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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - HORROR
Our Big Damn Heroes learn the dark secret of Mansfield.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1973 RATING: 8 SERIES: FIREFLY
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.
Sorry this took so long. It was nearly Christmas by the time I was able to send it to my betas. Also ended up having to rewrite certain sections.
Note: This fic will be making the assumption that Mal and Zoe were acquainted with each other previous to the War.
We Have the Technology
The Poseidon Misadventure: Part 1
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zoe pulled her duster around herself tighter to ward off the chill. Clarke hadn't been kidding about how cold it got. Once the sun had gone down all the way, the temperature had dropped like a brick.
Getting to the Millstone House proved to be something of a trial for the crew of Serenity. Possibly due to a sadistic zoning board, Mansfield's sole operating hotel was located on the opposite side of town from the docks. If it weren't for the full moon that was out, finding it would have been impossible with most of the streetlights not working. Though hardly crowded, there were noticably more people in the streets then there had been earlier. All of them possessed what Zoe thought of as the Mansfield Look. The gaunt, tattoo-studded features and the feral glint in their eyes were even more creepifying in the moonlight. It made them appear not quite human. Until they reached the Millstone House, Zoe's hand never strayed far from her sidearm. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Mal did the same.
Once inside, Mal walked up to the desk and rang the bell. As they waited for someone to respond, Zoe scanned the lobby. The decor could be described best as decayed finery, the once nice-looking furniture and carpeting now in a bad state of repair. Noticing a row of mediocre portraits, Zoe's eye was caught by one in particular. The nameplate at the bottom identified the subject as Captain Orville Bender. He certainly was an ornery looking cuss. Though he didn't possess the Mansfield Look, there was something about the eyes and the set of jaw that bothered her. Could it possibly...
Zoe glanced in the direction of the desk. She convinced herself it must be her imagination playing tricks.
* * * * *
Waiting for someone to respond to the bell gave Mal time to think. In particular, he was bothered by the way the town and its people seemed somehow familiar. The idea was absurd since, before Wash had first mentioned it, Mal had never heard of Poseidon, much less Mansfield. Perhaps he was thinking of someplace else. He had visited many settlements like this which were on the verge of becoming ghost towns. Yet he had the nagging feeling that wasn't the case.
Before Mal could ponder it further, a middle-aged man entered the lobby. Though he wore a suit and had no visible tattoos, he shared the general appearance of the townsfolk that Mal found a bit unsettling. The man did a double take when he saw Mal, but quickly recovered. "What can I do for you?" he asked in a raspy voice.
Mal silently handed over the note from Leeds. The man read it, then reached behind the desk and handed over a key. "Here you are. Room 413, top of the stairs."
Once on the fourth floor, the crew of Serenity went down the dimly lit corridor until they reached 413 and unlocked the door. "Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze!" exclaimed Wash. "If this is the best room in the house, I don't want to even think about what economy lodging is like here."
"Best room in the house" was definitely a relative term. The two double beds and the other furnishings had the look of decayed finery that had been evident in the lobby, the wood showing signs of rot and the sheets having been chewed at. There was also a thick layer of dust over everything. The worst part was an unpleasant smell of an undetermined source that permeated the room. A Core world luxury suite it was not.
After he closed and locked the door, Mal stated, "Zoe, I don't think I'll be ordering room service. How about you?"
For a second, Zoe didn't seem to catch his meaning until she saw him head for the chest of drawers. "No sir," she replied as she helped him move it to barracade the door.
"Cap, I know the folks here ain't exactly friendly," Kaylee said. "But don't you think you might be overreactin' just a teensy bit?"
"Well, we might be lucky and get a good night's sleep before leaving this rock," Mal responded. "But in my experience, Lady Luck is one fickle bitch. Never hurts to take a few precautions in case she gets the urge to wuss slap me." After adding a few more pieces of furniture to the barracade, he asked, "Zoe, what have we got outside the window?"
After taking a look, Zoe replied, "Four story drop. No fire escape and no conveniently situated drainpipe. Nice and shadowy at the bottom, though."
Mal thought for a bit, then said, "Wash. Kaylee. Those sheets don't look fit for sleeping on. Might be wanting to get some practical use out of them." It didn't take them too long to catch his meaning and they got to work on knotting the sheets.
