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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Simon finds out the reason behind Mal's heart attack, and the bad guys move in for the kill. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1787 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
For the hundredth time since Mal collapsed, Simon glanced over at him lying on the medbed. He was still asleep, and Freya was dozing next to him, her head pillowed on her crossed arms. The after effects of all the tension and worry had finally caught up with her, and as much as she wanted to stay awake, to keep watch over him, her body had rebelled. She still had her hand wrapped around his, though.
Simon half-smiled. There were times when Serenity’s captain could annoy him like no other man alive, but he rather wanted to keep it that way. Quickly checking the monitors on the wall above him, he ascertained there had been no deterioration in Mal’s condition, so turned back to the tests.
His little blood analyser had been working overtime. With the kits River had found in the crates he’d managed to rule out a number of possible causes, some obvious, some not. It wasn’t even as if Mal’s lifestyle could really have caused the attack, since most days they didn’t have access to high cholesterol foods, or an over-abundance of salt or sugar.
Indeed, for a man who seemed to take little exercise apart from occasionally working out on Jayne’s weights, and running from the law and villains alike, he was in remarkably good condition. Perhaps it was having a wife like Freya. Although, come to think of it, Simon really didn’t want to go down that mental route.
“Doc?” Zoe’s voice, kept low to avoid waking the patient, or his wife, had him turning.
He held up a hand, checking once more on Mal, then walked out of the infirmary to join her. “I’m presuming we’re on our way to Boros.”
Serenity’s first mate nodded. “Yes. Hank’s keeping an eye out for Alliance boats, seeing if maybe they’ll be closer, but it looks like we’re just going to have to wait it out.” Her eyes strayed to the man on the bed. “How is he?”
“Holding his own.”
“Are you any closer to finding out why this happened?”
“Not yet. Although by ruling out a number of possibilities, I suppose in a way …” He shrugged.
Zoe nodded. “You’ll figure it out.”
“You have such faith in me.”
She put her hand on his arm. “We all do, Simon.”
“I hope it’s justified.”
Zoe gazed at him, seeing the lines of worry at the corners of his eyes, the tightness to his mouth. “Kaylee did some food. Maybe you should grab something. I can stay here, keep an eye on Mal.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“We don’t want you collapsing too.”
Simon almost laughed. “Zoe, there were days back in the ER when I went without sleep for more than sixty hours, kept awake by nothing more than a sandwich and several dozen cups of seriously disgusting coffee.”
“Simon, you’re not as young as you were.”
He had to smile at her ability to keep a straight face. “I don’t think I can disagree with you on that point. But I think I can go a bit longer. With some sustenance.”
Zoe shook her head. “The coffee I’m not sure we can manage, although I think Hank may have concocted something a while ago so maybe we can, but a sandwich wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“Perhaps someone could bring it down?”
“You need a break.”
“I’ll take one when he’s back on his feet.”
“Simon …” Her tone was chastising now.
“He’s my patient. I’m not going to …” He was interrupted by a soft beeping from the blood analysis unit. “Another result,” he explained, stepping quietly back into the infirmary.
Freya had lifted her head, blinking sleep from her eyes.
Zoe watched the young man read the results, then saw his back tense. “What?”
Zoe stood straight, and on the edge of her vision she saw Freya rise slowly from the stool. “Simon?”
He ran the results again, getting the same conclusion. “Wang xiang tai.”
“What?” Zoe moved closer. “Simon, what?”
Still staring at the readout, he explained, “It’s a variant on a common immuno-virus, which is why I didn’t pick it up at first. It attaches itself to areas that are unable to defend themselves. These seem to be particularly resilient, as well.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The valves of the heart don’t have their own blood supply, so the white blood cells – the ones that do the actual fighting – can’t do their work, and antibiotics are ineffective except on any secondary infections.”
“That’s why you couldn’t clear it,” Zoe said slowly.
