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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
3 months post BDM. Mal and Zoe go to Badger's looking for work. Badger explains to them the recent events surounding the Miranda Broadwave. Afterwards Mal talks to Zoe about her harsh treatment of Kaylee. Rated PG for adult language and content. Word count = lots (but they're all worth it).
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1573 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal and Zoe made their way to the dirt hole where Badger based his operations. Usually along the way they saw the same bums wrapped in blankets. These bums were Badger’s lookouts and armed to the teeth under their covers. However they were nowhere in sight. The pair made their way around a fuel pump station to a scrap yard where they ducked into a cargo container that served as the tunnel to Badger’s place. Still no guards were to be seen. They finally came to the last door. The dark skinned guard sporting dreadlocks and a rifle with an under slung grenade launcher standing at the entrance was the only familiar sight so far. “Badger will see you,” he said. The guard unlatched the locking lever, swung it open, and pulled open the squealing heavy metal door.
Badger stood just beyond the door shaking his head, “Where in bloody hell have you been? Never mind that. You want a job?” Gone were the thread bare jackets, stained pants, tank top shirts, and rags for ascots. Badger had undergone a complete makeover. His shoes were real leather polished to a high gloss. His trousers were obviously finely tailored with the break placed just below the knee where it should be. The matching blazer was a double breasted six button jacket that complimented the man’s slight physique. His shirt was pure white and wrinkle free. He wore a tasteful tie with a jeweled tie clip. And of course he was topped off with a new bowler hat. His office however still looked like a slummy, gypsy flee market.
“Actually we could use a sit down, Badger,” said Mal. “Some of that wood alcohol drink would be nice too. We’ve seen enough today.”
“Oh. You got caught up in that bit of ugliness this morning. I heard they had purple bellies just smeared all over the streets. But a sit down is fine with me. I could murder a drink meself.” Badger showed them to a small metal table with wicker chairs. He went to his desk and retrieved a pair of glasses and a flask of clear liquid. “We got chilled gin today, chums.”
“Well it seems you’re moving up in the Verse, Badger, with your even finer hat,” said Mal.
Badger finished pouring Zoe a drink then poured Mal’s, “Yeah, bought me a new derby just yesterday.” He stood erect for a moment to present himself, “Completes the outfit don’t it?” Badger sat with the flask in his hand, “So how are Fanty and Mingo?”
“Dead,” Mal nodded.
“Did you do it?”
“Were you part of it?”
“Hmph. Don’t really bother me none. Never liked those two, myself. Always thought they were a little queer, which is sicker because they’re twins. But around the time those two were found to be somebody’s adult sized voodoo dolls some feds came and visited me. Aye they roughed up some of me boys something fierce. But they behaved themselves once they got to me.” He paused for a moment. “Care to explain?”
“We had to step off the grid for a while Badger,” replied Mal.
Badger stood and walked back to his desk. He opened a drawer and pulled a folder, “Cause it just kept getting stranger. I sent out a little bird to check on you. Miranda happened. Then my bird came back with this.” He tossed the folder on to the table. Prints of Alliance records on Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, and Wash spilled out. Mal and Zoe sat rigidly with their untouched gins. “Couldn’t believe me eyes. I was sure as bad as those feds wanted you tracked down that these would be marked all to hell. But, as it turns out, you have the best lawyer in the gorram verse.”
“I’m sorry?” Mal said confused.
“Your records have had the clocks turned back on them to the tune of two years. Don’t suppose you could replicate that trick for anybody else, eh?”
Mal looked at Zoe who only blinked. “I kept telling them I was framed,” said Mal.
“Only new item here is…well, my condolences Zoe.” Zoe looked at Badger with intense dark brown eyes that said eat shit sewer rat. “Right,” continued Badger, “now where have you been?”
“Out in the Black, Badger. Nothing more to tell.”
“I wish my times in hiding were as productive as yours. But doesn’t matter. If I started to think you were an Alliance mole, that’d be down right paranoia.” Badger held out his flask.
