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Aug. 10th, 2007 @ 06:15 pm In which there is Danger!Will Robinson
Rays!In!Space AU - Part 6
This one's probably an R for violence.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5



"Yeah, well," said Ray, stepping through into the airlock, "using a crowbar around a pressure suit could lead to a potentially fatal leak."

"Just admit you're impressed."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Open the damn door already."

The porthole window of the internal door was grimy. Kowalski wiped at it with his glove, succeeding only in smearing the dirt further.

"We know what we're getting into?" he asked as he began to haul on the rusted doorlock wheel.

"Surprise party? I hope they have cake."

"Vecchio."

Ray shrugged, which was not easy in the pressure suit.

"Honestly? I don't think it's the guys we're after. I've seen this kind of thing one too many times before. Nomad family taking risks to get to landfall, not enough fuel or the wrong kind or no spares or the oxygen pipe blows or the wiring gets shot. Ship goes kaput, family follows. Not pretty."

"We're going in why?"

"You think this place should be a graveyard? Nah, we do for these people, like we would want someone to do for us. Besides, there are laws. You remember laws, right?"

Kowalski's head twisted towards Ray for a second before he hauled on the door for the last time and stepped through. Ray thought he must have imagined the look of grudging respect on Kowalski's face. He followed Kowalski into the ship.

The corridor was lit by emergency lighting, the dull metal walls reflecting dim, blue light and producing an eerie atmosphere. There was no noise. No thrumming engine, no excited voices, no whirr of countless unknown machines at work. It freaked Ray out a little bit. He checked his instruments.

"She's got gravity and I get within range readings for oxygen," He tapped a button on his wrist. "MacDonald? Biohazards?"

A brief pause.

"Scan's clear. You're good to go. Bring me back a present. I'm thinking a nice lead on alien tech would-"

Ray tapped the button again, cutting Ian off mid-sentence.

"We're okay. Let's get these damn helmets off."

As soon as he lifted off the helmet, Ray was assaulted by a fetid, decaying smell. It took all his willpower not to give in to the nausea that swept through him. He bent double, trying hard not to breathe through his nose. Judging by the green tinge to Kowalski's skin he was feeling exactly the same way.

"No, no, no, no, no," muttered Kowalski, rubbing a gloved hand through his hair.

Ray turned a general look of enquiry on him.

"I did not want you to be right. Me and death, we're not exactly buddies."

"No? Well I like to have him round for tea most days off. We play old-style chess. It's quite the thing."

Kowalski shot him a look. In the gloom Ray couldn't work it out exactly, but for some reason it made him feel ashamed. He straightened up and looked away.

"Let's get this thing over with. You search that way," he pointed down the corridor, "and I'll search this. Sooner we get the bodies tagged and ready to go; the sooner we can call Maintenance."

Kowalski nodded and headed off around the curve of the corridor. Ray started his own search. A few strides in he stopped. He had the weirdest feeling, like he was being watched.

"Knock it off, Kowalski, you're creeping me out."

There was no reply. Stupid, game-playing jerk. Ray started walking again. The smell was getting worse, choking his nostrils and Ray was finding it difficult to think past it. Shoulda kept the helmet on, he thought. Just ahead of him to the right was a door. Ray pulled out his weapon from the holster on the leg of his suit. His stomach squeezed as he reached out a hand to open the door and then something barrelled into his arm, spinning him round, sending the ioniser pistol skittering across the floor. Before he could reorient himself there was a blow to the back of his knees that swept his legs out from under him and he crashed to the floor, smashing his head against cold metal.

A weight dropped onto his chest and then fingers closed on his throat, throttling the life out of him. Panicking, Ray scrabbled at the hands that were killing him, trying to prise the fingers away, but the gloves of his pressure suit made him clumsy and he couldn't shift them. He twisted and bucked under the shadowy mass but it held on tight. It was screaming now, words that held no meaning for Ray. The pressure on his neck was unbearable, Ray tried to breathe through his nose but the rotting air caught at the back of his throat and the resulting wave of nausea brought scalding bile up into his oesophagus, his own body working against his survival.

Black spots started to swim before Ray's eyes, this was it. The end. Ray's body went limp.

And then, suddenly, there was a crack and a thud and air – sweet, corpse-rotten air – began to flood into his lungs. Ray's chest heaved as he dragged oxygen kicking and screaming back into his bloodstream. His vision swam and began to clear. In the dim light and through the receding panic, Ray made out Kowalski standing by him, crowbar in hand.

"You're impressed now, right?"

Ray croaked his agreement. He was.

"You saved my life."

Kowalski reached down a hand to help Ray into a sitting position. Mother, it hurt.

"Partners, right? It's like a rule or something. No get-out clause if you don't like the guy. 'Sides, Frannie would kill me if I let you get whacked."

Ray put his hands to his throat, he couldn't shake the feeling there were ghost fingers still there, squeezing. Would they ever be gone? Kowalski crouched down in front of him.

