It's been a while since the last update. A fresh read might be in order :)
Chapter 21 - Valentine
The manoeuvre was more complicated that either Mal or Harry understood. It was Zoe, being the level headed solider, who pointed out that Harry had to teleport in line of sight if he wanted to be in one piece.
Any cruiser worth its salt would scan space way beyond line of sight. And if Mal had any intention of staying under the radar and under the nose of the Alliance, they couldn't afford the cruiser to even get a sniff of a firefly class vehicle in Alliance space.
Ultimately Serenity was parked in space just outside range of the scanners on the Cruiser and shuttle 2 was launched with its NavSat disabled which meant the scanners would not be able to identify which class of ship it came from. Hiding a shuttle was easier than hiding a ship and no one in the right mind would pull such a stunt in deep space with a shuttle.
No one had a wizard like Harry.
Lights on the control panel of the shuttle began to blink red and an alert sound began to buzz.
The shuttle was being scanned and hailed.
"Are you ready?" Mal asked, his eyes excited and mind focused.
"I was born ready," Harry said, and clenched his wand tighter.
"Then lets lead these jokers for a ride!"
Harry apparated with a swish and Mal sensed trouble. There was a swish instead of a light pop.
Letting go of worry for Harry Mal turned tail and jetted the shuttle away from the cruiser and towards Serenity. He had to trust Harry to succeed.
Harry didn't understand what had just happened. He had apparatus and suddenly, instead the familiar feeling of being squeezed through a rubber tube, he felt like he was sliding on an oily surface.
He had focused on the image of the cockpit of the cruiser and apparated, but with a slick feeling around him he had overshot his destination and landed up deeper in the Cruiser than an insane criminal would consider.
Had apparting through a vacuum made him miss his target by making him apparate faster?
Harry's mind contemplated on all sorts of possibilities in the three seconds that he had stood still as a statue in the canteen of the cruiser with hundreds of men in uniforms, with blasters hung on their hips and a bewildered expression on their pale cold faces, stared at him.
"Stupeius Maximus!" screamed Harry; cold adrenaline rushed through his veins and his eyes glowed green.
A wave of red crackling power rolled out of Harry's body and dropped half the room into puppets with their strings cut before they could reach for their weapons.
A wave of exhaustion hit Harry and panicked shouts filled the air.
"We're under attack!"
Harry snapped into action. He had to prevent the situation from escalating!
He began to spin his wand in his palm and suddenly grabbed and pulled back.
Gasps of shock filled the air when all bodies were pulled towards a single point in their room like a powerful magnet pulled at metal.
The room fell silent and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. No alarms had gone off. But then he felt a headache come on. Now he had to make it seem like an accident had taken place here.
"Ok then," he sighed. He pointed his wand at the group of men looking like a singular gross pineapple. "Sleep," he muttered and the men still awake and in a state of terror drifted into their deep subconscious.
He carelessly flicked his wand placing a muggle repelling charm on the doors of the long hall. He absently raised an impressed eyebrow at the design of the whitewashed hall and focused his wand on the first solider.
35 exhausting minutes later the soldiers were back in their chairs and passed out with their faces in their plates and the chefs and kitchen staff were carefully laid out on the floor to avoid avoidable damages. Their memories of their last 7 minutes conscious was erased and a strange smell lingered in the artificial atmosphere.
Harry slipped out of the Canteen and placed a disillusionment charm on his self. The smell followed Harry creating a trail and an excuse for the finding of unconscious soldiers and officers than had the misfortune of blocking Harry's path.
The trump of magic was so strong in him that he felt giddy and his eyesight had faint colours dancing in front of them. He steadily charted a path to what he felt was the main control room. But after finding himself in the hanger full of Alliance Space Crafts and a buzz of activity Harry gave up and caught hold of a passing Officer.
His body tingled with the pleasure that came with complete control over another human being.
The officer's eyes glazed over.
