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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Chapter 13: With the crew in the hands of the Alliance, River realizes she cannot run anymore.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 629 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
Simon’s heart raced with urgency as he watched Mal try to attend to Inara. The captain pressed a hand over the wound and she uttered a heart-rending cry. She needed his attention now. He made a slow move towards her.
“Hold it! I said don’t move,” a soldier thrust his rifle centimeters from Simon’s face. He slowly looked up, the levity of the situation written on his face.
“I’m a doctor. Please let me see to her.”
“Hands up!” the soldier commanded. Simon gave in, knowing he could do know good if he was dead. He slowly raised his hands, an apologetic look for Mal. The captain swung his head to the squadron leader approaching him, murder in every inch of his being. The squad leader took in the scene with precise military efficiency. “Command, we have the targets subdued. Send a med team down here. We got wounded on both sides,” he radioed the request.
“Cap’n?” the radio in Mal’s pocket crackled to life with Kaylee’s voice. “Cap’n, can you hear me?”
“Who’s that?” the squad leader demanded, rifle trained on Mal. Mal fixed his expression in silence. “Search the ship,” he motioned to three of this team. “Get up,” he hauled Mal to his feet. “All of you get up!” Slowly, Simon, Jayne and Zoe rose as well. “Who else is on the ship?” he asked. Mal’s hands twitched, itching to wrap around the soldier’s neck. Through supreme effort of will, he held them in check. He glanced down at Inara who was struggling to breathe, the stain spreading through her dress visible as an ugly, dark splotch in the crimson lighting. “Who else is on your ship?” the squad leader demanded again. Mal raised his chin, looking down on the soldier before staring obstinately off into space. The standoff dragged on for a good half minute.
“Ow, hey! Let me go!” Kaylee’s protests carried from outside the bay.
“Sir, we found her in the engine room,” one of the soldiers escorting Kaylee called, thrusting her through the door. Kaylee stumbled forward and stopped when she saw Inara on the floor.
“Inara!” she cried, tearing free from the soldiers and trying to run to the Companion’s side. They corralled her again, but she thrashed and kicked fiercely. Finally one soldier slugged her across the chin and she dropped to the floor.
“Kaylee!” Simon cried, but he was quickly restrained as soon as he tried to move. Kaylee slowly sat up, wiping the trickle of blood from her split lip, tears burning her cheeks. She flung a hateful look at the soldier who had punched her, but it quickly faded into dread as she was drawn back to Inara. She started to crawl towards her, but the soldiers picked her up and pinned her arms behind her.
“Is that all?” the squad leader asked.
“Don’t know, sir. Didn’t get to search the whole place.”
“Alright. I want two guards on each one. Command, we’re escorting the prisoners to the brig. Send me a few extra men so we can do a thorough search of the ship.”
“Roger, squad leader.” Soldiers paired off with each of Serenity’s crew. As they were thrust towards the airlock, the med team arrived and began examining the soldiers who had fallen near the door.
“Hey! Hey!” Mal shouted as they were shoved past. He tried his hardest not to lose sight of Inara. “What about her? Your gorram medics better see to her!” He resisted, but the soldiers coaxed him not-so-gently through the airlock with violent shoves. The last image he had was of her, wan and limp, life bleeding out on the cargo bay floor.
Major General Kriegel’s handheld Cortex unit alerted him to an incoming wave with a beep. He pulled it out of his pocket as he strode through the corridors of the Academy’s lower levels. He opened the channel.
“Major General, Captain Cavannaugh, cruiser Shichang,” an Alliance naval officer saluted him from the small screen.
“Captain,” he nodded in acknowledgement.
“Sir, I want to inform you that we have just captured the transport ship Serenity in Osiris space. Her crew is being transferred to the brig as we speak.” Kriegel stopped walking.
“You’re sure, Captain?”
“Yes, sir. The registration numbers match the database.”
“How many were on board?”
“Six, sir. One was seriously wounded in the firefight when we boarded. Our med bay is working on her.”
“Was it River Tam?” Kriegel demanded.
“I’m not sure, sir. We’re still verifying identities…”
“Find out, Captain. I need to know. I need her alive. Your med team better do everything they can to save her.”
“Wave me the instant you find out.”
“Yes, sir.” Kriegel shut off the screen. He leaned against the wall, tapping his fingers against it. Serenity had been captured. That news should have been enough to send him skipping down the hall. However, if the Tam girl was wounded and did not survive, it would seriously set back the Academy’s progress. He needed to alert Chu-yu at once and then arrange for the crew to be transferred planetside. He hustled through the labyrinth to get to his office. He had an interrogation to coordinate. Before he reached it, his Cortex was already ringing again. It was Captain Cavannaugh. “What have you found, Captain?”
