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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
River's possessor takes hold and violence ensues.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 858 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Inara took a deep breath as she approached the border of town, and coughed immediately. The ash and smoke was thicker here, and the frequency of emergency vehicles flying toward the fires in the east had increased significantly. Slowing the mule, Inara crossed from open land onto a road circling the town. The streets were vacant and local vid-casts warned residents to stay indoors and boil water before drinking it. It was not a primitive settlement, but it was relatively small. She would be pegged immediately as an outsider.
She’d wrapped a scarf over her head, across her nose, and mouth, and she wore protective goggles. One of these days, she’d convince Mal to get a covered vehicle, but most of the planets they were on didn’t have heavy smoke or rain, and the windows would probably be chronically shot out anyway.
The crossover from wilderness to civilization was remarkable. Suddenly, the grass was two shades greener and well manicured around every polished marble building. The streets were elegantly arranged, drawing one naturally inward to the city center. Monuments to the Alliance marked the architecture, shining pristinely. Every dark wood park bench or picnic table looked both inviting and sterile. It was a world Inara had grown up in, loved, and left. Instinctively, she twisted the wedding ring on her left hand. Then she pulled it off and tucked it into her bra. This place had felony written all over it and she would not lose another ring. Plus, the distinguished ambassador card worked much better without having to explain a husband – especially one of Mal’s standing.
She crossed the residential zones into a commercial district, and a shopping plaza that went on for miles – a string of restaurants, a clothing district, electronics. A few shoppers braved the haze, on missions deemed too urgent to wait for the smoke to clear.
Entering the industrial district, Inara chose a building with a medium-sized warehouse and the word ‘Supply’ engraved on its austere and unassuming sign. She locked the mule, walked into the service entrance, and pulled out the list Kaylee had made for her. The service area was nothing more than a small desk, with a line of open shelving behind, separating it from the stream of conveyors in the warehouse.
“Git, you!” a clerk hollered, coming from the warehouse area and shooing her away. “We don’t serve outsiders here!”
Inara unwrapped her scarf and brushed the ash off her eyelashes. The necklace she wore was a Guild trademark, but she didn’t expect him to recognize that. He seemed very simple and blue collar.
“Forgive me,” Inara said graciously, ignoring his rebuke. “I am in need of supplies.”
The clerk eyed her, and crossed his arms, squaring his shoulders self-importantly. “Guild, eh. We don’t serve your kind either.”
Inara was impressed, but not pleased. “I’m not here on business.”
The man kept eyeing her, chewing the inside of his cheek, thinking. He was intrigued, but it wasn’t for meeting a companion. “You came on a ship? Is it broke?”
“Why would you think that?” Inara said disarmingly, though the warning bells blared in her mind. She was starting to wish she’d left her ring in place. “My … son broke his arm. I’m in need of medical supplies.”
“A whore with a kid. Ain’t that something,” the man laughed haughtily, then pointed to a catalog chained to the desk. “Lady, this is a maintenance and repair operation. We don’t sell splints or drugs. You can go down the street to Heller’s, but he don’t serve whores either.”
Inara looked at Kaylee’s list again. She couldn’t expect much help here, and she also did not want to reveal the extent of Serenity’s damage. She tore off the top ten items and laid the list on the counter.
“I require these items.”
The clerk snarled. “Maybe you’re not hearing correctly –”
He froze as she reached into her coat for the coin, thinking she was going for the gun holstered under her shoulder. She had to give him credit – he was tense, but not panicky.
“You want to solve this with violence,” he growled.
Inara found her bag of coin, separated enough to cover the items on her list plus ten percent, and dropped the money on the table.
“Not particularly. I will return for my items in one half hour. “
“What the hell is this?” Mal asked as Genny and Kaylee came to the bridge like a whirlwind proclaiming success. Genny had collected ten handheld computer pads and attached them to a rod with vice clamps so they stood in a row like a gorram choir. They were all wired into the circuit board she’d spent the afternoon working on, which was housed in an apple box. Genny carried the rod with the handhelds and Kaylee held the apple box and supported the wires between them.
“This is phase one,” Kaylee said, setting the apple box on the console and clamping the rod with the handhelds on top.
Genny started checking the cables. “This is the power of portable networking devices on a world with decent broadcast signal. So long as we’re in range, we can access any surveillance system on world.”
The girl unplugged the keyboard from the main console and attached it to her contraption, then keyed in a few commands. On two of the handhelds, he saw a radar map of the world. Genny pointed to a blue dot. “That’s us. It’s safe to say the locals know we’re here.”
A few more keystrokes brought a wide view of the planet system. “There are six satellites that we can tap into. Anything they’re seeing, we can see too. I didn’t have time to decrypt any more.”
“Six is plenty,” Kaylee said resolutely, placing an encouraging hand on the girl’s shoulder. Genny shrugged her off and bit her fingernails, clearly frustrated with the sluggish response of the system. Mal was simply amazed and eager to test the new system.
