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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The Magnificent Seven Plus Two rumble with the Chi'ang Sh'ich, with majorly unfun results. Some odd discoveries are also made.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1389 RATING: 8 SERIES: FIREFLY
Firefly is the property of Joss Whedon, blah blah blah. You know the drill.
Thanks to Guildsister and Apollo for beta reading. Feedback will of course be appreciated.
We Have the Technology: Prologue
We Have the Technology: Chapter One
We Have the Technology: Chapter Two
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The minder assigned to Subject #296, formerly Earl Herzog, assessed the situation. There were six combatants along the catwalk equipped with a variety of firearms, not that it would do them much good. Among them was 158, who would pose a greater challenge. Noticing a movement, the minder saw the door to the starboard shuttle close. Probably contained non-combatants and may include 172 as well. The minder made contact with the one assigned to 307, giving orders to break into the shuttle before it launched. Then the minder ordered 296, "Issue ultimatum."
296 spoke; "Attention, crew of unidentified Firefly. You are to hand over David Jackson and River Tam immediately. Doing so shall be rewarded with a swift death. Should you offer resistance or otherwise fail to comply, we'll kill slowly."
As 296 finished, the minder spotted a thought pattern indicating he recognized one of the combatants as a former comrade-in-arms named Malcolm Reynolds. This was unacceptable. So the minder touched off the pain centers of 296's brain just enough to remind him who was in charge. The minder then ordered, "They are all enemies. Engage boosters and forearm blades and attack."
* * * * *
Though he tried not to show it, Nitro was on the verge of panic. There was no question that these were genuine Chi'ang Sh'ich. They carried no guns, which could only mean that they were Rippers, the most vicious of the Chi'ang Sh'ich. He switched on his systems, knowing that he would have to push them further than he had previously dared.
One of the Rippers made their demand. Nitro knew the others would probably prefer to risk slow death on the chance they might win. For that to happen, he would have to tell them about the weak spot, since hitting them anywhere else would be futile. But his mouth refused to cooperate with his brain and he spewed gibberish instead, something about boomsticks and there being no more room in Hell.
Now Nitro had no time to try to warn them again, as the Rippers attacked. He lost track of them quickly, having gotten too used to slow opponents. It wasn't until one of them was practically on top of him, forearm blades at the ready, that he reacted. Quickly firing off a burst, Nitro hit the Ripper right between the eyes. As it went into its violent death throes, the Ripper still managed to strike Nitro hard enough that he dropped his sub-machine gun, which fell off the catwalk. Seeing the one who had issued the ultimatum rush towards him, he readied his own forearm blades. Preparing for the onslaught, he went and pushed the boosters and the overrides even further.
"What's goin' on?" asked Kaylee, who to Inara sounded frightened over the screaming coming from outside the shuttle.
Simon took a brief look outside the window and shuddered. "It's... not too good," he replied. After checking on River, who muttered something about eyes and claws, he went over to Inara and said, "It's a slaughter out there. We should prep the shuttle for launch as the Captain ordered."
Inara was not inclined to simply run off. She was about to say something to that effect when they heard the sound of someone attempting to force open the door. Inara fumbled for the pistol she kept in her shuttle, the one she had always hoped she would never need. The last time she had used it was to intimidate that scarlett haired tchen wah on Bellerophon. She had never fired it in a real fight. This would be much different from shooting at still targets.
As Inara loaded a clip, there was a horrendous sound of ripping metal as the latch tore off and the door opened. As the intruder entered, blades sprung forth from the large cysts on his forearms. He looked at Inara. The sight of his lifeless eyes caused her to freeze in panic.
Before the intruder could take advantage, Jayne grabbed him from behind, neatly slitting his throat. Seemingly unaffected by the wound inflicted, the intruder threw Jayne over his shoulder and slashed him across the chest with his forearm blades. He then turned his attention back to Inara, who had managed to recover from her initial panic. She fired her pistol at the intruder. She had little hope that it would do any good. Still, she believed it better than meekly allowing herself to be slaughtered.