Simon picked up the small hand scanner, running it across Mal’s chest again, acutely aware of Freya’s gaze on him. “Now I know what I’m … there.”
Zoe looked at the tiny screen but couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. “What?”
“The infection has caused endocarditis, specifically of the valves, and the vegetation has been interrupting the normal workings of –“
“Doc. I don’t know what that is.”
He thought for a moment. “It’s like … a growth. On the valve itself. Not cancerous, but a mixture of fibrin, platelets, the micro-organisms themselves.”
“You mean like that fungus River had on her plants. Took her a while to clear it.”
“That’s it exactly. It’s also the reason for the blockage. I’d say some of the resistant bacteria broke off, went through the blood stream then attached themselves to the artery wall. Even though the antibiotics I gave him killed them, they provided a foothold for the next batch.”
“Why didn’t you find this out before?” Freya whispered, although her fury was evident from the bright red patches on her cheeks, stark against the paleness of the rest of her complexion. “If it’s so obvious.”
“Because it isn’t. Not in a man like Mal.” He shook his head. “It’s right-sided, and that’s something I’d expect to see in someone who used drops, injecting themselves with … but this is … I can’t …” His voice faded and he turned quickly on his heel to stare at the captain. “He’s never … has he?”
Zoe shook her head, speaking quickly before Freya could. “No.”
“Not even … back in the war?”
She knew what he was referring to. It might not be common knowledge, but being a doctor he had probably been made aware of it. All too many, on both sides, had taken to using drugs, whether it be drops or one of the other dozen or so designer narcotics supplied by companies like Blue Sun. It killed the pain, the fear, but let them carry on.
“Not even then,” she said firmly. “Hated the damn things, from the get go. Tried to talk those that used them out of it, held their hands if they did, but didn’t condemn those that couldn’t.” She took a deep breath. “And every one of ‘em respected him for it.”
Simon looked abashed. “I didn’t mean to suggest -”
“No, I know. It’s okay. But he ain’t never used. Never will.”
“Then I don’t see …” His voice faded, and he unfocused, looking very like his sister when she was putting the pieces together. Then his forehead tightened.
“I … my God.” He’d gone paler than ever.
Zoe grabbed his arm, pulling him around to look directly into his eyes. “What? What is it?”
“I … think I know.”
“Gorramit, Simon, tell me! If I have to go get my gun –“
“On Niska’s boat. I didn’t think there’d been any permanent damage, but …”
“Simon …” Freya could hardly breathe. In her mind’s eye she could see Mal strapped to the bench, Niska standing to one side, a sick smile on his warped and scarred face. She could do nothing but watch as the Quicksilver slipped through Mal’s skin, wrapping itself around his vital organs, around his heart … hearing his scream as it violated his body, her own echoing. “No …” she whispered, unable to see anything but her husband twisting in agony.
“Frey, are you okay?” Simon asked, but she was still too deep in the memory.
The torturer using the glove, reaching into the hologram floating above Mal’s body, squeezing, the silver skin inside mimicking his every move …
The image shattered and she looked up, sweat running in a rivulet down her cheek, staining her shirt. “I …” She swallowed, attempting to pull herself together. “Yes. Yes. Go on.”
“How?” Zoe wanted to know. “How did this happen?”
The young man took a deep breath. “It must have been contaminated. Or taken the virus with it from Mal’s skin. Just a few micro-organisms, but it would be enough. Only one had to survive the antibiotics, attach itself to the valve … plenty of nutrients in the blood to grow, multiply.”
“Niska …” Zoe’s face had hardened, wishing he were here right now, in front of her.
“Mal killed him.”
“That bastard of an old man isn’t going to repay the compliment,” she breathed, making it a statement of fact.
“He won’t.” The doctor was back, his professionalism in place, and he checked the monitors once more. “Now we know, it will be that much easier for a cardiac surgeon to repair.”
“So he’s gonna be okay.” Zoe glanced at her captain.
