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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Zoë and company look for clues, then it’s Adventures in Weightlessness, Part 1: River likes it, Ray makes do, Mal finds it fitting, Simon’s not a fan.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1484 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
See Chapter 1 and my blog for disclaimers and such.
Except I have to say thanks to VERA2529 and LEEH for the beta help!
Mandarin translations: put your mouse over the pinyan to get the definitions, or see the list at the end.
The four of them sat in the hovercraft, unmoving and unspeaking, as Serenity veered across the sky. Overall, the ship managed to rise, but it took a while before she shrank enough to disappear into the blue.
Jayne grunted. “So how ‘bout we take up rock farmin’?”
“Bì zuĭ,” Zoë snapped. She looked at the comm in her hand, then scowled and tucked it back in her pocket. “Wash, keep goin’. Maybe there’s somethin’ to see.”
She was right, there was. It took only a few minutes to reach the valley where the ship had been sitting, and they found a small flock of crows gathering around a body laying in the dust. Kaylee and Wash stayed by the mule while Jayne looked for tracks and Zoë shooed away the birds and checked the dead man. She crouched over him, looking closely at his forehead.
“Mal put up a fight,” she said. “Got one `fore he lost.” She stood and walked back to the hovercraft. “But at least we know they’re all still alive, or at least they were when she took off.”
“Not that I’m complainin’, but how d’ya know?” Kaylee asked.
Jayne answered. “If they’d dump their own dead, they’d sure dump ours.”
“Jayne, stay here with Kaylee,” Zoë ordered as she got back in the mule. “See what you can work out. Wash and I are gonna have a look `round.”
Jayne waited until the hovercraft cleared out, then he turned to Kaylee. “You just stay put there, li’l Kaylee. Don’t be confusin’ the tracks.”
Kaylee didn’t question him, just sat in the dust with her back to the corpse, absently twisting her hands together while she tried not to completely give in to worry. Jayne slowly walked around the floor of the valley, stepping carefully, his eyes on the ground. A few times he wondered up into the rocks on the hillside. When he was satisfied that he’d seen all there was to see, he went back to the dead man and dug through his pockets. He made a short exclamation of joy, and Kaylee turned to see him prying a gun out of the man’s clenched right hand. She quickly turned away from the sight, but Jayne was still holding the firearm tenderly in both hands when he came to sit next to her, a look of reverence on his face.
Zoë and Wash returned about ten minutes later. “We found their transport,” Zoë called as soon as Wash shut the mule’s engine down. “Couldn’t have been more than half a dozen of `em.”
“They was five,” Jayne said, getting to his feet to point out tracks in the dirt. “We got one come in back that way, three from the side here, and one from the front. That last one was a sniper, sittin’ behind a rock a ways up yonder. Woman, most like. One of the others, last of the three to come in from the side, was small-like. A kid or a woman.”
Wash gave Jayne a look of begrudging respect, then turned to Zoë. “That was actually somewhat impressive.”
“Other thing is,” Jayne continued, “someone `sides the bearded fella here got shot.”
“How d’you figure?” Zoë asked.
Jayne led her over near the body, to a straight line in the dust – the imprint of the cargo bay door where it had rested against the ground. He hunkered down and pointed out the marks.
“See here, lots a’ blood just at the edge of the door. Shoulders here, and an arm here. It was the small one.” He lifted something out of the dust: a faded green bandanna. “This came off their head when they got dragged up the ramp.”
Zoë stood up. “So, five to start with,” she said thoughtfully. “And one got killed and one got hurt.” She started back toward Wash and Kaylee. “Most like, the ship’s bein’ held by only three. We can fight that, if we can catch up and get on without them knowin’ it.”
“Sounds like a great plan,” Wash called out from where he leaned against the hovercraft. “Except for the catching up part and the getting on part. This is a very nice mule, but it won’t be breaking atmo any time soon.”
“I’m workin’ on it,” Zoë said with a hint of impatience. “Let’s head back to Xiaojun’s. She might have something that can break atmo, or at least know where we can get one. We’ve got money, could be we’ll find somethin’ in town. As to sneakin’ on Serenity, it’s been done before, it can be done again.”
