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Blue Sun Job, Part 1: Plans and Schemes
Sunday, April 25, 2004

Mal & Co. prepare for their attempted robbery of the Blue Sun treasury.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 5862    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Blue Sun Job: Part I Plans and Schemes


This is the sequel to the Truthsome series (link is to Part I).



Synopsis of Truthsome:

Caught smuggling Blue Sun property (Blue Sun being a government contractor and therefore under Alliance jurisdiction) Mal escapes with the aid of a former-Independent sheriff who battles, and destroys, the Alliance garrison on his border moon. The events of the arrest and escape lead Mal and Zoe to an evening of “truthsomeness” wherein they tell their long suppressed story of the ending days of the war to their shipmates—telling of the destruction of Mal’s homeworld, and their years in an Alliance prison… a prison that later became the Blue Sun hard currency treasury. This gives Mal the idea to rob Blue Sun.


Chinese:
It amused me to use the actual Chinese characters throughout from this lovely translation site linked to open in a new window --don’t worry if you don’t want to look them up or your browser doesn’t read them correctly, no critical dialog, just a few exclamatory words and phrases--most should be obvious from the punctuation and context
懂吗? = dong ma? = do you understand?
哎呀! = Ai ya! = damn!
疯了 = fong luh = crazy
鬼 = guay = hell


Blue Sun Job: Plans and Schemes
靑日 Job: Plans and Schemes

“Well?”

Six sets of eyes were riveted on Mal, each showing a thorough and intense lack of comprehension. Wash, Kaylee, Simon, River, Inara, Jayne... missing was Shepherd Book. Only Zoe showed full comprehension--and she had her eyes closed and was rubbing her temples like she had a fearsome headache.

“Well?” he asked again. “What do you think?”

No one even blinked.

“You’re crazy.”

A murmur of agreement went around the table.

“疯了,” Mal repeated angrily. “I think we’ve established that. Can we just move on to the job? What do you think of the plan?”

Inara stirred, glancing around at the others before she spoke. “I believe the ‘you’re crazy’ covered that.” She frowned. “And why, exactly, am I here? Are you expecting I’ll be a part of your outlaw gang on this ‘job’? Or should I say ‘suicidal burst of insanity’?”

Mal glared at her challengingly. “You’ve been after me to take us to the central planets. And you’ve been hankering to leave Serenity. Here’s your chance.”

A loud gasp burst from Kaylee. “Leave?” she repeated plaintively, turning toward Inara. “You’re figuring on leaving us?”

All the others focused on Inara, too. Inara, herself, looked venomously at Mal. It gave him an odd bit of satisfaction to see the pure fury burning in her eyes. Always nice to crack that annoying Companion control.

“Yes,” Mal said evenly, not breaking their hostile staring contest. “She’s leaving. Told me so some time ago, but didn’t have the gumption to tell the rest of you.”

“How dare you, you son of a...” Inara started and he knew if they didn’t have the length of the table separating them just then she’d hit him. And she had a good wallop when she wanted to.

“I’m done holding on to your secret,” Mal interrupted her. “You want to leave. Fine. It just happens to work into what we need to pull off this job--and that’s a legitimate excuse to go to the Core.” He looked down at the table, suddenly unable to continue staring her down. Low, he added, “But, uh… if’n you, uh... you know... well, the latch string will be out.”

“What?”

“He means you’re welcome to come back,” Zoe interpreted gently.

“Right,” Mal said shortly, returning to a businesslike stance. Kaylee was looking all melty at Inara, with Wash and the others not far behind. If he didn’t get them back on the mission now they’d waste the next hour blubbering and getting all sentimental “You can all talk on this with ‘Nara later. Now, let’s get back to business. I want you all to work over the plan, look for holes and figure what we can do to plug ‘em. We’re not gonna rush into this. This ain’t no small--” he glanced at Inara, “--petty job here. If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right. Anyone wants out, best to speak up now.”

“Uh...” Simon wore a world of questions on his face.

