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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Serenity finally arrives at Harmony, the crew hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1795 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer: As ever, this place belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and whoever else is on the contracts. I am so happy to be able to visit.
One more part to come. This journey is almost over. I would appreciate knowing if this story is getting posted elsewhere.
Carl saw movement behind the Reavers. He swung his rifle to take aim then saw it was Mal. The business end of a pistol nosed around. He nudged Willem.
“Look, Cap’n’s over behind the Reavers.”
The two men aimed at the rocks where the Reavers hid and were rewarded with two targets in reaction to a shot from behind. They quickly aimed and shot two. A few minutes later, the Captain dropped to the ground next to them.
“Good to see ya, Mal.” Carl didn’t take his eyes off the trail.
“Right happy to see…” Mal quickly looked around, alarm rising in him. “Where’re Inara and Suze? The boy?”
Phil turned to him, pain and fear in his eyes. His right arm was bound and tied close to his body with a sling. Blood stained the dirty cloth. “Got separated when them bastards caught up. Carl and the kids came ahead to see if this was passable. We got turned back twice by rockslides that blocked the way. I shooed the women on while I followed. They musta gone up the wrong track coupla hundred yards back. Didn’t know ‘til I got here with them hot on my heels.”
Mal looked towards the way they had come, not wanting them to see his own fear. He took a deep breath before turning back to them.
“Okay, y’all go on to the river and get across. There’s about ten of ‘em left. If we’re lucky, there won’t be more’n a few together at once. At the moment, they’re probably spread out all over these canyons lookin’ for us.” He smiled without humor. “Or, we could have all of ‘em here in thirty seconds.”
“I’m comin’ with you!” Phil leaned forward, voice low and urgent.
“No.” The Captain left no room for argument. He glanced up to check the sun’s location. “We’ve about ‘n hour of light left. Y’all get going. I’ll find ‘em and meet you on the other side of the river.”
He waited until the others moved before he took off.
Kaylee, Simon, Book and Marcus stood around the bridge. Zoe rested her hand on Wash’s shoulder, watching the screens with him. The Pilot occasionally adjusted course to loop around the other planets and moons, allowing him to scan the whole system.
“Nothin’ out there I can see. If the ship’s still here, it’s on the moon.” Wash rubbed his eyes then looked at each of the screens again.
Zoe squeezed his shoulders. “Okay, we’ll have to assume that’s where they are.”
He put a hand on hers. “We’re almost there.”
Wash carefully watched the scanners. Kaylee leaned on his other shoulder to look. The Preacher and Marcus stared out of the window. They had been like that for several minutes. The long-range scan had revealed nothing and everyone had breathed just a little easier for a moment. As Serenity orbited the diminutive world, each sucked in their breath as they realized what they were looking at.
“Well, we know where they are.” The pilot glanced up at his wife. “I’m sure Mal and Inara are a long way from there.”
“Think they mighta crashed or somethin’?” Kaylee looked at the others.
“Something happened. I don’t see any sign the engines are working.” Wash flipped a couple of switches and concentrated on another screen. “There’s way too much radiation for anyone within a thousand hundred yards to even be alive. We won’ be able to get close.”
Zoe straightened. “We have to see. Swing as close as you can, then head for the landing site on the other side of the river.”
Zoe leaned down to kiss his check as the others left the bridge. She hurried to follow.
Mal had listened briefly before choosing a path and ran past other branches without slowing. He was barely thinking now. Everything was instinct, training and experience reacting to the situation. The scream came from just ahead.
The Captain came around the bend in the narrow path at full speed. He heard another scream as he spotted two figures struggling about thirty feet ahead. They were dangerously close to the edge of a long drop. The one with his back to him was a Reaver. In the dimming light, he couldn’t tell who the other was at first. As he brought up his pistol, he caught sight of her hair and heard her cry out again. It was Inara, fighting as hard as she could to hold back a knife the Reaver was pressing at her throat. There wasn’t a clear shot. At this distance the slug would go right through him and hit her.
