Call the Man [6] [repost]
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

More with the orphaned children found in the bunker. Help arrives for Serenity & co. One's an old contact of Vera's. Cliffhanger ending.


PART SIX * This man's a child, this man is old Sometimes he's mild, sometimes he's bold This man I love, sometimes in spite I wish he would stick to his guns, or abandon the fight But when he shines, oh when he shines Yes when he shines, he shines so bright * Sometimes a tramp, sometimes a dude He changes colour just like a chameleon, can't find the mood He is a song that's not easy to write He is a moon in the morning, and the sun out at night But when he shines, when he shines, oh when he shines, he shines so bright * This man's a gentleman, this man is strong This temperamental man plays me along But when he shines, when he shines, oh when he shines, he shines so bright Yes when he shines, when he shines, oh when he shines, he shines so bright * [When He Shines – Sheena Easton] * [In this part, Jennings is to be imagined as British actor Richard Ridings] * The smell coming out of the bunker was pretty rank due to the children having endured three days in close quarters with no sanitation. Jayne put his hand over his mouth, “Ta ma duh! Cho yade!*” “Poor kids can't help it.” Everyone instinctively offered the children a mouthful of their own water first, before gently and slowly leading them out to the stream outside the school walls. The children drank first, then got into a pool in the stream to wash the dirt and other noxious substances off them. Vera, Zoe and Clarry helped with the washing part. Mal got onto the radio to the others to bring food and clothing. Jayne had got a big fire going by the time all the children were washed and they sat around it for warmth, stomachs happier for having had a decent drink from the stream. The children were assorted ages and ethnicities, everything from seven years to teen. They were all quiet, pale and eerily docile. Simon quickly checked them all over as Serenity landed, with a load of blankets. As the children sat wrapped up in the cargo hold, River dished out heated tinned soup. Jayne took a long electric pressure hose and put one end in the stream and went off to water-blast the gold clean. Serenity took on fresh water herself. * Inara's eyes were liquid with un-shed tears, “Just the same devastation in the settlement. No-one alive there, though. We were helping ourselves to tinned and packet food when you called us.” Mal frowned, “Then who responded to our Wave and gave us permission to land?” “Could have been automated, sir.” Mal nodded, “Could at that, but I could have sworn it was a real person.” Vera looked at the children, “We can't take all of them at once, can we?” “Not even close. Half, at a pinch. Kaylee, River; one of you get on the Wave and see if there's anyone else out there who can lend a hand.” Mal looked at the children, “Can any of you tell me what happened?” One of the older boys stood up. He was part African, “I'm David Pembroke. We're not totally sure. There was some kind of land attack from over the mountain pass. It struck Fife town in the valley then came for us. One of the teachers – think it was Mr Carisbrook – said it was a whole lot of Bigfoots...Bigfeet? Some of the younger kids believed him and there was panic. There were explosions and fire. Miss Carstairs got us into the vault to keep us safe in the nick of time. It was pretty bad by then. She died saving us.” “I didn't see any bodies, son.” David trembled a little, “We heard someone...some *thing eating the dead bodies. Thought we were next.” Jayne looked at Mal, “Reavers?” “Could be. Did you *see what was attacking you?” David nodded, “Really big, hairy, sharp teeth, leaves. One head, two arms, two legs. Pretty scary, sir.” Vera gasped a little, “Wood-woses?” Mal turned to her, “A wha...wuh?” She shrugged, “Legends. Woses are like trolls. Very tall, live in the forest and can go berserk against regular human habitation.” “You're not telling me that you think these...woses....are real?” “Not for a moment. But a strange Reaver variant? Definitely possible; or something else copying them for other reasons.” At that moment, Jayne came back with a wheelbarrow piled with gold, “About ten of these filled with coin is a gorram good reason.” “Indeed. I think we can reasonably classify this as a disguised attempt to lift the gold which failed at the last moment. If there are real wild carnivores about...?” David nodded, “Black mountain lions. Didn't think of that. *They'll eat bones.” Mal clasped the young man's shoulder, “You were all scared and in fear of your lives. Hearing *anything eating people you knew and cared for is more than enough