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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Reavers, discoveries, surprises and sadness. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1931 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Someone up there really doesn’t like me, Mal thought to himself as he watched the Alliance soldiers glancing at each other. First the Feds, and now Reavers … “We need to go. Now.” He wondered why he sounded tired.
“We’re not going anywhere.” Ubermann settled his feet.
“Didn’t you hear what the man said? Reavers are coming, you sha gua chun zi.”
Ubermann glared. “That won’t do your case any good whatsoever.”
Mal held back the sigh just behind his lips, but said, “Zoe, shoot him.”
“Mal,” Freya said warningly from her position on the old pew.
“He’s gonna get us killed,” Mal pointed out.
Ubermann scoffed. “There’s no such things as –“
He couldn’t finish the sentence as more than a dozen … things … ran through the gap in the wall, blood-curdling cries erupting from their throats, almost falling over each other in their haste to get at fresh meat.
Serenity’s crew opened up, and a moment later the soldiers managed to pull themselves together and start firing what should have been kill shots, but barely slowed them down. Unphased by their comrades falling, the Reavers used each body, dead or only disabled, as a shield, protecting themselves to some degree. One of them, faster than the rest, managed to dart forward and grab a Fed, his teeth ripping into the man’s neck until his head exploded from any number of bullets. The soldier scrabbled back on his heels to his group, his hand trying to stop the bleeding, thick redness dripping down his purple body armour.
“Mal!” Jayne shouted from the corridor entrance.
Mal half-turned, still firing, at least keeping the rest of Reavers back a little. “Jayne. Grenade?”
“Hit the wall.”
Jayne’s brows creased. “What?”
Mal pointed, down towards the base. “Hit … the … wall.”
River, pushed back by her husband into the darkness of the corridor to keep her out of sight of the Feds, nodded and slid an image into Jayne’s mind.
He grunted, understanding. Pulling the very last from his vest, his fingers running over Caleb’s toy still lodged there, he twisted the top, waited, then tossed it with accuracy to the base of the wall behind the Reavers.
“Down!” Mal yelled, pushing Zoe to the floor as Simon covered Freya with his body, protecting her as best he could.
The grenade detonated almost immediately, the concussion pounding backwards and forwards between the walls. The old, heavy, insecure wall, whose mortar had long since crumbled into the dust that was thrown up by the explosion. It groaned, shifted, fell.
There was a lot of coughing, and shaking of heads trying to clear the ringing, but Mal was on his feet, waving the almost smoky air away from his face, and tasting grit. Something lunged towards him, all foetid breath and blades, and he fired automatically, catching the Reaver under the chin, brains and blood exiting his head in a fountain.
He stepped back from the body and looked towards the fallen wall. Half the remaining Reavers were caught under the large stones, not moving, while most of the others were injured, although the difference between what they’d done to themselves and what they’d just sustained wasn't necessarily all that clear. Those with only broken bones were dragging themselves forward, howling in madness, still determined to get to their prey, but none were going to make it.
Mal felt Zoe at his left, Jayne at his right. “Better clean this up,” he said, limping forwards.
Most of the Alliance soldiers joined them, and as the echoes of gunfire died away the air was tainted with the metallic smell of fresh blood and death.
“Drop your weapons.”
Mal straightened up as best he could, turning slowly to look at Ubermann. “What?”
“Drop your weapons.” The Alliance Commander, his once pristine uniform now dirty and rumpled, snapped his fingers, and the soldiers stepped back, training their guns on Serenity’s crew.
Mal couldn’t help it. He started to laugh.
Freya looked at Simon. “I think you might have to dope him,” she said quietly.
“No, no,” Mal said, wiping at his eyes. “I just … this is the most ridiculous thing I've heard. We just saved your lives from Reavers, and you’re gonna arrest us.”
“There’s no such thing as Reavers.”
“That old line again? You sound like a broken capture.” He touched the Reaver he’d killed with the tip of his boot, wincing slightly. “What the hell do you think this is?”
