Blue Sun Job, Part 10: Going In
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Mal & Zoe way-back-story, and the robbery of the Blue Sun treasury.


Blue Sun Job, Part 10: Going In

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
Blue Sun Job, Part 4: Return to the Core
Blue Sun Job, Part 5: Life That Was
Blue Sun Job, Part 6: More Life That Was
Blue Sun Job, Part 7: ...and Robberies That Were
Blue Sun Job, Part 8: Zoe’s Tale
Blue Sun Job, Part 9: More of Zoe’s Tale


No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters

混蛋 = hwoon dahn (hundan) = bastard
他妈的 = ta ma duh = f*ck, or motherf*cking

Blue Sun Job, Part 10: Going In
靑日 Job: Going In

Zoe dozed off around sunrise. Mal watched her thoughtfully. He’d bet good money Wash got the same view--Zoe rolled over, facing away. She never was a cuddler.

Easing out of the bed, Mal crossed to the window, staring out at the Blue Sun treasury. Blue Sun... Blue. Beware the blue... He hadn’t really pondered on River’s ramblings before even though it was her got him thinking about pulling this job. He reached for his coat, pulling out from the pocket the little doodad River’d given him. The small disk was featureless until squeezed, then the surface flashed the Blue Sun logo in English and Chinese alternating with images of their products. A cheap bit of advertising. Not nothing. Couldn’t imagine why she’d been so fixed on him having it. Mal looked from the disk to the treasury and back. Blue Sun... Mal didn’t care much about the Blue Sun connection to the job--he just wanted to hit the old Alliance prison. But River’d been fixed on the ‘blue’ since the smuggling job on New Horizons that went bad--that had been Blue Sun property came up and bit ‘em too. Not nothing... Blue Sun... Maybe not nothing. There was something... couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

Shaking his head, he put the gadget back in his pocket, tossing the coat back over a chair. He glanced at Zoe. Still sleeping, or faking it to avoid him. The problem with nights of truthsomeness came in the light of the next day when you had to face the folks who now looked at you different. Hell, maybe she was right about Wash and what she ought to tell, or not tell, him. Who was he to give anyone marriage advice? His ‘wife’ had tried to kill him... twice.

You know... thinking on it now... had Zoe seemed a mite jealous of Saffron? Huh. Now there was a thought. Easy enough to see Wash getting jealous of the parts of Zoe Mal had that Wash didn’t. Shipboard romances... always a problem. Of course, dirtside ones didn’t seem to work out too good either.

What are we now? Tracy’s words still came to mind now and then. He looked at Zoe again. They were now what war and loss and horror and death and defeat and oppression had made them. Being aware of the causes didn’t change what those things had done. Didn’t change what was, and what never could be. If things had been different where and what would they be? And would it be together or apart?

Shaking his head to try to chase away that line of thought. It didn’t do to dwell on what was past. The way it is is the way it is. Still, the memories had been called to the surface and wouldn’t be buried back in the dark easily.

Pulling a chair to the window, Mal sat, putting his feet up on the window ledge, indulging in something he seldom did, a trek though a lost life. He’d known many sunrises on this world but had actually seen few of them. Sunrises were hard and bright, bringing on new days full of new troubles. It was sunsets that were beautiful, with shadows long and deep, bringing nights of promise and possibility. Sunsets that lasted twenty-four hours a day...

* * *

Years ago, on Shadow...

The thing with a tide-locked moon was the length of the day/night cycle. While the Shadow settlers kept as near as possible to the traditional Earth-That-Was twenty-four hour day, circadian rhythm being bred into humankinds’ very flesh, the light and dark around them didn’t conform to that schedule. Daylight was days long and the nights equally so. They’d heard that some of the newer of the terraformed moons were having a spin forced upon them to give them a more typical rotation. Wouldn’t much matter, they figured. If you’re rounding a gas giant you’re still going to be in its shadow some of the time no matter which way you’re spinning. And so the Shadow settlers just shrugged and treasured their twenty-four hour sunsets. Normal is whatever you’re used to.

Founder’s Day celebrations always included one of those long sunsets. Malcolm Reynolds rode into town with a couple of the younger hands to take in the bonfire and dancing as the sun edged its way slowly toward the horizon. As the sky darkened, the gas giant brightened, fixed in the sky just above the horizon, a huge disk of swirling red and gold.

“Hey,” one of the boys called. “There’s a ship down.” Off on the outskirts of town a small freighter sat. Mal looked at it with interest. Space ships always drew the attention of the locals for the trade prospects, but for him the interest ran a little deeper. Like as not he’d never leave this world, and never regret it, but just sometimes he pondered on the notion of what it must be like to roam out among the stars seeing new places, meeting new, odd folk, and watching the stars slip by in the blackness.

