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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 178 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Yes!” Kaylee’s cry of triumph echoed through the ship just as lights flickered across the board and stayed on.
Mal ignored the comm, instead standing in the bridge doorway and yelling, “We good to go?”
The young woman leaned out of the engine room, and shouted back. “We are, Cap’n.”
“Can we burn?”
“Shiny. Tell River to get to Katya and –”
“She’s already gone, Cap’n.”
Indeed, there was a clang, a groan, then a few seconds later Katya appeared in the bridge windows.
“We got comms?” Mal asked his wife, sitting at the controls.
“No need,” Freya said, already setting new co-ordinates and getting under power. “She’ll follow.”
“In here.” Dottie went to knock but paused.
Jayne had no compunction about barging into a bedroom, and tried the handle. “Gorramit. You got a key?”
“There’s probably a spare on the … oh.”
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.
For a moment he thought the room was empty, then saw a dark leg just beyond the bed. Crossing the floor in just a few strides, he went down onto his knees next to Zoe’s naked form. Gently, far more so than anyone who knew him would ever believe, he turned her over and moved her hair from her neck, pressing lightly. There, a pulse, good and strong.
He lifted her up, ignoring her nudity, and placed her carefully on the bed.
Dottie clasped her hands to her mouth. “Is she …”
“She’s alive. Check the bathroom, see if Hank’s passed out in there.”
She did as she was told. “No. No-one.”
“Then how …” Jayne picked up the lock from where it had flown across the room. “’Cause the key’s still in it.”
Dottie cleared her throat. “There’s …” She pointed towards a small door in the corner.
“Where’s that go?”
“Secret corridors.” She pressed part of the moulding and the door swung silently open.
A cold breeze filled the room.
“Where’s it come out?”
“Lots of places. The grotto at the end of the lake, the mausoleum, lots of places in the house …” She glanced at Zoe. “Is she going to be all right?”
“Go get some coffee. Strong. That’ll bring her round.”
“Yes sir.” She bobbed another curtsey and was gone.
Jayne turned back to the bed, pulling a blanket free and covering Zoe with it. Not that he minded in the slightest seeing her with no clothes on, but somehow it didn’t seem … right.
As he did so, the very faintest of scents rose from the fabric, something he thought he recognised. Leaning forward, he took a deeper breath. Yes. A bit like the incense Freya used, but more spicy. Genix gas. He’d used it himself, a couple of times, when he’d needed to get into a place but wasn’t being paid to kill. It was expensive, which was why someone else’d bought it, but it was also a very effective knockout gas. If he could still smell it, but wasn’t being affected, it had to have been administered at least an hour previously but not more than two, which meant Zoe was going to be out of it another hour minimum.
You been keeping watch?
I am now. She sounded annoyed at herself.
Ain’t your fault, moonbrain. Nobody knew that sha gua was gonna get snatched. Can you see him?
He’ll still be out. He took a deep breath. “Guess I’d better go find him.”
With one last glance at the bed, and confident that Dottie would take care of the occupant, Jayne pulled his torch from one of the many pockets on his cargo pants, and vanished into the not-so-secret corridor.
The door closed behind him, locking with a soft, but final, click.
“How long?” Mal asked, his hands tight on the back of the co-pilot’s seat.
“Two hours. Maybe a little more.” Freya looked up at him. “Mal, sit down. You’re making the place look untidy.”
He glared at her but slid into the chair. “This was planned.”
“They knew we were heading off on that job, probably thought the others were with us, not staying with Dillon and Breed …”
“Knock us out so we can’t go back and help …”
“I know, Mal.”
“Then how come you’re so all-fired calm about it?”
“I’m not. Oh, Mal, I’m not.” She shook her head. “I’m so angry I can hardly see the controls.”
“You hide it well.”
“I’ve had a lot of practice.” Taking a deep breath she stretched out her hands, her knuckles white from where she had been clenching them into fists.
Mal squeezed her shoulder. “But another two hours.” He came to a decision. “Katya’s faster’n us, right?”
Freya didn’t have to answer as the ship that had been pacing them began to pull away. Instead she had to hide the smile as Mal tossed his hands into the air.
“Why do I even bother talking?” he asked of nobody in particular. “You all just pick it out of my brain anyway.”
Jia yan. River’s mental tone might as well have been tutting.
“Well, you do!” He sighed heavily as Katya disappeared from view then turned to Freya. “How much faster?”
“It’ll still be another hour or so. In fact, I was thinking of calling in reinforcements.”
This time the smile came through. “I thought I was the mind reader.”
“I know you.”
She started to input the address. “I’ll have to go through the main house – I don’t have the details of the holiday place.”
