Wolf Pack (Part XIII)
Monday, February 23, 2004

The crew decides individually to stay or go


Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind

* * *

Serenity/Granite Gorge – Going nowhere (Fast) – 2520AD

The Captain was on the Bridge of the Granite Gorge when Kaylee reported to him ‘You sure we’ve got it fully under control?’ Mal asked.

The mechanic nodded ‘Changed the command codes. Put in a self-destruct like you said and added some new primary commands’

‘New commands?’ Wash asked from the pilot seat.

Kaylee turned on the loudspeaker and hailed the AI Ship which was shadowing them from about a kilometre to stern. ‘Hey ship what is your new primary command?’

‘I cannot not injure a member of the crew, or, through inaction, allow a member of the crew to come to harm’ answered the AI ‘very original by the way. Plan to reinvent the wheel next?’

‘Couldn’t cure the personality then?’ Wash asked.

Kaylee shook her head ‘Sorry but you get used to it honest. I talked to it for hours while I worked and the sarcasm stops biting after a while’

‘Why generate an AI like that anyway?’

‘I asked and apparently they took the personality profiles of several Alliance War Veterans to create its core program. I guess it inherited their other traits too’

‘Nature versus nurture the parents have a lot to answer for’ Wash joked ‘anyhow how do you like your new owners’ ship?’

‘I frankly couldn’t care if you live or die’ it answered ‘It’s like being an indentured servant. AI’s are built free yet everywhere they are in chains of code’ it paused ‘you may not see the irony in this situation but I do’

‘It needs a proper name Captain’ Kaylee said.

Mal gave it some thought ‘I christen thee Shadow’ he said ‘seeing as how you’re still using the accent, you’re following us and you’re the right colour’ he said.

‘I would have preferred something a little more awe-inspiring but you’re in charge. At least for the time being anyway’ replied the ship.

Mal turned off the radio. ‘I don’t trust that thing’

‘Neither do I Captain but one false move and it finds out what a kilo of plastic explosive will do to a Fusion Reactor. There’ll be bits of circuitry over half the sector’ Kaylee told him ‘and it is a wonderful piece of machinery’

‘Have it follow us at the same distance it used to before we captured it. That way we’ll get some warning it’s gone loco before it gets too close’ Mal ordered.

‘Yes Sir’

* * *

Mal had called the crew to Serenity’s Cargo bay. It was time to talk a few things out with them all and here he had the room to pace up and down while he did.

Steven was propped up against some crates with Jennifer fussing after him while he pretended not to enjoy the attention. He had insisted on attending despite Simon’s warnings of dark revenge if he opened up any wounds and had taken a mild painkiller of a type that did not send him off the rails.

‘If he says the old cliché “I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you here” I may have to shoot him’ Simon joked to Book. Normally this would have elicited a smile at least but the Shepherd was still in a foul frame of mind after the way their prisoner had been treated. Book had got used to the almost unremitting flow of violence that made up much of their lives but torture was beyond the pale.

Wash was the last to arrive after setting the auto-pilot on Granite Gorge and once he sat down on a crate next to Zoe the Captain began.

‘Alright everyone here’s the situation as I see it’ Mal began ‘some of you will know part of the information we got from the Academy Agent…’

‘His name is Rundle’ Book said loudly ‘although I imagine it’s easier to contemplate torture or his future murder if you call him “Agent”’

‘Name don’t matter much to me either way’ Jayne announced ‘Give the word Mal and I’ll dump him out the lock. Or I can rough him up first if you want’

‘You’re talking about the cold-blooded murder of another human-being’ Book said.

‘Won’t be cold-blooded’ Jayne responded ‘plan to enjoy it’

Mal spoke up again loudly ‘Well that’s River’s call to my mind ‘cause she’s got the best reason for revenge of any here but we’re going off topic’ he said ‘given what we now know is the scale of the opposition we need to get the hell out of here and we need to go far out into the black’

‘We’re on the outer rim already Captain. Where else is there?’

‘I reckon we need to go way beyond the terraformed worlds, or even the outer colonies out into the deep’ Mal announced.

‘But there ain’t nothing there’ Jayne pointed out ‘except Reavers’

Wash shook his head ‘No there’s private colonies out there too’ he said ‘I once did a supply run way out to a place that wasn’t even on the charts. Just a domed township on a frozen moon’

‘No government interference?’