“As long as … yes.” He didn’t have to go into all the things that could go wrong. “And … I'm sorry.”
“Not realising before. I told Mal I didn’t know if there would be any side-effects from the Quicksilver, but I thought, after all this time … I should have made sure, kept a closer eye on him. I'm sorry.”
“Not me you should be apologising to,” Zoe pointed out. She gestured towards Freya, who was stroking Mal’s hair from his forehead again, just lightly so as not to wake him.
Simon nodded. “Frey, I –“
“Just don’t let him die,” Freya said quietly, all her attention on her husband.
Hank knew the ship could fly itself. He didn’t have to sit up here on the bridge, his thoughts turned in on themselves even as his eyes scanned the heavens. The autopilot was more than capable of making any slight course corrections. He'd said just that when the others baulked at playing hoopball. A game he’d suggested. A game that ended up with Mal having a heart attack.
Guilt washed through him again. If he hadn’t been so bored, so willing to do anything to break the monotony of staring at the stars, maybe … Except if it wasn’t then perhaps it would have been on the job. From what Simon said, it was a bit like a bomb waiting to go off. An accident waiting to happen. And if that had happened, maybe Simon wouldn’t have been around, and the outcome would have been much, much worse.
Only it wasn’t an accident, either.
He swallowed as his thoughts came right back to where he started. “Your own stupid fault,” he said to himself. “Be just like you. Letting your friend down.”
“Not your fault.”
He turned in the seat. Bethie stood in the doorway, Ben at her side.
“What are you doing up here?” Hank asked, trying to find a smile from somewhere.
“Not your fault,” the little girl repeated. “Just happened.”
“Yeah, because I –“
“No.” For someone who had barely reached six she was very firm.
“You really think so, short stub?”
She nodded vehemently. “I do.”
“So you came up to tell me.”
The nodding became even more pronounced. “’Es. And Ben wanted to see his daddy, but he was scared to come alone.”
“Was not,” the little boy muttered, crossing the bridge to his father and allowing himself to be picked up.
“I’ve been keeping everyone in my room,” Bethie went on, ignoring the interruption. “But Caleb’s the only one that can sleep.”
“I’m guessing Ethan and Jesse are really upset.”
She nodded. “Been trying to make Ethan’s walls stronger, but he’s being zhao shuo.”
Hank’s smile became more genuine. “I'm sure he isn’t trying to be annoying.”
Bethie rolled her foot. “Still is.”
“So you wanted to see me?” he asked his son.
Ben nodded. “Wanted to help.” He glanced towards the controls. “Fly Serenity.”
Yes, definitely his son, Hank thought contentedly, despite the circumstances. “Well, we’re on our way to Boros, and the course is all laid in, so there’s not much to do right now.”
“I can watch.”
“Well, that’s kinda what I'm doing –“
“Watch that.” Ben tapped the external sensor screen.
Hank looked down. “Gorramit.” A ship, coming in fast, right for them. He’d been so intent on his own guilt he hadn’t noticed. Quickly putting Ben back on the deck, he pulled down the com handset. “Zoe.”
Down in the infirmary, the first mate glared at the loudspeaker. She thumbed the switch. “What?”
“What’s going on?” Mal said, blinking to try and clear the sleep from his eyes.
“We’ve got company. This far off the trade routes, they can only be coming for us.”
Mal was struggling to sit up. “Can you tell who it is?” he asked, pulling the mask from his face.
“Lie still,” Freya implored.
Hank must have heard. “Looks like a Beowolf. Newish.”
Mal pushed Freya’s hands off him. “Armed?”
Zoe gazed at her captain, then said, “Hank. Run.”
“Where? And how? We’re already at burn.”
“Just … do what you can. How long until they get to us?”
“Fifteen minutes. Max.”
“Better let Jayne know. We might need –“
“He already knows,” River said, standing in the doorway. “We will be ready.”