The second shot struck the intruder in the middle of the forehead. It had an effect. He gave off an inhuman scream as he clutched his head, then went into convulsions. He flopped about like a freshly caught fish before going still. Inara suppressed the urge to retch. Frantically glancing, she saw Kaylee reclose the door while Simon tore some bedsheets to use in stopping Jayne's bleeding and River...
Where did River go?
"Tzao gao!" muttered Inara.
In her gut, Zoë had known that they were in deep go se when the intruders had come aboard without guns. If someone went into a potentially hostile situation so obviously defenseless, it screamed all kinds of wrong. So she braced herself for any one of a number of nasty surprises, but was still caught off guard by how fast they moved and how bullets seemed useless against them. When Jayne had run over to stop the one that was breaking into Inara's shuttle, he fanned six shots that all hit yet seemed to have no effect.
Zoë, Mal, Wash, and Book were having their own difficulties. With four to one odds, it should have been a simple matter to defeat their opponent. Yet not only had he disarmed them and cut them up with frightening ease, but he also gave the impression of deliberately holding back. None of the wounds he inflicted were individually life-threatening, but they added up and were plenty painful. He was like some feral cat playing with his prey, swatting down anyone who even appeared to be making an aggressive move with blinding speed.
Zoë started to despair that they could even hope to win when she recalled Nitro's rant from when the attack started. It had seemed like he was blithering at the time, but maybe he had been trying to say something important, but for some reason had been unable to articulate it properly. Bits of what he said sounded vaguely familiar. Where had she heard them before? Then it came to her as she remembered the old zombie movies she sometimes downloaded from the Cortex. Had he tried to tell them to aim for the head? She hoped so, since dismembering them and uttering an incantation that she'd probably get wrong wasn't too appealing.
Looking around, Zoë saw her scattergun just within reach. But she had to be careful when to grab it. Their attacker could take her down before she could fire a shot unless he was distracted. She got her opportunity when he decided to take a swipe at Wash. Noticing her movement, he pivoted and lunged towards her. He wasn't fast enough. Aiming the scattergun, Zoë deliriously shouted, "This is my boomstick!" as she fired. The shot took away most of the attacker's face. It proved effective, as he went into some particularly horrific death throes that turned Zoë's stomach.
Looking around, she saw another one dead along the catwalk. Mal staggered towards Inara's shuttle, apparently to make sure that the one Jayne went after was down for the count. That left one more. Zoë spotted him near the back of the cargo bay, duking it out with Nitro. It was the one that bore a disturbing resemblance to Sergeant Herzog. They were moving too fast for Zoë to keep track of, making it impossible to get a clear shot. Nitro had better get the upper hand soon.
Nitro found the fight to be rough going. This Ripper was really good. Nitro was just barely dodging his opponent's blows. Even when he managed to get in a counterstrike, it was easily blocked. At this point it was a stalemate. It would likely boil down to who got tired first. Nitro tried not to think on it too hard.
Wuo de ma, that was too close, thought Nitro. He practically felt the breeze the Ripper's blades created as they passed. Only one thing to do. Nitro cranked up his boosters several notches. He didn't fear the Ripper doing the same. The minder would prevent him from pushing his past the safe limits. From Nitro's point of view, the Ripper appeared to slow down. Once more, he was like the Fly. He renewed his offense with a flurry of blows. The Ripper was just barely able to block them. All he needed was an opening to get a thrust right between the eyes. With his speed advantage, Nitro was sure it would come any moment.
Which is why it was such a nasty shock when the boosters and the overrides inexplicably shut down.
The pain that followed was far worse than what he had experienced during any neural waste dump. Its intensity was such that he quickly fell into oblivion.
River watched from the common area as the Little One fell. She had slipped out of the shuttle the first chance she got, as she knew it wasn't where she could do any good. Reaching the common area via the roundabout route through the galley, she waited for the right moment. At first, she had felt panic when she recognized the Chi'ang Sh'ich as the one that had messily killed one of the students at the Academy. But she recovered quickly and further steeled her resolve. Though Zoë had managed to guess a weak spot, that knowledge would be of little use against this one. Unlike the others, this one would make full use of his abilities and go directly for the kill.
