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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
As Simon patches up the crew, Mal and his lawyer make plans, and Badger and his cousin have some unexpected visitors.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 920 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
River’s Run – Part 16
“Dobson, I presume,” the Operative said as Dobson shook the cobwebs from his head and stood up in the dusty valley feeling his jaw and wondering if it was broken from the kick River Tam had given him. He definitely had a few loose teeth. Serenity was gone, and Reynolds and Tam with it. And now this man who he guessed was responsible for the attack on him and his men from behind was standing holding two pistols, Dobson’s and his own. As he looked around he could see that his four men were dead, two with bullet holes in the head, probably put there because they weren’t exactly dead yet. Dobson looked at this man and had a fair idea what he was, just not who he was. Of course if Dobson was correct in guessing what this man was, then he had no name to speak of, not anymore.
“Yeah, and you are an Operative of the Parliament, correct?”
“Yes, sent to clean up the mess you and others made five years ago.”
“River Tam,” Dobson said in disgust.
“River Tam. Tell me, why didn’t you just kill her?”
“I want Reynolds. She was the bait.”
“Reynolds is sitting in a jail cell on Londinium awaiting trial as the rebel leader.”
“Gorramnit, I knew they were lying!” Dobson yelled and it made his head and eye socket hurt more. “I guess…I just wanted him so bad.”
“You wanted to believe he was here. Why?”
“He gave me this,” Dobson said pointing to his eye. “Five years ago I had River Tam in my grasp and Reynolds shot me and left me for dead on this forsaken world. But I didn’t die.” Then he looked at his dead men and saw the three soldiers walking toward them. “Why did you kill my men? We’re not the enemy.”
“They were in the way,” said the Operative.
“Of me fulfilling my mission, of killing River Tam. As are you.” And with that the Operative shot Dobson in his one good eye and then in the forehead just to make sure since it seemed the man did have a way of not dying like he should.
After they checked the bodies and took their weapons and gathered the horses, one of the men turned to the Operative. “What now, sir?”
“Check the Firefly wreckage and then move to Dobson’s compound. It has a Cortex dish. We’ll call for a ride or commandeer one here. I think I wounded her but not badly. She’s out there, waiting for us. We will find her again. But first, we need to eliminate the rest of Dobson’s men. Five are not here and likely heard the gunshots. It will be dark soon, will make it easier. Come along.”
The Operative walked away from the battle scene and the three men hesitated and then began to follow, leading the five horses.
Serenity’s infirmary and passenger area were a mess of blood and people lying everywhere, those not wounded helping those that were. The two wounded Alliance soldiers from the early ship firefight were kept in a state of unconsciousness and were tied down in empty passenger rooms. Jayne was sitting in a passenger chair, ready to pass out from exhaustion and from the weakness brought on from his shoulder and leg wounds. Zoe sat in another chair as Inara wrapped a bandage on her left arm while Zoe held a thick bandage over her left ribs where a grenade fragment had managed to penetrate her body armor and enter between two ribs, but not too far. Inara had pulled out the piece of metal and now it lay on the table next to a pair of tweezers. . River was in another chair, her mother having just finished wrapping a bandage around her thigh wound, which had bleed some, but not too much, obviously missing any vital blood vessels..
But all worries were on what was happening in the infirmary, as Simon struggled to control the bleeding in Jonathan’s chest. The bullet had missed his heart, but his left lung had collapsed, a rib was broken, and the bullet had shattered, sending fragments everywhere, causing many small bleeders that Simon had to stop.
Mary stood on one side, calmly doing what she had to do to help, handing Simon instruments and helping suck the pooling blood away, controlling her worries about what could happen if Jonathan died. Three years they had been together, three years of happiness with the exception of his missing daughter. And then she had returned and all this madness had started. Mary didn’t blame Kaylee, it was just…if he died, she had no one left. She fought back her tears and used the suction instrument to draw more blood away so Simon could see what he was doing
Gabriel Tam stood on the other side, squeezing the bag of blood hanging on a metal stand next to Jonathan every time Simon nodded to him, pumping blood faster than it could flow out to keep Jonathan’s vitals steady. He watched his son calming do his job, keeping his nerves steady despite knowing that this was his wife’s father whose life was in his hands, and Gabriel Tam felt a surge of pride for his son that he hadn’t felt since Simon had graduated from medical school. And then as he looked past Simon he could see Kaylee standing outside the infirmary doors and looking shocked at the image of her husband operating on her father
When they had blasted off from Whitefall there was such a mad rush to save everyone no one gave any orders to Wash and Kaylee. After a brief intercom discussion with Inara, Wash decided to put some distance between them and Whitefall, but an FTL run was out of the order while Simon was operating. So he set for 80% normal engine power and went for a calm ride in the neighborhood while Simon worked. After he set the course he and Kaylee rushed to see who was hurt. Wash gritted his teeth and swallowed his worries as he saw his wife being tended to, but after a quick look from her he knew she’d tough this out, especially after Zoe cursed him for not staying on the bridge, where he quickly returned.
