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Blue Sun Job, Part 21: PS1467
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Shepherd Book has a message for Mal.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2560    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Blue Sun Job, Part 21: PS1467

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

Chinese:

No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters, just exclamatory expressions

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


Blue Sun Job, Part 21PS1467
靑日 Job: PS1467

Now came the really hard part, Mal thought, exchanging a fortifying glance with Zoe as the guards opened the door and stepped aside.

Wash, Kaylee, and Shepherd Book waited in a fair-sized room, or holding cell, with benches along three walls. The Shepherd rested a comforting arm around Kaylee. Wash sat a little apart from them, glaring at the door. They all wore their regular clothes still, but Wash was handcuffed. Mal noticed his knuckles were bruised. So he really had gotten a lick in on that sumbitch Harken. Well, good on him for that. The only one of ‘em to get any kind of smack back at the 混蛋. The utterly black look Wash gave Mal quickly snuffed any twitch of satisfaction, though. Wash was well and thoroughly pissed--at Mal--and no mistaking it. Had he really bought any of the 狗屎 Harken must have fed him?

Kaylee and the Shepherd looked on solemnly as Mal and Zoe entered. Zoe crossed to the farthest end of the room, Wash immediately moving to sit close to her. Mal woulda thought the bickering would come after the lovey-dovey greetings, but from the low, intense whispering they launched into the fight straight away.

Seating himself on the other end of the narrow room, Mal leaned his head back against the wall and sighed. Kaylee disengaged herself from the Shepherd and came to sit by him.

“Sorry I can’t put my arm around you, lil’ Kaylee,” Mal said.

“ ‘s alright,” she murmured, snuggling in close to him. She worked her hand into his, twining their fingers together. Resting her head against Mal’s shoulder, she gave a whimper so small and pathetic it was like to rip his heart right out. He turned to drop a tender kiss on the top of her head.

“You okay, mei-mei? They treat you decent?” he asked.

“Mm hmm.” She didn’t seem able to form whole words just now.

“They let me visit her a few times,” the Shepherd inserted. “She wasn’t mistreated.”

Mal studied the preacher. “You ain’t in any trouble here, are you?”

Book shook his head. “No. I was held briefly, but released as soon as my credentials were established.”

Mal gave him a long, questioning look, but the preacher gave just the slightest of ‘no’ gestures with his eyes. He hadn’t played his magic ident card. It was a peculiar, remote hope Mal had held that the preacher might still get them out of this fix, but he guessed it wasn’t to be. He trusted that Book would have tried it if he thought it woulda done ‘em any good. The last faint flicker of hope extinguished. That covered all the options. Jayne was long, long gone with the money if he had two licks of sense in that dim, treacherous brain of his. Inara was gone and not like to retangle herself with the criminals she’d got herself shut of no how. And the Tams… hiding and helpless their ownselves. Not that he really thought any of ‘em could do anything against the Alliance anyhow. It was just too damned big. Too damned powerful. And they were square under its heel. Ah, well…

“I’d sort of expected more questions from y’all, straight away,” Mal said, low, to the preacher. The discussion on the far end of the room was rising in tone and volume, but the words were still indistinct. Wash glanced away from Zoe just long enough to give Mal another dirty look.

“Umm…” Book seemed to hesitate, then he gestured toward the wall by the door. “See that monitor? They let us watch that ‘trial’, such as it was.”

Mal let that sink in a moment. “Uh… all of it?”

Book nodded. “They did cut the sound off when they left you and Zoe alone. Couldn’t hear what was said. Just could, uh, see what was going on.” Was that a glimmer of amusement in the preacher’s eyes? Weren’t funny.

“Great.” Mal flicked a quick look over to Zoe and Wash. So, the dirty looks weren’t just for getting his wife screwed over by the law.

“I thought it was sweet,” Kaylee said judiciously.

