BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Secrets - Part XXII
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Simon’s lips thinned. “The D17 might be the original problem, affecting a tiny number of those exposed, perhaps only one or two people of the same family, but the Anti-Pax wasn’t designed for it. Besides, that would be like using a hammer when I need a scalpel.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Is there light at the end of the tunnel, or is it an oncoming Alliance cruiser?]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1256    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

David Gabriel Tam waved his arms at her and grinned. Grabbing his toes he wriggled himself into a sitting position on the changing table and laughed.

“He’s quite advanced,” Inara said, dropping the used diaper into the bin and letting the lid fall closed. The breeze blowing through the slightly open window quickly cleared any lingering odour as she washed her hands.

“Poops a lot,” Bethie said from where she was crouched in the nursery doorway, sitting back on her heels and hugging her knees.

“There is that,” Inara agreed. “But I said I would get the practice in and I have.” She took a quick breath, realising she’d forgotten her own situation for just a few minutes.

“Daddy will figure it out.” Bethie spoke with the conviction of a child who could not only pluck the thoughts out of her aunt’s brain, but utterly believed in her father’s ability to work miracles. “And he goes green when he has to change David too.”

Inara laughed. “I’m sure your father is very good at it.”

Bethie shrugged. “Had to. Momma made ‘im.” She giggled. “Still stabs his fingers on the pins, though.”

“Well, your Uncle Sam is going to have to get some practice in too.” She picked up the baby, who was somewhat garishly attired in a tiny t-shirt River had made and painted with a grinning goblin bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jayne, the ensemble completed by the multi-coloured shorts bequeathed to him because Caleb had grown out of them. He showed no signs of being interested in using the potty, although according to River that was fine because Simon had been very late in learning to … she’d shut up at that point, but the grin stayed on her face for a long time.

“Cal’s using the potty now,” Bethie went on, obviously having picked up Inara’s thoughts, whether on purpose or not. “Else Uncle Sam could’ve changed him.”

“There’s plenty of time.”

She looked into David’s face and he grinned at her, grabbing her top and saying, “Na-na.”

A flush spread through her, accompanied by a slight ringing in her ears. He knew who she was, and in his currently very limited vocabulary she was ‘Na-na’.

“Auntie ‘ Nara?” Bethie echoed, standing slowly.

He was such a good little boy, Inara mused silently, dark-haired like his Daddy but with bright hazel eyes. The ringing got louder, obscuring anything else.

Bethie, her brow creased, concentrated hard, then as fear crossed her features she shouted, “Daddy!”

The mental cry for help went further, slipping from the house and swirling through the orchard, tugging leaves from the trees and making everyone on Serenity stagger.

Freya and Mal were closest, just back from a walk together, and without a thought they started up the stairs two at a time before the echoes had died away. By dint of his longer legs Mal got to the door first, running inside without pausing and lifting David Gabriel from Inara’s arms. Half-turning he gave the little boy to Freya, then caught Inara as she fell, her body beginning to spasm.

It seemed an age before Simon ran into the room, already opening his bag and taking out a hypo. “How long?” he asked, kneeling down next to where Mal now sat on the floor, cradling Inara.

“Coupla minutes. Pretty much when Bethie called.” Mal watched the young doctor inject Inara with a pale blue liquid, and felt her begin to relax.

“Did she fall?” He was already palpating her stomach.

“No. I caught her.”

“The baby?” Freya asked quietly.

“I don’t think there’s any damage. But I want to get her back to the infirmary. Now.”

“You got it, doc.” Mal went to lift her, then saw Sam in the doorway.

“Inara?” His normally olive skin was flushed and drawn.

Mal had a sudden flash of the time after Wing nearly killed Freya, and of the jealousy that had raged through him when she let Jayne carry her instead of him. He laid Inara carefully on the floor and stood up. “You need to take her back to Serenity.”

Sam nodded, just once, then moved forward, gathering Inara into his arms. With barely a grunt he lifted her up, holding her close as he strode out, Simon at his side.

Mal followed, finding the rest of the crew and household in the hallway or on the stairs. “Zo, try and contact Dillon. If this is going the way I’m afraid it is, the girls’ll want to know, make arrangements to come home.”

“Yes, sir.” She started down the stairs, pressing past the Bodens.

“And get hold of Theo. Noni might not be able to make it back, but she’d never forgive me if I kept her in the dark,” Mal added.

She nodded sharply, just once, then continued down, running as she got to the bottom. Hank was at her heels, knowing if she couldn’t then he could.