As he ran, Mal holstered the pistol. He was on them in moments. He couldn’t risk hitting the man with his full weight. It would push the blade into her. In the last second, the Reaver realized there was someone other than a shipmate behind him. He had just enough time to half turn when Mal grabbed his head in both hands and twisted with all his strength, hauling him off Inara at the same time.
The knife dropped from the Reaver’s dead hand. Inara, released from the grip of the other hand, fell backwards. Mal dropped the body on the path and bent down next to her, grasping her shoulders.
“Are you hurt? Did he hurt you?” He frantically searched her face and body for injury.
“No, I’m okay.” He lifted her to her feet. She looked up at him, never so grateful to see anyone in her life. They heard a man’s voice shouting and turned to look further up the path. “Oh, my God! Two more. They went after Suze and the baby.”
“If you see any more, use this.” Mal handed her his handgun and rifle then he pulled a pistol from the dead man’s holster and kicked the body over the edge. She heard it bouncing and sliding down the steep slope as he took off up the path, leaving her to follow.
A few moments later, Inara turned another corner in the path and saw Suze, clutching her child on the ground. Just beyond her, Mal was fighting with the two Reavers. One of them was trying to raise a pistol. The Captain grabbed his wrist and shoved the gun into the other’s chest. The weapon fired, sending the wounded man tumbling off the path. The remaining Reaver was Mal’s size. They struggled noiselessly.
She was horrified when she saw Mal reach down and pull a long knife from his thigh. He twirled it in his hand and brought the blade up between them. Inara couldn’t see what happened to it. Everything was in slow motion and silent. She could only see the blood staining his trousers as they disappeared over the edge. There was no noise, nothing. By the time she got there, they were gone. The drop was straight into the river a hundred feet below. The fast moving water disguising the sound of the splash as they hit.
Inara knelt on the path for long minutes, searching for any sign, unable to move. Finally, she heard Jeff crying for his Mother. She ran back to them. Suze was dazed from a blow to her head and had a long gash up her left leg where they had ripped her clothes. Inara bound it as best she could, using the scarf she had been wearing. The boy seemed uninjured.
They sat, huddled together, trying to calm the terrified child between them. They were separated from Carl and the others. And, now, Mal was gone and possibly dead. The wound to her leg would make it too difficult for Suze to walk. Exhausted, cold and in shock Inara began to tremble uncontrollably, trying to hold back the tears that spilled down her cheeks.
Then she heard it. Serenity.
“Falling.” River cried out and clutched her left side. “Cold. Can’t breath.”
Zoe and Jayne closed and locked the shuttles’ doors and prepared to disengage. As everyone settled onto whatever seating could be found, they felt the Serenity slow.
“Uh, guys?” Wash’s voice came over the intercom. “We were right. It’s still here, but it’s a mess. Looks like a pretty bad landing. Whole stern’s split wide open. Musta blown an engine. Rest of her is intact enough to mean survivors. Be careful.”
“What about the town?” Jeb entered the bridge from below. He tried to look out of the window, but they were already past the town.
Wash did not look back at him. “Gone. Sorry.”
“Yeah, well, we kinda expected that.” Jeb shook his head slowly. “Didya hear that Frank, Les?”
“They did.” Was the flat response.
Inara looked up in time to see Serenity pass overhead. As the ship crossed the river, she saw the shuttles detach and curved back. Serenity continued straight.
“Serenity? Wash? Can you hear me?” Inara fumbled with the transceiver as she turned it on and attached it to her ear.
“Inara? Where are you?” Wash’s voice was clear.
“Wash, be careful. The Reavers are still here. They’ve been hunting us since yesterday morning.” Her voice was high with fear and exhaustion.
“We know, Inara. Where are you? You okay?”
“You passed right over us. I can see the shuttles. I’m on a ledge above the river with Suze Reston and her son. I don’t know where the others are, but I can hear gunshots north of here. Mal was here. He was fighting one of them and they fell off the ledge.” Her voice broke. “Wash, you have to find him!”
Zoe broke in. “We will. Stay put, we’re coming to get you.”
Inara looked around. “There’s nowhere to land here. Suze is wounded and can’t move.”
