BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

DESERTGIRL

Snowball - Chapter 4
Saturday, December 29, 2007

They can’t leave and they can’t stay. Fortunately for our BDH’s they have on board a criminal mastermind disguised as a doctor. This is the fourth of eleven chapters. Find out all about it in my blog.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2526    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 from the start, I would recommend going back to chapter 1 - http://www.fireflyfans.net/bluesun.aspx?bid=19146

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

Thanks to Mal4prez for the wonderful beta type advice and thanks to my amazing husband for catching the many typo’s.

Thanks to all the folks who took the time to leave me fluffy comments.

************

Chapter 4

Inara sat at the table in Serenity’s dining room surrounded by the rest of the crew, with the exception of River who was leaning against the hatch that led to the bridge. To all outward appearance it seemed as if Inara was calmly drinking tea and listening to the others, but inwardly she knew she was having one of her bad days.

Recent events were catching up to Inara. Her hands gripped the mug that she held so tightly it almost seemed like it would break. She couldn’t let go; if she let go, she would start to shake. Concentrating on the cup, she could control the terror that occasionally overcame her; she did not hear the hundred vicious Reavers coming after her, trying to get through the barricade. Instead, Inara listened to Kaylee and River talking, as they described Kaylee’s conversation with her friend from the work crew.

In the middle of the table lay a half empty plate of pink cookies, now forgotten by most of the crew, as was the holiday River had cooked up to improve the crew’s moral.

It had been a very enjoyable evening. Inara had even felt like laughing. Nevertheless, here they were again, sitting around the table, trying to decide how to handle yet another crisis. It seemed like someone was always after them. Would they never find peace? In her head Inara heard the Reavers start to break through the hatch.

Without warning, Inara felt a bump on her left shoulder; she reacted instinctively, striking out at its owner with her fist, defending herself. Her opponent grabbed her wrist; and only then did she realize that it was not a Reaver but Jayne.

“I’m just getting’ a cookie ‘Nara. No need to get tetchy,” the large mercenary said, releasing her hand and grabbing two of the pink cookies from the plate. Stuffing the cookies in his mouth, he addressed the group, “don’t see why were still sittin’ here. The law’s comin’, sounds like we best get.”

Zoë’s calm voice filled Inara’s ears. “Jayne, we need the cargo.”

“Why?” he responded, stuffing another cookie into his mouth.

“Because, we only have enough fuel to get to Beaumonde.” Mal’s voice was filled with frustration. “If we ain’t got cargo to sell, then we’re stuck for two weeks till the money from this run comes through. While were sittin’, we’ll be paying docking fees and eatin’ the vast amount of nothin’ we got on board. We sit in space, we’ll still be eatin’ nothin’ plus we’ll be running the engine usin’ up fuel we ain’t got.” He stood and began pacing around the room.

“Kaylee?” Zoë asked, “How do we know this Striker will come through with the cargo? Might be we take a chance and wait only to find out there’s nothing to wait for.”

“I didn’t trust Striker,” Simon said. Of course he wouldn’t, Inara thought to herself. Kaylee had told her of their brief encounter.

Before Kaylee could respond, River answered for her. “His family’s the breeder, the manufacturer, is family. Needs it to get off world. Watches over shipments for his uncle.”

“That would explain why he took the risk to warn us,” Mal stated to no one in particular, not even commenting on how River might know such a thing, nor on the surprising coherence of the comment. Mal must be really stressed, Inara thought to herself.

“If I’m arrested, his goods won’t get transported, his family suffers,” Mal added.

“I still don’t like him, but I’d imagine not having Espinoza as middleman will mean more credits for the Uncle as well,” Simon said to everyone’s agreement.

“Well, we can’t leave, and we can’t stay. What do we do?” Inara asked.

“Swish swish swish,” River stated as if these three words encapsulated a brilliant plan. Everyone stared at her and she held her clenched fists in front of her, bent her knees and wiggled her hips back and forth to clarify.