Kaylee was another matter altogether. She stood open mouth in the doorway of the infirmary in a state of shock for a few moments. Then Inara noticed her and had grabbed her and held her fast when she saw her father lying on the table and Simon with his hands in his chest, Mary and Gabriel at his side. Kaylee’s knees went weak and she let an awful wail escape from her mouth.
“Oh Daddy!!” was all she could say for a few moments as she crumbled to the floor and Inara held her. Gabriel Tam slammed the infirmary door shut so his son could concentrate.
Kaylee tried to enter the room but Inara held her fast and for a long time they just hugged.
“He’s still with us Kaylee,” Inara said, struggling to control her own worries and fears. “And Simon’s there and you know he’s not going to let anything bad happen, not to your father.”
Kaylee sniffed and found her voice. “I know, I know, but…but he’s all the family I got left in the verse.”
Regan stood up from helping River and put a hand on Kaylee’s arm. “Now you know that isn’t true. We are family and so is everyone in this room. He’s not going to die Kaylee. Have faith.”
“He’s a tough old bastard,” Jayne said. “Nothing gonna keep him down long. Me neither.” He pulled himself up, gritted his teeth against his pain and weariness. “We got plans to make. Kept us posted. I’ll be on the bridge.”
With a last glance in at Jonathan and a reassuring pat on the shoulder for Kaylee, Jayne left for the upper levels.
Kaylee glanced around at the others and suddenly realized her father wasn’t the only one hurt. “Zoe? River? Are you OK? What happened?”
To keep Kaylee’s mind off her father they told their story. “So it was Dobson after all?” Kaylee said at last, remember stinging pain, then the agony of a bullet wound to her stomach. “But who shot my…,my…”
“The Operative,” River said. “I had a glimpse of his mind before the attack started. He was after me, not Dobson. I’m sorry.” This last was for Kaylee.
“Not your fault River. None of this is anyone’s fault,” Inara said calmly.
“Maybe ours for letting that pilot and those engineers go.” Zoe said in anger, mostly at herself. “They built that FTL Firefly that hit us. And I’m guessing they gave us up to the Operative, told him we were here. They’re dead I hope. Burnt to a crisp.”
“And Dobson?” Kaylee asked with a questioning look going from Zoe to River. “You killed him, right?”
“Can’t say for sure,” Zoe said. “Grenade knocked us both flat. Maybe he got hit worse than me.”
“I kicked him in the head,” River said through clenched teeth, obviously in pain. Inara looked at River.
“You need a shot for the pain,” she said and River nodded and Inara prepared the shot from the medical supplies they had grabbed earlier from the infirmary.
An hour later and the infirmary door opened and Simon stepped out and Kaylee rushed into his arms.
‘Tell me he’s going to live,” she cried before he could say a word.
“He’s going to live,’ Simon said wearily, and Kaylee hugged him so tight he thought he would pass out. Then he had to explain about the blood loss and possibility of infection. He got all of the bullet fragments and they had plenty of antibiotics on board so things looked well and the next few days would let them know for sure.
As Kaylee went into the room to see her father, Simon looked at Zoe and River.
“She’s worse,” they both said at almost the same time, River a little groggy from the shot.
“You look worse, sis,’ Simon said. “Let me have a look.”
As Simon bent to look her River’s thigh she smiled. ‘I joined the club.”
Her worried mother looked at her with a puzzled expression. “What club?”
“I’ve finally been shot. I am now a member of the Serenity crew members that have been shot club.”
“Good God!” her mother exclaimed. “Is that something you aspired to?”
“I was the only one not in the club. Everyone else had been shot except me.”
“Not from lack of trying on the Alliance’s part,’ Zoe said.
Regan just sat and looked at her children. “What has become of you?”
Gabriel Tam answered as he came out of the infirmary. “They have done what they had to do to survive. As will we.”
