BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

DESERTGIRL

Snowball - Chapter 10
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There’s a daring escape, and our hero’s finally secure some cargo. Chapter 10 of 11, we’re almost there people :)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2624    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 the whole thing, 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.

**********

Chapter 10

Jayne watched the hover transport glide away from him, continuing on down its route around the Cottonwoods resort delivering guests to their various ships. As soon as it turned the bend, he climbed the bank of snow behind the transport kiosk and clicked on his skis. The forest surrounding the kiosk was denser than the forest at the top of the mountain, but it was still not the densest wood he’d ever skied through. The bases of these tall pine trees were bare; snow covered boughs reached out from the trees only above the first ten or so feet, giving him plenty of room to maneuver.

With a hard push from his poles, he took off, winding his way through the wide tree trunks, easily picking up speed on the steep slope. Jayne regretted that his skis were leaving distinctive tracks in the snow behind him, but that couldn’t be helped. By the time someone thought to follow them, he would hopefully be long gone.

He had not gone far before the trees gave way to a wide open mound of snow surrounded wholly by sky. Jayne slowed to a stop near the jagged snow covered edge, planning his route down the cliff. Below him, he could see all the ships parked on the Aspen Loop. Serenity’s side engines were emitting a slight bluish glow as if she were preparing for take off, lucky for him her hatch was still wide open, waiting. He took a deep breath and absorbed one last look at the valley; even from this distance he recognized the security vehicles he’d seen at the lodge making their way towards his ship.

Jayne jumped the cliff, landing ten feet down on a wide tuft of snow with just enough room to turn to the right and jump again. Fifteen feet farther down, he caught another ledge. The icy hard surface of the snow made it difficult to control his decent, but he managed to stay upright, barely. His final jump into the wide treeless chute below must have looked as if an octopus had attempted to ski. He landed badly, one of his feet flying out from underneath him, his arms trailing behind him in the deep white powder.

From above it had appeared that this wide chute led directly to Serenity. But now that he was here Jayne realized just what kind of terrain this was. It may lead to his ship, but it was a deadly trail. What looked like small rocks from sixty feet above, he now realized were boulders scattered at odd angles throughout the slope peeking their deadly faces out of the snow. This was a slide area; a dangerous place to be skiing. He carved symmetrical “s” curves in the powder as he wove his way in and around the boulders, picking up speed as he maneuvered the obstacle course.

He’d only traversed the first third of the chute when he heard the first crack, the boom filled the valley. Then a low rumble slowly began to build, as if a drummer was leading his band to a riotous musical climax. Jayne tightened his turns and increased his speed; the ground around him trembled as the oncoming wall of snow neared.

He was almost to the waiting cargo bay when the rolling snow began to surround him. He concentrated on his speed needing to get just a bit farther before the snow would overtake him, burying him in any icy grave. Jayne could feel the cold icy powder rising up into his nostrils. He wiped it away, his hand blocking his eyes momentarily, causing him to miss seeing the large rock face he was approaching in the swirling snow until it was almost too late. He turned narrowly, just in time. Recovering, he kept his skis turned toward Serenity, pushing himself to ski faster than he had ever traveled in his life.

At last he saw her shining face, rising up out of the swirl of snow. Her metal and glass welcoming him home. Behind her rose the purple and red glow from the lights of alliance vehicles slowing to a stop, preparing to release their torrent of feds.

Jayne leaped from the snowy embankment into Serenity’s open hatch; the avalanche pushing at his back.

He landed in the air lock, his momentum carrying him through to the cargo bay. The assaulting sound of the metal edges on his skis grinding against the metal floor gratings was drowned out by the rumble of snow enveloping everything around him as he slid to an uncontrolled crash into the storage barrels lining the starboard wall. His skis slid out from underneath him and he felt his back connect with the metal floor grating, already soaked with cool wet snow. He heard a crunch and the sound of something snapping; and hoped desperately that it wasn’t bone.

His last thoughts before he collapsed were that he was going to make it all the way back to the ship only to get crushed by snow and falling barrels of spare engine parts.

