BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

DESERTGIRL

Underground - Chapter 1
Monday, June 4, 2007

Shore leave comes a might earlier than Mal would like. Mal just wants to relax and maybe find a nice little transport job, he doesn’t realize he might be getting in a bit over his head. And there’s the mention of some shiny yellow metal.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2184    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Summery – Shore leave comes a might earlier than Mal would like. Mal just wants to relax and maybe find a nice little transport job, he doesn’t realize he might be getting in a bit over his head. And there’s the mention of some shiny yellow metal.

Disclaimer – They all belong to Joss, I just enjoy hanging out in their midst.

Pairings - all the traditional M/I; K/S; Z/W; Jayne/Anyone in a skirt; River’s in everyone’s minds and Book is trying to keep them all straight, plus throw in a few OC’s for good measure. In other words its all fairly cannon.

Setting – During the series, in between Trash and Heart of Gold

This story is a hundred times better because of all the wonderful betatype advice given to me by Mal4prez. I throw many thankyous in her direction.

My story line indicates nine segments, prologue, chapters 1-7 and an epilogue. I have included more about the storyline and my motivation for writing in my blog.

Here's a link to the Prologue

*******

Underground Chapter 1

“Wash! We’ve gotta land and evac the ship now,” Kaylee’s voice screamed through the com. This was not the type of thing Mal liked hearing from his mechanic. Laying the gun he was cleaning down on the table, he stood and headed for the engine room, but came face to face with Kaylee as she closed the engine room hatch.

“Kaylee, what’s the gorram problem?” Mal felt the ship lurch, and he leaned on the wall to keep from falling. Kaylee grabbed onto a conduit tube, almost loosing her balance as well.

“Not sure Cap. Things were hummin’ along just fine when the starboard main exhaust blew. That stuff’d kill us before we knew it if we breathed it. I turned off the atmo, and closed off the engine room, but we gotta land and air out the ship. We’re pumping that stuff into the ship as long as we’re flying.”

Mal nodded and ran towards the bridge. He felt the ship set down on the ground as he stepped over the threshold of the bridge.

“Where are we?” he asked Wash, who was calmly sitting in the pilot’s seat, flicking switches and turning the dials that initiated the final shutdown sequence. Outside the window, all he could see was a thick wall of trees, leaves bright green with new spring growth.

Wash stood as he spoke, preparing to leave the ship. “Luckily, we’re not that far from where we’re headed. I was just scouting for a landing spot at the edge of this forest when Kaylee called. I set her down in the first clearing I saw.”

Mal grabbed the com as Wash left the bridge. “This is the Captain, you heard Kaylee, ya’ll need to be exiting this ship if you value breathing. Zoë, open the hatch to Shuttle One on your way out, I’ll be gettin’ the top hatch. We need to let in as much fresh air as possible.”

*******

When Mal reached the cargo bay, all the crew were milling around just off the ramp. As he walked out of the ship, Kaylee broke off her conversation with Zoë and spoke in his direction.

“Hey Cap, I got the intake fans goin’. With the hatches open it should be safe for us to go back in after couple of hours. I’ll figure out what caused this mess in the morning. Probably have to buy a few parts in town.”

Mal nodded at his mechanic then examined his crew standing around in the grassy field. “Guess shore leave starts now. Everyone git!” He made shooing motions with his hands, but the crew stayed near the field as if they were parked for a Sunday picnic, trying to decide where to put the blanket.

After a few moments, Wash pointed towards a path etched into the wall of trees that surrounded the clearing. It was perhaps a bit wider than four feet. Sprinkled along the forest floor at the path’s edges were the brown dried leaves that had fallen several months before.

“Pretty sure, town’s that way.” Wash nodded towards the path. “Probably, about two clicks.”

“Shiny,” Jayne said and took off towards the path. Mal eyed him as he headed into the forest. Somehow during the 45 minutes between the time they took off from the rabbit drop and headed towards Lonepine, Jayne had actually taken the time to shower and get dressed up in his best cargo pants and t-shirt. Apparently, he wanted to look nice for the whores in this Shu ma nyaow town.

