BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

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River's Run - Part 3
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mal and the gang run into a little trouble and they need their old friends to bail them out. Meanwhile River makes plans and Inara comes face to face with her past.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1517    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

River’s Run – Part 3

Inara Serra packed the last of her belongings in her suitcases in the cabin on the luxury cruiser as it prepared to lock on and disembark passengers at a space station high above Sihnon. The cruiser was too big for atmo entry, much like the Alliance heavy cruisers, and needed to load and unload passengers, crew, and cargo at this station. From there the passengers received free shuttle rides to anywhere on the planet, all courtesy of the cruise line company.

Inara sat in front of her cabin’s Cortex screen and prepared to do what she had dreaded doing for the last few days, putting it off until the last minute. Secrets destroy lives, that much she knew from hard personal experience. She had to tell Mal what was going on, not only for her peace of mind but because he had a right to know. He wasn’t her husband and maybe never would be, but this thing hanging over her head was too much to bear if it could appear one day and destroy whatever life and happiness she and Mal had managed to find on Shadow.

Inara quickly typed in the Cortex address for Serenity. An Alliance officer answered and after some initial confusion he told her that they were on Taos and Kaylee and Simon were at her father’s home. She said her thanks and immediately sent a second wave. She waited and waited but no one answered and she was about to give up when a disheveled looking Kaylee in a green and purple nightdress answered. The bleary eyed young woman’s grumpy look turned into a bright sunny smile as she realized who was waving.

“Inara! Oh, gosh it’s good to see you!” Kaylee said enthusiastically and then there was a hint of fear in her eyes and Inara knew something wasn’t right.

"Hi Kaylee. Sorry. Looks like I got you in the morning.”

“It’s alright. Time to get up anyways.”

“How are things?”

“Oh, ship’s OK, just we’re here at my daddy’s home for now trying to settle in. We’re gonna use Taos as a base to work on the engine and get it ready for factory production and all that.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear.” Inara waited for her to mention Mal and it seemed like Kaylee waited for her to mention him first and then suddenly they were both speaking at the same time.

“Where is ….” Inara began as Kaylee said. “He ain’t here.”

“Oh,” Inara said with slight surprise. “I guess he is already on Shadow.”

Silence and Kaylee squirmed under her gaze. “Not on Shadow?”

“Not exactly. Oh, Inara, he…we dropped him off on Ariel.”

“What? I just left there three days ago, after Zoe got a new….oh no. He’s not!”

“It’s River,” Kaylee said sheepishly. “They know where she is now and he….he said to tell you sorry!”

Inara was getting steamed now. “He promised me! That…that…man!”

Kaylee nodded. “Yeah, bunch of lunkheads at times, ain’t they?”

“I just knew this would happen! He can’t stay still for one day! Rancher! That’s a laugh!”

“Oh Inara, don’t be so mad!” Kaylee said, very wide awake now and remembering her promise to the Capt’n. “He’s doing it for a good reason. I mean, River is out there all alone.”

“I know, Kaylee, but…but…” and she was starting to calm down a little but the last sounded like she was hurt by his actions. “He promised me!”

“It’s gonna be alright,” Kaylee said soothingly. “He’ll be with Zoe and Jayne and Wash and be just like old times.”

“Except you won’t be there to fix the ship if something goes wrong and Simon won’t be there in case….” But Inara couldn’t say it.

“Yeah,” Kaylee said sadly. “Don’t think on that.”

“He just got pardoned. All of them did! And now they are going to throw it all away!?!”

“For River,” said Kaylee. “River’s in trouble.”

“I’m sorry Kaylee, I know she’s Simon’s sister but Mal…Mal…I can’t lose him!”

“You don’t dwell on that and rub your Buddha’s belly and think positive things and I’ll put in the word with the Lord when I go to church on Sunday.”

Inara was silent for a long moment. “Kaylee, you get word to him. Tell him…tell him…I understand why he’s doing it. And I….forgive him.”

“Be better he hears that from you himself,” Kaylee said.

“Tell him to wave me at the Companion Guild Headquarters on Sihnon.”

“Are you there yet?” Kaylee asked as she keyed into the screen’s memory the wave address Inara told her.

“Soon. I have some things to take care of there and then…I don’t know what. I was supposed to meet Mal on Shadow, but now I don’t know.”

“You’ll know when you talk to him. Inara, he loves you, I know he does. Just…he ain’t the type of man you corral into settling down so easy.”

“Is Simon?”

“Appears to be. Him and space never got along anyways.”

“I’m glad for you Kaylee. And I expect a wedding invitation real soon.”

“Not without River being here and being free,” Kaylee said with determination and Inara was a bit puzzled.

“Kaylee for that to happen…it seems very unlikely.”

