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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Simon meets Quintana, and Mal meets Ramsey. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1770 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Zoe was quiet in her movements. She knew this, and so did all the purplebellies she’d snuck up on during the war. At least, they knew it in the few seconds of life they had left before she walked away. It didn’t matter that she’d worn the same uniform herself once – that was before she really knew what the Alliance were, before someone in a long brown coat persuaded her to change sides. That same someone who’d ordered her to go find Simon’s father. And exactly the same someone she was now swearing at under her breath.
So far she’d had no luck finding Gabriel, but she had found Commander Ubermann and his squad, and they seemed intent on letting parts of her not designed to see fresh air get an outing. They hadn’t tried the RePax gun on her, at least, but that was probably because they were in close quarters, barely ten yards between their position and hers behind a convenient security desk.
She’d taken one out with a shot to the leg that had him rolling on the floor moaning, but there were still a lot more of them, and she need to get by them, fast. Glancing behind her, Zoe could hear some of the New Browncoats on her tail, stumbling and cursing over the broken light panels she’d disabled as she moved. And the odd sharp object she’d put in the shadows.
Still, one thing was for sure – she didn’t want to get caught in another crossfire. She even began to wish Jayne was there, with one of his grenades. But at least she had something in reserve.
“Don’t know if it’ll work,” Kaylee had said. “Might just be a lot of smoke.”
“That won’t hurt,” she’d assured the young mechanic, pocketing the ball. “Well, time to find out,” she said now, pulling it free and pressing the switch on top. It hummed, she waited the count of three as instructed, and tossed it over the desk and into the middle of the Feds. There was a moment’s stunned silence, then voices raised in confusion, and finally …
The bright light was visible even behind her closed eyelids, and the high-pitched whine made her cringe as it assaulted her ears through tight hands. This time counting to five, she lifted herself up, and had to smile. Most of the Feds had their mouths open, probably howling, although for the moment she couldn’t hear them, while others were on the ground, curled into foetal balls.
Reminding herself to buy Kaylee the biggest box of chocolates she could find, Zoe sprang to her feet, vaulting the desk and running for the other exit. One of the soldiers tried to grab her leg, but she kicked out, catching him on the temple, and he fell back as she sprinted down the corridor.
“Emil.” Ramsey spoke quietly. “It’s me. Don’t shoot.”
Quintana came out of the shadows. “Do you have him?”
Ramsey grinned, pushing Simon into the light. “Of course.”
“Good.” Quintana moved closer. “It’s good to finally meet you, Dr Tam. Although you’re older than I thought.”
“Old enough,” Simon ground out, feeling the barrel of the gun pressing into his neck.
“I suppose because Mara is so young, I thought you would be too.” Quintana shrugged. “It’s no matter.” He turned to Ramsey. “I’ve heard shooting. Ours or theirs?”
“Both.” Ramsey grimaced. “From what I could tell, we’ve got Alliance as well as this one’s friends down here.”
“Reavers too, soon,” Simon added, then grunted as the barrel hit a nerve.
“Oh, they won’t hurt us,” Quintana said, smiling.
Simon stared at him, at the hair like a grey nimbus surrounding his head, at his colourless, disconcerting eyes. “They’ll rip us to pieces.”
“Of course not. Mara won’t let them.” He looked at Ramsey. “Do you think you can get to her? I’d rather like us to find somewhere a little less crowded to be for a while, and it would be inconvenient to have to take her back again from the Alliance.”
“I can try.” Ramsey considered for a moment. “Yes, shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Good. Once we’re above ground, you go back for her. But you’d better bind him now.”
“My pleasure.” Ramsey smiled as he took a plastic tie from his pocket, looping it around Simon’s wrists before drawing it viciously tight, his smile widening as the young man gasped. “Comfy?”
“I can still feel my fingers.”
“Pity. But we can’t have you getting away, can we?” He glanced at Quintana. “Do you want a weapon?”
“No, I have something better.” Quintana pulled a hypogun from his pocket, inserting a phial containing a milky yellow liquid.
“Tetrabyatin. Distilled from the sap of a plant that grows on the edges of swamps. Some people take it recreationally, but I‘ve never seen the point myself.” He looked at Simon, who was staring at the hypo, his eyes wide. “I see you’ve heard of it.”
