Blue Sun Job, Part 4: Return to the Core
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Mal and Zoe arrive at the planet where they had been imprisoned after the war, facing more memories and challenges than they expected.


Blue Sun Job, Part 4: Return to the Core

Sequel to the Truthsome series (link is to part 1)
Blue Sun Job, Part 1: Plans and Schemes
Blue Sun Job, Part 2: Into the Lion’s Den
Blue Sun Job, Part 3: Going Smooth


Again, no critical dialog using actual Chinese characters, just some exclamatory words and phrases

懂吗? = dong ma? = do you understand?
哎呀! = Ai ya! = damn!
鬼 = guay = hell
混蛋 = hwoon dahn (hundan) = bastard
狗屎 = go se = crap
青蛙操的流氓 = Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng = frog humping son of a bitch

Blue Sun Job: Return to the Core
靑日 Job: Return to the Core

Serenity changed course as ordered by the Alliance.

Wash checked and rechecked nav and telemetry, making absolutely certain they were precisely on course and in full compliance with all flight regulations. It had been a long time since he’d flown this way. Imagination certainly was lacking in this kind of piloting, and freedom. Still--Wash held his breath, watching first on radar, then out the cockpit windows, as a humungous freighter passed on a too-close-for-comfort path--with this kind of traffic, strict controls were necessary.

Letting out a long breath as the freighter passed from range, Wash glanced up at the captain. Mal stood rigidly, staring out toward the now-visible worlds of this system. The man looked more than a little tense. Hell, of course he was tense, he was awake. Zoe had been like that at first, until the time he got her drunk and treated her to a dinosaur shadow-puppet play. Gawd, how she had jumped him. Wash wondered if the same tactics would work to lighten up Mal...

“What are you grinning about?” Mal asked suspiciously.

Shaking his head rapidly, Wash looked back at the controls, trying not to blush. “Nothing. Nothing. We’re in the groove. Should be touching down in an hour, if there are no traffic delays.”

“Good,” Mal said distractedly, turning to stare back at the nearing worlds. “New transponder ident working okay?”

Wash rechecked his readouts. Not so much as a twitch that suggested anything was out of order. “Still shiny,” he said. “Alliance traffic control accepted it peachy keen.”

“Good,” Mal repeated. “Smooth.” It took a particular kind of knack, Wash thought, to make the words ‘good’ and ‘smooth’ sound scary and ominous.

“We’re landing on that one to the far left,” Wash said, more to make the scary, ominous quiet go away than to impart any useful information. The captain knew where they were and where they were heading. He’d been here before, Wash hadn’t. “The brownish, hazy-looking one. That’s Delta. Looks a bit like home from here. Nice, thick, chunky atmo.” Wash sighed a touch, repulsed and homesick all at once.

“It’s industrial,” Mal said. “Factories, ports... slums. All the untidiness they don’t want to have to look at on their rich, fancy moons gets crammed there. A world full of folks just existin’ to bow and scrape to Alliance society types. Mostly indentured. Some slaves. And...” he trailed off for a moment, “...some other types too.” Mal cleared his throat. “Still, a fittin’ enough place to live if you’re desperate. Lots of corners the Feds don’t dare to poke their noses into.”

“You were on Delta?” Wash asked, a touch surprised. “Zoe didn’t tell me that.” Just how desperate had they been? “I thought you were just on Beta.” He gestured to the bluish, cloud-etched moon partially eclipsing the gas giant around which the four primary moons orbited. Wash couldn’t quite figure what Mal was thinking when he looked at him. Probably about how he knew more about Wash’s wife than Wash did.

Mal gave a slight, humorless laugh. “On Beta involuntarily, yet we had a helluva time getting off that moon even once they wanted us to get gone. Spent some time on Gamma, too. Ranch land. Factory-type ranching.” He shook his head with a hint of disgust. “Feeds the other worlds. Only world in this system we ain’t been on is Alpha--no way in the ‘verse they’d let our type touch dirt there. Not that they allow dirt.”

Most folks used ‘they’ as a vague reference. The captain used ‘they’ in a way that hinted he had some very specific faces in mind, Wash realized, and that the owners of those faces might be getting a serious case of the uncomfortables just now, like someone walked over their graves.

“Alpha is where Inara is heading,” Wash said, a mite creeped out when Mal got that dark, deadly look about him.