Only a few minutes later, Zoë and Wash headed out as well. Mal was quite certain he spied Wash pinch his wife’s backside as they walked into the trees. Their plan, apparently, involved a romantic dinner and a quiet walk alongside the lake. Mal doubted he would see either of them until midday tomorrow.

Mal looked around at the remaining members of his crew. Simon led River over to the edge of the clearing and directed her to sit in the grass as he puttered around. It appeared to Mal that Simon was fixin’ to settle in for the duration.

“Whoa, there Doc,” Mal shouted across to them. “You ain’t gunna settle in here. We’ve no idea who owns these woods. They may not be too pleased by us settling down in ‘em. If someone comes inquiring, I want you two long gone, preferably separately.”

“What do you mean separately?” Simon asked incredulously.

“I mean go in different directions. I don’t know anything about the people in these parts. Sure Shepherd Book will vouch for his friend, but I don’t know about the others. It might be best if River went along with Book. A brother and sister together in a bar are noteworthy. And after all he’s goin’ to dinner with at the home of Shepherd Wormfood. You just can’t truly be worried about anyone with a name like Wormfood.”

“Swirls of purple rainbows,” River said, looking up over the daisy she was dissecting. Mal took notice of the way River’s eyes lit up, and she was grinning expectantly, almost hungrily.

“Son, there is no Alliance to speak of any where for hundreds of miles, but it never hurts to be careful.” Book placed his arm around Simon’s shoulders and tried to assure him. “I am sure Wormfood would be more than happy for another. He has a thing about feeding people.”

Simon wasn’t convinced. “It doesn’t matter that there is no Alliance here, they will find her. Or she will do something unsuitable and the locals will try and burn her at the stake….again. We need to stay put. We’ll hide in the trees.”

River had given Simon a look that said, you are such a worrying boob. She then stood up tall and stated in her most unequivocal voice, “Flowers grow in the sunlight, need special care, good compost and kind words. Chains and stakes only cut the stalks. Atrophy inside metal cans.” With that she did a twirl and flounced off towards the forest path. After about ten yards she glanced over her shoulder and seeing she was alone called out. “Common preacher man, garden’s this way.”

“She’ll be ok, Simon. Don’t you worry so. The captain’s right you know. You’d be easier to recognize together. Shepherd’ll take good care of her. He won’t let nothin’ bad happen.” Kaylee had grabbed Simon’s hand as he stood there staring in the direction River had gone. “Come on, we are going to town and have ourselves a good dinner. Do you think they have fruit this time of year? I sure would like some strawberries.” She practically dragged him towards town. Mal suspected that the only reason Simon was going was that town was the direction, his sister had gone.

Mal watched Kaylee dragging Simon until they could no longer be seen along the winding path through the trees. When he could no longer hear Kaylee’s voice expounding on the virtues of various kinds of berries, Mal unholstered his gun and sat down on a log by the cargo bay entrance to wait. He’d give the intake fans a while, but he wasn’t about to leave the cargo hatch open for very long.

After two uneventful hours, he ventured back inside Serenity. It had only taken him a few minutes to gather the few items he would need for a safe trip into town. Yet he took a minute longer and looked around. He had always enjoyed seeing Serenity like this, all calm and peaceful like, only the hum of the intake fans still pumping fresh air in and out the shuttle door and the top hatch. He patted her hull as he closed the cargo bay door and punched in the code that would lock her up tight.

“See ya soon ole girl,” Mal said as he walked towards the forest path.

***********

Mal contemplated the day’s events as he strolled down the forest path. It turned out to be about a twenty minute walk from where Serenity was parked into town. He was glad Inara had left as soon as they had hit atmo; she would have chaffed at all the chaos and delays involved in that delivery. From the Rabbit Job to the exhaust tube explosion, this was not his smoothest day ever.

