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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal and Julian come to an understanding, and Wildfire's last flight comes to a close.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1838 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu
RECONSTITUTED GAMMA TEAM -23:30
“Well?” Mal asked, “How are we gonna do this?”
The standoff had continued far longer than anyone was comfortable with. The prospect for uncontrolled, random violence was too great, however, for anyone to reasonably consider breaking the impasse. Rel continued to point his revolver at the back of Julian Martel’s head, while Julian, in turn, had his rifle pointed at River’s. Mal’s pistol was likewise trained on the bounty hunter, and Jayne, Campbell, and the commandos (all except for poor Fue, who was still curled up in the fetal position, quietly whimpering) had their guns pointed at the mass of mercenaries in Julian’s employ, who were returning the favor – if a trifle uneasily. Almost half of them had been prisoners with them just moments before, and had even given their personal word of honor not to harm them. To those whom a personal word of honor was meaningful, their weapons were not quite pointed in their direction.
“I’m open to suggestions,” admitted Julian, “as long as there’s a place in our negotiations where I get to kick this ji bai’s ass,” he growled.
“Let’s table the whole ass kicking issue for the moment in the face of more pressing matters,” Campbell offered. “I suppose that a general truce and amnesty would not be on the table?”
“I came for the Tams,” declared Julian. “I aim to leave with the Tams.”
“We came with the Tams, and I aim to leave with them,” Mal said. “They ain’t done any harm.”
“The hell they haven’t,” Julian insisted. “Let’s start with the original warrant, then the mind-control device they used on that idiot on Salisbury, the collusion with known outlaws, sedition against the Alliance, the recovery of this ship and its arsenal – including mass weaponry – and the development and possession of advanced technology weapons outside of Alliance purview.”
“Alliance whatsis?” Jayne asked.
“Yeah, I’m a might confounded by that last one,” Mal admitted.
“Well, all these dead White Tigers didn’t sprout from thin air. She did . . . something to them. Some kind of secret weapon she and her sib whipped up. And that kind of work can’t be done by non-governmental agencies, as per law.”
“Then why is she not doing the same to you?” Campbell inquired.
“How the hell should I know? It isn’t my weapon. I don’t know how it works.”
“Would you be open to the possibility that a large part of your supposition about the guilt of the Tams has been based around a combination of unfortunate coincidence, wild speculation, and misinformation?” asked Campbell.
“Uh . . . no, no I wouldn’t. They’re guilty as hell. But that doesn’t even matter, because I have good, legally binding warrants for both of them. If they are wrongly accused, they can have their day in court and good luck with that. But the fact stands: I aim to collect this bounty, and the way things stand I don’t see a compelling reason why I should back down!”
“Uh, there is the matter of me and my pistol, Mr. Martel,” Rel reminded him.
“There is that,” agreed Mal.
“You think this is the first time I’ve been in this kind of situation? Let me assure you, I’ve been in worse,” Julian said, matter-of-factly. “I also assure you that I don’t look fondly on traitors, Mr. Fexive.”
“Might not surprise you to know that this isn’t the first time I’ve run afoul of the legal authorities, either,” Rel replied calmly. “For good or ill, I throw my lot in with Miss River.”
“Aw, ain’t that sweet!” Jayne growled through gritted teeth. “Loosin’ my patience here, Mal!”
“Keep tight, Jayne,” Mal shot back.
“Everybody, remain calm,” insisted Campbell.
“I’m long past calm, rebel,” Julian said. “Yes, I know about you, Mr. Campbell. I’ve got your file memorized. Imperial Milintel, the espionage, the assassinations, the whole bit. You, you I could find a warrant on. And a reward. Just by being here you’re in violation of your amnesty agreement, which makes you technically in rebellion against the Alliance – so I’d watch what you say, Mr. Rebel!”
Campbell smiled a small, tight smile. “Like Mr. Fexive, there, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve had problems with that authority in the past. There is no higher nor more noble title than ‘rebel’ when tyranny – even an allegedly benevolent tyranny – is in ascendancy.”
“OK, well, we’ve established that we have a mutual loathing, here,” Mal said. “I think that’s progress. Let’s try to keep shy of politics, though. Only confound matters.”
“Yeah, I know how all of y’all feel ‘bout how good the Alliance is takin’ care o’ things, now,” Jayne said loudly to the Hammerstrike men – a good portion of whom had worn brown in the War and had no great love of the Alliance. “I’m sure y’all don’t mind actin’ as their enforcers, now that all that silly Independent stuff is over with.”
