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Time for a Good Ole Riddlin' Full-a-Holes

by G Thing

[Story Headers]

Author's Note: This is the seventh entry in my thus far endless series about the crew of Serenity three years after we last saw them in "Objects in Space". The previous six entries are "The Tall", "Serenity Waits", "Just a Few Small Gorram Details", "Fertile Ground", "All So Sudden" and "To Whitefall". I'll give people who have not read them a rundown. Serenity has fled from Persephone to Whitefall, because a convoy of well-armed ships is chasing them. Since they were desperate to get away, they had to leave Inara and Book behind on Persephone. Zoe is four-months pregnant with her first child (Yes, Wash is the father.). River has now recovered to the point where she routinely uses her abilities to help her shipmates escape from dicey situations. I think that is enough to get you by. Here we go . . .

"Time for a Good Ole Riddlin' Full-a-Holes"

"At this rate Cap'n, we'll run out of fuel in an hour," said Kaylee through Serenity's intercom. "We have to do somethin'."

"Wash," Mal said. "You sent her into the atmosphere a lot faster than most safety protocols allow. She's still in one piece. That's good work, but what else can we do to lose them?"

"I'm heading toward sand dunes about twenty miles from here. That's a good storm ahead of us. It's pretty cloudy and dark; we might stand a chance of them not seeing us. The sun will come up over there eventually though."

"Alright," said the captain. "If it'll help us save some fuel and some time, that's a good start. River, do you have any insight?"

"The weather clearly is pretty bad, Captain. It makes it difficult to guess what might be ahead of us. However, I think it's worth the risk." Mal turned to her wishing for more explanation. "Not knowing what's ahead of us may make it easier to hide."

"Or it could get us killed," said Jayne ever so appropriately. "Either way, it'll be fun." What the guai, they thought, this really was going to be fun.

The pursuing destroyers were in flanking positions around Serenity. They knew she'd run somewhere and probably try to lose them in the manner she was moving. For that reason, eighteen ships were moving into position to intercept her in space the moment she left Persephone. They formed a perimeter around Serenity as she ran to Whitefall. She had caught a lucky break by running away when she did.

Now, there they were with twenty ships chasing the Firefly from all directions. Ten other ships remained in space above Serenity's position. The pursuers wished to leave Serenity with no choice but to stay on course until her fuel would run out. The Firefly's engines simply did not have the fuel efficiency to outlast her enemies. Eventually, she would have to change course or land. Then, they could deal a lethal blow.

As they headed further into the storm system, Serenity's crew could see another potential lethal blow almost directly in front of them. A violent funnel of air had extended from a thundercloud to ground level. Nothing screws up someone's plans quite like a tornado does. Serenity's immediate instinct was to stay away from something this unpredictable. With the traffic they were facing, however, the crew wondered if they really had the option of staying away.

"That ain't moving away from our course. How long till we reach it?" Mal asked Wash.

"Two minutes I'd say."

"Wash, slow us down. We have to do something," said Mal. "River, I'm not questioning your abilities or your competence or anything. Is there any way you could have spotted it sooner?"

"I'm sorry, Captain. I think it touched down just a minute ago. That's always hard to predict." River naturally felt rather frustrated. If it indeed meant they were facing their deaths, she wondered whether one of her few uncharacteristic mistakes had doomed them.

"Wash," Mal said. "Talk to me."

With a disturbingly straight face, Wash answered, "I don't know. We definitely shouldn't try to break atmo now. I don't think we'd have a good chance of getting away from the ships pursuing us down here. Also, I'm certain they have reinforcements in orbit."

Jayne added, "Those ships are well-armed. They could gun us down for sure if we try anything like that."

"I take it a Crazy Ivan is out of the question too," said Simon.

"They'd recognize it right away," said Wash. "They'd converge. But stranger things have happened."

"What about going around the tornado?" asked Mal.

Zoe answered unhappily, "They're about to do the same thing. Some ships might be positioning themselves around the tornado waiting for us to do just that."

"I got an idea," said Jayne. "I say we land about two hundred yards away from the tornado. The ships above us couldn't see us then. The other's would have to land to find us."

