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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal shaves. Inara schemes. Simon gets all noble.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1996 RATING: SERIES: FIREFLY
The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu
Chapter Seventy Nine
Mal rolled over and buried his head in his pillow, trying to avoid the insistent pounding that just. Would. Not. Go. Away. Intermittently his door chime rang too, which only added to his ire as his brain was ripped from the sweet embrace of sleep.
“Gorram it,” he muttered blearily into the pillow. He tried once more to push the noise away and tumble back into a fitful sleep, but it was too late. His brain had started to work again. He rose half-heartedly and stumbled over to the ladder, where he opened the hatch. As an afterthought he grabbed his pistol. It wasn’t as if he would actually shoot anyone for waking him up, but he liked to be prepared for any contingency.
“I’ve got a gun! Whoever the hell is doing that better be bleeding, on fire, and have really incredible tits – oh, hey, Johnny.”
“Mal, did I wake you?”
“I had to get up anyway to answer the door,” he answered with weary sarcasm. “What is it? Shan Yu? Tigers? Reavers? Alliance cruiser? And can they wait until I wake up?”
“Um. Not really. Mind if I come down?”
“Go ahead. But I warn you: I ain’t pretty.”
“Your virtue is safe,” he said with a grin. The young man came down the ladder more gracefully than Mal usually managed. He had shucked off his tactical gear in favor of a T-shirt advertising Righteous Heavens Soy Milk Drink and featuring a blue cartoon cow, but he still wore his ball cap, backwards, and a sleek black automatic graced his hip over his fatigue pants. Mal ignored him and kicked open the toilet. If the boy was going to be in his quarters, then he would have to put up with watching him pee.
“So what’s on your mind?” he asked as he stared at the ceiling.
“Um, I got a problem.”
“You’re young, handsome, popular, and suddenly incredibly wealthy. So I’m thinkin’ that this problem of yours ain’t too bad.”
“It ain’t,” Johnny agreed, sitting on the foot of Mal’s bed. “I guess. Problem is, I went and humped it all up. We could have gotten out of here with a fortune – and Nyan Nyan. But I went and humped it all up by reviving those Guardsmen.”
“That ain’t humped up. That falls under ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’.”
“Well, it did, and it was. But now . . . Mal, there’s three hundred Imperial Guardsman who just woke up to no Empire, no Emperor, no kin and no prospects. All they have is . . . well, me.”
“I’m glad they have someone,” Mal said dreamily. “Everyone should have someone.”
“You’re missing my point,” Johnny said insistently. “They’re waking up the rest of them. In about ten hours, there’s gonna be three ruttin’ thousand of ‘em on this ship. All looking for some direction. And I . . . I just don’t have what they need,” he confessed.
“What do you mean?” Mal said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with his off hand and inadvertently getting scratched by his chin stubble.
“I mean I started all the ‘heir to the throne’ feh hua just to trick them into fighting for me, so I could rescue y’all, save the day, be a big damn hero and get the girl and the gold and ride off into the sunset. Problem is, they took me seriously. Now I can’t go anywhere without two bodyguards, and they keep calling me ‘your Highness’ and stuff. I just wanted the cash, not the private army and devastating warship.”
“And here I thought I had problems. Seems to me you did them a kindness by releasing them,” Mal said, zipping up and kicking the toilet closed again. “If you hadn’t, they’d go into blessed eternity froze up like a steak. And that’s no way to be. You gave ‘em a second chance in a new world. That’s pretty big. Stands to reason they’d be grateful,” he said, stripping off his well-worn shirt. He smelled it, made a face, and mentally debated whether to stuff it in his overfull clothes hamper or into the trash disposal. He made a half-hearted throw in the direction of both, but the shirt landed between them.
“You’d think. But I got twenty of ‘em in the hold right now, expecting me to go out and give them orders. Real orders. With thought and purpose behind them. And all I want to do is get away and start spending some loot!”
“You let ‘em loose, son, they’re yours. Until y’all can come to some arrangement. Have you talked to your Uncles about this?” he asked as he opened up the sink. He started to splash water on his face.
“Plenty,” Johnny sighed. “They want me to hold on until they get here, then order them around through me. Well, the General does. Master Lei is more interested in meeting Nyan Nyan.”
“Who wouldn’t be? She’s a very pretty girl. Smart, too.”
“Yeah, and we’ll get to that later. Here’s what I wanted to ask you, though. Do you think I could borrow Kaylee?”
