BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

SPACEANJL

The Road to Haven: Chapter 2: In The Maybe World
Friday, June 6, 2008

A WytchAnJL production. Er...what was that? And why is a crazy old man waiting for it?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1971    RATING:     SERIES: FIREFLY

Chapter two: In The Maybe World

Zoë hears her husband's voice - far off and muzzy - calling her name, concerned and urgent but - the damnedest thing - for the life of her, she cannot work out where it’s coming from.

I'm concussed she realises. Also, I’m upside down. She draws a deep breath, filling her powerful chest with it - lets it go again, real slow and easy. No, the ship's upside down... she corrects herself.

But then... something’s really wrong... Serenity can't be upside down - there is no upside down - not out in space. Moving with utmost caution Zoë begins to inch her way along what used to be ceiling but now poses as the floor. Hearing the hull give out another groan, Zoë sure hopes the ceiling won't drop the pretence any time soon.

................................

Further along from Zoë and off at angle even crazier than usual, River Tam's cabin is in serious disarray. The siblings having been flung - and violently - off the bed and hard into the walls. Worse yet, Simon has smacked clean into a cupboard door and mirror. There is blood now on the glass - blood too in his eyes. That would be why I’m having trouble keeping them open he thinks... no, says the calm Doctor inside him - that is because you have head trauma and shock. Through his sticky lashes, he can see the tumbled form of his sister crawling slowly towards him, her features hidden behind two dark wings of hair. Her breathing is pained, winded. Then her head comes up - and for a second the face is not one he recognises, so calm - supernaturally, almost. Simon fights a rising panic.

"River?" he asks stupidly - and then watches as the cabin, the face of his sister - everything - telescopes away into the far horizon and disappears. His head hits the plating with a nasty thunk.

.................................

The exo-platform has spun 180 degrees and then imbedded itself in whatever has hit them. Soft creaking sounds from the metal walls and flooring. Mal collects his wits - which had been making a break for freedom - and clutching a shelf for support drags himself to his hard booted feet, looks out the windows.

"What the -" there’s little point in saying anything else.

The thing that has hit them is still moving, pulling behind a wake of metal fragments from the junk-field – it’s already covered in dull pieces of scrap and iron... and it grows as it moves... the junk sticking to the thing. Whatever it is, it’s also slowing down.

"Asteroid?" Mal wonders, aloud and incredulous.

Jayne’s up by now - gun out and suspicious - he waves it at the window.

"We got hit by a rock?" he asks Mal. Then, as the Captain begins calling out to Serenity, Cobb snaps back at Noakes, covering him. "You ain’t got alarms?"

The old man has staggered to his feet, using the edge of the table as an aid. He hollers blue murder at Jayne, seems angry at the man, not the rock - ball - unidentified niou-se - that you'd think he had a right to be sore at. All the same, Noakes grabs a muscular Cobb arm for support.

"Shepherd?" asks Reynolds.

An affirmative grunt comes from somewhere behind the table - a shock of wild white hair rising into view - if he was about to laugh Mal changes his mind when he sees the pallor on the Preacher's face.

"You hurt?"

The Shepherd shakes his head dazedly -

"I..." he mumbles. With an odd jerk he brings his left hand across into sight. It’s bloodied and the neat grey of his sleeve is soiled. "Bread knife", he says looking down, "just a scratch." He looks back at the Captain, his eyes beginning to clear. "And a bump, Captain - you say something hit us?"

.................................

"A rock, honey, seems like. It reads that way..." Wash, trying to read the scope - upside down, while talking to Zoë, keeps his voice soft and reassuring, it helps - him, a little.

Despite the chaos - the concussion - the confusion - the lurid coloured emergency lights, Zoë maintains her calm.

"Any notion as to why we're upside down dear?" she asks - her voice brittle in the comm.

"Ah... no?" Wash is beginning to get a nasty suspicion though. "That is - I think maybe, we're stuck to – ai ya! - I think this thing's metal Zoë!" The scope is showing a nasty red fluorescence. "Hell of a... Magnetic too... zhe shi shen me lan... - this is insane!"

Still making progress, however awkward along the temporary flooring, stepping over the crud and detritus flung across her path - and some evil looking flickers of wire and cable - Zoë pauses for breath - listening to her husband revving up again.

"What is it?" she finally gets the question in.

"I think it's a ship!" All of Wash’s indicators in the zone marked ASTONISHED.

................................

Jayne is bemused. "Wait - that's a ship?"

Still clutching his arm, Noakes hooting laugh is mocking. "'Course it's a ruttin' ship you - MMphh Gah!"