The Chi'ang Sh'ich pulled the Little One away so that they'd be out of Zoë's line of fire and bent over, pulling a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. Deciding she wouldn't get a better opportunity, River made her move. Since she needed to touch for certain results, she jumped on the Chi'ang Sh'ich and gripped his head. Immediately he attempted to throw her off, but she held on tight. She applied the technique she had used on the Fed on Ariel against the Darkness that clung to the Chi'ang Sh'ich. Unlike with the Little One, whose Darkness was like a parasite, the Darkness that clung to this one fit comfortably like a second skin. Concentrating harder, she knew she was succeeding when she detected the mixed scent of blood and burning plastic. Eventually, the Chi'ang Sh'ich stopped screaming and met his final death.
Mal staggered down the stairs and over to the corpse of the one who appeared to be Herzog. Though in his gut Mal suspected it was him, he wished to be sure. Pushing back the bangs, he saw on the forehead a tattoo of Bravo Platoon's colors. It even had the misdrawn Chinese character where the tattoo artist had screwed up, so that it spelled out something obscene instead of the platoon motto. Though not entirely conclusive, the possibility that this was a simulacrum looked less likely.
Which meant that the others were probably former Independents as well, though Mal was unsure of what had been done to them and why. Might do to have the doctor perform an autopsy on one of them. Probably something similar had been done to Nitro, which would explain why they were after him. But how had they known that River was aboard? All sorts of unsettling ideas popped up in his head. If Nitro ever woke up, Mal would have plenty of questions for him.
Speaking of which, Mal decided he had better head to the infirmary to get patched up. Jayne had looked pretty bad off when he got carried to the infirmary. But the rest of the crew appeared to have had nothing worse than shallow cuts, albeit quite a lot of them. That would require nothing more than cleaning and bandaging. They had been lucky in that regard, since he was sure that if their attackers wanted a quick kill, the crew of Serenity would be little more than bloody smears. Hopefully, there wouldn't be another attack so soon, since they weren't in good enough shape to repel any more boarders.
When Nitro came to, he found himself sitting next to a campfire. Startled by the abrupt change in environment, he looked around in the darkness and made out the outline of the entrance to a mine shaft. His suspicions were confirmed when he spotted what could only be the garish lights of New Reno in the distance. Though he couldn't fathom how, it appeared that he was back on Hephaestus.
"You're not, actually," said Clarence. "This is a mental construct created so that I can communicate with you more effectively while you're unconscious. No need to worry. The Chi'ang Sh'ich were defeated and you're still aboard Serenity."
"What was it that happened anyway?" asked Nitro.
"Ah, you think it was me who was responsible. No, you did it yourself. It's been about fifteen months since your systems have had a maintenance check. It's a wonder something like this didn't happen sooner. A neural surge resulted from pushing your systems too hard. At the very least, the shakes will get worse. You may have even damaged some of your systems."
While Nitro thought on that, something occurred to him. "You don't seem all that disappointed that we weren't taken back to Them."
"Hard as it may be for you to believe, I am looking out for your best interests. Were you brought back a captive after a struggle, the possibility that you would be terminated would be quite high. If you come back willingly, preferably possessing some form of leverage, it could work out quite differently."
Nitro grimaced at what he was inferring. "You know I ain't gonna consider that option. Anyway, I don't think you give a rat's pee goo about anyone or anything."
"Very true. But for now, our fates are linked. If you were terminated, it's likely that the same would be done to me. So you see, I have a vested interest in keeping you alive."
Nitro wondered if Clarence was lying. As far as he had been able to tell, Clarence had always been truthful, often brutally so. Nitro sometimes wondered if he was incapable of lying or if he just didn't see any point in it. His thoughts were interrupted when Clarence said, "You may be in for a bit of trouble. They've started an autopsy on 307. Captain Reynolds seems the sort who would despise unanswered questions. I'm sure he'll have plenty after looking inside 307."
