Blue Sun Job, Part 23: Fallout
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Commencing--or continuing--the torture of one and all.


Blue Sun Job, Part 23: Fallout

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
Blue Sun Job, Part 21: PS1467
Blue Sun Job, Part 22: X1823


No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters, just exclamatory expressions

懂吗? = dong ma? = do you understand?
狗屎= go-se = crap

Blue Sun Job, Part 23: Fallout
靑日 Job: Fallout

Mal paused at the bottom of the stairway, just letting his hand rest for a moment against Serenity. Despite the preacher’s message to him in that cruiser, he truly hadn’t expected ever to see her again, not Serenity, nor any of the folks aboard her. Being back, and free... it did seem a bit, well... providential.


The preacher’s voice came from the corner by his room. Mal took a steadying breath before turning.

“You got a wicked sense of humor, preacher,” Mal said.

Book chuckled, but did look a mite contrite. “I do apologize. I confess I yielded to temptation to taunt you a bit. It’s a fault I’m still working on. And you do seem to bring out a bit of the very devil in me.”

“Yeah. It’s a gift of mine,” Mal said shortly. Best to nip this in the bud. “Listen... whatever 狗屎 I was fed as a youngun don’t mean nothing in the here and now. I told you before, don’t go making me your mission.”

The look Shepherd Book gave him was long and measuring…and unconvinced. “Of course,” he said slowly. Mal turned and took a couple trudging steps up the stairs. The preacher caught him with, “But...”

Mal closed his eyes and sighed. He wasn’t up to any more verbal sparring just now. His head absolutely throbbed. Cripes, was this what Simon was doing to his sis without even realizing it? The thought, and what Simon had said, made him feel creepy all over again. Mal put his hand up in a small sign of surrender. “Preacher, I just ain’t up for any...”

“I know,” Book cut in. “But what I mean to say is, while I certainly won’t pester you--make you ‘my mission’, as you say--if, or when, you want or need to talk to someone... well, I’ll understand better than you might think, and I do mean things other than religion.”

Mal scoffed softly. “Hmph. Things like how you know old military codes--codes that, far as I know, were only used on the Independent’s side of the fight? Or how you can get your hands on top secret drugs? Or how it is you know so gorram much about police procedures? Or how a preacher can shoot straight from the hip? Or identify sniper rifles by the size of the hole in a fella’s head? Or how you can figure how to spring folks from the gorram Alliance itsownself? Even without waving that piece of magic plastic of yours that turns the Feds into your lap dog? Them sort of things, preacher?”

Book gave Mal a gentle, unflustered smile. “Yes. Those sort of things. But more. Things like how to live, in peace with yourself, with all the things a man has done and lived, how to live with all of the past burdens.”

Mal rubbed his eyes. “I am purely weary of folks trying to get into my head.”

“That’s not going to change, captain. Best you accept that. The people on this boat care about you. Every part of you. Just as much you care about them and want to keep them safe. They were willing to risk their lives and their freedom on your behalf--every single one of them. And that’s not because you hired them, or pay them, or any other reason other than it was the right thing to do.”

“Was it?” Mal asked quietly.


Mal looked at the preacher. “The right thing to do?”

* * *

Wash didn’t need to hear the voice or familiar footsteps to know who was climbing the stairs to the bridge. Zoe’s sudden change in manner--straightening into a more military posture--told Wash her captain was up and back on duty.

“Sir,” she said by way of greeting. Well, that didn’t take long.

Mal nodded to both of them, then collapsed into the co-pilot’s seat, staring out the windows.

“So,” Mal said, heaving a sigh. “I suppose we’re all fugitives now.”

“Hmmm?” Wash could hear Zoe’s surprise. “No, sir. Didn’t anyone tell you?”

He looked over at her, shaking his head. “I ain’t seen nobody but Simon and Book and they both had other matters on their minds. You saying we ain’t being pursued by every Fed in the ‘verse?”

“No, sir, not at all,” Zoe said. “Best I can tell, we’re in the clear.”

Mal stared at her. “Huh? How is that possible?”

Through no doing of yours, sir, Wash thought, stabbing unnecessarily at some controls. Zoe shifted a bit from where she leaned against the console behind Wash. “I suspect the others will want to do the telling of it themselves, but in the short, a lot of money on bribes to bury records, and maybe a touch or two of blackmail. We’ll be wanting to avoid Commander Harken from now on, though.”

“Well, I hadn’t really figured him for my Christmas card list nohow,” Mal said, turning back toward the windows. “So... the battle’s done.”

Zoe nodded. “And we kinda won.”

“Whoo hoo,” Wash inserted with complete insincerity. It more than irked him how Zoe and Mal ignored, or avoided the key issue here. How could Zoe be in such complete denial?

