|Not Forgiving; The Alliance Strikes Back|
|Tweet Topic Started: Sep 12 2010, 11:09 PM (458 Views)|
|abbey||Oct 19 2010, 09:30 AM Post #11|
It had been a couple of hours and it was starting to get really cold. Zoe prodded Simon until he acknowledged her.
“You OK, Simon?” Zoe asked.
“I’m going to turn on a few things. I’m beginning to feel like a ice cube.”
“I was hoping you would.”
Zoe smiled and then went to the engine room to turn on life support. She started to leave, but decided to fire up the electrical system too. She wanted to turn on the sensors once she got back to the bridge. It had been quiet, so she needed to know if they were out of danger.
“Should get warmer now,” she told Simon as she returned and sat down at the console.
“How’s it look out there?” he asked.
Zoe studied the screen for a few moments before giving him an answer.
“I don’t see anything on the sensors right now. I think we’re good.”
Both of them relaxed just a bit.
“What are we going to do now?” Simon asked.
“I can honestly say I don’t know,” Zoe told him. She stood up and stretched, wincing in pain from the bruised ribs she received from a bullet to her armor earlier. “I’m going back to the engine room to turn on everything. We’ll need to plot a course somewhere. We should lay low for a bit and figure out what to do.”
Simon nodded in agreement. Zoe went to the engine room flipped everything back into the ‘on’ position. She smiled when she saw the engine begin to spin. It was a comforting sight. Zoe jogged back to the bridge. When she got there, she was surprised to see Simon looking over the console. He wavered a bit while standing there and Zoe realized that he was getting weaker. He would need medical attention soon.
“Something out there?” she asked.
“Can’t tell,” Simon said. “It’s almost like there is something following us. It registers on the sensors for just a second, then it is gone. Could it be a side effect from everything being shut down?”
“With our luck, that’s not likely,” Zoe said. She and Simon stood still for a moment looking intently at the sensors. Sure enough, the thing Simon described happened again.
“See? There it is.”
“Gorram it,” Zoe muttered as she slid into the pilot’s seat. She turned to Simon. “Can you get over to the co-pilot’s seat? You might want to strap in.”
Simon nodded and moved gingerly over to the opposite seat. He buckled on the lap belt, but opted to leave off the shoulder harness; it would serve to further aggravate his wound. Zoe started the task of re-activating the console controls and guidance system. The proximity alert went off.
“They aren’t hanging back anymore,” Simon reported. “They’re closing in fast.”
“Rutting hell,” Zoe growled as she worked faster to get Serenity online. She flicked switch after switch, but the guidance system would not cooperate. She hit the console hard enough to knock off one of Wash’s dinosaurs. “We’re humped. Guidance system won’t go online.”
Zoe stood up and grabbed a couple of rifles from the locker.
“You still armed?” she asked.
Simon nodded as he started to check the rounds left in his guns. Zoe started to head towards the cargo bay and looked back to see if Simon was following. He had stood up, only to sag back into his chair.
“Zoe…” he whispered. “I don’t think I can stand.”
“I’ll do my best on my own then. You stay here and keep watch.”
Simon nodded. Suddenly the view screen flickered to life. Zoe saw a familiar face on the screen. A wave of relief swept through her body.
“Zoe?” Monty asked. “Mal sent me a message a few hours back. You in trouble?”
“Alliance came for us.”
“Figured that. Been shadowing you for a bit. Couldn’t tell if you were drifting or not. Was happy to see you fire a couple of things up. Everyone OK?”
“I’m OK. Simon’s here with me, but he’s injured.”
“Got shot up good. Bullets went straight through his armor. Simon did what he could.”
“Ni ta ma de. Tianxia suoyoude ren. Dou gaisi (everyone under the heavens should die).”
Zoe looked over at Simon and he had slumped unconscious over the co-pilot’s console.
“You have a medic over there?” Zoe asked, worried about Simon’s condition.
“Yeah. Mal convinced me of how handy they could be in our line of business.”
“I need to get Simon looked after, ma shong (now).”
“Just give us a moment.”
“Not going anywhere.”