“Yeah. I’m thinkin’ Wash didn’t so much,” Mal said. Crap. One more thing for list. Only the gorram Feds didn’t know it was the Wash-don’t-need-to-know-it list. “‘Cause there ain’t regrets enough to go ‘round at this juncture.” He indulged in a moment of very sincere and graphic cussing.

“Listen,” Mal said to Kaylee, squeezing her hand tighter. “So you know, then, what’s going on. It’s the best of a bad situation and gets you clear of this mess. You be a good girl and do as they say, 懂吗? Don’t make a fuss or nothing. Okay?”

Kaylee tilted her head up. Dang those puppy eyes and the way they brimmed with tears. “Cap’n… no. I ain’t lettin’ you get locked up all those years and me just bounding away, saving myself. ‘Tain’t right.”

“Kaylee, you do as I say,” Mal said firmly. “That’s an order. I’m still your captain even though Serenity…” He stopped.

“I know,” she whispered, hugging his arm.

“You just do as I say. And do as the Feds say,” Mal said. “Just you figure I’m being selfish about this. And it ain’t just ‘cause I don’t want you on my conscience, mei-mei. I’m worrying on my ownself too. Look at me.” She met his eyes again. “Much as I ain’t happy about spending all those years in a Fed jail, I even more don’t want to end up at the end of one’a their ropes, or in front of a firing squad. I’ve seen that stuff happen and didn’t much care for it. If you, or Wash, makes a fuss about this deal, that’s just ‘xactly what’ll happen. They’ll go after me, and Zoe, on all them other charges, but even worse you just know them 混蛋 would make us watch ‘em end you and Wash first, and that’s a thing I just don’t think I could bear. Understood?”

Kaylee gave a sniffle. “Understood.”

Mal rested his head on hers a moment, with a soft, relieved sigh. Zoe seemed to be having more difficulty convincing hers to go along with the way it was. They seemed to be fighting now about things having nothing to do with the situation at hand. Mal just hoped they didn’t get so mad they didn’t pay heed to what they were saying, lest the almost certainly listening ears take note. Hell, Zoe knew they were still in a combat situation here. Mal blocked them out and turned to the Shepherd.

“Preacher, you’ll see to Kaylee for me? Make sure she gets safe back to her home?” Mal asked.

“I will, son,” Book said solemnly. “You have my word. I don’t know if I’ll be permitted to visit you and Zoe again after this, but I’ll try. See if I can offer some spiritual comfort.” His eyes twinkled at Mal.

Now it was purely vexing how the preacher seemed to be finding cause for those flickers of humor in situation that--as far as Mal could see--was nothing but bleak. Did he…? No. No more ain’t-gonna-happen twitches of hopefulness. They were done. They’d lost. Again. And that’s just the way it was. No damned heroic rescues comin’, or last minute baptisms-by-blood to change Harken’s mind. Or was the preacher just amused because his criminal flock had got nailed and now he’d have a truly captive audience for his preaching? Hell…

“And that’s an order!” Zoe snapped loudly. Wash called her a bad--dangerously bad, ‘cept she was restrained and couldn’t do him any physical damage--name in return. Not quite the gushy words of love Mal’d expected from them two at this point, but then they couldn’t run off to their bunk to communicate the way they usually did.

“We’re agreed, sir,” Zoe said coolly to Mal. Wash mouthed the ‘sir’ in that oh-so-amusing way of his.

Yeah… they were listening in, for the door opened immediately.

Harken stepped into the doorway. “We’ll take your deal,” Mal said flatly.

With a short nod of acknowledgement, Harken said, “Shepherd… Miss Frye…Say your farewells. Your transport leaves in five minutes.” He stepped back out of the room, leaving the door open, guards waiting just outside.

Kaylee cried openly, though silently, now, soaking Mal’ shirt sleeve with her tears. Hard pressed to hold on to control, Mal dropped another kiss on her head, squeezed her hand, then said, “Get on with you now, mei-mei. You be a good girl.”

Planting a quick kiss on Mal’s cheek, Kaylee untangled her hand from his, crossed the room to hug Zoe and Wash, then headed for the door. At the doorway she stopped, turned, and Mal found himself enveloped in warm, soft girl.

