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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
TITLE: Serenity Now: A New Life - Part 5
AUTHOR: The Irish Cowgirl
PAIRING: Mal/River, Kaylee/Simon, Jayne/OC
SPOILERS: Post-BDM, also spoilers for "Serenity Now," "SN: After The Storm," "SN: Nightmares," & "SN: The Thin Line"
NOTES: The fifth installment of the "Serenity Now" series. The crew are having trouble finding which way is up, all the while having to deal with a shipmate's secret and the most frightening enemy of all. Feedback is ALWAYS appreciated.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 929 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Kaylee worked furiously, trying to control the shaking in her hands. She cursed quietly as she dropped a screwdriver, until she saw that it did not fall to the floor, only hovered slowly away from her grip. No small comfort, she thought, taking the tool into her hand again. It means the grav thrusts still aren’t fixed. And I’m running out of time.
The crew had set about to arming themselves, while Kaylee attempted to coax the thrusts into operation again. She was having no luck. She was so close, she could feel dormant life waiting within the metal scraps, ready to be released. Yet she never grew angry with Serenity. She praised her and pleaded with her instead, begging her metal goddess to work for her, to work with her, so that they could be safe. And as much as she could feel the Firefly’s willingness to do so, her hands couldn’t seem to bring the old ship’s parts to life.
Kaylee lowered her head beneath one of the thrust’s panels, trying a new electrical connection. She could hear Jayne’s voice faintly as he and Cara emerged from the woman’s shuttle, but she did not look up from her task.
“The sword’ll suit ya fine in a hand to hand,” Jayne was saying as he led Cara back to the upper corridor. She was adjusting the shoulder strap that slung her katana-nata over her back. “But they use projectiles, an’ so should you.”
“I still got my gun,” she replied, absently checking to make sure the Winchester pistol was still strapped in place at her thigh. It was. She pumped her wings once to catch up with Jayne.
He looked back and took her hand, helping her through the entrance to the corridor. As dense as Jayne was, he did not fail to notice the way her hand was trembling. He lowered his voice and looked in her eyes with a deadly seriousness. “That ol’ shooter’s good, but it ain’t great.” Jayne placed one gloved palm over her cheek, smoothing the tousled curls back from his lover’s face.
Cara ducked her head, embarrassed. She had always been well-suited to assist the crew in a fight, but this was very different. “Sorry,” she said, taking a deep breath and staring at the floor. “It’s jus’, I ain’t never fought Reaver’s ‘fore.”
Jayne sighed and looked around the corridor. Seeing no one, he stole himself and placed a quick kiss to her temple. Cara looked up at him, surprised by the unwarranted affection. Jayne quickly released her and backed away. “Ain’t no harder than fightin’ real people, jus’ different.” He turned toward his bunk, and she followed. “Don’t focus on jus’ one opponent. Gotta keep your eyes on ev’rythin’ in the room. Don’t think, jus’ aim an’ fire.”
He hooked his boots over his hatch and pushed it back into place, then shoved himself down the ladder into his room. He tore the billowing curtain from his armory, revealing his weapons, the only thing he had taken the care to strap into place. He chose a rifle, a modified Browning automatic, and handed it over to Cara. She looked at the gun in her hands, touched by Jayne’s generosity, then went to business, ejecting the clip and checking the rounds.
Jayne watched her slam the clip back into place, feeling oddly proud. “Gracie’s a good girl.” He picked up a couple of extra clips and pressed them into Cara’s free hand. “She’ll fire five rounds a second, but she only holds fifty in the clip. Fire in short bursts, an’ sweep over your target.” He looked at Cara, going over his previous battle with the savages in his head. “An’ don’t close your eyes. They way they cut up their faces, it’s jus’ what they want you to do.” Her took her chin in his fingers. “But you keep them peepers open, no matter what you see.”
Cara stuffed the extra clips into her back pocket, then smoothed her palm along the rifle’s barrel. She looked at Jayne meaningfully. “Thank you.”
He shrugged nonchalantly, feeling a little ill at ease. His relationship with Cara up to this point had been mostly sexual, like a good friend he just happened to share a bed with. But now, with imminent death hanging over their heads, he was feeling things that he knew he shouldn’t, things he didn’t want to. He knew that the fear of the Reavers was making him sentimental, but for some reason, Cara’s presence, the terrified yet determined way she was holding his rifle, her squared jaw and wide eyes, they made his black, evil heart flutter like a butterfly.
“Aw, hell,” he said, reaching out for her and kissing her passionately. Cara closed her eyes and ran her left hand through his close-cropped hair, her right still clutching the gun at their sides. She knew as well as Jayne did that this was the last act of a desperate man, but she let it happen all the same. Who knew when they’d have another chance?