“So,” Mal said, clearly ignoring Wash, “where do we go from here? Where are we headed?”

Zoe answered, “We’re on course back to the Shepherd’s Sanctuary. They left a good bit of the doctor’s gear there, and, well… I thought a day or so to rest might be in order. If that meets with your approval, of course, sir.”

“Do you have another destination, sir?” Wash asked, gritting his teeth. Zoe gave him an irritated glance but Mal didn’t even look at him. Instead he stared out at the stars.

“Yeah,” Mal said, sounding more like he was talking to himself rather than to them. “Just point toward the emptiest patch of sky and run at full burn until we’re out of fuel.”

Wash froze, thinking he’d be changing the locking sequence on the ship’s controls as soon as he had an alone moment. He felt Zoe stir by him. “Sir…” she began.

Mal shook himself, looking back over at both of them like he just realized they were there. What was wrong with him?

“Just… belay that order. Just… pretend I never said it.” Mal sighed and rubbed his head. “That Sanctuary place… that’s fine.”

“Lots of things we should just pretend you never said. That the way of it, sir?” Wash let angry sarcasm color his tone.

“Wash!” Zoe admonishing him, of course.

Mal scowled at him. “You got a problem here, Wash?”

“Well, yes sir, a little bit.”


“It’s nothing, sir,” Zoe said, giving Wash a warning look.

“Didn’t sound like nothing to me,” Mal said. He looked hard at Wash and demanded “What is the problem?”

Wash stabbed at some more controls. “Just hoping for some helpful words about how it is you came to be offering up confessions to the Feds on behalf of my wife.”

“That was…” Mal started.

“Captain did what he had to do,” Zoe cut in.

“And how is that?” Wash demanded. “He wants to foul up his own life, that’s his business. He can go confess to all the Feds he wants. Hey! Confession’s good for the soul. Wanna confess some more I can drop you off at a nice Fed station somewhere, but let us burn hard the other direction first.” He was on an uncontrolled roll and knew it, but didn’t care. Things needed saying. He glared at Mal. “You go ratting on my wife, and getting her sucked down into your mess and it’s not just your life, sir, it’s hers and it’s mine too. You ever think of that?”

Mal didn’t say anything. He stared fixedly at Wash in that coldly angry way of his.

Zoe shook her head. She was furious too and not hiding it either. “Husband. You will stow that 狗屎 right now. The captain did what he had to do and that’s all there is to it. So just stow it!”

Knowing intellectually that he should just stop and let it go--for the sake of his continued marriage, if not his outright life--Wash couldn’t and didn’t. Too much. Too much had built up and it needed to blow.

“You don’t know that,” he said, jabbing a finger toward Zoe. “You’re going along on that blind obedience 狗屎. Again. Captain says it and you do it. He screws you and you just say ‘yes sir’ and take it. I’ve had enough of it.”

Two very deadly people stared icy death at him and he didn’t care. While Zoe was still giggly relaxed girl, Wash had had an interesting tidbit of information innocently dropped on him by Inara--something about how Zoe and Mal had known each other since they were kids, all the way back on Shadow. Now how was it that Inara knew this and the only-the-husband didn’t? Old army buddies… How many old army buddies gave each other tender farewell kisses? What the hell else didn’t he know?

“You know,” Wash said in Zoe’s general direction, but watching Mal as he spoke, “you’ve talked about wanting to have a baby. Well, you’re right. We should. Let’s do that. We’ll have a whole bunch of kids. But we get off this ship and settle down somewhere first. Hey! I hear they’re re-terraforming Shadow. Should be lots of land we can get there cheap.” He gone too far, and somewhere inside knew it. But at this very moment he was glad to finally get the last word in.

Zoe let him have it, not saying another word; just turned on her heel and left the bridge. Mal continued to stare at him, expression fixed, eyes hard and unblinking.

Low, Mal said to Wash in a tone that promised slow death. “What passes between you and Zoe is your business. And you can say damned near anything you want to me--in private. But not that. Never that. Not to me. And not to Zoe.”

Mal stared at him a moment longer, then stood and left Wash alone on the bridge.

What the hell had happened on that planet?

* * *

Mal kicked open the ladder to his bunk and climbed down, surprised to see Zoe standing by the filing cabinet, straightening things. The cabin looked like a cyclone had gone through--a Fed cyclone. Everything had been tossed. And a good bit of the guns seemed to be missing.

He sighed. Seemed to be a lot of sighing going around. Zoe leaned back against the cabinet and looked at him coolly.

“Really think this is where you ought to be just now?” Mal asked as he crossed to the bed.

