Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2190 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Okay, this is probably going to be the last one for a while, and it represents the conclusion of the Ghosts of Serenity storyline. Fear not, I figure on starting a new story arc with Cafferty and company, but I think I'll be needing a bit of a break before launching into that. I appreciate all the great comments and compliments from everyone, ya'll have gone and made me feel like I'm almost a decent writer. The only complaint I have is the sheer lack of indecent proposals I've received since I started. But such is life. Enjoy.
Colonel Isaac Kendrick was one hell of a doctor, and he did a good job of running a MASH unit on top of that. Cafferty generally thought the two traits were rather mutually exclusive, but every once in a while someone came along and proved him wrong.
"Go ahead, have a seat Cafferty. I have some things here that you probably want to hear."
Cafferty settled into the collapsible chair across from the portable desk occupied by Colonel Kendrick. He didn't know exactly what the man figured he would want to hear, but he had learned to respect Kendrick over the past week.
"Okay, some official business to get out of the way here," Kendrick said, lifting up the datapad and scrolling down. The bright screen reflected off of his green eyes and cast a glow over his graying hair.
"Good news first," Kendrick then continued, his tone rising a bit as he started reading the text message. "Kevin Joseph Cafferty, service identifier 6-November-5723-Niner-Alpha-2 is hereby promoted to Med-Specialist 1st Class, promotion to take effect from date of order." Kendrick paused. "That was two days ago, congratulations."
Cafferty had almost forgotten that he was technically still in the army.
"Next item of business. For valor above and beyond the call of duty, as witnessed by his comrades in the field of battle, Med-Specialist 1st Class Cafferty is hereby to be awarded the Star of Valor. This being his third award of of this type, he is hereby entitled to wear the gold star decoration upon his uniform. Absent the proper award ceremony and in light of present circumstances, said award will be delivered to Med-Specialist Cafferty's residence in the Lisskin Township."
"In other words," Kendrick interrupted himself again. "Your medal is in the mail." He offered Cafferty a paternal smile before resuming. "Med-Specialist Cafferty will also receive a notation in his service file, noting the highest commendations and esteem of the commanding officer and staff of the 141st Emergency Medical Field Unit."
To Cafferty, that meant a lot more than the medal. That was the high praise of people he would like to think of as peers.
"Now, on to the better news. The State of Emergency declared for the Lisskin Township has been suspended indefinitely. Med-Specialist 1st Class Kevin Joseph Cafferty, service identifier 6-November-5723-Niner-Alpha-2 is hereby released back into the inactive reserves. Pay will be awarded on the basis of the minimum accounting interval, to be no less than one month and in light of present circumstances will be delivered to Med-Specialist 1st Class, inactive, Cafferty's residence in the Lisskin Township. Your check's in the mail, in other words. Med-Specialist 1st Class Cafferty's service to the Army of the Alliance and to all citizens of the Alliance has done honor to all the greatest traditions of valor and courage in the service of arms and the defense of freedom. The Army of the Alliance hereby extends its warmest regards to Med-Specialist 1st Class, inactive, Cafferty and best wishes for his future pursuits. The Army of the Alliance hopes that the lessons and habits you have gained in your valiant service will serve you well in whatever manner of life you choose to lead."
Typical of the self-congratulatory pricks to take things one sentence too far so they could give themselves a pat on the back. But then, he had learned in the army never to get into a drinking contest with a former resident of Pasternak. The rate those people could put vodka away was almost beyond imagination.
Someday, that just might come in handy. He doubted it, though. Kendrick put the datapad down and looked across the table at Cafferty.
"I've got a re-enlistment form right here, if you wanted to come back. You'd have a place here." he said politely.
"There's no polite way I can respond to that, sir, and even if you can't toss me in the brig anymore, I have too much respect for you to give you the response that jumps to my head." After he said it, he realized that Kendrick might take it personally. He could almost see how much he would be professionally fulfilled by working under such a CO, but the next time anybody tried to put him back in uniform, he'd take to the hills as soon as they looked the other way.
Kendrick dispelled his fears of misinterpetation, nodding soberly. "Our loss is Lisskin's gain, Mr. Cafferty. Stuffy blather from on high aside, your career and accomplishments are notable and praiseworthy."
"And coming from you, sir, that is an honor." Cafferty replied, sincerely.
"A lot of good men come out of the service bitter, Mr. Cafferty. The nature of the job, the inevitable breakdowns, we both know just how bad things can get. But in choosing to put on the uniform, you are offering the best of yourself to the service of your fellow human beings. You may feel different about these things as you get older and your perspective changes."
"With all due respect, sir, I didn't choose to put on the uniform. I received a notice," He didn't like arguing with Kendrick, but as the colonel had noted, he was bitter and it was getting the better of him.
