Labyrinth [Part 10]
Friday, October 13, 2006

Zhang tells some of his tale. Someone turns up that Jayne recognises. An unexpected wedding, then a diversion to Higgin's moon. Warned you the ending would be a doozy; enjoy!


PART TEN Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding... Bless with a hard heart those who surround me. Bless the women and children who firm our hands. Put our backs to the north wind. Hold fast by the river. Broadsword – Jethro Tull * And we made truth together, where no one else would. I smiled through her fingers and ran the dust through her hands, the hour-glass of reason on the summerday sands. We sat as the sea caught fire. Waited as the flames grew higher in her eyes, Summerday sands. - Jethro Tull * River made brief introductions, after which Mal got Hori to set Serenity down on the headland nearby, after which he initiated a round-the-table discussion. “Okay, lad; Zhang. Please tell us your story.” “First off, I'm an orphan. Born probably on Ariel and taken when I was about five by the Alliance for the experimental procedures at Whitefall. One of the scientists was a Zen and martial arts master; she was kind and I learned a lot from her. They fed us, gave us schooling, clothed us and eventually started experiments on us.” Simon blanched, “Wuh duh ma; huh choo-shung tza-jiao duh tzang-huo!” Zhang turned to him, “You can probably understand the next part better than most. We were deliberately infected with genetically modified plagues. All the other kids died, sooner or later. But what I think they hoped for happened with me; my immune system kicked into overdrive and fought back. You name the disease and my body has encountered it, fought it and defeated it. I heal very quickly as a result. I think my white blood cells – maybe other parts of me – mutated slightly. I haven't put it to the test, but if I were to break a limb, I think I'd heal in days, not weeks. Maybe even hours.” River smiled at Zhang, “He's like me; been through the machine and come out stronger. I could hear him calling for me; for *anyone like him, but I wasn't a hundred percent sure until I saw him.” Zhang nodded, “My mind developed exponentially along with my body. When the final plague got out and everyone was doomed to death, one of the medics got me out in time and brought me here, along with a whole lot of medical data. He bought the disused tower under a pseudonym, then cut us off from the mainland using explosives right at the start of one Winter ten years ago. He kept us both fed, healthy and safe. He died last Winter and I have searched in vain for a safe way out since then. I was beginning to lose hope when River heard me. Much longer and even the Yogic coma I was in would not have been enough to preserve me.” * Mal nodded right back, “And the data?” Zhang pointed at the rock under the tower, “Hidden in part of the old maze, deep inside there. I'll do my best to help you find it, but it could be dangerous.” Simon looked at Zhang, “I'd like to run some tests, if you're willing.” “Please. Even I don't know the full extent of what' happened to my body and mind.” His stomach rumbled, “Excuse me! Been too long since I ate anything like a reasonable meal!” Vera got up, “Soup?” Zhang smiled, “That'll do for starters!” * Mal took Serenity back to the beach; he felt it only right that the good citizens of Narnia should find out exactly what had been going on in their midst. While they sat, talking and discussing, another, taller rangy lad with long tousled hair came running out of one of the underground bunkers. A hidden voice yelled, “Hey, it's Spring! Go grow some crops and stop stealing the dried goods!” Jayne jumped up and gave chase, seizing the lad by the scruff of the neck, “Hey! Valentine Aloysius Cobb! What the hell are you doin' here, makin' your Ma half scared to death frettin' after you?!” He brought the lad over , kicking and complaining, “Val; my nephew. Been missin' from home these last six months.” Jayne gave him a shake and made him sit down with him and Vera, at some remove from the maze discussions and plans. Vera finally had a good look at the lad. He was somewhere in his early teens, dark brown hair a mess, trademark blue Cobb eyes and sensual, stubborn mouth. She smiled at touched Val, “What did you do?” Val's shoulders were hunched protectively, “Nuttin'. Ain't none of your business anyways.” “Speak, boy!” Jayne put in. Vera recognised Val's raw behaviour from Jayne's more polished evasions, “I know you haven't met me yet, but I'm your aunt, Vera. It might be easier to tell me now than have Jayne force you to confess.” Jayne gave Val another shake to make his point. Vera started gently, “How old are you, Val?” Val sighed and sneaked a nervous look at his slightly taller uncle, “Fifteen; nearly.” “Let me guess; school or girls – maybe boys if you're