BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GUILDSISTER

Blue Sun Job, Part 16: The Edge
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Just not anyone's best day ever.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2868    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Blue Sun Job, Part 16: The Edge


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
Blue Sun Job, Part 10: Going In
Blue Sun Job, Part 11: Home Again...
Blue Sun Job, Part 12: Waiting
Blue Sun Job, Part 13: Bushwhacked Revisited
Blue Sun Job, Part 14: Two By Two
Blue Sun Job, Part 15: Give the Devil His Due


Chinese:

No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters, just exclamatory expressions

混蛋 = hwoon dahn (hundan) = bastard
他妈的 = ta ma duh = f*ck, or motherf*cking
哎呀 = Ai ya = damn
狗屎 = go-se = crap
我的妈 = wo de ma = mother of god
糟糕 = tzao gao = sh*t
懂吗 = dong ma? = do you understand?


Blue Sun Job, Part 16: The Edge
靑日 Job: The Edge

There wasn’t gonna be any rescue. No Zoe appearing, guns blazing, to save the day. No Serenity slamming into a skyplex. No big red button to call ‘em back. No serenity...

No... No... ummm... Lost his train of thought again. 狗屎. Too much 狗屎 buzzing in his head. Drugs fighting drugs. All of ‘em fighting him.

Mal realized he was breathing in short, gasping breaths. They cutting the air down? Used to do that in that dark cell beneath the prison. Dark. Like this. Not enough oh-two in the atmo. Messes with the mind. Strange notions. Hallucinations. What was the word? Ummm... hypoxia. Start to feel it. Then don’t feel nothing at all. Knew that feeling. Serenity had been there, though. No serenity now.

No, they didn’t want him dead. Not yet. Wanted his memory. Memories. Confession? Of what? They weren’t cutting the air down. Must be the drugs. Maybe panic.

Nope. No panic. Wasn’t even afraid. Not really. Confounded. Unfocused. Tangled.

Focus... do the impossible. Mal forced his breathing to slow. Think. Think clearly. They weren’t cutting the air down.

“Welcome back, sir.” Zoe...

...with you ‘til the day you die. ‘Til death us do...

“I go some place?”

Waking again in Serenity’s infirmary. Lights down low. Not so many people about. But it must have been real. Wasn’t dead. Y’all gonna be here…? Turned his head to look at Zoe, on the pull-down bed. Wanted her to wake up. See that she was okay.

“Captain?”

Simon’s voice, soft, beside him. Had looked right past him without seeing him. Toward Zoe.

“How are you feeling?”

Confounded. Unfocused. Tangled. “Fine.” Hurting. Throbbing in his gut growing every moment. “Fine.”

A smile from the doc. Not buying it. Simon raised a syringe to inject into the IV line.

“Don’t,” Mal murmured. “Not yet.” Looked at Zoe, wanted her to wake up.

Simon hesitated. Mal saw him glance toward Zoe. “All right.” He put the syringe down. “But just for a bit. Only thing that will cut the pain, for now, is going to put you out. There’s no need for hurting.”

“A sound policy,” Mal whispered.

“She’s fine,” Simon said. Mal focused on him. Staring a question. “Zoe’s fine. Just sleeping.”

“Mmmm...”

“So... the first time I stitched you up you said you’d been hurt plenty worse than that. This time the worst?”

With a slight chuckle, Mal said, “Not even close.”

“What was the worst time?” Simon asked.

“You drug me silly so you can question me?” Mal squeezed his eyes closed, trying to think. So tangled. “Um… the worst… um…”

“Alliance field hospital?” Zoe’s voice came quietly. Mal turned toward the glittering eyes meeting his from the other bed.

“Uh huh.”

Simon looked surprised. “糟糕. Worst injury? Or worst situation?”

Mal considered. “Both.”

“You almost died this time.” Doc disappointed? That he hadn’t gotten to patch up the ‘worst’? Helluva bedside manner. Doc had a touch of sadist in him.

“You crashed twice, sir” Zoe said, softly. A gentle smile.

He smiled back, faintly. “Just trying to one-up you.” He turned back toward Simon. Doc was shaking his head. Peculiar patients for a big city doctor, Mal figured. “Woke up in my own ship. With folks all around who cared I wasn’t dead. And a three percent doc pumping me full of shiny drugs to make the hurting go away.”

