BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MANICGIRAFFE

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1979    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: Don't own them.

Sorry this is taking so long, folks, but I just bought a house and am spending most of my free time moving all my worldly possessions across town. Bear with me, I'm still working on it, honest.

*******

"I want everyone off this boat for at least one day. Go shop, eat, or just wander." Mal stood in front of the lowered cargo ramp, arms crossed. "They ain't no feds to speak of, so no worries about them. I don't really care what you do, but I been lookin' around of late, an' it's gettin' mighty clear we need some down time to shake out the nerves."

The crew craned their necks, trying to see around the captain and take in the town beyond. Amelia's Hope was quite possibly the dustiest, tiniest town this side of Paradiso - and Mal had no fond memories of that place - but it would serve. Founded only 10 years ago by a man named Simmons, he'd named it after his daughter that had taken sick on the trip out. The daughter, sadly, hadn't made it past the first year, but the city had attracted enough smuggling traffic to keep itself afloat through the intervening decade. It still didn't have that critical mass of culture and money to make an honest trading stop out of it, but there was enough civilization about to draw the eyes of many a tired space crew, Serenity's inhabitants being no exception.

Mal had intercepted his crew as Wash and Zoe were attempting to sneak off, most likely to hole up in whatever passed for a hotel on this moon. A set of gruffly worded orders into the comm had brought everyone else: Jayne and Book put down their weight sets, Simon and Kaylee wandered in from the direction of the infirmary, River emerged from Inara's shuttle - although without Inara, who seemed unwilling to take an order from the captain.

"Now," Mal continued, "I still expect y'all to do whatever it is you need to do for the ship. That means parts, medicine, ammo, food." Kaylee, Simon, Jayne, and Book all nodded in turn as Mal passed Zoe small bags of money. "Buy what you need, but keep it cheap as you can. One day, people. Breathe the air an' clear your heads. Wash, lock up after us. Oh, and someone pass the word to Inara when she sees fit to grace you with her presence." Mal turned on his heel and marched down the ramp, leaving his crew to sort themselves out.

"I'm gettin' the ammo," Jayne announced, as he snatched one of the pouches of cash from Zoe and nearly skipped from the cargo hold, hat firmly on his head and cigar clenched in his teeth, with several weapons bristling at his belt. "I'll bring ya the change, Zoe."

"I wouldn't hold my breath," Wash informed his wife. She gave him a knowing smile in return.

"My, he's excitable. I didn't realize he likes shopping so much." Book chuckled as he Zoe handed him a second bag, jiggling it to get a feel for the amount.

"Oh, he doesn't, Shepherd." Zoe grinned. "But the ammo store is right next to the bar."

And the whorehouse is right across the street," Wash added.

Simon raised one eyebrow. "That sounds...dangerous. And we let him walk off with an entire bag of money?"

"Don't sweat it, Doc. Made sure he got the small one."

Book chuckled again. "Well, then. I suppose I'll go get the food. Any requests?"

"Strawberries," Kaylee answered immediately. "Or strawberry paste, or strawberry jam, or strawberry punch, or, well, anything strawberry."

"I think I'm seeing a pattern here," Simon murmured. Kaylee turned to him with a smile and threw a mock punch at his arm. She didn't do any harm, but craftily used her momentum to hook her arm though his as she brought her hand down.

"I'll see what I can do, my dear." Book's attention was drawn up to the catwalk as Inara emerged from her shuttle.

"Is Mal's diatribe done yet?" Inara surveyed the group, looking for the captain, her lips pursing with pride at how deftly Kaylee had snagged Simon as she floated down the steps.

"Indeed. He was quite generous. We're just going out for supplies now," Book answered.

"Mmm. Mind if I join you, Shepherd? There's no clients to speak of here, and it might be nice to see the sights, such as they are."

"Of course. I could use the help in choosing the flavors of protein paste - other than strawberry, that is. Are you ready now?" Inara nodded. "Well, then. Have a good day, everyone." Book waved cheerily as he and Inara likewise left the ship.

Zoe weighed the final bag in her hand. "Well. Seems Mal only left us one more bag, but we got both parts and medicines to get." She fixed Kaylee with a sly smile. "Looks like you two might need to go together. Save on time and the like."

"Oh, that's fine, Zoe. Me an' Simon can work together. Make sure we both get what we need." Wash had a sudden coughing fit behind his hand as Kaylee grinned a not-so-innocent grin.

"Yes. But I'll have to chaperone." River popped up on Simon's other side, also looping her arm through her brother's. She gave him a sweet smile as the doctor suddenly realized he was utterly trapped between two women, both of who could bend him to her will whenever she pleased. "Simon might get carried away with himself and say something dumb."

