Interference by SLynn
Chapter 5: Point of View
Wash flipped on the comm link to Serenity and hoped someone was listening.
"Shuttle B to Serenity. Please respond."
"Shuttle B to Serenity. Please respond," he tried again still without luck.
Something was definitely wrong with the shuttle. Of course they'd barely gotten off of that damn moon in one piece, but it wasn't just that. He thought he heard whistling, or hissing, and neither Zoe nor Mal were talking anymore. He couldn't check on them just yet, there was too much to do.
"Kaylee pick up."
She wasn't there. All he could now was give them as much information as possible and try to land.
"Not sure if you're getting this. We've taken damage. We're off of Perseis and headed back to Circe. I don't think we're going to make it."
They were breaking into the atmosphere and Wash was feverishly trying to plot a course on the autopilot as stars began to swim before his eyes. The whistling sound was louder now and he had a suspicion as to why.
"Fuel tanks shot. Left thruster gone. We're coasting into atmo."
His voice sounded thick to his own ears. He could see the ground now. They were closer. He sucked in as much air as he could in one big gasp.
"Life support hit."
Wash's vision swam with stars once more as he tried to fight off what he knew was happening.
"I'm trying the beacon, but nothing's working anymore."
He made the last switch over and now the shuttle was completely out of his control. He knew the program couldn't really land the shuttle but it was definitely crashing without it so the odds were a bit better this way.
"Kaylee if you get this, I'm trying to land. I'm trying to land past the mountain ridge in X9."
Wash felt his hands slipping from the controls but he had no power left within in him to help it. He found it hard to even speak much anymore. Wash knew he was losing the battle against consciousness.
"How am I supposed…"
Inara had rejoined them early the next day. Officials were advising an immediate evacuation of the planet. The common opinion was that the rest of Perseis was going to crash into Circe at any moment.
Together the three of them had listened and re-listened to the transmission from Wash a dozen times.
No one knew what to do.
"Play back the part about landing again," Inara asked.
Kaylee queued it up for the fifth time in row. It was the best clue they had about where Mal and the others might be if they'd made it. After hearing the wave the first time she'd tried the scanning for the beacon but got nothing. That hadn't dampened her spirits that they were all still alive though, as Wash had also said very clearly that 'nothing's working'.
"Ready," Kaylee said before pressing it again.
" … I'm trying to land. I'm trying … mountain … X9." Wash's voice said over the speaker.
"And there's no mountain X9 anywhere on this place?" Jayne asked again for the fifth time.
"None," Kaylee said, but not in annoyance.
"And they're not coordinates," Inara said.
"No," Kaylee answered out of habit even though Inara hadn't really asked more then reiterated. "Coordinates have to be at least two numbers. It's just so unlike him. Wash's never given directions that bad before."
She knew her voice sounded irritated, but she didn't mean it to be. She wasn't mad at Wash, she was mad at herself. Obviously he thought she'd know what he meant and obviously he'd also thought she'd have been there at the comm. And she should have been. She wasn't even on the ship when it happened.
Jayne and Inara were both staring at her now. Kaylee was trying hard not to cry. Not to let a single tear fall, because if one got through they all would.
"He did sound odd," Inara said after another moment, realizing Kaylee needed some distraction.
"Yeah," Jayne agreed turning his attention from the mechanic to the companion. "Well it's hard to tell exactly with all that noise."
"Was that just the activity causing all of that interference?" Inara asked.
"No," Kaylee said as something inside her clicked. "He did sound odd and there was a 'shhh'."
"'Shhh' what?" Jayne aside her uncertainly, "You're the only one talking."
"Not 'shush' but 'shhh' like a, like a leak."
Kaylee quickly replayed the whole of it back and sure enough, when Wash was talking you could hear it. It started off low at the beginning of the transmission but by the end of it you could definitely tell it was there. A most audible leak.
"What is it?" Inara asked.
"The hull. They must have taken on damage to the hull. That's why everything was failing."
"Like a whole or something. Do you think they got hit?" Jayne asked.
"No, a hit would have been quick. Bigger. They wouldn't have made it back to Circe."
"But Kaylee, we don't know…"
"No Inara, Wash said they were back into the atmosphere," Kaylee suddenly remembered that strangled gasp she'd heard, "And he couldn't breath well. He thought it was the life support, but it was the leak. They lost air. That's why we never heard the Captain or Zoe on the transmission. They must have passed out."
It didn't make complete sense to her yet, but it was clearer. That's why his voice sounded so funny. That's probably why he left such vague instructions too. He couldn't have been thinking straight. He just couldn't have.
"But if they passed out…" Jayne started to say.
Kaylee nodded in silent agreement, suddenly downcast again.
Wash awoke to the sound of birds chirping and sunlight on his face. His first thought was that he must have died and his second was that he'd expected the next life to be a lot less painful.
Coming fully to his senses he remembered it all. Well, most of it anyway.
Of course he hadn't been serious when he said he thought that Perseis was going to fall apart with them on it, but life was like that.
A groan from behind him brought Wash back to his senses.
"Wash," he heard Mal grumble.
"Did you crash my ship?"
"No," Wash said turning as best he could to get a look behind him, checking Zoe as well who was also awake and staring back at him in disbelief. "I crashed your shuttle."
To his great surprise Mal laughed. Even stranger, Wash joined him. Zoe shook her head at the two of them, but smiled too, as they all undid their safety restraints and began to assess the damage. Fortunately each of them were fine despite a few minor cuts and scrapes, the same could not be said for the shuttle.
"So, what do you think?" Mal asked after some time.
"That she's not flying anytime soon," Wash said seriously. "Left thruster is completely gone, might be on what's left of that moon for all I know. Good news is she's in one piece and with a lot of attention from Kaylee and me if you'll let me near her, she'll be airborne again. But I think the hull breached on reentry and that's why we all blacked out."
"Blacked out?" Mal asked giving him a look.
"Yeah, I'll show you," Wash said not at all thrown by the scrutiny as he walked around the shuttle. "Thruster came off clean like it was suppose to, designed that way, but peeled back some of the exterior. It was a slow leak because by that time we were almost…"
"No, no, no," Mal cut him off, "That I understand. I don't understand the 'we' part of this black out episode you're describing."
"No, I did."
"So…" Wash said looking for more information.
"So how did you black out and land this thing?" Mal asked fully exasperated.
"This isn't a landing Mal," Wash said with almost a laugh. "You think I'd do this to any part of Serenity, on purpose? Hell we're lucky to be alive. I was aiming for the other side of this mess and it looks like I hit it dead on. This is forest and trees and who knows what kind of wild life; the other side is almost as flat as a landing strip, would have been much better."
"Let me get this straight. All of this was luck, is that what you're saying? Making it off that moon, landing in one piece, all of us alive, that's luck?"
"Luck, chance, fate, destiny. Take your pick. It's all about point of view."
"So you're not a good pilot, just lucky."
"Today I am. We'll see about tomorrow."
A/N: Shorter then normal, I know. Sorry. Thanks for reading and reviewing. I hope you're enjoying it so far! :)