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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
What do you do when you run out of options? Mal and his crew are about to find out.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2745 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: "Bad Business"
Author: Annie M (email@example.com)
Codes: Mal, Zoe, Crew
Date: June 3rd 2003
Summary: What do you do when you run out of options?
Notes: This is my first attempt at fan fiction in the Firefly universe, so feedback would be much appreciated.
I owe a huge thanks to HawkMoth and Maystone for proofing this puppy and to LJC for some of the translations.
The Pinyin translations used can be found at the end of this story.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. No infringement intended to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, or 20th Century Fox TV. (c) Annie M, 3rd June 2003.
This story also available on my webiste: http://www.mushy.freeserve.co.uk/anniesweb/ffly/tour.htm
The white-on-white glare of Persephone's daylight illuminated Serenity's cockpit like a mini explosion of suns.
Zoe sat in Wash's lap, her arms around him while she playfully nuzzled his neck and they swayed lazily together in the pilot's chair.
They had a little time to kill before Inara was due to have completed her docket and the captain and Jayne returned with the details of their latest job.
Wash's comfortable and familiar body was as a mite more appealing to Zoe than checking on what the others were up to while she'd been left in charge. No doubt Shepherd Book was keeping a watchful eye on River while Kaylee was probably trying to charm Simon into watching her work on the engines or some such.
Zoe lifted her head, giving Wash the opportunity to kiss his way along her throat and around the faithful leather that encircled her neck. Didn't matter where they were or how many times they'd been together, Wash's touches always sent little ripples of pleasure shooting up her spine, making her toes curl in reciprocation.
"You know," Wash murmured against her throat, "we'll need to make a fuel stop soon. We've only got enough to get us through to the end of the week."
"Oh, it'll be shiny," Zoe murmured, pulling her fingers lightly through Wash's hair. "Captain's got a job lined up from Badger. We'll be re-fuelled in a day or two."
"Shiny," Wash agreed, sliding his hands along the waistband of her pants, his fingers reaching up under the bottom of Zoe's blouse to touch her skin there. Changing the subject he asked suggestively, "Think we'll ever find that naked beach?"
Zoe couldn't help laughing out loud at Wash's suggestion. The warm, strong, sun on her back and Wash's loving arms around her were giving her a pleasurable buzz. "The sooner, the better, husband!"
Wash's rejoinder was a grin that ended in a deep, wet, deliciously long kiss.
Mal eased the throttle down on the mule as he guided it up Serenity's ramp and into the cargo hold. As he brought the small vehicle to a stop, Jayne jumped off the back, toting a sack of supplies over his shoulder.
"You stow those food-stuffs in the kitchen, I'll close up here," Mal directed while shutting the motor off on the mule.
"Sure, Cap," Jayne replied, adjusting his load. "Hey, you want me to round everyone up, tell 'em the plan?"
"No, I'll head up to the bridge, let Zoe and Wash know what the job is, you meet us there after," Mal said, indicating the load Jayne was carrying.
The mercenary shrugged and casually sauntered away. "You're the boss."
Mal couldn't help the small smile that threatened the corners of his mouth. It was good to have a real job again, he thought. Sir Warrick Harrow's recommendation of them to an associate, through Badger, was a pleasing thing indeed. And if this new contact on Boros worked out the way Mal felt it could, then there was a real possibility for his crew to earn a bona fide contract; finally have some semi-regular and well-paying jobs to boot.
"Hey, Inara!" Kaylee greeted the companion warmly, as she exited her shuttle. "Did you have good sex?"
Inara joined Kaylee on the companionway and they embraced briefly before Inara stood back from the young engineer, her hands on Kaylee's shoulders.
"The term is 'accommodated the clients', meimei," Inara replied with mock severity.
Kaylee frowned. "Sex no good then, huh?"
Inara shook her head in consternation and rolled her eyes. "What did I miss while I was away?"
"Not much," Kaylee replied happily as they continued to walk along. "Captain got a job from Badger."
"Oh?" Inara wondered idly about the sort of "business" Badger was getting them into this time. Badger's deals--as well paying as they could be--had a tendency to put the crew, and especially Mal, in mortal danger.
"Yeah, not sure what it is yet, cap's going over it with Zoe and Wash. I'm heading to the kitchen, Shepherd Book and me are making dinner."
"Is Doctor Tam going to help too?"
"'Nara!" Kaylee practically squealed trying to look outraged by the suggestion.