“That’s it.” Simon jumped from the table and hugged his sister. “We’ll all go swishing.”

“I’ll go swishing,” Jayne said. “How about it ‘Nara; give me a free swish?”

She glared at him, “Only in your dreams,” she teased.

“Captain, it’s perfect,” Simon said, getting everyone’s attention. “The authorities are looking for a transport ship captained by Malcolm Reynolds. Not a space yacht whose owners are vacationing at a five star ski resort. We could hide, right here in plain sight.”

“He’s right, Captain,” Zoë added. “They’d never think to look for us in a resort zone. We’d be safe as long as we played the part.”

“It’d take a solid plan and a lot of luck to get this crew to pull off being neuvo-rich snowbunnies,” Mal said, looking at the doctor.

“Not that solid,” Inara muttered under her breath. “What it would take is cash.”

River could not possibly have heard her comment, nevertheless she answered it. “Resorts use computer controlled credit systems, with a trigenative security net. We won’t need cash.”

“It’ll take some maneuvering, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be us,” Simon retorted, ignoring his sister.

“You mean we’d have to go skiin’?” Kaylee asked, excitement seeping through her words.

“As long as I could Tele. Alpine’s for sissies.” Everyone turned and stared at Jayne. No one expected Jayne to know the first thing about skiing. Seeing their reaction he responded with an astounded “What? It is!” and stuffed another cookie in his mouth.

*******

“Simon, I’m not convinced this is going to work.” Inara sat in her shuttle, facing the blank cortex screen. An hour ago, when Simon explained this plan, it had seemed perfectly reasonable. Now the plan seemed more and more doubtful by the minute. “If they do any investigating at all they’ll be able to see that I’m lying. They’ll discover there’s no client, no credit history, no reservations, no contracts.” And then they’ll come after us, she added silently.

“Actually there is,” Simon told her calmly. “River hacked the system.

“According to the records, you, Miss. Inara Serra,” Simon pointed at her for emphasis, “first class Companion, have been engaged for a week by a Mr. Washbon Cobbsley. Mr. Cobbsley apparently made quite a fortune in bioweapons during the war, and prefers to spend his ill gotten gains on the love of beautiful women. He brings Companions here several times a year, at least that’s what the records now say. Unfortunately this time, he had a small crisis at home and had to rush back to Londinum; but not before inviting you and what ever guests you wished to keep you company to enjoy a few more days here on Hawthorne at his expense.”

“Cobbsley?” She looked at Simon.

“Making up unregistered names on the fly is harder than it looks.” Simon gave her a half cocked smile worthy of Mal as he pointed to the screen, which had just come to life.

“Hawthorne Port Control, can I help you?” The primly uniformed young man on the other end of the wave looked young and impressionable. Inara let the man examine her face for a moment, let him see that she was something he wanted, something he wanted to be able to attain.

“Good evening, my name is Inara Serra.” She let the weight of her position sink into his mind before she continued. “Do you think you can satisfy my complaint or should I just move directly to your supervisor?” She had not been away from the Core that long. She knew how she would be expected to address an underling.

The young man visibly balked at her words.

“No Miss Serra, I mean, yes Miss Serra, I mean I will be able to do what ever you wish, Miss Serra,” the young man stammered. She hated to admit that she enjoyed having this kind of effect on people.

“I would like for someone to explain to me why my transport was only given a Class C permit for landing.”

“I really don’t know, Miss Serra.”

Inara felt sorry for him, he was just a young kid, he probably got yelled at all the time by people who otherwise took no notice of him. Unfortunately, for their plan to work he needed to think she was as snobbish as one of the usual visitors.

“My transport entered orbit yesterday, two days after I arrived with my client. Would you please explain to me how I am supposed to board my transport when it is only given a Class C landing permit?”

“Yes Mamm, I mean, I don’t know Miss Serra. Upload the ship’s transponder code and I will have the landing permit changed immediately.” Inara smiled as she hit the key pad, sending Serenity’s transponder to the young man.

