Friday, July 29, 2011

Starlight Chapter Six

By J.D. FarnWorth

(080511) All rights belong to that of Joss Whedon, Fox and whoever else would lay claim to the Firefly and Serenity Verse. Don't copy or use this material without the permission of myself AND someone holding the Gorram copyright. It is for entertainment use only.

  Also, if you see a spelling error or any other issue, feel free to send me a note as many have in the past week. I will update with corrections so future readers will enjoy the story more and more. You can friend me on Facebook and follow me here.

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 3, July 12th, 2504, 15:03

 The Starlight’s crew had settled into Gabe’s cabin, each staking a claim to part of the room. Judy sat close to Gabe on his bunk. Zack and Marty sat on the overhead bunk. Jenny leaned back in the only chair bracing it against the wall. Adam was on the floor in front of the monitors, which was the center of everyone’s attention.
 “We’re all going to die!” Zack exclaimed, pounding his head against the frame of the bunk. He had been watching the colonist wander around the casino like zombies in some wave (movie).
“Bizui,” responded Marty.
Adam moved from the floor over to Zack and Marty’s side of the room. He watched Marty hit Zack several times, but that only made Zack even more agitated. Zack raised his fist and Adam made his move, grabbing the man and pulling him to the floor. Before Zack could respond Adam flipped him over onto his stomach and pressed his knee into the small of his back.
Zack let out a series of mudder’s curses that would have made any spacer blush.   
“Zack, I understand you can’t help yourself, but you are ruining my calm!” Adam yelled. Rising to his feet, he turned to Jenny and nodded in the direction of Zack.
The captain stuck his head into the cabin and cleared his throat. He waited for everyone to look his direction. “I want to have a meeting in the Caf-Deck.”
Judy and Marty headed out into the corridor first, looking relieved. Adam briefly watched Jenny as she knelt over Zack before departing the area. Gabe nodded to the captain with the understanding that he planned to keep watching the monitors.
“Jenny, you and Zack come when you are ready. Gabe, let me know if anything changes,” ordered the captain.
“Aye, captain,” answered Gabe, turning to the images on the monitors.
The captain could hear that Gabe had almost given up, his spirit had weakened, and he just called him “captain” in a respectful manner.
* * *
Everyone sat at the table, tea in front of them. An empty cup sat in front of the seat reserved for the captain. He sat down, placing his hands together as if he was going to pray.
Jenny and Zack wandered in and took their seats. Zack looked as if he’d been crying. Jenny shrugged in the direction of Adam and the captain.
“Okay. So, what do we know?” asked the captain.
“There are zombies on the deck, I…I mean visitors,” answered Zack, sounding a little more coherent at the end of his statement.
“And the twenty or so Alliance soldiers,” said Adam, obviously trying to give the meeting a little momentum. He looked over to Jenny.
“A few orderlies,” answered Jenny, counting them off with her fingers, holding up a count of four.
“That doctor with the glasses, Mr. Black and the two guys he has up there with him,” said Judy.
“How many would you say there were on Black’s ship?” asked Marty.
“Maybe two, but we can’t be certain because we haven’t seen any wave footage of Black’s ship,” answered Adam. He took a drink of his tea; he rolled his tongue wishing he had taken the time to brew some coffee.
“What about the Firefly? How many do you think would be on that bird?”
“Oh, at least five, and I would say no more than ten, but we can’t be certain that a few of the orderly’s aren’t part of the crew,” answered Adam.
“So how many does that make?” asked Jenny.
“There are around 40 on the Visitor’s side and 26 on the Home team,” said the captain.
“Thought there were 20 zombies,” said Judy.
“No, nineteen,” whispered Zack, in the last few minutes he seemed to have calmed down.  
“No, in the end this is a different game, and we are going in on the Home team’s side,” said the captain, sounding confident.
“So captain, it’s 40 to 26, which wouldn’t be so bad if we had weapons and could be sure the Home team won’t turn on us,” stated Adam.
“Yeah, and we have the element of surprise,” stated Marty. He noticed everyone looked confused.
“How’s that? We are stuck in here like rations in a can.” responded Judy, rising to stretch her legs.
“Not exactly, as everyone points out at least once a day, I was an injector cleaner on the Basure,” stated the captain, again sounding even more confident. He looked around at the un-enlightened faces. “Does anyone know what an injector cleaner does?”
 “Not really,” answered Jenny.
“They crawl through the insides of stations injecting cleaning solutions into sewage lines. It’s so the lines don’t get plugged,” he answered, sounding less confident.
“Oh, my, that is a crappy job,” Jenny answered with a little laugh.
Everyone struggled with laughter before noting the captain’s expression.  
“That is why I jumped at the chance to be any engineer on the Starlight. I was trained as an engineer, not a plumber, Damn it!”
“So how does that help us, exactly?” asked Zack.
“Under every Mess and Head there are crawl spaces,” answered the captain.
“I was also thinking that I could fit into an air vent, after all that is my job,” stated Marty.
“Because he’s the size of a turd,” laughed Zack.
Everyone began laughing along with Zack, including his brother. It was the first normal thing Zack had said in the last 8 hours.
“How big are these exits?” asked Judy, suddenly looking worried.
“Not big enough for you and Gabe, I am afraid,” answered the captain. He lowered his head looking into his tea, pausing to think on the problem.
“Then count me out, I can hardly stomach the corridor let alone a fracking vent, or a crapper cave!” yelled Zack, with a renew frustration, jumping to his feet and exited into the corridor. 
Adam watched Zack stomp away, he looked to Jenny, who nodded back. “So, any plan will have to include an exit strategy for the three of them.”
The captain nodded without raising his head. “Yes, maybe Marty could use the air vent to get around the welded hatches and open them from the other side.” He sounded less confident, a fact that was noted by the quick glances amongst the crew.
“As long as there is a cutting torch on the other side of the door,” said Marty, nodding in agreement.
“If not, could you bring something up from engineering to do the job?” asked Judy. She moved around the counter, ducking under the bulkhead.
“Yeah, but the air vents don’t go there. I would only have access to this module,” answered Marty.
“I am not trying to punch holes in the plan, but, we don’t have a way of communicating back and forth,” stated Jenny, but by her tone it was meant as a question.
“No, we don’t,” said Judy, pulling a snack from the cooler.
“So, what do we do for communication?” asked Adam, turning to the captain, who had remained quiet for the last few minutes.
“That’s why we have a plan that we stick to,” answered the captain, looking up to meet the stares of his crew.
