BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

DESERTGIRL

Snowball - Chapter 2
Friday, December 21, 2007

Mal discovers he does not have as much control over of his life as he thought and he learns just how people conduct legal type business deals near the Core. Chapter 2 of 11, find out all about it in my blog.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2564    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Set six months after the BDM, with standard pairings: Simon and Kaylee, Mal and Inara angst.

If you haven’t read chapter 1, I would recommend going back to http://www.fireflyfans.net/bluesun.aspx?bid=19146

Of course - Its Joss’s world and his characters, but I sure am enjoying playing with them.

Thanks to Mal4prez for the wonderful beta type advice and thanks to my wonderful husband for catching more typo’s than there are planets in the verse.

*******

Chapter 2

Starlight filled the darkened bridge, shining in through the windows to give the area a silvery glow. Only the consoles with their many colored lights blinking on and off were awash with color. The effect made the bridge a quiet, relaxing place; a good place to think away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the ship. At least it was normally, but not this afternoon.

“Firefly class transport, this is port control. Please identify yourself,” the no-nonsense female voice coming over the com unit said for the third time as Mal alternated punching buttons and answering, to no avail. Something must still be broken in the communications system; he thought to himself as he punched in every access code they had ever used onboard Serenity, and then some.

“Kaylee! River!” Mal shouted both names as loud as he could in the general direction of the bridge hatchway before standing and repeating the call into the intraship com system. Before he finished his demand that Kaylee get up and fix the gorram consol again, both women appeared on the bridge.

Kaylee entered first. As she walked toward him, he noticed she was in the process of wiping some pink goo off her arms and face with a rag that looked suspiciously like one of his old shirts. River was right behind her. Around her waist she was wearing a funny looking orange apron and was covered in what appeared to be flour.

Mal took one look at them and knew instantly they were up to some sort of mischief. Something about these two women… alone they were top notch crew mates, geniuses in their fields. But when together, they were a recipe for trouble. He momentarily considered which problem he should address first, the fact the com didn’t work, or the fact that both women were covered in substances that should be eaten not worn. Food costs money, he thought to himself. But before he could address either topic, River slipped directly past him and slid into the pilot’s chair, hands dancing over the keypads.

Mal could hear her soft voice as she passed him, almost inaudible under the hum of the engine. “Not broken, locked.”

River’s hands flew over the controls, and then she spoke into the mic. “Port control, this is firefly class transport Serenity, requesting permission for landing.” River clicked off the mic and glancing up at Mal, she smiled. Instead of telling him why she had bothered to lock the comms however, she answered his other less pressing unspoken query. “Sugar cookies, you know for the holiday.”

“What holiday?” Mal began but was interrupted by port control.

“Serenity, please state the nature of your business.”

River leaned into the mic as she spoke, “Cargo delivery, do you need specifics?”

“Owner and delivery location will be sufficient,” the female voice replied.

Mal felt his jaw drop slightly at River’s words, but he was quick to shut it, and hoped his momentary shock was imperceptible to the women on the bridge. He just did not understand how River, who was usually so cryptic, could manage to sound completely coherent and in control whenever she spoke with a port control office. This warranted a conversation with his pilot and her brother, he decided, along with a discussion on the importance of not wasting food on non-existent holidays.

He heard a snap in front of his face. River was staring at him, waiting for a response. Her left hand was in the air, fingers inches from his face.

“Lies or truth. Your call, Captain.”

“This is a legitimate run, tell ‘er the truth. Contact’s Jasper Espinoza; destination’s the southern end of New Glenwood. - What holiday?”

River ignored that question, instead queuing the com and repeating the name and destination to port control.

“Copy that Serenity. You are qualified for a class C landing permit. I’m uploading a map now that states where you will be allowed to land and what locations your crew may visit during your stay. Enjoy yourself on Hawthorne, current temperature is 36 degrees and 6 inches of fresh powder fell in New Glenwood during the past 24 hours.”

Mal looked down at the colorized map that appeared before him on the vid. While beautiful, it made absolutely no sense to him.

“Ain’t it pretty?” Kaylee said, looking over his shoulder.

“We’re class C,” River interpreted for them. “That means we have to stay within the green zones. Yellow zones are class B, local workers may be admitted if they can afford the tickets. Blue zones are class A, for resort guests.”

They all examined the map. Green blobs were scattered throughout, surrounding what looked like towns and industrialized zones. The majority of the green zones were surrounded by yellow splotches. These yellow zones were further divided into areas each bearing a name like Powderhaven, and Snowpoint. But by far, the majority of the map was blue.