“Maybe, but Simon and I talked on it and he say he can’t face his parents till he knows she’s safe.”

“I guess I understand him.”

“What about you and the Capt’n? Any hint of a proposal?”

“Kaylee! We’ve just started a relationship.”

“Jeeze, so have Simon and I and you’ve known the Capt’n longer than I’ve known Simon.”

“He’ll have to ask me first,” Inara said, a bit forlorn.

Kaylee smiled. “He will. You just watch!”

Inara smiled back, a bit forced. “It’s so nice to hear your optimism again. Now we are about to disembark, Kaylee. I must go. Bye.”

“Bye. See you soon I hope.” And after a few more quick remarks Inara was gone.

“Mal’s in trouble,” Simon said in a sing song voice as he sat on the sofa, out of shot of the living room Cortex screen. He was sipping a cup of coffee and handed another one to his wife as she sat down with him.

“Yeah,” said Kaylee as she sat back, smelling the rich flavor of the coffee. “That’s just where he likes to be. He loves trouble.”

*************************************************

“I hate trouble,” Mal said as he cursed for the hundredth time since joining Zoe’s new ship. He was on the bridge sitting next to Wash, looking at a radar screen and pointing out incoming missiles to his pilot. “Another one, starboard!” Mal shouted as Wash threw the ship into a steep left handed turn.

“Gorramn it!” Mal cursed as the missile streaked by them and slammed with a shuddering blast into a cliff wall of the valley they were in. “That was too close.”

“They ain’t using seekers,” Jayne shouted from where he stood and braced himself in the doorway. “We’d be finished by now if they did! That’s the third one and they all missed!"

“They want the ship,” Zoe said from the third bridge chair. “I knew I shoulda picked another name!”

All the trouble had begun earlier in the day. They had gotten the ship ready for lift off, fixing some minor problems over the last day, loading up supplies and food and stowing their gear on board, including four spacesuits, extra guns and ammo. Serenity II also had two shuttles and Mal and Jayne fitted out each with food, water, guns and ammo. Jayne thought he was being silly but Mal was trying to be extra cautious now that he had something worth living for.

Serenity II was not Serenity. The bunks were not as homey yet and the kitchen lacked many things and had a smaller refrigeration space. Wash found a wooden dining table and some chairs but it wasn’t the same and there were no flowers painted on the walls of the dining room. As Mal inspected the engine with the shipyard mechanic the first thing he noticed was the lack of a hammock in the corner and that made him more than a little sad.

The shipyard mechanic had given Serenity II the once over and said it had no major problems and the ship had been inspected just the month before. All the paper work was in order and they were certified ready to fly. Except Mal had an uneasy feeling in his gut. He never flew without a mechanic before. They had put the word out but anyone worth his or her salt wouldn’t fly on an old Firefly. Also, Mal really didn’t want to hire just anyone. The nature of their voyage, possibly getting into a scuffle with the Alliance again, was something a stranger might not take too kindly to.

“I want Kaylee,” Mal suddenly said to Zoe as they stood in the engine room after the mechanic had left.

Zoe sighed. “Can’t have her, sir. She’s where she belongs. Deal was made for her to work with the Alliance.”

“I’m thinking about breaking that deal.”

“No,” Zoe said sternly. “Let her and Simon be. He hired us to find his sister and that’s what we’ll do. Don’t mean we need to start slinging lead at Alliance types again.”

Mal had to grin at that one. “Might be fun though.”

“Sir, have you had your head examined lately?” Zoe asked in mock seriousness.

“I’m sure more than a few docs would certify me as crazy,” Mal said as they left the engine room. Zoe stopped and looked at him.

“Crazy for not telling Inara. You have to tell her something.”

He nodded. “Yeah, guess she’ll be heading to Shadow soon. I’ll send her a wave while we make our way to Paquin. Not looking forward to that.”

But they never even made it out of the Ariel system. Three hours after take off, while Wash was still doing a shakedown run on the ship’s systems, they were suddenly attacked. It was only then they discovered that their radar wasn’t worth a damn, there was no missile lock warning system, and they had no way of knowing that a ship was stalking them.

The first missile flew over the front of the ship and exploded with a flash and the whole ship shook. In seconds they were all on the bridge.

“Alliance?” Jayne yelled.

“No way,” Wash said in his usual calm way when piloting had to be done. “And they won’t answer my hails.” Then Mal picked up the image of a large vessel in the rearward facing vid screens.

“Looks like a Whistler, class 3” Mal said. “Deep space salvage vessel. Ship’s got missile racks and it looks like an EMP mount.”

“Where to?’ Mal Wash yelled as a second missile whizzed by, again barely missing them and exploding to the front.

