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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
(*CONTAINS MOVIE SPOILERS*) A vengeful Niska has trapped Serenity and her crew on the Decamerone, an automated freighter bound for Reaver space. With time against them, River and Kaylee have embarked on a risky space-walk with the aim of hijacking the Decamerone's control tug, whilst Simon attempts to liberate Mal, Zoe and Jayne from the airless hold...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1949 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter 7, AKA 'Firefly Goes All Armageddon'. Special guest director Michael Bay, exec-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer... (only kidding!)
Inara was in the cargo bay, listening out for news on the ‘com, but she was not being idle. She had brought with her a little golden figurine and an incense stick and was down on her knees beside the mule, conducting a short ritual of protection.
Merciful Buddha, she prayed silently, watch over my friends and keep them safe from harm. Grant them the strength and patience for their tasks, and the courage to complete them. Light their way home.
It occurred to her, as she doused the smouldering stick and rose to her feet, that she was now completely alone aboard Serenity. She couldn’t ever recall it happening before, especially not out in the black. It was a curious and unsettling sensation.
In the past, of course, there had been occasions when the crew had decanted to some derelict or other in search of salvage, but still Wash could be found up in the cockpit, growling and cackling as he conducted epic toy crusades on his console. River, too, would usually remain behind in the passenger dorms, or sometimes she would come to Inara’s shuttle seeking company – or at least some refuge from her latest psychological torment – and doze for a while on her luxurious bed.
So much had changed since then. The toys remained but stood motionless now, in mute tribute to their fallen leader. Inara missed Wash dreadfully; one more reason, she supposed, why she had been spending so much time in her shuttle recently. The atmosphere on board Serenity had changed, clouded over. Nobody seemed to smile much anymore.
River was becoming an important member of the crew. Miranda had been good for her, or so it appeared; she was a far more dynamic proposition now than the traumatised young girl that had emerged naked and hysterical from a cryo box. She was fast approaching talismanic status: a talented pilot, a promising mechanic, and she could certainly handle herself in a tussle. Inara knew that Mal recognised these qualities, whatever his misgivings about her mental state, and was positioning River where she could contribute best – at the front of his operation.
At least Inara could still count on coming across somebody or other whenever she walked the corridors of the ship – Jayne, perhaps, pressing bench in the cargo bay, or Simon and Kaylee making cosy in the common area. It didn’t matter where she went, there was always noise coming from somewhere – the light clinking of Kaylee’s tools in the engine room, the low voices of Mal and River on the bridge, the stomp of Jayne’s boots along the catwalks. They were the sounds of a living ship, and they reassured her in her solitude.
But this was much different. She had always thought of Serenity having a soul of her own, but the ship felt hollow now, divested of her crew, her life blood. The concept of Serenity being lifeless disturbed Inara. The harder she listened, however, the only sound that reached her ears remained the low grumble caused by the Decamerone’s engines vibrating through the little Firefly’s airframe.
She leaned against the stationary mule, fiddling absent-mindedly with the lead of her portable ‘com, and waited. For now, apart from praying, that was all she could do.
“Okay, Dr Tam. You ready to operate?”
“Almost, Captain. You understand that I didn’t specialise in heavy ordnance on Osiris.”
Simon was following the curve of Serenity’s underbelly toward the dock-and-lock, and kept one gloved hand on the tiles as he went – the only thing separating him from perdition was the thin cable attached to the reel at his belt. He urged himself to concentrate on Mal’s tinny voice in his earpiece, and on the task at hand, and not on the speckled infinity that lay everywhere else.
The sticky gun was strapped to his thigh, and he was holding onto ‘Lola’ to prevent it from floating up around his head. To hands more used to delicate surgical equipment, it still seemed absurdly outsized. He kept a firm grip on its stock as the cable reel inexorably paid him out toward the massive freighter.
Simon glanced away to the left, but River and Kaylee were already lost to sight behind the curve of the freighter’s hull and he saw only the star-sprinkled night beyond, vast and infinite and…
He closed his eyes and swallowed, like a vertiginous man at the top of a tall tower. Don’t look down, he told himself, even though out here, down was everywhere.
He hoped that his girls would look after one another on their assignment. He wished now that he hadn’t said anything to Kaylee about River’s mind-set: she’d done nothing but fret and glance over her shoulder ever since. Alone together in the black, mutual trust would be all-important.