It only took a few minutes to connect the two ships. Some of Monty’s crew came and helped carry Simon to their infirmary. It was still mighty cold on Serenity, so Monty convinced Zoe come on board his ship to get warm.
“Just long enough to make sure Simon is taken care of,” she told him.
Zoe followed Monty through the air lock, but stumbled as she crossed the threshold into his ship. The small device that Mal was so concerned about fell to the floor. Monty picked it up.
“Is this what you use to finish Mal’s plan?” Monty asked. Zoe nodded. “What did Mal tell you to do with it?”
“We were supposed to get off the ship and then flip it to finish the Plan,” Zoe told him. “Glad I don’t have to do it now.”
“Well, you go on and look after Simon,” Monty said.
“Thanks Monty,” Zoe said as she walked to where Simon had been taken.
Monty watched her closely until she was out of sight. Once she left, Monty disengaged the airlock.
“That’s what Mal told me to do too,” he said. He flipped the switch and Serenity’s engines came to life. “Goodbye old friend. You’ll be missed.”
After it was done, Monty found Zoe and Simon in their infirmary. Simon was awake and receiving blood.
“Thanks, Monty. I’m feeling better already,” Simon told him.
“I’m glad to help,” Monty said as he smiled warmly. He turned to Zoe. “Mal wanted me to take on any of you who survived for crew. You all can stay here until you want to get off elsewhere.”
“No, we’ll get back to Serenity in a bit.”
“Can’t. The Plan’s finished.”
Zoe’s eyes narrowed.
“What did you do?” she asked.
“I did what Mal told me to do,” Monty told her.
Zoe rushed over to the window and watched as Serenity went into a full burn, disappearing from sight.
“No!” Zoe screamed.
“He knew that some of y’all wouldn’t be willing to finish the Plan,” Monty went on. “He told me if it came down to that, I needed to finish it for him. It wasn’t safe for you on that boat. At least not for now.”
“Mal was still on the ship,” Simon whispered as Zoe slid down the wall and sat on the floor.
“A proper burial can be done later, I’m sure,” Monty said as he held his hand out to help Zoe up. She slapped it away.
“Get away from me,” she snarled.
“He wasn’t dead,” Simon told him. Monty’s head swung around to face Simon.
“What? But you said…” Monty exclaimed. “You said you did everything you could for him.”
“I did. We put him in a cryo chamber until we can get him the help he needs.”
“I thought you meant he was dead,” Monty whispered as he sunk into a nearby chair. The gravity of his decision weighed heavily on his shoulders. “I’m sorry Zoe. I didn’t know. I only did what Mal asked me to.”
“We need to go get him,” Zoe said flatly. “Where is the ship going?”
“You don’t know?” Simon asked, shocked. Zoe shook her head. Simon looked back at Monty, hoping against all odds that he had the answer he wanted to hear. “Do you know?”
Monty shook his head too.
“Sorry. I knew the parts I had to do, but he never told me where the ship would go.”
River opened her eyes to see the ceiling of a room she so wanted to forget.
It wasn’t a dream.
She tried to concentrate, but everything was so jumbled. She remembered them processing her, removing all of her clothes and anything else she had on her person. They had scrubbed her down, washing until her skin was raw. Then, they reissued her a uniform. That gray outfit with the grommets. She remembered how thin the fabric was and how cold it made her. She shivered.
She couldn’t quantify how long she had been there, but she remembered the needles. They had been using the needles on her again. Her head ached. She lifted her fingers to her forehead. She winced.
What have they done to me? She thought. Think, River, think!
After a few deep breaths, she sat up. The room spun a bit, but it stopped after a moment. She straightened her posture and moved into a meditative position. Inara had taught her how to meditate and it centered her. It helped her to focus. She caught the thoughts of an aide walking down the corridor.
“Been here five days,” she said to herself. “I’m on Sihnon.”
She tried to reach out to her family, but knew they wouldn’t be close enough to reach. So she took another deep breath and reached out to Inara. Since Inara was bound for Sihnon as well, River had hopes in being able to find her. It took a while until River realized her goal, but what she found made her recoil. She was closer than River had expected, but Inara’s thoughts were more jumbled than her own. There was a haze of drugs, complicated by extreme fatigue, sadness and desperation. It hurt. River had to let go, but a name popped into her head at the last moment. John.
