Blue Sun Rising

(Firefly/Highlander Crossover)

Chapter Four

“Okay, let’s not panic.” Mal took a deep breath. “River, tell me what’s going on out there.”

“Trap!” River said, snapping out of her daze.

“Trap? For us?”

River shook her head emphatically. “Like a worm on a hook, they wriggle for the Alliance…they’re being sneaky,” River muttered.

“You talking about the Reavers, River?” Zoe asked, puzzled. “That don’t sound like Reaver tactics...Reavers don’t have tactics.”

“They can plan, when they want to,” River said quietly. “Dark, twisted plans, full of rivers of blood. They want to rape the ‘verse; take what was taken from them.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Mal muttered.

“Not good,” River agreed, solemnly. “They sit like spiders, waiting for the honey to draw them in.” She pointed at a blank spot on the screen, just beyond a gas giant. “I can feel them, they’re hungry.”

“The planetary interference would mask even a Reaver’s engine,” Zoe said, looking closely at the readings. “It’s possible.”

“Great, that’s just great,” Mal muttered.

“They’re taking the bait,” River said. “The reaver ship is moving away, and the Alliance ship is following. Blue minced meat.”

“Captain?” Zoe looked at Mal’s troubled face.

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking,” he muttered. “Damn it, we can’t let this happen, can we?”

Zoe eyed the radar screen “It’s an Alliance cruiser,” she said. “The crew will be at least a thousand strong.”

Won’t do them much good if the Reavers get on board; they wouldn’t stand a chance in hand to hand combat…River, have they spotted us?”

River nodded. “They’re ignoring us, got bigger fish to fry.”

“Right, then,” Mal said, grimly, as he grabbed the com. “Time to find out if Caruthers is who he says he is, or if he’s just stringing us along – Jayne, bring our guest to the bridge.”

“Captain?” Zoe asked, uneasily. “What are you thinking?”

“You know as well as me, Zoe, that the Alliance won’t believe a word we say. To them, we’re a bunch of troublesome thieves who can’t keep our noses out of their business. But if Caruthers is Alliance, he’ll have codes, and he won’t be able to resist trying to warn them.”

“And if he isn’t?”

“Then we’ll have to come up with a plan B, won’t we?”

Zoe looked at him doubtfully “I’m not sure about this Captain.”

“You got a better plan? Coz I’m all ears,” Mal asked, impatiently.

They both turned to look at the hatch door, as they heard footsteps approach. An annoyed looking Caruthers stumbled through the doorway, followed by a grinning Jayne. “Could you call your attack dog off, please? I think he might have fleas.”

Zoe eyed Jayne. “He wasn’t moving fast enough,” he said, unrepentantly. “I had to nudge him along.”

Mal sighed. “Okay, here’s the deal. We’ve got an Alliance attack cruiser facing off a Reaver ship. Now, usually this would not be a problem, as an Alliance ship would win, hands down. But what the Alliance ship doesn’t know is that the Reavers are drawing them into a trap and, a much as I’m not a fan of our gracious government, I wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone.”

Tilting his head, Caruthers eyed them sharply. “Don’t get me wrong, but what has that got to do with me?”

“Well, you see, I know you all hot to deny you’re an Alliance spy; but lets face it, they are way too many coincidences piling up, so I reckon you’re lying.”

“Well, you reckon wrong,” Caruthers said, dryly. “I’ll admit it, I was eager to get off the planet quickly, but I assure you it has nothing to do with Alliance. There were…personal reasons.”

“U-huh, sure, personal reasons,” Mal drawled. “They wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain antique sword, would it?”

“As I’ve already explained to your first mate, the sword is a family heirloom; and no, it has nothing to do with it,” Caruthers snapped angrily. “Now, can we please drop this charade? I am not an Alliance spy

“He’s telling the truth,” River piped up.

“Huh?” Startled, Mal rounded on River. “Why didn’t you mention this before?”

“It was funny,” River said, shrugging.

“It was funny?” Mal echoed, disbelief in his voice. “Excuse me if I don’t see the humour in this, River.”

River smirked. “You don’t know the joke yet.”

“Does this mean we don’t get to throw him out the airlock?” Jayne asked, disgruntled.

Zoe threw him a look. “Yes, Jayne, it does.”

Damn it, and I already had the perfect fence in mind for that sword.”

“Oh, this is just dandy,” Caruthers growled. “I’m stuck on a ship where they don’t even wait until the body is cold before they figure out how to dispose of the spoils.”

“Waste not, want not,” Jayne said, promptly. “Words to live by, my mama always said.”

“Considering her choice in knitwear, I wouldn’t take her advice too seriously.”

“Hey, are you disrespecting my mother?”

“Okay, kids, break it up,” Mal roared. “We don’t have time for this; we still got Reavers on our screen, and whole lot of Alliance troopers about to become dinner.”

Jayne shrugged. “Not our problem.”

“Our fault,” River said, quietly. “We drew them from their home. Now they roam new hunting grounds, but the fresh prey has sharper knives, so they need better teeth.”

Caruthers’s eyes narrowed. “What is she talking about?”