“You know Noni’d forgive you anything,” Kaylee said softly, blinking hard. “Do you think we might need to go somewhere? A hospital, maybe?”

Mal looked at his mechanic, at how young she still was, at least in comparison to how he was feeling. “Maybe, xiao mei-mei.”

“Then I’ll make sure Serenity is ready to fly.” She was already gone.

“I’m gonna go hunting,” Jayne announced, taking a deep breath so his chest expanded.

To anyone else, anyone not family, his words might have seemed incongruous, uncaring, but Mal knew better. “Not a bad idea. Make sure the freezer’s full.”

“Then I’d better go and make sure there’s room,” Mariah Boden said, gathering her skirts and heading for her domain.

“Can I come?” Jacob asked.

This time even Jayne was surprised. “You hunt?”

“I’ve been known to. And I feel the inexplicable need to shoot something.”

“Nah. I think it’s pretty explicable.” Jayne smiled faintly. “You got a gun?”

“Yes.”

“Only I got a few you might wanna try.” Their voices disappeared as they walked down the staircase.

“Ain’t you going?” Mal asked River, who was standing by a small table, running a delicate finger around the top of a blue and white vase.

“I don’t feel the urge to shoot bunnies.” She picked up the vase and held it out. “Here.”

“Huh?”

“Do you want to smash this?”

“Oh. Right.” Of course, he’d offered it to Frey before all this got so bad. “No, that’s my wife’s department.” He looked around. “Where is she?”

“Ethan’s bedroom. With all the children.”

“They okay?”

“No.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “That was kind of a stupid question, wasn’t it?”

“And quite understandable, if unworthy.” She put the vase back, placing it dead centre on the rosewood. “Go. I will stay with mu qin.”

“She ain’t your mother.”

“And Inara isn’t my sister, and you are not my father, and we are not family.” She laughed, just a small sound. “And the stars will burn to cold, hard death before I believe that.”

“She gonna be okay?” Mal asked, and they both knew who he was talking about.

“I don’t know.”

A chill settled across him. “At least you’re truthful.” He turned to go then paused. “You going to be working on this?”

“I haven’t stopped.”

“Good.” He straightened his shoulders. “That’s good, xiao nu.”

---

In the infirmary the steady beeping of a heart monitor made him slow in its haste.

“Doc?” Mal spoke softly from the doorway.

Simon glanced up at him, then at Sam standing by the medbed with Inara’s hand clutched tightly in both of his. “Outside,” he breathed.

Mal nodded and stepped away to the far wall. “Well?” he asked as Simon joined him.

“The drugs I’ve given her have stopped the seizure, and as far as I can tell there’s no sign of permanent damage, but I’ll know more when she wakes up.”

“Will she?”

Simon nodded, but it was slow and hesitant. “She’s showing all the signs of coming out of it, but I won’t be happy until …”

“You? Happy?”

“It’s been known to happen.”

“And the baby?”

Simon looked back to the cool blue room. “I’ve got Inara on a foetal monitor, and there’s no signs of distress. We were lucky Bethie was with her.”

“Yeah. That little girl deserves a whole shop-full of toys.”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t say no.” Simon stretched his aching shoulders.

“Sit.”

“I can’t. I have to –”

“Don’t go taking that as a suggestion.” Mal lowered himself onto the yellow sofa. “You ain’t gonna do anyone any good if you run yourself into the ground. Let alone the words Kaylee’d be having with me if you did.” He patted the cushion. “Sit.”

“Fine. Just for a minute.” Simon dropped unceremoniously.

“So tell me what you’ve found out.”

“Not much.”

“Then give me what you have. Maybe talkin’ it through will help.”

“Maybe.” Simon pushed his hands across his face to try and clear the weariness. “Well, Victor Honeywell – the man who first described the syndrome – was convinced it originated in the generation ships.”

Mal couldn’t stop the memory of Ms Gingrich, his teacher when he was young, talking about those huge vessels.

“Imagine it,” she would say, peering at her class above her pince nez, her eyes bright and sharp. “Thousands of people crammed all in together. If you were wealthy you got parks and grass, all under the artificial sun, and you could go where you pleased. If you weren’t, you got statutory exercise breaks then back to your dorms or work areas.”

“But they had to leave Earth-that-was, didn’t they?” someone would always ask.

“It was bad, no doubt about that,” Ms Gingrich would concede. “But it would have to be to make the prospect of never seeing another blue sky, feeling rain, hearing bird song seem preferable. Those folks got on board knowing they’d die there. And money meant they could carry on with their lives like they had before, but your life had to be gorram lower’n a snake before what the rest of them had to put up with was better.” Ms Gingrich was Independent through and through, and in another life would have been up on the barricades waving the flag, singing revolutionary songs.