"Take me to the control room," Harry commanded, his will overpowering the meagre effort by the officer to fight back.
A melancholy walk through the steel corridors, gleaming from the lights of the cold blue got Harry thinking about the steep shift in his life from courageous not yet an adult soldier to a hot shot rebel, immersed in smuggling, stealing and breaking and entering!
Back on Earth, in the Wizarding World, he would now be classified as a wanted Dark Wizard awaiting a life sentence in Azkaban.
"Good god, what a joke!"
The officer didn't react to the sudden humour. His conscious was floating in a welcoming space of clouds and following sweet, sugar coated, instructions.
Harry focused when he saw the open blast door a little ahead, full of people and impressive control panels.
The first person to see the strangely dressed person walking behind Commander Parson stood up with alarm and never stood a chance as red bloomed in front of his eyes.
He fell with a thud.
The remaining five men and one woman, reached for their weapons and just like in the Cafeteria a pulse of magic erupted from Harry with a vision of menace and they all fell unconscious.
Harry grinned. He was beginning to like these one sided fights.
He walked over to the woman and pointed his wand at her. "Enervate."
She woke up with a groan and stirred.
Harry gave a once over to the fit woman and her military uniform made his pulse skip. It seemed completely out of place to find a beautiful woman on his mission.
"Wha?" she began but Harry quickly pointed his wand at her and put his finger on his lip.
She got the message.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said calmly. "I just need your help to smuggle some friends of mine onto the planet undetected."
Harry reared back surprised. He had expected a frightened woman. Clearly the woman in the Alliance had a backbone. Then Harry figured, for a woman to be in the army required a backbone of unmalleable steel.
"Well," Harry said smirking, "May be later. But first I need you to disable the scanners."
"And let me reinforce the kind of situation you're in," Harry interrupted. "If you don't do it, I'll make you do it."
The first hint of fear entered her eyes and Harry felt a bit guilty.
She moved towards the keyboard.
"And believe me when I say I'll know if you're doing anything else," Harry warned.
His eyes gravitated to her ass and he cursed his libido.
Back on Serenity
"This is taking too long Mal," Zoe said with worry.
"He'll be fine Zoe," Mal said soothingly. "He's probably all confused ad trying to figure out how to turn the scanners off."
It had been almost an hour and Mal was beginning to panic. But then the lights stopped blinking. The scanners had been disabled.
"He did it Zoe!" Mal said with obvious relief. "Let's get atmo!" He turned back towards Serenity with haste. He had no idea how long it would take for the scanners to turn on and not to mention the final manoeuvre.
On the Cruiser
"Thank you very much," Harry said with a roguish grin.
The woman glared at him. She couldn't speak or move a muscle. What had the bastard done to her! And how did he do it!?
Harry spotted Serenity high tailing it through space and prepared himself for the final move.
He looked at the short black haired woman with furious obsidian eyes and smiled apologetically. "Very sorry about this," he said and stunned her.
Seven memory charms later, Harry clenched his wand tight and focused on the cargo bay of Serenity. He had to be careful to not end up in Space.
With magic held tight. Harry apparated. He felt the slick hole taking him through space and at the first signs of resistance from entering the artificial atmosphere of Serenity, he willed his magic to slow him down and take him to the right spot.
It took all of a split of a second and Harry reappeared with the faintest of pops in the cargo bay of Serenity.
"Harry!" squealed Kaylee. "You made it!"
"Back in the engine room Kaylee!" Mal roared from above.
The ship was shaking something fierce and felt like it was about to be disintegrated.
"Okay Cap'n!" shouted Kaylee.
Harry blinked, bemused.
He noticed River sitting on edge of their land craft swinging her legs casually in spite of the doomsday like situation.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Something came loose entering atmosphere," River said blandly.
Harry shook his head back into gear and sprinted towards the cockpit. They might need his help. He spared one glance for the relaxed brunette on his way up.
"Mal! Need any help?"