Simon believed that port control and the local police would be agencies to large to have already connected Serenity’s transponder code, her name and the name Malcolm Reynolds. Now was the moment of truth; they’d see if Simon was right. Hopefully by the time the authorities put the pieces together, they would be gone from Hawthorne, or at least out of the green zone.

“Done, Miss Serra,” she let the young man ogle her as he spoke. “Thank you so much, I shall discuss your prompt assistance when I see the commander later this evening.” She smiled at him, letting him know just how much she appreciated his help. He was beaming at her as she cut off the transmission.

Simon reached over to key the comm to tell his sister they were cleared to fly, but he didn’t need to. They felt a slight rumble as the ship lifted off.

“One down and two to go.” Inara could hear the confidence in Simon’s voice. His plan was working. It should have reassured her, but it didn’t.

Inara hated the doubts and fears she had to constantly fight back these days. Every time she thought she had worked out what had happened in the complex of Mr. Universe, something would happen, and for her the Reavers came back. She still jumped at the slightest loud noise, the slightest hint that someone could be in danger. She tried to keep telling herself it was all in her head. She could overcome this if she worked hard enough. The guild was helping her; they were there for her.

When she had met with the high priestesses after the tragedy, they had told her she would recover. They said it would take some time, perhaps even a full year, but it would get easier.

She had spent that entire day with the guild mind healers, talking about her experience; going over the fact there was nothing else she could have done. In the end, they said she required a year of recovery disbursement.

Inara never thought that she would need a recovery disbursement, although she had been paying into the fund since she had taken her first client. Only once had she even met a companion who had needed it. Jenna had come to the academy to talk to Inara and her classmates during their final year. The story Jenna had told them about what her client had done to her was graphic and horrifying. She had showed them the scars. But nothing, Jenna said, compared to the mental anguish. It had taken her months to even consider that it had not been her own fault.

The girls had listened enraptured until sunset, as Jenna had described her recovery, and the techniques she had used. Throughout the afternoon, Inara had been as mesmerized by Jenna’s story as the rest of her classmates, but she knew she would never need this information. She would select her clients carefully.

Now Jenna’s final words continued to echo through her brain. “I tell you my story so that you know the guild is here for you. Most of you will never face a situation like mine; but occasionally a bad apple sneaks through the screening process. Sometimes bad things happen outside of guild control. You must know the guild will take care of you, and help you, no matter what tragedies you face.”

The guild had cared for Inara, was still caring for her. She secretly talked to the healers every week, but the memories, the fear kept coming. They told her she needed to talk to the people around her, to the people who had been with her; but she was afraid to talk to her shipmates. She was the only one besides River to come through the incident uninjured. Her fears just didn’t seem to compare to the massive losses of those around her. It was her job to care for them, not the other way around.

“Inara.” Hearing Simon say her name reminded her of what she was supposed to be doing. “You ok? We need to send the next wave.”

Inara smiled and nodded, pushing her inner turmoil deep within her, hiding it so no one would ever see, and sent the next wave.

“Cottonwoods Alpine Resort.” A young woman wearing a red and gold uniform appeared on the screen.

Inara made her face go blank, taking on her well used emotional mask; she was working. “I am Inara Serra. My client, Mr. Cobbsley has unfortunately had to return home, but he has informed me that he had made arrangements to finance the rest of my stay.”

The woman typed quickly into a keyboard and scrolled her screen down till she found his name. “That’s correct, he arranged for you to stay four more days here at the Cottonwoods.”

River’s hack job was amazing.

“I would like to modify the arrangements that he made for me.” Inara’s voice carried with it the weight of her position, and the desk clerk did not even question her right to make such a request.

“Yes, Miss Serra, it says here you are to be given gold star treatment, at Mr. Cobbsley’s expense. He must be very sorry he was unable to fulfill his contract.” The woman’s eyes glinted in mischief. Her manner suggested she had worked with many Companions in her day. She was not as formal as perhaps she would have been to another guest, yet she still treated Inara as a superior.