Zoe nodded then spoke into the com again. “See if Kaylee can get something else out of the engine, and check if there’s a black rock we can hide behind. Otherwise …”
“Roger that,” Hank said, and the com went dead.
“The cargo?” Simon asked.
Zoe shrugged. “Maybe. Pirates seem to like that class of ship. So perhaps.” What she said was scrupulously true, although she still had the feeling of being watched. And for some reason Brant Fisher’s face popped into her mind.
“Can we outrun them?”
Back on the bridge Hank turned to the two children. “Honey,” he said to Bethie, “take Ben and find the rest of the kids. Then –“
“Hide?” she supplied.
“Yeah. You know where.” After the business with Niska, then with the New Browncoats, the crew had spent two days opening up the bulkhead in one of the passenger dorms, and creating a false wall. It was cramped behind, but it would take a lot more than a cursory examination to realise it hadn’t been there since the Firefly had been built. And as nobody intended leaving their children behind, ever again, they had to have some place they knew was safe.
Bethie nodded, grabbed Ben’s hand and ran off down the steps.
Hank didn’t wait to see them go. He toggled the com switch, getting through to the engine room. “Kaylee, can you give me anything else?”
The young mechanic sounded breathless. “Nope. Not really. We’re down to the safeties as it is. Why?”
“Someone’s got the Jones’s to make our acquaintance.”
There was a pause. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Good girl.” Hank turned the com off, then stared at the screen. In all honesty, Kaylee was good, but not that good. And the Beowolf was closing, awfully fast.
The com beeped. Someone was waving. Someone on that ship.
Clearing his throat, he flicked the switch. “This is the Firefly Serenity. Can I help you?” He winced, knowing he sounded nervous, and stupid.
“Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded.” A hard voice, brooking no objection.
“Well, you see, we can’t do that,” Hank said, quickly routing the signal through the shipwide com so everyone could hear. “We’re in something of a hurry, so if we stop, it’ll delay us. Sorry.”
“I can blow you out of the sky. Just give me an excuse.”
“Sorry, but are you sure you have the right ship?”
“Right ship. Cut your engines.”
“This is crazy,” Mal said, trying to lift himself enough to get to his feet. “I have to be on the bridge.”
“No, you don’t.” Freya was doing her best to hold him down without hurting him. “You need to be here.”
“I'm captain. Someone’s after us. I have to –“
“If you don’t lie still I’ll dope you,” Simon promised, his eyes glued to the heart monitors. He wasn’t liking what he was seeing.
Jayne dragged Vera down from her brackets, loading her quickly. He didn’t keep the ammo near the guns anymore, not with little hands that might copy what they’d seen, but it didn’t take him a moment to make her ready for action. The same with Betsey, and little Gemma, which he hid in his boot. If they were going to be boarded, they weren’t going to have it easy.
“Look, I need to have some idea of what you want. Maybe you’re got the wrong people. There’s a Firefly I know got the name Peace of Mind. Sure it ain't that one?”
“Not unless their first mate is Zoe Alleyne.”
There was such hatred in the voice that Hank didn’t register the words at first, then he sat back in shock. “What?”
“Cut your engines. Or else.”
“Mal, please.” Freya was getting angry. “Dammit, do what I say!”
He’d managed to sit up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. “Zoe, any idea?”
“No, sir. And Frey’s right. You need to lie down.”
He levered himself to his feet. “That’s not gonna …” His eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed, the alarms immediately going off throughout the infirmary.
“Mal!” Freya was around the bed, trying to lift him, only successful when Zoe helped her.
Simon was almost a blur, his hands inserting drips, eyes running over monitors, brain running through all the possibilities. Then River was there, defib paddles in her hands. He nodded.
“Simon?” Freya asked, dreading the answer.
“His heart’s stopped.”
to be continued
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:24 AM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 8:48 AM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:38 AM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:37 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:13 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:51 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 5:30 PM
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 6:30 PM
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