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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
"Be careful what you wish for. Nobody is expecting what happens next."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2404 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "ANGELS AMONG US".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Be careful what you wish for. Nobody is
expecting what happens next."
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 SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM"
A "Firefly"/"Enterprise" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Trip Tucker stared at his mirror image. The closer they got to the place where they had left the Delphic Expanse for this other universe the harder it became to hold on to his temper and his sanity. Knuckle white fingers gripped the sink. The light reflecting off the water droplets that doused his face and hair. But no matter how many times he shoved his head under the cold water tap he could not calm himself down. He forced his fingers to relax then held them out in front of him. They were shaking so bad he did not think he would be able to hold a spanner right now let alone fix anything. Yet he had to do it. He had to fix 'this'. This anger and guilt he felt over Lizzie. Was it really less than a month ago that his world had been shattered? His heart broken up into tiny little pieces?
The chime of his doorbell snapped him out of his dark thoughts. Quickly he grabbed a towel and patted his face and hair. Stepping back into his room he called for the visitor to enter. The door hissed open revealing Sub-Commander T'Pol. He stared at her as she stepped into his quarters. "Commander, we will be arriving shortly. Serenity and her crew will be leaving us as planned."
"Sub-Commander, I don't wish to be rude but what are ya doin' here? Shouldn't ya be up on the bridge?"
"As should you, Commander."
Oh shit, Jon must have told her to come and get him. That meant...
"When the minutes went by and you did not reappear I came to see what was keeping you."
"Ya mean the Cap'n didn't send you?"
"No one sent me, Commander."
For just a moment he thought he saw something. What was that? Concern? On a Vulcan's face? Nah, must have imagined it. But he was not imagining her presence in his quarters. That much was real. He realised he should be grateful to her not annoyed and willed himself to calm down. At least now he could return to the bridge and await the moment of truth with the rest of them without having the Captain wonder whether his Chief Engineer was simply not up to the mission. He gave her a nod back. "Thank you, Sub-Commander. I'll be right with ya."
They returned to the bridge together. As soon as he resumed his work station he became fixated on the screen showing an image of uninterrupted space before them. Next to him Lt Reed was going over his weapons, checking for the umpteenth time that he had enough firepower to blow up whatever he God damn wanted. He just hoped they had enough power to knock out a Xindi ship if they came across one. In the meantime the Klingons would have to do. But what if they found neither? What if they simply failed? He would not allow himself to think like that. It was not an option. Seven billion lives lay unavenged. If they failed the rest of planet Earth would follow them to oblivion. He glared at the screen. How could space look so innocent when it hid such killers? Then he felt the tell tale change in thrum through the deck plates as they dropped out of warp. He blinked. Here? Already? Captain Archer activated his com to speak to the Captain of Serenity. "Captain Reynolds?"
"Are you ready?"
"As we can be. *Zhuni haoyun* to you and your crew, Captain Archer."
The Captain glanced at Hoshi. She whispered a translation. "He's wishing us good luck, Captain."
Captain Archer nodded. "The same to you, Captain. And thanks for your help."
"Don't mention it. We'll be standing by if you need us, *dong ma*?"
Captain Archer remembered what that phrase meant and had a go at returning it. "*Dong ma*." All of a sudden he wished he and his crew would be spending more time with the Captain and crew of Serenity. But they had a mission to fulfill. Right now nothing else mattered. A shining blue planet was holding its' breath waiting on the outcome. The survival of the Human Race hanging in the balance.
There followed a little chatter between Wash and Travis, then Serenity was flying free of them. They watched the odd looking Firefly take up its' position. Wash passing co-ordinates on to Travis so the helmsman could manoeuvre Enterprise away from Serenity and nearer and nearer to the point of their initial collision. Trip found he had developed a curious affection for the odd looking vessel. The unfamiliar design being seen not so much through his own eyes now but through the eyes of those that loved her. The curious crew who were giving them a second chance. He looked across at the Sub-Commander, his expression an unspoken query. As if reading his mind her cool unemotional voice floated up from her work station, her eyes glued to the information she was gleaning from her screen. "There appears to be..."
