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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Things come to a head as Shin makes a fateful decision, Powers makes plans, and Mal once more sets foot on his beloved old Firefly.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1159 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River’s Run – Part 9
Simon had seen plenty of angry people in his day. His father, for one, when Simon had wanted to abandon his career to help his sister escape from the hands of the Alliance. Malcolm Reynolds for another, a man who punched him twice in the face within a day of meeting him. Then there was Jayne Cobb on occasion, assorted ruffians such as Stitch Hessian, and now one very pissed off former colonel of the Alliance, Justin Powers.
“Start explaining yourself, all of you,” he said in barely suppressed anger, to Simon, Kaylee, Oren, and Derek Bowen, as they sat at the dining table, Bowen handcuffed and with two guards with weapons standing behind him.
Simon nervously looked at the two guards. “Colonel, there’s things you know and things you don’t, and the things you don’t know can’t be heard by these men.”
“I don’t trust him,” Powers said, glaring at Bowen.
“He saved your life!” Kaylee said in disbelief. “He ain’t gonna kill you now. Are you?”
She asked this last of Bowen, her voice a little uncertain, and he just shook his head.
“No, Kaylee. I’m not going to kill the Colonel.”
Powers stared at him and then nodded his head for the two guards to leave. “Don’t go far,” Powers said to them and as they left he took out his pistol and stood well back from the table. “Now, let’s hear it,” he said to the four of them.
Simon started and Oren leaped in, trying to regain face in front of his hero, and after some time Powers had the whole story.
“Assassins? Cutter was training teenagers to be…assassins?”
“We’re more than assassins,” Bowen said.
“I would suggest more like a super operative, sir” Oren offered.
“Captain, who ordered you to take these men on board Serenity?” Powers asked.
“Fleet HQ, sir. I don’t know who exactly ordered it,” Oren replied quickly.
“Shin,” Powers said with a growl.
“He briefed us and ordered us to go to Taos to wait for River Tam to contact her brother,” Bowen said. “After that, Ames received the orders and now he is dead.”
“Thanks to you,” Powers stated sternly. “I wanted to question him.”
“He would have told you nothing,” Bowen said.
“You knew he was supposed to kill me. The both of you were supposed to do it,” Powers said. “Why did you change your mind?”
“I didn’t know exactly why we were sent here. I suspected it was a kill mission. I did not know the target.”
“Why stop him?” Powers asked.
“I…I…need to get away from them,” Bowen said and Simon and the others could sense him struggling with his mind. “They did things…made us do terrible things….its not right.”
Bowen was looking down at his hands, covered in bandages from where Simon had repaired his scrapes and nicks from the fight, with some blood seeping through.
“So much…blood,” he said quietly but they all heard him and Kaylee even thought Powers grim face softened somewhat.
Simon wanted to deflect this talk away from Bowen. “Colonel, I hate to pry into things I don’t know about or maybe shouldn’t know about,” Simon started. “But…why is Admiral Shin trying to have you killed?”
“I still can’t believe the Admiral ordered it,” Oren said first.
“I do,” Powers said with conviction. “I was warned before you arrived that I may be in danger.”
“Warned by whom, sir?” Oren asked.
“The Prime Minister,” Powers answered to their astonishment.
“What’s goin’ on?” Kaylee asked what the others wanted to ask.
“I’ve been made the Chancellor,” Powers said. “And the military does not like it one bit.”
“Chancellor?” Simon said in surprise. “You’re replacing Cutter?”
“Exactly,” Powers said as he finally put his gun away. “But I fear this may run deeper than merely killing me.”
“What could be worse than that, sir?” Oren asked.
“I think Shin may be planning to overthrown the Prime Minister and Parliament, and set up a military dictatorship.”
They were stunned by this news, not believing that such a terrible thing could happen. While Simon certainly didn’t have any love for the Alliance after the things they did to his sister, he admired Blakely in some ways and he knew that a free democratic government was necessary.
“Good Lord,” said Oren in awe. “That’s madness.”
“They can’t do it,” Kaylee said, fear on her face. “I can’t stand you purple bellies now. But if they’s in charge…no folks be free anywhere.”
Simon was thinking fast and he could see Powers was doing the same. “What will Shin do first if he wants to take over?” Simon asked, dreading the answer.
“Get Blakely out of the way,” Powers said.
“We have to warn her!” Simon exclaimed as he stood.
“It may already be too late,” said Powers, his tone grim and foreboding.
“Then we are agreed?” Admiral Shin said solemnly to the group of men surrounding his conference table in Fleet HQ.
They were all generals and admirals, ten of them, the heads of the military, and all of them had one thing in common: they despised the civilian government.
One by one each man gave his consent and Shin nodded. “Gentlemen, there is no turning back from this moment on. Now, we carry out the plan.”
“When?” asked one old admiral, soon to retire, but not before this last chance at glory was finished.