sly.” “Ain't sly!” The eyes blazed defiantly, “Know that fer sure. It was last Fall on Newhall. Prettiest girl in my class is Mary-Jane. Red curly hair, pretty frocks and stuff. She kept lookin' at me and I was lookin' right back. Went down to the swimming hole on Sunday afternoon. We was skinny dipping and she's got the sweetest titties I ever hoped to see; beggin' your pardon, Vera.” “It's okay,” Vera prompted, “I'm wed to your uncle and seen a fair share of life afore that.” “Well, we got to kissin' and then we was touchin' and her hands on me was more 'n I dared hope for. An' inside the fiery curls lower down she was wet and willin' and I slid in as easy as a knife through soft butter. After that, we neither of us could stop. She came; I know she did. We may both have been virgins, but I *know I gave her pleasure. At least twice,” and there was the familiar cocky grin, “and then I was spendin' long and sweet inside her.” Vera joined the dots, “Mary-Jane got pregnant?” “Didn't mean fer that to happen. I mean, she's the one; won't find anyone sweeter to be my bride. I'd have married her straight off if the preacher hadn't noticed we were too young to consent on our own. Then her Pa finds out and is threatenin' to remove my balls from my body, even though Mary-Jane said she was as eager as me for wantin' it. So I ran.” Jayne gave his nephew another shake, “Crazy ruttin' hwoon dahn! I'll let your Ma know you're safe and then you'd better go back and face the music.” “Don't wanna be a eunuch!” Val's voice cracked into the higher register on that. “Well, we can 'force' you to marry Mary-Jane; hafta do it the old way with shotguns, even though you're willin'. Then you'd better get used to bein' a Pa real damn soon. After that; birth control my boy, till you're old enough to provide for more babies!” “Captain Malcolm Reynolds, whose ship we're on, might be willing to take you with us.” “Val; stand up.” Val rose somewhat awkwardly to his feet. Jayne grinned, “Another Cobb baby! I'm proud o' you, son!” Val grinned back, thinking he was home free. Jayne clocked him one, enough to take him off his feet and back onto his backside, “*That's for lettin' your pecker talk outta wedlock without usin' birth control!” Val sat glumly, rubbing his chin. By the time Vera and Jayne had finished talking with Valentine, Mal had already taken Zhang, River, Hori and Inara to search the maze passages under the tower. Everyone else went back to Serenity and waited. * A few days later, in space; en route to Newhall * Mal and everyone not steering Serenity through the black were poring over the stash from the maze. Simon identified a lot of it, “Medical records. Not just of Whitefall either. Got a slew here from other facilities. Might even be some about you, mei-mei.” This last sentence directed to River. Zhang looked at Simon, “And my tests?” Simon put down the documents with some reluctance, “Without access to a big analyser like the one on Ariel; I'd say you're estimation of your body's adaptation to the plagues is fairly close to accurate. Fast healing, white cells being made nineteen to the dozen and they have been changed from the expected norms. Can't say exactly how without more advanced equipment. You're in perfect health though, if still a little undernourished.” “Thanks.” Mal ruffled through the papers, “Lots of Alliance stuff here, smells bad all over.” “Anything valuable? Gold 'n stuff?” “Sadly not gold, Jayne. And keep that nephew of yours under control, please. Not that he's been misbehaving; I don't want him to start.” “He's getting three square meals a day and a hammock in the hold,” Vera commented, “He'll be fine till we get him home.” “After that, we need to decide what to do with this stuff. *And Zhang. Someone might have figured out by now that you are still alive, and the rest of us know what harbouring fugitives can lead to.” Several people looked at Mal pointedly, “Not regretting keeping River and Simon for one moment. They're family now. And there's a good chance you'll be good for us and River here. Just wondering what sort of trouble you'll bring us when the Alliance *does find out. I'm thinking they will, sure as eggs is eggs.” * Newhall * Jayne, wearing his best tee shirt and pants, prioviding 'shot-gun' facilities with Vera. Valentine in a borrowed suit, either too tight or too loose in all the wrong places. A luminously lovely red-haired teenage girl, very heavily pregnant, glowing with pleasure and relief. Assembled Cobbs and Mary-Jane's parents. A preacher. A quick, quiet wedding. Simon checking the new bride over a little later. “Valentine; were you one of twins?” “My Ma had two sets of twins and two sets of triplets. I'm one of the triplets.” “Well, congratulations – or commiserations – you're going to be the father of quads very soon.” Val went white, “Quads?” And he fainted. Jayne