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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal receives some help from an unexpected source. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1848 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“You know, I’m sure your Commander intended to tell you to let me loose,” Mal said conversationally. “If he’s having to chase Reavers, there’s no way he wants Columbine hanging onto his skirt tails.”
One of the guards gestured with his rifle. “He said no such thing. And you just … sit still.”
“Hey, I wasn’t going nowhere. Although I’d kinda like to get back to my boat ‘fore everyone gets eaten.”
“There’s no such thing as Reavers.” Nevertheless, the soldiers had both paled.
“Yeah, right. You keep telling yourself that. It’ll make it less painful when they’re chewing on your insides.” He knew he shouldn’t take pleasure in their discomfort, that there was a long name for such a thing (and that River would not only know the word but could spell it for him if he asked), but his inner captain had sneaked out to play a little.
There was the distinct sound of a safety being disengaged. “You just keep quiet.”
Mal held up his hands and half-smiled. “No problem.”
“I can’t tell if he’s right or not,” Hank said, disgusted with his inability to confirm or deny anything that Freya had picked from Mal‘s mind. “Our sensors just don’t have the range.”
“I can feel them,” River said softly. “Being called. Invited.”
Simon turned to look at her. “You mean Mara’s …” He stopped, feeling a tremble through his body before looking at Hank. “How long?”
“If they’re outside our sensor range, maybe … an hour. It depends on how fast they’re travelling.”
“Not fast. Fighting it, but unable to break the call.” River shuddered. “She’s … content.”
“Riv, maybe you’d better be thinking of that stuff your bro suggested,” Jayne said, holding her to him.
“No. No time. I need to be focused, and I can’t if my mind is blunted.” She pulled free. “I have work to do,” she said, taking to her heels and running towards the galley.
“Jayne.” Freya didn’t need to say anything else.
“Not lettin’ her outta my sight,” the big man said, already following his wife.
Freya exhaled slowly, staring out into the black. “Mal,” she murmured, more a sigh than a vocalisation. “We don’t have time for this …”
“So ain’t there something else you ever wanted to be?” Kaylee asked, watching Brendan from the corner of her eye.
“There wasn’t really much of a choice,” the young man admitted. “Pretty much join up for the Alliance or get into stealing, and my Pa’d never let me do that. So I joined up.”
“He must be proud of you.” She tweaked something, just for show.
“I guess. He –“ The com unit on his belt buzzed.
The door to the interrogation room opened, and the guards stood to attention, but it wasn't Ubermann. Another man stood in the frame, one Mal recognised from earlier.
“Captain Bennett.” The first guard shook his head. “You shouldn’t be in here.”
“Oh?” Bennett moved into the room, the door sliding to behind him. “Why’s that?”
“No-one should be interacting with our prisoner without express permission of –“
“Prisoner?” Bennett shot Mal a look. “Has he been bound, then?”
“Well, no, not yet, but –“
“Then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t pass the time of day with another transport captain.” He smiled. “Is there?”
“I –“ The guard didn’t get another word out as Bennett patted him on the arm. He jerked, his whole body twitching, and slid to the floor, his eyes wide, his mouth gaping like a fish denied water from the small tazer Bennett had palmed. Bennett grabbed his rifle as he fell, and before the other guard could do more than blink in confusion he swung the weapon at his head, and the soldier joined his partner on the deck.
Mal hadn’t moved. “That was … interesting,” he said.
Bennett dropped the rifle. “Come on. You need to go, now.”
“Now that I ain’t grateful, but … why?”
“There’s Reavers coming, and if they see an Alliance vessel they’re going to attack. As least on board your own vessel you might have a chance.” Bennett opened the door and peering out. “You know, we don’t exactly have time to debate this.”
“How do I know it ain't a trap?” Mal asked, rising slowly to his feet. “That outside that door there ain’t half a dozen purplebellies just aching to riddle me with holes?”
Bennett sighed in frustration. “My uncle, before the war, had an old Lancaster transport. One of his crew was a young woman, a teenager really. Name of Freya.”
Mal’s lips twitched. “Did this uncle of yours have a big drooly dog?”