Putting the past to one side, Mal asked, “You think he was right?”

“Perhaps. I’m wondering if it was a virus to start with, which could easily have evolved and mutated amongst the mass of people.”

“I thought it was genetic.”

“It is. At least, it is now. Everything I’ve been able to find, all the tests I’ve done make me think it started out pretty innocuous, but somehow it attached itself to the gene and altered it. The virus itself is gone, but the damage it did …”

“You’ll figure it out.”

Simon sat back and laid his head on the cushion. “You know, I thought I had it yesterday.”

“The answer?”

“Mmn. I’d been testing whether gene therapy would work, if using a donor’s undamaged DNA might be enough to replace that specific area.” He sighed. “But this damn thing is resistant. I can’t cut it out of the chain, and the replacement won’t attach.”

“Not even if you tried Frey’s?”

“It was hers. And if that didn’t work …”

“Good idea. Show’s your brain ain’t running out of your ears quite yet.”

“Not good enough. I was angry, and I … uh … broke the drawer in the bedroom. Kaylee was fixing it, and chatting like she does, and she asked why I was upset so I told her what I told you, about the generation ships. She wondered if perhaps they’d used pacifiers.”

Mal went cold. “Like the Pax.”

“Yes. And for a long, wonderful moment I thought she had something. There are definitely similarities between the way the Pax works and this virus, if it ever existed. They both affect the genetic structure, rewriting it.” He snorted. “Of course, they don’t quite turn out the same.” He turned his head to look at Mal. “I even checked the deep scans of your DNA I made after you nearly turned Reaver.”

Mal could hardly forget the madness he’d felt on Hera, in the tunnels under the Abbey, in those few seconds before Simon slapped the hypo against his neck and the antidote surged into his bloodstream. “And?”

“There’s definitely similarities, but I think it’s just a coincidence.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “If only it was that easy.”

“And if it was? What would you do?”

“It doesn’t matter. I can’t risk doing down a blind alley and finding I’ve run out of time. Finding Inara’s run out of time. Besides, I realised it was just the Anti-Pax still in her bloodstream.”

“Yeah, but, Doc –”

“Simon.” It was Sam, calling him. “She’s waking up.”

Simon was on his feet and striding towards the infirmary before Sam had finished speaking, all trace of his weariness once again hidden. He was checking the monitors as he stepped over the threshold, even as Inara opened her eyes.

“Sam?” she whispered.

“I’m here, darling.”

"Did I …”

“Yes. You scared us.” He picked up a swab and gently mopped the drying perspiration from her forehead.

“I think I scared myself. I didn’t drop David Gabriel, did I?”

“No. He’s fine.”

“And my baby … is the baby …”

“He’s fine,” Simon said absently, his brows drawn together as he studied the screens.

“He?” Inara tried to sit up but nothing seemed to want to work.

“What?”

“It’s a boy?”

Simon turned around, the faintest of pinks touching his cheekbones. “Yes. I’m sorry, I know you wanted … it came out of the scans I took, and I didn’t think … yes. A boy.”

Inara reached for Sam’s hand. “And he’s healthy?”

“Very.”

She closed her eyes. “Thank Buddha. At least he won’t have to go through this.”

Sam nodded fervently. “God, yes.”

“Congratulations,” Mal said from where he stood by the door.

“Thank you.” Sam hadn’t taken his eyes off the woman he loved, and now he cupped her cheek. “We’re having a son.”

She looked at him, and the relief turned to fear. “Sam, hold my hand.”

“I am.” He squeezed.

“I can’t feel it.”

Sam looked up at Simon, and the doctor picked up a sharp probe. “Can you feel this?” He pressed it to her wrist.

“No.”

“How about here?” This time he touched her ankle.

“Nothing.” She was beginning to panic.

“Inara, try and calm down,” he advised, hearing the monitors picking up the pace. “Can you make a fist?”

“You want me to hit you?”

“Preferably not.” He watched as she lifted her hand, her fingers curled tightly into her palm. “Good. Now release it.”

Her hand relaxed and she watched her fingers uncurl as if they didn’t belong to her. “Simon, what’s happening?”

He was examining her palm, at the tiny red cuts from her nails that were welling a small amount of blood. “Do you feel anything?” he asked. “The bed, your clothes? The temperature in here?”

“No.” She tried taking a deep breath, but her heart was pounding. “It’s like … like I’m floating. Numb.”