“I love my cap’n,” she whispered in his ear, then turned and ran out of the room.

Fists clenched, straining against the steel bands cutting into his wrists without even realizing it, Mal closed his eyes and hunted for the darkness, the nothing.

A hand closing firmly on his shoulder brought him back. Mal glanced up at the Shepherd.

“Stand firm, son,” the preacher said quietly. “At this hour, you need to know there’s a power that can bring you comfort and strength…”

As Shepherd Book went on with his spiel, Mal blanked out his words. Gorram preacher was pressing a finger into his shoulder in a curious way… a pattern… Mal concentrated on that as the preacher nattered on with his religious platitudes. It was a code. It took about half a dozen repeats of the pattern before Mal recognized it--it was an old tap code. Mal’d learned it way back, in the early days of the war. Weren’t used much. How did the preacher…? Never mind that. Focusing hard, Mal slowly deciphered the message: PS1467X1823.

Now what in hell did that mean? Was he reading it every kind of wrong? Then the light flickered on in Mal’s head, matching the twinkle in Book’s eyes as he continued preaching at Mal--first time Mal hadn’t cut him off short when he tried to spout that 狗屎.

PS1467… Psalm 146, verse 7, “Who executes justice for the oppressed…The Lord sets the prisoners free,” and X1823… Exodus, chapter 18, verse 23, “If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in serenity.” Serenity… or peace? Serenity.

Sonuvabitch. Mal caught Book’s eye, giving a half-blink of acknowledgement. A grin spread across the Shepherd’s face as he gave Mal’s shoulder a squeeze and a pat. As the preacher turned away to say his words to Zoe and Wash, Mal leaned back and worked at keeping his expression blank. As heartening, and hopeful, as the preacher’s message was, Mal couldn’t help but be a bit galled at the form the message had been in, Bible passages, chapter and verse, and Mal was more than a bit irked that the gorram preacher knew Mal would get it.

* * *

Hours later, Mal was no longer heartened by the Shepherd’s message--he was flat out scared by it. No, no, no… he didn’t want any of his people to try anything so dangerous as a rescue attempt. Not the Shepherd. And certainly not Kaylee. They’d get killed or they’d get caught and then there’d be no saving any of them. For pity’s sake, what could the preacher be thinking? He, Zoe, and Wash were on an Alliance cruiser, biggest, toughest damned boat the 混蛋 had--it could not be tackled, not no how. Soon they would be transferred to the custody of the officials on Beta--a freakin’ Core world swarming with Feds. No shoot ‘em up jailbreak was gonna work. Not and have anyone survive.

All Mal could do was fret. He couldn’t do another single, damned thing and that was the worst of it. The guarding and restraints were so exact that he couldn’t even try that guard-baiting he and Zoe had talked on. They never gave him the opening.

Paperwork had been signed. Pleas entered. Records filed. Disks copied. And Malcolm Reynolds, late sergeant of the Independent army and one-time master of a Firefly transport, was now an officially convicted Alliance felon. He’d only been an unofficial one before. Mal didn’t scorn his new title, just the ‘perks’ that went along with it.

A few more worried hours sitting in a cell in the brig, then the guards came again with cuffs and shackles to escort him to the shuttle that would take him back to that forsaken planet he never should have gone near again, not for any treasure in the ‘verse. An involuntary shudder went through him as the guards chained him in place in the shuttle. He had a sudden flash of memory of the first time he and Zoe had escaped that gorram moon… he’d thought it was the prison guards taking him back down to that prison, and he desperately hadn’t wanted to go. Now he was, and Zoe wasn’t in a Fed uniform taking care of him. She was being chained in place nearby and they were both going back down there… to stay.

“Steady, sir,” Zoe said sternly, giving him a sharp look. Did he look that panicked? Maybe.

