We Have the Technology: Chapter Five
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Clarence is taking River back to the Hands of Blue, and it looks as if there's nothing our Big Damn Heroes can do about it.


Firefly is the property of Joss Whedon, blah blah blah. You know the drill.

Thanks to Guildsister and Apollo for beta reading. Feedback will of course be appreciated.

I realize that I had previously stated that this would be the final chapter. However, when I wrote it, it started coming out a lot longer than I thought it would. So I found a good stopping point and will have the finale in Chapter Six.

A note to all you Shakespeare buffs: Nitro's opinion of Hamlet is not my own, so please refrain from the hate mail. This is merely my injecting some Old West history in the Firefly 'Verse. For those who may be confused, back then, theater troupes would travel out into the Wild West and perform Shakespeare plays so as to help bring civilization to the frontier, the poor, dumb bastards. What I describe below is pretty much the reception they'd get.

We Have the Technology: Prologue

We Have the Technology: Chapter One

We Have the Technology: Chapter Two

We Have the Technology: Chapter Three

We Have the Technology: Chapter Four

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

It was almost too easy. Everything had gone according to plan, from goading the doctor, to palming one of the sedatives and faking the switchover. It had nearly gone awry when Clarence had run into Captain Reynolds in the galley. Thankfully, he had been too doped up to notice anything amiss. Clarence was glad to have had the foresight to just carry a few key items in his pockets to prepare the surprise on the bridge. Had he brought along the entire case, even Reynolds' painkiller-fogged brain would have noticed something was wrong.

Bringing his mind back to the task at hand, Clarence briefly checked the condition of 172. He wasn't entirely sure how long the sedative would last, but calculated it would be long enough at least to get her to the spare shuttle and depart. He returned the items he had used on the bridge to the case containing Nitro's demolitions gear, except for a roll of tape, which he used to bind the hands and feet of 172.

As he did this, Clarence pondered on why he had spouted a mangled quote from that 900 year old play. Except for the sword fight in the final act, Nitro had been bored to tears when he saw it. Indeed, he had joined the other miners in heckling the unsuspecting troupe trying to bring Culture out to the Rim. Though Clarence realized that he had become erratic in the past fifteen months, he didn't care for the idea of being that erratic.

Slinging Nitro's sub-machine gun at his side, Clarence realized he had a problem. With the duffle bag containing ammunition, the demolitions gear, and 172, he didn't have enough hands to carry everything. He didn't wish to make multiple trips to the shuttle since it mean either leaving 172 unattended at some point or carry her back and forth each time. Either way, it increased the likelihood of getting caught. A pity the experiment where 99 had a pair of mechanical arms attached alongside his real ones went so disastrously wrong. Such an enhancement would be useful now. Improvising, he took the roll of tape and bound the bag and the case together. Placing the bundle on the common area couch, he used the rest of the tape to attach it to his back. The result jiggled a bit, but the more unstable substances Nitro kept in the case were packed in tightly enough to be unaffected. Satisfied, Clarence turned the boosters up a couple of notches to better handle the weight of 172 and tossed her over his right shoulder.

As Clarence stuck his head out into the cargo bay to see if the coast was clear, the low light vision feature of the eyes flickered and then went out. Annoyed, he tried switching on thermographic but got no response. The neural surge must have damaged them, he thought. He should probably be thankful that basic sight was given extra hardening in anticipation of such an occurrence. He did a quick check of the other systems and found them functional, though the crosshairs created by the targeting system tended to flicker. He'd just have to use them sparingly until he got a proper maintenance check.

Once in the cargo bay, Clarence slipped up the rear stairs slowly so as not to make too much noise. Having made it to the top, he crept along the catwalk, trying to keep in the shadows. This was not so simple with 172 over his shoulder and Nitro's gear taped to his back. It was a relief when he finally reached the door to the empty starboard shuttle.

Once inside, Clarence hastened his step to the controls and almost immediately ran into something. A light came on and with it came the realization that he had entered the Companion's shuttle instead. Acting on reflex, he extended the forearm blades and swung out at the startled Companion. Ignoring her scream, he ran out and hurried towards the port shuttle. As he closed the door behind himself, he saw someone rush down the stairs from the upper level. So much for a quiet getaway.

