Blue Sun Rising
Methos would realise later that the humourless smile on the Captain’s face should have tipped him off. Others would have panicked in his position, but Reynolds just sat there, silent as the grave, as the gravity pull pushed them back into their safety seats.
The engines whined, and the ship shuddered, but Serenity broke orbit just as the Alliance ship dropped into the atmosphere. They might pursue, but it would be a while before they could turn around.
“Jayne, get your gorram ass up here,” the Captain said flatly into the intercom the moment the ship hit freefall. “And bring the Doc with you.”
“Captain?” Zoe enquired softly, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly.
“I’ve got a plan,” he said, but he didn’t seem too happy about it.
Methos bit down on the sarcastic remark that popped into his mind, and relaxed back into his chair as the Captain hurried up to the front of the bridge. In a way, the Alliance ship was a godsend, giving the Captain a bigger fish to fry than a mere Immortal sitting in their midst. He risked a glance at Zoe, his eyes taking in the pensive look on her face. “Something wrong?” he ventured.
Zoe sighed. “Everything’s wrong,” she murmured, half to herself.
A soft cry came from the pilot’s seat and Methos looked back at River and the Captain, frowning as he noticed their heads bowed together. Reynolds expression was earnest and solemn as he spoke lowly to the young girl, his hand flitting to her shoulder as she paled and shrunk back into her seat. “What’s he going to do?” Methos asked flatly.
“Something gorram crazy,” Zoe said, her voice equally flat. “As usual.”
“But you’re still going to follow him?” Methos asked, although it really wasn’t a question.
Zoe gave him a dark look. “He’s my Captain, I’m his first mate. That’s how it works,” she said slowly, as if to a child, and Methos felt a brief spurt of irritation.
“Maybe you should give this a bit more thought—”
“And maybe you should mind your own gorram business,” she snapped, standing abruptly. “You’re a passenger, Caruthers; and not a very welcome one at that. This ain’t none of your business!”
“Zoe, everything all right there?” the Captain asked warily as he stood.
“Just Dandy,” Zoe snapped, before taking a deep breath. “It’s fine,” she said, in a quieter voice. “Just a difference in opinion, is all.”
“Let me guess, we’re still not gonna throw him out the airlock?” Jaynes voice interrupted
Methos frowned at him as he loomed in the doorway. “What is with you, and your obsession with spacing people,” he asked in exasperation. “Is that really your answer to every problem you come across in life?”
Jayne tilted his head as if giving the question some serious thought. “No,” he said eventually. “Sometimes, I use Vera.”
“Vera?” Methos echoed.
“His gun,” Zoe said. Methos threw her a disbelieving look and she shrugged. “It’s a very big gun,” she offered.
“Damn right, it is,” Jayne said, smiling widely. “Clears up all manner of problems.”
“Yes, Jayne, we know,” said Simon wearily as she shouldered past him, and into the bridge. “Why did you call me? Is somebody injured?” he asked, his eyes scanning the room.
“Relax Doc, everyone is in one piece,” the Captain drawled. “I just wanted to talk.”
Methos noticed that the Doctor didn’t relax with the news. There was a tension between the men that had been obvious from the start, but it rarely showed in their faces.
“He wants to go back,” River murmured, her hair falling like a curtain around her face as she curled her feet beneath her.
“Back where?” Simon asked softly.
“Back to the place you broke River out of,” Reynolds said.
“Are you crazy,” the doctor said, his voice rising. “The place is like a fortress!”
“Can’t be that hard. After all you got in,” the Captain pointed out.
“Only because I used every last credit I had and called in every favour due,” Simon yelled, rage showing in his face. “We barely got out the last time. I’m not putting River through that again!”
“Then give me another alternative, Doc,” Reynolds said harshly. “Coz the way things are going, she’ll be back in there soon, anyways. In case you haven’t noticed, Serenity is being held together with spit and glue. We ain’t got no money for repairs and no contacts to rely on – and even if we did, no dockyard in the system will take us. We’re being hunted, boy; and, sooner or later, they’re gonna catch us.”
“There has to be another way,” Simon said, a hint of desperation in his voice.
“We already did it the other way,” Reynolds said. “And we lost our pilot in the process. Miranda wasn’t enough, we need to blow the whole thing wide open, or they’ll never leave us alone.”
“They’ll kill us,” Zoe said slowly.
“They’ll kill us anyway,” the Captain said flatly. “At least, this way, it will be on our own terms.”
“I can do it,” River murmured.
“River, no,” Simon protested. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do, Simon,” she sighed. “I always knew I had to go back eventually.”
Methos slumped back into his seat as it all suddenly clicked into place. “Oh Gods, Miranda, that was you,” he groaned. “I should have known, another damned boy scout!”
“What the gorram hell is a boy scout?” Jayne asked, bemused.
“Something that usually comes with a Scottish accent,” Methos muttered tiredly.
“What the gorram hell is a Scottish—”
“Jayne!” the Captain snapped.
“Shut the gorram up!”
“Just askin’, is all,” Jayne muttered under his breath, before directing a thumb in Methos’s direction. “What are we gonna do with him?”
The Captain threw Methos a speculative look. “That depends on him,” he said. “What do you say, Caruthers? You willing to use your special skills?”
