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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
Captain Archer finds himself doing the last thing he thought he would ever do. Life for Mal takes a definite turn for the worse. The crew of Enterprise discover something they never knew existed still less expected to see."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1978 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "DEEPER AND DEEPER"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "ALL KINDS OF TROUBLE".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Captain Archer finds himself doing the last thing
he thought he would ever do. Life for Mal takes a definite
turn for worse. The crew of Enterprise discover something
they never knew existed still less expected to see."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
'Enterprise' and its' characters are the property of 'Paramount'.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
"DEEPER AND DEEPER"
A "Firefly"/"Enterprise" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Captain Archer looked shocked. The Sub-Commander was silent after delivering her bombshell. No trace of emotion on the still mask of her exotic face. Not so Commander Tucker. The three of them were in the Captain's ready room. Trip was pacing. All pent up energy and unchannelled aggression. He looked like he wanted to hit something before he exploded. It shook the Captain out of his own dark thoughts.
Trip paused and turned, his expression dark. Anger just held in check, hands bunched into fists at his side. "This is suicide, Cap'n. Even if we found them there's no guarantee they'd tell us anythin'."
"I am well aware of that but we don't seem to have much choice, do we?"
"Well *I* do an' I'm sayin' I'm not prepared to hand ya over to the enemy."
"I am not going to be *handed over* to anyone."
Trip glared at his friend, trying hard to hold himself in check. He took a couple of steps towards the Captain, paused and visibly took a few breaths to calm down. "Cap'n, this is no option. The Klingons are your enemy which makes them ours. No way would they so much as piss on ya if ya were on fire."
He ignored the Captain's warning tone. Deadly serious now. "If the Klingons *do* know these Xindi there is something else ya have to consider." He paused. The Captain said nothing. He was waiting for Trip to continue. "The plans the Xindi have for Earth may be aided and abetted by those Neanderthal dogs."
The room went still. Captain Archer looked at his Chief Engineer for several minutes in silence. When he spoke his voice was quiet, calm, and pitched to carry. "I've thought of that, Commander, but in hunting for this species we are going to have to do a lot of things none of us want to do." He paused, willing his friend to go along with him on this. "Consider this one of them."
A deadly silence fell between them. There was a flicker of agony on Commander Tucker's face. "I won't let them kill you."
"Good." Said the Captain evenly, eyes still locked on Trip's. "Then what could go wrong?"
Captain Malcolm Reynolds had experienced better days but he had also had worse. Right now the two were closing into an alarming alignment that did not bode well. The thought uppermost in his mind was getting Zoe out of the line of fire. Black and Stone were none too gentle in pushing him towards the exit. He saw Jayne still but tense, coiled for action if the opening should present itself. He gave the man a slight shake of the head then flicked his eyes back towards Zoe. A glimmer of understanding in Jayne's eyes was all Mal needed to know that his silent order had been understood. Realising some kind of communication had passed between them, Stone cracked Mal across the back of the head with his gun. Not enough to knock him out just adding a few hundred more stars to his sky. He stumbled. Impatient hands preventing him from falling. Pain flashed in sharp relief behind his eyes like vivid forks of lightening making him momentarily dizzy as it pierced him. Black shoved him forward again. Hard. The men either side of Jayne watched with narrowed eyes for the big man to do something. If anything the mercenary relaxed, a slow smile oiling its' way across his face. It was enough to tell the men that he would do nothing to extricate the Captain from his predicament.
"Guess you won't be needin' Serenity no more, *Captain*."
It was not a question. Captain Reynolds played up to him, allowing cool venom to dampen the burn of rage in his voice. "That's all you've been waiting for isn't it?"
Jayne shrugged nonchalently. "Just waitin' for a better offer, you know me."
The Captain spat at his feet. "When I get out of this I'm gonna hunt ya down."
The big man crossed his arms and smirked. "*If* you get out of this."
Jayne gave Black and Stone a nod. To most it would have looked like a professional courtesy. One hired thug to another. The Captain knew different. He was committing their names and faces to memory. Black grinned at Jayne. "Suggest you go back to *your* ship."
A grin flashed then Jayne glanced at Zoe and back to Black. "She stays."