“How’d you get out of that situation--the Alliance hospital?” Simon asked.

Mal gave a twitch of a smile. “How do you suppose?” He gestured with his eyes toward the other bed. Zoe.

“Of course,” Simon said, lifting the syringe again. Sending him back into the black.

Breathing steadied, but head still confounded. Mal wanted to struggle against the restraints but couldn’t. No slack at all. That was the Alliance. No slack. No quarter. No Zoe to the rescue this time. No rescuing Zoe, either.

End of the line...

他妈的. Harken? Harken was gonna defeat him? Slimy weasel Harken? Weren’t right. For some reason he felt like Harken had tipped his hand a mite. But how? What?

For some the war’ll never be over. Who? Him? Or Harken? Fed holding a grudge? Hell, they won. Won it all. Seems odd you’d name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of. Still not convinced it was the wrong one. You’re still fighting the same battle, Sergeant. Only these weren’t soldiers you murdered.

...old battles, and Blue Sun... Sergeant...

“It’s not ‘sergeant.’ Not no more. War’s over.”

“For some the war’ll never be over.”

Refight old battles... Old prison now the Blue Sun treasury. Just a job, not a strike. A chance to win one...

“I’m gonna make a leap and figure this is your first tour out here on the border.”

“Actually, sergeant, I was called back to the Core specifically on account of you.”

Beware the blue... River’d been distracted ever since their failed smuggling job on New Horizons... “Blue Sun,” Mal said to Zoe. In response to her puzzled look, he explained. “Got the notion from River... old prison now the Blue Sun hard currency treasury.” Beware the Blue

What...?

...old battles, and Blue Sun... Sergeant... “Things happened in the war that might make a man on the wrong… on the losing… side want to go back and refight one of those old battles. Now, sergeant, we are going to have a little talk about old battles, and Blue Sun.”

Mal squeezed his eyes closed. Buzzing tangle in his head. Confounding. Blue logo on a bottle. On a whiskey bottle--spilling his guts to his crew. On a drug bottle--spilling his guts to Harken? Mal’s thoughts whipped about in disjointed fragments like the way River talked. “For some the war’ll never be over.” Beware the blue.

His eyes snapped open. Not seeing the darkness.

Son of a bitch.

* * *

Wash wasn’t much worried for himself. He really was only the pilot on this job, sitting innocently in the ship in port on a whole ‘nother world from where the crime took place. He wasn’t all that worried for himself--really--but he was terrified for his wife.

The time waiting in Serenity’s cargo bay, on his knees with an Alliance rifle barrel pressed into his neck, was the longest of his life, hoping to hell Zoe and the captain wouldn’t walk back into this trap. Hoping they hadn’t already been caught. Hoping...

Suddenly, Wash got, at that down-deep core of the soul level, a part of what made Zoe and Mal tick the way they did. Helpless defeat. When the Alliance troopers boarded Serenity, it hit him in the gut in a way it never had before. They were beaten, utterly helpless in the hands of their enemies. Defeated. Everything taken away--the ship, the other people, his wife, freedom, knowledge, control of his own future, control of the next gorram minute of his life... everything. In one swift moment, the Alliance took everything, defeated him and made him helpless.

So this is what Zoe and the captain had lived with for so many years. This was the thing that made them run when they could, kill when they must, and act scary-ass freaky a lot of other times in between. It was easier for Wash to see in Mal than in Zoe, but if he worked at it, he could recall what she’d been like before they got together, what he noticed, at least, when he wasn’t staring at her butt and other such tantalizing parts, and what she still could be like at times--mostly when she was with Mal.

Wash’s eyes darted around the blank, military-gray walls of the cell again for the umpteenth time with the panicky need-to-get-out feeling that was getting weirdly familiar. He’d had a lot of time to ponder helplessness and defeat the past few days, having the up-close first-hand experience being thrust upon him the way it was. The moment of defeat didn’t end. It kept on. Not knowing what was going on past that locked door was the worst.