“He isn’t what he seems,” River whispered.
River’s thoughts were interrupted abruptly when her door was thrown open. Four people with air masks burst in quickly. Before she could react, they sprayed a soft mist at her from what looked like a fire extinguisher. She felt her body go limp. Do they always have to use drugs? They pulled her onto a gurney and strapped her down before wheeling her out the door.
“Where…” River rasped, her throat had gone dry. She read the personnel that came for her and knew exactly where she was going. She also knew she didn’t have much time, so she ground out a couple of words before she lost all control. “Sam… I… am. Green eggs… and… ham.”
They rolled her into a surgical suite. The doctors were waiting for her. Her hair was pulled back and they peered over her.
“Subject: River Tam,” the first doctor said. “Beginning the next stage of surgical goal.”
The second doctor lifted a scalpel.
“All in order?”
“I’m going to begin the process.”
As soon as the scalpel touched her skin, River’s heart rate radically changed. It sped up beyond imagination. The surgical team took a step back in surprise.
“What the…” the first doctor murmured as her vitals spun wildly out of control.
“She’s going tachy,” the second doctor announced as River’s heartbeat flatlined. “We’re losing her.”
Edited by abbey, Oct 19 2010, 09:31 AM.
|abbey||Oct 19 2010, 09:50 AM Post #12|
After a few days, Simon’s injuries were healed enough for him to resume normal activities. Zoe had decided to stay aboard Monty’s ship as crew, at least for the time being. She hadn’t forgiven Monty yet, but they shared the fact that they fought in the war together and that both of them were fiercely loyal to Mal.
“You sure this is what you want?” Monty asked Simon.
“Yes. You already have a fine medic. I’m not needed here.”
“It’s not the matter of need, Simon. I promised to Mal I’d take you in.”
Simon smiled at Monty in appreciation.
“You’ve already helped enough by making sure Zoe has a place here,” Simon said. “I just don’t think it’s smart if we stayed together. You are an obvious link to Mal and you are already taking a big chance just keeping one of us on board. With two, you’re just asking for trouble.”
“Suppose that may be so.”
“Anyway, I need to move on. There is a lot that needs to be done; people that need to be found.”
“River?” Monty asked ruefully.
“For one. Inara maybe. And then there’s Mal.”
“Still feel horrible bad about him. I didn’t…”
Simon cut him off.
“You did what you thought was right. You can’t change it. A very wise woman once told me ‘what’s done is done’.”
“I know, but…”
“He’ll be OK, Monty. That cryo unit will last a long time. I won’t rest until I find him.”
Monty nodded his head and sighed.
“Where do you want me to drop you?”
“Paquin. I have some business there.”
“Business?” Monty inquired with an arched eyebrow.
“I’m not saying anything else.”
“Wasn’t gonna ask,” Monty said, smiling. “We’re passing Paquin on the way to our next job. Be there in two day’s time.”
“I’ll be ready.”
On Paquin, Simon said his goodbyes.
“Thanks again,” Simon said as he held out his hand to shake Monty’s. Instead, Monty gave him a big bear hug, lifting Simon off the ground.
“Can’t breathe…” Simon squeaked. Monty put him down.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to forget you was fragile.”
“Will you do me a favor?” Simon asked with a serious tone.
“Look after Zoe for me? She’s so lost right now. With Wash being gone and Mal being…” Simon started. He paused before continuing. “Well, I worry about her.”
“You don’t have to ask. Mal and Zoe saved my life more than once. I’m right happy to be doin’ the helpin’ this time.”
Simon smiled sadly and patted Monty on the back. He picked up his gear and headed to the exit of Monty’s ship. Zoe was waiting for him. It looked like she hadn’t slept for days. Their recent experiences were obviously weighing on her, both physically and emotionally. He set his gear down and rubbed his shoulder softly.
“I should have warned you that Monty was a hugger. Always has been,” Zoe said wistfully. “He hurt your shoulder?”[/b][/color]
“Just sore. Nothing to worry about,” Simon said smiling. An uncomfortable silence fell between them. After a moment, Simon spoke softly to her. “I’m leaving now.”