“Like . . . that. Don’t say anything more like that,” Mal said with a sigh. He looked around at the large number of guns pointed at him. “Anyone up for a conciliatory group hug?”
“Don’t try to turn my men against me!” Julian demanded. “They aren’t pretty, but they have honorable work. They’re doing a job for a wage, not fighting for a cause.”
“I can respect that,” agreed Mal. “Doin’ the same my self. But are you truly a businessman, Martel? Or are you just an appendage of the Alliance that doesn’t have to obey the rules for ordinary purplebellies?”
“I’m in business . . . and I’m a patriot,” Martel said sternly, his rifle not wavering a millimeter. “The two are not mutually exclusive. I won’t take work that works against the Alliance, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“And if the Tams are not really a threat to the Alliance, I take it your stake in the matter would purely be financial?”
“Where is all this feh hua going?” Martel demanded.
“Just passin’ the time,” Mal assured. “Doesn’t look like we’re goin’ anywhere anytime soon. Just tryin’ to get to know what kinda man you are, Martel.”
“It’s all just a bunch of hypothetical crap. The Tams are guilty. I’ve brought in a lot of fugitives in my time, and you’d be surprised at just how many of them insisted that they were innocent.”
“Didn’t say they were innocent – just said they weren’t a threat to the Alliance. An embarrassment, perhaps, but not a threat. You know the whole story? The real story?”
“I’m growing weary of this debate,” Martel said testily.
“That’s two of us!” Jayne added.
“If we are all just willing to be—” Colonel Campbell began.
No one ever discovered what he wanted them to be willing to do, because at that moment the doors burst opened and, once again, the room became flooded with men with guns. Only this time they were wearing yellow coats trimmed with red.
The men quickly swept around the Hammerstrike bounty hunters, surrounding them with military precision and plenty of military hardware. While none of the folks involved in the stand-off lowered their weapons, they were held less intently because of the new distraction.
“Holy – who the hell are they?” Jayne asked. “Don’t recall invitin’ them to the party!”
“They are soldiers of the Imperial Guard,” Campbell supplied, proudly. “Lei Chin Yi must have . . . gentlemen – and River, I believe we are rescued!”
“This changes the situation a mite,” agreed Mal, grinning.
When the Guardsmen had the situation fully under control, they quickly identified Johnny’s friends from those who weren’t, and disarmed the latter – including Julian Martel. That gave the commandos an opportunity to finally lower their weapons, and a few even cheered their gold-coated rescuers. A large officer with a round face and the insignia of a Lieutenant on his shoulder approached them and bowed.
“I am Captain Wu, of the Imperial Guard. I was sent here by His Highness to secure your release from . . . well, from the White Tigers, originally, but I see you have dealt with that issue. I cannot help but wonder how, and who these men are. Is there one among you who is in charge?”
Mal was about to say something, when Campbell laid a gentle hand on his arm to stay him.
“I am Colonel Nathaniel Campbell, of Imperial Intelligence. Thank you . . . Captain?” he inquired, glancing at his insignia.
“His Highness promoted me recently,” the man explained, nodding to his shoulder. “My tailor has not been able to keep up.”
“I see. And just where is . . . His Highness?”
“Who the hell is his highness?” Jayne whispered.
“Shut up a moment, Jayne,” Mal muttered. “You might learn something.”
“He should be joining us shortly,” explained Captain Wu. “In the mean time, can my men see to your wounds? Do you have any requirements? And . . . what should I do with these . . . men?” he asked, though it was obvious he had another word in mind when describing the scruffy-looking Anglics of the Hammerstrike team.
“That’s . . . an interesting question,” admitted Campbell. “If you give me a moment of consultation, perhaps I can come up with an answer. And by all means, please see to Sgt. Fue, over there. He was worked over by the Tyrant.”
A look of dark fury crossed Wu’s face. “May he be the last!” he said, his face a contortion of anger. Apparently Capt. Wu had a score to settle with the old man. While he turned to give orders to his medics, Campbell pulled Mal and the others into a quick huddle.
“Who the hell is ‘his highness’?” Jayne repeated.
“It’s Johnny, you moron,” River answered, rolling her eyes.
“Johnny?” Mal asked. “He isn’t a . . . highness!”
“He is an heir to the House of Lei, and apparently he has acted to secure the loyalty and command of these troops – the troops that just so nicely saved our collective ass – by using that title to place him in a position of power,” explained Campbell quickly and quietly. “That had to take a considerable amount of work, and calling out anything contrary to his story could well be disastrous, so Mr. Cobb, if you don’t mind . . .”
