BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

DESERTGIRL

Snowball - Chapter 9
Sunday, January 13, 2008

High tech video surveillance catches up with our hero’s causing no end of problems. This is the ninth of eleven chapters. You can find out all about it in my blog.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2563    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.

I need to give many rounds of thanks to Mal4prez for the wonderful beta type advice.

My thanks also to all the folks who took the time to leave me all the fluffy comments.

*********

Chapter 9

“What do you mean you haven’t found him yet?” Mrs. Cassandra Tam-Osan demanded of the head of central security of the Cottonwoods resort. “It’s been two hours since I reported his presence to you. I know that you have called in the extra support of central enforcement, because not only did I see them arrive, but I have already been questioned. Yet, somehow Simon Tam is still not in your custody. Explain!”

Sergeant Jeffery Simmons, retired from the central enforcement agency and now chief of the Cottonwoods Security Department, chose to examine the bank of monitors along the northern wall of the room rather than look directly at the woman currently scolding him. Days like this made him suspect that he should have listened to his wife and actually retired when he left central rather than work security in the private sector. On the other hand, if he stayed at home his wife would probably annoy him just as much as this lady.

“Ma’am,” Sergeant Simmons answered as he called up yet another set of images on the left-most monitor and pointed them out to his assistant. “Your information was that Dr. Tam was skiing. On that information, we have had our entire staff plus half of central enforcement manning the lifts, and yet Dr. Tam has not showed his face anywhere on the mountain.

“I am now switching strategies, trying to determine where and with whom he was with earlier today. If we cannot get Dr. Tam directly, perhaps we can get to him through one of his friends. There are over four thousand cameras at this resort, and as we speak the computers are running vids through our state of the art face recognition software comparing them to the capture you provided us, which takes time. With luck, Dr. Tam will be in custody soon and you will receive your reward, for what little help you have provided. Now, if you will just have a seat, we should have some answers….”

“Sergeant, we’ve got something,” exclaimed his assistant. The young man with short brown hair and horned rimmed glasses sitting at a desk below the monitors was the only other person in the room, even though there were enough desks for six.

Simmons stepped up to the large screen located in the center of the wall which his technician was indicating, and was followed by Mrs. Osan, who for some reason was acting as if she had the right to go where ever she wanted in his office. On the screen were three pairs of skiers standing on a very flat slope.

The conceited woman let out a little yelp when she saw the screen, causing him to jump.

“What is it?” the seated technician asked, turning around and looking at her. She was staring, slack jawed, at the screen.

The technician pointed towards a dark-haired young man on the capture. “The computer says that’s our guy there in the center.”

“Yes, that’s him,” Mrs. Osan replied, her voice trembling. Pointing to another part of the screen, she added, “And that one in the balaclava is River.”

Sergeant Simmons turned and looked at the woman. “Are you sure? You can’t see the face? I thought you told me River was not here. I told the authorities that Ms. Tam was dead – on your information. The amount of incorrect information you have provided is quickly surpassing the value of what you have told us, Mrs. Osan.

“I’ve been receiving official inquiries every ten minutes from people higher in the chain of command than I care to think about since I reported the presence of this suspect. Now I find out we have been providing them with incorrect information? Heads are going to roll because of this,” Sergeant Simmons fumed. It was luckily for her that Mrs. Osan’s inexcusable attitude of entitlement was somewhat dissipated by this tirade, otherwise he might have thrown her into the confinement room, just for pissing him off.

Instead of letting that infuriating woman get his hackles up even more, he turned his attention to his technician. “Good job, finding this feed. Can you read me the time and location stamp?”

“The vid is from the top of ‘Ski School’ at about 0930 this morning,” the tech answered.

“Good, that was first thing this morning. Run a trace on each of these six people. I want continuous feeds for each of them for the entire day. I want to know which lifts they took, which runs they skied, where they fell and who they talked to. Most importantly see if you can trace any of them to their lodgings. It’s almost two pm. Our best chance is to be waiting for them when they return for the evening. You have one hour.”

Turning to the woman standing next to him, Simmons insisted, “Now Mrs. Osan, the excitement is over, have a seat in the waiting area.” He could tell that the glare she gave him was designed to leave underlings cowering; he had seen that look before. Luckily Sergeant Simmons had dealt with many of her kind of snob in the two years since he had accepted this position. She did not frighten him.