“Today,” Shin said and that took them by surprise. “Powers will be dead soon and even if the assassins fail he will be too far to stop us in time.”
“But you said that ship, Serenity, was sent to pick him up,” one general stated. “He can be back here in no time at all.”
“Even so,” Shin said. “He has no power. He hasn’t been confirmed as Chancellor yet and he has resigned his commission. As far as we are concerned he is a civilian, an unemployed civilian at that.”
“If Powers survives, I think we should order Byrd to take out Serenity,” said the old admiral. “Why take a chance?”
“He is correct, Shin,” said another general. “Powers commands a lot of loyalty in the military. If he lives he can form a counter force to us. And if he has that ship and its engineer, he can have a tactical advantage that we cannot easily overcome.”
Shin thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Agreed. If Powers is alive, then Serenity will be destroyed, hopefully with him on board. As for Kaylee Frye, it doesn’t matter what happens to her. We have the plans. If she can build it, than so can our engineers. ”
“Now what?’ asked the old admiral.
“Head to your duty stations,” Shin said. “Prepare the fleet and the army for what will come next.”
“Next? What the hell are we waiting for, Cho Hung? Let’s act now!” yelled one other.
“We wait for the news. Prime Minister Blakely is about to be assassinated by a rebel.” After he finished these words Shin picked up a phone by his chair, pressed one digit and then spoke.
“You may proceed.” Shin sat back and felt satisfied. The end game was beginning. Time to let what happens happen.
Deep in the Ministry of the Interior building technicians were still trying to crack the codes for Cutter’s computer systems. Cutter’s assistant gave them all the help he could, but some files were so encrypted it would take weeks, maybe months, to find out what was on them. Two techs were put to the task in shifts, going twenty-four hours a day.
“This is going to take forever,” one tech, a female, said to her male counterpart, as they sat in front of keyboards and data screens in the computer control room. They were both young and attractive, a point not lost on either of them.
“Say, Megan, what say we grab a drink after work tonight?” the man asked suddenly.
She smiled, wondering when he’d ask. “I don’t know, Scott. We work together. Won’t it be awkward?”
“Only if a drink leads to something else,” he replied with a grin.
“That might be….wait a sec,” she said as they were interrupted by a beeping sound.
One of the unused data screens suddenly came to life. They moved toward it and there, in full view was Shin and the others sitting around the table. The camera angle was from above and from one side, and it was difficult to see faces, excepted for those seated near Shin. The military uniforms they were wearing were clear to see, though.
“What the hell is this?” Scott asked in puzzled surprised.
“It looks like…is that Admiral Shin?” Megan asked. “Wait…this is being recorded. This is happening right now.”
“It’s a spy system,” Scott said in surprise. “Cutter set it up…it’s been activated.”
After some time, they saw Shin pick up a phone, say something, then put it down. After a few moments the men all stood and shook hands with Shin and the men left the room, Shin the last and then the image went blank. Megan quickly found the recorded file and played it back. Now they could hear voices, hear what was being said. As they listened they turned to each other in shock and fear. After it was over, Megan quickly ran to a Cortex screen and started looking for an address she’d never thought she’d be looking for.
“What are you doing?’ her counterpart asked.
“Warning the Prime Minister! What do you think I’m doing?”
“We…we have to call the captain. He’ll know what to do.”
“There’s no time!” she shot back.
“This is way over our heads,” Scott said in fear. “We could get killed for hearing that!”
“Or we can be heroes,” she replied steadily. “We have to do something to stop this!”
“No…no…count me out…I’m just a tech. I push buttons, I find data, that’s all I do,” he said in fear, backing out of the room. “You want to go against Shin and all of those men? You’re on your own!”
“Coward!!’ she screamed after he had run from the room.
Suddenly her Cortex screen came to life and an elderly, bored looking woman was there. “Office of the Prime Minister. How may I direct your wave?”
“I want to report an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister!!” Megan yelled to the woman.
The woman was suddenly no longer bored. Now she looked pissed off as she hit buttons. “Listen to me. Threats against the PM’s life are not a joke. Your wave address has been recorded and a team is being sent to your location now.”
“Fine! Send them! Just tell her that…..” But it was too late. Suddenly the woman’s face turned ashen as a huge explosion ripped through the room and she went flying out of her chair. Somehow the Cortex feed stayed intact and Megan watched in horror as several figures strode through the room and started firing indiscriminately at bleeding, shocked people, who tried to escape, to no avail.
“Noooooo!” Megan screamed and then she knew that nothing would even be the same again. One thing for sure. She had to save that recording and find a way to get it to Blakely. If she was still alive.
“Okay, dear, I’ll see you in an hour,” Susan Blakely said to her husband Thomas on the Cortex screen. They said their goodbyes and then Blakely packed up some files in her briefcase.
As she left her office she said goodnight to her secretary, who never left before she did, and then her two bodyguards started following her through the corridors of Parliament to the lower level of the building.
