Sequel to Lost In The Woods

Shaking the pillars of heaven is all very heroic, and can pay extremely well. But Malcolm Reynolds always suspected surviving the rain of debris afterward separates the truly mighty from the merely squished and icky...

This takes place following the events of Lost In The Woods. Although part of the story occurs in the Star Trek:TNG universe this is not a crossover, it is primarily a Firefly story.

It helps if you're familiar with Firefly (If you aren't, go buy the series on DVD and the movie! Seriously! Good stuff.)

As for the Chinese used in the story, well, go look it up. :) That's what I did. Google the phrase "Firefly Pinyinary" for a good Firefly Chinese dictionary.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek (any of them, darn!), Firefly (double-darn!) or any of the characters, ships, or locations mentioned in this story. If I did do you think I'd be writing fan-fiction?

"Commander we've matched the vector Fleet HQ gave us. We will arrive at delta point zero in six minutes."

"Very good, helmsman. Telemetry, notify our guests and begin preliminary scans." The gray-clad commander stood ramrod straight, only the slightest frown betraying the resentment he was feeling. Damn eggheads, why did Parliament see fit to send a cruiser to do a research vessel's job?

Dortmunder might one of the largest ships in the Alliance fleet, he reflected, but she wasn't designed with this kind of mission in mind. And he wasn't even sure what they were looking for. According to Dortmunder's radar there was nothing within a dozen light minutes in any direction. They were a good thirty hours past New Melbourne, their current course carrying them in-system past the orbit of Londinium--although the planet itself was currently on the other side of the sun.

"Sir, Hippasus is requesting clearance to launch once we reach delta point zero." The radio operator said.

Commander Harken sighed quietly. We're just a glorified pack mule he thought ruefully. "Permission granted, inform Hippasus to hold her launch until Dortmunder ceases active maneuvering."

"Aye aye, sir."

And that's another thing. We're traveling at one hell of a clip too, over 3 AU per day. Nothing natural travels this fast, so why are we ferrying a research vessel like Hippasus? What could they possibly be looking for?

"Commander Harken." A cool female voice spoke behind him. He felt his face smooth into a blank mask. Turning he spoke in a calm polite tone.

"Good afternoon, Madame Li." Neither tone nor expression betrayed the distaste he felt. The older woman radiated the calm arrogance of all Blue Sun board members. Her presence on his ship was another disquieting mystery--the board members of Blue Sun seldom left Sihnon, and always traveled in luxury aboard private yachts or chartered space liners. Even though Dortmunder boasted a crew of over forty thousand and counted civilians among her complement she was still a naval vessel with all the austerity that implied.

The fact that Madame Li had come aboard accompanied only by her personal secretary (who, Harken had no doubt doubled as her bodyguard) was another worrying sign. It screamed clandestine power struggle.

And lowly IAV commanders better keep out from under foot lest they be stepped on, he thought to himself.

"I am informed we have reached our destination." The old woman watched him with sharp eyes, although she stood relaxed. He nodded.

"Hippasus should be launching momentarily, Madame Li. May I enquire how long we will stay on this vector? At our current speed we will leave the system entirely within fifteen days. Our fuel reserves have been significantly reduced. Eight days from now we will lose our last vector to a refueling port."

"Allow me to put your mind at ease, Commander. My scientists tell me all required data will be gathered no later than five days from now. This will give you ample time to reach a port for refueling, yes?" She smiled a small, frosty, and condescending quirking of the lips.

"Yes, Madame Li. Thank you." He hated himself for saying it, but the woman could break his career with a word.

"Commander." The telemetry officer broke in with urgency in his voice. "Radiation field off the starboard bow, thirty five degrees above our vector, closure rate of 150 meters per second. Recommend immediate course change."

Harken was about to order the helmsman to change course when a strong bony hand closed around his forearm.

"That is our target, Commander. Match velocity and maintain such distance as you consider prudent. Order the Hippasus to launch."

Silently he nodded to the radio operator who relayed the launch authorization. "Helm, match velocities with the radiation field and maintain a distance of no less than one hundred kilometers."

"Aye aye, sir."

"Telemetry, give me a reading on that radiation field. How big is it? How strong? What's causing it?"

"Belay that order." The woman snapped suddenly. His telemetry officer looked at the old woman in surprise, and then turned to Harken.

"Madame Li that radiation field poses a threat to this ship and everyone on board. Should it change shape unexpectedly we could find ourselves engulfed without warning. I appreciate your need to maintain confidentiality but--"

"The Hippasus will monitor the field, Commander. Rest assured I enjoy my life and have no interest in dying of radiation poisoning. By the order of the Parliament everything that happens from this point forward is classified top secret and need to know only. Do I make myself clear?"

"With respect, Madame Li I will require your Parliamentary authorization credentials before I allow you to issue commands to my crew in accordance with Naval Article 25." Harken spoke politely but firmly.

"Of course, Commander." Obviously anticipating his demand she produced a small device from her sleeve. Nodding he took it to a station and plugged it in. The station processed the data, and then approved her credentials.

"Madame Li, you are approved to assume strategic command of this vessel. However I must inform you that all tactical decisions remain with me. Should I perceive a danger to this ship I will countermand your orders and withdraw to a safe location or engage and neutralize a threat at my discretion. Do you understand this caveat to your command authority?"

"I do, Commander Harken. As I said, I am quite fond of my life. I have no intention of endangering this ship or her crew. Your expertise in daily operations goes without question." Madame Li nodded graciously, still radiating that supreme confidence that set Harken's teeth on edge.

"Then, Madame Li I relinquish strategic command of the Dortmunder to you." He said the formal words with a twinge of pain.