Naturally Jayne chokes them words right off and Noakes finds himself dangling from the end of Cobb's yard arm.

"Mal?" Jayne asks.

Reynolds, standing by the cabins comm. panel, is equally livid. "You knew that thing was coming here..." he says to Noakes, his voice made all the menacing for its politeness.

Book reaches across to touch Mal lightly.

"That may be so Captain - but the timing... We can't hold him responsible for that."

"Oh, I can hold him all day," Jayne is being considerate. "But I’ll drop him if you really want me to." He adds helpfully.

Noakes lets out a wheezy yelp.

Mal’s already moving onto more immediate concerns, leaning in to the comm.

"Kaylee?"

"Hey, well, thanks for asking, Captain!" Hard to tell if the mechanic’s complaining or not.

"You ok?"

"Right as nine..." comes the bright reply, "little woozy..." - a pause - "hey, anyone tell you we're upside down?"

"Sure you ain’t a LOT woozy?"

Kaylee's incongruous laugh floats back at him.

"S'folk would pay good coin for this kinda woozy Capt'n, but if Serenity ain’t upside down’ then I am. I was in the shower, too."

“Gorram – and I ain’t there to see it,” Jayne don’t realise he’s actually spoken.

"JAYNE!"

"Sorry Mal." Oh, now he does. "Guess I took a blow on the head."

"Only your Ma knows how hard..." Wash can’t resist coming back onto the comm for that.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds is losing his patience.

"OK CREW! We done? This, I do believe, is a situation!" He summons up an emergency reserve of the steady. "Zoë? Tell me you are out there..."

A pause - Mal counts seconds in his head… until he hears,

"Most of me Sir."

"Are you upside down?" Mal asks quickly.

"Most definitely not Sir, but Serenity is."

Shepherd Book moves agilely across the cabin space, despite his pain. "Captain..." he says, concerned.

Mal looks at him.

"I know..." he says quietly, then deliberately upping his tone he talks back into the comm. "How's the head, Zoë?"

"Never was dropped on it, Sir - if that's what you're asking... concussion. You remember concussion, Sir? We're old friends."

Mal smiles at that - thinly, but a smile all the same.

"I surely do...You take your friend along to the med bay now - you hear?"

Another long pause - Mal counts again, measuring the heavy steps Zoë is taking between comm points - and trying to ignore the groans and creaks from Serenity herself - and then Zoë says,

"Doc and the Girl are nearer... I'll check in on them first..."

"Ok, shiny - tell me what you find." Mal lets out a large breath and turns back to Jayne.

"Put him down Jayne," he orders.

Cobb’s clean forgot he’s still holding the old buzzard, throws the old man back into a chair.

"We leavin'?"

"Absolutely - can't be fast enough."

Jayne looks pleased enough at that - but the Shepherd and the old man are scowling.

"Captain," Book picks his words, “this vessel - we should find out more about it..."

"Can’t see reason in that, Shepherd - not unless there's a big fat owner's reward for a missing... whatever fei-oo that thing is."

"It might help our situation to have a few answers Captain." The Shepherd says reasonably.

"Wash, can you get power? Can we fly?"

Comes the sound of Wash grappling with his upside down controls.

"Maybe, if Kaylee can help get us right sided... but there's a problem Mal - magnetic field of some kind, holding us down."

"Can you break it?"

"Well, I - whoa - I mean..."

"Can - we - LEAVE! " Reynolds knows gorram well that Wash is stalling and Serenity's pilot fesses up.

"Ah hell Mal - aren't you even curious?"

"Nope." Why are you?

"Ah, c'mon - would you LOOK at that thing?" Wash - so often the voice of restraint - and retreat - is still a pilot, a flyer first and foremost - and that part of him is sure piqued by the thing that steamrolled them... if it was really a ship... it had to have someone at the wheel...

"That 'thing' near knocked the brains clear out your wife! Curious? No. Hungry, tired, bruised - and mighty..."

"Grouchy?"

"Pissed."

"I woulda stuck on grouchy,” Wash says helplessly, “but I read you, Captain, just thinking we owe to ourselves to see exactly what kind of bowling ball turned Serenity into skittles."

"What kind?" Mal is dismissive. Is he ever NOT? Wonders Wash. "Kind I ain’t interested in. Got mouths to feed, wounds to heal - coin to earn - coin Wash, you remember money? Coz I'm beginning to forget." He swears himself calm. "We patch up, move on."

You sound more and more like fridge magnet. Wash did actually consider that one time – a nice box of them, not hard to make… ‘We patch up, move on.’ ‘Leave no/one behind. Well, ok, maybe sometimes …’ But actually magnets weren’t so easy come by – till now! - and well, ok, maybe that was fortunate.