“You could stay,” she offered as her eyes fell to the floor.
“You know I can’t.”
She nodded wearily.
“I know. It’s just that I’ll be alone without you here.”
“That’s how it was planned and besides, Monty will be here.”
“Not the same.”
Again, they stood together in silence. Neither of them moved. Finally, Simon embraced her.
“I’ll never stop looking for them. Not as long as I’m breathing,” he whispered into her ear. She let out a stifled sob.
“Neither will I.”
Simon pulled away from her and looked her square in the eyes.
“Keep me updated?” he asked with a smile, trying to lighten the situation.
“We’ll find them. I know it.”
Zoe nodded in agreement. Simon picked up his gear, touched Zoe lovingly on the cheek and left, disappearing into the crowd. Zoe turned and disappeared back into the ship. Neither one looked back.
As Simon mulled over his next steps, he made his way towards the place that was his next step in the Plan: his pick up point. Once they were off the ship and it was safe, he was to travel there. Supplies had been left there in advance. This action was not for him alone, they all had their egress paths.
It was decided that the stronger fighters of their group would go out on their own since it would be easier for them to blend in on the Rim. Simon had protested vehemently on the thought of River being out on her own, but Mal insisted.
She’s been good since Miranda. She’ll be fine. Mal said firmly. Give her more credit. She’s not so fragile no more.
She should stay with me. I could watch her. Simon pleaded.
It would be too obvious to have you two together, Simon. A brother and sister making their way through the ‘verse? You’d be too easy to pick out. Ain’t safe, Simon. Mal persisted. I promise that someone has been assigned to know where she is at all times and that they will intervene should she need it. Don’t you worry none.
Who, Mal? Simon demanded.
Ain’t safe, Simon. Mal had repeated. Simon realized that Mal was not going to tell him. Don’t argue what’s been decided.
Although she wasn’t as strong as Mal, Zoe or Jayne, Inara worked out her own path. She had her own contacts. She had people who she trusted.
That only left Simon and Kaylee. Alone, they were the most vulnerable. Together, they would be much stronger. They could watch each other’s backs. It was decided that they would impersonate a married couple. That was the only part of the Plan that Simon was comfortable with.
Ain’t that shiny, Simon? Kaylee had told him one night while they lay together in bed. She was trying to assuage his concerns about River and the Plan by being her cheerful self. We get to be married.
Wish it were under different circumstances.
Yeah. She conceded sadly. But should it come to pass, we’ll still have each other.
Simon walked until he stood outside of a small bank on the outskirts of town. He <i>hated</i> coming here alone. He was supposed to come here with Kaylee. This was their pick up site. He took a deep breath and proceeded inside to the teller.
“May I help you?” the young teller asked.
“I have a box here. My name is George Stiles.”
“Right this way,” the teller said as she led him to the viewing room.
She gave him his box and left the room for his privacy. What he found astonished him. The box was only half-filled, but it held a substantial amount of coin. Enough for him to live in anonymity for a long time. He wondered how Mal had managed to put his hands on so much cash. There were also several ident cards with various names and professions on them. He picked up the one that read ‘George Stiles’ and put it in his pocket. A small envelope lay inside the box. He shakily opened it to find a plain handwritten card. His heart sagged when he saw River’s handwriting.
River. He didn’t even want to think about what was happening to her. With a heavy heart, Simon started to put the money into his duffle bag when he stopped abruptly. He shuffled through the ident cards and call of them were for him. There were no cards for Kaylee.
Why aren’t there any for Kaylee? He wondered.
Something clicked in his brain causing his mind to race. With reckless abandon, Simon dumped the full contents of the box on the table. He spread out everything and found no other ident cards. In his haste, the card that River wrote had fallen off the table, landing face down on the floor. He stared at it for a moment and then slowly picked it up, wondering if he was seeing what he so badly wanted to. On the back of the card, a string of very small letters has been written in the corner. CYS-ILU-K+J2. Simon smiled.
“See you soon. I love you too, Kaylee,” Simon whispered aloud.
Now there was more to look for; Kaylee and Jayne were alive.