Regan just stared at her husband and then looked away, her mind reeling from all these experiences. They were silent for a few moments as Simon examined River’s wound.
“What’s the plan now?” Gabriel finally asked Zoe, to change the subject.
“Don’t rightly know. I guess we head back to Hera, finish the missile set up. And we got a lot of damage from that EMP and the grenade blasts. We need to think on what to do with those two wounded Alliance soldiers. I have half a mind to drop them out the airlock but I guess we can just as easily drop them on some out of the way Alliance outpost. Then we need a rest.”
“And Mal?” Inara asked with rising anger. “Probably sitting in a prison on Londinium if he isn’t already dead!”
“He isn’t dead,” Gabriel said before an argument broke out, the last thing they needed. “Shin needs him, to prove there is a rebellion. But Inara, Zoe is right. We need to rest. We won’t be much good to Mal if we get killed trying to save him. We need information most of all. We need to know what is going on, everywhere, with everything. Then we can plan.”
Zoe and Inara said nothing, just looked at each other. Zoe struggled to her feet, refusing Gabriel’s offer of help, and glared at Inara
“I ain’t forgot about the Captain,” she said through gritted teeth. “But Gabriel is right. We are in no shape to do anything about him right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Inara finally said. “It’s just, he’s out there somewhere and we have no idea what is happening or what he is going though.”
Mal was going though a lot, and most of the bad news came from his lawyer. Mal didn’t sleep at all in his prison cell after his visit from Thomas Blakely. After a long talk in a small room with just a table and two chairs Mal realized he was in more trouble than he first thought. And so was Blakely. The lawyer had promised he would do everything in his power to prove Mal was innocent of being the rebel leader and of killing the Prime Minister. But there were other matters that wouldn’t be so easy to dismiss.
Blakely had Mal tell the story of all that had happened and when Mal seemed reluctant Blakely dragged it out of him bit it by bit until Blakely knew it all, about the missing four years, the Earth and the moonbase, and the FTL, and Miranda, the Reavers, Cutter, the whole damn thing. Well, almost, because Mal didn’t tell him exactly everything. It took hours and there were a lot of details that didn’t add up, but gradually the story was there and Blakely had recorded it all. Mal, of course, had left out anything about gun running, about killing sore ex-business partners at a café on Greenleaf, about shooting and blowing up Alliance policemen and soldiers on Persephone and Ariel, or about throwing two bastards out a hotel window on Sihnon.
“What you going to do with it?” Mal asked, looking at the recording device, now kind of regretting spilling his guts.
“This is your defense, Mr. Reynolds. This is the proof you were never even in this part of the galaxy when the new rebellion began.”
“Who’s going to believe it? And quit calling me Mr. Reynolds. It’s Mal.”
“All right, Mal. People will believe it. They already know about the Reavers and Miranda. I put Kaylee Frye on that witness stand telling how she almost died when her air hose got cut, how her father was tortured, how she was forced to go against you to save the ship and the crew, and how Book died, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house.”
“All that’s got nothing to do with the charges against me.”
“Maybe not, but it’s a story that needs telling and I can use your crew as character witnesses to prove you had no part of the new rebellion.”
“Don’t put Jayne on the stand. Be just chance he’s been looking for to tell a few whoppers about me.”
“Maybe not him, but the others for sure.”
Mal sat back in the chair in the small room they were in and stared at him. “Not Inara. Or River.”
Blakely nodded. “Yes. Not them. They are still wanted. For crimes, I must say, it seems like they committed.”
“Could be,” Mal said after a moment. “Doesn’t mean they didn’t have good reason to do what they did.”
“No, it seems like they had perfectly good reasons. By the way, you wouldn’t happen to know about two dead ex-policemen who fell out a window from Inara Serra’s hotel room on Sihnon, would you? Two injured policemen place you, River Tam and Jayne Cobb at the scene.”
Mal grinned. “Nope. Never been to Sihnon.”
“No. Then I guess she will be charged with three murders. If found.”
“One or three, no difference,” Mal said, wondering why Blakely was bringing this up.
“They’ll use your association with Ms. Serra and River Tam to show you are a criminal. Also, there is the matter of the ship Serenity, which you ‘took’ back, which resulted in the death of an Alliance officer.”
“Oren was killed by his own man by accident.”
“And then you killed the soldier, correct?”
“What else am I supposed to do when a man points a gun at me?”
“While you were the act of stealing Alliance property?”
“Self-defense,” Mal said without any hint of mirth or self-doubt.
