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Revoution--Part IV--Conspiracy Theory (Repost)
Monday, November 12, 2007

Mal gets disturbing news from several fronts.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1243    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal sank heavily into the pilot’s chair, momentarily mesmerized by the news on the cortex screen.

“Think it’s true, sir?” Zoe asked, as the report began to repeat for the second time with no response from Mal.

“Which part?” Mal asked hollowly.

Zoe raised one eyebrow. “I’m assumin’ Senator Landry is really dead, sir. But the part about who did it…not so sure about that.”

“Doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?” Mal replied. “Wasn’t Landry one of the few Senators who called for amnesty for the Independent POWs at the end of the war?”

“I believe so, sir,” Zoe said. “Think he also presided over the hearings to remove the members of Parliament who tried to cover up what happened on Miranda. Well-respected among the Rim worlds, too. Can’t see why he’d be a target for the ‘leaders of a new Independent Army’. D’ya suppose there even is such a thing?”

“Ain’t rightly sure,” Mal answered. “But if there is, I can’t quite wrap my head around why they’d target Landry instead of some of the other members of Parliament. He seemed to lean toward the cause of the Independents. More like to have been killed by Alliance sympathizers, I conjure. Maybehaps it’s just being reported this way to get both sides itchin’ for a fight. Alliance is like to use it to come down hard on any resistance as may be out there.”

“And come down hard on folk like us,” Zoe observed dryly.

Mal nodded soberly. “Most like.”

Zoe leaned one hip against the console, arms folded tightly across her chest. “War comes, sir, I ain’t altogether sure I got it in me to fight in a trench somewhere. You?”

“I’m thinkin’ we’ve done enough of that kinda’ fightin’ to last us three days past eternity,” Mal answered soberly. “And I got no notion to leave this crew whilst I go off on a fool’s errand. Can’t see as how there’ll be a place in the ‘verse safe enough to leave River and Adam and Anya.”

“Nor can I, sir,” Zoe replied, relief apparent in her voice.

They regarded each other soberly, both aware that if war did come and one of them chose to fight, the other would be hard pressed to refrain from joining up. Too many years of steadfast loyalty bound them together for such a choice to come easily, regardless of how much they loved the other people in their lives.

“I’m thinkin’ we’d best be takin’ all the jobs we can find right now, and savin’ some coin. If there is a new Independent Army organizing somewhere, it won’t be long before the go se hits the fan. Ports’ll close on most worlds and fuel’ll get scarce gorram quick. We’ll need to be dirtside somewhere to wait it out, I conjure.”

Zoe nodded her agreement. “Where you figure we’d be less likely to end up corpsified?”

“Apt to be less fightin’ on a Core world,” Mal observed. “But that ain’t exactly conducive to our long-term health with River and Simon like to be fugitives again.”

“And you, as well,” Zoe replied. “You ARE technically a prison escapee.”

Mal grimaced. “Thanks for the reminder.”

“Not a problem, sir,” Zoe said calmly.

River drifted onto the bridge. “Everything all right, ai ren?” she asked.

Mal rose, relinquishing the chair to Zoe. “Everything’s fine, bao bei. Just having a little palaver with Zoe.” Turning to Zoe, he said, “Night, then. Call me if need be.”

“Always do, sir,” Zoe replied easily, slipping gracefully into the chair.

XXXXXXXXXX

“We got problems, Mal,” Monty said, his face unusually haggard on the screen. “Ordinary trade routes getting to be littered with new Alliance checkpoints. They’re gearing up, Mal. Net’s bein’ cast, if you get my meanin’.”

Mal nodded. “I know, Monty. Have you seen all the new transport jobs posted running supplies to the outlying worlds with Alliance garrisons?”

“I seen ‘em,” Monty replied grimly. “But gorram it if I wouldn’t rather starve than aid and abet the bungers.”

“You plannin’ to fight if it comes to that?” Mal asked.

“Reckon so,” Monty said slowly. “I ain’t like you, Mal. Got no family to worry on, and a ship full of young men who are bustin’ for a fight.”

“Well, if it happens, I wish you well, Monty. I’ll do what I can to help you.”

“I know you will, Mal. Hope to all nine hells it don’t come to that.”

“Me too,” Mal agreed. “And thanks for the heads-up about the new checkpoints.”

“Anytime,” Monty said, cutting the transmission.

Mal sat staring at the blank screen, his mind heavy with the options facing him. The crew had effectively put their lives in his hands, all of them expressing relief that he and Zoe had no intention to be drawn into a second war. But, he was having no small amount of trouble figuring out how to provide a safe haven for them all.

Inara had suggested one of the Training Houses as a potential place for them, but she and Mal both knew that such an arrangement would be precarious at best should real hostilities break out. The Guild would, of course, back the Alliance, being both politically and financially astute. They might perhaps harbor Inara, but Mal had no illusions that they would lift one delicate finger to help the rest of Serenity’s crew. Inara could not in good conscience disagree, and would not leave the rest of the crew to their mercy.