Tying off their horses on main street, the boys headed toward the fair grounds--a dusty patch of dirt, but covered now with folks, friends and neighbors, talking, laughing, some dancing to a fiddle player’s tune. Mal grinned at the sight of more than a few of his neighbors, those as would normally would never touch a drop of demon rum, tipping jugs of hard cider, getting snockered and enjoying it wholeheartedly. This was just a danged fine shiny place, it was. Most young fellas his age got the wandering itch ‘bout now, but Mal had the wherewithal to know a good thing when he saw it.

And, golly, but that was a good thing he was a seeing right now.

Around the fire danced a girl he didn’t know--and he knew everybody on this side of the moon. Her blue dress swirled as she spun beneath a cloud of black curls. The dress she wore was different from what the local girls had on. This little number had just a hint of slink to it. Not fancy, but still downright exotic looking to this ranch boy’s eyes. Mal watched, entranced as she danced. The fire sparked and flared, lighting the purtiest darned face he’d ever seen, with a smile like a star burst.

She spun again and her eyes caught his. Something sparked and it wasn’t the bonfire.

Jostled by his friends, he lost track of the girl for a bit. A jug of cider passed his way and Mal’d be danged if it wasn’t the preacher his own self passing it along. The good Lord saw fit to make cider turn hard it’d be downright sinful to overlook such a gift. Mal grinned and downed a slug.

Handing the jug along, he turned and came face to face with the girl from the dance.

“Hi,” she said, her eyes still sparkling like a night full of stars. “My name’s Zoe.”

Well, she wasn’t a shy, bashful thing at all now, was she? Forward. He liked that in a gal. “Malcolm Reynolds,” he answered, smiling at her. “Call me Mal.”

“Mal,” she repeated. “Don’t that mean ‘bad’ in Latin?” She gave him a saucy grin. He liked her already.

“Couldn’t speak to that point.” Latin? Educated too. If she could shoot she’d be quite the package. “But don’t get the preacher thinkin’ on it. He already thinks I’m trouble waiting to happen as it is,” he said, eyeing her up and down. She looked like trouble--of the finest kind--waiting to happen too. “Care to take a stroll with me?” He stuck his elbow out. She smiled and took his arm.

Leading her away from the crowds, Mal enjoyed the feel of her arm on his. She was a tall gal, near as tall as him, and just about the prettiest creature he’d ever seen. Zoe put him in mind of an unbroke filly, wild and free. He liked that. Meek never did much appeal to him. A woman ought to stand side by side with her man. Partners. Though he’d known her only minutes, this Zoe girl struck him as just such a gal.

“Sun seems to be taking its time goin’ down,” she said. Clouds piled on the horizon made this sunset particularly nice. Half way across the sky the clouds drifted in front of the red and gold gas giant taking on its glow.

“We get that here,” Mal said. “Sunsets last purt near a whole day.”

“I like that. It’s real fine. A joyful sight.” She smiled at him and the sunset dimmed in comparison.

“You’re from that ship, ain’t you?” She nodded. “I bet you’ve seen some wondrous spectacles traveling the ‘verse.”

She laughed. Pure music. “A few. Truth to tell, most of traveling space is in the blackness. Stars get so ordinary you almost don’t see ‘em any more.”

He grinned at her, then glanced upwards at the stars peeking through the twilight. “Don’t think I’d ever get tired of lookin’ into the heart of the black.”

“ ‘Heart of the black...’ That was nice. Almost poetical,” she said, moving in a little closer to him..

Choosing a smooth patch of grass near a stand of trees, beyond the circle of light and sound from the town, they sat down together. The sound of the celebration wafted distantly on the breeze. They laid back on the ground side by side, each telling of their lives, homes--his the ranch, hers the ever-moving ship--then roaming on to their hopes and dreams like they were old, old friends just met. It wasn’t often Mal got to converse on such matters. Everyone he knew also knew him since he was a tike. Weren’t much opportunity to talk with someone new. It was pretty darned nice how at ease he felt with her right off, like he’d always known her and always would. They talked on for hours that seemed like minutes.

Zoe rolled up on her elbow, looking down at him. She lowered her lips to his and that was pretty darned shiny too. Wrapping his arms around her, Mal pulled her down onto him. She felt... well, she felt like heaven come to earth. The kiss deepened. He was a touch startled when her tongue teased at his lips. Okay... this weren’t anything like the kissin’ games with the neighbor girls.