Once that was accomplished, Mal continued, "Now here's the plan. Zoe and I will rotate watch. If nothing happens, well that's fine and dandy. But something occurs that warrants it, then whoever's on watch will wake up everyone quiet-like and we'll slip out the window. Zoe will go first, then Wash, then Kaylee. I'll cover our backs. Before I go, I'll cut on the sheets a bit. That way, when I get to the bottom, I can give it a good yank and there won't be no immediate telltale sign of how we got out. Once we're all down, we head back to the ship by an indirect route. Dong ma?"
When everyone nodded, he asked Zoe, "Do you feel like watching or sleeping first?"
"Think I'll watch first," she replied. "Don't really feel all that tired."
It had seemed to Wash that he had only gotten to sleep when he was shaken awake by Mal. After holding a finger up against his lips to indicate silence, Mal then pointed towards the door. From there came the sound of someone inserting a key. As the efforts of the person on the other side were thwarted by the furniture barracade, Mal opened the window and tossed out their makeshift rope. They then hurried down in the prearranged order.
Once Mal was down, he tugged at the sheets, causing the whole thing to come down. He then whispered, "They were trying to force the door open as I was leaving. Better move away from here before we plan our next move."
They quickly slipped down the street, always careful to stay in the shadows. Once the hotel was out of sight, Mal raised his hand to call a halt. "Kaylee, you still have that map?" he asked. She nodded and took a piece of paper out of her jacket pocket which she handed over. After studying it for a few minutes, he continued, "Okay, we're going to stay away from the main thoroughfares. I figure our best bet is to swing down south. From there we'll pick our way east to the docks. Now they'll probably send out search parties. Might be armed, might not. Either way, we can't afford a confrontation. A single shot could attract a whole bunch of them and Zoe and me don't have much ammo. So we're going to rely on stealth." Zoe made a derisive snort which Mal didn't acknowledge. "Zoe will lead while I cover our backs. Now take a look," he said, showing the map to Zoe and tracing a path on it. "I figure this'll be the best route. But use your judgement when and how to deviate if the situation warrants it."
Zoe gestured that they follow. As they headed southward, Wash heard a faint indistinct shouting from the direction of the Millstone House. Possibly the townsfolk were organizing a search as Mal suspected they would. As they went further south, the buildings became increasingly decrepit. By the time Zoe started leading eastward, the moonlight was giving the houses the appearance of heavily scarred, leering faces.
They then arrived at a square flooded with moonlight. Though there was no one in sight, Zoe insisted they skirt the edge in case someone was watching. They were about halfway around when the sound of a motor approached. Zoe had everyone duck down an alley. They went just a short ways when she halted and whispered, "It's a dead end, sir. We'll just have to wait for whoever that is to pass by."
Shortly thereafter, a person on a Mule entered the square and stopped in the center. He pulled a whistle out of his duster pocket and blew. Wash clapped his hands over his ears at the painfully high-pitched note it emitted. In response, doors burst open and out came several wild-looking people wielding a variety of bladed implements. They were all growling and snarling and moving bent over, almost on all fours. But it was the eyes which were most frightening. Wash had seen such eyes only once before and that had been in a rabid dog. In the moonlight, they appeared more bestial than human.
The person on the Mule gave out orders. Wash wasn't sure what he said since he didn't seem to be able to use his tongue properly. Finally, they dispersed and it was safe to sneak out again.
As the crew of Serenity continued onwards, encounters with search parties became frequent. Zoe guided everyone through a network of side-streets in an effort to evade them. The constant twisting and turning had Wash so disoriented that he wasn't sure what direction they were going. Zoe however looked to be confident in their progress.
Wash was unsure of how long they went about at this, but they eventually came within a couple hundred yards of the docks. It was then that the light of the moon went out. The darkness was accompanied by a deafening roar which could only be a ship's engine. Looking up, they saw not just a ship but a whole rutting fleet descending towards the docks.
"Wuo de ma!" muttered Zoe. Did she sound scared?, Wash wondered. The idea was ludicrous. Then Kaylee started whimpering. The sight of all those ships blocking out the moon was unsettling. But it hardly seemed to merit such a strong reaction.
As the ships settled, Wash made out the hull designs. Most of them he drew a blank on, but a few were recognizable. Among those were a Da Gama, a Black Widow, a Mosquito, a Condor, a Trans-U...
Wash's heart nearly stopped when he realized what they had in common. "Um, Mal," he stammered. "Those ships..."
"What? Is there something special about them?" Mal asked in an annoyed tone.
"It's just that the makes I can recognize haven't been in service for a long time," Wash replied.
"You're saying it's Reavers, ain't you?" Zoe asked. Upon hearing that, Kaylee broke into sobs. Mal's face went stony. He gestured them to follow him down a set of stairs leading down to a basement door.
