BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

HANDFUL OF STARS: 38. "Other Angels"
Monday, July 25, 2011

"Portree Nelson informs Marcus of their inability to get passed the Alliance gunships. The crew of Serenity become depressed and worry about how they will get Mal and Zoe back. Meanwhile some things are not as bleak as they seem while others are infinitely worse."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2344    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "OTHER ANGELS" CHAPTER: 38. Sequel to "PANDORA AND THE BOX" SERIES: HANDFUL OF STARS Series AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Portree Nelson informs Marcus of their inability to get passed the Alliance gunships. The crew of Serenity become depressed and worry about how they will get Mal and Zoe back. Meanwhile some things are not as bleak as they seem while others are infinitely worse." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"OTHER ANGELS"

A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Portree Nelson was frustrated. They couldn't get any closer without ending up in Alliance custody and he could see no way to get round the problem. There were just too many Alliance ships and that was another thing that unsettled him. Why? What in the nine hells had drawn them all here, at this time, and what did it mean? The unsettled feeling in his gut just got deeper. The only thing he did know was that they could not linger in the vicinity. Drawing attention was the one thing Marcus had warned against and he was in complete agreement but it left a sour taste in his mouth as if in some way he were being a coward for not being able to find a way through.

Silently he apologised to Mal and Zoe, reluctantly ordering a complete withdrawal. His men were silent. No one questioning his decision or coming up with alternatives. They knew the rescue mission was a bust. Nelson didn't like knowing that as soon as they were far enough away he would need to let Marcus know. Not in so many words but by pre-arranged code phrase. Something innocuous wrapped up in a greeting, a call between friends just saying "Hi". He wasn't used to failure, to letting good folks down, still less people that he had promised to protect while in his care.

* * * * *

His voice was slow, fragmented and a mite scratchy but at least he could speak. "Who the *diyu* are you?"

"I'm the man who was born to save your sorry *pigu*."

Mal would have laughed if he but had the moisture in his mouth to do so. His eyes were drying out again, the *moshengren* kind'a growing indistinct, blurry even. He cursed his inability to blink, could'a wept but his tear ducts were dry. He tried to wet his lips but that didn't work either. Getting tired again though he knew he would not sleep. The gorram drugs wouldn't let him. A mite distracted with his thoughts it took a moment to realise there was something sticking out of the side of his neck. It was only as the man withdrew the syringe that he realised he was being doped again. Huh. Seemed even his gorram saviour was Alliance. He wanted to rant and rail at him, a stinging sensation beginning to travel down his neck into his chest, his vision blurring even more.

"*Ni liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze*..."

"Now is that any way to thank me?"

The Captain had a whole heap of not very complimentary things he could have said in response but he was unable to make any of them. His tongue seemed to thicken in his mouth, his vision shot to pieces and even his hearing going all muffled as if he was drowning in gorram cotton wool. As the world around him began to fade to black some part of his back brain registered that his rutting headache had gone. Gorramit, who said there was no such thing as a silver lining?

* * * * *

Marcus listened to Nelson in silence. He had known the rescue mission was a really long shot but they had to try. Hearing the pain Nelson tried to hide in his voice, he knew that the repercussions hadn't even begun to sink in yet. He gave a bland response equating to 'message received and understood' then switched off the com. After a few minutes of mulling it over, Marcus put a call through to Serenity.

Wash stared at the screen, not willing to accept what he was hearing. Foolishly he had hoped that Marcus had good news for them. This wasn't it. "We can't leave them there!"

The face staring back at him was sympathetic but resolute. Marcus hated playing Devil's Advocate but he needed to make sure Serenity's crew didn't make things worse by trying to mount their own doomed and seat-of-the-pants rescue. He did not doubt their courage but flying by emotion always left casualties. "You can't go in after them, Wash."

He bit back tears but the emotion was written all over the pilot's face. "That's my wife!"