“So, Captain what do you have in mind?” asked Jenny.
“We need a distraction.”
* * *
Gabe reached into his duffle and pulled out a bag of Blue Sun pretzels, saying, “You might be old but you are still good.” He was talking about himself, but laughed when he thought about the pretzels. Leaning against the back of the bunk, he buried his meaty hand into the small bag. The image flickered as the man in black appeared on the center monitor.
“Doctor Ryan, have you finished loading the Walker program to the Starlight’s computer?” asked Mr. Black, showing his renewed calm.
“Yes, I am just running the diagnostics, and soon we’ll be connecting the Walkers. You should be happy with the progress,” answered Dr. Ryan, not looking up preferring to work.
“Let me know when you are ready.”
“Yeah-yeah,” answered Dr. Ryan, waving his hand as if he were shooing a child away.
The main monitor switched to the Caf-Deck. The group sat around the table talking, looking as if they were planning something.
Gabe jumped up, stumbling over the trash in the middle of his cabin. “Guys, they’re watching!”
Judy stood and grabbed Adam, pulling him across the table for an extended kiss. The others laughed and jumped from their positions around the table to root her on. Adam’s arms flailed in an attempt to get away from her, to no avail. She pressed him against her. His free arm hit her side over and over.
The center monitor changed back to the main casino then to the arena.
“Okay guys, they are looking the other way!” yelled Gabe, settling back onto the bunk. In the other room he could hear Adam fall to the deck and the few choice words that he used to describe his attacker.
“Ah, it is all for the good of the cause,” he yelled, laughing once again at Adam.  
The multi-cam view changed. This time, an image of the corridor and the Caf-deck appeared.
“What are you up to?” he asked, as he stood and walked out of the hatch to inform the rest of the crew. Maybe he could get a repeat performance; this time she could kiss him.
* * *
The Walkers came at the guardsmen fifteen strong, bouncing off the line at full speed. Their reaction time was impressive compared to the last engagement. The remaining four swung around and attempted to out flank the guardsmen who, in turn, were waiting for the attack.
“Guys, you might want to get in here,” yelled Judy. She had replaced Gabe at the monitors.
Adam appeared at the door, “What’s happening?”
“The zomb…,” she started to say before simply saying, “They are doing better.”
Gabe slipped into the room, taking his seat next to Judy.
On the center monitor the Alliance troopers pulled their stun sticks and started to knock back the attackers.
“Okay, tell them to stop the attack,” ordered Dr. Ryan, he sounded frustrated and tired.
“Doing so now,” answered his orderly, from some where off camera.
“That was a lot better, Doctor Ryan,” stated Mr. Black who sounded very much impressed.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Dr. Ryan, only glancing to the camera.
“What are you talking about doctor?” asked Mr. Black, he sounded a little nervous, causing his two men in the control room to look over.
“Something is slowing the AI processors of the gaming program.” The doctor paused to make eye contact before turning his attention back to his work.
“Can you fix it?” asked Mr. Black.
“No, we’ll need to fix it from up there. Tell your man to look for a protocol that doesn’t belong. It should stick out.”
“Peter look for the problem. Ryan you should come up here.”
“Aye, sir,” answered Peter.
“I am on my way,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“Gabe, what’s going on with the gaming computer?” asked Adam, turning his attention to Gabe.
“I slowed it down.”
“How slow?” asked Adam.  
“It has trouble counting to twenty-one.”
“And why would you do that?” asked Adam.
“So I would win,” answered Judy, now smiling in Gabe’s direction.
“Yeah,” he responded, leaning away from Judy, half expecting to be slapped.
“Well, I think that it is sweet,” she said.
“You’re not making plans to corpse-ify me?” he asked, leaning back to where he started.
“Yeah, well, I was wondering why I was taking the casino for every credit it had,” she laughed.
“If only the credits were real,” said Adam.
“It was the thought that counted,” whispered Judy rubbing her large hand through Gabe’s long greasy hair. She moved away and out the hatch to inform the other half of the crew.
“Gabe?” asked Adam, pausing to listen for Judy’s footsteps to fade. “What happens when they turn the Starlight’s computers up all the way?”
Gabe sat back in his bunk and pulled his hands behind his head for support before answering the question. “Well, it is like this, they started off acting like zombies, with the second attempt they looked like a riotous mob, now I would be willing to wager that they will look more like…”
“Monsters?” asked Adam.
“I was thinking a squad of colonial marines.”
“Are they a match against the Alliance guardsmen?”
“I am no soldier, Adam, but I would still bet the guardsman will take them out with the stun sticks, but it might be a better match,” answered Gabe.
“Sounds like a good distraction and a great time to make our escape.”
“You know they will catch up with the life-boats or worse, use them for target practice,” stated Gabe, mournfully.  
“That is why we won’t be in the life-boats,” said Adam.
“Okay, where will we be?” asked the now confused Gabe.
The center channel went to a close up view of Mr. Black.
“We have figured it out, and are removing the sub-routines blocking the Starlight’s potential. How is Master Chief Thymus?”
“I am back up, but moving a little slow,” answered the scare faced man, who instead of a helmet wore a white bandage. “I got brained pretty good, but I’ll heal.”
“That is good. Get your men ready, the walkers should be moving a bit faster.”
Gabe looked from the monitor and met Adam’s eyes, “You have a plan?”
“I’ll get back to you, Gabe. I need to see a man about card game.”
“A card game?” asked Gabe, now standing to face Adam.
“Yeah, we need to play Three Card Monte.” Adam smiled at Gabe’s facial response.
“We don’t have time to play games,” said Gabe, chasing him out of the room and into the corridor.
Adam walked out into the corridor and moved to the storage area. Under the watchful eye of Gabe who remained in his hatchway.
In a past life, he had been a school teacher. He left the profession when he refused to change history to fit the school board’s ideology.
He missed the young faces of his students.
He was threatened with prison just for teaching them about the French Revolution. Someone didn’t want him reminding his students that in history, the oppressed had often risen up against their masters.
He was told he would be free to teach what he wanted on the border planets. His credits ran out short of his goal of living on the edge. Taking a job on this station was as far from the Core as he could get.
In the storage room he looked up at the camera then turned the light out. He slid the hatch shut.
“It’ll do,” he whispered, slipping back down the corridor, to the hatch leading to the Caf-Deck.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Starlight Chapter Five