Zoe was taken off the ship a short time after the captain. She called a stern, “none of you say anything,” order and then she was gone. 哎呀. Couldn’t her parting words have been, “I love you, husband”? That would have been nice. Or “We’ll be together again soon”? That had the virtue of being both comforting and optimistic. Wash devoted several hours--or what he guessed was several hours--working out variations on Zoe’s parting words. “None of you say anything” didn’t even make Wash’s top ten list of things he wished she had said.

Well... here was the twist Wash had never really considered. Zoe in deep 狗屎 of the could put her in jail for years and years kind, while him, probably not so much.

Probably. Maybe? Not that he knew. His eyes flitted around again and he desperately wanted to try the door. But he didn’t want to find out--again--that it wouldn’t open. If he sat here not trying it he could pretend for a few minutes that it wasn’t locked, that he could just walk over, open the door and head on out of here.

No wonder Mal was crazy. It really was a perfectly reasonable option under the circumstances. Running his hands through his hair, Wash quickly scanned every inch of the cell again. Two days, or thereabouts, locked up alone and he was quite willing to consider ‘crazy’ as an option. How long had Mal been locked up alone at that military prison after the war? And in total darkness, no less? Weeks? Months.

Mal. Mal and Zoe. Zoe and Mal... they always came back. Survived. Made it through. Came back. Together in a tricky situation. Together... 我的妈, though... they weren’t. They had been together, all alone together on Beta, in that hotel room... Okay, best not think on that. However jealous he may get when they were off together, he knew they watched each other’s backs and the captain would put his life up so Zoe could come back to Wash. But they weren’t together. Not this time. The captain had been taken out first. Then Zoe.

Blank, gray walls. No way out. Zoe could be in the cell right next door, for all Wash knew. Inches away. And Mal. And Kaylee. The Shepherd. All just a big mistake and the charges would be dropped and they’d all walk out of here together. Why, the door could open up any minute and the Feds would apologize--well, maybe not apologize--but let them go. All of them. Together.

Wash gulped hard and raked his fingers through his hair again as his eyes darted around the tiny room. The door would open any minute. Any min...

The door opened.

* * *

Any pretense of cool Companion control fell well and thoroughly away as Inara stared open-mouthed at Jayne. He looked… good. Not just good, handsome, sophisticated… Had she just thought the word ‘sophisticated’ in connection with Jayne Cobb? Merciful Buddha, she had.

“Um… uh… pl… please, come in,” she stuttered, stepping aside so he could enter the reception area of Companion house on Alpha. The sleazy grin he gave her as he came in was purely the Jayne she knew and abhorred. Well, maybe not ‘abhorred’, but… he was like the embarrassing black sheep brother of the family that… And now she was thinking of him as family. Inara schooled her features into a controlled Companion pose and tried not to think at all.

“Got some place we can go for a little alone time?” Jayne asked with a suggestive leer.

Inara scowled. “Yes. My room.”

“Is it secure?” Jayne asked when they arrived. Interesting, Inara thought, he wasn’t leering now, but examined the room critically, like a potential ambush--or crime scene.

“Yes,” she said. “I’ve checked it out. We can talk.”

Jayne set a fine leather case down on her bed, flicked the clasps and flung open the top, showing her a fortune in cash resting inside. “The job worked. I didn’t get caught. But the rest of ‘em did,” he said. His voice, Inara noticed, was low and regretful sounding. She studied him, and the money, then him again for a minute. Jayne could have taken that money and run. “I got cash such as might buy them out, but I ain’t got the connections or means to do it. Alliance got ‘em.”

“I know,” Inara said, turning away toward the balcony overlooking the great city that sprawled over half of Alpha. Such a different world than the one the crew of Serenity inhabited. Staring down at a nearby park, watching children running and playing, Inara oddly recalled Zoe refusing to set foot in a park on Ariel, ‘…there's sensors everywhere, and where there ain't sensors, there's Feds. All the central planets are the same.” Inara understood that better now. Zoe hadn’t been speaking from a base of ex-Independent, border-dweller ignorance; she’d been speaking from intense first-hand experience. How differently Zoe and Inara saw the ‘verse. And how differently Inara now looked upon those things she thought she knew.

“You can’t go home again,” Mal had said to her. “…it don’t matter if nothing there’s changed. You have, and that makes home not home anymore.”

