Blue Sun Rising
The Shuttle lifted smoothly from the ground, and Methos eyed Amanda as she draped herself over Inara’s cushions on the ground. “Very cosy,” she said cheerfully.
“I find it conducive to creating the right atmosphere for my clients,” Inara said, as she went to her dressing table and pulled out a small medical kit. “Now, I’ve got two doses, just in case Amanda needs to be inside the base too. Simon said—”
“I’m afraid we might need a slight change of plan,” Amanda interrupted gently.
Zoe’s looked over her shoulder at them, from her seat at the console, and glared suspiciously at him. “And why is that?” she asked.
Methos opened his mouth to speak, but Amanda put a restraining hand on his arm. “You’re not the only ones who have enemies among the Alliance,” she said softly. “You picked Alex for this mission because you were hoping they wouldn’t recognise his face. That has changed. Not only do they have a description of him, but they also have a list of his acquaintances. Why do you think Duncan was at my place? They raided his ranch three days ago, killed six of his hands.”
“He is a rancher?” Inara asked, surprised.
“Was a rancher,” Amanda said, sighing. “He may need a change of occupation for a while.”
“They tried something similar with us,” Zoe said softly. “They went after all our contacts, our friends…some good people died. You may want to contact your other friends, let them know what’s coming.”
“It’s a short list,” Methos said. “And Duncan spread the word, once he figured out what was going on.”
Zoe’s eyes lit up in understanding. “They’re all like…have a similar background to you? That might not be good.”
Methos let out a sharp, bitter laugh. “That’s one way of putting it,” he said.
“Why do I feel like I have half the story?” Inara asked. Amanda threw Methos an enquiring look, but he shook his head.
“Alex,” Amanda said, exasperated. “This won’t work if they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.”
“Damn it, Amanda,” Methos said. “Why don’t you just tap into the core news service and hand out an information bulletin? Chances are, this plan isn’t going to work and we’re all going to be caught and interrogated. The less people know, the more chance we’ll both get out of this with out hea-skins attached!”
Inara raised an eyebrow. “I presume this has something to do with what Mal and Zoe agreed to keep secret,” she said.
“They remember the whales, and the seas, and the blue, blue Earth,” River said softly, from her seat. “They remember the cold, dark, grave ships, and the fear, and the stink, and seeing nothin’ but more emptiness for year, upon year, and thinkin’ they’d never find a place to shelter…”
“River, that’s enough,” Zoe said sharply. Pain and hurt flitted across River’s face, but she kept silent as Inara sighed once more.
“It might be best if you told us, in your own words,” she said, looking at Methos.
Methos let out a deep breath; he always hated this part. He decided to go for the direct method, never really worked for him before but there was always a first time... “I’m immortal,” he said bluntly.
“I see.” Inara glanced at Zoe, who sighed, but nodded. She sat down. “Well, I must admit, I didn’t see that one coming. By immortal, do you mean…?”
“I don’t age, I don’t die, I heal any wound—”
“Well, except for the obvious one,” Amanda murmured.
“Ah, forget I said anything,”
Inara head swivelled towards to Amanda. “And you?” she asked. “You’re the same?”
Amanda smiled. “Yes,” she said. “Huh, this feels strange. I haven’t actually voluntarily told someone what I am since… well, it’s been quite a while.”
“It must be fascinating,” Inara said, as she warmed up to the idea. “The things you must have seen… if I may ask—”
“How old am I?” Amanda broke in, grinning.
Inara laughed. “I guess that’s always the first question people ask,” she said.
“Every. Single. Time,” Methos ground out, letting out a small ‘ooph’ as Amanda poked him in the ribs.
“I was born in the late ninth century,” she said. “865 AD – sorry, it’s CE, nowadays, isn’t it? Which makes me—”
“Over sixteen centuries old,” Inara said hoarsely “I’d sit down, but I’m already sitting. Maybe I should lie down…”
“And what about Alex?” Methos turned to see the glint in Zoe’s eyes.
“What about me?” he asked.
“How old are you? You never did tell us your age.”
“What can I say? I’m shy that way.”
River giggled, and Zoe and Methos glared at her. “River!”
“You still haven’t answered Zoe’s question,” Inara pointed out softly.
“No, I haven’t,” he ground out. “And I’m not about to, either.”
“Don’t you ‘Alex’ me, Amanda,” he snapped out. “They’ve no need to know how old I am, and it doesn’t have any bearing on what is happening.”
“I think that’s my point,” Amanda said softly. “They’re mortal, Alex, it doesn’t matter if they know.”
“And if Wright gets his hands on them, what then?” Methos countered. “He doesn’t know who I am, remember?”
“Cameron already wants you dead, old man, knowing your name isn’t going to change anything!”
“Wright? Cameron?” Zoe asked tersely.
Amanda sighed. “It’s the same person,” she explained. “Cameron Wright; he’s the one who told the Alliance forces chasing you who Alex was, and where his friends would be.”
“He’s like you,” Inara stated, and Amanda nodded.