“Yes, it is a shame, he is one of my favorites,” Inara responded with an in kind gesture of friendliness; it would help her if this clerk considered her a colleague. “I will be checking out of my room and staying instead on my ship. Can you assign me to a docking slip on the Aspen Loop?”

Simon picked this particular resort because they specialized in accommodating space yachts. The Aspen Loop was a little farther away from the resort but was more private. The docking slips were spaced far apart and set deep within a thick forest. No one would notice how out of place their Firefly truly was; most would never even see it. The Aspen Loop was also the most expensive area of the resort, not a place the local police would look for a humble transport captain.

The clerk typed furiously into her keypad. Finally, she turned to the screen with a look of relief on her face. “It seems we do have an opening on the Aspen Loop. I am uploading the coordinates now. When shall we expect the arrival of your ship? Will you require our assistance with your transition, or will your own people be handling it?”

“My ship will arrive within the hour. And I shall use my own people for the transition; I prefer to keep my transactions private.”

The clerk nodded to her saying, “enjoy your vacation, Miss Serra,” as the screen went blank.

“That was close, I thought for a moment they may not have space,” Inara told Simon after the screen had been dark for a few seconds.

“Not so close,” Simon replied. “River arranged for one of their guests to receive some disturbing news from home, something that required immediate personal attention.” He grinned, as did Inara. Simon had a meticulous yet devious mind. Inara stood. She needed a break before sending this last wave, putting together the last piece of Simon’s brilliant plan.

“I need a moment. Would you like some tea?” Inara asked.

Simon who was sitting on her couch, nodded. It took her just a moment to put the tea and water in the pot to steep, after which she sat down next to him.

“Perhaps, we ought to wait till we land to call the concierge.” Inara stated, busying herself arranging her tea service. The guild healers told her she had to talk to her crew. Of all the people on the ship, Simon seemed the least affected by the events that so tortured her soul. It would probably not hurt him to talk about it, if only she could find the words to broach the subject.

“I was hoping we would get a minute, I need to ask you something,” he said.

Inara easily hid the fact that she also had something to talk about. She much preferred to listen anyway. “What can I help you with?”

“I think I was wrong earlier, when I assumed Kaylee was taking Striker to the engine room, to ah…”

“Show him something other than engines?” Inara finished for him. “Simon, you know she cares deeply for you. She has wanted a relationship with you for a long time. She would not intentionally throw it away.”

“It’s just, that to me it seems unbelievable that someone as… sparkly as her would ever want to connect themselves with someone in my situation. And now she doesn’t think I trust her.”

“Don’t underestimate her, Simon.” Inara poured the tea sipped in silence for a minute before continuing. “Your first step should to be to apologize, then Kaylee if she really is as mad as you think she is.”

“I’ll do that, when we finish here.” Simon agreed, a bit reluctantly as if glad he could put it off for just a bit longer.

“We ought to call the concierge. It is unusual enough what you are about to do. We don’t want them to think you are unusual as well, unusual enough to check into, that is.”

“You’re right of course.” Inara poured herself more tea and moved back to the cortex screen. She donned the guise of an aloof, highbrow Companion, and sent her last wave.

“Cottonwoods Alpine Resort Concierges Office.” The dark-haired man who answered the wave was typing something into his keypad. Upon looking up and seeing Inara sitting casually sipping tea, he shuddered. Inara knew this was not a man who liked being caught not paying attention to his more valuable clientele. While Inara would not be one of his most valuable clients, as a Companion she was the type of person that could be very helpful to him. Inara was a top notch Companion, and she made sure he realized it. He would not pose a problem for their plan.

“What can I do to make your stay more pleasant, Ma’am?” he said, undressing her with his eyes as he spoke.

Inara took another sip of her tea. “You may call me Miss Serra. And I was wondering if you could help me with something?” Her tone indicated that she was issuing an order as opposed to a friendly request.

“Yes, anything you need, I am at your service, Miss Serra.” The young man answered, giving her his rapt attention.

