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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Sequel to "The Return" and "The Return Home". River finds herself once more on the run from the Alliance as her friends are scattered across the verse, coming to terms with the new reality of their situation.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1085 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River’s Run – Chapter 1
Third book in a series that started with “The Return”, followed by “The Return Home”. Please read those for any background information.
The third moon of Paquin was a cloudy, rainy, forest covered world, with some farming settlements hacked out of the thick forests on the one main landmass that was surrounded by water. It was not where River Tam had wanted to go. Four days earlier she had broken out of a prison cell on a gunship that was taking her to Londinium for trial and most likely execution for crimes against the Alliance. Her specific crime was stealing the plans to a Faster Than Light drive that Kaylee had built on Serenity, with a little help from some friends in a far off place. Those plans were sent out on the Cortex and now everyone in the galaxy had seen them. This had angered the Alliance to no end because they had wanted exclusive rights to those plans and so River was promptly arrested. After escaping from the cell of the prison gunship, she had killed some of the crew, and exiled the others on a barren moon where they were soon found. She had also freed one other prisoner, James Patterson, who had decided to stay with her since he faced a death sentence from hard labor on mining colony. His crime had been to help Serenity’s crew in a gunfight with the Alliance. Discovered by an Alliance cruiser near Paquin, they had abandoned the gunship for this small shuttle and hoped to escape on foot on the moon below. Two Alliance fighters had put an end to that plan, slamming slugs into the shuttle and shattering its hull and systems.
As the smoking shattered shuttle from the Alliance gunship River had taken over came in through the clouds, she saw an open field amidst the trees and tried to steer her broken machine for that location. She was in the pilot’s seat strapped in tight. She turned and saw James Patterson, lying on the floor of the shuttle, fear in his eyes, the only sounds the wind whistling through the gapping holes in the fuselage.
“Get strapped in!” she yelled. “We’re going to crash!” Paralyzed for an instance, the next he was clawing his way into the co-pilot’s chair, trying to get the straps on.
River fought the ship but the Alliance fighters had done their work and the controls were wrecked, the approach speed was too high and they overshot the clearing. River pulled up, the controls barely responding, and the ship bled off speed, began to shake, and then slowly fell as gravity took over. The stabilizing jets were shot to hell and River barely managed to take the shuttle in for a not very controlled landing in the tree tops. Branches snapped, tree tops were sliced off and the shuttle went tumbling out of control and down to the ground below, just as the two Alliance fighters streaked over head and marked its crash site.
“Simon, we don’t even know where to start looking,” Zoe said to Simon Tam through a Cortex screen in a hotel room on Ariel. Jayne and Wash sat nearby on, all three looking at the screen, still a bit stunned at Simon wanting to hire them to find River. They had just returned from buying the new Serenity with the money Mal gave them from his proceeds of selling the original Serenity to the Alliance.
“She’s on an Alliance gunship. That’s all I know,” Simon replied. “Please. I need your help.”
“What you offering for payment?” Jayne asked as both Zoe and Wash gave him dirty looks. “What? We in business ain’t we? And he’s a customer? Right? In case you all forgot, Mal was the one who got the million credits, not us!”
“I’ll pay what I can,” Simon replied. “We’ll be on Taos. Kaylee is working for the Alliance now and they are paying her well and I’ll be practicing medicine again soon. Besides, my father is quite wealthy. Don’t worry, Jayne, you’ll get paid.”
“Simon, it’s not the money, or the difficulty of the whole thing,” Zoe said. “It’s just…”
Wash stepped in when she searched for the words. “We’ve just got out from under the law,” he said. “And this…this is highly….well, not on the right side of the law.”
Simon was silent for a few seconds as he took in the looks from Zoe that told him she agreed with Wash. “I don’t want you to get in trouble. It’s just…I have no one else to turn to. Is there any way you can search…without raising Alliance suspicions?”
Zoe nodded and grasped at this idea. “We can ask questions, keep our eyes and ears to the verse and see what she tells us of River Tam. And I ain’t taking any money.”
“The hell we ain’t!” Jayne yelled. “You start acting all high and noble like Mal, Zoe, I think I might just find me another crew to ship out on.”
Simon sensed an argument coming on and quickly interrupted. “Zoe, I will pay. You find her or information that leads to her, I will pay.”
Jayne seemed to be satisfied with that answer. Then Wash said something that no one had thought of. “Simon, if you find her, what happens next?”
