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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
And now the exciting contusion (sic). Nothing ever goes smooth, not even for the bad guys.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1989 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Firefly is the property of Joss Whedon, blah blah blah. You know the drill.
Thanks to Guildsister and Apollo for beta reading. Feedback will of course be appreciated.
We Have the Technology: Prologue
We Have the Technology: Chapter One
We Have the Technology: Chapter Two
We Have the Technology: Chapter Three
We Have the Technology: Chapter Four
We Have the Technology: Chapter Five
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"The important thing is to aim for the head," Mal explained to Book. "The chest is covered with armor, so there's no point in wasting ammo there. There's a little computer stuck on their brains that makes them go. I figure with shotguns we stand a better chance of hitting them there." Addressing Zoë, he asked, "How are we doing chasing down our quarry?"
"From the tracking signal, looks like he's decelerating. Could be about to dock with another ship."
Mal didn't like the sound of that. "How long until we catch up?"
"At our current speed, about thirty minutes," Zoë replied.
"Not good enough. Burn as hard as you can. Don't care how much fuel you waste, time's more important. If we make it through, Serenity will be there to pick us up."
After giving his orders, it started to dawn on Mal that they were going into this half-cocked. For all they knew, there was a vessel the size of an Alliance cruiser full of those supersoldiers waiting for them. He pushed aside those concerns, as it was too late to turn back now.
* * * * *
Clarence looked down in contempt at Two and Six as they struggled to get up and failed miserably. Finally, Six looked up and demanded, "What is the meaning of this, 158?"
"First of all," Clarence replied, "you will not use that designation. While both of you are still just numbers, the same cannot be said of me. You will refer to me as Clarence." He could tell by the way they looked at him that they had no intention of doing so. But it didn't matter, since they were clearly intimidated enough that they wouldn't use the number.
"Now, as to my purpose," Clarence continued, "I have something you want on that shuttle. But you won't be getting it for free."
"What makes you think we won't just take it as well as you?" blustered Two.
Clarence smirked at the bravado. "Because I have reason to believe you sent your entire compliment of Chi'ang Sh'ich to attack Serenity. After all, there aren't too many of them. The Company must have been feeling very generous to let you take four Rippers. Did you know that they were defeated? It was mostly through dumb luck, but they were all put down and didn't even manage to kill any of the crew. So it's just you, me, and the Rigger I imagine you've got plugged in on the bridge, and I don't think he'll be able to help. So here are my terms:
"First, I'll be requiring tools for performing a maintenance check. I'm quite capable of performing it myself, so there's no need for your 'help'. Don't try to pretend you didn't bring any. I'm sure that a maintenance check was the first thing you intended to do when you got me back. There's no need to include the purger, as I have no use for it.
"Second, you are to access your Cortex terminal and download copies of all files pertaining to Project Chi'ang Sh'ich."
"There's no way we'll let you have those!" snarled Six.
"I'm sorry," sneered Clarence. "Did I somehow give the impression that we were negotiating? Neither of you are in a position to make demands. Anyway, I merely desire copies, not exclusive possession. You can continue creating and improving Chi'ang Sh'ich for all I care. You shouldn't try to give me fake or incomplete files, though. I have seen some of the files, but I'm not telling which ones. Considering the sort of day you're having, it would be inadvisable to try such a stunt." From their expressions, Clarence could tell that they weren't feeling too lucky. The blood slowly oozing out of their knees probably didn't do much to add to their confidence either.
"Why should we be willing to let you have the key to creating your own army?" asked Two.
Upon hearing this, Clarence did something he had never done before. He laughed. "You really believe that's what I want those files for, don't you. That's really quite absurd, since I can't imagine why I'd want my own army of darkness. My reasons are not your concern, but they are nowhere near that grandiose.
"But we're digressing. Back to business. Third, you'll send this ship back in the direction of Boros. Once we're close enough, I'll be leaving on the shuttle I arrived in after you refuel it. To make sure you don't follow me, I'll be tossing this at the engine." At this, Clarence pulled the vial from his shirt pocket. "This here is straight nitroglycerine. What's in here should be enough to mangle your engine nicely. With the level of traffic around Boros, I'm sure you won't be stranded for too long. Just long enough to give me a good head start.
"Fourth, in the near future you will receive a Wave giving you a bank name and an account number. You will deposit two million in platinum into that account within a week of receiving the Wave. Failure to do so means I will make myself an inconvenience in the same manner Nitro did until you pay up. I'm sure you'd rather not have that.