“Suppose so,” replied Mal. Mal and Zoe tapped their glasses against the flask and took a drink. Badger spun the cap off of the container and took a swig from it. Mal and Zoe hid their revulsion to discovering they’re drinking alcohol backwashed by Badger. “So I guess we’re fortunate you have a job lined up for us.”
“Excuse me?” said Badger.
Mal waved his arm around the room, “You know. With the cutbacks and all.” Mal, of course, knew there were no cutbacks. He just wanted to pump Badger for as much information as possible.
Badger pinched up his face in confusion, “Mal, me boys ain’t here because they’re all busy. Just like me ships. You…you really have crawled out of a black hole, haven’t you?
Mal took a sip of his gin. With the glass still at his lips he said, “It’d be a kindness if you could set us strait.”
“It’d be bloody mercy. Where should I start? Have you heard of a little place called Miranda as of late?”
“We’re very keen on that.”
“As is everybody. How about Sihnon?” asked Badger.
Mal shook his head.
“The university riots?”
Badger giggled, “Oh, Mal. You of all people are going to love this. Okay, so the Miranda broadwave sets everybody’s mind on fire. Parliament in all of their infinite wisdom mobilizes the entire military the second it happens and they start landing on planets like Persephone in a day’s time. They turn us into full blown militarized zones. They set curfews, they restrict communications, they collect records, and they set up surveillance. Only, not a gorram thing happens. Nothing. You see, everybody outside of the core gets scared shitless. They are so afraid of the Alliance by this time they get paralyzed with fear. Who could blame them against a government that is so powerful they can kill one of their own ideal little planets, make it disappear from all memory, create the Reavers, and then win a bloody civil war a few years later? So to us nothing was scarier than the Alliance think’n we had lost our minds.”
Badger produced a cigar and lighter from his pocket. He lit the fresh stogie and leaned back in his chair, “So a week of this goes by. The Alliance starts getting its act together. They send out a bunch of vids and waves praising the Rim for self control and not falling for the lies of subversives and on and on and on with the go-se.” He puffed on the cigar and the blue purple smoke rose to the brim of his hat and escaped from the edge to dance around the light fixture hanging over the table. “While they’re occupied with that some other information comes through. Seems some rabble rousers found their way to Miranda in time to see the Alliance blowing it to hell to erase the evidence. They also see other curious onlookers get nuked on site. No hails, no warnings, just an instant death sentence if they see you and your pulse beacon ain’t squawk’n Alliance IFF.”
“What happens next is key. This information doesn’t get sent to the Rim. It goes strait to the Core. It finds its way on to the university campuses of the most rich and privileged. Then these places start having technical difficulties. Entire internal security grids go down. Pirate broadwaves of the happenings at Miranda get sent. And these young, angry, disillusioned, rich, white bread students start pumping themselves up for something. Protests. Only the local Feds want none of it. So when these stupid kids have their pathetic sit-ins, their radio shows, and wave their banners the local law enforcements beat the snot right out of them hoping to teach’em a lesson. But then of course vids of this get out. Nasty ones too. Intellectual looking kids getting their big skulls cracked open. Girls being stripped searched on the street while choking on tear gas. I got a whole collection meself. They’ll be worth a lot one day.”
“Badger, is there a point to this story coming soon?” asked Mal.
“The point is that none of these kids ain’t even been spanked before in their lives. They’re not raised like normal children. Makes them crazy that they’re getting beat down by men that make less in a year than what these kids payout in a month to keep themselves entertained. Saint Phan Cau University on Sihnon is where it all fell apart. Forty-seven thousand enrolled students in a city of thirty-five thousand residents. Each one of them can’t whip their way through a wet tissue. But tens of thousands of them could take on a tank regiment. A few of them die. But at the end they take over the campus and surrounding city. They hold the local gov hostage. Start demanding citizen led investigations of Miranda and Parliament’s role in it.”
“Military gets recalled and sent to Sihnon,” said Zoe at the edge of the seat.