“There!” Mal yelled and Wash headed down to a small moon, and by the looks of it, it had no atmo or life. “The canyons, valleys, out run him!”

But running didn’t work. Soon after the third missile missed them the EMP found the range. In a sizzling crackling burst of energy the whole ship shuddered and shook and went out of control.

“Brace for impact!” Wash yelled as he made a barely controlled crash landing in a crater the size of a small lake. Serenity II came to a halt in cloud of dust. Suddenly there was silence on the bridge.

“Wash, get me some power and comms,” Mal calmly ordered. “Jayne, Zoe, get your guns and head to the cargo bay. Might want to suit up also. Don’t think this place got any atmo. Seal off the lower deck. You kill anything that tries to board us.”

“With pleasure,” Jayne said with a grin and in seconds he and Zoe were gone.

“Minimal power,” Wash said. ‘Enough for comms. You want to surrender?”

“They ain’t going to let us surrender, Wash. You remember my wife?”

“Saffron? Sure. You mean….oh shit.”

“Yeah. They’ll fry us some more or gas us or whatever. Long as we dead they don’t care. Zoe’s right. They want the ship.”

“Why? It’s just an old Firefly?”

“The name on the transponder,” Mal said. “Bet they got some Alliance equipment that lets them read transponders.”

“Oh cripes. You want to beg for our lives?”

“No. Wave, high burst so they can’t read it.”

Wash hit buttons and then turned to Mal. “Who to?”

“Kaylee.”

*********************************************

Down in the cargo bay Jayne and Zoe prepared some crates for cover and then started to suit up.

“Ship’s landing behind us,” came Mal’s voice over the intercom. At least we have some systems back, Zoe thought as she ran to the intercom.

“Can we take off, sir?”

“Your husband is working on it,” Mal replied. “We got visitors. Count four…five…six of them, all suited up and armed. Be right there.”

Just as Mal arrived Zoe finished getting Jayne in his suit and started putting on hers. As Mal reached for another suit in the locker where they kept them there was a knocking at the airlock door. After a few seconds came a male voice through their comms system and it wasn’t Wash.

“Surrender and we’ll let you live.”

“How in the hell they talking to us?” Jayne asked nervously as he gripped Vera in one hand, a grenade in the other.

“Impulse sound wave,” said Mal as he walked to the intercom, still putting on his suit top as he walked. “Seeks out a sound device on a ship and allows you to set up a make shift comm.”

“Ah, hi,” said Mal as he pressed the talk button. “You all mind telling us what this is all about?”

“You Malcolm Reynolds?”

That was a surprise. “Could be. Who’s asking?”

“Oh, I ain’t anyone special. Just heard Malcolm Reynolds was captain of a Firefly called Serenity. This is a Firefly called Serenity so I figured out the rest. Now give us the ship and we’ll set you all down back on Ariel in a nice out of the way place.”

“Well, I ain’t one to burst people’s bubbles,” Mal said in a light hearted way. “But we just bought this ship and ain’t even made our first cargo run yet, so the hold is a might empty right now.”

“Ain’t here for the cargo. Here for that Frye drive you all got.”

Zoe cursed. “I knew it. Gorramnit, damn fools think were Serenity.”

Mal laughed at the stupidity of it all. “Frye drive? No, you got the wrong ship mister. If we had one of them new Frye drives you think we’d stand still and let you shoot us down when we coulda run away?”

There was a long silence. “Transponder name says Serenity!”

“Serenity II,” Mal said and then they heard a groan. “Alliance got the original.”

“Don’t care. I’ll take the ship anyways. Must be worth something.”

“Not much if it’s full of holes and you can’t fly it off this rock.”

“We’s coming in if you ain’t coming out. Now I can put few holes in this airlock and pump in some gas or you can open it and surrender and that’ll be the end. We take the ship and put you back on Ariel.”

“How I know you boys won’t kill us once you get inside.”

“You got my word,” said the man.

“Well,” Mal said as he shook his head 'no' to Zoe and Jayne. “I guess we surrender. Airlock be open in a jiff.”

Mal turned back to his crewmates and the three suited up and checked weapons. Jayne handed out grenades and then Mal asked, “Ready?”

“Always, sir,” Zoe said and Jayne just grinned in his demonic way. Jayne and Zoe hid behind crates and had weapons out as Mal opened the outer cargo bay doors. After a minute they could heard the men inside the airlock and they closed the outer door. As the pressure built Mal opened the inner door and before it even got a few feet open all three armed their grenades and tossed them inside as Mal hit the control to close the door. One person in a bluish spacesuit managed to leap through before the doors closed and then there were some screams followed by three loud booms as the grenades went off.

As the man in the blue spacesuit rolled to his knees and tried to get up, a boot from Jayne smashed in his helmet faceplate and he went flying back. In a second Mal had his suit glove off and his pistol drawn and in the man’s face as Zoe took the man’s weapon.