A tour was in progress, not uncommon, with so many civilians wanting to see where Parliament decided the business of the Alliance. Blakely knew that tomorrow’s debate on Justin Powers appointment as Chancellor would go smoothly. There was no real opposition to him and he was well known to the public. She hoped Serenity would get him here in time so he could face the questions of the Parliament members.
Now at this hour the building was almost completely empty except for the night cleaning staff, a few members of Parliament working late, and this last tour of the day. As they approached the tour group several people saw her and pointed her out to the others in the group. Her two bodyguards moved in front of her on instinct. Blakely noticed that all of the tour members were young, teens or in their twenties, no elderly people and no children. As they saw her, suddenly one said something, and they all fell to the floor, covering their heads with their arms. That’s odd, she thought, and it was the last thing she even thought of as a massive explosion ripped through the Parliament corridors, engulfing her and her bodyguards in a shower of glass, dust, concrete, and shrapnel.
All went black before her eyes and Susan Blakely was no more and would never know who had killed her or why.
On Sihnon it was morning and Inara was just waking up. No one had said a word to her the night before, after she had returned. The gun and bottle of poison were safely hidden and after freshening up, Inara decided to see if Mal had waved her. She wanted to talk to him, just to see his face, and she logged onto her Cortex screen in her room. As she was about to turn to the message page the news caught her eye and she was stunned into disbelief.
An image of the smoking, burning Parliament building was in the background, a news reporter, male, Oriental, in front, his face stricken with shock as he spoke.
“…ten minutes ago….The explosion has shattered windows in the buildings around me, people are stumbling out of the Parliament, some are injured, some in shock. There is smoke everywhere. Police and military are on scene now….fire fighting units are arriving. No one knows what caused the explosion. Let’s see if we can…sir, sir! Were you inside the building?”
A man with tattered clothing, a janitor’s uniform, staggered by, head bleeding, cuts on his arms and hands. “I…saw what happened,” he said, almost in tears. “They were shooting…they had guns…I don’t know why…” he began to sob and fell to his knees as medical people came up to him.
Inara ran from her room and shouted through the halls. “Turn on the news! Something terrible is happening on Londinium!”
She ran back and moments later she heard the clatter of shoes in the halls and many women, beautiful Companions all, just in their bed clothes, came into her room.
“What’s happening?’ one asked in fear.
“Someone is attacking the Parliament,” Inara said and there were gasps and shocked looks as they huddled around her Cortex screen,
The reporter turned back to the camera and as he spoke, suddenly there were gun shots in the background. As Inara and the women watched in horror, a battle raged. All over Londinium, Sihnon, and other planets close enough to get the live feed, people would always remember where they were when they saw what happened next.
Several young men and women, at least seven of them, dressed casually, all armed with pistols, came down the hill from the Parliament building and began shooting in all directions at anyone they could see. Civilians were hit, news reporters, bystanders, paramedics, some who had been wounded inside. The thing that no one noticed, not at first, not until the tape was analyzed later, was that not a single bullet was wasted. Each shot hit home.
Police and military were also hit, many before they could fire a round back. The rest of the military and police began to return fire and then a gun fight was on, picked up by several cameras with news crews and by security cameras on the streets. Two of the young people were hit and went down, one getting up again before being shot once more and falling for good. Many police and military fell and then the battle moved through the streets. The attackers made their way to a parked van and once inside they accelerated away, the law and soldiers in hot pursuit. For the next eighteen minutes shots rang out, tires squealed, low flying attack ships swooped in, all was chaos across the city as the attackers sought escape routes, as the Alliance tried to block them and stop them, all to no avail. The van slammed into cars and trucks, dodged bullets, hit pedestrians, and the occupants fired back at pursuers, dropped grenades out the windows and fired missiles at the attack ships, and then disappeared. When the van was found, parked on an empty street, full of bullet holes and damage, its occupants were gone, disappeared, no where to be found.
On Athenian Island in the ocean near Osiris’ main land mass at Cutter’s “Academy”, Dr. Sexton was just returning from his morning exercise and was about to have breakfast when one of the remaining staff members came in. “Sir, something awful is happening on Londinium!”
Sexton watched in horror with the others in the staff break room and then he knew, he saw the faces, the images repeated over and over again, and he knew who the attackers were and even who sent them.
“Dr. Sexton?” General MacCready said to him and Sexton turned startled. “We need to talk.”
They went outside the room and into the corridor. The school was almost empty, the students all sent home after deprogramming by Sexton’s people, on the orders of Blakely, and supervised by MacCready. Soon the place would be a memory and secretly Sexton was glad to be leaving.
“General! Do you see what is happening? Did you see who the attackers are?”
MacCready looked at him steadily. “Doctor, I’ve been asked to ask you a question.”
“General…Didn’t you see the news?....Parliament has been attacked! They can’t find Blakely! It was…our students!”
