a young man had certainly come in handy. He was ready, and more than capable, of taking someone out if he needed, but he considered that grossly over the top. Perhaps it was these long dormant skills that were tickling his curiosity now, but he was sure Quintana was hiding something. And he was going to find out.
Jayne watched in disbelief as the cattle raced towards them, and he felt his horse began to panic. It was only his quick reflexes, honed from years of shooting first, that kept him alive this time. Leaping for the fence next to him, he managed to catch hold, hooking one foot securely around an upright, before leaning down and grabbing the back of Mal’s shirt, hauling him to comparative safety as several thousand tonnes of beef on the hoof thundered past.
Mal clung to the rickety-feeling corral fence, exchanging a grateful look with the man who saved him, at the same time yelling angrily, “River!”
Little souls, big world.
What the diyu do you think you’re doing? It was amazing the amount of fury he could get into his thoughts.
Diversion? came the little voice back.
Did you have to turn us into hamburger to do it?
They won’t hurt you. They promised.
He raised a mental eyebrow, visualising what he was going to do to the young woman when he got his hands on her. River …
I'm going to get Patience, the psychic interrupted hurriedly, and he was alone in his head.
Mal glared at Jayne, perched up next to him.
“Yeah, Mal, I know,” the big man said wearily. “I’ll speak to her.”
“It ain't like she can blame hormones,” Mal complained, grabbing at the post as an errant cow nudged the upright with her shoulder. “Not no more.”
Jayne scrambled higher, a horn catching the sole of his boot. “It’s that Mara girl, Mal. Has to be. Making her all –“
“Crazy?” Mal’s temper was getting shorter by the moment.
“I said I’ll speak to her.”
“Well, see that you do. She’s your wife. You need to have some control over her.” Mal didn’t look over at the ex-mercenary, knowing the expression that was bound to be grafted onto his face.
Suddenly the cattle were gone, as quickly as they’d arrived, leaving behind churned up ground and dust hanging in the air, and a couple of heaps of rags and bones that might once have been living, breathing people.
Mal climbed off the fence, glad to reach solid ground for once. He could hear yelling from men in the distance trying desperately to stop the stampede, and he knew they had a little while. Moving closer, he looked down at the two dead men. At least, he hoped they were dead. Nothing looking like that should still be alive.
Jayne joined him. “Messy,” he commented, but there was little in the ‘verse beyond Reavers that turned his stomach now. Except maybe fish guts.
“Could say that.”
“Glad it ain't us.”
“You and me both.”
Jayne pondered on the matter of life and death for a moment longer, then spoke what was really on his mind. “Are we gonna have to walk back?” he asked. “Them horses didn’t exactly hang around when the stampede started.”
“No walking,” River called, cantering around the edge of a building, leading their two wayward mounts. “They came when I asked.”
“I thought you told me there’d be no bloodshed?” Mal asked, taking the reins of his horse from her.
“On our side,” she corrected. “Not on theirs.”
Mal glanced back at the two bloody piles. “Not a good way to go, River.”
“They would have gutted you both,” she said, just as if she was discussing what to have for tea.
“Patience isn’t the worst creature on this moon.”
“Guess not.” He swung into the saddle. “And talking of which, where is the old –“
She grinned. “Zoe took her to the boundary. She’s waiting for us.”
“We’re still gonna have that talk, albatross,” Mal said sternly. “Dong mah?”
The grin faded a little, but her eyes still sparkled. “Yes, Mal,” she said meekly.
It didn’t take Mal and Jayne long to reach the two waiting horsewomen, but only one of them looked pleased to see them. The one who wasn’t spoke.
“Well, this is something of a predicament,” the old woman went on, patting her cloud of grey hair into place.
“Not that much,” Mal smiled. “A thank you’d be nice.”
“I'm figuring you’re intending to ask for more’n that, though,” she said astutely.
“Got that right.” The smile turned to a grin. “And pretty reasonable, if I say so myself.”
“I'm sure you do.”
“And you’re gonna stick to it, since it was your man Macauliffe who agreed to the deal.”
“Macauliffe?” Patience asked sharply.
“Yep. And talking of which, where’s he gone?” Mal turned to River. “He was supposed to stay with you.”
