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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1662 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: All credit goes to Joss, Brian Henson, and company. I'm just borrowing.
thanks to cassiee, luridmuse, and mona1347 for the betas. Thanks to everyone else for all the shiny feedback
Chapter 5 – Bridges
dong ma – understand
tzao gao – oh crap
The next morning, I wake disoriented. After adjusting to life planet-side, being in space again is disconcerting, especially when the sounds and smells of Moya that I'm accustomed to after the last three years aren't the ones that greet me. Instead of DRDs obeying Pilot and Moya's commands, human slams and bangs of metal objects jar me from sleep.
Blearily, I stumble to the shower area, which I vaguely recall from my all too brief tour. I'm nowhere near ready to deal with the outright paranoia that I encountered the night before. As I enjoy the luxury of hot water, something I missed during my time on Whitefall, I realize that I didn't dream at all the night before.
In fact, I haven't had a dream that featured River in quite some time. Does being in the same time and place negate her abilities somehow? Or has she simply given up because I was too late? I ignore the mental scoff that Harvey adds to my reflections. The neural clone is so far out of its depth that any observations are almost useless. Harvey has only dealt with one human. Although there are similarities, I've definitely found that Sebaceans and Peacekeepers tend to have slightly different priorities. At least the ones I've met.
Regardless, I have to face these humans sometime. I exit the shower and dress. Somehow, some way, I have to get these people to trust me and to tell me what happened. That or I can just hope that I can get River to be at least half as coherent as she was in our shared dreamscape.
With some trepidation, I follow the sounds that woke me into a kitchen. I stand in the doorway, shocked. I've been here before, at least in my dreams. River's recreation was perfect.
After the shock passes, I just stand and watch what appears to be a pretty normal routine. Kaylee and a blonde, curly-haired man I haven't met yet, joke around as they prepare breakfast in the galley. A black man wearing a priest's collar is setting the table. I remember someone calling him "Shepherd" yesterday, but at the time, I had my hands full with River.
In a circular corner towards the back of the dining area, I see River staring at me. She's sitting in a pillowed chair with Inara next to her. Inara notices her charge's gaze and smiles at me. "Don't be shy, John," she calls out.
Everyone turns to look at me then and I can feel myself almost blush under their scrutiny. "Plenty of food here, just grab a seat," Kaylee invites as she moves to carry a large pan to the table.
Book pulls out a chair and gestures toward it as everyone gathers round the table. I join them, but still just observe as they joke amongst themselves. Watching the camaraderie is bittersweet; I wonder when I'll stop missing the friends I've left behind.
"So, Mr. Car," Book begins.
"Please, just John. I keep looking for my father when I hear people say Car," I interrupt. Maybe this way, I won't have too many instances of not responding when someone calls out my hastily manufactured surname.
He nods gently. "John, then, any particular destination in mind other than civilization?"
I stall by chewing my food slowly as I think. My time on Whitefall didn't give me much in the way of a geography lesson. Saying the wrong thing will only increase suspicions…something I'm not very keen on doing for my body's sake.
"Boros," River interjects. "He said Boros," she continues as she locks her gaze with mine.
I nod and hope the relief isn't evident on my face. "That's right, kid. I have a friend on Boros that will hook me up with some work once I arrive."
"Well, I don't know if we'll be able to get you all the way to Boros or not, but we'll try for a planet in the shipping lanes when we finish up our next job," the captain says as he enters the room with Zoe and Jayne. "Big eatings for first meal, Lil' Kaylee. Did I forget someone's birthday again?"
Kaylee rolls her eyes at him. "John missed dinner last night, so I figured he'd be hungry. And the eggs wouldn't last much longer anyways."
The captain glares at me as if it's my fault so I just go back to quietly eating and attempting to blend into the background. The banter is lighthearted, but I can sense a missed beat at times. I assume it's due to the absence of River's brother.
Looking at her, I return to my earlier thoughts of whether the girl has given up on him or not. Is there any chance of getting these people to trust me enough to explain the situation? If there is, how? Once again, I find myself not knowing enough about the here and now to be able to contribute meaningfully. Worse, I can't just explain that I'm actually from five hundred years in the past and recently traveled from another quadrant of the universe. Somehow, I doubt that this captain would behave kindly to someone spouting crazy stories. This begs the question even more of why he's sheltering River and the story behind the events she showed me in her dreams.
