Disclaimer: Well, I own neither Firefly nor Star Trek. If I did, I would be a fandom god rather than the tiny, unimportant fanwriter I am today. Don't sue me.
A/N: Well, this is it. This is the first chapter that is officially a crossover and not just Firefly. I wrote this chapter with much hesitation and I hope it flows well for anyone reading this. I had a lot of difficulty rotating between three settings like this, and I hope it came across well. The next few chapters will be long, though probably not as long as this one.
Also: Remember how I promised that there would never be a point when you had to know "Chinese"? That's still true. Everything they're saying, pretty much, is just swearing...which I'm sure you'll realize without difficulty. For those of you who do know Chinese, uh...my Chinese is terrible. I'm sorry. Feel free to correct me.
"I don't hold too well with these britches, Mal," Jayne complained as he adjusted the waistband of his costume for the fifth time in the last ten minutes.
The Allied uniforms were uglier than any of them could recall them being—straight cut blocks of dark grey wool, unmarked and uninspired, with black trim and stark seams. The shirts were cut for svelte men, the lithe bodies of disillusioned teenagers from central worlds. The pants, similarly, were tight, fitted, and tucked snug into the violently polished synthetic leather boots. Jayne looked absolutely ridiculous—the pants were too small and the shirt was stretched taught, despite toting that it was his size. Fortunately, the tiny, unimpressive cap perched on his head gave him an unnameable ominous quality that helped his image significantly.
"Ain't a one of us that does," Zoe answered sharply. She was seated on the steps from the mess, polishing her rifle, and Kaylee carefully picked past her as she parceled out the energy weapons they'd be taking alongside their hidden rounds.
"Straighten up, Jayne," Mal commanded as he adjusted the straps across his own uniform. He'd cast himself a cursory glance in the mirror earlier and hadn't looked again since. "Ain't no officer on that boat—"
"There isn't an officer on that ship," Simon cut in with a certainty that caused Mal to bristle, "Ensign."
"Right," Mal responded tightly. "There...isn't an officer on that ship that slouches." The words fell from him like men off a cliff—they were dead weight and tumbled with the same sense of dreadful anticipation.
"We can do this." Mal glanced up in time to see Inara coming down from her shuttle. She was in a different uniform—cross-knit synthetic turtleneck, wide-legged woolen pants, and the boxiest medical coat he'd ever seen. She had a tiny white cap on her head and a clipboard clutched daintily in her fingers. Mal scowled as she came closer.
"Leave it to the Alliance to ruin nurses," he complained and Inara arched an eyebrow.
"At least she's not in scrubs," Simon interjected before Inara had time to respond. Simon, himself, seemed to fit perfectly in his grey medical uniform and coat. Though whether he was worried about his own appearance or not, none of them could tell. All his attention was focused on River, who sat before him in the same grey costume as Inara. Her dark hair was pulled back and tucked under her hat and her dark eyes were wide as she watched Simon fret over bottles and needles in his bag.
"Come on," Kaylee interjected as she handed Mal his gun. She smiled weakly at him and skipped to the translocator before his own glare could dampen her optimism. "S'not all bad—just in and out, right? Easy as pie?" Kaylee submitted with a forced laugh as she initiated the startup on the translocator and the machine hummed to life. "An' iff'n you have any trouble, just call an' me an' Zoe'll sweep right in an' save you!"
No one felt the need to mention that the Serenity's top-speed was about a third of an Allied Cruiser, or that the translocator pulled the better part of sixty percent of the engine's capacity while activated. There was a long silence in the cargo-bay with only the sounds of Simon's fussing and Zoe's cleaning to relieve the tension.
"No, no, Simon," River whined softly as Simon gingerly injected something into her neck, "I don't want to—they're not ready, they'll come at me—I don't want to."
"It's okay, River," Simon assured her as he adjusted the high neck of her top. "It's a catalytic agent, it'll let me see the interactions of your neurons when we scan you."