She pulled back, murmuring against his lips, “I hear you farm boys have hay mows.”

His eyes went wide and he stumbled for an answer. “I... uh, well... it’s...” He squeezed her lean, strong body tight against his. “It’s a ranch, not a farm.” Her eyes widened with amusement. “But, uh, yeah. Yeah. There is, in point of fact, a hay mow.”

Zoe rode behind him on the way back to the ranch, hanging on with one hand to the jug of cider he’d snagged, the other wrapped snug around his waist. He took the back way, pulling up just at the crest of a hill overlooking the shallow valley with the ranch house and buildings. “There it is.”

“Beautiful,” she whispered in his ear. Her tongue flicked out and licked his lobe.

“Ooh.” He really liked this gal.

Half way through the jug they got into a wrestling match. Zoe giggled as she pinned him in the hay. Didn’t seem fittin’ to fight her off.

“I got hay in my dress,” Zoe said long about the time they were down to the last drops in the jug. She squirmed around on him. “Itches.”

“Can’t have that,” Mal murmured.

Though he’d never done such a thing before, it saw surprisingly easy to figure out the lacings and fastenings on that lil’ blue dress. ‘Course she helped him along more than a bit. His shirt was gonna be needing a button or two sewed back on. That Zoe gal had a streak of fierce in her. As she slithered up on top of him, licking her way from chin to bellybutton, an absurd twitch of conscious sparked in Mal’s almost shut-down brain.

“Ease up there, darlin’“ he said, pushing up on her shoulders. “Best stop afore things get out of hand here.”


“Well... you know, um... we’re not married. Don’t want to go doing nothing, you know... sinful.”

She laughed lightly. “You got some funny notions. Quaint. How can this be sinful? Let yourself go. How hard can it be?” She rubbed herself tight against him. “I guess I know the answer to that.”

Hell, he thought... uh, heck... The Almighty saw fit to send such a treasure down outta the pure black sky, be more sinful to push it away. The twitch of conscious was well and thoroughly gone.

* * *


Mal stared at the hard, bright sky of a world he hated while recollecting the dark, dreamy sky of a world he loved. A world gone. A life and lifetime gone. A person so disconnected from what he was now it was like calling someone else’s life to mind. He shook his head. The recollections of that first time with Zoe, sweet though they were, brought no peace. It had all gone to hell by and by and maybe she was right that a mentioning of it at all to Wash would only bring more heartache to one and all. Weren’t like there was anyone else left alive to spill the tale. Not a living soul. Only ashes and dust.

Shaking himself, Mal stood, glancing down at Zoe. Heading into the bathroom, he turned on the shower--also big enough for two, smutty damned place this was. Though a cold shower might have been more appropriate, Mal perversely decided to try to run this Alliance-world, Blue Sun-owned gorram place out of hot water. They ultimately defeated him. Again.

The day passed in taut silence. Partly it was the recollections of past times, and the closeness of the night reflecting itself in the distance of the day, but not too much. They’d been through too much for such uncomfortables to stick too long. Mostly it was the tension of waiting for battle to be engaged. The waiting, knowing what was coming, was always harder to endure than the fight itself. Zoe spent a good part of the day staring at the treasury with a cold, distant expression. Wash may have brought back a bit of that bright, giggling girl he’d known in ages past, but the life she’d had in between then and now had permanently left its mark with a core of hatred for them in her that rivaled his own.

“Getting near sunset,” Zoe said quietly. Shadows angled low among the buildings.

Mal stepped up to the window beside her. The gas giant was sliver low on the horizon. “Passing into the shadow just about midnight. Full dark on both sides of this moon. Doubly dark.” He took a deep breath and released it slowly.

“Just focus,” Zoe said. “Focus on the mission.”

He flicked her a wry look. “I’m supposed to say that.”

“You ready?” Zoe asked, studying him carefully.

“Always,” he answered.

Jayne waited in his next assigned location, a cafe. Two women sat with him. Mal and Zoe exchanged a glance. This time he noticed them passing by, giving the barest of acknowledgements.

“Don’t know how we’re gonna drag him off this rock,” Zoe commented. “Especially once he gets the loot in hand.”

“Might be worth the trade-off,” Mal said, low. “If it weren’t that he’d rat us out for the first reward posted, I’d be willing to cut him loose here.”

Zoe studied him a long moment. Gears turning. He saw a spark flash in her eyes, different than the one he’d been thinking on from years past. This spark had a deadly flash. “Ariel,” she said, shaking her head. “You were so fixed on covering the tracks he left at Ariel. He turned in...” she paused, not saying the names out loud on this Fed-filled, sensor-ridden world, “...for the reward. That’s why they were around the back.” She sighed angrily. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded. “I’d’a spaced him.”