Inara put a sympathetic arm around Kaylee's shoulder. "No progress then?"
Kaylee shook her head miserably. "It's like he wants to, but he don't know how!"
"Give him time, Kaylee. I think Simon's still getting used to the idea of living on the fringes. Besides, I think it's sweet that he wants to take things slowly and treat you with a little respect, don't you?"
Kaylee made a face. "Respect's nice and all, but couldn't he fast forward a little bit?"
"Give it time."
Kaylee shook her head. "He's a man ain't he," she mumbled as they made their way towards the kitchen. "How much time is he gonna need?"
"A man on Boros wants us to move some material for him. Badger says he's an associate of Sir Harrow's, so we've come highly recommended," Mal explained from the co-pilot's chair on the bridge.
Zoe was standing with her arms resting over Wash's shoulders. "What are we moving, sir?" she enquired.
"More livestock?" asked Wash.
"Ain't rightly sure. We'll get the details when we arrive. He's expecting us in three days, and from what Badger told us, this could be the start of a lucrative deal. Three days ain't a problem for you, is it, Wash?"
"Shouldn't be," answered the pilot. "If we make a fuel stop. I hope we're smuggling beagles this time," he remarked, looking up at his wife.
"How much fuel we got?" Mal asked.
Wash turned to check his console. "We've got enough to hit Boros, but not enough to get us off the ground again." He turned to look up at Zoe. "How poor are we again, sweetie?"
Zoe swatted the top of Wash's head playfully. "Not in public, dear."
"We get our man to advance us some before we close the deal, right?" Jayne suggested from where he was leaning against the bulkhead,
Mal thought on it. Squinting, he gazed out of the windows of Serenity to the unseen but bustling surface of Persephone's Eavesdown docks.
"Mal?" Jayne prompted.
"Yeah, we'll cut a deal," Mal answered, his eyes never turning away from the bright expanse outside. "Prep the ship, Wash, we're leaving now," he ordered.
"Okay, we'll be in the air in--"
Wash was cut off in mid sentence by the sound of the cortex monitor flashing an incoming message. Wash checked the identity code then turned towards his captain. "It's for you."
After a quick nod of the head Mal and Wash traded places. Mal slipped into the pilot's seat and activated the view screen. The unkempt beard and bad teeth, topped off with the familiar crushed derby filled the screen with the thug's image.
"Badger," Mal acknowledged.
"I got a spot a bad news for you, Captain Reynolds," Badger began.
Badger didn't sound or look too upset to be delivering so called bad news, thought Mal. "And what might that be?"
"Job's gone south, mate. Our man on Boros got a case of cold feet."
Whatever the problem was, it couldn't be that bad. "What's the story?"
"The Alliance, Captain. Seems our man's about to have himself an audit with the law. News just came through, and as you can imagine, any notion he might have had about pulling a fast one's pretty much been scuppered, know what I mean?"
"Any idea on how long this audit is going to take?"
Badger scratched at his chin. "It don't matter how long; the job's a dodo. Dead. He ain't gonna deal."
Mal felt his stomach lurch. "We got no job?" He could feel the eyes of the other three boring into the back of his skull.
"That's what I said."
Jayne interrupted from behind Mal. "Well, what else you got? You can't leave us hanging."
Badger ignored Jayne and spoke directly to the captain. "Come on, Mal, you know how this works. When I got something I call you; you do the business. In this case, the business walked before you could is all."
Mal gritted his teeth at Badger's inference. The crew's debacle with Niska was a topic he'd rather forget, not that he was ever likely to. "You got to have something else for us, Badger," he insisted.
"Sorry, Captain. Everything current is being taken care of. I've got nothing else to offer you. Times are hard everywhere, mate. You know how it goes."
"We could just sit here and find ourselves another job."
"I don't suggest it, pal. This planet's crawling with Alliance, and I don't need you and yours making unnecessary trouble in establishments where I have influence. It's bad for business."
"We made a long trip we didn't have to 'cause you said you had a lucrative proposition for us. Now, last minute, you're saying it's a no go? You got to admit, you owe us something here." Mal was lying through his teeth about the first part, but he wasn't about to just fly off into the blackness of space without getting something out this.
After weeks of small supply drops to the outer moons, they really needed a job that could cover more than the crew's basic necessities. Mal knew the fuel supplies were getting low, and more importantly he knew they *needed* this job, so when Badger had sent word; they'd come running faster than core citizens to U-Day celebrations.