Mal cut him off before he could begin. “Simon, ‘cause we’re gonna be dancing a jig with the Alliance on this one I figure we’ll leave you and River off someplace safe, but I still want you to go over the plan. See what you can see.” He glanced at River not really wanting to know what she was seeing. The girl was rocking back and forth looking like she was light years away. Mal took a breath and studied each of the others measuringly. A good crew, but not soldiers. Had to remember that. “Now, you’re gonna be wondering on some of the details that are missing here. There’s parts Zoe and me are gonna know that the rest of you ain’t. That’s just the way it’s gonna be. You’re gonna have to trust us on that. 懂吗?”

Jayne made a growly noise, leaned back and folded his arms over his chest. The meaning of the pose wasn’t lost on Mal. “So, you’re saying you don’t trust us. That right?”

Hell, no, Jayne, just you, Mal didn’t say. “Ain’t that at all,” he did say. “What you don’t know, you can’t tell. And we’re gonna be bringing in some outsiders on this mission. I got their security to worry on too.”

Jayne made the growly noise again, but this time it sounded like agreement.

“Mission,” Inara echoed, managing to make each syllable drip with scorn. That was a gift, that was. One that raised his hackles, to be sure, but a gift. “This isn’t a ‘mission’, Mal. It’s not war. There’s no enemy...”

“Yes, there is,” River whispered so quietly that only Mal heard her.

Inara continued without noticing the interruption. “It’s a robbery and you’re a criminal.”

Yup, Inara was pissed. Too damn bad. It was good to finally have it all in the open. “Thank you for clarifying that,” he answered flatly. He looked around the table again. “Talk it on over. Zoe can answer any questions. I need to go have a little palaver with the preacher.”

Mal turned and strode out, the sounds of crew talking behind him. The overriding tone was not quite one of excited acceptance. Well... they’d come around.

* * *

“Preacher? You there?” Mal knocked at the door in the passenger’s dorm.

“Yes. Come in,” the answer came.

Mal slid the door open, stepped in and closed it behind him. Shepherd Book looked up from reading his bible. Mal’d a thought he’d have memorized the gorram thing by now. No way in the ‘verse he’d ever let the Shepherd know it, but Mal could tell at a glance from where the book was open, and the shape of the verses on the page, exactly what passage the preacher was reading. And a curiously uncomfortable choice it was, given the particular circumstances. Pulling his gaze from the bible up to Book, Mal said, “I was hoping to have a word with you.”

“Certainly,” Book said, gesturing for Mal to sit. He did so, perching somewhat uncomfortably on the edge of the bed. He knew the preacher’d be having some of the things said the other night on his mind, and they weren’t the things Mal was looking to talk on.

“You mighta figured out,” Mal said, “we’re working on a job. A robbery.”

“Yes, I had that impression when I was pointedly excluded from the meeting.”

Mal nodded. “Yeah. I ain’t asking you to help out with the thieving, but... well, I got some things I’d like to talk out with you. See if you got any notions on solving a few problems I got.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Book answered. Mal didn’t miss the hint of wariness in his tone.

“What we’re gonna be doing is some pretty tight and risky work deep in Alliance territory. I got concerns about River and Simon. I mean to leave them off some place safe before we head in, but I’m thinking on how best to cover our backtrail--the trail between them and Serenity.

Shepherd Book studied Mal for a long moment and, again, Mal saw not a preacher in there looking back, but someone who knew a helluva lot about crime and the law. More than any ordinary preacher ought, but a knowing that had served them well a time or two before. He and Zoe had talked it out. They’d seen the Shepherd think, and they’d seen him fight, and odd questions about his connections to the law, or the Alliance, not withstanding, they trusted him. They did.

The Shepherd leaned back and cocked his head. “You’re concerned you’ll get caught, aren’t you? And that would endanger River and Simon. That, however unwillingly, you might lead the Alliance back to the Tams. Correct?”

“Ain’t just them I’m worrying on. It would go real bad for any of us as gets tied to harboring Alliance fugitives,” Mal said.

Book studied Mal for a long time again. It was starting to etch on Mal’s temper, this appraisal he was getting from the preacher.

“I’ve known you for nigh onto a year now,” Book said, “and I have never before seen you plan for defeat.”