Mal and Zoe had managed to get Ossie Chen’s handheld up and running once more and were studying the ship’s schematic for the best way in. Their air reserves were down to under thirty minutes; Jayne’s was a shade under twenty, and he was starting to look pretty tense.
“Could he hurry it up a little?” he said, edgily.
Mal ignored him. “Doc, look ahead of you. Can you see the ‘lock?”
“I can.” Simon forced his mind to focus on his own circumstances; worrying about River and Kaylee would only distract him from what he had to do. “I’d estimate I’m about ten metres from it.”
“You’re gonna need to blow through the first panel to the left of it. Outer hull’s pretty thick here – the sticky wouldn’t last long enough to touch it. Reckon you should use the grenades on the first two walls, then the sticky once you’re inside. Be safer that way.”
Safer for whom? “Alright, Captain. I’m all set.”
“Jayne? Go ahead an’ tell the young man how to fire your big gun.”
“Uh – well, she’ll kick plenty, so hold her tight in. An’ get somethin’ solid at your back or you’ll go flyin’ off the other way.” Jayne sounded piqued, in spite of his situation, clearly not impressed with the notion of someone else handling his beloved woman.
He’s not the only one, Simon thought darkly.
“Grenades’re already loaded – ya got five in there in all, an’ they detonate on impact. I’d make sure you’re hangin’ well back ‘fore ya fire one off.”
Simon repositioned himself in accordance with Jayne’s counsel, backing up against Serenity’s coarse atmo tiles. He didn’t fancy flying off the other way, line or no line. Lines could snap.
“How will the grenades work in a vacuum?” he asked. It was an issue that had been niggling him ever since the plan had been formulated.
“Why’s it matter?”
“I make a point of knowing what I’m working with. Surgical apparatus or weaponry, it doesn’t matter – it’s my life out here as well as yours.”
“Make their own air. Carry a condensed O2 compound in the casin’, fuels the explosion. Believe me, Doc, they’ll breach any hull flyin’. All ya gotta do is hit it square on.”
Simon nodded to himself, not assuaged in the slightest. “He makes it sound very simple,” he remarked.
“Blowin’ stuff up’s what he does for a livin’,” Mal said. “Fahng-sheen, Doc – point and shoot. Even you should be able to hit somethin’ this size.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Inara’s soft, anxious voice sounded in his earpiece, like honey poured through a sieve. “Good luck, Simon.”
“Thank you,” he said, surprised to hear from the Companion. He imagined she, like the others, was listening in on tenterhooks. “Captain, I’m going to fire now.”
Simon took a lungful of air to steady his nerves, then brought ‘Lola’ up and took aim at the flat wall of plates. Holding the breath, he gritted his teeth and squeezed the heavy trigger.
The gun jolted once in his hands. A small, silvery canister spat soundlessly from the chubby launcher and spun quickly end over end toward the hull, just to the left of his aim point.
There was a pause, a moment of eerie calm. Simon quickly averted his gaze, grabbed hold of a short strut protruding from the dock-and-lock and hung on tight. Please work, he urged silently.
The grenade struck the plate.
There was a sudden, intense flash. A heavy shockwave buffeted Simon, but did not dislodge him.
Then nothing. It was over.
Cautiously, he looked back, and after a few seconds, an elated smile blossomed onto his face.
The Decamerone was open. The explosion had blown a gaping, jagged hole in the panel, about ten feet by eight, and it was still shedding small pieces of glowing metal. Within the tattered edges lay the inky darkness of a hold.
“Jing-tsai gun,” he declared, mesmerized.
“Doc!” Mal said urgently in his ear. “You okay? Do we have a breach?”
“Affirmative, captain,” he said, returning to his senses. “It worked – I can see the interior of the ship. Repeat, it worked. What’s next?”
“Get yourself to the edge of that hole and fire another grenade through, at the wall to the right. Stay well out of there, though – the shockwave’d turn you to cream cheese in that tight space. Dong-luh-mah?”
Simon understood the warning perfectly well, although such advice didn’t do anything for his flimsy confidence.
Things were going according to plan so far. He had been with this crew for long enough, however, to know that plans were often subject to hasty alteration, usually because some significant factor had gone way south.
Trauma surgery would feel like a breeze after this.