As they crouched in the darkness, Mal stated, "I think we might have a blessing in disguise here."
"Hell of a disguise, sir," Zoe quipped tersely.
"No, this could work in our favor," Mal explained. "While they're slaughtering the good folk of Mansfield, we can sneak back on board Serenity and be gone before they can do a thing about it. Quite frankly, I can't think of a more deserving township."
Kaylee gave him a shocked look. "What about Clarke?"
Mal grimaced, then responded, "I wouldn't worry too much. Ain't never been no massacre where some old crone or village idiot didn't get overlooked. Even Reavers don't always make clean sweeps. How else do you think the stories about them come about?"
"You sure that's how it's going to work out?" Zoe asked.
Mal stared at her increduously. "What else could possibly happen? You think they'll team up to hunt down our sorry asses?"
They huddled down as footsteps approached from the opposite direction of the docks. Probably the townsfolk going off to investigate the mass landing. It could complicate the plan to sneak back to Serenity if the showdown between the two factions occurred in front of the docks.
Minutes passed and there was no sound of gunshots. Unable to take it anymore, Wash decided to hazard a peek. The sight that greeted his eyes nearly caused him to mess himself. The mere idea was unthinkable, but there was no denying that the townsfolks were discussing something with the Reavers, though Wash couldn't make out what they said. "That ain't fair!" he exclaimed.
"What ain't fair?" Mal asked as he went to take a look. "Tian xiz shou you de ren dou gai si!"
Mal and Wash ducked back down as the two groups departed from the docks and passed by. No one so much as breathed until the footsteps faded away. Once it was safe to speak again, Mal said, "Some bad news. Looks as if the townsfolk are in cahoots with the Reavers." On hearing this, Kaylee started crying again. Wash noticed that Zoe didn't react at all. It was as if she expected this turn of events. Mal then continued, "There's one good thing to come of this. With all those ships parked out there, we won't have to cross any open ground to get to Serenity. Now they've probably posted guards outside her. Zoe, I want you to scout out to see what we'll have to deal with."
After Zoe slipped away, Mal turned to Kaylee. "Kaylee, I need you to get a grip."
"We're gonna die," she sobbed.
"No we ain't," Mal countered. "I've never let nothing bad happen to you, have I?" When she shook her head, he continued, "Well, I'll keep doing that. But you're making my job a lot harder by going to pieces like this. We will escape from this luh-suh rock. Now I need to know if the scrubbers have finished cleaning the ammonia from Serenity's atmo."
"Y-Yeah, should be by now," Kaylee stammered.
"Good. When we get back on board, I need you to prep the engine so that we can go at full burn ASAP." Turning to Wash, Mal continued, "There's a good chance they'll have a ship parked in orbit equipped with a magnetic grapple. I need you to be ready to perform any number of wacky maneuvers to evade them."
When Zoe finally returned, she reported, "Two of them are standing outside Serenity. Both are armed with shotguns."
"Reckon we can get the drop on them?" Mal asked.
"Might," Zoe replied. "The ships out there provide good cover."
Turning to Wash and Kaylee, Mal instructed, "The four of us will sneak as close to Serenity as we can without being seen. You two keep your heads down while Zoe and me take out the guards. Once we give the all clear, get to your stations as fast as you can. We're going to assume the Reavers will hear our shots and hurry back to their ships, so no dallying."
Thus briefed, they crept down the street, having to evade a couple more patrols before reaching the docks. Once they were just short of Serenity, Mal signaled Wash and Kaylee to stay hidden as he and Zoe drew their sidearms and leapt out. After the sound of an exchange of shots, Mal shouted, "Go!" Wash and Kaylee raced into the ship.
Once in the pilot's seat, Wash felt back in control. The sense that he was a useless bystander getting in the way while Mal and Zoe did the real work vanished. The instant Serenity's engine came online, Wash sent her hurtling off of Poseidon into the Black.
When they broke atmo, Mal's surmise another ship might be waiting proved to be correct. Though Wash couldn't determine the specific make, the design appeared to be along the lines of a troop transport. He recalled such ships generally had poor speed and maneuverability. Serenity definitely had the advantage there. But he knew if that forward-mounted magnetic grapple captured Serenity, the Reaver ship would be able to make use of its advantage of being able to disgorge a shitload of Reavers.
Immediately, Wash concocted a plan. It was daring, ballsy, and more than a bit stupid. In other words, it was perfectly suited for the situation. Flipping on the intercom, he announced, "Kaylee, I'll be needing full burn. But don't do it 'til I give the word. Everyone hang on to something. This'll toss the lunch about a bit."