Alpha, and this House, weren’t her home, but they were very like it. And they were utterly alien to her eyes, now. Behind the tapestry and trappings, and the glitter and prosperity, the pomp and pretense, she now saw a darkness, a darkness trying to swallow and destroy people she cared--yes, ‘cared’--about.

She turned toward Jayne who watched her closely. “I know they were arrested. Serenity was impounded, too.” Inara sighed. “Zoe asked me to keep watch. Just in case. But I don’t know what I can do. I’ve been… um… choosing clients from among ranking Alliance law enforcement on Beta, but they’re not on Beta. For some reason it was the military who arrested them and they’re being held on an Alliance cruiser.”

“Then you just gotta find out which’a them boys on that cruiser been itching to dip his… uh, to have himself a Companion and start workin’ him. 懂吗? I got the cash to buy off the 他妈的 if you lure their shiny asses in here.”

Inara looked at Jayne, examining him up and down, ending by meeting his eyes and holding them. “Why are you trying to help them? Why didn’t you just take the money and go?”

Was it her imagination, or did Jayne blush? He certainly dropped his eyes from hers. “ ‘Cause they’re on my crew,” he muttered.

* * *

“Commander Harken!” Wash called cheerfully as he saw the Alliance officer sitting at one end of the long table. 我的妈, was he happy to see a Fed? Well, okay, kinda. A familiar Fed, at least. Not a terribly evil, nasty sort. Decent fellow, actually. They’d had a pretty nice chat last time around, all things considered. Wash did notice, however, that a guard stayed down on Harken’s side of the table. Big time robberies cutting in on the chumminess a bit?

At least it was someone to talk to. Finally.

“How’ve you been?” Wash asked before Harken could get his first words out. “Surprised to see you this far in to the Core? You get reassigned? What brings you back here?”

Harken looked flustered, kinda like when Wash asked if he’d ever had himself a warrior woman. Harken was soooo sly. Wash grinned at him expectantly.

“I’ll ask the questions here,” Harken said. His expression went cold and Wash felt the chill. None of you say anything… It may not have been, “I love you, husband,” but Zoe certainly had made a valid point. Wash held his grin.

“Where’s my wife?” Wash asked.

Now Harken smiled and Wash thought suddenly of a T-Rex he knew. “You don’t want to talk to her,” Harken said. “Not after the way she betrayed you.”

“Zoe would never betray me,” he said.

Harken gave a little shake of his head. “She already has. While you sat in that rat-trap of a ship she was screwing her head off with your captain.”

“Really?” Wash held the grin but it was taking a bit more effort.

“Yes, really. We have detailed surveillance on them, from that hotel on Beta. We know everything that happened in that room, and…” he glanced down at some papers spread before him, “…it was quite the time those two were having behind your back.”

Wash’s grin spread a little bit broader. He leaned forward. “Oh, I see. You just don’t get the arrangement we have,” Wash said. “We’ve got this sort of three-way marriage thing worked out. Zoe and Mal were together a long time before I came along, you see. So this just worked out best for everyone.”

Harken gave a short laugh. “Try another one. Your captain held out for a while, but when he broke, the first thing he gave up was his unseemly relationship with your wife, and how he wouldn’t mind if you were out of the picture again. You have no reason to be loyal to either one of them. They’ve both sold you out and betrayed your trust.

Wash’s grin faded away.

* * *

“Have a good rest, Harken?” Mal asked as the guards dumped him down in the chair in the interrogation room. 哎呀 but it felt good to sit. “You don’t look too good,” Mal added. Harken had a split lip, bruised and swollen. Mal would bet good money--Blue Sun platinum--that was Zoe’s handiwork.

“You’re looking a little worn, yourself, sergeant,” Harken said. “Didn’t have a good night?”

Mal laughed, staring coldly into Harken’s eyes. “Commander. You think your little games have even come close to getting to me? You just don’t know me.”

Harken nodded. “I know you better than you think. I know about loyalty and the value you place upon it. And I know about betrayal.” Harken reached to set the small drug vial on the table in front of him. Mal pointedly ignored it. “I don’t need this, Sergeant Reynolds. Nor do I need to break you any other way. I have what I need to make sure you never see the light of day again--or to see you dangle from the end of a rope, if you’re lucky.” He leaned forward and stared at Mal. “Your pilot gave up everything. Seems he’s not too fond of you any more and would like very much to see you twist.”