* * * * *

It was probably due to the painkillers, but for once Mal's dreams were actually fairly pleasant. So when the scream intruded, it was far more out of place than it normally would have. It still took him a couple of seconds to wake up and realize it hadn't been part of the dream. Pausing only to pull on some pants and grab his revolver, he quickly climbed out of his bunk and saw that the rest of the crew had done the same. It was clear that the scream hadn't come from any of them. There was no way it could have carried all the way over from the passenger dorm. Which could only mean...

As Mal hurried down the corridor in the direction of the cargo bay, he heard an explosion come from the bridge. He slowed down a bit to order Wash to find out what happened before charging down the stairs. As Mal reached the bottom, he saw someone enter the empty shuttle carrying another person. A cold feeling ran through his gut when he realized who those people must be. Seeing Zoë behind him, he signaled her to get to the other shuttle before it had a chance to launch.

As he entered Inara's shuttle, Mal was greeted by a sight that chilled his blood. Inara was lying on her bed, blood seeping from the large gash across her abdomen. Ripping off a wad from her bedsheets, Mal started applying pressure to the wound.

A couple of minutes later, Zoë entered and said, "Sorry, sir. By the time I got there, the shuttle was already detaching."

"Never mind that for now," responded Mal. "Get someone to wake the doctor if he ain't up yet. Then help me carry her to the infirmary."

* * * * *

After slamming the door shut, Clarence set 172 down and hurried to the controls. During their fifteen months of planet hopping, Clarence and Nitro had travelled on quite a few shuttles. But while Nitro would just sit idly, Clarence would pay attention to what the pilot did, in case such knowledge might prove to be useful later. Through this observation, he had been able to get a rough idea on how to operate a shuttle. The controls to this one were simple and it wasn't long before it was flying away from Serenity.

After programming a course in the direction of Boros and setting the proximity alert, Clarence went to check 172 to see if she was awake yet. Satisfied that she wasn't, he proceeded to untape Nitro's gear from his back. Once this was done, Clarence opened the case containing the demolitions gear and removed a securely packed vial with a small amount of a colorless liquid. Placing it in his shirt pocket, he settled in the pilot's seat and switched off the boosters.

As he sat there watching his hands shake, Clarence pondered on what had happened earlier. The fact that he had mixed up which shuttle was which bothered him. As Nitro suspected, it really wasn't in Clarence's nature to lie. When Captain Reynolds asked about Project Chi'ang Sh'ich, Clarence had seen no need to fabricate a story, especially since the truth was so unbelievable. Who would credit such a wild tale coming from the disreputable crew of a tramp freighter? So it would hardly seem likely that he would lie to himself. Wishful thinking was a trait that humans could keep as far as he was concerned. The only reasonable conclusion he could arrive at was that the A.I. unit that was him had also been damaged by the neural surge. Though the damage probably wasn't too significant it meant that the necessity of a maintenance check was even more crucial.

Clarence's thoughts were disturbed when the proximity alert went off. Up ahead, he saw an unmarked black ship which had to belong to Them. After fifteen months of pointless wandering, the situation was shaping in a manner to his liking.

* * * * *

The crew of Serenity waited outside the infirmary while Simon worked on Inara. Other than Zoë, Mal suspected that the others weren't really sure what had happened. Knowing it would be futile, he had checked where the bodies of the intruders were kept in case one of them hadn't been quite dead yet. But they were all accounted for, which drastically narrowed down the possibilities of who had boarded the shuttle. Especially considering that neither River or Nitro were present.

It had to have been Clarence's doing. But how had he managed to take over again? It then struck Mal that they didn't have any real proof that Nitro had ever regained control. For that matter, it hadn't been certain that it had been Nitro in the first place. For all Mal knew, it had all been an elaborate charade with the purpose of capturing River. He tried to convince himself that it was just his paranoia going into overdrive, but the doubt refused to leave.

Simon finally came out of the infirmary, looking very agitated. His manner was completely at odds with what he had to say. "She's going to be fine. The cut didn't go all the way through and there wasn't too much blood loss. A few days of taking it easy and it'll be like it never happened."

