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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The crew are spread out, and Mal wonders what River's actually up to. NEW CHAPTER (and if you missed the last one, check back!)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1200 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Have they got explosives?” Hank asked, visions of Serenity burst along her seams plaguing his mind’s eye.
It said much that Bethie understood. “No,” she confirmed. “Just guns.”
“We need Zoe back here.” Hank struggled to sit upright despite the pain shooting right across his belly.
Simon pushed him back. “If you tear that open I might not have time to save you.”
“Don’t worry, Uncle Hank,” Bethie said, no sign of any childish concern, and looking rather more like her Auntie River than was entirely comfortable. “I told them.”
“Good girl,” Simon said, and for a moment she preened.
“I still needed to lock the ship down,” Hank insisted, trying to push Simon’s hands off his shoulders.
Bethie bit her lip. “Um ...”
Ben ran onto the bridge, a frisson going through him at being up there alone, the warnings having been repeated over and over to each child since birth – “Don’t go up there if nobody’s with you ...” “Strictly off limits ...” “There’s things up there could hurt a child, let alone the ship ...”
Still, Bethie had been insistent, Ethan backing her up (which had been more important), and for once he knew he had to break the rules.
Scrambling into his daddy’s chair he scanned the control panel, his fingers drawn inexorably to the right buttons. One, two, three and flick the toggle. The screen turned red and the words SHIP LOCKDOWN flashed over a wireframe image of a Firefly, tiny glows indicating all the entrances had been overridden and now wouldn’t open from either inside or outside without the proper code.
He sank down into the chair, feeling his little heart pounding in his chest, but feeling a little pride as well. Zoe might have joked about it, but he was his father’s son.
“I told you we were stretched too thin.” Mal rubbed the back of his neck, a displacement activity that suggested he’d prefer to be hitting someone.
“And I told you Zoe’s heading back.” Freya touched his arm. “Simon and Kaylee are there – they won’t let anything happen to the children.”
“A doc and a mechanic?” His blue eyes flashed hard. “Hell, Kaylee can’t even fire a gun without feeling sick.”
“She’d take anyone apart with her bare hands if they threatened Bethie or the others. And Simon’s been practising, you know that.”
“Yeah, but –”
You go, River interrupted inside their minds, even her mental voice seeming to echo as she descended the ventilation shaft. I can deal with this.
Mal shook his head. “We don’t know how many guards there are.”
They won’t be expecting me.
“Maybe Frey should ...” The words died in Mal’s mouth at the look his wife was giving him. “Alright. Fine.” He waved his hand between them. “Just ignore me like always.”
Besides, by the time you got back, it might be over.
“Zoe’d better know what she’s doing.”
Zoe ignored the startled looks of the few hardy souls who had braved the weather to go to the store or about other errands as she took the most direct route back towards the docks. Only when she was outside the fence did she slow, her Mare’s Leg cocked and ready.
The low warehouses gave enough cover for her to get within eyeshot of her home, and for a moment she strained to see against the blinding whiteness. The exterior cargo bay door had flattened an area of snow outside Serenity, but the drifts either side hid the men until one of them moved.
She slid further back into the shade – unlike them in their white suits, she’d be visible as soon as she tried to cross the snowfield. Still, now she knew what to look for she could see maybe six men, one working on the locking mechanism, the others scanning the docks.
Zoe sighed. She could take out one, maybe two, before they figured out where she was. Or she could make her way around the back of the ship, creep up on them, but she wasn’t sure she could deal with that many before being dropped herself, then Serenity would be at their mercy. Besides, if she’d been the one trying to get in, she’d have at least one guard watching from under the Firefly’s bulbous stern.
Still, she had to do something.
“How close?” Mal spoke the words quietly, just to slow them down. The way his mind was racing he wasn’t sure she’d be able to pick them up otherwise.
She didn’t disappoint. Close.
Do you want a running commentary or are you just going to let me get on with it?
He had to smile slightly. If he hadn’t known better he’d have been tempted to wonder if it was Freya answering, and not River, at least from the prickliness of the reply. Then how long?
Not long. I just need to –
Whatever she needed to do was drowned in the shrill noise of a klaxon filling the air.
Mal went quickly around his half of the perimeter, Freya doing the same. “Shit,” he swore. “Can anything else go wrong today?”
No. That went right.