"I've heard that's a problem. Best you keep him in line, River. Here you go." Zoe chuckled and handed over the last bag. "Remember, Kaylee: parts we need. No comin' back with a new mule. Doc, I expect you to stop her if she gets carried away."

"Of course," Simon answered over his shoulder as both females nearly hauled him down the ramp, intent on visiting every shop, restaurant, and store they could find. Wash waved to Simon, silently wishing him good luck. He was probably going to need it.

But Wash's cheery attitude evaporated as soon as he turned around. "OK, Zoe," he said, as soon as the trio was out of earshot. "Now tell me what the hell's going on."

"What?"

"It's no secret the whole boat's been uncomfortable with our little trip to Verbena, and now the captain - who, might I add, usually leaves me up in the cockpit waiting to haul ass out of here - is giving out cash and shore leave like candy. Something's not right."

Zoe nodded. Wash didn't know Mal like she did, but she had much the same idea when Mal announced that everyone was leaving the boat. She didn't know exactly what the captain was up to, but she had her suspicions. "Honestly, Wash? I wasn't let in on the plan, but - "

"But?"

"But you know why we landed on Beylix?"

"The amazing dinner theater?"

"No."

"Shadow puppets?"

"Not likely. Ever heard of a man named Simmons? Big crime story in the news right before the war."

Wash thought back through the haze of liquor that marked his flight school career. "Ummm...computer hacking, right? Managed to break in and expose some type of big government scandal. Wanted to jail him, but he was popular with the citizenry and they couldn't get a conviction."

"Yep. Ever wonder what the Alliance does with folks it can't rightly jail but don't want to keep around?"

"Shoot them?"

"Well, yes, sometimes. But sometimes it loads 'em onto a colony ship and sends 'em to a moon. Not dead, but out of the way."

"I take it they sent him to this moon?"

"Founder of this very town, in fact."

"Huh. And that helps us figure out Mal's plan how?"

"A man who can break into any computer system the Alliance has? Think about who's managed to piss off the captain of late."

"Besides Jayne?" Wash considered, and it dawned on him. "That would be the parents Tam. Who happen to have a big, expensive, and - most importantly - computerized security system."

"You got it."

"So Mal is planning to attack an estate - or more accurately, compound - on an inner planet?"

"Seems so."

"I take it this plan will most likely get us killed, right?"

"Probably."

"And there's no pay to be had?"

"Not unless Jayne makes off with some furniture or the good silverware."

"And he's doing it because of River?"

Zoe turned and regarded her husband. "If I told you that you needed to start this ship up and run an Alliance blockade with only thrusters, just because little River needed you to, would you do it?"

Wash didn't even have to think. "Of course."

"Then it ain't so hard to understand, is it?"

"I guess not. " Wash was quiet a moment. "Fair enough. What do we do now?"

Zoe grabbed his hand as he set the locking code on the cargo bay door. "Enjoy the day, husband. 'Cause it's gonna get messy from here."

** You had to give it to the tech-heads, Captain Harrington mused, private yachts sure were a joy to fly. Sleek, silent, and with all the latest gadgets: nav computers, high-end reactor, the latest in laser weapons ("blow a new crater in a little moon!", or so the ad said), massive acceleration at his command, and - his personal favorite - a cloaking device.

Well, OK, it wasn't quite like the kind you saw in the vids. The ship couldn't turn invisible, since that wouldn't really work. It was physically possible to bend all incoming EM waves around the ship - including light - but what good would that be? If you managed to deflect every possible signal, then your own sensors wouldn't be able to see anything, either. Pity, though. Invisibility would be neat.

What it did afford was a pretty good imitation of a "hole" in space. Not a spot completely devoid of radiation, because in a medium with cosmic rays bouncing this way and that, a spot of nothing looks just as suspicious as a spot of something. Instead, the cloak just used a huge amount of energy to diffuse incoming signals while pumping out just enough of its own to look like a large blob of helium atoms, which the plasma wake from any standard pulse drive would readily cover.

Which is probably why Wash didn't notice the ship following him for three days.

"All right, gentlemen, tell me what we know." Harrington turned to regard his two crew, sitting behind him at their stations.

His pilot/navigator answered first. A large man with the unlikely name of "Jasper" - Jasper Sinclair, a name so impossibly cross culture that it made Harrington's head ache - he joined up to drive this boat as soon as he'd seen the pay. He had a tendency to gamble and a larger tendency to lose, so a quick paycheck for a big number was always welcome. "Well, boss, gotta say their pilot is one damn fine driver. He boosted offa Verbena at full burn, made one course change, an' hit Beylix smack on the butt three days later." Jasper nodded in professional appreciation. "Reminds me of this one time on Harvest. See, the local sheriff's daughter was one damn fine woman, an' I got me in a peck of trouble with her, an' all the gamblin' wasn't helpin' none. So, sure as shootin' Browncoats in a box canyon, daddy comes a'barrelin' down an' askin' all kinds of questions a fella don't really like to answer, so I stole a ship. Not a big one, mind, more like a small shuttle. Didn't have time to work the comp so I had to just aim that sumbitch with nothing but my eye an' floor it. Damn near tore a wing offa it, but I - "

"Thank you, Mr. Sinclair." Harrington cut Jasper off with a wave of his hand and turned to his engineer. "Mr. Wai?"