Mal's pleading tirade however just seemed to piss Badger off.
"I don't owe you nothing; I'm the one who's being doing you the favours here, mate, so don't be getting all high and mighty with me again. When I do get something you'll be the first to hear about it, in the meantime I've got nothing doing."
Badger continued to glare into the screen. After a few seconds of uneasy silence the would be kingpin shrugged his shoulders and said with a smirk, "Look, it's not a guarantee, but I heard that there might be work for someone like you on Talos. I hear they're looking for crews who can move things with a minimum of fuss.
"The word's been out for a little while now, so sooner you can get there, better chance you might have. There's a woman there named Drooda; she's well known. Mention me and you might get lucky. That's the best I can do. See you around, Captain."
Badger cut the link and Mal was left facing the annoying purple logo of the cortex default screen.
Talos; a slim chance was better than none, he thought. This "Drooda" might shape up, but Mal knew better than to trust to luck. He had a couple of his own contacts on Talos if a deal with Drooda fell through, although it had been more than a year since the crew had been there. And a lot could change in a year.
Tamade! Why couldn't things ever go smooth?
The silence that followed Badger's news had left the three numb.
"Well," Wash said, arms crossed and rocking back on his heels, "that was... different. Definitely a rejection, but--different."
"That ain't right," said Jayne. "Next time I see that sorry looking *shi da koudai* I'm gonna cut on him some."
Zoe remained silent.
Mal got up slowly and turned, moving towards Jayne by the door. Jayne stepped aside to let him pass without further comment. As he exited Mal put one hand on the door frame and paused. "Set a course for Talos," he said, without turning back and then he was gone.
Five days later Serenity was cleared for landing and touched down at the River Creek docks on Talos. Naturally, as was the way with the naming of places outside the central planets, the docks had no river or creek to speak of within thirty-five miles of the port.
"Zoe, why haven't we been here in over a year?" Mal asked, as they walked together with Jayne down a busy and dusty thoroughfare. In an unusual twist, it had felt good to him to be on solid ground again.
The news from Badger had put Mal in a foul mood for most of the trip, and the tension he'd been feeling had only eased as Serenity had entered the atmosphere of its destination. Talos was a small but thriving planet on the other side of the quadrant, far enough away from a heavy Alliance presence, but not so far on the fringes that the planet didn't have its own Federal constabulary.
It wasn't as if the crew had been accusing him of anything, but Mal felt the responsibility of their welfare and safekeeping deeply. In his opinion, not having a solid job offer was the same as being on the drift and that made him feel inadequate and worse--not worthy of his crew's trust.
Mal suspected that Zoe knew getting off the ship was his chance to redeem himself and his pride, but as it was with them, they didn't speak of it, and even if pressed by Wash, Mal was sure she'd never reveal it.
They passed street hawkers, and children playing in the dirt; men and women on horseback and a couple of Alliance soldiers, rifles casually held in the crook of their arms as they made their patrol, sweat visible on their faces as it trickled down from under their shiny domed helmets.
"I didn't like it, sir," Zoe answered with her usual brevity.
"What's not to like?" Mal said, pointing out buildings along the way. "They've got schools, and a hospital over there. Hey now, look, is that a sanitation plant?"
Jayne followed the direction of Mal's finger and shrugged.
"No sir, that's an abattoir," Zoe answered.
Mal stopped in the street and looked over at the building again. "You sure?" he asked, sounding unconvinced.
"The sign kind of gives it away," Zoe explained, looking straight ahead and stepping out of an oncoming quad-bike's way.
"Huh," Mal said, finally seeing the sign; a plain board hanging from the roof of the building and roughly painted in white. "Must have been the sun in my eyes."
"Yes, sir," Zoe answered with a knowing smile.
"But what's not to like?" he asked again, walking quickly to catch up with them as Zoe led them off the main street towards what looked like a partly abandoned wooden building.
"Is that the place?" Jayne asked, adjusting his wide brimmed sun hat.
"Looks like," said Mal, moving unconsciously to check the gun at his hip.
"Think this Drooda will deal?" asked Zoe as she visually scouted out the area.
"We'll see. I'll do the talking, just follow my lead."
Inara was considering her options.
The scented burning incense of white plum sandal and the silence of her shuttle was a soothing relaxant after the last few days of sharing close quarters.
