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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The conclusion to the BIRTHDAY story. Simon's safe, but River has been set to kill ... I really hope you liked this story - feedback is always great!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1388 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Here,” Freya said, pointing to a large estate on the Cortex map, some way from the eastern edge of Osiris City. “Looks like they touched down around ten minutes ago, ‘bout quarter of an hour’s walk from the main house.”
“Captain,” Smith said urgently. “That address – it’s mine.”
“What?” Mal glanced up at him.
“My home. It looks like the target is me.” His face had paled under his normal chestnut complexion.
“Then they ain’t gonna find you at home,” Mal said.
“No. But my wife is. And my son.” Smith took hold of Mal’s arm. “I have to warn them.”
“Fine. Tell ‘em to hide until we get there.”
“You don’t understand. I have to tell the Alliance, get men there to protect them.”
“No. No way!” Mal said firmly. “They’ll shoot to kill, and I aim on getting River back.” He shook Smith’s hand off. “Now you have two choices – either Zoe here locks you somewhere safe, or you come with us. But you ain’t calling the Feds. They’d go in mob-handed and likely kill everyone there, including your family. You want that?”
Smith paled even further. “Of course not. But –”
“I don’t have time to debate this,” Mal said, the look on his face bordering on disgust. “We have to get going. No telling what that girl’s doing. So yes or no?”
“I’ll come with you,” Smith said.
“Shiny.” He looked at the rest of his crew. “We’ll be taking their ship. Serenity’s been tagged by the Feds here, they’ll notice if we break atmo. Frey, you’ll pilot.” She nodded. “Doc, Hank okay to be left?”
Simon, standing close to Kaylee if not actually touching her, said, “Well, I don’t know –“
“We’re going for your sister, and you’re the only one who knows those words to put her out.”
“I can teach you.”
“Like I said, no time. And we might need a doctor. Can Hank be left for a few hours?”
“I’ll stay with him,” Kaylee volunteered, leaning into Simon. “Ain't going anywhere else.”
“Good girl,” Mal said approvingly. He turned to the rest of his crew. “Get your weapons – we’re leaving now.”
Freya piloted the craft skilfully through the other traffic, taking the most direct route to the estate, but it was still nearly fifteen minutes before they landed next to the house.
“How come they took so long to get down?” Mal asked as the ship settled onto the grass.
“Probably didn’t come straight here,” Freya said. “Didn’t want to arouse suspicion. But they’ve still been here a while.” She glanced up at him standing by her shoulder. “You think there’s anyone left inside alive?”
“We have to hope so.”
She cut the Artemis’ engines and they hurried down to the airlock.
“They’ll know we’re here,” Jayne commented, sheathing the knife at his belt and settling his gunbelt more securely.
“Might think we’re just visitors,” Zoe said.
“Still won’t want witnesses,” the big man added. “Like as kill us soon as we go in the front door.”
“Then you don’t have to go in the front door,” Mal said. “Enough jabbering. Come on.”
The house was large, four stories of Earth-that-was retro style. A verandah ran around the first floor sides and back, but the front was imposing enough without it.
“Being Alliance sure pays well,” Jayne muttered.
“Still get you killed,” Mal replied, heading smoothly up the drive, walking as if he had every right to be there. At the end he stopped, stepping behind a high wall.
“The place is too big, sir,” Zoe said quietly, taking a better grip of her carbine. “We could miss her and have her on us without a moment’s pause.”
“I know. But we gotta try this.” He glanced at his first mate then nodded behind them to where the chestnut-coloured man followed. “You think we should done like Smith wanted, called the Feds?”
“You know me better than that, sir.”
“Yeah. Take the high ground.”
“Sir.” Zoe tapped Jayne on the shoulder and motioned towards the wide, exterior staircase leading to the top floor.
He nodded and they moved off silently.
Freya, in front of them, paused. She beckoned him and he joined her. “River’s here,” she whispered, barely a sound, pointing towards the front doors.