“Sir, I have a list of the crew who were on board. We have confirmed their identities as Malcolm Reynolds, captain; Zoe Alleyne, first mate; Inara Serra, a registered Companion; Jayne Cobb, Kaywinnit Frye, and Dr. Simon Tam. Miss Serra was the one wounded. River Tam was not on board.”
“You’re sure? You checked everywhere? This Firefly has a notorious history of smuggling, Captain, and the fugitive is extremely adept at evading capture.”
“A team went through the ship thoroughly, and they are going through it again as we speak. So far, we haven’t found anyone else.”
“Double and triple check, Captain.”
“Yes, sir. One other unusual thing we noticed is that both shuttles are missing. We did not detect any craft launched from the ship before we intercepted, but it’s possible someone might have slipped off that way.” Kriegel nodded.
“Thank you for your excellent work, Captain. If nothing else out of the ordinary turns up, transmit me your final report when you’re through. I am going to set up the transfer of the prisoners to the surface right away.”
“Yes, sir. I should inform you that Miss Serra’s injuries are life-threatening. She would be better served at a hospital planetside than in our med bay.”
“Go ahead and transfer her to Capital City Hospital for treatment immediately. I’ll take care of the others. Thank you, again, Captain.”
“Thank you, sir.” The gears in Kriegel’s mind hummed. If she was not on board, the only way River Tam could have slipped away was on a shuttle. And there was only one place she would head. He brought up the daily logs of Port Control, entered his security code that gave him unrestricted access, and scanned for any unauthorized landings. Nothing anomalous was on the report, but that did not mean a small shuttlecraft could not have slipped through. He dialed the code for the Fugitive Task Force using his secure command line.
“Yes, sir, Major General,” the answer was prompt.
“I’ve just been informed that Serenity has been captured over Osiris. River Tam was not on board, but the shuttles were missing. Send a team immediately over to the Tam residence. It’s the only place she would have gone. If you find her there, apprehend her immediately. If not, get a surveillance team set up. I don’t want her slipping through.”
“Yes sir, right away.” With that taken care of, Kriegel shot a quick message to Chu-yu detailing the recent developments. His lips twisted in a wry smile. Even though Serenity was neutralized and it was only a matter of time before River Tam was tracked down, he was sure the representative would have some thankless comment in response to hearing she was still at large. He did not feel like listening to it in person through a wave. Once that message was away, he turned to the task of filling out the forms to initiate transferring the crew to his jurisdiction. Finally, after two years, this nightmare looked like it was drawing to a close.
River stood before the mirror on her door and brushed her hair. Her soiled cargo pants and hoodie had been exchanged for a simple plum-colored dress that was in her closet. She always liked dresses best. Maybe it was the dancer in her, but she enjoyed the simplicity and freedom of movement the design allowed. She was calm this morning. The brush moving automatically through her hair rendered her in a state of semi-tranquility. The turmoil of the past several days receded to the back of her brain, not gone, but not consuming her at the moment. She reviewed her reflection in the mirror. Disturbingly, she noted that her features had grown less recognizable. She saw more of Ariel in her, with the harsh eyes and expressionless lips, even though her alter was still and quiet. She started to worry about the very real possibility that she might become Ariel entirely. Was that the Academy’s purpose, to turn her into a weapon entirely? Someone who would kill without care or question? -Or maybe it’s just who I always was,- she thought. She stopped brushing and met the hard gaze of the girl staring back at her. -Who am I?-
The beeping of the security panel downstairs signaled someone arriving at the front door. Cautious, River opened her door just a sliver, listening as her father’s heels clicked across the foyer.
“Yes?” he asked whoever was out there.
“Mr. Tam. We have some news. Serenity was captured not long ago. However, your daughter was not on board. She may have managed to get to the surface and we think she will try to come here. Has she contacted you at all?” Waves of panic surged over River’s earlier calm. She did not breathe while she waited for her father to answer.
“Well, actually, yes she did,” Gabriel said, but not without some hesitance.
“Sir, do you know where she is?” demanded the voice outside the door.
“Um… she’s… she’s upstairs. She arrived almost two days ago but I..., hey, what is the meaning of this…” her father protested. Booted feet clattered into the tiled foyer.
“Mr. Tam, we need to take your daughter into custody. She may be dangerously disturbed.”
“She’s not dangerous. She’s traumatized. What are you doing?” River heard the unmistakable sounds of weapons being readied.
“Please, sir. Stay back for your own safety. We won’t hurt her. This is for her protection.”