"I have to agree with Jasper, sir." Jacob Wai, or "Jake" as far as Jasper was concerned - a cross culture but more palatable name - was small, thin, and impossibly well maintained. The man could spend all day digging around on an engine block, and the grease would never be so rude as to soil his clothes. He spoke with a haughty air that sometimes set Harrington's teeth on edge, but the man could fix any engine he came across, so the captain cut him some slack. "And add that their mechanic seems quite on the ball as well. That Firefly - an aught-three, if I'm not mistaken - managed acceleration that the airframe was simply not designed for. My scans show a fore buffer panel that's looking a bit loose, but aside from that, it delivered a full burn 36% above specs, and I detected no residual plasma contamination in their wake. A perfectly clean operation."

"Is it fair to say that if they get that ship back into the air, we'd be hard pressed to catch them?"

"Could be a mite problematic, yessir, Cap. Not that any man can outfly Jasper Sinclair, nor any techie what can out-burn Jake here, but it may take from our beauty sleep a touch."

"Very well. All their crew has departed. You two gentlemen will land this ship and take command of that Firefly. I want the engine disabled and locking codes changed." Both crew nodded. "Further, you will make contact with the local band of ruffians and hire some men to bring in our fugitives. Please do not have them killed, although from what I understand, the brother has some problems with holding his tongue, so feel free to correct that behavior. If the situation leaves you no other choice, the sister is the priority. Clear?" Both crew nodded again. "Then move. I will inform our passenger of our status."

Jasper and Jake gave salutes - Jake crisply, Jasper with nary a thought to what he was doing - docked the ship, and left the bridge. Harrington muddled through his unofficial landing duties, trying to kill some time. His passenger was quite the old battleaxe, and dealing with her was usually quite unpleasant.

Finally out of checklists to check, Harrington squared his shoulders and walked the 100 feet to the passenger compartment. "Ma'am?" He knocked on the door politely. "We've landed on Beylix and are securing both the ship and the cargo. I expect no more than a few hours until we're ready to lift." He stepped the door hissed open, revealing his passenger.

"Excellent, Mr. Harrington." Regan Tam smiled, but not with her eyes. "Please inform me when we are ready."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Although I'd like to make one more request of your plan, if I may."

"Of course."

"Please also secure the captain of that vessel."

"May I ask why, ma'am?"

"Because I want to see his face when I destroy his ship." She smiled, eyes included this time. "Call me sentimental."

COMMENTS

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 6:14 AM

LEIASKY


I might not enjoy waiting for these chapters but they are certainly worth the wait. This one was as lovely as ever.

Loved Simon being trapped between Kaylee and River and admitting, even if to himself, they either one of them could bend him to her will.
Loved Zoe and Wash's talk and Regan - ohh, looking forward to whatever happens next.

Hope we get to see the little shopping fun (they have a whole day after all!) before all hell breaks loose!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 6:41 AM

AMDOBELL


This is building up nicely though I have to say I cannot imagine the Captain sending ALL his crew off at the same time leaving not a soul on board Serenity. He simply wouldn't do it but aside from that it looks like Regan is one very smart step ahead of our Captain. And if she is, how come River didn't sense it? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:08 AM

LEIGHKOHL


I totally understand about the moving thing, so do what you have to do and we'll wait patiently!
-the doctor suddenly realized he was utterly trapped between two women, both of who could bend him to her will whenever she pleased- I love that! So true! and Wash silently wishing him good luck, haha! And shadow puppets, love it! Can't wait for your next chapter, but it's patiently, I promise!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 7:18 AM

LVS2READ


What do you mean real life is interfering with fanfic? How dare it!? *g*

This chapter was definitely worth the wait! Love the crew interactions! And, ooh, the suspense! What does 'Mommy dearest' have in mind?

Methinks, though, that Wash &/or Mal might have an inkling that something's up. After all there is this line: "Which is probably why Wash didn't notice the ship following him for three days." Or, I could be wrong, and am reading too much into this. *g*

Looking forward to the next chapter, whenever real life gives you a chance to write it. *bg*

"I love my captain."

Friday, June 2, 2006 8:42 PM

SQUISH


Just now catching up on my reading. Congrats on the new house!

This was excellent, definitely building up the suspense with Regan following them. I also liked the description of your OC's! And the Zoe/Wash conversation was really good.

Off to read the next one...


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Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.