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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
B1C12: Getting closer to rescuing Damsel #1. Scoping out the rainiest planet ever, when suddenly, by the fog lamps, we see a familiar floral bonnet...
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CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1045 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
In the pre-dawn hours, Serenity landed on Three Hills through a torrent of rain. The landing pad filled with exhaust and steam from the engines. As Mal opened the doors, he saw an old friend, Leslie Maxwell, who had founded a college in the town. Maxwell was an average height man who had gained a small gut since Mal had last seen him. His tailored suit glinted in the lights that illuminated the landing pad. Maxwell’s hands were folded, his index fingers steepled and touching his lip. This was an old “all clear” sign the two held, so Mal let his trigger hand relax.
“Max!” Mal called, adopting a jovial air as he stepped off Serenity. “It’s raining here!”
“What do you expect, Mal? It’s the rainy season.” Maxwell’s voice was a deep base.
Mal wore a wide-brimmed hat which only succeeded in keeping the water out of his eyes. His coat weathered the storm faithfully. Maxwell stepped back, making space under the awning for Mal to stand.
“Just been awhile since I been caught in the rain. Any chance of it letting up?” Mal asked.
“Today?” Maxwell chortled. “Let me educate you on how we predict weather during the rainy season. Look over there. Do you see that sky scraper?”
Mal looked, but the rain fell in sheets so thick, he could barely see ten feet in front of him. “No”
“That means it’s raining. If you could see it, that would mean it’s going to rain very, very soon.”
“No kidding,” Mal chuckled. “What do you do with all that water?”
“What any good business man does. Bottle it up and sell it to the tourists. I hear you’ve run into trouble, old friend.”
“Nothin’ serious,” Mal dismissed. “I’m looking for a ship called the Neptune. Have they landed here?”
“Just last night. They’ve stayed locked down pretty tight. Probably waiting for the rain to let up.” Maxwell laughed again. “Your ship looks a little beat.”
“Well it happens when you’re short a mechanic. If you could lend me some of your services, I’d be happy to repay you.”
“Now Mal,” Maxwell chided. “You know I can’t be bothered to wait until you come into money and remember me. Why don’t you take a few land jobs until your luck changes.”
“Land jobs,” Mal scoffed as if the very suggestion was demeaning.
Suddenly, Maxwell’s posture went from casual to rigid at the sight of something over Mal’s shoulder. Mal’s hand went immediately to his gun. He turned quickly and saw Elle emerging from the ship, decked out in a red and gold dress that she must have borrowed from Inara. Her hair was pinned neatly on top of her head and a few curls framed her face. Inara and Jayne followed her off the ship, joining Maxwell and Mal under the awning, making it more than a little crowded.
“Les!” Elle said pretentiously, as if at a social gala.
“Chelsea!” Maxwell stammered, surprised. “It’s good to see you alive!”
“Yes, the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, especially of late. Would you do me a favor and refuel this boat.”
“Of course, madam.” Maxwell bowed nervously.
“And stock her with food,” Elle added as if she were Santa Claus bestowing gifts on all the good boys and girls. “And advance each of the crew a hundred credits for their kindness to me.”
“You weren’t kidding about that whole charity thing,” Mal muttered to Inara. “But just one question: who is Chelsea?”
“I don’t know,” Inara whispered back.
Mal sidled toward Elle as Max hurried about to complete the task. “This is mighty kind of you, but it’s not going to affect my decision on the Osiris job.”
“It doesn’t have to. You saved my life, Captain Reynolds. I can’t put a price on that.”
“Well, then. Thank you much.”
Maxwell gave several orders, making specific stipulations about account numbers and having the highest quality mechanics on the job. All the while, he cast uncertain glances at the four of them and Mal found it unsettling.
“Does something feel off to you?” Jayne asked, coming up between them. “With Max I mean. Something seems off.”
“I picked up on that as well.”
“He’s been threatened on account of me,” Elle whispered.
“How’s that? You’ve been dead all week,” Mal joshed.
“Now I’m not,” Elle pointed out. Her eyes shifted warily about the scene and she whispered “I should go.”
“Wait!” Jayne cried intensely. Elle waited, but Jayne didn’t go on.
“I’ll find a shuttle and meet you in the air,” she assured him, touching his cheek gently. “It’s not safe here.”