It was a few more minutes until the crew had gathered in the cargo bay. Mal looked over his ragged team, seeing a premonition of torture and death on every face. He saw them watching he and Zoe curiously, wondering if the first mate had regained her senses. Mal understood, he was wondering the same thing. He looked down at the open access grate. “Where we at, Kaylee?”
“I’m tryin’ Capt’n. Goin’ as hard as I can, I swear.” The mechanic’s voice bounced from below the grates, echoing metallic, as if it were the voice of Serenity herself. “I know I can make it work.”
Mal mulled this over. He turned to his left, to River, and whispered in her ear. “How much longer, baby?”
River closed her eyes, attempting to use her two greatest talents at once. The right side of her brain was listening to the Reavers painfully, trying desperately to find a logical part of their minds. The left side of her brain was working to calculate their ship’s ETA. She reached blindly for Mal’s hand, and he took it in his own, letting her focus on him, so as not to lose herself in the killers she fought to understand.
They had so much anger, but it came from nothingness. No past transgressions, no injustices felt, not even the seed of evil in their hearts. As fearsome as they were on the outside, inside they sounded dead. Driven by hunger and ferocity and nothing else. River snapped back to reality, letting her eyes fly open. “Twelve minutes. Fifty-three seconds,” she heaved.
Mal released River’s hand so that she could wipe the sweat from her forehead. When she met his eyes again, signaling that she was okay, he nodded and faced the rest of the crew. “Okay. The Reavers is flyin’ an ol’ Plavett 60. It’s a merchant ship, only got one real exit, an’ that’s the aft loadin’ platform. I’m bettin’ they’ll come up on us, force an airlock, an’ hit us from the ramp.”
“What makes you positive it will be the ramp?” Simon asked. His question wasn’t malicious, simply curious. “Why not the hatches on the roof? Why not just break through the windows in the cockpit?”
The captain shook his head as he replied. “Ramp’s the only spot on Serenity they’ll be able to form a seal. Their ship ain’t equipped to do otherwise. We’re still in deep space, doc. They ain’t gonna swing in from the catwalks like sea pirates.”
“Okay,” Simon said, nodding. “Then why not seal off the ramp and the blast doors and keep them out in the first place?”
Zoe turned to him, keeping her voice level as she worked over strategy in her head. “’Cause that won’t stop ‘em. They’ll tear through both, an’ then we’re humped when we try to break away an’ their airlock tears.”
Simon closed his eyes, trying to free his mind of the image Zoe had conjured. Of the Firefly blasting away from the Reaver ship with a breach in it’s hull, of being sucked into space and feeling his blood freeze over, his lungs turn inside out.
Mal watched him carefully, a similar film playing in his own head. “Now, we can seal jus’ the blast doors, that’ll give Kaylee some time to finish with the grav thrusts.”
“What if she don’t finish in time?” Jayne asked warily.
“I will,” Kaylee replied from the Firefly’s belly. “So don’t even think it.”
Mal gestured toward the sound of her voice and smirked humorlessly at Jayne. “There you go.” He rested his hands on his gunbelt, staring at the end of the cargo bay restlessly. “When she does, we seal off the bay there,” He pointed to the doorway leading to the common room, then shifted his indication to the corner of the upper corridor. “An’ there. River hits the switch, an’ we break the seal with the Plavett, suckin’ them nasties out into the sweet by an’ by.” He looked at the others. “Objections?”
After a moment, Simon raised his hand. Mal cocked an eyebrow at him. “Doc, this ain’t GenEd. Speak up.”
Simon lowered his hand, glaring at Jayne as the mercenary snickered. “What about Kaylee? What if the Reavers break through before she can get into the common room?”
“Well hopefully, that ain’t gonna be an issue,” Mal said, but the thought made him shiver all the same. “Still, never hurts to have a contingency plan. I’ll stay with her.”
“No,” Zoe said, and the crew tensed up, waiting for another outburst like before. Mal eyed her cautiously. Zoe met his gaze with a logical look on her face. “River’ll need you on the bridge when we gotta break away. That puts you on the upper deck.” She nodded, looking at Simon. “I’ll stay with Kaylee.”
“Zoe...” Mal began, fearing for her safety, for the safety of her unmentioned baby. But he stopped himself, unable to form the words with the others right there.
“Sir,” she said, giving him a look that spoke volumes. This is my home, it said. This is my family. This is my baby. And I’m not letting any one of them come to harm. “We’ll be fine.” To everyone else, she was referring to only Kaylee and herself.
But Mal knew otherwise, and so did River. The captain nodded slowly. “Okay. Zoe stays here. Kaylee, you hear that?”
“Yeah,” she answered, wiping some of the sweat and grease from her eyes.