“Don’t need one.” The transmission stopped for a second. “Jayne, head north a little a see if you can find the others. They can’t be very far.”
“What about Mal?” Inara was becoming frantic. She watched the shuttle turn and weave towards her until her position was pinpointed. It slowed as it approached.
“We’ll find him.” Zoe’s voice was steady.
The shuttle kicked up dust as it hovered closer to the ledge where the women huddled. The door opened as it gently bumped the edge. Two men she vaguely recognized jumped out. Book stayed in the door of the little craft as it bobbed slightly. Inara tried to stand with Jeff, but couldn’t. One of the men picked the boy out of her arms and handed him to the Shepherd. Then he hustled her to the door and lifted her inside. He went back to help the other man pick up Suze and they quickly moved her inside, too.
They were inside, where it was warm and safe. The trappings of her life all around them were suddenly absurd to Inara. The whole maneuver took less than minute. As the door closed, Zoe eased the throttle forward and turned the shuttle north.
“Jayne, we got ‘em. Did you find Carl and the others?” Zoe released the controls as Book sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. She got up and came to the rear of the shuttle, adjusting her holster as she squatted next to Inara, who had slumped to the sofa. “You okay?”
She nodded. “We have to find Mal. He’s hurt.”
“We will.” Zoe stood again. “Jayne. Where are you?”
Someone had once joked, “It’s not the long fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop.” Not far off. The fall didn’t kill him, but when he and the Reaver hit the water, Mal had not been able to fully twist away. The hilt of the knife struck his left side as the lifeless body fell next to him. He felt the ribs break as the water closed in over his head.
The cold water took his breath away. Disoriented, he tried to find the surface. Everything was dark. The deep water was black. He turned and saw a glimmer of light and pushed for it. As he broke the surface and tried to draw a deep breath, Mal realized the current was beginning to drag him down stream. His legs bumped rocks. The deeper pool where he’d landed was now behind him.
He frantically tried to get traction on the rocks, but found none. The current was sweeping him around a bend when something hit him. Before losing consciousness, Mal glimpsed the lifeless Reaver sweep by. Son of a bitch was dead and still wanted to kill him.
“We found ‘em. They’re on the west side of the river. Them bastards’re shootin’ at us, too.” Jayne’s irritation was clear. “No place big enough to set ‘er down.”
“We see you. Can you drop the guys off without gettin’ ‘em killed?” Zoe leaned over to look out of the window.
“Yeah.” He was definitely irritated now.
Book glanced up at her. “Want me to get above them?”
Zoe’s smile was cold as she turned back to the others. “Good idea.”
The men settled Suze into a comfortable position on the bed. Inara held Jeff, who was watching everything, sniffling and wide-eyed. One had given him a hard biscuit to chew on. When Zoe turned to them, they picked up their rifles and braced themselves on either side of the door.
Book slowed the shuttle and glanced back. As Frank opened the door, Zoe sat on the floor, one foot on each side of the door. Gunfire could be heard from below. Inara clutched the child to her, covering his ears, as they opened fire.
The handful of Reavers they could see scattered, trying to escape the assault from above. A couple of them dropped as fire from the other side of the river and the shuttle caught them in the open. In seconds, the remainder disappeared up a narrow passage. Book kept the shuttle hovering there for a little longer.
Serenity? That you? Mal tried to look up, but couldn’t move. It was taking all of his effort to keep his head above the water rushing over the rock he lay on. Couldn’t be. Must be the river. He closed his eyes again.
“Water’s cold.” She was shivering, breathing fast. “So tired.”
Kaylee sat next to River on the sofa in the dining room. The younger girl tugged the blanket closer around her and closed her eyes. Her knees were pulled close to her chest. Simon sat on the other side. Kaylee held her closer.
“What’s she mean, Simon?”
“I think she means Mal.” His eyes were fearful as he looked at Kaylee over the top of his sister’s head.
“Oh!” Kaylee put her hand over her mouth as she looked wide-eyed between brother and sister.
“Marcus?” Zoe leaned forward to look at the ground below. The big man waved up at her. “There’s a clearing where we can land a coupla hundred yards north. Can you make it there?”
