Blue Sun Rising
The EVA suit amplified the sound of her breath as Zoe cautiously stepped into the new chamber and eyed the mess around her. They had vented the Reaver ship after disposing of the bodies in the cargo hold, in case the ship held a few nasty surprises, but the only bodies she’d found were those of their victims.
Mal’s voice hissed through the suit’s com. “Zoe, find anything?”
“Just some more dead bodies,” she said flatly, “It’s clear.”
“Deader than a rat’s corpse.” Jayne grunted. “Can we leave now? This place is giving me the creeps.”
“I’m not exactly overjoyed to be here, either,” was Mal’s dry reply. “Let’s get back to Serenity, I need a shower.”
Zoe backed out of the chamber. “Did you find out where they got the ship?” she asked.
“The ships registered to a company out of Sihnon,” Mal said. “It’s some sort of high end transport ship.”
“Kinda leaves a lot of questions,” Zoe observed. “Those craft don’t usually wander beyond the core worlds.”
“Guess River was right, the Reavers aren’t sticking to their little corner of space anymore.”
“The Alliance aren’t going to like that,” Zoe sighed as she picked her way through the cluttered corridor, her eyes avoiding what she was stepping over.
“Might explain why they’re suddenly so keen to catch us again. They need someone to blame.”
“Might,” Zoe said, knowing Mal didn’t believe that anymore than she did. They were after River, and they both damned knew it.
At last, she made it to the airlock and raised a hand in greeting to Jayne and Mal, who were waiting for her. “Has Kaylee made the repairs?”
The helmet of Mal’s suit bobbed as he hit the airlock’s controls. “Not perfect, but she reckons it will hold until we reach dirtside.”
Zoe grimaced, Serenity’s main airlock had taken quite a battering from the Reavers; and a leaky airlock could cause all manner of problems. “Repairs are going to be difficult on Whitefall,” she said. “Not to mention expensive.”
“We’ll just have to pick up some work, that’s all”
“Yeah, right,” Jayne muttered discontentedly. “That I’d like to see. We’re goddamned persona non gratis in every bolthole in the solar system, not even Badger will touch us.”
“Persona non gratis?” Mal echoed as the airlock shut behind them.. “Have you been readin’ again, Jayne?”
Jayne grunted. “So what if I have?”
The light went green and Zoe took off her helmet, shaking out her hair. “Careful, Jayne,” she teased, keeping her face straight. “You’re in danger of becoming educated.”
Jayne wrenched his helmet off, revealing a pout. “I ain’t that dumb.”
“Uhuh,” Mal said, noncommittally, as Serenity’s airlock opened slowly with a dull groan. “Damn,” he muttered. “Don’t sound good.”
Zoe shrugged, knowing there wasn’t anything she could say that would improve matters.
The doors halted half way, and Kaylee’s head appeared. “Hey, Captain,” she said brightly. “That’s as far as it will go, I’m afraid.”
“Damn it, Kaylee, is this gorram thing even space worthy?” Mal said worriedly as he ducked underneath the door and into the cargo bay.
“It’ll hold,” she said, frowning slightly. “Just about.”
Zoe sighed; it seemed nothing went their way anymore. “At least you’re still alive,” she told herself, and then felt a pang as Wash’s smile flashed in her mind.
“Find anything?” Simon’s voice asked, and Zoe glanced at the doctor, who was on his knees scrubbing the deck. They had got most of the blood out, but the ship still needed a proper airing.
“Nothing helpful,” Mal said dully. “But I wasn’t really expecting to.”
“Blood and tears,” River said softly, from her perch on the walkway, Inara by her side.
Inara’s hand fell on the young girls shoulder. “Perhaps you should come away from here, River,” she said. It had the sound of a familiar refrain., and Zoe suspected that Inara had been trying to move river from the cargo bay since they’d boarded the Reaver ship.
“I’m where I should be,” River said, shrugging Inara’s hand away gently. “We all are.”
A movement caught the corner off Zoe’s eye and she glanced over. Alex Caruthers was sitting on one of the pallets, watching them. “Couldn’t find something useful to do?” she asked, harshly.
He raised an eyebrow. “Other than scrubbing the deck, you mean?” he returned. “I’m not a member of your crew, remember?”
Zoe’s mouth twisted, there was something about this guy that put her on edge; that made her want to push him and see if she could if she could wring something other than a sarcastic comment out of him.
“He helped move the bodies,” Kaylee offered softly, and Zoe nodded reluctantly. That was true, and he had done it without a word of complaint either. Mind you, nobody was in the mood for speaking at the time.
“River,” Mal sighed, breaking the tension. “How’s our course?”
River leaned into the railings and shrugged. “We should be there in twelve hours.”
“Well, get your ass up to the bridge and unlock that piece of junk from our airlock, we don’t want it to be floating around too close to orbit.”
A sigh of relief came from Caruthers as River got to her feet and ran from the cargo bay. She could understand his reaction, she supposed. River wasn’t the easiest company at the best of times. She frowned, her mind flitting to their brief exchange before River had attacked the Reavers. Something told her there was a story there; River had been acting strangely around him since he’s boarded, a mixture of disbelief and amusement…but no suspicion, strangely enough.