"You okay?"

What answer was there to that? No, I'm not okay, I just nearly had the life strangled out of me by some crazed lunatic. No, I'm not okay, my neck feels like I've been put through a blender and my lungs think they've taken a bath in a vat of acid lined with wire wool. No, I'm not okay, because I owe my life to you and I'm not comfortable with that, especially when you look at me like I'm personally insulting you by trying to die on your watch.

"Yeah."

"You good to go?"

"Yeah."

Ray knew Kowalski knew that it was a lie, but there was still a job to do and it had just got murkier.

For the first time, he looked over to the crumpled heap that was his attacker. It was a guy, maybe in his late forties, his appearance wild and dishevelled. His clothes were filthy, his hair and beard obviously uncared for, skin grimy and stained with streaks of something that Ray could not recognise in the poor light, but instinct told him was blood. Ray caught sight of one of his hands, broad, stubby fingers ending in filthy nails. He put his hands to his neck again and shuddered.

"You kill him?" he asked.

Kowalski toed the body over on to its back. It went as easily as a rag doll.

"He's breathing, but I don't think he'll be coming round any time soon. You want to get this done?"

"No. I want to get the hell away from this Motherforsaken shithole and forget the whole thing ever happened."

Kowalski looked startled by Ray's honesty. Almost as startled as Ray was.

"Come on."

Stepping over the supine body, Ray stood against the wall, swinging the door open as Kowalski readied himself to go through, weapon in one hand, crowbar in the other. The stench of putrefaction swept out of the room as if it had been desperate to escape. Kowalski's horrified yelp suggested why.

Ray followed him in.

It was a small room, the shelves lining the walls indicated some kind of storage area, but they were empty. The only thing the room was storing was three bodies, all female, lined up neatly in order of size, the smallest a girl who couldn't have been more than seven or eight. There was hardly anything to them but even so chunks had been carved out of the scant flesh, dark stains colouring the floor around them. Ray was grateful for the lack of light. Kowalski was vomiting neatly in a corner. Ray couldn't blame him, fighting off his own desire to throw up, flares of pain shooting through his neck as he swallowed repeatedly.

"Did they die of starvation first or did he kill them to eat?"

"Is either way better?"

"No, but I know the Pan-System laws on homicide; cannibalism I am less familiar with and I want to read the bastard his rights." Ray's throat ached with the effort of speaking.

There was a scuffling noise from outside the room and Ray whirled around in time to see his attacker reach Ray's ioniser pistol, hold it to his own head and shoot. The body slumped sideways, still twitching, the weapon clattering to the floor.

They were at his side in an instant, Ray grabbing his pistol and checking the setting.

"He's not coming back from that. Shit! I can't believe I left my weapon unattended. What is wrong with me?"

"What's wrong with you? You nearly died, that's what's wrong." Kowalski punched his fist into the wall. "What's wrong with me? I shoulda had the guy tied up. Talk about rookie mistake."

"You are a rookie," said Ray, suddenly so very tired. He slid down the wall and came to rest with a bump.

"Here, maybe. But I should've known better. Fraser would've-" Kowalski cut himself off. "I'm sorry, Ray, I fucked up. What do we gotta do now?"

Ray allowed himself a few seconds to get over the shock of the apology.

"There's no case to answer so Maintenance will do a DNA ident and make arrangements for the family and the ship. You just need to tell them where and how many. Welsh will need a report – you okay to give that too? I just-" His voice, which had been getting increasingly hoarse, gave out.

"Whatever you say, boss."

And now Ray was convinced he was already dead.

*

Back on Riviera, Ray shoved Vecchio into his cabin and summoned Ian to help him take off his pressure suit. As Ian stowed it carefully, Ray didn't bother to dress as he helped Vecchio out of his. The man was white as a sheet, dark circles ringing his green eyes and livid bruises beginning to adorn his throat like a particularly unpleasant collar. Vecchio stood and let Ray undress him, his passivity unnerving. Ian stood in the doorframe babbling in horror as he saw the state of his senior officer. Vecchio merely turned pleading eyes on Ray.

"Ian," said Ray, as he took off the second glove and set to work on the body of the suit, "you have to stop talking now. I'm going to need our co-ordinates. Get them."

Ian certainly stopped talking. He didn't move though.

Ray started working the suit over Vecchio's shoulders and down over his chest. He raised an internal eyebrow. No wonder the guy had so little hair on his head, it was all down here. For a split second he wondered what it would feel like under his hand, smooth or rough? Warm or cool?

"Co-ordinates, Ian? Co. Ordinates. Where we are? With the x and the y and not forgetting the z."

Ray glanced towards the pilot who was looking slightly pale. Obviously cared more about Vecchio than Ray had thought. He unhooked the internal belts, pushing the suit past Vecchio's waist and it slid the rest of the way unimpeded, pooling around his ankles. Vecchio just stood there, head angled slightly, staring at Ian.