"Finally, I expect you to call off this hunt for me. I will not take kindly to seeing you or your sort again. Though if we somehow meet again by chance, I doubt you'll recognize me. Now, do you understand these conditions?"
"Yes, but is there any reason for us to accept them besides the fact that you're the one with the gun?" Six asked.
"Oh, I will compensate you most generously," Clarence replied. "First, just as you won't harass me, I will refrain from harassing the Company. But of greater interest to you is that I'll be handing over 172. I'm sure the Company is displeased by how you've been consistently evaded by the crew of a tramp freighter." Clarence snickered at their obvious consternation. "Now, do we have ourselves a deal?"
It was the gunfire that brought River out of her stupor. It took a few seconds for her to get her bearings and recognize her surroundings as Serenity's spare shuttle. Reaching out with her mind, she nearly succumbed to panic when she sensed that They were on the other side of the airlock along with Clarence. The only way she managed to keep herself from becoming hysterical was to concentrate on finding a way to escape. Twisting about, she examined her bindings and saw that they consisted of a tough and sticky tape. Her only hope was to cut it off, but she couldn't spot any sharp objects for the task.
River considered hopping over to the shuttle door to close it so she could detach from Their ship. But in her current condition, movement would be slow and awkward. Clarence was sure to hear and could move much faster. Unable to think of any other viable options, she came close to crying in frustration. Still, she was able to keep the tears in check, since they would be of no use.
It then struck River that she had reverted to thinking of the Chi'ang Sh'ich as the soulless monsters they were named after. Yet this one had demonstrated that belief to be not necessarily true. Perhaps his soul was still there and she could somehow appeal to him for help.
Unable to think of anything else, River reached out with her mind once more. The Darkness that surrounded him was strong, yet there were fissures in it for her to slip though. She did so, careful not to attract Clarence's notice. Now all she had to do was call out his name. Not the one the Captain and Zoë used, but his true name.
Nitro wondered if he was in Hell. Shepherd Wilson, the circuit preacher who made his rounds at the mines surrounding New Reno, once said that the only people who could be sure what Hell was like were the ones who were there. But it was certain to not be a nice place to visit and you definitely didn't want to live there. Whatever it might be like, Nitro was pretty sure that what he was experiencing was close. It was not something as trivial as pain. Rather, it was nothingness. No body or surroundings, just enough awareness to realize there was nothing else.
Where had that come from? Nitro couldn't remember the last time anyone had used his birth name. Maybe in his desperation for there to be anything else, he had just thought he had heard it.
No, he was pretty sure that had been real. At least as real as anything could be around here. Strange, he had regained the sensation that he had limbs. Now he seemed to be sitting on some ground, hard and rocky. There was also a murmuring which he couldn't quite make out. He was still trapped in total darkness, so he groped about. His efforts were rewarded when he came across a flashlight. Turning it on, he saw that he was in a mine shaft. One direction led to a dead end, while the other was blocked. A chill ran down his spine when he recognized where he was. Somehow, once again he was trapped in "C" shaft, just like in that tale he had recounted to Zoë and her husband. What he had left out was that his escape had been done purely out of a fear that no one would ever come. Maybe an aspect of Hell was that the worst moments of your life were recreated.
"This isn't Hell. Not in the literal sense, anyway."
Turning around, Nitro discovered that the girl was here as well. He had no idea how she got in, since there were no openings he could see. Strange, but he never did find out what her name was.
"That's what my name is," she replied. "This isn't "C" shaft either. We're inside your head."
It took a second for Nitro to realize what she meant. "This is another one of those gorram mental constructs, ain't it?"
Nodding, River responded, "Clarence currently dominates. The construct is a visualization that reflects your position in this. Brief corporeal actions may be accomplished by working around the construct, but a complete transfer is only possible if the dominant personality allows it or is incapacitated."
Nitro felt his head spin at the barrage of ten platinum words. "Hold on!" he begged. "Most of what you're sayin' don't make no sense to me. Now what's all this 'bout dominatin'?"
"Clarence is an artificial intelligence implanted in your head," River replied. "The person you see is a hallucination induced so as to better cope with it. Those murmuring sounds we're hearing are his thoughts leaking out into your brain."
Nitro concentrated so as to better hear them and got quite an earful. Not only did he learn what Clarence had done since regaining control and what he was doing, but also what he intended to do. And it brought to mind something from one of their earlier conversations. That for now, their fates were linked. But it implied that it wouldn't always be the case.