Marcus nodded. "*Wo zhidao*, but I don't think they are in immediate danger."

Jayne, Inara, Kaylee, Monty and Simon hd come running as soon as they heard about the wave and were now crowded anxiously around the pilot, all of them staring at Marcus. It was Jayne who put into words what the rest of them were thinking.

"You sayin' torture ain't danger?"

"I'm not saying that. I mean, Mal and Zoe are obviously wanted alive."

Simon felt a sick sinking feeling in his stomach, knew without being told that the reason was his sister. Blue Sun would do anything to get her back and now once again members of this crew were paying the price. Yet where else in the 'verse could they go? The truth was nowhere was safe and as the Captain was fond of telling him at least they kept moving and a moving target was supposed to be harder to hit.

"What can you do?" Asked Monty.

For a moment Marcus just looked at his friend, a little of his sorrow and regret flickering on his face. "Portree and his men tried to mount a rescue but there are Alliance gunships everywhere. They couldn't even get close, Monty."

Kaylee couldn't stop wringing her hands. "But you have another plan, *dui*?"

The silence spoke painful volumes. After a moment or two Marcus spoke again. "*Duibuqi*."

Inara was thoughtful. "Perhaps if I tried some of my contacts..."

Marcus was already shaking his head, inwardly terrified at the thought of this beautiful lady getting anywhere near this poisonous mess. After all, Blue Sun had tentacles everywhere. "*Bu qu*, Inara! That's the last thing you should do."

"Ya suggestin' we turn our backs?" Growled Jayne.

"I'm not saying that but going in all guns blazing isn't the answer."

Jayne straightened and crossed his arms over his chest. "Then what is 'cause I ain't hearin' nothin' but can't from you."

"We'll think of somethin'." Monty interjected before the conversation could descend into a slanging match. After all it wasn't Marcus's fault and the man had tried to mount a rescue.

"Yeah, while you're thinkin' they're bein' tortured."

Monty looked agonised. Inara was surprised at Jayne's anger, the sense of betrayal she got from his wounded words as if no one wanted to help when the truth was they couldn't. But if not any of them then who? Was there someone else they could turn to for help?

* * * * *

*Try one finger at a time*

Zoe wanted to tell the apparition to go screw itself but that was wrong on too many counts. After all, it was just her fevered brain trying to make her feel better.

*Zoe, you have to pay attention!*

She blinked. The ghostly figure seemed a mite agitated, annoyed if she was any judge. As she looked at him, the image of Book seemed to solidify a mite. Zoe blinked. *Wode ma*, was she going *shenjingbing*?

*Now* said ghostly Book, his voice calm and measured and oozing a confidence she wished she could share *you have to try again*

As much as Zoe was feeling too weary what did she have to lose? Obviously her sanity had already departed. Summoning up the last of her energy she concentrated on her right hand and gradually, so slowly that at first she didn't think anything was happening, her finger moved. She stared at it wide eyed. Had she just imagined that? In her mind Book's voice urged her on. She tried again and this time the movement was a little more pronounced. "Another finger, Zoe, move another one then as that moves work through them all until you can release your hand*

It seemed an impossible feat but Zoe felt a frission of hope and poured her focus in doing just that. When the hand finally came free the exultation that swept through her almost drowned out Book's voice.

*You need to do the same to the other hand, then your legs and so on. And Zoe, hurry*

Hurry? Was he gorram joking? But Zoe didn't waste time arguing with him.

* * * * *

The impromptu meeting on the bridge had not ended with any new plan in place and everyone was feeling deflated and somewhat fractious. Kaylee was crying but Simon could think of nothing to say to help. Instead he hugged her close to his chest and was relieved when her arms encircled his waist, his shirt catching the tears that just wouldn't stop. Helplessly he clung to her. Looking over Kaylee's shoulder he caught Inara's eye and saw the sadness on the Companion's face. It reminded him that everyone on Serenity was grieving and it seemed wrong to him to bury their friends when they were not yet dead. His heart stalled. Not yet dead. It made him think of the saying, 'where there is life there is hope'. Right now it seemed pretty hollow and cold comfort.