“Keep your ruttin’ mouth shut about Johnny,” finished Mal, understanding.
“Yes, from this point on we should treat Chin Yi with all the deference of an heir apparent to the throne. Don’t mention the Alliance, the state of Yuan, or anything else to these men that might break his hold over them.”
“Agreed,” Mal said. “If the boy worked this hard to bring an . . . an army to rescue us, seems a shame to mess that up.”
“Where’n hell he get an’ army from? Rent ‘em by the hour?”
“They’ve been in hibernation, same as the Tigers and Shan Yu,” explained Mal. “When Johnny got away, he musta made his way back to that chamber and thawed ‘em out. Played himself off as a Prince to rook ‘em into rescuin’ us.”
“So you must refer to him as ‘His Highness’, now, and make certain you bow in his presence,” added Campbell.
“Li’l Johnny? The gangster boy? A Prince? Now ain’t THAT a promotion,” mused Jayne.
“It’s a terribly, terribly dangerous risk,” assured Campbell. “And just the kind of bold, brilliant move that put the Lei’s on the throne in the first place. If there was still an Empire, he would be worthy of its Mandate. But there is still the question of Martel. What should we do with them?”
“Space ‘em,” Jayne said, instantly.
“No, we won’t,” Mal said. “No, best thing we can do is send them out empty handed. No River, no Simon, no loot. Send them packing back to their frigate.”
“I concur,” Campbell said. “They are a hassle we do not need. We’ve seen enough death the last few days. It is time to call it a day. As long as we can wrest a verbal agreement from Martel that he will stand by, I see no reason to punish him beyond denying him his bounty.”
“He’s a stubborn jackass, but he seems honorable,” Mal observed. “River, you got any insight into this?”
“He . . . he would live up to his agreement.”
“Yeah, how do you know?” Jayne demanded.
“Mindreader? Witch? Telepath?” River reminded scornfully. “Want me to tell everyone the frequency and duration of your masturbatory sessions?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jayne admitted. “Guess you might know at that. An’ you keep what you know about my hobbies to your ownself. Ugh! There you go, thinkin’ ‘bout my pecker again!” he said with disgust.
“Let me chat with him,” Mal said, ignoring the childish debate. “Sure I can reason with him. Might even get him to leave off chasin’ us a while.”
A few minutes later Mal was walking towards the other end of the huge staging bay with a disarmed and bound Julian Martel.
Mr. Martel did not seem happy.
“So what do I owe the pleasure? A little pre-execution pep-talk? You didn’t seem like the kind of man to gloat,” Martel observed.
“You’re wrong about me,” Mal countered. “I got no problems with gloating, when its appropriate. Right now I’m not in a gloating mood. Because we need to come to an understanding.”
“About what? Our preferred method of execution? I’d think that firing squad or spacing would be the most expedient method.”
“Now, Martel, don’t go getting’ all melancholic on me,” Mal grinned. “Just ‘cause you lost this one don’t mean I’m gonna chuck you out an airlock. If we can come to an understanding, that is.”
“And just what would this understanding entail?”
“See these yellow coated men? They’re Imperial soldiers. Not Imperial Factionists, who want to restore the Yuanese Empire an’ got their asses kicked in the War. They never left the Empire – and they ain’t never heard of the Alliance, the Independents, or anything else that’s happened in the last hundred-odd years. They don’t care if you work for the Alliance or your great-Aunt Petunia. What they do care about is following the orders of their Emperor, or something like that, and right now that’s one of my people. I say all this to let you know that they would act to put an end the lot of you without worrying about any judicial trouble they might fall into.”
“These men . . . they aren’t Imperial Faction?” he asked skeptically.
“These men are Imperial Guards,” explained Mal. “Old style. They’ve been on ice for . . . well, since the ship took its gassy nap, nigh on a century ago. They are awake now, is the thing, and you, you’ve managed to piss off their . . . leader. So,” Mal continued, “I want to find a way out of this without too much more blood being spilled, and I’m wondering if we can’t find a way to make that happen.”
Julian sighed. “What are your terms?”
“So glad you asked. How’s this sound? We’ll let you keep your guns. You march back to your shuttle, head for that mighty fine frigate you got, get onboard and head out-system the moment you can. You don’t get River. You don’t double ‘round and shoot at us. You see any loot you want to pick up on the way, well, ain’t nobody gonna be watching. You won’t break even on this deal, but then again no more of your men die. And when they finally get this ship powered up, they won’t blow your pretty little frigate out of the Black.”
