Blue Blood – Chapter Three
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Harried flight, and silent night


Blue Blood – Chapter Three Don’t own it, just enjoy playing with Firefly. No money changing hands. --------------------- Mal and Inara were going over the books when Hollins called on the com. “Cap’n, Mister Harwell is here to see you.” “Tell him I’ll be right down,” Mal answered, and stood. “Wonder if he’s got a rush shipment or something,” he mused. “Might just be a social call,” Inara told him. “Might,” Mal nodded, unconvinced. He walked down to the bay, where Harwell was waiting. “Morning, George,” Mal said amiably. “What brings you out on such a good weather day?” It had been raining all morning, and with the cold air settled in around them, it was truly miserable out. “I need to talk to you, Mal,” Harwell said at once, and the tension in his voice was palpable. “Something wrong?” “I don’t know, exactly,” Harwell admitted. “I have a. . .source, let’s call it, in Grippen’s office. Someone who can keep tabs on who Grippen’s talking to, that sort of thing. He’s been in contact with some rather strange folks, recently. And at least one call was about River Tam.” Mal’s eyes closed for a moment, and a tired sigh escaped his lips. “I assume by strange, they was dressed all in blue?” he asked finally, and Harwell’s surprise was evident. “Yes, that’s it exactly,” he nodded. “I take it you know who they are?” “I’m afraid so,” Mal nodded. “They’re very bad news, too. Did your ‘source’ know what they were talking about?” As if I didn’t know, Mal thought. “Apparently there’s a hefty reward for information on the whereabouts of your pilot,” Harwell said. “And the sheriff is looking to collect it.” “Figures,” Mal snorted. “It’s not a criminal warrant, George. It’s a bounty, more or less. River is very. . .special, let’s just say. These people kept her captive for a long time, tortured her basically. Performed experiments on her. Her brother rescued her, but they’ve been trying to take her back ever since.” “Experiments?” Harwell was shocked. “That’s. . .” “Yes, it is. Unfortunately,” Mal told him, “their ‘experiments’ were sanctioned by Parliament, so there’s no legal recourse against them. She was safe from them here. Until Grippen called them, anyway.” Mal rubbed his eyes. Would they never have any peace? “What are you going to do?” Harwell asked. “And how can I help?” “Do you know where they are?” Mal asked. “Astra,” Harwell said at once. “That’s why I came here soon as I found out. I know that she’s on her way. . .” “I have to go,” Mal said at once. “If I take Serenity at full burn, we may can catch them.” “I understand,” Harwell said, starting for the ramp door. “Can I help in any way?” “If you know a good lawyer on Astra, we might need him,” Mal admitted. “This will be violent, no matter what. These people operate above the law, and won’t take no for an answer.” “I’ll wave you with the information,” Harwell nodded. “Good luck, Mal.” “Thanks, George.” He hit the comm near the door. “‘Nara, get to the bridge. We got trouble. Holly, we need to be in the air five minutes ago.” His next call was to Kaylee and Simon. Fifteen minutes later, with everyone aboard, Serenity was airborne, burning for Astra as hard as she could go. Mal tried to wave Companion, but couldn’t get through. At normal speed, the other vessel would be a day-and-a-half out. Serenity could make Astra in just under two days at full burn. Maybe they’d catch them. --------------------------- “Wave ain’t working,” Zoe told Goldie as he answered her summons to the bridge. “Any idea why?” he asked, moving to the console. “That’s why I called you,” Zoe said drily, and Goldie ignored the slight sarcasm in her voice. “I’ll take a look,” he said simply. He began checking the wiring harness and connections. “Everything looks right,” he said five minutes later. “Did you check the wave terminals in the shuttles?” “No,” Zoe admitted. “Let me see if they work, then,” he started off the bridge. “If they’re down as well, then it’s a system failure, and not just this terminal.” Ten minutes later, he was back. “Both shuttle’s wave terminals are down, too,” he announced. “Problems in the system itself, of with the antennae array. I’ll start checking the system now. If it checks out, then it’s likely the antennae. Have to do an EV to check on that, or else wait till we hit Astra.” “Need the wave up to get landing clearance from Astra,” River pointed out. “True, but if we can’t fix it, we’ll have to land anyway,” Goldie told her. “I’ll see what I can do, inside, before we worry about that.” ------------------------ An hour later, Goldie was shaking his head. “Nothing’s wrong inside,” he told them. “There’s no reason I can find for the system to be down. As near as I can tell, we’re sending a signal, it’s just not getting anywhere. And we aren’t receiving back, either. My guess