BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

RONINWRITER

Finding Emma – Ch 17 The Battle for Shadow Part III
Friday, January 4, 2008

The situation on New Shadow gets more complex. Do the Alliance forces really have the advantage? Tension begins to rise before the explosive final chapter of the Battle for Shadow.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 686    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

Malcolm Reynolds sat in the cockpit of his ship waiting for news of events on New Shadow. New Shadow, just Shadow, people still debated what to call it. It was New Shadow to him however; the Shadow that he had grown up on was gone. It might as well be a new rock for him, there certainly was no point in letting himself think that there was a home there for him to go back to. Another thing he tried not to think on was the New Independent movement that had swept the planet in question. The Independents had been crushed in the first Unification War, thoroughly and truly. That was another chapter in his life that was now closed. He would not even have anything to do with this new batch of fools if not for the money. At least that’s what he told himself.

When he had been contacted by some of the former Independent high brass he had thought them joking when they asked him to break into a military facility on a Core planet. When they had convinced him they were serious, he had revised his opinion to insane. Things had been tight since Miranda, however, and his ship and crew where in dire need of coin if they were to stay flying. A firefly was not a small ship, and with seven grown people on board to feed, and Zoe now a mother, (Another thing that was still hard to believe even though the child was near two years old now) it was difficult to keep the larders stocked and fuel tanks filled.

Mal had known the name of the contact from the war, but not well. Anastasia had been in special operations and espionage. Her reputation for getting difficult and daring jobs done was solid; solid in the Adalia Niska sense. When he had met her to go over the job, he had brought Simon, as the young doctor had experience with infiltrating Alliance facilities. He had been sure the Doc would tell him the plan was insanity, but to his surprise he simply diagnosed it ‘dangerous, but doable.’

Zone and Jayne had been eager for some action and some coin respectively. When Anastasia had placed a bag in front of them with enough platinum to keep them flying for another six months, well, it had been pretty hard to turn down. In retrospect, the Browncoat spook turned part time mob boss had probably done as much research on his own crew as she had done on the Alliance instillation.

True to reputation, Anastaisia’s plan, with more than a little input from Simon, had worked, mostly. They had gotten ID’d, or at least a firefly had gotten ID’d as the likely culprit leaving the planet with the stolen tactical data. Even that eventuality had been covered, however, as Anastasia had lined up a backup crew to deliver it. Jason and his crew had surprised Mal, however. They had not been at all what he had expected.

Mal’s ruminations were interrupted abruptly by a light knock on the open cockpit door. He did not need to turn to know it was Inara. “You don’t need to knock you know.”

“I figure one of us should use the custom, less it grow obsolete,” replied the woman. “I brought you some tea.”

Inara came into the cockpit and handed him a heavy mug, while she herself held a delicate china cup. “Don’t worry, I put a shot of Jayne’s rock gut into it to kill the cooties,” she added dryly.

“Really, didn’t know that a fancy lady such as yourself would know of a lowbrow affliction such as that?”

“Please Mal, I was a little girl once.”

“Don’t tell me little boys used to pull your hair and chase you around the playground?”

“I wasn’t allowed on the public playground, but I did have one cousin that used to pull my hair.”

‘Really, and how much did you charge for that?’ he was about to ask, but instead he just closed his mouth before the words came out. For some reason, riling Inara just didn’t seem the thing to do right now.

“What?” asked Inara.

“Hum?”

“You were about to say something,” prompted the Companion.

“Oh, just that this is the part of our conversations where I usually say something witty and you storm off upset at me.”

Inara set down her teacup and sighed, allowing her impeccable and unreadable Companion demeanor to suddenly fall away and reveal the real living and breathing woman underneath. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Mal. You,” Inara paused. If Mal was willing to forgo whatever barb had been on the tip of his tongue, the least she could do was forgo her usual accusations. “We, make it this way.”

Mal regarded her a moment. He appreciated these moments of honesty that they were now able to occasionally share. “My ma used to say, ain’t a body alive what isn’t their own worst enemy. Reckon that pretty much sums the both of us up.”

Inara considered this insight. “That is a very Buddhist perspective for a Christian woman.”

“My mother saw a lot of perspectives.”

Inara was intrigued. “Did she have any insight as to what one was to do if they are their own enemy?”

“Only that you still had to have the courage to be the person that you are.”