“Simon and I used to sneak off and ski The Pines.” River pointed to a dot located in a yellow splotch. “Mother was furious when she found out. Said you can’t trust workers, said locals are dangerous when off duty.” River shook her head in disgust. “Mother wasn’t very smart.”

“Sounds like she wasn’t at that,” Mal said, looking up from the map. “Doesn’t matter what zones we’re not welcome in, though. We go in, drop the goods, and get off. No time for snow angels.” Mal stood up and began to walk off the bridge then turned back to the women. “Sugar Cookies?”

“For the holiday,” River said, nodding. Kaylee stood next to her nodding as well.

“And you’re not gunna to tell me what holiday?”

“Curmudgeon!” River shot the accusation at him like she had fired a pistol. “Bad to forget holidays, means you’re old and grumpy.” Kaylee looked like she was about to burst from laughter. Something was going on here and he probably didn’t want to find out what it was.

Mal looked from one woman to the other, both covered in food and both grinning from ear to ear. Shaking his head, he stalked off the bridge. He supposed that a little spilled flour and sugar was worth the moral boost that fresh baked cookies would bring. There were no damned holidays this time of year, no matter what they said.

He let his feet carry him down the stairs towards the passenger dorms and the storage lockers, careful to go the back way and avoid the kitchen. He was in no mood to see the mess that probably remained there, nor was he in the mood for cookies. They would land in a few hours time; he ought to go over the books and see if they had enough money to pick up supplies on Hawthorne. But that chore wasn’t appealing – he didn’t have to go over the books to know there was not near enough for what they needed. As he descended the stairs outside the infirmary, he finally decided on spending the next few hours inventorying the storage lockers, something tedious that would allow him to take his mind off the bad feeling he was developing about this supposed milk run.

Crossing the common room, he nodded at Simon who was bent over his screen in the infirmary. The doc looked to be examining something intently on the cortex. Mal was sure he didn’t even notice him. The metal on metal clanged as Mal opened the storage locker causing the doctor to jump at the noise. Mal smiled, after almost two years, he still enjoyed setting Simon off kilter.

“I’m a bad man,” he thought to himself as he picked up a barcode reader.

He took the small gray box and held it by its long handle. Pushing the blue button on the top, he caused the red laser light to fall on a box of bullets. Bullets were as good a place as any to start scanning the contents of the room.

After what seemed like hours he set down the reader. All he had to do was download his data into Serenity and she would tell him what supplies he needed and prioritize them. The system was River’s idea. River, it seemed, worked out her grief with numbers. In the weeks after Wash and Book’s deaths she had spent hours typing on consoles and fiddling with electronics. Then one day she had presented him with this new inventory system, only asking if he agreed with the way she had prioritized the supplies. It had taken a little getting used to, but he had to admit the system was efficient. He had in the past been known to forget certain things, and buy too many of others. They had been eating more canned vegetables and less protein over the last few months and all their guns had enough ammunition for each of their jobs.

“Captain, there’s a wave from Jasper.” River’s voice floated through the storage room from the speaker on the wall. “I’m sending it through to the infirmary. Simon, time to stop brooding; captain needs the cortex screen.”

As he was stepping out of the storage room, Mal heard Simon say a few choice words about his sister overriding his screen, before he had a chance to save his work. But Simon had recovered in the few moments it took to reach the doorway. He stepped away from the consol as Mal entered, motioning for him to take a seat. Immediately, Jasper’s face filled the screen.

“Well, Captain Reynolds, I trust that your cortex access is working better than it was yesterday. I’d hate to have you land without the proper transmit codes; it would cause an inordinate amount of trouble for me and mine.” Jasper’s voice dripped with condescension.

Simon raised his eyebrow at this statement but didn’t say anything. Apparently, it was not just Mal that picked up the haughtiness in this man’s demeanor. He was glad that Jasper couldn’t see the doctor where he stood a few feet from the screen. It took all his concentration to keep a mask of professionalism on his own face. He needed this to go smooth, even if he was dealing with a ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng. “Seems my mechanic’s found and destroyed all the consol eating space monkeys on this ship, so we are good to go,” Mal replied, his fingers crossed out of site of the camera.

“Glad to hear it, Captain Reynolds. Upon landing, you will give port authority the codes I am currently uploading. This will alert my men that you have arrived and transmit your location. My men will then check and transfer the cargo. Once the condition of the cargo has been approved, I will transfer payment into your account.”

What kind of operation did this man think he was dealing with? Mal wondered. “I’d prefer to receive payment in cash. Credits or platinum, don’t matter to me: whichever you prefer.”