“Welcome aboard,” Mal said.

The man was older than Mal, maybe about fifty, white, with a thick gray handlebar mustache. He coughed and blinked plastic shards out of his eyes. “We had a deal,” he rasped.

Mal shook his head. “I never give up anything without a fight.”

“They’s all dead or will be soon,” Jayne said as he opened the airlock and looked inside. Five space suited figures were lying down, all with ripped suits, broken faceplates, weapons strewn about, bleeding, some groaning, others lying still. Jayne walked in and started collecting weapons, keeping an eye on those still not dead, and not really caring if they died or not since they were more than likely gonna kill him and the others in the first place.

Mal tilted up his faceplate and stared at the man who tried to steal his ship. “What’s your name?”

“William Farnsworth,” the man said. “Folks call me Billy.”

“Well, Billy, you call your ship and tell them they can have you and your wounded back once we return to Ariel, a nice public place where they can’t be any missile fire unless you like attracting the Alliance to your type of business.”

“His ship,” Zoe said with a worried look to Mal. “They still have missiles. If they think he’s been captured…them grenades, maybe they saw the flash, or someone screamed into their helmet mic before they died.”

“Well, Billy will just have to convince them he has control of the ship.”

“They won’t believe it,” Farnsworth said. “My number 2…he been itching to take over. Maybe…damn…I’m a fool.”

“What do you mean?” Zoe said, suddenly more worried.

Farnsworth had fear in his eyes. “He thinks I been captured, he’ll take the ship for himself, leave me here to rot….and you too for that matter. Or just blow up this ship.”

Just then they felt the ship humming and vibrating and Wash’s voice came through the comms. “Engine back online, we have power for lift off, Captain. What’s going on down there? I thought I heard a few…grenades.”

Zoe spoke into her helmet mic. “Wash, we’re all OK, wait a moment.”

“Get him to the bridge,” Mal ordered. “Make him make them think he’s got control of the ship and that all is well.”

“Captain,” came a voice and it was from inside Farnsworth’s helmet. “Captain what’s going on over there. Jenkins said he thought he hear someone screaming. You all alright?”

Mal gave him a serious look and pointed his pistol at Farnsworth’s head as the man spoke. “Yeah, we’re OK. They wanted to fight and we had to kill them. Ship is ours.”

“Let me talk to Susie,” came the voice.

Pause. “She’s…dead.”

Long silence, then a strangled voice. “Dead? What…what the hell happened?”

“They killed her…sorry. She was one screaming.”

“She’s my sister!” came a cry. "You…son-of-a-bitch! Who else is dead?!?”

“Just her,” Farnsworth lied.

“Then let me talk to Hallings.”

“He…ah…he’s busy.”

“You always was a terrible liar, Billy. Who’s really dead?”

“Everyone,” Farnsworth said and Mal knew the jig was up and Zoe knew it, too.

“Wash! Take off!” she screamed into the mic.

“Farnsworth, you’re done!” came the voice. “I got no more reason to trust you! The ship is mine! See you in hell bastard!”

Serenity II started to rise and only got a few feet before a the scream of rage came from Farnsworth’s helmet and the salvage ship fired a missile that make it’s quick short journey before it slammed into the rear of Serenity II.

***********************************************

Wash moved the ship up and then suddenly felt a shudder as something struck the back of the ship and then came a shattering explosion from the rear section. Another missile came from above and hit the left engine and in the brief flash of fire and dust Wash could see the engine shearing off and falling to the surface and Serenity II was falling, coming to a shaky landing in the low gravity of this moon. Flames licked at the remains of the left stabilizer wing for a brief moment and then were gone in the low oxygen environment.

Down in the cargo bay they were all throw off their feet and Farnsworth made an attempt to grab a weapon from the stack Jayne had just dropped to the floor. But he wasn’t fast enough and Jayne drilled him through the head just as he was rising with a pistol in hand. Farnsworth would have been dead in seconds anyway as a gap in the rear of the ship by the passenger lounge started venting air and his helmet face plate had been shattered by the kick from Jayne.

“We got a breach!” shouted Zoe as she picked herself up and immediately ran to the spacesuit locker and grabbed the last one, hoping to get it to Wash somehow.

“Upstairs, now!” Mal shouted as he flipped down his helmet face plate and made sure it was tight. They headed topside, fighting the sucking action of the air escaping, clawing their way up the stairs. They reached the second level by shuttle one’s door and just as Jayne was about to head up to the top level Mal grabbed him.

“Can’t do it, Wash has no suit!” Mal shouted through the helmet comms. Wash was stuck in the upper level, which was sealed off from below, but he had no suit and they couldn’t risk opening the upper level doors to join him.

