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you can't take the sky from me, six

Title:  you can't take the sky from me, six/?
Rating: PG
Characters/Pairings:  Ensemble from both Firefly and A:tLA.  The only new pairing here is slight Jayne --> Suki, if you squint.  Oh, also, Suki/Awesome, but that was canon from the start.
Summary:  The Gaang find themselves in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar technology, and must rely on the only kindness they can find.  Unfortunately, kindness seems to be an endangered creature in this new place.  x-over with Firefly/Serenity, post-movie, Wash lives!
Chapter Summary:  Everyone bands together to break Zoe out of prison.  Unfortunately, they're expected.
A/N:  There's definite undertones of this art in this section, because I totally see Suki trying to escape from the Boiling Rock like a kajillion times, to the point that the guards refused to stand watch outside her door for fear of suffering untold agony.  And yes, that's relevant.

one... four. five. six. seven. eight.

episode two:
sihnon shuffle

chapter two:
(a pound of pressure)


Back on Serenity, the immediate chaos had faded into that peculiar pre-fight lull that Katara didn't like knowing as well as she did.  By the time she and River had been dragged back to the ship, River was hysterical, screaming desperately about Zoe and blue and some mission that she had -- forcing Simon to inject her with a sedative.  He had stayed with her until she'd fallen asleep, and then been pulled away to pack a medical bag, "just in case things go further south than usual," Mal had growled.

Now, River was curled up on the catwalk, having violently opposed the concept of returning to her room for whatever reason, her head resting in Inara's lap.  The older woman was sitting calmly, her face betraying no emotion as she watched while Wash loaded a mess of weapons that seemed too big for him and Jayne explained the mechanics of a gun to Sokka and Zuko.

"It seems like you've all done this before," Katara whispered, knees drawn up to her chest as she watched Inara rhythmically smooth River's hair.  Obviously, things were more complicated than they'd seemed, and she was missing some crucial part of the story.  Inara nodded absently.

"Several times, in fact," she replied softly.  "Never without Zoe, though..."

An uncomfortable silence fell, and finally Katara sighed.  "Okay, what happened to River?  What... Who were those men?"

"I don't..." Inara started, and then something dark passed over her face, maybe a bad memory.  "We don't really know all the details.  The Alliance...  Well, they did things to her."

"What kind of things?" Katara asked, horrified -- her thoughts had been that, since River and Simon were originally with the Alliance, maybe River had been captured by the Browncoats in that nasty war and been treated like, well, a prisoner of war.  But if the Alliance had hurt her...?  Maybe Inara was wrong?

"You'd have to talk to Simon for the details," Inara said softly, glancing down at the small girl.  "According to him, she was always very smart and somewhat, well, psychic."  Here, she glanced to Katara with a tiny, bitter smile.  "I know how it sounds, but it's true.  And the Government... experimented on her."

"Why?"

Now it was definitely a bad memory that crossed over Inara's face.  "They wanted to turn her into the perfect weapon," she whispered.  "A telepathic super-soldier.  Unfortunately," she added, as though this all wasn't already unfortunate enough, "there isn't any off button.  She hears and feels the thoughts and emotions of everyone around her, no matter what."

Katara felt sick.  That explained so much about River, and maybe even explained why she'd been so reluctant to leave the streets on their escape from the men with blue hands -- the din of the city streets would drown out whatever horrible things those men were thinking.  "But," she started, unable to wrap her mind around it, "why would the Government...?  They seem so...  I don't..."

"They're the Alliance," a voice from behind her said, and she turned to see Mal, coming from the interior of the ship, eyes clouded.  "They think they can make people better, no matter what the cost."

"That's why you fought for the Independents?" Katara asked in a small voice.  Mal didn't respond, simply pulled his coat tighter around his shoulders and walked down the stairs.

"Wash, Jayne, you other morons -- no, Toph, you ain't comin' and that's final -- what?"  He glared at Suki, who was standing stock-still, her fans clenched in her fingers.

"I'm coming."

"What're you gonna do?" Jayne asked harshly.  "Cool us off?"