By J.D. FarnWorth

(082911) All rights belong to that of Joss Whedon, Fox and whoever else would lay claim to the Firefly and Serenity Verse. Don't copy or use this material without the permission of myself AND someone holding the copyright. It is for entertainment use only.

  Also, if you see a spelling error or any other issue, feel free to send me a note as many have in the past week. I will update with corrections so future readers will enjoy the story more and more. You can friend me on Facebook and follow me here. Search for Serenity Lost and you should find me easy enough. Also if you do have a Facebook account please Share my links with your friends. In the end it is all about keeping the ‘verse alive.

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 3, July 12th, 2504, 14:03

The Caf-Deck was strangely quiet. If it wasn’t for the sound of the occasional spoon to bowl, there would be no sound at all. The crew with their heads hung low sipped their soup and drank of their tea.
Gabe raised his bowl and slurped its remains. He had never cared about what people had thought of him. After all was said and done, they were just passing through.


Gabe’s story was like many others, he left the planets of the Core because he was tired of floundering in a pond full of sharks. He bought a ticket on a passenger star-cruiser out of Osiris to Persephone.

He enjoyed peace, for once, on that beautiful planet. It was industrialized, yet kept that friendly feeling, until he had a run in with a small man with an accent.
From Persephone he boarded a Firefly and worked his way to the Vegas sector and then Starlight. They needed their communication system rewired and he needed the ride.
He had always been a gambler and had earned money doing so, but on the Starlight he made his mark. He found his riches in the casino, and his love in a night club. Veronica, she was an artist when it came to dancing and an artist at taking him for his wealth. By the time she was finish he had nothing.
He often wondered if it was all some sort of plan; she took his credits and the casino just happened have an opening for a communication officer.
That was almost ten years, and over 50 kg ago. Since his arrival he hadn’t stepped foot off this station and he was sure he never would. He looked around the table as he always did and told himself, “Yeah, this bunch is just passing through.”
“Excuse me,” Gabe said, clearing his throat and motioning for the rest of the soup. No one complained and he poured the remains of the soup into his bowl.
“Anything going on, in there?” Judy had only asked what was on everyone’s mind. This fact was made clear when everyone leaned in closer to listen.
“They seem to be setting up for some kind of action, the guardsmen are wearing riot gear,” he answered. Lifting the serving bowl above his and tapping to get the last drop. He adjusted his girth and dug his spoon into his second helping.
“You, you think they are going to come after us?” asked Judy, sounding a bit unsure of herself. The rest of the crew looked on not willing to admit that they were also scared.
“No, tight pants came up with that too. If they wanted to kill us they wouldn’t have welded us into this corridor,” he answered, with his mouth full of food. A noodle made its escape down his hairy chin and onto his lap.
“Yep, he is right, they just want us out of the way,” stated the captain. He watched the noodle fall to the floor; he glanced up meeting Gabe’s smile.
“But for what, captain?” asked Marty, losing his temper and throwing his empty bowl across the room. He had always been a hot headed little man. The crew seemed to ignore his random out- bursts, everyone, except his brother, who would always pickup after him.
“Hey, get in here, something is happening,” yelled Jenny from the cabin. Her voice was a bit emotional as if she had been crying.
They ran from the Caf-Deck and into Gabe’s cabin. The monitors were moved in from the head.
“What you go’n do?” Gabe asked.
“I moved them. It was getting uncomfortable sitting on the crapper.” She pointed back into the cramped room.
“It was convenient.”
“For who?”
“Bizui!” exclaimed Zack, clearing his throat. He hadn't spoken for almost an hour and no one had given it much thought.
They took their seats on the available bunk and the floor. The monitors showed the zombie like men and women walking to the arena.
