BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MERRYK

Crew, But Not - Chapter 10
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The job is turning out to be troublesome. What's up with Lord Tembriar, and what will the crew do about the incoming feds?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2464    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Chapter 10

There was only one chair in the holding area and Mal had appropriated it, sitting with his back slouched and his arms crossed over his chest as he brooded in the wall’s general direction. The fingers of one hand repetitively tapped the other arm, but other than that he did not move. Jayne was sitting slumped on the floor, flicking the little bits he had found on the floor, while Zoe leaned up against the wall.

“How long’s it been?” asked Jayne in a low voice.

“Half hour or so,” answered Zoe.

“What are they doing, exactly?” asked Jayne again.

“They’ve sent for the feds already,” answered Zoe, having, after all, nothing else to do. “They’ll probably send some to the ship, and send out a message back to Boros for confirmation. We’ll probably be questioned as well.”

“That ain’t so bad,” said Jayne. “Why’s Mal all wrung up?”

“Because, Jayne,” said Zoe, losing some of the patience in her tone, “they’re going to search Serenity.”

“We ain’t got anymore goods than this load,” said Jayne comfortably.

“No,” said Zoe. “Just fugitives.”

“Tzao-gao,” Jayne growled under his breath.

“The doctor’s got brains—there’s a chance he’ll see it coming.”

“Brains ain’t everything, I know that,” countered Jayne. “We’re humped.”

“A little caution can make up for general survival skills,” said Zoe.

Jayne sighed and flicked another wood chip. “We’re humped.”

~*~*~*~*~

River was plucking at the sofa cushion again, though she no longer talked of it as surgery. In fact, she was not speaking at all. Simon had found the cushion’s state too hard to take, and had gone for a needle and thread; one practical use for surgical skills discovered.

“Found your calling on this ship as a seamster?” came an amused voice from behind him. Simon looked up and saw Book smiling down on him, Bible in hand.

“Ah, no,” he answered, “it’s just, well—”

“It was broken,” said River, breaking her silence.

“Irritating,” amended Simon. “I can’t stand things in disrepair.”

“No surprise that you have a good stitch,” commented Book, going to the kitchen counter to prepare food. “Where is everyone? I was praying this morning, didn’t see anyone after last night.”

“Doing the job, for the most part,” answered Simon, turning back to the cushion. “I think Kaylee went into town, and Wash—well, I don’t know what he’s doing, but he didn’t leave the ship.”

“Greenleaf is a nice place, from what I remember,” mused Book.

“We need to go, Simon,” added River.

“What?” asked Simon.

“Go,” she said. “Away.”

“To town?” asked Simon.

River nodded. “Kaylee.”

Simon didn’t know how to explain this again, and he cleared his throat, trying to find the words. He didn’t have to.

“It’s not good to go wandering,” said Book, coming over with his breakfast. “Things aren’t always safe, for you and your brother.”

River looked to him, some distress showing on her face. “Not safe here,” she said, her voice almost questioning. “Just go, just look.”

“That’s really not a good idea,” said Simon.

“Find treats,” she said, a hint of a smile creeping to her face. “Please?”

“I—we can’t, River,” said Simon, “really. I’m sorry, it’s just not safe.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll bring you something back,” said Book suddenly, crouching down to her level and smiling. “How will that do?”

She drew back a little, casting down her eyes and fiddling with a piece of fluff from the cushion, but then she looked back up. “It works,” she muttered.

Simon let out a sigh and Book clapped him on the back before standing up. “Thank you,” said Simon quietly with relief. He watched as she turned back to her cushion, as if no longer connected to her surroundings. “Sometimes—I just don’t know what to do with her.”

“No one expects you to,” said Book before sitting at the table to eat.

Simon wondered if he was expected to believe that.

~*~*~*~*~

Jayne was now leaning against the wall, sighing heavily every so often. Zoe had closed her eyes, and was rubbing her forehead with her fingertips in small circular motions. Mal had tipped back his chair and rested his chin on his chest, still staring broodily.

The door then opened in front of them, and all looked up to see Lord Tembriar enter behind a guard.

“Sir, there is no new information,” said the guard.

“I don’t need anything new yet,” answered Lord Tembriar, swallowing and watching his prisoners carefully. “No weapons?”

“Nothing, your lordship,” said the guard.