“What about Fexive?”
“Um . . . until we can negotiate the nuptials an’ a suitable dowry, I’d prefer to keep him here and alive. Boy risked a lot for a girl – his whole life. Took some big stones for that. Boy deserves a chance to press his suit. You catch up to him later, you do what you gotta, but he’s under my protection right now.”
“I’ve still got half a platoon up at the Bridge,” he added, subdued. “They have a shuttle in a bay just south of there.”
“They can go, too. As long as no one shoots at anyone what isn’t wearin’ a whitecoat, I think we can all be friends about this.”
Julian studied Mal. “You know I wouldn’t be that magnanimous, had I prevailed.”
“I surely do. And it ain’t because I’m generally a sparklin’ representative of altruistic human behavior. It’s ‘cause less than an hour ago I had the worst psychotic madman in recent history ready to carve on my innards slow with a breadknife. The recent reversal of fortune has made me inclined to play fair and noble when it comes to a man who merely wants me in prison. You’re a businessman, Martel – I can respect that. Shan Yu . . . he’s a madman what should be put down quickest.”
“Was it . . . was it really Shan Yu? Sounds like a load, to me,” Julian asked skeptically.
“The genuine article,” Mal assured. “Didn’t believe it much myself ‘till I met the sonuvabitch, but there’s no way you could lay claim to that manner of madness by pretense. And he’s still runnin’ loose, so you get him in your sights, do the ‘verse a favor and squeeze off a couple o’ dozen rounds. And there are like to be a few of them Tigers prowlin’ around, too, so feel free to vent your frustrations there – that’s why you get to keep your arms. You’re worried about the Tams . . . if that monster ever got loosed again, you’d never forgive yourself.”
“This isn’t over, Reynolds. You know that.”
“Never is,” agreed Mal. “All this you see here, it’s here because of a war that got fought before half the worlds spinnin’ were born, an’ it ain’t over. The U War, it ain’t over, even if the fightin’ stopped and the Factions went home. This between you and my folk, I know it ain’t over, too. Ain’t nothin’ over. Wheel always keeps turnin’. We might could meet again – an’ when an’ if that happens, Martel, you remember that I coulda had you ended and didn’t, for what it’s worth.” He let that thought sink in as he put a hand on the bounty hunter’s shoulder and turned him back around. As he drew a knife to cut his bound hands free, he continued. “Now, I can’t exactly promise that His Highness will be as merciful as I’m feeling right now, so I’d advise you to make a decision right quick and be on your merry. Otherwise . . .”
“I’ll take your deal,” Julian said, finally, with a sigh. “What choice do I have?”
“That’s what I like to hear! Go get your men in shape to move out. I’ll square things with the yellowcoats, there. I’m tight with their Prince, it appears.”
Julian stared at him, hard. “I’m not much liking losing on this, Reynolds,” he said, evenly.
Mal slapped him on the back, grinning. “Take it from an old Browncoat: you get used to the feeling after a while.”
DELTA TEAM -22:58
Kaylee nearly crashed into the abandoned tool cart next to the docking cradle, she was moving so fast, and her arms were full of other items that she could think might be needed in anticipation of getting Wash out. She dumped her load without regard for orderliness and grabbed at the mike.
“Wash? Where are you?” she asked plaintively.
There was a pause before he answered.
“I’m comin’ up, sweetie, but . . . I’m comin’ up hard. I got nothin’ but fumes left in my maneuvering jets, so . . . this might be a bumpy landing. Do me a favor, though.”
“Go ahead and prep the emergency jettison control, it should be on the status pedestal over to the left. A red button.”
“Uh . . .,” she said, examining the wide console that monitored the fighter when it was in its housing. “Ma shong!” she said, finding it. She flicked the switch that powered it, and noted with relief that the capacitor that ran the circuit started to whine. “Done!”
“That’s . . . that’s great, really great. Look, coming in five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . .”
The deck shook considerably as the marauder hit the cradle with more force than was properly needed. Kaylee stood aghast, looking at the devastated engines that she had worked for so long on. As the clamshell pressure door opened to reveal the cockpit, she could see the damage extended beyond the engines, and she wanted to cry.
But there was Wash, waving frantically with his gauntleted hand. Kaylee rushed forward and started to pull back the emergency release. Nothing happened.