I'm pulled from my thoughts by the captain. "I hope you don't mind putting in some work during your trip. Seems you can handle taking things apart good enough and Kaylee probably wouldn't mind some help from someone that's not all thumbs for once," he says.
"I don't mind at all. It'll be nice to be busy," I reply. The captain nods and actually seems pleased with something I've said for once.
"It can wait till you finish eating though," Kaylee pipes up.
I push my plate back. "I'm ready as soon as you are." Her cheerful smile is a pleasant sight to finish the meal with.
Mal grabbed Car's cup as soon as he's left the room with Kaylee. "Think you can verify the ID of our guest?" he asked Wash as he handed him the glass.
Wash's eyes widened with surprise. "You want me to run his fingerprints?"
"If you can without attracting attention," Mal answered.
"Be best to avoid a repeat of what happened with Dobson," Zoe explained. Wash agreed wholeheartedly at that, but he was still a little surprised at Mal's paranoia. Okay, no, he's not, but he's surprised that Zoe is buying into it.
"He's exactly who he says he is, he's just not the only one," River stated calmly. Come to think of it, this has been the calmest she's been for a while since Simon got grabbed. Wash had started to think they'd never make it through a morning meal without the sound of her sobs as she woke each day to the realization that her brother was gone.
"Sure, I can do it. But fingerprints aren't the most reliable thing to use," he pointed out.
"It's all we've got. In the meantime, I want someone watching him whenever he's out of his room. Kaylee's agreed to keep him busy for most of the day," Mal said.
"Bet she did," Jayne smirked before wincing when Zoe hit his shoulder in response.
Wash got up and headed to the cockpit. He heard Zoe rise to join him. Lifting the fingerprint wasn't exactly difficult, nor was creating a false database search on the pretenses of a background check for a new hire under one of Mal's aliases. Still, the presence of his wife was a welcome addition to somewhat disturbing job.
Wash hated that they were now in the position where every acquaintance had to be evaluated for risks. It was one thing when they were just a cargo hauler with a few below the table smuggling transactions. With the addition of River and Simon to the crew, the stakes were a lot higher. Not that he blamed them or thought that Mal shouldn't have sheltered them when it was discovered that the siblings were fugitives. Especially not with what appeared to have been done to River. Still, he longed for a time when getting caught in criminal activities would mean only the revocation of his pilot's license and a fine. Simpler times… simpler times.
He smiled up at his beautiful wife once the database search was started. Then again, if he had to take a little complication to balance out his karma for this wonderful woman, he guessed it was a pretty fair trade off.
Kaylee felt guilty, she couldn't help it. Every time John smiled, she'd start feeling all happy and everything until she remembered that Simon was gone. Then she felt bad for being attracted to someone else when Simon was in trouble. This kept leading her back to what River had said last night, which only made her feel horrible. At which point, John would smile or try to crack a joke and she'd be right back to feeling guilty again.
It was horrible. She'd almost destroyed a bolt when she was berating herself about it. Of course, that only made her feel worse. She oughta be able to keep her mind on task so that Serenity didn't suffer because of her mistakes.
"Ya know, I've been told that I'm good at listening," John suddenly said.
He smiled at her again, except this time it was kind of sad-like. "You just look like you're beating yourself up about something. If you wanted to talk about it, I could listen. Maybe offer an unbiased opinion."
Except then she'd have Mal yelling at her, which he'd been doing more than enough of ever since Simon got grabbed. She tried to give a more cheerful smile as she handed him the next size of wrench that he would need. Mal was right, it was nice to have someone tall who wasn't all thumbs with the equipment. "Thanks, but it's nothing." Except it wasn't nothing. It was Simon and he was almost everything. She knew he was everything to his sister anyways. Some days she really didn't know what he was to her.
John finished tightening up the last of the connections in the power relay he was working on before he climbed down to join her beside the engine. "Well, you know where to find me if that changes," he said as he put up his tools. "Now then, I think you said that you'd give me a little tutoring in Firefly engines after we finished."