Holding Harken’s eye, Mal stared at him, studying and probing. Couldn’t tell. Couldn’t tell if Harken spoke the truth or was playing out a lie. Too darned confounded and tired hisownself to read him for sure. Still… who would he pick to trust? Harken? Or Wash?

“What say we hook you up to this lie detector and have you tell me that one again?” Mal said, giving the Fed the deadliest look he could manage, which at this point, was pretty damned deadly.

“Hmph.” Harken looked at him grimly, then gestured to the MPs. “Hook it up.”

The guards unlocked the cuff around Mal’s right wrist but immediately closed it around the chair frame, locking him to the chair by his left wrist.

“Coward,” Mal said, low, staring at Harken. “Scared I’ll give you a black eye to go with that split lip?”

“You already know I don’t underestimate your capacity for deadly violence.”

“Oh, yeah… that whole saving your gorram life incident.” Mal gave a soft snort. “Guess that don’t count for much at your end of the gutter.” An MP attached the lie detector clip over the middle finger of his left hand.

Harken stared at him blandly. “How do you feel about three way marriages?”

Now that there was a purely confounding opening question, Mal thought. “Why? You interested in having a go? You ain’t really my type.”

“Mmmm…” Harken gave a sniff and shuffled through his papers. “You said you’d used this truth drug on an Alliance soldier during the war. Tell me about that incident.”

Mal shrugged. Ancient history. Knowing the basic fact of the matter was the important piece of information and Harken had that. The rest was just commentary. “Okay,” Mal said and gave a fairly straightforward account of the event. He told no lies, but did omit anything that would give Harken a better clue as to how the subject could be expected to react to the drug and an interrogation using it. Anything to stall off on Harken reaching for that 哎呀 vial in front of him.

The fellow at the console behind Mal never made a peep. Omissions must not count. Or Mal’d gotten to the tranquil, don’t-give-a-damn place that was letting him beat the gorram machine. Nah… he just wasn’t stoked with that kind of luck.

Item by item, battle by battle, action by action, Harken led him through Mal’s service record. There were things he’d forgotten about, things he wished he could forget about, and quite a few he had carefully and purposely avoided thinking about in all the years since. A couple times he took a shot at rewriting history, but each time the fellow at the console inserted a quiet, “that’s a lie,” which caused Harken to glance down at the vial and so caused Mal to revise his tale to the truth. It all seemed pretty damned harmless and totally beside any point Mal could see, yet Harken seemed fixed on having these old war stories told out. Mal spotted several places where the record Harken had was incomplete but Mal didn’t mention those. He’d always kinda hoped there’d been some record-burning at the Independent command at the surrender, but hadn’t really known. Still, the Feds had an awful damned lot, and most of it accurate.

Harken gave a long sigh and leaned back. “And so we arrive at the planet Hera, and the decisive battle that ended you Independents. The battle from which you gave your ship its name. Serenity. Tell me about it, Sergeant Reynolds. Every detail.”

Mal shook his head slowly. “No.”

Taken aback, Harken asked, “Why?”

“You weren’t there, were you?” Mal said. Harken shook his head. “You know anyone who was there? Ever talk to anyone who was there? From either side?”

“I know a few who were there but we’ve never discussed it. What are you getting at?”

Mal studied him grimly. “There’s a reason they’ve never discussed it with you, or--I’d hazard the guess--with anyone else. You got numbers written down there. You got histories with brilliant flanking maneuvers and key positions. You got statistics and tallies and casualties and body counts… What you don’t got is…” he faltered, closing his eyes a moment, and taking several deep breaths. “Just ‘no’. I ain’t going there. I ain’t talking about it for your gorram amusement.”

Was that a look of sympathy on Harken’s face? Impossible. “I’m not doing this for my amusement, sergeant. It’s laying important groundwork and I must insist we cover this territory whether you speak about it willingly, under drugs, or I have to beat it out of you. It’s your choice.”