Mal laughed shortly. “Believe me when I say it, if there’s one thing I understand too gorram well, it’s defeat. And I ain’t planning on it. I just got myself over the notion that anything’s ever gonna go smooth, and I mean to cover as many possibilities as I can.”

“If the job’s that dangerous, why do it?”

Mal shrugged. “Why not? There’s danger in everything. Can’t avoid it all. The money’s good and would hold us for a long time.”

Leaning forward, Book said carefully, “The war’s over.”

Huh? “I know that.”

“You can’t refight old battles to... to... I don’t know. Even the score. Take revenge. Make the Feds look stupid.”

Mal stared at him, utterly baffled. Inara had gone off on the not-being-war thing too. What were they seeing that he was missing? “Preacher, what the gorram hell you talking about? Yeah, making the Feds look stupid is a thing I always enjoy, but we’re planning a robbery, not trying to win some lost battle.”

“You’re planning to rob Blue Sun. Their payroll treasury.”

His mouth fell open. “I thought River was the only mind reader on board.” Mal looked hard at the preacher. “You tell me now, and you tell me plain, how the hell did you know that?”

Reaching to the floor behind him, Book lifted up an empty whiskey bottle. Mal recognized it. It was the one that had lubricated their night of truthsomeness. Turning the bottle, Book pointed to a scraped off bit of the label.

“Notice what’s missing?” he asked.

Mal answered cautiously, “The Blue Sun logo. So? How do you get us robbing their treasury from that?”

Book set the bottle down on the floor. “The prison you were held in after the war. Now the Blue Sun hard currency treasury. Stacks of platinum to steal from an Alliance contractor.” He snorted. “War profiteers, no less, and a chance to even an old score at the same time. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Shaking his head, Mal looked at the preacher in amazement. “哎呀! I’m glad you’re not the law hunting us or we’d all be in jail ‘bout now.” He shook his head, still astounded that Book had figured out the mission from such small clues. “I still don’t know how... We never said, not Zoe nor me, where that prison we were sent to was. There were lots of camps and prisons for captured Independents. Hardly an Independent still walkin’ an’ talkin’ who wasn’t locked up somewhere for a spell. Hell, Wash spent the better part of the war in one camp. And Kaylee’s daddy had a passing acquaintance with another such place.”

“Yes,” Book said, “but they weren’t still locked up two years after the war ended, were they? I know where most of the enlisted captured at Hera were sent.” He paused and looked at Mal solemnly. “That place was no prison camp tossed together out on some prairie. It was a maximum security facility.”

“I’m keenly aware of that fact,” Mal said. “I was there.”

“And you didn’t tell the half of what went on at that place,” Book went on. “Those two months you and yours held them at a standstill at Serenity Valley did not pass lightly out of Alliance memory. They knew--they know--those of you who survived that battle were, and are, some of the most dangerous, and like to be the most vengeful, they ever captured.” Book held up his hand to stop Mal from interrupting. “You may think you’re trying to stay under Alliance radar, avoiding them, running and hiding from them at the fringes of the ‘verse, but you still keep trying to strike back at them, don’t you?”

Mal stood. Enough. “Well, this is all really interesting psychoanalysis, but...”

“Let me finish,” Book commanded. Mal surprised himself by sitting back down. Damn. How’d the Shepherd manage that?

“What was said about the beatings and the executions,” Book went on and Mal just sat still and listened, “both you and Zoe just tossed that off. Yet it wasn’t a minor matter. There was serious consideration given to executing the lot of you.”

Mal stirred uncomfortably. Wouldn’t be any nightmares coming from that cheery little comment, would there? He closed his eyes to try to phrase his thoughts. “We...” he started, then faltered. “We had some info as regards that notion--not all the guards were sadistic sumbitches. One or two didn’t think they could stomach such a thing and warned us. Never knew for sure if it was real or just another of the games they liked to play with us.” He took a moment to steady himself; focused on breathing evenly and squelching the blackness churning inside. Looking up, straight into the preacher’s eyes, he coldly measured the man. “And while we’re working on my past here, preacher, we are gonna have a real serious chat one of these days--just you and me--about you, the real Book when you ain’t hiding behind the Good Book. 懂吗?”