A man lay sprawled on the flagstones, his throat sliced so deep it was a wonder he’d kept his head. Two guns lay just beyond his outstretched hands.
“Stay sharp,” Mal breathed, heading past the body to the wide open main doors. Scanning the long wide hall that reached up to the roof, he slid inside.
“Captain, my family …” Smith said quietly.
The dark man nodded gratefully and oozed away, surprisingly noiselessly.
Mal looked at Freya, pointed up the stairs to the first floor and she inclined her head slightly, just once, then was gone. Simon, his hands grasping his gun tightly, stayed close to his captain.
At the door to the kitchen there was another body, this one slashed across the chest as well as the neck, and Mal had a mental image of what River had done to the Reavers, a blade in each of her small hands.
“She doesn’t mean to,” Simon said urgently. “It’s not her fault!”
“I know,” Mal murmured. “Let’s hope she realises that too.” He led the way towards one of the main drawing rooms.
Smith fumbled with the digicombination, then told himself to slow down. The door to the panic room was closed, secure, so he was sure they were safe inside. Somehow, though, that didn’t help. His mind still played scenarios of finding them, bloody, dismembered, or calling out to him with their last breaths as he held them in his arms. Finally he heard the lock whirr and the door moved smoothly open.
A shotgun blast almost took his head off.
“Tally! Tally!” he called. “It’s me!”
He looked inside into the terrified eyes of his wife, recognition blooming, then she cried out, dropping the gun to the floor. He hurried to her, holding her close.
“They …” His wife couldn’t speak. “I thought …”
“Ssh,” he said, looking down into his son’s frightened face. “John, close the door again.”
His son scrambled to his feet and punched the button, the panel sliding across. He felt no remorse, so compulsion to help the crew of Serenity. All he cared about was here in this room.
“Moonbrain’ll kill us all,” Jayne muttered, checking in the wardrobe.
“I thought you liked her,” Zoe said, looking out of the window towards the Artemis.
“Only if she ain't trying to stick a knife into me. I don’t take too kindly to being spit.”
“If she tries, I’ll shoot her for you,” Serenity’s first mate said dryly.
“See you do,” the big mercenary replied. “Otherwise I’d be as like to break her skinny neck.”
An open door on the first floor looked into what appeared to be a study, but what attracted her most were the slight sounds from inside. As she pushed the door further open, moving silently on well-oiled hinges, Freya could see a man standing at the wall safe, going through various cases and papers, letting most of them fall to the thick carpet but pocketing the contents of others.
“I don’t think that’s yours,” she said quietly.
He turned, dropping a diamond necklace from suddenly nervous fingers. “Who the hell are you?” he asked, gawping at the gun in her hand.
Freya stared at him, at the face of Eric Lon with the brain of another behind it, just as bad. “Freya Nordstrom,” she said, her gun aimed at a point directly between his eyes, her finger tightening on the trigger.
“You were … when Eric was killed. Tam said it was because of you.” Mitchell Lon backed up a step.
“He … hurt me.”
“You’re not in his notes.” He was trying to keep her talking, hoping the girl would find them. “What did he do to you?”
Her gun didn’t waver. “He burned all the skin off my back with acid, then programmed me to kill my friends.” Her calm voice and passive face were at odds with her words. Until you looked into her eyes. “And you’ve programmed River to kill Jeremiah Smith.”
“Who?” He looked honestly bewildered.
“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know all the names he uses.” She indicated the room. “The man who lives here. The man you’re robbing.” She looked disgusted. “Not content with having him murdered, but you have to pilfer as well?”
Lon held out a handful of pretties. “Seems a shame,” he said. “But we can share.”
“That’s not what I’m here for.” She took a step closer. “Where’s River?”
“I … I don’t know,” Lon said, swallowing hard. “She’s … I let her go.”
