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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
What happens when you trust the wrong person? Mal is forced to stand down while Soul reflects on his past, and Early learns a hard lesson.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1954 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal had to fight with his emotions for a moment, his brain fighting with his heart as he trained his gun on the imposing figure of Jubel Early. His finger tightened on the trigger, but he couldn’t bring himself to shoot. He didn’t know yet what fail-safes Early had in place if he was killed. Mal simply couldn’t risk Kaylee getting hurt any more than she already had been.
Mal looked at his engineer, and his heart screamed in pain. He had vowed long ago to keep Kaylee innocent, to keep her safe from anything that would damage her sunny disposition; but he had failed, and seeing her now broke his heart. She was naked in the chair, obviously meant to humiliate her; but what caught Mal’s breath was her face. Bruises covered her left cheek, blood trickling from half-a-dozen little wounds. Her left eye was nearly swollen shut, and her lip was split. Still, amazingly enough, she had her head raised high, and that in itself lifted Mal’s spirit. Kaylee was brave, and Mal owed it to her not to let her down again.
“How’re you doin’, little Kaylee?” Mal asked softly, fighting to keep the anger from showing in his face.
“Cap’n?” she asked hopefully, looking around the room.
“I’m here,” Mal replied, fighting the tears that were threatening to pour from his eyes, tears of sorrow, joy, and anger.
“Oh Cap’n, I’m so sorry,” she cried, tear ducts opening.
Teeth gritting so hard his jaw was on the verge of breaking, Mal forced his gaze to remain on Kaylee. He could see Jayne out of the corner of his eye, rage written all across his features.
“Ain’t nothin’ here your fault,” Mal said to his engineer. “I don’t want you to be thinking none of that.”
Kaylee nodded slowly. She opened her mouth to speak again, but before a single word could come out, she disappeared. Vanished.
“What the hell!” Mal yelled. He took a step forward, finally letting the anger get the better of him as he pointed the gun right in Jubel Early’s face. “Where is she? What did you do with her?”
Early stared back at him, his inexplicitly calm features enraging Mal even further.
“Did you honestly think that my employer would risk something that valuable, in the unlikely event that you would kill me and rescue the girl?” the bounty hunter asked. “I assure you that she’s safe where she is, but she is most certainly not here.”
“Then how--” Mal began, but he cut himself off as he realized what had happened. “Holographic live Wave.”
Early nodded. “If you would, Captain, I would suggest you lower your gun. We wouldn’t want it going off and killing me. After all, if I die before retrieving River Tam, Kaylee dies, and I don’t think you would want that.”
Flames of rage burning inside of him, Mal forced himself to lower his gun and holster it.
“Mal, what in the hell are you doin’?” Jayne asked, his gun still pointing at Early.
“Just do it,” Mal ordered. “I don’t wanna lose Kaylee again.”
Reluctantly, Jayne lowered his gun; but if looks could kill, the expression on Jayne’s face would have reduced the bounty hunter to nothing more than a pile of smoldering ashes.
“I’m glad to see that you know when you’re beaten,” Early said, taking a seat in the chair occupied only moments before the image of Kaylee. “Why don’t we just relax for a moment? If everything goes as planned, in a few minutes River Tam will be in my possession and you engineer will be released.”
“How’re you gonna do that?” Jayne smirked. “It ain’t like she came in here with us, and there ain’t much chance of me lettin’ you leave to go get her.”
Early shook his head. “Do you honestly think I would try to do this on my own? I learned my lesson the first time, and if it wasn’t for the Alliance cruiser that traced my suit beacon, I would be a permanent part of the black. I learn from my mistakes.” He turned and looked at Mal, who was now openly seething with anger. “You should learn from yours.”
* * *
On Board Serenity
Docked With the Alliance Vessel I.A.V. Armstrong
Wash stood just inside Serenity’s cargo bay, his arms crossed over his chest, his face red. He was pissed. Very pissed. Despite the use of Book’s Ident card and whatever the hell it said, Commander Davies had refused to allow anyone other than Gretta accompany the Armstrong’s doctors into the cruiser. Goddammit, that was his wife! It shouldn’t matter that he wasn’t Alliance; that was his wife in there! He should be in there with her!
He felt a hand on his shoulder as Book stepped up behind him, and despite the tension he felt, Wash relaxed. The Shepherd did always seem to have that effect on him.
“She’s in capable hands,” Book stated as he came to a stop beside Wash.
Wash nodded. “I know. It’s just that I should be with her. She’s all alone in there, and…” Wash stopped, on the verge of crying again.