Kaylee perked up a little bit. There wasn't nothing she enjoyed more than showing off her baby to someone new. Moreover, it wasn't often that she got to do it for someone that actually knew something about engines.
She started to chatter about Serenity's history, at least as much of it as she knew, and was just about to launch into some of the basics of its engine mechanics when the room shook. John caught her easily and kept them both upright even as the tools on the floor slid to the other side of the room before hitting the far wall.
"That wasn't us, was it?" John asked her.
Kaylee inspected the engine as she answered, "Uh uh, there's nothing even loose that coulda caused that."
" Everyone to the dining room now. Jayne, grab as many guns as you can," Mal's voice instructed over the comms.
"I'm guessing that this is a little more than just a piece of debris?"
Kaylee nodded as her stomach knotted. She'd only heard that tremor in Mal's voice twice before. Both times, it had been followed by the same announcement.
We've got Reavers incoming," the comms finally finished.
The trip to the kitchen is quick (the ship really isn't that big after all), and I can feel the fear and worry rolling off Kaylee. Everyone gives me an odd look when I join them in the dining area. I ignore their glances; after constantly being in the loop on Moya, I'm not too interested in just sitting back and waiting to learn things.
Mal immediately starts taking weapons from Jayne and passing them around to specific members of his crew. I'm surprised to see that both Inara and Kaylee are left out of the distribution, apparently the entire crew is not adept in battle. I vaguely remember a time when I might be included in that category. I'm surprised to find that I resent the look Mal gives me when I hold out a hand expectantly. Grudgingly, he hands over a smallish, almost dainty, pistol. Doesn't matter, I know I have plenty of pieces in my luggage that will be more than effective.
"What's happened? Did someone fire on us?" I ask.
"Reavers. They got us with their grappler; you'll go with Inara and River in the shuttle," Mal explains, effectively dismissing me with the last of his statement.
Reavers! Frell! I have no idea if the nighttime ghost stories I'd overheard the children telling on Whitefall were accurate, but I really didn't feel like finding out. At the same time, I don't like the idea of taking my chances in a short-range shuttle either. "I can help if you think they'll board," I offer.
"If it's Reavers, there's no thinking to it, son. They will. I don't expect passengers to fight with us. Shuttle should get you to a nearby planet," he replies.
"But there won't be anything stopping them from following. I'm telling you, I can help. And I have some weapons that will make yours look like water pistols," I argue. I wince as the last bit exits my mouth, insulting their guns is probably not the greatest idea ever. Still, I know I can help.
"Might as well take a look at what he has, sir," Zoe says.
Mal glares at us both before impatiently motioning for me to lead the way. I open the storage closet where they had me stow my things and pull out the heaviest of the bags. Unzipping it, I pull out several pulse pistols and a couple of rifles.
Jayne picks one up and I carefully stop him before he overloads the pulse chamber. I'm not sure how this ship would react to an explosion of that size and I sure don't want it to occur over my head. "Careful, it's a little sensitive. You initiate the cycle like this. After that, the pulse chamber is primed. Safety is here," I instruct as I go through the motions.
"What's the ammo?" Mal asks, intuitively discharging the chakkan oil cartridge from one of the pistols he picked up while my back was turned.
"It's an experimental oil-based ammo. The blast rounds are very effective and take out anything without substantial armor," I explain.
"Charged plasma. Burns the flesh and boils the water. Death for humans results from any hit to the central body mass. Peripheral shots disable enemies easily," River's voice states from behind us.
"What about other objects? The hull?" Zoe asks.
I hesitate, uncertain. I don't know how the strength of this ship's hull compares to the ships I've encountered in the Uncharted Territories. "Metal dissipates the energy. Only sustained blasts from a pulse cannon would risk a breach," River answers.
I nod, what she said sounds plausible anyway. Guess we'll find out soon enough.
"Yeah, essentially," I answer as I try to hide how creeped out I am that she understands alien technology better than I do without even holding one of the guns.
"My my, you two certainly talked about a lot of things last night," Mal says. "How did you come to possess 'em?"