Simon was a bit surprised at that one. “I…well….I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.”
Wash nodded. “Well, you should. Because if you help her, if we help her, we’ll all be accessories. And you know what that means.”
“Yes,” Simon replied. “I’ll think of something.”
Zoe gave him a sympathetic smile. “We’ll be in touch. Say hi to Mal and Kaylee.”
“I will. Thanks. For everything.” Simon said and then the wave ended.
“He’s off his rocker,” Jayne said as he lay back on a bed. “We’ll all end up in the clink or hanging from a rope for sure.”
“You want out Jayne, you know the door swings both ways,” Zoe said as she stood over him and glared at him.
“Hell, Zoe,” Jayne answered as he sat up. “Them Tams ain’t been nothing but trouble from day one. Ain’t that right, Wash?”
Wash shook his head. “No, that ain’t right, Jayne. Trouble and saviors. They have brought lots of trouble on us, but then again, when I think back, we always attracted trouble even before the Tams came on board. River has saved our bacon a few times, being a well trained assassin and all. And I do recall how she was the one who found Kaylee after the Reavers had kidnapped her, and then snuck into their lair and fought off dozens of them while waiting for rescue. And Simon. Well, Simon has only saved Kaylee’s life twice, plus Mal and Zoe, and pulled lots of slugs and metal out of you, me, everyone.”
“Gorramnit! How many times we gotta say thank you before that debt is paid!” Jayne said in frustration.
“One more time,” said Zoe and Jayne and her locked eyes and Jayne just nodded and Zoe knew he was in for the whole show.
The ten Alliance soldiers spread out as they walked through the forest toward the crashed shuttle’s location. In front was their commander, checking a tracking device, homing in on the crash site in the thick forest. He was a young lieutenant not even three months out of the officer training school on Londinium. Here was his first real assignment, chasing two escaped prisoners who had commandeered a gunship, killed some its crew and released some others. The lieutenant had been warned that one of the prisoners was extremely dangerous. River Tam, 21 years old, from Osiris. Recently arrested for high treason. Now wanted for murder of the gunship crewmen. Their orders were to shoot her on sight. The other prisoner, James Patterson, was an ex-Alliance prison guard. His crimes were classified.
The tracking device homed in and they were close, less than fifty years away now, but the forest was too thickly sown with massive trees, reaching well over one hundred feet, with trunks wider than a man’s spread arms. It was a boreal forest, on a small moon of Paquin that received plenty of rain, and thus had some farming communities, eking out an existence with cattle and sheep which thrived on the plentiful grass in the fields hacked out of the forests. They had to land their ship in one of those fields and hike in to the crash site, the foliage too dense for a landing.
Suddenly one of his men stopped, raised an arm and dropped to one knee. The lieutenant and the rest followed suit. The soldier was pointing and there through the trees, they could see the smoking remains of the shuttle.
“Shoot to kill the girl. The other one, take alive” said the lieutenant, still not quite believing the orders to kill a young woman on sight. He had to trust that those above him knew the situation better than he.
They slowly approached the crash site, all tense, weapons out and ready. They moved from tree to tree, looking for trouble, but none came. There was silence from the wreck. The lieutenant was the first to the clearing the shuttle made as it came down through the trees. Lying on the ground was Patterson, sitting propped against a tree trunk and some cushions taken from the wrecked shuttle. His left leg was twisted at an odd angle, blood came from a cut on his forehead, and his face was filled with pain.
“Where is she?” the lieutenant asked after he and his men searched and found no sign of River.
‘Gone,” Patterson said through gritted teeth. “Lucky for you.”
The soldiers looked at each other in puzzlement. “What do you mean?” one asked.
Patterson would have laughed if he wasn’t in such pain. “You’d all be dead if she had stayed.”
“There are ten of us,” said another.
“It doesn’t matter. She’d win.”
The lieutenant looked at Patterson’s leg. “Give this man some aid” he said to the team medic and the medic bent and began to work.
“You’re not going to kill me?” Patterson asked in surprise.
“No, Patterson. You still have to pay for your crimes, whatever they may be” the lieutenant said. “Now where did River Tam say she was going?”
Patterson grunted. “You don’t want to chase her. You don’t know what she is, what she is capable of. I’ve seen her in action. She’s…unstoppable.”
“Where is she going?” the lieutenant asked again, his anger rising.
“She’s running. And you’ll never catch her.”