At Black's look, Jayne smiled again. This time the dirty leer filled in the blanks of what was not said. Black and Stone laughed. Stone shoved Zoe towards Jayne then eyed the men watching Jayne. "Stay with them until we're gone. If they give you no trouble let them go. If they so much as twitch, kill 'em."
The bridge was tense. Electrified with undercurrents of tension that only the clinically dead could have ignored. Ensign Hoshi Sato stared at the Captain as if he had completely taken leave of his senses. Lt Reed was not so polite about it.
"With respect sir, that is not a plan it's capitulation! Need I remind you that you cannot negotiate with Klingons? They lack the equipment between their ears to make any form of dialogue meaningful. They will lie, cheat, and betray you. That is if they don't open fire the second they see Enterprise on their screens."
"You tell him Lieutenant 'cause he won't listen to me." Mumbled Trip miserably.
The Captain ignored him. "That is why they aren't going to see us on their sensors, Lieutenant."
All heads lifted a little at that. Lt Reed looked intently at the Captain. His look was sharp, intelligent and discerning. "How are we going to do that, sir?"
"You and Commander Tucker are going to design me a cloaking device."
Commander Tucker was so startled that he was lost for words. His mouth hung open like a stranded guppy. Lt Reed recovered first. "How are we supposed to do that, sir? We don't have the technology."
Captain Archer only just managed to hide the formation of a smile but there was a glimmer of it in his eyes. "Haven't you heard the old saying, Lieutenant? Necessity is the mother of invention."
"Huh. So now we're Q to your James Bond is that it?" Asked Commander Tucker.
The Captain let the smile show this time. The old British spy films had been an instant hit the last movie night but he was not sure that a spy was the right image to promote right now. It did however have advantages. "Only if the Sub-Commander is Miss Moneypenny."
The Sub-Commander's eyebrows lowered, a look just short of a glare rewarded the Captain. "I find this foolish banter a waste of time, Captain. It has no revelance to our situation."
The Captain forced himself to look a bit more serious. "You're absolutely right, Sub-Commander. I'm better than James Bond."
Lt Reed frowned. Confused. "Sir?"
He grinned. The tension relaxing all around him just a smidgen. "Yes. I'm here, he isn't."
And with that dubious logic he dismissed Commander Tucker and Lt Reed to go *invent something* for him. The two friends exchanged a look but did as they were told. Once they were gone, Sub-Commander T'Pol arched an elegant eyebrow at her Captain. "Who is James Bond, Captain?" She had missed that movie night. Captain Archer considered filling in the gaps in her knowledge at a later date.
"He was a fictitious spy, Sub-Commander. But I'm not fictitious, I'm the real thing. And you can call me Archer. Jonathan Archer." He dead-panned for effect.
Sub-Commander T'Pol stared blankly at him. Hoshi and Travis were laughing so much they had tears in their eyes. The Captain chuckled then straightened his face though his eyes still twinkled. "It's okay, T'Pol. A little Earth humour."
"There are times, Captain," Said the Sub-Commander in a slow solemn voice. "When I am amazed that your species was ever mistaken for an intelligent one."
Commander Tucker and Lt Reed were walking towards Main Engineering. Both men wracking their brains for a way to give the Captain what he wanted. Malcolm could not help but notice that the challenge presented had lightened the Commander's terrible dark introspection. Not that he was not still hurting and fired with a deep abiding anger but now he was distracted by something it would take all their combined ingenuity to find a way around. The Lieutenant was not sure whether Captain Archer was a madman or a genius. Had he really intended them to create a cloaking device or was this his way of throwing a lifeline to a friend dancing on the edge of his own personal oblivion? Whatever it was the Armoury Officer intended to give everything he had to aid the Commander. If they ended up with a cloaking device at the end of it all well and good. But secretly he would rather have the light hearted demeanour of his best friend restored to them. Maybe it was too much to ask. Too much and too soon. But this could be a first step.