“Captain Reynolds, you seriously expect me to hand over that kind of money to an underling? Neither of us would ever see it or the cargo again. No, direct transfer is the only safe way to do business. If you’d like you can check the account balances before you release the cargo.”

Mal was liking dealing with this man less and less. “Right, I see what you mean,” Mal lied. “Of course I don’t carry my account number on me. I’ll wave you back in a few minutes with the number. That suit ya?”

“That will be fine, Captain Reynolds. I will be expecting to hear from you.” The screen turned black and Jasper’s face disappeared.

“Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiouh doh sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo. This run just keeps getting better and better all the time.” Mal looked up at Simon. “Remind me next time I say we’re going to do a legal run how much trouble they are.”

Simon nodded.

Mal stared at the blank cortex screen for a few more minutes and issued another long string of Chinese curses. Reflecting back at him was his own face; he looked tired and frustrated. He didn’t have financial accounts since accounts allowed a person to be traced. He preferred to fly under the radar, with no one knowing where he was at any given time. Cash was the only way to be free. Behind him, Simon’s reflection looked just as tired as his but not as frustrated. Simon seemed to have a gleam in his eye, one that had not been there a few months before. Suddenly, a thought occurred to Mal.

“Simon, you still have an account somewhere, don’t you?” Mal asked, knowing the answer but still hopeful all the same.

“No, the alliance crashed all my accounts when I left Osiris to rescue River. I figured it was best not to fight it, given our status as wanted fugitives.”

“And now that the warrants have been lifted?” Mal asked. “You investigated trying to see if any of those accounts are open again?”

Simon shook his head. “Given that we’ve not had any confirmation that those warrants were actually rescinded, I decided the accounts were better left alone. River and I live fine here on Serenity. We don’t need or want the money.”

“Yup, probably the smartest move leaving them alone.” Mal stood up, discouraged that his first idea had not panned out. There was only one person on this ship who had credit accounts that were in regular use. He hated asking her help, hated asking anything of her that would legally connect her to Serenity, but it seemed he had no choice.

Mal could hear the clank of Jayne’s weights with each step he took up the stairs. He stopped midway and simply listened to the rhythm, concentrating on Inara. These days a person never knew how she was going to react to things. He continued the climb to the shuttle bay which did not take nearly as long as he wanted it to. If he was going to formulate a good plan to gain Inara’s assistance, he would need at least a few more of Jayne’s sets. This time, just plain asking her, would have to do.

Truth be told, Inara had been the height of confusion for him these past six months. After Miranda, she asked Mal to return to the training house to retrieve her belongings. It had taken hours to load all her boxes and trunks into the shuttle, but even so, they had waited for Inara to emerge from the house for most of the day. When she emerged with an entire years rent, in platinum, he’d simply accepted it, thankful she was going to stay. She had never told him who she had met with or what had been discussed, but then again, he had not asked.

Inara’d returned to Serenity that day under a bubble of elation from everyone on the crew. After the loss of two of their crew members, it just felt better when she was wondering Serenity’s halls. Kaylee had spent most of the week helping her redecorate her shuttle, so that it was as grand if not grander than it had been before she left. But after that initial flurry of activity, Inara did not seem too excited to entertain clients. For a while, Mal thought perhaps he might have a chance with her, that she had stayed for him, but lately they fought more than ever before.

Not that Inara was working as a companion. In the past six months he could count on one hand the number of times she had scheduled appointments off the ship. Often she could be found meditating or silently filling up page after page with hand drawn calligraphy. It went unspoken when she began performing some of the manual labor that made the ship into a home, taking on many chores left undone by the death of two of their crew mates. Inara had been occasionally pitching in on jobs here and there. But even so, he hated to ask for her help.

Mal was glad she was back, even if he wasn’t exactly sure what her status on the ship was anymore. He raised his hand and rapped on the open hatch leading to her shuttle. There was no time to plan, best get this over with.

“Qingjin,” Inara responded. She rose from the place she had been sitting cross-legged on the floor and gestured for him to come sit on the sofa.

“You knocked.” She didn’t hide the irony in her voice as she spoke. “You must really need to get on my good side, if you’ll go so far as to knock.”

Mal shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What makes you say that? Can’t a friend simply come to visit you, maybe enjoy some tea and conversation?”

“Mal,” Inara said bluntly, “You hate tea. Every time I serve you tea you accuse me of manipulating you into doing something foolish. And as far as conversation, have we ever had a conversation that didn’t result in a fight?”

“Well, sure we have, ‘Nara. There was that time that…”

Inara stopped him mid sentence. “What do you want Mal?”