Suki turned her coldest, most vicious Kyoshi Island Death Glare onto Jayne, who had the good sense to look disturbed.  "I've spent my whole life fighting in several martial arts," she replied evenly.  "You want me on your team."

"I don't care," Mal cut in shortly.  "She says she can take of herself, she can come along.  Kaylee -- " he added, looking to the wide-eyed mechanic.  "I'm leavin' you in charge, you know your job.  Toph, you and Aang keep on the lookout, make sure nobody but us makes it through these doors.  And where the hell is the doctor?"

"Right here.  I'll be waiting in the bay in case something goes wrong," Simon said, walking through into the cargo bay and clutching his bag.

"Good," Mal said, and then hit the button to open the doors.  "Let's get my gorram first mate back."

--

"Corporal Zoe Alleyne Washburne," Inspector Hal Corvin read off a sheet.  "Fought under Sargeant Malcolm Reynolds during the war, did you?"

"Yes."

"Says here that you're a known accomplice of the man.  That true?"

"You say you know."

He blinked.  "You've got a long rap sheet, lady, and it doesn't help that you're implicated in the murders of two Alliance officers today."

"That so?"

Hal stared at the woman in front of him who, when faced with charges that would easily put her in prison for life -- if not result in her execution -- didn't seem even slightly bothered.  In fact, she didn't seem even slightly anything, her face a mask of complete indifference.  It was rather unsettling.  "That is so.  You have anything to say for yourself?"

"No."

He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times.  "No?  Not even a plea for a lawyer?"

She merely looked at him.

"You do know that by waiving your right to council, you -- "

"I know."

He coughed.  "All right.  What are you doing in Sihnon?"

"None of your business."

He slammed a hand down on the table in front of her, but she didn't even flinch.  "Listen, Corporal, I am a detective investigating the murders of two very high-ranking Alliance officers, which you're a prime suspect in.  So, yes, it is, in fact, my business to know what you were doing on this planet."

She looked up at him and met his eyes, and it was quite possibly the most terrifying thing he'd ever seen -- and he'd looked into the eyes of murderers and criminals of all sorts and sizes.  It wasn't that she was crazy, or that she was angry, or that she was hiding some horrible pain behind her eyes.  It was that she was looking at him with literally no emotion, none whatsoever.  "Then I suggest you reevaluate your job, sir."  Into that one, tiny word, she injected all of the venom and loathing that a human being could possibly express.

Yes, Hal had to admit, he was quite afraid of Zoe Washburne.

--

On the catwalk, in Serenity's cargo bay, River twitched in her sleep and clutched convulsively at Inara's dress.

--

They hadn't strictly planned for this.  The original idea had involved sneaking in as Alliance grunts and passing over some forged paperwork that claimed that Zoe was being transferred to another place, all the weapons being brought along just in case things failed to go smooth.

Things had, predictably, failed to go smooth.  That wasn't what they hadn't planned for -- after all, on Serenity, plans going every which way of wrong was more or less expected.  No, what they hadn't planned for was to meet a full regiment of hired mercenaries on top of the standard police force guarding the prison complex.

It seemed that Mal's -- and his crew's -- reputation had reached Sihnon.  Along with pictures.

Mal was starting to deeply regret his decision not to bring that little blind maniac with him.

"Okay," he said, leaning against a tree.  "How do we get in there?"

"I vote we send one of these hwoon dan in," Jayne growled, nodding toward Sokka, Zuko, and Suki.

"Yeah, that'll work," Sokka replied dryly.  "Because we can totally pass for Alliance guys.  Right."

"Better'n any o' your plans."

"If I can get up onto the parapet," Suki said, examining the wall and taking stock of the guards there, "I can take out the guards and open the doors.  Problem with that is, they'll know something's up and we'll lose the element of surprise."

"Maybe not," Wash muttered, joining Suki at her tree.  "Maybe we can cause a diversion, get the guards to empty out through the main doors and find another way in."  Mal glanced to the two of them.  Wash, predictably, was showing absolutely zero signs of any kind of humor, though that was to be expected when his wife was currently in prison.  But why was Suki so damned serious?