Turning to face the pilot, Book smiled his soft smile. “She’ll be back over here soon, and in a lot better shape than what she left in. I’m sure she’s fine.”
“She’s apparently more than fine,” Gretta said as she walked up the ramp, a big smile on her face. “According to the fine doctors of the Alliance, I did a pretty good job patching her up. They were surprised that she lasted this long given the extent of her injuries.” She reached Wash and Book, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Truth be told, Simon did most of the work. Not that I could tell them that, but he deserves the credit more than me.”
Wash found his voice and shook his head. “Thank you,” he said. “I had a talk with Simon a few days ago. He said that he wouldn’t have been able to save my Zoe if you hadn’t been there. Thank you.” The words came out of his mouth very easily, and saying them made Wash feel more weight lift off of his shoulders. Zoe was going to make it.
Gretta’s face broke out in a big smile, and Wash couldn’t help but to smile himself. It wasn’t really in his nature to stay upset. He was supposed to be the happy guy, the guy in flight school always pulling the practical jokes, the guy that all the girls loved for his sense of humor. Not the sad guy, not the depressed guy. He had to be happy. If not for him, than at least for Zoe. She didn’t need to see her husband with a frown when she woke up.
Etris came down the stairs into the cargo bay as a pair of soldiers carefully carried Zoe back into Serenity on a stretcher, Gretta hovering over them as they made their way to the Infirmary. Etris was no doctor, but the Zoe did have more color in her cheeks, and her face wasn’t as pale. It looked to him that the Alliance doctors knew what they were doing.
“Well, I guess the Alliance can’t be bad at everything,” he said softly as he walked up behind Rian, putting his arm around his wife’s waist.
Rian leaned her head back and rested it against his chest. She was short enough that Etris could rest his chin on the top of her head. It seemed lately that they never had time for affection. Yet something else he could blame the Alliance for.
“As soon as those Doctors are off this boat, we’re out of here,” Etris said. “I don’t like leaving Mal on Persephone without so much as a backup if things go bad.”
Rian nodded, her hair brushing Etris’s chin. “You’re really starting to like him, aren’t you?”
“It seems that way, doesn’t it?” Etris sighed. “If I was in his shoes, if I had suffered as much loss as he has, I’m not sure I could keep going. He’s stronger than most people. Stronger than me.”
“You had losses, too,” Rian stated, slipping out of her husband’s embrace and turning to face him. “You were at Serenity Valley, just like him.”
Etris lifted his eyes and stared out the cargo bay door, stared at the Alliance soldiers milling about. “Yeah, I was at Serenity Valley. The difference is, I was on the winning side.”
On Board Vengeance
Somewhere in the Black
From his position in the pilot’s chair in the cramped cockpit, Soul could have very easily been looking out at the stars as his Tremor-class transport shook its way through the black. As it was, though, Soul wasn’t looking at anything; his eyes were shut tight, and out from the corner of his left eyelid, a single tear rolled down his cheek. In the back, in the rear-most cabin, River Tam was tied to the bed. She was still unconscious, but Soul wasn’t willing to take the chance that she could wake up and wreak havoc on him and the ship. Vengeance was already a piece of go se; she didn’t need anyone to help her along on her path to the junkyard.
Inside the ship, everything was silent. Inside Soul’s head was another matter.
A rush of sound accompanied the constant flow of images as Soul used the implant above his left ear to access the Cortex. Before, he would have worried about his link being traceable, but not now. Just before Soul had been captured and shipped off to Ankara and frozen for twenty-five years, Alias Mantichorus had managed to recode the implant and mask its ID signal so Soul could access the Cortex without fear of being found.
Once again, Alias Mantichorus. Soul sighed inwardly. He found himself more and more remembering the friends he once had back on Sidere, back before Blue Sun had pulled him back into their grasp along with the rest of the crew. It was a fine crew aboard that Firefly: the Captain, a kind woman by the name of Teela Brown; Ebo, she was a crazy pilot; Jazaf, the man a constant mystery; Glico, a shoot first, ask questions later kind of woman; and of course, Mantichorus. That was why he was on the Cortex now, to try and find his old friends, to make sure that they had survived the hard times he had brought upon them.
He found Glico first. She was released by the Alliance shortly after the raid on Sidere on the condition that she join the Alliance and become a Skiff pilot. She apparently agreed rather grudgingly, given the high number of disciplinary actions taken by her superiors. She was a mediocre officer, obeying her orders, but never taking the initiative. She turned on her squadron in the early days of the war and gunned down seventeen other ships before hers was destroyed. In her file, she was labeled a traitor and was never given a funeral.
She went down fighting for her beliefs, Soul though. I wouldn’t have expected any different.