"Well, that's good, ain't it?" asked a confused Kaylee. "So why are you lookin' like that?"

Ignoring her, Simon headed straight to Mal and angrily stated, "It was him, wasn't it. Why did you just let him go in the first place?"

Mal figured that Inara must have blurted something of what she saw to the doctor. He had already been berating himself for letting sentimentality and wishful thinking cloud his judgment. Didn't mean he was going to tolerate getting the same from Simon. "Well Doc," he replied, "you were there for the show too. Don't recall hearing you demand that we chain him up." In the back of his mind, he realized that the others were watching and, except for Zoë, had no idea what they were talking about. But at that point, Mal didn't really care.

Only slightly fazed, Simon pressed on. "Well, aren't you going to turn the ship around and chase him down?"

Mal was about to reprimand him for giving orders to the captain when Wash returned from the bridge and interjected, "Ain't happening anytime soon." Turning to Mal, he continued, "That explosion we heard came from under the console. It was small, but enough that half the wiring is either destroyed or damaged enough as to be useless. Replacing it is simple enough, but it'll take time. Until then, we're stuck going forward."

"Any chance that we'll hit something solid?" asked Mal.

"Not too likely," replied Wash. "I checked the charts and this area of space is largely devoid of sizable pieces of space crap." Taking on a sour tone, he added, "Think maybe we should make it a policy not to take on any old army buddies. The ones we come across seem intent on humping us."

"It was Clarence that did it, not Nitro!" Zoë snapped angrily.

"Who's Clarence?" Wash asked, confused.

Deciding there was no point in keeping it secret anymore, Mal gave an explanation about Clarence as well as what he thought had happened earlier. As he did this, he wondered why Clarence had gone into Inara's shuttle in the first place. It just didn't make sense. The only conclusion Mal could come to that was even remotely believable was that, due to a lack of maintenance, Clarence had gotten a mite glitchy.

Once Mal had finished, Simon demanded, "Surely you're not going to just let him take River back to the Academy."

The part of Mal that was a bitter realist wanted to say that was exactly what he intended to do. It wanted to point out that Clarence had outwitted them and there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it. It thought that Simon should accept that there was nothing to prevent River from being sent back to the Academy and he should learn that sometimes the 'Verse just kicked you in the balls. But before Mal could put it in words, it got overruled by the part of him that revelled in his engaging in stupid heroics. It chastised him for being such a quitter and pointed out that just because he had experienced a gut wrenching disappointment in his life didn't mean he should force the same sort of thing on someone else. And though he'd never admit to anyone, the fact that Clarence had sliced up Inara really pissed him off. Anyway, Kaylee would probably make his life hell if he didn't at least try something.

Relenting to the latter, Mal stated, "Don't think Inara will mind too much if we take her shuttle. You with me, Zoë?"

"Really have to ask that, sir?" she countered.

"Shiny," Mal replied. Simon was certain to insist on going. He'd be handy to have if River was injured or hysterical, but would be useless in a gunfight. Mal would like to have a third gun along, but couldn't risk taking Jayne since he'd be certain to pop his stitches. Turning to Book, he asked, "You feeling up to some thrilling heroics, Preacher?"

"I think I can manage," Book replied.

Turning to Wash, Mal ordered, "Get to work patching up the console. When you're finished, turn Serenity around to pick us up. Will you be needing Kaylee to help out?"

Shaking his head, Wash replied, "if we both went at it at the same time, we'd just get into each others way."

"Right," Mal conceded. "Kaylee, think it might be best if you stay here with Inara in case she wakes up." Having covered everything, he concluded, "Zoë, break out some shotguns. Time's a'wasting."