Obviously, Simon and River had no place to go, and Kaylee was not apt to leave her husband for any reason in the ‘verse. Jayne would blend in anywhere with minimal effort, but Mal was reassured when he expressed his plan to stay with the crew, though Inara’s presence might account for that choice at least partially. Made a man proud to have such folk around him, Mal thought, not for the first time.

While he was occupied with such musings, another wave came through. Thinking dryly that the current situation seemed to be making him popular with the unprecedented occurrence of two waves in one day, he answered it. The Operative looked at him steadily.

Without preamble, the Operative began. “Captain Reynolds, is Mrs. Reynolds still with you?”

Amusement in his tone, Mal answered, “Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I haven’t managed to drive her away just yet.”

There was, however, no amusement in the tone of the Operative. “I am pleased to hear it, Captain. I was afraid I may have been too late.”

Noting the seriousness of his demeanor, Mal sat up straighter. “Too late for what? What’s happened?”

“I assume you’ve heard about the death of Senator Landry?”

“I have,” Mal answered. “You have anything to do with that?”

The Operative looked unaccustomedly startled. “Of course not. Landry was most sympathetic to certain of my own aims. To have him assassinated would have been foolhardy at best. And I am certain that no one associated with the underground movement was involved.”

“Good to know,” Mal said. “What does Senator Landry’s death have to do with River?’

“Nothing directly,” the Operative answered. “But several unanticipated things have all happened in a short span of time. They may all be coincidences, but…”

“You don’t believe in coincidences,” Mal finished.

“Exactly so,” the Operative acknowledged. “One of the staff here, a young woman with low-level access, was found murdered on the docks of Osiris last week. Looked like a routine assault, but I have a strange feeling about it. Then, two leaders of the movement disappeared within a day of each other. We’ve heard nothing from them since. And yesterday, the three Academy students who had joined forces with us to destroy the genetic material on the moon where you were incarcerated disappeared as well.”

“And you believe River may be in danger?” Mal asked tightly.

“I would assume that anyone who knew of the existence of those three students would also know about your wife. It stands to reason that she might be a potential target.”

“Any idea as to who in particular we should be looking out for?’

“Regrettably, none,” the Operative answered. “If my sources are to be believed, the Alliance had nothing to do with the disappearances. And obviously, the growing Independent faction would have no interest in hampering the work of the Underground Movement in any way. There is someone or something else at work here.”

“So there is an Independent faction that is being at least organized at this point?” Mal asked.

“Yes, but unlike the wild reports in the media, there is no ‘new Independent Army’ as yet. There are disgruntled people on every world spinning, but they are in need of good, solid leadership to become a real force. The Underground Movement has good leaders, two of whom are now missing, but they are not soldiers. They are ordinary citizens who have the desire for freedom from the Alliance, but no clue as to how to go about achieving it.”

“Yeah, sounds like a scenario I’ve seem play out before,” Mal said dryly.

“A man such as yourself would be an invaluable asset to such a group,” the Operative said delicately.

“Not interested in the job,” Mal replied flatly.

“Have your ideals changed so thoroughly?” the Operative asked, a hint of challenge in his voice.

“My ideals haven’t changed one whit. But my priorities have,” Mal answered evenly, refusing to be baited.

“I understand,” the Operative said, inclining his head. “But what if I could offer safety for your family and crew in exchange for your services? Would that satisfy your priorities and your ideals?”

“Well, it could be a mite tempting if you could promise such as that,” Mal replied. “But being as how five people under your care have recently disappeared and one has died, I ain’t all that inclined to put much confidence in your promise.”

“Touche’, Captain. It is apparently clear that I could not provide protection on Osiris. But your presence would not be required here anyway. And just to make my proposal plain, let me explain again exactly what I’m asking of you. I understand that you have no wish to lead an army, but I would ask that you help me to organize one. I need a military advisor, someone to train the men, help me pick the ones with leadership ability, organize the acquisition of supplies…”

“That all?” Mal asked sarcastically.

“By no means,” the Operative replied calmly. “There are a multitude of other tasks awaiting someone with your particular skills.” He paused. “But I am not asking you to lead the troops into battle, or even fight at all. Your job would simply be to prepare them for the reality of war, a set of circumstances with which you are more than familiar. When the war actually begins, your job would effectively be over.”

“Why do I think things wouldn’t be as simple as all that?” Mal asked.

The Operative smiled. “Because they rarely are.” He hesitated briefly, trying to accurately gauge Mal’s reaction.

“At least meet with me personally to discuss the possibilities,” he suggested. “Then talk it over with your wife and crew. Unless things escalate much more quickly than I anticipate, you still have time to decide once you hear me out. Please, Captain Reynolds, let us talk together face-to-face. I’d relish such an opportunity again.”

Mal smiled briefly. “Miss me, huh?” Turning serious, he added, “Send the coordinates. But make it somewhere you’re fair sure of. Ain’t risking my folk if I don’t have to.”

“Of course,” the Operative replied. “Stand by for the coordinates.”

XXXXXXXXXX

To be continued

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