“The shuttle!” Zoe said as she pulled open its door and they piled inside. Mal slammed the door shut behind them and after a few moments made his way to the pilot’s chair.

“Wash! Wash! What’s happening?” Mal said through the helmet comms. "Where’s that ship?”

“He’s gone,” Wash said, a might more shook up than his usually calm manner. Course he wasn’t flying so that made a difference in his demeanor, calm at the helm and not so much when he wasn't. “Guess he didn’t want to waste any more missiles. It's bad though. We got no left engine and a hole in the rear. Where are you guys?”

“Shuttle one, baby,” said Zoe. “We had a little…incident with the boarding party.”

“Ship has vented all lower levels. No oxygen.” Wash said as he stood at the damage control panel behind the co-pilot’s station.

“We’re suited up and in the shuttle,” Mal said.

“How much air this shuttle got?” Jayne nervously asked.

“About 10 hours,” said Wash. “And the suits have two hours each. That gives you twelve hours.”

“Maybe less,” Mal said. "We lost some air when we opened the shuttle door.”

“You got comms, baby?” Zoe asked.

“Yeah, sending a distress signal now.”

Jayne smiled. “No worries. Ariel is close by.”

“Oh crap,” came Wash’s voice. “Ah, we don’t have comms.”

“Say again?” Mal asked in surprise.

“Explosions must have shaken something loose. Cortex and long range radios are down. Working on it.”

“Gorramnit!” Jayne cursed. “Knew I shoulda stayed away from anymore Fireflys! Nothin’ but junk!”

“We ain’t sunk yet,” said Mal. “We managed to get a message out before the fight.”

“Message to who?” Zoe asked. “And are they less than twelve hours away from here?”

“Someone who can get here in less than a few minutes,” said Mal with a grin, hoping like hell Kaylee got his message.

**********************************************

Kaylee was grimy and grease splattered and that was just the way she liked it. She and her father were in Serenity, looking at the FTL engine plans in the dining room, with several Alliance guards nearby. Their orders were to convert the Frye drive to a large model which could work on Alliance cruisers.

“We need to have the plans for an Alliance cruiser,” Kaylee finally said.

“They ain’t likely to give us them. Top secret,” said her father.

“They want this thing to work they’ll give us them plans.”

Just then the officer in charge came in from the bridge. “Message for you, Mrs. Frye. Call from your home, said you had an urgent wave.”

Kaylee and Jonathan looked at each other a bit surprised, not knowing who would wave them and call it urgent.

“I guess I’d better head home,” Kaylee said. “And Daddy, talk to him about what we need.”

Kaylee knew her father would convince them and felt good about their progress as she left the ship. It was parked in a wooded area, in a small field, and an Alliance crew was busy putting up an electric fence around it and soon they planned on some guard towers and other such things. Kaylee felt a little sad, knowing that a ship needed to be flown and was no good sitting on the ground. It’d get all rusty and lose the feel of space and she needed to be flown once in a while.

Two guards automatically fell in with Kaylee as she walked and she quickly told them where she was going. A small vehicle came up to them and the three boarded with the driver. Kaylee and her father were not to be left unguarded for a moment and Simon had a bodyguard who stood outside the door at the small New Shanghai clinic where he started working the day before.

Mary was waiting for her at the house and she looked very worried and Kaylee got scared, believing something terrible had happened to Simon.

She could barely wait for the door to close and the guards were outside. “What’s happened to Simon?”

Mary was puzzled for a moment and then let out a sigh. “It’s not Simon…it’s your friends…from the ship. I saw the address but I didn't open it.”

Kaylee’s heart skipped a beat and she ran into the living room to the Cortex machine. There was a message from the Capt’n, and it was already five hours old, taking that long to come from Ariel to Taos. Even more surprising was that the wave address was a ship called…Serenity! Kaylee hit the play button and sat stunned as her Capt’n talked.

“Kaylee, hate to be a pain but were under attack, been shot down on the…what is it?” Mal said over his shoulder and she could hear Wash say. “Sixth moon of Ariel.”

“Sixth moon of Ariel,” Mal said. “Salvage ship, thinks we’re the real Serenity. They got us with an EMP and they got missiles. Ain’t no atmo here and everything looks fried. We’re working on it but…just in case…you let Inara know I’m sorry and…I love her. And don’t be no hero and try to come out here and rescue us. Just…needed to let someone know what happened. Time to get ready for a fight. We all love you to pieces. Be good.” And then he was gone.

Kaylee was stunned and started to tremble. They were in trouble and maybe were already dead. But no that was silly, it was the Capt’n and Zoe and Jayne and Wash and they got out of more than one scrape. Shot down on a moon with no atmo. This was a might different. And she wasn’t there to help. Not yet anyways.