“As soon as he saw me coming back with Miss Patience, he took off,” River supplied, shaking her head slightly as if she was muzzy.
“That was Macauliffe?” Patience intervened. “That goushi dui gou zha zhong!”
“I'm taking it that ain’t good,” Mal said, already turning his horse back towards Serenity.
“Hwoon dahn sold me out. Took Creel’s cash and promises to be foreman of the bigger place.”
“And you know this … how?”
“Creel told me. Couldn’t wait to let me know.” She kicked her heels into her ride’s flanks. “And the bastard’s got a head start on me.” She galloped off, leaving the others in her dust.
Mal spurred his own mount, his superior horsemanship easily catching her up, but he didn’t try and speak to her. Instead he heard River in his mind again.
He felt wrong. But I couldn’t see how. Too many trees …
He glanced to his right, seeing her gazing at him as her horse paced his. Ain't your fault, xiao nu.
I still should have known.
My fault … She shook her head, urging her ride forwards. Can’t reach her.
Mal felt his stomach tighten as he reacted to her thoughts, trying to reach out to his wife yet finding nothing. All he could feel was the wind in his face as he galloped, but this time there was no enjoyment. “Yah!” he yelled at his horse, spurring it forward.
Patience’s compound soon appeared, looking exactly as they’d left it, the gates closed. From this distance, the height of the walls meant they could only just see the top curve of Serenity’s neck, but Mal knew the old woman’s men were waiting out of sight, ready to repel intruders if necessary. He began to relax a little, then the sound of a shuttle overhead made him tense up again.
“Creel!” Patience shouted over the sound, still galloping hard, but they were too far away to do much more than see the vessel hover over the compound, downjets deliberately causing as much turbulence as possible. They could hear shooting, but it wasn't having any effect.
As Mal and the others drew closer, they could see men hanging out of the shuttle’s open doorways, firing downwards.
“Gorramit,” he muttered. He’d assumed any counterattack would be on horseback, since the majority of folks on Whitefall couldn’t run to a ship. Looked like he was wrong, and folks were paying for it. Macauliffe must have had a com with him they knew nothing about, and called his new employer.
The shuttle lowered until they couldn’t see it behind the walls, but they were already at the gates. Mal jumped from his horse and tried the smaller door. Locked. “Jayne,” he commanded.
The big man unslung his beloved Vera from his back, aimed and fired in the same movement. Chips of wood whined away, and smoke drifted skywards, but the mechanism hung brokenly. Mal drew his gun, checking the magazine automatically. River caught his eye and he nodded, watching her melt away around the wall. He glanced at the others, then slipped inside.
He had a moment before the bad guys noticed him, but only a moment. Crouching low, he ran hard and slid to a halt in a gap between a small motorised wagon and a horse trough, the others doing the same.
“So you still think there ain’t gonna be no shooting?” Jayne called, ducking down as a series of bullets punctured the boarding above his head, showering him with splinters.
“Can we hold the told you so’s until after we get clear of this?” Mal said, somewhat peevishly. He managed a look around the compound, noting his ship was locked up tight, and smiling grimly. Freya wasn't about to let anyone on board who shouldn’t be. But Creel seemed to have had a lot of men on board that shuttle, and they appeared to be on the verge of winning.
Beside him, Patience stirred. “Nice rescue,” she said dryly. “Want to give me a gun so I can shoot my own way out?”
“Nope,” Mal said, firing twice over the trough then ducking back. “Frame of mind you’re in at the moment, you’d probably shoot me.”
“You have no idea.”
A familiar sounding rifle opened up, but it wasn’t shooting at them. He peered over the trough, then had to grin. Freya was on top of Serenity, her perch giving her an added advantage as one of the bad guys yelled and fell from the wall, even as the Firefly’s engines lit up. He couldn’t see the bridge from his position, but he could imagine Hank in his chair, ready to do unto others what had been done to them, and use the much stronger VTOL jets to disorientate and possibly injure.
Only suddenly it was too late.
”What the hell …?” Mal watched in horror as another ship descended to the ground, blocking his own in. A suspiciously familiar ship. Frey! he thought hard. That your bro?