“Perfectly. But you’ve trusted me several times before, even though I may not have been entirely forthcoming with, shall we say, certain aspects of history, please continue to trust me now. I won’t betray you on this matter,” Book said.

The stare between them held for a long time. Mal searched hard but still came up on the side of taking the man at his word. He sighed heavily and looked away. “All right.” He looked back up at the preacher. “But we are gonna ride on back to that conversation one of these days.” Like what matter was it he would betray them on?

Book laughed with genuine mirth. “Perhaps at the same time as we ride back to Zoe’s comment about you being a--what was it she said?--a ‘church-going choir boy’?”

Mal shifted. “Yeah,” he said shortly. “Fine. A stalemate. Now let’s get back to what I came here for. You got figured where we’re gonna hit. Yes, the Blue Sun payroll in the old prison. Zoe and I are gonna be taking the biggest risk, ‘cause we’re the only ones going in. And I ain’t saying how we’re planning to do it...”

“You don’t have to,” Book interrupted. “I got a good idea.”

Mal closed his eyes, feeling suddenly very weary. “Tell me the law don’t have a good idea.”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Book said. “I’m basing my assessment on you, not on the Feds.”

“How so?”

“The threat of mass executions. I don’t see you sitting still for that, just waiting on the good will, or not, of the Alliance. You had a way out of there, didn’t you?”

Mal snorted. “I ain’t telling you.”

Book smiled. “You don’t have to. If you had a way out, it means you have a way in. One the Feds don’t know about. And one you think is still in place. And still unknown.”

“You’re scaring me more than a little here, preacher.”

“Yeah?” Book studied Mal carefully. “You ought to be scared.”

“Don’t need you adding any more worrisome things. Got plenty my ownself. The biggest one is that the Feds are already suspicious of us as regards the Tams. They know they shipped out of Persephone on a Firefly. And they know we were on Persephone ‘bout then.”

“We got past that part of the problem pretty well when Commander Harken pulled us in and searched the ship. Harken would certainly have reported that the Tams weren’t on Serenity,” Book said. He looked thoughtful now, Mal noted, no longer trying to figure out what mission Mal had planned but helping work through the problems.

“One of the things that scares me is Jayne,” Mal said, “He’s the clearest link between Serenity and River and Simon.”

“Not that bounty hunter?”

“Nah. He was shooting in the dark and got lucky. Or so River says and I think she’s right. No, it’s Jayne I’m worrying on.” In response to Book’s questioning look, added, “From Ariel. They know the Tams were there. And Jayne was with them when they got caught.” He didn’t add that their getting caught at all was Jayne’s doing.

Book nodded thoughtfully. “And, again, a Firefly was down on Ariel...”

“...and lit its tail out of atmo leaving in a big hurry after springing those three from the law. They connect the Tams to Jayne, and Jayne to Serenity and we are all in a helluva nastier fix than comes from getting caught snatching a few pounds of platinum.”

The Shepherd toyed with his moustache as he considered it. Mal kept quiet and waited to see what he’d come up with. He needed Jayne to help out on the job, but was willing to work around that. But he didn’t want to leave Jayne with River and Simon, or leave him alone even knowing where they were hiding out. Jayne was best trusted in plain sight and when he had a lot of money depending on his loyalty.

“When you landed on Ariel,” Book asked thoughtfully, “you used false registration for the ship?”

Mal nodded. “And there was a lot of traffic. Wasn’t much mind paid to one little transport.”

“There’ve been warrants coming over the Cortex for River and Simon--new, updated ones.” Book looked up. “None for Jayne.”

Yes, of course. “They didn’t I.D. him.” Well, that was a relief. Mal started address the next item of concern when the preacher went on.

“But...” Of course there was a ‘but’. That was a part of the ‘nothing ever goes smooth’ phenomena Mal’d become so rutting familiar with.

“But what?” Mal asked dully.

“From what I hear of that little adventure, they may have a picture of him--from cameras in the security station. Might be best to just see about altering his appearance a bit. In case any witnesses could recognize him.”