“Good. Then you know that the normal dose is an excellent euphoria inducer. Yet just a fraction too much and it becomes an exceptionally painful muscle relaxant. So just imagine what this amount would do.”
Simon swallowed. He didn’t have to. During his residency he’d been called to deal with a man who had taken TetraB, as it was called on the streets, in an attempt to get high. Only he’d used too much, and his entire nervous system was shutting down, one organ at a time, and he couldn’t speak, or blink, or indicate in any way the agony he was in, except through his eyes. Occasional tremors would run through his body, but with no antidote it took him a long time to die, and he was conscious throughout.
“Come on,” Ramsey said, pushing Simon in front of him. “Get moving.”
“Why do you want me?” the young man asked. “I can’t help you. I won’t.”
“Not voluntarily, perhaps, but I have plans.” Quintana was hurrying to keep up. “When Andrew Brooks and I were working together, we had such discussions. He told me all about his theory on the psychic gene. About how he believed you carried it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Simon bluffed, feeling a cold hand settle around his heart.
“Of course you do.” Quintana smiled, and as gentle as it was it set Simon’s teeth on edge. “And the truth is, I came to believe he was right. You are the key. And I don’t have to have your willing co-operation, as I’m sure you understand. But your children will help me, because they will be Mara’s children.”
Simon knew the blood had rushed from his face. “What?”
“Yours and Mara’s. Your genetic marker and her total potential. They will be magnificent.”
“You must know I’m never going to say yes.”
“It makes no difference. I’m a scientist, Dr Tam. And there are ways to promote seminal production that have nothing to do with sexual desire.”
“You’d …” Simon had to lick his lips, trying to get some moisture into them. “You’d artificially inseminate her? My own … merciful Buddha.”
“When Andrew let slip about you getting River out of the Academy, I have to admit I found it … somewhat odd. Almost incestuous, the amount of effort you put into helping her escape.”
Simon tried to keep his anger under control. “She’s my sister.”
“Blood doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does. It makes us what we are.”
“Circumstances and the conditions of our lives have a lot more to do with it.” Simon wondered why he was trying to argue, but carried on nevertheless. “I doubt your parents were homicidal maniacs, or thought you’d turn into one.”
Quintana didn‘t take offence. “No, perhaps not, but they knew I was single-minded. It took me through the years of learning, of becoming better than my peers, and brought me here.”
“To playing God.”
“Yes.” Quintana smiled, as if Simon had answered a particularly difficult question absolutely correctly. “That’s it, exactly.”
“Well, in this case, you’re seriously mistaken. I’m infertile. Ever since I treated the people on Corvus after a Reaver attack. Kroll’s Disease.”
Ramsey looked at him sharply. “You’re sick?”
Quintana hastened to reassure him. “It’s not contagious. Nor particularly common.”
“So I couldn’t help you even if I wanted to.” Simon apologised mentally to Kaylee and his unborn child, for once hoping that the miracle was just that, never to be repeated.
“There are treatments. Hyprobetamoxomol, for instance.”
“I tried it. All it did was make me sick.”
“Then perhaps -”
“It’s too late. Corvus was several years ago. I’m afraid my sterility is permanent.”
Ramsey looked from one to the other. “Does this mean we can’t use him?”
Quintana shook his head. “No, not at all. There are ways round this.”
“You mean cloning? But you said clones could be unstable. That they might not survive if -”
Quintana patted his arm. “Even if he’s telling the truth, we have access to all the cells we need. And with the splicing equipment …” He smiled benignly. “Perhaps we’ll even try a triple combination. Dr Tam here, Mara, and some of the Reaver DNA. That could be interesting.”
Ramsey growled. “Just so long as the Alliance gets what’s coming to them, that’s all I’m concerned about.”
“Oh, they will. The Core will lie in ruins before we’re finished.”
Simon stared. “You’re both insane.”
“True genius has often been mistakenly labelled that way.” Quintana sighed. “Andrew felt as you did, towards the end.”
“He was a good man.”
“He was an idealist. He didn’t like what we were doing, and in the end it cost him his life.” Quintana smiled, a twisted benevolence on his face. “I wonder if he liked that chewing tobacco I sent him?”
“You.” Simon could barely believe it. “You poisoned him.”