Next came Teela. She spent a few weeks in lockup before she was released. She had no prior record, so the Alliance let her go. It was a surprising move, since she had been harboring several wanted fugitives, but her and Ebo were both released with nothing more than a stern warning. For a while, the two of them stayed together, buying back Sidere from the Alliance impound and hiring a new crew. They continued flying cargo missions, but in heed of the warning from the Alliance, they only transported legal cargo. Their business and income dwindled fast. Soul found a receipt from the sale of Sidere, apparently sold by Teela to a man named Saul Haggis. Haggis flew the Firefly for a while under the name “Kilted Pride” before the Alliance captured him for running slave trade. The ship apparently ended up at a used shipyard. Soul couldn’t find any more about the Firefly. As far as Teela was concerned, the last thing Soul could find was a purchase of land on Triumph. After that, there was nothing.
After Ebo and Teela parted, the pilot joined another crew, this one comprised of former Alliance soldiers who sympathized with the Independent cause. During the beginning of the war, they did supply runs to the Independent encampments until an Alliance cruiser shot them down. Ebo lost a leg in the crash, but survived. She was sent to an Alliance prison for six years, during which she met the man she would later marry, an Independent who was captured four years into her imprisonment. After they were released, they returned to Ebo’s childhood home on Persephone. She died giving birth to her first child.
Jazaf had a short file. He was the only one who managed to escape the Alliance raid on Sidere. He was away at the time, on some sort of personal sabbatical. The only other time he popped up was when Soul was being transported to the penal colony at Ankara. Jazaf staged a one-man jailbreak, and managed to get to Soul’s cell before a wounded guard shot him in the leg. Jazaf killed the guard, but was forced to retreat as reinforcements arrived. He evaded capture, and stole a small freighter to make his escape. His file ended there.
So that was Jazaf, Soul thought, remembering the screams of the guards along with news of a crazy man armed with a pair of katanas fighting his way through the prison. Thanks for the try.
Soul already knew his own file, so he skipped over it, ending up at Alias Mantichorus. Manti’s file was short, and the majority of it was “Classified”. Soul didn’t bother breaking the encryption; he already knew what the file said. Manti was a product of Blue Sun’s Bio division. Apparently they decided that conventional weapons weren’t good enough, so they began to research the human brain, and Manti was one of their first test subjects. He was barely a teenager at the time when they raped his brain. He managed to escape before too long, but with one aftereffect: precognition. On occasion, he simply passed out with little warning, waking with a vision of the future. Most of the time, the visions were of the near future, but on occasion they looked further ahead.
Manti’s file ended the same place Soul’s did: Cryogenic imprisonment at Ankara Penal Colony. No resuscitation date.
Soul shook his head as he backed out of the Cortex and terminated the connection. His head swam for a moment as it always did after extended sessions on the Cortex. The sensation passed, and Soul sat up, tapping in a few commands on the screen on front of him and bringing up a picture of River Tam, the same picture from the file given to him by Talos.
Soul closed his eyes again and interfaced again with the Cortex. He hunted down anything related to River Tam, and found a file marked “Classified”. He decoded the file easily, and began to view the information it contained. What he found, however, was not what he had expected.
When he exited the Cortex again, his eyes no longer shed tears. Instead, they burned with rage. The same people that had raped Manti’s brain all those years age had done the same to River Tam and more. River was barely more than a child. How could someone do something like that to a child?
If there was ever a rock and a hard place, Soul was between the biggest ones. He had a choice he wasn’t sure that he could make: deliver River Tam back to the hands that had sliced up her brain, or sacrifice his wife and his son. It wasn’t a decision any man should have to make. Why in the diyu--
A footstep sounded behind him, echoing in the cramped confines of the cockpit. Soul spun, reaching out for the remote, preparing to defend himself should River try to attack him. Soul brought the remote up…
…And watched as Alias Mantichorus stepped into the room.
He could patch up a bullet hole, sew up an open wound, perform open-heart surgery, transplant burnt skin, but he still couldn’t figure out how to use the gorram radio. Simon Tam cursed as he laid the cold compress across Harvey’s forehead, wishing for the bigger man to wake up. River was gone. His sister, the one person Simon had sworn to protect, was gone, and Simon had been powerless to stop the man who took her. For the first time in his life, he truly wanted to kill someone, to take the Hippocratic oath and throw it out the window. Simon had given up everything to save his sister, and now even she had been taken from him. It simply wasn’t fair.
Harvey groaned. The big man’s eyes were still shut, but he appeared to be waking up. Simon removed the cold compress as Harvey began to stir. Slowly, the Load Master’s eyes opened.