Kaylee raised her tear stained face and stared up at Simon. "They ain't comin' back are they, Simon?"

"We don't know that, *xin gan*."

"Yeah but it ain't just Alliance, it's Blue Sun."

The doctor felt a shudder of dread go through him. Glad that his sister hadn't been on the bridge with them when Marcus had waved Serenity with the bad news. *Tianna*, what was he going to say to River?

* * * * *

The net shimmered as if it was losing power then stabilised again. The Captain's vital signs were sluggish, some might say weak, but if he could stablise the man then this might still work. First he washed out the man's eyes to help re-hydrate them and gently peeled off the tape so the eyelids could close. Although the man was unconcious, he almost felt the body's relief. Now came the tricky part. Carefully he made sure Malcolm Reynolds remained in position in the sensory deprivation chamber then left him. The technician had been watching on his monitor but had not seen the subject being injected and assumed it was as Dr Mathias stated. A simple exam to make sure the subject was stable.

"You removed the tape." The technician observed with a frown as Dr Mathias joined him.

The doctor had his hands in the pockets of his white coat and a disingenuous smile upon his face. "There are only so many times you can ease the dryness in the eyes without allowing them to close. A brief respite that is all."

He got a nod back. After all, what harm could it do?

"Do you have the latest figures?"

The technician nodded and got back to work, bringing up the required screen as the doctor moved up behind him to look over his shoulder. David Chang felt a sudden prick in the side of his neck, his mouth falling open in shock and surprise, his eyes widening as he turned to stare at Dr Mathias. But the drug was quick acting and before he could do or say anything his eyes rolled into the back of his head as he lost consciousness. Carefully Dr Mathias propped him in the chair then fiddled with something folded in the inside pocket of his white coat. As he shook it out the glimmer and sparkle was like an overlay of stars. He had to work fast. The monitors themselves were monitored and any lack of activity that lasted more than a couple of minutes would flag a warning.

* * * * *

"This is a mistake."

The Blue Sun representative looked almost as if he were gloating. "*Bu qu*, everything is proceding exactly as planned."

The Project Manager looked apalled. Marcel knew that if this did not work it would not just be his reputation on the line but his actual neck. The Blue Sun representative, Mr White, exchanged a look with the Head of Operations. A silent communication to which Marcel was not privvy.

"I cannot believe you are allowing this to happen, *shifu*."

Mr White raised a cold eyebrow, his pale features more wax than living flesh. If he was being honest, the man was more than a little creepifying. "You wish us to alter our arrangements?"

Marcel swallowed slowly and willed himself to calm down. He recognised the mild phrase as a euphemism for his own untimely exit from the programme. He shook his head. "No, *shifu*. I was just worrying about losing our subject."

The Head of Operations turned to him with a thin smile. "*Fang xin* Marcel, soon you will have another."

He nodded and stared numbly at the screen. Despite his quailing heart he had to admit to being fascinated by the inventiveness of the rescuer. As he became engrossed in what was unfolding before him, Marcel forget his fear and worry and oddly enough found himself secretly rooting for the other side.

* * * * *

Kaylee was too distraught for love making and to be truthsome Simon was a terrible actor. He could no more pretend everything was alright than fly but fortunately Kaylee loved him for his honesty as well as everything else. Sometimes he was baffled by what she saw in him but he only had to look in her eyes to be grateful to every God that ever was that she loved him. His heart too full, it was often a humbling experience being the subject of such complete unconditional love but he returned it in full if less effusive fashion.

"We have to do somethin', Simon."

They were sitting on her bed, Simon's arm around her, Kaylee's head on his shoulder. Simon dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "We will, *bao bei*."

"But nobody's doin' anythin', Simon! It ain't right. If it were any one of us..."