It was much more of a frontier influenced response, but still betrayed a strong understanding of human nature. She wished for a moment she could have met Mal’s mother.

“Before you came in, I was thinking on that ship we sent down to Shadow,” said Mal, interrupting Inara’s thoughts.

“Indeed,” replied Inara. She would have liked to continue their discussion on Mal’s past, but knew from experience not to push. “Jason reminds me a bit of Simon, though more laid back. I think part of his life must have been spent on the Core."

"Persephone," corrected Mal, "If I recognize the accent. Jason's smart, I'll give him that. Maybe not top three percent smart, but not far off. Him 'n his crew are all green though, less than a year experience together if I had to guess. In the war I saw far too many smart but inexperienced men lead good people to their deaths."

"You survived the war though, and led men though it. I'm sure there was a time you were inexperienced as well," observed Inara. "And they've survived a Reaver attack already. That should count for something."

"Reavers," said Mal. "Jason never mentioned that. I guess I'll have to raise my opinion of the boy."

"Jayne’s daughter told me about it. It was quite the harrowing tale.”

Mal chucked. “I still find it hard to believe that little girl is the fruit from that man’s loins. Perhaps we should get the good Doctor to do a paternity test. Might save the poor young woman serious mental anguish if'n it comes out negative.”

“Too late,” replied Inara, causing Mal to look at her questioningly. “River apparently managed to sneak a lock of her hair. Don’t quite know how, since she wasn’t there when Kaylee and I cut it. Regardless, Sarah is apparently, at least genetically, Jayne’s daughter.” Even Inara was forced to grimace at this thought.

“Reckon there’s stranger folks what’ve had kids,” said Mal.

Inara looked at her captain. “You don't mean Zoe? Mal, you can’t begrudge the poor…”

“No that ain’t what I mean,” interrupted Mal. Inara eyed him, waiting for him to continue. “I estimate that child’s the only thing’s kept my best friend and first mate together since Wash died. On top of that, she’s a fine mother what looks over that rug rat like a mother bear to her cub. Just, unexpected.”

What Mal didn't say was that he was starting to feel as if the rest of the 'Verse was passing him bye. It started when Zoe had married Wash, and then she went and had his child after Miranda. Simon and Kaylee were no help either, now married and having taken over the role of the couple bickering about whether or not to have kids. Now even Jayne had found a long lost daughter. Yet here he was, still spinning his wheels with Inara. Hell, Mal wasn’t even sure the two of them had wheels to spin. Mal considered whether or not he felt truthsome enough to tell some of this to the woman in front of him when they were interrupted by the beep of an incoming wave.

Mal quickly answered it, welcome for the reprieve. It was Anastasia.

“Malcolm, I will need you to assist in deploying men to the surface of New Shadow.”

“I think your mistaken, Ma'am. I ain’t any part of your fong luh war effort. Got a crew here whose first priority is staying alive, not getting dead,” replied Mal.

“Malcolm, I understand your apprehension, but I would ave thought more of you. The Alliance forces shall be spread thin and far when the blockade is broken. I only ask you to transport one platoon to a predetermined location.”

“Blocked lifted? Woman, we don’t even know if that data go through?”

“I ave faith in Jason. I do not ask you to ave blind faith, I only ask you to act when you see proof. You are free to leave once ze men are deployed. You will be compensated. Only one platoon of forty men, your ship should accommodate 'at many, no?"

"I want us clear on one thing," said Mal. "I'm not taking my ship near that planet so long as half the Alliance second fleet is in close orbit."

"Fair enough," replied Anastasia. "Meet ze Sihnon class freighter Ulysses at ze coordinates I am sending you."

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The sun was getting low on Shadow as Jason finally finished welding closed the last hole in the hull. Sarah had already finished her work on the damaged hydraulics and had left to clean up and fix them some dinner.

"You reckon Rick and Linda'll be back in time for supper?" asked Sarah as he came into the kitchen.

"Doubt we'll see them till tomorrow," replied Jason. "But I wouldn't worry about them. Both of em took a pack. I know Rick can hold his own in the wilderness, and if I had to guess Linda's the same. Hopefully, they'll come back with word the data's been handed over and we can get off this rock and get paid, easy peasy."

"So it's just us then," said Sarah.

