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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - SUSPENSE
Mal and his crew come face to face with the Blue Hand Men in this exciting finale to "Along Came A Zhi-Zhu"!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1492 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
ALONG CAME A ZHI-ZHU -Chapter EIGHT (finale)
By BlueHandTwoByTwo (LarryL)
The Alliance cruiser, Dortmunder, loomed in Serenity’s port window as big as an asteroid; its steel and titanium exoskeleton growing larger and larger as the ship drew closer to the small Firefly. Its uppermost spires already rose up far beyond the point of being seen in their entirety.
“Well, if there was ever a picture for ‘bad news’, I’d say we’re looking at it,” Mal said, his arms crossed, as he and the others quietly stared out the window at the approaching ship.
“Do you think they’re still pissed at us for mooning them that one time?” Wash asked.
“I’d say that’s a safe bet,” Zoe nodded and walked over to where Wash was sitting and rested her hands on his shoulders.
“Can always do it again,” Wash shrugged.
“Why are we just sitting here? Shouldn’t we be getting the hell out of Dodge?” Jayne wanted to know.
Mal shook his head. “Engine room’s a wreck. Kaylee was in the middle of taking it apart when she got infected. We don’t have full power yet, so we’re just gonna sit here and buy ourselves a little bit of time. Kaylee, how are those booster belts coming along?” Mal asked the inboard com. “Are we ready to go yet?”
“Almost done, Cap’n,” she answered. “Gimme ten more minutes.”
“How about I give ya five? After that, I’m gonna start getting a little panicky.”
“I’ll do my best,” she replied over the speaker.
“Wash, I want you to start plotting some escape routes so we got options if we need ‘em in a hurry.”
“On it,” Wash nodded and typed at his keyboard. The screen changed to a star field and he began charting various courses through the surrounding stars.
“Anything I can do, Captain?” Zoe asked.
Mal nodded. “Why don’t you and Jayne go put an arsenal together? I don’t know how many’s coming but I don’t think they’ll be traveling light. We don’t want to be out-gunned.”
“I couldn’t agree more with you,” she said and left the bridge, Jayne following right behind her.
“Simon?” Mal yelled to the overhead intercom.
Crackle. “Yes, Captain, I’m here.”
“Ready your supplies incase we get ourselves some injuries.”
“I’m ready for whatever you bring me, Captain.”
“Good to know, Doc.” Mal turned to Book and said, “Shepherd, I need you to stay outta the way of any flying bullets. You’re in charge of getting anybody who gets hurt up to the Infirmary. Can you do that?”
Book nodded. “Absolutely, Captain.”
“And, uh, if you really believe in all that stuff you preach…” Mal pointed to the bible that the Shepherd was carrying in his hand. “…now’s a good time to use it.”
“I’ve already started,” Book grinned, sheepishly. Mal nodded his approval.
“Captain, we’re being hailed,” Wash said, pointing to the blinking light on his console. “Should I answer it?”
“Why not? Let’s just sit tight and play along like a good little doggie.”
Wash answered the call. The monitor in front of him flickered, then two eerie, bony faces filled the screen. Their flesh was pale, as if they’d not seen proper sunlight in years. Their cheekbones were pronounced -too pronounced- as if they were starving Holocaust victims from the history books of the Earth-that-was. Mal had never seen a skeleton talk, but when the first man opened his mouth and spoke, that’s what Mal imagined he was seeing.
In another part of Serenity, River ran into her quarters and jumped onto her bed, pulling the sheets up to her chin. Her entire body was shaking with fear. In a hoarse whisper, she said, “Two by two, hands of blue…. Two by two…hands…of blue…” Tears began streaming down her cheeks. They had come. They were here. They had found her.
“Hello, Captain Reynolds,” the first man said. He was wearing an expensively tailored gray, pin-stripped suit with a simple white, button up collared shirt and had his short, graying hair slicked back in a tight, conservative style. No gray and black hat. No Alliance Uniform. No stick-up-the-butt, corporate-type attitude.