“It’s broken!” Wash mouthed, pointing at it. “You need to—”
Kaylee knew what she needed to do. She grabbed a high-powered laser torch and attacked the hinge structure around the back of the cockpit. Wash watched patiently – for thirty seconds – before pointing emphatically at his wrist and mouthing “TIME!” over and over. Kaylee tried to ignore him, biting her lip as she played the laser over the cockpit. Wash rolled his eyes and mimed patience.
When the last bolt was cut she put one foot on the shell and shoved, causing it to move enough to get a purchase under its rim. It took both of them to lift the heavy thing off and out of the way. Kaylee reached her hand in to help the pilot out, but instead he held out his own hand and yelped.
“Wrench! Gimme a gorram wrench!”
Automatically Kaylee’s hand went to her rear right pocket and withdrew her vanadium 10mm adjustable, her favorite wrench, affectionately called “Buck”, and slapped it in his hand. Instead of clawing at the straps or trying to free his boots or something, Wash instead attacked a small dull gray box on the underside of the console. It took an agonizingly long thirty seconds, in which Kaylee restrained herself from asking what the cao he was doing, but he was done and out of the cockpit soon enough, flinging Buck wide of the ship.
“We got about two minutes before two high explosive missiles blow!” he panted. “You have the capture?”
“Uh, yeah!” she said. She had remembered to grab it, and pulled it from another pocket and thrust it at him.
“No, you keep it! Set it for singles!” he demanded, and threw himself against the side of the ship while he whipped off his helmet. He spent the next few moments striking a series of cocky poses with a goofy grin and a “thumbs up” victory sign before he glanced at his watch again.
“That’s enough! Eject that ta mah de! NOW!”
Kaylee was flustered by the flurry of activity, but she made it behind the console and smacked the big red button. Almost instantly the clamshell seal covered the ship and alarms rang, and with a metallic “chunk!” and the loud hiss of evacuating atmo the little ship was gone.
Wash was staring at his watch and counting. “Five . . . four . . . thre—”
The deck rocked again, this time with a concussion wave that made every other fighter on the deck rattle like wineglasses in their racks. Kaylee hit the floor automatically, covering her head and whimpering. When she looked up again, Wash was standing there with a very satisfied look on his tired face. Satisfied that no further explosions would occur, she jumped up and embraced him tightly.
“Oh, Wash! I was so worried!”
“I was too, Kay, I was too. But . . . you gotta quit hugging me like that. I gotta pee so bad . . .”
“Not a problem, let’s just get me to a head. And then to some waffles. What is it about a narrow brush with death and an insane scheme to get out of it that drives a man’s thoughts to waffles?”
“Just one of those things, I guess,” Kaylee grinned, crouching to retrieve Buck. “What the hell was in that box that was so gorram important?”
“Telemetry and gun camera records,” Wash explained. “Captured the whole thing, so I can relive the glory days – okay, the glory day – in my dotage.”
“Was it really that exciting?”
Wash stopped and turned to her. “Kaylee, it was . . . better than sex.”
Her jaw dropped. “No!”
“Yes! I have a hard time admitting it, but that was the most fun – apart from the narrow brush with death part – that I’ve ever spent in the air. You remember all that stuff I told you Master Lei told me about? The whole Way in Flight, leaf on the wind, thing? That’s what happened. I was a god out there, a gorram god!”
“Sounds like you had fun!” she grinned.
“More than I can tell you. Which is a good thing I have some recordings, so that we can go over every moment later on. Thanks,” he added. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“But you . . . you finished?”
“Serenity can leave unmolested,” he assured.
“Oh, that’s such good news!”
“What about the other stuff? All that fighting down in the engine room . . . they ever take care of that?” he asked, hesitantly. “Has Zoe been back yet?”
“Back and gone again, with Simon. Apparently Book took to his heels at some point on their way back and no one noticed. So they went to fetch him back. Been gone a while, but I guess findin’ one little preacher on this big boat might could be time consumin’!”
“No doubt,” agreed Wash. “Well, it ain’t nothing she can’t handle, and she’ll be that much happier to see me when she gets back.”
“Um . . .” Kaylee said, biting her lip. “She . . . she was madder’n Pa on a bender, let me tell you!”
“I figured,” Wash said, resigned to the fight that was coming. “I don’t care. It was worth it. She was a sweet, sweet plane, Kaylee, just . . . if I had the balls for it, I guess I would have been a fighter jock.”
“You got more brains’n that, truth,” Kaylee said. “You ain’t a coward, Wash. But you ain’t stupid, neither. That counts for a lot.”
“I hope so, ‘cause the missus is going to be wearing my ass for a hat for the next couple of months. And my brain might be the only part of me to get any play for that long.”