to take.” Jessop stepped forward, “Mal and the others rescued us from a Reaver attack on Cairo. Most of us found other homes, but there's me and my brother and sisters and Melissa here. They took us in and made us family.” Mal held up his hands, “Before any of you start getting your hopes up, we live hand to mouth a lot and we can't possibly take *all of you in. There isn't room, for a start. We'd never lift off. We've sent a Wave for help and we'll see if any of Fife has folks alive who can look after you. In the meantime, I'll get some of my crew to get as much food as possible up from the town and we'll try hunting for game. I'll just introduce you to the crew. I can't promise we'll remember *all your names, but we'll try. Maybe if we have a go at remembering about a dozen each, we'll get there.” Cliff came back from the cockpit, “We got a squawk. Fella called Jennings, says he was the one who spoke to you. He's the chief barker of a travelling carnival. He's got a small fleet of Fireflies and has already come across other devastated settlements in the cause of trying to bring entertainment to the masses. He basically hoped you'd assist and is coming this way to help scoop up the children.” “We got anywhere to take 'em?” “Not on this planet, by all accounts. Jennings' plan is to keep looking, though.” “Any intel on who did this?” “Not yet; but both Jennings and I have contacted the authorities. Todd's sending his nearest police ships to look for clues and find the culprits. We've been asked to keep searching, then find the nearest friendly and welcoming planet for the kids.” Jayne gestured at the wheelbarrow, “We can buy plenty of welcome with some of this stuff.” River smiled, “It'll build a new school and homes on Newhall!” “We're takin' 'em all the ruttin' way there?!” Mal calculated, “That'll take a while.” River nodded, “Newhall needs the carnival.” Jayne pointed at the wheelbarrow, “And *we need this ruttin' money!” Mal looked at the contents and multiplied by ten, based on what Jayne had said, “A million plus credits in solid gold? Do you *really want to spend the rest of your life sitting on your porch doing nothing?” Jayne grinned, “Hell, yeah!” then he really thought about it, “Mebbe not. Plus these kids have got the arse-end of nuttin'.” “Which is why finding and maybe building them a new home and school first is important. Doesn't look like anyone else is going to claim this money.” “Hell, no! I'll go get the rest.” “You do that. Vera can help you if there's another wheelbarrow or summat. Any more of that soup for our guests, River?” “I'll see what I can do.” Zoe climbed on the mule, “Cliff; come and help me get the food up from the valley.” Sarah ran to join them as they made ready to go. * After feeding themselves and the children in relays, everyone bunked down for the night. A lot of the girls from the school slept inside Saffron's camper van, plus others huddled up on the cargo bay floor or on the walkways, with cushions. Zoe and Cliff had liberated as much food from the settlement as they could carry, plus a blanket each for the new children. It was pretty basic, but better than being in the bunker or outside. Jayne and others had distributed the coin in all of Serenity's secret hidey holes and the safe was stuffed full. Zoe had gone out late and bagged a wild pig, which was now slow roasting in a heated cooking pit made from the remains of the camp fire. * In the morning, the carnival Fireflies came to 'town'. They were identical with Serenity, apart from their gaudy exterior paint jobs. They were decorated in shades of scarlet, acid yellow and turquoise. 'Jennings' Crazy Carnival' was emblazoned on each one in huge letters. Kaylee grinned, “Ohh, that's so *shiny!” Mal looked at her, “Don't even *think about it!” Jennings himself came over from the lead Firefly. He was somewhere in his mid to late forties, about six feet tall. What hair he had was dirty blonde and his eyes twinkled blue. He had a huge barrel chest, thick muscles and an eager smile. Looked like he could drink everyone present under the table and *still go on a successful Viking raiding party. “Malcolm Reynolds!” Big, booming voice to match. Vera grinned, “Silas, you old dog!” Jennings enveloped her in a huge bear hug, picking her off the ground with his enthusiasm, “Vera! How's my feisty warrior woman?!” Jayne was in his face a micro-second later, “Hey, that's my *wife!” Silas put Vera down. Vera smoothed herself down, “Jayne, my husband; this is Silas.” Junior came running over as fast as his little legs would carry him, “Ma! Pa!” Vera scooped him up, “And this is our son, Junior.” Silas smiled indulgently, “Got a couple of rug rats a few years older than him myself.” Jayne turned to Vera, “How