MacCready ignored his hysterics. “I’ve been asked to ask you if you will remain when we reopen the school.”
Now Sexton knew and the knowledge floored him. “You…you knew! You helped them!”
“Is that your final answer?” MacCready asked.
“You were her friend! You were her aide! How could you?”
“Because they will win. Doctor, I am giving you one last chance, because, frankly, we do need you. It will take a while to break in a new team leader. What’s your final answer?”
“How dare you! I’ll never help you thugs who…” But he said no more as MacCready pulled out a pistol and shot him point blank in the face. Sexton’s body dropped like a stone. The noise brought the staff out into the corridor where they looked at their dead leader and MacCready in horror. Behind him ten Alliances soldiers appeared from outside.
MacCready turned to the soldiers and knew the order had to be given, knew the staff knew too much, had recognized the attackers as Sexton had done. MacCready didn’t know when the attack would come, only that he would have to do this. Shin had contacted him days earlier, when Shin seemed to finally make up his mind about Blakely.
“Kill them,” he ordered the soldiers and then walked away as the sounds of screams and gunshots echoed through the building and across the grounds as the Alliance eliminated anyone who knew who the attackers were, which was everyone left on the island.
“Gorramn it!” Jayne said as he cussed the arrival of morning, a pain in his lower back breaking up his dream of lying in a big feather bed with two naked ladies.
The reality was much different. He was sacked out in a corner of the cargo bay on a bed made of sugar and flour bags covered in blankets with another bag as a pillow. He’d slept in worst places, but not in a long time.
“Shoulda stayed a Shepherd,” he grumbled as he looked at the ceiling. “They never treat a man of God this way. I should demand some of my fare back.”
“He won’t give it to you,” River said, startling Jayne more awake. Through sleepy eyes he saw River sitting on the silver cyro-chamber box about ten feet away from him.
“Who? What?” Jayne mumbled.
“Captain Pritchard won’t give you your money back,” River said.
“So that’s his name,” Jayne said.
“Wayne Pritchard from Ariel, 54 years old, captain of the Rose for three years. Off and on cargo ships most of his life,” River said. “The pilot is Anna Thomas, 44. They are lovers, her and the captain. Charlie Wilson, engineer. Lee Fong Chan, crewman.”
“Been reading minds again?”
“No, just the ship’s papers on the bridge. Oh, and I could sense they were lovers. That’s not in the ship’s papers. I couldn’t sleep. Been scanning the Cortex for news of Serenity.”
Jayne sat up, a bit angry now. “Couldn’t sleep? So I sacked out here for nothin’.”
He pulled on his pants, not caring River was sitting right there. She didn’t even look away. “Where’s everyone?” Jayne asked
“Eating breakfast, talking about what happened.”
“Thought we talked on that enough last night. You surely don’t want to get into it again.”
“I had sex with her,” River said quickly. “Not to escape. I could have killed her to do that. I had sex because I wanted to, because she wanted to. It was wonderful. That’s why she let me go.”
Jayne pulled his zipper up with a loud “zip” and his eyes narrowed and an evil grin came to his face, followed quickly by a puzzled expression. “I knew it!...Ah, why you telling me?”
“Mal said I need to let go of my guilt. Said it would stay with me all my life. I don’t really feel guilty, just more, confused, I guess. And a touch embarrassed. Its not really anyone’s business, so I wasn’t going to tell anyone, but now, I thought about it all night. What does it matter? So I told you first because I knew you would have the most distasteful reaction. If I can tell you, I can tell anyone.”
“Jeeze, ain’t that swell. Don’t worry, I won’t have any lustful dreams of you and Miss Purple Belly bumping bodies.”
“Crudeness is too fine a word for you, Jayne Cobb. Anyway, that’s not what they are talking about.”
“What’s going on?” Jayne asked, as he put on his boots.
“The Prime Minister has been assassination.”
“I can’t believe it," Wash said as he nursed his headache from the previous evening’s booze with a strong cup of coffee.
“Believe it,” Mal said. They were watching a Cortex screen Charlie the engineer had rigged up in the dining area with a long cable to the bridge connector ports. Over and over the news reported on events in Londinium.
“What the gorramn hell happened?” Jayne asked as burst into the room, followed by River.
“She’s dead,” Zoe said with an ashen face. “I never thought I say this about any Alliance official being killed but…this is just awful.”
“A bomb, or bombs, in the Parliament corridors. They found her under a pile of rubble,” said Pritchard, the captain. “Her two bodyguards were on top of her, trying to protect her, all of them dead. Almost another hundred dead and wounded, all over the city. Two of them dead. The rest got away.”
“Who did it?” Jayne asked as he watched the images of the gun battle in front of Parliament.
“Saying rebels did it,” Mal answered, his face grim.
“Who’s in charge now?” Anna, the pilot asked.
Mal looked to River. “You know anything about government?”