"What can I do about it?" asked Nitro.
"Almost certainly nothing," replied Clarence. "You can try anyway. But it will be several minutes before you regain consciousness, even if I assist. And I doubt Captain Reynolds will be satisfied with any answers you give."
Most everyone had retired to their bunks by this time. So when Simon was about to begin the autopsy on the attacker that had gotten into Inara's shuttle, only the Captain and Zoë were present. Neither of them had taken their painkillers yet, claiming they wanted to have clear heads through this. He checked on Nitro one last time, being careful about the blades that had extended from the cyst on his left forearm. His vitals were a bit weak but steady. Someone had apparently found Nitro's dark glasses and put them back on, for which Simon was grateful. Though he knew it to be irrational, Simon still had the feeling that someone was staring back at him through those artificial eyes.
The autopsy hadn't even started when they got their first surprise. Stripping the corpse, they found the torso, thighs, and upper arms to have some form of armor plating attached directly to the skin. As if to confirm a suspicion, the Captain went over to Nitro and opened his shirt, revealing an identical form of armor. This would greatly hinder the autopsy, though Simon believed that with some creative cutting he could get around it.
If, as Simon suspected, this person was a result of someone putting Dr. Schell's theories into practice, the spine would probably be the first place to check. He turned the body over and cut around the armor. When the spine was exposed, a mass of wiring was revealed to have been threaded throughout the vertebrae. They connected what appeared to be a series of computer chips placed at regular intervals.
While the Captain and Zoë stared in stunned silence, Simon got out the laser saw and proceeded to remove the top of the head. Looking inside, he found more wiring attached to various parts of the brain. A few were connected to the plainly artificial eyes, but most went to a front-mounted plastic casing which had the bullet from Inara's gun lodged in it.
"Care to explain yourself, Doc?" the Captain asked.
Startled, Simon hesitantly replied, "I'm not sure I quite-"
"Oh, I think you do," the Captain interrupted. "Seems to me that you had a good idea what to look for and where. I'm also thinking that folks getting hardware like that stuffed in themselves ain't exactly an everyday occurrence. You know something, now spit it out."
"Know isn't exactly the right word-"
"Ain't interested in semantics."
Sighing, Simon decided to tell what he could. "Back during my first semester at the MedAcademy, I had a neurology professor named Dr. Schell. He had gotten to be something of a pariah among his peers because he advocated some unorthodox theories. When I had him, he had started putting his theories in the curriculum. Got him into a lot of trouble with the school administration and he was sacked at the end of the semester."
"What sort of theories are we talking about?" asked Zoë.
"Primarily about creating a direct neural interface with machines," Simon replied. "He theorized that by placing specialized computer hardware along the spinal column, the brain could be consistently tricked into allowing the body to perform seemingly superhuman feats."
"Better, stronger, faster?" quipped Zoë.
"I suppose you could put it that way," mused Simon. It sounded like she was quoting, but he had no idea from where.
"Now that sounds like crazy talk," said the Captain. "But then there's plenty that men of learning find acceptable that sound crazy to me. Perhaps you could tell me how that got his fellow eggheads all riled up."
Simon thought a bit and replied, "The problem most had was that, even if such hardware could be designed and such an interface could be created, the result would almost certainly drive the subject insane to the point of becoming a vegetable."
"Well Doc, they might have been insane, but they seemed a mite active for vegetables. So if these are the fruits of Dr. Schell's labors, he must have found a way around it."
"Of course," added Zoë, "there's the question of why they wanted River as well."
"Chills the blood, don't it?" said the Captain. "If they had just wanted Nitro, we could assume that they wanted to bring one of their own back. But their wanting your sister too suggests to me that they're somehow associated with that Academy you got her out of. Now add to that the fact that, before Nitro had his little outburst, it looked like the two of them recognized each other. Conjures up all sorts of possibilities."