He touched the unaccustomed transceiver in his ear. “Uh, yeah. Take a while. We got some wounded here. Keep an eye out for those fellas, will ya?”
“Sure. Jayne, we’ll meet you there in a few.” She turned to Book. “Let’s make sure they aren’t lurking about.”
“Zoe!” Inara moved to stand. “Jayne can get them. We have to find Mal now.”
“As soon as we pick up the others, we will.” She glanced back before looking out of the window again.
“It’ll be dark soon. We won’t be able to find him if we wait any longer.”
“Inara, it’s been decided.”
“By who?” She demanded.
“Bi zui!” Zoe’s voice was tight with stress. She bowed her head for a moment, and then turned to face the Companion. “Look, if Mal is alive, he can take care of himself. I want nothing more than to find him, but he said to get these folks safe, and that’s what we’re doin’.”
When Zoe turned back to look out the window, Inara realized she would not get any further by continuing. She could see the strain in Zoe’s stiff back. Arguing was just adding to it. Inara turned to watched Frank and Tomas, who were tending to Suze. Jeff settled on her lap, quietly eating the biscuit, but closely watching his Mother.
“Can’t move. Can’t feel.” Her eyes were closed and she was shivering.
Kaylee looked up at Simon as he draped another blanket around his sister.
“Ya think she can really see what’s happenin’?” Her eyes were wide as she looked back at the girl beside her.
His shrug barely lifted his shoulders. “Honestly, I don’t know what to think. Mal…I don’t know.” He shrugged again.
They both looked up when Jayne’s voice came over the speaker.
“Zoe?” Jayne’s voice was tinny.
“They’re almost here. Any sign of them bastards?”
“No. We’re comin’.” Zoe kept her eyes on the ground as the Preacher turned the little craft toward the landing area. She spoke softly. “Book, you’ll pick ‘em up and head for Serenity. We’ll go find Mal.”
He nodded. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Just get them back to the boat in one piece.”
She turned to the others. They had all heard the exchange. “Tomas, will you go back to the ship with the Shepherd? We’ll go with Jayne to find Mal.”
“I want to come with you.” Inara set the toddler on the sofa next to her.
Zoe shook her head, eyes a little softer. “No, looks like we got too many wounded. Simon’ll need your help, if you’re up to it. We’ll be back on Serenity within minutes of picking him up.”
The Companion nodded.
Mal smiled. He could smell his Mother’s special Church day dinner cooking in the kitchen. She was singing as she worked. The girls were upstairs, chattering and laughing. It was the one day of the week when the only chores they had were feeding and watering the animals, and washing up after dinner.
He was standing on the front porch, watching lightening from a distant storm. He could barely hear the thunder rolling in long seconds after each strike. The smell of rain wafted in on the breeze, competing with the roast in the oven. It was the first storm of the season and a welcome sight. Pasture was getting a little thin.
It would come their way tonight. He’d have to make sure windows and gates were secure. He loved storms. They made everything clean and brought new life.
“Home. Ma’s cookin’ dinner and there’s a summer storm comin’. Happy there.” River smiled dreamily then screwed her eyes shut. When she opened them again, she looked at her brother. “Simon, he’s slipping away.”
The Shepherd settled the little craft on a narrow clearing in the waning light. The door opened, Zoe and Frank jumped out. Carl appeared from behind some rocks, one arm supporting Jana. They were closely followed by Marcus, who carried a young man. Another man brought up the rear with Henry and Les.
The weary refugees were quickly bundled into the shuttle. The door shut and it lifted off. As soon as the clearing was vacated, the second shuttle landed, the door opening as it touched down. Zoe, Marcus and the others rushed in. Jayne piloted the shuttle up and turned south to follow the river.
Zoe sat in the co-pilot’s chair and Marcus leaned forward between them, straining to see in the growing darkness. She flipped a switch on the console, and an exterior light came on. It wasn’t much help, but it was better than nothing.
Book’s voice came over the speaker. “Wash, we’ll be there in a few minutes. Tell the Doctor we have some serious injuries.”