“Sir, the man there skiing with the Companion,” the tech pointed to a brown haired man, obviously new to the sport of skiing in the capture. “Isn’t he the one who crashed into Henderson a while back at the top of Easy Rider?”

Simmons looked carefully at the man on the monitor. “Why do you think she’s a Companion? You get to contract Companions often with your vast salary?”

His tech gave a small chortle of laughter at this joke before answering. “She moves like a Companion, sir”

“Again, you would know that how?”

“My cousin Gina is a companion, on Londinium.”

“Ah,” Simmons said, understanding.

“Have the computer compare the feeds. If it’s the same man, he should still be at medical.”

“We might actually get this one figured out,” Sergeant Simmons mumbled under his breath, “before those muckity mucks from central demand to know more about that girl.”

*******

Mal and Inara’s return to the ship had been uneventful. Inara had suggested that they return their skis and poles at the ski shop rather than the return shack near Serenity. Which had turned out to be a good decision, Mal’s shoulder hurt and he didn’t think he could have lugged the gear all the way back to the ship, not that he would ever admit that to Inara.

“We should find Simon, you need to have your shoulder looked at,” Inara said as they traversed the empty cargo bay. He supposed it was possible that Inara had seen through his attempts at ignoring his injury, but he rather wished she would leave it alone. Anyways, Simon was not to be found.

The ship seemed cold and deserted as they climbed the stairs in search of the crew. Finally on the highest landing they began to hear the high pitched giggles that indicated life. Entering the dining room, they found the source of the noise; a checker board set up on the round coffee table in the kitchen social area showed that Kaylee and River were in mid play. The black pieces in front of River seemed to far outnumber Kaylee’s red, yet neither woman was paying much attention to the game. Both were rolling in hysterical fits of laughter elicited by a comment they had obviously just missed. Mal wondered a little what it had been; he could use a good laugh.

Simon sat next to his sister, looking comfortable in the brown vinyl chair Mal hated. He seemed to be completely ignoring both of the girls, captivated as he was in whatever joy reading could possibly make a person furrow ones brow that distinctly.

It took a while for the laughter to subside enough for Kaylee to be able to speak, but Mal did not mind waiting for the cheery, “hey guys, did you have fun skiin’?” to inevitably be shouted in his direction.

“Up until the encounter with the feds, it was great,” Mal said. Glancing at Inara, he could see some of the fear returning to her eyes at the thought of their narrow escape. He immediately wished she would catch some of Kaylee’s infectious laughter, she too could use a good laugh. Since their talk on the ski lift she had seemed ok, but perhaps he just had not been paying close enough attention – after all, there had been a few things going on. He reached out and grasped her hand, giving it a little squeeze. She squeezed back before letting go and walking into the kitchen area, announcing that she was going to make tea.

Simon looked up at Mal over the top of his electronic reader. The doc had been so absorbed in his reading that he hadn’t even acknowledged them entering, but the mention of feds got his attention. “Yes, tell us more about the feds?” he said with trepidation.

“They were looking for you,” Mal replied. “We had a little encounter at the top of a ski lift.” He let that sit in the air for a moment so he could enjoy watching the doctor squirm in his seat, but then took mercy and reassured him. “Don’t worry, Inara’s Companion charms helped me talk my way out of their clutches, none the worse for wear.”

“Except you can’t lift your arm, and you wince when someone touches your shoulder,” Inara added from the kitchen.

“Yeah, well there’s that; it’s nothing a little rub down won’t cure, right?” Mal gave Inara a look worthy of Jayne.

Inara smiled. “Don’t you wish.”

Simon set down his reader and stood up moving easily into doctor mode. “Come to the infirmary and let me look at it. What happened?”

“Later Doc,” Mal insisted, gesturing for Simon to sit back down. Glancing around the area, he asked. “Where’s Zoë?”

“Right here, sir.” Zoë entered the nook from the direction of the bridge and leaned against the wall next to Simon.

“Good, now that we’re all here,” Mal looked around at each of them.

“Except Jayne,” Kaylee commented.

“Well, now that everyone who needs to listen is here,” Mal continued. “‘Nara and I stumbled upon a piece of this here puzzle.” Mal’s story of their gondola ride and the conversation they had overheard was greeted with shock and disgust, particularly from Kaylee, who couldn’t imagine Striker, who’d seemed so nice, could have used them so maliciously.