She never got to finish that sentence. As they watched apalled, something came spinning out of a gap in the stars, screaming passed them and striking the Firefly a glancing blow with such force that they actually thought they saw sparks. Sparks in space? In vacuum? Lt Reed recognised the vessel first, his tactical training always to the fore of his mental alertness. He was not the head of security for nothing. "It's a Klingon bird of prey, Captain!"
Captain Archer hid his shock. "Can you get a weapons lock, Lieutenant?"
Trip leaned over Malcolm's station, seeing if he could do anything to help but the Klingon vessel was moving not simply irratically but in a fiery spin that suggested no one was at the helm. The Captain nodded to Hoshi. "Open a channel to Serenity."
She nodded back.
"Captain Reynolds? Can you hear me? Do you need assistance?"
There was a brief crackle over the com then nothing. The Firefly was listing then they saw the yawing bird of prey right its' headlong passage and come back on itself. The vessel clipped the Firefly a second time in passing only now the transport ship seemed to be caught up on the Klingon vessel. Lt Reed could not fire on the bird of prey without dooming Serenity and her crew to possible destruction. He looked up at the Captain, his expression anguished. "Sir, if I fire on the bird of prey I'll take Serenity with it."
The Captain swore and punched the armrest of his chair. Just then Sub-Commander T'Pol spoke. "Captain, the bird of prey is heading back on its' original trajectory."
"What are you saying, Sub-Commander?"
"It came out of nowhere and appears to be going back."
The Captain blinked. "Nowhere?"
"I think the Sub-Commander is sayin' that's our hole in the sky, Cap'n." Said Trip. "We wanted a ticket back to the Delphic Expanse. Looks like we got our wish an' unless we do somethin' it's taking Serenity with it."
Captain Archer realised this was true. He looked at Lt Reed. "Lieutenant, bring the grappler on line and see if you can catch hold of Serenity. I want you to yank it clear of the Klingon bird of prey before they both disappear. Then as soon as you get a clear shot I want you to disable that enemy vessel for boarding."
Everyone exchanged startled glances except Lt Reed. He was primed for his duty and automatic obedience shaved seconds off his response time. Seconds that could mean life or death to their newly acquired friends. Captain Archer was determined not to lose them just because they had tried to help. Lt Reed deployed the grappler, Travis matching the speed of Enterprise to give him his best shot. As soon as the grappler was deployed they all held their breaths, a sudden yanking and screeching filled the airwaves as it connected on the vessel's hull. Then the impossible happened. The patch of sky from which the Klingon vessel had appeared suddenly irissed around them and the Klingon vessel, Serenity and Enterprise found themselves being hauled out of this 'verse.
Stunned they could only watch mouths agape as the three vessels spun and twisted, the Klingon ship at last breaking free of its' choke hold on Serenity. Lt Reed began to reel in the Firefly, worried and concerned about her crew. One eye warily watching the Klingon vessel. Once he got a clear shot he made sure Serenity was a safe distance from the bird of prey then strafed it with weapons fire until it drifted powerless in the sky. No one spoke. Eyes as round as saucers simply stared at the surreal tableau. Serenity continued to turn slowly on its' axis then as they watched her thrusters fired on the port side to stabilise the spin. Trip felt a gush of air impact on his lungs as he took in a great gulp of air in relief. At least someone was alive on board to do that. Maybe this story would have a happy ending after all and they had captured a Klingon ship despite all the odds against them. That had to count for something.
A crackle came over the com which Hoshi had left open. Captain Archer nodded for her to try to hail them. It was a known fact that a female voice could sometimes cut through static more clearly than a male one. He hoped it would be true this time.
"Serenity, this is Enterprise. What is your status?"
More crackling then they heard a pained voice float back to them. It sounded like the pilot. Wash. "This is Serenity. What the gorram did you people do to us?"
Captain Archer smiled briefly with relief but there was no humour in it. "That wasn't us, that vessel that hit you? That's a Klingon bird of prey."
Another voice came on the line. This one calm, cool, in control. It was Serenity's Captain. "You tellin' me you found your gorram aliens?"