"Harry! You made it? Good. But it seems pointless now that we're all going to die."
"He's over exaggerating Harry. Some of us might survive if the ship breaks near the surface," Zoe said cheerfully.
"Ha-ha," Harry sneered and turned his brief terror at being burnt by the atmosphere into annoyance.
His eyes widened when a planet that was vibrant with blue came into light.
"We made it," Mal said with a relieved sigh.
"I don't see any land," Harry said in awe. The planet surface was one vast stretch of a motionless ocean.
"That's because there isn't," Zoe said with amusement.
"It has a high salt content and an average depth of 347 meters all over the planet."
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin at the voice of the intruder.
Mal and Zoe had similar reactions.
"Gorramit River!" Mal snapped. "We have talked about this!"
"People live on ships and the only land pieces above the ocean are clusters of the biggest mangrove's in the verse." Excitement made an appearance in River's brown eyes. "This is also know as the planet of music. Forgotten musics like Jazz and Rock'n'Roll have not been forgotten," River continued. "We must find the Titanic and sneak aboard it."
"I'm sorry," Harry interrupted. "The Titanic?"
"It's name after the ship that was proclaimed unsinkable back on Earth and ended up sinking in the middle of the night, in freezing waters, in the middle of the ocean."
Mal, Harry and Zoe exchanged a glance.
"Yeah. We're definitely not going there," Mal said wryly.
"But it's the most famous ship on the planet," River said. Harry heard a hint of protest in her voice.
"And that's exactly why we're not going there. We have to maintain a low profile and stay under the radar," Mal said. "We're in hiding. Don't forget that."
"Did I say something funny?" Mal asked with a glare.
"No," Harry said with stifled snicker. "It's just that you said low profile."
River smiled and Zoe laughed.
"Let's just land," Mal said scowling.
"And how…?" Harry began but was interrupted by River.
"The ship will float," she said.
Harry didn't sound sceptical at all.
On the Alliance Cruiser
When Harry's wards came down and the sleeping soldiers and officers began to wake there was a red alert in the ship.
Orders were barked and boots thumped through the corridors in an effort to discover the gas leak that had almost crippled them. They also had no idea how the ships scanners were disabled and had moved off course, further into space.
At the end of a trying two hours, the incident was filed as a the result of an unknown smell originating from the Kitchen in the Cafeteria. The Chef was put in a holding cell pending further investigation and the report was sent to HQ.
Everyone of the high command on the cruiser considered the matter closed except for Lieutenant Commander Elena Snape. She had been in her father's world. She knew what kind of powers existed in the Verse and how versatile the Magical were with their abilities. This whole incident had the stink of a Magical and the gap in her memory didn't seem natural.
She didn't begrudge her commanders for their dismissal of the incident. After all, only a Magical could comprehend the touch of another Magical.
"Commander Shepherd," she snapped out in a clipped but respectful tone.
"I need to return to Londinum."
Shepherd frowned. "Your father gave explicit instructions to train you here for three months."
"It is of utmost importance sir."
"Orders and duty are ranked above personal matters Lieutenant."
"May I contact him then sir? I guarantee he will understand why I need to return."
Shepherd frowned and looked at her penetratingly for a moment.
Elena resisted the urge to look away and gazed into his eyes with determined purpose.
"The conference room is at your disposal Lieutenant."
"Thank you sir."
"And if your father weren't a Councillor in the Government I'd have you scrubbing the kitchen floor."
"I welcome the notion Sir."
"Get out of here Lieutenant Commander."
Elena hurried out. It was best not to antagonise her commander.
Alliance cruiser Conference Room.
"So he got away."
"Whoever it was, he is quite powerful. If I weren't here we'd never have know what actually happened here."
"He's a wizard from Earth that was. A wizard who was quite handily defeated by Tom Riddle I might add." Ebenezer sounded frustrated. The Blue Sun experiments were not progressing fast enough.