Methos looked at him warily. “Depends on what you’ve got in mind,” he said eventually.
“We’re gonna need a body,” Reynolds said flatly. “And it seems you fit the bill.”
“Huh?” Jayne frowned, “I though we weren’t gonna kill him.”
“I can’t agree to that,” Simon added. “I won’t let you kill someone in cold blood.”
“Don’t worry,” Reynolds said. “I have it on good authority, he’ll get better.”
“Aaaah,” Simon said slowly. “We’re going to use the same trick as in the hospital.”
A smile twisted on the Captains face. “Something like that,” he agreed.
And there it was, Methos thought, with a sinking heart. Play along and he’ll keep my secret, but if I don’t… “Fine, I’m in,” he sighed, plastering a resigned look on his face. “How is this going to work?”
Zoe wasn’t sure what was going on in Caruthers’s head. Before the ‘accident’ on the hilltop, she may have run a good guess at it, but now… Zoe sighed, who knew what went on in the mind of someone who was supposedly centuries old? She sure the hell didn’t, although she supposed River might have a clue.
Zoe looked at the young reader, coiled into her chair, and noted that her eyes were fixed on Caruthers, a small puzzled frown on her forehead. Maybe River didn’t know, either. Which could mean a whole heap of trouble.
But he had agreed, and River hadn’t said he was lying, so she supposed they’d have to take his word on it. “What’s the plan?” she asked.
“Been checking around,” Mal said briefly. “Seems the facility does a sideline in autopsy research; ‘cept they like their corpses fresh.”
“You’ve been thinking about this a while,” Zoe observed.
. “Thinking about it, yeah,” Mal said, shrugging. “Trouble was, all our faces are too well known, by now, so putting one of us under…”
“They’d sniff a rat immediately,” Simon said, nodding.
“Persona non gratis,” Jayne sniffed, and Zoe caught Caruthers hiding a smile out of the corner of his eye.
“Which is where Mr Caruthers comes in,” Mal drawled. “He goes in the back door, so to speak, and opened the locks from the inside.”
“Security is steep,” Simon warned. “Having a man on the inside won’t be enough; and how are we going to make sure the body gets delivered there.”
“Ah, that part I’ve already figured out,” Mal said. “We might not have any contacts left, but Inara still has a few.”
“Inara knows about this?” Zoe asked sharply.
“We’ve discussed it,” Mal said, looking slightly guilty. “After that mess on Persephone, I asked her to put out a few feelers, find out who their suppliers are.”
“And she found them,” Zoe said, making a mental note to give Mal hell later. Since the mess on Miranda, he’d been treading on eggshells around her; it was going to stop…now.
Mal nodded warily, no doubt catching her mood. “Yup,” he said.
“Where?” Zoe asked abruptly, suspecting she wouldn’t like the answer.
“Well, that’s the tricky part,” Mal admitted. “They’re situated on Shihnon.”
“A core world,” Simon said flatly. “We’ll never get near the place.”
“We’re not landing,” Mal said. “We’ll use one of the shuttles, easier to fluff the papers, and Inara is the only one of us left that can actually get on a core planet without being arrested on sight.”
“The advantages of being a guild member,” Simon murmured. “They can’t arrest her without due cause.”
“Oh, they’ll dream up some reason eventually,” Mal sighed. “But by that time she’ll be off planet again.” The ‘I hope’ went left unsaid.
“Once it goes down, they’ll know it was her,” Zoe said warily. “Not even the guild will be able to protect her.”
“The guild can’t really protect her now, no matter what it says on a piece of paper,” Mal pointed out. “The operative didn’t think twice about using her to get to us, I doubt anything’s changed… she’s in.”
“Okay, let’s say we manage to smuggle him in,” Simon said grimly. “What happens then? He’ll need pass codes and security keys to get to the airlock…and even if we do get those, what do we do then? Blow the place up?”
“Hell, I’m all for that!” Jayne said promptly.
“We’re not blowing the place up,” Mal said, exasperation showing his voice. “We’re going after information. Best way to shut ‘em up.”
“Blackmail?” Zoe asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Can you think of a better way to make them back off,” Mal countered.
“I don’t believe I’m saying this,” Simon muttered. “But it just might work…if we can get in.”
“Yeah,” Mal sighed. “I’m still working on that. Which is why I called you up here… I was hoping you could tell me who your connection was?”
“It didn’t work like that,” Simon admitted. “I never got a name, I just paid the money into an account, on Londinium, and the information and papers I needed turned up anonymously.”
“Excuse me,” Caruthers interrupted softly, his face carefully blank. “But we’re going to Sihnon, right?”
“That’s the plan,” Mal said, looking at him in surprise. “Why?”
“I think I may have the answer to your problem,” he said nonchalantly. “As it happens, an acquaintance of mine lives there, one who may be able to help yo…us.”
“And does your acquaintance have a name attached?” Mal drawled, disbelief dripping from his words.
“Yes, but I doubt she’d thank me for telling you,” he said, smirking. “Let’s just say she specialises in getting into very secure places.”
“You’re saying she’s a thief,” Zoe said flatly.
Caruthers’s smirk widened into a sly grin. “The best,” he agreed.
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