“I do.” Mal reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper.
Freya laughed. “You never fail to surprise me, Mal.”
“Good to know I still can. I got it off Dillon, just in case.”
She cleared the Cortex and started again. “And before you ask, there’s no point in trying Hank’s beacon. Wherever he is, he’s probably naked.”
Mal winced. “Thanks. I really needed that mental image.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “You tried anyway, didn’t you?”
“I … might have.”
“Where did you think he might have put it?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Yes. And thanks for that mental image.”
“And both beacons are in the house – they haven’t moved.”
Mal pursed his lips. “Maybe we should see about getting Simon to implant ‘em under the skin somewhere.”
“Good luck explaining that to Jayne.”
“I thought you might do that for me. Seeing as I’m captain.”
“Oh, no. As you say, you’re captain. The buck stops with you.”
“I could make it an order.”
“The couch is noticeably vacant right now …”
There was a chime and a face appeared on the screen, not one either of them recognised. “Yes?
“I have to speak to Dillon Malfrey. It’s urgent.”
“He’s engaged at the moment. I can take a message and –“
“I’m Freya Reynolds. Get him. Now.”
The man’s eyes widened. “Yes, madam.” He disappeared from the screen.
Mal glanced at his wife. “So it ain’t just me you talk to like that.”
She glared at him.
The corridors had become tunnels, with more branching off, and it was only Jayne’s keen sense of direction that stopped him from getting entirely lost. Still, he’d gone down more than his fair share of dead ends, while the occasional sign of something being dragged promised much but delivered nothing at all. And there was no way of knowing if it was Hank who had been pulled along or a sack of potatoes.
He’d walked a long way down one tunnel that seemed to show evidence of activity, only to come across a strand of undisturbed cobweb from ceiling to floor, and anyone going by couldn’t fail to have dislodged it. He’d had to retrace his steps back to the fork and go the other way, but there was a feeling in the pit of his stomach that he didn’t have time for this.
From the smell of damp and the flourishing fungi he figured he was by now at least by the lake, if not under it. A small heap of animal droppings caught his eye: well, at least he knew now why it looked like something had been down here – something had, and was likely still living in one of the side tunnels.
Exhaling heavily through his nostrils he trudged on.
“Freya?” Dillon appeared on the screen. “Is everything okay?”
“No.” She quickly went over the situation. “Can you help?”
“Fifty minutes. It’ll take us that long to get a shuttle here, get back to the house ... Is that going to help?”
“Fifty is better than sixty.”
“I’ll hurry it up as much as I can.” He nodded off screen, and there was the faint sound of someone leaving the room. “Breed’s going to get it organised.”
Mal leaned down over his wife’s shoulder. “Faster would be better.”
Something glittered on the walls to his left, and he turned to shine the torchlight on it. A green glow flashed up a seam of something that ran from floor to ceiling. Jayne reached out to touch it.
“What is it, Riv?” He spoke out loud, his voice echoing coldly through the tunnel.
He took a quick step back. “Hey, ain’t that radioactive?”
Only when processed. Then it’s used in every engine core.
Billions. But the only way to mine it is to strip out the land above and melt it with acid.
“There a lot down here?”
I don’t know. It’s difficult to detect from the surface.
“You think they know?”
“And that’s why it’s now. All this.”
“It’d explain how come there’s so many dead-end tunnels. They’ve been testing the extent of the seam.”
“Yeah, I know. Hank.” He hurried on, the Kodorite seam behind him still glowing with stored light.
“Kaylee only told us you were stuck, not why.” Dillon was tapping his fingers on his knee.
Mal shrugged. “I conjure having my wife dropping messages into her head was bad enough, let alone having the full chapter and verse.” He glanced down, but that same wife seemed to be unfocused.
“River mentioned something about Katya – does Alex know she’d got his ship?”
“Can I be in the room when he finds out?”
“Kodorite.” Freya sat up straighter.
“Say what now?” Mal asked.
“Kodorite. River says it’s beneath the estate, in what might be very profitable volumes.”
“That ties up with something I heard,” Dillon put in. “John Foster made discreet enquiries about getting the requisite permits to drill bore holes across the estate. He was turned down, in no uncertain terms.”
“Let me guess,” Mal said. “’Cause he ain’t the heir.”
“And discreet enquiries? How do you know about them, then?”
“Mal, that’s not worthy of you. And Freya will tell you all about my less than snow-white past.”
“Except she don’t.”
“Then we’ll share a bottle some time and I’ll tell you tales to make your hair curl.”
“You’re promised that before.”
“I mean it this time.”