“A man. One of the New Browncoats.”
“I conjure you’re maybe half right,” Mal said, altogether too reasonable for a man bleeding from several points and in serious danger of collapsing. “Least, he was a man. Once. So why don’t you rip that mask right off him? Only be careful. His face is likely to come with it.”
“You killed Member Chiang Goff,” Ubermann accused, choosing to ignore the body.
Mal sighed heavily. “Nope. He’d been dead a good long while ‘fore we stepped in him. Before we even got here, which you’d know since you were chasing us.”
The Alliance commander glared at him. “Really.”
“Just saying it like it is.”
There was a metallic beeping and the Federal officer twisted slightly, activating the discreet comlink on his collar. “This is Ubermann. What is it?”
“Sir?” It was Bradshaw, his voice ringing with emotion and relief. “We thought you were dead.”
“It was Reavers, sir. Captain Bennett organised the crew, and we have minimal casualties, but … sir, it was Reavers.”
Ubermann began to say there was no such thing, then looked down at the body at his feet, skin sliced from the cheeks and pulled back, stapled to the skull. The mouth was one huge sore, and one eye … He swallowed back the bile, then said, “I know, son. I know.”
“Sir, the Reaver ships have disengaged. They’re heading out of the system. The Novgorod and York are giving chase, and the captain of the Cuzco asks if he can be of assistance to you.”
“Yes, sir. As the commander on the ground.”
Ubermann almost preened, pulling his jacket straight. “Tell them to hold until I call.”
Mara’s dead, Mal heard in his mind, and it took all his willpower not to look into the shadows of the corridor where River lurked out of sight. She no longer calls them, and they’ve decided to live to eat another day.
Good. You stay hidden. Don’t want the Alliance putting two and two together and making a whole mess of trouble.
Bradshaw was still speaking. “Sir, there’s something else. While we were … we picked up a transmission.”
“It’s not clear. It was … something was done to it, and it seemed to come from the planet itself.”
Ubermann glared at Mal, who tried his most innocent gaze.
“What?” he asked.
“Don’t take me for a fool, Captain Reynolds. I know you have at least two ships here. The Vanguard is still sitting outside, but your Firefly is hiding somewhere. Are you telling me this is all just coincidence?”
“Not saying a word.”
“Mmn.” Ubermann dropped his head to talk into the com. “What was it? The transmission.”
“We’re not entirely sure, sir, but … it looked like some kind of formula.”
“Did you jam it?”
“No, sir. We didn’t have time.”
Mal relaxed a micron, at least until Ubermann turned on him.
“What was it? Was the formula for?”
“Anti-Pax.” Mal leaned against the pew where Freya still half-sat. He could feel blood trickling down his leg, slipping inside his boot, and he idly wondered what condition his sock was going to be in when he was finally able to get undressed.
“Against the RePax.” He wanted to smile at the look of confusion on Ubermann’s face. “Or haven’t they told you what’s in those things?“
The Commander inadvertently glanced at a stubby rifle held by one of his men. “There’s -” He stopped.
“Seems to me maybe your bosses have decided you ain’t worth the telling.” Mal shook his head. “For a man who don’t believe in Reavers, you’re pretty involved.”
“Orders.” Ubermann spoke quietly. “Some kind of weapons trial.”
“And you didn’t even know what it was about.” He laughed shortly. “Well, now you do.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“That’s up to you.”
“Maybe we should try it out on you. See if you’re telling the truth.”
“Sure. Go ahead.” Mal lowered himself gingerly down onto the pew. It creaked alarmingly, but stayed in one piece. “Not sure I got the energy to stop you.”
“I do,” Dillon said, moving forward.
“Me too.” Jayne bristled.
“Sir?” Bradshaw’s voice filtered into the sudden silence.
“’Sides, it won’t do you any good,” Mal added. “We’ve all taken the antidotes anyway.”
Ubermann took a deep breath, remaining icily calm. “And you’ve sent this out.”
