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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Mal wonders what he is going to do about River. As they get closer to Argon, Inara tries to remember why the place sounds so familiar."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2290 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "DO NO HARM"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: River. Mal. The whole gorram crew.
RATING: PG-13. 2/3
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "SAFE AND SOUND"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Mal wonders what he is going to do about
River. As they get closer to Argon, Inara tries to remember
why the place sounds so familiar."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
"DO NO HARM"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
By the time they got to Argon the Captain had given up on trying to keep River out of his bunk. Truth to tell she was no real nuisance which had surprised him. All she did was go to sleep. That she only seemed to settle if he was there was something he did not want to think too hard about. Oddly enough the nights she appeared he slept without nightmares. Maybe it was just knowing someone else was there? Didn't have to mean no more than that. He had also convinced her to wear pajamas. Amused she had readily acquiessed if it meant he would not send her away.
Now they were within hours of Argon. The ship was a bustle of activity. Captain Reynolds checked with Wash. Four hours. He stepped off the bridge and out on to the catwalk to find Inara Serra waiting for him. "What can I do for you, Inara?"
She looked worried. He frowned. "Argon. I thought the name of planet sounded familiar."
Zoe stepped up behind Mal and listened. Inara seemed to be choosing her next words with care. "You mustn't go there, Mal."
The Captain was so surprised it took him a moment to form words. "Care to explain, Inara? We're just shy of landin' and we took half pay up front."
She nodded. "I know Mal and I'm sorry it took so long for me to remember. I went on the Cortex to find out all I could about Argon, as I did so I remembered why no Companion would ever go there."
The Captain felt his mouth go dry. "*Weishenme*?"
"Because it's a plague planet, Mal. No one who goes to Argon ever comes back."
Mal was furious. He had sent an immediate wave to Badger and now the little toady kingpin was smirking back at him over the Cortex. Hands fisted at his sides the Captain tried to contain his temper so that he could say what needed to be said. "What the gorram do you think you're playin' at Badger? You knew this was a ruttin' plague planet. That's why you used go-betweens isn't it? Was the job in Tremont a softener so we'd swallow this one without askin' too many questions?"
Badger looked so happy he was almost ecstatic. He did not even bother to hide how much he was enjoying this. "Shouldn't trouble you none, Captain. You took on Niska an' lived to tell the tale, what's a few microbes to you? An' don't forget you took half the pay up front."
The Captain was seething. Behind him he was aware of a build up of anger from the rest of his crew. They had been stunned when he had told them and for over an hour the air had been all shades of blue. Now the volume of the debate had gone down but not the intensity. The deep sense of betrayal. "We can't do this job. We'll return the money an'..."
Badger was shaking his head. A look of malicious glee on his face. "No, no, you don't understand. When you took the job you entered into a contract, Captain Reynolds. A contract I do not release you from, *dong ma*?"
"What's in those crates?"
"Well now, you could say it's those people's only hope, see? Vaccines to slow down, maybe halt the virus. Trouble is it affects different people in different ways, know what I'm sayin'? It don't work on everybody but it's the nearest thing they got to a fightin' chance. Could say I'm a benefactor. Upholdin' citizen like me."
The Captain wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around the *wangba dan's* neck and squeeze the life out of him. Trouble was, he would only be able to kill him once.
"Now," Said Badger, knowing he had the Captain between a rock and a hard place. "You bein' a man of honour an' all, a man of your word as might be said, you got to deliver that medicine. Just think of what a humanitarian thing it is what you're doin'."
The Captain swore. "You *meiyou muqin de xiao gou*."
"Now, now Captain. Is that any way to be thankin' the man what got you the job?"
"*Chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo...*"
Badger smiled. "I'd a thought you'd be more interested in what was in those crates than in insultin' a God fearin' gent like me."
Mal stopped his tirade, eyes darkening almost to black. "What do you mean?"
"Them crates. The vaccines."
"What about them?"
Oh this was delicious. Badger wished he could drag it out longer but he couldn't. "You can't just drop the crates off, Captain."
He frowned. "Why not?"
The little man laughed then tutted, it grated on Mal's nerves. "Tut tut, can't believe you'd be so ignorant of somethin' so important."
"Spit it out Badger."
"Ask your doc. Only way a vaccine like this'll work is if you go down there and inject it into the people. No way will they be in a fit state to adminster it to themselves. So you see, Captain, you got yourself quite a dilemna." He paused and turned his head a moment then looked back at the screen with something approaching regret on his face. "Sorry, have to go now. Ta ta, have fun now an' give my regards to those fine folks on Argon."
The screen went blank. Zoe stared at the Captain. "We can't go down there, sir. We were tricked."
He raised a weary head, all the fight seemingly gone out of him like a popped balloon. "Took the job, Zoe, you know what that means."