Lord Tembriar stood for a moment, clasping his hands in front of him while the guard stood patiently waiting. “Goodbye now,” said Lord Tembriar impatiently, and the guard turned and left. The heavy door shut behind him, and the loud slide and clink of the lock reminded them all exactly where they were.

“I don’t conjure you’ve come to apologize,” said Mal, looking up.

“Of course not, you idiot,” snapped Lord Tembriar. “Don’t play around with the charming brigand act! I know your type, and I can see why you got away with this so far, but you must be insane to think it would work on me. Not that insanity’s a rare thing.”

“Insane?” asked Mal without curiosity, letting all four legs of his chair touch the floor again and leaning on his knees.

“I told you, I don’t want anything to do with you anymore,” explained Lord Tembriar pleadingly. “I didn’t think you’d be so insistent. I just want a quiet, safe life.”

“We’re not interfering with that,” said Zoe, as Mal seemed to be without the right words. She glanced to him, while Jayne listened with a lost look on his face.

“Don’t go giving me fancy speeches, I heard them all,” said Lord Tembriar adamantly. “I was in for a while, the inner circle, though maybe you’re not high enough to know all that.”

“What?” asked Jayne, shaking his head.

“I’m thinking you’re putting the insanity on the wrong culprit here,” said Mal. “Or you’ve got the wrong men.”

“Look brown enough to me,” said Lord Tembriar shortly, gesturing almost frantically towards Mal.

Mal looked down at his coat, and then up at his captor. “That’s true, but don’t make you any less confusing. Except—” he paused and looked back to Zoe. A light came into his eyes. “I know exactly what you mean,” he said soothingly, his posture switching to something non-threatening. “This was out of the question, and I’ll make sure you’re not bothered again.”

“You’re desperate, you’re lying,” accused Lord Tembriar.

“I assure you, we won’t trouble you again if you just let us go in peace. But bringing in the feds will only muck things worse,” said Mal.

Jayne looked horribly out of the loop, but Zoe’s emotionless face did not seem to help him at all.

“The feds have no reason to believe whatever story you tell them,” said Lord Tembriar.

“You feel safe in having covered your tracks, but why take the risk?” asked Mal pursuadingly. “I’m a fair man, with no reason to pursue you any further.”

Lord Tembriar stepped closer to him, moving his hands to clasp behind his back as he swallowed again. “You’re too smooth,” he said.

“Don’t make what I’m saying a lie,” said Mal with a half-laugh.

No one spoke. Lord Tembriar blinked, and Mal gave a quirky smile that was meant to be encouraging. Jayne seemed to be trying to add things up in his mind, while Zoe still stood still. Mal’s smile faded a little as no word came, but it was still hopeful. Lord Tembriar’s left eyebrow twitched.

~*~*~*~*~

Looking over his notes, Simon was baffled by their inconsistency. Though as factual as possible, the experiences reported did not make coherent sense. As far as he knew, River was a unique case, which meant that he would have to create a new treatment. Trauma surgeons were not trained for that, and he was certainly not ready. All his life he had prepared, hours before each test, days before each exam, weeks before each project, years before each step up the ladder of medical success. And though he had prepared for almost two years to rescue his sister, he had failed to account for that which should have crossed his mind: diagnosis and treatment. He had failed in so many ways, and it had only been three weeks since the rescue.

Unfortunately, he could not turn back time and major in psychology nor intern with the most esteemed neuroscientists. He had little experience with failure, but he would try—he had to try. He couldn’t face ultimate failure.

River watched him from where she sat in the corner of the infirmary, the darkest one, under the overhanging counter. She had a book in her hands, and she absent-mindedly caressed the pages, but her eyes were fixed on Simon. He glanced up and met her gaze every so often, but it only added to his causes to frown. She was expecting something, and yet she was not asking for anything from him.

From across the ship he heard the landing platform lower—or at least he hoped it was that—and then the sound of voices. Footsteps dashed across the distance, and then he heard Kaylee distinctly.

“Doctor? Doctor!”

Heart rate rose, and he put down his book and walked to the doorway as Kaylee ran up to it.

“Feds are coming,” she said breathlessly, and Simon went into action.

“What do you mean?” he asked, going quickly back to take River’s hand and help her up.

“Come,” said Book, close on Kaylee’s heels. “There isn’t much time.’’ Simon looked back at his medical things, and Book saw and nodded. “I’ll get it, son.”

“What’s going on?” asked Simon, as he followed Kaylee out the door.

“I don’t know,” said Kaylee nervously. “I was just in town and I saw them asking questions. I heard ‘Serenity’, and I ran back. Shepherd Book was on the way.”

