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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - HORROR
From back when it was the Magnificent Seven Minus Three. Serenity is forced to land on the backwater planet Poseidon for emergency repairs.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1928 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.
I realize that the ending of We Have the Technology implies a sequel. It will come eventually, but I haven't fully figured it out yet and have a couple of other stories which are a bit more ready.
Just in case I didn't make myself clear in the summary, this story takes place back when it was just Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Kaylee.
The following is adapted from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Fans of his will probably be able to easily guess the source material. If you're not familiar with him, give this fic a try anyway.
We Have the Technology
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mal knew, in a way, they had been lucky. When Serenity was ambushed by a pirate ship that had a rail gun mounted, it had looked as if they were seriously humped. But when the pirates fired a round, something went wrong with their engine and they were floating dead. Kaylee guessed that the rail gun must have been a defective model and hadn't been properly maintained to start with. Whatever it was, Mal took advantage of it to make good their escape.
But they faced another problem when Wash noticed, even taking into account how hard they had been burning, the fuel levels were dropping faster than they should. The obvious conclusion was the shot had punctured one of Serenity's fuel tanks. All in all, it wasn't the sort of luck Mal cared to have. But since the 'Verse didn't seem to feel all that generous about giving him luck, he took what he could get.
Turning to Wash, Mal asked, "Would it be a stupid question if I asked if we could make it to Beaumonde as planned in our current condition?"
The look Wash gave clearly stated that indeed it was. "Even if the leak was to magically seal itself now, it wouldn't be enough to get us to Beaumonde," Wash replied.
"Well," Mal ordered, "find us someplace closer where we can set down, patch up, and refuel."
Wash immediately punched up some charts. After a few minutes, he said, "Okay, I've got a couple of possibilities. Poseidon and Triumph. Now Poseidon is closer, but it'll require a detour of a day or so from our original route. Triumph is on our way to Beaumonde, but we'd be cutting it real close. There's a good chance we'd run out of fuel during re-entry."
It didn't take Mal long to decide that a delay was preferable to a practical lesson on how gravity works. "Poseidon it is." Noticing that Zoe was accessing the bridge's Cortex terminal, he asked, "There anything interesting about our destination?"
"Hard to say, sir," Zoe replied. "Official information is out of date. Apparently the last census ship sent there went missing. Looks as if it might be one of those really bad planets, though."
Mal didn't care for the vagueness of her statement. "Don't quite catch your meaning there."
"I think she's saying," Wash interjected, "that it's one of those worlds where the only girls who are virgins are the ones who can outrun their br-"
"Don't think the Captain's that interested," Zoe interrupted.
It didn't take much effort for Mal to figure out what Wash had been about to say. He had rather hoped that he could avoid visiting any planet like that, but he might as well wish to be King of Londinum. "Well, I ain't intending for us to settle or get to know the locals. Just going to fix and refuel Serenity. Zoe, why don't you send our clients a Wave explaining why we'll be late."
After that was accomplished, Wash reported, "Course set for the Funky, Spunky Planet of Pervy Sibling Fanciers. Hey Zoe," he added, "how about we take in a show when we get to Beaumonde?" When she nodded her interest, he started punching up show schedules on the Cortex terminal. "Let's see, the New Dunsmir Women's Guild will be doing a re-enactment of the Battle of Du-Khang. Maybe we could go to that." Possibly then remembering how that one had ended, he added, "Or maybe not." Scrolling through more schedules, he exclaimed, "Hey, the Trapezium Theatre is going to have Springtime for Shan Yu! I've heard it's really funny."
Mal shook his head in disgust as he left the bridge. He could hardly believe that anyone would write a musical comedy about one of the worst dictators in the last five hundred years. What next? Reaver: The Musical?
* * * * *
"So, what's Poseidon supposed to be like?" Kaylee asked as she grabbed her tool kit.
"Well, whoever named the planet should have been strung up," Wash responded as he picked up a sheet of metal. "Can't be more than a tenth of the surface covered with water. We've just landed at Mansfield, which is the only town with refueling facilities. According to the official information, the place was first settled about a hundred years ago and did pretty good trade at first. But that fell off when it became apparent that the terraforming hadn't taken proper. What really humped them was when Mansfield was reportedly struck by a strain of smallpox-gamma that wiped out over half the town about seventy years ago and they never really recovered."
"So what sort of unofficial information did you find?" Kaylee asked while they headed towards the ship's entrance where the Cap and Zoe were waiting.
"I checked out a couple of Cortex forums where freighter crews post and learned that the citizens of Mansfield are a bit hostile to strangers. Which is kind of weird for a port town."
When they arrived, Zoe pressed the button which lowered the ramp. As they looked out on the docking area on the outskirts of town in the midafternoon light, they were met by a tall, lanky youth. "Howdy," he greeted. "Welcome to Mansfield, probably the emptiest docks this end of the Rim. What's your business here?"