"They're always firing, Simon," she whispered and the crew listened in stony silence. "They fire at me and I'll crack." Her voice hitched and her eyes darted across his face, "I'll break right open—I can hear them coming."
"Calm down, Meimei," Simon's voice crooned in the space beside her and River frowned as she looked straight through him, "you're hallucinating. It's not real."
"It's not real," River repeated distantly and Mal clapped his hand onto Simon's shoulder.
"It's time," Mal stated flatly and Jayne flexed his fingers in his tight, regulation gloves.
"Full well, it is," Jayne agreed and Kaylee adjusted the translocator.
"Let's go," Kaylee cheered and motioned toward the platform.
"Let's go," Mal called as he watched a set of officers cheerfully greet the two guarding the door. The tiny window made him nervous. The officers moved off, but it didn't dispel his anxiety.
Simon didn't spare Mal a glance as his fingers flew across the controls. His motions were short, precise, and lightning quick as he worked. In his single-minded concentration, Mal wondered briefly if he'd even heard him. Just outside the doorway, Jayne and Inara held a pseudo-casual conversation as she relayed to him one of the many copied reports on her clipboard. They'd been at it for nigh on half an hour now, and it was starting to become tense—a few officers had dropped by, and they'd managed to enrapture them into talking about the most recent major sporting events, but there was no telling if that would continue working. Besides, Jayne tended to swear more than usual when sports were brought into the mix and that tended to make folk suspicious.
"River, sit still," Simon commanded lightly and Mal cast a glance at the girl. Her eyes were all but rolled back into her head, she was so high off that shot he'd given her. The clamps on the bed were taught across her upper arms and chest, and the way the sensor cycled above her head reminded Mal a bit too much of a pit and a pendulum. He was nervous, very nervous, and he had to fight himself from fingering his hidden weapons.
The room was white—all the walls had embedded lighting, embedded panels, embedded displays. It was almost like the Alliance was striving to make everything smooth and glassy and he didn't like it. He didn't like the feel of the running engines on this monster of a ship, didn't like the temperature and humidity they enforced, didn't like his costume, and sure as anything in the 'verse didn't like the proximity of quite so many Allied soldiers. He resisted the urge to finger his gun, again, and watched as Simon methodically parsed up the data he was receiving. His flat expression became increasingly grim as he ported it out to his personal drive.
"We got to go," Mal warned in a quick whisper and was summarily ignored. The tension across Simon's shoulders was hard edged and made Mal all the twitchier. River made a guttural sound and Mal's eyes snapped to her reflexively.
Her back was arched, bowing her against the restraints, and her hands clawed against the smooth, glassy surface of the table. Her feet drew up and lashed out as she twisted and tried to bury her face against the unforgiving surface behind her. Simon, for all his care, was racing through the readings like a man possessed. Mal's eyes darted between them and he moved between River and the door, as if he could block out the gurgling sound she was making with his slim frame. River's eyes were so far back in her head, Mal was concerned they might snap and come loose. When they snapped forward and locked on him, her pupils dilated to the point that they nearly consumed her irises, he forgot how to breathe.
"The readings are lit up like a reactor. It shouldn't be possible," Simon announced and Mal couldn't manage to respond. Simon tore himself away from the controls and rifled through the bag at his side—in half a second, he withdrew a syringe and bottle. He drew a healthy dose and nearly dropped it as he looked up at his sister. "No—she's going to go tachycardic—she's in an episode!" He hissed and quickly injected her arm. River shuddered as the medicine rushed up the tense muscles of her neck, but her stare didn't break off Mal for a second.
"Gor'ram it," Mal hissed and backed up into the door. It swished open economically and both Jayne and Inara halted their conversation. "Get in here, we have a problem."
"Can't have nothin' go simple, can we?" Jayne seethed as the two dove into the secluded medical bay. River's eyes were back in her head and she was twisting violently against her restraints, despite Simon's best attempts to keep her still.