"If you're implying it was Harry Potter who did this than this means River Tam is here as well. If the intel about them being aboard the same ship is accurate, then we're finally getting some luck come our way."
Elena couldn't keep the smile off her face.
"You're not going," Ebenezer said blandly.
Elena stood up hotly. "Why not?!" she demanded. "My power has matured greatly! They won't stand a chance!"
"You didn't have a chance when Harry Potter came knocking."
Elena turned red with embarrassment. "It won't happen again. I won't be taken by surprise. Please father. I've been waiting for a chance like this of ages! Let me take control of this mission!"
Ebenezer's fatherly love began to override his rational brain and he made a decision before Elena pleading eyes took control of his senses.
"You may go to the planet but you do not make a move until Spade gets there. Understood?" he said with a glare.
"Thank you daddy," Elena said happily.
On the roof of Serenity
"This is quite cool I must say."
"We could build a holiday home here Cap'n," Kaylee said brightly.
Serenity was floating at the side of a massive mangrove grove. Branches stretched high and wide, forming a net like formation spreading across 10 feet high and nearly a kilometre across the sky.
It was the perfect cover. Literally.
A smell that could only be the strange moist smell that one found in the depths of a forest floated around the mangrove island.
"I would live here forever if I could," Harry said with a relaxed sigh.
"Well we're not here to live," Mal cut in, always the realist. "We're here to hide and board one of the cruisers. We're nearly out of supplies after that long run in deep space. Zoe, Harry, River and I will take one of the shuttles and the rest of you stand guard."
"What! No way!" That was the indignant cry from Kaylee.
"I'm coming as well." That was the icier voice of Inara.
"River's staying!" Simon's voice was the loudest and the angriest.
"I'm going," River retorted. Her voice laced with firm defiance.
"Will you all shut up!" Mal yelled.
"This is an amazing opportunity cap'n! How often do get to see worlds like this!"
"You're needed on the ship Kaylee. There's repairs and checks to be made and you know it."
"No buts. Now get back inside and get to work. I don't plan on staying for long."
Kaylee glared at Mal murderously and got up with a huff. Her face was red and eyes wide and burning with anger.
"I hate you!" she screamed and stomped back inside.
Mal stood there stunned. He hadn't expected such a burst of rage. He'd expected arguments but not that!
"You're unbelievable Mal," Inara bit in, her tone harsh and disappointed.
"We're not here on a vacation Inara! Don't you get that?"
"Yes. You've made your order's quite clear. Captain."
She too, got with up with grace and spared him with a glare.
Inara was about to slid down to the cargo bay when wait shouted back with exasperation. "Wait!"
"Fine," he said. "Stop looking at me like I'm the evil daddy. You, Kaylee and Jayne can scout another cruiser with the second shuttle."
Inara turned around and dazzled him with a beautiful smile. "I was thinking Simon instead of Jayne but we can work on the details later," she said sweetly and shimmed down.
Mal's eyes went wide with realization.
"I believe you've just been conned cap'n," Zoe said with a smirk.
They heard Kaylee's whisper carry from below when Inara reached down. "Did it work?!" she asked excitedly.
"You almost overdid the act Kaylee," Inara scolded lightly.
"Yes!" Kaylee squealed with glee.
"Inara!" Mal shouted angrily, once his senses returned. He ran after the laughing pair bent on revenge.
Harry and River watched the show with amusement.
"Feels like we're heading into trouble," Harry commented.
"Kaylee and Inara seem to think otherwise," Zoe said.
Harry looked into the bright sky trying to penetrate the atmosphere and look beyond. "It's just a feeling," he said. "Something's coming. A great tidal wave of chaos. The verse is going to change and the outcome is as uncertain as the chance of rolling a double six, six times in a row."
Harry then shook his head and blinked rapidly. He didn't know why he said that. He looked at Zoe and then at River. Both were looking at him curiously and only one; concerned.
Harry laughed. "This peaceful environment makes you say crazy things huh," he joked.