She shook her head.  "We'd have to create a really big distraction..."

"How about a forest fire?" Zuko asked, and everyone turned to him.  He was holding a large, dancing tongue of flame in his hand, and grinning maniacally.

--

Sokka had always known that Zuko was dangerous -- after all, he'd been chased all around the world by the man years before.  But there was something about seeing him standing in the middle of a raging blaze, the firestorm whipping his hair and his clothes around him in a furious whirlwind, face and body increasingly obscured by the dancing shadows and brilliant orange light that, frankly, scared the piss out of him.

Pressed up against the wall where they wouldn't be seen by the searchlights or the frantic guards rushing to get the fire out, they waited for the majority of the guards and mercenaries to leave.  They had, according to Wash, only a short window of time to get into the prison complex before the emergency response teams would arrive to control the fire, so they had to move fast.  Suki, doing some crazy things with a length of rope that Jayne probably still didn't know she'd stolen from him, made her way up to parapet and made very short work of the guards left behind in the panic of the fire.  She disappeared down a stairwell and they waited for several tense moments before she arrived at the door and opened it for them.

There was blood on her face, clothes, and fans, which she snapped shut with one sharp flick of her wrist.  Jayne stared at her, admiration written all over his face.

"The more I find out about you people, the more I like," he muttered.

When Mal nodded to him, Sokka turned and cupped his hands around his mouth, making a loud squawking sound, an attempt to imitate a bird.  It sounded like a dying bird, but that was okay because any bird in that fire would be dying.  A dark figure shot out of the trees and hit the ground just past the majority of the guards, landing with a roll and coming up with swords already in the bellies of the nearest two men to him.  Jayne shouldered his gun to help Zuko out, but Sokka took the initiative and threw his boomerang.  It narrowly avoided Zuko's head but not the guy behind him who was about to shoot him, and then returned to Sokka's hand, slimy with blood.

"Eugh," he grumbled, and wiped it off on Suki's already-bloody shirt.  She rolled her eyes.

"Thanks," Zuko gasped, catching up with them and putting out a small blaze on his pant-leg.  "I didn't see that guy."  He looked around.  "Where's Mal and Wash?"

"They went on ahead.  We gotta catch up."

"No one's staying behind to keep this open?" Suki asked, having not been briefed on the mission.  Sokka shook his head.

"No, our exit strategy is a little... flashier."

"Jus' be hopin' that Kaylee can fly the ship," Jayne growled, and horror settled in Suki's gut.

"That's our plan?  Have Kaylee fly the ship into a prison complex?"

Jayne snorted.  "No.  She's gonna fly it above the jail, so we can get on from underneath."

"Oh," Suki replied faintly.  "That's so much better."

--

River whimpered and snuggled closer to Inara, her knuckles white around the Companion's skirt.

--

"She's stone-cold," Hal said.  His partner, Adi, shook her head.

"There's no way.  She's gotta break somehow.  Did you hear anything back from the feds?"

He sighed and rolled his eyes.  "They were tight-lipped about it, of course.  Said that they were sending their own investigators to look into the murders.  Can you believe it?  Two guys are killed right on Lu'Wong's streets in broad daylight, and they're gonna pull jurisdiction on us.  Nevermind that we're the ones who had to restrain the woman.  You think they're even gonna comp Wen for the broken leg she gave him?"

"Not a chance," Adi replied, crossing her arms.  "God, she isn't even moving.  How do you think someone gets that way?"

"Her record says she was in the Battle at Serenity Valley," Hal said, and understanding bloomed on Adi's face.

"Well, that makes sense.  Browncoat, I presume?"

"Oh, yeah.  You haven't heard of her?"

She turned.  "No, I haven't.  Should I?"

Hal shrugged.  "Maybe.  It hasn't really affected us, but I've got a feeling it will."  He nodded over to the table, where Washburne's -- and Reynolds's -- files were laid out.  "She was one of the luh suh behind that Miranda broadwave."

"This chick?" Adi asked, surprised.  "Wow...  We caught a big fish today, didn't we?"