“From the sound of it, don’t think there were any witnesses left. But okay. Should be easy enough. I’ll make that the good doctor’s assignment. He’ll enjoy it.” Mal said with a smile. Book chuckled. “Like I said, I’d like to leave River and Simon off somewhere safe. Think maybe we could drop them off with you at your Abby?”

Book hesitated a long moment. “They might be safe there. But I think there’s a better place--a retreat used by my order. Even fewer would see them. And the brothers there would guard them with their lives. It’s regarded as a Sanctuary. And, uh, if you don’t mind. I’d rather stay with the ship.”

Mal nodded his consent. Having the Shepherd along had helped them out on more than one occasion. “And we should clean out every trace of them ever having been on board.”

With a sigh, Book came over to stand by Mal, putting his hand on his shoulder in a way that made Mal want to break it. He gallantly resisted that urge. “You really are scared of getting caught.”

Mal glared pointedly at the hand on his shoulder until the preacher dropped it. “Just covering the options. I told you I know about defeat--there’s levels to it. You can lose some without losing it all. If I lose some... well, okay. That’s my price to pay. But I don’t mean to lose everything... again.”

Standing, with a sudden need to pace to release some of the tension the preacher had managed to build up in him, Mal moved across the small room. He glanced sideways at the bible still laying open. Damnably curious choice of passages for the preacher to have chosen just now. Well, time to address that very point, Mal turned back to the Shepherd.

“So…” he started slowly, “if Zoe and I do get caught…”

“God forbid.”

Mal scowled. “…it’s gonna be by Alliance, not local law, ‘cause of what the job is. And they’re gonna want to be questioning us, and it’s not going to be all sweet and pleasant like it was with Harken. He was all manner of distracted by discovering Reavers were real and nearly getting his throat cut. If the Feds decide we’re hiding information, they’ll do their damnedest to get it.”

Nodding, with a very serious expression on his face, Book said, “We know you can withstand torture.”

Mal snorted dismissively. “Hell, preacher, you know as well as me torture ain’t a way to get information. Not reliable information, anyhow. Torture’s to break a person.” Mal frowned, recalling too vividly other times and other places best not dwelt on. 鬼, knowing how bad bad could get made it more likely, not less, that he’d break. There were no guarantees. He shook off the thought, and said, “Info, now, truths a person don’t want to tell… that comes from a needle sliding into a vein.”

The unsettled look on the preacher’s face was oddly satisfying to Mal. Like pissing off Inara, there was a certain pleasure in rattling the Shepherd’s cool reserve.

“There’s a drug the Alliance used,” Mal went on. “It’s real reliable and the fellow hardly knows what hit him or what he spilled, especially if he’s distracted by the torture and getting broke and all…”

“哎呀!” Book cut in. “This was done to you? During the war?

Mal smiled, genuinely enjoying the Shepherd’s shock. “No, preacher. You’re miss-reading the situation. I wasn’t the one being done to. I was the one doin’.”

Dropping to sit on the bed, Book stared at him open-mouthed. “You’ve managed to surprise me, son.”

“ ‘bout damn time.”

“I’m just… I never… I mean, I know you can be…” He straightened and looked firmly--and disapprovingly--at Mal. “I just never took you for the sort who’d hold down a helpless man and stick a needle in him.”

With a dark smile, Mal met the Book’s eyes steadily. “I didn’t. Zoe held him down. I just stuck the needle in.” Adding, almost as a casual afterthought, knowing it would disturb the preacher, “And that was after we broke him.”

It appeared the Shepherd was just going to stay frozen in position and not able to move until Mal filled in the details.

“Okay,” Mal sighed. “War time. We caught a spy, scouting behind our lines. We were in the field and I had a lot of lives relying on me finding out what that fellow knew. Zoe worked on him for a while.” Mal refused to elaborate on exactly what that meant though he could see the question on the Shepherd’s face. “Then I stuck my rifle against his head and dry-fired it. That did it. He broke and spilled everything. When he got done we shot him full of this drug and damned if he didn’t tell a mite different tale—one that really was the truth.