The arena once the crown of the Starlight held shows from all over the ‘verse. Rock stars and Bards alike came to perform for audiences of the uber rich.
“So the guardsmen are over by the stage and the zombies are entering the ramp. Wait, they are going to fight?” asked Jenny, looking round the room at the knowing faces. “You knew!”
“No, not for sure, but it did cross my mind. I have seen the Alliance do many things for progress and the good of the common. Things you wouldn’t do to a farm animal,” answered Adam.
“But why?” asked Jenny, sounding, as though, she was becoming disillusioned about her belief’s.  
“They can, and they will, do what they want for the whim of the powers that be,” laughed Gabe, sounding cynical, even for him.
“Where did you hear that?” asked Adam.
“That show I watch, the Rufflesteins, they got a little too political and the Alliance canceled them. They would have run for seasons but NOOOO!”  
“But that’s just a show, they won’t fight them,” Jenny whispered, looking back to the monitor, and not believing in what she was both saying and seeing.
“Yeah, well they did mention something about stun sticks,” said Adam sitting next to Jenny.
“So, they aren’t planning on kill’n the zombies,” announced Judy, making an awkward expression as she made the statement.
“Okay, everyone lets stop calling them zombies,” demanded Adam, holding his hands up to get everyone’s attention.
“What do you want us to call them?” asked Judy, looking around the room at each of the crew.
“Guests, yeah, no, we should call them visitors,” answered Zack, sounding a little too happy. His eyes were a little too red and his head was damp with sweat.
“Okay, I see where you are going with that and we can call the guardsmen the visitors and the zombies are home team,” stated the captain.
They sat there for a few minutes watching the sides ready themselves.
“I have 10 credits on the home team,” laughed Zack.
“You okay,” whispered Jenny, she had given him a bottle of sedatives to calm him, but she had the feeling he taken way too many.
“What, you think the underdogs are going to take on the guardsmen?” asked Adam.
“I will take that bet, I got ten on the purple bellies,” answered Marty.
Zombies always win.
Everyone looked back to Zack and noticed his blood shot eyes, his sweaty looks, and the nervousness.
He smiled.
* * *

Starlight station, Module two, Casino Floor, July 12th, 2504, 14:21
In the arena the guardsman watched as the Walkers came in from the opposite end of the large room.
“Master Chief, they can barely walk let alone, fight. How are they going to have a chance against us?” asked Jackson.
“They’re not going to put up much a fight,” answered the Master Chief, looking up to the camera and monitor mounted on the wall as the channel clears with a crackle.
Dr. Ryan’s image appeared in the monitor and he waited for the channel to clear. “Be extra careful not to kill my test subjects.”
The Master Chief glanced over Jackson and nodded, telling him that no one believed the Walkers stood a chance.
Hanson leaned over to the Master Chief, asking, “Why are we so concerned about not killin’ them.”
“They’re programming is not meant to be used in this way,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“Yes, doctor,” answered the Master Chief, glaring over at Hanson. He had been with these men since he recruited them out of the ranks of the Alliance’s many services. Each had their abilities, but their closeness made them talk when they should listen.
“My computer program is an AI adaptive game program. It will learn as we teach it, but if you kill the Walkers before it learns how to fight, at the end of the day, it will have learned nothing. Dohn ma?” asked Dr. Ryan.
“So what are we supposed to do, just push them around,” asked Hanson, sarcastically.
“Yes, that would be alright.” He hadn’t recognized the sarcasm. He nodded to some one off camera and looked closer at the monitor, until his image became mostly forehead from the soldier’s point of view.
As if someone had simply thrown a switch the men and women started toward the soldiers. They stepped, shuffling their feet at first, as they walked they gained strength and moved more naturally.
“Okay, here they come,” said the Master Chief, casually.
The soldiers stood and readied their stun sticks; the smell of Ozone permeated the arena.   
As the soldiers zoned out all distractions other than the advancing horde of Walkers, Dr. Ryan’s voice was heard saying, “Okay, let’s not hurt them.”
* * *