come ya didn't know it was him in the first place.” Vera grinned sheepishly, “Didn't exactly *get to last names fifteen-odd years ago.” Jayne and Silas sized each other up. Jayne harrumphed, “Hmm.” Silas put his big, meaty hands up, “Sorry, mate. We had a...moment...half the 'verse away 'bout fifteen years ago. Haven't seen Vera since; God's honest truth.” Jayne looked at Vera for confirmation, then relaxed several notches, “Got some moonshine on board, if'n you like.” Silas realised he'd been reprieved and accepted, so he grinned, “Later, mate!” Mal came over, “Come and meet the waifs and strays.” The schoolchildren were huddled outside Serenity by now, mostly wearing their blankets as cloaks. Silas Jennings smiled and threw his arms wide, “Any of you kids want to join the carnival?!” * After roast pig, biscuits, water and tinned fruit, the children were duly parcelled out and divided amongst the Fireflies. Serenity ended up with only a dozen of them to care for. The whole convoy continued to search the planet, to little avail. By the time they'd finished, Todd's official police presence had arrived. A police officer took down all the children's names before allowing the convoy to continue. They made a short hop first, to nearby Ben Nevis. Jayne had cornered Vera, “So what was it between you an' Silas?” Vera had realised this was coming, “Not much to tell. I was on Norway; a bitty moon; all rocks, ice and fjords.” Jayne nodded, “Know it. Gets powerful cold in Winter.” “I was chasing a bounty. Nasty rapist berserker guy. My licence was to bring him in, dead or alive. Silas let me use his boat with him as skipper, chasing my quarry up and down the fjords. Cornered the hwoon dahn one night and had to fight him. Finally took him out with my gun. Made sure he was good and dead, then shipped the body back, C.O.D. Silas helped me clean up afterwards and we spent the night together.” Jayne wasn't convinced yet, “Hmmm. Berserker's ain't nice, though.” Vera touched his chest, “Silas had lots of enthusiasm and energy, not very much finesse. *Certainly couldn't bring me off in less than five minutes, like you can. And sizewise..” she held her fingers apart a modest number of inches, “Not even *close to being in the same league as you!” Jayne looked in her eyes and saw she was telling the truth, so he smiled slowly, “Okay!” “Plus you might have noticed; I *love you, ai ren.” Jayne huffed, “Yeah. Just get...antsy over the thought of other guys touchin' you.” “Likewise, if it comes to you and other women from any time on. What's past is past and there's no changing that. Just gonna be you for me – has been for a goodly number of years - but you know that, right?” Jayne nodded, smiling slightly, “Yeah.” * Mal had sent a Wave on ahead to the officials on Ben Nevis and there were twenty childless people ready and waiting to adopt some of the children when they landed. Ben Nevis wasn't all that different to Fife; but was a larger globe and had more Scottish ex-patriates. Lots of kilts and plaid everywhere. Silas Jennings and his troup set up the carnival and opened for business whilst the paperwork was gone through and the children decided if they wanted to stay. Serenity parked nearby at the edge of things and helped out with the carnival. This gave their own children free rides, so a good deal of excitement was had by all. Jayne had taken Junior and Melissa off to the dodgems whilst Clarry helped run the cotton candy stall. Vera was mending Jayne's trousers and other clothes whilst sitting in a chair at the base of Serenity's cargo flap. Everything seemed remarkably peaceful and calm until Jayne came back with Junior and Melissa and found Vera gone. Her chair was knocked over. * Jayne sent the kids inside to get some food and his tracker instincts clicked in. There'd been a fight. Quite a fierce, but brief one. Spots of blood – he hoped not Vera's – led away from Serenity. Then he saw clear tracks where someone's feet had dragged along the ground. Actually, three someones were incapacitated. There were deeper footprints, indicating that two had been carried along, so had been either hurt or killed by Vera. Jayne estimated that she'd been jumped by about seven people and taken out two of them. Jayne grinned, “That's my girl!” Next there was her sheriff's badge, in a clump of grass, “Oh, *good girl! Taken without your consent, huh.” Then, about a mile away was where a small craft had landed and some of Vera's hair. “Ah! A Cicada; Berserkers! Thanks for the clues, mi mei gui.” Jayne ran back to where a group of the crew had now figured out that Vera was missing. “Mal?!? Vera's been taken by the Berserkers in a Cicada!”

*Smelly slave wench



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