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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. We get to the action now, folks, and maybe not everyone is quite who they seem to be. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1785 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Down in the lower levels of the Empress of Sihnon, Kaylee stopped outside a half-open door.
“You go on back,” she said to Zoe. “I’ll be fine now.”
“Ain’t gonna happen.” Serenity’s first mate shook her head.
“They need you back upstairs.” Kaylee looked at her friend. “There ain’t a thing you can do down here to help.”
“My turf now,” the young woman said. “And you gotta go do what you do.”
Zoe took a deep breath. “Fine. And you can explain to Freya if I find you’ve wandered off.”
“Not gonna do that,” Kaylee assured her. “Got the feeling there’s too much to be done.” She disappeared into the engine room.
Zoe watched her go, a slight smile on her lips as she yet again admired the hidden steel inside the young woman. Then she turned and headed back towards the stairs.
“I don’t get it,” Jayne said, but doing what River asked.
“We may need it.”
She looked at him, her dark eyes seeming to see a lot further than the edges of the cargo bay, and they probably were, but it was more than usual. “I don’t know,” she admitted, her brow furrowing.
“But you think we will.”
“Good enough for me, moonbrain.” He continued shovelling ore.
River glanced at the children clustered in the doorway to the common area. Bethie was at the front, Hope’s hand held tightly in hers. Ben was next to them, but looking no less scared, holding onto Hope’s other hand. Just behind was Ethan, Jesse at his side, her little arms wrapped around his waist, her eyes huge.
“Can’t you make ‘em go and sit someplace?” Jayne breathed, not stopping working, sweat staining his t-shirt a darker brown.
“Their mamas,” she whispered.
He understood, knowing that Bethie and Ethan wouldn’t be able to keep their worries to themselves, even if the other children hadn’t already picked up on the tension on board ship. “We’ll get ‘em back.” He didn’t speak any louder than she did, but it must have carried.
“Is that a promise?” Bethie asked, her little voice filling the bay, hitching as if she was trying hard not to cry.
Jayne straightened up. “Yeah. It’s a promise.”
Bethie looked at her Uncle, taking in the muscles bulging on his arms, perspiration on his brow. “I believe you,” she said softly.
Ethan stepped forwards, pushing past the other children. “Want to help.”
Jayne looked at River, who nodded almost imperceptibly. “Sure.” He managed to grind out a half-smile. “Less work for me to do.”
“All of us,” Bethie added, wanting there to be no doubt in anybody’s mind.
River picked up a lump of ore. “Thank you,” she said, tossing it into the bomb bay.
They scrambled to do the same.
“Chief?” Kaylee peered into the gloom, smoke catching at her eyes and throat.
A sudden bright flash of torchlight made her blink, then a figure loomed up behind it. “Ms Kaylee? You shouldn’t be here.” Chief Engineer Cho hurried forward, taking her arm, trying to pull her towards the bulkhead door. “It ain't safe.”
“We’re on a spaceship, stranded with no power,” she pointed out, standing as solidly as she could. “I’m pretty sure there ain't anywhere on board that’s safe.”
He was still angry with her, but at least it was with concern for her well-being. “Yeah, but anywhere else ain’t likely to blow up on us.”
Kaylee glanced around at the befouled atmosphere filling the large area. “Is that going to happen?”
“I don’t know.” Cho wiped at his streaming eyes. “The two explosions did a hell of a lot of damage. Whoever set the charges knew exactly what they were doing.”
“No other word for it.”
Freya was right, Kaylee mused. “Then we’re going to be expecting company,” she said quietly.
“I figured that.”
Her own eyes tearing up but refusing to wipe at them, Kaylee drew herself up to her full height. “Shiny. What do you want me to do?”
“Ms Kaylee –” he began, but she cut him off.
“Nope. I’m a mechanic, born and bred. It’s in my blood, you know that. And my friends are upstairs. I wanna do all I can to keep ‘em safe. And if that means getting my hands dirty, well …” She glanced down at her fingers, at the three day-old manicure she was about to destroy. “It won’t be the first time.”
