Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire Hunter D or Firefly.
A/N: Thanks for the positive feedback! I really appreciate it.
Chapter 2: Ship
The fortress was built into the mountain. Once, it had been great in size and beauty. Where the dull moonlight cast a yellowing glow over the deadened land before the structure, gardens of a thousand night bloomers had blossomed out to meet their masters. But that was a different time, and now the columns that framed the walkway were pebbles and those lost flowers mere weeds sprouting up between the stony remains like cemetery ornaments. As for the dwelling in the mountain, it was a husk of its former self, but a dangerous skeleton nevertheless.
Evil lived within this forgotten fragment of the age of the nobility. Of the technology within, the experiments of centuries ago, nothing was more dangerous than the noble who had taken this dwelling of his kind as his own.
At least he was the greatest threat the small village in the neighboring valley knew. The mountain rumbled in argument of the point.
Loose boulders spilled down the almost flat face of nature's figurehead, but they did little damage. Nevertheless, in the minute following the fortress's wide, hidden entrance slid open and a cloud of dust and debris poured out, spilling over the decimated gardens. The fortress had collapsed in on itself, and its ruin sent a whirlwind of choking smoke into the air. It became a cloud over the rock slide, floating in wait, perhaps, for the one who had released it from the stale airs of the noble's dwelling.
The rocks had no time to settle. Out of them rose a figure with a sword strapped to his back and a far-reaching, beaten hat upon his head.
D stepped down the debris, letting the dust fall off of his black cape as he moved. There was a slight hack from his form, but it didn't come from his mouth. The dhampir opened his left fist but didn't look down at the parasite on his palm. D, his face as perfect as a figure carved of stone and just as expressionless, approached the woods just out of the gardens without a word to his constant companion or the destroyed fortress.
A black cyborg horse awaited him. His shoulders tightened as he prepared to saddle his transportation.
Then something very strange happened: Vampire Hunter D began to beep.
D paused mid-motion, coming to a wide stand and staring down at his right side.
"What the hell is that?" his left hand snapped. "You getting a call?"
D raised a confused brow at the parasite, unsure of the reference for a moment. Then he shook his head. The dhampir answered Left Hand by reaching into a small pocket built onto his expansive belt. He pulled out a slim, oval piece of metal. At its center was a white gem. Or, at the least, it had been a white gem earlier. Now, it's slick, foggy surface was fading to a black blue color.
"Noble," Left Hand said. The tiny, crinkled face on D's palm was lifted to stare at the device. "Didn't you pick this up at that airship terminal a few years back? Why you been holding on to it for so long?"
"It seemed important," D said.
"A keepsake, then," the hand answered. "That's not like you at all, D."
D didn't reply, staring more intently at the metal oval's gemstone. Normal human eyes wouldn't have been able to make out the new details appearing on the surface, but D could see them plainly as they formed. The gem was not simply gaining color, it was gaining a very elaborate, moving image. D watched as the star-dotted landscape of space crawled over the gem. A moment later a larger object covered up most of the black background. It was silver in tone, mechanical. A ship, he knew for certain. A ship he recognized, in fact.
It looked very much like a usable version of the ones torn to ruins at the battlefield of the nobility, the very battlefield sitting before the airship terminal that had provided the device.
"It activated on its own," D said, answering an unasked question.
The device had stopped beeping. The ship seemed to remain at the gem's center, but the stars around it appeared to be mere streaks. It was moving fast, indeed, if the image was blurred to a dhampir's eyes.
His left hand sighed, acknowledging what the image must be.
"What you going to do about this, D?" Left Hand asked.
The hunter pocketed the device and jumped up, gracefully saddling his cyborg horse. He turned the mechanical creature around, holding to the reins with his right hand. Galloping towards the village who'd hired him, D made his intentions clear.
"Collect my sum," he answered.
Left Hand's crackling laughter escaped the fist.
The light hurt her eyes. She'd dreamt of light like this before, of being blinded. It usually happened just before the pain set in. Why did they want to open the cargo door? She'd warned them, and now they were letting it in.
It was too late to turn off the lights.
River's breathing quickened slightly as she leaned into Simon's vest.
"You smell too clean, Simon," she said.
Simon held back the laugh at his lips, his own anxiety not allowing it to escape. He patted her head gently, holding to her. "It's alright, mei mei."
"Stay here," Mal said.
He didn't direct the words towards her, but his mind did. River knew, but she didn't acknowledge him with a glance.
Mal was the first to step down the cargo ramp, Zoe at his side, weapon drawn and her dark eyes darting. But the room, the bay, the ship had landed in remained non-threatening, white walled and empty of any other ship.
"There's something off about this, sir," Zoe noted, her voice low for the crew's sake.
"We're in a ship that was buried under a town, 'course something's off," Mal answered, striding away from her.
The captain put his hand up to stop any of his other crew members from stepping down the ramp. He reached the floor of the bay and walked to one side of the Firefly and then to the other, as if quickly inspecting his precious ship. But his eyes were barely darting over Serenity's graceful form. He was checking the walls surrounding them. Each was a two minute walk away, as best he could judge from the bright whiteness of the room and each was made up of large white squares, perhaps containing the lights. Mal was of a mind to think a door was behind one of them.
River turned from Simon. She leaned out the cargo opening, her eyes on the captain. "No escape," she told him.
Mal stopped, staring at the girl for a moment.
"You are correct," a woman's voice answered.
It didn't come from the crew. In fact, it didn't seem to come from a place. It came from every place, every square on every wall.
"There is no escape. Nor is there any reason for escape. Welcome to Bay 6. Please remain calm and stay within your vessel."
Mal's eyes flickered to annoyance for half a second before he replied, "Who the hell are you?"
There was no answer.
"It woke up," River said. "And now it can't sleep."
"You are correct," the voice answered again. "I am the computer navigational system for this shuttle. I cannot be deactivated once I'm engaged. Please remain calm and stay within your vessel. You will be arriving at your destination shortly."
"Destination?" Mal asked.
No answer came, at least not from the computer.
River took a step back from the ramp, her eyes stinging. She could feel the crew watching her. Knowing, somewhere inside but not saying with words. . .all of them were thinking so hard. They wondered why many times. Why us? Why here? River caught Mal's eye: why did the computer only answer her?
And then he became too loud for her to hear.
River covered her ears and screamed.