“’Tween you an’ me?” Kaylee said in a whisper – despite there being no one else around in a three hundred foot aread. “Zoe can’t go that long without it. She tol’ me. Said that six-week spat you had last year ‘bout drove her all River-y.”
“Good to know,” Wash said, nodding sagely.
“Yeah, she said she didn’t used to need it so often, afore you and she were nuptialized, but now she can’t go more’n a few days, most.”
“And I have proven to myself that I can go . . . let’s just say a depressingly long time,” Wash said, his voice mixed with mirth and melancholy. “That’s helpful. She gets outa line, I can just cut her off.”
“I wouldn’t push it,” Kaylee said, after a few moments of contemplation.
“Oh, God, no,” he agreed. “I’ll fold like a busted flush, I know.”
“So what do you wanna do now?”
“Pee! And then . . . a bath, of sorts. A nap would be nice. And waffles. But first I gotta call Master Lei and let him know what happened. And Mal. Have we heard from Mal?”
“Not since they were making that push towards the Engine Room, I think . . . but nothing since. I wonder if that’s a bad sign?”
Wash stared at her. “Mal. And Jayne. And River. Without Zoe.”
“Oh, crap!” she said, her eyes widening.
“Yeah,” agreed Wash. “It’s a bad sign.”
“But . . .”
“Look, sweetness, ain’t nothin’ we can do about it now. Delta Team took care of our problem. The other teams have to take care of theirs. I’m sure they’re fine.”
“I’m just worried, what with Shan Yu bein’ out there, and the White Tigers, an’-”
“Didn’t . . . didn’t Zoe and Mal take care of them?”
“No, not really. I don’t know, Wash, everything that’s happenin’ down there, no word from the Cap’n, Shepherd’s missin’. . .”
“I know, it’s frustrating. At least Johnny is down there, too. Stout lad, him.” He sighed. “I’m going to postpone the whole worried-to-death thing until after I pee and eat. I’ll be more productive worrying that way.”
“And you should come meet Nyan Nyan, too! She’s gorgeous! And smart, an’ funny, an’, an’. . . she and ‘Nara are holed up in her shuttle right now, probably takin’ a beauty nap. Lord knows I need one. But I think she’s as sweet on Johnny as he is on her.”
“No doubt – a hundred-year old princess who was trained as a Companion. That’s not your average spaceport floozie. Hey, who’s that – Fong?” he said as they walked up the ramp into the cargo bay. Fong was on guard duty behind the machine gun, one arm in a sling but otherwise seeming to be okay. He waved and grinned.
“Call came through a minute ago, from Colonel Campbell. Said the White Tigers were broken, Shan Yu was a fugitive, the bounty hunters are leaving, and that Gamma Team is proceeding to the Engine Room. Sgt. Fue got hurt, but no other serious casualties.”
“Oh, that’s so shiny!” Kaylee said, beaming. “Except for that Shan Yu thing – I know I’m going to have nightmares about him. But now they can crank up the big reactors and we can get to someplace a mite more civilized. Won’t that be shiny?”
“It will, indeed,” agreed Wash. “Any word from Zoe?”
Fong shook his head. “Her signal might not be able to cut through the shielding, if she’s too far aft. Probably a lot of rad shields between here and the Engines.”
“Just as well,” Wash said with a sigh. “I’d like to grab a nap and a bath before she gets here – I’m feeling a testosterone surplus in my system after my brilliant campaign. And I need to go ahead and get my chewing-out over with. But first, my bladder. Then waffles!” he said, giving Kaylee a quick hug.
“What is his thing with waffles?” Kaylee asked herself, bemused, as the pilot slipped off to the cargo-bay toilet. She decided it didn’t matter.
Having Wash back, safe and sound, gave her a feeling of well-being she hadn’t had since he left, she realized as she skipped to the galley to figure out how to get the waffle iron working again. He was in charge, now, relieving her of the burden of “command” (though she hadn’t actually done any commanding) and that in itself was golden. But the important part was to get him back in the pilot’s chair.
What would she have done if he hadn’t come back? She couldn’t let her girl fly without Wash at the controls. Mal sucked scissors as a pilot, and he was the next best one. No, she needed Wash, needed the rapport and understanding they had built up over the years. He was the Front End, she was the Back End. Two parts that were essential to keep Serenity in the air. Take one away, nothing would work. It was a special relationship, the kind that only came along once in a lifetime. Nothing could replace that.
Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:00 AM
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