is there’s a problem with the antennae array, or else there’s a break or a short between the system and the array.” “I’ll run the line between here and the array, first,” he said, again heading off the bridge. “If the problem ain’t there, all that leaves is the array.” “You need to go out, I’ll go with you,” Jayne told him, and Goldie nodded. “Might need a strong back and weak mind at that,” he said straight faced. River giggled, and Jayne snorted. “Whatever.” The two men left the bridge, leaving Zoe and River alone. River glanced over at Zoe, watching her watch Goldie as he left, still trading playful insults with Jayne. She’s disappointed that Goldie isn’t more hurt, River realized. She doesn’t realize that he’s covering. “He’s taking it well,” River said suddenly. Zoe looked at her. “What?” “Goldie’s taking your rejection well,” River said again, busy at her instruments. “You must have let him down easy. That was very kind of you, Zoe,” she added, her voice gentle. “I suppose,” Zoe said absently, looking off into space. “It was,” River insisted. “You could have hurt him, but didn’t. That’s an act of kindness, in my book.” “I never meant to hurt him,” Zoe admitted. She looked at the little reader, and suddenly the need to talk overwhelmed her. “I never meant for it to be like this at all, River,” she said. “All I wanted to do was set some ground rules, you know? To make sure that whatever happened between us didn’t interfere with the job. Somehow, though, it all got twisted around, and before I knew it, I was telling him that this just wasn’t a good idea.” River looked at Zoe, her eyes sad. “You should tell him that, then,” she said at last. “I don’t. . .I don’t think that will help, now,” Zoe told her. “I really don’t know how things got so out of hand,” she raised her hands in a gesture of hopelessness. “Things happen, Zoe,” River told her gently. “Can’t let that stop you.” “Too much pride, mei mei,” Zoe smiled ruefully. “That’s my problem, I guess. I think, honestly, that I was disappointed that he didn’t try to talk me out of it.” “You’re the Captain,” River pointed out. “Told him so. He can’t, he won’t, argue with that, Zoe. And if he did, you might well have used that as a reason to justify not trying. Can’t hold it against him that he was doing what you wanted.” Zoe looked at River closely. “I guess not,” she admitted finally. “I hadn’t considered that.” “You’re confused,” River smiled. “Natural, you know. I was so confused by my feelings for Jayne that I thought I was going crazy again. Now, though. . .” she trailed off with a shy smile that Zoe recognized. “Yeah, I get that,” the older woman grinned. “You two are really something.” “Must decide what it is that you want, Zoe,” River said sagely. “Until you know, you cannot tell him. Confusion will just add to the problem.” “I know,” Zoe sighed deeply. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with him, River,” she said quietly. “In fact there’s nothing wrong with him, that I can see,” she smiled. “It must be me,” she concluded helplessly. “Nothing wrong with you, either,” River sing-songed. “Just confused, uncertain. Again, that’s natural, I think. And,” River added thoughtfully, “your feelings for Wash are hindering you, I think. Feel guilty, almost.” Zoe looked at River closely. “You’re awfully smart to be so young,” she said finally, and River smiled. “Lived a great deal in a short time,” she replied, and Zoe caught the sadness in her voice. “Wash wouldn’t want you to be alone forever, Zoe. You know that. Loved you too much for that.” “I know,” Zoe nodded, looking into space again. Suddenly she stood. “We’ll see what happens,” was all the warrior woman had to say as she left the bridge. River watched her depart, hoping that Zoe could come to terms with things. If she couldn’t, then it might cost her something special. -------------------- “We should be able to raise them!” Mal fretted, pacing the bridge as yet another wave came back unanswered. “Mal, working yourself into a frenzy won’t help matters,” Inara told him quietly from the pilot’s seat. “They could simply be having problems with their receiver.” “Maybe,” Mal sounded dubious. “And maybe they already ran into trouble, even ‘fore they made it to Astra.” “Mal,” Inara soothed. “Jayne is onboard. And Goldie. They can handle it.” “I hope so,” Mal said softly. “I dearly hope so. I hate to think of River back in their hands.” “So long as Jayne’s breathing, that won’t happen,” Inara assured him, and Mal nodded. “It’s the ‘so long as Jayne’s breathing’ part that worries me,” ------------------------- “We’ll make it in time, Simon,” Kaylee said as Simon paced back and forth in near panic. “What if we don’t?” he demanded. “My God, Kaylee, what if they take her? We might never find her! It took months to find her the first time! And then. . .” “Jayne’s with her, Simon,” Kaylee said confidently. “He won’t