--

Suki was not enjoying the bevy of delightful flashbacks that being back in a prison brought on.  It helped to take out her second-hand rage on the guards and mercenaries who were standing between her and Zoe's safety, but even picturing Azula's smirking face or Ty Lee's stupid grin wasn't helping enough.

The prison was strangely claustrophobic, in that weird way that the Fire Nation palace had been claustrophobic -- even though it was, apparently, designed to be bright and austere, all the polished marble and gleaming metal in the world couldn't erase the shadow of death that clung to the walls.  She hated it deeply and passionately, and she wanted nothing more than to get this over with as fast as possible so she could get back to the comforting dirt and grime and hum of Serenity.

They made their way through the stark white halls, passing door after door, all metal, with automatic locks and a single small opening at about eye level.  Wash and Mal were checking each door to see if Zoe was inside, while Jayne and Sokka took the lead and she and Zuko held the back.  This part was, she had already decided, the worst.  Most of the guards had been drawn by the commotion outside, and so the walls were eerily empty and echoing with their footsteps and the far-off shouts of other prisoners, which made her tense and irritable.  She would rather just face their enemies.

"We're gonna have to find a map," Sokka whispered, shouldering one of the guns he had pilfered from the locker on Serenity.  "There's no telling how many cells they are, or even if she's in one of them."

"He's right," Wash replied curtly, jerking the slide closed on a door.  "Where can we find one?"

"Look for the guards' break room," Zuko offered, and Suki remembered -- oh yeah, he had done this before, too.

"I got a better plan," Jayne started, but Mal cut him off.

"No, we're not kidnapping a guard and forcing him to tell us where she is.  The map idea's good, let's go."  Mal seemed about as irritable as Suki felt, which was something of a comfort -- Jayne was clearly enjoying himself, Wash was downright pissed off, Sokka was in full-on the-plan-guy mode, and Zuko was utterly calm.  At least she wasn't the only one who was getting antsy.

In the distance, she caught the sound of sirens, and sighed.  "There's our cue.  Screw this."

Without another word, she bounded forward and took off at a dead run through the halls, ignoring the protests of the entire group behind her.  Sure, Sokka and Zuko had infiltrated the Boiling Rock, and Mal, Jayne, and Wash knew this world better than she did, but she had actually been to prison.  Been a prisoner of war, in fact, had been the favorite prisoner of the most bloodthirsty and crazy princess she'd ever heard of.  In her time in the Boiling Rock, she had become very, very well acquainted with the mechanics of jails, guards, and wardens, and she also knew about a thousand different ways to fail at an escape attempt.

This, Suki could do.

She heard the shout ahead of her before she saw the guard, her fans snapping open in a motion so familiar she didn't even have to think about it.  In one move, she leaped into the air and slit the man's throat before he could get out any further warning, and then used his falling body as leverage to reach the ceiling.  Her fingers slipped between the tiles and she pulled the rest of her body up behind her, so she was laying flat on her back, on the ceiling.

One... Two... Three...  The other guard reached to his partner's side, and didn't have a chance to even register what was happening before Suki descended on him.

If she knew anything about anything, they would be interrogating Zoe.  Katara had admitted to throwing boiling water on one of the Blue Hand Guys, and it was likely that the other had been killed by Zoe's violent diversion.  Interrogation usually meant ground floor, or possibly below it -- the most secure place to take your scary potential murderers, especially in a world where people regularly flew around in airships.  She snatched the keys off of one of the guards and vaulted the railing, landing on the tiles below in a roll, and immediately made her way to the corner to hold up for the next round of guards.

She also knew guards, from her time in the Boiling Rock -- they would travel in either twos or threes, depending on the sort of inmates that surrounded them.  Judging from the shouts and banging on the doors she could hear echoing from down the hall (below the one where everyone else was still standing, although she hoped that they had at least started to do something), she was moving toward the more violent offenders, which meant more guards.

That was quite all right with her.  She had her fans, two pistols, four grenades, and over fifteen years of martial arts experience.  She raced down the hallway, sheathing her fans and, in the same movement, drawing her pistols, and rocketed through the intersection, pulling the triggers as she went, but -- shit.