“When you got them things workin’, you an’ Zoe book it to the infirmary.” Mal looked at his first mate. “Close the blast doors, then hail me. I’ll seal it up on my end, then River’ll hit it.” River nodded from her place beside Mal, understanding her role.
“What ‘bout us?” Cara asked, still nervously gripping Jayne’s rifle between her hands.
Mal skimmed his eyes over the others. “Jayne, I want you an’ Simon in the common room. Cara, you’re up top with me.” The three nodded their consent, taking deep breaths to ready themselves.
“Okay, one more problem,” Kaylee interrupted, suddenly popping her head up from beneath the floor grates.
The captain sighed. “Lay it on us, lil’ Kaylee.”
“I’m havin’ trouble settin’ up the electric system down here. An’ since I can’t turn off the life support, seein’ as how that would make us all dead real quick, I had to shut down the air filters an’ turn the tanks up full blast.”
Simon glanced from her to Mal. “What does that mean?”
Zoe answered for him. “Means that in a few minutes, this ship’s gonna be fulla near on a hundred-percent oxygen.”
Jayne shifted his body in the air, reacting badly to the news. “Aw, hell! Can’t fire a gun in that, whole damn ship’ll go up.”
Mal looked at Kaylee again. “That’s the way it’s gotta be?” She nodded sadly. “Then that’s the way it’s gonna be.” He looked at Jayne. “Keep your fingers off the trigger, folks.”
The other man slowly pulled his fingers into a fist. “This shit keeps gettin’ better an’ better,” he said darkly.
“Three minutes,” River updated, interrupting the eerie stillness. The crew looked around. No one said it, but the thought was shared amongst them. Time to say your goodbyes.
Mal looked at Zoe, and River watched them as they locked eyes in silence. Sometimes she thought it possible that Mal and Zoe were psychic, too, but only with each other. She was often intrigued by they way their minds were on the same subject, the same thought or idea, when not a word was spoken between them. And seeing them now, as Mal questioned if Zoe was sure, and she replied that she was, both swearing to protect each other and their wards, wishing each other luck, all the while never moving their lips, River was awed by their connection.
She looked at Simon, trying to do the same, trying to silently tell him to be careful, and not to worry, she would be okay. But her brother’s mind was full of fear for his sister and fiancee. Still, she could feel his love for her, and she smiled at him, nodding to let him know that the message had been received.
Simon nodded back, then swam down toward Kaylee as she was about to disappear into the ducts again. He caught her by the shoulder just in time. She looked at him woefully. “Simon, I gotta go.”
The doctor ignored her, taking his time as he kissed her softly, tenderly. He parted his lips from hers and pressed their foreheads together. “Be careful, bao bai.”
“I will,” she whispered, looking into his eyes once more, then turning quickly under the grates so he couldn’t see the tears escaping from her eyes. Simon watched her go, wondering if he would ever see her alive again. He felt Zoe’s hand fall on his shoulder from behind, but he did not turn to her. She already knew what he was going to say.
Jayne gripped Cara by her shaking shoulders, trying to imbue her with the strength he knew lay inside. Having nothing to say, he ran his fingers up through the hair at the nape of her neck. “Use it, kid. Let it keep you alert, an’ you’ll get through this jus’ fine.”
Cara took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes, forcing a shaky smile. “Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.” Jayne smiled back at her. She lay her fingertips on his cheek, smoothing them over his goatee. “See ya on the other side, Jayne.”
He caught his lips between his teeth, and held out his right hand. Cara slapped her own against it, and they gripped each other, openly feeding off the other’s courage. Then they simultaneously pushed away, floating toward their separate stations.
Mal took River’s hand. “Come on, darlin’.” He led her away from the slowly emptying cargo bay, following the steady beat of Cara’s wings.
River took a deep breath and looked around. It was still a challenge to keep the Reavers’ minds from penetrating her own, and she was exhausted from the effort. She had fought them once, but it had been one time too many. She had been defending Simon, defending Mal, defending the only people who had ever honestly cared for her. It was like she had shut down, and was operating on pure instinct, the need to protect and survive.
Now, the fear was back, but she could not shut down again. She had grown since then, changed, and she couldn’t go back to that place without losing the control she had fought so long and hard to attain over her training. She knew how dangerous she became when she lost touch with herself, with who River was. And she knew Mal felt the same. That’s why he wasn’t letting her fight them again. “She’s scared,” River whispered roughly.
Mal didn’t know if she meant herself, or Serenity, or any one of the other women on the ship. The way it had been phrased, her comment could have been about any or all of these possibilities. Mal took a hard left into the corridor, and whipped River into his arms, holding her desperately to him. He allowed himself a moment’s thought, and only a second’s fear, before he responded.
