Bladud [5]
Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clearing up at Abydos. Preparing and going to deal with the Reavers in the desert.


PART FIVE * There's an ol' man called the Mississippi; That's the ol' man that I want to be! What does he care if the world's got troubles? What does he care if the land ain't free.. Ol' Man River, That Ol' Man River He mus' know sumpin' But don't say nuthin', He jes' keeps rollin', He keeps on rollin' along.

He don't plant taters, He don't plant cotton, An' dem dat plants 'em Is soon forgotten, But Ol' Man River, He jes' keeps rollin' along You an' me, we sweat an' strain, Body all achin' an' racked wid pain - Tote that barge, lift that bale Get a little drunk and You lands in jail...

I gets weary and sick of tryin' I'm tired of livin' And scared of dyin' And Ol' Man River, He just keeps rollin' along * Old Man River – Paul Robeson [When I saw all the diesel powered cruise ships congregating to dock in one place to take their turn through the lock on the Nile – and a good number of them decorated to look like paddle-steamers – this song kept going round and round in my head, for fairly obvious reasons. That's why this boat is called the 'Cotton Blossom'. Go see 'Showboat', kiddies.] * Jayne was with Vera, Clarry and Simon. The doctor was using a portable ultrasound device. “Your baby will still be tiny; about eight weeks' old.” Vera smiled, “Please try.” Simon slid the head lower, “Well, there's your womb. Ah! See that blob!” Vera, Clarry and Jayne peered, “Yes!” “That's your baby. Hang on a minute...” he twiddled a few knobs, “Trying for a close-up. There you go.” “Well, I can see a head!” Vera squeezed Jayne's hand. “Gorram,” He was trying not to sound awed and failing, then found a safe line of conversation, “Don't look much like a baby at the moment.” “Few more weeks and everything will be there, in perfect miniature.” Clarry looked at Vera, “Can you feel the baby?” She shook her head, “Not yet. He's too small for me to feel him.” Jayne pointed, “He moved!” A klaxon sounded above. They packed up hastily and went up on deck. * Jayne plunged right in, as usual, “What is it, Mal?” Mal indicated River, “She says there's Reavers and she was right the last couple of times.” Jayne's brow furrowed, “Weren't any gorram ruttin' Reavers when we came past this way last time.” There was a plume of dirty grey smoke suddenly visible behind one of the buildings. River trembled. “They're eating everyone in Abydos right now. Destroying, burning. They're going to escape across the desert. Full; no need to eat for a long time. They're making for the colony.” It was Mal's turn to frown, “Colony?” River's sight was far away, “Deep in the desert. The Reavers are breeding.” More smoke began billowing up as the ship edged closer to the shore. “Wuh de mah! Breeding? Reavers are having babies now?” River was still looking into the distance, “They made a Queen; they're her drones. Hundreds of Reavers growing in the sand...” “Didn't think that was possible; that much change in what is basically human biology.” Simon was white-faced, “Eugenics. Or genetic engineering. Or something else like the Pax. Could have been accidental or deliberate.” “They tried to wipe them out. Tried to make them sterile. Made them angry and desperate. Found a way to carry on.” Simon sighed deeply, “Sounds like another Pax type experiment on the Reavers which went wrong. Again. Will people never learn?” River looked at him, “We meddle.” Vera was looking at the shore, “Does Abydos stand a chance?” River turned her way, “All dead or dying. Reavers moving on. Big mess to clear up.” Zoe, “If you're thinking of forming a clean-up squad...?” Mal came to a command decision, “I'll have a word with the captain of this boat, see what he wants to do. Clean up could take a while.” River nodded, “At least a month. Reavers will be back in their colony soon.” “And maybe some of us might think about bringing down the maelstrom on that colony, if that's possible.” “That'll take longer. Journey across the sand. Fighting. Fire from the skies. Three months.” Mal gently touched her shoulder, “I'll accept your estimate of time as accurate.” “It is, within five per cent.” * Mal duly had a conversation with the captain of the boat. After some discussion and negotiation, scouting parties were put together out of the crew and willing passengers. One party went in search of food and other provisions, the other tooled up to check there were no Reavers left around and to seek for any sign of non-Reaverised survivors hiding anywhere. Stocking up with largely tinned and packet food took a week; searching the whole of Abydos took the rest of the month that River had predicted. The captain had been in touch with Alexandria and several ships joined them, including Serenity, flown down by the service crew. The