Blue Sun Job, Part 20: Countdown
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

After you're down to zero the only direction left is up?


Blue Sun Job, Part 20: Countdown

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
Blue Sun Job, Part 16: The Edge
Blue Sun Job, Part 17: Going Through the Motions
Blue Sun Job, Part 18: Never Leave
Blue Sun Job, Part 19: The Bottom

Blue Sun Job, Part 20: Countdown
靑日 Job: Countdown

“You can have ten minutes,” Harken said. “Then you can see the others of your crew.” The other officers stood and exited the courtroom. Harken waved to the two guards. “Out. They’re not going anywhere.”

That was a pure truth, Mal thought glumly.

Harken paused for a moment, studying Mal and Zoe with a thoughtful expression. “I’ll see to it that you have some privacy.” He gestured toward the cameras in the corners of the ceiling. “You’ll be under observation, but no one will be listening in.” With another measuring glance, he left the room.

The silence was absolute for about thirty seconds, or that’s how high Mal counted before he could bring himself to flick a sideways glance at Zoe. He could feel her stare burning into him without even looking.

“There, perhaps, something you might like to tell me?” she asked. Perversely, Mal thought if Wash ever heard her use that tone of voice on him, Wash would get over the notion she deferred to Mal on every damned thing. Then that thought made Mal wince. Wash wouldn’t be seeing his wife again for a lot of years. And that was Mal’s fault too.

“I’d like to tell you everything is under control,” he said, looking over at her with a lopsided smile. Zoe was not amused. Deadly not amused. “Just trying to lighten the mood,” he said. “Wouldn’t have done that ‘cept you’re chained up and can’t kill me just now.” He noticed the way she was flexing against the restraints.

Zoe sighed heavily and relaxed. She looked over at him, studying him intently. “What the hell happened, sir? How’d you come to be confessing to things they didn’t even know about? What did they do to you?”

Mal sighed too, glancing at the cameras aimed at them. He didn’t believe for a minute they were free of monitoring. “They had me boxed in. All kinds of drugs. A lie detector I couldn’t beat, and...” he hesitated. “Remember Snabu?” Mal stared at Zoe intently. The name wasn’t a place name, it was a person, a young private who’d been in their unit scarcely a week before getting killed. It was Snabu who’d caught the scout that Mal and Zoe had questioned using the Fed’s truth drug. Such a short time had the boy been with them, Mal didn’t think service records on him had even made it back into the chaos of the Independent’s command. The Feds could try to track down that reference a long time without figuring out what Mal meant.

Maybe Zoe could too. She worked on it for a long time before he saw the recollection light in her eyes. Nodding slowly, Zoe said, “Right.” She may not have gotten the full magnitude of what he was trying to tell her without actually telling her, but she’d understood enough--that he’d managed to divert, to only give them some rather than the ‘all’ that scout had spilled, though at a heavy price.

“We have to take Harken’s deal,” Mal said dully. “Ain’t no other choice. Costs us dear, and I’m sorry for it, Zoe, but it gets Wash and Kaylee out of the fire. You gotta convince your husband not to fight it,” he said, looking sideways at her. “They go after us for that mess on New Horizons and everyone ends up dead.”

“Ummm... they really got evidence tying us to that?”

Mal nodded. “They really do. Harken named it all out. Got my retinal scan as the last data entry in a dead Fed’s recorder. Got other things connecting every damned one in. Don’t matter that it ain’t right, they’ll still hang us for it.”

She looked down and away. “Yes... Yes. Still... fifteen years.” Zoe looked up at him, holding his eye. “You gonna make it that long?”

He looked away. “Don’t fret about me.”

“Can’t help it,” she said. “It’s been my job for a lot of years.”

“Zoe... I’m sorry...”

“Don’t,” she cut in tersely. “You did what you had to do, sir. Always do.”

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “You ain’t always found that an admirable trait.” He studied her again, trying to memorize her features as exactly as he could. “Soooo... I figure we got about seven minutes left here. Whatcha wanna talk about?”

They had probably five minutes left before Zoe answered. “About what it all means,” she said quietly.

Mal chuckled grimly. “Don’t mean a damned thing. None of it. Never did. And you know it.”

He held her softly probing look. “Used to,” she said in a bare whisper. “You used to believe it did.”

“Well, I was wrong. Wrong about a lot of things,” he said.

“Not everything.” Zoe sighed softly.

Mal shook his head. “Don’t go playing ‘what ifs’, Zoe. Not now. Don’t need any more regrets at this particular juncture.” He had a hunch where her thoughts had gone and didn’t think he could stand it, not just now.

“Ain’t trying to give you regrets,” she said. “Just trying to give you... I don’t know...”


She met his eyes again, gave a slight shrug. “Something to hold on to.”