They reached Simon and River’s rooms, and Kaylee started grabbing together River’s things while Simon opened his bags and began stuffing things in.

“I think our friend Dobson might have gotten off more information than we thought,” said Book, coming in with two bags of Simon’s medical gear. “This isn’t all, but the rest can be attributed to standard infirmary stock if we’re questioned.”

“What’s the plan exactly?” asked Simon, hurriedly packing.

“I thought we could maybe hide you on Serenity,” said Kaylee, coming across the hall with River’s things in a pillowcase.

“Federal officers aren’t generally idiots,” said Simon. “They’ll search.”

“Exactly,” said Book, taking the pillowcase from Kaylee and helping Simon get the bags together. “We’ll need to get you away from the ship.”

“Won’t they look in town next if we aren’t on the ship?” asked Simon.

“They’ll look for fugitives, a young brother and sister, running away from the area,” said Book in a meaningful tone.

“And they’ll find that,” said Kaylee, unsure. “Unless they’re disguised,” she added, catching on.

Book nodded, but Simon shook his head. “No, no, that’s not a good plan at all,” he said. “River—she’s not predictable—and I can’t—”

“There’s no time for that,” said Book. “We probably have two or three minutes to get you away,” he added, putting a hand on Simon’s shoulder.

“I’ll prep the mule,” said Kaylee, popping off to do her part.

“I’ve thought of something that might work,” said Book. “Come.” He walked out to his room while Simon followed leading River.

~*~*~*~*~

“Neither of us want any trouble, you’re sure to understand that,” continued Mal to Lord Tembriar. “I’ll leave this planet tomorrow, won’t see you again, cause I know you’d definitely call the feds then.”

“Why should I believe you don’t want my reputation damaged for the troubles you think I’ve caused?” queried Lord Tembriar, looking closely at Mal.

“It’d hurt the cause more, right?” asked Mal hopefully.

For a moment Lord Tembriar looked convinced, but then he shook his head. “No, I had it right the first time. The feds take you for stolen cargo and fraud, what have I got to lose? Any accusations will be the words of a desperate man. I let you go, I’m complicit and you have evidence that may hang over my head. No, what’s in my best interests is not what’s in yours.” He stood up straight again. “This is over and done with.”

“You don’t know that they won’t investigate,” added Mal, standing up and calling after him.

“And you have no idea the standing I have in this community,” answered Lord Tembriar confidently.

“You’re not that secure, or you wouldn’t have come to negotiate,” said Mal.

Lord Tembriar swallowed, shrugged, and whisked himself out of the room.

“What the hell was that?” demanded Jayne.

“Well, ain’t this a fair bit of twisted go-se,” said Mal darkly.

“You have a clue to all this?” asked Zoe, coming over to Mal.

“Yeah, that I do,” said Mal somewhat absently, walking over to the far wall and examining the seams in the metal. “Our fine employer used to be an Underground Browncoat.”

“Say what?” asked Jayne.

“I thought you said we were hired as independent contractors, not Independent contractors, sir,” responded Zoe.

Jayne was speechless at the calm understanding that seemed to be between his superior officers, and also seemed to have missed the inflection of Zoe’s words.

“Well, there’s yet been no evidence that I’m entirely infallible,” said Mal, leaning over and running his hand along the lower edge of the wall.

“True. What clued you in here?”

“His attention to my coat,” said Mal. “Noticed from the first visit that he gave it an extra-long look, but it was the final straw this time. Did help to know about the chickens.”

“Now wait here a damn minute,” began Jayne. “What do chickens have to do with anything?”

“The Underground Browncoats plan to overthrow the Alliance,” explained Zoe, as Mal’s attention was elsewhere. “They’re small, futilely so, but full of foolish passion. They work on being self-sufficient, in crops, food, medicine, materials, and so on, so that they can use some Outer Rim planets as strongholds when they mount their campaign. They have to ship all these supplies secretly to keep the Alliance from knowing their headquarters.” Zoe ended with a dry scorn and a slight shake of the head.

“As if the Alliance would consider them a threat,” muttered Mal.

“How do you explain the rest, sir?” asked Zoe.