Showtime, boys. "Like I said, experimental. My employer refused to pay the original amount so I compensated myself."
"You said no one was after you," Jayne mentions. He's clearly pleased to see me under the microscope yet again.
"No one is. Tracking me would only draw attention to his operations. He still has plenty of ammo and weapons, I assure you."
"Right then, these will be helpful. Still don't change the fact that you'll be in the shuttle with Inara and River," Mal states.
"The hell it doesn't. Unless you specifically want me to protect them, I can be of a lot more use to you in a fight," I argue.
"Me too," River adds.
The look that Mal gives me makes it clear that he blames me for her statement.
"I have no notion to argue this. We have exactly no time and there is no way-" he stops midsentence; I turn to see that River is already sighting down the barrel of one of the pistols.
Given what I know of her mental stability, I can't say that I'm terribly comforted by the image. "River, honey, give Zoe the gun," Mal says with remarkable calm.
Her head whips around and she nails me to the floor with her gaze even as I move closer to use the Pantak Jab to diffuse the situation. "Your strategy is flawed," she says to Mal, stepping out of reach of all of us with the gun still in hand. "You assume there's one ship. That they'll let the shuttle go for the bigger prize. No safety. They hunt, they seize, they eventually kill. Safety only in numbers, a united stand."
Her logic is flawless and we all wait silently to see what the captain decides. His eyes tell me that the blame for any injuries to his people will lie squarely at my feet. "Fine," he forces out from between gritted teeth. "Book, you're in the engine room with Kaylee. Inara, you and River are with Wash. I want both doors locked tight. Hopefully we'll keep the fight from getting to either place, but if it does, you two know what to do."
My mouth dries as I interpret the significant looks that he gives to both men as they leave. The captain does not intend for the women to survive if the Reavers make it past the cargo bay. Those orders crystallize the seriousness of the situation. These beings that are about to board us, they're a hell of a lot scarier than any run of the mill raiders or pirates. I start to feel just as out of my depth as I did when I first flew out of the wormhole and into the middle of a Peace Keeper firefight.
"Captain, I might be of some use as well in the fight," the shepherd says.
Frustrated, Mal practically growls. "What is it with you people questioning orders? If the Reavers get through, the first place they'll head is the engine room if they have any amount of sense. It has to be protected and so does Kaylee in case anything important gets broke. Now get." Book and Kaylee finally retreat down the corridor towards the engine room as the rest of us continue to grab more weapons.
"Jayne, Zoe, take the rifles and get onto the catwalk. Car, you're staying with me," the captain orders even as he grabs as many pistols as he can carry.
You know, right now I'm not certain if I should be more scared of the Reavers killing me or surviving to face this man's wrath afterwards. So much for building bridges and getting them to open up about River's missing brother.
Jayne took his position on the catwalk, settling in uneasily for the wait. He'd have much rather taken the shuttle with Inara even with the funky smells and that loony girl. He settled Vera onto his back as he examined the new rifle that John had provided. It felt strange. It had a completely different heft from the weapons he's used to. He figured he'd see what kind of damage it did early while there's still time to abandon it for one of his more tried and true weapons. Have to say, it's nice to not be bogged down by ammo.
"Hey, how many shots did you say one of these cartridges will take?" he hollered down to where Mal and John were settling in behind some crates. Reavers weren't supposed to use weapons per say, but Jayne agreed that they might as well be prepared for anything. Not like there's any stories of a ship ever surviving a Reaver raid or nothing.
"I didn't. Pistols get about six hundred, average. Rifles more like eight hundred or so," John answered. "I checked them before I left; most of the clips should be full." Huh, "should be". Jayne didn't like to rely on "should be" when it came to his ammo, but he'd reserve judgment until he saw their stopping power.
Jayne pitied Mal. He knew from experience that Mal hated chatter when they were prepping for a firefight, but John wouldn't shut up. Even up on the catwalk, he could hear John's side of the conversation. Just chatter. Useless, nervous chatter. Man had no rutting clue what he was in for. Jayne might actually feel sorry for the poor bastard if he wasn't having such a hard time keeping his own fear from developing into full-fledged terror.
