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Blue Sun Rising

Chapter Thirteen


“I do not believe I’m doing this,” Methos ground out as he strapped himself into the skimmer’s passenger seat.

“Relax, darling,” Amanda carolled. “I’ve done this before. Wreaks havoc on the hair, but we should make contact with the ground in one piece.”

“Should?” Methos echoed, before lowering his voice to a hiss. “In case you haven’t noticed, Amanda, we’ve got two mortals strapped into the back seat. Should doesn’t sound like very good odds to me.”

“My, my,” Amanda drawled under her breath. “If I didn’t know any better, I would think you were concerned for their safety – or should I say, her safety?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Amanda smirked. “Don’t be coy, I’ve seen the way you look at her. She’s very pretty, in a ‘I-can-shoot- you-dead- at-thirty-paces-and-look-good-doing-it’ kind of way.”

“Amanda,” Methos said warningly, looking warily over his shoulder. Thankfully, Zoe didn’t seem too interested in eavesdropping.

“Meeeethos,” she drawled back.

“I told you—”

“Not to call me that in public,” Amanda sighed. “Calm down, Alex, I can hardly hear myself over the engines, I very much doubt they can.”

“That’s not the point,” Methos said. “The point is—“

“The point is, you’re trying to change the subject,” she said. “I don’t see what the problem is, Alex. She’s pretty – beautiful, actually – seems fairly intelligent, and she actually knows what you are. No need for the white lies and pretence…she also seems a little interested, she keeps looking at you when she thinks you aren’t watching—”

“Amanda, don’t,” Methos sighed.

Amanda arched an eyebrow. “Something I’m missing?” she asked.

“A dead husband, for one.”

“Ah.” Amanda paused. “Recently, I’m guessing.”

“It’s been only a few months.”

Amanda winced. “You never pick the easy ones, do you?”

“I’m not picking any—

“Picking who?”

Methos resisted the urge to jump in his chair as Inara suddenly appeared at his shoulder, and tried to think up a believable lie. “Uh…”

Amanda rescued him. “Not who, but what, darling,” she said. “Alex here thinks I should pick a new planet to live on, but he won’t give me any suggestions. Awful of him, isn’t it?”

Inara raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “I can see how that can be annoying.”

“Isn’t it just?” Amanda said. “Perhaps you can make a few—

“Perhaps,” Methos cut in. “Inara should strap herself in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” As if to prove his point, the bay’s hull suddenly boomed with the sound of heavy fire.

“Good to go?” Duncan’s voice crackled through his earpiece. “This is as close as I can get., I’m afraid. If I don’t gain orbit soon, I’ll be hemmed in.”

Inara hastily fell back into her seat and buckled up. “Ready!” she called out.

Zoe nodded before yelling: “You’re sure you can handle this, Amanda?”

“Oh, darling, I’ve been giving coppers the slip since before you were born!”

Inara frowned at her choice of words, but Zoe just smirked as they bay doors opened and the wind ripped through the cargo hold. Methos felt his stomach drop as he watched the ground whip past them. “Are you sure the skimmer can—”

“Wheee!” Amanda laughed as the skimmer shot forward, and Methos hastily pulled his eye shields into place. The skimmer shot through the air like a missile, and Methos barely resisted closing his eyes, as the ground loomed large in front of them.

Skimmers were designed to go over harsh terrain, to literally ‘skim’ the earth using their anti-grav units and a turbine engine for steering and speed. They usually rode high enough to avoid brush and rocky terrain. What they didn’t do, as a rule, was drop from a very large height and hit that terrain running.

He really hoped that the skimmers anti-grav unit was up to the challenge

The skimmer’s engines roared into life, and the anti-grav unit whined as it hit its programmed altitude level. The vehicle swerved, it’s nose levelling, and Methos let out a breath of relief as the skimmer evened out about a meter and a half above the ground.

The engines of the ship above them roared, and Methos looked up as Mac pulled Amanda’s ship up and headed for cloud cover. Two of the alliance ships gave pursuit, but the third one tore in their direction, keeping to just before the tree line.