“Penny for the smart lady. Orders are to take the city and campus back no matter what. At this point hostile takeovers of local government buildings are popping up everywhere but Phan Cau is chosen to be an example. So with the military at their door step the students turn themselves in. Now here is where they get smart. The interrogations begin. They don’t do what idiots like us would do, which is keep our mouths shut. They give them everything and anything. Some of these kids are the smartest of the smart with law, psychology, and political science degrees. Each interrogation last up to four hours. Those kids buried the Feds up to their noses in go-se so thick they couldn’t sort any of it out. It all smelled the same to them. Then of course Mommy and Daddy swoop in for the rescue. Family lawyers make quick work out of the cases when they get a hold of the investigator’s notes. Government throws its hands up in the air and tries saying ‘do over’ cause they ain’t made one right move from the beginning.”
Mal placed his hands on his knees, “So? Kids make a ruckus. A few of them take a dirt nap for their troubles. The rest get sent home. Not really that impressive.”
“They don’t go home, Mal,” said Badger in a condescending tone, “Not after a victory like that.”
Mal leaned in, “Victory? I’m missing something. They surrendered.”
“Only to come back and fight another day…as the old saying goes. No, they don’t go home Mal. They go underground. And where ever they go they bring money and support.” Badger smiles and runs his finger along the brim of his new bowler hat, “That is where the opportunity of all this comes in.”
“What’s the Alliance doing about this? Do they know?” asked Zoe.
“Oh they know. They’ve taken to doing much the same thing,” Badger chuckled and stood. “Get’n me exercise today.” He walked back over to his desk. He came back with a transparent photo slider the size of a sheet of paper. He tapped the corner until the image he wanted was displayed. He handed it to Mal, “From Denton a month ago.”
Mal looked at the image. It was a two dimension picture of a general store built of brick and wood. It had a dusty porch with some furniture on display. A large wooden plank hanging over the door had been whittled down to say “Grandma Patterson’s.” Mal handed the slider to Zoe, “Very homey.” Zoe looked at it and handed it back to Mal.
“Look at the next one,” said Badger.
Mal gave the slider a flick on the corner and the next image scrolled into place. It was the same store only it had a new door, new windows, better furniture for sale, a porch of finished wood, and a stamped metal plate in the bottom right corner of the old sign that read, An Alliance Exchange.
“That’s two weeks later,” said Badger. “Part of the new recruitment campaign. Families that have a member enlist in the military can go to these newly sponsored stores for discounts and access to catalogs full of all kinds of shiny stuff you never see on the Rim. The perks of the enlistment are just the tip of the iceberg.” Badger counted off with his fingers, “They’re subsidizing crops, livestock, mining, transport services, even doing some charity medical aid; all on the Rim.”
“We saw the Parliament wave this morning,” said Zoe. “Seemed to me they were going to use the Rim population as a shield against the Reavers.”
“Oh, Love,” said Badger. Zoe sat back in her chair and slid her hand down the length of the carbine strapped to her muscular thigh. This little man did not know how thin the ice on which he danced was. Badger continued, “You saw Samuel Ling’s little song and dance and ate it all up, didn’t you? I promise you this; not one boot recruited in the Rim will march into Reaver territory or be used to defend against them knowingly.”
Mal shook his head in complete disbelief, “How in sphincter hell do you get at that?”
“Come on, Mal. The Reaver attacks was always more about the severity than the numbers. The Miranda broad wave gave us the particulars. Thirty million multiplied by point zero zero one is thirty thousand Reavers.” Badger extinguished his cigar in an ash tray and crossed his legs. “Subtract from that one destroyed fleet and that is a very controllable number of Reavers.”
“You ain’t never faced’em, Badger,” said Mal in dread seriousness, “if you did you would know there is no controlling them. Besides, those attacks are more frequent than you think.” Both men were growing weary of each other. This was by far the longest conversation they had ever had and neither of them was enjoying it.