His eyes narrowed. “Was that you?”
“On purpose?” Now he was speaking because he couldn’t trust the words he really wanted to think.
“You tryin’ to give me another heart attack?”
Not on purpose, no.
“I’m not sure I really want to know this, then why the diyu would you do that?”
Mal looked at Freya. “And you want more kids?”
The slavers’ ship was nestled snugly inside the mouth of a cave, and even Jayne had to admit the pilot had done a good job. It also meant they couldn’t sneak up on it from behind, but it didn’t look like it was going to matter. Unlike Serenity the main access was through a large airlock on the port side and this stood open, only one guard leaning desultorily on the bulkhead. He was bundled up in cold weather gear and seemed to be picking his nose.
“Got any bright ideas?” Indigo asked quietly.
Jayne shrugged. “Thinkin’. You?”
“Do we actually have to do anything?”
“What do you mean?”
This time it was Indigo’s turn to shrug. “’Cause it seems to me your captain told us just to delay them. Keep ‘em occupied. Well, if they ain’t going anywhere, we just keep an eye on ‘em.”
Jayne absently stroked his grenades. “Seems like a waste, seeing as we’ve come all this way.”
“Didn’t I teach you about not running to a fight if you can let it come to you?”
“Says the man who once took on a dozen guards with nothing more than a handgun, just so’s he could get to the payroll first?”
“Yeah, well, I was younger and more foolish back then. Now I’m older and wiser I see the advantages of caution.”
There was a sudden flurry of activity at the slavers’ ship as men joined the guard, who stood to one side as a large hovermule, bigger and newer than Mal’s, negotiated the airlock and came to rest in the snow. The gunmen started to climb in.
“Moot point, now, though,” Indigo muttered, making sure the Sharps was ready to go.
Jayne sighed. “Yeah.”
“Any idea where they might be going?”
“So she is a Reader.”
Jayne glanced at him sharply. “You keep that to yourself.”
“It’s okay,” Indigo said. “I ain’t gonna be telling anyone, not with Sara looking like maybe she has a few of those tendencies herself.”
“’Sides, she’s yours. I wouldn’t.”
They hadn’t been idle as they spoke, moving closer to the ship, and now were within range. Jayne pulled a grenade from the webbing, his hand ready to twist the timer. “Ready?”
“As ever.” Indigo shouldered the Sharps, knowing its near silence wouldn’t give away their position immediately. “Let ‘er rip.”
Pederson tugged the buzzing comlink from his pocket. “What? I’m mite busy.”
“So’re we,” said a voice that sounded like Archer back at the camp. “We’ve got intruders.”
His scalp tightened. “Alliance?”
“You think they’d sneak in?”
“MacCready,” Pederson spat, all the clues coming together in a simple conclusion. “It has to be.”
“Isn’t he dead?”
“I don’t believe in ghosts.” Another obvious fact flashed into his brain. “That’s where they were going.”
“What?” Archer didn’t understand.
“Call the ship, get the boys to help you.”
“I called and Herb said they come, but they ain’t turned up yet. I’ve been trying, but I can’t reach them.”
Pederson bit back on the curses that wanted to flow, imagining the remainder of his men relaxing just because the boss was away. “Well, like I said, I’m busy. Call Cutter McCoy. And the Tanners. They can earn their money for a change.” He flicked the switch off then looked at MacDonald who was still fiddling with the exterior cargo bay door controls. “Ain’t you got the gorram thing open yet?”
MacDonald just shrugged.
The comlink chirped again and this time Pederson’s snarl had ice crystals shivering from Serenity’s hull. “What? I told you –”
“It’s Herb, boss. We can’t go help the fellers at the camp. We’re ... kinda pinned down.”
“Yeah. I’ve lost Gomez already, and ...” There was the sound of an explosion. “I think they’ve got grenades, boss.”
Pederson closed his eyes, this time the swear words backed up behind his teeth. “Shit. My day just keeps getting better and better.” He exhaled heavily through his nose. “Fine. Pack up here. We’re going back.”
See? River sounded far too smug.
For all her tension Freya smiled at Mal. “Sounds to me like something you might do.”
“Me?” He shook his head. “So we’re gonna have a lot more folks about to arrive and try to kill us?”
Always looking at the glass half empty. River’s tone was mildly admonishing.
“River, you and me are going to have a little talk later.”
Looking forward to it.