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 1, July 12th, 2504, 14:32
Mr. Black and Mr. Blue stood in the freshly cleaned command center. The Petty Officer had seen to the clearing of the food containers and grime himself. It sickened him the lack of maintenance that the station had since the border outcasts had taken over, every system had been neglected.
The monitor flickered and Mr. Black walked over and tapped it on the side asking, “Why is the image so fuzzy?”
“Weak signal sir,” answered Mr. Blue, he turned back to his control board and adjusted the signal again with no change to the image.
“Try to get me a better one,” he ordered, walking over to look at the action on the larger monitor.
The Walkers approached the line of guardsmen.  Just as they were within striking range and they surprised everyone by backing away. Then three of them turned and charged the group of guardsmen. They were brought down quickly, each earning a set of cuffs for their trouble.
“What was that?!” yelled Mr. Black, his anger overwhelmed his patience.
The Walkers mulled around a while before trying again. This time, six walkers sprinted across the room and ran face first into denial. The guardsmen stood in a half circle and defended their position. They dropped the attacking men and cuffed them to each other.
“Turn those Walkers down so they stop struggling against their restraints,” ordered Dr. Ryan over an open channel.  
“Sure thing,” answered an orderly.  
“Okay, here come the rest,” said Dr. Ryan nonchalantly.
Ten Walkers ran at the guardsman and matched blows, neither side making any headway. The Walkers moved away, back to their starting position on the ramp.
“What are they doing? Tell the doctors, I want one of their asses up here to tell me what is going on, gorram it
“Wait, I only count ten, sir,” answered Mr. Blue pointing to the group of remaining Walkers.
“What are you talking about?” asked Mr. Black.
“There are nine on the ground and ten standing. The AI isn’t finished, there they go again.”
The Home team charged once more into the group of Visitors. They beat back the chargers with ease, cuffing them easily. No one noticed the single Walker coming from behind and hitting the Master Chief in the head with his own stun stick that had been leaning against the back wall. The guardsmen turned to beat the man.
“Don’t! I am sorry, please, for the love of God!” screamed the colonist, as he awoke from the hold of the computer.
* * *
Back in the cabin the crew of the Starlight watched the man's body grow limp and his face once again lost all expression.
“Hold on! Did you hear that, the zombie, I mean the man was pleading for his life!” exclaimed Jenny, pulling at Adam’s baggy ship suit.  
On the monitor the guardsmen beat the lump of a man until he stopped moving. The orderly, who had ran to the aid of the Home team member pulled at the soldiers.
On the other monitor, Mr. Black looked on with interest, even smiling as the man died at the extension of his will.
“Why didn’t he stop them? All he has to say is stop,” yelled Adam.
“They don’t care about these people; they are just test subjects,” answered the captain.
They stepped away from the test subject, his body jerked and began to reanimate. Rising to the horror of the crew of the Starlight, the man fell back and remain still.
“For a second there I thought we were in a zombie wave,” laughed Gabe. Everyone noticed he was just as affected as the rest of them by what they were witnessing.
Back at the stage the orderly checked the man’s vitals. The soldiers stood around watching the man bleed to death. They showed no remorse at what they had done. They even laughed as the subject moved. 
“Is he dead?” asked Mr. Black.
The orderly glance up and nodded.
“Yeah, your men saw to that,” answered Dr. Ryan. He seemed disturbed at what he had just witnessed.
“That is unfortunate, have the body incinerated, at once,” said Mr. Black, flatly.
“Why didn’t you stop them?!” demanded Dr. Ryan, pulling his glasses off his face and leaning into the camera his image again filled the monitor.
“Because, doctor, I wanted to know if they would continue to walk even if they were dead.”
“They won’t! I told you that, so you just terminated one of my test subjects on a whim!”
“Doctor, if there is a problem; we can just pick off another settler ship or use one of the Starlight's crew. It is not like they are ever going to be missed.”
“That is not the point, I only have so many harnesses.”
The crew of the Starlight leaned back, each one of them was having their own internal conversation. On the monitors, everyone went about clearing the deck of the wounded and slain.
Jenny broke the silence, “They are more concerned with the equipment than us. I mean them. I mean...”
The captain touched her on the shoulder and said, “Gabe, please tell me you are getting this.”
 “Yeah, I have been recording since they revived them in the casino,” he answered, patting the EC unit sitting next to him.
“That’s what you needed my EC for?” asked Adam.
“Sure, it is just a little security we have just in case they try to bully us around.” answered the captain, letting Jenny go as she ran from the cabin.
“They space one of us, all we have to do is upload to the array and bam everyone will know about it,” said Gabe, slapping his hands together and waking the rest of the crew from their shock.
“As long as I am not the one that gets spaced, it sounds like a plan,” responded Adam, he was joking, but no one was laughing. They crew just stared at the monitors.
“Say, can we hook into the Starlight’s mainframe,” asked Dr. Ryan, looking into the camera.
“Why?” asked Mr. Black.
“If you noticed, the AI, used a battle strategy and made progress,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“You saying we might be able to get these Walkers running better?” asked Mr. Black.
“Yes, that is what I am suggesting.”
The monitors flickered and the captain pulled at Gabe’s shoulder. “Gabe, would it work? You know the Starlight’s capabilities better than anyone.”
“The Starlight isn’t a sophisticated computer but it does have the ability to make billions of calculation a second, the only reason they didn’t take the gorram thing with them, is the computer takes up half a deck on the bottom level. It is just a gaming computer that acts a server for thousands of mother boards in the video machines.”
“So what happens when they hook up to their program?” asked Judy.
“The Walkers will learn to run,” answered Gabe.
“Then won’t that leave a trace in the Starlight’s computer?” asked Adam.
“Oh my,” answered Gabe, going over the implications of what they were getting at.
“What are you saying?” asked Judy, rising to stretch her legs.
“They aren't going to let us live,” whispered Zack, sounding as creep-afying as ever.
“The Starlight will be a witness and they won’t let her survive either. Now, that I think about it. Won’t the images and waves be recorded somewhere?” questioned Adam.
“This is our tomb,” Adam whispered.
Zack began to giggle.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Starlight Chapter Four

By J.D. FarnWorth

(072111) All rights belong to that of Joss Whedon, Fox and whoever else would lay claim to the Firefly and Serenity Verse. Don't copy or use this material without the permission of myself AND someone holding the copyright. It is for entertainment use only.