They had landed before breakfast Trythes time, and had been forced to wait for their contact. He and Zoë had spent over an hour in the Sunshine Café, which must have been misnamed because neither the place nor the people were the least bit shiny. The eggs and potatoes had been worse than goushi. And the coffee – he never wanted to think about that coffee again. It had been thick as engine grease and tasted almost as bad. When their contact had finally showed his face, he had informed them that they needed to deliver their goods to coordinates 200 clicks north of the city. That was it, no coin, no ‘sorry for making you wait’, no reason that he could not have given this information over the cortex. The hundan hadn’t even offered to pay for their breakfast.

Upon reaching their buyer – Henderson, a farmer/rancher who wanted to raise rabbits for their pelts – the chaos had begun. As Mal introduced himself, River and Kaylee tried to stage a riot, planning on releasing the rabbits during the chaos. Fortunately, a two woman riot does not create a whole lot of chaos. Henderson had actually been amused by the whole thing and assured them that these rabbits were actually for his breeding stock. He even promised to continue using the names Kaylee had given each and every one, if she would just label the cages. Mal had thought the man was not being entirely truthful, but his promises kept the girls busy for the rest of the morning. Mal might have been wrong about him though, Henderson had actually paid his coin without the traditional half hour of haggling Mal had become accustomed to. He suspected it was all an effort to keep River and Kaylee from bursting into tears at the thought of turning over cute cuddly creatures for slaughter.

The sap had even said something like: “I am sure that with women like that looking after my rabbits, my profit will be doubled. All that loving care will make ‘em multiply twice as fast.” Mal suspected that Henderson just could not stand the sight of a crying woman. Mal was with him on that one. Perhaps he should arrange to have Kaylee or River pretend to burst into tears on other jobs. A crying woman was better than someone getting shot, or only getting half their promised wage. It wasn’t much better, but better.

********

The bar was crowded as Mal walked in. Every table was filled with revelers – including members of his own crew. This being the only establishment in the small town of Lonepine, he had expected to see them all here. Jayne was in a corner booth surrounded by three scantily clad women, all of whom seemed to be fairly intoxicated. Kaylee and Simon were sitting at the corner of a large table, deeply engrossed in conversation. Both had smiles on their faces and were occasionally looking into each other’s eyes. Part of Mal wondered how long it would be before that boy put his foot in his mouth, but, oddly, he hoped that this time it would go smooth for the couple. Zoë and Wash were leaning up against the bar. They appeared to be purchasing a bottle of something blue.

Mal walked up to the bar and sidled into the empty spot just a few feet from Zoë. She gave him an imperceptible nod, but otherwise ignored him. He had just paid the bar keep for a pint of the foul tasting greenish liquid everyone else seemed to be drinking and had turned around to face the crowd when he heard a voice next to him.

“So Captain Reynolds, I hear you want to hire yourself another gun hand.” The voice was loud enough to be heard by those around them.

“I most surely do not,” Mal responded quickly and loudly. It was best not to start any undue rumors.

As Mal spoke he turned to look at the owner of the voice. She was a bit over five and half feet tall and had dark auburn hair, some of which was falling out from under an old brown hat. She wore a leather vest, which if he was not mistaken was similar to the armor Zoë had always preferred. At her hips was a colt style pistol, although it appeared fairly modern. And unlike many of the women in the place, she wore pants, which, though old and tattered, showed off her slender frame.

“Oh I am quite certain you want to hire a gun hand, Captain Reynolds. And if you’ll look closely at me, you’ll understand all that I could offer as an employee.” She then leaned her head close to him and said in a whisper, “Play along, I have a business proposition for you that could be quite lucrative.” She stepped back, a longing smile gracing her lips, and took a sip from her greenish beverage.

Mal didn’t agree with paying for pleasure. He leaned close to her ear and said in no uncertain terms. “Ma’am, I prefer to gather my women the old fashioned way, with no money changing hands.”

She grabbed him around the neck quickly before he could step away, and kissed him passionately. Her lips lingered on his for a moment then migrated around his rough cheek. Under the guise of nibbling in his ear again she whispered, “You misunderstand. This is an act, part of the plan. I need your help to liberate a pile of gold from some wrongful caretakers.”

Now, gold was something Mal Reynolds did understand. Something he wished he understood a whole lot better.