"Hold her down—"
As Simon extracted a bottle from his bag, the floor churned and the walls shook. The bottle tumbled from his fingers and smashed against the ground with a sharp pop. The white lighting in the walls shifted to red and the calm, feminine voice of the computer came on across all the speakers. It cautioned them to take care, a red alert had been signaled, and she was swiftly interrupted by a live call.
"All hands, report to stations. All hands, report to stations."
"What's happening?" Inara managed as the ship rocked and Simon struggled to sedate his sister.
"It doesn't matter—we're getting off," Mal answered. "Jayne, get the girl. Doc', the data-card. We're off this boat."
"I can't get them back!" Kaylee hissed into her communicator as her fingers flew across the shimmering controls of the translocator, "There's too much interference! What in the verse' is goin' on up there, Zoe?"
"We've wandered into a firefight," Zoe explained quickly and Serenity rocked as the ship was forced from its cover behind the principle moon of Daedalus.
"Say again?" Kaylee's fingers slipped and she fumbled to keep from dropping her communicator.
"Some niao shi de dugui runners took this very moment to start up the war again," Zoe elaborated and Kaylee whined incoherently. She could hear the bridge alerts and the shuddering of the engines from the cargo-bay—she shut her eyes, briefly, tried to block out the sound, and stared down at the controls.
"Fer' this to work," Kaylee explained into the comm, as calmly as she could manage, "We gotta get on the other side of that sha gua interference."
"Hang on," Zoe's voice warned and Kaylee tucked her comm into the front pocket of her coveralls. The ship lurched, Kaylee gripped the frame of the bolted translocator, and Zoe strained against the straps of the pilot's seat.
Outside the confines of both the Allied Cruiser, A.F.S. Hannibal, and the Serenity, the space above the planet Daedalus was becoming increasingly unfriendly. A set of runners—Zoe didn't recognize the ships or the half-cocked insults they hurled across the hailing frequencies—had all but exploded out of the side of the planet's second moon. The A.F.S. Hannibal was having a difficult time dealing with so many tiny, uncoordinated vessels, and took to firing in spray of magnetic rounds across the orbital path of the moons. As Serenity was forced from its cover by the interference, the ship quaked and the A.F.S. Hannibal started firing live rounds at the dozen tiny runner ships.
Three of the tiny skiffs flanked Zoe when she brought the ship around Daedalus' primary moon. They circled and, to her chagrin, fired upon her with the same zeal they'd used to attack the Cruiser. Serenity weaved through the onslaught, hissing and shaking as large caliber rounds skimmed the hull. Mal's voice crackled over the com and Zoe scowled as she pulled the ship between the planet and the Cruiser. The combination of the artificial gravity and the pull of the planet lurched the ship and gave her a momentary sense of vertigo.
The communications panel lit up—flashing yellow and red lights heralded the span of hails currently being lobbied at Serenity—and Zoe flipped the open frequency. A series of unintelligible statements about her mother, her mother's mother, and the flying piece of Goushi she was in resounded through the bridge. Distantly, she she heard Kaylee swear in surprise. Zoe flipped the feed and immediately wished she hadn't—the insults were replaced by dry ultimatums and and computer alerts from the A.F.S. Hannibal.
"Surre—er imm—ately, your ship wi— be board—"
It was with great relish that Zoe flipped off the outward hailing feed and tuned back to their standard low-key signal. Mal's voice resounded through the cockpit as she dove beneath a volley of low-yield charges.
"Gan ni niang—Zoe—where in the seventh circle of hell are you?" Mal hissed through the communicator and it blared angry static at him for several seconds. Behind him, plastered up against the wall of—well, as nearly as they could figure, it was the space equivalent of a broom closet—Jayne fingered his weapons and Inara and Simon tried to keep River quiet and breathing.
"We're com—ing to you, Captain," Zoe's voice answered through the heavy static—he could hear the residual shaking of the ship before her communications terminated.