"Wash, open the bay doors for them when they dock. No sense in having Serenity damaged if we can avoid it," Mal said into the comm.
"Grapplers almost have us into position. You'll hear when the TransU docks. Oh and Mal, I've initiated coded locks on both shuttles. You should still be able to get inside if you need to," Wash replied through the ship wide comms. So Zoe could hear about the shuttles no doubt. Would be helpful possibly, assuming they weren't overrun the second they were injured.
"Won't be necessary. You and Kaylee keep your areas sealed no matter what, dong ma?" Mal ordered before turning off the comms. Jayne wasn't sure what would be worse right now: being here and waiting for the battle to start, or sitting with the others waiting to find out the result. Himself, he didn't much care for either position at the moment.
"Zoe, the spares?" Mal asked.
"Rifles and ammo are all in the infirmary, sir," she replied. Extras would be the furthest away from him, Jayne groused as he wiped the sweat from his palms once again.
Then Serenity shook ever so slightly as they heard the TransU clank into docking position. As soon as the bay doors started to open, all hell broke loose and Jayne didn't have much time to think of anything else.
Wash cursed out loud as soon as he saw that Mal had disabled the comms. Terror at what might happen to his wife and his friends, while he sat protected and helpless uncurled in his belly. He tried to push it way; no sense in making Inara or River any more unsettled than they already were.
"It will be fine, they had time to prepare," Inara said aloud. He wondered who she was trying to convince.
"Yeah, right, we managed to beat Niska, what's a few Reavers in comparison?" he answered. Hopefully, only a few Reavers indeed. This time there wasn't any element of surprise, no narrow corridors to limit how many enemies could approach them at one time. Nothing standing between them and death except for four people equipped with some weird ass type of weaponry.
Inara cleared her throat to attract his attention. "If we were to send a distress call, is there any chance of someone answering it in time?"
Tzao gao, a distress call. She had to be kidding. There'd be no chance to hide River or the cargo that they had just hurriedly transferred into the spare shuttle. He ignored the remnants of sanity that agreed with Inara's suggestion. Forget the jail time if help did come, his wife and Mal would both kill him first. "Doubtful, we're a ways away from shipping lanes and there's not an Alliance station anywhere near here."
He regretted stating their situation in such bleak words when he saw the resignation settle on her features. Suddenly, he was struck by how young Inara looked. She and Kaylee were probably exactly the same age. Neither was really all that much older than River either.
He glanced down at the console when it beeped. The Reaver ship had docked. Moments later, he could hear the first shots – pulsing whines and blasts combined with inhuman shrieks.
Wash closed his eyes and sent up a brief prayer for his wife. Idly, he wondered if he'd have the strength to do what was necessary if their defenders failed.
Kaylee paced back and forth. Movement seemed to be the only thing that managed to keep away the hysterics she wanted so badly to indulge in. It just wasn't fair. First Simon, now this. She resisted spitting at the Shepherd. Fat lot of good his God was doing them.
He just sat there with his bible, praying. He'd tried to get her involved initially, but she'd put him off with words about how she needed to see to the engine as it labored against the pull of the other ship. Had to make sure that they could get away if they got the chance.
But this was Reavers, no one ever survived them. They'd already had a run of luck in avoiding them twice before. But their luck with regard to everything had been running short lately.
First Simon, now this.
She felt the clank when the TransU docked with Serenity; heard the first shots as intruders once again violated her ship.
Kaylee gave in to the hysterics the second Book touched her shoulder. God, help us this time, she prayed between her breathless sobs of fear.
I stare in shock as the door slides open and the first wave of…things starts to flow through into the cargo bay. Sounds of pulse fire on either side ground me to the here and now. Soon I raise my pulse rifle to join in. Beside me, Mal grunts in approval when I start firing. I push out of my mind that the crew will be evaluating how I react, judging me, and damning me if anyone dies.
I can almost hear Aeryn yell at me "Survival first, emotions later."