He did not recognise the man right away. Truth to tell, Captain Reynolds and Caleb Johnson had never met. But the reputation of both men had travelled. If Caleb's had a wider less amenable clientelle it was just the way of things. The man was a bounty hunter. Fierce and ruthless. He was not above giving a hand in the pain department. He was also a man indebted to Niska for many of his more lucrative jobs. Right now he was a neat combination of pissed off and happy. Pissed that Mal had welched on a job with Niska that had ended up with the crime lord's death. Happy that his current assignment would allow him to pay Mal back for that little indiscretion as well as collect on a very generous bounty. He would have to deliver the Captain within a few days but first he had time to play with him. The one criteria had been to deliver Captain Malcolm Reynolds alive. Nothing had been said about the condition he would be in.
"So you're Caleb? Heard a lot about you." He did not add, none of it good.
He was on his knees in the dirt. Hands still tied behind his back. Head throbbing like a freight train running a full load through it. Caleb was grinning at him. He nodded to Black and waited while Mal was dragged to his feet. Slowly he walked around him, taking in the man who was the equivalent of liquid gold to him right now. He knew Niska had tortured him. Was even a little impressed that he had escaped though that was more due to his friends than any smarts on Mal's part. Caleb knew Niska's methods well. Knew the nightmares that would be haunting this man no matter how well he hid it on the surface. Knew that the death of Niska was not the end of the burden. Oh no. Not the end.
"What is it makes you so important?"
Mal said nothing. Recognised the rhetorical nature of the question and tried to bite back the pain dancing inside his head. It eased off some, settling into a dull tympany. Caleb traced a hand across Mal's face. He tried to jerk his head away but Stone put a hand on his shoulder without needing to be asked. Caleb was watching the Captain closely, his fingertips a light deadly dance along his skin. As he came round to the side of him he noticed his ear. Drew a wondering finger over the scar tissue noting how Mal flinched involunatarily at his touch. Smiled at the thought that it still pained him. Was still sensitive. He stroked his middle finger slowly around the shell of his ear. Mal was trembling now. Eyes closed. Trying to block him out. Unable to stop the images firing off in his head at the touch. The memory of the knife. The cruel gloating face of Niska taunting him as he tortured him.
"I see you found a good doctor."
He was met with silence. It amused Caleb. The silence would not last long. He traced the scars where the ear had been reattached. Mal bit down on his bottom lip and opened his eyes. Determined to defy him any way he could. Caleb smiled disingenuously back at him. Delighted to have his full attention. Watching as he continued to sketch a path across the livid scars, the tips of his fingers brushing lightly back and forth to see where he was most sensitive. A gentle touch that Mal found even more creepyfying than the knife that had cut him. Caleb leaned close to the damaged ear. "It would be a simple thing to rip it off again."
Mal shuddered, a dozen swear words rattling off inside his head in Chinese but said nothing. Was not sure what exactly would set this bastard off. The only comfort was that the others were free. No sense in putting anyone else in danger. On a seeming whim Caleb flicked out his tongue and slid it across the sensitive ear. Mal jerked back violently as if struck, momentarily shaking Stone's hand off his shoulder. Eyes blazing. All thought of calm defiance burned from him. "Take your ruttin' hands off me you gorram pervert!"
Caleb tilted his head. His smile widening like a crocodile. "You don't like it when I'm gentle with you?" He mused. "You'd prefer me to play rough?"
He tried to calm down but his body was reacting, fear coursing through him whether he wanted it to or not. All he could see were the images replaying over and over inside his head. Everything Niska had done to him. And this bastard knew. Mal could see the sick knowledge in his eyes. He wished they would just kill him and get it over with. Should have known Niska's people would come after him. Not that he wanted to die but he did not want to live under this man's knife either. Niska had been bad enough. Instinct told him that next to Caleb, Niska was just the warm up guy.
Inara Serra could not believe her ears. "You just left him there?"
The hold was stunned. Zoe looked upset and annoyed. Jayne was remarkably calm about it. Wash put an arm around his wife, gave her a kiss and turned his concerned gaze back to Jayne. Shepherd Book joined them with Simon and River a couple of steps behind him. "What happened? Where's the Captain?"
"He got took."
Jayne's bald statement raised a brow on the preacher's face. "Took? How?"