“Right.” Mal tossed off a quick smile. “ ‘bout says it.”

Wash hesitated, then asked, “You gonna go say good-bye to Inara?”

“Don’t see why. She’ll be back to drop off the shuttle,” Mal said too casually and Wash could fill in the rest of the sentence the captain didn’t say out loud, “Once she gets through whoring with half the Alliance on Alpha.” Wash felt a surprising bit of sympathy for the captain. Much as he’d been jealous of what Mal and Zoe may, or may not, have shared, the captain knew what it was Inara did with umpteen-dozen others. And, at least as far as Wash knew, didn’t do with the captain.

“And there’s that grin again,” Mal commented, eyeing Wash. He turned to peer down the corridor. “Where’s Zoe?”

“Still getting ready. Said she’ll meet you in the cargo bay,” Wash said.

“Right. Keep her locked up tight while we’re here,” Mal ordered and Wash did a quick double-take to realize he meant Serenity. Zoe was heading with Mal straight into the teeth of the lion--and her husband hadn’t gotten much of a vote in the matter. No doubt they’d come back with more stories. No doubt they’d come back. No doubt...

With Delta looming large in the cockpit windows, Mal gave a terse, distracted, nod of good-bye to Wash. The warm fuzziness of the fare-thee-well tugged at Wash’s heartstrings. As the captain’s footsteps retreated down the corridor, Wash called a soft, “Good luck,” after Mal.

* * *

“Son of a bitch...” Mal stretched the phrase out as he stared open-mouthed at the spectacle awaiting him in the cargo bay. Mouth hanging open in pure astonishment, Mal circled the apparition. “I’ll be a 青蛙操的流氓,” he said. “It’s like lookin’ at what might be haunting some evil, demon law firm.” He paused, gaping at the Jayne-doppelganger creature standing in his cargo bay wearing an evil-ass grin on his face.

“I think he looks just fine,” Kaylee said defensively, reaching to adjust the lapel of Jayne’s grey suit. “Classy. Like a real lawyer or a businessman.”

“That he does,” Mal agreed, thinking demon lawyer or stone-cold mercenary killer were both in character for Jayne. Well, might be some vocabulary differences. Jayne best keep his mouth shut most of the time while out on the job. Suit or not, Jayne still looked like he could reach right into a fella’s chest and rip his heart out if it came to it. “This Simon’s ‘need-to-know’ bit of business?”

Kaylee grinned. “Yuppers. Worked good, huh?”

Mal shook his head slowly. “Yes, indeedy.” Aside from the spiffy gray suit, the goatee was gone. Funny how Jayne looked even more wicked with the devil-beard missing. There were other things too. His hair... something different about the color. And his face seemed somehow softer, less harsh.

“Simon did some things to make his face look a bit different,” Kaylee said.

“混蛋 swore it was temporary,” Jayne growled. “哎呀 well better be.”

“I trust you’ve altered the ship’s logs to reflect Jayne’s absence during the critical period,” Shepherd Book said to Mal as he approached.

Mal nodded to the Shepherd. “Logs on this boat are kept purely for the amusement of any Feds as may care to peruse them. No permanent ink used,” Mal said. “Paint a pretty picture of a bunch of innocent vagabonds.”

Book nodded with a small smile. “If I might see you a moment before you leave, captain...” he said, with a significant look in his eye.

“Yeah,” Mal said, glancing up toward the catwalk. “Where’s Zoe? We’re needing to get moving pretty soon.”

“I’ll be off now,” Jayne said. “Got a shuttle to catch.” He nodded to them all.

“See you in the world,” Mal said. “Be careful and lay low,” he added.

With another glance at the catwalk, searching for Zoe, Mal followed the preacher back toward his dorm. The infirmary appeared far less clean and orderly than Simon had kept it. It had physically pained the good doctor to strip out all his improvements and restore the place to the way it had been when he first stepped foot onboard. Serenity’s infirmary again gave every indication it had been stocked and set up by a couple battlefield medics, not a highfalutin Osiris trauma surgeon. Simon’s and River’s rooms were also stripped out, erasing as best they could any trace the two had ever been on board. Turned out Simon not only could mastermind the odd hospital robbery, but he was a fair hand at cleaning up a crime scene; knew ways to go about eradicating DNA traces and the like. The boy had picked up more than how to patch bullet wounds working that night-shift E.R.