He exhaled expectantly and moved off, toward the opening that he and Lola had created. He felt sufficiently acquainted with the gun now to be able to remove the apostrophes from around her name.
Even under the best of conditions, walking in space was a risky manoeuvre. Walking along the exterior of a speeding cargo freighter ranked right up there as one of the all-time crazy notions, and it was only the knowledge that they were hurtling headlong toward Reaver space that kept Kaylee’s hands and feet moving over the matt-black plates. She was sure that in any other case, she would be pressed into a little curled-up ball, whimpering into her helmet and paralysed by fear.
She’d always been nervous about actually being in space. Odd, she supposed, for someone who lived and worked there, but that wasn’t it at all: she loved ships, and her Serenity in particular. Ships were big and sturdy, had parts and workings that spoke to Kaylee in a hundred different languages. She understood what they were, how they ticked, and how to make them keep ticking.
But the black didn’t talk. It was just that… the black, an empty, eerie, endless stretch of silent nothing.
Not strictly true. It was silent, but it was far from empty: the ‘verse was littered with debris – from clouds of shrapnel, left over from Wartime battles, to whole derelicts, dead hulks abandoned to drift forever through the void. All of it offered a prospective hazard to a speeding space ship, and to anyone standing on the outside of one they were potentially deadly. Navicomps were programmed to detect the bigger fragments and present due warning to the pilot, but autos did not care for warnings – there was, after all, no-one aboard to warn. And they simply bulldozed imperiously through the smaller stuff.
So when she was inside Serenity, protected by her big girl’s tough body, she felt safe. Here, though, making her perilous way along the outside of a full-burning transport, she felt only her heart bobbling in her chest, and her pulse thumping dully in her ears, just waiting to boil out into the vacuum, and the sharp flicks of tiny particles pattering against her suit.
Handholds were created where the plates joined and they were using these to propel themselves along, but she was finding it painfully slow going. Kaylee had worked in the black a few times before, conducting running repairs on Serenity’s systems from the outside, but that was with the ship stationary, and with Mal and Zoe at her back. In that situation, she’d coped well enough. This was a different box of apples altogether.
Out here, physics was everything. So was contact. The closer they could keep to the hull of the Decamerone, the greater effect they felt from its gravity field, and the less the ship’s forward motion tried to leave them behind. They were not secured by any kind of safety line, there being nowhere to fasten one to, and though turbulence did not exist out here in the airless black, the artificial gravity field constantly ebbed and flowed against the pressureless void of space. Moving through it felt to Kaylee like trying to move through a pool of jelly of varying consistency, and she was starting to tire.
Serenity seemed a long way behind now; her proud nose was barely visible above the horizon of the hull. Star points glinted strikingly off her windshield. Kaylee found herself praying that she would see her again soon.
She forced herself to keep her suit lights and her eyes on River, who was just up ahead, not quite close enough to touch, but close enough for comfort. She was moving nimbly, in spite of her oversized suit, but then she was not hampered by a blocky remote which, encased in a makeshift harness, bobbed along aimlessly on the end of a short length of cable. The other end was tied off on Kaylee’s tool belt. Though floating, it was not without mass, and it was creating a drag as it followed her through the soupy gravity field.
“Please – wait,” she panted. “Just for a moment. I can’t go as fast as you.”
River halted, and turned to look at her.
“We have to move quickly, Kaylee,” she explained, as to a child. “Time is a problem. Doesn’t fit. We have to make it fit with our hands.”
“I know… but it’s such a long way, and I’m gettin’ beat…”
“I’m not.” River extended a gloved hand. “Hold onto me. I’ll move for both of us.”
Wearily, Kaylee managed to get secure purchase on the back of River’s baggy suit, and then the girl fairly took off over the tiles – racing along like an agile cat, sure hands and feet finding leverage wherever they touched down. The erratic gravity seemed not to hamper her in the slightest, and Kaylee, clinging on for dear life, found herself wondering how she managed it.
“You all right, mei mei?”
“Yes,” River answered breathlessly. “This should get us there approximately forty-eight percent faster. Just don’t let go.”
“No fear a’ that,” Kaylee said, grimly.
Simon eased himself carefully through the serrated tear.