“When you got a perfectly good girl who wants your youthful charm where it will do her most good?” Mal asked wryly as he pulled a straight razor out of the cabinet.
“I was thinking of her in her in her mechanical capacity. I want her to help me get a shuttle ready. I figure if I can kill a couple of days gathering up loot, she can work on it until it’s flightworthy. Then when no one is looking, me an’ Kitten can load up with cash and loot and head into the Black. My uncles can handle everything here. I figure we can make it to the Farhold colony in a week, maybe two. We’ll have to skirt the edge of Reaver country, but . . .”
“No,” Mal said, shaking his head as he lathered his face. “Won’t work.”
“A couple of damn good reasons. Firstly, there’s the issue of you not bein’ a pilot. Jaunting in a flyer, or even from orbit to the world and vice versa is one thing. Trying to get from one system to another, and avoiding Reavers in the bargain, that’s a whole different animal. Sorry, son, but you ain’t that good a pilot. Hell, Wash probably have a tough time outflying Reavers. They have an edge, what with not bein’ concerned about radioactivity, or survival, or anything but their next dinner date.”
“Nyan Nyan said she could fly,” Johnny said sullenly.
“Mayhap,” he agreed as he began shaving his cheek. “But that’s just the first of your issues,” he said. “You runnin’ off with your lady-love sounds romantic – I can see the appeal of a marriage devoid of in-laws. But you just barely been off-world yourself, and everything she knows is a historical fact. You don’t have any contacts anywhere that you didn’t make in the last few months. A big pile of cash – thanks for that, by the way, the money was . . . real nice – a big pile o’ cash gets you noticed. Either the Alliance will come, lookin’ for taxes, or the bad guys will come lookin’ for it all. No, you do this, you’re gonna need some support.” He made smooth, decisive cuts with the razor that removed the majority of the stubble with the minimum of effort. The work went quickly.
“I can make some connections,” Johnny said defensively. “I did run a criminal organization for a while. I shouldn’t have that much of a problem.”
“And I shouldn’t have a throbbing pain in my back every time it’s gonna rain planetside, but thanks to some idjit Purplebelly thought it would be cute to lob a shell my way I do.” He toweled the remnants of shaving cream off of his face and bent to rummage for a clean shirt. “The ‘verse ain’t what we want it to be, more’s the pity. You an’ Nyan Nyan go out on your own, you’ll attract attention. ‘Specially in a brand-new hundred and twenty year old antique shuttle stuffed to the gunwales with legal tender. Hard to be subtle goin’ about like that.”
“But Mal!” he pleaded. “We gotta get away! Maybe . . . maybe you could give us a lift on Serenity someplace? I mean, now that they got the ship working, they don’t need me. Hell, me an’ Nyan Nyan could even join the crew. I’m good in a fight. I can shoot and fly and look menacing. I can be an asset. And she can cook and . . . look pretty,” he concluded, lamely.
Mal was still shaking his head as he buttoned up his shirt. “Nope. We gotta full crew. Overfull, if you count our preacher – they found Book yet, apropos to that?”
“Not yet. They’re working on it. Internal sensors are still down.”
“Huh. Well, countin’ Book an’ River, I figger we got a full load. A crew any bigger’n that would make it ungainly to plan and execute the subtly brilliant crimes for which I am renowned.”
“Mal, I just made you rich. You don’t need to steal anymore.”
“Just ‘cause I don’t need to don’t mean I won’t. Probably always keep my hand in. But all o’ this is besides the point.” He popped his braces up over his shoulders and stared into the mirror, satisfied.
“Son, take it from a tired old man who used to be an idealistic, energetic young man. The most natural thing is to run from responsibilities like the plague. Me? I went and listened to a smooth-talkin’ recruiter, left a real mess o’ – well, that ain’t important. I thought that a term in the army would make all my personal obligations fade away. Found a noble cause to pour all o’ that youthful enthusiasm into, keep the guilt at bay. Truth, no matter how many worlds I crossed, no matter how many parsecs of empty Black, no matter how many dusty gorram roads I walked down that responsibility was always there. Until it didn’t matter no more.
“You got a hard road ahead, no doubt. It’s gotta be daunting, livin’ up to all those expectations. But you take to your heels now, you won’t be able to come back an’ make it right later when you gotta burnin’ need to.”
“Why do they need me?” Johnny asked, despairingly. “The General wants to use me for a figurehead, play kingmaker. The Heavenly Master wants to use me as a stud to make grandchildren. And all those guardsmen out there want me to be this shiny, invincible Prince they think I am – because I guess I told them I was – despite the fact that there ain’t anything to be Prince of. I never asked for any of this.”