“I can’t believe that I’m defending him,” Simon stated matter-of-factly, “because he definitely rubbed me the wrong way. But we have no information that any of the people on the transport team knew there was anything wrapped up inside those carbon fiber rolls.

“Thing is,” Simon continued turning towards Kaylee, “Striker told you that all the men had been pulling extra shifts to cover the cost of a load that came in short, correct?” She nodded, confirming Simon’s logic. “They wouldn’t have needed to work extra if they had money from selling snowballs.”

“You’ve got a point, there,” Zoë acknowledged. “We going for the cargo, sir?”

“Simon’s right, there’s no evidence that Striker or his uncle were involved in moving snowballs,” Mal affirmed. “‘Sides, we really don’t have much of a choice, we still need that cargo if we’re going to keep flying. I’d sure like to know more about what I’m transporting though, even more now than I did before. River!” Mal turned to the girl. “You still think this Striker’s in Espinoza’s organization just to look after his uncle’s interests?”

When River failed to answer, the rest of the crew turned their attention toward her. She sat staring at her fingers, weaving them in and around in an intricate pattern, as if completely unaware that anything was going on around her.

“River?” Simon said, placing his hand gently on her knee. Without acknowledging Simon, she stood up and began extricating herself from the nook. Carefully, she climbed over Kaylee, her foot just grazing the checker board, knocking the pieces to the ground. She stepped over several large stacks of books that had accumulated on the floor and then, finally free of the nook, took off running towards the bridge.

Mal took off running after River, shouting back to his first mate, “Zoë? Did my pilot just go crazy and run for the bridge?”

Zoë joined in the chase to the bridge as well, replying as she ran, “Yes, I believe so sir,”

When Mal entered the bridge, River sat in the pilot’s seat quickly flipping switches. It was just what he was afraid of; she was going to do something to his ship.

“River, what in the goramn hell’s going on?” Mal bellowed.

He slipped into the tight space between her and the console, blocking her from touching anything else; and grabbed at her hands with his good arm.

“You ain’t doing anything more till you tell me what’s going on,” he said to her in his sternest captainy voice.

River glared at him, finally acknowledging his presence and his authority. “They’re coming,” she stated slowly and carefully, as if talking to a child. “We have to go.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so? Next time you get the urge to save our hides, clue us in on what yer doin’, dong ma?” Mal let her go and stepped away from her just as Kaylee and Simon made it to the bridge.

If River was correct, which was usually the case, they needed to be in the sky, now. Tian xiaode, Mal wondered, where was Jayne? Just once he wanted everyone to be accounted for when they had to run for their lives.

Without hesitation, Mal began issuing orders. “Zoë, go down to the cargo bay. Let us know the minute Jayne’s back or the Alliance shows, whichever comes first. We’re in the air on your call. Kaylee, help prep the ship, then contact Striker, him and I have some things that need discussing.”

Mal sat down at the co-pilot’s console as Kaylee and Zoë left the bridge. It took just a few seconds to pull up the map of Hawthorne. He had to find a lonely spot of nowhere where he they could hide till he figured this thing out.

“Captain?” Simon started, “did you say the guy who killed Espinoza is a molecular biologist?”

“Huh?” Mal grunted, not really listening to the doctor’s question.

Simon repeated his inquiry.

“That’s what we overheard,” Mal said. “But now’s not really the time, Doc.” Mal turned his attention back to the map, zooming the view inwards on an island deep in the green zone; it appeared small, but he couldn’t yet tell if it was uninhabited.

“If he’s a paid scientist,” Simon continued, “he would have to be publishing his work. Non-government programs are run by grants. Every grant awarded is available on the cortex for public access. Companies or even individual scientists are only awarded further grants on the publication of completed projects.”

Mal looked up at him. “So?”

“If we can discover what he’s been working on, we can tie him to the murder. If we can document his movement of family assets we can also provide motive. That will be harder but I’m sure River can hack the necessary accounts. We can clear you of all the charges.”

“Central Enforcement won’t care. Owned by the suspect,” River stated as she continued to flip switches and turn the dials necessary to get them up in the air the minute Jayne arrived.

“We just have to get the information into hands that will force central enforcement to acknowledge it,” Simon replied to his sister.