She was already glaring at the Vanguard from her position on top of Serenity, holding on tightly as the downdraught threatened to blow her to the ground. It is.
He almost smiled at the red tinge, obviously more than a little annoyed. Think you can make him stay on board ‘til we get this sorted?
No. She mentally gestured towards the main hatch that was already opening.
“Cao ni niang,” he muttered. Without a second thought he aimed and fired at the bulkhead next to the door, hearing the bullet ricochet away. It left a bright shining scar in the metal, but at least the head about to appear ducked back inside.
“Good shot, sir,” Zoe said, sitting up for the moment it took to fire her Mare’s Leg then dropping back.
“I thought so.”
Just don’t shoot my family, he heard River say in his mind, and for a moment he wondered what she was talking about, then had to duck back himself as water splashed over him from someone getting a little too close.
“You know, I’ve had enough of this,” Jayne said, tugging the illicit grenade from the depths of one of the many pockets on his cargo pants.
“Jayne –“ Mal ground out, aware the ex-mercenary had broken a direct order.
They locked gazes.
“Just … don’t damage my ship.”
The big man grinned and snaked out from behind the trough. Despite his bulk he was able to find the cover he needed, and as Creel’s men repositioned themselves to be able to continue firing he moved smoothly behind an ATV, making his way towards the shuttle.
Mal watched him, giving covering fire as best he could, knowing Freya was doing the same from her perch.
Movement on the top of the wall at the far side of the compound drew his attention and his aim, but the fluttering dress stayed his finger on the trigger. River slipped over the edge onto the catwalk that ran all the way around, and he heard a cry of pain that suggested she’d found her target.
Jayne knew what she was doing, and he felt a stab of pride in his belly as he came within throwing distance of the shuttle’s entrance. That’s my girl, he thought.
Time, Jayne, he heard, the words registering without passing through his ears.
He grinned wickedly. Twisting the top of the grenade, he counted to three then tossed it through the open hatchway. The men inside half-turned, but it was already too late. The explosion flipped them brokenly through the air to lie bleeding in the dust.
It didn’t do the shuttle much good, either. Black smoke began to roll out and most everybody stared in stunned silence as the concussion rolled around the compound.
Most everybody. A figure detached itself from the shelter of the wall and ran for the Vanguard, diving through the gap.
“Creel!” Patience spat.
“Stay here,” Mal ordered, and he and Zoe scrambled to their feet, keeping low but running fast towards the ship.
Inside Walter Creel had knocked Alex to the floor, and now held a gun on the Tams. Dillon and Breed could be heard banging on the door to the main body of the ship, but a quick bullet had destroyed the mechanism, and it was going to take a miracle to stop Creel hurting someone.
“Who … what do you want?” Alex demanded, watching the gun swing dangerously around the small bay, his jaw ringing.
“Patience dead,” Creel said. “But I’ll take an exit right now. And you’re going to fly me out of here.” His aim settled on Regan, even as Gabriel tried to keep as much of his body between them. “Or the little woman here is going to find herself with a few more holes in her.”
“No!” Gabriel launched himself forward, but the gun barrel backhanded across his temple had him falling back, bleeding.
“Tell your men to get us into the air,” Creel ordered, aiming at Regan. “Now. Or I start shooting.”
A figure loomed up behind Creel, filling the hatchway. “You think?” it said, jabbing the butt of a huge gun into the other man’s skull. Creel dropped like a stone. “Chur ni duh.” The miracle reached down and dragged him back, tossing him unceremoniously into the corner, before asking “You folks okay?”
“Thanks, Jayne,” Alex said, standing up shakily. “I didn’t realise we’d landed in the middle of a war zone.”
The ex-mercenary turned to the other two, noting the blood on the older man’s face. “Looks like you need to see the doc.”
“Jayne?” Gabriel managed to ask, shock still flooding through his system, even as Regan dropped to her knees and began to flutter around him.
“That’s me. Jayne Cobb.” The big man’s eyes narrowed. “Do I know you?”
“Hello, Mother, Father,” River said, stepping out from behind her husband.
to be continued
Friday, October 10, 2008 3:37 AM
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