"Step out of the-"

"Ian." Vecchio's voice creaked and threatened.

Ian turned and fled, scaling the ladder as if the devil was at his heels.

If the devil wasn't, Vecchio certainly was as he made a charge for the door. But he had forgotten the pressure suit constricting his movements and tripped and fell. Ray grabbed at him and they tangled in awkward embrace, half in and half out of the cabin, the shock of Ray's skin against someone else's almost knocking the breath out of him.

It was at this moment that Frannie decided to come out of her cabin, bleary-eyed and yawning, showing a little midriff as she stretched.

"What exactly is going on here?" she squeaked, blinking rapidly.

Ray could only imagine the picture she was getting and swiftly put Vecchio back on his feet. In the commotion that followed Frannie's realisation that her brother was hurt, Ray worked out two things.

Firstly, that Ian had taken them someplace they weren't supposed to go and second, he was cold. He wasn't sure clothes would fix the second one.






Part 7
Current Data
the riviera
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From:lamentables
Date:August 10th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
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This wasn't really grabbing me for the first couple of parts, but from the conversation between Ray and Frannie onwards I've got really sucked in. I should go back and see if it's just that I was in the wrong mood or whether I can figure out why I was bouncing off it.

You can now officially classify me as keen to know what happens next. And actually, what happened before.
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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:August 10th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
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Woo! for in-sucking and keenness!

Did you figure out what it was?
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From:lamentables
Date:August 26th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Having just reached the end it seemed like a good time to go back and try to figure it out, see how I react now I've bought into the AU.

I still slide off it a bit at the beginning and I think what it is - and of course this is entirely personal - is that until the Frannie/RayK scene in part 4 (I think it's 4) none of the main character interactions are quite long enough for me. I tend to like structures that throw me into the middle of things, get me intrigued/invested in the characters, and then step back to make sure that things make sense and that the world-buildingness is all in place. Your structure here feels like really fast-paced edits cutting from different types of scenes and different members of the cast to give me a wide-screen view before settling me into the people that are the focus of our experience in this world.

Hope it was OK to say that: I'm exploring not criticising.
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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:August 26th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that's interesting. Because the fast-paced edits were a very deliberate choice - giving the wider view of the world and the cast. I know what you mean about starting in media res but it didn't seem to fit the scale of what I was trying to do with this. I suppose the first couple of parts were like a lot of TV pilots in a sense, broad brush strokes to welcome you into the world and also setting up things that would be important later on. I wonder how much that has to do with how extraordinarily real the world was in my head before I even started writing it.

And of course it was OK, I asked! I'm really glad you took the time to think it through.
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From:thehousekeeper
Date:August 10th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
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!!!

In a good way.

Beta'ing on the fly:

The porthole window of the internal door was grimy, Kowalski wiped at it with his glove, succeeding only in smearing the dirt further. is a run-on, and I would add a comma before the "which" in Ray shrugged which was not easy in the pressure suit. But that's all.
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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:August 10th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
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Yay for good !!! and flying betas! All fixed now. Thanks for that, hon.
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From:spuffyduds
Date:August 13th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
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No? Well I like to have him round for tea most days off. We play old-style chess. It's quite the thing."


With the x and the y and not forgetting the z."

Those were my favorite bits--but it's all great fun. (Okay, kind of gloomy gruesome fun in this bit, but fun nonetheless.)



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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:August 13th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC)
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Yay! You have this unerring way of picking out my favourite bits. Glad you're having fun.
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From:primroseburrows
Date:August 16th, 2007 04:18 am (UTC)
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This is so awesome, I'm really loving it. I really like the gradual respect the Rays are developing for each other. I'm one for NOT getting into the NC-17 right away. It's always about the story first for me. This one's awesome so far. :)

one teeny Amerispeak nitpick: Ray (either one) probably wouldn't say "come round" or "have a look round". He'd say "around" instead. Americans (and I'm pretty sure most Canadians) don't use "round" much unless we're talking about something circular. Granted this is AU, but I figure Ray(s) would still speak like themselves.
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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:August 16th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! Yeah, considering the starting point it would be unnatural for the boys to just get down to it. They need to get there in their own time.

And thank you for the Amerispeak pick up. Feel free to chip in at any point, it will be gratefully received.
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From:snoopypez
Date:November 22nd, 2007 11:34 am (UTC)
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This part really brought to mind the Bushwacked episode of Firefly. Creepy and a little sad and dark and.. um, tensiony. Yes.

Also, I quite love the whole bit with RayK apologising and 'whatever you say, boss' and therefore making RayV think he's died for real. ;P
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From:ultracosmicrays
Date:November 22nd, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes, heavily influenced by Firefly am I (and also Yoda, it would seem). I'm glad it came off as creepy and tensiony, that's totally what I was going for.

*pets not-dead RayV*