Zoe broke out of Wash's embrace and began pacing. Her anger tinged with worry. "It was a set up. There was no job and no buyer."
"No job? No buyer?" Echoed Wash.
Kaylee joined them, wiping her greasy hands on a cloth she took in all the tense worried faces. Her step faltered like her smile. "What's up? Did we get the job?"
Inara put a hand around her shoulders. "No, Kaylee. We didn't get the job."
Still not realising anything major was wrong she tried to lighten the mood. "That's okay, the Captain'll think of somethin'. No need for long faces now." Her eyes swept over them all and a frown began to form. The sunshine in her eyes clouding over. "Where's the Captain?"
Zoe looked at her. "He's been captured. The job was a set up."
Her eyes widened in alarm. "What? Then we gotta go get him back." She paused when no one moved. "Why aren't we goin' after the Captain?"
It was Jayne who spoke. His voice even and calm. Only something deep in his eyes telling her that this was not what he wanted. "Because he wants us gone. Out of here. That's why."
Zoe's look hardened. "We aren't leaving him."
"Yes, we are."
"Um, did I miss a vote? Shouldn't we be discussin' our options?" Said Wash.
A hard look solidified on Jayne Cobb's face. "The Captain made it clear what he wanted and that's what he's going to get, *dong ma*?"
Dr Simon Tam watched the exchanged in silence. Now he spoke up. His quiet cultured voice cutting through the atmosphere like a hot knife through butter. "You mean he's sacrificing himself so the rest of us can get away?"
Jayne said nothing. The truth a bitter pill in his mouth but he saw no sense in denying it. River put her hands over her ears and began to wail in distress. Diverted, Simon turned and put his arms around her. Rocking her gently, trying to soothe her.
"Bad....bad...sword and knife. Not the blade that cuts but the hand...."
Zoe and Wash went white. Inara opened her mouth to say something then shut it again. The colour slowly leaving her face. Shepherd Book gave Jayne a stern look. "Who were these people?"
"No one we can deal with now."
The Shepherd shook his head slowly. "Jayne. Do you think that if it was you that had been taken the Captain would just leave it there? Pack up his crew and his ship and leave you behind?"
The words were quietly spoken but they hit their mark. There was a look of pain in the big man's eyes but still he did not back down. "No, but I'm not him. I gave my word to him and I'll keep it whatever the rest of you think of me for doin' so. It's what he wants."
"And if they kill him?" Asked Simon softly.
For a moment no one spoke. All that could be heard was the sound of River weeping quietly. Jayne shrugged. Heart heavy but braced for impact. "We can't help that now. We have to move on."
Inara took a few steps towards the big man. "I never thought of you as a cowardly man."
Anger flashed in Jayne's eyes. Deep and hurt. Alive to grief even when he would not embrace it. "Believe me, not goin' after the Captain is harder. It's what he wants and it's the one thing I *can* do for him."
"So if he asked you to slit his throat you would just do it? Hard as it would be an' all?"
Jayne glared at Wash's softly spoken words. Zoe stepped back a pace to be closer to her husband in case the mercenary took his frustration out on him. "That's not what I'm sayin'. We take off now."
Wash shook his head. "Not without the Captain." He said quietly. Suddenly calm. Decision made. Zoe had never been more proud of him.
The big man gritted his teeth. "Do you think this is easy for me?" He glared slowly at all of them. "I don't want to leave him any more than you do but it was the only way out."
The Shepherd frowned. "The only way out? For you?"
Jayne realised he had said too much and looked away. When he said nothing more and the silence began to stretch Zoe finally realised what he meant. Her eyes misted slightly, her voice so quiet with pain they had to strain to hear the words forced out between her teeth. The Captain did not simply want them safe. He wanted *her* safe. "No. The only way out for me."
Commander Tucker was shaking his head. He and Lt Reed had been brainstorming for hours and neither could come up with a plan for building a cloaking device. Trip ran a hand through his hair. They were in his office in Main Engineering. Usually the sound of the ship humming under his feet was as soothing as his mama's womb but not today. Not with so much riding on them being able to pull an invisible rabbit out of an invisible hat. "If only I could take a look at one. I'd at least know where to start."