* * *

Zoe and Mal were already in the shuttle when Wash was escorted in. He was feeling more than regretful about what he’d said to Zoe and was glad they’d get at least one more chance to talk, before…

Though he wasn’t restrained with anywhere near the thoroughness of Zoe and Mal, the gorram Feds did attach the chain of the cuffs down so he couldn’t move from his seat. Even though he was supposed to be turned loose--more or less--on the surface of Beta, the guards just didn’t seem to quite trust him. They didn’t like it when you hit ‘em… Wash hadn’t worked that out himself, he’d heard that somewhere before. Sure was the truth, though.

Wash had framed just the right words to say to Zoe to make up for what he’d spouted earlier when another MP entered the shuttle, carrying an injector gun.

“What’s that?” he asked, alarmed. Zoe and Mal just looked disgusted.

“All high security prisoners in transit in this system are sedated,” the Fed drone intoned. “Keeps ‘em quiet during transport,” he added.

Zoe and Mal exchanged another of those looks that said much from which Wash was excluded. Wash tried to protest, saying it was his last chance to talk to his wife, and she was so secured she could hardly move anyhow, so what was the harm if you bent the rules… Zoe and Mal never said a word, just looked so 他妈的 resigned. The Fed hit Mal with the drug first. Wash watched him fight it for about three seconds, then relax with a sigh and conk out. Zoe didn’t pass out when they injected her, just relaxed, to the extreme. There wouldn’t be any conversation between husband and wife on this ride.

A Fed captain entered the shuttle and the door sealed. Not too many guards left aboard, three plus the shuttle pilot and the captain, but then they didn’t need too many, Wash thought, looking over at Zoe. Her eyes were fixed on him with an utterly blank expression. Great. Maybe he should tell her what he’d planned anyhow; maybe it would sink in somehow.

“Zoe… honey…” he started.

“Shut up,” a guard snapped. “No talking.”

Wash was beginning to understand Zoe’s and Mal’s utter contempt for these fellas.

The shuttle jarred slightly as it disengaged from the cruiser. No one save a pilot, like Wash, could have detected and interpreted the subtle sensations in the shuttle’s grav field as it went through various maneuvers. He felt when they cut the drive and coasted on their trajectory to Beta. Wash didn’t know the relative positions of the cruiser and the moon, but he’d get an idea when they blasted again to cut their velocity. Could be a short ride, or a long one--depending on the orbital positions of ship and world.

He was just trying to distract himself, Wash realized, from the horrendous reality here. He was about to lose his wife for half a lifetime. He hadn’t even had her for long. They were still really newlyweds. Glancing away from Zoe, toward Mal, Wash ran through their three-way relationship in his head. It wasn’t like he didn’t know Zoe and Mal had a pre-established connection. Hell, Mal had pretty damned bluntly pointed out that they’d been together a long time before Wash came along, and that they had a history together. But what was that history? He’d believed--or had convinced himself to believe--that it wasn’t intimate. They certainly didn’t behave in front of Wash as if they had any sort of personal, man-woman type of closeness. Then the gorram Feds let him watch them alone together and Wash had the stunning revelation come to him that he didn’t know how Zoe and Mal acted when they were alone together precisely because he’d never seen them alone together. They were alone together when they were alone together. It was the precise, exact point of the matter.

Did Zoe lose the taut military deference and annoying sir-ing? Did they look at each other differently? Did they…? 我的妈, he’d seen them unable to comfortably touch and kiss each other right in front of him, but then they’d been playing a fake game for his benefit. Now he’d seen them when they didn’t know he was watching kiss with utter familiarity and look at each other with expressions that were nothing short of suggestive… There was more, more between them that commander and subordinate, more that wartime loyalties. More…

The grav field gave a faint pulse. Huh? Unless that gorram cruiser was skimming Beta’s atmosphere, they should have had a much longer transit time. Wash concentrated for a moment, but nothing more happened. Maybe a traffic maneuver.

