Blue Sun Rising
Methos felt trapped. It was the only word that could describe the sensation running down his spine as Amanda silently examined the syringe Inara had placed in her hand.
“How does it work, exactly?” Amanda asked
“It slows the heart and brain functions, mimicking death,” Inara said quietly. “These,” she brought out another pair of syringes. “Are used to revive the person from the death coma, on the other side.”
“And they were going to be administered by you?” Amanda asked.
Inara nodded. “I know the second in command at the research facility there. He once asked me to pass on a few suitable ‘donors’, when I still resided planetside. I refused at the time but, as you know, things have been difficult for Serenity of late. So he didn’t seem very surprised when I contacted him again.”
“News travels fast,” Amanda said dryly. “And he believes you may have a cash flow problem,”
Inara’s cheeks dimpled. “Most individuals know next to nothing about a Companion’s life and habits, other than their job description. They forget our guild is, in fact, a guild. A Companion never runs short of funds; they are too well protected by the dues and contributions they’ve paid over the years... but he doesn’t know that.”
“So, how was it going to work?” Amanda asked. “He was just going to let you escort the body in?”
“I told him I wanted to make sure that the body wasn’t ear marked for something too… macabre,” she said. “He’s suffering under the impression that I’m having second thoughts, and this trip was arranged to supposedly alleviate my fears and conscience.”
“And you agreed to this, Methos?” Amanda looked over at Methos, not quite looking at him in his eyes. The painful silence, after her outburst, had been broken by River’s insistence they were running out of time, but the rift between them was still not healed. “The drugs, I mean,” she added softly, when he didn’t answer.
“The first set of drugs, yes,” he said reluctantly. “I’m hardly in need of the second; although Simon, obviously, didn’t know this.”
“How long do you think the drug cocktail will last, before your immune system kicks in?” Amanda asked, with a thoughtful frown
Methos sighed. “The doses are strong,” he said. “Seven, maybe eight minutes, but not any longer.”
Amanda threw him a look. “Not long enough,” she said.
“Not for what you’ve planned, no,” Methos agreed. “I was originally going to enter the facility in a body bag, remember? I just needed to be under long enough to fool the scanners at the two checkpoints. Now, however…”
“Any suggestions?” Amanda sat down, a careful distance from his seat; Methos quirked an eyebrow. Now, she showed caution?
“Nothing comes to mind.” He said flatly. “If we double up the doses, the drug cocktail will just flat out kill me. Not exactly the best outcome.”
“Why not?” Zoe asked. Methos looked at her, startled. She hadn’t spoken to him since the argument. “Isn’t that the whole point to you bein’ the one in the body bag?” she continued on. “You bein’ able to die and revive?”
Methos shrugged. “An immortal revives faster from a death experience, than if they’ve merely being drugged…. a quicker reset button, for the lack of a better word,” he admitted.
The crease at the top of Zoe’s nose, between her eyes, seemed to take up permanent residence as she stood against the bulkhead, weight flung onto one hip. Could be worse, Methos supposed ruefully, she could have her finger hovering over the trigger again. “You didn’t mention this to the Captain,” she said flatly.
“Do you thing he’d have believed me?” Methos shot back.
Something he couldn’t quite discern passed through her eyes. “Probably not,” she admitted. “I’m not sure I believe you now…Methos.” Methos winced at the sound of his own name, noting the tightening of her lips as he did so.
He’d been surprised she hadn’t pressed him with questions when Amanda had spilled his name all over the shuttle; but maybe he was being overly paranoid. After all, as Amanda said, what would his true name mean to a mortal?
It didn’t mean she wasn’t annoyed with him, however. He wasn’t the only one with trust issues.
“Seven point eight seconds,” River said suddenly.
Zoe threw the girl a confused look. “Come again, River?”
“Seven point eight seconds,” she said. “That’s how long you’ll have.”
A look of understanding crossed Amanda’s face, and Methos raised an eyebrow. “Care to share, Amanda,”
“It’s the compromise they’ve built into the ship’s hull sensors,” she said. “They need them to be as sensitive as possibly, but the problem with that is, every time a bird hits the shield, or an insect crawls along the hull, the alarm goes off.”
Zoe nodded, “So they use a time delay instead,” she murmured. “Better a few seconds delay in the alarm, than desensitising the system.”
“If you deliver the injection straight into the artery in your neck, the effect should be pretty instantaneous,” Amanda mused aloud. “Two consecutive injections should cover the journey between the supply station and the facility…yes, we could do it.”
“You mean, I could do it, don’t you,” Methos said dryly.
“Can, my dear, not could. Best to think positively, in this sort of situations,” Amanda said, with unnecessary primness.
Methos leaned back on his cushion. “This better be good, Amanda,” he warned. “I’m not risking my head for a badly thought out plan.”
Amanda treated him to the full glow of her smile. “But of course, Methos,” she drawled. “My plans are always the best.”
Zoe rubbed her eyes and sighed wearily. “Please… don’t say it.”
Amanda looked momentarily nonplussed. “Don’t say what?” she asked. “It’s a good plan! Trust me, nothing can go wrong!”