He rolled his eyes. “You figure I’m gonna bait some guard into ending me, don’t you?”

“The thought crossed my mind.”

Mal wanted to lie, but the thought had crossed his mind too. “Don’t know that it would matter much, all things considered. But, no, I ain’t suicidal. We’ve been in worse situations than this and held on through them.”

“Yes, we have. I doubt we’ll be sharing a cell, though. And you don’t deal well with being locked up. Especially alone,” Zoe said.

With an exasperated sound, Mal said, “I just love amateur psychoanalysis. You trying to piss me off so I’ll hold on that fifteen years just to have a chance to finish the fight?”

Her grin was gratifying. “Maybe. Maybe it’s for me too.” She raised her eyebrows, giving him an interesting look that said many things. “Maybe I need to know you’ll still be there.”

The look they held took them down to about the one minute mark.

“Can you lean over here?” Zoe asked.

“Ummm... maybe,” Mal said, puzzled. He shifted against the tight restraints to lean toward her. Zoe did the same.

“Close your eyes,” she whispered. Her lips barely brushed against his, her breath a warm sigh against them. “Just hold on for me.”

The door clicked. They both snapped their attention over to it. Harken entered, staring at them coolly.


* * *

“Sooooo....” Simon stretched out the word as he stared with an increasing sense of panic at Jayne’s seemingly random stabs at various buttons and controls, “Just as a point of interest, what exactly do you think we can do against an Alliance cruiser?”

“Stay way the hell away from it,” Jayne muttered, jabbing more controls. The ship, mercifully, Simon thought, ignored most of what Jayne was doing, continuing its smooth plunge through the Black.

“I could blow it up,” River announced behind them. Both glanced around. She danced up the stairs and grinned broadly at Jayne. “With my brain!”

Jayne scowled. “Shut-up, crazy girl. You could not,” he said, turning away. Simon flashed a grin at River. Jayne hadn’t seemed at all certain of that. Come to think of it, Simon though, his grin fading a touch, neither was he. The ship gave a lurch.

“I can also fly the ship better than you,” River said, sounding much more serious.

“I can fly good enough,” Jayne said. The ship lurched again. River and Simon grabbed for something to hold onto. “Point to point. Just don’t ask me to land.”

“I’m emphatically asking you not to land,” Simon said, as earnestly as he could.

“We won’t be landing,” Inara said, entering the bridge. “I’ll take my shuttle in again. We don’t want Serenity tagged entering that system. But...” she grabbed for a handhold, “...can you get us into position? I won’t be here to help.” The ship lurched again. “For Buddha’s sake, stop pushing that button! It’s a lateral thruster, meant for docking maneuvers.”

“Just practicing,” Jayne muttered, but Simon noticed he pulled his hand away from the troublesome control.

“I can fly the ship better than you,” River said, more emphatically this time.

“River, honey,” Simon said soothingly, laying a hand on her arm to guide her off the bridge. “I don’t have most of your smoothers with us, but there must be something still in the infirmary...”

River jerked away, giving him a look of pure disgust. “I can fly Serenity,” she said. “I’m a genius prodigy. Remember?”

Inara put an arm around River gently. “River. You’ve never flown a ship.”

“I’ve watched.” River stabbed a finger toward Jayne who--Simon noted with a certain degree of satisfaction--jerked back a touch. “More than him... he... More than Jayne. I can bring us down into a station-keeping position directly over the gas giant’s pole so that its magnetic and gravitational fields will hide us from the Alliance sensors. A better position than what you’ve all... you-all... y’all...” She shook herself, “...had planned.” Simon tilted his head, considering. Maybe. He glanced at Inara and Jayne and could see they thought it possible, too. Then River added, “Remember, I was Serenity for a while.”

Simon groaned.

Jayne snorted. “Had us right ‘til there, girl,” he said.

Inara shifted. “Well... possession of the ship aside, maybe we should let her have the controls for a bit. See what she can do?”

With a shrug, Jayne stood. “Long as we ain’t near anything we can run into, don’t see the harm.”

Simon smiled to himself. Jayne wouldn’t say it out loud, but he actually did think River could handle the ship. River sat at the controls, as happy-looking as Simon had ever seen her.

“Hello, Serenity. I’m back,” River whispered, caressing the controls in a manner Simon didn’t think particularly proper for his little sister to do.

Turning back to Inara, Simon asked, “Speaking of possessing Serenity, how is it that you do? I should have thought the ship would have been confiscated when the captain and the others were arrested.”

“She was,” Inara said with a small sigh. “And put up for sale.” She gave Simon a small smile. “I bought Serenity.”

Simon shook his head. “How? That must have been a lot of money. Where’d you...? Was it from the job? Or...?” He couldn’t imagine Mal dumping quite that much money solely into Jayne’s keeping. How much did Companions charge for their services anyhow?

