BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Kith and Kin - Part VI
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Simon struggles to save Mal's life, and Hank has a conversation with the bad guys. NEW CHAPTER (for those who didn't want to have to wait ...)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1788    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Freya could hear a rushing in her ears, and Simon’s voice seemed to come from a long way off.

“His heart’s stopped.”

No. This couldn’t be happening. Not this. Not now.

Everything slowed, the light photons losing their impetus, and taking an age to reach her. Simon was putting the defibrillator paddles on Mal’s chest, making sure everyone was clear, then pressing the buttons.

Mal lifted from the bed slowly, as if he was about to overcome gravity and float towards the ceiling, but he fell back, bouncing a little.

“Again.” The word was slurred, spread out, not seeming to come from Simon’s mouth, but hanging in the air independently, each letter neon and empty smoke.

Mal jerked, reminding her inexorably of the time back with Niska, as the Quicksilver infiltrated between the molecules of his skin … Her knees threatened to buckle.

“Got it.”

Sound thundered back, a wave that threatened to deafen her as the beeping of the heart monitor registered, not particularly steady, but there.

“Simon?” she managed to say, her mouth dry.

“We’ve got him back.”

She could feel it. The words he hadn’t said. “But …”

River was busy collecting equipment, laying it on one of the small steel tables, her pace measured, but fast.

“We can’t wait.” Simon turned to his sister. “Can you –“

“What you need. Before you ask.”

“I don’t have –“

“I know where they are.” She ran out of the infirmary.

“What are you saying?” Zoe asked, certain she knew but nevertheless needing to hear the words.

“I have to operate. There’s no choice now.”

“Can’t it wait? I mean, we’ll be on Boros in –“

“And Mal will be dead. I'm sorry, but that’s the bottom line. I can’t keep doing what I just did, it will damage the cardiac muscles.” Even as he spoke he’d filled a hypogun with a measured amount of anaesthetic, injecting it into Mal’s neck. “He won’t make it, Zoe.”

She gazed at him, then nodded curtly. “What can we do?”

“Nothing. River will assist. Just try and keep whoever they are out of my hair.” He picked up a pair of latex gloves. “Freya, I think you’d be better off –“

“Not going anywhere, Simon.”

He looked at her, but knew he was going to be unable to make her move, not without Jayne’s help and a grenade or two. “Fine. But stand over there.” He indicated the corner. “I can’t have you getting in the way.”

Freya looked like she was about to argue, but a glance from River as she came back in had her subside. “I just … Please.”

Simon nodded slowly. “I know.” He looked at his sister. “Got them?”

“Yes.” She held up the box of Medical Grade Stents, tubes made of perforated metal designed to hold open blocked arteries, and the very same one Jayne had found when they searched the crates.

“Good. Now help me.”

-

Hank was talking, his brain on overdrive, trying to stall as he searched desperately for something to hide behind, someone to assist, even an Alliance patrol boat … but there was nothing. “… and I'm sure we can solve any problems you might have without resorting to violence.”

The screen flared to life, and a man in his middle age, steel grey hair cur short to his scalp, appeared. “Violence? You have no idea of the meaning of the word.” His voice was filled with hatred, the fury barely suppressed. “But if you hand over Zoe Alleyne. You can go on your way.”

Even Hank wasn't gullible enough to take that at face value. Still, he asked, “You promise?”

What might have been a smile distorted the face in front of him. “Word of honour.”

“Oh, good. So … what did she do to you? This Zoe? Not that she’s here, but … you know, just to satisfy my curiosity.”

“You really want to know?”

-

One of the things Simon had bought over the years, when he had saved enough money and could persuade Mal to stop somewhere such purchases wouldn’t attract attention but were still good quality, was a small bypass machine. Knowing what the crew was like, their ability to come back from even the easiest jobs with bullets lodged inside them, he thought it was a good idea. Mal had looked at it askance, saying he thought maybe the doc was tempting fate, but for once he’d been wrong. Mostly.

There hadn’t been an occasion to use it, for which Simon was grateful if oddly disappointed. Right now, though, he’d have given almost anything for it still to be sitting in the cupboard under the counter, safely wrapped in the plastic it came in.

Visually he checked the connections, the tubes running from Mal’s femoral vein to the bypass unit, then back to the femoral artery. It looked ready to go.

“Does it have to be this cold?” Freya asked, her arms wrapped around her body.

Simon had turned the heating right down. “It helps,” he said, preparing a hypo.

“What’s that?”

He almost sighed but controlled it. “It’s a cocktail of anticoagulant and Cardithisamine.”

“What?”

“To stop his heart.”

Freya stepped forward urgently. “But you –“

“The pump will take over.” He looked at her, trying to project reassurance. “I know what I'm doing, Freya.”

“But you couldn’t operate on Ethan. When he had Minuet’s.”

“Not on a child, no. But Mal’s a grown man. His heart, the valves … they’re correspondingly bigger.”

River turned her gaze on the other woman. “He can do this, mu qin.”

Freya was too pre-occupied to even begin to tell her she wasn’t her mother. Her eyes were on Simon as he injected the drugs, then watched the monitor. The jumping line indicating Mal’s heart-beat slowed, then more, then flattened out.