Serenity’s crewmembers groaned as one, and Methos smirked. “Yup, those would be the words she was talking about.”
Amanda had the grace to look embarrassed, but still pushed on. “But it is a good plan,” she insisted.
“Mal isn’t going to be amused by the change of arrangements,” Inara observed.
“Mal ain’t gonna know ‘til we’ve gone ahead,” Zoe said grimly. “I ain’t breaking radio silence, no matter how bad it gets in there. We’re not gonna put more crew at risk than we have to.”
“Then we’re agreed?” Amanda asked.
Methos sighed, pulling his hand through his hair as his mind went through his options; they were sadly limited. He thought about Mac, who was probably already busy tracking down Cam’s whereabouts by now. Another immortal about to die, decreasing their already small numbers by one more... Well, better Cameron than him. “Lets hear the rest of the plan, first,” he said eventually.
Zoe watched the play of emotions cross Caruther’s – Methos’s, she corrected herself – face, as Amanda laid out the details of her plan. It was a simple one, as heists go, a variation on Mal’s idea. Get Methos inside the doors, have him to steal a security card and codes, and then open the doors from the inside. Once he’d done that, he’d let Amanda, and the rest of them, inside, and Amanda would then work her magic on the facility’s system controls.
What wasn’t so simple, though, was the expression on Methos’s face as Amanda explained the plan. “You have any military experience?” Zoe asked abruptly, as she saw the rueful look on his face while Amanda told him accosting one of the guards was his only option.
She had never seen such pure amusement on his face before. “Which one?” he asked, grinning.
For a moment, Zoe didn’t realise what he was saying. Then it hit her. She’d done the math earlier, keeping tabs on the dates he and Amanda were throwing around while they were arguing. She figured he was at least a thousand years old. Which military, indeed, she thought, he had so many to choose from. “Ha, ha,” she said dryly. “I’ll take that as a yes, then.”
Methos nodded. “Don’t worry, I know how to incapacitate a guard without raising an alarm, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said. Zoe’s eyes narrowed. Not what he seems, she sternly told herself, not harmless, not normal, not human…Immortal.
“Aia,” she muttered, under her breath, and Inara threw her a puzzled look as she abruptly began to check her weaponry, seeking to distract herself. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
In one swift move, Methos stood, and headed towards the back of the shuttle, towards the AVA suits. His gait was different, Zoe realised; smooth, with none of the hesitation one usually notices in another’s walk. The mask was off, and a thousand year old being was walking around in Inara’s shuttle…two thousand year old beings, Zoe reminded herself, bemused. Funny, it wasn’t as obvious with Amanda, it probably meant….
It probably meant Methos was older than Amanda.
Wash would have loved this.
“Zoe, are you okay?” Inara asked, as she rested a hand on her arm.
Zoe pushed down on the wave of grief that rode through her. “I’m just Dandy,” she said flatly, as she watched Methos pull on the AVA suit. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Inara looked at her wryly. “When this is over, you and I are going to have a conversation,” she said lightly.
“Inara, I don’t need a talkin’ to,” Zoe said, with a sigh. “I just need to do my job, which is keepin’ us all alive and breathing.”
Inara threw her a troubled look, but nodded silently before Zoe went to join River at the helm. “How’s it going?” she asked.
“Shuttle will be here any moment; he won’t have long to get attached,” River said dolefully. “The sensors go live once it leaves dirt.”
“I know, River,” Zoe said softly. “So does he.”
“I’m worried,” River burst out, and Zoe starred at her in surprise.
“What about?” she asked cautiously.
Her shoulders lifted in a shrug as she shook her head. “Dunno, just somethin’ ain’t right…” she said, adding, “Ain’t been right in a long time, but it’s a comin’ now; the storm.”
“River,” Zoe said, careful to keep her voice low. “You know somethin’?” But River just shook her head again, and muttered something inaudible under her breath. Zoe sighed; she wished she had Mal’s knack with the girl. Those two made an odd friendship but, somehow, it worked.
“It’s okay, River,” she eventually said, straightening as the girl curled up tightly into the pilot’s chair. “It’ll work out all right.”
River’s hand darted out, grabbing Zoe by the elbow. “Can’t stop the signal, Zoe,” she said urgently, her eyes roving towards the rear of the shuttle. “They hear it, and so does he. First the signal, then the storm.”
“He’s fitted in,” Amanda called, from the back of the shuttle, and River started in her seat.
“Too late now,” she muttered. “Time to go with the plan.”
Zoe sighed. “Everyone know their part?” she called out.
“It’s not exactly the most sophisticated of plans,” Inara reminded her gently, then sighed as Zoe gave her a long look. “You and I shall distract the shuttle crew. I shall explain to them why I’m empty handed, saying I’ve been struck by a moment of conscience, and don’t wish to go through with the deal. You are there as my bodyguard. Amanda, meanwhile, shall administer the first dose to Al…Methos, and magnetise his suit to the hull. He’ll need to administer the second does himself, during the flight, if he wakes up…does that about cover it?”
Zoe pulled a face; Inara was right, it wasn’t exactly the most sophisticated of plans, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and it was all they had to work with. “Let’s do this,” she said.
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