  Also, if you see a spelling error or any other issue, feel free to send me a note as many have in the past week. I will update with corrections so future readers will enjoy the story more and more. You can friend me on Facebook and follow me here. Search for Serenity Lost chapter one and you should find me easy enough. Also if you do have a Facebook account please Share my links with your friends. In the end it is all about keeping the verse alive.

Starlight station, Module one, Deck 3, July 12th, 2504, 13:12
The crew sat at the table playing poker as Adam entered the Caf-deck. They continued to joke and looked rather happy, at least to the purple bellies observing them from the station’s control room. Their conversation, however, was more dark than humorous.
It is okay, they aren’t watching,” Adam announced as he walked over and poured hot water into his cup. He then filled the small copper colored basket with coffee and dropped it in letting it brew a bit.
Good, if I laugh at one more of Marty’s jokes, I am liable to volunteer for one of those space walks Commander Black was offering,” said Jenny as she nudged Marty with her elbow.
So, what are they up to?” asked Marty, pulling the cards closer for another deal.
They have docked a Firefly transport with Blue Sun markings. I believe it is named the Betty. Has anyone heard of her?”
It’s familiar. Oh wait, that is my ex-wife's name,” answered the captain, looking around with his crazy eye for a response.
Everyone shook their heads, they didn't get out much and the last supply drop was almost a year ago.
What else did you see?” asked Judy.
Captain, you might want to go take a look for yourself,” said Adam, looking gravely at the man.
What!” demanded Judy, standing to her full height and towering over Adam.
Feeling bullied, he answered, “Bodies, maybe 20 or so, they brought them off the Betty and wheeled them into the main casino. They have even repaired the little gravity problem in Modular 4. I wouldn’t have thought that they would have been able to repair the busted board. They have a doctor and orderlies doing most of the work. They have gurneys lined up against the gaming machines,” answered Adam stopping as he noticed the looks from the crew.
What, come on? Bai Too’oh?” asked Jenny sounding as though she was on the verge of a breakdown.
Adam noted something else, she had always been a mystery but her eyes relayed something different. She was confident and in control. Her eyes betrayed her bubbly blond exterior. He turned away avoiding her gaze.
No way!” exclaimed Judy starting for the hatch. “You got to be joking?”
Rod and Marty followed Judy into the corridor leaving Jenny and Adam alone in the Caf-Deck, normally Adam would have been happy to spend time with the beautiful woman. Those eyes, she was hiding something.
It looks like they turned the floor of the casino into a morgue of sorts,” he muttered.
Well, I am going to have a look,” said Jenny, sounding calm and collected. She had dropped the frightened school girl routine.
Jenny, you might check on Zack. He is looking like he has seen better days,” said Adam, he tried not to look directly at her,  unfortunately he betrayed something of himself.
Why me?” asked Jenny, once again more confident.
You are listed as medic on the crew roaster. Aren't you, sunshine?” asked Adam, watching her make up her mind.
You would be surprise what little training. I have in that department,” she answered, as she headed for the hatch.
No, I wouldn't,” he chuckled, he had no real clue why she was on board other than as a place holder for a crew member without a real purpose. “There is a lot more to you than meets the eye. You are from the Core, but not a colonist, you have formal education and that means you are from money. Training in comp…”
She stopped and turned just before reaching the hatch, her eyes bore through him. He had struck a nerve.
“Company Relations,” he said, in the most formal Core Accent he could muster.  “Are you a counselor for Blue Sun? Where you sent her to spy on us?” he asked, his mouth scowled. His father was a constable and he had watched him work his craft on his brother and sisters for years. This gave him an edge getting information when he wanted.
She smiled and relaxed, “You got me, I was sent here to down size this operation.”
He noted the change and went with his other thought, “To bad, you would have made a great Companion.”
Her hand grabbed the frame of the door so hard paint chips fell making the sound of rain. “I know,” she answered, sounding soft and less calm than before.
Their moment was gone and her hand slid across the frame and disappeared out of view.
Adam turned from the table towards the counter and looked for the promised food, he understood that he had been let in on her secret.  “Great, I was hoping someone started something to eat,” he said aloud. He believed she wanted to tell someone, she had enough training in the Companion house to have mentally wrestled with him all day. One of his sisters was a Companion or at least, had been one the last time they talked.
His stomach grumbled, pushing him to look at what could be made rather then that quick snack he had failed to find.
* * *
Jenny walked down the corridor where Zack sat like a bag of onions. She could see on his face that he felt pain. His eyes were red and his chin was pushed into the crook of his arm. He looks as if he were holding himself.
You okay, hon?” she asked in her soft voice.
Yeah, I just want to be left alone,” he groaned, with a little effort.
When she reached him, she sat down leaning against the welded door. She stretched her legs and reached out with her hands to touch her toes. Her back needed a good stretch. With her hands she reached  up and looked back meeting the young man's eyes.
You are sure prudy,” said Zack.
Thank you,” she answered. She normally would have met his remark, any remark about her looks with an insult. But she felt he needed more from her.
You’re going to be alright?” she asked, reaching out and drying his eyes with the cuff of her jumpsuit pulled over her hand.
I don't like closed in places,” he whispered.
You mean you’re claustrophobic? Why in the hell would you want to be a spacer?” she exclaimed.
He motioned with his hand to keep it down. “I only wanted to be a spacer to get my brother off Regina; he would be dead by now if we hadn't sold everything and bought two tickets to Persephone. We got ourselves into environmental engineering school. Most of our credits went to the school.”