“Ah, but you did. When you decided to follow that old treasure map, you set into motion a course of events that led to this moment. You challenged Fate, and you rolled the dice, made the commitment to follow the quest, and you won the big prize. But you also incurred some powerful responsibilities that you can’t just walk away from.”
“Watch me,” Johnny said, sullenly.
Mal chuckled. “Son, I’ve only known you for a couple of months. When you crawled into my airlock you were homeless, hunted, and had no family. Since then you’ve proven to be loyal, respectful, brave, and smart. Everything we’ve been through, you ain’t flinched once. Now you got it all, everything you wanted. You got a family who’s come to love you – a little wacky, I admit, but whose isn’t?” he said, counting off on his fingers. “You got the prettiest girl in the ‘verse, expertly trained in all the naughty arts, and a genuine princess in the bargain. You got treasure beyond the dreams of mortal men. And you got the military force you need to make sure you keep it. So what are you running from? Where’s the hard part?”
“It’s . . . well, I don’t know what to tell them. I’m a gorram gangster from a ruttin’ terraformation project, for Christ’s sake! Who am I to . . . well, lead anyone?”
“Ah,” Mal said, realizing the source of Johnny’s problem. “You’re having a command crisis. Easy enough. Had ‘em myself. Look, the day I took command of Serenity, I was fresh out of an Alliance POW camp. For years I had taken orders from the army, and they had taken orders from the Independent government – what there was of one – and someone up there, I knew, was ultimately responsible for all the mayhem I was conducting. When I signed the papers on Serenity and took control, suddenly I didn’t have a damned soul over me. Captain in space has a lot of power, lotta authority. Even though it was just me an’ Zoe back then, I knew that if I humped it up, I didn’t have anyone else to blame. I was the big boss. That’s where you are.”
“So how did you come to terms with that?” Johnny asked miserably.
“I faked it.”
“Faked it. Just like you’re doin’ now, with them goldcoats. Pure ballsy BS. Hell, I didn’t know how to captain. Only thing I ever led was a platoon of mudfoots, and then a couple of companies at the end there at Serenity Valley. But fighting your men ain’t the same thing as skipperin’ a ship. So I just started acting the captain. Watched other skippers an’ how they sailed their boats. Read a few books, bought some fake papers, and BOOM, I’m a ship’s captain. Afore I know, I gotta crew what needs lookin’ out for an’ a paucity of funds that makes every gorram day an adventure in survival. But I hit it with confidence, and even though I knew I was full of it, the others didn’t seem to know that.”
“You think I should continue faking being a prince.”
“Hell, Johnny! How do you know you ain’t?”
“’Cause if I was, I’d be a hell of a lot smarter than I am!”
“You’re plenty smart. Smart the way it counts. Smart enough to know who to go to for answers and advice.” He grinned. “Hell, you came to me, didn’t you? That bespeaks of an uncommon wisdom.” His grin softened, and his tone became more serious. “The big question in my mind ain’t if you can do it or can’t. I know you can. My big question is, do you have what it takes to be your own man?”
“I thought stealing away in a shuttle was being my own man.”
“That’s the easy way. The other way is to stay, be the prince they want you to be, but do it your way.”
“Mal, I’d rather go into smuggling with you,” Johnny pleaded.
“It ain’t always about what you want. Galavantin’ around the ‘verse with a pack o’ robbers an’ killers, sure, it sounds like fun . . . and, well, I guess it is . . . but you got responsibilities! Don’t mean you can’t have fun, just not as much as me.”
“I remain unconvinced,” Johnny said, stubbornly.
Mal shrugged. “Suit yourself. I didn’t want to do this, but I will.”
“Play the ancestor card. What would your old man want you to do?”
The question took Johnny by surprise. He stared at Mal longer than was comfortable as the question churned in his mind. Finally he made a sour face.
“You bastard,” he said, impotently. “You know full well . . . He’d want me to stay. He’d want me to be this prince and . . . lead.”
“Smart fella, your pa.”
“Yeah,” Johnny said sullenly. “I guess . . . I guess I can find something for them to do. Something useful. I’m just not into all of that . . . power.”
“Seems to me that the kind o’ folk what are are the kind of folk what shouldn’t have it. But I have every confidence that you’ll figure out what to do when the time comes. Relax, son, you got plenty o’ folk eager to help. All you gotta do is decide where to go. You said . . . that there was a lot of cash on this tub?”