“Self-defense,” Blakely murmured as he wrote something down on a thick pad. He flipped through the pad and came to a page with a lot of notes. “Okay, now, there are a few other matters. A café shootout on Greenleaf?”
Mal sighed and decided to tell him about this one. After all he wasn’t recording anymore and lawyer client conversations were private. “Business deal gone wrong, man pulled a gun on me. A few Alliance types got in the way.”
Blakely murmured, “Self –defense” again as he wrote on his pad. “Then there was a jewelry store on Taos. Three Alliance policemen hurt. On Persephone, several dead and injured Alliance personnel near the Eavesdown Docks. Then more recently an incident at a bank on Ariel with two Alliance policemen dead. All self-defense?”
“We were pardoned for most of that stuff. By your…wife.”
Blakely’s face clouded for a moment at the mention of his dead wife. “Yes, she did. But by stealing back your ship and searching for and abetting River Tam and now Inara Serra you have reneged on the conditions of your pardons for previous crimes against the Alliance. ”
“I figured that. What about Kaylee and Simon? They in trouble, too?”
“Not sure. They didn’t actually help you steal Serenity, not with guns anyway, but they are with the ship now I am guessing. Not so Zoe and Hoban Washburne or Jayne Cobb, who did actually draw weapons to steal Serenity. Oh yes, and there is also the bribery of an Alliance soldier on Paquin.”
“Least of my worries.”
“Indeed. And then there are two dead youths in a park on Paquin and a firefight at a spaceport on the third moon of Paquin with three dead, many injured, a kidnapped Alliance officer, and space jacking a transport. River Tam?”
“Don’t know. Wasn’t there. Look, enough with the list of Serenity’s famous and not so famous crimes. What are my chances?”
“Of escaping without at least some prison time? Not much. The treason and assassination charges I can take care of but the rest…it will be difficult.”
“What evidence do they have?”
Blakely almost grinned. “I don’t know yet since you haven’t been formally charged with anything except treason and assassination of a public official.”
The way he said it, making it sound so bureaucratic. He was talking about his dead wife, Mal thought. How can the man go on? Mal had to tell him.
“I know who killed her,” Mal said and then Blakely swallowed and in a bare whisper asked.
“Shin,” was all Mal said and for a long time they were silent, Blakely staring at Mal, not quite believing him, his face going through the gamut of emotions, disbelief, anger, some rage, and even a few tears. He stood, tried to speak, couldn’t and then sat down. Finally, he found his voice.
“How?” he managed to say in a bare croak.
Mal had already explained about Athenian Island and the school for assassins. “A team of River Tams, most likely now dead by this Operative after my crew. They must have planted the explosives in the Parliament building. River saw the news tapes on the Cortex. She recognized some of the attackers.”
“Why did he do it?” Blakely asked, regaining some composure
“Power. He wants it all,” Mal said. “And there’s most likely more than him involved cause he’d never have the guts to go it alone. That’s what Justin Powers figured before he was killed.”
“Powers is dead?”
Mal told the story, another one he had left out, because he still didn’t want anyone to know Powers was dead. His head was still a bit sore from the bullet graze Derek Bowen had given him.
Blakely grew more agitated as Mal talked, as he heard that Powers suspected there was a plot to take over the government. Some of it he had heard from Powers' broadwave a few days ago, but many people were dismissing that as propaganda, that somehow Powers was in league with the rebellion and Malcolm Reynolds. The idea that Shin and the military could have killed his wife was stunning.
“I need to speak to Shin, to see his face, to ask him if he killed my wife.”
“Shin will crucify you,” Mal said. “If Adam Cutter was still in charge you and I would both be dead by now, no fuss. Shin finds out you represent me, you’d better prepare your son to lose another parent.”
“It’s insane! This is a democracy and the people have rights!”
“Put away the law books and wake up!” Mal shouted as he stood. “These guys play for keeps! One more body means nothing compared to the millions already dead!”
“Miranda,” Blakely said slowly. He looked at Mal. “What do we do?”
“Go home, get your son, get a gun, back a bag, leave. Hire a bodyguard if you can trust anyone. Either that or just drop me right now.”
Blakely put on a determined look. “No. Out of the question. I will not run away.”
Mal almost smiled. “All right. Then get some protection. Immediately.”
“I still have a few men from my wife’s protection detail but they are due to be removed soon once we leave the official residence. The rumor is that a new election will be called and whichever party gets the most seats, the leader will be the new Prime Minister. For now, power rests with the Deputy PM and the cabinet.”