However it all ended, Wash couldn’t regret having taken the job on Serenity. Play-boying his way around the ‘verse wasn’t nearly as satisfying as having one extraordinary woman who’d promised to love him forever. And yet… Wash looked again at the captain--ex-captain--at Mal. Mal taunted Wash with his and Zoe’s history to make him angry and keep him alive, but he’d sure as hell known exactly which buttons to push, hadn’t he? What had been true? And what had been act?

Wash brooded for a long time when he felt another twitch in the grav field. They must be getting near Beta and the trip close to ending. Would they ever let him even visit Zoe, he wondered with abrupt panic? They’d slapped a boat-load of probationary restrictions on him--consorting with a felon might just be on the verboten list. Well, there’d be no consorting, actually, but he wanted to be able to see and talk to her. Cripes… And he’d been busy fretting about himself.

A clanking thud startled him into jerking hard against the cuffs holding him. What the hell? That was a ship-to-ship docking, and a clumsy one at that. Well, clumsier than he could do.

The guards sat up, alert but not alarmed.

“At ease,” the Fed captain ordered. “Just an unscheduled prisoner transfer.” He drew his sidearm and pointed it at the guards as he slapped the airlock controls.

Huh?

The door slid open with a hiss of air pressures and Wash saw the most beautiful sight in the ‘verse framed in the opening.

Jayne. With Vera cradled in his arms.

Blue Sun Job, Part 22: X1823

COMMENTS

Sunday, August 15, 2004 10:12 AM

JEBBYPAL


:):) Finally:) I know, I know, it's far from over for which I'm glad... Just nice to see Wash have a good moment for the first time in a few chapters.

Loved Mal's indignation at the Shepherd.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 12:29 PM

AMDOBELL


Oh yeah, I *adored* this part so much. Loved how well Book has learned to read Mal and the scene between Kaylee and the Captain was lovely and I could so see that happening. As for Wash, the poor guy has been manipulated to hell and back but at some point his intelligence has to over rule his insecurity and jealousy where Zoe is concerned. I absolutely loved Wash thinking Jayne was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen! Priceless, can't wait for the next part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, August 15, 2004 8:27 PM

MERRIE


Beautiful chapter. I literally cheered aloud when Jayne appeared at the end. And the bit between Mal and Shepard Book was excellent. I can clearly see the look of utter irritaion on Mal's face at the realization and the knowing look on Book's. Excellent job, as always.

-Merrie

Monday, August 16, 2004 12:04 AM

KISPEXI2


"“I will, son,” Book said solemnly. “You have my word. I don’t know if I’ll be permitted to visit you and Zoe again after this, but I’ll try. See if I can offer some spiritual comfort.” His eyes twinkled at Mal."

Did a bit of twinkling of my own at that! I loved Book's religious taunting of Mal on the show and enjoyed seeing more of it. And the irony of his Bible-based code! And Mal knowing how to interpret it. Gleeful. And appropriate.

Beautiful Jayne! I could almost see Wash hugging him (were it not for the restraints) and Jayne rolling his eyes in disgust!

And a sort of answer to my earlier question about Wash/Mal/Zoe. And yes, as convincing as I'd expected.

What are you sitting around reading comments for? Back to work quickly so I can get the next chapter!

Monday, August 16, 2004 2:56 AM

HURRYSUNDOWN


Just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer - Jayne! And Vera! Keep this up, and everyone will run out of new ways to say what a fabulous story this is. Loved the interplay of Mal and Book, and the excellent take on Wash. I second Kispexi2 - more, now, please. HurrySundown

Monday, August 16, 2004 8:16 AM

ARTSHIPS


Not too bad. Could have been better.
But only if I'd seen it on TV. Nice to see that River's not perfect at piloting.

Thursday, August 19, 2004 2:07 AM

LORDGECKO


All hail the conquering hero! Jayne and Vera to the rescue!
I'm hooked. No clue how you'd get our BDH's out of this mess, but damned if you didn't just do it. More, I need more!

Sunday, October 17, 2004 1:44 PM

HEB


This chapter did actually make me cry. The Mal Kaylee goodbye. This really is powerful stuff.


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