“Yes.” He shrugged. “The man had to be silenced. He was getting too loose with his talk.”
“He was an old man.”
“So all I did was … quicken his demise somewhat.”
“My God …”
“Shh,” Ramsey hissed suddenly.
Quintana turned. “What?”
“Someone’s following.” Ramsey kept his voice low.
“Deal with them.” Quintana tightened his grip on Simon’s upper arm, putting the hypogun to his neck. “We’ll meet you at the ship.”
“You sure you can manage?”
“Oh, I’ve no doubt Dr Tam here is thinking of ways to escape, but I have the upper hand.” He pressed the needle a little firmer, drawing a bright bead of blood.
“Shiny. Just carry on along here, then up the next stairwell. You’ll come to the church.”
“I know my way from there,” Quintana acknowledged.
He’d heard voices, he was sure of that, but Mal couldn’t be sure if they were coming from in front or behind him. These gorram corridors seemed to switch back on themselves, and the higher he got the older they looked, and sound seemed to bounce off the rough-hewn walls. Simon’s transmitter was still working, but as he got closer it wasn’t really helping. As far as he could tell he should be right on top of them.
Trouble was, he was concentrating so hard on the palm reader, he didn’t notice the man hiding in the shadows until he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his neck. He stilled, every muscle frozen.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Sergeant Reynolds.”
Mal turned his head slowly, not wanting to provoke a knee-jerk reaction that would see his head blown clean from his shoulders. “Vic? Vic Ramsey?” He could hardly believe his eyes.
“If it ain’t a stupid question, what the gorram hell are you doing here?”
“It is stupid, and you know. Same thing as we were always doing. Fighting the Alliance.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“Not for me.”
Mal stared at him. Vic hadn’t been in his platoon, but they’d run into each other a few times, after various battles while they were being patched up. They’d split a few bottles, but were never what might be called close. Still, this was definitely unexpected. “You know, it’s odd but you ain't surprised to see me.”
“I'm not. I've been leading you here for a long time.”
“That was you looking for us?”
Ramsey shrugged. “You always seemed to be one step ahead. So we tried a different tack.”
“Yeah. Some of my men are still cooling their heels on Argos, waiting for you, but it’s turned out okay. You just showed a bit more intelligence than I was expecting.”
“You know I ain't never gonna join you. You know that.”
“You should be with us. Sergeant Reynolds, back in charge.”
“Captain. And I got all I can handle on my boat. Don’t even want to consider taking on more.”
“And yet here you are. Trying to stop the Alliance, stop us.”
“Yeah, well, I weren't ever really known for being sensible.”
“No.” Ramsey sighed. “Take off your gun. And put the knapsack down.”
Slowly Mal did as he was told, remembering another time, when Vic had told him about a squad of Alliance soldiers he’d come across, and wiped out half of them before they even knew he was there. This man, with the fire of righteous anger burning within him, was not going to be easy to take down. “Last I heard you’d got yourself a small place, and wife too.”
“Wife, kids …” Ramsey moved round so he could look Mal full in the face, but his gun never wavered. “Had it all, Mal. Nice home, great family. Only trouble was, it was on Fleetwood.”
“Vic …” Mal felt a twinge of sympathy tug at his gut. Fleetwood was notorious, a small moon virtually wiped out by a plague some three years before. It was still quarantined, and everyone gave it a wide berth. “How come you survived?” he asked, somewhat gruffly.
“I was away, trying to get help. Soon as the first folks went down with it, me and a handful of others tried to get the almighty Alliance to allocate some of their resources to us. We begged, pleaded, even went to meet up with some of the Parliament members, trying to get them to do something. Oh, they did it, all right. Cordoned off the entire planet, so when we got back we couldn’t even land.” His face hardened. “My family. I should’ve been there.”
“From what I hear there wasn't anything to be done,” Mal said quietly, silently wondering whether this was one of the cases Dillon had talked about, of the Alliance deliberately infecting a community with something or other, just to see what happened.
“They didn’t even try!” It was obvious the anger and pain was always close to the surface, and it only took a scratch to bring the festering poison back up. “What messages did get out all told the same thing. People herded into containment camps, and left to die. My wife. My children. And I didn’t even get to bury them.”
“Vic, I understand how you feel, but this ain’t the way to –“
“Understand? Don’t insult me.”