“We can’t control where they look?” Mal asked.
Genny’s confidence faltered a little more. She looked at Kaylee, and Mal took that as a no.
“How about communications?” Mal asked.
Genny pointed to the handheld farthest to the left. “This one is set up for that. It’s also getting the signal from the outside camera.”
“Can I see?”
Genny shrugged and entered the commands, bringing up a picture of grass and cracked dirt.
“We only had the one with wireless transmit,” Kaylee explained. I put it under the nose so we could see for take-off and landing. The rest will be attached for phase 2.”
Mal recognized the multi-phase plan as something Kaylee had imposed to help Genny deal with the sizable task.
“How long do you need?” Mal asked
Genny blew air from her lips and chewed her nails again. Kaylee swatted her hand to stop her.
“We’re waiting for supplies,” Kaylee said.
“I’ll have the rest soon,” Genny promised quietly, keeping her eyes on the keyboard. Mal nodded, watching the screen intently, trying to figure out where the satellites were pointed. Genny stood, offering him the seat, then briefly explained the commands he needed to navigate. Mal had never heard her so timid.
“Can I freeze an image?” Mal asked.
“Maybe,” Genny whispered.
Kaylee smacked Mal upside the head and he looked back in annoyance. Then he looked at Genny. The girl bit her lip trying to convince one of the handhelds to take a screen capture fast enough to make a difference. He hadn’t meant to put pressure on her; he’d just wanted to know what he was working with.
Mal tapped her shoulder, and she looked at him wearily.
“Give your eyes a rest,” Mal said. “Go get some supper.”
She didn’t move. Kaylee looked sternly at Mal, demanding more on behalf of her daughter. Forcing an encouraging smile, he pulled Genny into a one armed hug and kissed the top of her head.
“You’ve helped plenty, little miracle worker,” he said warmly, and she melted against him. Counting the hours, he figured she should have been not only fed, but tucked into bed by now.
As soon as Genny was gone, Kaylee opened the paneling under the main console and started extracting all the fried parts that needed fixing. Mal ducked his head under the console. He wanted to be encouraging, but tact had never been his forte.
“She’s not as sweet as you,” Mal joked. “She tries, though.”
Kaylee bit her lip and kept working. “Any other day, you can talk to her like that, but she’s seen too much today. You will remember that she’s a little girl.”
Mal took the rebuke in stride, and kept quiet long enough to show that he wouldn’t make excuses. When it came to protecting her children, Mal believed Kaylee capable of fierce violence.
“We have steady power to the Infirmary and the guidance systems. Sky is working on gravity. Navigation assist will come with the next computer fix. How much of the hull did Jayne get done?”
“He was tolerance testing last I knew. I need you to check the patch on the port side.”
“Sky will see it when she’s working the grav line.” Kaylee took a deep breath and gathered the parts she’d liberated from the console.
Mal could see the heaviness of the day weighing on her, and he knew her strength was waning. He tugged her wrist, pulling her into a hug, just like he’d done for Genny.
“Good work, mei mei.”
Kaylee smiled and rolled her eyes. “Nice try, Captain.”
But he didn’t let go of her, and her smile grew.
The monitors on River still chirped as slowly and steadily as when she was sleeping, but her eyes were open. Her chest rose and fell sharply, as shallow breaths replaced the smooth steady ones of rest.
“River,” Simon said softly, standing to examine his sister. She did not turn her head to the sound of his voice. Her eyelids twittered like she was trying to close them, and Simon thought for a moment, he was seeing some strange sleep-walking phenomenon. But then, she wasn’t sleeping; she was medicated.
River sat up suddenly, nearly bumping heads with Simon. Zoë jumped to her feet, scrambling to kick her papers out of the way.
“Her eyes are completely black,” Zoë said breathlessly.
“That’s because she’s sedated.” Simon furrowed his brow, unsure of what was going on.
“She’s sitting pretty good for that,” Zoë chuckled nervously.
River’s eyes closed again, but she remained sitting. Ten seconds later, she opened her eyes, and this time the pupils responded appropriately, shrinking in response to the light. Simon touched her face, but she didn’t respond. He pressed her shoulder.
“Lie down,” he instructed, pushing her shoulder back.
Her arm flailed and she whacked Simon across the cheek in the same way she had the first time she woke up in the Infirmary. Caught off guard, Simon stumbled backward, and Zoë rushed to catch him before he fell on Michael. He found his feet and rushed to control her.
River raised her hand and smacked him again, knocking him into the wall so hard he saw stars. Zoë stayed protectively between River and Michael, but screamed for her father. Ignoring them both, River pivoted slowly until she found the door, then walked out.
“Tranq her,” Simon ordered Zoë, wincing as he forced himself to sitting.