She could see him considering, and the moment he knew she was right. His shoulders relaxed, just a little. “Okay. Can’t say I couldn’t use the help, and you surely seemed to know what you were talking about.”
“Just glad you ain't got Gertslers.”
He looked affronted. “Wouldn’t have those things within a thousand miles.”
Her lips twitched. “So … what first?”
Cho smiled slightly. “We gotta get this air clear, so we can see what we’re doing. Think you can handle the scrubbers?”
“No problem. We got any power at all?”
“Just what’s in the emergency cells, and that ain't gonna last much beyond a few hours.”
“Then we’d better get to work.” With that she led the way back into the smoke, the red light giving it the feel of entering hell.
“That’s it,” Hank said as the signal died. “We’re not going to be talking to anyone again for a while.” He manoeuvred Serenity around the first of the large asteroids even while attempting to take as direct a route as possible.
“What about the Alliance relays?” Mal asked, getting up from the co-pilot’s seat to start pacing.
“I checked the Cortex half an hour ago, and apparently there’s been a problem lately with some of ‘em going down.”
“Even more so when you consider the ones that’ve been knocked out are specifically along the Empress’s route.”
Mal paused. “And no-one’s come out to fix them?”
“Scheduled for repair next week.” Hank shook his head. “And they talk about the Alliance as being all efficiency.”
“They also talk about them being fair and honest, and so far I ain’t exactly seen too much evidence for that either.” Mal resumed his pacing. “It surely sounds like someone was planning this for a while.”
“Might be coincidence.”
“I don't believe in ‘em.”
Hank watched as his captain turned on his heel and started back across the bridge. “Are you intending to walk all the way to the Empress?” he asked, one eye on the board, the other on the other man.
“If it makes us get there any quicker, yeah.”
“Then pace away. Just so long as you don't wear a hole in the decking.” The pilot corrected their course a notch.
“We’ll get them home,” Mal said quietly, knowing Hank was covering his anxiety with humour like he always did. “I promise.”
“Yeah,” Hank agreed, watching all the engine indicators hovering on the red line.
Val moved around so she could stand in front of Flynn. “That’s the tenth time you’ve looked at the clock. What is it?”
Flynn shook his head. “Nothing. Just wondering what’s taking so long.”
“If the power’s down, there’ll be no elevators, and everyone’s probably having to use the stairs, so it’ll take longer to get around,” Phoebe said, surprising both her sister and bodyguard.
“Um, yes, I guess it would,” Flynn agreed after a moment. Still, he glanced at the clock again.
“Do you have somewhere else to be?” Val asked, her hands on her hips.
He twitched his eyes to her. “No.” Then he spoiled it by adding, “But I think I should go check, find out where they are.”
“Oh, no you don’t.” Val shook her head firmly. “You heard Auntie Frey. You stay put and look after us.”
“And what if I can look after you better out there?” He pointed towards the door. “If they’re right, and we’re expecting pirates, then I’ll be a lot more use out on the front line instead of hiding away here with you.”
“And that much more likely to get yourself killed!”
“To protect you.”
“We don’t need that much protection!” Val took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. “Just stay here, Flynn. Please.”
He gazed into her eyes, then, without warning, put his hands on her arms and pulled her closer to him, his lips crashing down onto hers.
Phoebe stared, her mouth open in shock and surprise.
When they parted, both panting for air a little, Flynn took a step back, pulling his gun and checking the magazine. “You get upstairs and stay put. Don’t open the door to anyone, not unless you’re damn sure you know who it is, dong mah?”
“Dong luh mah?”
Val swallowed, still tasting him in her mouth. “Okay,” she whispered.
“And lock it behind me.”
Flynn stepped to the door, then turned, his eyes finding hers. “Val, I ...” He couldn’t finish, just hurried out into the corridor.