Mal blinked in surprise. “Who the hell are you guys? You’re not Alliance.”
“Who we are is none of your concern,” the second man said. “But what we do to you if you don’t cooperate with us will be.” He turned his body to reveal the Dortmunder’s bridge behind him. Dozens of soldier’s bodies -twisted in agony, faces bloody, hands reaching up to nothing, fingers curled in final death spasms- were everywhere! Then the man moved back into place and blocked the horrific view. “As you can see, we’re not to be taken lightly.”
“I’m listening,” Mal said, cautiously. He needed more information about who these guys were and what kind of intentions they had.
“We are going to board your ship in a moment. When we arrive, you are to immediately turn over a passenger we’re looking for.”
“River Tam,” the first man said, gravely.
“You may keep the brother. We have no interest in him.”
“I see,” Mal nodded, thoughtful. “And how much money are you bringing with you?”
Both men blinked in surprise. “I don’t take your meaning, Captain Reynolds.”
“Well, I wasn’t born yesterday, gentlemen. I happen to know that Ms. Tam and her brother are both worth a lot of reward money. I got myself quite a prize here and I’m not about to just let you two waltz onto my ship and take her for free. I expect to be paid. And handsomely. So I go back to my original question, gentlemen: How much money are you bringing with you?”
The two men conferred with each other in hushed whispers. The second man bent down to the first and when he spoke into his ear, he held up his hand to cover his lips. When he did, Mal and the others were surprised to see that he was wearing blue latex gloves on his hand. The man nodded then turned to address the camera. “Name your price, Captain.”
“Really? Anything I want?” Mal smiled.
“There is more than enough money in this ship’s central vault system. We have no need for it ourselves. Ms. Tam is much more valuable to us than any amount of colored paper.”
“Wow, imagine that,” Mal laughed. “I’ve never been in this position before. It feels kind of nice to tell you the truth.” He shrugged. “How about…three million?”
“Fine,” the first man said.
“Wait a minute,” Wash said and turned to the captain. “If they agreed to three million that fast, then they could certainly afford four.”
“Wash, I think you’re right. Four million, gentlemen. Four million gets you a little girl.”
“Four million it is, then,” the skeleton nodded.
Mal held up his finger. “Let me check with my accountant first and see if my bank account’s ready for that much money. Hang on a sec.” He walked over to the intercom and asked, “Kaylee? How’s that bank account doing? Is it ready yet?”
“Bank account’s fine, Cap’n. We’re ready to transfer.”
That’s just what Mal wanted to hear. He turned to the screen and said, “I think we got ourselves a deal, gentlemen. Or better yet, I have another idea. Why don’t you two go get that money and then buy yourselves something to eat. Honestly, it looks like you need it. You’re skin and bones. And why don’t you go out and get some sun while you’re at it, also? If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I was talking to two pillow cases.”
The men on the screen were caught off-guard. Their eyes widened and their mouths went slack. Nobody had ever talked back to them in such a manner. They were accustomed to screams for mercy, pleading and begging. Not insults.
Mal turned to Wash and said, “Get us outta here!”
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” Wash said and fired up Serenity’s engines. The ship’s stern began to glow a bright yellow and orange as the swirling ion clouds heated up in the engine flow’s wake.
“TRACTOR BEAM!” the first skeleton yelled to the other. “GET A LOCK ON THEM! HURRY!” The second man began to flip switches just out of screen.
Serenity lurched forward and began to swing around in preparation of making a star-jump.
In her bedroom, River was growing more and more hysterical. All the nightmares were returning: the labs, the experiments, the cutting, the slicing. The men with the blue gloves, the bottom half of their faces hidden behind sterile masks so that only their cold, gray eyes could be seen, peering down at her, peering inside her head, peering at her exposed brain, and then puncturing it with their knives and scalpels. River tried closing her eyes but she couldn’t banish the memories no matter how hard she tried. They only grew stronger. “No! No! Can’t go back!” she cried.