“The deputy Prime Minister will be in charge,” River said. “Blakely’s political party still holds power, the majority rule. The Parliament is really in charge, so the death of one person does not matter.”
“It does to me,” Mal said, with an edge of anger. “I got a feeling things ain’t gonna be so smooth. We need a new ride.”
“Sir?” Zoe questioned as she looked at her leader.
“Let’s get Kaylee on the Cortex,” Mal said. “I got a feeling I’m going to need a mighty fast ship for the days ahead.”
Wash grinned and Zoe smiled and Jayne just felt happy all over. He’d be glad to have his old bunk back.
“Sir, we don’t exactly own her anymore,” Zoe reminded him.
“We’ll they’ll either give it to us or we’ll take it back. One way or another. Hell, I’ll even give them their money back, what’s left of it.”
“Now that’s crazy talk, Mal,” Jayne said a worried look on his face.
“Then what, sir?” Zoe asked, ignoring Jayne.
“Don’t know. Blakely’s dead,” Mal said. “She was our protector. Shin, he won’t care about those pardons or that disk. He’ll just say it was Cutter’s doing and the military knew nothing. In fact, that disk could help him undermine the government and make him stronger. He’ll kill us first chance he gets. Last place he knew we were was here. Time to leave. Time to go home.”
As Mal and the others talked on what to tell Kaylee, River kept looking at the news images on the Cortex screen, looking at the faces of the attackers, looking, and knowing who they were. She knew one thing. Mal was right. Things would not go smooth at all.
All over the galaxy the news of the attack spread like wildfire, and there were tears and cheers, depending on one’s allegiance. But the question on everyone’s lips was the same: who were the attackers and how did they do it and most of them get away. As the grieving Thomas Blakely and his son mourned with thousands outside the smoldering Parliament building, as the dead and wounded were being carted away, the questions began to come. How could such a thing have happened? Even in the midst of the war no rebel force ever got close to the home Core worlds.
Within an hour of the end of the attack Admiral Shin and some of the generals were there, thanking the soldiers and police for their work, publicly condemning this new rebellion.
“Something must be done,” Shin told a sea of microphones and recording devices. “With Adam Cutter dead, it is time to bring the police and military together, to find a way to fight this new rebellion that struck at the very core of our civilization and took away our beloved prime minister. These rebels show no mercy. Nether should we.”
Shin walked away, ignoring the questions and returned to fleet HQ. He monitored reaction across the galaxy for the next few hours, knowing they would see his way, knowing they would give him what he wanted. If they didn’t he would take it. He had to move slowly, like in a chess game. All the pieces were in place. MacCready was taking care of Athenian Island, seeing the way of things after Shin talked to him a few days ago. The former students had been deprogrammed, most suffering some memory loss and would not recall much about their “school” years. There was still the matter of River Tam to deal with, and Malcolm Reynolds, but they would be taken care of in due time.
As he sat at his desk he reflected on how he had come to this decision. The appointment of Powers had been one thing; the weakness of Blakely’s position another. And the driving greed and desire the third. He had played boot licker for too long to people like Blakely and Cutter. Now he would stand above them all.
The plan he had made years ago, in case Cutter ever tried to take over. Cutter would have been killed, by some loyal soldiers. But Cutter’s assassins were just as effective in killing Blakely, even more so since they had no connection to the military. The seven hadn’t even questioned when told their target was the Prime Minister. Shin had used the most effective of the subliminal messages, one designed by Cutter’s specialists to put the assassins in a war mood, designed for them to survive missions behind enemy lines. They had secretly entered the building the night before and hidden the explosives in the corridor and some weapons. Blakely almost always left her office at the same time. The tour was a cover to get them inside. Afterwards they were to escape and evade as they had been taught. None of the generals or admirals knew who the assassins were except MacCready.
The generals and admirals had their role to play. They had all long ago placed loyal men in positions of power, a natural thing for any military man to do. The fleet would obey orders, now that the threat of a new war was brewing. The civilians would fall in line, once Shin gave them their war. The battles near Haven and Miranda had been taped, images of dead and mutilated soldiers and civilians from both places recorded, all ready to use, to be blamed on the rebels, not the Reavers.
After he released images of new battles, the first step would be martial law, just like in the war. From there he would get rid of Parliament, suspend their meetings until the building was repaired. All across the city now, men with power, men with influence were whispering in the Parliament member’s ears, whispering, convincing them, that this was the right thing to do. And if they didn’t agree, they would be humiliated by the files Cutter had in his ministry. Right now Shin’s men were moving into the building, taking it over, to begin the search for those files. What Shin didn’t know was that he was on one of those files. He soon found out.
“Sir, we have a problem,” said an aide, his most trusted one, and he showed a nervous Scott, the tech from the Ministry of the Interior, into the room.
“Who are you?” Shin asked coldly.
Scott got up his nerve and looked Shin in the eye. “Someone who can save your career and your head.”