"Just us; thanks," said Jason as Sarah handed him a plate of boiled pasta covered in a brown sauce made from processed protein. It was not up to young Matt's standard, but it was definitely better than anything Jason would have been able to conjure. They ate in silence for several minutes. It was strange not having their other three crewmates present. The two occasionally stole glances at each other whenever either thought the other was not looking.

Finally, Jason broke the silence. "Your hair looks nice."

"Thanks, you like it? Corporal Lewis said the same thing." Sarah pulled at a few strands. "It feels weird having it all straight and shiny, and I feel kinda naked sometimes without my bangs in my face."

"I reckon he woulda liked to see a bit more of you naked than your face," Jason attempted to tease.

"Now that's not nice," replied Sarah. "He could be dead now for all we know."

"Hey, believe me I ain't saying I disagree with the man," said Jason, attempting to recover. Sarah's eyes widened in surprise as the implications of the admission registered. Too late Jason realized what he just admitted to, and quickly backtracked. "Ah, not that I mean, I would ever want to see you naked." That didn’t come out right, thought Jason.

Sarah's surprise turned to a glare and she put down her fork. "You have seen me naked, remember the Reavers," she said dryly.

Jason suddenly felt a bit trapped, but foolishly he opened his mouth yet again. "Well, I meant not ever again."

"I think I'm going to bed," said Sarah coolly as she got out of her chair. "Dishes are all yours Captain." Before Jason could respond, she disappeared down into her bunk.

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The next morning, Jason and Sarah were both woken by the sound of low flying craft overhead. Whatever it was, it was big enough to shake the ground as it settled to a landing. When Jason lowered the cargo bay door, he found half a dozen Alliance soldiers training rifles on them. Far above, the sky was dotted with the hulking forms of troop carriers descending from the fleet above. Occasionally, one would be hit with by the Independents surface to air missile fire and burst into a fireball. In the distance he could once again hear the sound of gun fire.

Jason and Sarah quickly raised their hands. Four of the men rushed forward, one pushing each of them against the bulkhead while the other two searched them, soon confiscating Jason's weapon. Interestingly, they seemed to miss Pipsqueak, which Sarah had taken to keeping nestled between her breasts, per the suggested of Inara. One of the men spoke into a com unit and a moment later a uniformed officer approached Jason.

"Name, rank, and serial number, if you have one scum," demanded the officer.

"Jason Libby, I'm just a cargo ship captain. The girl's my mechanic. We delivered supplies to your base yesterday. We had to put down for repairs."

There was a pause as one of the soldiers pulled up some information on a portable data terminal. "He checks out sir. This ship made a milk run yesterday morning."

The officer looked over the shoulder of his subordinate. "Where's the rest of your crew," he demanded.

"Out," replied Jason, his cheek still pressed painfully against the steel of the bulkhead, "hunting." "Fine," begrudged the officer. "Release them." Turning back to Jason he added, "Consider your ship grounded until we secure the area."

"My gun," asked Jason.

"This planets under martial law. You want a gun, put on a purple uniform."

The officer then turned and strode back to his troop carrier with his men in tow. "hu dan," said Jason to himself. A moment later the troop carrier lifted off and was gone, moving in the direction of the firefight.

"What's going on?" asked Sarah.

"I don't know. But I hope Linda and Rick get back soon."

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Linda and Rick sat bound next to each other in a long tent with the other surviving Browncoats. They had been left there several hours since their capture that morning as the Alliance troops busied themselves outside.

"Wish those hu dan woulda untied our hands. I think I'm starting to cramp," complained Rick.

"Alliance hospitality," replied Linda, "Wouldn't want us to accidentally wander off before the main event."

"You reckon it'll be a shooting or a hanging?" asked Rick.

"Hanging if they got the time to build a gallows," replied Linda, "firing squad, if not."

"Prefer a shooting," said Rick, "seems the quicker way to go."

"You don't know too much about dying do you," asked Linda.

"Don't wanna neither. Still holding out hope Jay'll come fer us."

"What, so he can die too? Come over that hill guns blazing'd be about the quickest way to get ended."

"Jay wouldn't have guns blazing. Likes to think rather than fight his way outta things. Been that way ever since I've known him. A long time ago, when I first met him, I thought it was mite cowardly, then I learned there was less chance of acute lead poisoning doing things his way."

"Noticed that about him, but there's only so far brains can get you. Just hope he takes care of my son. Matthew's still a bit young to be on his own."