“Well, you have motor control, and all your autonomic functions are still operating.” He turned back to his notes open on the counter. “It’s not unheard of,” he went on over his shoulder. “It isn’t common but this type of paresthesia has been noted before, so don’t go thinking you’re unique.”

“Of course I am,” she said testily, but there was a tremor in her voice.

“It will probably wear off in an hour or two. But I’d like you to stay here so I can monitor you.”

“And?” Sam put in. He had been a counsellor for too many years not to pick up on the other man’s concern. “Simon, you have to tell us.”

“He doesn’t. I know.” Inara swallowed. “I told you my mother made sure I understood all the symptoms. And this one, this numbness … it’s one from the final stages.”

Mal stirred in the doorway, but held his tongue for once.

Simon turned back from the counter. “Yes. But it doesn’t mean –”

“Yes, it does. And you have to prepare to do a Caesarean.”

---

In the nursery Bethie fidgeted uncomfortably. “Auntie Frey?”

The two adult psychics exchanged looks, then Freya nodded, just once. In a moment River was out of the door and running down the stairs on bare, silent feet.

---

“Inara –”

“It will get to the point where you won’t have a choice. Like you did with Roxanna.”

Roxanna, Hope’s birth mother, who died before she had a chance to see her beautiful little girl. “It’s not the same,” Simon said, his voice rough. “If I hadn’t … but she was full term. You’re not.”

“I know. And not yet, Simon.” She glanced down at her stomach, at the swell of her son. “I have to give him as good a head start as possible. But soon. I’ll stay here, and you can link me up to as many wires and machines as you want. But the time is going to come when you have to take him. I’m not going to … live long enough to give birth.”

“Inara, no!” Sam was shocked and appalled.

She looked up at him, and tears spilled down her temple into her hairline. “From now on there are so many things that could happen. I could have another seizure that affects my heart. Or the pressure in my brain could rupture …” She stopped, seeing her words were hurting him deeply. “Oh, Sam. Why did I have to fall in love with you?”

He almost laughed. “Believe me, I know this is all my fault.”

“I think we both had something to do with it. And that’s not what I meant.” She sniffed then lifted her head enough to look at Mal. “You have to make them. Promise me.”

“I promise,” Mal said roughly. “But it ain’t gonna get to that point.”

“For once I think your trust is misplaced.”

“Nope. And giving in is not an option.” He uncrossed his arms. “So what’s the plan, doc?”

Simon had gone back to his notes, hiding his face so his emotion wasn’t so plain to see, even though it was obvious in the set of his shoulders. He began turning page after page as if the answer was there in front of him if only he could see it. “I don’t … if only those scans weren’t being masked by the Anti-Pax the maybe I –”

“But they ain’t.” Mal took a step forward. “That’s what I was trying to tell you. Inara wasn’t there, wasn’t at the Abbey. She didn’t use it.”

Simon span and stared at him, his memory finally working properly and supplying the confirmation that Inara and Sam had looked after the children while they went tilting at windmills. “God, you’re right. I must be more tired than I thought.” He looked at Sam. “And you didn’t use any of those hypos I left with you?”

“No. No, we didn’t. They’re still in the case in our bedroom.” Sam’s voice took on a begging note. “Does this mean you can do something?”

“I … maybe. But …” Simon felt frustration building inside him. “If I knew what the original contaminant was I might be able to … but the precision needed …” He swept a glass beaker off the counter and it flew to the other side of the room, shattering into razor shards.

“Seems like maybe all my crew like throwing things,” Mal muttered, about to get the pan and brush when felt himself being pushed to one side.

River stepped into the infirmary. “D17 Ventium hydro-chloride.”

“What?”

“A forerunner of the Pax. It’s what they tried on one of the ships to calm the population.” A look as close to disgust as she was able passed across her face. “They wanted to test if docility saved power and food.”

“How do you know that?” Mal asked.

River held up Hank’s special portable Cortex link. “I borrowed it, and between us Freya and I were able to … Hank is right – you can find out anything if you know where to look and what to ask.”

“You were listening?”

“Of course. We have to save Inara.” She handed Simon the device. “That is the formula.”

“It didn’t make Reavers.” Mal took half a step back as her clear, suddenly super-sane gaze fixed him.

“Not that we know of. But do you think anyone would actually have been stupid enough to write it down if they had?”

For one disquieting moment Mal’s imagination supplied him with the image of a proto-Reaver loose on board a ship, confined but killing indiscriminately. “I thought they documented everything a man did.”

“Then perhaps it didn’t. The name of the chemical they used was just a footnote in a report.”

“And nobody’s gonna be able to trace your querying back to us?”

