Cold Sweat
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Short installment in the biggish darned series.


Cold Sweat

The following is strictly recreationally generated fan fiction. All characters that are property of Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon are theirs, anybody I made up is mine. Sin lucre ergo nullus litigium. (Okay that probably translates as “I’m broke, don’t sue.” but you get the idea.)


The message had been brief but effective.

Serenity was going as fast as she could without the crew getting out and pushing, headed for what had come to feel like home.

They’d just gone out on a quick run to meet with a small delegation trying to convince him to join up for the imminent, they assured him, resurgence. The small woman had slipped him a note as they passed through the airlock into their own ship.

He hadn’t bothered to read it until he’d gotten to his bunk and they were underway, not that it would have mattered really. The slip of paper contained only one sentence, no signature.

“You have nothing except Freedom left to fight for.”

It had taken a moment to sink in, then he was running for the bridge shouting to River to head for home and get them there yesterday. The poor girl had actually started to try working out how to do it before he’d hit the copilot chair, clarified his order, and begun screaming at Kaylee over the com to crank the engines as far as they’d go.

That was a day and a half ago and there had been no reply to any of their waves. It did not bode well. Zoe was methodically cleaning and loading every weapon on board including the Cobb Collection. They’d left Simon behind to tell Jazmine where everyone had gone should she and Jayne return before the meeting was over. Kaylee was hovering somewhere between panic and gibbering with worry, but she was keeping the engines up and running even if it was taking every fire extinguisher on board. They’d landed in bright sunlight in the farmyard back on Copia so hard they’d almost bounced. He told River to stay with the ship in case of trouble, then nearly been run over by Kaylee and Zoe as they ran down the ramp Hell for leather. He’d only barely managed to send his mechanic back to her post for the same reason his pilot had to stay put.

They’d been working together so long that he didn’t even need to tell Zoe his plan. She immediately headed around the back of the house while he went for the front entry.

“Door’s open, Sir” she whispered over the radio. “Front one’s splinters, looks like quite a tussle, blood all over the hall.” he replied “Meet you upstairs.”.

“Damn. Sir, I’ve found Simon. Dead.” came her voice again. “In his pajamas. Went down fighting.”

He swore quietly to himself and turned the corner. “No signs of whoever did this so far” he warned her “ keep your eye out.” There were marks where bodies had been dragged away, heading for the back door from the look of it. He started up the stairs, following a small trail of blood, then stopped cold. Gore was spattered everywhere on the landing walls. He looked at the last flight and found the source. Jayne lay sprawled naked in a congealed pool of it, resembling hamburger more than anything else. The big man looked to have been harder to stop than a charging bull, but sooner or later everyone runs out of blood. He must have been hit over a dozen times with some pretty heavy rounds. “Jayne’s down.” There were footprints leading past the fallen mercenary and up the hall. He wanted to take it at a dead run, but knew someone could still be lurking.

Zoe’s voice came to him again “I’m up the back stairs, going room by room. Clear so far.”

He was going through the same ingrained routine “Copy, same here. Hell of a recruiting tactic if that’s what they’re after.” There were only six rooms to check. He covered two without discovering anything other than signs of a great deal of gunfire, nodded to Zoe as she finished her second room, then gently pushed open the door to the room he shared with Jazmine.

The first thing he saw was Grace. She was in the middle of the room in his favorite flannel nightgown, her little throat slit like a December hog. Her mother lay next to her like a rag doll, with the obscene bindi of a bullet hole centered in her forehead. They’d shot her twice in her swollen belly, just to make sure the life it protected was gone as well. She still had her crossbow in hand.

He leaned against the wall for a moment until he was sure the room was not going to spin, then whispered over the radio “Zoe?”. She didn’t reply immediately, so he tried again “Zoe, are you there?”. He was about to repeat himself as he turned for the door, when he heard the familiar report of her mare’s leg. He sprinted across the hall to the nursery, weapon at the ready, and rounded the door frame. He almost tripped over the sprawled form of Sovay. The young nanny had tried blocking the door with her body. It hadn’t worked. Kasmir was not going to be best pleased.

He looked to the windows where the sun was streaming in like honey, the dust motes dancing like glitter, and saw Zoe sitting against the wall with Hoban and Matilda cradled on her lap, their throats cut just like Grace’s. The shotgun was braced between them and Zoe would not be getting up again. He started to call out for River and Kaylee when the floor came up to meet him.

He heard a familiar voice calling his name, and opened his eyes as the lights came back on. “You know, Captain, I haven’t had to sedate my sister in quite a while. She was crying out something about how if she’d just had a chance to think she could have gotten there in time. Just before she passed out she requested that I ask you to kindly stop dreaming so loudly.”

The world came back into focus, Simon’s face swimming into view. Mal was on the floor, with the ship’s doctor bent over him. He sat up so quickly that they knocked heads with a sound reminiscent of coconuts. “And now I need to go find some ice.” announced Simon “Are you safe to be left alone?”.