“Damn it!” Amanda yelled, as she threaded her way through the tree trunks. “I’d hoped they wouldn’t notice us. Zoe could you…?” She tossed her head in the direction of the light cannon attacked to the rear of the skimmer, and Zoe nodded as she unbuckled herself and swung herself into the firing seat.

The Alliance ship swung low, and Zoe fired, letting out a low exclamation of surprise as the cannon emitted a high-energy beam and scored the Alliance shuttles nose. Methos smiled wryly, trust Amanda to have a top of the line laser canon attached to a lowly skimmer. The bloody thing probably cost more than Serenity and it’s entire contents – twice over.

Unfortunately, while the Alliance ship drew back, it obviously wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Methos watched as the shuttle’s firing bays opened. “Amanda!”

“I see it! Zoe, aim for the—”

But Zoe was already firing, aiming for the vulnerable, open firing doors. The Alliance ship rocked as one of the missile bays imploded, and Amanda let out a loud whoop.

“You’re enjoying this way too much,” Methos accused her as an unrepentant grin graced her face.

“Humour me, old man,” she said. “I haven’t had this much fun in years.”

“Fun?” Inara said, her voice rising with disbelief.

The Alliance shuttled faltered, and Methos thought, for a moment, it was going to break pursuit. He should have known better.

“Amanda!” Zoe yelled “It’s firing!”

Amanda swerved the skimmer, throttling the engine, and a missile whined by, narrowly missing them. The ground in front of them exploded into a plume of fire, and Amanda reversed the turbine, sending the skimmer directly into the Alliance shuttles path.

“She’s crazy!” Inara yelled, fear showing in her dark eyes.

“You’ve just figured that out?” Methos shot back.

Zoe dove back into the rear seat as the shuttle loomed., then shot over their heads, its less flexible engines unable to match the skimmer’s.

“Grab, my case!” Amanda yelled over her shoulder, “We’re bailing before they come around for another pass.”

Knowing it was useless to argue, Methos undid his straps as Amanda slowed the skimmer to a halt, the engine still running. He jumped out and helped Zoe pull the case from the skimmers small storage trunk, as Amanda stood up, one hand still on the skimmer’s brakes as she threw one leg over the side. “Everybody ready?”

“They probably won’t buy it,” Zoe said, understanding what Amanda was about to do.

“But they’ll still have to stop and check,” Amanda said, with a grin.

Inara sighed as she dusted herself down. “This is such a bad plan.”

Amanda let go of the brake and threw herself over the side. The empty skimmer bolted ahead, it’s course heading straight for a rocky outcrop.

“Let’s move,” Zoe said. “We don’t want to be here, when they circle around.

Amanda rolled to her feet, and gave them a cocky grin as she activated the anti-grav on her case. “The rendezvous point with your shuttle is in the next valley,” she said.

They headed for the cover of the trees as the skimmer hit the rock at full speed and turned into a fireball.


~~*~*~*~~


Zoe didn’t know what to think. Just when she thinks she’s got Caruthers figured out, he introduces her to his ‘friends’. They were both obviously as gorram crazy as they come, but they had gone out of their way to help them and lose the alliance forces on their tails.

Something told her that she was missing a large piece of the puzzle. She’d already figured out Amanda was immortal, like Caruthers, and she suspected MacLeod was the same, but she felt that there was more to the tale.

“Penny for your thoughts,” asked Inara as they climbed the hill.

“Just wonderin’ where we go from here,” Zoe prevaricated. Inara just nodded, not pushing the subject. Zoe cursed as she tripped over the hem of her skirt once more. What she wouldn’t do for a pair of trousers…

“Nearly there,” Amanda called over her shoulder, before turning back to Caruthers. A low, heated exchange of words passed between the two. Zoe watched them as they climbed, keeping their pace just ahead of hers and Inara’s. The easy way the moved together told her that they knew each other well. Caruthers had said they’d been lovers, and it showed. .

A brief flare of something she’d rather not name rose within her, and she frowned, angry at herself. Wash was barely cold in the ground, she shouldn’t be having thoughts like that – especially for a man like Caruthers, who wasn’t fit for standing in Wash’s shadow, never mind…

Well, never mind.