She looked alarmed. Jayne's voice cut in with a deep rumble. "No way I'm goin' down there."
The Captain turned to look at him. "No one's askin' you to."
Zoe wanted to say something, pin him down and find out exactly what he had in mind but the Captain was already walking briskly off along the catwalk. Everybody followed him but Wash. Once he got to the infirmary he turned and looked at the others, amazed to see that somehow the Shepherd, Kaylee and River had tagged along as well. "I want you all to go back to what you were doin'. I need to speak to the doc."
No one budged. He was about to repeat himself when Zoe cut in. "Not gonna happen, sir."
"When you make your decision we want to hear it firsthand."
"Not catchin' my meanin', sir."
He shut his mouth and stared at her. It was River who put it into words for them. "Thinks you'll go without her."
Simon looked up and was startled to see the crew crowded by the door. He started to walk towards them when the Captain turned his head and looked at him. He stopped and waited. Somehow the Captain managed to make the others leave albeit reluctantly. He frowned, wondering what the gorram was going on. Whatever else life was aboard the Firefly class transport it certainly was not dull.
He was really alarmed now. What could be throwing the Captain so off-balance? "*Shenme shi*, Captain?"
"What you know about vaccines?"
They were shut away for more than a hour together talking. Zoe could not stop pacing, Jayne calmly cleaned his gun. Only the occasional look towards the infirmary doors belied his own sense of unease. River hung on to Kaylee's hand as if needing it for support. Kaylee thought she was worried about her brother, tried to reassure her. "Cap'n won't let him go down alone, River."
She shook her head but no words passed her lips. Oddly enough her silence unsettled them more than her manic ramblings. Shepherd Book tried to lighten the atmosphere. "We can do no good here. We should go to the commons room and at least sit and wait in comfort."
Inara nodded slowly. "I'll make some tea."
The Shepherd looked at Kaylee. "We could all do with a hot meal."
She took the hint. It was her turn after all. Squeezing River's hand she tried to pull her along with the rest of them but she let go of Kaylee's hand and sat on the catwalk grill. Kaylee sighed, was about to sit with her when she caught the Shepherd's eye. "I'm sure River will be fine." He said kindly.
Kaylee touched her friend's shoulder. "Simon'll be fine, you'll see. Cap'n won't let him do nothin' stupid."
River said nothing. Her eyes fixed on the door to the infirmary. It was not Simon she was worried about.
The Captain heard him out. That was more than Simon had expected. When he said nothing, Simon ventured to ask some questions of his own. "How bad is it?"
"*Bu hao*, doc. Badger called it a Plague Planet."
"*Wode tiana*, those poor people."
For a moment neither spoke. "How many doses you reckon there are?"
Simon tilted his head. "We'd have to open a crate and count them, Captain. Unless Badger has already told you?"
He shook his head. "No. He didn't offer any information that was useful."
The doctor watched the Captain, knew he was thinking. Imagined that keen mind going through all the permutations and knowing there was no easy way out. "You could just walk away." He said softly. It was not what he wanted to do but he was curious to see which way the Captain's inclinations lay. The bright flare of indignation in his eyes gave him his answer before the words could be set in stone.
"Not walkin' away, Simon. We been paid to do a job an' that's what we'll do. Just needs a mite more thinkin' about is all."
Inwardly Simon offered up a prayer of thanks. "What's the plan?"
"Well, this isn't a job for numbers. Not gonna be goin' up against any hostile force so no need to take anyone down that don't need to be down there."
Simon nodded. Made sense. "Well I *have* to go down..."
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "Not what I was thinkin'."
Surprised the doctor stared at him. "I have to Captain, I have to administer the correct dosages."
"An' how difficult is that?"
"They have to be injected into the patient's arm."
"Doc, you'll be right among them."
"Yes, I know."
The Captain shook his head. "We'll find another way."
Simon reached out and gripped the Captain's shoulder. "No, there *is* no other way, *dong ma*?"
He sighed. Leaning against a bed he crossed his arms and looked at the doctor for a minute. "How do you adminster a dose?" At Simon's incredulous expression he elaborated. "In Captain Dummy talk. I want to know."
Simon explained, the Captain nodded. "An' that's it? That simple?"
He nodded. "Yes, Captain, that simple but there could be hundreds - even thousands of people down there waiting for this medicine."
"Your meanin' bein'?"
"Contamination. Whoever goes down there..." He could not finish the sentence.
Quietly and calmly the Captain finished it for him. "Won't be able to come back."
Not able to speak Simon nodded slowly.
The mood was subdued when the Captain and Simon joined the others in the commons. Both men looked solemn but calm. Zoe knew a decision had been made and was feeling ansty waiting for the Captain to spit it out. Jayne was not so patient. "What d'ya decide to do?"