There was no doubt in Nitro's mind that he was seriously humped and there was no way to avoid it. So the least he could do was to try something to help River out of her situation. Recalling the thought that indicated how Clarence had restrained her, Nitro asked, "Did he leave my demolitions gear in the shuttle? It's in a black case."
River's eyes became unfocused for a few seconds. "Yes," she replied.
"Try scooting over to it," Nitro suggested. "There should be a pair of wirecutters in there. Not exactly the ideal tool, but you should be able to cut through the tape with it. Now how do I go 'bout doin' these cor-whazit actions?"
"Corporeal," River corrected. After a brief pause, she continued, "You mind sees Clarence's domination as a cave-in. Escape from the cave-in and you break free from the domination. Once you've done that, you can make the body perform brief actions by concentrating on an image of the action. If you make the image indirect, Clarence will be less likely to notice and override it. But you should first wait until you can see what you're doing." And with that, she was gone.
Wasting no time, Nitro immediately got to work. Acting on a hunch, he carefully dug at a particular section of the block and uncovered an opening leading to the other side. As with then, it was a mite too narrow for him to get through. Gripping the flashlight strap between his teeth, he proceeded to pop his shoulders. The pain seemed far more intense than it ever had been, but he managed to hold back the scream. Screaming might attract Clarence's attention. Once on the other side, he got his shoulders back in position and continued on.
When he arrived at the entrance, Nitro received something of a shock. Instead of the desolate landscape of Hephaestus, he saw the interior of a ship. On the floor were two Hands of Blue, bullet wounds in their knees. It took him a few seconds to figure out that he was seeing what Clarence saw. At the same time, it struck Nitro that it was reminiscent of when he had first seen the 'Verse through his artificial eyes. They had given the impression of viewing his surroundings on a Cortex screen. Along with the nature of the neural overrides, they had made it feel as if he was watching someone else kill those men who were about to stick needles in River's head rather than doing the deed himself. Eventually, he had gotten used to it without really noticing.
Taking another look, Nitro noticed the vial in the left hand and recognized the contents. He formed a plan and tried to think of an indirect image to execute it with. It finally came when he remembered a scene from one of his favorite zombie movies. As he concentrated on the image of the possessed hand, Nitro recalled the long poem Shepherd Wilson liked so much and would sometimes recite excerpts from. Nitro hoped what he was about to do wouldn't consign him to the pathless wood.
"Well?" asked Clarence impatiently, having already waited several minutes.
"We accept your terms," Six replied.
Clarence smirked. It wasn't as if they had any other options. Now there was just the matter of obtaining the maintenance tools and accessing a Cortex terminal. He decided to club Two into unconsciousness and take Six along, since he didn't trust either to stay out of mischief when he wasn't looking and he didn't care to strain his boosters to the degree necessary to carry them both.
Perhaps it was due to his thoughts being distracted like that which allowed his left hand to keep the rest of him from knowing what it was doing.
By the time Clarence regained control over it, the vial had already flown from his hand. At the same time, he heard the sound of the shuttle door slam shut. As the vial struck the window looking out into the Black, he did something else he had never done before.
River watched the three figures fly out into the Black. Though she hardly mourned the deaths of the Hands of Blue, the same couldn't be said concerning David. Even thought what had happened had been his idea, she still felt remorse over offering the suggestions which made that course of action possible.
Perhaps it was because he had been thinking on the image of the pathless wood with the bleeding trees and the harpies. River was a bit surprised that he had been familiar with that poem. In hopes that it would ease his apprehension as his soul went off to wherever it was souls were destined to go, she sent an image of the mountain to him.
Turning her mind to more immediate matters, she considered the problem of returning to Serenity. Due to inexperience, Clarence had wasted much fuel in overcorrecting and there was little left. She'd have to rely on Serenity to come back for her. But that was hardly a given, as Clarence had temporarily disabled Serenity. Even when they regained control, the Captain's heroic tendencies might be quashed by his pessimism and write her off as a lost cause.
As River pondered on this gloomy thought, the proximity alert went off. Looking out, she saw a shuttle identical to the one she was in approach. She gave a sigh of relief. Once more, the Captain had chosen to be a Big Damn Hero.
At first, Zoë didn't see the ship, as its black hull blended in with its surroundings so well. She was less than happy with how the situation was developing. Assuming they could board it and successfully take back River, there was too good a chance that they'd run out of fuel before returning to Serenity. And if by some miracle they did make it back, there was no guarantee that Serenity could outrun the black ship. There were simply too many unknowns involved that were likely to blow up in their faces. Which didn't make it much different from half the jobs they took.