"We're a hop n' skip from the drop—tell Kaylee ta' pull us out of here right quick as she can manage," Mal ordered. For several seconds, all he got was inconsistent static as his reply. He could only assume Zoe heard him
"All these damn, pi hua energy weapons," Jayne growled lowly, "Muckin' up everythin' worthwhile like Gor'ram magnets."
"What's the situation?" Mal demanded, pushing past Jayne and stopping beside Simon and Inara. River had been thrashing on that table, and lashed out when they'd unstrapped her. Halfway through fleeing she'd stopped moving altogether and Simon had gone white before dragging them into the small storage chamber to take her vitals and administer a rather violent needle of adrenaline directly through her ribs. She'd shot up and she was currently shivering, shaking, and staring at them with wide eyes that were blanker than usual.
"I can't give her anything else," Simon chattered nervously and his eyes darted across River's face and body. His fingers were pressed gently against her neck—Mal was fairly certain he wasn't taking her pulse, as he'd been at it for about five minutes—and his other hand fiddled nervously with the handle of his bag. "I've given her far too much already."
"We have to get back to Serenity," Inara interjected and River's eyes drifted to her in the same fashion a small child's or a pet's would. Simon started and glanced at her, back to River, and then turned his head to look up at Inara and Mal properly for the first time since entering the storage room.
"Yes," he agreed tersely and nodded in a jerky fashion.
"Jayne," Mal turned and the larger man turned and eyed him. "Yer' on point. Knock back anyone who so much as looks at us funny, dong ma?"
"No live ammunition?" Jayne nearly whined.
"Not lessen' we can avoid it," Mal answered flatly and Jayne withdrew the energy weapon Kaylee had parceled out to him. "Doc—" Mal froze as he turned around. River was standing and, despite the rapid, almost panicky rise and fall of her chest and the pale, bloodless look of her face, appeared totally fine. As she stared at him, he couldn't help but get the sensation that she wasn't completely here, in this moment. Well, he reflected as the feeling wore on him, it wasn't often that she was ever completely in the moment, so it wasn't particularly peculiar.
"The outside is coming inside," she muttered. They could all hear the dryness of her mouth, but it didn't seem to phase her. "We have no time." She paused and her eyes, pale and startlingly lucid, darted across their faces before she found Simon. "We have to go now. I may have to hurt people to get away."
"Cao shi! That's more like it,"Jayne interrupted and there was a loud whine as his energy weapon powered up. Simon stared at River for half a second before nodding hesitantly and she turned from him to Mal. Mal frowned, eyed her, and then turned to the doorway as he withdrew his communicator.
"Zoe—we're at the drop in five—you pull us out or so help me I will haunt your family for eighteen generations, dong ma?"
"Shi. Roger, Captain," Zoe responded and, despite the static that crashed down on her, was confident that the message cut through. Serenity reeled and the panels flickered as the A.F.S. Hannibal launched a volley in their direction. One of the runner ships cycling around Serenity's port side shuttle took a direct hit and went dark. It hung, dead in space, for a moment before the gravity of Daedalus pulled it down into the ionosphere. Zoe tore her eyes away and pushed the throttle to full as she dove behind the debris of the largest of the runner's ships.
"Kaylee," Zoe called and took half a second to depress the comm. "Power up, we're pulling them out at the drop coordinates."
"Eeee—," Kaylee's voice was hesitant over the speakers and her comm cut out before cutting back in suddenly, "I need the telemetry—wait, no, we're—Shiny, I can do it, shiny." Kaylee didn't sound particularly reassuring, but Zoe didn't have time to be concerned as a pair of runners flanked her and forced Serenity back into the open.
The ship lurched and Kaylee squinted at the controls as she flew through the computations required to change the coordinates. The engines whined under the stress and she frowned as she glanced, longingly, in the direction of the engine room.
"Oh, sorry girl," Kaylee called and turned back to the controls. She'd never been one for mathematics beyond the basic, static computations she was used to compensating over. At the moment, she was cursing herself for drifting off during all of the advanced Geometry classes her Pa had paid for. The ship quaked, pulling her out of her mathematical concentration, and Kaylee stumbled before clutching on to the frame of the translocator for support.