Ten minutes later Shin understood, was aghast, and ordered a sensor sweep of the entire Fleet HQ, starting with his conference room. He promised Scott a reward, and made some calls and told Scott to accompany his men to where she lived.
As Shin sat contemplating this near fatal flaw, which could still bring them down, his assistant returned. ‘Sir, message from Admiral Byrd, most secure channel.”
“Thank you,” Shin said as hit the key code for most secure messages.
“Powers is still alive,” Byrd reported.
“I have a man in his unit down there. He just reported in. Said one of your men attacked the other before he could kill Powers.”
“Damn it!” Shin cursed, uncharacteristically. “Where is he now?”
“On board Serenity.”
“Destroy that ship, immediately!”
Byrd gulped. “I can’t.”
“Byrd, I don’t care what that ship has or what it means. I’m giving you a direct order! Destroy Serenity!”
“I can’t. It’s gone.”
Deep underground in the sewer system of Londinium’s capital city five young people, two men and three women, made their way on foot through the dark tunnels. All were armed with pistols and machine guns and some had minor wounds. The man in front had a glow in the dark map and he followed it, looking up occasionally to see florescent arrows painted on the walls to help mark the route.
Soon they could smell fresh air and they ran faster, reaching an opening and then, after a cautious look around, they were by a river and saw the wooden boat with outboard engine they were to take for the next part of their journey. They were almost outside the city and it was night and black, with no houses or buildings nearby. They piled in and one of them started the engine. As the boat moved away from the bank there was a massive explosion and with a flash and loud bang the boat exploded, sending bodies flying through the air and onto the bank and into the water.
A group of men in civilian clothing came out from some tall grass and from behind trees. One barked orders to get the bodies out of the river. Others took the remains of the boat and broke it up and sank it.
“Sir, one’s still alive!” a man shouted form the river bank.
The leader approached. He was black, had a calm, coldness about him. He looked down at the girl, her face burned, her hair bloody, blood coming from her mouth and nose.
“Why?” she managed to gasp.
“Because you were expendable,” he said coldly and then he pulled out a sword from a back sheath and drove it into her chest.
After his sword was removed and cleaned, a comms device on the black man’s belt buzzed and he answered. After a listening for a moment he said, “Understood,” and then turned to his men. “We have new job. And we must be very quick.”
“What’s the job?” one of his colleagues asked as they walked away toward a fast airship.
“We have to kill a young woman before she ruins us all.”
“Where are we?” Powers asked Kaylee as he came on the bridge. He looked refreshed after a long rest. Ten hours ago they had been sitting on Miranda, trying to figure out what to do. The moment the news had been received of the death of Blakely, Powers ordered them to take off and jump away. Simon and Kaylee had been greeting Brenda and Jerry, and Simon was asking about the Reavers and wanted to see Angela, when suddenly the news from Londinium struck them and shocked them to their very core. Powers felt that it wasn’t over yet and wanted to be somewhere else, not knowing if more assassins or a gunship were bearing down on him. In one day an attempt was made on life the soon to be Chancellor and the Prime Minister was assassinated. That was no coincidence.
Simon had the wounded sergeant moved to the base hospital first and after hasty goodbyes they left. The decision was made to head for Sihnon, not Londinium, after Powers asked where Mal was and Kaylee said she thought he would be heading to Sihnon. Then Powers said he needed a nap, not explaining why he needed Mal, and went to bed after he made sure Oren locked Bowen in the storage closest and posted two guards outside it.
“Near Sihnon now, just at cruising speed,” Kaylee said. “Not too close to attract attention, and not too far away to be out of Cortex range.”
“Are you sure he is heading there?”
“I’d bet on it,” Kaylee said, not really sure, just hoping she was right..
“Make the call.”
Kaylee’s fingers flew over the Cortex keyboard. After a long wait, Inara’s face appeared.
“Oh, Kaylee! It’s so good to see you again! Have you heard the news?”
“Gosh, whole galaxy’s heard it by now, been ten hours since it happened. ‘Nara, you heard from the Capt’n?”
“Not recently. I think…something is going on about River.”
“You think he found her?” Kaylee asked excitedly.
“Maybe. Who’s listening there with you?”
“Ah, the pilot and Colonel Powers.”
“Powers? I’ve heard of him. What’s going on? Where are you?”
“Can’t say. Top secret.”
“Kaylee, I’m afraid for Mal. With Blakely dead, Shin will come after him, no matter what he knows.”
“Miss Serra, do you know who I am?” Powers said as he interrupted
“Yes, Colonel. Your reputation is well known. I also heard you were handling the …situation…on …that place.”
“That’s correct. Now we are looking for Captain Reynolds.”
“Why?” Inara asked very suspicious.
“I need him. I can’t explain anymore on the Cortex.”
Inara was suspicious, but Kaylee was there and she knew Kaylee wouldn’t be involved in anything to betray Mal.
“They are on a cargo ship called the Rose. Supposed to be here in less than two days.”