He leaned away from her, taking a minute to gather his thoughts. This woman’s plan was making him sorely uncomfortable. But a pile of gold was a pile of gold. It was probably worth getting to know her. He glanced at Zoë; her one raised eyebrow asked what he thought he was playing at and only slightly hid the concern in her eyes. Leaning forward to pick up the drink the bartender had placed on the bar he mouthed “She’s got gold.” Zoë nodded, but Mal could tell she did not approve.

“Well, I won’t hire you unless you can shoot straight, no matter what your other qualities,” Mal responded just loud enough to be heard above the din of the room. “Why don’t we go outside and you can show me what you got?” The woman took his hand, leading him as she slinked towards the entrance.

No one noticed the other couple that left the bar shortly after they did.

*********

She leaned against him as they sidled down the hard packed street. A soft glow from the two other moons that shared the system with Trythes gave them enough light to make their way unhindered. Mal placed his arm around her back in such a way that he could secure her gun hand if this situation went downhill.

‘What I am willing to put up with in order to secure a job.’ He thought to himself as they walked. ‘I wonder how far she wants me to play this, there’s some things gold just ain’t worth, even if you need fuel and protein.’

As they walked past the bathhouse, they heard voices. Quick as a flash, the woman turned around and kissed him. She kept kissing him till the voices had disappeared, then she stepped away from him and continued walking as if nothing had happened. The encounter left Mal a touch unsettled. It had been a long time since he had been kissed like that by a woman. He found that he enjoyed it much more than he thought he should. They turned a corner onto a side street quiet and dark and full of shadows.

Enough was enough; Mal decided. The minute he was convinced they were alone, Mal stopped walking and stepped away from her.

“Now just what in the rutting diyu is this all about?”

“Not yet, the walls have ears. Couples in this town walk along the lake, that’s where were headed. We can talk at the point.”

She took a step towards the forest path, but Mal grabbed her hand to stop her.

“You will at least tell me your name, before I take another step.”

“Katra, Katra Dupree. Now, come on, the lake is just a few minutes walk.” She headed into the trees. Mal followed,even though there was a funny feeling in the back of his skull that he would end up regretting ever visiting this little world.

They walked slowly along the edge of the lake towards a peninsula of land protruding into the water. Mostly the ground was smooth, but there were plenty of rocks in the path, just enough to trip a person if he was not paying attention, just enough to make a man concentrate on walking instead of watching out for an ambush. Closer to the point the path became more rocky and uneven. The alarms going off in Mal’s head got louder. The point itself stretched into the lake about ten yards from the shore and was just wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Flowers and large bushes encircled them hiding them from the view of the surrounding shoreline. The tip of the point was smooth, flat and covered with grass. No wonder this spot was a favorite for lovers’ trysts. Here no one could see them or hear them, man was he in trouble.

Katra walked out to the edge of the clearing and sat on a small rock. Mal followed her, slowly scanning the area. As he sat, he noticed something blue and white out of the corner of his eye. It was not just the starlight sparkling in the clear night sky behind that bush Katra was sitting in front of. Only one person he knew would wear a shirt that garish. The thought made him smile as he set himself down on a rock a few feet from the thin woman.

“So Katra, tell me what gold, gun hands, and tasteless displays of public affection have to do with each other?”

“It’s not all that complicated. I need a legitimate reason to disappear from this planet that has nothing to do with my pa’s gold mine getting robbed. Everyone knows my shooting isn’t the best. So I’d need another reason for any captain to hire me on.”

The funny feeling in the back of Mal’s skull got a bit stronger again. “And, how is your pa gunna like you disappearing with his gold? It seems most pa’s are smart enough to put two and two together. And pa’s aren’t usually like to let daughters disappear.” Mal had a few to many dealings with angry pa’s back on Shadow, when he was a teen. Yep that itch in the back of his skull was definitely getting bigger.

“My Pa has been dead for eighteen months now. The tah mah de that killed him swindled the mine out from under me and now their digging it dry. I want to take what’s rightfully mine and stick it to them. It’s the townsfolk that I don’t want to put two and two together. You see them kuh-ooh duh lao bao jurns been working folks awfully hard. Forcing people to do too many things that are unsafe. I don’t want people getting killed. No one blames me now because they all know how I was cheated, but I don’t want them to know that I have benefited from their distress. They’re my friends, I can’t loose them too.”