The Captain avoided looking in T'Pol's direction. His expression carefully blank. "Yes, Captain Reynolds that's exactly what I'm saying though I'm as surprised as you are. Do you have any power?"
"Yeah, we got it though I'm worried about our hull integrity. This boat wasn't built for withstanding collisions in space."
"In that case I think we're gonna need to bring you back aboard."
There was a slight pause. "Might want to reconsider that, Captain."
Captain Archer frowned. Noticed that the Captain's voice was sounding a little strained. "Oh? Why's that?"
"We got us a little fire. Give us time to put it out, *dong ma*? No sense in sending two ships into the Black instead of one."
The Captain exchanged a worried glance with his bridge crew. "Need any help? We can send a shuttle over."
"No, don't think that's an option. You go and get your Klingons. I'll contact you back in a few."
"Okay, Captain Reynolds. Just let us know if there's anything we can do."
He looked at Lt Reed. "Release the grappler, Lieutenant."
Reluctantly he did as he was told. Even though it had not been their fault he felt terrible for the other crew. It made him feel as if Enterprise was a jinx on the other ship.
Jayne could not stop swearing. There seemed to be fires all over the gorram boat but when he looked closer they were isolated pockets and easily put out with the extinguishers. Simon and the Shepherd helped him. He had no idea where River was and that actually calmed him. Crazy girl put him on edge too easily as it was. The Captain though was more concerned with Serenity's hull integrity than the threat of fire. He had noticed the fires were managable first off and now turned his attention to concerns of a more life threatening nature. Kaylee slid back from inspection of the last area of impact. "Looks good to me, Cap'n." Kaylee patted the hull. "Serenity's a tough nut to crack." She patted the hull again and smiled at the ship. "That's my good girl."
Relieved, Captain Malcolm Reynolds straightened. He accepted Kaylee's assessment but he still had to be sure. No sense dooming his crew to unnecessary deaths by not being thorough enough. "Okay little Kaylee, but I'm thinkin' I wanna check the outside just to be sure. Get Jayne to take you over all the places where we had those fire outbreaks. I don't want no surprises mind."
Kaylee's eyes widened in alarm. "Cap'n, you're not goin' out there are ya?"
"I surely am. Ain't takin' no chances with my boat. Won't be satisfied she's sound until I've been over every inch of the impact sites."
Kaylee shook her head. "Not a good idea Cap'n, we're not in our 'verse any more remember?"
He tried to reassure her with a crooked smile but it never reached his eyes and she knew him too well to be fooled. "Got no choice, *dong ma*? Unless you got a better idea?"
She didn't but wished she had. The Captain got everybody crawling all over the ship's interior to do a damage assessment. Zoe took him to one side to advise him against going out in an EVA suit. He shook his head at her attempts to disuade him. "Got no choice, Zoe. Don't worry, I'll be careful."
"It's not you bein' careful that worries me, sir."
He raised his eyebrows and paused, the suit in his hands momentarily forgotten. "Then what is it?"
"That ship that hooked up to us?"
He shook the suit out and began to put it on. "What about it?"
"Somethin' strike you as odd about it, sir?"
He hated it when Zoe went into her 'twenty questions' mode. "Just spit it out. Ain't got all day."
"Well sir, it was comin' at us as if it had come from a collision of its' own."
"I didn't see any other ships, Zoe. This observation got a point to it?"
"I believe it does, sir. Just not sure what that point is."
He had both legs in the suit now, was putting his arms through the orange sleeves. Zoe watched him, not offering help unasked for. Besides they had been in and out of those suits a hundred times already. If the Captain couldn't do it on his own by now he didn't deserve to be flying let alone doing a space walk looking for holes in the gorram hull of the ship. He paused before putting his helmet on. "If you find out you let me know."
He put the helmet on, locked it in place then checked his air supply. Zoe went up to the cockpit to see how Wash was doing. She passed Simon on the way. He looked harried. But then that was often how the doctor looked. "Zoe, have you seen River?"
She shook her head. "No, she could be anywhere. Have you tried Inara's shuttle?"
"Not yet. I have a few other places to check first."