“What in the good gorram hit me?” he asked with another groan as he struggled to sit up.
“River’s gone,” Simon blurted out.
That woke Harvey up faster than a string cup of coffee. “What?”
“She was taken by the same man who knocked you out.”
“Well, why are you still sittin’ here? Why didn’t you go after the liumang? Did he scramble your head, too?”
Simon held out his hands as Harvey tried to stand. “Easy. You’ve got a sizable lump on the back of your head.”
Harvey ignored Simon and stood to his feet, wobbling uneasily.
“And, no,” Simon replied, answering Harvey’s final question. “He threw me into the bench pretty hard, but not hard enough, I guess. Then he subdued River with some sort of remote and left.” Simon gestured to the door. “He sealed the door with a magnesium strip. I can’t get it open.”
Harvey rubbed the back of his head with one of his massive hands. “Well, what did Mal say?”
Simon would have blushed, but he was more angry than embarrassed. “I haven’t told him. I don’t know how to use the radio.”
Harvey opened his mouth to say something, but apparently decided otherwise. He hade his way into the cockpit and Simon followed him. The big man palmed the radio and set the controls for the Captain’s handheld unit. “Cap’n,” he said simply.
After a pause, the Captain’s voice came back. “Yeah, Harvey.”
“We’ve got a problem here. You might want to get back her. Quick.”
The Captain’s voice returned, this time with an edge. “What’s going on?”
Harvey paused for a moment, and then spoke again. “Some liumang busted in here and stole River.”
If he had the strength, Mal would have squeezed the handheld until it exploded in his grasp. Instead, he used every ounce of willpower in him to keep his gun pointed at the ground, for Kaylee’s sake.
“Say that again,” he said into the handheld.
“River’s gone. Someone took her. Sealed us in the shuttle after knocking me out cold and busting up Simon.” Harvey’s voice disappeared, and then came back. “Simon says the guy hopped in a ship and left about twenty minutes ago.”
Across the room, Jubel Early’s face went from placid to furious in a matter of seconds. Keeping his gun trained on Mal, his free hand went to his belt and pulled out a small communicator, raising the device to his lips.
“Soul,” he barked, and then waited for a response. When none came, he tried again. “Soul, gorramit, answer me!” Nothing. “Son of a bitch!” Early yelled uncharacteristically. “He’s taking her to Talos himself!”
So that means…
Mal’s brain assessed the situation, and gave an order to his right hand almost faster than he could process it. His gun hand flew up, and he aimed out of instinct and pulled the trigger once. The single bullet ripped across the room and found its mark, drilling a hole through the center of Jubel Early’s forehead on its path into the far wall.
“Holy hell!” Jayne yelled, bringing his own gun up and aiming it uselessly at Jubel Early as the bounty hunter’s now lifeless body slumped to the floor.
From his desk, Badger stood slowly to his feet, visibly shaking. “You just signed our death certificates, you bastard,” he said to Mal.
Mal turned to face the middleman. “Whoever Early had kidnapping River for him, whoever this ‘Soul’ is, it seems like he double crossed his partner here. You heard Early before, if he dies before his employer gets River” – Mal cringed as he said that – “then Kaylee is as good as dead. Apparently Soul decided to take River as his own personal bounty, so Early was no longer an obstacle.”
“What’s that mean?” Jayne asked, confusion written across his face.
Looking over at Early’s dead body, Badger replied, “It means that Mister Early here made a mistake trusting someone else with his business.” Badger almost grinned. “Not very bright, was he?”
“Bright enough,” Mal said, lifting the handheld to his lips. “Harvey, we’ll be there shortly. See if Serenity is heading back here yet.” An image of Zoe passed in front of his mind’s eye. “And ask about Zoe,” he added in a quieter voice.
“Will do, Captain,” came the reply.
Mal replaced the handheld on his belt and turned to Jayne. “Let’s go,” he ordered. “We need to get back to Serenity, track down that tamade hundan who took River, and rescue Kaylee.”
“How we gonna do all that?” Jayne asked. “Even if we can track her, it ain’t like Serenity’s got guns or nothin’.”
Mal opened his mouth to respond, but from behind him Badger spoke up with a phrase that Mal had never expected to hear out of the middleman.
“I can help.”
Mal turned very slowly. “How?”
On Board the Blue Sun Vessel Agamemnon
Somewhere in the Black
I’ve got her.
That was all that the encrypted Wave said, but it still brought a smile to Damon Talos’s face.
“Soon,” he murmured to the rows of Cryo beds, in which lay his army. “Soon.”
Go to Chapter 9.
Thursday, August 18, 2005 3:03 AM
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