"You could have chosen to sit in jail, Mr. Cafferty. You could have played it safer and not gotten yourself three Stars of Valor. You're going to have to admit someday that it is something inherently right in your personality that has taken you to where it has."
Cafferty was getting uncomfortable with this line of discussion. "Is psychoanalysis part of your practice... sir?"
"Isn't it part of yours?" Kendrick seemed amused, almost delighted by the riposte. "Mr. Cafferty... Kevin... I'm going to tell you the single-most important thing to remember about being a doctor. The job calls for you to play god on a daily basis. But you have to remember that it's all just an act and not take on more than your own fair share of responsibility for what happens. The burdens we carry are heavy enough as it is without adding unfair self-punishment to them. In some ways, I almost fear that you're too sensitive a man to ever be happy as a practitioner."
How did the conversation get from the army to here? What was it with everyone analyzing his motives and feelings lately, too?
"There's happiness and there's duty, sir. I know what matters."
Kendrick's good cheer faded. His head drooped a bit, and he blew air past his teeth.
"That attitude, Mr. Cafferty, is both your loss and the army's loss."
"I'm telling you brother, I couldn't do that again. Hell with that shit. When I was eighteen, I was too damn young and dumb to know better. Hell, I volunteered. ME! Next time the Reavers come, I'm grabbing Jian-Ku, you, and the three of us head for the damned hills and have us a picnic." Kellerman took a hearty drink of beer. It was the first Saturday drinking engagement they'd had since the brawl with the troopers. The table felt so empty, with Zip dead and Jian-Ku at the Kellerman farm and Miloslaw probably considering a new planet to live on. Kellerman hadn't wanted to come, but Jian-Ku had practically thrown him out of the house, saying that she wouldn't mind actually getting a drink for herself for a change, or feeding herself for a change, or doing something else without him hovering and smothering. Cafferty could tell that Kellerman had been wounded by her words, but his friend was attempting to put it aside and trying to understand. It was going to be an adjustment for them both.
"We said pretty much the same thing after every time we got pulled out of a combat zone," Cafferty pointed out. "We were this close to deserting a couple of times. But we kept going."
"Damn you. You're supposed to agree with me," Kellerman shot back.
"Had a talk with the CO of the med unit. Got me to thinking," Cafferty said calmly, taking another drink of beer for himself.
"You think too much already, buddy."
"Probably. But all bullshit aside, you know that the next time it comes, you'll be there. I know you will."
"Fucking hell," Kellerman practically moaned.
"We'll be there," Cafferty said.
"With our guns."
"And our band-aids."
"Because we're the dumbest bastards this 'verse has ever seen."
"That's about the shape of it, yeah." Cafferty finished. There was happiness, and there was duty. They both knew what counted. The 'lessons and habits' the army had given them pretty much chose their futures for them.
Down by the front door of the bar one of the local cowboys, a man in Matthews' employ, stuck his head through the door.
"Hey! Is the doc in here?"
Cafferty stood up. "Over here. What's up?"
"The man himself needs to see you, if'n that's okay with you."
Cafferty looked over at Kellerman, who shrugged. He hated leaving his friend behind in such a state, but at least he figured that the locals would take care of him now.
"On my way," he said, before stopping at the bar to cover both their tabs. Kellerman would probably be pissed about that, but to hell with it. If he had to go, he could at least do his brother a favor.
Outside, the cowboy had a pair of horses, and sitting on a third one was Miloslaw. Nodding to the other free horse, the cowboy mounted his ride with the practiced ease of somebody born to the saddle.
Cafferty noticed the dirty looks and disdain Miloslaw received from passerby. The older man kept his eyes roaming and his expression stonily impassive. Cafferty was getting more and more curious as to what this was all about.
"Ya'll just follow me on down to the ranch," said the cowboy.
Cafferty had never seen a horse before he'd joined the army, and it was safe to say that he'd never be anything more than a tentative and abysmally poor equestrian. They'd at least given him a fairly tame steed, no doubt calculation on their parts, and one for which he was strongly grateful. Miloslaw handled his horse with a natural ease, if anything seeming better at it than the cowboy. Cafferty wondered just how he'd acquired such skills. Maybe he was just born super-competent. Out of deference for his training wheels, both men kept the pace slow enough for Cafferty to easily keep up. It was a good distance, and a quiet trip. The silence made the time seem to drag, until finally they came into sight of the Matthews' homestead.
Matthews himself greeted the pair, riding out himself to lead them back into the house. There were a polite, formal round of greetings all around, though a particularly frosty one between Matthews and Miloslaw.
After they'd settled in under the awning of the house and the cowboy had taken the horses back to the stables, Matthews poured them each a glass of fresh-made lemonade. A devout Reformist, Matthews was abstained from liquors, though there was more than one local legend stemming from his less-spiritual youth.