“Okay.” Simon held his breath and switched on the bypass machine. It clicked and whirred, then blood could be seen flowing down the saline-filled tube towards it, sucked by the negative pressure building up. As it reached the machine, there was a pause, then it continued up the second tube, back into Mal’s body. “Good. Good.”

“It’s okay?” Freya whispered.

“It’s working.” Simon looked at his sister. “Ready?”

“Always.” She held the scanner.

“Good.” He picked up a scalpel, ready to make the tiny incision to insert the catheter. “Then ... it’s time.”

-

Hank glared at the man on the screen. “Sure I want to know. You’re threatening to blow us out of the sky, so I think I have the right to know why me and my family are about to die.”

“Then cut your engines and I’ll tell you. In person.”

For a moment Hank closed his eyes, then nodded slowly. “I need to speak to the captain. See what he says we should do.” He could hear footsteps coming up the stairs behind him.

“Don’t take too long.”

“I won’t.” Hank cut the feed, turning the chair to stare at Zoe. “What the hell’s going on?” he demanded, noting almost subconsciously that she’d strapped on her Mare’s Leg.

She gazed at him steadily. “Would you believe me if I said I didn’t know?”

“Well, yes, of course, but –“

“I don’t know, Hank.” She glanced at the blank vid screen. “How long until they’re in range to fire at us?”

“About two minutes ago,” he admitted.

“Ah. They really want me alive, then.”

“Which is a good thing. Right?”

“It gives us a chance.” She took a deep breath. “Where are the kids?”

“Safe. Hiding.”

“Good. Try and keep us on an even keel. Simon’s got Mal hooked up to a bypass machine, so any sharp movements could –“

Hank stiffened. “Wait a minute. Bypass?”

“He’s operating. Mal had another attack.”

Wuh duh muh.” He tried to suck air into lungs that didn’t want to expand properly. “He’s not –“

“No. But Simon’s got no choice now.”

“Yes. No. Sure, of course. But what about these sha gua chun zi?” He nodded towards the outside.

“If it comes down to it, do what they say.”

Hank was out of the chair in a moment, taking her by the arms. “I'm not handing you over to them!”

“I’d rather you didn’t. But there might not be another way.”

“There has to be. Mal always says …” He stopped.

“Yes, he does, doesn’t he?” She smiled tightly at him, then leaned forward to brush her lips across his. “Just keep us flying, bao bei.” She extracted herself and left the bridge, adding over her shoulder, “I’m going to check on Kaylee.”

“Yeah, sure, fine.” He slumped back into the seat, aware that the wave notification was going off again. It looked like his time was up.

-

“That’s it.” Simon manipulated the tiny controls, sucking back the fragments of blockage into the long thin tube inserted via Mal’s armpit. “Keep it exactly there.”

River didn’t nod, didn’t say she wasn't going to move the scanner, just held it rock steady.

“Balloon’s going in,” Simon added, and on the screen he could see the darker mass move through the artery. “Inflating now.” It grew, pushing the artery walls out so that the stent could expand, holding it open against any further damage. The balloon deflated and he drew it back, following its progress as River moved the scanner. He exhaled heavily, feeling sweat running down his face.

A hand snaked around, a swab gently pressed against his skin, taking the moisture without obscuring his vision.

“Thanks,” he said, not taking his eyes from the image in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” Freya said quietly.

-

“You are trying my patience.” The man’s face was going an unbecoming red, and for a moment Hank wondered if he was about to have a heart attack too.

“Not really. I'm just –“

“Enough.” He signalled to someone off screen. “Too late,” he said, satisfaction in his eyes as the screen turned black.

Hank stared at the sensors, his hands ready to jerk the yoke to one side the moment he saw the telltale signs of missiles being fired, in what he knew would be a vain attempt to get away. Nothing. Nothing. And still …

The ship seemed to shudder from stem to stern, then all the lights flickered and went out.

“Shit!” Hank muttered, trying all the possible ways he could to bring her back on line, and failing at every one. He knew as soon as he turned from the windows he’d be blind, but he had no time to waste, not even to feel the claustrophobia pressing in on him.

Gorramit, this was his ship. His home. He wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

“Kaylee!” he yelled, heading for the engine room and praying nothing was going to be in the way as he ran through the kitchen.

A green light flickered in front of him, moving around and making shadows dance.

“EMP,” she gasped, squeezed into the corner by what should have been Serenity’s beating heart. “I'm trying to get the back-ups going, but I can’t …” She sounded frustrated beyond measure as her pregnancy wouldn’t let her far enough in.

“Let me.”

“No, I –“

“Kaylee.” A feeling of eerie calm settled on him. “Come out from there. Let me. The bypass machine …”

Kaylee turned a white face to him, and he could see, even in the dim light from the glowstick, tears tracking through the grease on her face. She knew, he didn’t have to tell her. She nodded and pulled back. “Can’t reach it,” she muttered, her hand on her belly.

Hank wedged his body into the narrow space, telling himself he didn’t need to breathe. And to not eat quite so much.