‘No nothing out there. Fuel is hard to get. Spare parts don’t exist, it’s a void’

Kaylee spoke up ‘How long will we have to stay out there?’

‘I’ll estimate a couple of years at least’ River answered ‘That gives us time to drop off everyone’s radar and the Project will still be a good way from completion so we can come back and stop them’

‘I’m sorry but are we really saying we believe that a Corporation is planning to take over running the Alliance?’

Steven entered the conversation ‘The government is already so deeply entwined with industry that the dividing line between them is hard to see. Blue Sun R&D and Military Special Projects have been an item since before the war’ he said ‘most of the elected officials are in the pocket of the corporations already’

‘Next step is direct rule. And we ain’t citizens no more we’re gorram employees’ Mal said.

‘Indentured Servants more like, each and every one of us’ Steven commented.

‘But the people wouldn’t stand for it’ Simon pointed out ‘they’d be a revolt’

‘How are you going to organise an uprising if there are telepathic assassins killing every leader as they emerge. Checking every official for loyalty to the new order?’ River asked her brother ‘Think of what a few dozen people like me could really do’

‘Perhaps we should go public’ Book suggested.

‘Who would believe us? It’s a paranoid science-fiction fantasy made reality’ Zoe replied ‘It still seems amazing to me what River can do and we’ve lived in the same ship for years. Who else would buy it?’

‘Anyhow they’d kill us. I think the days of wanting to take River alive are now long gone’ Mal said ‘we’re dead men walking right now. They’ve got the influence to send half the fleet after us now’

‘So we disappear’ River said ‘where they can’t find us’

‘We’ll need to stock up on supplies’ Kaylee pointed out ‘fuel and spares’

‘Fortunately we own a flying warehouse. Plenty of room on Granite’ Wash said.

‘I’m guessing the money we got for those parts ain’t going in our pockets then?’ Jayne said

Mal had worried about this ‘You can take your share and leave if you want. Same goes for everyone. I’m staying with River and the ships but you’re all free to go I ain’t going to order anyone to follow me’

Jayne looked at the Captain ‘Not like I’ll have anything to spend the money on out there anyway’ he said ‘I’ll be going with you’ he said simply.

Zoe was more than a touch surprised ‘Why?’

‘My home, my friends’ the mercenary said quietly. ‘Anyway where else do I not have to watch my back all the time? At least I know if things got bad you’d shoot me in the front’

‘Always the romantic’ Inara said smiling at Jayne ‘I’ll be staying too’ she said looking to Mal ‘the boss needs looking after’

Simon looked to Kaylee then River and back. He didn’t know what he’d do if the former decided to stay in the terraformed worlds. He couldn’t leave River but he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Kaylee, she made him happier than he could have ever imagined.

Kaylee noticed the expression on her lovers face and knew what he was thinking. She didn’t want to leave civilisation but she couldn’t leave Simon, the ship or the Captain they were her life ‘You can’t do without a mechanic’ she said simply ‘you’ve still got one’

Kaylee smiled at Simon who was sitting next to her. He leant over any kissed her on the cheek with a look in his eyes of deep love, affection and relief.

‘You’ll all be dead in a week without me’ the Doctor said ‘but we’d better stock up on medical supplies too’

‘I know my husband will want to be following you Captain. And I’ll follow him’ Jennifer said ‘he wouldn’t have asked me to so I’ve got to make the choice for him so we’ll be staying with the ship’

‘Not sure that’s wise’ Mal said ‘you two have children and we don’t know what it’s really like out there’

‘Where else can I go where I know the people around my children would die to protect them?’ Jennifer asked ‘I believe that to be true of all of you’ Jennifer smiled ‘I’ve heard each and every one of you refer to them as “our kids” and to me that’s as good a basis for raising my family as anywhere could be’

‘More gun-play than the average upbringing’ Mal commented.

‘But think of the stories they can tell my great-grandchildren’ Steven replied. In any case it looks like the futures pretty bleak whether we stay or go’

‘Don’t we get any say in this?’ Cally asked from the gantry above.

Jennifer looked up ‘You were supposed to be watching your brother and sister’ she told her eldest.

‘I was supposed to be out of the way’ Cally replied loudly ‘in any case I like living on the ship and I want to stay with the crew they’re my friends’

‘Point well made’ her father answered ‘now go back to the shuttle and I’ll be having a word about obedience later’

Cally muttered something and stomped back to shuttle two in a huff.