It could not have been more than a minute before Jayne opened his eyes again. He was surprised that he could actually see colors. He timidly took a breath, and discovered to his delight that he was not buried alive. Slowly trying to shake the clouds out of his brain, he risked raising his head and looking around. The fore section of the cargo bay had several feet of snow piled up in it; but he could see the ship rising above the oncoming snow as the air lock doors slid closed.

Closing his eyes momentarily again, he thanked God for the rumbling feel of the ship’s engines, and the broken skis poking precariously out from between two barrels in front of him. His bones were all intact. He rested his head back on the ground, breathing a sigh of relief. It was good to be home. Only then did he let himself have a little chuckle over those poor feds below, who at this moment were seeing Serenity rise, almost like a curtain, revealing the encore performance of a rumbling avalanche about to swallow them.

*******

Several hours later Jayne sat in the corner of a dark and smoky bar in the seediest part of New Glenwood, his kind of neighborhood. He was pretending to stare into his drink, though the last thing he was in this establishment for was a quiet drink. Across the room, a bar stretched the length of the wall, decorated by numerous glasses and fancy bottles behind it. The two bartenders also behind the bar were kept busy pouring drinks for the large crowd that filled the room. The area was packed; people were surrounding the bar, sitting around at small tables each one with the menu of drinks lacquered into its surface, or standing in the corners rocking gently to the loud music.

Two tables away, Mal, Zoë, and Kaylee sat talking with Kaylee’s contact Striker. Jayne watched Kaylee smile she looked at her new friend, obviously flirting. Jayne got the full effect from their position facing towards them. All he could see of the captain and Zoë were the backs of their heads.

The doc had protested Kaylee joining this little excursion. Jayne wondered if Simon feared for her safety or her fidelity, but it didn’t rightly matter. Mal had insisted she come along. Kaylee was the contact. Jayne figured her behavior must be part of the plan. A little flirting to set the guy at ease just might make this plan go smoothly, but he doubted it.

He had barely had time to remove his skis and change his clothes before Mal had tossed him the listening end of a concealable transmitter and ordered him into the shuttle with Zoë and Kaylee, who were in the process of concealing their microphones in their shirts. Mal had filled him in on the plan in the air, but as far as Jayne was concerned this plan was ee da tuo da bien. They should have just cut their losses ran for the rim. Screw the whole notion of getting cargo; they’d make do. If there was one thing he’d learned in the past year it was that dealing with folks on the Core just ain’t worth it; the money never was what they said it was. He agreed with Simon – Striker wasn’t to be trusted.

Looking around the room, Jayne could tell he wasn’t the only one pretending not to be listening to his crew’s conversation; there were two others he had already identified. An older-black haired man with olive skin sitting at the bar equal distance from his crew was one of them. The man wore a distinctive embroidered brown vest, perhaps an emblem of his organization or family, Jayne couldn’t be sure. A man stationed near the door wore a jacket, but the vest barely visible underneath it was the same.

If Mal’s plan took a turn for the worse, Jayne would take out the man at the bar first, not only because he was closer, but because he was wearing his insignia openly. In an underground organization, only leaders whom everybody already knew would be blazon enough to show their colors like that.

Jayne listened through his transmitter as Mal verbally accosted Striker. “Thirty-six hours on this world and I learn more than I care too about those who control its comings and goings. I’ve got to say I don’t like what I see.”

Striker sat a little dumbfounded, as if he was unsure what Mal was talking about.

“Tell me, your boss always been real picky about each roll of carbon fiber arriving in port?” Mal asked Striker, but not waiting for an answer. “He earn a lot of money making skis? Or perhaps there’s something else he’s bringing into Hawthorne?” He paused finally waiting for a response from Striker.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Striker shot back. “I’ve only worked for Espinoza about six months. My uncle got me the job. He pays me a little extra to watch over his shipments. Make sure things go smooth. I report back to him when something smells. And when did this become about me? I thought we were here to arrange you transporting my uncle’s cargo.”