“Surely have. Both of ‘em. Pretty soon everyone’s gonna be able to make it, so this trial of yours is something of a dead end.”
“Sir? Do you need assistance?” Bradshaw was getting restless.
Ubermann didn’t take his eyes off the Firefly captain. “No. Not at the moment. Stand by.”
There was a very pregnant pause, and the ‘ verse held its breath.
Hank‘s voice coming from Mal‘s coat made everyone jump.
“Mal, you still alive?” He sounded more than anxious.
Mal looked at the Alliance Commander. “If I answer it, you gonna shoot me?”
“Don’t tempt me,” Ubermann commented, but signalled okay. Mal pulled out the com, causing the other man to add, “You’re still using that model? It’s so old, I’m surprised it still works.”
“Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Mal thumbed the switch. “Hank, no need to hyperventilate. We’re all fine. A little banged up here and there, but we’re okay.” He glanced at Gabriel’s body. “Mostly.”
“How about Zoe? Is Zoe okay?”
Mal’s first mate’s lips twitched as he said, “Yes, she’s shiny. Can we have this conversation in a little while? Only I got the Alliance staring at me, and I’d hate to see their trigger fingers get too itchy.”
“I’m coming for you,” Hank said firmly.
“No, now, that’s not -” He saw Ubermann nod slightly, and while surprised he changed what he was going to say. “Okay. Yeah. Set her down next to the Abbey.”
“On my way.”
Mal clicked the comlink off and raised his eyebrows at Ubermann. “You’re letting us go?”
“As much as I’d love to see you languishing in a cell, clapped in irons -”
“They still do that?”
“ - I really don’t want to have to fill in the paperwork. And life is going to be so much simpler if I report that we destroyed a major New Browncoat outpost, with no outside interference or assistance.”
“We? You mean you.”
“You angling for that promotion?”
“Mal,” Freya said, putting her hand lightly on his thigh, wondering if her husband’s mouth was about to talk them out of getting away with it.
Luckily Ubermann didn’t take offence. “I have ambitions. I don’t deny it. And the sooner I’m away from these border planets, the better.”
“You know, I feel the same way about the Core.”
They shared a silent moment of almost-kinship, then it was gone.
“You have thirty minutes, Captain Reynolds.” Ubermann squared his shoulders. “After that I will assume you’ve allied yourselves with these rebels, and I will hunt you down.”
Ubermann turned to his men. “Search the lower levels for survivors and bring any you find to me.”
“Sir, what about the Reavers?” one of them asked.
“Leave them. But bring the other bodies. I want them properly identified.”
“That one’s ours,” Mal said quickly, gesturing towards Gabriel’s corpse. “One of my crew.”
There was another moment’s stillness, when things could go either way, then Ubermann nodded. “Fine. Let them deal with their own.”
“Sir.” The soldiers moved off at a half-run, back into the darkness of the tunnel.
Mal slowly got to his feet, facing Ubermann. “Not that I ain’t grateful, but … why?”
“Perhaps I’m in a good mood.”
“Pretty sure that ain’t it.”
“Then just say I intend to be the hero.”
“There’s no such thing.”
“Then perhaps the closest the Alliance can get.”
“And if anyone asks about us?”
“I doubt they will, but if they do, you were just visitors to the Serenity Valley memorial, who unfortunately got caught up in the incident.” His eyes narrowed. “Isn’t that so?”
“You know, Commander, I think it just might be.” Mal smiled.
Ubermann stared at him for a moment, then turned on his heel, striding away. “Twenty eight minutes now, Captain Reynolds.” He disappeared into the mouth of the corridor.
“I think his watch is fast,” Mal muttered.
Dillon turned on him. “Why did you tell him? About the antidotes? That we have them?”
“Stalemate,” Simon said, standing up. “The Alliance have the RePax, but the Independents have the antidotes. Stalemate.”
