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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
"Captain Reynolds finds himself in a bizarre world where none of the images match his preconceptions. The Enterprise have a fight on their hands but it is one that they cannot afford to win too completely."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2615 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "INTO THE BLACK".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Captain Reynolds finds himself in a bizarre
world where none of the images match his preconceptions.
The Enterprise have a fight on their hands but it is one that
they cannot afford to win too completely."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
'Enterprise' and its' characters are the property of 'Paramount'.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
A "Firefly"/"Enterprise" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
The world was a blaze of unfocused reality. Everything flashed as levels of pain making conscious thought a burden he was not able to carry. Creepy feelings intensified as he became more aware of his own personal nightmare made flesh. Vague images overlapped. Niska's face morphing into Caleb's into... Atherton's. That last image shook him. Steadied some of the poker hot darts of pain behind his eyes. Was it his imagination or did Atherton look worried? Concerned even? Nah. Must be his rutting imagination. If there was one thing he knew about Atherton Wing it was that he had no love for Captain Malcolm Reynolds. So why then was his enemy and rival frowning down at him with such concern? He almost missed the mumbled words, unable to process the sounds through his left ear. Relying on his one good ear to make sense of his confusion.
"*Ni me shi ba?*"
Why was Atherton asking him if he was okay? "*Wo hen hao.*" He responded in a voice almost lost in pain. There was no way he intended to admit how much he hurt to this *gos se* bastard. Rich trappings did not a man of conscience make. He still felt the lingering offence of the man's treatment of Inara. How foolish of him was that? Wanting and having were such poles apart.
"No you're not." Clipped Atherton back. Not accepting that he was *fine* when the proof so obviously contradicted him. "You're a stubborn man, Reynolds."
He grunted softly. Closing his eyes slowly as he tried to block out the pain. Everything was red. His nerves were red raw and screaming. His injured ear an agony that dwarfed the other injuries inflicted on him with such callous precision by Caleb Johnson. Atherton tended him quietly. The Captain still lying on the floor. The bowl beside him reddened with blood. The cloth folded and pressed against the side of the Captain's head turning crimson no matter how much pressure he gently applied to stem the loss of blood. He had not wanted this but part of his mind argued saying that he had wanted to kill the Captain. Humiliate him on the field of honour before his peers then run him through with his sword. Right through his heart. Regain what had been lost at the cost of this man's life. Now. Here in the quiet sanctity of his hired apartments revenge did not taste sweet. It choked him on a bile of blood that made him feel sick. He should have let Caleb keep him. Accepted the return of his money and left. Yet one look into that sadist's eyes had stirred the code of honour to which he was born even if he did not exemplify its' spirit in kind. As much as he wanted to hurt Captain Reynolds part of him also respected the man. Had been impressed by his misplaced determination to defend Inara Serra's honour. That almost made him laugh aloud. Her honour? Inara had no honour. She was a whore plain and simple and he had paid for her.
Atherton was no doctor. He called a servant and told the girl to fetch two men who could be trusted and return. In every world that ever was, money was the coin that denoted true service. It could buy loyalty for an hour or a day. Only love could buy it for a lifetime. It was time to return to Persephone.
"Where are we?"
It was hard to see anything with the Enterprise devoid of power. Not enough energy to keep a single console alight. Trip knew what they were currently breathing was not being replaced. He fought back the urge to panic. Straight thinking was the only way forward. He swallowed hard before answering his Captain. "Dead in space unless we get some power back, Cap'n."
There was a brief awkward pause. "Can you do that?"
"I'm on it. Just try not to yell or get into any long conversations."
In the darkness Captain Archer opened his mouth to ask why then the reason hit him and he snapped his mouth shut. They had to conserve air. He wanted to ask if everyone was alright. Find out just how bad it was. His Chief Engineer worked his way blindly towards him then whispered a few well chosen words. "Stay here, Cap'n. Malcolm's gonna check ship's integrity then he'll get some torches and pass them round."
The Captain nodded even though Trip could not see him. He listened to the careful movements retreating. Heard a quiet tone from Lt Reed, no doubt agreeing with Trip and falling in alongside him. For a moment he actually wished he were an Engineer so he wouldn't have to sit on his hands and wait for someone else to get him out of this fix. He wondered if the Klingons were even now pouring aboard his ship.
