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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
Finally! Mal and crew arrive at Nexus 7 and start making their way through lots of long, empty corridors with those over-the-shoulder shots they do in horror movies to make you wonder what's waiting in the shadows.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1433 RATING: 6 SERIES: FIREFLY
DISCLAIMER: All the characters and the universe they're in belong to Mutant Enemy. Thanks for letting me play with your toys for a while.
RATED: sexually explicit swearwords if you understand Chinese. If you don't understand Chinese and sexually explicit swearwords bother you, don't read the glossary.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Profuse apologies for the delay, I hope it hasn't lost me any of my audience. This one was trickier than I'd expected, inspiration eluded me. I hope it's holding together. Oh yeah, and Mal's instincts are spot on....
SPOILER for anyone who's not seen the three episodes that were unaired in the US. Shame.
Things Fall Apart - Chapter 5
Jayne dropped down onto the upper deck of the airlock, disdaining the set of stairs that had automatically extended when the emergency hatch was activated. He made a quick 360 degree sweep through Vera's sights. The airlock was larger than Serenity's cargo bay and a lot emptier. Letting out a slow breath, Jayne grimaced suspiciously and sniffed at the air. It smelled faintly of burnt things. He glanced over his shoulder and gave a quick 'OK' signal, then took a step sideways and watched the doors.
Each of Nexus 7's five sections was connected to its neighbors by an airlock, which had a door on either side. Sometimes these doors were left open to make it easier for the passengers or crew to move around. The doors to Sections C, with its crew quarters and cargo bays, and Section D, which held Nexus 7s' Command Center, were both closed. The station had two decks, the outer rim of the wheel forming the floor of the lower deck and an upper deck with its ceiling looking towards the hub. Each deck had an emergency access hatch on one wall of the airlock. Direction on the station was always taken from the direction of spin, or clockwise.
Duvenage dropped lightly onto the deck, holding a lethal-looking laser-targeted handgun that had Jayne salivating. He glanced about, then moved quickly over to the access door to Section D and examined the panel. Zoe came down the stairs behind him, followed by the army-trained medic Xuan had sent, a man called Tran. Duvenage's other two men would remain in the shuttle, one at the emergency hatch and one at the controls.
When all who were coming were on the deck, Zoe and Jayne crossed to Duvenage. He examined a tiny palm com and glanced up at Zoe.
"Access panels seem to be working. The codes should be valid. If we open this door and we're staring at Reavers, we close it and we leave. Understood?"
She looked at him calmly, "If we can't make it to the Command Center then we help the Captain. Ain't no way I'm leavin' him if the Reavers know we're here."
He studied her expression, then nodded and started to punch in the access codes from the palm com. A light above the door flashed, and they all looked at it and then at each other. If there were any Reavers on the other side of the door, they knew someone was coming now. Zoe and Jayne backed off, weapons drawn. With a high-pitched tone the door swung open.
Nothing happened. Zoe risked a quick glance around the door frame, and there was no hail of gunfire to great her. They waited a couple of seconds, then Jayne went through and held position to the right of the door, covering the left-hand side of the corridor. It was as deserted as the airlock had been. Zoe, Duvenage and Tran followed and they began edging their way down the corridor along the walls.
They passed through the reception area, offices, a small rec room. Everything was brightly lit and deserted, and there was no sound except for the faint hum of machinery. Each door they came to was open, the room empty. Here and there were overturned chairs, scattered papers, broken glass. The further down the corridor they moved - the closer to the Command Center - the more evidence there was of fighting. There were scorch marks, bullet holes and spent casings, blood spatters on the walls, and once or twice sticky pools and marks that showed a body had lain there for a while. But no bodies. Jayne suppressed a shudder and settled Vera against his shoulder. The silence was working on his nerves.
Duvenage, who was leading, suddenly stopped dead. Jayne's finger tightened on the trigger. Zoe inched up behind Duvenage and he signaled to look ahead. It was the door to the Command Center, pitted and scorched but still firmly shut.