“Samson, yeah. Lived under the kitchen table.” Bennett smiled briefly. “I heard tell she got married to a Malcolm Reynolds.”
“That would be right.” Mal joined him at the doorway. “So this is a rescue?”
“You could say that. I'm just sorry I couldn’t wait until your ship’s repaired, but –“
“She’s ready to go.”
Bennett looked at him sharply. “How would you know that?”
“Take my word for it.”
Above them the loudspeaker sprang into life. “All crew to battle stations. All crew to battle stations. Prepare for emergency disengage.”
Mal felt his heart lurch. “Kaylee.”
“We’ve a couple of minutes,” Bennett said, stepping into the corridor. “Let’s get your men.”
“All crew to battle stations. All crew to battle stations. Prepare for emergency disengage.”
Kaylee straightened up. “What in the ‘verse -”
Brendan grabbed his rifle. “Come on,” he said, taking her arm.
She pulled away. “No. Not ‘til I know what’s going on.”
“We have to evacuate this ship.” Brendan could see the other soldiers abandoning their search and hurrying back towards the airlock. “Come on.”
He grabbed her arm again. “Now, Kaylee! Or we’ll both be breathing space!”
No-one took any notice of another two men running hard down the corridors, their pounding feet beating time with the continued com announcement. They were all too busy getting to their predetermined posts, and it was barely an unmolested two minutes before Bennett slid to a halt. “Here,” he said, inputting a code onto the pad.
“They let you have that?” Mal asked.
“I’ve been on this boat against my will for what seems like forever,” the other man said. “I made sure I found out.”
The door opened onto a small cell.
“Time to go,” Mal called.
Dillon and Breed stepped out.
“I’m guessing we’re in it up to our necks,” the older man said, looking up at the still squawking loudspeakers.
Mal nodded. “Reavers.”
“Come on,” Bennett urged, heading back the way they’d arrived.
“Hurry,” Freya whispered. “Please, hurry.”
Columbine’s bay was empty but for Kaylee and Brendan, and she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I ain't gonna let you just scupper her,” she was saying, pulling back on the grip he had on her arm.
Brendan continued to drag her towards the airlock. “Don’t be a baichi.”
“No!” She managed to rip her arm free, hearing the fabric of her coverall tear. “I ain't going nowhere!”
He’d had enough. “Then I’ll shoot you and carry you out of here.”
Her eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
“Probably get a medal for it.” He brought the rifle to bear.
Kaylee swallowed, wondering if she had time to get the wrench from her pocket and hit him with it before he shot her. And she knew exactly how that would feel.
“Don’t you be threatening my mei-mei,” a voice from the other side of the airlock said, and Brendan was tugged around on his heel, his chin meeting a very hard fist.
“Cap’n!” Kaylee said, her heart beginning to beat again. She glanced at the young soldier. “He okay?”
“He’ll live. We ready to go?” Mal asked, stepping aside long enough for Dillon and Breed to hurry through.
“Then heat her up.”
Kaylee nodded and ran for the engine room.
Mal dragged the young man to the airlock, handing him across to Bennett. “You know, you’d be better off coming with us.”
Bennett shook his head. “The rest of my crew are still on board, and I can’t leave them. Besides, if I stay, maybe I can talk some sense into that idiot Ubermann.”
“I think it’d take a mite longer than you’ve got,” Mal said. “But I conjure I understand. And thanks.”
Bennett smiled grimly. “I have an idea this isn’t the last I'm going to be seeing of you, but if it is … give my best to your wife.”
Bennett pulled the unconscious Brendan through the access tunnel, seeing Columbine’s airlock close, hearing the seals activate. His mind’s eye providing him with a more than graphic image of Iolanthe detaching while he was still in the tunnel, he half lifted his burden and ran as fast as he could for the scout ship. He was barely inside when the communication system announced, “Disengage,” and the airlock slammed shut.
Leaning on the wall, he exhaled long and loudly, just glad to be alive. Then he laughed, as he wondered just how he was going to explain this to Ubermann.
Mal ran for the bridge, finding Dillon already in the pilot’s seat. “Well?”
There was a slight shudder as the two ships parted.