Malcolm touched Trip's shoulder and the two slunk away like shadows. As they exited the bridge Trip quickly told Malcolm what he intended to do. The lieutenant nodded. They wished each other luck then parted. Once in Main Engineering Trip gathered his people close so he would only have to tell them once. They broke apart into a hive of quiet activity. Lt Hess was worried but calmed by the presence of the Chief Engineer. It was funny but no matter how bad things got she always felt as if the odds were on their side when he was with them. Trip took Toby Weiss with him and had everyone paired up into teams. Not only to help each other but to ride shotgun should they be boarded. Tense but committed Lt Hess passed around small hand held torches and they got to work. The silence around them was eerie. Only the huff of sweaty bodies breathing and the clank of metal as they worked punctuated the stifling air. As soon as Trip and his people had the emergency life support on line the back up lights flickered and came on. Anxious faces broke out into smiles of relief. A temporary respite or not, it was welcome. The com sprang immediately to life.
"Commander Tucker, what is our situation?"
"Half way between critical and desperate, Cap'n, but nowhere near end of the road."
There was a tiny pause over the com before the Captain replied. "Just get us back under power, Commander."
Trip paused, knowing his crew were listening to his every word even while their hands kept working. "Not to put a dampner on anythin' but what happened to the boardin' party?"
He could have sworn he heard a soft hiss on the other end. A couple of seconds passed before Captain Archer answered. "Your guess is probably as good as mine right now. Be thankful for small mercies and get us back on our feet, Commander. Soon as you can."
"Ya got it, Cap'n."
It was only when the com was shut off that it occurred to Trip that the Captain had not answered his question.
The cloaks were a good idea but it made Jayne feel uncomfortable dressing like a pilgrim. Many things he was but a gorram pilgrim was not one of them. There was a part of him that believed in the fire and brimstone kind of God who would strike him down dead if He got more than a mite upset with him. Right now he was not sure whether immitating one of the faithful counted. Too late to have second thoughts though. Zoe had managed to convince Wash to stay on the ship though he had argued a lot harder than Jayne would have expected and he kept the gun. It eased the pilot that Book was going. Somehow he did not quite trust Jayne where the Captain was concerned. Jayne saw the look and glowered back at him. Simon Tam stepped out into the crisp air to get a steely look from Zoe. "Where d'you think you're going, doc?"
"You might need some help."
"Got all the help we need. Hope we don't need the other kind."
He nodded at her meaning. Hesitated. Then River slid her hand in his. He looked down at her and his face softened. Her presence calming him. Zoe looked at Kaylee. "Stay with Wash, Kaylee, and have Serenity ready to go the moment we get back, *dong ma*?" Kaylee nodded.
"What if you can't find the Captain?" Asked Simon.
Something hardened in Zoe's expression. "We'll find him."
Wash gave her a kiss, his eyes fastened on hers. His gentle face willing her to be safe. "*Xiaoxin, bao bei*."
"You too, husband."
Inara stood back from the rest. From the edge of Serenity's ramp she watched as Zoe and Jayne followed Book down the dusty street. Kaylee turned and saw her. Her face sad and creased with worry. It lightened a little on seeing the companion. Inara put an arm around her as she walked up the ramp. Wash stared out a bit longer. Simon paused as he turned to go inside. "Do you think they'll be okay?" Whispering so as not to be overheard by the women.
Wash nodded. His gentle eyes glazed with concern but also tinged with pride. "They'll be fine." He straightened. The rescue party now out of sight. Setting his shoulders he turned and went back inside, a thoughtful Simon Tam following. River watched. Listened. Said nothing. Alone on the ramp she slowly shook her head. Haunted eyes sad. Then went inside, closing the ramp after her.
With emergency lighting and life support just above critical Trip and his team were working flat out to restore power and bring systems back on line. The power grid being rebuilt as they went along. Repairing and replacing couplings and trying not to get fried in the process. Toby Weiss stared wide eyed at the mess. Trip gave him a nod. "Take a good look Toby. This is what bad looks like."
Toby nodded but did not buckle. His expression firming up as he looked at the Commander. "We'll fix it, Chief."
Trip almost smiled. Such faith. It made him feel like an old man but it also gave him hope. "We'll do it or die tryin'." He responded grimly.
They worked on in silence. Perspiration dripping off them in the narrow ducts. The lack of recycled air affecting flagging lungs. Trip paused to wipe a damp sleeve over his face, brushing the beads of sweat out of his eyes long enough to see what he was doing. The sweat making his eyes sting. His hands were slipping on the tools. Fingers going numb trying to feel connections that kept sliding away from him. He gritted his teeth and wished he had a towel to wipe his hands and face. As if hearing his thoughts, Lt Hess poked her head up through the conduit he was working on and passed him a towel. Trip's jaw dropped open. "Lieutenant, how long have ya been psychic?"
She paused, not sure she had heard him correctly. "Sir?"