Trees zipped past River in a green blur as she sought to put distance between her and the Alliance squad that was now at the crash site. She had sensed them coming, had felt them searching for her and the ship. She wanted to fight, to kill them all, but Patterson was injured and there was no way he could walk out of these woods without assistance. He would just slow her down and she knew he would die without medical attention. A quick assessment told her that they would most likely not kill him. He hadn’t killed anyone on the gunship and his crimes were minor compared to hers. Perhaps he could survive on the mining colony where he was scheduled to be incarcerated. That was his only real chance now anyway. For a small moment River had actually thought of killing him so he could tell them nothing about her, but Patterson had saved Kaylee’s father and had been a friend to Shepherd Book, so she quickly put that thought aside, said a quick goodbye, and she could see in his eyes he understood what she was doing and then she was gone.
Where to was now a matter of guessing. She knew there was a village or farming community of some type nearby, but she had no way to navigate in these forests and did not know the way the sun of this system rose and fell on this moon, how long day and night were, or anything at all. All River knew was that it was a moon of Paquin and there had to be some kind of spaceport for ships to come and go.
Then there was some light ahead, a clearing and River knew she was coming to the place she had tried to land. Suddenly thoughts filled her head, a woman’s voice and thoughts. She stopped and checked her pistols. River was dressed the same as the last few days, in a light green shirt and green skirt, her black combat boots. She had her two 9mm pistols, 15 rounds each and some extra clips. On her back was a backpack retrieved from the shuttle. Inside it were some water bottles, instant food packets, a small medical kit, and her extra ammo. She needed a shower and had numerous scratches, cuts, and bruises from her crash landing.
“I hate waiting,” said a voice in her head and River could sense the direction it came from. “Where the hell are they?”
She slowly moved from tree to tree and then she could see something metallic through the trees. There was a small shuttle, not much bigger than the one she had crashed in. Standing outside and pacing was a woman in an Alliance pilot’s uniform. She had her helmet off and her long black hair in a ponytail. She was about River’s age, medium height and build, and was obviously impatient at waiting for the soldiers. As River watched she took out a communicator.
“Red Fox, this is the Nest, over,” the pilot said into the comms device.
“Red Fox 1, check,” came the reply from the lieutenant in charge of the ground team.
“Status report, Red Fox 1.”
“Site secure. One prisoner alive but injured. Preparing him for evac now. Second prisoner, female, missing and assumed armed and highly dangerous.”
“Roger that, Red Fox. ETA to my six?”
“Approximately ten to fifteen minutes, over.”
“Roger that, Red Fox. Report in when on the move. Over and out.”
The pilot then went inside her ship but left the door open. She had just settled in the pilot’s seat and was about to contact the cruiser Saratoga high above them when she felt the cold steel of a pistol muzzle press against her neck.
“Do you want to live?” River said very matter-of-factly.
Slowly the pilot nodded yes.
“Good. Now fly me to the nearest space port.”
“It’s no good. They will track us, find you.”
“Let me worry about that. All you have to do is fly.”
“Are you going to kill me?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“Are you going to give me any trouble?”
“Good. Let’s go.”
Deep in the woods the team had final gotten Patterson on a portable stretcher and was on its way out. As per orders the lieutenant contacted the pilot.
“Nest, this is Red Fox. Over.”
No answer. He tried again and again but there was no answer. They got to the clearing and he finally understood why. The shuttle was gone.
“Gorramnit!” cursed the lieutenant.
Patterson was loopy on morphine. He laughed and grinned at them. “Told you she was good.”
“Sir, we can contact the cruiser, right?” asked a young soldier.
“Not with this,” the lieutenant said as he held up his small comms device.
“What are we going to do, sir?” asked the medic. The lieutenant looked and saw a house and barn of a farm off in the distance.
“Let’s go find out how friendly the neighbors are,” he said and pointed toward the farm. As they started walking toward the buildings it began to rain, making the walk all the more miserable.
“Zoe said she would do what she could,” Simon told Kaylee as he rejoined her in the dining area of Serenity and sat at the table where she was sipping some tea. They were on their way to Taos and Simon had just sent a wave via the machine in Inara’s shuttle. Serenity was alone so no one was tracking wave transmissions this time. If the pilot’s asked or any of the other Alliance personal got nosy, Simon was sure Mal would tell them to mind their own business.