“Zoe, are you okay?”

Zoe turned to see the concern in her friend’s eyes. “I’m fine, Inara,” she sighed. “Just fine.”

“Something wrong?” Zoe turned to see Caruthers looking back at her, his head tilted to the side as he examined her face.

“Why does everybody keep asking me that?” she asked, embarrassment making the words come out grouchy.

Caruthers gave her that half shrug, half smile, he always did when he knew the answer and didn’t want to share it - and the fact that she knew that, gave her pause.

Damn it, she was attracted to him. “I don’t gorram believe it,” she muttered, disgusted with herself.

“Believe what?” Inara asked, catching her words.

Zoe sighed. “Nothing important,” she said abruptly, hitching up the skirts of her dress. “Let’s keep moving.”

Inara raised an eyebrow but picked up her pace, her dress no obstacle to her as she picked her way through the brush. Damn it, she knew she should have brought a change of clothes.

They circled around the top of the hill, not wanting to make themselves a target on the horizon line. The Alliance shuttle had landed beside the totalled skimmer, as Amanda had hoped, but that didn’t mean they weren’t scouring the terrain for movement.

Amanda put up her hand, signalling that they’d stop for a moment, and Zoe leaned against a tree as she scanned the incline they’d climbed. “By now, they’re probably thinkin’ of fanning out and sweeping the surrounding countryside,” she said.

Amanda nodded as she opened her case. “Hopefully, we’ll reach our destination before they catch up, but just in case… “She produced a dark, flat container and opened it, revealing two laser pistols. “I’m already armed,” she said, as she handed Zoe one of them, and Alex the other. “That’s all I have, I’m afraid,” she said, smiling at Inara. “I packed with a heist in mind, not a guerrilla exercise in the hills.”

“It’s okay,” Inara said. “Companion, remember? I’m allowed to carry arms within ‘Shihnon’s boroughs.” She lifted her skirts, to reveal a holster on her ankle, and pulled her derringer free.

Amanda nodded and snapped her case closed. “Let’s keep moving, then.”

The circled the hilltop and descended into the next valley, keeping an ear out for signs of pursuit. The trees began to thin, and Zoe sped up her pace. “There’s a small dip over there, hidden by a outcrop of rock,” she said, pointing to the west.

They scrabbled across the valley, keeping their heads low in case someone was watching from above, but it looked like they were about to have their first bit of luck since they’d landed on this gorram planet, and they reached the outcrop safely

“You’re late,” River said sternly, her legs rocking back and forth as she sat in the shuttle’s entrance, a piece of grass stuck between her teeth.

.”We got unavoidably delayed,” Alex said dryly.

River grinned as if he’d made a really funny joke, and bounced to her feet. “The Captain is gettin’ real worried.”

“You weren’t supposed to break radio silence, girl,” Alex said, exasperated.

“Who said I did?” she asked, smiling slyly.

Zoe shivered. Since Miranda, River had changed. She was a lot saner, for one thing, but there were moments like this when she wondered if the horrors of Miranda had not only driven her mad, but had also kept her from being, well… what they had hoped their experiments would turn her into.

Whatever that was.

Amanda, sensing the suddenly, uncomfortable edge in the air, stepped forward with a smile. “You must be River,” she said, sticking out her hand. “I’m Amanda.”

River gravely shook her hand, and tilted her head. “You’re like him,” she said, tossing her head in Caruthers’s direction.

“Yes… I suppose I am,” Amanda said, surprise tingeing her voice.

“Do you remember the whales, too?”

“Uh…”

“River, time to be moving,” Zoe said, and River’s intent gaze turned in her direction.

“And moving on,” she said enigmatically, but she let Amanda’s hand go and scampered into the shuttle.

“Welcome to he party,” Caruthers said to Amanda. “I’d keep those naughty thoughts to a minimum, if I were you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Amanda said thoughtfully.

“That’s the main problem,” he complained, as he followed River into the shuttle.





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