grinned, “That's my boy!” Matty gave him a steely 'little sister' look, “Actually; *my boy, Jayne. And for Buddha's sake, bring him around. He's got to be ready for the delivery!” Mary-Jane clutched her stomach, “Might be soon, too!” * Hori came over to Mal some time later, at the impromtu wedding feast, “Got a wave from a Fess Higgins on Higgins' moon. Says the old man has popped his clogs and he'd welcome a visit real soon.” Mal caught the undercurrents, “Any idea of the problem?” “Mudders behaving themselves, but Fess is suffering from being a young man just starting in an older man's game. Some of the foremen are trying to take advantage and he's sure there's some dodgy deals going down. Would welcome some armed back-up just to rattle things down nearer normality.” Inara looked at Hori, “Tell him I'm regretfully unavailable, please. Settled down with Mal.” “Will do. Boss?” Mal sighed, “We'll go. Not much of a place, being mud an' all; but we can shake a tail feather or two. Better warn Jayne; he had some...interesting dealings...with the Mudders last time.” Hori grinned, “Vera told me; so did Jayne, actually.” * Higgins' Moon * After they'd finally landed, everyone walked to the Higgins estate by way of the Mudder's main encampment, just to get the lay of the land. Mal also did it deliberately, in order to see how Jayne's reputation had changed and so he could store up points for scoring and leverage later. Keeping Jayne on some kind of virtual leash was usually a good thing. Okay, since reaquainting himself with Vera and later handfasting her, Jayne's temperament had mellowed significantly. Mal was privately grateful for that. Jayne was walking towards the Mudders bar with Vera. He hadn't disguised – this time – and he was getting looks and muttering. No shouting and eager Mudder fan club, though. “Don't like this. Don't feel right?” “You want them to mob you and treat you like some movie star?” Jayne havered, caught between wanting and not wanting, “Not a gorram hero. Just a merc doin' a job.” Mal opened the door of the bar and everyone went inside. * A blonde female whirlwind spotted Jayne and rushed over, throwing herself into his arms, covering his face in kisses. “Jayne! Jayne Cobb; sweetie – you came back!” He peeled her firmly and delicately off him and returned the woman to her feet on the floor, “Melanie; I'm wed now.” Vera stepped forward, “Hello Melanie, I'm Vera, Jayne's missus.” Melanie protested feebly, “You said you weren't ever gonna get tied down.” Jayne put one arm around Vera's shoulders, “Vera gone changed my mind.” Melanie pouted slightly, then gamely shook Vera's hand and flounced off. “See,” Jayne commented, “Told her I was taken.” Vera touched his arm, “I noticed.” "She talks too much as well. Never uses three words when a couple 'a hundred will cover it." * A man walked onto the rough stage at one end of the bar, basic spotlight picking him out as the room darkened, “Good evening folks. Welcome to your weekend special entertainment spectacular. First off, as per usual, a little blast from the past.” A figure walked onto the stage. Simon boggled, “No, I take everything back that I said last time; now I really *am mad.” Zoe grinned, “Good Lord Almighty. You gonna pinch me for real ths time?” Mal found his voice, “Jayne...? You wanna help me here? ” Vera was trying not to giggle and coming very close to failing. There was a lull in the proceedings, a moment of absolute calm and perfect quiet during which anyone in the entire bar might have heard a pin drop. Into this oasis of silence, Jayne finally found his voice; loud and clear and strong. “Holy Mother of God! The Mudders have made a rutting love-bot outta me!” *** THE END [GG] - another saga soon!


Saturday, October 14, 2006 6:32 PM


What?!? A Jayne love-bot?!? Ho-lee shi-ite! Now that's an ending!


Definitely wish this had gone a tad bit slower, in order that we may enjoy it properly. Still...this was mighty shiny in its completeion, Vera;)


Saturday, October 14, 2006 10:08 PM


I know - it was rushed. I had the plot coming in at about 90 miles an hour for most of this bit. I'm hoping to go back and maybe fill in the mine search in a flashback; there will be more on Zhang of course; Val and Mary-Jane's quads will come along pretty soon. In the whole of my fanfic here to date, there are a number of 'playing pieces' I've set up along the way and the next story will bring them into the foreground and deploy them. I hope!

The Jayne love-bot idea popped into my mind at 'Serenity 3'. It was Nectar's birthday over the weekend and I wrote in her card, "Where are the *male* love-bots [G]?" and *pop* right there in my head was the ending of this story!! I had to cover my mouth when it hit, I was giggling at the thought of Adam actually acting both roles...



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