Zoe frowned when she saw it. "You think there's anyone alive in there?" She asked in a whisper.
"Very likely," Duvenage replied. "Door is reinforced, steal bolts through the floor and ceiling, own power and air supply inside. Reavers tried to blow it but it didn't work. We're going to have to signal them to tell them we're here."
"How's about we knock on the door?" Jayne asked by way of being humerous.
"You volunteerin'?" Zoe asked him, raising an eyebrow.
"Nah," he said hastily. "I figure they gotta be a mite trigger happy right now."
Duvenage had taken out his palm com again and was looking thoughtfully around at the walls. "There's an intercom system. Give me a minute."
Not much later Zoe and Duvenage were at the door listening the tinny voice of one of the soldiers holed up inside the Command Center.
"Haven't heard anything for nearly an hour. Reavers just up and left," the soldier said, sounding as though he didn't believe it himself. "We've been trying signal our ships but no-one's responding."
"That's because there's no-one out there," Zoe told him. "Two went with the evacuees and one of the Viper's was destroyed. The other Viper, the dreadnought and the troupe carrier ain't nowhere to be seen. Could be they had to withdraw."
"And the Reaver ships?" The soldier asked.
"There's eight ships that don't belong to the Alliance parked outside. How's the door comin'?"
"We're working on it. The explosion's messed with the bolt mechanism. Eight ships? There were twenty of them before. Where's the rest?"
"They didn't leave a note," Zoe said shortly. "We've been asked to look for a Lieutenant Xuan. Is he with you?"
"Yes, the Lieutenant's here," came the reply, and Jayne grinned hugely. "He's been hurt."
"We've got a medic with us and a doctor back at the ship. We got limited space and time, priority is for the wounded."
"Understood," came the reply.
There was sharp crack and the door to the Command Center swung open. A dozen weapons were trained on Zoe and Duvenage. Both stood very still with their hands held away from their bodies. There was a long, tense moment as they were examined.
"You're not Alliance," one of the soldiers observed.
"That we ain't," Zoe agreed. "There's two others with us." Cautiously she gestured to Jayne and Tran to step into view.
"My men and I work for Governor Xuan," Duvenage explained, and gestured to Zoe and Jayne. "These two are from the ship he hired to help with the rescue. The Governor felt that it was imperative the wounded be evacuated from the station as soon as possible, but the senior staff didn't agree. Alliance do not know we are here."
The soldier frowned, "Alliance ain't comin'?"
"Oh they're comin'," Zoe replied wryly, "from the Core via Nexus 5. Should be here in another thirty-six hours."
There were a few angry curses and one of the men asked, "They were gonna leave us up here for three days with those chùsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo?"
The soldier who'd been doing all the talking up till now barked a command and the swearing subsided.
"Priority's for the wounded," he said. "I want them off this station. Don't care who sent you, no man's worth more'n another here. That gonna be a problem?"
"No problem," Duvenage said quietly. "We'll take as many of the wounded as we can."
The soldier held Duvenage's eye for a long time, then cautiously lowered his weapon.
"Which one of you's the medic?"
Simon came thundering up the stairs onto the bridge and hurled himself through the door, startling Wash so badly he nearly fell out of his chair.
"Tamade, don't do that!" he yelled, gripping the console, disconcerted by how much his hands were shaking. Lord, but they were all wound so tight. "It's a good thing I'm wearing my brown trousers, you bastard."
"I can't find River!" Simon gasped.
"I said I can't find River. I've looked everywhere, she's not on Serenity."
Wash stared at Simon, looking almost as horrified as the doctor. "Are you sure?"
Simon raised his hands helplessly, "I can't think of anywhere else to look."
Kaylee appeared at the door and hovered there, wide-eyed.
"Did you find her?" Simon asked.