He chuckled wearily. "Never mind, ya just saved me from swearin' with frustration in this heat." He mopped his face, neck and hands then passed the towel to Toby. They worked on relentlessly. Five hours later they got the warp engine back on line. Most systems were up and running again. Everything needed tweaking but for now just having their critical systems working again was reward enough. Trip lay on his back and took a few deep slow breaths. Relishing the return of air pressure and the clean recycled oxygen mix that now filled his lungs. He glanced across at Toby. The boy looked pale and exhausted but when his head turned his eyes were bright. A sloppy grin on his face. Trip knew that look. The adrenalin rush of excitement was what the boy was operating on. "Ya should take a break, Toby. You're no good to me exhausted."
Toby smiled. "I'm okay, Chief, just getting my second wind."
"What happened to ya first one?"
Before Toby could answer a violent judder shook through the deck plating and the lights flickered.
"Damn!" Muttered the Commander scrambling for the exit and climbing out fast as he could.
"What was that, Chief?"
"My guess is the Klingons."
The boy paled and swallowed hard as he slid out of the conduit after him. Suddenly aware that there were no weapons stashed in Engineering. Trip hit the com switch. "Cap'n?"
No answer. Trip tried again but was met with unrelenting silence. He quickly patched into the Armoury. "Malcolm, ya there?"
To his relief the strained voice of the Armoury Officer floated back to him. "Yes, Commander. Weapons are currently off-line but the damage is repairable."
"Make it a top priority an' seal the door. Don't let anyone in unless I contact ya first."
There was a slight pause then Lt Reed's serious tone came back at him. "Has something happened, Commander?"
"I think we have company. Cap'n's not respondin' to coms an' I can't raise anyone on the bridge. As soon as I've tied off the last of the repairs to Engineerin' I'm comin' over to ya. Looks like we may have to go with Plan B."
"I didn't know we had a Plan A, Commander."
"We don't but if we did it would'a just failed."
Lt Reed did not try to wrap his head around Trip's nonsensical excuse for logic. Only one thing penetrated. They were in trouble.
"Just get those weapons back on line fast as ya can then get everybody armed to the teeth."
Toby Weiss was giving him a worried look. "Does this mean we've been boarded, Chief?"
"We have to assume the worst, Toby." He turned his head and raised his voice, watching as his people looked up and paused to hear what he had to say. "Listen up people. We've lost communications with the bridge. That shudder ya felt an' then that movement could mean we've just been boarded. I want all access to Main Engineerin' locked down tight. If so much as a molecule of air slips through without my authorisation I'm gonna tan the hide of the sloppy s-o-b responsible. Once that's down make sure ya have somethin' nice an' handy like a grav wrench at all times. We may not have phase pistols but no one's gonna take Engineerin' without one hell of a fight."
Lt Hess walked over to him. Her voice low enough to reach him and no further. "We can't fight the Klingons off with wrenches, sir."
He gave her a grim little smile. "I don't intend to, Anna, but it'll make our people feel better just to have somethin' to hand in case they get through before we can do somethin' about it."
"What can I do to help?"
He gave her a smile that she had begun to think would never grace his face again. Grim though the situation was it lifted her spirits just a little. A glimmer of the old Commander Tucker looking right back at her. Focused. Alert and on the ball. If anyone could think of a way out of this mess he could.
Hours. They spent hours searching the mudpit of a planet for any sign of Captain Reynolds and the two men who had taken him. The people in the bar were not talking and although Zoe could not blame them it was frustrating the hell out of her but she could not say anything without blowing her cover. Stepping out into the harsh light she gazed bleakly from the hood of her cloak. Shepherd Book spoke quietly without turning his head. Not wanting anyone to overhear him. "I will make a few enquiries. See what I can find out."
"You mean what 'we' can find out, *dui*?"
"*Bu qu*. I said what I meant."
Zoe shook her head. "Bad idea. We should stick together."
"No. You and Jayne take a look around. See if you can spot either of the men that took the Captain. I'll meet you back at the ship in a couple of hours time."
Jayne's eyes narrowed. "Where are you going?"
"There's a monastery near here."
The mercenary gave him a suspicious look. "One day you're gonna tell me what you did before you became a Preacher."
Book stopped mid-turn and faced Jayne. He stepped right up to him and looked him in the eye. "*Gou na haozi*. Don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong. Someone might just shoot it off."
Jayne sneered to hide how much the quiet warning unsettled him. "Oh yeah? Who's gonna do that for you? You?"
"Do not tempt me."
A hand on his arm deflected his attention away from Book. Zoe's voice hissed in his ear. "Over there. Who does that look like to you?"
He felt a crude smile of satisfaction crawl across his sour face. Payment for the warped smile that followed. "That's Black. I'd recognise that piece of *gos se* anywhere." He turned to say something to the Preacher but he was already gone. He frowned briefly. He and Zoe were on their own. Carefully they melted into the small crowd of people and began to drift after the man.