Phoebe ran to the door and closed it, turning the bolt. Then she looked at her sister. “Well, that’s something I didn’t think I’d ever see,” she began. “And what’s Freya going to say when I –”
“Phoebe,” Val interrupted.
Zoe could feel the tension on board the Empress. No matter that she wasn’t psychic, it was like a palpable presence, a wraith hanging over everyone’s shoulders. The fact that the only light was from the red emergency strips certainly didn’t help, nor the realisation that there was no comforting background hum of engine noise, imperceptible until it stopped. Now the hum was people talking quietly, scared, as if raising their voices above a whisper might bring down further troubles onto their heads. That would change, she knew. Soon enough those voices would be raised in anger instead.
A steward passed her, awkwardly buckling an unfamiliar gunbelt around his waist. He looked just about on the verge of shooting off his own toe.
At least they’d broken out the weapons – the captain can't be all that stupid. Hopefully Freya had managed to find the armoury too, although Zoe was glad Jayne had let her have the Feldman resting comfortingly close in the small of her back.
She turned a corner, hurrying as she saw the door to their suite. Quickly using her key, glad for once it was an old-fashioned mechanical lock, she was inside, her eyes narrowing as she realised the main salon was empty.
Drawing her gun with her left hand, she moved forward slowly. “Val? Phoebe? Flynn?” she called, checking out the room. There was no sign of intruders, nothing overturned or damaged, or ... A sound behind her had her spinning on her heel.
The door to the upper floor had opened, and the Reilly twins almost fell through.
“Auntie Zoe!” It was a measure of how frightened the girls were that Val called her ‘Auntie’, although she drew up short when they saw the Feldman aimed at them.
Zoe quickly pushed the gun back into her waistband. “It’s okay,” she said quickly. “Everything’s going to be all right.” She wondered if the platitude was a lie, then realised the girls were alone. “Where’s Flynn?”
“He ...” Val looked at Phoebe for support, but the younger girl just shrugged. Val turned back. “He left.”
“What?” Zoe felt a wave of anger wash through her. “When? Why? Were you arguing again?”
Val’s temper flared. “He left,” she repeated. “And in order of your questions, ten minutes, I don’t know, and no. We’ve hardly spoken, let alone argued.”
“I can vouch for that,” Phoebe piped up, for once backing her sister up and not mentioning the kiss. “And he said he was going to look for Freya.”
“And he left you alone.”
“He told us to stay in our room, not go anywhere, and we’d be okay,” Val said slowly. “I tried to stop him, Auntie Zoe, honestly I did. We both did. But he ...”
Zoe understood. She put her hand on Val’s shoulder. “I know.” She took a breath. “What about Inara? Isn’t she back?”
“Gorram it.” Zoe felt torn. She wanted to go and find Flynn, possibly shoot him for leaving his charges. Maybe Inara too, if Freya had managed to find her but not make her return. Trouble was, she could do neither, not and keep the girls safe. And on a ship the size of the Empress, she could literally miss him within a few feet. She couldn’t even call anyone, not with the internal comm down. Her lips tightened. Maybe they should all carry a beacon, like Simon and River when they were off ship.
“Auntie Zoe?” Phoebe hadn't let go of her sister’s arm.
No. She had her duty to perform, and Mal wouldn’t take too kindly to her gallivanting off around the ship leaving the girls on her own. Zoe forced herself to relax. “I’m sure they’ll both be back soon. And Freya,” she assured them. “And I’m not going anywhere.”
“What do you suppose is going on?” Inara asked, sitting on the sofa, trying to calm her heartbeat. The lights going off had been disconcerting enough, then the alarms, and now the red light was doing nothing to make her feel composed. Even the light show from outside where they’d opened the heavy drapes was just background.
“Do I look like I know?” Saffron was pacing.
“Why don’t you sit down? You’ll be more comfortable.”
“And you’d know about that, would you?” The redhead threw her a glare but didn’t stop.