"Can't do that Sir." Zoe's laboured voice interrupts from the intercom, "not unless you wanna lose the Doctor."

"Huh?"

"He's tore up plenty... and the med supplies are pretty much jello on the floor. That is, I mean - the ceiling, Sir." Zoë reports as she stands in the shattered sick bay. She’s not in a good way now herself, draggin' Simon down – or was it up - to the bay was exhausting. Upside to concussion is the aches and complaints from her head, shoulders and legs getting muffled, she can barely feel her wounds and bruises - Downside being that her hands are beginning to lose their movement - downside is barely feeling anything. Doc's laid out on a cushion tore free and fallen from one of the couches. Zoe's feet are crunching glass and plastic from the main doors.

Stating the obvious – with Mal too busy turning a vicious shade of pale and chewing on his jaw to do it himself - Shepherd Book says,

"Seems likely there'd be medical supplies aboard that ship, Captain."

Reynolds jaw’s still moving back and forth but he manages a gritted,

"Well, then", before asking Zoë "The Girl?"

"Quiet, Sir - not talking. Shock, seems like."

Mal is about to say something else but Zoë has a request of her own. "I may have to go faint soon, Sir, with your permission."

Mal shuts his eyes a beat, turns an exasperated scowl.

“Gentlemen, best suit up again. Looks like we’re going shopping.”

Strangely enough, Noakes don’t seem inclined to protest at their muscling in on his haul. But then, being in a confined space with Jayne Cobb will reorganise a body’s priorities some. Plus - Mal takes another look at the...thing busy gathering trash to itself - plenty of trouble to go around there.

Here was hoping there was a pearl in the midst of that go-se.

..................................

Feels like a slow time later that several EVA suited figures are piling across the void and onto the surface of the iron ball below. Tethered to each other and the line held tight to the Exo-Platform - as they abseil down.

"Watch your feet..." cautions Mal - "I don't want to end up as iron filings on this magnet.”

They can feel the tug on the metal in their suits. Fancier suits would be proofed against magnetic fields - but the only people with fancier suits would be purple bellies - and, it turns out, J.D. Noakes. He was going first -with a promise from Mal that if things go wrong they are like to be using him as a door mat.

It’s pretty gorram clear that Noakes knows exactly what he's been waiting for - and as nest eggs went... well, this is a dilly. But getting inside won’t be easy - and, what with the lack of time and opportunity for Jayne to satisfy his interrogational urges, it’s far from certain that Noakes really knows a way.

Mal hopes Kaylee will come in handy here.

"Ok," Noakes’s voice scratches through the helmet's com-system. "We gotta clear some of my junk away and, like I said, call up a hatch." He has brought an impressive welding kit and some other tools - which, Mal has 'requisitioned' at once. No/one can face Serenity's cargo bay and equipment stores just yet – and it probably ain’t safe to do so.

Noakes is using a pad on his arm to access the Platform's computers. Every few seconds a burst of low frequency energy should hit a desired spot to interfere with the magnetism of the asteroids 'hull'. Large chunks of debris got to be cleared away first though – and for Jayne and Mal this means laborious digging, lifting, drilling. Kaylee – it’s reckoned – will tap into the circuits under the 'skin' of the thing beneath them, the circuits then inflating a tube - creating an airlock through the hull and into the ship. Gonna have to be quick - magnetic fields this strong? Not healthy. And back on the boat, Wash is the only one looking after Zoë and Simon.

Looking almost like a doctor herself Kaylee listens down to the electronic chatter pulsing through the porous membranes beneath the surface, gingerly connecting a palm top computer to thin vein-like circuitry. She’s clearly freaked.

"I ain’t never seen anything like this..." she moans.

"This is our day for - well, it's just a very bad day." Mal - looking at his watch already, checks that Wash can hear them. Kaylee wires up some extra leads - pressing buttons - not easy in the oversized mittens of the EVA suit.

Dangling above her, Noakes is watching it all with interest - and watching him is Shepherd Book. Mal had wanted the Shepherd back on the boat with Wash - but he couldn't order the preacher and Book had had other ideas.

"It was very clever of you," he murmurs to Noakes, as he surveys the junkfield around them, the strange object below and the corkscrew shaped Exo-platform above, stuck quite securely it appears. "The junk-field, to slow that vessel down... the right sort of device to 'land' on it... You must be a very patient man."

Noakes makes with the Hhmmph!

"I had plenty of other things to keep me occupied - the rest was just the mapping and the math."

