BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

HOTPOINT

Wolf Pack (Part XV)
Sunday, February 29, 2004

Penultimate chapter of the Wolf Pack Sequence. The ships are stocked, one guest is removed and additional company appears


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4293    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

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 – Grounded on Virginia – 2520AD

Mal wandered down Serenity’s ramp and took a look around. It was starting to snow but fairly gently and it wasn’t interfering with business at all. Apparently it had been pretty fierce the day before they arrived and was quite thick on the landing field except for immediately around the two ships where the engines had burned a clearing.

They had landed next to a small city on a plateau in Virginias Northern Uplands which was large enough to have decent trade and some small industrial operations but wasn’t garrisoned at all. Most of the deals had been done over the radio from orbit and it wasn’t going to be a long stay.

The children were playing in the snow watched by their father who wasn’t really in a fit state for loading supplies. They didn’t get to spend much time off the ship and the chance to run around and throw snowballs at each other was too much to miss, Mal hadn’t wanted to let them off the ship but the look on Claire-Marie’s face had quickly forced him to relent.

Zoe yelled “duck” and Mal instantly obeyed, years of fighting alongside her having honed his reflexes to obey her advice.

He was reaching for his pistol when a snowball sailed over him in a trajectory which would have hit him on the side of the head otherwise. Mal turned to see Zoe watching from higher on the ramp grinning and pointing at Cally a few yards from the ship who was trying not to look suspicious but failing miserably with her hands behind her back and looking elsewhere.

Inara was supervising the supplies being loaded on Granite. They had purchased so much the local merchants had agreed to provide a work-crew to speed up the process and half a dozen labourers were stacking crates in the cargo hold. The size of the Trance Class had allowed them to reverse their delivery trucks up the ramp two at a time and unloading would only take a few minutes per vehicle thanks to the number of helping hands.

Hearing a playful scream outside Inara stepped to one side so she could see past the trucks and watched Cally running with Mal in hot pursuit carrying a huge lump of snow in his hands. He was yelling something about mutiny and hanging the young girl from the yardarm.

The former companion smiled yes he’d do very well for her she thought and went back to monitoring the unloading.

Zoe watched her Captain chase the “mutineer” for a minute or so then turned back into the Firefly. A couple of merchants were in the bay arguing prices with Wash and Kaylee over the last of the engine parts still unsold, Jayne had already exchanged their excess weaponry for ammunition and was travelling back to the ships with the mule and his purchases. Book was with him as was Jennifer who had been buying clothes and shoes for the children, they grew out of them so fast and there was a limit to what you can do with hand-me-downs and a needle and thread.

All being well they should be back off-world in less than an hour. Both ships were fully fuelled and ready to go. They had purchased enough high-density ration packs to last the whole crew six months plus a vast amount of far more palatable foodstuffs.

Mal was just about to catch up with Cally when River appeared and pelted him with snowballs. She had been helping her brother sort through and shelve the medical supplies he had purchased but had felt the fun going on outside and decided to join in leaving Simon to finish up. Both of their academy guests were still locked up securely in Granite and had been sedated to prevent any attempt at escape so River didn’t have to worry about constantly keeping a metaphorical eye on the other telepath.

The snowball fight escalated when Claire-Marie decided to intervene on behalf of her Captain and threw a lump of snow at River who sidestepped it easily. John chose an easier target and threw his snowball at Cally.

Hearing the chaos outside Kaylee left Wash to shake on the deal and threw herself whole-heartedly into the fray siding with River.

By the time the mule rolled up with Book, Jayne and Jennifer the delivery trucks were just leaving and the entire crew were pelting each other with snow. It was nothing short of infantile and ridiculous.

After watching for a while the trio looked at each other then broke ranks. Book sided with Cally’s faction, Jayne with the Captains. Jennifer found her husband sat on a crate watching choking back laughter and wincing with pain as he did then after kissing him she ambled over to Inara who was watching not participating and put a lump of snow down her back. The resulting scream was the loudest so far.