And just like that, she vanished into the rain. Jayne searched the faces of the bustling ground crew for hers, but it was like searching for a dream in a silverware drawer.
After sunrise, a thick mist hung in the air. Although the locals walked through with no umbrellas, Kaylee was convinced that the sky was still spitting on her. Caddock’s hatred of the rain seemed to surpass his hatred of women and of waiting. But eventually, Caddock had conceded that the rain would not relent. Kaylee was grateful to have extra time to recover. It had also given her time on the ground to crack open the engine and see how the Neptune really worked. Her kink in the engines had managed to delay their arrival by several hours, but her failure to get word to Serenity had eaten up all of her hope.
Braddox pushed her through the streets of Three Hills, seeming to target her bruised shoulder specifically. Kaylee winced with every step. Though self-conscious about her bruised face and bandaged hands, Kaylee held her head high, hoping someone would get concerned and call the authorities. Unfortunately, the people of Three Hills seemed reclusive, ducking their heads and crossing the street as Braddox plowed the sidewalk. Saskia trailed behind the two, a sawed-off shot gun concealed underneath her maroon rain jacket.
Three blocks later, they turned into a brightly lit auto repair store. Kaylee shot Braddox a confused look, fearing he expected her to find the necessary parts here. Spaceship engines and automobile engines were completely different beasts. Braddox paid no attention, but led them to the back, through a door that said “Authorized personel only.” On the other side was a giant warehouse. An intimidating bouncer kindly requested their weapons and deposited them in a rotating safe. Braddox showed the guard an ident card and they were allowed to pass.
Through the security point, the whole warehouse was cement gray and lined with steel shelves. Because this was clearly not the reputable end of the business, Kaylee presumed it to be a chop shop or salvage yard. She led Braddox and Saskia past the first few rows, trying to get a sense of the layout. One could easily get lost in here. The back wall seemed to be half-windows, through which Kaylee could see the sky had opened up again.
“Whole ships would be out there,” Saskia said, pointing out the window. Her skin being bruised as it was, Kaylee had no interest in being pelted by rain.
“There’s a chance we may find what we’re looking for in here,” she suggested hopefully.
Braddox considered the rain against a wander through the aisles and decided they should stay inside. Kaylee led them along, pointing at things that might be useful, things that would be necessary later, and things they needed right now. Braddox took quick notes, not touching any of the items. Kaylee looked longingly at the supplies and wished she were here on behalf of Serenity.
Serenity! Kaylee’s heart cried at the very thought of her family on Serenity. She pointed half-heartedly at a compressor coil, remembering the pain it had once caused her not to have one. At the last aisle, Kaylee found the belts. She wasn’t sure which one the Neptune would need, so she recommended that Braddox take a few of each. Finished with their survey, Braddox and Saskia collected their weapons from the guard and headed out through the store front.
Kaylee’s head hung sadly as they wove through the windshield wipers, all-terrain tires, and dashboard cleaners. Then suddenly, by the fog lamps, a familiar looking floral bonnet caught her eye. Hope surged through her again and it was all she could do to keep the broad smile off her face.
Captain Malcolm Reynolds browsed the aisles decked out in a tan, checked, cotton dress and a hideously mismatched maroon floral bonnet. She’d laughed when he’d worn it on a job on Triumph. Today, she wanted to cry for joy. She didn’t even realized she’d stopped until Braddox bowled into her, sending her tumbling to the floor. She yelped as her injured palms struck concrete.
Mal turned and gave her a quick wink and she ducked her head to hide her smile.
“You all right, miss?” Mal asked in a soft falsetto.
Braddox brusquely jumped between them and yanked Kaylee to her feet by the arm. “She’s fine,” he said gruffly.
Kaylee looked back at Mal as Braddox hustled her out of the store. He gave her another wink and went back to browsing. They’re here! Kaylee rejoiced, letting herself be shuffled along. As Braddox pushed her through the streets back to the Neptune, she scanned the crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of any of the other crew members. Rain poured from the sky, soaking her to the skin, but still she held her head high. She would be home soon.