“Why would the Alliance listen to him?” Zoe asked.
“He fought on their side during the war,” Amanda said. “Got rather high up in the ranks too, before he retired and joined central government.”
Methos frowned. “Then what was he doing on Persephone?” he asked.
“He was assigned there a few weeks back – Governor’s aide.”
“A powerful position,” Inara said flatly. “And it seems he holds quite a grudge against you, Alex.”
Methos sighed, a grudge didn’t seem to cover it. “It’s a long story.”
“Which has little relevance to the problem at hand,” Amanda added smoothly.
“I’d like to chance to decide that for myself,” Zoe said harshly, and Methos looked at her, catching her eye. She looked away. “You know our secrets, it’s only fair we know yours.”
Methos hesitated, as he tried to find the right words. “He blames me for the death of wife,” he said eventually.
“And is he right?” This time Zoe caught his eyes and held them.
Methos nodded reluctantly. “Yes, he’s right,” he said.
“But that isn’t the whole story,” Amanda chimed in. “He didn’t do it on purpose—”
“It’s pretty difficult to kill someone by accident,” Zoe said, her voice hard.
“It happened on the ships,” Methos said.
“The ships?” echoed Zoe.
“The generational ships. The Enright, to be exact.”
The Enright: 2108
The huddled in the small, fetid cabin that Methos had managed to clear for privacy, and spoke in soft, whispering tones. All the cabins were bugged, and removing the bugs was illegal, punishable by five years in the brig, so Duncan had covered the vent hole, where it was installed. Their voices would be muffled, but not completely silenced, which is what set off the bug’s internal alarm signal.
“Listen, it’s the only way, Cam,” Methos eventually said, when Duncan nodded the all-clear signal. “We can’t let them execute her by lethal injection. You know the corpses are thrown directly into the incinerator afterwards. There’s no way her body could survive that. She’ll be ashes in seconds.”
“I don’t know, Ben,” Cameron muttered doubtfully. “None of our kind have ever been spaced before; what if it goes wrong?”
“They only allow two forms of execution, Cam,” Duncan said softly. “By lethal injection, or by the airlock; they’re not going to commute the sentence, they haven’t commuted one in nearly twenty years.”
They all fell silent at that. They all knew why the death sentences had become so popular with the ship’s law enforcers, although nobody admitted it aloud. Twenty years ago, they’d arrived at the solar system that was supposed to be the colony’s new home, only to discover that the promised planet, within the ‘green band’ parameters needed to sustain life, was nowhere to be seen; just two gas giants, too far flung from the heat of the sun, and a small boiling mass practically crouching on the sun’s corona, neither viable for terraforming.
They’d come too far to go back, so they’d kept going. But food, space and medical supplies were limited so…
“She doesn’t deserve this,” Cameron muttered. “All she took was one bottle of antibiotics, and it wasn’t as if she wasn’t as if she was stealing it for herself, or selling it on the black market!”
“I know, Cam,” Duncan sighed. “But she knew the risks when she stole it, and they’re even harsher on medical personnel, than the usual thief.”
“Oh yes,” Methos muttered disgustedly. “Gods forbid they actually waste good medicine on a fevered child, rather than one of the more ‘productive’ members of crew.”
“Not helping, Ben,” Duncan sighed.
Methos sighed. “No, you’re right,” he said. “No point hashing over what should have been. We’ll just have to deal with the problem at hand: getting Susan out of this alive - did you get the AVA suit?”
Duncan nodded. “It took some doing, but one of the guys in hull maintenance owes me a favour,” he said. “We’ll have it for when we need it.”
“And the hatch?”
“I’ve arranged for a disturbance to clear the guards at the right time,” he said grimly.
Methos caught Cam’s eyes. He’d never really liked the man, a bit too high strung for comfort, but Susan, his wife, was another matter. “You okay with this?”
“Don’t have a choice, do I?” he said glumly.
And so, the plan was formed. Cameron would inform the authorities that Susan would prefer the vacuum of space to the needle, Methos would be waiting with a grappling hook on the hull, and Duncan would make sure that the shuttle to the Washington had an empty seat waiting for one Sarah Miles, cleaning crew.
Susan couldn’t stay on the Enright, after this. She was too well known, and the Washington was famous for being the worst maintained ship in the fleet. Nobody got transferred there, unless they really pissed someone off, which cut down on the chances of someone recognising her.
The plan went off without a hitch. The ship’s governor agreed to Cameron’s request for death by vacuum, the hatch was deserted at the correct time, and the AVA suit was waiting for Methos in its tiny airlock.
He stood on the hull, his feet clamped onto the ship’s battered surface, and held the grappling hook ready as he counted off the seconds. “Three, two, one…”
The atmosphere escaped in a harsh plume, and Methos’s threw the grapple, feeling it catch, as Susan’s form shot past. Her body turned, letting him see her face, and Methos’s stomach turned cold as he realised something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.