As soon as he was inside, the artificial gravity took hold of him and seemed to slam his boots onto the deck as though they were made of stone. The return to normality was almost a disappointment following the buoyant freedom of weightlessness.
He straightened up and surveyed his handiwork. Another hole, slightly larger than the first, had been created in the interior wall. Twisted pieces of metal lay on the deck where they had been scattered by the explosion.
“It’s all right, Captain. I think I’m getting the hang of this now.”
“Attaboy, doc.” Mal allowed himself a slight grin. The mental image of the meek and mild Doctor Tam blasting his way through metal walls with a big damn grenade launcher tickled him somewhat. “We’ll have you turned into a shiong-mung duh kwong-run like the rest of us before you know it.”
“Niou-se,” Jayne grunted. “Lola’s the one doin’ the job, not him. It don’t take no smarts ta pull a trigger.”
“Must be why it’s what you’re best at, Jayne.” Zoe cut him down with smooth precision. “You’re doin’ just fine, Doc. One wall left. Can practically hear ya now.”
Simon pushed Lola to one side and approached the second hole. He managed to get through without snagging himself on anything sharp, though his heart was beating in his ears the whole time.
“Sticky gun,” Mal confirmed. “Comes out like toothpaste. Just draw a hatch on the wall, nice an’ steady. Make sure the entire fuse is bedded in the gel, and please – try not to run out.”
Simon freed the dispensing pistol from his thigh and began to apply the clear gel to the flat wall. The thin, red fuse was visible within. He ran it smoothly up and then across, and soon had before him a square of about three feet by four.
“It’s done, Captain. What now?”
“Attach the detonator and set it. Then, kwai chur hun-rien duh di fahng.”
“Sure. Why – is there a problem?” Mal said, sounding suddenly apprehensive.
“No,” Simon said. He found the magnetic detonator and stuck it beside the square. A little red light winked portentously. “Just expected it to be more complicated.”
Holding on to the connecting framework, Kaylee watched as the sticky ignited soundlessly, boiling a small U-shape into the side of the maintenance tube.
Dividing the sticky between two guns had been River’s notion – as, it seemed, had all the others today – and they had loaded just enough into theirs to make a Kaylee-sized flap in the flexible partition, which could then be pushed inward to permit access. This they had achieved, and Kaylee fervently hoped that her beau was having as much success at his end.
“We’re in.” For the first time in what seemed like hours, she was starting to feel confident about the situation. “Take the receiver, an’ pass it through to me once I’m inside.”
River managed to untie the cable from the back of Kaylee’s belt and wrapped it around her gloved hand, holding the floating device like a party balloon as Kaylee eased herself through the hole headfirst.
Inside, the maintenance tube was exactly as she had anticipated: a pipe connecting the tug to the Decamerone, with a pressurised hatch at the freighter end. Conduits trailed down the length of the tube like fat black pythons. Kaylee drew her legs all the way in and turned around to collect the receiver.
It was a tight fit as it passed through the small hole, but it was a fit, and Kaylee felt her heart beginning to beat faster. The plan was coming together – now their deliverance counted on whether or not she could establish a healthy connection with the tug’s systems.
“You comin’ in too, mei-mei?”
River nodded and followed the device into the narrow tube. Kaylee didn’t blame her: the black was not the place to be hanging about alone.
She was also glad to have some company. It made the tube feel kind of cosy, like being in a pup tent, and for a moment it was possible for her to forget just where they were.
Using the conduits for leverage, Kaylee pulled herself toward the tug’s systems room. Her suit lights revealed a mess of terminals and units within, but that was okay: they were machines, which spoke to her like nothing else in the ‘verse could, and it didn’t take her long to locate the ones she needed.
She twisted to look at River, who was hanging back expectantly. “Shiny. Push that receiver up here, and let’s get this done.”
dong-luh-mah? = understand?
niou-se = cow cr*p
tian xiaode = in the name of all that’s sacred
shiong-mung duh kwong-run = violent lunatic
jing-tsai = brilliant
mei-mei = little sister
fahng-sheen = set your mind at rest
kwai chur hun-rien duh di fahng = go far away very fast
Friday, February 3, 2006 8:55 AM
Friday, February 3, 2006 9:13 AM
Friday, February 3, 2006 5:31 PM
Monday, February 6, 2006 6:07 PM
Thursday, January 11, 2007 6:57 AM
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