“And the military, with no replacement for Cutter to balance them,” Mal said. “Listen, how can Shin legally take power?”
“There is only one way and that is to get a declaration of marital law. The last time was during the war and the powers of the military were limited by the Parliament. A checks and balance system. The military, however, often ignored directives from the Parliament and did things their own way to win the war.”
Mal grunted. “I was on the receiving end of some of those plans. About martial law, how can it happen?”
“Two-thirds of Parliament must vote for it. But we are not at war so there is no need for a vote.”
“I don’t know, tensions are running high, folks think your wife was killed by me, the Parliament buildings attacked, assassins running through the streets, shooting up military and police. Looks like war. Lot of hot blood and hatred out there. Shin will make me the symbol of this hatred,” Mal said.
“Maybe, but…it’s preposterous!”
“Maybe that’s why it will work. Unless we stop it.”
“How?” Blakely asked, at a loss, his wife the one who new the ins and outs of political intrigue.
Mal looked at the recording device on the table. “Do you know anyone in the media?”
Blakely looked at Mal and saw where his eyes were. “You don’t mean…I can’t...its’ against the legal system rules. All conversations are private. I only recorded it so I could keep the story straight and take notes later. I’m going to destroy the recording.”
Mal shook his head. “Don’t. Leak it. Let them know the whole the truth about me and Serenity.”
Blakely paused as he moved his hand to the recording device. “Are you sure?”
Mal was weary, weary of running and hiding and getting shot at and most of all weary that this mess would never end, that each time he thought it was over, someone he cared about was in trouble and he had to help them get out of trouble. The Tams, Professor Drummond, then River alone, then Inara, wanted for murder and he had no idea how to take care of that yet, and Zoe and Jayne and Wash and Kaylee, almost always with him and in trouble because of that fact.
He stared at Blakely. “Do it.”
After some more tips on safety from Mal, Blakely left and Mal was taken back to his cell where he spent a fitful night, worried about Blakely’s safety and his own prospects of doing jail time, about his ship and his crew, and most of all about a woman he loved and who was in as much trouble as he was.
Thomas Blakely did know someone in the media. Upon leaving the prison he was taken by his two of his bodyguards to his home. He told them they were free from their obligations but they refused to leave and said they would watch him and his son until the new PM was selected. He knew he could trust them. Blakely and his son were still in the official Prime Minister’s residence and it had high tech security, cameras and sensors everywhere, so he didn’t feel too much danger.
After a meal and a long talk with his son, Blakely went into his private office and had a stiff drink. He looked at a picture of his deceased wife shaking hands with some dignitary or another and he almost started to cry again but controlled himself. Bastard! Shin would pay, but how? He held the recording device in his hand and knew Reynolds was right. He also knew Shin would dismiss it as more propaganda designed to undermine the Alliance, but it would raise doubts about Reynolds being the rebel leader, if there even was such a thing. Blakely had been gathering all the news about this renewed rebellion and if one looked at it carefully, from an unbiased point of view, all it looked like was increased criminal activity in the more lawless parts of the system. Maybe there was no rebellion, after all.
That would be a key point in Reynolds’ defense in addition to his absence from the galaxy, if his story was believed. Blakely went to his Cortex screen, found the address he needed and sent a wave. After a few moments a bearded, weary man about Blakely’s age answered.
“Thomas? Ready to give me that interview?” said the man, a glint of eagerness in his eyes.
“Yes,” Blakely said. “But Eddie, it’s not me. It’s Reynolds.”
Now the eagerness was overwhelmingly obvious. “Reynolds? So the rumors are true. You are his lawyer.”
“I have to ask Eddie, so don’t take this wrong way, but did Cutter or Shin…did they ever have anything on you…you know…something that could hurt you.?”
Now Eddie looked a bit put out. “Tom, we were roommates in college and have known each other for almost 30 years. I sleep with my wife every night and drink a beer while watching the game and go to the toilet like everyone else. They got nothing on me because there is nothing to get.”
“Good, because they will come after you.”
“Shin? He can’t scare all of us into giving up our oaths to report the truth. So what to do have? Reynolds’ confession?”
“Not quite. He’s innocent.”
‘Well, you’re his lawyer, but Tom he did kill…”
Blakely interrupted him. “He’s innocent.”
“Okay, okay, he’s innocent. Where’s the proof?”