Simon put a finger to her lips to still what he knew was coming. It was a lament he had heard too many times before but nonetheless agreed with. Repeating the refrain would not bring their Captain and Serenity's first mate back. "*Wo zhidao* and when we can come up with a good plan that's exactly what we will do."

Kaylee looked down and twisted her fingers together. "Yeah, but what if they don't have that long? Without the Cap'n an' Zoe Serenity ain't Serenity."

He hugged her and wished with all his heart he had answers for her but he didn't. Simon had a thought, remembering how Mal would get Kaylee to focus on the ship when she was upset. Give her something to do so she could feel she was helping. "Maybe you should have a look at the engine."

The mechanic leaned back so she could see his face. "An' what? We ain't goin' nowhere, Simon."

"Not know maybe but once we come up with a plan we may need to call on Serenity and push her hard, *dong ma*?"

Simon saw the tears stop, Kaylee's focus back on her girl, thinking of ways to increase the Firefly's performance ready for the Big Damn Rescue because there was no way in all of the nine hells there wouldn't be one. Yes. Simon was right.

"I'll get right on it, maybe I can boost the..."

Her words were lost on Simon. Even when he visited her in the engine room and she patiently explained what she was doing and what went where and did what it washed over him in a meaningless babble. Right now he was happy to accept the babble, noticing how Kaylee had perked up at the thought of doing something. Anything that might help them retrieve their missing friends.

* * * * *

Dr Mathias took a moment or two to make sure that the illusion was complete. When he left the sensory deprivation chamber they would see Malcolm Reynolds still in situ, his eyelids taped open and the equipment monitoring his life signs while the steady drip of drugs played mind games with the man.

Outside the door he collected his burden and carefully made his way by less travelled corridors to one of the few rooms not fitted with cameras or detection devices. The reason was clear, inside the equipment was so sensitive that adding external devices would interfere with their operation. An operation too important to tamper with. The only problem with the room was that it had but one exit yet that was not his primary concern. Dr Mathias knew time was short but something was nagging at him. Something that he suspected deep in bones and which, the more he ruminated on it, sparked off alarm bells. This had been too easy and while he and Mal were not out of the woods yet it would mean tweaking their escape in a way he had not wanted to go.

He gave a little sigh then a sudden smile blossomed on his serious lips. What was life without risk? And what could be more perfect that pulling it off under the noses of the scariest people in the 'verse?

* * * * *

Zoe was dizzy. Even though she was gradually freeing herself from the chair it was taking a toll. She made herself take deep breaths, pushing them deep through her diaphram to get as much oxygenation as possible. Anything to clear her gorram head. Now was no time for passing out.

"You got any helpful suggestions Preacher now would be a good time."

*Open your eyes*

Worn out as she was, Zoe was beginning to rally a little. She opened her eyes and stared in shock. "Is this your idea of *yige ezuoju*?"

The walls of the little cell were as damp and dark as she remembered. Turning slowly she could see it was also empty. Where was he and what the *diyu* was going on? She could not be dreaming because you woke from those. No, this was a gorram nightmare.

"Book! If you can hear me you'd better answer, *mashang*!"

*Bei chao*

It was disconcerting to hear the voice in her head without the ghostly spectre she had been getting used to. "How come I can't see you?"

*I am inside your head, jide?*

"Cute", she muttered then closed her eyes.

*Don't speak out loud, put what you want to say in your thoughts and I will hear you*

*You God now, Book?*

She felt his humour rather than heard it. How *shenjingbing* was that?