“We’ll find her, I’m sure of it,” Kaylee said to reassure her husband. God, they were married now! Well, married in the legal sense, but a proper wedding and honeymoon were still on the agenda. “Simon, is my mother’s wedding dress still…”
“Yes, it’s in Inara’s shuttle. Hanging by itself where her clothes used to be.”
“We should make some plans,” Kaylee said, hoping to take his mind off of River.
“Plans for what?” Captain Malcolm Reynolds asked as he entered from the fore hall and went to get some coffee.
Kaylee grinned. “Our wedding.”
“Oh, right,” Mal said in a sarcastic way. “Now that you two are all settled in, working for the great Alliance, pardoned and all that stuff, I guess life can go on.”
Kaylee and Simon looked at each other in surprise. “What’s wrong, Capt’n?”
Mal just sighed as he sat at the table with them. “Nothing. Didn’t mean to cast a cloud on your happiness. Just…something ain’t right with all this.”
“Mal, we haven’t given up hope of finding River. I contacted Zoe and she said they would keep an open eye for news.”
“Doc, don’t go dragging them into this less they know what they’re getting into.”
“Zoe knows,” Simon said. “She won’t get directly involved. Just, I need to know something. I can’t face my parents without knowing River is safe.”
“Simon, River did what she did for us, so we all could go on with our lives,” Mal said in his most serious manner. “You know I ain’t gonna forget that. But all she did will go to waste if you and Kaylee jump back into the fire with her. You two get to Taos and do what you gotta do. Staying out of trouble is best you can do for River.”
“I can’t give up!” Simon said in frustration and anger.
Mal put down his coffee cup. “Didn’t ask you to. But maybe you think River doesn’t want you to look? Maybe she wants to be alone, let some time pass, let things calm down. And when she is good and ready she will contact you.”
“The Alliance will not stop looking. We were gone for four years and they didn’t stop looking,” Simon said in despair.
Mal knew he was right and he felt those old feelings again, just before a fight started, yet there was no one to fight this time. Something was bothering him, a feeling he couldn’t explain, like an itch you can’t scratch. Going to Shadow, settling down with Inara, while it all sounded great, fact was, Mal knew it was something that, well, just might have to wait.
“You two go to Taos, you do what Alliance wants,” Mal said and then said some words he knew he would regret later. “But let others do the looking and the finding and the fighting.”
Kaylee felt her heart soar at these words. “You mean…you, Capt’n?”
Mal ignored her direct query but did answer indirectly. “She’s gonna be mighty sore at me, Kaylee. You gotta make her understand.”
Kaylee understood who he meant. “I will. She will.”
“Good girl,” Mal said and turned to Simon. “Now, where was Zoe at when you had that chat?”
Inara Serra was on her way to Sihon, aboard a luxury cruise ship, in a stately cabin befitting a woman of her wealth and beauty. She had withdrawn a nice sum from her savings and decided to splurge, to let herself feel comfort and luxury once again. After a long bath and a glass of wine, Inara dressed in her finest clothing she had bought from Serenity, and settled down in front of the Cortex screen in her cabin. She typed in a wave number on Sihnon and waited a few moments. On screen came the face of a handsome man, about 30 years old, with dark features, brilliant blue eyes and a thick moustache. He was stunned for a moment and then anger clouded his face and he found his voice.
“Why Inara, this is a surprise,” he said coldly.
“Hello, Paulo. How have you been?”
“Let us dispense with any small talk, Inara. We are long past that. I thought you dead after all these years with no contact. It has been what, more than five years since we last saw each other? I had heard you had stooped to a lowly position as a traveling Companion on a Firefly. Yet now I can see by the wave address you are traveling on a cruise ship. Fortune must have been good to you. I see you have kept your beauty despite the years and your…profession.”
She smiled in the way she did when angry but trying to hide it, a smile Mal had seen many times. “Oh, Paulo, you know my profession requires a lady such as myself to maintain her beauty.”
“Yes. Have you taken any steps to…to rectify our situation?”
“No, I haven’t. I told you years ago that it will cost you, a great deal. My parents are dead but the shame of your actions and the cost to my family can only be repaid with the sum agreed to many years ago. Are you prepared to pay it?”
“I am,” Inara said and she could she the surprise on his face.
“The whole sum?”
“Yes, plus interest for the last fifteen years.”
That also shocked him. “When….when can I expect this to happen?”
“In a few days I will be there, on Sihnon. Please prepare the necessary legal documents.”
He was taken aback for a moment. “Why now? Why after all these years do you care so much?”