Mal ignored Striker’s attempt to get to the point and continued questioning him. “How did your uncle arrange this job for you, any idea?”

“I don’t know. I never thought about it.” Striker looked visibly uncomfortable. He turned to Kaylee and she smiled at him encouragingly.

“Your Uncle involved with incoming shipments?” Mal focused his interrogation.

“No, he just contracts with Espinoza for the outgoing,” Striker said defensively. “The Espinoza family controls just about all the non-official shipping that takes place here. If you want to get something off world you have to go through him; and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much is going to change with his brother in charge.”

There was a pause in the conversation; from the look on Striker’s face, Jayne figured Mal must be giving him the evil eye while deciding whether or not to believe his story. Finally he heard Mal’s voice through his transmitter. “Ok, I think I take your word that you and yours ain’t involved with the importation end of this business. Word to the wise though, next time one of those rolls goes missing, check with the ship’s crew. They discover what’s hiding in those rolls, and you’ll be doing double time working off more than the cost of some fancy carbon fiber.”

“Did you unroll one while it was on your ship, captain? Was there something in it?” Striker seemed to momentarily forget he was supposed to be a hard-nosed criminal. “‘Cause breathing that material is…”

“Nasty? ya, we gathered,” Mal responded. “Our source stated unequivocally that the snowballs hidden inside those rolls of fancy carbon fiber were not the kind that melted into water. What you need to know is that you and yours were being used; just like me and mine,” Mal informed him.

Jayne watched the man at the bar visibly balk. Striker sat there aghast, suddenly realizing why the material had been so valuable to the Espinoza Family.

Striker finally recovered his composure enough to ask, “how do you know this?”

“Never you mind how we got our information, you just be assured that it’s solid,” Mal responded pointedly. “What you need be worrying about now is the cargo I’m supposed to be lifting of this kewu de world. I’m leaving in two hours. If you want your cargo on my ship I want to know exactly what I’m hauling, why it’s valuable, and what the hold up’s been.”

Striker glanced around the room as if wanting to make sure he couldn’t be overheard. He hesitated when he looked at the bar, and Jayne noticed the man in the ornate vest give the slightest hint of a nod. Only then did Striker lean in closer to Mal and Zoë and begin to talk.

It seemed Striker was not the boss of this meet. From then on, Jayne kept his ears on the conversation but his eyes on the man at the bar, glancing only occasionally at his crew. If something shady happened it would be initiated by that old guy in the fancy embroidered vest.

“I’m not sure where to begin,” Striker said.

Kaylee smiled at him, resting her hand on his shoulder. “Don’t fret, the captain’s just trying to figure out what’s what. Just start at the beginning.”

“My uncle breeds exotic animals,” Striker began, “animals that, according to the officials, should not be transported to other worlds.”

“What type of animals you talking about?” Zoë demanded.

“Mostly cats. Snow leopards, Siberian tigers that sort of thing. They breed really well here on Hawthorne, climates just right for them I s’pose. People want ‘em all over the place and they pay big money for ‘em too.” Striker sounded more relaxed now. Jayne supposed it was a good thing Kaylee was there; she had that effect on people.

“As I said, the Espinoza Family controls all of the non-official commerce around Hawthorne.”

“I don’t understand,” Kaylee interrupted him. “I thought this delivery was legal, we went through check points and everything.”

“Espinoza has ways of making things appear more legal than they actually are,” Striker said, pausing for a moment before he continued. “I s’pose I should have guessed those fiber rolls were more than they seemed. Especially after how vindictive they were to the crew when we came up short. I just figured the ski manufacturing business was Espinoza’s way of bringing ships here legal, so he could haul what ever he wanted off this world.” Striker paused again as is remembering something someone once told him. “My uncle once said that Espinoza likes to put captains into situations where they are forced to haul what ever he tells them to.”

Again the conversation paused. Jayne remembered Mal telling the crew that the money for their incoming run was being held captive for processing, and would remain so for two weeks. That’s just what the hundan had done to Serenity. They too were being forced into carrying Espinoza’s cargo, and on his timeline.