* * * * *

The man in blue gloves stood on the observation deck looking out into the Black. He was concerned about the fact that the Chi'ang Sh'ich had failed to return. Even taking into consideration that they would take their time in killing the Firefly's crew, the mission should have been accomplished by now. There were only two possibilities, both equally unthinkable. Either they had been defeated by the crew of the Firefly or they had gone rogue like 158. The former was absurd, since it was impossible to kill a Chi'ang Sh'ich unless you knew to shoot for the A.I. minder. Even then, such a task was extremely difficult. The latter was less implausible, though it too had problems. The traitor who had started the whole mess had been rooted out and one of the successful Delphis ripped the pertinent information from his mind. That form of subversion should be impossible with other Chi'ang Sh'ich, since 158 was the only one in service with neural overrides. Still, there could be other unknown ways for the original personality to resurface and regain control.

As his partner entered the observation deck, the Chi'ang Sh'ich pilot who was the only other one currently aboard reported over the com, "Sir, a short range shuttle is approaching and attempting to make contact. Do you wish for the message to be received?"

His partner acceded and a voice on the com stated, "This is the minder of Subject #158. Project Delphi Subject #172 is also aboard this shuttle fully restrained. Requesting permission to dock."

158 was instructed to attach to the airlock leading to the observation deck. Finally, something was going right.

* * * * *

After docking with Their ship, Clarence checked on 172's condition. It looked as if the sedative was finally wearing off. Not that it would do her much good, securely bound as she was. He decided to leave her in the shuttle until he was finished conducting business.

As he opened the shuttle door, Clarence got a good look at the layout of the room. There wasn't much to notice. The only significant features he saw were the wall com, a door, and a large window that afforded an excellent view of the Black. The only ones present were those he recognized as Agents Two and Six.

Engaging the needed systems, Clarence whipped out Nitro's sub-machine gun and shot off five precisely aimed bursts. Four of them kneecapped the two agents while the fifth struck the wall com. Rushing to where the agents fell, he pulled the metal rods out of their pockets, dropped them, and crushed them underfoot. Shutting down everything but the boosters, he brought the sub-machine gun to bear and said, "Now that I've taken care of that, it's time to get down to business."

* * * * *

Onward to Chapter Six

* * * * *

Chinese translations

Chi'ang Sh'ich: A form of undead from Chinese folklore. It results from a corpse being left unburied after nightfall which allows an evil spirit to enter it. The result is the Chi'ang Sh'ich, which has big, nasty claws, poisonous breath, and a bad attitude. The only defense against it is to run like hell until daybreak, when the spirit leaves the corpse. And it moves a lot faster than your typical B movie zombies.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004 9:16 AM


Yep, definitely time for some Thrilling Heroics! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 4:17 AM


BTW that really was me who posted the above.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 11:01 AM


Oh, and I forgot.

Forearm blades = Retractable Spurs

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 2:59 PM


I loved the conflict between Mal the 'bitter realist' and Mal the man who 'revelled in his engaging in stupid heroics'--really well expressed.

Interesting that Clarence/Nitro incapacitates the Blue Hand agents, but doesn't outright kill them.

I'm not familiar with that video/computer game, but never had any trouble understanding the enhancements.


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Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 3
Our Big Damn Heroes finally learn what Aunt Vicky has left Zoe and are unwittingly put on Trial.

Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 2
Zoe receives a Wave which might lead The Magnificent Seven Plus Two out of their current financial woes. Then again, it might not.

Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 1
Caught between a rock and a hard place, Timothy Donner betrays his partner and makes a deal he may regret.

The Poseidon Misadventure: Part 2
Our Big Damn Heroes learn the dark secret of Mansfield.

The Poseidon Misadventure: Part 1
From back when it was the Magnificent Seven Minus Three. Serenity is forced to land on the backwater planet Poseidon for emergency repairs.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Six
And now the exciting contusion (sic). Nothing ever goes smooth, not even for the bad guys.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Five
Clarence is taking River back to the Hands of Blue, and it looks as if there's nothing our Big Damn Heroes can do about it.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Four
Clarence explains what happens when a neurologist with a chip on his shoulder gets access to an effectively unlimited budget and a P.O.W. camp full of Browncoats.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Three
The Magnificent Seven Plus Two rumble with the Chi'ang Sh'ich, with majorly unfun results. Some odd discoveries are also made.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Two
The Magnificent Seven Plus Two are finding the trip to Demeter to be no Caribbean-That-Was Cruise, and someone else recognizes Nitro.