Mary was asking her what was going on and Kaylee just said it was just a friendly wave and she had to go see Simon and then she was gone. Her guards picked up her fast pace as she crossed one street and down another to the clinic where Simon was working.

A young boy was sitting on the examining table when Kaylee burst in, a woman who was most likely his mother was sitting on a chair holding an infant.

“Is it the damplung, Doctor?” she asked in a worried tone.

“Simon, I gotta tell you something,” Kaylee said in a hurry.

“Oh, hi, Kaylee. One sec, dear. No, Mrs. Davidson, just a minor cold. Keep him warm and out of school and it should pass in a few days. Oh, and make sure the baby is nowhere near him. I’ll write a prescription….”

“Simon, we gotta talk.”

“OK, just a…”

“NOW!”

Simon was frozen by the sound of his wife screeching, her normal pleasantness nowhere to be found. She saw his thunderstruck look, and the looks of the woman and her son, and realized she had lost her cool.

“Sorry, but…it’s important,” Kaylee said in a bare whisper.

“OK dear, what’s happened?” Simon said in a sympathetic tone. But suddenly Kaylee clammed up and eyed the people so Simon quickly got the boy’s prescription and sent them on their way. As soon as they were gone she grabbed Simon in a bear hug and the tears came.

“It’s Serenity. She’s been attacked,” she finally managed to gasp.

Simon was taken aback. “But…where are the guards…I didn’t hear anything. Has anyone been hurt? Your father!”

“No, not our Serenity. Zoe’s! At least…the wave said Serenity,” and then she quickly explained.

“My God,” Simon said as he sat down in his chair by his small desk. “This is all my fault. I…I…sent them after River.”

“Ain’t your fault,” Kaylee said. “They thought it was our Serenity, wanted the engine. If it’s anyone’s fault it's mine.”

They sat in silence for a while. Finally Simon spoke. “Mal said for us not to run off and do anything foolish.”

“Yeah. But I ain’t in the mood to listen to him now.”

Simon looked at her with a steady gaze. “We’ll get in a whole pile of trouble.”

“I know…just…can’t leave them there.”

“We’ll need a fast ship,” Simon said.

“I know where one is,” Kaylee said back.

“Who’s gonna fly it?” Simon asked quietly, not believing they were having this conversation.

“I think we can find a pilot. In fact, I know one who lives with us. At least he used to be, long time ago.”

“Not your…really?”

“Yeah, when he was my age…freighters and stuff.”

“He won’t go,” Simon said with a sudden deflating of his shoulders as he knew the plan would come to naught.

“He’ll have to or they’ll come looking for him again cause I’ll find me a pilot no matter what,” Kaylee said. “Besides it’s only temporary. A rescue mission.”

“Are we really going to do this?”

“Yup. We’re stealing Serenity back from the Alliance. We find the Capt'n and then, maybe, we’ll help go look for River.”

*******************************************

River knew where she was and had fooled the Alliance cruiser by hiding on the far side of Paquin before they realized what had happened or had ships or sensors around to find the Katya. She directed Flying Officer Janice Flowers to land in a wooded area far from any civilization and as the Katya landed the pilot suddenly realized she might be expendable as River gazed at her from the co-pilot seat with the pistol in her hand, still wearing Flowers’ uniform.

“What…what now?” Janice asked in a nervous voice.

River said nothing and then turned and ripped out the transponder box from the control panel and cut its wires off with her knife. For a brief second her pistol was in her lap as her hands were busy and Janice’s mind couldn’t help but flash to the idea of taking it. Suddenly River’s eyes turned to her.

“Bad idea,” River said.

“I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it. You’re going to kill me now, right?”

“No. I don’t kill unless it is necessary.”

Janice heaved a sigh of relief and some tears fell from her eyes. “Then…I am free to go.”

“Not yet. I may still need you.”

“For what? What’s your plan?”

“I’m making this up as I go along. For now the plan is to hide here for a bit. This ship is warm and has food and we are going to power it down and camouflage it so any passing ships can’t find it. We will also search it for tracking devices.”

“Ok…we can do that.”

“Good…are you cold?” River asked as she could see Janice was shivering, River’s green dress and skirt that Janice was wearing still wet and her long black hair was still damp.

“Yes. Freezing.”

“Let’s see if we can find a change of clothes and what food and drink is on board.”

River stood and motioned Janice to stand and walk in front of her. They moved back to the living quarters of the ship. It was smaller than a Firefly and not made for long voyages in deep space. Probably had a crew of three or four River thought as she found only three bunks. She opened the first and a rank smell greeted their noses.

“Man’s,” said River and Janice couldn’t disagree. “Let’s hope some women were on board.”