Kaylee shook her head. Simon closed his eyes and swore.
"She has to be on one of the shuttles," he said, and sank down into the Captain's chair as though his legs had given way.
"But there were six people on board, where would she hide?" Kaylee asked, still half hiding behind the door frame.
"I don't know!" Simon snapped. "It's the only place we haven't looked."
"I'm only tryin' to think logical," Kaylee said gently. "You'da thought one of them would'a noticed is all."
"Maybe they have," Wash said, rubbing his chin. "Maybe they have found her. They can't tell us until they're out of range of the station, it's too dangerous."
Simon looked at him, his expression a pained mixture of hope and fear, "But that'd mean that Xuan's men know."
Wash grimaced, "Lesser of two evils."
"Let's hope," Kaylee said softly.
Mal stepped over a chunk of what looked like a wall and had to duck quickly to avoid a loose hatch cover hanging from the ceiling. He swore under his breath. Even with the night vision goggles Duvenage had lent them, sudden flares from electrical shorts and what was left of the emergency lighting made it difficult to see where they were going. Section A, the section that had been hit by the Viper gunship, was a mess. Atmospherics were working, but most of the other electrical systems weren't. They'd expected some damage - they'd even brought an EVA suit in the spirit of worst-case-scenario - but Mal was beginning to think that he'd bitten off more than he could chew.
For all it looked simple, Nexus 7 was a rabbit warren of interconnecting passages and rooms as the designers made use of every square inch of available space. It had taken nearly half an hour to make their way through Section B's lower deck, which held cabins for travelers. Dozens of them, each of which had to be checked. There were dozens more on the upper deck. It made the hair on Mal's neck stand on end just thinking about how many places there were to hide on this tin can, all of which would have to be searched in the next hour and a half.
They had encountered their first real obstacle when they reached the airlock. The access panel on the door leading into Section A wouldn't respond. It had taken Lessing and another of Xuan's employees of questionable background, a man named Ossa, ten minutes to rewire the panel well enough to activate the locking mechanism. Mal wasn't sure whether to be annoyed that this meant their half-hour search of B's lower deck had been a waste of time, or pleased that there was less likelihood the Reavers would be coming up behind them.
His com buzzed. He cupped his hand around the mouthpiece.
"Cap'n, it's Zoe. We got twelve wounded men ready to move. We need that shuttle."
"I'll send it on over." Mal waved a quick signal to Lessing, who relayed the message to the men waiting on the shuttle. "Had to rewire the gorammed door to get in, electrics are shot," he told her. "It's gonna take some time to make a decent search. Have that shuttle back as fast as you can, I gotta feelin' we're gonna find Reavers before long."
"If you think you're gonna need ta get out of there in a hurry we can wait," Zoe said quickly. "Command Center's pretty much set ta last out Armageddon."
"Nah, probably just my nerves talkin'," Mal replied, sorry he'd said it now. Good thing Jayne hadn't been there to hear. "You got our bounty, make this fool's errand worthwhile. Shuttle's on it's way."
He switched off the com and stared ahead into the gloom. They had reached the edge of a large open space, which the intermittent lighting revealed as being full of tables and chairs. They crouched in the relative cover of the corridor, trying to see if any of the shadows out there were moving. Section A's lower deck consisted of restaurants, kitchens and a couple of cocktail bars. The ballroom and other function rooms were on the upper deck. The lifts and stairwells were in the middle of each section, directly below the access spoke coming up from the hub. Visiting dignitaries and first-class passengers would be brought up from their ships at the hub to be shown the spectacular view from the ballroom's view port before they were escorted to the VIP accommodations on Section B's upper deck.
Lessing stuck his head around the corner to take a quick look around, then lent back against the wall.
"There's a walled-off section to the left, looks like the bar. Swing doors may lead to the kitchen. We'd better check it out."
"I don't like the way the time's going," Mal said, glancing at his watch. "We ain't even got upstairs yet."