"Incoming!" Zoe's voice rang through the communicator in Kaylee's front pocket and she hardly had time to suck in a breath before the ship rolled and she was thrown to the floor. She hit the flooring with a heavy crash and slid back into the strapped crates along the wall. The engines and bulkheads groaned and shook as a reverberating boom snaked through them. The overhead lights crashed and the engines whined piteously before shutting off. The translocator thrummed and emitted a sharp electrical hiss before falling dark. Kaylee watched it with wide eyes and froze in the darkness. As the light off the atmosphere of Daedalus crept through the airlock windows, Kaylee's stomach jumped into her throat and her heart thudded against her ribs.
"C'mon," Kaylee whispered and her limbs locked up as the gravity from the surface slowly tugged at the ship. "C'mon, baobei," Kaylee pleaded and, as if answering her prayers, the engines thrummed and kicked back to life. She scrambled to her feet and was at the translocator before the fluorescent lights came back up.
"Everything go, Kaylee?" Zoe's voice hollered from the bridge.
"Shiny!" Kaylee called back and the translocator reactivated with a flicker and a hum. "I'll pull them out iff'n you can slide the ship in just a toss closer."
Kaylee hunched over the controls, unconcerned by the variations in the strength of the panel lighting, and adjusted the coordinate algorithm with more focus than she'd thought possible. The adrenaline rushed straight to her head in the same way it rushed straight to Jayne's fist as he took down the officers outside the fourth auxiliary cargo bay. The two men, both of them together came just short of Jayne's size, collapsed against the plastic flooring and Jayne instinctively kicked their weapons aside.
"Hey—you!" The shout was inarticulate, but the energy shot that followed was far more telling than any of them would have liked. The pulse missed Jayne narrowly and struck the bulkhead with a ring. "Intruders on Deck Seven!"
"Get the girl in!" Mal shouted and shoved Inara back into the alcove behind him. Jayne snatched River by the arm and pulled her free from Simon's tentative grip. She stumbled with him as if she were sleepwalking and he had her through the cargo bay doors just as the nearest armed officers of the Hannibal entered the hallway, weapons drawn. The doors resounded as energy shots rang off of them.
"Duck!" Mal snapped and Simon scrambled to both recover his bag and clear a path simultaneously. An energy shot caught him in the leg and he crumpled to the floor with a strangled gasp. Mal fired off two very solid pistol rounds before the officers could manage a second hit. One man went down—he clipped another—and all of them fell back around the far corner as Inara dragged Simon to cover.
"Simon, are you alright?" Inara asked, rapid-fire, and Simon hissed as he examined his leg.
"I've lost all feeling in my left leg," Simon explained through clenched teeth. "It's doubtful the impact broke the bone." He hissed as Inara looped an arm around his shoulders and helped drag him to his feet.
"Gao wan!," Mal seethed and ducked back into the alcove as the officers leaned around the corner to resume firing. He fired off a warning shot—it ricocheted off something down near the end of the hallway—and practically ripped his communicator out of his pocket.
"Kaylee, you lift those two out soon as I click off," Mal's voice resounded through the communicator and Kaylee frowned. "Then you snatch us three out of here, dong ma?"
"Affirmative, Captain," Kaylee responded and practically dropped the communicator.
The translocator was an amazing piece of technology, but the scanners weren't very precise at optimal function. Through all the interference and the layers of steel and plastic between Serenity and her crew, Kaylee could barely pick out more than a single reading. With a frown, she widened the sphere to it's maximum radius, locked in, and activated the mechanism. Serenity rocked and the lights flickered as Jayne appeared on the pad alongside a large section of the Hannibal's plastic top-flooring. Unfortunately, Kaylee noted, the person with him was most assuredly not River Tam.