“I'm not. Got me a wife of my own, and two kids. If anything happened to them, I’d probably go crazy too.”
Ramsey smiled coldly. “I’m not crazy, Mal. If anything, I'm more sane than I’ve ever been. And they’re going to pay.”
“How? With the Reavers?” Mal shook his head, beginning to move slowly, his full attention on the man in front, waiting for an opportunity.
“It’s what they were going to do. Wipe us out, everyone who ever wore brown.”
“So you think it’s okay to do it to them. Vic, that makes you no better’n them.”
Ramsey was suddenly in his face. “You say that? To me?”
“They were gonna sick the Reavers on us, yeah. Even got those guns shoot RePax.” He saw the surprise in Ramsey’s eyes. “Yeah. Know all about that. But you’re talking about taking out the Core, millions of people. More, ‘cause you know they ain’t gonna just roll over and give up. They’ll send their ships out, after us. All of us. Even if we don’t wear brown no more.”
“The Reavers won’t let them. It’ll be confined to the Core. Besides, war always has acceptable losses.”
“Accept …” Mal could barely speak. “You know, I was right the first time. You are crazy.” Suddenly he moved, grabbing Vic’s hand and pushing it towards the ceiling. The gun went off, the noise reverberating up and down the wide corridor.
Pushing with all his might, Mal slammed Ramsey back against the wall, and the gun skittered away into the shadows. Throwing him off, Ramsey growled, hunching down a little, and the light slid along the blade of a knife he’d pulled from somewhere, holding it with his thumb on top, like he knew what he was doing. “Guess maybe you’re right, Mal.”
They circled each other, until Mal caught his heel in the rucksack and went down.
Ramsey was on him in a second, trying to slash at his throat, but caught his forearm instead, slitting the brown leather and cutting the top layer of skin. It slid down and sliced him across the chest, but Mal ignored it. Instead he struck out, his fist connecting with Ramsey’s jaw, at the same time bringing his leg as high as possible to try and catch the other man in the crotch. Ramsey rolled away, but stabbed down with the knife.
Mal yelled in pain as the blade went deep into his thigh, and Ramsey twisted it. There was a scraping sensation of metal on bone, then an almost audible snap as the point broke off. Mal grabbed Ramsey’s wrist, forcing the blade to withdraw, and slammed it as hard onto the ground as he possibly could. The firing of all his nerve-endings made Ramsey let go of the hilt, and it slipped from his blood-slick fingers.
“You don’t wanna do this, Vic,” Mal grunted, trying to hold him down.
“Yeah. I do.” Ramsey kicked out himself, catching Mal on the kneecap, breaking his grip enough to be able to shove him hard back into the floor and get his arm across Mal’s throat, leaning with all his weight on it.
Rolling in the dirt, his vision was becoming distorted, Mal’s breathing was a ragged tugging of breath into lungs that wouldn’t work. He reached out, trying to find a rock, anything to get Ramsey off him. His fingers encountered cold metal, and he scrabbled to get a hold of it. Suddenly it was in his palm, and he reached up, slamming it into the man’s chest. The spikes extended, digging through skin and muscle into bone, ripping into flesh to hold it firm.
Ramsey fell back, gurgling, trying to get words out around the blood bubbling into his mouth. It spilled down his shirt, soaking it in a moment even as he clutched futilely at the com booster piercing his chest. Maybe he was trying to ask for help or just to curse, but he was already dying.
Mal managed to get to his knees, feeling the fire in his thigh burning into his veins. “Vic, I never wanted it to go like this,” he said quietly. “But what you were doing … it ain't right.”
Ramsey looked up at him, and for just a moment the old Vic looked back, the man who’d believed in something, and wasn't out for revenge. Then the light went out.
For a long moment Mal stared at the dead man, wondering whether, if he’d not had his ship, his crew, he’d have gone the same way. Then he pulled himself to his feet, holding the still bleeding wound in his thigh and wincing in pain, and went to find Simon.
to be continued
Monday, December 8, 2008 11:30 AM
Monday, December 8, 2008 5:40 PM
Tuesday, December 9, 2008 3:01 AM
Tuesday, December 9, 2008 4:47 PM
Thursday, December 11, 2008 8:01 AM
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