Oh, yes, I’d know, Inara admitted quietly. And I will again. I promise you, Sam. But those words stayed in her mind. “I’ve seen enough pregnant women, Saffron. Helped a few with their deliveries.”
“So that makes you an expert?”
Inara had to smile. “I might be all you have.” She glanced towards the door where her companion’s bodyguard was waiting anxiously. The other man had gone to find out their situation, and so far hadn’t returned.
“Oh, wonderful.” Saffron groaned.
“Are you all right?” Inara asked, standing up in surprise.
“Shiny,” the other woman said, her hand in the small of her back. “I just hate being pregnant.”
“You must have wanted the baby.”
“And he forced you?”
“Well ...” Saffron sighed. “No. Not forced. But he was so pleased when he found out I was carrying his baby I couldn’t exactly turn around and tell him I was getting rid of it.”
“You didn’t have to tell him at all.”
Inara could feel something almost wistful coming off the other woman, and pressed at the advantage. “It didn't actually occur to you, did it?”
“Of course it did!” Saffron slumped down into the chair. “I just ...”
“This baby is an innocent, and under your protection.”
Saffron glared at her. “Do you always have to be right?”
Inara allowed herself a small smile. “It helps in my work as a therapist. Or being entirely wrong. That can be interesting too.”
“So you don’t sleep with men for money any more?” Saffron bit back, but her words were tempered by the furrows in her brow.
“Not for money, no. And only one man.”
Saffron waited a moment. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Fine.” She pouted heavily, then the furrows returned.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Stop fussing!” Saffron snapped.
“Madam?” The remaining bodyguard had moved further into the room.
Saffron groaned again, bending forward at her waist.
Inara quickly put her arm around the redhead, supporting her weight. “Right, that’s it. You …” She pointed at the bodyguard. “Try and find the doctor.”
He glanced at Saffron, and it was a sign of the discomfort she was in that she just nodded.
“Yes, Madam.” He ran out of the room.
“And you’re going to sit down,” Inara went on to Saffron, helping her into the armchair. “You’re in labour.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“How long have you had pains?”
“Oh, all right. A few hours.”
“Then I think we’ll take it as read, don’t you?”
“You know, I think this time I agree with you.”
Outside, in the corridor, Freya paused. From what she could feel of Inara suggested she was inside the Presidential Suite, but as she couldn’t read the ex-Companion she was at a loss to know why, and it niggled. As close as they were now, like the sisters River insisted as describing them, Freya couldn’t help her mind skittering around the idea that Inara was servicing someone, perhaps for old times sake. As much as she knew Inara loved Sam, perhaps more than she’d ever loved Mal – or at least differently – there was still the possibility that flirting had turned to something more.
Freya shook her head. No. No, Inara wouldn’t do that. Not for all the money in the ‘verse. Still, Freya could feel the thin ice cracking a little under her feet as she knocked.
The door flung back.
“Did you find out where …” Inara’s words faded to nothing except, “Oh.”
“Oh, indeed.” Freya pushed past her. “What the hell’s going on?”
“Oh, qi maio.”
Freya stilled. A familiar voice, made even more so by the remnants of the dream still lingering. She stepped forward to see the occupant of the chair. “Saffron?”
“Freya. How nice of you to visit.” The redhead couldn’t have sounded less sincere if she tried.
“Tzao gao,” Freya swore. “Inara, I knew you were hiding something, but I thought maybe you were doing a little harmless flirting, getting it out of your system before heading home to Sam, but not this!”
Inara lifted her chin defiantly. “What I choose to do with my time is entirely my own affair.”
“But Saffron?” Freya was aghast.
“Hey, I'm right here,” the redhead complained, glowering, her arms trying to cross themselves irritably but missing because of her bulk.
“You, keep quiet.” Freya pointed a loaded finger at her. “You’ve caused more trouble in a single lifetime than ten other people.”