“Shiny. But even the Alliance wouldn’t dig Kodorite from Persephone, would they? Considering the environmental damage it does?”
“John Foster doesn’t care.” Freya spoke. “He only sees money in the bank. Yes, I know, I’m telling them.”
“Sorry, I’m having three conversations here.”
“Shuttle’s arrived,” Breed put in, appearing on screen.
“Four conversations,” she amended, and glared at them.
The tunnel was slowly rising, and the dampness had given way to dry dust. He stopped as a metal ladder attached to the wall came into view, and a piercing drop of cold air pushed at him, emanating from a dull glow above. Ahead the tunnel continued into the gloom, beyond the reach of his torch, and he stood undecided for a moment. No. This must be it. Snow had fallen through what looked like a grating above, but someone had inadvertently cleared the rungs of the ladder with either gloves or boots, and now the little piles of while were confined to the edges.
I ain’t sure.
Neither am I, she admitted.
Someone’s been here, recent, but I don’t got an idea it was today.
Check. It’s the only way.
He started to climb, the cold metal biting into his hands, even through the gloves.
Mal looked up at the vid. “Hey, ‘Nara. You’d better hurry or they’ll leave without you.”
“I’m not going. There’s nothing Sam nor I could do, so we’ll stay, look after the children.” She was biting her lip.
“Surprised you got the kids to stay put.”
“I admit they’re anxious, Bethie particularly so.” A shadow crossed her face. “She can’t reach her Uncle Hank either.”
“She shouldn’t be looking.” Before Inara could respond he went on, “So you ain’t gonna come in on my side and save the day with that fancy bow of yours?”
“No. And as much as I don’t like the Fosters I don’t think they’re Reavers.”
He half-smiled, knowing that by riling her up he’d stopped her feeling quite so fretful. “Pity. Frey ain’t seen you like that.”
“I’ve seen Inara angry enough, thank you very much,” the woman in question said. “Almost an entire dinner service.”
“I think there was a soup bowl left.” Inara shook her head. “And I know what you’re doing, Mal.”
“No idea what you’re talking about.”
“Hmmn. Anyway, I think I know why the Fosters have done all this.”
“Kodorite. River said.”
“No. Well, yes, but … are you going to listen or interrupt?”
“You gonna talk to your kid like that?”
“Just askin’. And go ahead.”
The glare through the vid should have melted the screen. “Yes, it is because of the Kodorite, although I didn’t know about that until just now. But the reason it has to be now is because of two things.”
“’Nara, I’m getting old sitting here.”
“Stop it, you two.” Freya shook her head, understanding the need to diffuse the tension, but getting a little exasperated herself. “Why now, Inara?”
“Clive’s been playing a little fast and loose with the inheritance, and he’s about to be audited.”
Mal couldn’t help himself. “He’s a crook? Now ain’t that a revelation. I think maybe I’m coming to like ‘im more than I did.”
“Well, I don’t.” Inara lifted a handful of flimsies. “According to my sources, unless he lays his hands on a great deal of money very quickly, he’s going to be a guest of the Alliance for some time to come.”
“Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.”
Freya leaned forward. “And? Or but? There’s something else. Mining – or not mining – Kodorite isn’t going to solve his problems overnight.”
Sam appeared on screen at Inara’s shoulder. “It’s the Will. Uther Triskelion’s Last Will and Testament, and the cause of all this.”
“John Foster’s found a way to challenge it,” Inara added.
Cold. He was cold. Zoe must have pulled all the covers onto her side. He reached out to try and pull them back, but groaned instead.
The grating fit snugly over the hole, and as Jayne felt around the edge he found a padlock set through a hasp. He tugged, mildly surprised when it sprang open. Still, if it was locked on the other side as well … He pushed at the grating.
“We went through the full Will, the one River found, and there’s a very interesting clause in it. I had to check with an old friend of mine, but …” Sam didn’t quite look smug, but almost. “I think we have it.”
“And I’m getting older by the minute.”
“Unto the fourth generation. That’s what it says.”
Mal wondered idly if he could persuade River to make Sam’s brains run out of his ears, and whether Inara would notice. “Tick tock.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed but went on, “I suppose the people who wrote the Will thought it was far enough, and Uther can’t have read the fine print, otherwise he’d had had them change it to in perpetuity.” He paused.
“If you’re waiting for me to ask what that means you’ll be old and grey too ‘fore I do.”
“Can’t have that, can we?”
Inara looked at her partner then the screen. “Enough, both of you.”
Sam grinned. “Yes, my sweet. Anyway, Peder was the first, then his children, then –”
“Why ain’t Uther first?” Mal interrupted.