The Aeryn in my head is right, but I can't hold back the emotions, the revulsion, as the creatures slowly wade closer through the sea of their own dead. If the stories are true, these things are flesh and blood men turned…turned something. The sight of their mutilations and the flesh colored furs they wear, it all hits me somewhere very primal. Twists my stomach the same way seeing Aeryn after Namtar's modifications had taken hold. The same disgust when I realized that Karvok's creations were eating the leviathan they inhabited.
Some things just shouldn't be.
But the Reavers are and they're getting closer without any sign of an end in their wave of attack. Mal yanks my jacket and pulls me further back into the bay where we've already set up another set of crates for cover, new pistols hidden inside. He does it just in time - one of the Reavers had crawled just below our position and climbs over our previous cover as we retreat. Mal blows its head off even as he throws me behind our new fortification.
I pause and eject my clip to double-check that there is plenty of chakkan oil left by taste. There's no way in the chaos of sound and emotion that I could even begin to estimate how many shots I've taken. Early on, I gave up taking judicious shots, instead rapid firing into the mass of mutilated flesh that seems to advance without strategy.
Turning as I rise, I see that my observation is untrue—several Reavers are scaling the sides of the cargo bay thanks to metal hooks embedded into their hands. I shoot one rising to the catwalk as I yell, "Walls!" Zoe gets the message immediately and blows away two more scaling the opposite wall.
Returning to fire forward, I keep shifting my eyes to the sides as well. The distraction would have been deadly if the beasts were armed with more than hate. Some of the Reavers have tired of just advancing, eager to give as well as take in the violence. A severed head slams into my chest. The surprise and disgust causes me to stumble backwards as I attempt to move away from the stinking ball of melted, pierced flesh.
Falling on my back, I see her.
River, in…on…a part of the ceiling - a bandolier of guns hanging from her chest and a single pulse pistol in her hand as she clings with the other hand and her bare feet to the pipes and light supports. The sight is awe-inspiring and a tad terrifying.
"Car, get the hell up," Mal yells before glancing in the direction of my gaze and then doing a double take. "River, ai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou doh sai-jin wuh dhu pee-goo!" I almost start to giggle hysterically when the translator microbes kick in a second later: "Stuff all the planets in the universe into my ass!" The Nebari have nothing on twenty-sixth century human swearing.
The moment of humor is ripped away when Mal is tackled by a Reaver, froth showering us both. Before I can react, Mal blasts the Reaver's midsection away and pushes off what remains of its carcass. We both rise and retreat to the bottom of the stairs, pulse-pistols firing the entire time.
By now, the floor is a sea of red gore and body parts that continues to rise and swell with a tide of life beneath Reaver debris covering it. We shoot at any spot that moves; Jayne and Zoe are both occupied with the few Reavers that survived their climb.
My gaze goes to the ceiling occasionally, worry for River heavy in my chest. She shouldn't have to be killing at her age, more importantly; she shouldn't know how to kill so well. Harvey yanks my focus back to the here and now, but I can feel his curiosity as to how this weapon was created behind his desperation to survive.
"What in the gorram hell is that girl doing?" Mal asks as he discards an empty weapon. I look up to see what has attracted his attention – River has dropped to the ground behind where the floor still rolls and bucks. As she enters the airlock, I realize immediately what she intends to do.
"As soon as she comes back in the bay, have Wash shut the doors!"
"What?" Mal yells back over the noise of pulse fire and other things that I refuse to think about.
River runs back into the cargo bay and I don't have time to explain so I grab the comm. off his belt. "CLOSE THE DOORS!" I scream through the connection. "Now, do it now!"
My distraction is untimely. Mal and I are both knocked to the ground by growling masses of flesh; I can hear Zoe's cry for her captain even as my head bounces off the metal stairs. Karma, no doubt.
Awareness of my surroundings flees as I feel something bite through the leather on both my arm and leg. Instinct kicks in and I club off my attackers even as red-hot agony slices through my forearm.
It takes a moment after I stop shooting the corpse in front of me to realize that the bay is quiet except for the loud thrum of Serenity's engines. We did it.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 2:23 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2005 2:43 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2005 9:52 PM
Saturday, July 16, 2005 6:21 PM
Saturday, July 23, 2005 6:46 PM
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