River had learned about the green lever from ‘watching’ Kaylee work, picking up stray thoughts from the mechanic’s mind. It deactivated the grav system, disengaging it from the rest of the engine so it could be repaired without a full power-down. Kaylee had never used it, so it was heavy and hard to move. River adjusted a few settings which would effect how the grav came back on, then she twisted uncomfortably to get her body into the panel. She had to hang her full weight on the lever to make it slide down.
There was a loud clang as the machinery it connected to shifted, then River felt the deck press up against her for just a second before Mal cut the engine. She smiled proudly: clever Captain had caught on quickly, just like she’d known he would.
Her body floated away from the deck, but it didn’t bother her. She’d done some training with weightlessness at the Academy and she’d never had a problem with it. It was like flying. How could anyone feel sick about something as lovely as flying? She’d never understood her classmates, throwing up in their suits when they could be enjoying the ride.
A few seconds later the main lights flickered and went out, and the low power emergency lights came up with a dark blue glow. Just an automatic precaution, she knew. Standard practice during major engine shutdowns. She could fix it, but she liked the color. Made it more fun to fly.
She paused for a second in the semi-darkness, listening with her ears and mind. Waves of nausea and confusion radiated from the bridge, most notably from Simon. River shook her head – poor Simon, no zero G training at MedAcad.
They’d be awhile, the three bad ones, figuring out what to do. And most importantly, there was no way they’d kill the Captain now. They’d make him try to fix the ship. There wasn’t much for her to do but stay out of the way, which wouldn’t be difficult. They’d be busy on the upper level for some time.
She pushed herself through the hatch and down the corridor; the freedom of the movement was thrilling. The exercises at the Academy had been in small spaces that approximated weightlessness for a short time; they hadn’t come anywhere close to this. She let herself spin as she passed down the hall. The familiar space became something completely different when she wasn’t limited to walking on the deck. Any surface could be up, any could be down. It didn’t matter.
Smoothly she angled around the corner, grinning as she threw in a few somersaults before reaching the stairway that led toward the cargo bay.
* * *
Ray felt the ship jolt beneath his feet and prepared himself to hit the floor, taking his finger off the trigger of his gun but gripping it tightly so he wouldn’t lose it. It took a few seconds for him to realize that he hadn’t hit the deck yet; in fact he didn’t seem to be touching anything at all. To make matters worse, the room suddenly went dark, then dim blue lights came up that weren’t much help.
He caught a glimpse of the captain, strapped to the co-pilot’s chair, watching with a wide grin. Ray might have had a word or two to say about that grin, but then he realized that the captain was looking up at him, and that didn’t make sense. Then Ray’s head hit the ceiling.
He tried to catch hold of anything he could, but couldn’t get a solid grip. With nothing to make him stay put, he found himself spinning slowly and heading toward the floor again. On his way down he noticed Will, floating with his feet off the ground, holding some cables that ran out of the top of a row of lockers, also watching with a look of amusement. Ray definitely had a few words to say about that, but his shoulder touched the deck before he could speak.
He finally found purchase in the grating of the deck, gripping tight with his left hand. He let out a sigh of relief that he was finally staying put, but then he noticed the captain, leaning forward in the chair and looking down at him.
“Well done,” the captain said with a crooked smile. “I think you’ll get this. Just don’t look down.” He tilted his head sideways and continued with a confused look. “Or is it up?”
Ray looked up (or down?) at his feet and the ceiling beyond them, and his stomach did a long slow lurch.
“Ahh, this just gets better and better,” the captain muttered, then he bent over Ray again, “Best not puke, it’ll float about and make a big stinky mess. You’ll be runnin’ into it, getting it all over ya.”
Ray swallowed hard and had to let go of the grating to put his hand over his mouth, which delighted the captain to no end.
“Enough, Captain Smith,” Ray heard Will’s voice behind him, and gorram if that man didn’t sound like he was laughing too. “Doc, do you have anything that’ll help Ray here keep his lunch?”
There was no answer. Ray looked behind him and noticed that the fancy doctor wasn’t faring much better. The man – Simon – had one hand hooked between two large pipes running along the bulkhead and was staying put, but his face was a color that was all wrong, made even worse by the blue light. Simon had the additional excuse of a rather nasty blow to the head, but his condition made Ray feel a little better.