Repositioning Serenity, Wash sent her straight down the grapple's sights, practically daring them to fire. When they finally did, he reacted by sending the VTOL thrusters spinning 135 degrees, causing Serenity to rise while simultaneously providing braking action, making the grapple miss. As the Reaver ship was forced to waste time repositioning itself and reeling in the grapple, Wash yelled for full burn and Serenity went sailing off into the black seas of infinity.
The past few days had been pure Hell. Having had little food or sleep during that time, Mal leaned over the scope watching the blips that were Reaver vessels inch ever so closer. Turning to Wash, he asked, "Are you sure there's nothing you can do to open up the gap?"
"We're in open space Mal," Wash replied in the tone of someone giving an explanation to an idiot. "Our only option at this point is going in a straight line. Doesn't exactly require advanced piloting skills."
Attempting to ignore the burn of the ulcer he acquired shortly after buying Serenity, Mal went back to staring at the scope. He then wondered if being caught by the Reavers would be so bad. They just might be spared, allowed to become one with the Black, purging the dirtsuckers...
The inexplicable line of thought was broken when his brain registered that Wash had spoken. "What was that again?" Mal asked.
"I said they might be closer than the scope indicates," Wash replied. "I know for a fact that Black Widows came standard with absorbant paint. They could be right up our pee goo and we wouldn't know it until it was too late."
Alarmed at this possibility, Mal flipped on the intercom and bellowed, "Kaylee, can't you give us more thrust?"
"There ain't no more thrust to give," Kaylee snapped. "We've been goin' full burn the whole time and something's liable to break any moment. Since you're all hellbent 'bout movin' fast, why not get out and push?" And then the intercom cut off.
"Gorramit!" muttered Mal as he felt acid churn up his esophagus. It was bad enough being chased by Reavers. Now he was getting disrespected by his crew as well. Mal glared down at the scope and blinked, unsure if he had seen correctly. Looking again, it was quite plain the Reaver ships were decellerating and possibly turning around. It went counter to all he heard about them never breaking pursuit. Then he looked out the window and recalled that, while Reavers were crazy, it didn't necessarily mean they were stupid.
Perverse as it was, Mal was actually glad of the sight of an Alliance cruiser.
"So, how'd it go?" Wash called out as Mal and Zoe rolled back in on the Mule.
"Well, there's one good thing to come to come out of the last few days," Mal responded. "What with going at full burn for so long getting us to Beaumonde a day earlier than originally scheduled, our clients awarded us a nice bonus." Tossing a purse to Kaylee, he continued, "Serenity could probably use a proper maintenance check after what she went through. Buy whatever parts you think you'll need. If there's any left over, use it to get some real food for the galley."
After Kaylee left, Mal said, "Now, something needs to be done about Mansfield. Ain't no good to let a Reaver friendly port exist. I'm afraid it means we'll have to go to the Alliance."
"You sure about that, sir?" Zoe asked.
"If we had another option, I'd snap it up," Mal replied. "But the Alliance is the only ones with the resources to deal with it. Anyway, it'll be good for them to do something useful for once. So Wash, you'll be going to the nearest Fed station to give a report."
Wash sputtered indignantly at the blatant rank pulling. "Wait a minute," he objected. "Why can't you or Zoe do it?"
"Because we ain't exactly model Alliance citizens," Mal pointed out. "You, on the other hand, are more likely to pass as one."
"What am I going to tell them?" Wash asked. "They'll never believe what really happened. I barely believe it myself and I was there."
"That's why you'll say while you were in Mansfield, you witnessed former Independents setting up base there," Mal instructed.
"Not sure that's much better," Wash commented.
"Oh, they'll eat it up," Zoe observed. "Even after the War was officially over, there were plenty of diehards trying to keep things going. A backwater like Poseidon would look to the Alliance like the perfect place for Independents to set up."
Unable to come up with a good excuse, Wash sullenly went off to do as he was ordered.
It was two weeks since they had departed from Beaumonde. Mal, Zoe, and Kaylee were in the galley fixing lunch while Wash was on the bridge going over the fine points of their course. They had mostly recovered from that night on Poseidon, though Wash and Kaylee still occasionally had nightmares. Yet Zoe was still bothered by Zack Allan's wild tale. What did he mean by what the Reavers were doing elsewhere? He could have been saying that there were other Reaver friendly ports, but that didn't sound right. And what was a wendigo?