“That’s my business,” Zoe said tautly.

“Yeah. But I’m thinkin’ it’s a mite bit mine too, just at this very juncture.” Mal dug through piles on the floor, hunting for some clothes. He wanted to change out of this red prison-wear 狗屎 and at least try to feel some normal. Not that that was like to happen any time soon.

“Wash doesn’t know what he’s saying,” Zoe said. More sighs. “I’ll have to deal with that later.”

“Fight it out, or fuck it out?” Mal said, coming up with a reasonably clean shirt in a comfortingly brown color. He yanked off the red tee and tossed it in the corner.

Zoe almost but not quite chuckled. Wash had hit far sorer spots than he even realized. “Or some combination of the two.”

“Best you for-real talk it out for a change,” Mal said, Zoe’s calm helping drain some of the itching-to-kill anger out of him. “Finally have yourself a real confession.”

Giving him a warning glare, Zoe said, “I want to confess I’ll go talk to the preacher.”

Mal rolled his eyes. “Well, he is primed for it, let me tell you.” He gave her a rundown on the message Book had passed to him on the cruiser, and the nature and form of that message. She chuckled, apparently finding it almost as amusing as the preacher had. “Thinks he’s got me all figured now,” Mal said. He found a pair of trousers tangled in with the bedding.

“Maybe he has,” Zoe said, lifting an eyebrow quizzically.

Mal groaned. “Not you too.” He straightened the mattress and sat down, rubbing his temples again. If the throbbing in his head was getting any better, he couldn’t tell it.

“Well, I ain’t ashamed to say I did a touch of praying there on that cruiser,” Zoe said. “For what it’s worth.” She looked around the cabin with a hint of over-dramatized theatrics. “And what do you know, but here we are free and back on Serenity. Miraculous, might say. Kinda like a prayer being answered.” Zoe gave him a challenging look.

“You down here to torment me? Or just hiding out from your husband?”

Zoe smiled softly. “Wanted to give you this.” She tossed him a small silver object.

Mal caught it, then turned the small disk over and over, looking at it. “What is it?”

“Recording of your interrogations. Monty’s nephew gave it to me. Swears it’s the only copy,” Zoe said. “He was working for us the whole time, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know. And it sure as hell didn’t seem that way to me.” Looking up, Mal asked, “So… You listen to this?”

“I did,” Zoe said evenly.

“Anybody else listen to it?”

Zoe shook her head. “Only me.”

Mal turned the disk over and over again, staring at it. “I say anything incredibly stupid?”

“Oh, yes, sir. Lots of things,” she said.

Giving her a scowling glance, Mal said, “Such a comfort.”

“You know, when I suggested you might want to bare your soul to someone I didn’t figure you’d pick a Fed to do it to.” She gave him a quick smile. “You did what you had to do,” Zoe said quietly. “And that’s the God’s honest way of it.” She shook her head. “Yes, I know you don’t like me saying that, but--well, you know I weren’t never near as devout as you, but Mal, I swear… You managing to beat that truth drug as well as you did. I know gorram well what that stuff does. It’s like some divine intervention had a hand.”

“Well, you may be on to something there, truth to tell--which I kinda have to, still feeling the stuff,” he said, enjoying the quick look she shot him. He leaned forward and gave her a small grin. “Shepherd Book got me the counteragent beforehand. I do sometimes have my doubts about how divine he is, but, then, I couldn’t speak to that point.”

Zoe laughed, shaking her head. “You son of a bitch. Kept that from me, huh? How did he manage…?”

Mal held up a hand to stop her. “I don’t know. And don’t you go probing. 懂吗?” Mal chuckled slightly. “I’ll grant you, though, he is the handiest preacher to have about I’ve ever known.”

“Still,” she said, “that only helped. You managed the most of it on your own. They almost had us all and you managed to pull us out of it.”

“At the cost of fifteen years each in one of their jails,” Mal pointed out.

Zoe looked away. “At that cost to you. And I know better than anyone what being locked up means to you. But you did it to save my husband, and for that I’m grateful.”

“And Kaylee, and River and Simon. Don’t want them paying for my mistakes,” Mal said. “Don’t want you to either, but I didn’t see no other way out of it.”

“Well, it’s nice to know you feel free to sell me out to the Feds without hesitation as the play calls for it,” she said, smiling softly to cushion the words. She was speaking ironically and he knew it. No anger between them.

Mal gave her a faint grin. “Had to make a choice.”

“Of course. You made the right one,” Zoe said. Their eyes met and held and Mal knew they both understood and accepted fully the way of it. “Harken was on our side, too,” Zoe added thoughtfully.

“Huh? How you figure that? You gone nuts?”