“Coming to you, right now.” Blakely attached the recording device to a cable and in a moment the recording was sent to Eddie’s Cortex screen. “Listen to it, do what you want with it, but you never got it from me.”
“Tom, Tom, I never gave up a source in my life. Alright, time to get to work, see you pal and…again sorry about the wife.”
“Eddie, thanks, and if you get this story right, there’s more to come.”
“Thanks, pal, I’ll never forget you for this,” said Eddie’s as his eyes lit up and he was already reaching for ear phones and in moment the screen went black.
Blakely went through a security check to clean his Cortex screen and memory of what he had just done. It was the latest in technology, stuff not even gone public yet, and he knew that his message could never be found. He just hoped Eddie was just as cautious.
After he finished there was more to do, but Blakely first finished his drink, picked up the photo of his wife and for a long time just stared at her and let the tears fall from his eyes.
Someone else was crying, a long way away, and Kaylee couldn’t help it as she held her father’s hand in the infirmary. She was alone, Mary finally falling asleep in the passenger lounge, next to Simon, who had also drifted off. Everyone else was in their rooms or on the bridge. It had been eight hours since the fight on Whitefall and everyone was beat. After more discussions it was decided to head back to Hera, by the slow method, since Simon didn’t want an FTL run that could tear open Jonathan’s wounds. He was still unconscious, Simon keeping him that way to allow him to heal. Kaylee had a thousand things to fix on Serenity but they would have to wait for now.
They had made one detour, to the fourth moon of Ariel, which had a small Alliance outpost and some farmers and one copper mine. They landed a few kilometers away from the outpost, near some farmhouses. Simon had woken the two wounded soldiers, and then they were carried off the ship. A curious farmer on horseback came from across his fields to find out what was up so they hastily left the two wounded soldiers and blasted off.
Now they were a long way from Hera and slowly going there. Kaylee dried her eyes with a tissue and wondered for the thousandth time if she should have just destroyed the FTL when the Capt'n had asked her then none of this would have happened.
“No,” said River as she limped into the infirmary and sat on a stool. “No one can know what would or wouldn’t have happened.”
Kaylee turned to her, not even fazed that River knew what she was thinking. “But…but…you got in trouble and people died and your parents had to run and now the Alliance found us and my Daddy…he’s hurt.”
“Kaylee, what you did was the only way for us to try to be free. It didn’t work out but it was all you could have done. No good will come of blaming anyone or yourself.”
Kaylee sniffed. “Guess not. How’s your leg?
“Painful, but it will heal.”
“You should rest.”
“I already slept for a few hours,” she looked toward the two jars of brains from Derek and Ames that were still on the counter. “Did Simon find the capsule?”
“The one from Derek’s brain,” River said and then she cast her eyes to the floor. “He dropped it when the lights went out.”
Kaylee started looking too and then after a few moments she found it, under the table her father was on. As Kaylee picked it up she looked at in wonder. “This was in Derek’s brain?”
“Yes,” River said as Kaylee handed it to her. “Deep inside.”
“Do you have…do you have the same?” Kaylee asked hesitantly.
“I don’t know. Simon says he didn’t see it on the scans he took on Ariel that time. What do you think it is?”
Kaylee pondered a moment. “Could be a transmitter. I’ve seen them that small before. I can take it apart, take a look.”
“Maybe we should scan it first,” River said then she handed it back to Kaylee, who lay the capsule on the bench and then took the internal medical scanner and ran it over the capsule. They couldn’t see anything on the scanner image except the exterior of the capsule.
“I don’t think that will work,” Simon said with a yawn from the doorway. “It’s too tiny and that scanner is old.”
“Oh, Simon,” Kaylee said and walked right over to him and gave him a kiss. “You should sleep more.”
“So should you,” he said and looked to his sister. “And you.”
“I’m fine,” she said “We found the capsule.”
“It can wait,” Simon said as he checked Jonathan’s vitals and then his IV bag. “Any movement, any signs of him waking up?”
“No,” said Kaylee. “Nothing’s changed.”
“That’s good, Simon said. “His body is healing. Be at least a week or more before he can get up.”
“Can we do an FTL?” River asked.
Simon thought a moment, then nodded. “I’ll need to strap him down first. Is Wash still up?”
Kaylee went to the intercom. “Bridge?”
Zoe’s voice came back. “Bridge here.”
“Simon says we can do an FTL. And why aren’t you in bed?”