Then there was the portrait of Captain Bender. Over the weeks, Zoe's denial on why the portrait bothered her seemed weaker. Still there was only one way to be sure. Turning to Mal, who was spreading a mayonnaise substitute on a starch slice, she asked, "Sir, your mother wasn't originally from Shadow, was she?"
Caught slightly off-guard by the unexpected question, he replied, "Um, no she wasn't. She never did say where she came from."
Taking a deep breath, Zoe asked the kicker. "Would you happen to recall her maiden name?"
Mal's forehead crunched up in thought. "Huh? Let's see, it was... Benny... Benson... Bender! Yeah, it was Bender."
Kaylee's eyes widened in alarm, though thankfully she didn't blurt anything. Zoe felt her own spine freeze at the disturbing revelation. Had the artist been more talented, she probably would have noticed the resemblance between Mal and Captain Bender sooner. It then came to attention that Mal had taken hold of the block of cheese Kaylee had purchased on Beaumonde and was reaching for a knife. There appeared to be a peculiar glint in his eye that was all too familiar to Zoe. She could almost hear the high-pitched whistle.
Just as Mal was about to grab the knife, Zoe snatched it away. Attempting to cover for her strange action, she took the block of cheese, saying, "Here, let me do that."
Mal's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Zoe met the gaze with one of her own. Giving her a look that stated he would bring this up later, Mal stalked off in the direction of the bridge.
Once he was out of earshot, Kaylee stammered, "Zoe, you don't suppose... I mean, he ain't really..."
"Probably a coincidence," Zoe interrupted. "Ain't like Bender is a one-of-a-kind surname."
Still, Zoe mistrusted coincidences. There was simply too much that added up. She then pondered the practicality of locking up all the knives and almost immediately berated herself. It was quite possible that Mal's grandpa had been a stone cold hwoon dahn devoid of morals and his grandma a Reaver tchen wah, but it didn't reflect on him. After all, Reaver behavior was learned, not passed down through blood.
At least, that's what Zoe started telling herself so she could sleep at night.
Mal felt his ulcer act up as he entered the bridge. The way Zoe had behaved in the galley bothered him greatly. He'd get it out of her eventually, though the fact that she was holding something back was troubling.
Even more troubling for Mal were the notions he had started having recently. They were so brief that sometimes he wasn't sure if they really happened. When he had reached for the knife in the galley, he got struck with the notion to use it to play Connect-the-Dots with the freckles on Kaylee's back. That couldn't have been real, as he found the mere idea of doing something so sick unimaginable.
His thoughts were interrupted when Wash looked up from the Cortex terminal and said, "I've just been chatting with the pilot of the Brutus. Apparently they landed on Poseidon yesterday and were going to stop at Mansfield. Thing is, all they found was a huge glow-in-the-dark crater."
"Typical Alliance overkill," remarked Mal. "Though I imagine it might have required a nuke to clean the place thoroughly." Still, going to the Alliance had seriously wounded Mal's pride. He grimaced as the burn of acid increased.
"So, how's your ulcer doing you?" Wash asked.
Annoyed, Mal countered, "Not that I'm admitting to having one, but what makes you think I have an ulcer?"
Wash gave him a patronizing look. "On every ship I've flown on, the captain had ulcers. It's sort of an occupational hazard. Command a ship, say goodbye to your stomach lining. I've gotten to recognize the look of gastric distress. In fact, my first captain, who drank antacid like water, gave all his ulcers names."
Mal pondered on that statement. "That sounds like a right fine idea. I think I'll call mine Wash."
"Aw, you named your first one after me. That's really sweet."
Not feeling up to enduring anymore of Wash's wit, Mal left for the infirmary to see if they had any antacid stocked. As he searched through the drawers, a scalpel caught his eye. The sight of it mesmerized him. There was dirt in the blood. The dirt is bad. Have to leech the dirt...
Mal suddenly broke out of the trance, leaving him a bit confounded. He became concerned that these urges were real rather than a figment of his imagination.
Then again, it was probably just a result of his ulcer giving him grief.
Next Up: Guess Who's Coming to Donner?
Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze: Son of a drooling whore and a monkey
Dong ma: Do you understand
Wuo de ma: Mother of Jesus
Tian xiz shou you de ren dou gai si: Fuck everyone in the universe to death
Pee goo: Rear end
Hwoon dahn: Son of a bitch
Tchen wah: Slut
Sunday, January 02, 2005 9:51 AM
Sunday, January 02, 2005 12:50 PM
Sunday, January 02, 2005 11:35 PM
Wednesday, July 05, 2006 10:29 PM
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