“This is my suite!” She glanced around the darkened room, eerily lit by the red emergency glows and highlighted by the refracted starlight bouncing bluely off a close fragment of The Halo.
Freya wasn’t impressed. “And this time you’re in the same boat as the rest of us.” Her eyes narrowed. “Unless you had something to do with this turn of events?”
“Not sure.” She turned back to Inara. “Get back to our rooms. Kaylee’s off trying to help the engineers get some life back, and Zoe’s with her, at least for the time being. Flynn’s looking after the girls, and I’d feel a lot happier if you were back with them.”
“And he’s doing what you told him? After what you said?”
“I’m looking out for Val!”
“You’re interfering. You’re not their mother, Frey.”
“I never said I was.”
Saffron had a half-smile on her face enjoying the spectacle of the two friends facing off.
“You and Mal think you can mother the ‘verse.” Inara almost snorted, knowing it was most unladylike and barely able to stop herself. She also knew she was only acting this way because she felt guilty. “You deserve each other.”
“If you weren’t trying to insult me I’d take that as a compliment.” Freya shook her head. “Look, this isn’t the time to argue. I need you to get back to the girls. I think it’s pretty certain we’re about to have company.”
Inara felt a frisson of fear travel up her spine. “What?”
“This wasn't an accident, Inara. Someone meant for us to be stranded, right here, right now.”
No matter she wanted to deny it, Inara could feel the truth of the words. “What are you going to do?”
“Take you back to our suite. Then find the armoury. I don’t like being naked. Then I’m going to –”
“Oh, no.” Saffron’s voice interrupted.
Freya span on her heel to look at her. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. I just think my waters have broken.” Saffron looked down at the chair, at the slowly growing puddle by her feet.
“You’re in labour?” It took a lot to surprise Freya, at least when she was in full warrior-woman mode, but this had.
“Yes,” Inara confirmed. “And I’m not leaving her until the doctor arrives.”
“And don’t even bother trying to talk me out of it. She’s a woman, Freya. She needs our help.”
The knock sounded loudly through the suite, and Chester looked up from his calculations. “Let him in.”
Aiden glared at him, but held back on the words amounting to ‘And what did your last slave die of?’, since he knew exactly what it was, having watched. It was pretty messy, too. So instead he stomped to the door, throwing it back and letting their accomplice inside. “You took your time.”
“I couldn’t leave straight away.”
“You’re working for us, not them.”
Aiden lifted one eyebrow at the odd tone from the other man, but didn’t comment, just filed it away for future reference.
Chester closed his notebook and glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’s time we got going.”
“Just … don’t hurt anyone you don’t have to.”
“Like your little friends?” Aiden sneered.
Chester stood up, his bulk seeming to fill the room. “That isn’t up to you to decide. You’re getting well paid, so you do what I say. Understood?”
There was a pause, then, “Understood.”
“Good.” Chester turned to Aiden. “The Dragon will be here any time, so let’s go and get our prize and be ready.”
“And the safe in the Purser’s office?”
“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll be collecting those little trifles as well, including anything the passengers might like to contribute.”
“Good.” Aiden didn’t add, but might as well have said it aloud for all he cared, that maybe he’d be able to make something on this deal that Chester didn’t know about.
“No.” Freya glared. “No. This is not happening. You are not going to go into labour right now.”
“I don’t think I have a choice,” Saffron said through gritted teeth as a proper contraction rippled through her.
Inara took a small, delicately engraved timepiece from her pocket. “Freya, you have to help me.”
“Believe me, you’re not exactly the person I’d have chosen to be with me right now,” Saffron said, panting.
“The feeling is entirely mutual.”
“Freya,” Inara said faintly, disapprovingly.
The older woman looked at her. “You do realise what she’s done, don’t you?”
“And that means … what, exactly? Right here, right now? Because she needs us.”
“I don’t,” Saffron put in, but was ignored.