Zoe nodded and carried on. When she got to the cockpit she saw that Wash had a cut above his right eye where he had lost his balance and caught his head on the corner of the console in the collision. She reached out to touch it, pulling back sharply when he grimaced. "Does is hurt, *bao bei*?"
"A little. I can't believe we survived not one collision but two."
She nodded. It was kind of hard to believe their luck at times. Not that she was complaining. "Where are we?"
He looked around in a vague sort of way. "I have no idea."
Her look sharpened. "*Shenme*? Tell me that was a joke Wash 'cause right not I'm not laughin'."
"I'm sayin' I have no idea where we are, *xin gan*. All I can tell you is this isn't our 'verse."
Zoe swore and forgot all about the cut above his eye. "Does the Captain know?"
They both stared at the drifting hulk filling their field of vision. On the other side of the hulk was the now familiar sight of the star ship Enterprise. "Is that what hit us?"
She shook her head at it. "I've never seen a ship like that."
"Captain said it was the one they were looking for. A Klingon ship."
Zoe felt a shudder go right through her. "Well, I don't like it. Somethin' doesn't feel right."
They fell silent. Neither able to put into words the sudden cold sensation creeping through their veins.
Lt Reed looked over his security team with a critical eye. Sub-Commander T'Pol had tried to get readings on any life signs but had come back with a negative. She could not tell if there were no life signs or whether their sensors were being blocked by shielding. It was not beyond the realms of possibility that damaged though it was, the Klingons were playing possum hoping to lure their enemies into boarding the ship. If this was a trap he wanted them to be well armed and prepared for it. Commander Tucker met up with him just at Captain Archer was giving the Armoury Officer his final instructions. "Remember, Lieutenant, we only need one of them alive but if you can locate more then do so."
Lt Reed looked at Trip, noticing he had a phase pistol and a look of grim determination on his face. "Where do you think you're going, Commander?"
"I'm comin' with ya."
Lt Reed looked at the Captain. Captain Archer sighed inwardly. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Commander. Besides, we need you here."
"Cap'n, I gotta go. If there's any chance those bastards can tell us about the Xindi I gotta know."
"We all want that Commander and the best way to achieve it is to let Lt Reed do his job."
"Let me go, Cap'n."
Captain Archer shook his head in true regret. Sub-Commander T'Pol had warned him about this and urged him to be firm with his friend. "I'm sorry, Commander, the decision has been made. I may need to send you with a team across to Serenity."
Lt Reed and his team walked passed them to board shuttlepod one. Trip hesitated then looked at the Captain, torn between the desire to help Serenity and her crew and the need to tear some Klingons limb from limb with his bare hands. "How bad are they damaged, Cap'n?"
"We don't know yet. Captain Reynolds mentioned they had a fire on board and was concerned that we not bring their ship aboard until their vessel was stabilised. He was anxious not to put Enterprise at risk."
His words gave Trip pause. "They're good people, Cap'n."
He nodded. "I know and I feel terrible that we've put them in harm's way."
Trip gazed off in the direction Lt Reed had gone. "I would'a followed orders ya know." He said softly.
Captain Archer frowned, not knowing what he was talking about. "What?"
He turned to look at his Captain and friend. "If I'd gone with Malcolm. That's what you were worryin' about wasn't it? You thought I'd go into a murderous rage and kill everyone."
"Trip, I didn't know what to think and right now I can't be worrying about you AND the Klingons."
He nodded sadly. Knowing the Captain was absolutely right but unable to do anything about how much it hurt. When he remained silent for several minutes, Captain Archer put a hand on his shoulder.
"We'll get through this, Trip." He said with feeling. "But in the meantime we have a job to do."
The Commander nodded. "Yes, Cap'n. You'll tell me the moment we have any news on Serenity?"
"You got it. Where you gonna be?"
"Main Engineerin'. Once I make sure Enterprise is okay I'll see ya on the bridge."
When he got back to the bridge Captain Archer was just in time to see shuttlepod one begin to make its' cautious way over to the drifting bird of prey. Lt Hess was temporarily at Trip's tactical station. Lt Reed's second manning the tactical armoury console. Hoshi looked like she wanted to ask him a question but lacked the nerve. When she dipped her head back down the Captain did not say anything. Right now all his attention was on the drifting ship. He wanted to face one problem at a time.