Still, why did you become a spacer?” she asked, smiling at his pain.
By the time, I found out about the claustrophobia, I was already a crew member on the Basure, When Rod and Marty were offered the Starlight assignment. I tagged along. I figured a nice empty space station was as good as it would get for guy like me. Until they sealed us in here,” he answered, popping his head back and hitting the door.
It was then she noticed the little red spot on the door frame. “You need to come to my cabin and let me look at that head of yours,” she said standing and holding her hand out.
Finding the courage, or maybe he just thought he had a shot at the hottest girl in town; he reached out and stood up. She placed her arm around him and walked him to her cabin. She could feel warm liquid on the back of his uniform. He was bleeding and would need stitches. She wasn’t good at stitches, but would give it a go, after all she was the only medic they had.
I will get you all fixed up.”
* * *
The head in Gabe’s cabin was crowded but half of the crew pushed their way in anyway. It smelled and they gave Gabe strange looks.
I should have put the monitors out in the cabin,” said Gabe, looking rather embarrassed at the stench he had just created.
Yeah, why did you put them in the head anyway?” asked Judy, leaning over the captain.
Ah, I was trying to hide them,” Gabe said, snapping back.
Well then, you better pull them out into the cabin because I don't think anyone is looking to come in here,” said Marty who had pressed between Gabe and the sink.
I will later, for now you guys better see this,” answered Gabe, pointing to a man in the docking area. “He has been inserting something into bodies.”
With the loading ramp of the Firefly as a back drop the monitor zoomed in on an orderly who leaned over one of the corpses and drew a mark on the poor fellow’s leg.
What are they doing to those poor colonists?” asked Judy, leaning over the captain to get a better look.
I want to go home,” complained Marty, leaving the group and heading to his cabin.
Without complaint from the corpse, the man in the lab coat shot a gun looking instrument into the womand knee, injecting a large black dot. He looked up at the camera, asking, “How does it look?”
“It looks fine,” answered the doctor.
Mr. Black appeared on the main screen and asked, “Okay, how long will it take to get them up?”
“Not long, the paralytic is wearing off,” answered the doctor.
The crew of the Starlight watched the center monitor as it shifted to the wide angle view of the twenty corpses. Judy gasped as the corpses came back to life, one after the other, they stirred under the sheets.
What the hell!” exclaimed Gabe!
They turned to Gabe and back to the monitors.
The doctor turned from the camera and asked, “How are they feeling?”
“Heart rates are okay, most are in the normal range,” answered the orderly, from somewhere out of camera range.
Gabe pointed at the multi-camera monitor and you could just make out the image of the orderly the doctor was speaking with.
The Starlight crew stood motionless. Judy found herself holding onto the captain as they watched the bodies continue to stir under the sheets.
One by one the sheets fell to the floor and the men and the women still dressed in the civilian clothes began to sit up. Their faces were emotionless.
The Starlight crew watched as the people rose from the gurneys and stood up. They all looked to be colonist. They could have been friends and families of most of the crew.
Zombies?” Gabe muttered the question.
No, dumbass, zombies don’t have heart rates,” answered Judy.
No such thing as zombies,” stated the captain, going to one knee from the weight of Judy pushing down upon his shoulders.
So they have heart rates and they aren’t undead, what are they?” asked Gabe.
Up on the monitors the scientist ran them through several drills, starting with the use of a broom. Ten or so stood at one end of the casino and then slowly walked toward the other end sweeping the floor, pushing the purple wall hangings and banners along with the other debris.
Zombies that clean up after themselves?” responded Judy, almost in laughter.
Look! That one is cleaning your favorite poker machine,” said Gabe, slapping his leg and looking over at Judy.
It was the same machine Judy played and the one she sat at just this morning harassing Adam.
I may never play video poker again,” she said, as she answered his laughter with a deadly stare she reserved for the Airlock Inn back home in Freemont. It made most drunkards shy away.
Why are they forcing them to do this?” asked Gabe, feeling the need to change the subject, from the poker machines back to the walking dead.
They’re us.” answered the captain.
What are you talking about?” asked Gabe.
Inject anyone with whatever that stuff was and they have a crew that will do whatever they want,” the captain answered, dropping to his second knee and only remaining upright from sure will.
Mind control,” whispered Judy.
But! What would a bunch of people walking around like, for the lack of a better word, zombies, do?” Gabe asked.
Well for starters, if there was an environmental breach they could still have people to fix a problem,” answered the captain.
Nope, they still breathe,” answered Judy, stepping back from the captain.
Then what?” asked Gabe.
They probably work for a common goal until the task is done or they are dead,” answered the captain, rising to his feet and forcing his way back into the main cabin.
That would make them slave labor,” said Judy mournfully.
They turned at the sound of Adam clearing his throat in the open hatchway, wearing an apron that was three sizes to big. He smiled announcing, “Lunch is on the table.”
Hey! That’s my job,” complained Judy, laughing as she moved passed him. She couldn't help herself from slapping him on the rump. When she slipped into the corridor the smile dropped from her face as she thought of the implication of what she had just witnessed.
* * *
The captain and Gabe watched the monitors as things unfolded. They could hear the crew in the Caf-deck enjoying their lunch, which was a great contrast to the images of the colonist.
Mr. Black filled the left monitor, looking as charming as ever, asking, “Doctor Ryan, how long are you going to have them walking around like half drunken spacers?”