“Now hold on a moment. I did not give you permission to…” River shut the door silently, cutting off her father’s protests. They were here for her. She locked the latch and immediately grabbed her holster, strapping it to her thigh beneath her dress. She took one of the two spare clips and tucked it beneath the straps as well. Her mind was already calculating possible escape plans. Seven, she counted. Seven pairs of boots had clomped into the foyer. They would probably use sonic rifles or something else non-lethal. She could shoot through them, especially if she surprised them on the stairs. However, it was likely one or two would stay on the lower level and she would not have enough time to take them all out before one got off an accurate shot. She looked to the window. The roof beams extended out a little beyond the edge of the soffit, just enough to get a handhold. She climbed onto her bed, flung the sash open, and kicked the screen out. Behind her, the knob of the bedroom door rattled. Something heavy slammed into it. It was not going to hold up for long. She yanked the bed across the carpet, clearing a path to the window, and rammed it against the door just as the latch gave way.
“River Tam! Federal Fugitive Task Force agents! Open this door immediately. We won’t hurt you.” She scoffed at that remark, pressing against the far wall. Taking a deep breath, she sprinted towards the window. Leaping, her booted foot hit the sill and she thrust herself into the air. Her fingers just barely caught the edge of the beam. She hung there for a second to make sure she had a solid grip, the lawn a good three meter drop below. Then she kicked her legs back and forth, setting up a swinging motion. Her fingers started to ache from supporting the weight of her body. Summoning strength, she swung forward with all her might and kicked her legs high, flipping up over the edge and landing on her feet on the roof. Sparing only half a second to catch her breath, she ran to the front of the house and bounded down to the small overhang above the second floor bay window and then onto the roof of the porch. She leaped to the ground from there, landing in a crouch. She hazarded a glance behind her. The front door was wide open, two soldiers in full Alliance tactical armor stood in the foyer, weapons readied at the second floor landing. They did not see her as she took off at full speed through the yard and down the street.
River did not stop running until she was well out of the residential neighborhoods and starting into the fringes of the city. She forced her adrenaline-fueled muscles to slow down and walk lest she draw attention to herself. Her eyes scanned the street, looking for a place to take shelter. Passing a restaurant, she ducked into the alley beside it and took refuge behind a dumpster. There she collected her fragmented thoughts. The crew had been captured. Guilt wracked her. She knew they had come after her. -It’s my fault.- She pressed her palms against her eyes. -You were selfish,- she accused, slamming her hands against her knees in anger. Because of her, people were hurt, and people were dead. The blood of all those on Haven, of Shepherd Book and Wash and Mr. Universe, and even her mother, stained her. Just as surely as she had pulled the trigger on the salesman on Persephone, or killed the doctor at the Academy. She froze, numb with shock, remembering the man she had seen on the floor of the dining area that one night, and she covered with blood. She had killed him. It was her first mission. -No more!- she cried silently. -No more will die for me.- A steely coil of resolve unwound in her. As long as the Alliance wanted her, everyone she knew was in danger. She had to end it. There was only one solution. -They didn’t leave me a choice,- she thought ruefully. -They never did.-
Kriegel leaned over the com screen, scowling. “Mr. Tam, why did you feel that it was appropriate to wait two days before contacting the task force to alert them your daughter had come home?” Gabriel Tam shifted his eyes uncomfortably beneath Kriegel’s glare.
“I’m sorry, Major General. She was very upset. She insisted I didn’t. I was afraid she might leave again.”
“Well, I can appreciate what you were going through, but you still should have notified us immediately. Now she’s gone, and we have no current leads on her whereabouts.” Gabriel’s cheeks drooped and his head lowered like a beaten dog. “Do you have any ideas where she would go?”
“No,” the man’s response was quiet, defeated.
“Well, we have Serenity’s crew. Perhaps one of them can shed some light on her intentions.” Gabriel’s head went up, a distant hope in his eyes.
“Can I see my son?”
“I’m sorry,” Kriegel shook his head. “He is facing some very serious charges. We can’t let you see him until after the interrogation is over.” Gabriel nodded in understanding, but his head was down again. “Please, go see to your wife for now,” he gently urged, “and if River makes contact with you, you will notify us right away this time.” Gabriel nodded his assent. “Thank you, Mr. Tam,” Kriegel disconnected the wave. He strode out of the control room and motioned for the guard to open the security door. The heavy steel portal slid aside and he walked down a narrow, harshly-lit hall lined with identical doors. Another guard was posted at one. The guard saluted smartly, which the Major General returned as he went into the room and closed the door behind him. The room was bare concrete, the single arc light overhead providing far too much brilliance for the small space it illuminated. Just a stark metal table and two chairs furnished it. Sitting at one of those chairs, arms and legs shackled together, was Simon Tam. Kriegel made no haste to sit down. Once settled in the chair across from the doctor, he folded his hands together on the table.