“Cause I’m not hurt as bad as others and my man was about to pass out,” came back the gruff reply. “I’ll get him up.”
They got everyone up and after thirty minutes the jump was made to Hera.
“Oh, crap,” Wash said as they came out of the jump. A big Alliance cruiser was sitting right nearby Hera.
“What the hell they doing here?” Jayne said from the third seat.
“No time for questions, time to leave,” Zoe said from the co-pilot’s seat.
“I think that’s a wise decision," Wash added. “Where to?”
Zoe just looked at him, stumped for an answer for a moment then decided. “Anywhere but here. Deep space, nowhere land.”
Wash grabbed the mic. “Stay where you are ladies and gentlemen. We have been forced to make an unscheduled flight due to the presence of our old purple belly friends. So fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a little turbulence.”
“Faster, Wash, gorramnit,” Jayne said. “They’s launching fighters!”
Out the window they could see several fighters launching from the lower area of the cruiser and heading toward Serenity.
“And away we go!” said Wash as he hit the nav buttons and then pushed the engine to light speed and then with a flash, pop and a bang, Serenity was gone again.
“Gorramnit all to hell!” yelled the captain of the Saratoga, the cruiser in orbit over Hera. “Every time that ship is near one of our cruiser’s grasp it gets away!”
On the bridge of the ship Janice Flowers had to suppress a grin. She had been taken off flight status and reassigned to bridge duties, manning the navigation table, after her incident with River Tam. Janice felt a slight thrill as she remembered River and the time they had spent together. Now she thought River was still alive, was out there, close, and she was getting away once again.
“Sir, the ground team is making its entry,” said a nearby officer.
“Good,” said the captain. “Keep me informed of its progress.”
The Jamison Metal Works was overrun by Alliance troopers, the workers pulled out of the shop and lined up. A ship was in the dry dock, being fitted with an FTL and the workers knew the jig was up.
“Where is Jamison?” the ground force commander asked in a loud voice to the assembled men being covered with troopers’ guns.
“He didn’t show up this mornin',” said one man, the foreman.
“Where does he live?” the commander asked.
“Don’t rightly know,” said the foreman and he got a rifle butt to the guts for that answer and he fell to the ground and doubled up in pain.
“Anyone else care to tell me?” he asked but there was silence. “Fine! Take the place apart, lock up this bunch and bring me any records you find. Five men go into town and start asking after Jamison.”
As his men moved to carry out his orders, the commander looked over the metal works. “How long did he think he could make FTL’s and we wouldn’t find out? The arrogance.”
“You heard me right, Tom. I said “arrogance”! That’s what I said, you bastard! Your arrogance caused this mess!” Jim Jamison yelled at his cousin Badger as they watched the Alliance troops from a nearby rooftop. Badger had his bag he always carried, with some clothes and pile of money, something he kept handy because you never knew when you’d have to skedaddle. They had been having breakfast, getting ready to go to work when they saw the Alliance shuttles landing and troopers surround the metal works.
“Wasn’t my fault, mate. I figured they didn’t come after us when we got the plans then we was in the clear!”
“Had to go and make them for anyone, stupid bastard. Someone got caught, started talkin' they did, I bet.”
“Or Alliance finally got off there arse and decided to do something about us and them plans is all!” Badger shot back.
“I’m ruined, me shop is going to be confiscated!”
“Quit your whining! You still got your hide, so you can start again!”
“What are we going to do?”
“No worries, cousin, been in these situations before.”
“And?” Jamison asked as Badger started to notice the five troopers heading their way.
“We run!” he said and then before Jamison even knew what was going on Badger was running and leaping to a nearby roof and soon Jamison was hot on his heels.
The Operative lost one man in the fight with the rest of Dobson’s team but they were all dead he and the other two we’re now safely lodged in Dobson’s compound. After his men had food and were resting the Operative went to the Cortex screen and waved Shin. It would take time to reach Londinium but once Shin got it, Shin's Cortex screen had the super boost technology so they could talk face to face. A little over and hour later, Shin replied.
“I’ve had some difficulties,” the Operative said and then explained what had happened.
“Tam escaped again? Serenity is gone and you’ve lost the only FTL ship in the Alliance and those who know how to make it and operate it? It seems these are more than difficulties.”
“I need assistance, a ship,” the Operative asked and he could see Shin was enjoying this.
“I will dispatch a ship immediately from Ariel. Then you will go to Hera.”