“Why do I doubt that?” Her eyes narrowed. “Unless it was to kill.”
“That’s what she is!” Lon said, a sudden irrational defiance in his tone. “Just an assassin. A killer. That’s all.”
“Not all,” Freya said, shaking her head. “She’s my friend.”
The look on her face made Lon’s blood run cold. “She …”
“How do we stop her?”
“I tell you that and you’ll shoot me,” Lon said, backing up against the wall.
“Don’t tell me and I’ll shoot you. Only it won’t be quick.”
“No. I don’t –“
The sound of a gunshot filled the plush room, and the smell of blood drifted across as Lon screamed, falling to the floor and grasping his shattered left kneecap. “How do we switch her off?” Freya asked.
“You stupid bitch!” he shouted, trying to stem the blood, anger bubbling through the pain. “She’ll slaughter all of you!”
Freya gazed at him, her eyes cold, as she fired again, the bullet finding his right elbow. “How do we stop her?” she repeated.
Lon couldn’t get a breath. Pain was radiating across his body, and he was finding it hard to think. “I … I …” He stammered, then tried to crawl backwards, ignoring the agony, as she aimed her gun at his right knee. “Disconnect the … the autoinjector. It’s …” He sobbed. “It’s feeding the drugs directly into … into her brain.”
“Please, I need a doctor!” Lon pleaded.
“You … you can switch it off … on the unit. But … please, I need help here!” he begged. He’d never known there could be such pain, never realised what agony meant.
“Will she wake up from it? What you’ve done?”
He nodded, tears streaming down his face. “As soon as she’s … disconnected, the images will stop, and … oh, God, it hurts.”
“Yes.” She stepped forward. “It does. Like pouring drugs directly in someone’s brain. Or burning all the skin of their back with acid.”
“That wasn’t me!” Lon insisted, trying to draw away.
“Same face,” Freya said, lifting her gun again and firing it directly into his.
The downstairs rooms were all empty, from what they could see, but that wasn’t improving Mal’s temper.
“What happens if we can’t find her?” Simon asked. “If she’s –“
“Got loose? Headed for Osiris City?” Mal pushed open the door back into the main hall. “Don’t think I want to ponder on … tzao gao.” He stared.
River was standing on the black and white tiles, some kind of triple-bladed weapon in each hand. She was staring at him.
“River?” Simon said, impulsively moving towards her, but Mal grabbed his arm, pulling him back.
“No call to be fool-hardy, doc,” he whispered. “I think you’d better try that little phrase you’ve been practising.”
Simon nodded and cleared his throat. “Eta kooram nah smech!” he said loudly.
River looked at him with her dark eyes, but she didn’t fall. There was no indication it had had any effect on her at all.
“Great,” Mal said. “Got any other bright ideas?”
“Mal, put your gun away. Let me talk to her.” Simon put a restraining hand on the captain’s arm. “Please.”
Mal glanced at him, then back at the young girl standing so still. “Doctor, you sure about this?”
“No. But we have to try.”
“She comes at us, or you, and I will fire,” Mal said.
“So long as you do.” Mal holstered his gun.
Simon took a step forward but stopped when his sister raised one of her weapons. “River. I know you can hear me. It’s me. Simon. Your brother. Do you recognise me?” The girl didn’t move. “I know what they did, River. I know they showed you Miranda, over and over, not letting you sleep or look away. You couldn’t even close your eyes, could you? Because it was there, in your brain. So you hid. Hid in some corner of your mind and let them take the rest.” He reached out his hands. “But you’re still in there. Aren’t you?”
She knew who he was. It didn’t matter – she could know them all and still slaughter them. The room could run with their blood and she wouldn’t feel anything at all.
“River …” Simon began again. “Please. Let us help you.” He glanced at the captain, appealing to him.
Mal tried, speaking softly. “River, listen to me. Listen to my voice. I don’t want to fight you, but I know you’re in there. You have to be strong, little albatross, I know you can get through. I don’t want to fight you.” He paused a moment. “Mainly because I’m not sure I could win.”