“I know the Alliance has that drug,” Mal continued, “ ‘cause that’s where we got it. And I know it works and they still use it now and again. What I need to know is if there’s any way to block it. I’ve heard rumors…”

“Yes,” Book cut him off sharply. Looking at him, Mal saw a darkness there. Book made a pyramid of his fingertips, looking very un-preacher-like. Well, that was what Mal had come here for. Still it reminded him of the many puzzlements of this man. After a minute of contemplation, Book said, “Yes. There is a way. An antidote, so to speak, but administered in advance. It was a very closely held secret--from your side the late conflict--and I’m somewhat surprised you’ve even heard rumors about it.” He cocked an eyebrow at Mal. “More of your untold tales?”

“I’m thinking we’re tied on this one,” Mal said with an icy smile.

“Fair enough.” The Shepherd chuckled lightly. “I’ll need to send some waves. Very discrete waves. Tight beam. Scrambled. Immediately wiped from the ship’s systems.” He looked hard at Mal. “And no one looking over my shoulder when I send them. 懂吗?”

Mal nodded. “Fine.” He leaned back against the wall. “So, how’s this stuff work?”

“It’s injected. Totally inert in the body--won’t do anything to you, or harm you, or be detectable at all--unless it’s activated by the other reagent.”

“The truth drug.”

“Yes.”

“Supposin’ that happens. Then what?”

“You’ll be sick as a dog. The Feds should mistake it for a ‘bad reaction,’ rare but not unknown to them. You should be able to control what information you divulge.”

Mal shifted. “Lotta ‘shoulds’ there.”

Book grinned. “Fewer, I suspect, than are involved with a break-in of the Blue Sun treasury. So... two doses, then? For you and Zoe?”

“No,” Mal said. “One. If both of us had this rare ‘bad reaction’ they’d know something was goin’ on and wouldn’t quit digging ‘til they found out what. My hunch is, if it comes to it, they’ll go for me first. If I’m successful in throwing them off the scent, then they may not mess with Zoe too much. Especially if they’re so all-fired sure-as-certain this truth drug works.”

“Yes,” Book agreed. “It’s a reasonable risk.” He gave Mal a studied look. “Better still not to get caught.”

Mal straightened up and gave the preacher a half-grin. “That’s the plan. Not getting caught. Just depends on everything goin’ smooth.” Mal flicked a brief, sideways glance at the open bible. “Well, then... it’s off to the lion’s den.”

Blue Sun Job Part 2: Into the Lion’s Den

COMMENTS

Monday, April 26, 2004 6:07 AM

JEBBYPAL


Wow!!!! Gotta say, I wasn't sure when you had mal and zoe spill their history to the crew, but I love what you've done with it. You've captured the darkness of the war and mal while offsetting it perfectly w/ his need to protect the crew. And the preacher! Impressive job, can't wait to see the rest of the story!

Monday, April 26, 2004 6:30 AM

ANONYMOUS


Well 'Into the Lion's Den' can not come soon enough. It really is too bad Guildsister that Firefly hasn't gotten to the point of novels yet. You would be a great writer of them!

Monday, April 26, 2004 8:38 AM

NEROLI


Oh my!! Totally riviting, I hope "Into The Lion's Den" comes soon! Like, yesterday! :-)

Monday, April 26, 2004 11:40 AM

AMDOBELL


Absolutely rutting brilliant! I was spellbound from start to finish especially with the tantalising dialogue between the Shepherd and Mal. Oh my, I have a feeling things are set to go to *diyu* in a hand basket. One day we really must find out what Book did before he was a Preacher. *Xiexie ni*, very shiny! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, April 26, 2004 4:45 PM

ANONYMOUS


Excellent! I didn't read the Truthsome series, but your fic was so good from the jump that I had to read it through. Lucky for me, I get to go back and read that series while waiting for the Lion's Den.

Thank you

Wednesday, May 26, 2004 1:12 PM

OBJECTIVEASSESSMENT


Unbelievable. The dialogue between Mal and Book was dead on and you really done a fantastic job of showing Mal's VERY dark side.

Saturday, October 2, 2004 11:40 PM

MAI


Once again a very intriguing read!

Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:44 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


Amazing!!! "it’s off to the lion’s den.” LOVE THAT!!! *goes to read next shiny chapter*


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