The ship was only able to clear a few meters before the Dortmunder’s strong magnetic pull locked onto its metal hull and stopped it from going any further!
“Wash!” Mal screamed!
“I can’t! We’re in a tractor beam!”
“Well break it!” he yelled. “Kaylee! We need more thrust!”
“I’m trying Captain!” she hollered over the intercom. “She’s already getting hot!”
“You can’t escape us, Captain Reynolds,” the second bony face said from the monitor. “We will get what we came for. We always do.”
“Not this time!” Mal yelled back at the screen. The sound of metal straining under the intense pressure of the tug-of-war echoed loudly in the bridge and corridors.
“Stop fighting us, Captain, or your ship will buckle and snap in half.”
“Then we’re all dead and you don’t get the girl so cut your tractor beam!”
“Absolutely not,” the first skeleton shook his head. He turned to his cohort and said, “Open the landing bay doors and increase the strength of the beam. We’ll drag him in.”
Serenity’s bridge began to shake and shudder. Everybody turned to look at each other, eyes all asking the same thing. Serenity was a good, solid ship but was she strong enough to withstand this much pressure and still remain in one piece? This was getting quite scary. The ship quaked and everything that wasn’t secured rattled off onto the floor! Then, ever so slowly, the Firefly began moving backwards…towards the Dortmunder!
“Captain?” Wash asked, fear in his voice. He wanted to know if he should give up and turn off the ship’s engines.
“Keep fighting her, Wash!” Mal instructed. “There’s no way in hell I’m letting them on board and if that means losing Serenity, then so be it!” Everybody understood that ‘losing Serenity’ meant losing their lives and each was fine with that. They knew these men -whoever they were- were not about to let anybody live after this no matter what they promised. So either way, they were screwed. Might as well go out in a blaze of glory instead of begging on their knees.
River closed her eyes, shut them tight, brought her trembling hands to her face and tried to cover her head, tried to force the images out of her mind. The knives! The scalpels! The restraining belts! The sound of the buzz saw cutting through her skull! The smell of burning skin and tissue, the sound of blood as it sizzled beneath the intense laser light! “Focus, River,” the doctors wearing the blue gloves told her. “Focus. Focus.”
And that’s just what she did.
She focused on the Dortmunder’s primary engine coil. And on its turbine chargers. And its fuel rods. And its general supply core. And its life support system. She focused on all of these and more, her mind visualizing every mile of cable and wire, every atom of fuel, every power system and control box aboard the Alliance cruiser. She focused on them losing power all at once. She imagined all the wires burning, all the circuitry channels overloaded, all the life being drained out of the Dortmunder.
The tractor beam suddenly let go of Serenity and she snapped free of its grasp. The ship lurched forward and began making distance.
The bony skeletons looked at each other in complete puzzlement and then it slowly dawned on them what was happening. They could feel it deep within their bones. The caterpillar they had been working so hard with…had turned herself into a butterfly!
River imagined the fuel in the cruiser’s tanks heating up, getting hotter and hotter, bubbling now, bubbling as its temperature rose to very dangerous levels.
The two men looked at each other, completely oblivious to the camera now. “My god. She has awakened.” Then they smiled.
River envisioned the fuel igniting, the fire exploding out of its tanks, igniting the oxygen in every hallway, rushing around corners, filling every room and corridor, ultimately blowing open the bridge door and enveloping the entire room! She saw the men with blue gloves try unsuccessfully to shield their faces from the flames, saw the cloud of fire swallow them up and their bodies disappear into wispy shadows of ash!
“NOW, WASH!” Mal yelled and Wash punched it! Serenity glowed bright orange and yellow as it shot away just as the Dortmunder disappeared in a massive fiery explosion that lit space for miles and miles! The Firefly kept going until all that was left of the Alliance cruiser behind them were several million pieces of burned and blackened metal the size of fingernail clippings.
*** *** ***
“River?” Simon asked, softly cradling his sister in his arms. Everybody was standing around her bed, watching her with concerned looks. “River, did you do that? Did you…you know, back there? Was that you?”