*How you doin' this or have I finally gone 'fafeng'?*

*You are not going mad and neither are you imaginning me*

*Preacher, I've got a disembodied voice in my head. Don't think I'm actin' too rational right now*

*Where do you think you are?*

Anger welled up and would have robbed her of reason but Zoe knew that would get her nowhere and she had to figure this out. *Looks like the cell me an' Mal woke up in*

*What were you thinking or doing before you saw the cell?*

*Ain't got time for twenty questions...*

Book's voice interrupted her, or rather, the voice that sounded like him. It was beginning to make her head hurt trying to make sense of it all. *Humour me*

Zoe glanced around at her dull and depressing surroundings. *I was in the chair, happy now?*

*Then you cannot now be in the cell*

That gave her pause. The thought had crossed her mind but she'd been distracted by what she was seeing.

*You cannot trust anything you see, Zoe. Remember that*

Panic began to well up inside her. *What do I do?*

*Try to relax, close your eyes*

Not having any better idea Zoe did just that. *Now what?*

*Keeping your eyes closed use your hands to check out where you are*

*Book, this isn't a game an' I'm runnin' out of patience*

*Wo zhidao but there isn't time to argue. We have to get you out of this maze*

Maze? Zoe stretched out her arms cautiously and took a tentative step. To her surprise she did not come up against a wall. *Where am I?*

*Inside your head. Don't get angry, you have to stay calm or you will be lost here forever*

Zoe could feel the sweat pooling in the palms of her hands, her heart beating too fast to be normal. Book's deep voice slowed and her heartbeat followed suit. Amazing how calming the man could be even when he was a product of her own rutting mind. She tried not to think on being stuck like this forever. Never seeing Wash again or finding out what had happened to Mal and the rest of the crew. After what felt like a lifetime of stumbling around, Zoe decided to take a short rest and sat on the floor. Book had been silent for too long and it was starting to fill her with another kind of fear. The fear of being totally and completely alone. *Am I dyin'?*

It took too long for the answer to come and when it did Book's voice was so faint she had to strain to hear it. *Not if I can help it*

* * * * *

Marcus Bole listened in silence. The communication was not only encoded and scrambled but bounced around a number of satelittes until even the sender would not have been able to track it. Mr Universe had come up trumps yet again.

"Are you sure this will work?"

Mr Universe looked smug but not obscenely so. He knew he was good at this, better than the best techs the Alliance could lay their hands on. In fact Marcus often thought he preferred technology to people. "This is a bad time to be havin' second thoughts, Marc."

"Just anxious that's all. Lives are depending on us getting this right. Shouldn't we let the rest of the crew know what we're doing?"

"That would be a mistake. This will work best if we keep the loop closed. Once it's safe to do so I'll send Wash a wave but not before, *dong ma*?"

Marcus nodded but felt guilty knowing Serenity's crew were worried and frantically trying to come up with a plan. His friend Monty had looked as distraught as he'd ever seen him and that made him feel low for not sharing this with them but Mr Universe had been adamant and agreeing to his terms had been the only way to get the help he needed. He just hoped with all his heart that it worked.

* * * * *

There was a subdued atmosphere on Serenity. No one felt much like talking and Inara couldn't rouse herself to eat anything. She was worried about their missing friends especially Mal. He was still suffering terrible headaches even if the *wangu chunren* tried to hide it from her. She was a trained Companion and expert at reading people. Even if she hadn't seen the pain in his eyes would have given him away. It wasn't fair, Mal was only just recovering from being in that twisted sick *hundan* Petrie's hands and now this. Inara tried not to think about Mal and Zoe being lost to them forever.

Jayne was hefting weights and Inara had seen Kaylee hurrying off to the engine room. Wash must be going out of his mind with worry. Walking into the commons area to put a kettle on for some tea, Inara noticed River sitting cross legged on the floor. Before she could speak to her Simon came hurrying into the room, his eyes fastening on his sister with a mix of relief and frustration.

"River, *mei mei*, I've been looking everywhere for you!"

River did not open her eyes. "No you haven't, you've been with Kaylee."

Despite her worry, Inara couldn't quite surpress a smile.

"You haven't taken your medication."

"It's not me who needs it."

Simon started to make a face. River opened one eye and looked at him.

"Your need is greater than mine."