Mal chuckled. “I damned near did.”

“Why the hell didn’t you?”

Shaking his head, Mal said, “Cause he kinda seemed to get it. You know... loyalty. Trusting that the man at your back is covering it, not about to put a knife in it. And that it extends to everyone in the crew, like ‘em or not.” Mal shrugged. “He done good in that action at Niska’s skyplex.”

“Feeling all guilty,” Zoe said, clearly still adding up the pieces. “That 混蛋.”

“He’s a work in progress,” Mal said, tossing her a dry smile. “Might work out. Might need to be put down. Remains to be seen. Meantime, don’t trust him.”

“Never did.”

They slipped off into the dark from the main boulevard. Their route to the warehouse differed from the night before, a longer, more complex path. Approaching from the opposite direction, not passing the Blue Sun treasury this time, they passed Monty’s Fed nephew. He had the patrols diverted away from where they needed to work.

Monty waited for them inside, tonight flanked by two of his crew. Three others waited nearby with the crates and containers that would be used to transport the stolen platinum--assuming they managed to get it. Monty handed each of them small pistols, with silencers.

“Kaylee?” Mal asked in a whisper, tucking the gun in his waistband, as they approached the false wall.

“She’s good,” Monty said. “Two of mine are with her. No problems.”

“Well, then,” Mal said, taking a deep breath. “Let’s do it.”

“How will you know they ain’t found that tunnel?” Monty asked as Mal bent to open the hatchway.

“We’ll know,” Zoe said shortly as she dropped her skirt and cloak as Mal the hatchway. Standing in the small space, he reached down to give her a hand up as she wriggled in behind him.

They again made their way along the narrow tunnel, carefully crafted among the piping and conduits. Reaching the perimeter of the old prison grounds, Zoe pulled out the not-quite-a-Cortex link and patched into the junction box. Mal stayed still while she worked, staring ahead down the corridor.

“That should do it,” Zoe whispered. There was an audible sigh in the air as the electronic barriers fell away. “Li’lo was a magician.” They both fell silent for a moment, exchanging a deep look. Private W. W. Li’lo hadn’t made it out. One of the execution games that had turned real--they’d caught him messing with the computer systems. But this back-door subroutine laid into the security system had already been in place.

A few yards in, they paused, looking at their assurance the tunnel had stayed unknown. Half buried, off to the side, the tattered remains of an Alliance guard uniform covered bones. Another dark look passed between Mal and Zoe. Had they anything to toast with, they’d have raised their glasses. This was the one that had caught the young private. Zoe spat on the remains on the way by.

It took about fifteen minutes to reach the access to the ventilation conduit that--if everything they’d researched held true--led straight into the lowest level of the prison, once the dark isolation cells, now the Blue Sun vault.

Opening a panel in the side of the vent, Zoe began working at the last set of security system interfaces they’d need to shut down the alarms inside the vault. This junction box was one they’d added; wouldn’t show up on any of Blue Sun’s plans.

A click or anything audible, or visible, would have been a comfort to let them know it worked. But there was nothing. Zoe peered through the vent screen, at her read out, then back at the vent screen.

“It all reads down,” she whispered.

Zoe pulled the vent screen inward--another of their modifications put in place years earlier and was about to drop through to the floor when a danger alert hit Mal hard. He put his hand on her arm to stop her.

“Wait,” he murmured.

“What is it?” She stared out into the vault searchingly.

“A hunch.” He wasn’t seeing anything amiss either, just had a feeling... He climbed half up over her, feeling at her waist for the tool kit. Pulling out a small spray can he handed it forward to Zoe.

Carefully keeping her hands within the vent shaft, Zoe sprayed the mist outward and down, a faint whimper escaping as beams of light appeared lacing across the room. They weren’t fixed. The pattern kept shifting. No stepping over and around the beams.

“They added another layer,” she said, pulling back. “We’re humped.”

Mal scowled, concentrating. “Maybe not. Our code still works. Just need to get it to take down those beams, too. Try it.”

Zoe turned back to the screen, working at it for several minutes. “It’s a power problem,” she whispered, sounding frustrated. “Li’lo installed this based on us just tickling in the right amount of juice into the system but not enough to trip any computer intrusion alarms. I’ve got no more to push into it. I need just a touch more power, but not too much. Tap off the electrical and we’ll overload it, trip the alarms.”

“Power? You mean like a battery? What about our flashlights?”