Simon squeezed Kaylee’s hand. “I’ll meet them in the bay. Will you stay with her?”
Kaylee nodded, and he left. She held the trembling girl closer. “It’s alright. They’re going to find Mal now. You’ll see, everyone will be back on Serenity soon.”
River threw the blankets, and Kaylee’s arms, off and ran for the stairs to the bridge. “They’re going too slow.”
“Wait, River!” Kaylee grabbed one of the blankets and followed. When she got to the bridge, River was standing behind Wash, speaking softly, but with great urgency.
“Farther. They’re going too slow. Tell them to hurry.”
Wash looked up at her in disbelief. “Jayne, did you hear that?”
“Yeah.” Jayne growled as he tried to maneuver the shuttle so that the light would illuminate the banks as well as the water. They came dangerously close to a steep rock face on one side. “Gorram it! Zoe, yer better at this delicate type flyin’.”
She took the controls, and began to inch the craft down the river, swinging the nose so that they could see as much as possible. She bit her lower lip. “Jayne, watch for signs of Reavers. There’re still a few of ‘em left. Could be anywhere.”
“Tzao gao.” The big mercenary grumbled.
Marcus spoke for the first time since boarding the shuttle. “Can’t be too many. Carl said there was only about ten left when Mal left ‘em to find Inara.”
“Inara said he got three up on the ledge and we shot two a few minutes ago. That leaves five. Maybe more, maybe less.” She remained focused on the river in front of them. “Where the hell are they?”
“Focus. Focus.” River pressed the heels of her clenched hands to her temples. She looked at the screen showing the swaying image from the shuttle. “Aren’t they listening?”
“They’re heading south.” Wash’s voice was conciliatory, unsure what to do.
“Stuck in the rocks. Middle. Can’t move. Heard Serenity fly over, but thought he was dreaming.”
“Do you know how far, Sweetie?” Kaylee guided her to the co-pilot’s chair and pushed her into it. “How far away is Mal?”
“Too far. He can’t hear them. The water turns.” River drew a picture of its meandering in the air. “More than an S. Watched a small beach float by.”
Wash reluctantly looked back at the images coming from the shuttle. “Zoe? Did you hear that?”
Her voice was skeptical. “Yeah. We’ll look.”
The image on the screen moved a little faster and concentrated on the river alone.
“She’d better be right.” Zoe muttered under her breath.
“You gonna listen to that crazy fool?” Jayne was incredulous.
“Cap’n thought she was worth listenin’ to.” Her tone cut short any further argument.
The shuttle followed the coursing water for a few minutes, rising and descending as the banks narrowed and widened. As it completed a second turn, Zoe brought the craft to an abrupt halt and reduced height. They saw a body crumpled against some rocks near the western bank. It was face down, limbs swaying in the flowing water.
Zoe closed her eyes for a moment.
“Wuh de tyen.” Marcus squeezed her shoulder then turned for the door. “How close can you get me?”
“Not him! Not him!” River’s voice shouted over the speaker.
Zoe reduced height until the shuttle almost touched the rocks below. She gripped the controls to hide the shaking in her hands. “She’s right. Coat’s similar enough, but the boots are wrong. And, the hair’s too long. It’s not Mal. Must be the one that went over the cliff with him.”
The shuttle rose slightly and continued on its path.
On the bridge of Serenity, Wash scrubbed his face with his hands and Kaylee almost fell down the stairs when her knees buckled under her. River did not move. Her eyes were focused on the fingertip slowly tracing the shuttle’s path in the air.
She whispered, “Keep going. Almost there.”
“Wash?” Book’s deep voice startled the Pilot. “We’ll be docking in two minutes. Let Simon know.”
“He can hear you. You said you had injured?”
“Yeah. Young fella has a chest wound. He’s the worst. The Restons have less serious wounds.”
“I’ll go help Simon.” Kaylee made to go down the stairs, but stopped. She touched Wash’s arm. “Can you watch River for me?”
“Sure. Looks like she’s here for the duration.” He peered uncertainly at the girl.