“Dr. Tam, I am Major General Daniel Kriegel. I am in charge of you and your sister’s case for the Fugitive Task Force. I have to say, you’ve given us quite a run these past two years. Causing quite a bit of a stir.”
“What do you want?” Simon asked with a tone that indicated to skip the bullshit. Kriegel regarded him coolly.
“I want information on your sister. River was not on the ship with you, and we know she went to your parents’, but she escaped again.” A dash of hope flitted through Simon’s expression. “I need to know where she might go from there,” Kriegel went on.
“I don’t know,” Simon’s answer was final and he leaned back in his chair, looking away from Kriegel.
“You and your sister grew up on Osiris. Certainly you have friends, acquaintances, someone she would seek out for help?” Simon met Kriegel’s eyes again with contempt.
“She was locked in that ren jian di yu for three years. Any friends she might have had I’m sure she lost touch with.”
“What about your friends?”
“I’ve lost touch with them as well,” Simon bit sarcastically.
“I know what you mean. River was never close to anyone I knew.” Kriegel leaned back, evaluating.
“So, you have no idea where your sister might have gone?” Simon held his gaze for a long time.
“No.” He turned his head away again. “Now, if you’re going to charge me and keep me locked up like this,” he jangled his shackles, “I want to see a lawyer.”
“I’m sure you do,” Kriegel rose. He flashed a fake smile at Simon and left the room. “Return him to his cell,” he spoke to the guard, “and bring in Captain Reynolds next.”
The Capital City Library was a voluminous building that occupied an entire city block. In a distant part of her life, the stacks were a second home of sorts. River thrust that remembrance away as she walked through the security gate, not even bothering to hide her face from the monitors. She knew exactly where to find the public Cortex terminals. They required a passkey to access, which she did not have, but it was no small feat to pick one up from the mind of a random patron. She pretended to browse the stacks while she waited for some of the users to leave so she would have more privacy. When enough space opened up, she slipped behind a terminal and logged on. Her fingers were a blur on the touchscreen. It did not take long to find the information she needed. The image of her filled the screen, younger, softer, innocent. Emptiness enveloped her as she looked at it. She wanted to weep for the loss of that girl, for not being able to save her. -It’s too late,- she told herself, sweeping the emotions aside. She switched to the broadwave command screen and entered the code.
Matthias sat in the dirt, strumming an improvised chord progression while the usual mix of colorful characters on the Eavesdown Docks passed him by. At his side, Anna slept fitfully, wrapped beneath an extra layer of clothes and using one of their duffels for a pillow. The little money they had left after leaving Serenity had not been enough to buy them passage on even the worst garbage heap of a ship. Matthias had resorted to panhandling, playing on the street to collect what money he could. So far their earnings were few. Anna, without her treatments, was in sore shape. Every waking moment was agony for her. She could not walk, or even stand without his help. He did not know how much longer she could endure it. Two platinum clattered into his open guitar case.
“Duo xie,” he looked up to thank the generous donor.
“You play very beautifully, Dr. Harder,” the man intoned with gravitas. Matthias’ fingers seized on the fretboard. His senses were instantly open to the man, and what he read from his mind threw him into panic.
“Do not be frightened, Doctor,” the man calmed him. “I am not here to hurt you.” He knelt down, reaching into a satchel slung at his side. He pulled out an autoinjector gun.
“What are you doing?” Matthias asked, still too afraid to move though.
“I’m giving your wife her treatment.” He removed a syringe and vial, loaded the needle, and placed it in the gun. He scooted closer to Anna.
“Wait,” Matthias grabbed his arm.
“It’s Pescaline, Doctor,” the man assured, handing him the vial to see. Indeed it was, Matthias read on the label. The man grasped Anna’s arm and pressed the injector against her skin. Anna twitched and groaned. Her eyes fluttered open and focused with difficulty on the man. As awareness flooded through her, she struggled to pull away from him. Matthias grabbed her hands and moved protectively in front of her.
“What do you want with us?”
“The Firefly Serenity was captured just a few hours ago over the skies of Osiris. You don’t know this because it has not been made public yet.”
-River, Simon,- Matthias thought with a sinking heart. He sensed the same distress in Anna. “So how do you know?” he demanded. The man’s warm smile held secrets.
“I have my contacts.”