“Like it’ll help!” Zoë carped, but she found the tranq gun and chased River into the hall.
Sky’s heart beat like cannon-fire when she heard Zoë scream for Mal. She’d been outside, checking the patch around the grav line and preparing some choice criticism for the work, but as soon as she heard the scream, she dashed inside, hand already on her weapon. Listening carefully, she waited for another scream so she could localize the commotion, but none came.
River stepped purposefully into the cargo bay, slowly surveying the room. Her movements weren’t languid and graceful like they usually were. Every turn was mechanical and purposeful. Her tight, black pants revealed every jerky motion of her knees, like she couldn’t remember how to walk, and Sky wondered if there was some neurological damage from being nearly dead a few hours ago. River’s eyes focused on the open door and she strode forward. Half way across the cargo bay, she stopped and surveyed again. Sky wasn’t sure what to do.
Zoë dashed in a few paces behind.
“Are you alright?” Sky asked her.
Zoë pointed to River. “Stop her.”
Sky spun around. River stood in front of the weapons locker now, tucking firearms into the waist-band of her pants and covering them with her tattered, yellow sweater. Then she headed for the back door. Sky dashed forward then jumped, launching herself onto River’s back. The move propelled both sideways into the wall. River’s head smacked against Sky’s already bruised face, and Sky’s vision went spotty.
They tumbled to the floor and Sky yanked one of the two guns out of River’s waist-band and tossed it aside. River struck back, driving the heel of her hand into Sky’s nose, nearly breaking it. Sky snarled viciously and elbowed River’s temple, rolling to get a better grip. She’d nearly gained the upper hand when River, by some feat of magic, found the leverage to launch Sky three feet through the air and into the opposite wall.
Hearing the footsteps of reinforcement, Sky leaned heavily on the wall, and sank to the floor.
Mal charged down the stairs as Zoë ran up.
“Aunt River,” Zoë cried. “She’s possessed!”
River lorded over Sky, kicking her chest, gun in hand. Sky’s hand curled over her own gun, waiting out the punishment for the opportunity to strike again. When she heard Mal’s approach, she released her weapon and brought her hands up to block the kicks.
Mal sped toward the tussle, tackling River sideways drawing the fight toward the center of the bay. River rolled away easily, and Mal stayed light on the balls of his feet, ducking every swing. He didn’t like that she was possessed, but he did appreciate that whoever had taken her wasn’t as good a fighter. River wouldn’t be taking wild swings at him. Mal threw a punch that connected and knocked River to the ground, but she didn’t stay there. He heard the clank of metal, and froze as River pulled a gun and aimed it at him.
Zoë ran onto the catwalk, tranq gun aimed. Before Mal could shout a warning, Zoë fired. The shot connected with River’s shoulder, and River turned and fired her gun at Zoë, but missed. She took aim at Zoë again, but Sky sprang in from the side, kicking the gun out of River’s hand. The shot went wild. River pushed Sky, slamming them both into the wall. Sky fell unconscious, and River pulled another weapon and took aim at Sky.
Swallowing any hesitation and focusing only on the danger, Mal drew his gun and aimed at River.
The world froze.
“River!” Simon cried, running into the room, cheek bleeding.
Mal held up his hand. “Stay back, son. The last thing we need is a hole in you’re chest.”
Simon looked at him, eyes desperate, pleading on behalf of his sister. River surveyed the quiet of the room, gun still trained on Sky. She looked curiously at the weapon in Mal’s hand.
“You would kill her?”
Mal took it as a threat on Sky. “I would kill you.”
River laughed eerily.
“You care for her too much to do that,” River taunted, then nodded toward Simon. “Well, he does.”
Simon took a step forward, but froze when River’s hand twitched on the trigger.
“Is she coming back?” Simon asked tentatively. “Is River coming –”
River scoffed critically and aimed her weapon at Simon to ward him off. “Would you have her? Even after –”
River cut off arrogantly and swung the weapon back to Mal, threatening to pull the trigger. Mal raised his hands in surrender and tensed. He circled wide and slow, drawing River’s angle just enough, hoping his angels on high took the hint.
A loud shot echoed as Jayne, on the catwalk, shot the gun right out of River’s hand. The gun exploded on impact and they all ducked. River rolled away, wiping her bleeding hand on her sweater, and pulling another weapon out of her belt. How many had she taken?
Jayne ran downstairs, coming to Mal’s side. Both Mal and Jayne had their weapons on River now. Mal glanced at the catwalk. Zoë had traded the tranq gun for a rifle and took aim.
River took a threatening step toward Sky, but froze when Jayne growled.
“One step closer, and the next bullet goes between your eyes.”
River raised her eyebrow approvingly. “He would kill me.”
She looked to the bay door and backed out slowly. No one wanted to shoot her, and she knew that. They let her go.
Monday, December 15, 2008 8:12 PM
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