“Don’t mind the reader,” Jayne grunted. “She don’t know what she’s talking about, most of the time.”

Caruthers’s head whipped around. “Did you say reader?”

“Good going, Jayne,” Zoe said, rubbing her temples. “Couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut for once?”

Jayne, for once, managed to look contrite. “Sorry, just slipped out.”

“No time, no time,” River said, her voice quavering as she moved uneasily in her seat. “I can’t feel them, they’re in my mind and they won’t let go.”

“River, calm down, they’re not going to get you,” Mal said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Zoe, get Simon on the horn, we need him up here.”

Nodding, Zoe picked up the com. “Doc, you’re needed on the bridge.”

On my way.”

“Right,” Mal said, straightening up. “Here is what we’re gonna do… River, set a course right between those two ships; not too fast, I want to be pretty near the giant when we intersect.”

“Captain, that isn’t a good idea,” Zoe warned. “If either of those ships fire, we’ll be dead meant.”

I’m fresh out of good ideas, Zoe,” Mal said, tiredness showing in his voice. “All I’ve got left is crazy.”

“What are you hoping to accomplish?” Caruthers asked.

“I’m hoping that the Reavers will react and do something stupid.”

“You want to draw them out, spring their trap before the Alliance ship is caught in it.” Zoe said, understanding. “Might work.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Caruthers folded his arms. “What then?”

“Oh, it will work,” Mal drawled. “Coz we’re about to send out a warning signal, on all channels, giving the Reaver ships’ position away. Even if the Alliance doesn’t listen, you can be darned sure they will. And Reavers never let their prey go easily.”

“They’ll eat us alive,” Caruthers said, softly.

“Only if the catch us,” Mal countered. “And that ain’t gonna happen. Serenity may not look like much, but her engine can outdistance any ship going, if it has to.”

“I’m here, what’s wrong?” Simon asked, stepping onto the bridge.

“We’ve got Reavers,” Mal said, abruptly. “River needs someone to keep her in the here and now, you’ve been volunteered.”

“Reavers?” Simon asked, frowning as he sat by River. “Why aren’t we running?”

“Oh, we will be, we just have to take care of a few things first.” Mal grabbed the com. “Kaylee, we’re gonna need your magic in the engine room. We’ll need all she’s got.”

What’s up?”

“Reavers? How—”
“Kaylee, we don’t have time for this, just do it.”

Yes, Captain.”

The communications console beeped, and Zoe raised an eyebrow. “The Alliance is sending a proximity warning; they’re asking us to back off.”

“Well, they can just keep on asking,” Mal muttered. “River, how’s it going there?”

River scowled at him. “Hold your horses.”

Another alarm chirped, and Zoe leaned over it. “They’re now trying to open a communications channel with us. They might fire if we don’t answer.”

Damn it, River—”

“In position,” she said, grimly.

“Answer them, Zoe; make sure it’s broadcast on all channels.”

“Here goes nothing,” Zoe muttered, opening a link. “This is the Firefly class ship, Serenity—”

I know damned well who you are,” a voice cut in as the link sprung to life. “And, in other circumstances, I’d have you brought in so fast your head would be spinning; but, in case it has escaped your notice, I have more important things to deal with at the moment. So consider yourself lucky, and get the hell out of my way before I shoot you out of my sky.”

“Captain, you’re falling into a trap, they are more Reaver ships hiding behind that giant, if you don’t break off now—“

I’ve already given you my warning, Serenity; I am not going to repeat it.”

“But you don’t understand—” The link cut off, and Zoe caught Mal’s eye. “Somehow, I don’t think he believed us.”

“Ya think?” Jayne broke in, irritably. “Now let’s get the gorram out of here before—”

“They’re moving,” River interrupted, as she checked her console. “Look.

Zoe glanced at the screen and felt her mouth go dry as several blips suddenly appeared on the screen. “How many?”

“I count nine,” Simon said, flatly.

“Has the Alliance ship seen them?” Mal asked.

“It’s changing trajectory,” Zoe confirmed, looking at the screen. “So I’m guessing that’s a yes.”

“Time to run?” River asked, turning to Mal.

“Time to run,” he agreed, grimly, leaning into the com. “Kaylee, give us all she’s got.”

Zoe felt the engines rev beneath her and automatically grabbed onto the nearest chair. Turbulence wasn’t really a problem, once you were out in the black, but old habits die hard.

“Going, going, gone,” River murmured, as Serenity arched out of position and fired its drive. Zoe felt a small tug, and then nothing, as Serenity settled into its new speed.

“Is that it?” Caruthers asked quietly.

Surprised, Zoe looked at him, she had almost forgotten he was on the bridge; he had been so quiet. “For now,” she said, studying his strangely calm face. Most planet-bound folks would be shaking in their breeches by now.

River hummed tunelessly under her breath, and they all turned to look at her. “We’re being followed,” she said.

“Of course we are,” Mal muttered. “Who is it?”

“Reaver ship.”

“You sure?” Zoe asked. “They shouldn’t be able to keep up with us. Their engines are usually falling apart.”

“Mal eyed the blip that shone ominously on the screen. “It seems one of them got an upgrade.”