She still stared, unblinking, reminding both men of a young girl standing amidst the component parts of a dozen Reavers.
“Try it again,” Mal said, shrugging.
“Eta kooram nah smech.”
Still nothing happened. River just stood, the blades in her hands, gazing at them, calculating how much effort it would take to render them into small pieces. Whether she should. She hadn’t been told to, but they were in her way.
Freya slowly turned the corner, following the sounds of Mal and Simon’s voices. She stopped as she saw the tableau in front of her, River with her back to her, the other two the other side of the room. She knew they could see her, too, and put her hand up slightly to warn them.
Lights flashed on the box attached to the belt about River’s waist, the tubes going up her back to the base of her skull, disappearing into an area of matted, blood soaked hair. Freya took a slow breath, easing forward, but Simon’s eyes flickered towards her, and River began to turn. The older woman wanted to swear but there wasn't time, just leaped forward and tugged the tubes from River’s head, liquid spraying from the disconnected ends.
River span on her heel, the weapon in her left hand slicing upwards.
“River!” Simon cried.
“Freya!” Mal shouted, darting forward, but she had turned again and he narrowly missed being gutted. Anger on his face he stepped back again, watching Freya with absolute anguish in his eyes.
Freya looked down at her chest, feeling an odd burning pain begin. Then her knees gave out beneath her and she collapsed to the floor, only seeing River’s feet and Mal beyond. “Mal,” she whispered.
Mal drew his gun again. “Get out of the way,” he ordered, his blue eyes almost black with anger. “Get out of the way or I will shoot you where you stand.”
River lifted the blades, blood dripping from one of them.
“Mal, no!” Simon cried, grabbing at him.
Mal shook him off.
“Mal …” Freya said again, not able to move, her mind going numb from the pain.
“River!” Simon yelled. “Please! For me … for Kaylee … for Bethany …”
River blinked. “Bethany …” she mouthed.
“Move!” Mal ordered, aiming directly between her eyes. He cocked the weapon, the sound loud above Freya’s increasingly distressed breathing.
“Mal, no!” Simon launched himself at the other man just as Zoe and Jayne ran down the stairs behind them. Jayne grabbed at him, pinning his arms to his sides. “God, please!”
“Bethany?” River said softly, looking down at her hands, the blades, the blood dripping onto the stone tiles, collecting in a small red pool. She glanced across at Freya. “No.” Her fingers opened and the weapons clattered to the ground.
Mal lowered his gun a little, seeing the shock pass over her face, the tears spring to her eyes, and he ran forward, going down on his knees next to Freya.
Simon pulled free from Jayne, and moved forward, taking River into his arms.
“Mal! I'm sorry! I didn’t mean to … I couldn’t … Oh, Mal …” the girl said, her voice choking.
“Simon,” Mal called, opening Freya’s shirt so he could see the ugly, pulsing wound in her belly. When the young man didn’t move, Mal spoke again, this time in a voice so hard that it filled the room. “Leave her and look to Freya. I ain't telling again.”
Zoe moved past Jayne and took River from Simon, who nodded gratefully then joined Mal.
Freya looked up at Mal, her eyes fixed on his face. “Hurts,” she murmured.
“I know it does, darlin’. But the doc here’s gonna fix you up real well. Be annoying the hell out of me again ‘fore you know it.” He managed a smile. “Ain't gonna let you get outta marrying me that easy.”
“I need my medbag,” Simon said quietly and Jayne dropped it at his side. Opening it he quickly found what he needed and packed the wound with an emergency bandage. “Hold it closed,” he told Mal.
Mal reached down and placed his hands either side of the long gash, pressing. Freya moaned. “I know. And I'm sorry,” he whispered. He looked up into Simon’s face.
“Mal, it’s too –“ The young doctor stopped.