The next one they got luckier and it was a woman’s and a man’s, shared by the looks of it, with a wide bed and some clothes in a wooden dresser, some pictures on a wall of a smiling couple. After a quick search they found some women’s clothing, dresses, shirts and pants, socks, underwear, and a few towels. The clothes were not the highest quality or the lowest and seemed about the right size, maybe a bit bigger.

“You first,” River said as she stood by the bed.

Janice blushed. “I’m sorry, but I’d like some privacy.”

“No. I have already seen you when we changed before so don’t play shy. Besides I don’t trust you.”

A pause. “You…you…think I’d try something…when you can read my mind?”

“You have been kidnapped and forced to do things against your will by a perfect stranger. My training tells me that you will try anything to escape this situation. You are not trained to hide your thoughts from me but all you need is one second to pick something up and stab me. Now change your clothes or shiver all you like. It matters not to me.”

Janice just stared at her and then slowly started to remove the wet clothing until she was naked in front of River. Janice kept her head down and spoke in a soft voice.

“Now you have seen me bare. There is nothing else you can take from me.”

River said nothing but stared at this beautiful woman and River felt something she couldn’t quite explain, felt a burning sensation and a sense of…something. No, it can't be, its my mind…I’m not right…I need Simon…I need my medicine! Then she snapped out of it and Janice was staring at her.

“Are you…sick?”

“Get dressed,” River ordered and Janice did so, not putting on underwear because putting on a stranger's would be just too sickening. She chose a pair of blue pants and a yellow sweater and white socks.

“Now get on the bed,’ River ordered and Janice almost smiled.

“Are you trying to seduce me? It would have worked better if I had no clothes on.”

River was taken aback and then she saw something in Janice’s mind, saw Janice kissing another women and River was floored by this thought and her face turned red.

“My God,” Janice said in shock, realizing River had read her thoughts and was flushed because of that. “You…are you…like me?”

River shook her head and then grabbed Janice roughly and threw her on the bed and put the pistol in her face. “Nothing at all. I kill people. I’m a trained assassin for the Alliance who has been betrayed by them. That’s who I am.”

Janice gulped in fear but pressed on, finding a chink in the armor of this lovely young woman. “No, River Tam, you are much more. You are a person, with a heart, a body, a soul, like everyone else.”

River gasped slightly and then stood up and stared at Janice, her pistol down, and away from Janice.

"I think you want..." Janice began but River's face turned into a scowl.

"Shut up! Shut up!" she screamed and thrust the pistol at the pilot. "Shut up!" River said softly one more time.

Janice's eyes filled with dread and she kept quiet waiting for her death but it didn't come.

Nothing was said as River grabbed a shirt from the dresser, a man’s shirt. Using the knife she ripped it into long strips and used them to tie Janice to the bed, arms and feet. When she was done she stood and looked at the helpless pilot, who was clearly very scared now and uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry I scared you," River said softly.

"I'm sorry I suggested you were...like me," Janice whispered after a moment of hesitation.

“I don’t know what I am like,” River sadly said after a moment of thought and then began to speak in a quiet tone. “I went to the academy when I was fourteen years old. They told us it was a school for geniuses. But it wasn’t. They trained me for three years to kill people, to be a spy, pilot, comms expert, fighting machine. I had no contact with…with real people. No boyfriends…no dances….no normal life. There was one man I kissed. It was only a short time ago but it seems so long now. I don’t know what I am.” A tear rolled down her cheek and Janice could only feel her heart well in sorry and sympathy for her kidnapper.

“Now you see me, naked before you and bare. I have nothing else to hide,” River said quietly and Janice said nothing. Then River starting taking off the wet pilot’s uniform. In a few minutes she had changed into a purplish flowery dress and green socks. She grabbed all the wet clothes and then went to the door of the bunk and turned around to look at Janice looking at her.

“I’m going to hang these to dry and find some food. Try to get some rest.” And then she was gone, leaving Janice alone with mixed feelings of fear, helplessness, and, strangest of all, growing attraction for River Tam.

********************************************

The shuttle took Inara to the commercial port of the great capital city of Sihnon. It had been almost two years by her reckoning since she had last been here, six by everyone else’s. To her surprise and somewhat embarrassment Paulo was waiting for her as she entered the baggage collection lounge.

Inara composed herself and greeted her husband. “Hello, Paulo, it is very nice to see you again.”

Paulo smiled and his eyes glistened with the adoration he felt. Inara sensed this immediately and knew there was going to be trouble. “Welcome home, dear Inara. I have arraigned for your luggage to be collected and for you to come stay at the mansion.”

“Oh? Does your family still have one? I heard the Chase family had fallen on hard times.”