* * *

With Kaylee at the controls Serenity reached orbit first and waited for Granite Gorge to arrive. Most of the crew were on the Firefly with only Wash, Jayne, Mal and River on the larger vessel.

‘That’s strange’ Kaylee said checking the Radar ‘They’ve stopped ascending’ she told Zoe. I hope it’s not a mechanical failure.

‘It’s not’ Zoe told her.

* * *

Rundle jerked back into consciousness thanks to the bucket of slushy snow and ice which was thrown over him. He found he was handcuffed and had been dragged into the cargo bay of the large transport which was full of boxes and crates stacked several feet high.

‘You awake’ asked a voice.

‘Bit groggy’ the Academy Agent replied ‘time for another interrogation is it?’

‘Nah. We’ve already got everything out of you that’s worth knowing’ said another voice Rundle recognised as the mercenary Jayne, he turned his head and through slightly blurry vision found himself surrounded by the target River Tam, the merc and the renegade Captain Reynolds.

‘This an execution?’ the Agent asked.

‘That’s up to you. We’re letting you go but if you want to stay we’ll shoot you or more maybe space you in orbit to save the bullet.’ Reynolds said ‘Get up’ he ordered.

Rundle staggered to his feet ‘What’s going on’

‘We’re setting you free’ River told him and pressed a button by the cargo bay doors which began to open slowly letting in a piercingly cold wind.

‘I can go?’ Rundle asked.

‘Ramps coming down, soon as it does walk down it we won’t stop you’

‘There is however one snag’ River announced as the ramp levelled out ‘we’re not on the ground’

Rundle gasped ‘You’re throwing me out?’

Reynolds shook his head ‘Nope you’re jumping’

‘Like hell’

‘You jump or we kill you anyway?’

‘Not the most credible threat’ Rundle pointed out a great deal more calmly than he felt ‘I die either way so why kill myself to salve your conscience?’

River walked over to him ‘The all-time record for surviving a fall in a one-gee gravity well without a parachute is over six miles. Not that that matters really because you hit terminal velocity of about two-hundred miles an hours after a fall of only a quarter of a mile anyway’ she said. ‘I’m approximating in imperial measurement of course. Assuming you weigh seventy kilos your actual terminal velocity will be eighty-eight metres per second reached after a fall of 395 metres’

‘We’re about three miles up’ Reynolds announced ‘if you jump there’s a chance of survival. If you stay there’s none whatsoever, your choice’

Rundle looked out then at the Captain ‘I can’t’ he said.

Reynolds turned to the mercenary ‘Shoot him and throw him out’ he ordered.

The mercenary pulled his pistol from its holster.

‘No wait’ Rundle yelled ‘let me think’

‘Times ticking by and it’s cold standing here’ Reynolds said.

‘We can do a deal’ the Agent said.

‘You ain’t got nothing to trade. Is it the fall or the bullet?’

Rundle began to shake uncontrollably and not from the chill wind ‘Please don’t do this’ he begged.

‘I’m freezing my nuts off here Mal’ Jayne said ‘Can’t I just drop the hammer on him and go get a coffee’

Mal regarded the agent ‘In thirty seconds you’ll be off this ship either with a hole or without one’

‘Please’

‘Twenty-Five seconds’

‘But I told you everything’

‘Not by choice. Twenty seconds’

Tears began to form in Rundles eyes ‘I have a family’

‘No he doesn’t’ River announced

‘Fifteen seconds’ Reynolds said.

The mercenary levelled his revolver.

‘I’ll jump. I’ll jump’ Rundle said.

‘Ten, Nine, eight…’

The agent closed his eyes and started running towards the ramp. He stopped suddenly just before he ran out of ship ‘I can’t’ he yelled. ‘I can’t’

‘Oh just kill him’ Reynolds said.

A pistol barked and a round ricocheted off the deck right next to Rundle who was so startled he stumbled and fell off the ramp you could hear his screams fade fast as he fell away.

River holstered her pistol and pressed the button to close the lock.