Ginger was wedged tight in the hatch in back. At first Ray thought she had her gun on him, but then he realized he was just in the way of the captain. She’d been keeping the man covered, which was fortunate considering how long it was taking Ray to pull himself together.
If there was one thing Ray had, that nothing life threw at him could take away, it was willpower. He swallowed down bile and took his hand away from his face to catch the deck grating again, then pushed himself toward the pipes the doctor was holding. He managed to grab them on the first try and held himself somewhere close to upright. He wasn’t going to let this situation get out of his control; it was his job, and he meant to be the one running it. The nausea gradually faded.
“Captain Mal whatever-your-name-is,” he said. “What the hell is this?”
“I told you, grav drive. Broken. Wŏ men wán le.” He finished with a snicker, looking real broke up about the situation.
“You better hope you can fix it,” Will said, apparently finished with his laughing-at-Ray time. “We can’t maneuver without internal grav, and if your ship’s useless you and yours are too. We’ll throw you out the airlock and take the shuttle back down to look for other options.” This idea seemed to restore even more of Will’s cheer.
The captain rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll have a look at it.” He released the seat’s restraints and kicked off the front edge of the console, shooting across the bridge and neatly catching the hatch next to Ginger. Ray heard the man mutter as he passed by: “Stranger things have happened.”
“Will, you stay here,” Ray said. He pushed himself toward the hatch and managed to reach there hands first, though there was a scary moment before he got purchase.
“You think you can make it across the whole ship?” Will asked with half a grin.
“Just keep an eye on the doc,” Ray replied as he followed Mal out into the corridor. “Ginger, make sure he ain’t gonna kill anyone.”
Mal pulled himself past the crew quarters. Funny that with all the years he’d had this ship, he’d never been weightless on her. Zero G made one reconsider all manner of things, direction being the most obvious, the placement of handholds being a close second. But there were wires running high on the bulkhead that he could use to steer himself along, and it wasn’t too tricky. He’d been weightless plenty of times during the war; the rules of it kicked in like it’d been yesterday.
He glanced back and saw that Ray wasn’t doing so well, he kept overcorrecting, turning sideways and losing his grip. Mal considered leaving the man behind, but there didn’t seem to be much point to it. Or to any of the other stuff he’d normally be doing in this situation: plotting, finding weapons, looking for his opponents’ weaknesses...
Thing of it was, Mal was having a hard time focusing. The headache didn’t help, nor did the perky-making drug Simon had shot him up with. But those weren’t the real problem; it was more about a familiar feeling of unreality, kind of like he was dreaming. And if that was the case, there was no way he was going to fall for it again.
He paused at the hatch into the dining room and saw Book hovering under the table. The man looked fairly at ease, though he was trapped there, his arms wrapped around the bolted-down table leg and wrists bound together.
Huh, we got us a preacher floatin’ under a table, Mal thought. Sounded like the first line of a joke. He’d have to remember to tell Book about this later, when he woke up.
“Hey! You havin’ fun, Shepherd?”
“Like a barrel of space monkeys, Captain,” Book replied with a tired smile.
Mal aimed himself toward the opposite hatch and kicked off. He didn’t look back to see how Ray was getting on; he found he was caring less and less. That lovely disconnected feeling was growing, and flying toward the dining room table fit right into his state of mind.
So, one time a preacher was floatin’ under a table…
He wasn’t sure where to go with that. There needed to be a rabbi involved. And maybe a whore.
So, one time a preacher and a rabbi were floatin’ under a table when a whore happened by…
So, one time a preacher and a rabbi were floatin’ under a table when a whore happened by holdin’ a banana…
Mal chuckled, but he lost his train of thought when he came upon a cloud of floating bear steaks, and he had to slap them away to clear a path. After passing that obstacle, he encountered a chair drifting at the far end of the table. He considered swinging it toward Ray, but there was one little corner of his mind that insisted that this might really be happening. That might actually be Book under the table, and the gun-toting wáng bā dàn behind (below?) him might indeed shoot the Shepherd with genuine bullets if offered an excuse. So Mal just pushed the chair aside gently, and continued on through the aft hatch.