“Well, Lord Tembriar clearly wanted to leave his old world behind, and he’s paranoid at being followed by that old life. His wife is clearly lacking some important aspects for being a suitable companion to a covert operative of an illegal organization, so he had to leave her behind, especially so that she wouldn’t accidentally reveal his dark past when he abandoned it.” Mal stopped, stood up straight and looked up at the tiny windows on either side of the room. “He came out here, barricaded himself from society and possible members who might be after him for reasons which aren’t quite fathomable to me, and did pretty well until his wife hired us. She clearly didn’t know the ramifications of his dealings, but knew enough that she thought he would approve of us, and so sent along his purposely abandoned items with us. He thought we were trying to blackmail him, and so we’re here.”

“You think the feds have reached Serenity?” asked Zoe, as Jayne slowly digested the information.

“They are efficient,” acknowledged Mal wearily. “There’s a good chance our infamous new passengers have been bound, and even if by some chance they haven’t, we need to escape before they make it here.”

“Don’t think this fella goes for dumb cells,” said Jayne skeptically, not moving to join Zoe and Mal with their inspection.

“No, the paranoid ones do have fine criminal housing,” agreed Mal. “But the more focused you are on something, the more little details you’ll account for and the more you’ll miss something more important right under your nose. Zoe, let me up.”

Zoe knelt and interlocked her fingers, giving Mal a lift to window-level.

“Ah, this is good,” said Mal. He leapt down. “We’re on the aboveground level, and the ceiling leads into the buffer zone between us and the roof. It’s not strongly attached, and as the building drops straight off on all sides, there are no guards.”

“So what’re we gonna do, burst through the roof with our heads so we can jump to our death?” scoffed Jayne.

“Well, yes to the first, though not exactly heads or ‘our’, but no to the second,” explained Mal. “How hard can you hit, Jayne?”

~*~*~*~*~

Serenity sat peacefully on the docks, ramp lowered and cargo clearly visible. Kaylee leaned back in a lawn chair in the sun, and waited as the troop of federal officers approached.

“Looking for passage?” she called cheerily. “We’ve got the smoothest ride—”

“Don’t waste your pitch, sweetheart,” commanded the head officer chillily. “I’m Officer Jarndyce, and I need to speak to your superior officer.”

“Oh, you want to talk to Wash,” Kaylee answered, stumbling a bit and looking serious. “I’ll—he’s just inside.” She skittered up the ramp, nearly tripping over her lawn chair as the feds followed. “We’re not in trouble, are we?” she asked nervously, then pressed the intercom button. “Wash? These feds wanna talk to you.”

“Your charges, if they are filed, will be told to you at a later point,” said Jarndyce, gesturing with his hands for the officers to search the cargo bay. “A Firefly, eh?” He pulled out a notepad and marked something down. “Interesting.”

“She’s pretty, ain’t she,” Kaylee ventured shyly.

“A good design,” said Jarndyce haughtily, but before Kaylee could respond, he finished with, “for smugglers especially.”

“We’re not smugglers,” protested Kaylee.

“The containers and safety straps are all Alliance grade,” reported one of the officers who was now returning to Jarndyce. “Everything seems good.”

“Search the entire ship,” said Jarndyce. “Anything out of the ordinary, you let me know.”

“Uh, what exactly is wrong, officer?” asked Wash, hopping down the stairs, Hawaiian shirt billowing behind him.

Jarndyce looked to him, then scribbled on his pad. “You are?”

“Hoban Washburn, pilot,” said Wash. “Kaylee, what are they doing on the boat?”

“Dunno, he won’t tell me,” said Kaylee.

“This isn’t a problem with Mal, is it?” asked Wash suspiciously.

“Captain Reynolds?” asked Jarndyce. “Why, is he known for getting you in trouble?” he added quickly, with a sharp glance.

“Um, well, no,” Wash said, stumbling a little. He cast a quick glance to Kaylee, also somewhat surprised.

“Not really,” she said. “Just starts bar fights sometimes.”

“I assure you, we wouldn’t be wasting our time on something like that,” said Jarndyce. He finished his writing, while Wash and Kaylee exchanged hasty worried looks, and then looked back up to them. “Now, I’d like to see some paperwork on this cargo.”

“Paperwork?” asked Wash.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, December 5, 2007 10:53 PM

JANE0904


This is going along really nicely! Tembriar sounds, unfortunately, like an idiot, but it's not above idiots to throw a spanner into the works. But I wonder what Book's plan is ...

Friday, December 7, 2007 4:01 AM

KATESFRIEND


Beautifully written and exciting! Glad Mal figured it out in time and that River can be figured out in time to save the ship. Very well done!


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