River nodded. “I made the bad men go away.”
“Yes, you did,” Simon whispered and hugged her tight. “You definitely made them go away.”
“You saved the ship, River,” Mal said, but kept his distance from the bed. “And all of us standing here, too. And I just wanted to say thank you. I don’t know how you did what you did and I’m not sure I want to know, but thank you.”
River looked up at him and brushed the bangs from her eyes. “Your welcome, Captain,” she said and smiled.
“Just one thing before we leave and let you get some rest,” he said. “You have to promise me that…well, if I ever say or do anything that really upsets you, you’ll…” he didn’t know how to word it. “I mean, you’ll tell me first, right?”
River laughed. “Don’t worry, Captain. I won’t blow you up.”
She certainly had a way of cutting through all the niou-fun. “Ok, then. Good to know.”
Inara entered the room behind everybody. She was still a bit weak but her face had more color in it than it’d had in days. “Has anyone seen my Dekka stones? I thought I left them in my room.”
Everybody stopped talking and turned to her. There was a long and uncomfortable beat. Then she cracked a smile and let them off the hook. “I’m joking. It was a joke.”
Everybody took a deep breath and sighed in relief, especially Mal. “Tell you what we’re gonna do. Wash, set a course for Persephone.” He walked over to Inara and slipped his arm through hers. “We are going to go shopping and I am going to buy you the prettiest little necklace I can afford.”
“No thanks,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I have enough costume jewelry already.”
“That hurt. That really hurt. Seriously, though, it’ll be my treat. I want to do this. Besides, Jayne has to buy Kaylee a new dress.”
Jayne blinked in surprise. “I what? Why would I go and do a dumb thing like that?”
“Because you stretched out the shoulders in the one I bought her.”
“Is THAT what happened to it? I was wonderin’…” Kaylee asked.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jayne asked, completely oblivious. “I ain’t never worn no dress!”
“Oh, yes, you did,” Book smiled and patted him on the back. “And might I say you looked quite lovely. Pink really is your color.”
“Chur ni-duh!” Jayne hissed. Screw you! He strode over to Mal and leaned in close to whisper: “There, uh…there ain’t no pictures of this, right?”
“Not as long as you behave yourself,” Mal said, sternly.
Jayne frowned then turned, walked out of the room with shoulders slumped, face red in embarrassment, and uttered under his breath: “Ta ma duh!” Screw me blind!
Mal clapped his hands together. “All right, gang. Fun’s over. Let’s get back to work, shall we?”
Everyone slowly began to disband. Wash went back to the bridge to set a course to Persephone. Zoe followed behind him for spousal support. Kaylee went back to her engine room. Simon headed back to the Med Lab to clean up and put things away. Book retreated back to his room to light some candles and give thanks in prayer, and Inara wanted to go rest some more back in her shuttle with a cup of tea and some relaxing music. Mal was on his way back to his quarters when he turned and saw River standing all alone at the window, looking out at the stars quietly passing by outside. He walked over and joined her. He could tell that she was concerned about what had happened earlier, what she had caused to happen, and he wanted to comfort her. “Are you gonna be okay?” he finally asked after a long moment.
“Yes,” she nodded, then turned to him with a smile. “I think I am.”
“I think you are too,” Mal put his arm around her and held her. “I think we’re all gonna be okay.” He joined her in watching the millions of twinkling stars outside. How bright they were. How beautiful. How shiny.
Just like his crew.
*author’s note: Well, that’s it. That’s my story. PLEASE leave a comment with your thoughts. It’s nice to hear what you guys think and responses really give me a sense of satisfaction; that all the hard work I put into writing this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Thank you so much for all the support you’ve given me along the way. It’s so very appreciated. -LarryL
Sunday, August 21, 2005 11:35 AM
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Monday, August 22, 2005 4:55 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2005 12:25 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2005 9:57 AM
Wednesday, October 05, 2005 10:51 AM
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