Strictly speaking she didn't need to engage herself in any new dealings on Talos. Her monetary funds had been building up quite nicely, but the thought of expanding her client base and reputation was always appealing.
Talos was essentially a backwater trading post when viewed against the glittering trappings of any planet in the Core, but as a rim-world, it was fairly bursting with opportunities. More importantly, from Inara's perspective, Talosian society, limited as it was, knew what a Companion was for.
Since the captain's gruff announcement over the comm that Serenity would be heading to Talos instead of Boros, Inara had been using her time to field prospective business candidates on the planet.
Pressing a delicately manicured finger to the computer screen she listened again to the introductions of her most likely clients on this trip. It was an inconvenience for her that they had no idea exactly how long their stay on Talos would last, but she'd cope--as usual.
Inara's concentration began to drift as her shuttle echoed to the predictable sounds of men and women making their case for employing her affections. Focusing inwards, she found her thoughts drifting to Captain Malcolm Reynolds. She hoped the planned meeting with Drooda yielded something for him, though she sometimes wondered why someone as principled as Mal couldn't seem to raise his ambitions above a life of seemingly endless petty-theft.
Mal was intelligent, loyal, thoughtful and attractive, but he could be crude, cruel and determinedly obstinate. Inara didn't need a Companion's training to know that Mal kept his deepest feelings hidden under a façade of confident indifference. She suspected that he had no idea how much about himself he gave away in that expressive face of his.
The brief reverie was broken when her cortex monitor alerted her to an incoming call. Collecting her thoughts and taking a deep breath Inara touched the screen to life and smiled demurely at the incoming transmission.
The live image was of an angular looking Asian male wearing an Alliance uniform. "Inara Serra," he said with friendly confidence. "I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to seeing you these last few days. If I'm not being too presumptuous, we will finally get to meet in person, won't we?"
"Commander Choi," she replied sweetly, "We will indeed. Your invitation was too flattering not to respond to."
The commander smiled back. "It is so rare that we see the bloom of true beauty out here, Miss Serra. You're a delicate taste of home," he sighed wistfully.
Inara blushed, hoping it would come across through the link, and sounding completely delighted she added for good measure, "Please Commander, call me Inara."
Kaylee pulled out another fuel cell and handed it over to Wash. "That's the last one," she said, sliding out from under the fuel-housing shelf in the engine room.
Wash bundled the cells into one arm and reached out to help Kaylee up from the floor with his free hand.
"We won't be going anywhere unless the cap'n can find a job for us," Kaylee sighed as Wash pulled her to her feet.
"Can't we find a way to get some more life out of these things?" Wash asked. "One of my first piloting jobs was on a ship that specialised in recycling fuel cells. Don't ask me how they did it, but I think for the couple of months I was with them, we only stopped once for fuel."
"Must have been a D-Class 80," Kaylee said, taking the cells from him.
"Cells on those are partly powered by the ship's main-engines. They need less fuelling, but it causes problems in a tight spot. Anything happens to the ship you're drifting, or more likely blow a hole right through the ship if the fuel leaks into the electrical feeds."
Wash's jaw dropped. "It's a flying bomb?"
"Pretty much," Kaylee went on cheerfully. "But if you have a good engineer, and regular maintenance, they can fly for years, so my Daddy used to say."
"But they recycled them!" he went on in disbelief.
Kaylee shrugged. "Sure, but the D-80 cells are cheap. You sell 'em off to settlers and such, right?"
Wash gave a bewildered nod, his mind still trying to get over how ignorant he must have been in his youth. No wonder his next employer had hired him on the spot when he'd mentioned flying a D-80.
"See, they work fine in heating generators 'cause the housing element can take the power spikes."
Wash shook his head in an effort to get back into the present and concentrate on what Kaylee was saying. "So, we could sell these?"
Kaylee looked to the bundle in her arms. "Not for much. See the Firefly fuel cells ain't the same as the D-80's. If you strip these down and remove the interlock chamber they can be used as spare parts, but all we'd get is enough maybe for one fuel cell, and that ain't enough to take us anywhere."
Wash took a cell from Kaylee's arms and sat down on the floor next to the main engine. He looked around until he spotted a toolbox. Pulling it towards him, he reached in and pulled out a small wrench, and then set to work on unscrewing the top of the cell. "It may not be much," he said as he set to work, "but one fuel cell's better than none, right?"
Kaylee smiled down at him, joining him on the floor with the other spent cells.
Wednesday, August 06, 2003 1:09 PM
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