“There! There!” Jayne pointed to an area at the leading edge of the light, reaching across Zoe’s line of sight. She slapped his arm aside.
“I can’t see if you’re in front of me! Where?”
“Left, left just a little. Middle of the river.” He strained to see as the shuttle inched forward and turned a fraction. “See them big rocks? There.”
“Got ‘im.” She swiveled the shuttle from side to side, looking for a place to land. “No gorram place to set down.”
“Look’s like he’s wedged in there good ‘n tight.” Marcus pointed to a ledge just above the water on the right bank. Can you drop me ‘n Frank ‘n Henry over there? If you can get low enough, we’ll be able to hand Mal up.”
“River’s movin’ fair fast, Marcus.” Frank peeked over his shoulder at the water. “We’ll need to be tethered.”
Marcus nodded and the men turned for the door, taking the coil of rope Jayne fished out of a locker. The big mercenary buttoned his coat and shouldered Vera.
“I’ll make sure them Reavers leave us alone.”
Zoe steered the craft over to the edge of the river. The door opened and the cold night air rushed in. The four men jumped out quickly and tied themselves several feet apart. The shuttle rose and turned to shine the light onto the body Marcus waded out into the fast moving water, followed by Frank and Henry. Jayne looped the end of the rope around his waist and braced himself.
River frowned. “Gone to asleep.”
Inara rushed up the stairs. “They found him? Is he alive?”
Wash took a moment to recognize the wild looking creature in front of him. When he recovered, he shrugged, palms up. “Uh, they haven’t gotten to him yet, but River here reckons he’s dozed off.”
He winced when she glared at him. “Sorry. Everyone get onboard okay?”
She nodded. “Willem is badly wounded. The Shepherd is helping Simon with him. Kaylee and Tomas are with the Restons. I’d better go and help, too.”
Wash put his hand on her arm and stood. “Come sit for a minute. If you’ll watch River, I’ll go get you something hot to drink. Looks like you could use it.”
When Inara hesitated, Wash pulled her to the chair and pushed her into it. He disappeared down the stairs to the crew’s quarters and the kitchen beyond.
River looked at her with sad eyes. “Won’t be long now.”
Zoe watched as the men below carefully made their way to the rocks where Mal lay face down. It was him. The water and uneven light from the shuttle discolored his clothes, but it was him. His coat. His boots. His hair. Her hands were shaking on the controls. How often during the war, and since, had he come back from the edge of the death? Usually laughing. How many more times would he be able to do that? She wanted to be down there. She wanted to scream at him to stop playing the fool and get up.
The rocks where Mal was trapped were not very big, just big enough for one leg to slide in and the rushing water to pin him there. Marcus reached his head and he felt for signs of life. Zoe’s frown deepened when he did not look up. Marcus turned to Frank and motioned for him to move to the Captain’s feet. The noise from the river and the shuttle made speaking useless. She watched them try to dislodge Mal, but it wasn’t until Henry caught up that they were able to pull him free.
At that moment, the sound of a gunshot made them all jump. Les crouched in the door of the shuttle, moving his weapon, trying to find the source. Jayne pulled Vera up and did the same, mouthing obscenities. He held his place as anchor, much to Zoe’s surprise. She glanced up and down, trying to look for the Reavers, keep the men below in sight and prevent the shuttle from hitting the hillside at the same time.
The three men slipped several times as they carried the dead weight of the Captain to the ledge. Bullets ricocheted off the rocks around them and the shuttle. Zoe swung the craft so that Les had a better shot from the open door. He and Jayne peppered the opposite bank, giving the men in the river a little cover. As soon as everyone was on the rock, Zoe maneuvered the shuttle to shield the men on the ground and pick them up.
Les hauled Frank up and they both turned to take Mal from Marcus and Henry. It took seconds to pull the others up after they laid him inside.
“Go! Go!” Jayne shouted as he tossed Vera up to Les and came through the door.
Bi zui – shut up
Wuh de tyen – dear God in heaven
Tzao gao - shit
Monday, September 08, 2003 12:51 AM
Monday, September 08, 2003 1:41 PM
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