“You don’t care them thinkin’ you whorin’ yourself to get off world?”

“They know it’s not safe for me here. They’d pity rather than disrespect that decision.”

“And how did you know that I would not take advantage of you and your little act?”

“Your reputation precedes you, Captain Reynolds, that and you sail with Derrial Book.”

“How do you know the Shepherd?”

“I’ve never met him, but he has a reputation as well.”

Mal let that one drop, even though his curious side wanted to know just what kind of reputation he and Book had. “This gold mine – what are the particulars?”

“Once a month, the gold bars are shipped off Trythes. We can hit them the day before they’re shipped. We lift it right through the roof of the place it’s stored, with that spaceship of yours. You keep half the gold. Then you take me, my belongings, and my half of the gold to some other moon, far away from here.”

Mal thought for a minute; the job sounded too easy. He still had that funny feeling in the back of his head. There was more to this than she was saying, but her plan could work. “How much gold does a month amount to on a moon like this?”

“Enough to buy a fairly large ranch on a fairly nice world, with some left over. I just want something small, so there’s plenty to go around.”

“And I suppose we’d have to keep up this sweetheart thing, `till the job is done?”

“For the plan to work.”

“And these belongings, what we talkin’ about?”

“Mostly sundries, some furniture. My father left me his ranch house as well as the mine, but it is not safe for me to live there. We’d clean it out before we hit the mine.”

“And when would this gold mine be ripe?”

“Should be a week to ten days.”

Mal considered all this for a few moments and then called out “Zoe, what ya think? It doable?”

Katra immediately got to her feet and searched the area. She did not see anyone, until she heard the strong voice answer him back. “Think so, sir.” Katra had to squint her eyes to see the dark skinned, dark haired woman standing in the bushes holding a large gun in her hands.

“How did she? When did she? We would have seen her!” Zoe’s appearance had Katra flustered, but to her credit she recovered quickly. After Zoe had extricated herself from the bushes and Wash had also joined them in the clearing, Katra spoke again, looking around at all of them. “I have to say I am impressed.How could you have known I would solicit you and bring you here, and that you would have need of a back up gun.”

“Don’t be so impressed.” Zoe paused for a moment, letting her word hang in the still moist air. “You owe my husband and me at least one romantic evening. That barkeep was just telling us about this romantic point when you left. Have to say I did not plan on coming here with anyone but Wash. But sounds like the start of a lucrative plan.” She smiled at her husband as she spoke.

Wash popped open the bottle of blue liquid he had purchased in the bar and raised the bottle. “To new partners,” he said as he drank and passed the bottle around the small group.

“To things goin’ smooth,” Mal responded.

Chapter 2

COMMENTS

Monday, June 4, 2007 5:34 PM

KATESFRIEND


Lots of plot twists in this one - good work!

Monday, June 4, 2007 11:43 PM

AMDOBELL


I just loved Zoe and Wash hiding in the bushes while that woman put her plan to Mal. Have to say I am wary about what the woman is not telling them, this certainly can't go as smoothly as she makes it sound but gold? I'm thinking Jayne will be slavering at the mouth. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 4:24 AM

CHAZZER


Hahaha liked the ending. I love Zoe! This is shaping up to be a shiny fic! xx

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 7:48 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Lots to say about this, Desertgirl:

1) Book's first name is "Derrial" not "Darryl"

2) Only Wash would wear a garish Hawaiian shirt to a stakeout:D

3) Inara's gonna be peeved about the whole "sweethearts" cover, even if she's filled in on the plan:(

4) The plan? Starting to smell a lot like what Jayne and Stitch Hessian had planned for their job on Canton that accidentally earned Jayne his title of "Hero of Canton";)

BEB

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 5:56 PM

DESERTGIRL


Hey there – Sorry about the misspelling of Derrial. I found out about 9/10ths of the way into the writing that I had it wrong and corrected them. Apparently I missed one. It’s fixed now though. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.


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