The disorientation from the translocation didn't hinder Jayne much—though the man he was fighting definitely felt its effects. As the officer swooned and fought to catch his balance on the suddenly uneven flooring, Jayne brought his fist down on the man's neck like a hammer. The officer crumbled and Jayne practically flung him down onto the floor as he moved from the translocator. With a heave, he pulled the small circle of plastic from the pad and slid it across the bay floor.
"The kid's by the door—" Jayne started and Kaylee turned to the controls to search and pick up River. As her hands flew across the lights, the ship rocked violently and everything not bolted down was thrown halfway across the cargo bay. Kaylee crashed to the ground atop the sliding circle of flooring and Jayne into the steps at the forward end of the bay. The ship lurched and the engines crooned strangely. A surge of power shot through the relays and blew out the aft lighting—the translocator shone brightly and something deep in it's confines shattered audibly.
"No—no, no, no, no," Kaylee repeated, panicky, as she scrambled back to her feet. She struggled against the strange gravity, shuffled awkwardly across the cargo bay, and clutched on to the side of the translocator. It flickered twice and returned to its optimal brightness as she gripped it. Her eyes darted across the mechanism and she palmed the controls. The screens jumped, and lagged—half pixelated and half dark, she was at a severe disadvantage. "It must have burnt the main cathode!"
"Zoe, what in the verse was that?" Jayne shouted as he dragged himself up the steps and took off, in a heavy jog, toward the bridge.
"Come on, baobei, just get them back," Kaylee murmured sweetly and smacked the side of the console. It jumped and the display popped up whole and complete, save for the text which displayed as a severely unhelpful series of boxes. She hissed but knew the controls well enough to ignore it—she reoriented the scanner and engaged with a crack. The engines hummed, and the pad flickered, but nothing came through. Dread settled in her stomach and she tried again—a cannister appeared on the pad and she cast it aside with frustrated vigor.
"You get them back," Kaylee threated, "or so help me I'll strip you and sell you for scrap!"
The translocator flickered as she struck the side of the panel again and she reoriented the controls to the Captain's communicator signal. The machine picked up on the transmission with less difficulty than it had Jayne's body mass, but it jumped and the controls darkened as she engaged the field. With a panicked whine, she depressed the holographic switch and the machine hummed. The panels flickered and, with the implosive force inherent to translocation, the lights in the bay shut down. The engines juddered and they were dead in space for a second—the lights didn't come back on, but the meager lighting from outside was more than enough to tell Kaylee that she'd made a mistake.
"Now this isn' tha' Excelsior, jus' where are we?"
The men standing on the translocator pad were, very decidedly, not Simon, Mal, Inara, and River. Clad in red and black, armed, and looking very put out, Kaylee nearly screamed at the sight of them. In fact, she would have, if not for the sudden impact against the starboard hull. Serenity lurched and the internal gravity switched off. Kaylee could hear the engines cry and grind against themselves—she'd never heard them make that sound before, and it pooled fear at the base of her skull.
"Hang on ta' somethin!" Jayne's voice resounded from the mess and Kaylee's heart leaped into her throat as the ship started to roll into the ionosphere of Daedalus.
1. "Meimei" - Mei4mei5 - 妹妹 - Little sister.
2. "niao shi de dugui" - niao4 shi1 de5 du3gui3 - 尿湿的赌鬼 - Urine soaked habitual gamblers.
3. "sha gua" - 傻瓜 - Stupid melon. (Idiotic, retarded, etc.)
4. "Goushi" - gou3shi3 - 狗屎 - Shit.
5. "Gan ni niang" - 干你娘 - Motherfucker
6. "pi hua" - 屁话 – Bullshit.
7. "Cao shi!" - 操 屎 - Fuck shit!
8. "dong ma?" - dong3 ma5? - 懂嗎 - Understand?
9. "Shi." - Shi4 - 是 - Affirmative.
10. "baobei" - bao3bei4 - 寶貝 - Sweetheart.
11. "Gao wan!" - 睾丸 - Testicles.