Captain Jonathan Archer had never been so surprised in his life. He had been expecting Klingons. The mean and uglies of deep space. What he got was something else entirely but he had no doubt that these people were every bit as dangerous as their alien adversaries. That they looked human was somewhat unsettling. An officious man in a smart but stark looking uniform stalked over to him, a dozen armed men fanning out behind him. The bridge crew was small and not armed. The Captain rose to his feet only to be waved back down into it.
"You do not move, do not speak, do not BREATHE except by my command. *Dong Ma*?"
Ensign Hoshi Sato's eyes widened in surprise. Chinese? The man was a white European looking male but that phrase - Dong ma - that was Mandarin for 'understand'. These people whoever they were had to be human. She glanced at the confusion on Captain Archer's face and bit her lip. These people did not look the kind to take interruptions well. A word out of place could not only kill the Captain. It could be the end for them all.
"My name is..."
A man to the right of the Alliance Officer who had first addressed him stepped swiftly forward and backhanded the Captain then stepped to one side. The Alliance Officer peeled back his lips and stared hard at the Captain. "If you cannot obey simple commands you will be eliminated. We will find a member of your crew who knows how to do as they are told."
The Captain wiped the blood off his lip with the back of his hand and nodded. Satisfied that the point had been made the officer straightened and glanced slowly around the bridge then let his cold eyes settle once more on the Captain. "Your name, rank and ship designation. Add nothing. Remove nothing."
Captain Archer nodded slowly. The bullies in this piece of space did not pull their punches. "Captain Jonathan Archer of the star ship Enterprise."
"You are not Alliance?"
He shook his head. "No, we're..."
The Alliance Officer raised his hand and the Captain immediately stopped speaking. "I see we understand each other, Captain."
A wary nod. The Captain waited.
"What are you doing here?"
"We got caught up in some kind of chute. A hole in space. Whatever. Damned if I know what it was. In fact, I don't even know where we are."
"Where do you come from?"
The Alliance Officer's eyes widened then narrowed, a deadly gleam glittering in the cold depths. "I am not a patient man, Captain, and I do not suffer fools gladly or otherwise. You are emminently expendable so I suggest you speak the truth."
"It 'is' the truth."
The man's face darkened with barely suppressed rage. "Earth-that-was has not supported life these last 500 years! Now. You will tell me where you are from and you will lie no longer."
Captain Malcolm Reynolds was unaware of being lifted and carried. Too far out of it to take in the thrum of engines powering up. The distinctive dip and sway of a vessel in take off. The Black had swallowed his soul and he was too weary with the pain of it to ask for it back. In and out of the shadows Niska's face hovered above him, taunting him and telling him of horrors yet to come. He squinted. Trying to make out what he held dangling before his face with such cold pleasure in his pale hands. He recoiled in horror. The severed ear still dripping blood. His eyes widened as Niska licked at the blood dripping off it making him feel sick.
"This is just a down payment, Captain Reynolds. You see, I was honourable with you. We both have reputations. Mine is solid. Yours," He paused and dropped the ear on to a chrome tray on the table next to him and picked up a thin stiletto blade. "Is not so solid."
He could not get his mouth to work. It was full of blood. Choking him with sorrow as he filled with fear. All the things he still wanted to do and had not been able to accomplish. The people he could not protect. Lives that had been lost not only to the War but also the Peace. How could he expect anyone else to understand when he did not understand himself? God had forsaken not only Malcolm Reynolds in Serenity's bloody valley but also all the hundreds of souls who had placed their faith in a greater good. All betrayed by their faith and delivered into the hands of the enemy. And he was part of that deceit. That terrible lie. He had believed and in his passion had drawn them to his cause. They followed. Believed in him. His words taken to their hearts like solemn vows. He vaguely became aware of Niska talking again. It mattered not whether he was awake or dreaming when his whole world was a nightmare. Niska's voice was conversational and chilling.
"I will leave you your other ear for now." Niska smiled, stroking the blade down the Captain's left cheek. Knowing the damaged nerve endings of his ear would pick up the sliding cold touch of steel and send the tremor of it through the constricting walls of his flagging heart. "What shall I take next?"
He wanted to swear at him. Bring down every curse he could think of on that horrific head. Then he saw another object in Niska's hand. One he did not instantly recognise. Niska held it aloft and laughed aloud. That was when he realised why he could find no words of rage to throw at his tormentor. It explained all the blood in his mouth. Closing his eyes with the pain of it he tried to block out the image of his severed tongue.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: Ni me shi ba = Are you okay? Wo hen hao = I'm okay
Gos se = crap Dong ma = Understand Dui = Correct Bu qu = No
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