“Because the Will didn’t come into effect until Uther died. Can I go on?”
“Since when was I stopping you?”
“So Peder was first, his children, then any they would have had, then theirs …”
“And we come get to Hank.”
“Fifth generation, at least.”
Inara leaned forward, at least as far as her stomach would allow. “And that’s the point, Mal. They … prove … he’s the heir, get him to sign all the papers: then, before they can be notarised, there’s an ‘accident’.”
“Ain’t they a bit ahead of themselves? Far as I know nobody’s signed anything yet.”
“They don’t think it matters.” Freya had been staring at the stars, and now looked at her husband. “And they’re probably right. They have the fake DNA result, can prove they actively searched for an heir … as long as Hank’s body is found they don’t need a signature.”
“Frey, you’ve got a devious mind.”
“But she’s right,” Sam put in. “That’s what my friend said. No court in the Alliance would deny John Foster’s claim to the estate through his late wife’s legacy.”
“And it’s why Luke Foster told Hank not to mention Ben.” Freya’s knuckles whitened.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“So he is a part of it.”
“You know, I’m kinda sorry about that – I liked him.”
“So did I. But money is a great persuader.”
Mal started to pace. “And we can’t do a gorram thing.”
“But maybe someone else can,” Freya put in quietly.
Jayne stood upright inside some kind of circular stone temple, from the look of it, all columns and buxom, half-naked statues, looking way too underdressed for the weather. The roof was solid, but three quarters of the circle was open to the elements at the sides, and snow had blown in, collecting in drifts around the edges and against the remaining wall.
The grey light of the slowly dawning day was still too weak to see by, but his torch picked out footprints crossing the pristine floor, although there were no scuff marks like there would be if someone had dragged a body. Still, maybe Hank was being carried. The prints led towards the back of the temple where some kind of altar filled the curve.
His head hurt. All over, pretty much, but mostly centred on his left temple. Or perhaps it was his right. Or his neck. Or … okay, all of it. In fact, it felt like his head was about to explode. Which was odd, considering how cold he was. If Zoe had taken all the covers maybe he was in a draught.
He reached for them, but his fingers hit something hard, quite unlike Zoe’s shoulder, no matter how mad she was with him. He went to roll over, but smacked his other elbow onto something equally hard, and now he had shooting pains from the knock to his funny bone. Not so funny bones, in fact.
Wait a minute … both sides? Had he fallen in a ditch or something, and not been able to get out? No. No, that was ridiculous. He was in bed, with Zoe. They’d managed to get back to sleep after the shuttle had left and they’d finished their conversation, then snuggled back under the covers and … he couldn’t remember the rest.
And it was dark. Very dark. And … oh. His eyes were still closed. That was it. He opened them. Then again. The view didn’t get any better, seeing as there wasn’t one. Black. Not the friendly Black of deep space, but the total absence of light. Maybe the fire had gone out, or someone had drawn the curtains around the bed.
Except that didn’t work. Whatever he was lying on wasn’t a soft mattress.
His heart began to beat faster.
No. Not an altar. A stone box with a huge slab for a lid.
Jayne grinned without humour. Just the place to hide a corpse. Or make one.
Crossing the floor and hearing the crunch of frost beneath his boots, he prepared to push off the lid.
Hank took a deep, shuddering breath. “Okay, calm down. Where is it totally dark? Think.” His voice sounded odd, even to his own ears. Like he was in a cupboard or something.
He reached out to both sides, feeling smooth stone under his fingertips, cold and unforgiving, and a little more than shoulder-width apart.
“Sit up,” he ordered. “Then you can see over the top of … tah mah duh!” Ouch. In fact, more than ouch. His head had collided with something, and the ache had sharpened into agony. He fell back, this time hitting his head on the ground. No. Not ground.
As the spike subsided into mere pain he realised he was lying on yet more stone, and the chill was working its way into his bones, meeting the increasingly loud kettledrum of his heart.
A horrible picture was building in his mind, and he stretched his toes out. More stone. He swallowed hard. No, please, not that. Gingerly raising his arms, he felt the stone lid above him, perhaps three-quarters of a metre from his face. Scrabbling now, he walked his fingers back, hoping against hope it was some kind of a slot, and he could just wiggle backwards to freedom, to daylight, to …
“No, no, no, no, no, no …”
Another stone wall. Above, below, end to end and side to side, he was entombed.
His claustrophobia grew into panic, then into full blown hysteria as he pushed against first one side then the other, then the top, the ends, screaming out one word, over and over.
to be continued
Monday, December 19, 2016 12:30 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2016 2:29 PM
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