His friend looked thoughtfully at him. "You're right."
Trip gave him a look of confusion. "I am?"
"Yes. The Captain has to find the Klingons again because Sub-Commander T'Pol says they're the only ones known to us who know the Xindi."
"Yeah, *bad* mistake."
Lt Reed ignored the doom-laden tone. "And the Klingons just so happen to have a cloaking device."
Trip's eyebrows rose passed his hairline as he saw where his friend was going with this. "Ya mean we gotta go find the Klingons, steal their cloaking technology - or at least the specs to it - then politely ask them what they know about the Xindi?"
His voice was incredulous but Malcolm realised it did sound pretty idiotic. Not to mention suicidal. At least they would make a matching pair for the Captain. "I know it sounds barmy but wouldn't it be a perfect pay back for all the trouble the Klingons have given us, Commander?"
"O-kay Mr Mastermind, how d'ya propose we capture one of these Klingon birds of prey? Always supposin' we can find one now that we're in this expanse? Ya heard the Vulcans. They won't even enter this place and even the Klingons turned tail and ran and we both know they have a real strong incentive to capture the Captain."
Lt Reed's expression was solemn. Set in a thoughtful but hardening mask of determination. Trip knew that look well. "We don't. We turn the ship around and go back until we find them."
For several long minutes Trip stared at him. When he spoke he did not berate the Lieutenant. Did not remind him that they would all be dead within minutes of any such confrontation. Maybe the new photon torpedoes would give them more than a fighting chance. But there had been three of them. What if the three birds of prey were waiting for them at the place where they had entered? They could maybe fight one of these devils but not all three. Hell. If there was only one bird of prey and it was cloaked they wouldn't even be able to fight that. He took a deep breath, his mind racing through a whole battery of configurations but each possibility drew him back to a single undeniable fact. "You're right, Malcolm, though I get no pleasure sayin' so because we'll be juggling with the lives of every soul aboard this ship if we do it."
Malcolm nodded. "I know. Who's going to tell the Captain?"
Trip straightened. His resolve set as firmly as his friend's. "I will."
Lt Reed nodded and fell into step with his friend. When they got the Captain to his ready room and explained their plan his serious face had creased into new lines of worry. It was a testament to how messed up everything was that he did not throw their idea out of the nearest airlock. When Trip finished he looked at both men, noting their solemn but determined expressions. "I take it there is no way you can come up with a cloaking device, even a partial one, on your own?"
Trip shook his head. "Not without seeing one first, Cap'n. I just need to get a good look at their schematics. I'd ask the Vulcans but ya know how they are about letting us glimpse their technology."
Lt Reed was careful to point out what none of them wanted to hear. "It may all be academic in the end, Captain. We may not be able to use their information for Enterprise."
"Yeah, but it'll give me an idea of where to start. How to go about adapting the principles of cloaking technology so we can come up with something that'll work on Enterprise."
The Captain was silent for several moments, a odd light coming into his eyes. Trip looked at him more intently. "Cap'n?"
Impossibly he gave his best friend a slow smile. "I don't think it will do any good to appeal to the Klingons' better nature and ask for their help, do you?"
Trip snorted. "They don't have a better nature."
The Captain looked at Lt Reed. "What do you suppose the Klingons would do if we had technology that they wanted?"
"That's easy, sir. They'd take it."
The Captain nodded and his smile vanished. "Then that's what we'll do."
A look of alarm flashed on Lt Reed's face. "Sir? You're going to *attack* a Klingon bird of prey?"
Something glittered deep in Trip's eyes. A spark of vengeance stirring and reaching for the first bit of ammunition offered to him. "They're not exactly our friends Malcolm and they *did* attack us first."
"Just one thing." Said the Captain mildly.
Both of his officers stared at him in mute expectation.
"We have to find one first."
Trip nodded, expression grim. "Then what're we waitin' for?"
The Captain gave him a nod then looked at Lt Reed. "Malcolm?"
Lt Reed nodded. "I'll go and check on the photon torpedoes."
As the three exited the ready room and went to their respective stations Lt Reed could not help muttering quietly under his breath - *And may God have mercy on our souls*.
* * * * *
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