“She’ll get through.”
The Reavers did not speak. They only cried madly, like rabid dogs baying at the moon.
The Reavers did not think. The intrinsic need to kill, to feel blood between their teeth, was the only thing that directed their path.
The Reavers did not feel. They did not fear pain or death, because to them, these things were meaningless. They did not exist. They were no threat, because the Reavers were already long dead.
They had once been farmers, merchants, men and women with families and jobs, just like the rest of the system. Most of them could have remembered Miranda if their brains had been capable of such recollections. All they remembered now was how to make their machines work, the gutted ships that brought them their next meal.
And the screaming. The screaming that, to them, sounded like an angel’s choir.
One could not imagine such a life. To never feel love or sadness or joy. Only hunger and rage. To wander through a world they had never been meant for, that had never been meant for them, soulless. Lifeless.
They were nothing now. Only a sum of their collective id, the basest and most violent form of human nature. Hunters, killers, animals. They were zombies, created by the government that had spurned them. Moving and existing in the blackness of space, yet gone, deceased.
They did not speak, or think, or feel.
And that is why they never doubt they will win.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The Reavers’ pounding on the cargo bay’s blast doors sounded like a metronome of terror. The captain, River, and Cara up in the corridor; Jayne and Simon in the common room; Zoe staring down the sound in the cargo bay; Kaylee feeling it beneath her fingers and boots in the Firefly’s underbelly. Every heart on Serenity was beating with it in time.
“Come’n, Kaylee, come’n,” Mal muttered to himself, his muscles tensing with every fall of the Reavers’ battering ram. He could hear the murderous howls coming from the airlock, he could hear Kaylee tinkering furiously on the grav thrusts, he could hear Cara whispering “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” to herself somewhere behind him. But nothing was more foreboding than that steady metal-to-metal thunk.
Mal looked over his shoulder and saw River, rocking back and forth in midair, her arms wrapped around her body. She was trying so hard not to cry, it hurt Mal to see. He knew what she could hear, what she was desperately trying to control within herself. He tried to reach her with his own mind, tried to tell her how much he loved her and how he would never let anything happen to her. But his promise of devotion was a whisper among the cacophony of Reaver’s screams.
And the thump. Thump. Thump.
Simon and Jayne stood vigilant behind the door to the common room, side by side. They each kept their fingers tight around their guns, kept their free hands gripped around the blast door’s handles, and kept their feet pushed to the ground. They never looked at each other, never exchanged a terrified glance. They just kept watching the cargo bay doors, wincing every time another blow fell, and the steel bent that much more.
Thump. Thump. Crash.
One of the windows blew open. The screams were louder now, unobstructed. They made Kaylee chatter her teeth together, biting her lip so hard it bled. She hooked another wire into another junction, stiffening the muscles in her back so they would not melt. Her eyes closed, and she had to struggle to pry them open. She fumbled the breaker panel into her hands and flipped a switch. But the thrusts did not whir to life. There was no victorious cry from the machinery.
Only the thump. Thump. Thump.
Zoe squeezed her hand around her weapons. The grip of her sawed-off, resting in her holster, in one hand. Her knife in the other. The knife had served her well in the war. It was black-washed, double-edged. The hilt had been stained copper by the blood of the men she’d killed. She dug her thumbnail into some of the rust, and it chipped away and fell through the grates. Come on, she thought. You smell it, you bastards. Come on.
Maybe Wash had been right. Maybe a smuggling ship was no place to have a baby. What if they had gone along with Zoe’s plan, what if their child was on board, crying at the horrifying enemies at their gates?
Zoe grit her teeth. She would protect it, that’s what. She would kill and maim and become an animal herself if she had to, but no harm would come to that baby while she still lived and breathed. That’s what she would have to do. What she should have done for Wash.
Her right hand left her shotgun’s stock and moved to her stomach. She spread her fingers across her womb. Knowing, feeling who was inside. It was hers. She did not like to lose what was hers.
Wash was dead. Her parents were dead. Most of the men she had led and followed in the war were dead, too. Killed by monsters and governments, famine and bombs. She had seen so much death in her lifetime. It had made her callous and hard, made her the woman she was today. The woman with a new life growing inside of her.
Zoe made a promise to herself, then and there. This baby would live. It may not have been the child she wanted, but it was hers, and it was alive.
And things were going to stay that way.
Her head snapped up as she heard the crew start to yell, one on top of another. Her hand flew to her gun, ready to do her duty. And then she saw what had made the others scream.
The thumping had stopped.
The Reavers had breached the blast doors.
Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:28 PM
Thursday, October 26, 2006 10:09 PM
Friday, October 27, 2006 2:51 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006 10:39 AM
Sunday, March 17, 2013 2:02 PM
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