River stuck out her tongue at her brother.

“Well,” Mal replied still focusing on his map, “you work on that then.” If nothing else, it would keep the doctor from bothering him while he tried to figure out what to do next.

*********

Jayne skied recklessly, taking no notice of the people that he passed while traveling at his favorite breakneck speed. He vaguely heard a few curses shouted in his direction, but he ignored them. How dare Mal demand that he return to the ship? This was supposed to be a fun day. Just because that yuben de doctor went and got himself recognized, shouldn’t mean he needed to give up something he’d rightfully earned.

Jayne felt frustrated and angry, but the speed was helping; he cut through a small stand of trees arriving at the edge of a four foot embankment surrounding the run “Easy Rider.” Without slowing down, he jumped it, sailing through the air for several yards. The smooth wide beginner slope was filled with people who had no clue what they were doing on skis, and cries of alarm erupted from the people around him as he landed. Behind him, he heard the sounds of people tumbling in the snow but he didn’t care. He banked quickly to his right so that he was headed straight down the slope. Tucking his poles under his arms, he bent his knees and crouched, wondering how many other curses he could solicit between here and the bottom of the hill.

He sailed past the chair lifts and the gondola house, not slowing down till he reached the collection of buildings surrounding the lodge. The spray of snow he created as he came to a rest at the edge of the lunch patio was large and impressive, demonstrating the aggravation he was feeling. It reached over several picnic tables, mostly empty now during the middle of the afternoon. Without looking around, Jayne snapped off his skis and picked them up, then marched towards the intra-resort transport kiosk.

The sight he came across as he rounded the lodge, however, finally startled him out of his frustrated tantrum. Seven official vehicles sat idling on the road; alliance officers and local security officials stood around them, obviously waiting for a ‘Go’ order. For the first time since he had left Adria in the hut, it occurred to him that perhaps Mal may have had a good reason to demand that he get back to the ship.

Jayne collected himself and walked calmly and carefully over to the transportation kiosk. Above him, large glowing red numbers on the wall told him that the next shuttle would appear in four minutes. He took a moment to glance at the officers; they had taken no notice of him. Breathing a sigh of relief, he spent the time studying the large poster sized map posted below the glowing arrival schedule. The shuttle route was depicted in blue with large dots at the various stops; little green lights moving around the map showed him the locations of the various shuttles. He stared at the closest blip along the route which was approaching his stop.

When the hover-bus finally arrived, he selected a seat next to the rear door. He glanced out the window as the shuttle pulled away, watching the purplebellies climb into their vehicles. They hadn’t yet left, but that did not mean they wouldn’t arrive at Serenity before he did. The shuttle had a winding circuitous route with many stops. As he thought about the map he had examined at the kiosk, he wondered if he couldn’t perhaps cut this shuttle ride a bit short. Jayne pulled his resort map out of his pocket, considering the half cocked plan forming in his mind.

As the transport wound its way through the several loops of parked space yachts, he placed his finger on Serenity’s location on the map. There was a blue dot almost under his finger where he would normally get off the transport. Four stops down the winding line was another blue dot, fairly close to his destination if he was traveling by air; he put another finger on that dot. Perhaps, he could make to the ship before the feds. There were only a few cliffs and a forest separating his two fingers on the map.

COMMENTS

Sunday, January 13, 2008 7:47 AM

KATESFRIEND


Nice and thrilling chapter, and a nice compact summary of their current dilemma.

Sunday, January 13, 2008 7:54 AM

LEIASKY


Ohh, wouldn't it just be lovely if Cassandra was arrested for giving false information?! Serve her right! I'm glad Simmons got the upper hand on the little twit!

And tracking them via vid screens is just perfect. You expect a Core area to be crawling with cameras.

The end of this had my heart racing! Will Jayne make it back, or won't he . . . and what about Adria? Will we see her again? She'd got to be pretty pissed at Jayne for leaving her naked in that shack . . .

Sunday, January 13, 2008 8:30 AM

PLATONIST


Good chapter with plot developments

Jayne has really taken to skiing, LOL

I like how Mal hasn't forgotten the rub down from Inara, she reluctantly played along with.

And, Mal, knowing River is doing something to his boat before anyone else does; solid crew interactions.

Monday, January 14, 2008 10:52 PM

JANE0904


Nice tension - good work!


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