Edited by abbey, Oct 19 2010, 09:51 AM.
|abbey||Oct 19 2010, 08:35 PM Post #13|
Three men stood in an observation room, looking through the window at River Tam during one of her training sessions. The first one used his blue-gloved hands to shuffle through her file. The second one also wore blue gloves. He was standing next to the lead physician on River’s case who was reporting on her progress.
“How is the subject progressing?”
“Remarkably well,” the doctor reported. “Even though we had to discontinue the surgical program.”
“Why was that?”
“We tried on three separate occasions to proceed with the original program, but each time, the subject’s vitals became unstable to the point of near death.”
“Why was that happening?”
“We haven’t been able to pinpoint the problem.”
“Hmmm…” Blue hand #2 mused. His tone was laced with cold disapproval.
The doctor felt increasingly uneasy talking to the blue-gloved agents. He quickly moved on to discussing their subsequent successes with River, in hopes of gaining their praise.
“Strangely, it hasn’t made a difference,” he continued. “Through behavior modification and drug therapy, we have made tremendous strides with the subject.”
“Tell us about them.”
“As you can see, her physical abilities are outstanding,” the doctor said as he pointed at River in the other room. She was locked in an intense battle with ten highly trained soldiers. The soldiers were not doing well. She had felled all but three of them. Two guards stood by the door leading out of the room, but were not engaged in the exercise.
“Excellent. And her psychic abilities?”
“Also progressing. I have some vids of her progress in the other room, if you would like to adjourn there to review them,” the doctor said as he motioned toward the room across the hall, taking a step towards it.
“We will view them soon. We would like to see this exercise completed first.”
“Of course,” the doctor acknowledged. He shifted his feet uncomfortably.
River was fighting the soldiers. She looked very convincing, but unknown to her captors, she was holding back.
I could have finished them off fifteen minutes ago, but I know they are watching.
She could feel that the ones behind the glass were pleased with her progress. She smiled a bit. She had to take it slowly if her plan was going to work. She didn’t want to give herself away by showing too much progress too soon or letting them know the true extent of her abilities. She let one of the soldiers land a kick and she stumbled against the window. There, she got a clearer idea of who was behind the glass.
Two by two… Her eyes widened a bit.
Distracted by her realization, she barely ducked in time to avoid an oncoming fist. A quick leg sweep and an elbow left her with only two more adversaries. She felt the anxiousness that plagued her whenever they were around well up inside her, threatening to overwhelm her. Her heart started pounding and her throat constricted. She almost scrapped the next step she had planned for this exercise, but decided that it would still be a good time. If they were watching, then they must be trying to ascertain when she might be able to be deployed to do their bidding. She needed to make sure they were convinced that there was still work to be done. After all, River herself had work to be done as well. Work for herself, not for them. Work that would free her permanently and allow her to search for her family.
No time like the present. With that, she set to her task.
She dispatched the last two soldiers quickly, making sure that she ended by the door. In a fluid motion, she quickly rendered the guards unconscious as well and exited the room.
Inside the observation room, the doctor’s eyes bulged in horror when he saw her leave the room. She had escaped the training room while they were watching. Fearing grave repercussions from the blue-handed ones, he knew he needed to regain control of the situation immediately. He ran from the room on an intercept course with River. The Academy agents were close on his heels. He could hear screaming coming from the hallway where River was and he knew instinctively that she was wreaking some extreme damage. Panicked, workers in the area were running away from the scene with no regard for anyone but themselves, making the doctor’s task very difficult. The doctor was bumped hard several times as he made his way forward, once nearly being knocked to the floor. He finally saw her at the end of the hall. She had one of his colleagues by the head and in a quick motion, she twisted it. The sick sound of bones crunching and the dull thud of the body as it hit the floor nearly made the doctor ill. He had always seen her prowess from behind a window or on film and the proximity of this experience was far too close for comfort. With a strong of voice as he could muster, he spoke the words needed to diffuse the situation.
“Eta kooram nah smech!” he said loudly. A wave of relief washed him as River dropped unconscious to the floor. He turned to the agents. “I apologize. The process is not without some difficulties.”