She would not tell him, knew him well enough that he would blackmail her for more money if he knew the truth. “I’m retired now, Paulo. I am an instructor with the Guild. I have sufficient savings to end this matter and decided I do not need this reminder of my past. I’m sure you too wish to get on with your life.”
“Yes. Of course. I will have the papers prepared.”
“Good,” said Inara within a dazzling smile. “In a few days it will all be over. We will be officially divorced.”
Admiral Shin, commander of the Alliance fleet, sat in his office at fleet HQ on Londinium. He was uneasy with this whole Serenity business. He would have liked nothing better than to throw Malcolm Reynolds into a deep dark prison and force the Fryes to work for the Alliance or die. But his hands were tied and Prime Minister Blakely was calling the shots. This galled him as much as it had galled Adam Cutter, the former High Chancellor of the Alliance, now deceased, ripped to shreds at the hands of the Reavers he helped create all those years ago on Miranda.
It was a fascinating story, the fate of Miranda. Now they were trying to “cure” the Reavers, to make amends for the past mistakes. Professor Stanley Drummond’s daughter, Angela, was the lone example of a “cured” Reaver so far. An expedition to the planet was in full progress, with tracking teams and non-lethal suppression equipment being used to find and capture Reavers. The initial reports looked promising. Some Reavers had been killed but many were being captured. Colonel Justin Powers was in charge and he knew how to take care of business. Reports from the fleet said he had stood up to Admiral Byrd and supported Reynolds when he took over Serenity again. Byrd would never forgive Powers but Powers was the type of man who didn’t care anyway.
Now to new matters, thought Shin. A new High Chancellor to replace Cutter. Maybe they should just eliminate the position altogether. Or appoint a political lackey who would bend to the military’s rule. No, Blakely would see through all that. The Constitution of the Alliance called for a separate military and police force, each to balance against the other so neither became too strong. The populace supported this. Their history books of Earth’s conflicts showed that when both the police and military were under one control, dictatorships soon followed, as had happened in Italy, Germany, Russia, and many other nations in the 20th century. The only way was to submit a list of likely candidates to Parliament to have one of them approved.
The other pressing matter was the fate of the students who had graduated from the academy on Athenian Island. River Tam’s classmates they were, assassins all according to the reports. Shin had heard rumors and had found a source in the Prime Minister’s office. The reports had been fascinating to say the least. Cutter had built and operated a school whose sole purpose was to turn out assassins. Tam herself was now a fugitive again, escaping from a prison ship, surviving a crash landing on the third moon of Paquin and so far eluding pursuit. Where were the rest of the assassins?
Shin pressed a button on his comms console for his assistant. “Captain, get me General MacCready, the Prime Minister’s military liaison.”
After a few minutes MacCready was on the line. “How can I help you Admiral?”
“This school on Athenian Island. I’ve read the reports. What is being done about the students who have graduated?”
“Admiral, this is not a matter for the fleet to be involved in.”
“General, I know you enjoy a certain position of trust with the Prime Minister, but remember that she is a politician and may very well be out of an office come next election. You and I however, are military men and will still be here when she is gone. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Admiral. However, I am under strict instructions not to discuss this matter.”
“One of these former “students” of Cutter’s has gone rogue. We need to bring in the rest before there is more trouble.”
“We are already working on that Admiral.”
“How, may I ask?”
“The Prime Minister…” MacCready started but Shin sharply interrupted him.
“Now you listen very carefully, General. This is a matter of state security. The Ministry of the Interior is in chaos because of Cutter’s death. We do not have a replacement yet and may not for some weeks. Decisions must be made and the military will make them until the politicians get their heads out of their asses. Blakely need not know this conversation ever took place.”
There was a long silence.
After a short grunt came the reply. “All of the subjects were implanted with subliminal messages. One was to contact the Ministry of the Interior to be reassigned. Currently, 24 have checked in and ordered back to Londinium. From there we will return them to Athenian Island for deprogramming and then they will be returned to their parents. That is all I can tell you.”
“Where on Londinium?”
Another pause. “Blackburn Mental Hospital.”
“Thank you, General. I won’t forget this. Good day.”
Shin sat back on his chair and grinned. Now I have 24 assassins to send after one assassin. River Tam, you will not escape this time.
Saturday, January 3, 2009 1:50 AM
Saturday, January 3, 2009 6:56 AM
Saturday, January 3, 2009 7:56 AM
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