‘I wanted him alive to enjoy the fall. It’ll take quite a while from this height’ she said ‘I was hoping he’d jump though that would have been hilarious’ she said.

Mal looked at her and once again breathed a sigh of relief she was on his side.

* * *

Serenity/Granite Gorge – Orbiting Virginia – 2520AD

The airlock opened and Mal stepped through into Serenity to find everyone waiting curious to find out what the delay was about. The Captain had ordered Zoe not to tell anyone considering it his responsibility.

‘What’s wrong Captain’ Kaylee asked.

‘Nothings wrong. Just had to stop and deal with a little unfinished business’

‘So everyone’s alright’ Simon asked.

‘Not quite everyone’ River said following Mal through the lock ‘but everyone that matters is’

Book cottoned on ‘Where’s Rundle?’

‘Probably in a hole up to his neck’ Jayne joked appearing also ‘driven in like a tent-peg’

‘You threw him off the ship’ Book said in horror.

‘Technically it would be truer to say that, with a bit of encouragement, he fell’ River announced ‘we asked him to jump but he was reluctant. Also for the record Jayne people tend to bounce rather than make a hole when they land at terminal velocity. The bones contract and spring a bit before breaking and there’s insufficient momentum for a crater’

Steven spoke up ‘They say if you learn one new thing every day…’

‘How can you make jokes at a time like this’ Book said ‘they killed that man’

‘Did they really kill the bad man mummy’ Claire-Marie asked.

‘He deserved it’ Cally stated before her mother had a chance to speak.

Book looked at the young girl in shock ‘What kind of example are we setting?’ he asked. ‘Do we have to become as devoid as moral as our adversaries in order to defeat them? And if so why do we think we’re in any way superior?’

‘Shades of grey Shepherd’ Steven said ‘not black and white’

‘The path to hell is paved with moral relativism and compromising your ethics for short-term gain’ Book said

‘Why is Uncle Book angry?’ John asked worried ‘has somebody done something wrong?’

‘He thinks so’ Jennifer said ‘your father and I will explain later but for now I want you all to come with me’

The three children followed their mother away heading for the galley. Cally as ever was annoyed at not being allowed to stay and listen to the interesting stuff. She always found hearing the Shepherds funny ideas on morality quite entertaining but clearly of minimal real-world application.

Back in the cargo bay the argument began to heat up.

* * *

Still on Granites Bridge Wash powered up the engines and took the ships out of orbit heading for a random point in the black away from the Core. They would use the drives at close to maximum until they cleared the terraformed worlds then coast into the Deep Black on inertia to save fuel.

He was just about to tell the Captain he was prepared to engage the main drive when he noticed a cluster of blips on the radar heading towards Virginia fast.

Then he noticed a huge blip appear behind them also moving a decent rate of knots.

‘Captain’ Wash said into the intercom ‘we’ve got serious company’

Mal’s voice responded quickly over the intercom ‘What kind of serious company’

‘From the size of it it’s either an Alliance Cruiser or someone sent a big chunk of Shinon after us. Too much to hope it’s not after us’

‘Get us out of here fast’

‘I am but we’ve got fighters already on the way and we can’t outrun them’

‘Try’

Wash engaged the main drive and Granite surged ahead pushing Serenity before her. It was only a matter of time before the fighters caught up though, they had larger engines relative to their mass they were already up to speed and they could burn hot because even if they ran out of fuel the Cruiser could pick them up afterwards.

Wash worked out the closing speed and converted it into time. Then he wondered what explosive decompression really feels like, or being sliced up by lasers for that matter.

Part XVI

COMMENTS

Sunday, February 29, 2004 11:00 AM

AMDOBELL


Excellent! I will be sad when this shiny story finally reaches an end. Just love Cally and I thought it poetic how River dealt with the agent. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, March 1, 2004 8:22 AM

ARTSHIPS


Very exciting! I can't see any way to save the Gorge, which is a shame, since I've started on the model. And thanks for letting everybody take part in the Snowball Wars.


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