Zoë was trying to figure out an approach when she heard a thump of something striking the shuttle. She gave off a startled gasp as Nitro's body slid by on the other side of the glass.
"Zoë," Mal demanded as he headed to the front of the shuttle, "what the hell was that? Tah mah de!" He too was clearly perturbed by the sight of Nitro sliding by to the underbelly of the shuttle. Further out, Zoë spotted the bodies of two men wearing black suits and blue gloves floating nearby.
On a closer approach, she saw that a large window had been shattered. Since it wasn't much larger than Serenity, it was fairly likely that the whole ship had been depressurized. Noticing Serenity's spare shuttle attached to the side, she tried hailing it. "River, you there?"
"Two by two, hands of blue. Broke the glass, out they flew."
"River, are you okay?" Simon asked anxiously. "What happened?"
"Clarence wanted to strike out on his own," River replied. "Had no more use for David. David's off to the mountain to meet Cato now."
"Afraid you lost me there," said Mal. "What's a Philipino valet got to do with this?"
"I believe she speaks of Cato of Utica," Book offered. "He was a Roman Senator during the reign of Julius Caesar on Earth-That-Was. In the Divine Comedy, Dante and Virgil meet him at the foot of Mount Purgatory."
Shaking his head, Mal signaled Serenity. "Wash, you ready on your end yet?"
"Just finished patching her up," Wash replied. "I was about to turn her around. Did it go smooth?"
"Strangely enough, for once it did."
It had required some tricky maneuvering, but they managed to deposit Nitro's body into Serenity's underbelly airlock. Now that everyone was back aboard, Mal announced his plans. "Once were finished at Demeter, our next stop will be Hephaestus. We'll be dropping off Nitro's body with his folks. Zoë, I believe he once told you where exactly they are."
"Yes sir. They run a mining operation near New Reno. He said it was the largest not controlled by Blue Sun."
"Shiny. Now, I haven't figured out yet what we'll tell them, but it sure as hell ain't going to be the truth. Doc, see if you can do something about preserving him."
Looking down at the corpse, Mal noticed that the eyes were still open. It was then that he was hit by the creepifying feeling that they were staring back at him. No one could survive out in the Black unprotected for that long. Yet if someone had told him about the Chi'ang Sh'ich a couple of months ago, he would have called that person a damned liar.
Unable to take it anymore, Mal quick drew his revolver and drilled a shot between the eyes. The others stared at him with varying degrees of shock.
"Was that really necessary, sir?" asked Zoë, a hint of disgust in her voice.
Unable to think of a way to make his actions seem less bizarre, Mal simply stated, "Had to be sure. He could have been faking it."
Heading back to his bunk, Mal wondered what would come next. There was no doubt in his mind that whoever wanted River back wouldn't give up too easily. The only question was what form that threat would take.
three miles southeast of New Reno
169 viewed the carnage at the mining settlement. It had been quite foolish of the Jackson clan to refuse Blue Sun's offer to buy them out. They had expected trouble to come of it, but not in the form of a man and a woman in Independent brown accompanied by a fourteen year old boy. They had also been caught off guard by how useless their firearms proved to be.
The slaughter had resulted in a beautiful chorus of screaming souls as they were violently torn from their bodies. When he had first killed a mundane, 169 had found it rather disconcerting. But now he thought it sounded quite pleasant. So much so that, whenever he thought he could get away with it, he would kill a mundane just to hear the soul scream.
Their business finished, 169 and the two Chi'ang Sh'ich assigned to him returned to the Ungoliant, a Black Widow class patrol craft. Upon their arrival, 169 discovered a Wave waiting on his Cortex terminal. Accessing it, he found a simple text message: Lost contact with Agents Two and Six. Were in pursuit of 158 and possibly 172. Last known vector outbound from Boros to Demeter. Investigate ASAP.
169 wasn't surprised by this turn of events. After all, Agents Two and Six were mundanes and therefore were bound to mess up their assignment. 169 thought it would be most gratifying if he himself was to bring back these lost family members back into the fold.
Next up: The Poseidon Misadventure
Chi'ang Sh'ich: A form of undead from Chinese folklore. It results from a corpse being left unburied after nightfall which allows an evil spirit to enter it. The result is the Chi'ang Sh'ich, which has big, nasty claws, poisonous breath, and a bad attitude. The only defense against it is to run like hell until daybreak, when the spirit leaves the corpse. And it moves a lot faster than your typical B movie zombies.
Tzao gao: Oh shit
Tah mah de: Mother fucker
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 6:04 PM
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