“And under power?”
“That we are.” Dillon smiled. “Whatever you’re paying Kaylee, it isn’t enough.”
“Don’t you go saying that where she can hear – she’ll want a raise.”
“Mal, I’ll pay for it myself out of my own pocket.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Mal unfocused. Frey, you ready?
Time to leave.
Ubermann gazed steadily at the man viewscreen on the bridge of Iolanthe, then his eyes narrowed. The Vanguard vessel appeared to be moving away from them. “I didn’t tell you to get under way,” he said sharply.
“It’s not us, sir,” Lieutenant Bradshaw said, punching buttons on the console in front of him. “It’s definitely not us.”
Ubermann span on his heel. “What are you talking about?”
“I've got no power.”
His commanding officer stepped closer, leaning over him and trying a series of routines. “What the hell …”
“Nothing, sir. Everything’s running normally, but there’s no power getting to the thrusters.”
Ubermann stared at him then jerked his head up to look at the screen again. Columbine was accelerating, and as he watched a second ship peeled from the shadow of the Arachnids, joining it as it flew towards Hera. It looked suspiciously like a Firefly. “Bradshaw …”
“I can’t do anything, sir. Not until our engineers have –“ Bradshaw stopped, never having heard Ubermann swear quite so long or so loud.
Mal hurried through the Vanguard, stopping at the entrance to the engine room. He could see Kaylee on her hands and knees, reaching into its innards.
“She gonna break down on us again?” he asked.
“Nope. Everything’s shiny.”
“Then do you have any idea how long before they -”
The young woman interrupted, but didn’t even glance at him. “Shh, Cap’n. You just let me do this …” She leaned forward and lifted out three canisters from amongst the workings, placing them carefully on the tray at her side, then another three, and again. Then, with care equal to not waking a sleeping baby, she picked up the tray with its contents and carried it past Mal to the console. Setting it down gently, she dried off the condensation on the outside of each container before placing it in a box obviously designed for the purpose, with nine padded holes.
Mal swallowed. “Um … Kaylee … is that what I think it is?”
“That it is.”
“And you had it hidden in the engine.”
She made sure the last canister was seated properly before turning to face him. “You told me to hide ’em, Cap. It ain’t like I had a lotta time to do it, and I was pretty sure those purplebellies weren’t gonna search the engine room. Not with me working in here.” She shrugged. “And if they had, I coulda made a pretty light show that’d soon’ve had them scurrying away.”
“Yeah, ’cause it wasn’t safe!”
“No need to fret. This stuff has to have the catalyst to go boom, and that’s here.” She patted another, much smaller box.
Mal winced slightly. “You sure about that?”
“Sure as shooting.” She smiled brightly at him, carefully neglecting to mention that if V59 got too hot it had a tendency to burst into flames, and that the canisters had been just on the low side of too warm.
He knew there was something she wasn’t telling him, but decided it probably wouldn’t do his blood pressure any good if he pushed it. Instead he went back to his original reason for seeking her out. “Kaylee. Iolanthe. How soon ‘til they get going again?”
Her sunshine dimmed a little. “Can’t say. I didn’t really have time to do more’n a lick and a promise job, but …” She bit the inside of her lip. “Those ships’ve got all kinds of redundancies and back-up systems. All I could do was fool it for a while into thinking it hadn’t got no power, but it won’t take a genius to figure it out.”
“An hour. Maybe less. Depends on their engineer.”
“Then I’m gonna consider that I’ve got the best mechanic floatin’ and that they’re stuck here for an hour.” He turned to leave but her voice called him back.
“Cap, what was all that about? Why were they gonna scupper Columbine?”
He looked into her face, and briefly considered not telling her the truth, that it wouldn’t be good for the baby. Then he realised this was Kaylee, and she might look like she should be playing ring-a-rosy with the other young girls, but she was a wife and mother, and there was a lot of strength in that body, strength he relied on. “Reavers,” he said.
She paled slightly. “Where?”
“Heading for Hera.”
She glanced up at the bulkhead. “Is Iolanthe gonna be okay? I mean, if they can’t get underway, ain’t they gonna be sitting ducks?”