Inara sighed again. “Mal is going to be seriously vexed when he finds out--if he finds out,” she qualified, a doubtful frown crossing her face. “If we succeed and he doesn’t end up spending the rest of his life in an Alliance prison.” Inara looked up at Simon with a smile. “I fenced the Lassiter.”

“Huh!” Simon was at a loss for words. “I didn’t even know where it was hidden.”

“Zoe told me. Before they left.” Her lips twitched. “He might be peeved at her too.”

Simon chuckled. “On the balance, I have to think he’ll forgive you both. If you save his ship, and himself...?”

Inara shrugged. “It’s hard to say. Mal can be... complex, about such things.”

“About a lot of things,” Simon agreed, thinking about the reading he’d been doing at the Sanctuary.

“He ain’t complex,” Jayne inserted, low. Simon glanced at him. Jayne was staring intently at River and her working of Serenity’s controls. “He’s just crazy.” Jayne gave a shake of his head, looking up at Simon. “But crazy seems to work on this boat. This sister of yours can fly.” He looked back at River sternly. “Assuming she don’t go too nuts and fly us down into that gas giant just for fun. See what kind of hull pressure we could take.”

“That would be fun,” River said, smiling brightly at Jayne. “Thanks for the suggestion.”

The groans were almost musical in their harmony.

“We’re getting a wave in,” Inara announced, reaching for the panel. “It’s from the Shepherd.” She shook her head. “Fairly cryptic, but an estimated contact point and time. He may have Kaylee with him.”

“That’ll help,” Jayne said seriously.

“The others...?” Simon asked.

Inara shook her head. “If I’m reading this correctly... assuming Mal does what Book expects, they should be transferred to the custody of the planetary authorities soon.” She glanced up. “And we have a chance.”

Simon looked out at the stars. “I wish there were a way to let them know. It’s not a good feeling, thinking you’ve been abandoned and no one is coming to help.” He looked back at his comrades. “But, then, Mal and Zoe know that feeling... very well.

Blue Sun Job, Part 21: PS1467


Tuesday, August 10, 2004 1:14 PM


Very very shiny and so much wishing you could write faster! Love this fic, poor Mal and Zoe - just hold on gorrammit! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 2:06 PM


Ahh guildsister, we trust you:) We know that you'll take us for an amazing ride before giving us a joss-like ending! You've done incredibly well so far and have thoroughly enjoyed all your techniques. Each chapter is a very bright spot in my week.

Loved river flying the ship by the way!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 7:53 AM


Don't stop now - Or even slow down.

Friday, August 13, 2004 5:02 AM


OK, so this line "“Maybe I need to know you’ll still be there.”" just about cut my heart out.

Beautifully written, as always. River perfectly spooky and playful. Inara spot-on controlled and inventive. Great, great, great.

BTW I found your writer's explanation interesting - mainly because I agree with you*g* It's kind of the way I'm going myself, even though it might not seem that way, what with torture, death and Reavers ;). I like the way you let the characters take over because characters are the heart of Firefly. IMnsHO.

Thursday, August 19, 2004 1:42 AM


Ok...I believed that you were going somewhere w/ this; now I know you are. Way shiny. Keep it coming

Sunday, October 17, 2004 1:32 PM


That Zoe, Mal goodbye type scene was so powerful. I was seriously getting teary eyed. This is just amazing and I'm absolutely loving catching up on it.



Ps. I liked the use of the Buffy/Angel scene in the last chapter


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Blue Sun Job--A Sequel: It Means a Thing
Post-Serenity, Mal & Zoe share a moment, or two. And then some. Story takes place in the context of the "Blue Sun Job" scenario. COMPLETE One-er.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 39: Into the Black
The conclusion of the Blue Sun Job.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 38: Shadow
Mal & Zoe's past smashes into the present. Everyone on the crew gets an earful, especially Wash.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 37: Plan B
There's a dead Shepherd on the floor, a bunch of angry live ones, and Mal, Zoe, and Simon in their midst.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 36: One Down
Return of the "Blue Sun Job"! First of the last four chapters of this story.

Blue Sun Job, Part 35: The Worthier Part
Book's more nefarious, Mal's less crazy, and Zoe is dangerously pissed.

Blue Sun Job, Part 34: Of Many Books...
Book's nefarious. Mal's crazy. And Simon is bewildered.

Blue Sun Job, Part 33: Light and Shadow
Mal has just had his big tell-all session with Book concerning his and Zoe's history. Now landed at the Shepherd's Sanctuary, they have to deal with the fallout and with Book's mysterious past and plans.

Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations
Mal and Book talk about some Big Damned Things.

Blue Sun Job, Part 31: The Heart of the Matter
Tales & stories come out into the open--more than a little dark. But not to worry, Jayne, the philosopher, also explains women.