Simon was about to reply when he heard a shlick sound. The three of them looked over and saw that Nitro, who had regained consciousness, had retracted the forearm blades.
"Ah," said the Captain, "our guest of honor is back with us. Care to do some explaining?"
"Sarge?" said Nitro, sounding a bit confused.
"Now," the Captain continued, "I don't mind helping out an old war buddy. I'm a generous man. But when strange people come to capture this war buddy and aren't adverse to cutting on my ship and my crew, that taxes my generosity a mite. And when this war buddy and these strange people exhibit all sorts of odd accessories, it gets stretched to the breaking point. It would help if you'd enlightened me on what this is all about."
The response was not entirely expected. "Can'ttellcan'ttellcan'ttell! They won't let us! They can't let us! They'll be acomin' if we do! Two by two, hands of blue! Two by two, hands of blue!"
As Nitro repeated that phrase, the Captain looked dumbfounded and a bit perturbed. He asked, "Doc, any clue what that's about?"
"Possibly he's been psychologically conditioned to respond with gibberish when asked about that particular subject," Simon replied, rattled from hearing the all too familiar phrase come from someone else.
"Any way around it?" the Captain asked.
Simon was about to shake his head when Nitro blurted, "Clarence can tell! They can't stop Clarence from speaking his mind! He can say whatever he wants!"
The Captain started as if he recognized the name, then asked, "So where is this Clarence?"
"He's right behind you," replied Nitro.
The captain turned around, but saw nothing but empty air. "Ain't no one there Nitro," he said.
"You blind, Sarge? He's standin' there in plain sight."
Zoë and Simon also looked around, but could find no sign of this Clarence. "Why can't they see you?" Nitro cried out in frustration.
"I've explained this to you before, but you seem incapable of comprehending. In a sense, there's nothing for them to see." As if to prove his point, he waved a blue-gloved hand in front of Zoe's face, getting no reaction.
Clarence was right about Nitro not understanding. How could there be nothing to see when there plainly was? "There is a way to allow them to see me," continued Clarence, "but it will require your cooperation."
"What do you need me to do?" asked Nitro.
"Mostly, just calm yourself down. I'll take care of the rest."
Nitro complied. After a bit, he felt a headache come on and tried to ignore it. By the time he realized that he had been tricked, it was too late to do anything as his mind screamed at the coming of the Darkness.
While he would prefer to believe that Nitro was just fong luh, the idea of some invisible person being on board just wouldn't leave Mal's head. Maybe it was because River had made mention of a Clarence while referring to Nitro. An idea came to him that he figured would help put his mind to ease. He pulled open one of the drawers and found a container of talcum powder. As he opened it, he heard a commotion. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Nitro having convulsions while Zoë and Simon tried to hold him down. Going back to what he had been doing, Mal took a fistful of powder, quickly turned around, and flung the powder in the direction Nitro had pointed.
Mal held his breath as the powder settled and let it go when it failed to create an outline. "You see that, Nitro? Ain't no giant invisible rabbit for me to talk to."
"But if that were the case, he would have to call me Harvey."
A chill ran down Mal's spine as he turned towards Nitro. Though it had sounded like his voice, instead of his usual Rim drawl, it had the precise grammar of someone from the Core. "Greetings, Captain Reynolds," he said. "My name is Clarence."
Onward to Chapter Four
Chi'ang Sh'ich: A form of undead from Chinese folklore. It results from a corpse being left unburied after nightfall which allows an evil spirit to enter it. The result is the Chi'ang Sh'ich, which has big, nasty claws, poisonous breath, and a bad attitude. The only defense against it is to run like hell until daybreak, when the spirit leaves the corpse. And it moves a lot faster than your typical B movie zombies.
Tchen wah: Slut
Tzao gao: Oh shit
Go se: Dog shit
Wuo de ma: Mother of Jesus
Pee goo: Rear end
Fong luh: Crazy
Thursday, September 16, 2004 6:37 AM
Thursday, September 16, 2004 9:18 PM
Saturday, September 18, 2004 10:32 AM
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