“Well,” Mal began, not sure exactly how he wanted to phrase his request. “Our legal milky type run has hit a glitch.”

Inara paused mid-sip at his words. In Mal’s mind, where Inara was concerned, that was equivalent to snorting water through one’s nose.

This was not going to go well. He could sense it. She was in a bad mood before he even walked in the door. It would get worse when she realized he needed to make use of some of her companion resources.

“You don’t say.” Inara set her tea cup on the table. “A glitch, what an odd occurrence.”

“Now see here ‘Nara. You’ve got no business mocking the jobs I do. I keep food on the table and fuel in the engine.”

“Forgive my momentary rashness Mal.” Inara’s face melted into the genteel mask Mal so often saw on her these days. “How can I help you?”

Mal explained about the delivery to Hawthorne, how they needed to do a legal run every so often to keep their papers relatively in date. He told her how Jasper had been recommended to him by Badger as an upstanding fellow, ending finally with a rant about the values of credit accounts verses cash.

Inara did not immediately respond to his request. Instead she picked up her tea and took a long sip. Carefully, she returned the cup to the table and straightened her skirt before at last she spoke.

“So your asking me if I have a credit account you can have this money deposited into?” Inara was looking directly at him reading his body language as she spoke. “One that cannot necessarily be traced back to either of us?”

Mal nodded. Her continued gaze was making him uncomfortable; it was as if she was appraising his worthiness of her trusting him with her deepest secrets.

“River told me that you were not all that excited about the holiday celebrations she’s planned.”

Mal stared at her momentarily. Stunned by this sudden turn in the conversation he fiddled with his suspenders and looked around the room.

“I told River that pink was not really the best choice for the occasion,” Inara continued, “but it was the only icing they could find. Icing apparently is not a high priority on the supply list.”

Inara was still reading him as she spoke. Was she just trying to put him off balance? Trying to see if he had any idea what supposed holiday they were celebrating? Perhaps she was just making small talk while she considered his request? He could play along he decided.

“Pink’s not a bad color,” Mal began tentatively. “Depends on the holiday being celebrated, I s’pose.”

“I’m glad to hear you don’t mind pink. Kaylee was worried you’d stop the celebration entirely.”

Inara it seemed was not going to tell him what the gorram holiday was either. Damn women and their tendency to stick together. Mal had the idea that if he started to make a stink about this pretend holiday, Inara would not help him, out of solidarity. He needed her help, so he kept quiet.

“As it so happens…” Inara picked up her cup from the table as she shifted the subject back to credit accounts. “I have just the sort of account you need. Some of my clients would rather not have the extent of my fees appear on financial statements available to others.” She took a sip of tea, letting the pause in the conversation challenge him to comment on her profession. He didn’t bite. He needed her help too much to risk her changing her mind.

When he didn’t comment, Inara set down her cup. She reached over and slowly opened a thin drawer in the table, withdrawing a sheet of smooth creamy paper and a black pen. Gracefully, she printed a string of twenty numbers interspersed with several letters and a few Chinese characters on the sheet and handed it to him.

“Tell Jasper to deposit the funds into this account. We’ll have to leave it there for about two weeks, and then we can transfer it to one of my other accounts where I can convert it to platinum on our next stop planetside.”

Mal glanced at the beautiful printing on the creamy paper he held in his hand. It was as soft as he imagined her skin to be. Not that he would ever get the chance to touch her skin. Trying would do about as much good as this money was going to do him. He needed the funds now, for fuel and food. Two weeks was a long time. But what choice did he have?

“That’ll have to do,” Mal said as he stood and walked out of the shuttle, mumbling as he went about the tendency of his deals never to go smooth.

“You’re welcome!” he heard her yell as he left.

COMMENTS

Friday, December 21, 2007 10:35 AM

LEIASKY


Hee! I LOVE that Mal kept going back to his 'what holiday' question! And the conversation with Inara was so wonderfully done! It had to just kill him to make that request of her.

Still loving it and can't wait to see what happens next!

Saturday, December 22, 2007 7:08 AM

PLATONIST


Holiday? what are those two girls planning?

And something is definetly amiss with Inara (much like I envision her post Miranda) and Mal is like WTF is up with her? love that! and true to Mal's constant spin where she is concerned, and the conversation was well done.

Monday, December 24, 2007 1:03 AM

WYTCHCROFT


i really enjoy your writings:)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 8:36 AM

MAL4PREZ


I can so see Inara forcing Mal to accept pink frosting in exchange for her help LOL! At least, I think she was being subtle about "suggesting" that LOL!

Fun chapter!


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