"Got some matters to clear up with you folks, and I 'preciate your comin' out to see me," Matthews commenced after serving the drinks. "There's talk that the town might have been hurt too bad to make it, too many dead folks to do what needs to be done and so on. Well by damn, that's not gonna happen. I'm standin' here on the porch my grandpappy built, and when I got to town, doc, I see the office that my great-uncle used work out of, with your shingle hangin' off of it. We got our roots in this land, and by god, ain't no damn Reavers drivin' us away from it."
"Following you so far," Cafferty said. Miloslaw simply nodded.
"I'm tellin' you this because you're a man of consequence in this community, doc. And I am askin' as humbly as I know how for you to stand up for this town, much as I know that it ain't always been the friendliest place for you and yours."
Cafferty paused, taking the measure of Matthews' intense gaze. They were not the sort to become friends, by any stretch. But they didn't have to like each other to get the job done.
"Mr. Matthews, I've felt for some while that the town... Lisskin, is where I want to live. For the rest of my life. I don't know how much I can help you, but I'll do what I can."
"That means a lot, doc, it speaks well as to your soul." Matthews said earnestly.
"And I'm here because?" Miloslaw said. He asked it simply, flatly, and without a hint of confrontation. Matthews turned to him, his features hardening.
"You," he said gruffly "Are a cold-blooded, murderous bastard. There's been talk about, as to what we're goin' to do with you. Smart fella might have figured it was wise to change location."
"I'll take whatever you decide," Miloslaw said simply. Cafferty glanced at him. Was he really that down?
"We knew back in the war that you people thought differently, fought differently than us. The Alliance never was afraid to burn it's people up like so much tinder if it got the job done."
"That's why we won," Miloslaw said, matter-of-factly.
"Part of it, maybe, and the fact that you had more people to burn up."
"That's a large part of it, too."
"The Reavers caught us with our pants down this time. That ain't never gonna happen again. We're goin' to be ready, and you're gonna see to that, Mr. Miloslaw. But one thing between us, here and now. If and when they come down out of the sky for us again, I'll be the one in charge. If'n you don't want no part of this, I'd suggest you take your horse and ride for the horizon. You're a slippery fellow, might even make it away from the folks who'd like to see you a head shorter."
Miloslaw mulled that over a drink of lemonade.
"You want to be ready the next time. I can do that," he said, then stood up. "Is there anything else you needed?"
"Not at the moment, no. I'd invite you in for dinner, but I couldn't countenance havin' you sittin' at my table."
Men died around here for far lesser insults than that. But Miloslaw simply nodded.
"Doc," Matthews said, his voice still surly from the conversation with Miloslaw. "I'll loan you the horse for the ride back. Deanna-Jo is in town gatherin' supplies. If'n you could just pass the horse on to her when you get back, she'll make sure it gets home."
"Thank you, Mr. Matthews."
"How does taking a regular position in the militia square with your army business?" Cafferty asked Miloslaw as they rode back.
"I called in the post garrison and got them slaughtered. I got the post slaughtered, too. I was probably just this side of being court-martialed," Miloslaw said tightly. Out here by themselves, Cafferty could see how tense and frustrated the man was. "If the army ever does tap me on the shoulder and bring me back, it'll be to send me to the deepest, darkest hole they could find."
"Maybe you could go somewhere else," Cafferty suggested.
"Can't. Two reasons."
"Because you're the only friend I have left."
Cafferty was stunned. He hadn't realized just how isolated Miloslaw's life was. He always assumed the old Pathfinder had correspondence he maintained, maybe a family somewhere and old friends from the service. He had never considered Miloslaw anything more than a friendly, or at least generally polite, acquaintance.
Cafferty cleared his throat. "And the other reason?"
"Shadowers don't run."
"Shadowers?" Cafferty asked. Was that some sort of supersecret, more elite than elite type outfit that Miloslaw had been in? If it was, he didn't really want to find out more than about them than it was healthy to know. Like maybe even their name.
"Shadowers. Residents and former residents of the world Shadow."
"Oh. But isn't it...?"
"Just another dump of a border world."
"You're a Border Worlder? But how... why?"
"I don't want to talk about it just now."
As they passed the rest of the ride to town in a similar silence to the one they'd had on the way to the ranch, Cafferty contemplated just how annoying it was to be the only friend of a man who seemed to create a new question with every answer he gave.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 2:35 PM
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 2:49 PM
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 3:47 PM
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 4:21 PM
Thursday, May 29, 2003 8:28 AM
Thursday, May 29, 2003 1:09 PM
Thursday, May 29, 2003 3:09 PM
Thursday, May 29, 2003 7:22 PM
Friday, May 30, 2003 6:00 AM
Friday, May 30, 2003 12:48 PM
Friday, May 30, 2003 12:54 PM
Monday, June 02, 2003 8:36 AM
Sunday, December 18, 2005 8:56 AM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.