let anything happen to River, and you know it.” Simon calmed visibly at that. “You’re right,” he nodded, finally sitting down next to her, slipping an arm around her. “You’re right. Jayne’s there. And he’s already defeated them once.” “And he’s got Goldie, and Zoe, with him,” Kaylee added, laying her head on Simon’s shoulder. “Between them, and River, it will be all right. I’m more worried about what’s gonna happen when Jayne finds out about what that sheriff did.” Simon hadn’t considered that, and groaned at the reminder. “Likely be inclined to take it seriously,” Simon said softly. “Permanently inclined, I’m afraid.” “I was thinking the same thing,” Kaylee nodded. “I doubt Mal could stop him, either. Not this time.” “I doubt he’ll even try,” Simon agreed. “No sense in him getting hurt.” ------------------------------- “Looks like EVA kid,” Goldie sighed in resignation. He had checked every possible link and connection that could possibly be causing the problem. Everything inside was in perfect working order. “Problem’s gotta be outside,” he told Jayne. “Nothin’s wrong in here.” “Well, we may as well suit up, and get to it, then,” Jayne told him, and the older man nodded. They headed to the bay. “Zoe, we’re gonna have to step outside,” Jayne called on the com. “Problem’s gotta be outside, everything is shiny in here.” “I’ll be right down,” Zoe answered. Be careful, Zhang Fu, Jayne heard in his mind, and smiled. Always careful, ai ren, he thought back, and felt River’s snort as she heard him. Remember last time? she shot back. That was different, he argued. Ain’t no bomb this time. Just a bad wire or something. We’ll get it sorted out, and be back in a jiffy. Promise? he heard her thinking, and smiled again. Promise, baby girl, he pushed back to her. Wouldn’t leave you out here alone with Goldie, he added, and was rewarded with the feeling of her laughter rolling though his mind. “What’s so funny, kid?” Goldie demanded, seeing the look on Jayne’s face. “You enjoy this stuff?” “Just a job,” Jayne shrugged. “EVA is okay with me. Ain’t never minded.” “Well, I don’t much care for it,” Goldie admitted. “Always had a horror of floating off into the black.” “Won’t happen here,” Jayne assured him. “River won’t leave us. We come loose, she’ll come get us.” “Love that girl, don’t you kid?” Goldie asked him. Jayne nodded. “More than anything in the whole ‘verse,” Jayne answered solemnly. Goldie smiled softly at that, nodding. “I’m happy for ya, kid,” he said, pulling on his suit. “Anyone deserves some happiness in life, it’s you.” Jayne looked at Goldie, stunned by that. “Thanks, Goldie,” he finally managed. Goldie snorted. “Don’t get all soft and mushy on me kid,” he shot back. “Just saying.” Jayne laughed, and finished putting on his own suit, fighting off the memories of the last time he’d worn it. He’d plucked a bomb off the side of the ship, throwing off into space just before it detonated. He’d nearly been crushed by the force of the explosion, and had it not been for River, he’d been adrift in the black. The memories weren’t all bad, though, he reminded himself. It was shortly thereafter that he had come to grips with the fact that maybe he and River did belong together, like she’d been saying. She’d been right. Of course I was, she sent to him, and he chuckled at that. I am a genius. So you are, baby girl, he sent back. So you are. “What’s funny, Jayne?” Zoe asked, walking up as he chuckled to himself. “Nothing, me and Goldie was just trading insults,” Jayne assured her. “He won.” “Course I did,” Goldie smirked. “I’m older, wiser, smarter. . .” “Talk more,” Jayne interjected, and Goldie hushed. “Can you two keep that to a minimum until the ship’s fixed?” Zoe almost growled, and Jayne shot her a questioning look. “What’s eatin’ you?” he asked, though not unkindly. It was odd to see Zoe like this. He didn’t like it. “My ship ain’t workin’ right, that’s what’s eatin’ me,” Zoe shot back, and Jayne’s eyebrows rose at that. “Zoe, it ain’t but the cortex receiver,” he reminded her gently. “Probably just a problem with the array. We’ll get it sorted out soon enough.” “And then you’ll have time for adolescent jokes,” Zoe growled, and Jayne gave up. Whatever the problem was, and he had a pretty good idea, he couldn’t solve it for her. “We’re going, Captain,” Goldie said stiffly, and Jayne saw Zoe wince slightly before she locked it down. “Let’s go, kid,” Goldie said to Jayne, and the larger man nodded. The two stepped into the airlock, and Zoe cycled them through.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007 10:59 PM


Oh, Zoe, still determined to be captain, when all she really wants to be is a woman. Funnily enough, they don't actually preclude each other, but is she going to realise in time? And the set-up with Grippen? Nicely done, and the tension is racking up well!


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