The Christmas Run - pt 4 (of 5)
Friday, January 4, 2008

Squashed and jostled in the cramped interior of the Bus, Simon Tam held onto the leathered ceiling strap with white knuckles and stared at the floor, his eyes deliberately unfocused. Wearing his glasses would only reveal just what the slimy trail between his shoes actually was. Simon did not want to know.
Jayne ignored him, was busy staring at (whatever the hell that was passing itself as) a map - as it flicked in and out on a fuzzy wall screen.

Kaylee was grinning from ear.
“What – you NEVER caught a bus before?” She had asked Simon incredulously.
Simon had clutched onto his medical bag and shook his head silently.
After muttering some Chinese Kaylee had squeezed herself to the head of the rectangular deck. The driver/pilot was squeezed into a tiny cubicle, framed by transparent plexi-glass. Kaylee was knocking on it now excitedly.
The man responded to her tapping with an automatic “I’m drivin’ ma’am – don’t distract me.” - But the corner of his eye registered her keen look and her pretty face.
“Well, hey there l’il gal, can I help with something?”
Kaylee ignored the patronising words – she’d heard them half her life already – and she could recognise a friendly tone of voice easy enough.
“Aint been on one a these since I was so high…” she laughed. “Takes me back, pigtails, satchel, school – you aint taking me to school are you, huh?”
The driver laughed.
“Lookin’ at you – I’d say, maybe…”
Kaylee preened politely – but her eyes were already scanning the dials of the man’s dashboard. He noticed that. “You a flyer, Miss?”
“Mechanic”, she smiled.
“Hell, we got a sore need for those” the driver said honestly, “End up doing the patching chores ourselves. No mean feat with this beast.”
“Must get a lotta wear, regular runs like this.”
“Y’Gorram right. Still, my baby aint let me down yet.”
Kaylee noted the way his eyes moved – the way he could look at her and the screens at the same time. “You been doin’ this a whiles then…”
“Let’s just say – the two of us aint so graceful – but we’re growin’ old together all the same.”
Kaylee grinned wide at that. “So what kinda engine you got for this beauty?”
It was the driver’s turn to preen. “Capissen 38”, he said proudly.
Kaylee let out an unflattering yelp – and seconds later was tucked in next Simon, clutching a strap and wearing a face as white as his knuckles.


“Well boys – you don’t know how fashionable you are… I mean – correct me if I’m wrong Zoe but – this truly does seem to be a remarkable centre of attraction… most people would assume a loading bay to be – I dunno, unexciting? Uninviting? But not MY loading bay – not this boat. Just what’s inside keeps being the uninvited – but hey, I Must say truly that I was feeling almost venturesome before.”
Malcolm Reynolds was surveying the trussed bodies of the faux Alliance unit – with a characteristic cold glee.
The man as called himself Louis groaned – “He always like this?” He looked helplessly across to Zoe who was covering them all with a rifle. Shepherd Face was checking the bonds, making the men “comfortable and secure – but mostly just secure, right Shepherd?” Reynolds had called to him.
Zoe cocked an eyebrow at Louis. The man read her expression, sighed once and started staring at the ceiling.

Mal considered his captives. “So – what’s the local punishment for buccaneering around these parts? Can I say bucc– you were tryna steal my ship weren’t you – or the cargo leastways…” His voice dropped. “Now that is a thing likely to darken the clouds in a man’s mind…” It was an audible threat – but then he lightened. “Still it IS Christmas… good will and forgiveness I believe… or – actually I don’t – but I profess I get some genuine satisfaction from knowing that you boys took them duds off the back of real Purple Bellies. Makes you Indies in my book.”

Louis looked at the Captain – his expression surprisingly bitter.
“We’re not Indies – we aint BrownCoats… we’re – supposed to be – Company Boys.
Engineers, miners – waiting – contracted here, jobs promised – jobs never came… Never mind boys – just wait and we’ll move you on to where the deals good – a planet that WORKS, right? Not yet they aint – contracts wore out a long time ago… and in the mean time – we got families, drifters – we got blue collars working maintenance for food and women – or trading goods and scrap – we got white collars come to sort out the heath care, the wages, the insurance – all the things not needed here… so they’re stuck. This place is like a tar pit. And suddenly one day, you wake up – you realise, hell – I’ve been surviving out here now on my own two feet and some patched up air-con for YEARS. And this is home. So then it is home – and so more people come. And then if the Company – if the Corps – if the ruttin Parliament actually did say ‘Hey, time to move people!’ – y’know what – we wouldn’t shift a gorram muscle BECAUSE it’s home. Aint no/one takes my home away without a fight.”
The man seemed taken aback by the length of is own tirade.
Mal shook his head. “Helluva speech.” He began to chuckle. “Whoo… Mister you’re in the wrong line of trade. You may not be a pirate worth a damn but I admire a good talker. Was there any truth in that?”
Louis shrugged. “Some.”
Mal nodded. “Well, let’s just cut to the marrow shall we - you can keep your men after all – my ship’s crowded enough. I’ll be taking your weapons, Zoe here will go across and disable your nav-com…”
There was an angry murmur – Mal cut it off with an angry Chinese curse.
“This is a trailer park right? Well then. It’s happy trailing for you. Aint nuthin you won’t bounce back from if you’ve a mind to.” He fixed his gaze once more n Louis. “But I seriously advise you to quit pestering folks and work a more talkative kinda grift.”


“But no Doctor right?” Simon was doing his best to keep up. The narrow iron of Serenity was one thing – but the wildly swinging connex-tubing of the trailer park was something else again. The clear plastic let through the vista of squat metallic shapes. There were porta-capsules, small satellite booths – shops maybe - and a large spiral of shuttles turned in homes and linked by the tubes. Surrounding everything was the darkness of space itself – and the far winking stars. Simon fought back a wave of vertigo. He kept reminding himself that the tubing was better than – anything was better than – suiting up and walking in the vacuum itself.
Behind Simon, Kaylee was admiring the very scenery that so unnerved him. Jayne was lugging the heavy flight case, his face showing just how much he appreciated the task.
Ahead of Simon – and still calmly poised – Erren said, “That’s right – like the message told – our Doctor upped and died on us. Heart failure looked like.” She laughed wryly. “Though how would we know, right?”

She stopped. The tubing shlepped right up against the side of a converted shuttle – covering the outer door like a membrane. “Yes,” she said, as though reading something in Simon’s mind. “The tubing’s time rationed. One of the reasons we need a Bus. Everyone gets their share. Still, one time – Ion storms battered the comm. relays – There were people stuck inside… a lotta of these Crates can’t move anymore. That can be scary….” Her eyes flashed. “…or fun. Depending.”
Before Simon could respond Erren had split the membrane and opened the door to her home. “Please,” she said, her formal politeness reasserted, “Doctor, welcome.”


end of pt 4


end of pt 4
next - some dark revelations... a bang - a hat and maybe a joke inside - the festive season comes to a close...


Friday, January 4, 2008 6:09 PM


So, in conclusion, Simon's first bus trip ever was hilarious (as Kaylee scrambled back after learning it was a Cappisan made it all the more funnier, nice touch). And the captain is might jolly and sarcasmic during Christmas.

Loved the explaination of why the men were dressed as Alliance too.

Stars! **********


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