“Get her back to Serenity. Use the facilities there.”
“Mal, I can’t … this is too deep.”
Mal turned on the young doctor. “I risked everything to save you and your sister, and you’re damn well gonna save Freya! Dong mah?”
“I can’t –“
Mal was on his feet in a split, grabbing the front of Simon’s shirt with bloody hands, pushing him against the wall with such force his head slammed against the panelling. “You save her. Or I’ll finish what Lon started.”
Simon stared back. “I'm not a miracle worker, captain.”
“No, but maybe she is.” He didn’t glance down, didn’t see Zoe going down on her knees in his place, holding the sides of the wound together. “You told me yourself, she recovered before from something she shouldn’t have. More’n once. So you take her back to Serenity and you damn well help her now.”
After a moment Simon nodded and Mal let him down.
“Captain Reynolds,” Smith said, appearing in the doorway, “I have facilities here. You don’t need to go back to your ship. And she would not survive a trip like that.”
Mal stared at him. “Where is it?”
“Jayne, help us,” Simon said, brushing ineffectually at the bloodstains and going back to Freya. The big man grunted and bent down, tenderly gathering Freya into his arms and lifting her up.
They watched Simon the man, the brother, turn into Simon the doctor, making full use of the well-equipped medical room.
Smith came to stand by Mal, thrown out because of the tension he was spreading. “How is she doing, Captain?” he asked.
“Simon’s a good doctor.”
“That wasn’t what I asked.”
“No. Guess it wasn't. And your family? Are they okay?”
“They’re traumatised, of course,” Smith said, his face darkening. “But they got into the safe room soon enough.” He glanced at the other man. “She would have killed them, too, you know that.”
“She intended to kill us all,” Mal agreed.
“And yet you didn’t shoot her when you had the chance. Why is that?”
“Because it wasn't her fault.” Mal turned his blue eyes on the other man. “Lon did this, and he’s paid for it.”
“Yes, I saw the body. Was that …” He looked back into the medical room.
Mal shrugged. “For everything Freya is, she …” He paused, turning to stare back at Simon going about his work. “Lon’s brother hurt her very badly. Took her back into the darkness, and I nearly lost her. I killed him for it.”
“Still the soldier, Captain?”
“No, Jeremiah. Still the lover,” Mal corrected gently. “And we’re her family. All she has. I ain’t gonna hold what she did to him against her.”
“Captain, he was planning on slaughtering us. Even my eight year old son. I applaud what she did.” He looked at the woman lying on the table. “I hope I get the chance to say thank you.”
“Yeah.” Mal crossed his arms, not quite hugging himself.
“What happens with the young assassin now?” Smith asked.
“She comes with us,” Mal said shortly.
“Captain, surely –“
“She comes with us.” He looked into the dark man’s face. “She’s family too, Jeremiah.”
“Yes, I think I realise that. And I still owe you my life.”
Mal shook his head. “Your man Lee died helping us. I think we’re even.”
“Even, Jeremiah. And if … when Freya pulls through this, I’ll be owing you, and believe me, that will rankle almost as much as you owing me.”
Smith smiled slightly. “But more fun for me.”
“There is that.”
“And will she pull through?” Smith asked.
Mal didn’t answer, just watched Simon work.
The capture showed Freya in the cargo bay, telling Kaylee to switch that thing off. She was working out, and her skin glowed with perspiration. Mal, sitting in his bunk back on board his Firefly, touched the screen, wanting to touch her flesh, but all that was there was cold and hard.
“But I got everyone,” Kaylee was saying. “Even Jayne, and that wasn't easy. It’s like a history – a history of Serenity.”
“Couldn’t you wait until I wasn't all hot and sweaty?”
A voice interrupted his reverie. “Mal, I think you ought to come to the infirmary.” It was Simon on the com.
Mal put the capture down reluctantly, and got up to answer. “Don’t need any doctoring. And you were the one told me to go to my room, get some rest, or you’d sedate me there and then.”