ships brought large guns, explosives and a variant of napalm. Planning the raid took another week, by which time Vera was both feeling the baby move and suffering from fairly debilitating morning sickness. Simon briefly took her into Serenity's infirmary for intravenous re-hydration. * Jayne came into the infirmary with Clarry, “How are things?” He was tooled up; suited and booted, armed to the teeth, ready to go. Vera managed a smile, despite looking pale, “Simon says I can move back to the 'Cotton Blossom' today with Clarry so that Serenity can be deployed.” Jayne eyed Simon and spoke with a hint or three of threat and protectiveness, “She gonna be okay, doc?” Simon nodded, “The morning sickness was making Vera lose too much fluid. Now I've rehydrated – that's the I.V. there which had water, salts and sugar in it – everything's going to be fine. I've given Vera some very gentle medicine to stop the vomiting.” Jayne was mollified, but not completely, “How's junior?” Simon smiled a little, “He's fine. Here, have a look.” He used the ultrasound and there was the baby; still tiny but clearly defined. The baby was bouncing happily, sucking on one tiny thumb. Jayne smiled crookedly and tenderly touched Vera's stomach, “Hey; small 'un. Look after your Ma till I get back, huh?” Vera's lips curved, “Gonna miss you too, ai ren. Sorry I've been such a wet blanket recently.” Clarry put her arm around Vera, “I'll look after you, Ma.” Jayne went and hugged Clarry, “Gonna miss you too, girly-girl.” “S'okay, Pa. We'll be shiny.” Jayne drew Vera into his arms for a bear hug, “Gorram, darlin'. Bein' pregnant used ta hit Mattie pretty hard as I recall. Have lotsa gorram epic sex when I get back.” Vera managed a chuckle, “I'll likely have a huge bump by then.” His eyes twinkled, hot with promise, “We'll find a way, or my name ain't Jayne Cobb!” “Just bring yourself back in one piece, please.” “Dontcha fret none. I wanna hold you, Clarry *and our son. I'll be back, mi mei gui.” He kissed her thoroughly. So Vera, Clarry, Ares and the children stayed on the boat with most of the boat crew whilst Serenity flew away to be part of the small fleet to deal with the Reavers. * The desert stretched on all sides with Abydos far behind. Even with fairly swift flying craft, the journey to the vicinity of the Reaver colony took over a week. It was abundantly clear when they got close. The ground was littered with bones and debris which looked like it had been put there as the massive set of a horror film or a giants' graveyard. At the centre of the discard zone, there was a huge, ugly, metallic semi-construction made out of all kinds of discarded and cannibalised bits of space-ships. It looked like a junk yard designed for a slasher zombie film by George A. Romero. Not so far removed from the truth; except this was real, visceral, deadly as a pit of vipers. Likely to be even deadlier before long. The metal gleamed evilly. * Mal gave the word and aerial bombardment started first. Bombs and the napalm equivalent rained down from the sky onto the Reaver colony. Reavers came out of the structure, firing weapons in hand. Jayne was buckled in, lying lengthways up the flap of Serenity's half-lowered apron. The wind whipped at his face and body, but he set his jaw and picked off Reavers one by one using the gun version of Vera. Crazy was sitting belted in at the opposite side of the flap, doing some pretty impressive shooting of her own alongside Zoe. Jayne remembered hearing over and over from Kaylee how River had picked off guys with her eyes shut, so he kept his peace. They weren't exactly guarding his back, but having help with the fire-power meant more Reavers dead when Serenity finally hit dirt. Crew; family. He'd got *that one beaten into his noggin firm and true long since. Even though he was almost all detached and focussed fury, there was a thread holding onto the feel and taste of Vera and the memory of Clarry. Just so he would remember who he was fighting for apart from the crew and would return to once this was done. Okay, so most of it was centred around holding onto the feel of Vera under him, wrapped hot and melting around him, with him bone deep inside her; but 'verse-moving sex was a gorram good reason to keep going. And the love; he'd never ever forget that. He'd put it all in the sealed compartment in his mind and was aware of it humming in the background, focussing the here and now with pin-sharp clarity. He made every one of Vera's bullets count. Not likely to be getting any of them back. * Blatting the hell out of the Reaver colony from the sky took about a two weeks, with refuelling, eating and sleeping in relays. Finally, there was a silent, tortuously twisted mess in the sand and no movement on the Reavers' part for forty eight hours. After a restock of weaponry from Alexandria, the