Zoe’s sleepy voice drifted in from the door “I’ll keep an eye on him.”. Simon nodded, hand to his forehead, and slipped through the door. “Sir, how did you get down there? Because I’m pretty sure you started up there in your bed.”

Mal looked at her in confusion “You’re alive?”

“Probably, but it’s too dark out to be sure.” She replied with mock seriousness.

Mal stared and tried again “You sure you’re not dead?”

She raised an eyebrow at him and asked “Just how hard is Simon’s head? Sir, I woke to what seems to be the joyful noise of you yodeling in your sleep and falling out of bed. I’m tired, I’m like to be crotchety if there isn’t a good reason for it, but I’m not dead.”

Mal exhaled slowly and lowered himself to the floor, then noticed he’d broken out in a cold sweat and was shivering. He rolled over to the bed, where he had indeed begun the night’s romp, and dragged a quilt down to meet him. He didn’t really think he was steady enough to climb back onto furniture yet, so he settled for pushing himself partly upright and sitting against the mattress. Then the shaking started.

Simon had returned with a spare ice pack at that point, then dropped it in favor of pushing Mal back down to the floor and propping the trembling man’s feet up on a pillow, telling him to take slow deep breaths, and advising Zoe to keep an eye on her captain while he ran for his bag. By the time the doctor returned the tremors had stopped and the color was coming back to Mal’s lips. Simon gave him a quick hypo and knelt at his side “Must have been quite a bad dream. Are you feeling better yet?”

Zoe patted him on the leg “Looked like you just got handled by the 76th, Sir”. The venerable witticism brought a fleeting smile to Mal’s lips.

Simon looked up in confusion “I don’t get it.”

Mal chuckled “Old joke. Someone had a bad one we used to say they’d been roughed up by the 76th. Called the Nightmare Battalion. Tactics were a mite unorthodox betimes but they got the job done and then some. Gave the Alliance more than one sleepless night for sure.”

Zoe nodded “That they did. I was always glad they were fighting on our side. Got so a squad of Alliance grunts saw a flag with that big black horse on it, they were halfway to laying down arms before the fight started.”

Mal smiled “Seem to recall we used that to our advantage a time or two. The tales they used to tell, it got hard to separate life from legend.” His smile faltered for a moment as a tumbler clicked into place somewhere in the centers of his brain reserved for putting two and two together and coming up with seven. “ Go tsao de hun dan!

Zoe at him sharply “Sir?”

Mal turned to face her and tried to sit up, with some success this time. “Inara’s message. The part River couldn’t figure about the black horse and the phoenix. No way the little albatross could have known about that old moniker. Sumbitch!”

Zoe sat back and nodded. “The 76th is rising from the ashes. Makes sense. But how would Inara know about any of that?” Mal shook his head and stood up. “Not sure. Have to cogitate on it a spell. That’s a bight in the line and no mistake.”

Simon took the pause to launch his best medical attack “It can wait until morning. Right now you should keep that ice on your head and try to get some rest. You can pass it by River after she’s had a chance to shake off the grogginess. She should be up by mid morning. Our wanderers are due back by lunch, perhaps the whole mystery can be resolved by tea time.”

It was Mal’s turn to look up sharply at the reminder of Jazmine and Jayne, then he remembered that there was no pool of blood to find on the stairs. “All right Doc. Just gonna go check on the ankle biter real quick like.”

Zoe gave him an eyebrow “That bad?”

Mal returned her gaze “That bad”, then wrapped the quilt around his shoulders and padded down the hall barefoot to watch his daughter sleep.

Zoe watched him stagger away and felt a brief urge to follow and check on her own two. She shook it off and drifted back to her room. Whatever dream had gotten the Captain that spooked, she wanted no part of.



Wednesday, November 7, 2007 4:11 PM


Reposting after the hack job in BSR. Haken et al managed to reload everything up to this point I believe. I will verify that and add anything they did not locate in a considerately gradual manner.
I always hated it when someone would post five to ten short (or not) items and bump my work right off the screen.
Mind you, I am easily irritated...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 5:39 PM


One good thing about all this repost. I missed this the first time around. I'll have to go back and read the rest.


You must log in to post comments.



Flying The Coop
The landscape's changing. Serenity's moving on. They'll all be fine.

Garden, With Cakes
Integrating Inara's storyline with other stuff going on. Still sticking to my own little corner of the 'Verse.

Child's Play
Moving the plot along.

Cold Sweat
Short installment in the biggish darned series.

Road Trip
Getting antsy. Jayne hits a house of ill repute and several people. Neither of these events is described in detail.

Imbalance of Power
This is a setup.

Lonesome Albatross
Sniff sniff...sob. Teenage angst. Also flying bullets.

Love Nuns
Serenity returns to Copia. Mal faces the music. Half naked men wrestling.

Big Rosie
Back story for the 76th.

Come The Ressurrection
Fairly short (for me). He's baack!