“Why? And why all the stories of old battles? You writing a book or something? Or fixing to charge me with some kind of war crimes? 混蛋 gave me a general pardon when they let me out of that prison. ‘Less you’re changing your own rules, this is all just talk.”

“Nevertheless, talk we will have.”

Mal shrugged and leaned back. He was so tired. Tired to the point of indifference. Dangerously close to the edge--the breaking point. “Have it your way, then. Shoot me full of that drug of yours and have the whole gorram story outta me. But do me a favor and put a bullet in my brain when you’re done.”

Harken sighed with frustration. “You clearly hate the Alliance and clearly wish to do us harm. Until this point, it appears to me that you had been a misguided soldier caught on the wrong side but merely doing his sworn duty. The battle of Serenity seems to have changed that.”

With a dark smile, Mal caught and held Harken’s eye. “Yeah. Serenity changed things. Lots of things. And lots of people. Mostly into corpses. But I wasn’t on the ‘wrong’ side before that. I knew which side I was on and I knew why. And if I were to go back and do it over, I’d just try harder to kill as many of you as I damn well could.” He leaned forward, jerking with annoyance at the chain that held his left hand tethered. “You think I didn’t hate the Alliance when the blood of my friends and neighbors was spilled on the ground on Shadow? When I burned my own home to the ground to keep it out of your hands? Do you know what your ‘right’ side, your ‘winning’ side, is capable of? There’s an incident that’s not in those papers you got there in front of you, from way back in the first years of the war. You wonder why my first officer--Zoe--still flies around with me? And it ain’t love or screwing or any of the other 狗屎 you got in your demented mind. Do you know what your people did to her?”

“Tell me,” Harken said in a bare whisper.

“Fine,” Mal said. “I’ll tell you.”

* * *

Harken seemed a touch shaken when Mal finished telling the story--told in blunt, explicit language, in a way he’d never spoken on it before. Certainly in a way Zoe had never spoken of it. Regarding Mal for a long time, Harken rolled the bottle--his hole card, Mal thought--between his fingers.

“Well... “ He cleared his throat. “Well, then... We’ll come back to the battle of Serenity in a bit. I think your motivations have been well enough established in any case. Are you ready to admit your involvement in the matter that brings us here together?”

Mal squeezed his eyes closed a moment. The last residual traces of the stimulant were wearing off, leaving him completely exhausted. How long without sleep or food? Was Harken the idiot Mal had took him to be? Or some sort of evil mastermind who knew exactly how, and how long, to wear him down with diversions and probing attacks before striking in force? He thought he knew what Harken was after. Maybe. And he figured Harken was hoping Mal would lead off in that direction, but he sure as hell wouldn’t do that.

“Harken, last time we met you took my advice. Let me give you some more... If the fellow you’re interrogating can’t figure out what in the hell you’re trying to ask, it’s damned sure he can’t tell you what you want to know,” Mal said, letting all his annoyance at Harken show through. “Stop dancing around and just get to the point.”

Commander Harken gave a genuine, if somewhat frightening smile. “Yes. I do think we may just be on the verge of reaching that point, sergeant. Just may be.” His smile dropped and he looked at Mal very coldly. “The first instant you lie, I will have the rest of this drug injected in to you. Do you understand?”

Mal just stared at him.

“Do you know a man named Justin Vergas?”

Mal frowned. Maybe he hadn’t figured out what Harken was after. “No,” he answered.

“Is that the truth?” Harken asked to the fellow at the console behind Mal.

“No deviation. Reads as truth,” the answer came. Again the voice was naggingly, if distantly, familiar.

Harken scowled down at his papers. He listed off a series of other names, none of which Mal recognized. Harken seemed frustrated.

“You drag me in here and go through all this ‘cause you made a mistake, Harken?”

He looked up. “No, there’s no mistake. Have you ever smuggled Blue Sun property?”

Mal badly wanted to evade that one, or lie, but 狗屎... “Yes,” he said. He’d known from the start he’d have to give up things he didn’t want, to avoid the greater dangers and areas. Still hurt to do it.

“Have you ever been on a planet called New Horizons?” Harken asked.