The Lassiter rested secure in a smuggling hidey-hole that no Fed searching the vessel had ever found--and was unknown to anyone onboard save Mal and Zoe. It’d be more than a little ironical, in the not-good sense of the word, if they got away with the Blue Sun robbery and ended up getting nailed on account of some routine port search turning up the freakin’-impossible-to-fence Lassiter.

“Mind if I put in a prayer or two on your account while you’re out on the ‘job’?” Shepherd Book asked as Mal slid the door to the preacher’s room shut behind them.

Mal squelched his gut reaction, instead giving the preacher a mocking look. “You got prayers what work for robberies?”

Book hesitated a moment as he dug out a small injector from his bag. “Well... uh, I hadn’t really thought about it that way...” Mal concealed a smile, maybe not too well as the preacher jabbed his bared arm with the injector a bit harder than necessary.


“Sorry ‘bout that,” Book said without a trace of apology. “No prayers for robbing--little issue of that commandment--but there’s a few catchy ones for folks going into battle...”

Mal didn’t miss the twinkle in Book’s eyes. Preacher was baiting him. Fella was so gorram good at figuring things out from bitty little clues, now he was fishing for more. Mal chose not to take the bait.

“I’ll pass,” he said with a bland smile, letting the preacher read into it what he will. He turned to go, paused. “Say, Shepherd, you’ll keep an eye on Kaylee, until Monty’s people show up?”


“Good. Don’t let her go wandering about here. This place ain’t as tame and peaceable as the Eavesdown Docks. Any of them commandments as you care to name are getting broke right now not a five minute walk from where we’re parked.”

“I see,” Book said thoughtfully. “I’d planned to roam about a bit around here. Spread the Word to them as might need to hear it.”

Mal stared at him. “Yeah. Well. You be careful too.” With a short nod, he stepped out of the preacher’s room.

Footsteps on the catwalk overhead caught Mal’s attention as he crossed the cargo bay. Glancing up, he froze, stopping so suddenly he almost tripped.

“My God in heaven,” he said, so stunned he wasn’t even aware of the particular choice of words he used. “Zoe?”

She was... well, she wore... she looked...

“Zoe?” he repeated, double-triple-checking to see if he was really seeing what he was seeing. “You’re wearing a dress.”

Kaylee’s giggle echoed through the cargo bay, meeting the Shepherd’s chuckle and echoing. Zoe’s cheeks burned with red, and she refused to meet Mal’s unblinking stare, as she struggled to descend the stairs in some dainty little shoes that were just downright unsoldierly, but curiously fetching. The dress itself--holy flyin’ 狗屎, Zoe was wearing a dress. Weren’t all fancy like Inara’s, just a plain, dull blue that came down just past her knees. But it fit well enough. It fit really well enough.

“Shake your eyeballs loose, sir,” Zoe hissed as she passed him, “before they get stuck.”

Mal took it as an order, blinking and shaking his head. He rubbed his eyes. “I think I’m going blind,” he said, staring at her again. Yeah, it was still Zoe in that get-up. Her tight posture said clear as could be she was on the verge of reaching out and killing him if’n he didn’t shut-up about it. He didn’t shut-up about it. “Your husband seen you in this rig?” he demanded. Going off on this particular mission--most especially with their particular cover story--with Zoe looking that way might just get Wash thinking on killing him too.

Zoe glared at him. “What do you think took me so long getting down here,” she said, straightening the top and checking the lacings. She had missed one.

“Right. Okay...” What were they doing? Oh, yeah, shuttle to Beta. For some damned thing or another. He couldn’t recall just now.

“Uh... Kaylee,” Mal said, still staring at Zoe whose glare was starting to burn in. He forced his eyes over to Kaylee, whose grin was as broad as he’d ever seen her wear. “You be mindful of danger. Back away and get out if anything looks to be going wrong. You let Monty’s crew handle any situations. 懂吗?”

“Yes, Cap’n. You be careful, too.” Kaylee wrapped her arms around his waist and gave him a sound hug.

Dropping a kiss on the top of her head, Mal gave a glance toward the preacher, picked up his bag and followed Zoe out the airlock. The ramp raised behind them as they stepped out into the dusty bustle of the port. Mal paused to give Serenity a long look, turning away to see Zoe had done the same thing. They exchanged a look that needed no words between them. Into combat, it was.