“It seems I have found myself with an opportunity to do something nice.” Inara toned her words to appear as if this was something that she did not do often. “My scheduled client has left unexpectedly. This unanticipated event, it seems, coincides with the birthday of my ship’s captain. I believe it would be ill advised to let the day go unmentioned, so I have decided to reward my entire crew with a little holiday.”

“That is mighty generous of you, Miss. Serra,” the concierge responded.

“Yes, well not really, my client feels guilty for abandoning me and is assuaging his guilt with an expense account. It is the least he could do after leaving so abruptly.” She changed her tone, letting the man know she was now asking for special assistance. “But here is my particular issue. I have visited The Cottonwoods many times, and I know the clientele you serve. I don’t want my people to feel, well how should you say it, out of place.”

The concierge smiled. “I understand Miss Serra. I can appreciate your concern; we will do whatever we need to help your employees pass unnoticed amongst our guests. To start with, we can have our rental shop deliver the required sporting equipment directly to your ship.”

“That would be very much appreciated. We will need gear and lift passes for seven. I will upload a list of the required sizes.” Inara uploaded the gear list Simon had prepared which immediately appeared on the concierge’s screen.

“This will be no problem, Miss Serra,” the concierge said as he examined the list. “They shall be delivered forthwith. I shall see to it personally. Might I also recommend some apparel items from our ski shop?” Pictures of various winter coats and ski pants appeared on the screen. “I can bring the required sizes in a selection of colors to you within the hour.”

“Thank you,” Inara responded with a gracious smile. “You’re covering all the little details I had not thought through.”

“Will your crew need lessons, or do they have experience?” the man asked earnestly.

“Lessons are not necessary, I believe…” she thought for a moment before answering, “I believe they would prefer to teach each other the basics. Several are apparently fairly proficient.”

“Very good Miss Serra, I can assure you this will all be handled with the utmost secrecy and tact. I will personally see to it.”

“Thank you, whatever your usual fee is, please triple it.” Inara touched the screen, causing it to go blank. Taking another sip of tea, she turned to Simon, happy the logistics were over.

“Winter apparel?” Simon asked.

“Why not, it’s not like we’re paying for it. Did you see the gear this crew had on this afternoon, yourself included? Kaylee only had one glove. Mal’s coat has more holes than a lace fan. They would freeze on a tropical planet, let alone at a winter sports park.”

Simon agreed, saying she was right; it would not hurt to get free snow gear out of this little adventure. If they didn’t need it again they could always sell it. He stayed just long enough to finish his tea before excusing himself, telling Inara he was going to go wake up Kaylee and make her believe he was truly sorry for not trusting her. Inara smiled, imagining that Kaylee would have quite a lot of fun showing Simon just how much she forgave him.

Inara stood to see him out, locking the door behind him. Finally, she was alone. At last she didn’t have to feel guilty for not discussing the Reavers with those around her. She took a deep calming breath and sat down at her table, picking up her calligraphy brush. She needed to meditate. She was going to need all her wits and patience if she was going to do something so brazen as teach Mal to ski.

COMMENTS

Monday, December 31, 2007 8:15 AM

MAL4PREZ


Poor Inara. That does explain her moodiness. Makes sense too, that the Reaver encounter would its own unhappy consequences.

I love Jayne's comment about tele LOL!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008 2:26 PM

LEIASKY


I'm so behind on reviews! It's been a busy holiday season! Anyway, loved this chapter! Cobbsley! Bwahahahaaha! And Simon playing devious mastermind again.

Hiding in plain sight. perfectly logical!

Loved Simon's discussion with Inara and how he realized he was acting like an idiot. And Inara got them all winter gear!

Loving it all!:)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008 2:32 PM

LEIASKY


I'm so behind on reviews! It's been a busy holiday season! Anyway, loved this chapter! Cobbsley! Bwahahahaaha! And Simon playing devious mastermind again.

Hiding in plain sight. perfectly logical!

Loved Simon's discussion with Inara and how he realized he was acting like an idiot. And Inara got them all winter gear!

Loving it all!:)



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