"Jay'll do right by him. Hell, if Serenity's crew gets to sample his cooking, they may not give him back."

"Still prefer Jason and Sarah," said Linda. "Better role models than some of the characters on that other boat. Nothing against Reynolds, him being a war here and all, but the whore and the mercenary ain't the preferred role models for my son."

"Believe she was a companion," corrected Rick. "And the mercenary IS Sarah's father."

"Yeah, and I reckon Sarah'd be the first to agree with my assessment of him. As to the other one, growing up here on Shadow, back before it was New Shadow, the faith we followed didn't teach a distinction between a whore and a whore with a license."

"You're from Shadow? Didn't know that," said Rick, "my condolences. You and your son must not have been here when the Alliance decided to make it the new and unimproved version."

Linda replied by telling the tale of her life up to the point where Jason and Rick and found them. This time, however, she didn't tear like the time she had told the story to Jason. Somehow something had been released then, and now it was just words, painful words, but just words.

"That's one hell of a tale, woman," said Rick. "Most folks'd crack from seeing half the go se you've been through. We get outta this, I'm buying you a drink."

"Why Mister Orlan, are you propositioning me?" asked Linda with hint of a smile.

"Suppose I just did, now didn't I."

"Consider it a date," said Linda. "We live, I'm holding you to it."

The sound of officers barking orders followed by the sound of soldiers running interrupted their conversation. This was soon followed by the sound of one of the troop transports taking off.

"Seem pretty busy for guys that just kicked our asses," said Rick. "I reckon that means a shooting."

"I don't think this was the only camp," said Linda. "There may be other Independents still holding out."

An unnamed man laughed next to them. "Sister, we've got more camps dug into these here hills than mice in a corn field. Before they took us, I saw over a dozen of their transports blasted outta the sky. Your friend out there ain't the only one like to save us before dawn. Few of our people got away and they should be bringing reinforcements any time."

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Sarah and Jason spent the entire morning testing out all of the ship's systems. As the Alliance had already located them once, there was no need to remain powered down, and Jason wanted to be assured that they were set for a quick get away should the opportunity present itself.

Come lunch time, Jason found Sarah eating a rehashed version of the previous nights meal, though when he looked into the pot there was nothing left for him. Rather than pursue the issue, he simply grabbed a protein bar. They ate in silence for several minutes before Jason tried to contact his wayward crewmembers again. Once again there was no response from the com unit.

"Think they're alright," asked Sarah, finally putting aside her annoyance with Jason.

"Starting to wonder myself, they should have at least checked in by now. With the invasion going on outside, the possibilities are less than encouraging."

Jason took Sarah's plate and washed it as the girl went back to the engine room to run some more tests if for not other reason than to keep her mind occupied. He was about to go back to the cockpit when Sarah ran back in. "Jason, someone's outside banging on the 'bay door," exclaimed Sarah.

"Gorramit, who is it now," muttered Jason. As he rose from his seat he instinctively went for his gun, a new habit for him. His hand found an empty holster however. 'Gorram Alliance goons,' Jason mumbled.

In the cargo bay, Jason carefully looked out the small window before opening the inner bay door. He now had one of Linda's assault rifles in hand. On the other side of the door stood a pair of battered looking Browncoat soldiers. Jason opened the doors a few centimeters to speak. "Hands where I can see them."

To Jason's surprise the man and woman raised their hands without complaint. They didn't speak until the cargo bay doors were completely open. "You’re the captain of the two that brought the data?" asked the man.

"Maybe," replied Jason. "Where are my people?"

"Our camp got overrun by the 'Liance this morning," said the woman. "We need your help"

"Care to enlighten me as to why your little revolution is any my concern?" asked Jason.

"Your people got captured. They're to be executed tomorrow with the rest of our platoon."

“Ta ma duh!” said Jason. "Get inside before someone does a flyover and sees you."

TO BE CONTINUED

Authors Notes:

Here we are back in a new year. Like Kaylee and Simon being married, it just seemed to fit that Zoe would have Wash's kid. Mal and Inara were a tough pair to write, but I think I did them justice.

I tend to have my characters evolve as I tell a story. If Jason seems out of character cursing the Alliance, it’s because he is adapting to the 'Verse around him. He still has nothing against the Core or the people that live there, just getting fed up with the military’s heavy handedness.

As usual: It ain’t mine, I just like playing with it. (Does that sound right to you?)

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