Mal looked at him approvingly. “Yep. No-one has the advantage, least in this. The hybrids are dead, so’s Mara. No-one wins, but no-one loses either. Stalemate.”
“It won’t last,” Dillon said.
“Nope. But maybe if it lasts long enough, the Alliance’ll come to their senses, and stop trying to make us all the same.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“I don’t intend to.”
River sidled out of the corridor, immediately going to stand next to her husband.
Simon looked over, then hurried to his sister’s side, touching the bruises on her face, his mouth open and his eyes wide. “Mei-mei …”
“It’s nothing,” she said, waving him away with her bound fingers.
“But you’re hurt.”
She shook her head. “Jayne fixed me. You look to the others.”
“Albatross?” Mal glanced down. “You okay?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t save her.”
“So am I.”
Simon lifted her hair from her face, running his fingertips over the abrasions. “I need to see to this.”
“Don’t be such a boob. It will wait.”
He looked into her dark eyes, for a change seeing an entirely sane person looking back. “River, our father …”
“I know.” She pressed her body against Jayne‘s bulk. “I felt it.”
“Not your fault.”
“No, but -”
“Not your fault,” she repeated. “And the sanity won’t last.”
“Never does,” Mal said, feeling the situation needed someone to take charge. He glanced down at Freya. “Can she be moved?” he asked.
“Hey, I am still here,” Freya said feebly, but everyone ignored her.
Simon nodded. “Yes, but only if someone carries her. If she tries to walk she might do more damage.”
“I’ll do it,” Jayne said immediately, and River smiled lovingly at him.
“Thanks,” Mal said, meaning it. “I’d do it myself, but I think I’d maybe drop her, and I can’t take the complaining.”
He looked at her. “You just sit quietly, okay? Just this once, you do what you’re told.”
You will pay for this. Her voice caressed his mind like a warm blanket, promising justice.
His lips twitched. Long as you’re around to do it.
Not going anywhere, Mal.
He smiled as he heard a familiar roar getting louder, and they all looked up, catching a glimpse of the Firefly as she came in low to land outside the Abbey. A few moments later her engine note changed to idling.
Jayne picked Freya up in his arms, careful not to jar her leg any more than he had to. “What about …” He nodded down at Gabriel’s body.
“I have a cold store on Columbine,” Alex offered. “Until you decide -”
“No,” Simon said quickly, aware he sounded peremptory, because he tempered his next words with a smile. “Maybe later, but … my mother will want to see him.”
“Then we’ll bring him.” Breed stepped forward. “Me and Dillon. We can carry him.”
They all walked out of the church, away from the smell of death, and into the fresh air of the Valley. Kaylee already had the cargo bay doors open, and ran out to her husband, wrapping her arms tightly around him. “Simon, Simon!” she cried, tears of relief falling down her cheeks.
“Bao-bei.” He hugged her as if he was never going to let her go, but saw his mother standing, waiting at the top of the ramp. “Kaylee, my darling …” He pushed her away a little so he could look into her face. “I have to … can you wait here?”
“Course I can. What … what is it?”
Kaylee watched her husband stride forward, heading for the ship.
“Mei-mei.” It was Mal, limping up behind her, supported by Zoe.
“What‘s going on, Cap‘n?” Kaylee asked nervously. “What‘s happened?”
“He’s telling his Ma about her husband,” Mal explained.
“You mean he …” Kaylee’s hand flew to her mouth.
“Oh, Simon.” She stepped forward two paces, then another, waiting until they needed her.
Mal glanced at his first mate. “You know, he didn’t have to,” he said very quietly. “I would’ve, for him.”
“This is something he has to do for himself, sir,” Zoe added. “His family.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
They watched in silence as the moments stretched, then they saw Regan collapse into herself, losing all of her poise and dignity, and the sound of crying reached them. Simon hesitated, just a second, then took her into his arms, holding her close.
to be concluded, with an epilogue to also follow
Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:24 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008 5:49 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008 7:53 PM
Monday, December 15, 2008 12:46 AM
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