“It might be tight, but I think it’s possible they ain’t even gonna look this way. The Arachnids hid us from the Feds, and those Reaver ships are a lot further off.” He put his hand on her arm. “Don’t you be fretting over this, little one. You just make sure we don’t break down.”
“She’s fixed,” Kaylee said firmly, taking hold of herself and giving herself a mental shake. “I can tell.”
“She’s talking to you?”
Mal smiled. “Serenity’ll be jealous you’re listening to another boat.”
“Nah. She knows she’ll always be my number one girl.”
“Hank, how long?” Zoe asked softly, leaning over him.
“Landfall on Hera in about fifty minutes.” He glanced up at her, seeing her beautiful face not six inches from his. “Any idea where you want me to put down?”
She didn’t answer for a moment, just narrowed her eyes slightly in thought.
Freya, still in the co-pilot’s seat, glanced at Columbine keeping pace with them, then turned back to the planet getting bigger in the bridge windows. “Is there any sign of activity around the Abbey?”
“Not so far,” Hank admitted. “Only I’m getting some weird interference, like the sensors are being pushed away.”
“You mean we’re being jammed.”
“Zoe?” Jayne stood in the doorway. “River says you need to come see this.”
The first mate looked at the other two, then followed Jayne off the bridge, Freya at their heels. Hank, so curious it was making his toes itch, ground his teeth in frustration, but knew his place right now was exactly where he was sitting.
In the kitchen River was leaning over the table, aligning sheets from her sketchpad.
“Honey?” Zoe called softly as she stepped down into the room. “You wanted us?”
The psychic nodded, staring at the pages. “Here. Land here.” She tapped one of the sheets.
Zoe looked down, and was shocked to see an amazingly accurate rendering of the land around the Abbey. Where River was indicating was a small plateau to the east, surrounded on three sides by foothills, and on the fourth by a dried river bed. “Why there?” she asked.
“The lay of the land means that any surveillance equipment will be markedly less effective,” River replied, her dark hair falling in a curtain across her face. “If Hank brings us in from the north, then changes direction here -” Again she touched the map. “- they’ll think we’re going to land at the Monument. It should give us a little time before they know we’re inside.”
“And will they?” Zoe studied the drawings. “Know we’re inside?”
River lifted her head a moment. “Oh, yes. That can’t be helped. But with the Alliance and Reavers to deal with as well, hopefully their attention will be divided.”
“And the rest of these?” To Zoe it looked like the schematics of corridors and underground passageways.
“It is,” River confirmed. “This is the layout of the base below the Abbey.”
“River, sweetie, how do you know this?”
“I can see it.”
Freya stepped closer, pushing the young woman’s hair out of her face so she could look into her eyes. “You know why Zoe’s concerned.”
River nodded. “Afraid this is wrong. That it’s been given to me by Mara.”
“Pretty much. We might be walking into a trap.”
“No. This is true. I’ve checked the plans on the Cortex for the Abbey, and extrapolated. This is logical.”
“Still doesn’t mean it’s accurate.”
River gazed at Freya. “She wants to meet me. I don’t know why. But at this distance I can see other things, and I see this.” She indicated the plans.
Freya smiled. “Okay, xiao nu. I believe you.”
River flashed a grin that lit her face, then was just as quickly serious again. “Thank you.”
Zoe nodded. “Fine. I’ll let Hank know where to park. There space for both ships?”
“Good.” She looked at the ex-mercenary. “Jayne, better get tooled up. I can’t help feeling that for once we’re gonna be glad you like to carry enough weapons to start a war.”
“Grenades?” the big man asked hopefully.
“Oh, yeah. Plenty of them.”
Not too far away, coming in from a slightly different heading, a shiny black ship, resembling a beetle with its curved horns, moved silently through the black as it approached Hera, the men inside adjusting their trajectory to the ground with blue-gloved hands.
to be continued
Saturday, November 15, 2008 7:18 AM
Saturday, November 15, 2008 8:31 AM
Saturday, November 15, 2008 12:28 PM
Saturday, November 15, 2008 1:35 PM
Sunday, November 16, 2008 5:49 AM
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