Paulo forced a grin. “Not quite so hard as maybe you were led to believe. We are still among the oldest families in the galaxy and still have substantial wealth and holdings.”

Inara smiled back. “Well, that is good to know. Perhaps we can forgo some of the debt I owe if things are looking so rosy.”

This time Paulo did not smile. “That is out of the question. The debt is a legal matter and a matter of pride. In fact, I have arranged for us to go to the lawyer's office immediately to settle this matter at once. I’ve also arranged for a public notice for the Cortex announcing our divorce so that my dignity can be restored.”

“Well, there is no sense wasting any time. Shall we?”

Inara’s luggage was collected by some of Paulo’s servants and in a short time they were in a luxurious car heading through the streets of the capital. Inara was lost in memories, staring through the windows at the temples, the towers, the parks, and the people. Paulo remained silent, sitting opposite her in the roomy passenger area, sipping some liquor from a glass, which Inara had declined. After being tricked with poisoned food on the moonbase, Inara was more wary of accepting drinks or food from strangers. Paulo was not a stranger but they had a not so pleasant history together.

Suddenly Inara realized that they were in a more suburban area, and that they were leaving the city.

“Where are we going?” she asked in worry. Paulo laughed slightly, but Inara could see a look of determination in his eyes.

“Oh, you are far too trusting Inara,” he said with a silent rage. “To think I would give you a divorce without meeting the man you are in love with first? My honor couldn’t stand it.”

Oh, merciful Buddha, these men and there gorramn honor! “Paulo, there is no other man.”

“Oh, really? Well, I have done a little research over the last two days and it seems there is a very interesting story going about concerning a Firefly named Serenity and an FTL drive on board. My sources say that this is the very Firefly you were on several years ago before your disappearance. My source also tells me that a dashingly handsome captain named Malcolm Reynolds was in command until he sold the ship to the Alliance to make a deal to save his crew, which included you. And a friend who has nimble fingers with the banking system has informed me that you recently received one million credits into your accounts on Ariel, credits that came directly from the Alliance main military procurement office on Londinium. I am guessing this is the money the Alliance gave Reynolds for his ship.”

“All true, but there is nothing between me and Reynolds. He is just a friend who needed help with some banking. Let it go.”

But Paulo shook his head. “Why pay me now? Why after all these years? I can only guess it is the suddenly wealth from Reynolds, which coupled with your savings from lying on your back all those years has enabled you to pay your debt. Now why would a rogue like Reynolds allow you to take his money? There is only one reason why men are duped by women: love. He loves you and I am guessing by the look of panic in your eyes that you love him.”

“We are not in love! I despise the man! He is a rogue, as you say, and much more.”

Paulo looked at her in puzzlement, almost willing to believe her, but not quite. “There will be no divorce and no settling of accounts until Reynolds presents himself here on Sihnon.”

“What….why?” Inara asked in shock. “We are not in love!”

“Because I don’t believe you and my honor demands it!” Paulo shouted in fury. “To divorce me to marry another man will make me even more a laughingstock! Reynolds will face me with blade in his hand. If he wins and I die, the lawyers will grant the divorce and the debt will be forgiven. If I win and he dies, you remain my bride, and I will take all of your money.”

Inara had regained her composure and was glaring at Paulo. “Then you will die. I have seen Malcolm Reynolds beat better men than you.”

Paulo laughed. “Really? How interesting. I hope he is a good swordsman. I haven’t had a challenge in quite some time.”

“Take me to the Guild House,” Inara demanded. “At once!”

“No, no, no,” Paulo said with a leering glare. “You will remain my…guest…at my mansion, until this matter is settled. And when Reynolds is dead, you will be my wife and restore my honor, or you will join him.”

COMMENTS

Saturday, January 24, 2009 7:47 PM

JONDESU


“Mal’s in trouble,” Simon said in a sing song voice as he sat on the sofa, out of shot of the living room Cortex screen. He was sipping a cup of coffee and handed another one to his wife as she sat down with him.

“Yeah,” said Kaylee as she sat back, smelling the rich flavor of the coffee. “That’s just where he likes to be. He loves trouble.”

*************************************************

“I hate trouble,” Mal said as he cursed for the hundredth time since joining Zoe’s new ship.



I can see that in mind mind so perfectly. Reminds of the first episode.

"The man's psychotic!"

"You are psychotic!"

Friday, January 30, 2009 4:41 AM

AMDOBELL


I can't believe Wash took off knowing an armed ship was waiting to fire on them causing them to be marooned on that moon without atmo. I am also hoping you don't ruin this fic by turning it into femslash. As for Paulo I am hoping Inara has a surprise up her sleeve and gets out of her predicament herself. She isn't weak and we all know she can fight when she has to. It would be so delicious to see her wipe the nasty smug smile off his face! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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