Zoe said, "Jayne, we'll still be at a disadvantage. They could hunt us down on the ground."

"Then, we could fight `em hand to hand," said Jayne. "I say it's about time for a good ole riddlin' full-a-holes."

Mal chimed in and said, "The tornado could still kill us too. That's pretty risky."

Wash then said, "It's no riskier than changing course and bumping into one of those ships. Jayne's idea might be our best option."

Simon then entered the conversation and said, "Those ships most likely are well-armed. We wouldn't stand a chance if we came within a thousand yards away from them in the air." He then looked toward Jayne and said, "Jayne and Wash are right. We'd have a better chance of surviving on the ground."

"We'd be hopelessly outnumbered," added Zoe. "Let's not forget that the destroyers could go for position and not allow us to escape. Several ships probably are above us right now. They won't let us break atmo."

Jayne responded, "We could catch just a few of `em and take hostages. We could be selective about who we go after. I know I can handle a few of `em."

Mal gave a thoughtful sigh and said, "It's still a big risk. How far . . ."

He then noticed River had found her way to the front of the bridge next to Mal and Wash. She looked attentively at the great cyclone coming ever so closer.

"Lower the ship to ten yards above the ground," River said. "Then, get within twenty yards of the tornado."

Everyone gave her a surprised look. "River," said Zoe. "That would be like suicide."

"They won't follow us," River responded looking at Zoe. "They won't take on a tornado when they don't have to."

"Suo-yo duh doh shr-dang!" Mal said. He had walked closer to River with the intention of confronting her with his argument against her idea. "We're not taking that thing on. We would never survive that. We have two priorities here: stay alive and not get caught. We do those two things for as long as we possibly can. Remember?"

River shook her head. "Jayne's plan won't work. They came prepared for something like that."

Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Simon each in their own way then focused their attention on Jayne - as if they expected and wanted an argument.

"What? You expecting psycho tech talk from me?" Jayne still had the spotlight on him after saying that - much to his regret. "Gorramit, I wanna fight `em. Change the playing field. Crashing ain't gonna do that."

"It won't work, Jayne," said the doctor. "As soon as this storm clears up, they'll nuke us from above. It doesn't matter where we try to hide, they'll nuke this whole place if they have to."

"So what makes River's plan any better?" Zoe asked.

"Well, as she pointed out, they won't follow us," Simon responded. "Also, they'll probably think we're dead. Their search for us afterward might not be so extensive." He then walked closer to the windows and closer to River. "We'll be able to keep moving. We could get away."

There were a few seconds of silence before Wash said, "I can do it. There is no margin for error, but I think it's the best chance we've got."

Mal decided to take as much time as he believed he had to think this one over. He stared out at the enormous storm in front of him without talking but with clear anxiety. At that moment, they could hear Kaylee's voice on the intercom, "Cap'n, we're still usin' up too much fuel. We gotta do somethin' now!"

Mal still was indecisive. To everyone's surprise, Jayne then said, "I change my vote, Mal. I was wrong. We should go with River's plan."

The captain turned his head away from the windows and toward his crew. He breathed through his mouth in an almost violent manner. Everyone around him could see that he was beginning to panic. This was something that none of them, even Zoe, had seen before. For the first time ever, Mal was convinced that in a matter of minutes he was going to die.

His crew wasn't panicking though. They had come to believe their captain would always be there and be strong for them no matter what. If a solution existed, he would find it. It was a confidence and respect that had helped them out of many jams in the past. They hoped this wasn't an exception.

"It's now or never no matter what we do," said Wash. Amazingly, at times like this, Wash was able to focus only on his job. He put his wife and his family to the back of his mind. This was a little-known trait his wife saw in him since well before they were married. At last, Zoe was motivated to take over.

"Honey," she said. "Lower us to ten yards above the ground. We're going with River's plan."

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Fandom:  Firefly
Title:  Time for a Good Ole Riddlin' Full-a-Holes
Author:  G Thing   [email]
Details:  Work-In-Progress  |  PG  |  gen  |  9k  |  03/07/04
Summary:  Mal and his crew have to play the odds up against a convoy of well-armed ships.
Sequel to:  To Whitefall

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