Forgot where I was. Oh yeah – but maybe it should be a poem?
The table sat over the preacher Who looked like the silliest creature…
Hmm, dead end with that. Maybe, instead of poetry, he oughta be working on some Kaylee-style tech talk. Something just sensible enough to convince Ray that he could fix the grav drive if they’d give him time to work. It was a bad day when the best Mal could do was delay, but who knows, maybe River would appear out of thin air and show him how to wake up.
Poetry was a helluva lot more fun, though.
Float, ye Shepherd, float Upon this gravfree boat…
He passed down the corridor and pulled himself into the engine room, then down to the open panel under Kaylee’s hammock. There was a flashlight taped to the deck in front of the panel. Clever Kaylee, he thought. He pulled it up and shone it around inside. To his left, behind the next panel over, there was neat writing on the floor, just deep enough into the space to not be visible from the outside. Mal gave up his literary efforts so he could read River’s.
Captain – lift the green lever to activate the grav
An arrow pointed to the side and up, and Mal followed it with the flashlight. The lever in question had a big star next to it.
* yes this one
Mal looked back at the writing on the floor.
Don’t tell them how you did it. Tell them it might break again, and they won’t kill you. And quit being silly. This is real.
Huh, Mal thought. Clever River.
He heard Ray finally arrive behind him. “Just need some time to work things out here,” Mal said over his shoulder.
Ray held himself still in the hatchway. “You can fix it?”
“I can patch it together enough to last a little while.” Mal’s head was inside the panel, so Ray couldn’t see the grin on his face.
Simon huddled in a ball next to the port bulkhead of the bridge, one hand gripping the steel brace around a pipe. His other arm was clenched across his stomach as he fought down nausea. It was his first experience with weightlessness, and he’d quickly decided that he could do without it. His head was still throbbing as well; he most definitely had a concussion. Not a bad one, but enough to be… not fun.
There was voices in the background. Gradually, he tuned in to what Ginger was saying.
“We’ll be a little delayed, it’s the ship we took, got a little problem… No ma’am, the crew was no problem, didn’t even have to kill any. Lost one of ours, though.”
“No,” she continued after a pause. “He weren’t important. Nobody we need.”
Simon kept his head down: he didn’t think this was something he was supposed to be hearing. But he managed a quick peek. Will was hanging onto the lockers and Ginger was in the hatch talking into a small electronic device.
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll let you know as soon as we get there.” Ginger shut down the device and returned it to her pocket.
“Does she sound mad?” Will asked
“The old lady never sounds mad. Ain’t nothing we can do `bout it, anyhow. She’ll just have to wait.”
“And so will we.” Will looked quite comfortable with being weightless, turning himself sideways with barely a touch on the locker.
“You know,” Ginger said, “there’s a better way to handle this than waitin’ for that méi yòng de captain to break things even worse.”
“That girl that talked to Jase in the shop – she was the mechanic, right? And she went to out to the desert to get whatever they needed to fix this boat. Let’s get her up here.”
Simon dropped all pretense of not paying attention; he straightened and stared at Ginger. She glanced at him when he moved, but didn’t seem to think he posed much of a threat.
“You know where to find her?” Will asked.
“I’ll wager the folks that left got comms with `em.”
Will grinned and kicked off the lockers, floating across the room to catch hold of the pilot’s chair. “I knew there was more than one reason why I brought you along,” he said.
“More `n two,” she countered.
He grinned again, and got busy with the comm controls. “Odd – it’s set to play out in the cargo bay. Let me switch it…”
Simon had managed to curl his legs under him, his nausea and dizziness forgotten as a wave of rage took over his mind. There was no excuse for bringing Kaylee into this. He wouldn’t allow it.
Will was just starting to speak into the comm when Simon hurtled himself across the bridge, catching Will around the waist. The two men tumbled past the console into the small space in the nose of the ship. Simon braced a foot against the console for leverage while he drove his fist into Will’s face, and he heard a satisfying crunch.