“No, but I think you should come anyway. There’s something you should see.”
Mal stared at the com for what seemed a lifetime, then hurriedly climbed the ladder out of his bunk.
As he turned to face the dining area, a phantom image of Freya leaning out of the doorway came to him. “Isn’t it time you stopped doing captainy things and had something to eat?” the phantom asked, smiling, before fading away.
The catwalk above the cargo bay brought up another memory. Freya, leaning on the railing, watching the others playing their version of basketball.
“Who’s winning?” he heard himself say.
Freya looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Not entirely sure. Want to join in?”
He rapidly descended the staircase, passed quickly through the cargo bay. Still he glanced at the gym equipment, then swallowed hard.
“Couldn’t you wait until I wasn't all hot and sweaty?” came the memory of her voice.
He hurried by, down the steps to the infirmary. “Hey,” he said, his voice as normal as he could make it, smiling at the woman on the medbed.
“Hey,” Freya said, somewhat bleary-eyed. “You okay?”
“Ain't I supposed to be asking that?”
“I got there first.” She moved slightly then winced.
“Lie still,” Simon advised. “You’re going to be fine, but it’s going to hurt for a few days.”
“Not wrong,” Freya said, trying to breathe as shallowly as she could.
Hank, on the other bed, was watching, his grin a mile wide. “I knew she was awake before the doc, here,” he said. “Told him to call you.”
Thanks,“ Mal said. “Knew there was a reason I hired you.”
“You trying to make me go grey?” Mal asked, stepping close to the woman he didn’t want to live without and lifting her hand, running his thumb over the engagement ring he’d put on her finger three times.
“Could look distinguished,” Freya joked, smiling at him. “Though I like you as you are.”
“Good. Ain’t going anywhere. And neither are you.”
“Is that an order, captain?”
“It is.” He leaned down and kissed her gently, just pressing her lips. “You keep doing this to me and I’ll be an old man before my wedding night.”
“Better get married soon, then,” she said, her eyes closing.
Mal looked up at Simon, who nodded reassuringly. “She needs to sleep. Best doctor there is.”
“Shiny,” Mal said. “And you heard her, agreeing to marry me soon.”
“I did,” Simon said, smiling a little.
“Could always be a double wedding,” Freya said, her voice getting fainter. “You and me, Simon and Kaylee …” She slid into sleep.
“Could,” Mal said. “If you ever get around to asking her.” He stood up, looking into the young man’s tired face. “If you don’t fall down first.”
“I’ll be fine, Mal,” Simon said quickly. “Just …”
“Doc, I had nightmares for a long time after Serenity Valley, but I got over them. Then when me and Wash were taken by Niska, they came back for weeks. Not being able to save the people who trusted me, who relied on me.” Mal stroked Freya’s hand. “You need to talk, and when you’re ready I’ll be there to listen.”
“Or me,” Hank put in. “Or any of us.”
“That’s …” Simon felt emotion rising in his chest. “Thanks.”
“And tell that sister of yours that I ain’t holding anything against her. I know she’s avoiding me, so you just tell her.”
“I … I will.” Simon could hardly speak. “But I betrayed you all,” he added softly.
“Maybe you did,” Mal agreed. “But you saved her, Simon, and that’s more important to me.” He half-smiled. “You go and see your baby. Kaylee’ll tan my hide if I don’t make you at least drop by for a while. I’ll look after these two.”
“I don’t know …”
“Simon, you want me to make that an order?”
The young doctor still hesitated for a moment, then his shoulders relaxed. “Yes sir, Captain Reynolds.” He headed for the door.
“Oh, and, doc?” Mal called over his shoulder, watching the woman he loved sleeping peacefully. “You were right. I did need to come down here.”
Monday, November 13, 2006 9:07 AM
Monday, November 13, 2006 11:01 AM
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