“What does that have to do with us?” The man settled into a crouch, eyes down on the dirt for a moment.
“I owe a debt, Dr. Harder. A debt I believe you and your wife can help me repay.” He met both of their gazes evenly. “In the process, you may also be able to restore your honor.” Matthias considered the man warily. What he was saying did not make sense. Also, he was doing an extraordinary job of keeping his mind blank, so there was very little for him to read. He obviously knew who and what they were, and the glimpses he had caught at first told him this was not a man to be trifled with.
“What do we have to do?” he finally asked.
“Have courage, Doctor. And faith. But time is short. Come with me and I will explain everything.”
Mal, shackled and chained like Simon, sat in the same room with Major General Kriegel before him. The two shared a mutually acrimonious silence, Mal staring down Kriegel with venom and Kriegel contemptuously ignoring him.
“Captain Reynolds,” Kriegel bypassed the courtesy of an introduction. “I think you’re an intelligent enough man to know why you’re here, so I’ll skip the explanation.”
“Where’s Inara? And the rest of my crew?” Mal demanded.
“I’ll ask the questions, Captain.” Kriegel tossed a dossier on the table and sat down behind it. “You understand the seriousness of the charges against you.”
“I surely do.”
“Treason, conspiracy, acts of terrorism, aiding and abetting known fugitives,” Kriegel listed off. “More than one of those is a capital crime, Captain Reynolds.” He was pleased to see beneath the man’s stalwart exterior a very faint trace of fear as he spoke. “We know all about you. We know you were responsible for the Miranda broadwave. We know you contacted Matthias Harder. We know of your crusade to make the Browncoats rise again using River Tam and Dr. Harder to spur on a new Independent movement.”
“Then you don’t know me very well. I don’t use other people ‘gainst their will.”
“No, you just manipulate them to justify the ends you see as right.” Mal raked Kriegel with razors at that comment. “So what I need to know from you,” Kriegel went on, “is who your associates are and how much you have told them.” Mal’s face twisted into a half-smile of contempt.
“You’re barkin’ up the wrong tree. I ain’t got no associates or no master plan. I laid down my arms like everyone else seven years ago.”
“You expect me to believe that? Given your record since the end of the war? You’ll gain nothing by pretending it’s not true. The Independents are done for, Captain. They lost.”
“Everyone seems to think I don’t know that,” he rounded on Kriegel. “You think I took that girl in ‘cause I was lookin’ for revenge? ‘Cause I wanted to put myself through that shitstorm again? You’re a ruttin’ idiot! I just want to go my way, live my life without the Alliance interferin’ none, and keep me and mine safe. I took her in ‘cause it was the right thing to do. Only grudge I got against the Alliance is with qu qu bai lei like you who think it’s shiny to muck around in a little girl’s brain to satisfy your paranoid wet dreams. So you tell me, Major General, which one of us is still fightin’ the war?” Mal’s fury was almost palpable. The two men locked eyes in a silent battle of wills. Kriegel gave in first, looking down at his dossier.
“Well, Captain, if you won’t cooperate with my investigation willingly, I suppose I’ll have to resort to other methods.” He rose.
“You can torture me all you like. Ain’t gonna do you no good,” Mal brushed off the threat.
“I didn’t say I was going to torture you,” Kriegel pronounced ominously. “Miss Serra is at Capital City Hospital. She is alive, but her condition is still very tenuous. If any… complications arose, she might not make it through. Or perhaps your young mechanic might be more compliant with the right encouragement.” The devastating horror of Kriegel’s implications washed over Mal. A churning rage so blind erupted that he was not even aware he was trying to get up.
“You…” Words had not been created yet that could express his hatred. His jaw trembled, hands balled into fists so tight his nails drew blood.
“In the meantime, Captain Reynolds, why don’t you go back to your cell and think about your attitude towards this investigation. In any case, you ought to prepare yourself, because once this is over, I promise you, the gallows is the only place you’ll be headed.” Kriegel’s guarantee was cold and pitiless. A sharp knock on the door disturbed the ringing silence that followed it. A guard entered with an urgent expression on his face.
“I’m sorry, Major General, but you have a wave.”
“I’m in the middle of an interrogation. Take a message,” Kriegel ordered, annoyed that the soldier would think to interrupt him for that.
“Um, sir, I think you’ll want to take this. It’s River Tam.”
Shichang- Last name of Deng Shichang, heroic Chinese admiral during the Sino-Japanese War in 1894. His ship ran out of shells so he resorted to ramming enemy vessels.
ren jian di yu- hell on earth
duo xie- many thanks
qu qu bai lei- twisted degenerates
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