Captain Reynolds carefully exited Serenity. Checked his com unit was working and clipped his line to the side of the hull. For a moment he paused to stare, the silence of space cocooning him in a kind of unreality that had its' own stark beauty. Shaking himself out of his reverie he pushed off from the hull enough to grab handholds to pull himself up. Foot by foot and hand over hand he worked his way up over the body of his ship, his keen eyes tracking every piece of her bodywork, eyes following the graceful lines of his boat. No matter how many times he saw her up close she never failed to take his breath away.
The first impact area was characterised by a huge dent and some scratches but no actual tear in the hull. No holes. He breathed a sigh of relief and let Wash know. So far so good. He checked his air supply then hauled himself off to check the starboard side. This also looked the worse for wear but again it appeared to be no worse than dents and scratches. Fireflys were nothing if not soundly built. He felt his heart start to lighten. Things were looking good. Once he got back, re-checked the ship's integrity and satisfied himself that nothing major needed repairing, he would contact Captain Archer and politely decline his offer of help. He would feel happier returning his ship and crew to their own 'verse knowing the Enterprise had its' own mission well in hand and no longer needed their help. Though what to make of their pronouncements he did not know. He had never given much thought to time travel. A practical man he dealt with what was in the Here and Now, what faced him. Speculation he left to them as had nothing else to fill their empty heads. As long as he had a ship, a crew and a job he would keep flying. A man that needed more than that was doomed to a life of disappointments. He smiled at his ship and patted the battered but intact hull. "That's my good girl." He murmured, echoing Kaylee's words from earlier.
He had just inverted himself for the downward climb back when his vision darkened. Surprised he turned outward to see what was causing the shadow to fall over him. As he turned solid something hit him hard dislodging his grip so that he spun away from the ship until his line went taut. He gasped into his com. "What the...?"
He vaguely registered Wash's concerned voice floating back to him. "Captain? Captain is everything alright?"
Eyes widening in shock, he recognised the next object just as it hit him. Spinning a little faster than the first object had done, the boot hit him squarely in his gut knocking the wind out of him. He blinked and swallowed in horror as the spinning figure revolved bringing the head sliding up against his faceplate. He did not realise he had screamed until Zoe's frantic voice cut off Wash's attempts to get a response from him. "Captain? Sir? What the hell is going on out there?"
The blood smeared the faceplate on his helmet. His heartrate speeding up in an agony of realisation. The face had no recognisable features, the skin carved off of it leaving ribbons of flesh and pulpy masses that leeched away to spin into the vacuum of space as that cold void finished what someone else had started. Unable to stop himself, Captain Reynolds promptly threw up inside his helmet.
Jayne ran into the cockpit in response to Zoe's call. "What the gorram is goin' on?"
Both Wash and Zoe looked shaken. Jayne frowned. A moment later Simon and the Shepherd joined them. "Something's happened," Said Zoe urgently. "We've lost contact with the Captain."
Simon looked nonplussed. "What do you mean you lost contact with him?"
Jayne answered before Zoe could respond. "Cap went outside to check the hull for damage."
Simon looked alarmed. Shepherd Book could not see what the problem was. "He should be safe enough in an EVA suit."
Zoe and Wash exchanged an awkward look. "What?" Asked Simon.
Wash swallowed slowly. "Um, we did kind of get a transmission from him."
The Preacher's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What kind of transmission?"
Zoe looked upset. A rarity in its' own right. Wash looked as if he wanted to be sick. "I can't be sure but it sounded as if he was... screaming."
Captain Archer watched the shuttlepod dock with the Klingon vessel. So far so good. Lt Reed's voice was calm and professional. They were about to enter the ship. Commander Tucker came on to the bridge and relieved Lt Hess. He looked up and watched the screen. Captain Archer was giving Lt Reed some last minute instructions when the Englishman's voice suddenly interrupted him.
The Captain leaned over the com. "Lieutenant? What is it?"