As they stepped away in unison, striding through the crowd, both tensed in one regard and relaxed in another, neither fully conscious of the change. Zoe’s taut military manner and obedient deference to her captain dropped away, shifting into the easy camaraderie of an equal who, as the play called for it, deferred to the other’s trusted judgment and leadership. On Mal’s part, the tension of control and concealment vanished, taking years off his face with it. He had no secrets from Zoe, no past to hide--鬼, she knew every nook and cranny of his past there was to know. He’d let uncertainties and doubt show in front of Zoe alone that he’d never let any others see. No pretense between either of them, except for the pretense they jointly presented to the rest of the ‘verse.

Though unarmed and wearing ‘civies’--blue and grey clothes, no browns or reds anywhere in evidence--Mal and Zoe still parted the crowd as they strode through, completely unaware that their ingrained posture and manner tagged them as something other than the middle-class working couple they were dressed to be. An unusually alert port guard noticed them, not sure what it was that caught his attention but knowing something did. He glanced back to the ship they’d come from--a Firefly, classic smuggler’s ship. Without any real conviction he’d seen anything amiss, but with a nagging sense of suspicion, the guard entered a low-priority security query on the Firefly’s berth number, then dismissed it from mind and moved on.

* * *

“Will you relax,” Mal whispered sharply to Zoe as they neared the head of the shuttle queue. The sight of the Alliance sentries and the scanners had caused her to visibly tense.

“Yes, sir,” she said, staring at the sentries.

“And stop calling me ‘sir’.”

Zoe shook herself and looked up at Mal with a sweet, and totally artificial, smile. “Of course... dear.”

Mal rolled his eyes and sighed. “You look all the part of a girly-girl out with her honey, just act it.”

“Right.” She grinned at Mal. “Shouldn’t you be carrying my bag?”

He scowled. “Don’t over do it.”

Their ident cards slid in and out of the scanners without causing any notice on the part of the sentries. Good. First hurdle past. They walked through the weapon scanners and entered the shuttle.

“I don’t like taking public transport,” Zoe said quietly as they sat down.

“Safest and best,” Mal answered. “Couldn’t park on Beta anyhow. It was hard enough for Monty to get clearance.”

“Still don’t like it. Calls to mind some uncomfortable times,” she said.

Times that you, no doubt, never told Wash about, Mal thought. This whole trip was gonna be calling to mind a whole helluva lot of uncomfortables. Mal glanced over at Zoe, meeting her eyes he knew she was thinking on the same thing. He reached over, took her hand and squeezed it fondly. When the sentry had passed by he quickly released her hand and turned to look out the window.

The smog layer slipped away as they plunged into the sky between the moons. Beta glistened ahead, showing past the terminator of the gas giant. The gas giant, itself, was a more than fairly splendid sight with its swirling bands of blue and orange. They hadn’t been able to see it from anywhere inside the prison out of the few, high windows. It had been a bit of a shock to step out of the walls for the first time after being on Beta for over two years and see that enormous planet hanging in the sky. Alpha, however, they’d been able to see, with all its shiny prosperity glittering in the sky like a gorram billboard reminding them daily of their defeat.

Mal jumped as Zoe touched his arm. “Stop thinking on it,” she said very softly. He nodded and look away from the windows. The thoughts, however, weren’t so easily chased away. Maybe this was just big, damned mistake coming here. Could any score be big enough to be worth it? Could some puny shard of revenge ever balance the scales of what they’d lost?

“Hell, yes, it’s worth it,” Zoe said in a whisper so low Mal realized she was talking to herself.

Okay, then. Put aside the doubt and focus on the mission... the job. Yeah... just do the job, stick it to the bastards and get back to the Black. The plan was sound. One thing at a time. Deal with the obstacles. Move on. The past was past. Over and done and beyond changing.

The shuttle hit atmo on Beta, the sky shifting from black to blue, then to a solid grey as they passed through a thick cloud deck. Not half an hour after stepping off Serenity, Mal and Zoe stepped off the shuttle and out of the port onto the streets of Beta’s largest city. A dozen scanners and cameras tracked and noted their moves, just as they noted the scanners and cameras. Nothing had changed. Sterile, shiny-clean streets and prosperous, well-fed people living in rigid adherence to the rules. The sensation of being watched crept over Mal. With a dark glance at Zoe, they quickly stepped off down the street, not daring to stay in one place too long lest it be thought they were loitering.