ships set down in a nervous-looking ring around the Reaver colony. Kaylee and Simon stayed with the ship. One of the other ships had a medic and an emergency specialist, so they went along to provide instant cover, with Simon ready in the infirmary for any major traumas which needed surgery. * Jayne hauled out his fairly new rocket launcher and made a good handful of entry points into the Reaver structure. Other heavily armed folk took the other emergency entrances which left him looking at the black hole nearest him with Mal, and Inara at his back. On the job again, into the heart of darkness. River was paired up with Cliff and Zoe exploring another of the nearby ways in. Metal creaked and groaned around them. Jayne frowned in concentration, easing their way forwards. After maybe half a day, he tapped into one of the Reaver-built tunnels. Wasn't hard to tell, what with the walls decorated in bones and mouldering body parts and stinking of Reaver. The trip progressed onwards, downwards. Any live Reavers were likely to be closer to the heart of this colony, sheltering and preparing a lethal welcome. What with all the random bits of metal jutting out and half-blocked passages, the journey was slow and hot, with the structure creaking and groaning around them with every step. Jayne frequently shoved or carried looser bits out of the way so that they had an easier passage. * Mal looked at Jayne with something a lot closer to admiration than was customary, “Huh. 'Membering a song from Earth-that-was. 'Every morning at the mine, you could see him arrive. He stood 6 foot 6, weighed 245. Kind of broad at the shoulders, narrow at the hip. And everybody knew you didn't give no lip to Big John'.” Jayne grunted, “Hungh. Ain't quite six foot six and I sure don't like ruttin' mines all that much. Seem ta recall Big bad John finished up at the bottom of the mine, and I sure as hell am gettin' outta this go se rat-infested hole.” Jayne slashed a white wicked grin in the semi-darkness, “Don't say anythin' 'bout him havin' a big ol' ten inch diao either, huh?” Inara blinked a bit, “*Ten inches?” Jayne's grin practically reached his ears, “Darlin'; you ain't ever gonna find out!" Mal gave Jayne a *very hard stare, “Getting your mind away from your man parts would be considered a mercy.” Jayne couldn't resist needling, “Ya can't measure up, huh? Been told enough times that I've got a gorram big diao.” Mal dryly countered right back, “Yeah. Mostly by whores gettin' your coin.” Jayne snorted, “*And Vera; and she's a *lady, near 'nuff. Schoolin', breedin' an' class. Hotter 'n hell in the sack. 'S the main reason I'm gettin' outta this, along with Clarry 'n the baby,” his grin warmed with unspoken love, “Best things that ruttin' happened to me.” Mal nodded, “I can go with that. Let's get on with whacking the Reavers, hungh?” * So, they proceeded. One step at a time, sleeping or resting in relays. Days passed, nights passed. Supply teams hurried back and forth, supplying water and vittals in the shape of emergency rations to each of the teams inside the colony. The colony went deeper than any of them, excepting River, had imagined. Through the layers of the sand in the desert and down into the bedrock. Finally, Mal, Jayne and Inara emerged into a series domed circular chambers. The first had several dead Reavers on the floor, but what really drew the eye was the walls. They were lined with cells; not dissimilar to those of a beehive. Large, hexagonal, about two feet across and most contained something which was moving. “What the gorram...?” Mal inched closer to the nearest cell, “Ta mah duh! River was right. They're growing baby Reavers. Jayne...?” He already had his gun in his hands, “Eat lead and die!” Working systematically, he blatted one cell after another. Mal and Inara started on the other wall. Every time a cell punctured, greenish disgusting goo spurted out, then blood from the dying embryo. Sometimes the Reaver embryo itself plopped to the floor, all white and slimy like a giant slug and still attached to a fiercesome looking black umbilical cord. Jayne put a couple of extra rounds or so in each of the embryos, just to be sure. The only sounds apart from their fire-power and the soft squishing noises of the cells breaking was Inara occasionally making a noise of disgust. After dealing with the first chamber, they were all liberally splattered with the goo and blood. * In the second chamber Inara lifted her head, “Did you hear that?” Mal turned to her, “What was it, bao-bei?” She wrinkled her brow, “A really high-pitched whistle.” Jayne squinted at the corridor out through the second embryonic chamber, “Incoming! Reavers, I'm guessin'.” “Ah,” Mal commented as they hunkered down, covering each other as best as possible, “Bet that whistle was an alarm. Probably gonna be pissed that we