“You’re a woman. You’ve had two children. And I know Mal would have Serenity running with his progeny if he could, so don’t try and tell me you don’t know what she’s going through. You have to help.”
Freya’s eyes were narrowed, her lips set in a tight, hard line, but after only a few seconds she said, “Gorram it, ‘Nara.”
Inara had to stop herself from smiling. She sounded exactly like Mal. “Good.”
“So you’re not coming to blows?” Saffron asked. “Pity. I could have done with a diversion right now.” The contraction had ended, but she still felt very uncomfortable.
“No blows,” Freya agreed. “But there is something I’d like to say to you.” She stepped closer. “Saffron, I don’t like you. I don’t like you a lot. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I can say I don’t like you the most I’ve never liked someone ever.”
“Really. You’re a lying, scheming manipulative puo foo with about as much sense of loyalty and honour as a cockroach. All in all you’re a right pain in my pigu.”
“Why don’t you say what you really think?” Saffron asked scathingly.
“But …” Freya took a deep breath. “But you’re pregnant, and that little one inside you is innocent of all charges. And for that reason, and that reason only, I’ll help you.”
“Please, I wouldn’t want you to do something against your nature.”
“You just shut that mouth of yours and we’ll be fine.”
“Are you done with your sermonising?”
Suddenly Freya was in her face, leaning on the arms of the chair so close there wasn’t a breath between them.
“Oh, no. I’m just getting to the good part.”
To give her credit, Saffron managed to roll her eyes and sigh mightily. “I thought you might be.”
“You stay away from Mal. You go anywhere near him, even think about doing anything involving him, and I’ll forget I'm a lady and you’ll be flat on your back, pregnant or not. Dong mah?”
“I really think –”
“Do you understand?”
“Fine. Shiny. Whatever you want.”
“Good.” Freya stood upright. “Then the first thing we need to do is …” She paused. “What the hell was that?”
“Didn’t you feel it? Something just locked on.” She tried to peer through the cotton-candy invading her mind, and just as with Inara, for a second there was a clear patch, but what she saw didn’t make her feel any more comfortable. She looked at Inara. “We have to go. Now.”
“Where?” the ex-companion asked.
“Back to our suite.”
Saffron shook her head. “I'm not going anywhere.”
“You can be stubborn later.” Freya took hold of her arm. “Right now we’re leaving.”
“Because I’ve got the crazy feeling they’re coming after you.”
“Friend or enemy, Saffron?”
“I have no idea!”
“Right.” Freya lifted her to her feet.
“Wait!” Saffron said quickly. “My bodyguards went to see what was going on. Hadn’t we better … leave them a note or something?”
Freya was about to suggest something probably impossible, and certainly illegal on several planets, when she stopped. There was the noise of a scuffle in the corridor, and she reached for her gun, then swore as she realised her hip was empty. Looking around, she saw a steak knife on the tray left over from dinner, and picked it up. Better than nothing, she considered.
“Freya?” Inara asked nervously.
There was a knock, but Freya put her finger to her lips. Stay quiet, she was saying.
“Inara?” A recognisable voice filtered through the heavy wood.
“Flynn?” Freya couldn’t believe her ears.
“Frey, is that you?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you. Come on, open the door.”
“I heard a fight.”
“Someone got in my way,” the young man insisted. “Open the door.”
Glancing at the others, a smile forming on her lips, she undid the lock, began to pull the door towards her, then something tickled her senses. But it was too late. A heavy body pushed through, taking her off balance. She staggered, but in the moment it took to get her footing a gun appeared in her face, a Corazon she recognised all too well. Her eyes travelled past the hand holding it, up to the man.
“Flynn?” she said again, this time in disbelief.
“Drop it, Freya,” he said, watching her face but seeing the knife point, his gun not moving an inch. “Please.”
to be continued
Monday, March 8, 2010 11:12 AM
Monday, March 8, 2010 11:24 AM
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 4:19 AM
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 8:39 AM
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