“I am working on it. The computer is having a little trouble controlling so many subjects,” said Dr. Ryan, whose image now filled the right side monitor.
“You promised me that you could control 50 units, with the Walker programming,” stated Mr. Black.
“I know what I said, it will just take a little while to get them running correctly. The subjects are fighting the wetware that I installed just this morning. As the wetware comes online the body’s nerve endings will forget the old path ways and respond to my programming,” answered Dr. Ryan, who while speaking with Mr. Black took the time to remove his glasses and clean them.
“I really don’t care how you do it, just get it done,” ordered Mr. Black turning and moving out of view of the monitor.
“Yes, Commander,” answered Dr. Ryan, he turned away from the monitor and called for his assistant. “Peter, get in here.”
“Sir?” answered Peter.
“Oh, I thought you had left,” said Dr. Ryan.
“No, sir, what is it, doctor?” asked Peter moving with in the view of the monitor.
“Have the soldiers readied; tell them that they will need only their stun sticks.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Oh, and Peter, tell the men to go easy on the subjects, at least with the first few trials,” ordered Dr. Ryan, turning his attention back to the camera.
Mr. Black filled the main monitor once again. “Doctor, how much longer?” he asked, who by the tone in his voice had found his patience once more.
“Give me just a few minutes and we can get started,” answered Dr. Ryan.
Gabe leaned back from the monitor and looked around, asking, “What, what are you going to do to these people, now?” He grabbed the center monitor and shook the image of Mr. Black.
Some sort of test,” whispered the captain.
Yeah, but I can’t make out what sort of test. There is a lot of traffic coming and going from the Betty and at the top of the screen you can just make out the guardsmen and I think they are getting ready for a fight.”
They’re not coming here are they?” asked Jenny as she entered the cabin.
No, we would hear them cutting through the door long before that and besides why would they seal us in here if they were just going to send someone into kill us? The people aren't dead, they were just sleeping, but the doctor installed wetware or something to control them, making them some sort of human slave labor. Other than that we have no idea what they are up to,” answered the captain now out of breath from the long update.
I am sure their plan will unfold soon enough. Now go get some food, while I keep watch for a while,” she said with force and pointed towards the door.
Sounds good, just don’t touch anything,” answered Gabe, pushing himself through the hatch.
And call me if anything happens,” said the captain, following Gabe as he waddled out into the corridor.
Will do,” Jenny said, making herself at home and taking the only seat in the head. Little Jenny, exercising most days as if she were running from someone, the truth was she was running from herself, more precisely her thoughts. She closed her eyes and just made out her father’s face.
She was very young when she left her home planet of Londinium for Sihnon. She had been chosen to spend a life as a Companion. He father’s idea of a status boost that would have worked if he had lived to watch her graduate.
When she left for New Melbourne only her mother came to see her off. They held each other briefly and only spoke a minimal amount of words. Her mother disappeared into the crowded and she walked up into the passenger ship.
As part of her training she was directed to spend a full year in an off-world Companion House. She hadn’t minded putting the distance between her and her family. She had thought a year would be to short and she knew one day she would be forced to return to her family and the company.
Her training house had selected her to work out of the Red Dragon on New Melbourne. It was a resort for the rich tourist from the Core that wanted to go somewhere exotic. Border planets were less crowed and the help were ordered around like slaves and very disposable.
Her status as a Companion training was almost complete by the time the New Year rolled around. Her last client was just about to take his leave to join the celebration of the passing of another year.
Earth was still out there, somewhere in the distant expanse of space, and once a year people gathered to celebrate another of Earth’s trips around Sol. 
She heard the gun fire and the shouts of anger. She hid in her armoire pulling her expensive gowns over her head. The men entered the House and started killing Companions and clients alike. They were dressed in black and used weighted pipes to kill everyone that they came upon.
She flinched as one of the men screamed, “Whore!” and killed her servant girl within a few feet of her hiding place. She watched through a crack in the door as the man pulled the heavy pipe from Jenny’s skull, where he had imbedded it with a single blow.
Cecilla closed her eyes, falling into mediation. Like music on the wind, she escaped the Red Dragon’s Companion house before it was her turn. When she awoke, some time had passed and no noise could be heard. Total silence, telling her it was early morning and it was finished. Her friends lay dead, their servants lay dead and all evidence of the clients were gone, removed by someone unknown.
Cecilla quietly walked about the House as a ballerina might; with precession and practice. She gathered her things quietly and moved to her servant’s body. Where her face once was there was nothingness, the man had seen to that. She had never given much thought into the life of her servant.
She calmly dressed Jenny in her purple formal gown; befitting the little princess that lay at the foot of her hiding place. She had died for her.
She would take her identity, she would never be known as Cecilla again, she would become Jenny Horn a simple resort servant. The thought woke her up from the shock and a new plan formed.
She pulled the cash from her hiding place under the stairs, then from each of the other Companions that lay quietly throughout the house. They all knew were the credits were hidden. All the stashes were there but except for the new red head’s. “What was her name?” she asked aloud. “Well, it couldn’t have been much?” She looked around at the unidentifiable bodies and decided it wasn’t important.
The credits that she found would buy her way off planet and into another life, away in the black.

Cecilla felt trapped, again.