“Zoe, you okay?” Mal asked softly.
Zoe gave Mal a reassuring nod. “Just thinking,” she said, abruptly, as she wriggled out of the rest of the EVA suit.
Mal gave her a concerned glance and Zoe sighed inwardly. He had been acting like that since Wash died, as if she was suddenly going to fall apart at the seams. He really should know better, but she supposed he wouldn’t be Mal if he weren’t worried.
“I’m starving, whose turn is it to cook?” Jayne asked suddenly.
“I believe it is mine,” Inara declared, getting gracefully to her feet. Zoe smothered a smile, as he noticed the puzzled look on Mal’s face. It was actually his turn to cook but the crew tended to steer him away from the kitchen as often as they could. There were only so many times one could eat beans and jerky, especially on a confined ship.
“And that’s my cue to leave, I think,” Caruthers said, standing up. “I’ll be in my quarters.”
Silently, Zoe watched him climb the steps, noticing the telltale bump in his jacket as he dipped his head under the door above. So he was carrying his sword again, interesting.
“So, what do you think?” Mal asked.
“Caruthers, of course. Do you think we can trust him?”
Zoe threw him a look. “We’d better hope so, he’s already seen too much,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, well, there are ways of rectifying that, if needs be,” Mal said grimly. “But I’d rather not do that unless it’s our only option.”
Zoe pulled a face, she’s rather not space someone if there was any way around it. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, don’t we?”
o----0----o o----0----o o----0----o
Sighing with relief, Methos shrugged out of his coat and flopped onto his bunk. The last few days had been hellish, not to mention strange. He hadn’t seen that much action since he’d left Earth…well, there had been that business with Duncan back on Dayton’s Moon a few decades back, but that didn’t really count.
But what was next on the horizon? Somehow, he didn’t think that Serenity’s brush with the Alliance was a one off thing, there was definitely more trouble on the way; he hadn’t like the tone of that Alliance commander over the com.
And then there was River, who knew way too much for his own good. He didn’t like the way she looked at him, amused and knowing. It reminded him too much of what he saw when he looked in the mirror. She was way too young to have a look like that, and he was way too old to feel comfortable about it. Who the hell was she…what the hell was she?
All that speed and agility wasn’t normal, that he definitely knew, a mutation perhaps? It was bound to happen, sooner or later, he supposed, and he’s been hearing rumours about readers for decades; but it still didn’t explain how she massacred those Reavers, there was a chilling efficiency to it that he didn’t want to examine too closely.
Way too many memories.
A gentle tap on the screen door interrupted his thoughts, and Methos eyed the door warily. “Who is it?”
The door slid open in answer and River poked her head in, smiling shyly. “Can I enter?”
Methos sat upright on the bunk as she hovered in the doorway, and speculated what she’d do if he said no. He decided not to find out. “Come in.”
She stepped into the quarters and her eyes darting around the small room as if it was new to her.
“Sit down,” Methos prompted, as she stood uncertainly in the room. “Please.” In one movement, River sank to the floor and sat cross-legged; Methos’s lips quirked. “There is a seat just behind you,” he said.
River hunched her shoulders. “More comfortable here,”
It was funny, just moments before he was wondering what she was thinking, but now that she was here, he couldn’t think of a thing to say. “To what do I owe the honour of this visit?” he asked dryly.
She cocked her head, a slow smile spreading across her face, and Methos wondered uneasily if she was reading his thoughts. “We’ll be landing soon,” she said, eventually. “Will you stay with us?”
“Probably not,” Methos admitted reluctantly. “I don’t think it would be a very good idea.”
“You should stay,” River said firmly. “It would be good for you.”
Methos raised an eyebrow. “And how did you come to that conclusion?”
“Just because,” River muttered, her eyes wandering across the room. “How do you do it?”
“Excuse me?” asked Methos, puzzled.
“How do you do it…keep it all hidden inside?”
Methos examined the sudden, wistful expression on her face. “I didn’t think I could keep anything hidden from you,” he said softly.
“Not the thoughts on the surface, not what you are; but what you were, that’s all squirreled down deep,” she admitted, frowning. “I can sense it’s there, but I can’t reach it.”
“It’s probably better if you didn’t,” Methos muttered.
“But how do you do it,” she asked, leaning forward intently. “How do you keep it from taking over?”
Ah, so that’s why she’s here.
Methos looked at her troubled face, and tried to gather the words to explain it. “It never goes away,” he said gently. “It’s always there, at the back of your mind, but when you accept it, then it’s easier to put it away and keep it under control.”
“I’m not sure if I can do that.”
“I thought that once too,” he said. “But it can be done; though it might be harder in your case. All my anger and hate came from inside, you’re not so lucky.”
River nodded thoughtfully. “It’s hard…to shut it out,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t know where I begin and other’s end.”
“Were you always like this?” Methos enquired quietly.
River stilled. “Not always, but that doesn’t matter now…dinner’s ready.” She got to her feet, brushing her skirt off. “I still think you should stay, it would be best,” she said abruptly, as she slid the door open.
Methos leaned back on the bunk as she ghosted out of the room. An enigma wrapped up in a Firefly class ship, and not the only one at that. “Well, old man, should you stay or should you go?”
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