The Cap was clearly a bit thrown off by the friendly nature of the dock worker. "Er, no actual business," he replied. "Just need to perform some repairs and refuel." Pausing for a few seconds, he continued, "You're not from around here, are you? It's just that what we've read about this town indicated that they ain't too welcoming to strangers."
"No, I'm from Southwick," the dock worker replied. "You're right about the folks hereabouts, though." Pointing over to a nearby figure who was presumably another dock worker, he continued, "Now Leeds over there is from Mansfield, and he's all kinds of unfriendly. You'll get to know him better when we get 'round to refuelin' your ship." There was a hint of distaste in his voice when he spoke of his co-worker.
"Well, I intend to be as unacquainted with him as possible," the Captain stated. "Kaylee, get to work."
It wasn't hard to find where the rail gun round had struck. The area in question was a bit out of Kaylee's reach, so the dock worker, who introduced himself as Ash Clarke, set up an elevated platform for her. As Kaylee measured to see how much of the sheet she'd have to use, she asked, "So, what are you doin' here in Mansfield?"
"It sure ain't for the local color," Ash replied. "I came hopin' to sign on with the crew of a ship in need of a mechanic, since I'm a fair hand with machines. Problem is what ships we get here ain't hirin'."
"So why not go back to Southwick?"
"'Cause I'm workin' on savin' up for passage off of here and Mansfield is the only place on Poseidon that sees any ships more than once every few years. This here's a dyin' planet and I ain't keen on goin' with it. Every year, the harvests get smaller and the herds get thinner. I reckon in twenty years there won't be a livin' soul on Poseidon. Though it's kinda strange that the abattoir here in Mansfield has plenty of meat comin' out of it even though the herds in these parts ain't farin' much better. Must be gettin' it from the smugglers."
"That's what I'm guessing they are. Compared to the daytime, we get a lot of ships at night. 'Bout three or four a week. Ain't seen nothin' of that Alliance we heard won some war, which makes this a good stoppin' point for such folks. I don't get to work the night shift, so I ain't really sure that's the case, though."
As she finished applying the patch, Kaylee asked, "So what was Mansfield like back when it was boomin'?"
"'Fraid I couldn't say, seein' as how I'm not from around here," Ash replied. "Don't think you'd be able to get any of the locals to jaw with you. 'Cept maybe Zack Allan, the town drunk. Must be near ninety and claims to have lived in Mansfield his whole life. Kinda quiet when sober, but give him a bottle of spirits and he'll talk your ear off."
Kaylee's curiosity was piqued at the possibility of stories. "So where can I find him?"
"He usually hangs 'round the sheriff's office. Here, let me draw you a map." Taking a pencil and a piece of paper out of his vest pocket, he started drawing out and labeling streets. "Now, this here is the docks. Over here is where the sheriff's office is at. If you aim to do some wanderin', stay out of the southern half of town. I found out the hard way that folks down there take even less kindly to strangers. And here's where the abattoir is at. That's another place you shouldn't get too close to."
Accepting the map, Kaylee grabbed her tool kit and rushed back to Serenity's entrance. Upon seeing the Captain, she said, "Hey Cap, the patch job's done."
"Good work, Kaylee," he murmured.
"I was wonderin' if it'd be okay if I went and saw the town while Serenity gets refueled."
His response was almost immediate. "Absolutely not!"
Figuring the Captain would react that way, Kaylee made her eyes as wide and pleading as possible. "Aw, c'mon Cap. Ain't no harm in lookin' around for an hour or so, is there? Pleeeeease?"
Kaylee smirked inwardly as she watched the Captain's resolve crumble. For all the show he made of being a cantankerous grump, she knew that not so deep down he was a big softie. "Okay, but you've got to be back no later than sundown. And Zoe's going along with you."
"Sir?" Zoe asked in a tone that suggested that she found cleaning out latrines with her face preferable.
"That's the way it's going to be, so I don't want to hear no arguing from either of you," he said decisively.
Though Kaylee wasn't enthused with having a chaperone, she figured it best not to push her luck. "Sie-sie, Captain," she said as she kissed him on the cheek before going off to put her tools away.
Zoe was still fuming a bit as she strapped on her sidearm. Though she liked Kaylee well enough, the way she was able to wrap Mal around her finger by giving him that look could be annoying. Zoe couldn't understand why anyone would want to tour this miserable little town, especially if the inhabitants were like Leeds. The way he glared at her as if sizing her up while he and Clarke wrestled with the refueling equipment was giving her a case of the uncomfortables. The only thing she liked less than the prospect of spending time in Mansfield though was the idea of Kaylee doing the same on her lonesome. So with only a bit of resentment towards Mal for pulling rank, Zoe steeled herself for an unpleasant afternoon.