“We have confiscated a shop that has been making FTL’s from the plans River Tam sent over the Cortex. In fact, this shop was the original recipient of such plans. You will rendezvous with the Saratoga, take over the shop and complete the FTL for the ship currently in dry dock there. The shop’s workers will assist you or be imprisoned.”
“Impressive. And the shop owners?”
“Disappeared, but we’ll find them. Meanwhile, when the ship is ready continue the search for Serenity. The Saratoga spotted it near Hera but it escaped again.”
“What about this other problem you wanted me to take care of?”
“It is already being dealt with.”
After a fitful night Mal finally awoke and felt so tired he didn’t noticed anything strange at first. Upon using the toilet and then washing his face he noticed something was amiss. The laser bars on his cell door were off.
Mal took a hand full of water and threw it through the doorway and it went through and nothing happened. Next he took his pillow and did the same thing. Nothing happened and the pillow landed in the corridor. Then Mal heard footsteps in the hallway. A guard came to his door, Chinese, thin, the uniform baggy, the electron shock stick at his side like a heavy club for a small child. Mal hadn’t seen him before.
“Why are you throwing things in the hallway prisoner?” the guard asked in Chinese.
“Just doing some housekeeping,” Mal answered without any hint of emotion, his senses on fire for danger.
The guard nodded to him to come out. “Time for a shower before you stink up the place.” This time he spoke in English.
Mal came out slowly, and as he was walking down the corridor another guard, one he had seen before, took up position in front and was carrying a change of prison clothes which he handed to Mal. Then they went to the shower area. It was a large square room with about twenty shower heads on the walls, places with thick bars of soap, bottles of shampoo, and towels. But it was all open and there was no privacy.
“Ten minutes,” the Chinese guard said and then they left Mal alone.
Mal looked around and could see no way to escape. There were no windows and just a small vent he'd never fit through. He just shrugged, set the new clothes down on the bench and got out of his clothes and started to take a hot shower. A shower was a luxury he might not get too often. In his last stint in an Alliance prison on Hera after the war there had been no showers, just a steel bucket with water heated on a wood burning stove. And that had to do for ten prisoners, one bucket of water each night. So Mal let the water spray and he felt invigorated and more awake. After a few minutes he realized he wasn’t alone anymore.
He grabbed his towel, wiped his face, and turned around. One of the biggest, ugliest, meanest looking men Mal had ever seen was staring at him. He was naked except for underwear, white, taller than Jayne, had a bald head, a wide girth and huge arms covered in tattoos. He smiled and several teeth were missing.
“Hi, cutie,” he said in a country drawl. “I’m Pete, Big Pete.”
Mal did a double take, looked around and then pointed to himself. “Me? Cutie? Sorry, pal, wrong end of the romance stick. Besides, you ain’t my type.”
“How you all know till we had some fun.”
“Pal, Big Pete, whatever, you don’t want to go there. My wife will cut your balls off and use ‘em for dog food you lay a hand or…anything else…on me.”
Big Pete took two steps closer to Mal. Behind his back Mal had the soap and towel in hand and put the hard soap bar inside the towel.
“You know why they calls me Big Pete?”
“Cause your momma named you Peter and your big?” Mal said with some humor as he readied his weapon behind his back.
“Yeah and cause I got a big…” and he never said another word as he lunged for Mal and in his hand Mal could see he had concealed a sharp object, a shiv. The floor was wet and Big Pete slipped slightly and then Mal brained him with the soap in the towel. He could feel the soap smashing into the big dumbass’ head and Big Pete yelled and lost his balance and went down with a thud. In a second Mal was on him, and bent his hand, broke a finger and got the shiv.
“You broke my finger!” Big Pete yelled as Mal put the shiv to his throat.
“Who sent you? Was it Shin?”
But Big Pete didn’t answer. Mal got an elbow to the face and then he was flying across the room, landing hard. Big Pete was agile for a man of his size and he was up and flying through the air to land on Mal. The shiv went into Big Pete’s throat and blood spurted as he screamed and landed on Mal.
In a moment the Chinese guard was there with his electron shock stick as Big Pete was spurting big gouts of blood all over Mal who was trapped beneath his bulk.
“He tried to kill me!” Mal shouted as he struggled to push the massive, now close to death, Big Pete off of him.
“Too bad he failed,” the guard said and then Mal saw that look in the guard’s eyes and knew he was the one who sent Big Pete after him. As the electron shock stick was coming toward him, Mal knew he was in for a world of hurt.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009 1:48 PM
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