“Too much. Just need a tiny, tiny bit... ah!”

He stopped, pondering. Mal could see the shining stacks of platinum just out of reach just begging to be stoled. Greed begging to happen. Greedy to look in the closet. But this will make the greedy all shiny. All the presents shiny. River. Gorram girl had the notion way the hell in advance.

Fumbling in the confined space, Mal dug out River’s little Blue Sun ad doodad out of his pocket, cracking the plastic case open against the vent wall. He pulled out the tiny battery, handing it to Zoe on his fingertip. “Try this.”

She gave him a long, hard look, but took the battery and carefully attached it. Nothing. Nothing they could see or hear. Spraying the mist outward again, the vault showed nothing but nothing.

Zoe grinned broadly. “Shiny.”

“All the presents shiny,” Mal said, grinning too.

“We’re minus on minutes,” Zoe said, dropping down to the vault floor. She froze a moment. No alarms. No guards. No toxic gas or burning lasers. All good things not to have. “Fifteen left before the patrol comes around.”

Mal dropped down behind her, pulling out sacks. Moving along the rows of shelves, each carefully took one platinum coin from each rack of one hundred, skipping the front racks in favor of the back. If all went smooth, it would be a long time before anyone even realized anything was missing. Rapidly filling sack after sack, they shoved them into vent.

“Time,” Zoe called. Mal resisted the one-more urge, shoving his last, half-filled sack into the vent. Climbing back up, he slid back down the tunnel to make room for Zoe.

Reversing her actions, she removed the tiny battery, handing it back to Mal. She sprayed the mist outward. The beams were back on. Gently she swung the vent door closed. It swung back inward. She tried again. 他妈的 “Latch broke,” she whispered. Snatching up a piece of the broken plastic casing from River’s gadget, Mal reached over Zoe, wedging it between the vent grill and frame. It held the vent closed. A quick sigh and glance between them before Zoe returned to the junction box, restoring the security alarms and backing out of the system.

It took longer to get back down the tunnel and out, with the sacks of platinum. They crossed the perimeter of the old prison wall, hearing the electronic sigh of the security barrier being restored.

Monty appeared nervous--a rare thing--as Mal peered out the hatchway in the false wall.

“Everything okay?” Mal asked.

“Yup. Slick as spit. Just fretting over you two.”

Mal climbed out, taking sack after sack that Zoe handed to him. Monty’s eyes went wide.

“他妈的,” Monty said. “Until this very moment I didn’t really think you could pull it off.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mal said as Zoe climbed out of the hatchway, closing and latching it behind her.

“True enough,” Monty said, “But, dang, the path out is lookin’ good and clear.”

Mal and Zoe appeared again like a respectable middle-class couple stepping out for the evening as they strolled down the boulevard. Probably no one would think to question why they carried a fancy leather briefcase with them, nor notice when they set it down for a moment near a large man in a suit sitting at a sidewalk café with two--or was it three now?--women at his table. When they walked off without the briefcase, no one even gave them a second glance.

“Smooth,” Mal said, consciously tempting the fates.

Suddenly both he and Zoe slid back into the shadows, peaking warily around the corner.

“You leave anything you can’t bear to part with at that hotel?” Mal asked, studying the swarm of Fed cops in front of the place--more than a couple looking far too familiar for comfort.

“Nothing I can’t live without,” Zoe said, eyeing the sight.

“Then what say we see if those black out zones are still there,” Mal said. They just had to get through one more night on this world without being arrested, take the public transport back to Delta, and make it back to Serenity. Nooooo problem.

Blue Sun Job, Part 11: Home Again... -- The others take up their roles in the robbery as Mal & Zoe overcome obstacles to return home to Serenity


Tuesday, June 29, 2004 3:31 PM


So very excellent and shiny! I love what you are doing with this story and really like the nuggets of the past between Zoe and Mal. I so want to read the next part, just don't want it to gorran end. *Xiexie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 29, 2004 4:55 PM


wow! Loved the descr of shadow and the first meeting of mal and zoe. Strange to see zoe so young and carefree though. Hopefully the feds are just a bump in the smooth plan

Tuesday, June 29, 2004 10:57 PM


Cool stuff.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004 5:24 AM


The Shadow and Ariel reflections were nice, and the heist was exciting. Don't wait too long for the next part!

Monday, July 5, 2004 11:55 PM


Everything about this was amazing. From the excitement of the robbery to young Mal's ideas about appropriate behaviour. I found "Like as not he’d never leave this world, and never regret it" particularly poignant and had to admire its economy of words.

One day, I'd like to write half as well as you.


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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.