He’d seen people die in a vacuum before, but that had been due to a leak in a seal or a suit; a slow death. He never seen what a vacuum would do to a body if it exposed to space with no warning, no slow decompression, no way of escaping…
The quickening hit him hard and fast, ripping tears along his suit as it used the grappling line to home in on him. He lost consciousness in seconds, and would have lain there forever, his suit holding him to the hull, if Duncan hadn’t found him.
“Explosive decompression,” Zoe said finally, staring at him. “I’ve heard of it happening, but most airlocks release air slowly, to cut down on accidents.”
“Not this airlock” Methos said lowly. “It was suppose to be a mercy, you see, so that they wouldn’t see it coming.”
“I didn’t know it was so bad,” Inara said shakily, and Zoe threw her a questioning look. “The generational ships, the Exodus, it all sounded so romantic in the books.”
“That’s the problem with history books,” Amanda piped up. “They never mention the things the writers are ashamed of.”
"What I don’t get is what you said about the colony site,” Zoe said, frowning as she studied their faces. “You’re sayin’ this solar system wasn’t what they were aiming for? I’ve never heard that said before.”
“They wanted people to forget,” Amanda said. “In some ways, I can’t blame them. They figured it out eventually, you see. Earth had sent them on a wild goose chase, knowing that, one way or another, we’d never come back.”
“You say that like there were still people left on Earth to care,” Inara observed. “I thought we’d all left.”
“Not all, not by a long shot,” Methos said.
“But, if that’s true, where are they?” Zoe demanded. “Why haven’t they ever found us?”
“Perhaps they wanted to forget too,” Amanda sighed. “And even if they wanted to find us, where would they start looking? This solar system wasn’t on any of charts. It was a damned miracle we found it.”
Zoe didn’t know what to think, it seemed that her life was full of one revelation after another, since she’d met Caruthers. Was there no end to his secrets?
“It’s fascinating, really,” Inara said, her voice thoughtful. “It makes one wonder what other historical inaccuracies there are in our databanks.”
Zoe caught the look Alex and Amanda exchanged and frowned thoughtfully; from the look on their faces, quite a lot.
“Nearly there,” River said quietly, and Zoe cursed under her breath as she realised she’d been sidetracked from their main problem. Namely, how to break into the facility without using Caruthers as the ‘corpse’.”
“Da xiang bao zha shi de la du zi,” Zoe cursed. “Another plan shot straight to hell.”
Not necessarily,” Amanda said archly.
Zoe gave her a level look. “I’m listening.”
“Well, all this talk of hulls gave me an idea,” she said. “How about we piggy back?”
“Already thought of that, they have life sensors on the shuttle’s hull…oh.” Zoe smiled slowly. “That might work.”
Inara shifted in her seat. “I’m sorry, maybe I’m a bit slow but…”
“They’re saying that if a dead body can’t hitch a ride inside the morgue shuttle, maybe it can hitch a ride on it,” Alex sighed.
“It’ll work,” Amanda insisted.
“You always say that, Amanda, right up to the moment we end up behind bars.”
“Oh please, when did that ever happen?”
“Well, if you going to hold that one, tiny little misunderstanding against—”
“And Persephone, 2345; Shihnon, 2283; Vancouver, Canada, 2003; Havana, Cuba, 1958; London, England, 1604—”
“That one doesn’t count!” Amanda said, outrage spreading across her face. “That was your fault, remember?”
Alex smirked. “I’ll concede the point, although I still think you had it coming, considering what happened in Naples the century before.”
“I knew it!” Amanda snorted, jumping to her feet. “I always suspected you broke that urn on purpose to wake the guards!”
Zoe burst out laughing, startling the two immortals into silence. “What did the two of you do? Try to steal from every major bank vault in history?”
“Well, some of us did,” Alex drawled. “Others tried to take a hand at making a legal living, every now and again.”
“Hey, I’ve been known to make an honest living…I…I had that club in Vancouver.”
“Which didn’t last more than a decade!”
“Well, what about the casino?”
“You mean the one you won in a game of cards, and burnt down within the year?”
“Well, well, you’re one to talk, Mr Butch-and-Sundance-plus-one!”
Zoe watched, as the debate escalated into a full-scale argument, and grinned at Inara as she joined her side.
“So, want to take bets on who wins at being the most crooked of them all?” Inara murmured.
Zoe snorted. “As bad as each other, far as I can make out.”
“You wouldn’t think that they both can reckon their age in four digits, would you?”
“Kinda takes the awe out of it, doesn’t it?”
“That’s it, Amanda!” Alex snapped. “Discussion closed, there’s no way I’m going to strap myself to that bloody hull while I’m dead.”
“Actually, I think that might be physically impossible, dear,” Amanda shot back. “The other way around, remember?”
The silence in the small shuttle was so absolute, you could hear a grasshopper breath.
“Oh, bugger,” Amanda said.
River laughed. “Methos the mythos,” she said, before adding. “We’re here.”
And the shuttle touched down.
BACK : MAINPAGE : TBC
FICTION : BUFFY/ANGEL
FICTION : CROSSOVER
FICTION : E-MAIL ME