Author's Note: This is the eighth 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 seven entries are "The Tall", "Serenity Waits", "Just a Few Small Gorram Details", "Fertile Ground", "All So Sudden", "To Whitefall", and "Time for a Good Ole Riddlin' Full-a-Holes". 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. Now, in desperation, they are trying a daring maneuver to escape by getting dangerously close to a tornado. River has now recovered to the point where she routinely uses her abilities to help her shipmates escape from dicey situations. This seemingly suicidal plan was her idea. I think that is enough to get you by. Here we go . . .
"That Pesky Little Boat"
LeRoi Early figured he no longer cared about the atrocious things his older brother Jubal did to their dog. He felt some small comfort in the fact that his mother was no longer alive when Jubal was murdered. His killer was now a mile ahead of him. With the bad weather, LeRoi couldn't see Serenity yet, but he knew she was there. Does that seem right to you? Oh, how he longed for vengeance, to experience that one moment after the murderers have been slain, where it would seem as if his brother was alive yet again. LeRoi saw no way he could fail Jubal. Serenity was a sitting duck.
Of course, River Tam had other plans, "Keep going. Go straight." Wash did exactly that.
"We're heading right into it!" Jayne yelled staring at the cyclone. "We're coming too close; it'll kill us. We gotta break away!"
"They'll see us," said Simon to Jayne. "If we break away now, we'll never escape. They'll chase us down."
Mal was only beginning to regain his composure. This plan was finally starting to make sense. "Do whatever River says. She knows what she's doing."
Jayne almost said, "Anyone else remember the butcher's knife?" but that just seemed too immature.
"They're all gonna kill themselves to keep from gettin' caught," was generally what they were saying to each other as they watched Serenity approach the whirling column. Those who manned the pursuing destroyers instinctively wanted to go around it.
Early, though, kept hounding Serenity. Thus, he flew his fighter far closer to the tornado than any of his allies but thirty yards above the ground. He wished to get as good a view of Serenity's imminent destruction as possible. LeRoi had spent three years striving for this moment, and he would not let it go to waste. He had traced his late brother to Serenity after his disappearance. After such a long time, LeRoi had given up hope of seeing Jubal again. There was no reason to believe the crew hadn't murdered him.
After two minutes of accelerating, LeRoi's fighter hovered above its target - close enough for a healthy view. As he stared down to see what would happen next, he did not notice the wheelbarrow that had been thrown high in the air and was about to break through his windshield. The crash came. He took a vicious knock on the head, but remained conscious - barely. LeRoi felt his cabin depressurize, and he realized his life was in danger. He looked up from his controls, and the last thing he saw was the tan color of a san dune growing larger and larger at a breakneck pace.
"Now," River yelled through the noise from the wind. The sounds nearly drowned everything else on Serenity, but Wash could hear his cue to turn the boat starboard.
Serenity had become a rodeo animal with a rope around her neck. The cyclone would never let her fly straight. Sand flew up into the area around the Firefly making visibility far more difficult than what the crew was comfortable with. As every moment went by, they sat and stood there wondering if they only had seconds to live. How could they avoid crashing? They couldn't see where they were going, and they had not known what was ahead of them going in. Wash knew to keep Serenity's nose up with the landing gears down, and to fly her slowly. That way, if she were forced to the ground, she could do a makeshift landing rear to front - hopefully.
After one minute, her crew could feel the boat's rear gears scrape sand. It did not seem very violent, but they all remained silent and stationary hoping they were about to survive this. Then, they could hear and feel things dying down. The sound of the wind began dissipating ever so slowly. It was almost a cruel act to make them more confident, when they knew they were far from safety. They still couldn't see where they were going. The sand in the air had blinded them.
"Just like bobbin' for apples," said Mal to Wash. "We're blindfolded tryin' to find a safe place."
After a couple of seconds, Wash said, "I never played bobbing for apples, but keep patronizing me. You have a strange way of gettin' it to work on me."
"I haven't forgotten," Mal responded.
"We're going away from it," said River with a smile of relief. "The sound is dying out. There's no question about it now."
Mal shared her enthusiasm, "Hey, how's that for patron . . ." He then saw what was in front of them.
"Go se!" said Zoe. "Look out!"
A big ole sand dune had parked itself in Serenity's path. With the tornado dissipating but still behind them, Wash wisely chose that moment to land rather than trying any maneuver to turn back. Wow, was he glad he had slowed the boat down earlier. The landing went flawlessly and Serenity was still in one piece.
"Thank God," Jayne said. If only Shepherd Book had been there to appreciate it.
Mal just stood there and looked up as if his faith had been restored. It appeared that he longed for a signature from God - telling him that divine intervention had saved them. But that was not what was on his mind. He could only wonder whether any enemy ships were still there hunting them.
"I think they got smart and stayed away," said Wash also looking up.
"Who were they?" Simon asked - an obvious but significant question they all were asking.
"They'll find out we're still alive and try something like this again," said Zoe in a cold depressing manner.
Mal finally spoke, "Once the storm's over, they'll search the whole area. I doubt they'll be working overtime lookin' for a bunch of dead folks though."
"The press might be interested," said Simon. "The Cortex editors wouldn't resist a story about Serenity going down."
"The doc's got a point," said Zoe. "We're big-name criminals with some high prices on our heads. Our pursuers might want to take credit for our destruction. This search probably won't go on for very long at all. They might even take some scrap metal, and say it was part of Serenity."
"Or they might be having themselves a barbecue celebrating our destruction," Jayne added.
"Good point," said Simon, who was somewhat amazed those were his words to Jayne. "We shouldn't run to the first sign of campfires. We need a definite place to go."
"Good Ole Shane Bradley lives around these parts, doesn't he?" said Wash.
Zoe answered, "Yeah, I think so. He sure picked a nice place to hide away from civilization." They knew they could find him by taking their jeep from where they were and questioning some locals. The rebel leader and his closest followers had appreciated Serenity's presence unlike many other residents on Whitefall.
"Mal, what do you think?" asked Wash.
Staring out into the dunes, Mal responded, "A hidin' place is exactly what we need."
Serenity needed a purpose, a function. She always did, and she would continue to do so. She had to search now far away from her old stomping grounds. The trek into unfamiliar territory had to begin. It was now a matter of choices. Where do we go next? What are we looking for? The crew had to answer these questions for themselves. One at a time. Planet by planet. Star by star.
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Title: That Pesky Little Boat
Author: G Thing [email]
Details: Work-In-Progress | PG | gen | 7k | 08/02/04
Summary: Serenity has to go up against a cyclone, and it ain’t pretty.
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