Zoe pursed her lips. "If you say so," she said quietly. Inside she had a feeling Harry had a premonition. A premonition of things to come.
Several Hours later
It was several hours later that the two shuttles were finally ready to roll out.
"Alright. We've picked up a cruiser a couple of clicks east. It's headed slow enough to give us time till sundown to make our approach," Mal said.
"We don't need to wait," Harry said. "I could put a notice me not charm around the shuttles giving us a sufficient cloak to get our shuttles into their hanger.
"You can do that?" Zoe asked.
"Sure?" Mal said sceptically. "May I ask where this brilliant idea was when we were scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get past the space cruiser?"
"Serenity is too big," Harry defended. "Magic has a tendency to screw up electronics if used at high levels. Cloaking the shuttle on the other hand isn't too hard."
"Then why didn't you think to cloak the shuttle while we did that crazy manoeuvre?! It would have made things so much simpler!"
Harry shrugged sheepishly. "I really didn't think of it back then."
"For the love of-!"
"Can we get on with this captain?" Zoe interrupted.
Mal took a deep calming breath. "Fine. Inara and Kaylee come with me. Zoe, Harry and River will take the other shuttle. Any questions?"
"Why can't Simon come?" Kaylee demanded.
"He'll be all over protective around River and like a puppy dog beside you," Mal retorted blandly.
"Now. Let's go already!"
The two teams separated and one after the other, disengaged their shuttle from Serenity flying towards the coordinates of the least popular vessel on the planet.
It took them about an hour to finally get in sight of the ship and Harry gasped when he saw it.
To say it was massive could be considered a joke and to say it was the least popular was mind boggling. Did that mean the other ships were grander than the steel beauty that resembled a ship he had seen in fantasy novels. There were differences obviously. Instead of sails to catch wind, it had what looked like rudders. It had the shape of a traditional boat and on the deck rose a city of towers. Yellow light lit up the ship like dots and as they got closer the dots became windows and when they got even closer, the windows appeared to house enormous ball rooms.
It wasn't long before all they could see was the entrance to the hanger just above sea level. Left, right and centre, all they could see were shuttles entering and exiting. The scale and volume was incredible.
"Is the cloak holding?" breathed Zoe.
"We haven't been hailed so yes, I think we're alright," Harry muttered.
"Okay," Zoe said. "River, land her in any open landing space and be quick with that spell of yours Harry."
Their landing was flawless. River landed the shuttle with the gentleness of a feather and Harry timely executed his spell to make the space around their shuttle private. No one would even think of coming near their shuttle.
"Do you think Mal made it in?" Harry asked as they disembarked.
"Your magic makes life easy kid," Zoe said with a smile. "But remember, we've infiltrated a lot of Alliance bases without you. Mal will be fine."
Harry nodded. He turned to River and noticed her distinct absence.
"Oh gorramit," Harry groaned. River had vanished. "Zoe, we got a problem!"
In a corridor leading out of the massive hanger for space shuttles
Spacing out was what River did best. She had all the qualities one would expect from a day dreamer and she had the grace to match the idea of it with her body and soul.
She knew she wasn't always like this but after Blue Sun she had changed. Simon kept working hard to bring the old River back but River knew, she knew that River was gone and it was replaced with a damaged vision of what Simon had in mind.
What neither Harry nor Simon knew was she liked the way she was now. She had a hand on the handle of reality and the rest of her was immersed in a world no one else could see. She had mastered Harry's mind shield and there was no need to be tied down to either him or anyone else.
Music was guiding her into the ship.
She was in the corridors leading up and the floor and walls gradually changed from steel to covered with soft carpet and paintings. She let her fingers graze against the oil paints of the portraits of men, women and musical instruments.
A man in uniform called out to her warning her not to touch the paintings and River glided away, deeper into the ship, towards the sounds calling out to her.