Lessing shrugged, "Shouldn't take more than a few minutes to search those upstairs rooms. Big open spaces, not much place to hide."
Book was staring back down the corridor looking troubled.
"Shenme me?" Mal asked.
"Not sure," Book said. "Just felt like we were being watched there for a minute."
"Place'll do that to ya," Mal said wryly. "Course, doesn't mean there's nobody there." He nodded to Lessing. "Come on."
They slipped around the corner, Mal leading. The bar was about ten feet from the corridor and the swing doors were right beside it. Mal stopped so suddenly that Lessing nearly went into him. One of the doors was swinging ever-so-slightly back and forth. Mal mentally catalogued his weapons, his surroundings, the men behind him, every shadow between himself and the far end of the bar. Then he began to inch his way forward, hugging the wall. They reached the doors and Mal ducked below the window to take up a position on the far side. Very carefully he began to ease one of the doors back enough to let him see inside.
Things happened very quickly. The doors burst open and someone came hurtling out, swinging for his head and knocking him backwards against the bar. He heard Lessing shout and Book and Ossa come charging out of the hallway. Mal grappled awkwardly with his opponent, trying to free his gun and keep from being hit at the same time. Lessing was yelling for him to get clear so that they could take the shot. Mal finally got his feet under him and shoved his opponent backwards so that he could stand. Bracing himself, he dragged his attacker around and slammed them back against the bar, shoving his gun under their jaw.
The voice and a thousand other tiny impressions connected in his mind a split second before he pulled the trigger. Panting hard, he stared in shock at the person he held pinned against the bar.
"Suo-yo duh doh dhr-dang...Inara?"
One hand gripping the gun barrel, Inara stared at him with huge, shocked eyes, unable to speak. The metal bar she'd been wielding clattered to the floor.
"Tamade baichi, I nearly gorram killed you!" Mal shouted. Shaking with adrenaline and suddenly furious, he let her go and took two awkward steps backwards. Inara stared at him as though she'd seen a ghost.
"Mal?" she asked breathlessly.
"Who the hell is this?" Lessing demanded, gun still trained on her. Mal ignored him. He couldn't think of anything except how close he'd come to pulling that trigger.
"Wu de mah, what were you thinking?" He demanded. "You don't come charging out of doors when you don't know what the hell's on the other side! I know you spent most of your time on Serenity on your back but I thought you'd have learnt at least that much!"
"Captain!" Book barked. "That's enough."
"Don't you tell me when it's enough," Mal rounded on him. "She nearly got herself killed!"
"I think she knows that," Book retorted.
Inara was staring at the Shepherd, her face pale with shock. "Shepherd Book? Oh my God." She gripped the edge of the bar counter as though her legs wouldn't hold her up any more. "What are you doing here?"
Book pushed his way past Lessing and Mal to take hold of Inara's arm, lending support.
"We came to get you," he said, his voice softening.
"Still around," Book replied.
"Then how..." she looked from Mal's furious face to the Shepherd's, bewildered. "How'd you get here? Where's Serenity?"
"It's a long story," Book said. "The abridged version is we've got Serenity waiting a safe distance away and a shuttle coming to fetch us. Ni mei shi ba?"
Inara nodded, "Xie xie, wo hen hao." Then suddenly she was shaking and crying and looking horrified about it, and Book had put an arm around her and was telling her it was alright. Mal felt like a bastard, but he was still so angry with her for scaring him like that that he couldn't bring himself to speak. Seeing Book comforting her didn't help.
"Is this the woman you were looking for?" Lessing asked him.
"Yeah," Mal managed.
Lessing regarded Inara and the Shepherd. "She's sure got some guts, jumping you like that."
"Damned stupid," Mal muttered.
Inara pushed herself away from the Shepherd, wiping her face as though embarrassed by such a display of emotion. She glanced at Mal and he caught her expression momentarily unguarded, hurt and confused. Inara took a breath, visibly making the effort to regain control. Moments later she appeared pale but composed.