“Yes, difficulties,” the doctor affirmed as he tried to regain his composure. “This happens now and again. When she first returned to us, episodes that went against protocol were a regular occurrence. Now, it happens very rarely. There is some discussion between my colleagues as to whether the current episodes are further attempts to escape or overflow from the exercise itself.”
“At first, she exhibited blatant attempts to escape from this facility again. Now, she may be unconsciously extending the simulation to include personnel not targeted. Because of this, we have reduced the number of personnel in the room to limit this behavior,” the doctor explained as several other guards came into sight. “She has never expanded the ‘field of play’ to include areas outside the room though. This development is new.”
“Orders, Sir?” one of the guards asked.
“She’ll be out for a while. Get her back to her room,” the doctor told them as he walked to the doctor she had killed. He looked down sadly.
“Who was he?” the blue hand asked.
“He was on the surgical team. He had been working with us since the beginning of the project.”
“He was important?”
Orderlies arrived and placed River onto a gurney.
“What do you think is happening with the subject?” the agent asked as River was wheeled towards her room.
“I believe that it is overflow. I haven’t seen any evidence of a specific plan of escape. For instance, this hallway led further into the complex and away from any known routes for escape. When she wakes, we will start adjusting her mission parameter programming to help compensate until this behavior is eradicated.”
They were still discussing her performance when the orderlies got River to her room. They put her on her cot and left quickly, locking the door behind them. They were afraid of her. A slight smile played across River’s lips.
Excellent. She thought. It went as planned, plus she was able to neutralize another important person in the Academy cog. He was the third one so far.
Since they expected her to be out for a while, she took that time to rest. She slept for a couple of hours before she was forced awake by an outside stimulus. It was strong and it knocked her mind completely off balance. As she fought to regain her equilibrium, she felt a familiar presence coalesce. She focused her mind in order to gather more information. It was definitely male and he was very close. His thoughts were oddly empty, but swirling in confusion at the same time. It was like someone who had been forcefully jolted into consciousness, like being awaken from a deep sleep too fast. She concentrated harder. She needed to know who was there. After a few minutes, she knew exactly who it was.
Well, this changes things considerably.
Inara sat in the portico that adjoined her living quarters, staring off into the lush garden that surrounded House Madrassa. She constantly thought of her family and wondered what had become of them. Her heart felt like an anvil in her chest. Once, she had gone into the city and tried to look on the cortex for any information, but found nothing. She had to do it at a public cortex terminal and could only do a shallow search because anything more than that would have alerted the authorities. They were still watching her closely. Sheydra came up behind her.
“I thought I’d find you here,” Sheydra said as she sat down next to Inara. She put an envelope on the bench between them. “You always came here when something was bothering you.”
“You know me well.” Inara said with a soft smile. “Must explain why I spend a good part of my time out here.”
Inara turned to Sheydra. Her face reflected great sadness.
“What’s wrong?” Inara asked with a small voice.
Sheydra pushed the envelope towards Inara.
“I was expecting this sooner or later, but since you are here now, I think it really belongs to you.”
Inara looked down at the envelope. She couldn’t pull her eyes away from it.
“What is it?” she whispered.
“Your captain contacted me right after the Miranda wave. He knew you were a friend of mine. He said it would be mailed if he didn’t check in regularly with one of his contacts,” Sheydra informed her. Tears started streaming down Inara’s face. This envelope confirmed Inara’s fears that Mal’s plan had been executed and that her family was probably gone. Sheydra stood up and placed her hand sympathetically on Inara’s shoulder. “I don’t know what it contains, but it’s yours. I’m sure he would want you to have it. I will take my leave now. You know where I am if you need me.”
All Inara could do was nod. She sat for a very long time, just looking at the envelope. It was plain and there was no return address. It was addressed to Sheydra. The handwriting was unmistakably Mal’s. Finally, she extended a trembling hand, picked it up and opened it carefully.
There was only a card. Mal had scrawled a list of numbers and letters on it that made no sense. Confused, Inara flipped the card over, hoping that there was more that could help her understand it’s meaning. There, he had written another message. It simply stated:
Edited by abbey, Oct 19 2010, 08:39 PM.
|abbey||Oct 19 2010, 08:41 PM Post #14|
That's it for now folks. It is my plan to do a second part.
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