“Back to the cats,” Mal said, bringing Jayne’s attention back to the conversation. “I take it you want us to transport one of these exotic predators to Beaumonde?”

“That’s the idea,” Striker said. “She’s a beautiful female snow leopard named Sweet Pea. Our buyer’s chomping at the bit to get her.” His face showed his admiration of the animal.

“Why couldn’t we have had this cat and been done with it yesterday?” Zoë asked, sounding suspicious.

Striker glanced again at the man at the bar before continuing. “The day before you arrived, someone broke into my uncle’s breeding farm and destroyed all our cryo boxes. Cryo’s the only way these cats can be transported safely; most ships just don’t have the facilities to keep them from harming themselves or the crew. They get all spooked in the black, not sure why. Espinoza assured us they had another box; we paid for it on the guarantee they would have it to us within 48 hours. They haven’t come through.”

“Seems like someone wanted to keep us on this world for a while, sir,” Zoë commented.

“Seems like,” Mal agreed. “Striker, now that we’re here, transport ship and all, it sounds like the only thing tying you to Espinoza is the need for a cryo box. Someone else provides that and we can cut out Espinoza all together, right?”

Striker nodded.

“We’ll not only provide your cryo box, but a medical doctor to oversee the health of this oversize pussy cat during its journey. If this is going to happen, however, I want double the fee that I agreed on with Espinoza, and I want sixty percent up front, in cashy money. Otherwise, we walk away and leave you to the transportation of kitty cats. Now how about you get us some drinks while you pretend not to discuss my terms with your boss sitting over there at the bar.”

Striker looked momentarily startled at Mal’s correct assessment of the situation, but he politely excused himself to do exactly as Mal had suggested. Jayne watched the interaction, fancy vest never even looked at Striker, but they were clearly talking, then finally a small piece of paper changed hands.

Jayne watched Striker return to the table carrying a tray with four greenish drinks. He distributed them before he sat down and began talking; Jayne noticed no one at the table took even so much as a sip.

“My uncle agrees; seems cutting Espinoza out leaves lots left over for the both of us. Be at this location in an hour.” Striker slipped Kaylee a piece of paper under the table. “Bring your box; we’ll have the cat and the coin.” Then he got up and left the bar, leaving his drink on the table.

Jayne watched the man at the bar follow him out and soon after, the lookout by the door left as well. He finished his drink before he got up and joined the others – no use wasting good alcohol.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 9:07 PM

DESERTGIRL


Hey there – I’m going away for the weekend so the last chapter will have to wait till Monday night. – Enjoy Human Rights Day, be thankful for each day, each smile and each laugh. I'm going to be grateful for my freedom on the ski slope :) – Desert Girl

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 9:50 PM

NUTLUCK


Have fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 10:40 PM

VERASAMUELS


I wonder if Adam can ski <BEG>?

Vera <more, please!>

Thursday, January 17, 2008 3:11 AM

JANE0904


Good stuff. And Jayne out-skiing an avalanche? Now that would have been something to see! Almost wish Serenity had scooped him up on the move! I can't wait to see the big cat ... makes me wonder if it's going to get loose and create havoc - until River speaks to her. I mean, with a name like Sweet Pea, that's just a bad omen!

Thursday, January 17, 2008 10:31 AM

KIMBER


Jayne must be quite fast to do something like that! Can't wait for the animals to come and the crew's reactions!

Keep flyin'

PS: Have a little extra fun for me when you go skiing =)

Thursday, January 17, 2008 5:33 PM

MAL4PREZ


What a fabulous ending to the action - the avalanche and Jayne flying into the bay. Wee! What a fun CGI shot that could be, with the snow burying the feds, too.

I enjoy Stiker. He's got a really human feel, a little more depth then the average job contact. And I like how Mal bullies him into fessing up. Good dialogue.

Have a great time skiing! Stay away from the avalanches - you have no spaceship to rescue you. ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2008 5:34 PM

KATESFRIEND


Really good story line - had me guessing which way this was going to go. Hava a great time!


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