“Hank is good. I am better.”

Simon was scrolling through the information. “It certainly looks similar. I’d say River might well be right.”

“Best be telling your wife, too,” Mal advised. “Since she’s the one got you thinking this route.”

“Oh, I will.”

“So maybe the Anti-Pax will work?”

“No.” Simon’s lips thinned. “The D17 might be the original problem, affecting a tiny number of those exposed, perhaps only one or two people of the same family, but the Anti-Pax wasn’t designed for it. Besides, that would be like using a hammer when I need a scalpel.”

“I’d ask for captain-dummy talk, but I conjure that’s what you were doing.”

“I need more control, Mal. Something that will reverse the damage, or at the very least put it into remission. If I used the Anti-Pax, even tried to adjust it, I might do a lot more harm than good. I need to …” A slim hand reached over his shoulder and picked up his pen and the top sheet of his notes. “River?”

“Shh.” She began to write, symbols flowing in the same handwriting, a mirror of his own.

“What are you …” His jaw dropped. “My God.”

“Doc?” Mal stirred.

Simon ignored the older man. “River, do you know what this is?”

“Yes.” She put the pen back on the counter, then turned to face him.

“Where did you get this from?”

“You.”

“Me?” He stared at her. “But I haven’t …” His voice faded away as an odd feeling settled across him like a spider’s web. He shook himself to get rid of it. “I never worked on this.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Then why don’t I remember?” Except there, on the very edge of his memory …

“Because we made you forget.” Freya spoke from the infirmary doorway.

“The kids?” Mal asked softly.

“Molly’s with them. They like her.” She hadn’t taken her eyes off Simon. “I told River to do it.”

“You did what?” He was hearing the words but his understanding was a whole galaxy behind. “Why on earth would you do that?”

“Because I wasn’t going to let that get out into the ‘verse.”

“What? What is it?” Sam demanded to know.

“The formula for SuperPax,” Freya said gently. “And forgive the dramatics, but even that name isn’t bad enough for what it would do.”

“And what’s that?”

“It’s what Quintana wanted. What the Alliance would use against every Browncoat who dared to disagree. Super Reavers, with all the abilities but without the madness. Or compassion. Just cold, hard sanity.”

Simon’s normally pale face had lost all of its colour. “And you’re saying I developed this?”

“It was a mental exercise,” River explained. “You didn’t make it.”

“Of course I wouldn’t!”

“But someone else could have,” Freya went on. “We had to destroy your notes, and make you forget.”

“How could you … violate me like that?”

“You knew.”

“I …” He shook his head. “No. I don’t believe that.”

“We’ve got proof.” Freya took a deep breath. “But that isn’t important right now. Saving Inara is. And I think this might be the beginning.”

He wasn’t going to let it lie, not yet. “What else did you make me forget?”

“Simon –”

He took a step towards her, more anger on his face than anyone had ever seen. “What else? What else did you take out of my mind? Or put in there? Tell me or I’ll –”

Mal moved between them. “No, doc. You threaten my wife you’ll be working on Inara with a busted jaw.”

“All of these years, knowing what the Alliance did to my sister, and they do this?” Simon glared at him and shook his head. “How could they?”

“It was my decision,” Freya said. “No matter what you think of me, I told River to do it. And I’d do it again.”

“You admit …” Simon laughed but it was cold. “You are … I …”

“And we didn’t make you forget anything else. Or add anything.”

“I don’t believe you.”

River touched his arm. “Simon –”

He shook her off. “No. Not this time. No matter what Freya told you to do, for whatever reason, you had no right.”

“Hate us now. Understand later. But right this moment you have to start work on saving Inara.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 12:41 PM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


Wow this is riveting!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 11:50 PM

MANATREE


I can't put into words how much I love this story. I check daily to make sure I don't miss an update, and each update delivers brilliance! Can't wait to see where you're taking the family next!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 2:35 AM

BLUEHANDEDMENACE


I second Manatree, every new chapter is a treat.

Halfway thru I wondered if you were actually going to kill off Inara, you wrote it so grim and tense.

Love Love Love it.

Friday, May 15, 2015 7:10 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow, stunning reveal for Simon and us, Jane0904. I am finally feeling a cautious bit of hope creeping in, as bad as things now seem for Inara at least Simon appears to have something to work with even if he can't quite see it yet. Love how our dysfunctional family all pull together whenever the need is there. Very dramatic and can't wait for more! *Xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

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This wasn’t how an ex-companion did things. Perhaps she’d been hanging around a certain Firefly captain for too long. He listened at keyholes as if it were a competitive sport.

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