“That pallet full of pretty bricks in the hold is small change. There are vaults and vaults of the stuff down there. Why, you want more?”
Mal held up his palm. “No, no, you paid us off fine. Too much, mayhap. Contract’s done and fulfilled. More’n I ever thought I’d see from this crazy venture, truth. I won’t know what to do with that much loot as it is – any more might spoil me. No, I was figuring out your resources. You got unlimited funds, a big ass ship, an’ an army just wettin’ their breaches to do what you tell ‘em to do. So decide what you want to do – anything in the ‘verse. Then do it.”
“Well, that part’s easy,” Johnny said slowly, swallowing hard. “But I’m gonna need your help.”
“He . . . agreed?” Nyan Nyan asked, surprised.
“You had any doubt?” Inara asked, mildly confused. “Young, incredibly hot princess? With no relatives to deal with? How could he not?”
“Well . . . yes. I wasn’t sure if he would want me. After being a Companion, some men are . . . reluctant to claim something shared by others. Especially remote ancestors.”
“Johnny is pretty liberal in a lot of ways. And I know he’s just as worried about you rejecting him for being a thug from a backwater moon, and not a ‘true prince’.”
“He does?” Nyan Nyan asked, surprised. “But . . . but that’s stupid!”
“Men often are,” agreed Inara.
“I know, but . . . that stupid?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“So he agreed.”
“And brought you a ring. About five carats of natural diamond. Gold band, with a ring of amber around the setting. It’s like a star on your finger.”
“Five carats? Whoa!” Nyan Nyan said, exhaling in appreciation.
“He said it belonged to your great grandmother. Part of Shan Yu’s collection.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet! And conspicuously ostentatious!”
“I thought so. So he’s happy, you’re happy, and now maybe we can work on the big problem: the General.”
“What about the monk?”
“Heavenly Master Lei is far, far more concerned about keeping the family line alive than he is about its position. He will be more interested in how happy you can keep Johnny, and how many babies you can birth. He has no higher aspirations. The General, on the other hand, is bound and determined to restore the Empire to Yuan and overthrow the Alliance. He’s willing to use Johnny as a puppet to do so. And I know he’ll object to the match simply because he wasn’t consulted, nor was his permission sought.”
“I can see how that would be a problem,” Nyan Nyan agreed. “If he’s like most of the old military General Staff, he’s an obsessive control freak. That almost always extended to family life.”
“And if we let him influence Johnny now, it won’t ever stop. He’ll have to go to him for every important detail. I don’t think that’s what either of you wanted.”
“Not at all. I never even thought I’d get engaged. But I’ll not let my marriage run according to some old man’s script.”
“Don’t misunderstand me,” cautioned Inara. “General Lei is not evil, or immoral, or would he ever do anything to harm Johnny. He’s merely used to being in charge, and overcome with feelings of revenge. He will try to control the poor boy – unless there is another factor at play. You are the other factor.”
“And here I thought picking out china patterns would be the hard part.”
“We have a very, very narrow opportunity to make a difference in how this plays out,” Inara said, pacing the length of her shuttle. “We have to do it just right, or there will be strife in the Lei family for another several generations. I don’t want that, for you or Johnny.”
“Are all Free Companions this politically astute?”
“Hardly,” Inara said with a laugh. “But most don’t have the chance to affect the course of an Empire this way, either.”
“Or the wits to realize it?”
“But . . . won’t the lack of an Empire be a drawback in your scheme?”
“Mei mei, the Empire exists . . . in the hearts of the men on this ship, and elsewhere. Just not . . . on Yuan. But don’t worry, one thing at a time. First we make an Emperor. We can worry about the specifics of the Empire later. I have some ideas in that direction.”
Nyan Nyan smiled dazzlingly. “How come I don’t have a single doubt that you do? Or that you’ll pull this off?”
“That remains to be seen. The next thing I need to do is speak with . . . Captain Wu, I believe he is.”
“The Imperial Guard?”
“Right. I need to get him on board. It should be easy enough, but I had better make certain.”
“Someday you’ll have to teach me how you keep all of this stuff straight in your head. It makes me dizzy.”
It was Inara’s turn to smile. “Mei mei, you sell yourself short. You’ll do fine. The first one is hardest: after the third or fourth Empire, it’s like it’s second nature.”