Suddenly there was a beeping sound from the Cortex. “Got an incoming, Inara. One sec,” Kaylee said as she hit the verse’s version of call waiting. She was repelled by the image of Admiral Shin on the screen, her brief meeting him in the cargo bay of Serenity not to be forgotten, more so as he had called River a criminal.
“Miss Frye,” he said politely.
“Mrs. Frye. Don’t you remember I was married, right in front of you? By Thomas Blakely.”
“Oh yes. I had forgotten. Is Mr. Powers about?”
“Colonel Powers is right here,” she said as she stood to let him sit.
Powers nodded to the pilot to get out and after he left Powers sat down in the co-pilot’s seat where Kaylee had been. Kaylee slowly moved to the pilot’s seat. He didn’t kick her out and Kaylee felt like she was being let in on a big secret.
“Hello, you son-of-a-bitch,” Powers said with malice in his voice. “You aren’t getting a trace off this wave so make it brief.”
“I see Cutter’s assassin has failed. Or rather, one of them succeeded in stopping the other from killing you. I must admire the respect you command, even in total strangers.”
“He didn’t do it for me, he it did because he hates those that turned him into what he is.”
“Surely you know I had no knowledge of what Cutter had done with those children until recently.”
“Get to the point, Shin. Time’s almost up.”
“You are a marked man, Powers. Go off to some corner of the verse and I will forget you ever existed. Come to the Core and next time you may not be so lucky. Oppose me and I will make it my duty to hunt you down. Do we have an understanding?”
“Perfect. Next time I see you a bullet will have your name on it.”
“So that is how it will be. Good-day, Mr. Powers.”
“Wait! Blakely. I know it was you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It was rebels. Who else? That is not your concern anymore. You are not now and never will be Chancellor. That was the reason I tried to kill you. The Parliament, once it meets, whenever that may be, will cancel your appointment. I hope you take the hint and retire. Show up on Londinium, anywhere near the Core, and you will die.”
The wave ended and Powers looked at a shocked Kaylee.
“Yes, I think he had her killed. But I’ll never be able to prove it.”
The proof was on a computer file in the hands of a very scared tech. Megan ran home after the attack and stayed there all day and all night, watching the news in her little room in a massive apartment block. She couldn’t think and had no one she could talk to and no one she could trust. No one would believe her anyway. She had to get rid of the file, had to destroy the flash drive it was on. Scott was right. It could get them killed. But giving it away could also get her killed. It could be her only protection if they found her.
Then she knew what she had to do, knew it had to be done, to save the verse and bring those bastards down.
“Only one thing to do,” she said to herself as she sat at her Cortex screen. She had to tell the verse.
Megan stuck the flash drive in the side port of her Cortex screen. She found a major news outlet and composed a written wave, explaining who she was and how she got the file. Just as she was about to hit the send button, her door blew in with a terrifying explosion and she was sent flying into her bed. As she coughed on the dust, a strange man walked in her room and pushed aside the remains of the door. He was tall, black, cold looking, a sword in one hand, a pistol in the other.
He looked to the Cortex screen and then to her. Their eyes met for a second and both understood. She leaped for it, the distance not great in the small room, but he was swifter and his sword struck her in mid stride in the right shoulder and pinned her back against the bed. She screamed in pain, scream for help, but none came.
“Did you send it?” he asked calmly as he stood over her, digging the sword into her flesh.
“Yes, everyone knows! It’s too late!” she said through the pain and her fears, tears coming from her eyes.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. And then he pulled the sword out and shot her in the chest. After a brief looked of surprise and a gasping attempt to scream, she died.
“Oh God,” said Scott as he stood in the doorway, two other men, like the first, with him.
“This is how we handle things,” said the black man. “If you find it distasteful then you should never have reported this file and this girl to Admiral Shin.”
“I thought you were just going to arrest her. Who are you?”
“We are Operatives of the Parliament,” he said as he stepped to the computer, read the message, checked to make sure she didn’t send it, and then removed the flash drive and removed the hard drive of the machine. He handed it to one of his colleagues who pocketed it and the flash drive.
“Shin is not in Parliament,” said Scott, a little wary.
“No,” said the Operative. “But he is in charge.”
“So…what kind of reward do I get?” Scott said, a little nervously. “I mean, I think a promotion might be in order. Shin promised me.”
“I do not decide such things. Do you know what your sin is?” the Operative asked.
“My sin? I think I did the right thing.”
“Your sin is greed. A braver man would have supported his colleague and told the verse about this, instead of trying to profit from it,” said the Operative as he swiftly drove the sword into a shocked Scott’s heart. “Because that was the only way to save yourself.”
Scott gasped and barely a sound came out, just a trickle of blood. He fell to his knees and as soon as the sword was withdrawn he pitched forward and was dead.
Kaylee went back to Inara who was still there on the Cortex waiting for her.