Kaylee, in the meantime, was staring at her workbench, feeling more than a little useless. “It might be fried,” she said softly. “The back-up. Wasn't on, but if the EMP was the right frequency …” Her hands were rolling round and round each other, then her head came up. “But I got …”

Dropping inelegantly to her knees, she scrabbled under the bench, ignoring the sharp pain as she stabbed her finger on something sharp. “Yes!” Dragging out what looked like a box about six by six inches, she scrambled to her feet, activated a second light and ran from the engine room.

“That’s fine,” Hank called, as loudly as his squashed chest would let him. “You go. I’ll be fine here.” He glared at the back-up. “You’re gonna work if it’s the last thing I ever …”

-

Kaylee moved as fast as she could, for the first time wishing she wasn't pregnant, then her centre of balance would be better and she wouldn’t have to be worrying about where her feet were, that they weren't about to miss the step, send her head first down the stairs, straight into … finally.

Ai ya,” she whispered, staggering to a stop outside the infirmary.

Simon had Mal’s chest open, his hand inside, blood up to his wrist, his face sheathed in a film of sweat. “Everything’s dead, Kaylee. I can’t …” He squeezed.

She swallowed, desperately imploring her stomach not to revolt. Holding up the box, she said, “Just give me a sec.”

In the light from the glowstick she dropped to the floor and opened up the side of the bypass machine. It was only going to be a jury fix, stripping wires so she could attach the battery she’d brought, and it probably wouldn’t last long, but maybe … The last alligator clip made connection. “There!” she said, leaning back as lights flickered across the display, then a vague hum began as the drum inside started to turn.

Simon let go, not removing his hand but waiting, listening to the machine as it kept Mal alive. “How long?” he asked.

She checked the power reading on the battery. “Ten minutes? Maybe fifteen. Sorry, I couldn’t think of –“

“Kaylee, you saved Mal’s life. But you have to help me.” He slowly took his hand away. “I couldn’t do external compressions. I had to …” His voice died away.

“You did that? In the dark?” She couldn’t help being impressed, and immensely proud of her husband.

“Had to.” Two words, but it conveyed a whole wealth of meaning.

She nodded. “Where’s River? And Frey?”

“Here.” Freya carried in three of the lanterns from the cages in the cargo bay into the infirmary. “Always wondered why Mal didn’t chuck these,” she said, her voice oddly composed. Dragging a box of matches from her pocket, she lit the first wick. There was a faint smell of kerosene, then the glow warmed, accentuated as she lowered the chimney and started on a second.

Kaylee quickly washed her hands and struggled into a pair of gloves. “What do you need?” she asked, licking dry lips at the sight of the wound in Mal’s chest.

“I was halfway through when …” He indicated the lights. “River ran off, and I don’t know where she is.”

“Then you tell me.”

“I just need you to –“

There was a shudder through the ship, stronger than from the EMP, and a metal crunching sound from the cargo bay. Freya looked up sharply.

“Someone’s locked on,” she said. She fixed Simon with a stern eye. “Keep him alive,” she ordered, then ran out, her footsteps pounding up the stairs.

Simon stared after her, then turned to Kaylee. “I can’t use the catheter again – the scanner’s dead. I'm going to have to go in directly. Pass me the autocauteriser.”

She bit her lip. “I … don’t know what that is.”

He smiled at her, totally aware at how hard this was for her, seeing her captain, her friend, lying on the bed. “It’s okay. It’s the green tube with a red wire on the end.”

She pounced on it. “Got it.” She passed it over.

“Good. Now, hold this to one side for me …”

Kaylee swallowed hard, but put her fingers into Mal’s chest.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:37 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


I am holding on with baited breath here. You are so evil with your cliffhangers. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:56 AM

AMDOBELL


*Wode ma*, are you going to make anything else go wrong? Where the hell are Jayne and the Shepherd? I hope Frey and Zoe get ready to repell all boarders with grenades and whatever else they can get their gorram hands on. Take no prisoners. No way should they give up an inch, if the enemy crew are cutting their way in then it gives our BDHs to take up position to send as many to hell as they can as soon as they try to come in. I think throwing the grenades through the first opening they see would be a good move. Ali D
Hoping you don't kill Mal just because you can...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 11:13 AM

WAKEUPSOON


Cliffy .. cliffy .. cliffy!! Man, gotta love 'em. Waiting on baited breath for more. x3
Anna.x.(:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:52 PM

KATESFRIEND


Thank you very much for not keeping us hanging - I think. But does the phrase out of the frying pan and into the fire mean anything to you? Wow. Poor Kaylee - that is not a sight for the faint of heart or weak of stomach or the heavily pregnant. I think that no matter how vengeful that pirate crew think they are, they have no idea the wrath that is about to hit them in the form of Serenity's crew. Great job once again. I really enjoyed the pacing of switching to Hank's point of view, then Kaylee's point of view, before the true horror of Simon's situation becomes clear to the reader. Very creative and very very well done. Unfortunately for Mal, you have a real gift for putting him in the hot seat. Looking forward to more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 3:58 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


As usual I bring up rear and everyone was eloquent, including you, Jayne. BTW my heart stopped too.


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