The Captain let the doctor do the talking. Accepting a mug of tea from Inara he did not help himself to anything to eat. After a moment all eyes fixed on the doctor. Holding their breath while they listened.
"First we need to count how many doses we have in those crates then prepare them. Once that's been done we take the spare shuttle down to the surface..."
"They got the plague, Simon." Said Kaylee as if that little fact had bypassed him.
"I know, Kaylee, and this is the vaccine they need to make them well again."
"An' will it?" Asked Jayne bluntly.
Simon hesitated so Mal answered for him. "Badger said it wouldn't work on everyone, so some folks will benefit, some won't."
Kaylee's eyes grew round as saucers. "So even with the medicine people will still die?"
"That's right, little Kaylee."
She looked about ready to cry. Simon spoke quickly. "But nothing is certain, Kaylee. The medicine may work better than expected. While not everyone may recover it may be enough that they don't die."
Jayne was frowning. "How's that?"
"It could halt the pathology of the virus."
Inara was looking worried. "But if you go down you'll be exposed to the plague yourself..."
The Captain explained more of his plan. "That's why he's gonna be innoculated first, that an' wear an EVA suit."
The doctor's eyes widened. "I can't do that, Captain. They're too bulky and it's going to be fiddly enough as it is."
The Captain's mouth set in a hard straight line. "Not discussin' it, doc. EVA suit is the only way I let you go down, *dong ma*? Like it or hate it that's set in stone."
Simon stared at him. "Did anyone ever tell you that you're impossible to work with?"
Impossibly, he smiled. "Just part of my charm."
It took more than an hour to count out all the doses. Everybody helped just as everybody helped prepare them so that it would be quicker to administer the doses once on the surface. Mal kept them all so busy with the vaccine that it took a while before all the implications hit home. Inara took him to one side as the last crate was repacked and carried off to the spare shuttle. "Mal, that plague is highly contagious."
"I know it." Seeing her worry he put a hand on her arm. "*Fang xin*, me an' the doc talked this out. While the shuttle's gone you best get ready as much disinfectant as you can make up. As strong an' concentrated as you can make it."
"Gonna need to scrub that shuttle inside an' out Inara along with anything that comes off it."
"Mal, we can't take the risk."
He had that stubborn look on his face she had come to hate. "No choice."
"There's always a choice."
He shook his head. "Not when it comes to doin' the right thing."
"Simon may die." She said quietly, her voice pained. Thinking not only of the doctor but of River. Mal nodded. He was way ahead of her.
"No, he won't."
"You can't promise that, Mal."
"Yes, I can."
She stared at him, wondering how he could be so certain. Then he was speaking again. Moving away from her.
"Go find Kaylee an' the others. I'm sure we got some tanks somewhere we can use to make up the disinfectant. River may even be able to concoct something stronger than what we got for domestic use, *dong ma*?"
Inara nodded. Words now beyond her. She knew this was no drill, it was real. People were dying down on the surface and the longer the delay the higher the death toll would be. Worse for her was the thought of losing any of the crew. She had read the reports on the Cortex and it had made grim reading. Only Mal knew just how grim and it was not knowledge he was prepared to share with the others just yet. No sense in starting a panic. Time enough for that when all was said and done.
The Shepherd was arguing with the doctor when the the Captain got to Shuttle 2. Hovering around them was River and Kaylee. The Captain assumed Jayne was keeping clear just in case he changed his mind about who was going down to the planet surface. When River saw him she touched his hand, drawing his eyes to her face. He wanted to reassure her. Tell her not to worry about Simon. He would not let anything happen to the doctor. But the words stuck in his throat. Simon turned his head and saw him. "Ah, Captain. I believe we're ready."
He nodded and looked at the Preacher. "Surprised to see you here, Preacher."
"I was just trying to convince the doctor to let me go down with him. Those people will be needing the comfort of the Lord..."
Mal cut him off. "No offence Preacher but this isn't between them an' God. You wanna pray you do it from here. You are not goin' in the shuttle an' that's that."
The Shepherd's eyes widened in surprise. "You're going down with the doctor?"
Simon started to protest but the Captain stopped him. "Ain't got time for this *goushi*, Simon." He turned to Kaylee. "What you still doing here, little Kaylee? Thought you would be lookin' for some tanks to make up the disinfectant we'll be needin'?"
She was close to tears. "Jayne is lookin', Cap'n."
He turned round and frowned. Sure he had seen River there a minute ago. He turned to Simon. "Come on, doc. Sooner we go the sooner we'll be back."