Her brother did not think that was funny but River was tuning him out again, closing her eye and off who knew where in that landmine of a head of hers. "River, I'm serious. This isn't a game."

"Ssssh!"

Simon glanced at Inara but she just gave a shrug and rumaged in a cupboard to reach for her tea.

"What are you doing?"

"Concentrating, now go away."

Simon took a step towards his sister when she raised a hand, palm out, without even opening her eyes. Simon stopped in his tracks. It was always unnerving how she always knew exactly where he was, even with her eyes closed.

"I think River just wants to meditate, Simon, and you know how meditation always calms her down."

He turned to look at Inara, a conflicted look upon his face. "But her medication..."

Inara smiled sweetly at him. River ignored them both. "What is it for?"

Inara knew but Simon wasn't thinking, too worried about too many things. "It keeps her calm."

"So does meditation. Besides, I'll be here if she needs you, Simon."

His mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. He could not argue with Inara's logic or how calm and content his sister looked. If meditation could reduce the need for her meds it would be a good step forward. For all of them. "Xie xie ni*, I'll just go and..."

Simon waved vaguely behind him. Inara nodded and poured hot water into her mug and watched him go. The Companion looked at River, was curious about what exactly she was doing but knew she would not get any answers until the girl was good and ready. In many ways she was as stubborn as their missing Captain. The thought saddened her, made her heart feel heavy. Surely there must be something they could do?

"Working."

Inara wasn't sure who River was talking to or what she meant. "*Duibuqi, mei mei*, what do you mean?"

River opened her eyes and looked at Inara. Oddly enough the Companion found herself holding her breath. With River Tam you never knew what would pop out of her mouth. "Plots and plans and schemes."

"You have a plan?"

But River had closed her eyes again and resumed the Lotus Position. It was as calm and effective as having a door closed oh so politely in her face.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *pigu* = bottom *wo zhidao* = I know *dui* = correct *ni liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze* = you salivating son of a bitch and a monkey *duibuqi* = sorry *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wode ma* = mother of God! *shenjingbing* = crazy *xin gan* = sweetheart tianna = oh God! *shifu* = sir *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *dong ma* = understand? *yige ezuoju* = a trick (joke) *bei chao* = not so noisy! *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *jide* = remember *fafeng* = mad *mei mei* = little sister *xie xie ni* = thank you *wangu* = stubborn *chunren* = fool, jerk *moshengren* = stranger

COMMENTS

Monday, July 25, 2011 6:04 AM

BYTEMITE


Mathias good?

I don't think I believe it yet... Wonder what evil side-agenda he might have,

Monday, July 25, 2011 6:07 AM

AMDOBELL


Keep your eyes peeled really sharply, Bytemite. There is a clue but it is a mite obscure. Thanks for the feedback! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, July 25, 2011 2:01 PM

NUTLUCK


Some how I doubt things will turn out well for blue sun when river starts really focusing on making plans.

Monday, July 25, 2011 3:10 PM

MALSDOXY


OK, I had my suspicions Mathias might not be as bad as we'd thought but I'll wager you have a few rabbity-hole plot twists coming up if I know you...and I do! Great read, as ever, AliD

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 6:35 AM

AMDOBELL


You could be so right, Nutluck. Ah, MalsDoxy, you really do know me so well - I had a grin on my face when I read your comment. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011 10:53 AM

EBFIDDLER


Lots of twists and turns...and I'm glad to see that Mal and Zoe are working their way out of trouble--or is it out of the frying pan and into the fire?

Friday, July 29, 2011 7:00 AM

AMDOBELL


You'll have to wait and see, ebfiddler! Thanks for commenting, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, August 6, 2011 12:31 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Always goodness from you, Ali. I love it, though Matthias sounds quite devious.

Sunday, August 7, 2011 9:22 AM

AMDOBELL


Good to hear from you Angellemarcs, and as for Matthias - you have no idea! Thanks for the feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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