slaughtered a whole bunch of baby Reavers.” “Hungh.” Jayne set to, killing and fetching out the contents of the cells behind them and erecting a very dead but odorous barricade, “Betcha they'll hesitate a beat afore firin' or attackin' against their own.” Mal nodded, “Might buy us a few vital seconds.” * The barrier increased as both he and Jayne added to its length and height. Then sounds of feet running got them ready with guns, grenades and bow. Within seconds, it was like that fight in the dark on Mr Universe's moon. This time they didn't really have anywhere that they could go apart from full flight in retreat, but that would be suicide. It was some hours before the Reavers started collapsing and being taken out from behind. When the dust and piles of Reavers fell to one side, there was River, Cliff and Zoe plus another of the teams lending a hand. So Mal, Jayne and Inara picked themselves up gratefully and all nine people made short work of the other embyo chambers before heading down again towards the heart of the colony. * Vera was standing at the rail on the top deck with Clarry, looking towards the desert. Vera put her hand on her fairly heavily distended belly and smiled. “Well, if I had any doubts, this little lad kicking couldn't be anything else but Jayne's baby.” Clarry smiled, knowing Vera was secretly a bit fretful, “We got that message from the supply teams recently, said that Pa and everyone we know is okay.” Vera sighed softly, “Yeah, I know. It's just that the three months' campaign is just about up. I know we've been told that the Reaver colony is vaster than anyone apart from maybe River imagined, but even she said it would take three months to clean the whole thing out.” “We got that brief Wave from Pa too; he was covered in dried icky stuff and a couple of new scars and looked tired, but he was okay.” Vera stroked what had to be the heel of her unborn child, “I know. I just miss him something fierce.” Clarry hugged her adoptive mother, “So do I, Ma. He'll be back soon.” * A day or two later, Serenity was seen flying towrds them with the morning. A very be-stubbled Mal sent a brief Wave over. “Yes, we're okay. Few new scars and we're outta bullets and grenades, but we made it.” Vera grinned at the screen, “Glad to hear it. Captain here is putting out the ramp.” Mal's smile was tired, but happy, “That hwoon dahn of yours and ours did us proud. There was a cave-in near the end and he helped hold up the ceiling so's we could get out and then had himself dragged outta the rubble. We made it out of the colony with seconds to spare. A few good folk won't be coming back.” “Is Jayne okay?” A familiar face, covered in dirt, beard and some new surface facial scars popped into the view point, “Yeah, Ah'm okay! God, it's good to see you again!” “Oh! Darling wan nao; ai ren.” she noticed something, “What's that metal thing at the bottom of your neck?” Jayne managed a *very lopsided shrug, “Bust collarbone, all the major bones in my left arm and the shoulder joint's a mess. Pinned up like a ruttin' butterfly on a board an' looking like a pile of Meccano, but the doc says I'll mend. I'd do just about anythin' for a bath right now.” Vera beamed back, “Consider that a deal! I'll wash your back!” His eyes were hot, even through the medium of the link, “You'll be washing *everythin'! An' I'll be washin' you right back! Mal says we gonna have us some major R&R all the way back to Alexandria. An' Clarry an' the baby?” Vera's smile threatened to reach her ears, “Clarry's blossoming and I look like a hot air balloon on legs! Junior's kicking up a storm! And I'm gawping for you about now.” On Jayne's confused look, “Ask Simon or Kaylee. Say I'm six months' gone.” He grinned, “I'm hopin' that's dirty, mi mei gui.” Vera laughed, “Wait and see!” *


Sunday, June 10, 2007 10:56 AM


Ok...I gotta say I was more than a little grossed out by Jayne's extermination of the Bor...I mean REAVER...embryos. Certainly wasn't imagining the Reavers going all Trek on us;D


Sunday, June 10, 2007 10:57 AM


Crap...forgot to add this:

Still...this was a mighty fine chapter you got here, Vera! Definitely tension-filled from start to finish:D


Sunday, June 10, 2007 8:55 PM


Well, the Reavers doing a spot of high-speed evolution/devolution and going for the queen + nest scenario is actually a pretty deliberate 'steal' from some of the implications of 'Alien 2'. Seem to remember the Boss wrote script for one of those films <G>.

I doubt that *he'd* go that route if he was still writing Firefly; it's too derivative, but I could not easily resist <BEG>.


Monday, June 11, 2007 2:56 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER was "Alien: Resurrection," Vera. Sadly not the best example to use when pimping Joss to the uninitiated;)



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