Mal swore under his breath, aware that his cursing had got a lot worse since he’d taken on a family, and fleetingly wondered what he’d done to deserve it, before all the things he had done flashed across his mind.
Zoe watched the white-clad men hurry towards the way out, and she slid around Serenity’s hull, keeping them in view until they disappeared. Only when she was sure they’d gone did she reach into her pocket and pull out the comlink.
“Release the lockdown.”
There was no sound, but a run of lights flickered across the lock, settling on green. She pulled the small airlock door open and ran inside.
“Zoe?” Simon moved out from behind the stack of crates, his gun in his hand. “Are they gone?”
She took a deep breath, glad for once it hadn’t been Mal, Freya or Jayne waiting in the bay. They might well have fired first, assuming it was one of the intruders, which could have been really awkward.
“For the moment,” she confirmed.
Above her, on the catwalk by the doorway to the living area, Kaylee stood up, a rifle clutched in her fingers. “Are the others okay?”
“I’m going to make sure.” Zoe glanced at the ATV, a surge of memory overtaking her of Wash riding it, taking pride in keeping the old vehicle going, spending hours tinkering and improving. Then he’d been the one to suggest using it as a mobile flame bomb when they’d gone in to rescue Mal from Niska. She’d never been more proud of him than at that moment, in a lifetime of pride. Mind, he’d also insisted on picking up the charred remains and taking it back on board, happily putting it back together, even when they had been able to afford the new hovermule, sometimes forgetting the hour until she came and made him accompany her back to their bed.
Not this time, though. Despite its sturdiness, there was the distinct possibility it could flounder in the deep snow, then she wouldn’t be able to help anyone. This time she was going to have to find another way.
First, though ...
“Stay here,” she commanded. “Just ‘cause they’ve gone doesn’t mean they ain't coming back.”
Simon nodded, his normally calm face set into deeper determination.
Zoe ran through into the common area, pausing by the infirmary doorway. Hank was alone.
“Hey,” he said quietly, the rifle he was holding incongruous against the bandages wrapping his belly.
“Hey.” She smiled for him. “Where are the children?”
“Hiding. As soon as we knew someone was outside. Bethie took Sara with her and made all the kids get into the hole.” The hole, something Kaylee had constructed in one of the larger guest rooms where a false bulkhead hid an area just big enough for Serenity’s most precious cargo.
“Except Ben,” Zoe pointed out.
Hank blushed. “No, well, he wouldn’t go. Said he had to look after the ship.”
“You should have made him.”
“Hell, Zo, Simon wouldn’t let me get up!” he protested, then lifted the gun. “He didn’t even want me to have this.”
“Maybe a ship isn't the best place to bring up children.”
He grinned. “Honey, it’d take more dynamite than there is in the ‘verse to get you away from Mal’s side, and far as I can see he has something of the right of it – keep flying. At least then we can run.”
She darted into the infirmary and planted a kiss on his lips. “Chance would be a fine thing.” For a moment she gazed into his grey eyes, pushing his untidy brown hair from his face, then turned, hurrying out of the room and up the stairs without a backward glance.
Hank flopped back onto the medbed and closed his eyes tightly, fighting the pain and nausea that swept through him, and wishing he could do more to help.
Zoe ran through the corridor and jumped the steps to the bridge. Ben was cowered in the pilot’s chair, but as soon as he saw her he stood up, his arms outstretched.
She held him close. “You should be hiding,” she said softly.
“Can’t. There’s nobody else to do ... this.” He let go with one hand long enough to wave it over the bridge controls, then took hold of her again.
She pulled back enough to look into his coffee face. “And you’ve done really well.”
He beamed. “Thank you.”
“I’m going to go and help the others, so are you up to locking us down again once I’ve gone?”
Ben nodded. “Of course, Momma.”
He looked so grown up, so intent on doing the right thing, that Zoe had to swallow. He was his father’s son. She hugged him again. “Good boy.” Letting him go she walked back to the doorway. “Oh, and don’t think this gives precedence for being up here on your own, dong mah?”
“No, Momma.” He grinned, reminding her even more of the man lying in the infirmary.
She nodded, then ran for the shuttle.
to be continued
Thursday, March 8, 2012 5:50 AM
Thursday, March 8, 2012 3:12 PM
Thursday, March 8, 2012 7:50 PM
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