“The manacles and the shackles I can almost understand,” Zoe said with a sigh. “I mean, two thirds of us are dangerous criminals an’ all. But why the hell did they shoot up the poor mule like that?” After the Hammerstrike team had secured the prisoners, they had spent a good several minutes and a mess of ammunition systematically destroying Serenity’s battered old mule to the point where even Kaylee on her best day had no hope of repairing it.
“That did seem odd,” Simon agreed.
“They’s just blowin’ off some steam,” Jayne explained. “You beat a man too many times and he don’t get his licks in, he’ll take ‘em out on perfectly innocent pieces o’ machinery. You get too many servings o’ that, like to make you mean.”
“Is that what happened to you?”
Jayne grinned. “Hell, I started out mean. But I done licked a powerful many men who did end up that way.”
“I’m shocked,” Simon said humorously. “I suppose I’m still not used to such naked aggression against defenseless . . . utility equipment.”
“Still ain’t right. That mule’s been on Serenity afore I was. Now Mal’s gotta get a new one, an’ that’s like to piss him off.”
Zoe stared at him. “Yeah, that’s certain to be what gets him riled.”
“So what do you think they’ll do with us?” Jayne asked, trying to hide his anxiety behind bravado. “Turn us over? Or straight to indenture?”
“I’m going to try to convince them to let you two go,” Simon said. “It’s me they want. Me and River. It would take ten of the two of you to equal what they’re likely to get for me.”
“Ain’t right,” Jayne said sullenly. “All I done, all the robberies an’ killin’s an’ such, and you break your sister out and get a that much . . . it’s enough to make a man regret his line o’ work and take up physickin’.”
“Oh, you would have been a hoot at the medacad.”
“They ain’t gonna just let us walk. You heard the man,” Jayne said, discouraged.
“Maybe they’ll be in a charitable mood,” Zoe mused.
“I aim to work them hard over it,” Simon said, displaying a bit of passion.
“Don’t get your panties knotted, Doc,” Jayne replied. “I been in jail before.”
“Besides, Mal won’t let us rot. He’ll come after us,” Zoe assured herself.
“And do . . . what?” Simon asked. “Last time I saw it, that frigate had enough guns to start a war. And the last time I remember checking, Serenity didn’t have a one.”
“More ways to pull off a rescue than with gunplay,” Zoe countered. “We aren’t exactly novices at this.”
“Only the Captain doesn’t have his best tactical thinker and his best . . . homicidal lunatic at his disposal. That leaves Wash, Kaylee, Inara, Book, and River to do his thinking. A wise-cracking pilot, a cute mechanic, a Companion, a recently-tortured priest with a murky past, and . . . my sister. Color me pessimistic.”
“Captain’s had some pretty good ideas on his own,” Zoe said, defensively.
“Name one,” Simon retorted.
Zoe looked at Simon a long time, until she had to look away. “Captain will think of something,” she said, though there was a note of doubt in her voice.
“Aw, you know Wash wouldn’t let Mal go anywhere but after us, on account o’ Zoë.”
“And that’s what got me worried. They will come after us, and do something stupid, and before you know it everyone gets killed or arrested. If I can convince these men to take just me, and leave you two behind, then Mal and Wash won’t have a compelling reason to come after me.”
“I can imagine your crazy, knife-wielding sister might have a thought or two about that,” Jayne said skeptically.
“Oh, she will. But with you two back on Serenity, you can keep her under control while I’m carted off to trial.”
“I hate to bring this up, Doc,” Zoë said carefully. “But it is my experience in matters like this that a prisoner such as yourself might not make it to trial. Happened a lot during the war. If the Purplebellies thought you’d be more use corpsified than quick, then your body would be exchanged during truce as ‘shot trying to escape’.”
Simon stared at her a long time. Finally, he said in a low voice, “I know.”
“They wouldn’t kill off fancy pants,” Jayne objected. “He ain’t done enough to warrant a good beatin’, let alone the back room.”
“It’s not what I’ve done,” Simon replied, quietly. “It’s what I know. I know about River.”
“Wait, we know about River, too,” Zoe said, confused.
“I know. But not as much as I do. These men don’t even know. Thing is, the men that they will turn me over to won’t care. They know, too. And they’ll kill you both just for knowing her name.”
“Jesus,” Zoe said, her eyes getting wide. “What did she do?”
“It’s not what she did, either. It’s who she is, and what she knows.”
“Just to keep score, I was confounded right about where I was talkin’ about givin’ you a good beatin’,” Jayne said.
“River is telepathic,” Simon explained in a very low voice. “Do you know what that means?”