“Sorry, ‘Nara. How can we find the Capt’n?”
“Let me wave him and then….”
“Hold on a sec, got anther wave coming in.”
This time it was Mal. “Howdy Little Kaylee, glad it’s you that answered. What’s the news on Taos?”
“Capt’n! Just thinking of you. Ah, we ain’t there. On Taos I mean.”
“No? What gives?”
Kaylee and Powers quickly explained. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Mal growled and then he had the pilot feed the Rose’s coordinates to Serenity.
“Gotta go, Inara. Going to pick up the Capt’n!” Kaylee said with joy.
“Oh, thank God! You tell that man not to forget to wave me!’ Inara said, happy one moment and angry the next.
“Oh, gosh, course he won’t forget you,” Kaylee said. “We’ll be in touch.”
An hour later after a short jump and some normal drive time, they found the Rose, locked on, and opened the airlock.
Mal and Zoe stepped through, Mal feeling good coming aboard Serenity once more, and even better after a big hug from Kaylee, and didn’t even care that Oren was giving him unfriendly looks.
“I know, I know, your ship,” Mal said to the Alliance officer.
“Your guns, Mr. Reynolds,” Oren said to him, looking at Mal and Zoe’s pistols. “Take them off. You know my rules.”
“That won’t be necessary, Captain Oren. We can trust him,” Powers said as he approached.
Oren looked pissed off, but did not question his hero’s orders.
“Captain Reynolds, we have much to talk on,” Powers said as they shook hands.
“Yeah, been a busy day in the verse,” Mal said and then turned to Simon.
“Doc, the Rose got a sick crewman, might need some tending.”
“I’ll get the stretcher and have him brought over here,” Simon said as he turned toward the infirmary.
“Best you look after him on the Rose. Don’t think he can be moved. Kaylee, why don’t you lend a hand.” With that Mal gave Kaylee a sly wink and she could barely control her surprised joy, knowing what he was getting at.
Of course, Simon didn’t catch on yet. “I’ll just get my bag,” he said.
Moments later they had crossed over to the Rose. Wash and Jayne were waiting for them.
“Someone to see you in the cargo bay,” Wash said with a grin as he said hello and then he stepped through to Serenity. Jayne led the way to the cargo bay.
“What’s the injury?’ Simon asked.
Jayne looked at him with a puzzled expression. “What you on about, Doc? Ain’t anyone hurt.”
“It’s River! She’s here!” Kaylee whispered real loud and then Simon knew it was true and he raced down into the cargo bay and there she was and in his arms and they hugged and laughed and cried a bit and then sat down as River and Jayne told them the whole story. Not all of it, not yet, but River knew she would tell him it all eventually.
After the joyous reunion, Simon went silent and looked sad. “What’s wrong, Simon?” River asked.
“You’re still a fugitive. What do we do now?” And no one had an answer.
“That’s crazy,” Mal said to Powers as they stood with Zoe in the infirmary, one of the few places on the ship no one could happen to walk in on them or easily hear them.
“I second that, sir,” Zoe said as she glared at Powers.
“I need your help. I don’t know where to start.”
“You’re taking about starting a new war, aren’t you?” Mal said.
“No, no,” Powers quickly said. “Not a war. More like a…preemptive strike. You know people, know people who will help us, can get us arms, make contacts. We can’t just show up on Londinium with five or six people and attack Shin. He’ll be ready for that.”
“I think you’re jumping the gun a bit,” Mal said. “Let’s see how this plays out.”
“Shin killed her. I know it,” Powers said in anger. “Next he will try to join the military and police under his control and declare martial law.”
“Folks won’t let that happen,” Zoe said. “It’s peacetime. There’s no war.”
“That’s not the way they’ll see things,” Powers said. “Powerful forces are at work here, and we can’t stop them alone.”
“Ain’t my business,” Mal said. “Let all them go to hell for all I care.”
“Really?” Powers said. “And what will happen when Shin succeeds in taking over the government? Do you think people will just lie down and take it? There will be a much wider rebellion, a real rebellion, and Shin and his puppets will have a real war then, and their power will grow stronger. Do you want another war, Mal?”
Mal looked at him long and hard and then to Zoe and all those terrible memories came back, fields of dead, screams, tanks crushing men’s skulls, blood everywhere, two boys running and Mal gunning them down like rabbits in a field. He shook his head.
“No, I don’t want that,” he said quietly.
“Then help me stop it from happening.” Powers said, almost pleading with him.
Mal looked to Zoe and she sighed as if to say “not again”, but then her eyes softened a bit.
“You know I’ll follow you anywhere, sir.”
Mal knew he could count on her. He looked to Powers and Powers knew from the look that Mal was with him. “What do we do first?”
Powers grinned and knew Mal would like this first part. “We get your ship back.”
Friday, March 27, 2009 3:22 AM
Friday, March 27, 2009 3:29 AM
Friday, March 27, 2009 7:33 AM
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