The corridor became a hall. A dimly lit hall with a haze of smoke floating overhead. All around her, people, finely dressed, holding hands, kissing; were walking towards the doors at the end of the hall. Each door had a poster and the name of the performer and a suited guard taking money from those entering.
River was oblivious to the stares her simple dress and boots were attracting. She walked towards a door where the least numbers were heading and instinctively used her mind to ask the guard to let her in.
Her heart swelled and lips turned up to form a delighted smile when she walked in.
There were round tables and candle lights everywhere. People were seated and talking softly with exotic drinks in their hands. Like the hall, a sweet smelling haze of smoke floated all around. Neon lights lit the corners of the room and the three men and a woman on stage playing and singing softly attracted her attention the most.
Someone touched her shoulder. It was a man, offering her a drink and River politely turned him down.
She walked up to the band and smiled sweetly at the woman dressed in loose pants with a shirt ending above her belly.
"Could I join you on stage?"
In a hall in a different tower
Harry and Zoe were mad with worry. River had given them the slip and they were now lost in the maze that was this floating city. There were a dozen towers, hundreds of floors and thousands of rooms. River could be anywhere!
"May be we should split up," Zoe suggested.
"No. Mal told us strictly to stay together," Harry said.
Zoe rolled her eyes. "I think finding River is more important right now. God knows what kind of trouble she's getting into."
Zoe was wearing a flowing red gown and Harry was in a classy tux. It was easy transfiguration that had Zoe coloured impressed.
Harry pursed his lips. "Fine," he said. "But keep your com turned on! I don't want to lose you too."
A giggling couple slid past them.
Zoe smiled. She then bent and softly kissed Harry on the cheek. "I'll be fine," she breathed. "You make sure to keep stay focused on finding River and let me know when you do."
Harry almost blushed. Zoe was in a good mood ever since he made her gown and he had to admit, she looked gorgeous. "Alright, just hold on one sec," he grumbled and discretely pointed his wand at her.
Zoe didn't even realise it, but her lips now shone red and her messy, curly hair suddenly glowed with life.
"Have fun," Harry said. He ignored the instinct that told him it was a bad idea to split up and instead focused on the grand hall, brightly lit and filled with the sounds of happy couples and a saxophone making his skin tingle with drums and strings in the background.
The walls were decorated with lavish tapestries and chandeliers hung low, sending sparkling light all over the marble floor where couples danced in rhythm.
Harry sighed in pleasure and turned towards the bar. It was an attractive set up next to the band playing melodious jazz that he could just sink into. The table was an arc of mahogany wood and crimson cloth. Glasses made the false ceiling above the bar and were a kaleidoscope of colours.
The bar tenders were dressed in black and white; the men black pants and white shirts and the women in black tight skirts and buttoned up white shirts that hugged their curves generously.
Harry's eyes lingered on a woman with brown hair and his memory tingled.
The music faded into the background and Harry walked closer.
Her short dark brown hair curled inward just below her ear. Her skin was fair, fairer than most woman in the room and Harry noticed the hint of a tattoo peaking from under her collar. Her top two buttons were undone displaying a titillating portion of her black lacy bra which no doubt sent the blood of men rushing south.
It was when he noticed her brown eyes that Harry remembered. The last time he had seen her, her hair was longer, she had had a multitude of piercings and she had stolen all his money after a night of passion.
Harry couldn't stop himself from smiling as nostalgia and a desire for vengeance reared in his chest. He slid into a bar stool and kept his eyes focused on her movements. He kept his eyes on her until she noticed and came over, her hips swaying, eyes smoky and smiling brightly.
"Are you gonna stare all night or are you going to order something?" she said cheekily. She hadn't recognised him.
Harry chuckled and looked deep into her beautiful eyes. "Alcohol," he said. "The cheapest kind."
And then Harry saw it. The flicker of recognition.
A/N: Sorry for the long absence gals (and guys). Real life had me tied down until I could spare a moment for the fantastical one ;)
Do review like always :)