“She can . . . read my mind?” Jayne asked, confused.
“Like a comic book,” Simon agreed. “And she can read the minds of everyone else within range as well, I think: I haven’t had the time – or the cooperation from my sister – necessary to test the range of her . . . powers. But you can wager that River knows things about you that even you’ve forgotten. Every person around her is an open book, or a constantly-active vidscreen. Imagine that, for a moment. She knows how often you da shou qiang. And how. She knows about the first time you broke your nose, she knows your locker combination from grammar school, she knows . . . everything.”
“You ain’t makin’ a fella feel comfortable, Doc,” Jayne said, swallowing nervously. Apparently there was much that Jayne didn’t want known.
“River was part of a top secret government program. She was surrounded by technicians and theorists and therapists and . . . military intelligence people.”
“Stand to reason that they’d be interested in her,” Zoe observed. “Spy that can read minds . . . that’s a milintel wet dream. A spook that’s really spooky.”
“You mistake my meaning. River knows everything. And she was around military intelligence people . . . and they knew things. All sorts of things. Things that no one else is supposed to know.”
“Oh . . .” Zoe said, the implications dawning on her. “Every assassination, every black bag job, every kidnapping, every . . . every name of every operative they knew.”
“Who their bosses were, who they were bribing, the location of secret installations, prisons, projects, weapons,” Simon said, nodding. “And who was loyal to whom. River was exposed to all of that. She may not have understood it all, she may not be able to effectively communicate that information, but she knows it.”
“Son of a bitch,” Jayne said slowly. “She . . . she could read a safe combination outta a body’s brainpan! Like pickin’ his pocket, only instead of pockets it’s brains, and instead of money, it’s numbers!”
“Yes, Jayne, she could,” Simon agreed, rolling his eyes.
“Well that’s . . . that’s somethin’ useful!” he said a bit triumphantly, as if River had never before figured as such in his thoughts.
“If it doesn’t get you killed, yeah,” Simon agreed.
“And all it would take would be for one powerful man to know that she knew something that no one else could know . . . something he would kill for,” Zoe said, playing out the scenario. “And there would be plenty of those in a project like that.”
“Exactly. So I won’t be coming back. Once these men turn me over to the Alliance, I’m a dead man. They’ll . . . they’ll squeeze me like a grape for intelligence, then toss me in some dark cell on some forgotten moon, in case they can use me as bait for her some day. Once they have her . . .”
“They won’t have a use for you,” Zoe concluded. “Simon, you can’t—”
“Look, I knew this was a possibility from the beginning. You think I wasn’t prepared for it? You think I’m unwilling to give up my life . . . for her?” he asked, looking pained. “It could have been a bullet, or worse. Any day, since the beginning. Good God, it’s a miracle we made it out of the facility to begin with. Every day since then I’ve fully expected to end it with lead in my gut before nightfall. I know that. I accepted that from the beginning. This, this is almost a relief. At least I’m still alive, and can buy her some more time.”
“Simon, you can’t give up hope,” Zoe cautioned. “Cap’n’ll think of something.”
“Yeah, Mal’s great at this sort of thing,” Jayne agreed, with exaggerated enthusiasm. “He’s done crazier shi-neu than this. And gotten away with it,” he added.
“I appreciate that, and I wish to God it was true. It might be, for all I know. But it doesn’t look likely. So I’ll stall them, give them everything they think they want, and I’ll try to persuade them to turn you two free.”
“That’ll be a trick.”
“I’ll manage. I’ll just give him everything he wants to hear. If I can do that, I want you to take River and get far away from anywhere even remotely civilized. Find someone, someplace, who can . . . take care of her. Maybe someday you can find someone out there who can even help her.”
“You get us outta here, Doc, an’ you have my solemn vow,” Jayne said, trying his best to fake sincerity. “But they ain’t gonna turn us loose. You heard him.”
“Maybe they’ll be feeling charitable,” Zoe said again.
Simon tried to pace – not an easy thing to do in a cell that small. Two steps and he had pretty much exhausted his possibilities. As he glanced out of the tiny porthole, he suddenly stopped and stared.
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s likely,” Simon said, slowly. “Look.”
Zoe and Jayne both got up and jostled for position at the window.
“Oh, my God,” Zoe said, a look of horror and a smile fighting it out for control of her face. “That damn fool!”
Jayne stared and blinked. “What kind o’ sly-ass name is ‘Wildfire’?”
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:19 AM
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Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:56 AM
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