There was a second's delay before Lt Reed responded. He sounded shocked. "Sir, I don't think we're going to find anyone alive on this ship."
A finger of dread slithered down the Captain's back. He looked at the enquiring expressions on the faces of his bridge crew. "Lieutenant, just tell me what you've found."
A longer pause this time. "I think I've found the Klingon crew sir and can confirm they are all dead."
Captain Archer frowned at the careful cagey response. "What do you mean you 'think' you've found them? Klingons are pretty distinctive."
"Yes, sir, but these people...." He broke off as if searching for adequate words. "Well, they um, don't have any faces."
Shock reverberated around the bridge. Captain Archer was stunned. "What?"
"In fact Captain, they don't have any skin on their um bodies. It's really quite horrific."
Hoshi put her hands over her face. Travis looked sick. "Lt Reed, return to Enterprise immediately."
"Yes sir, thank you sir."
Jayne and Book had to run to keep up with Zoe. Simon was still too stunned to make sense of it. He looked at Wash's pale face and realised the man feared the worst. But what did he think had happened to the Captain? He hesitated in the doorway as Wash tried yet again to raise the Captain. The silence echoed eerily back at him. He made an excuse and hurried after the others. If something had happened they might his help.
Zoe skidded to an abrupt halt, the others slowing down just in time not to run into her. Sitting on the floor just inside the airlock was River Tam. She was wearing an EVA suit, her helmet flung forgotten on the floor. Half slumped in her arms was the Captain, his helmet was off but he was unconscious. Ignoring them all, River was rocking the Captain gently in her arms, her pale face angled as if listening to something only she could hear. "Two by two hands of blue. Four by four here come more..."
Zoe knelt beside her. Tried to prise her arms away from the Captain. Could smelt the vomit but steeled herself not to heave. Simon reached them and quickly knelt next to his sister. "What happened?"
She was not looking at anyone but he knew she heard him. River had an uncanny ability of being able to focus on him whatever mental state she was in. As if he was her only anchor to the real world. "He was alone, no one watching. Knew they'd come so I waited."
"Who? Who River?"
"Two by two hands of blue, four by four here come more. Six by six needles of pain..."
She ignored him. "Eight by eight dead again."
Simon gasped. The Captain started to stir, a low moan escaping from him. Shepherd Book looked concerned. "Perhaps you should get the Captain to the infirmary?"
"Yes, I'll do that. Come on River, l have to check on the Captain."
"Two by two hands of blue, four by four here come more..."
The Captain roused and suddenly sat up. His eyes widened then he realised where he was. He was safe only nightmare visions had taken a drastic advance in reality. He had to warn them. "Reavers!"
Jayne swore. The Captain looked at them all then fixed his eyes on Zoe. "We have to warn Enterprise."
"Calm down sir, you said Reavers?"
"On the Klingon ship."
Zoe nodded and helped him up. The Captain turned and looked down at River, resisting Zoe's attempts to drag him off down the corridor. He dropped to his knees and spoke to her, his voice gentle. She seemed to still, her focus coming back as she listened to him. "River, how did you know to come after me?"
"I could hear them. Cold hands, empty hearts, drinking blood and eating flesh. Their armour won't save them." River prodded him in the chest. A moment of clarity shone in her eyes. "Won't save you either."
Simon gently took her hands and helped her to her feet. The Captain looked shaken but took a moment longer to speak to River. "Thank you, River. You saved my life."
She seemed to drift again, no longer seeing him. "Two by two hands of blue, four by four here come more..."
Simon led her back along the corridor, Zoe helping the Captain. "Might want to think about cleaning up, sir."
"After we warn Captain Archer." He said with grim resolve.
"Think he'll listen, sir?"
"If he's sent a team over to that ship Zoe - he'll listen."
Behind them Jayne's eyes had grown wide and frightened. Gorrammit. Reavers. He clutched Vera so tightly his knuckles turned white. Muttering under his breath he followed them with a sinking heart. Reavers. Everyone's worst gorram nightmare.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*zhuni haoyun* = good luck *dong ma* = understand *bao bei* = baby/darling
*xin gan* = sweetheart *shenme* = what
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