Zoe’s eyes sparkled at him. “He was totally on our side. Didn’t you get that? As much as a Fed could be, at least.” She looked at Mal intently. “He let you get away with that pure 狗屎 about River, taking care not to notice when that nice slow drawl of yours kinda drifted away later on. Mal… Harken didn’t want the Tams found on Serenity. That would mean he missed them the last time through. Did we really clean up this boat of any trace of them that well? Or was Harken making sure the evidence wasn’t found?”

“Well...” Mal paused and tried to consider it. He grimaced. “I don’t know. That crap they shot me with is still confounding me some. And I got some serious blank spots in my recollections of the proceedings. I do recollect him being pretty damned rough on me, in that room and out. And he was still lookin’ to send us off to prison for a helluva long time.”

“Yes, but put it in balance. Harken tried hard to make good on the saving-his-life favor by saving yours. He had us dead to rights, and you know it, and he cut the whole thing off short there at the end.” Zoe shook her head and smiled. “Maybe I’ll send him a Christmas card. Inscribe it with that thing you called him. That was good--drooling son of a monkey…”

Mal chuckled. “That wasn’t even mine. River called me that once.”

Zoe grinned. “I’ll have to spend more time chatting with that girl.”

“I’m thinking a lot of us should. Remind me to talk some of that out with you later when I can think clearer. Some pieces of scary-ass 狗屎 coming together where that little girl is concerned,” Mal said.

“Scarier, you mean?”

“Mmmm.” He dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his temples again.

“Dinner’s in a couple hours. You gonna be able to make it, or do you want me to stall them all off until morning?” Zoe asked.

Mal looked back up. “No. I’ll be there.”

Zoe straightened up, turning to go. She paused by the bottom of the ladder. She studied him seriously, measuring him much as the preacher just had. “You were about five minutes from breaking there at one point, weren’t you?”

“If that,” Mal said with a bitter laugh. He hesitated, then said, “You recall that gal the Feds hanged right before they let us loose? I could see that just all of a sudden as clear as if I was still standing there.” He met her eyes. “You ever notice how much Kaylee looks like that gal did?”

Zoe stared at him a long time, long enough to make him uncomfortable. “Sir,” she said slowly, “That private didn’t resemble Kaylee at all.”

Breathing steadily and shallowly, Mal held Zoe’s stare for a long minute. He tried to think of words to say but none came. Finally he dropped his gaze, closing his eyes and rubbing them. He could feel his hand tremble.

“Mal…” Zoe said softly. He didn’t look up. “Don’t listen to that recording. Not just yet.”

He didn’t answer, just nodded. As the door hatch tripped and Zoe’s footsteps retreated, Mal searched again for the inward nothingness.

Blue Sun Job, Part 24: The Wrong Side of Normal


Wednesday, August 18, 2004 1:26 PM


Oh Wow, this is such a fantastically rich tale you are writing and I just love the Mal and Zoe parts with the Preacher's comments making me chuckle so much too - gorrammit, what *did* he do before he became a Shepherd? Good bible! As for Wash, he really needs Zoe to sit him down and tell him every gorram thing from the first itty bitty speck of dust formed in the cosmos to the great big scarey Here and Now. Best he wraps his head around how lucky he is before Zoe loses patience with him. That Green Eyed Monkey on his back has got to go! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 3:29 PM


*jumps up and down while clapping* 3 whole shiny updates this week:) Love it when my favorite authors coincide w/ my most stressful weeks:) Very shiny, so glad everyone made it out more or less okay....course, makes me eager to reread all the tension too. Ya had me worried for a bit that you were gonna let cappy go to jail again.

Now then, why doesn't zoe want him to listen to that yet...think i remember harken saying something mighty telling at one point.

Thursday, August 19, 2004 3:11 AM


This was undoubtedly my favorite chapter yet. But now Mal is thinking that they all need to start listening to River? Talk about a bizare twist. I need more. Please

Thursday, August 19, 2004 5:16 AM


Loved all of it, but especially when Zoe was relating her take on Harken's motivations. Can't wait to see how Mal takes to the new owner.

Friday, August 20, 2004 6:02 AM


Very well written. So much depth of feeling. As my 14-year-old cousin might say, "You're rocking the suburbs."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 10:15 PM


Bliss. Perfect. Divine.

"You bring out the devil ... Yeah, it's a gift of mine." So on the button, it's edible.

"I want to confess, I'll go talk to the Preacher" "Well he is primed for it, let me tell you." Hee!

And kamikaze Wash! Utterly true to the character.

And then that lovely scene between Mal and Zoe that hints at so much, shot through with so much love it made me tingle. Beautiful.

Nice way to sing the victory song. So, where do we go from here?


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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.