"I must admit," Book confesses, "that you are not the man you initially appeared to be - or the way the Captain painted you..."

Noakes makes another disparaging sound. "And you Shepherd - are you the everyday Preacher folks are lead to, uh, believe?"

There just is no quick answer to that...

"Ship must be old though..." Book tries another tack, "must've been going fair slow for the 'net' to work."

"Oh she's old," cackles Noakes, "all the way back to the Earth-That-Was."

Book has already considered this - but hearing the words rattles him nonetheless. "An ark-ship?"

"Something like that..." Noakes is still laughing. "Famous old bogie - been travelling on for the longest time - hell, I was just a green bean when I first spotted her."

"What do you expect to find in there?" the Shepherd asks.

"Behind Door no.4?" A narrow glance, "Apart from the most antiquities one man with an appetite for coin ever laid eyes on? I got no idea, Shepherd."

(And a man versed in lies can tell that one.)

"I am so very reassured." This is Mal. Jayne has finished rock humping and the Captain can see the look in his eyes.

"Plunder and coin?" Cobb don’t need to spell it out – just enjoys doing it.

"How many gorram times have we said that before?" Mal is weary of that one. "And there never is… yet here we are again." His head has begun throbbing. "Hurry it up Kaylee."

Kaylee herself feels oddly pressured - her head is aching too and there’s a nasty tumbling feeling in her guts.

"We're getting sick," notes the Shepherd.

Kaylee squeals as one of her tools breaks off and floats away - out of range of the beam from the Exo-platform, it sticks fast and quick to the surface of the ship. Mal feels his inner ears protesting - high whining sounds and a rising wave like roar.

"Not in the mood for this, Kaylee - I don't have the patience to wet nurse you through your girlish tremblings, do your job and get that door open!"

"I'm a mechanic!" Kaylee yells back, "not a bell hop!" punching the offending hatch for emphasis - and damn if with a slow hiss the thing don’t open.

"In years to come Captain," Wash says softly in Mal's helmet, "you will look back and congratulate yourself on your swift and devious use of reverse psychology, convinced you did it on purpose.”

"I DID do it on purpose!" Mal lies with a relieved grin.

"Can I hear you smiling Captain?"

No reply - the comm giving back nothing but the cold.

Oh tactless, tactless man thinks Wash to himself.

But seconds later and Mal has already forgotten Wash's comment - they are moving into the mysterious ship - slipping between the layers of its polymer lining, their tiny figures scuttling across and down - like fleas finding the honey pot of a rich blooded arm.

................................

And Wash? Wash is singing. Little flat, but, hey buddy - you wanna try singing to dinosaurs, it's raw I'm telling you.

"Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, BIRDS in the wilderness...down in Demerara..."

Yeah, flat - all my hits in the key of M. M for morose. Also? M for My wife is unconscious - in the M for Med bay, oh and did I mention upside down?! M for Me, me, me - I want to be on that ship, seeing the old tech - with my new blue eyes, get my flyer’s M for Mojo working. Is that so wrong?

M for Maybe if I just keep distracting M for Myself...

Course, there could just be a way to listen into that thing out there…

Wash looks up and down the tendrils of collision spilt cable.

Catches the eye of a sceptical Dino –

“Watcha lookin’ at me like that for, fella? Huh? I’m just thinking – Captain could use some back-up…”

Wire.

Now Wash doesn’t quite have Kaylee’s natural knack with engines, no, not the big mechanics, but wires – as in wiring - no slouch with the wiring. Plain fact, scares him how easy it is to jack into the system…

– almost there, just reconnect the –

M for Murmurs.

What was…?

Murmurs in the white noise.

M for - my hearing as in, was that M for Morse?

Tuning with an M for manly hand now.

M for "Is there anybody out there?"

Oh well, sure that was actually I but alright, alright. M for Mother of - !

The voice when it comes is unexpected, a burst of static and

"...word in the darkness...reaches of unbeing...beyond the realms..."

All the gorram M's!

M for Maaaaaaaaal! Captain where are you when I need you?

Wash blinks, too astonished even to reach for the switch. There cannot be people on that thing. Not after this long… unless they’ve been breeding…

“Entering the Chinese room.”

“Yeeeahh,” Wash grabs frantically for the scatter of plastic, “the creeping up? Not good! Remember we talked about the NOT GOOD!”

River tilts her head, stares at him, just a hint of something behind the solemn.

“Not people,” she says. “Can’t call them that. Not people. Not anymore.”

COMMENTS

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 3:28 PM

STINKINGROSE


Firefly fridge magnets?

That would be Brilliant!!!!


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