They watched Simon and the Captain enter the shuttle then retreated back along the catwalk to the bridge so they could watch the shuttle take off with Wash and Zoe. Once they were alone the Captain checked the two EVA suits one last time then turned to the doctor. "Okay doc, time we took our medicine."
Simon nodded and prepped a syringe. Efficiently he injected a dose of the vaccine into the Captain's arm. As he prepared a second dose for himself the Captain quickly rolled his sleeve back down and before the doctor could do anything put him into a choke hold. Simon struggled, the strong arm across his windpipe cutting off his oxygen and making him feel faint. Anger coursed through him. The Captain paused just short of putting him out and whispered in his ear. "Understand this, doc, I ain't enjoyin' this but it's necessary. You said yourself that whoever goes down to the surface ain't gonna be able to come back. Well I aim to prove you wrong but just in case Top Three Per Cent is right an' I'm wrong I can't risk anythin' happenin' to you, *dong ma*? You have to survive if only for River's sake. Try not to be too mad about it, just being practical." He paused, his voice dropping further to a soft hush of syllables against Simon's ear. "Time to go to sleep now, Simon." He said gently.
Then darkness pulled a thick impenetrable veil over the doctor's eyes and he knew no more. Carefully, Mal dragged the body out of the shuttle and hid it from view. Making sure he would be protected from the take off of the shuttle. Quickly he got back aboard and hurried through the take off sequence, Wash's good wishes ringing in his ears as a chorus of anxious voices wished him and the doc luck. As the shuttle began its' descent the Captain shook out an EVA suit and slipped it on, leaving his helmet off until the very last minute.
The Captain stared at the sight that greeted him, his throat closing up at the devastation. The scatter of rag and bone that was all that was left of the poor benighted people of Argon. The living walked among the fields of the dead and the dying, their fetid fumes a sweet putrefaction that he was thankful his suit filtered out. Sunken eyes stared out of skeletal faces where remnants of flesh clung like alien spores to the refuse of human life. No dignity in death on this gorram rock. It made him mad as well as heart sick. He also realised how right the doc had been. No way could they not do all they could to help these people.
It took him quite a bit of effort to lug the four crates out of the shuttle. Grabbing the doctor's injection kit he closed the shuttle door and took the precaution of locking it behind him. No way could he afford for any of the poor souls to take refuge in the shuttle. It was simple self preservation. Even if he died on his way back he couldn't unleash that kind of time bomb on his crew.
Turning he was surprised to see a pair of semi-lucid eyes fixed on his own. The woman was hard to age but he would guess she must be somewhere between twenty and forty. Her eyes looked centuries older but he knew that was the plague. She reached out for him, grabbed at his suit sleeve. Gently he loosened her frantic fingers, spoke through his filter and hoped she could find some comfort in his words. "Easy now, I brought the vaccine. You have to let me help you."
Her eyes widened in disbelief then her hand dropped away. Watching him now as if not daring to show any sign of optimism lest it betray her hope to the ashes of eternal dispair. He opened the first crate and loaded his syringe as Simon had shown him. Carefully he explained what he was doing to her and when he saw her nod a rush of relief flooded him. She let him adminster a dose then followed him as he went from one victim to the next, the felt pen he carried in his pocket being used to mark a simple cross on the front of each person he treated. No sense in dosing anyone twice not when the numbers needing the medication was many times the amount of medicine they had brought with them. His heart quailed in sorrow as he lifted his head and took his first good look at the sheer scale of the tragedy.
Inara finished her last communication on the Cortex. The Guild had not been able to help. They were very sorry but she was too far out and they had no medical supplies to treat such a virulent plague. She cut the link and sat for a moment in stunned silence. Her heart ached. She thought about River and felt a deep sense of sadness. How would the girl cope without her brother? Never mind that he had become one of them, one of this crew. This dysfunctional family. And Mal. She knew he put on a hard exterior but it would hit him hard. She had never known anyone as passionate as the Captain when it came to looking after his crew. Jayne Cobb was a case in point. Zoe had wanted to ditch him almost from the day the Captain had taken him aboard but Mal had seen something in the mercenary no one else had. Still didn't know what it was but she was glad he had persisted even with the events of Ariel taken into account.
Now both the Captain and Simon would likely be lost. Did the others know? Would they guess? She sighed and forced herself into action. The Captain wanted them to make up vats of concentrated disinfectant. Even if they never made it back it would give the crew something to do so they would feel they were helping. She owed it to them both to play her part even if inside her heart was breaking.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*weishenme* = why *dong ma* = understand *wangba dan* = bastard *bu hao* = not good
*meiyou muqin de xiao gou* = *motherless cur* *shenme shi* = what's the matter?
*wode tiana* = dear God in Heaven *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard
*goushi* = crap *fang xin* = don't worry
Friday, February 6, 2004 2:01 AM
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