But Simon’s heroics were short-lived. Will had years of experience with moving in zero G, and he recovered quickly. He got his feet hooked through the railing of a ladder top and pulled Simon away from the console. Simon had no purchase, no way to counter the blows that rained down on his abdomen. He soon found himself floating in the small space, curled up and retching. He vaguely remembered what Mal had said about vomiting in a weightless environment, but there wasn’t much to be done about it.
As he tried to get his breath back, he heard Will speaking into the comm, “Whoever’s listening: I have myself a Firefly complete with captain, doctor, and old man. How much do you care if I start killing?” Will waited a few seconds, then added. “It’ll be real slow and painful, and, to be frank, none of them are in the best of shape at the moment anyway…”
Mal still hovered low over the deck, hands inside the panel, trying to seem like he was busy working on something complicated. But really he was finally making an effort to think straight. If this might actually be happening, he should maybe try catching up a bit.
He looked once at Ray, then took his time going over the events he could remember since he’d first seen the two shadows in the cargo bay entrance. One thing in particular came to mind.
“He yours?” Mal asked.
He glanced over his shoulder to see if he had Ray’s attention. The man had his long legs folded across the hatch, wedging himself in. His arms were crossed in front of him, gun floating loosely in his fingers, and he didn’t look interested in anything Mal had to say.
“That boy I shot,” Mal said. “He yours?”
That got through. Ray looked at Mal, but his face was expressionless when he answered. “He look like he’s mine?”
“Oh, he’s got Chinese blood all right, but only `bout half.”
Ray didn’t answer, didn’t make any sign that he’d heard. Mal turned to look inside the panel again while he spoke. “You weren’t so happy about me shootin’ him.”
There was another long silence. Ray certainly wasn’t chatty.
Mal fiddled with a wire, then decided it’d be better not to touch anything mechanical – wouldn’t do much good if he broke the ship for real. He made himself look busy by tracing his fingers over River’s writing on the deck.
“Boy saved your life,” he said casually.
Mal glanced up again, and saw that Ray was watching him close. He couldn’t tell if the man wanted to hear more or was thinking of shooting him to make him shut up. Walk soft, Mal reminded himself. This is really happening.
Oh, to hell with it.
He abandoned all pretense of working so he could watch Ray’s reaction, and explained. “Right when the shootin’ started - you didn’t know where I went. I was down on the deck, could see you from underneath the screen.” Mal tilted his head to the side and held up his right hand, miming a gun as he recreated the shot in his mind. “Just `bout had you lined up.” He dropped his hand and shrugged. “But the kid shot at me from the ramp. Got close, too. I had to take him out first, and by then you’d moved on.”
Ray didn’t answer. He stared blankly at the bulkhead above Mal’s head, his tight face unreadable.
Mal took a deep breath, and let it out. “You know, I’m thinkin’ it didn’t matter much that I was all tied down when you saw he was shot. I could’a had a loaded gun in each hand and a pile of land mines `tween us. You’d a’ come at me anyway.”
There was another long silence, and Mal thought he wouldn’t get an answer, but then Ray grumped in a deep voice, “He ain’t mine.”
That hung in the air for a while before Mal asked, “So, Ray, I’m just wonderin’, but why do you care so much about that boy goin’ down?”
Ray held Mal’s eye for a frozen moment. Then he unfolded his arms, not pointing the gun at Mal, but making sure the threat was visible.
“There’s somethin’ you need to understand, Mal,” he said the name like it tasted bad. “You ain’t captain of this here ship no more. You keep your mouth shut and do as I tell ya. You got that?”
The dueling stare lasted just a few seconds before Mal tipped his head to the side with an indifferent shug.
“Whatever you say, boss.”
bì zuĭ: shut your mouth
wŏ men wán le: we’re in big trouble
wáng bā dàn: SOB
méi yòng de: useless
On to Chapter 11.
Monday, June 12, 2006 3:45 AM
Monday, June 12, 2006 4:03 AM
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Monday, June 12, 2006 6:23 AM
Monday, June 12, 2006 11:28 AM
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Monday, June 12, 2006 12:54 PM
Monday, June 12, 2006 4:48 PM
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:05 AM
Tuesday, July 04, 2006 5:43 AM
Friday, July 14, 2006 1:44 AM
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 4:08 AM
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