Wash waited anxiously at the foot of Serenity, too fidgety to be confined to the bridge. Water and mud sloshed around his feet, the ground beneath saturated. Just after landing, Mal had sent most of the crew to various hotspots around town to look for Kaylee. Wash had stayed on the ship with Inara and River and had armed himself in the event that any new kidnappers came to call. As far as he knew, River was still sedated, having spent most of the morning drawing pictures and then conjuring matches out of seeming nowhere to burn them. Simon had returned early, knowing that the sedative would wear off soon and he wanted to be present when River awoke.
Book had arrived next, having spotted Caddock and Jie-rui attempting to make a purchase with their freshly stolen coin. It had taken a fairly persuasive bullet to the knee for the Deputy to let them go. Though the whole idea that a black mark could extend to something as tangible as coin had sounded like superstitious nonsense when he’d first heard it, Book was beginning to believe. Book went inside to dry off leaving Wash outside pacing in the rain.
Through the torrential downpour, Wash could make out the silhouette of his wife returning home. Hooded to shield herself from the rain, she turned often to check her obscured periphery. Apparently, whatever she’d seen about town had her on edge. Taking her cue, Wash edged into the ship and closed his hand around his Mateba autorevolver. If there was danger, he couldn’t see it. Zoë backed into the ship, bringing a puddle of water with her, her shotgun raised. Wash stayed by the bulkhead, out of the line of fire, but ready.
“Problem sweetie?” Wash asked, following her gaze. The rain fell so heavily now that he could barely see out to the rise she’d just come over. Zoë waited a few tense moments, then finally dropped her weapon, satisfied that there was no immediate danger. Wash relaxed with her and put his gun down.
“Max is dead.”
Her manner was rigid, cold, and detached as she found a towel to dry her gun. Her boots sloshed as she crossed the cargo bay, but she paid them no mind. Wash, however, remained frozen in shock.
“Dead?” he stammered. “How?”
“Sheriff said he died in his sleep. Natural causes.” Her tone said it was a lie, but it was the same lie she’d been told, so he didn’t take it personally.
“Guess whoever threatened him made good on that threat,” Wash said distantly.
“And I guess we just lost our last friend on this world.”
Jayne returned to Serenity looking exhausted and dejected. Simon supposed that he’d spent most of the morning searching for Elle rather than Kaylee. Mal came over the hill shortly after noon, floral bonnet pushed back. The rain had let up just enough to see the short shadows of midday and the sun was causing the ground to steam. Simon squinted, then chastised himself as it was hardly bright enough to warrant a squint.
“Any news, Captain?” Zoë asked optimistically.
“Yeah, Harlem’s Auto Supply on North 34th and 2nd Street. Kaylee was there… she had a few friends.”
“At an auto supply store?” Wash repeated.
“Just a front,” Mal shrugged.
“How was she?” Simon asked, overflowing with concern.
“A bit beat up, but walking on two feet.”
Simon’s mind raged at the possibilities, wishing he’d been with Mal to evaluate for himself. Mal began to wring out the folds of his dress which hung heavily with water weight. The crew was beginning to circle, eager for word.
“What’s the plan, sir?” Zoë asked.
“Well, it doesn’t look like they stole anything yet. I imagined they took Kaylee there to get a collection list and are planning to go back in tonight. I’m hoping they’ll leave her on the ship with minimal guard.”
“Do we know where they’ve parked?” Wash asked.
“No, they—they were watching for me to follow,” Mal said.
“West of here,” Jayne piped up. “’Bout six miles.”
Everyone looked at Jayne, but no one spoke.
“West of here, okay. We go in tonight,” Mal said. “Quietly in, quietly out. We take what’s ours.”
The crew dispersed, most wanting to dry off before lunch. Inara hung back a smile playing on her lips as she looked at Mal in his cotton dress.
“Is there a reason for the dress today?”
“Do I need a reason?” Mal smiled.
Inara raised her eyebrows, working with all her might to hold back a laugh.
“Tactics, woman,” Mal patronized jokingly. “Caddock knows me.”
“Right. And this is the only disguise you had available to you.”
“I’m not like you ‘nara. I buy a dress, I need to get all the wear I can out of it.”
Mal pulled at the collar and wrung fresh water from the bodice. “I hope this cotton is pre-shrunk.”
LINK TO CHAPTER 13
Friday, October 20, 2006 4:29 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006 9:59 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006 10:00 AM
Wednesday, November 1, 2006 9:20 AM
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