And there it was. Mal’d figured it right. New Horizons, a nothing world way the hell out on the border--the border sector Harken patrolled. A small, petty smuggling job that went bad. Mal got caught by the local sheriff holding stolen Blue Sun property. Just a nothing deal that got scary and dangerous when the Feds got involved. It shouldn’t have been nothing--an easy drop and hand-off, that turned into the need for a jail break when the sheriff showed up at the meet and arrested Mal. Nothing big, until the Feds turned up on the sheriff’s heels, springing their own trap, a sting to catch smugglers, like Mal. Then the sheriff--a former Independent who’d never fired a shot in the war, sprang Mal loose by declaring war on the Alliance again and battling the Alliance garrison, fighting the battle for New Horizons he hadn’t managed to fight during the war. (This bit of blatant exposition is for those of you who haven’t read the Truthsome series, which was a direct lead-in to this story.)

Old battles and Blue Sun... Mal let out a long sighing breath, not particular caring how much he was giving away with his reaction. “Yeah. I’ve been there,” he said flatly. Sheriff, or some of his deputies, must have got caught by the Feds and fingered Mal and Serenity. He wondered what Harken had done to them fellas before they cracked. The sheriff didn’t seem like no pushover. And he had a boatload of his own hates for the Feds based on what happened to his son... 哎呀. The sheriff’s son... captured at Serenity Valley and killed in a Fed interrogation shortly after. That’s why Harken was so interested in Serenity...

“Um hmm.” Harken was watching him closely. “Yet you don’t know the name Justin Vergas? Or Joshua Vergas?”

Shaking his head, Mal said, “Nope. Not familiar. So, what, Harken--you got me on some trivial smuggling charge? Deal didn’t even go through. My contact didn’t make the meet.”

“I know that. This isn’t about the smuggling, nor even the stolen Blue Sun property, sergeant--though that, and your admission of it, is enough to cost you your ship and quite a few years of your life. No, it’s the murder of an entire Alliance garrison, and your connections to the Independents underground organization that brings us here.”

Oh, fuck.

The weight of what Harken said hit Mal like a solid blow. “What...? How...?” Mal trailed off. Not even knowing what to ask or say. Confounded.

Harken turned his own kind of deadly. “In the burned out remains of the Alliance outpost, by the bullet-ridden body of the lieutenant in charge was found his data recorder, badly damaged, but we were able to recover the last input. That being a retinal scan.” Harken stared at Mal. “Yours.”

Definitely not his best day ever.

Blue Sun Job, Part 17: Going Through the Motions

COMMENTS

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 11:05 AM

ANONYMOUS


Guildsister - I have been completely addicted to your stories. Thank you for sharing your gift! Susan

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 12:13 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow, that last word of Harkan's knocked all the gorram air out of my body! Absolutely brilliant, especially all the dancing rhetoric between Mal and Harkan. I dearly hope it was Zoe who smashed up that *wangba dans* face though it would be shininess personified it if had been Wash! Great story, please keep going but FASTER gorrammit! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 12:22 PM

RELFEXIVE


Wow. Just... wow.

Oh, and... shiny!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 1:36 PM

ANONYMOUS


wonderful. this is the kind of stuff that makes me wanna take up writin'!

You know, i can definitely see the whole moriarty-sherlock archnemesis dynamic devellop between Mal and Harken. Something to think about, ya?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 2:47 PM

CAT85


Oh My God, your so good!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 3:47 PM

STLOUISPHILE


Thanks for sharing your writing talents here! I for one think it's very shiny to get a new installment on TBSJ.

I'd love to take Harken out back behind the star shed...

stlouisphile

Tuesday, July 20, 2004 11:04 PM

KISPEXI2


This chapter was like a great big box of chocolates - so much to enjoy:

-Jayne being so damn noble it made me snivel.
-Wash being so uncertain in a totally Wash way. His old-pals act with Harken.(Him comparing the smiling Harken to one of his dinosaurs was a nice touch).
-Mal drifting in and out of consciousness. His battle of wills with Harken.
-The stunning reveal at the end.

Great stuff. And fascinated to know who owns the familiar voice.

Monday, October 18, 2004 12:58 AM

ANONYMOUS


I love this story so much! I am especially fond of the way you balanced out the humor and seriousness in this chapter. Mai



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