When Kaylee came back out of Serenity, she was carrying a bottle of that potent brew she claimed to cook up with the engine. "What are you bringing that for?" Zoe asked. "Don't reckon getting ourselves drunk would be too smart."
"Oh, it ain't for us," Kaylee replied. "It's for Zack."
"And who might this Zack be?"
Kaylee gave a brief explanation. With it, the reason for their jaunt became clearer to Zoe. Unlike Wash, travelling to other worlds was something new to Kaylee. Before Mal had hired her, she had lived her entire life in one town. Which meant that she felt the need to hear stories of just about every place they landed.
Zoe noticed that the town seemed nearly deserted as they walked through it, with many of the windows boarded up. The occasional townsperson they saw would scowl at them as they passed by. The people of Mansfield were certainly an odd looking bunch. Without exception, they were of a lean build with seemingly no body fat. Most of them also sported a variety of odd tattoos. But what was most disconcerting were the eyes. There was a glint in them that suggested a feral nature.
Eventually they arrived at the sheriff's office. Nearby sat an elderly unshaven man dressed in rags and muttering to himself. Undoubtedly this was Zack Allan. Kaylee took the bottle she had been carrying and held it out for him to see. It was all that was needed to attract his attention and bring him over. Kaylee offered him the bottle, which he opened and took an experimental sniff from. After a bit of small talk, Kaylee asked if he would recount to her stories about Mansfield and what it was once like. Gesturing that they follow him, he led them down an alley where he sat down and took a huge swig. He had drained nearly half the bottle before he halted. Zoe was amazed that he was still conscious. Knowing the potency of the stuff, she figured that if she or Mal tried that, they'd be lucky to just pass out. Slowing down to taking an occasional sip, Zack Allan told his tale.
"So, you'd like to hear 'bout Mansfield. Can't imagine why a nice girl like you would want such a thing. But you gives me a drink, so I figure fair's fair.
"When Poseidon was first settled, it was a right fine place. Back then, Mansfield got plenty of ships for a Rim world, shippin' out meat and crops to other worlds what need them. But that fell off when the terraformin' in the soil went bad and made the crops and the meat taste wrong. Then the droughts came and Poseidon was barely able to feed itself.
"Well, Mansfield was hit particularly hard, since they relied so much on trade with other worlds. Folks took it kinda meek-like, 'cept for Orville Bender, who owned the sole ship that called Poseidon home. He'd go a-rantin' 'bout how they should be findin' new opportunities insteada layin' down to die and bedamned who you had to deal with." His tone indicated a strong disgust with Orville Bender and his rants. He continued, "Most thought he'd gone fong luh and ignored him. But he was serious enough that he took his ship out into the Black to parts unknown.
"When he got back some months later, Captain Bender told of how he'd cut some deals and had a hold full of meat as proof. In return, They'd get to use Mansfield as a stoppin' point. They always landed at night, so that the dock workers were the only ones who saw 'em. At first, folks were willin' to let that pass. But that was before it was known that Captain Bender left out a few points 'bout his pact."
"Why? What'd he do?" Kaylee asked impatiently.
"Hold your horses! I'm gettin' to it. You see, shortly after Captain Bender returned, folks started disappearin'. 'Twas only one or two at a time, but was regular enough that it weren't long before every family in Mansfield had one of their own gone missin'. And it weren't just here. Word reached here that ranches and farms got found abandoned with signs that violence had been done. But beeves, horses, and other valuables were left untouched, so it weren't no ordinary bandits.
"'Twas Shepherd Grimm who figured that Captain Bender's pact was behind the folks gone missin'. Told he had proof that Captain Bender was dealin' with slavers. The Shepherd rounded hisself up a posse and jailed Captain Bender and his crew just as they was gettin' ready to go into the Black again. Also locked up most of the dock workers and thems what worked in the abattoir. But the Shepherd weren't havin' no lynch mob justice. He made it clear they'd wait for the circuit judge to return and have a proper trial. Mighta been better if Captain Bender and his lot had gotten strung up there and then.
"You see, they was leavin' to meet those who Captain Bender dealt with. So when he failed to make it, They went to see what happened. I still remember that night from seventy years ago as if it were yesterday, when I was no older than you. There was so many ships comin' outta the sky that they blocked out the moon. Then They came a-swarmin' to the jail, takin' out anyone what got in the way. Once Captain Bender was free, he named those who had him locked up. Those he named as well as any who objected were taken aboard them ships and never seen again." Shuddering, he took a large swig from the bottle and then continued. "After They left, less than half the folks of Mansfield was still 'round, being those loyal to Captain Bender and those too scared to speak out. When the circuit judge came back, he got told a ship brought 'pox with it and the dead had to be burned.