Where the hell was that safety button Jayne had shown her?

...Now she was slightly less confident.

--

Toph looked around sightlessly.  "A ship just landed," she cried, standing up.  "Right beside us."

Three seconds later, River screamed.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
moldycookies
Sep. 6th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
Three seconds later, River screamed.

Bwahahaha! This is definitely a LOL.
andromeda3116
Sep. 6th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
Heh, I can't resist. :D
jdphoenix
Sep. 6th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
I'm gonna be on the edge of my seat until you post the next chapter. This story is just so ... I really don't have an adjective adequate to describe it, but if I did it would definitely be one of the good adjectives. :)
andromeda3116
Sep. 6th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC)
I actually have the next chapter written, I'm just giving it some time before I post it. :) Thank you!
jade_sabre_301
Sep. 6th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
this is the only icon I have with Suki in it, fail
OSNAP, KATARA, THE ALLIANCE IS EVIL

ah-hahahaha I can see Mal and Toph's expressions when he tells her she isn't coming. Heh.

omg Zoe y so badass

LITTLE BLIND MANIAC ah-hahahahahahaaaaaaaa

SUKI YOU ARE ALSO BADASS. As is Zuko. I feel like I am just stating the obvious here.

dying bird oooooooooooooooooh Sokka. <3

Suki I hope Sokka or Kaylee gives you lots and lots of smooches when this is over. :-( I love the way you're getting into her head and awesome description of prison is awesome.

ONOEZ SAFETY BUTTON AND CLIFFHANGER AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

Edited at 2010-09-06 06:41 pm (UTC)
andromeda3116
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: this is the only icon I have with Suki in it, fail
Zoe is so badass. It's what she does. :D

The dying bird line was my favorite in this whole chapter, possibly this whole story. >>

Suki will get lots of kisses but also a really nasty chewing-out from Mal. I always really loved her, so getting into her head is fun! Also, cliffhangers are fun, too.
jade_sabre_301
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:46 am (UTC)
Re: this is the only icon I have with Suki in it, fail
yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss :D

YAY KISSES and Mal lecturing people. Oh, Mal. <3
tinmiss1939
Sep. 6th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
"They think they can make people better, no matter what the cost."
Mal said something very helpful, didn't he? Now if only someone could help Katara connect the Alliance's attitude to the Dai Li. She might feel a little more kinship with Serenity's crew.

In that direction, any chance Katara can heal River a little? She helped Jet, but amygdala-stripping isn't exactly Dai Li mind-bending.

On a slightly morbid note, I like that you are describing the blood and violence. Avatar is such a bloodless show that it can be hard to appreciate how scary these kids would be in real like. I never realized that Suki's war fans would make such a mess--same with Boomerang.

Three seconds later, River screamed.
Oh, River. Never change, sweetheart.
andromeda3116
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:46 am (UTC)
Katara's on the right track. It'll just take her some time. I'm having a lot of fun developing the relationship between River and Katara, and her capabilities as a healer will definitely factor into that, although I haven't decided how much of an affect she'd be able to have.

I'm glad you liked that! I didn't want to overdo the violence, but it's hard to maintain this balance between unrealistically bloodless and over-the-top gore. I don't want it to become a gore-fest, you know?
tinmiss1939
Sep. 8th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
You're not over the gore-fest line; so far you're showing the realistic consequences of actions that these particular characters would take in these circumstances. The level of violence is similar what is shown in Serenity, and so far nothing you've done is as gorey/squicky as the Reavers (srsly Joss Whedon's brain is a SCARY PLACE).

Sokka wiping his boomerang on Suki's blood-stained shirt might be a little gratuitous, but it makes up for it in hilarity and bad-assery.
seserakh
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
SO ROLLICKING. SO MUCH ASS KICKING. FFFF MOAR NAO.
andromeda3116
Sep. 7th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
XD I'm glad you're enjoying it!
michelle_ravel
Sep. 11th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
You are correct that Suki is this awesome.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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