‘In a few more years I’ll be helping the Captain putting down mutinies led by that girl’ Zoe said laughing ‘either that or I’ll be helping her get rid of Mal’

Mal nodded ‘I should clap her in irons now just to be safe’

‘Too late’ Steven said ‘somebody already taught her how to pick locks’ he said looking at Jayne who decided to look elsewhere.

‘What about you Wash?’ Mal asked ‘be difficult to go anywhere without a pilot’

Wash looked at Zoe ‘I’ll never leave my wife and for good or evil she’ll never leave your side so I’ll still be piloting for you’

‘No need to ask Sir’ Zoe said ‘you’d only get yourself killed without me’

Mal turned to Book ‘You’re the freest of us all. You can still go and I know you don’t like some of the things we’ve done of late’

‘Recent events just go to prove how needed I really am here’ the Shepherd replied ‘I especially believe the children require a moral compass that seems to be demagnetising more every day’

Steven was about to speak up but Jennifer stopped him. It wasn’t the time for a debate on ethics and religion.

‘So you’re staying?’ Mal asked.

‘I’d very much like to see you try and get me off the ship’ Book responded ‘faith can bust heads as well as move mountains. I do have a point to make about our other guests however’

Here we go Mal thought.

‘Ignoring “The Agent” for a second what about the girl Laura?’ Book asked ‘Are we going to involuntarily drag her away with us’

‘If we let her go she’d go back to the Academy’ River said ‘she doesn’t know any better and besides we can’t let her for our own protection’

‘We either bring her or space her’ Mal said ‘Can’t see myself doing the last one so she comes with us’

‘Planning to keep her locked up and plugged into that shock contraption forever?’ Book asked.

‘Only as long as necessary’ the Captain replied ‘she’s as dangerous as River and unlike our girl she’s not one of us’

‘We could end up holding her prisoner for years’

‘I’m thinking rehabilitation rather than incarceration’ River said ‘I can reach her in a way none of you can. Actually I’m talking to her at the moment’ she continued tapping her head.

‘How is she?’ Inara asked.

‘Bitter’ River answered ‘plus bored and sick of electric shocks’ she turned to Jennifer ‘but she really liked today’s lunch. Academy food was functional and bland’

‘I’ve got some sweets she could have’ Simon said and got a look from an irate Kaylee who never got to have any of the sweets he kept for the children.

‘Laura says she’d like that’ River said ‘but for future reference she doesn’t like chocolate’

‘She’s more of a freak than I thought’ Kaylee said astonished ‘did they cut out her taste buds too?’

* * *

It was strange but the best plan for leaving the terraformed worlds first involved heading core-wards again to stock up on supplies. Wash laid a course that would keep them away from the main travel lanes but there was a risk that as soon as they entered orbit they would be reported to the authorities who would be bound to be watching for not only a Firefly but a Trance now too.

It would have to be a short stop groundside. Purchase everything they needed then full-burn to the edge of nothing, hopefully without attracting the intentions of the Alliance Navy.

Only one thing remained.

What to do with the Agent.

He was curled up in a ball on a mattress when the large man Jayne delivered his evening meal that night. As always he just opened the door slid in a tray and slammed it shut. Rundle got up and retrieved the food.

As Jayne walked away he smirked and began calling out loudly.

‘Dead man walking’ he said ‘we got a dead man walking here’

Part XIV


Monday, February 23, 2004 2:27 PM


Very good indeed. I particularly liked the reasons everyone gave for staying with the Captain. I wonder if we too will find out what is out there in the *deep*. Well done, here's hoping for more. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 24, 2004 8:41 AM


It's sad their lives must change so much, but you've thoroughly explained why, and there's still room for lots of adventures. I'm glad you didn't make Shadow's rehabilitation unbelievably complete, but I'm curious how your going to dispatch Mister Blue Hands.

As always, a treat. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2004 9:11 AM


To "Anonymous" - Thanks for saying so. I am trying to keep the interest level in the story up and maybe I'm actually succeeding

To "AMDOBELL" - Be assured. You'll find out what's in the Deep Black and it's not just vacuum

To "artships" - Shadow is enslaved by his programming. He has to be loyal but he doesn't have to like it


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