Mal wasn’t aware how tightly he clenched the handle of his bag until he noticed Zoe doing the same. They were playing this all kinds of wrong. Forcing himself to relax, he put his hand on Zoe’s arm. “Ease up,” he ordered. As a Fed police patrol approached on the sidewalk, he put his arm around Zoe’s neck, pulling her in close so he could whisper in her ear. “We’re happy, proud citizens of the Alliance here on a holiday. 懂吗? Not doin’ nothing wrong, ‘cept for you stepping out on your husband. No more acting paranoid.” Zoe nodded. Now to convince himself. It was harder than he’d thought it would be. He really didn’t like to think on just how much the Alliance had conditioned them to think and act during their time on this hell-spawned rock.

An uneventful tube ride, and another short walk later, they were managing their roles better, in Mal’s estimation. That was, until they arrived at the hotel.

Standing across the street from the entrance, they stared at it warily. A dozen stories tall, the hotel stood a few blocks from the edge of an industrial area backing onto the nicer business and shopping district in which Mal and Zoe stood. A bustle of people moved around the shaded entry. More than a few Alliance uniforms were in evidence.

“Huh,” Mal said.

“Well...” Zoe added.

They stared some more, neither moving, unmindful now of the risk of being taken as loiterers.

“They won’t remember us,” Zoe said without conviction. “It’s been years.”

“It’s got a different name even,” Mal said. “Must be different staff, too. And Blue Sun owns it now. Isn’t that special?” He glanced at Zoe. She’d faced mortar attacks with less trepidation than showed on her face right now. “Inara picked this place?”

“Yeah. Said it fit our cover to a ‘T’. And takes cash, which damned few places here do.” Zoe’s eyes never shifted from the hotel’s entrance.

“Well, then,” Mal said, taking a deep breath. “In we go...”

Next: Blue Sun Job, Part 5: Life That Was...


Thursday, May 27, 2004 1:09 PM


Excellent and getting downright creepifying for Mal and Zoe. I laughed fit to bust at the Captain's reaction to Zoe in that dress but my favourite line was this one - *It took a particular kind of knack, Wash thought, to make the words 'good' and 'smooth' sound scary and ominious*. Excellent observation. Good story, can't wait for the next gorram part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, May 31, 2004 8:13 PM


Good continuation on the story, keep up the good work :)

I enjoyed the Jayne/Adam Baldwin Angel insert, very well done.

Sunday, August 29, 2004 8:54 PM


Finally getting a chance to catch up on this story, super shiny chapter! Loved the Jayne/Hamilton bit...too funny! And Zoe in a dress! :-D

Thursday, September 29, 2011 9:30 PM


SHINY PERFECTION!!! Many LOL moments!!XD the humor is JUST like the show!XD


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Blue Sun Job--A Sequel: It Means a Thing
Post-Serenity, Mal & Zoe share a moment, or two. And then some. Story takes place in the context of the "Blue Sun Job" scenario. COMPLETE One-er.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 39: Into the Black
The conclusion of the Blue Sun Job.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 38: Shadow
Mal & Zoe's past smashes into the present. Everyone on the crew gets an earful, especially Wash.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 37: Plan B
There's a dead Shepherd on the floor, a bunch of angry live ones, and Mal, Zoe, and Simon in their midst.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 36: One Down
Return of the "Blue Sun Job"! First of the last four chapters of this story.

Blue Sun Job, Part 35: The Worthier Part
Book's more nefarious, Mal's less crazy, and Zoe is dangerously pissed.

Blue Sun Job, Part 34: Of Many Books...
Book's nefarious. Mal's crazy. And Simon is bewildered.

Blue Sun Job, Part 33: Light and Shadow
Mal has just had his big tell-all session with Book concerning his and Zoe's history. Now landed at the Shepherd's Sanctuary, they have to deal with the fallout and with Book's mysterious past and plans.

Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations
Mal and Book talk about some Big Damned Things.

Blue Sun Job, Part 31: The Heart of the Matter
Tales & stories come out into the open--more than a little dark. But not to worry, Jayne, the philosopher, also explains women.