"Course, They had a price for helpin' Captain Bender clean house. They insisted that there be some mixin'. Well some of 'em balked at the idea, but there weren't much beneath Captain Bender by then. Took a wife from Them hisself and others followed his example. Had three young'uns by her. The boys started runnin' things in Mansfield after their old man passed on and still do. The girl left on one of the few ships that arrived by day when she come of age and ain't been heard from since."
"If this is true, why would they let you tell it?" Kaylee asked nervously.
"No one ever believes a drunk. Look at her," he said, pointing to Zoe. "I can tell she don't believe a word I've said. Must have told it a dozen times to folks from ships that come by day, and they didn't believe. But you, young girl, I can tell you believe it deep down. So I'll tell you somethin' I ain't never told none of them before. It ain't what They've been doin' here that should make you worry. It's what They're gonna do elsewhere. Tell me, you ever hear tell of a wendigo?"
Zoe had gotten caught up in the tale despite her skepticism, so she almost didn't catch the sound of scuffing feet. Instinctively, she drew her sidearm and spun around, but there was nothing to be seen at the alley's entrance. Looking back, she asked, "Did either of you hear that?"
Zack Allan's eyes widened in fear. "Tah mah de, They've seen us! Get back to your ship and leave this wretched world! Go! Go!"
The urgency in his voice prompted Zoe to grab Kaylee by the arm and drag her out of the alley. Thankfully, she didn't try to resist. Zoe managed to restrain herself into going at a brisk walk so as to not attract attention. When they had gotten some distance from the alley, there was a horrible scream that came from there.
When she got a chance to think it over, Zoe wondered if it had been a sick joke on Zack Allan's part. But that was only plausible if he was an incredible actor, since he had looked genuinely scared. Whatever the case, Zoe wouldn't be happy until Serenity had returned to the Black.
"I realize you must have heard something like this many a-time," Mal said to Clarke. "But I really don't need two mechanics and can only just afford the one I have. Course, if you can pay for passage, we're heading for Beaumonde."
"'Fraid that won't work for me just now," Clarke replied as he hooked the fueling equipment to the last tank. "This job pays poorly and I don't have enough saved up."
Mal glanced over at Leeds. The man was all manner of creepifying. Part of it was the way he scowled at the crew of Serenity. Though the way he regarded Mal was, if not friendly, then decidedly less hostile. Mal couldn't fathom why, since he wasn't making any special effort to be intimidating. Another aspect was the way Leeds never spoke. It couldn't be a result of deafness, judging from the earpiece he was intently listening to.
When he looked up and noticed Clarke signaling that everything was ready, Leeds hit some switches that began the refueling of the final tank. The equipment here was obsolete even by Rim port standards, making the refueling process painfully slow. As they finished, Mal noticed Zoe striding over to Serenity with Kaylee literally in tow. As he counted off platinum for the fuel and the docking fee, Mal asked, "So, did you two have an interesting time?"
"A mite too interesting if you ask me," Zoe replied tersely. Mal observed that her expression was grimmer than usual and that Kaylee was unusually subdued. It made him wonder if someone had tried to force himself on Kaylee. The mere thought of it was enough to cause his blood pressure to skyrocket. Deciding to ask Zoe later, he closed the ramp, ordered everyone to their stations, and followed Wash up to the bridge.
They had just started lifting off when a klaxon started blaring and a monotone voice announced, "Warning: Contaminants detected in atmo," and repeated the same in Chinese. "Set us back down!" Mal ordered Wash. Switching on the intercom, he shouted, "Everyone out!"
As they rushed down the ramp, they were met by a startled Clarke. After the situation was explained, he hurried off and returned with an air mask which he offered to Kaylee. By the time she came back out, the sun was nearly down.
"There was debris in the fuel which cut at the EC line and caused it to start pumpin' ammonia in the atmo," she reported. "I've patched it up, but it's gonna take at least half the night for the scrubbers to clean it all out."
Mal fumed for a bit. Though fuel debris was far from unheard of at Rim ports, it was still infuriating. "Well, looks as if we'll have to set up camp outside Serenity."
"Oh, I wouldn't advise that," Clarke interjected. "It gets kinda nippy at night this time of year. The wind can also get blowin' somethin' fierce in an open area like this."
As Mal contemplated on whether it would be preferable to die from asphyxiation or from hypothermia, he noticed that Leeds was present and scribbling something on a pad of paper. He tore off the top sheet and handed it to Mal. Squinting at it in the fading light, it read, "As I understand it, it is in a way our fault that you are grounded for the night. To compensate you for the inconvenience, simply go to the Millstone House. Show this note to the manager, who is a friend of mine, and he'll let you have the best room in the house free of charge."
Onward to Part 2
Sie-sie: Thank you
Fong luh: Crazy
Tah mah de: Mother fucker
Friday, December 03, 2004 9:06 PM
Friday, December 03, 2004 9:53 PM
Saturday, December 04, 2004 2:29 AM
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