"I really didn't expect to see you here," she said, her voice still shaky. "I thought you were Reavers. We were hiding in the kitchen and then I heard a sound out here-"
"'We'?" Lessing cut in.
Inara looked at him and frowned.
"Oh, this is another part of the long story," Book said, and hastily introduced Lessing and Ossa. "They are helping us with the search."
"You said 'we'," Lessing prompted.
"Yes," Inara replied, then pushed past Book and opened the swing doors. "Wai-Lan? Wai-Lan xin gan, you can come out. It's safe."
Peering over her shoulder, Mal saw a face peeping out from behind a cupboard door. The door opened some more and a young girl of around eight or ten scrambled out. She stood poised to run, looking at Mal and Book warily.
"Come on," Inara said, gesturing.
Wai-Lan ran across the kitchen and threw herself against Inara, hiding her face.
"Hey there," Inara said, putting her arms around the girl, "Mei guanxi. They've come to rescue us."
A cautious eye regarded Mal, then Lessing. Wai-Lan pulled back her head and stared at the man in surprise. "I know you!" She accused.
"And I know you," he replied, grinning. "Glad to see you alive and well, Miss Xuan."
Mal gaped. "Juedui bu, this is the granddaughter?"
"You know her?" Inara asked at the same time.
"Yes," Lessing said to both questions. "The gods sure are smiling on you, little Miss."
"You were looking for her?" Inara asked, glancing from Lessing to Book to Mal.
"Again, long story, and one I'll be quite happy to tell you from the comfort of the shuttle," Book said, then looked significantly at Mal. "But I think it was time we were going."
It occurred to Mal that against all the odds they might actually be about to get out of this place alive and collect the bounty. As soon as he thought it he felt a swift pang of doubt. It was always when he started to think things were going alright that the shit hit the proverbial. God had a sense of humour like that.
"I agree, preacher." He looked at his watch, "We should make it to the airlock about the time the shuttle gets back." He made himself meet Inara's eyes. "We gotta move fast, you and the girl gonna be alright?"
"We'll be fine as soon as we're off this tamade station," she replied, her arms still around Wai-Lan, who was holding onto her as though she would disappear if she didn't. Seconds later they were heading back down the corridor.
River waited patiently for them to go past. When she was sure they had gone, she opened the door to the restroom and tiptoed on bare feet to the corridor. It was draining, staying out of people's minds. The shuttle hadn't been difficult, the two soldiers left behind were so worried about people getting in to the shuttle that it hadn't even crossed their minds that someone would be trying to get out. But out here people were jumping at shadows and it took a lot more concentration.
The corridor was crowded. People ran past her, their panic a taste on the back of her tongue. River had to stop often to close her eyes and remind herself that if she still saw them then they couldn't be real. What was real lay ahead of her, waiting impatiently.
River sighed. "All right, all right, I'm coming as fast as I can. You could've left the lights on you know. Then I wouldn't have to wait for them so much."
The sense of urgency increased. Grumbling, she picked up the corner of her dress and scampered into the darkness.
End of Chapter 5
Warning, sexually explicit swear words. I have taken these translations from other people's work and I cannot vouch for their accuracy. My apologies for any glaring errors, please feel free to correct me. I'd also be interested to know if anyone knows of a website that provides translations from Mandarin in pinyin.
chùsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo - (loosely) animal fuckers Shenme me - what's the matter? Suo-yo duh doh dhr-dang... - what in the name of... Tamade baichi - fucking idiot Wu de mah - Mother of God Ni mei shi ba? - are you OK? Xie xie, wo hen hao - thank you, I'm fine xin gan - sweetheart Mei guanxi - It's OK Juedui bu - No way tamade - fucking
Friday, May 05, 2006 4:44 PM
Saturday, November 25, 2006 1:15 PM
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