“You only say that because you’re flying all over the gorram system all the time,” said Badger. “Most people spend more than forty days a year planet side. And about the Reavers being controllable: to the Alliance they are. ‘How so?’ you ask. You roll up into their rutt’n territory and start nuking the go-se out of everything that isn’t dirt and rocks until it is all dirt and rocks. Sooner rather than later the Reavers are gone,” Badger pounded his fist onto the table. He paused for a moment to compose himself, “If there is anything that is known about Reavers it is that they kill up close or not at all. With the weapons the Alliance has on these ships these days…bloody hell, mates. They could practically kill you from a parsec away. Just a matter of seeing you, really. Unless you know something I don’t bout Reavers and Alliance.” Mal and Zoe said nothing. Badger lit another cigar and puffed on it angrily. The three of them had not noticed the guard with the grenade launcher stepped into the room to keep a closer eye on the meeting.
“So the Alliance is co-opting the Reavers now,” said Zoe.
Badger waved a silky stream of smoke out of his face, “The way I see it, Love, the Reavers have been co-opted from day one. I’m sure Parliament shat itself when they realized what they done to Miranda. But I guarantee you before the load in their pants dried they had a plan set to turn the Reaver’s into their advantage. You see…people always make the same two mistakes when thinking of the government. One, they think Alliance and Parliament are one in the same. They ain’t. Parliament makes the decisions and the Alliance was created to carry them out. Two, they think Parliament makes those decisions like a flesh and blood person would. It don’t. Despite the fact it is made up of people, all of them together are more like pieces of a soulless machine that has a way of always looking at the darker side of life. Crime and politics. Crime and politics…” Badger stared vacantly into space for a moment. Mal looked at Zoe who rolled her eyes.
Badger puffed on his cigar again and stabbed it out, “The Reavers became thirty thousand boogey men to be placed under the beds of every settler, every spacer, and anybody who wasn’t from the core until now. Maybe they even had plans to use them in the war. Can’t say. But now they are being used to scare the core into submission and bring more of the people on the Rim into their control.”
“Okay,” said Mal, “then explain to me what are all of those new Rim soldiers the Alliance is trying to scare up gonna be used for?”
Badger smiled from ear to ear, “This is where the irony reaches a gorram cacophony. They will be sent to the Core to stabilize the political upheaval.”
Mal’s jaw fell open, “Tsai boo shr!” Zoe shook her head in disbelief.
Badger leaned in excitedly, “Think, Mal. Think! Those kids I was calling stupid were the future leaders of the Verse. The Alliance government and society had invested billions into those brats. Then they turned on that same government. Now they can’t be trusted. The Parliament can’t even rely on the snitches. Why? Because they all snitched! Remember? They can’t sort any of the bad apples out so for the next ten years an entire generation is all bad apples! Now what better group of people to use against the brats than the people that despise them the most? Rim folk! And it’s really easy for the government to do. All it takes is a tiny amount of money thrown out to the Rim to get it started. Then a few blokes sign up. They send a wave home in a few months telling Ma and Pa they’re okay, they’re sitting pretty on some civilized central planet, earning more money than they’ve ever seen, and knocking around a few rich kids every now and then. This message get’s back to the blokes’ friends and they sign up for a piece of that action. Then even more money get’s sent too the Rim to expand services and recruitment. And from there the cycle just repeats! The longer it does, the easier it is to maintain. The more people they draw into service the more depopulated the Rim becomes. Then it’s easier to pay for all of those civil services and subsidies! Ha ha ha ha!” Badger continued to laugh and bounce in his chair as if he had been told the funniest fart joke in the universe by god himself.
Zoe held her head in her hands while she took it all in, “The subversives get forced out to the Rim where it’s easy to identify them and they have no support.”
“Yes!” Badger pounded the table and shouted, “Another penny for the smart lady!”
Mal sat silently while Badger cackled manically. He felt like he was sinking. Everything that Badger said seemed to fit. No, he thought, this is what loosing your mind feels like. How else could it be?
Badger finally calmed himself, “Ooooh boy. Heh. Ten or fifteen years down the road when they get a new stock of reliable ideologues they can just disband the Rim soldiers and everything will be like it was. Thirty years later nobody will ever remember what happened. And if the Reavers do need to be dealt with it’ll be the Core soldiers doing all the work. Oh, what a gas.”
Mal looked up from his slumped position, “All because of some university students?”
Badger put up his right hand, “Oh no no no. Didn’t mean to mislead you. All kinds of people are joining this, ‘movement,’ if you will. I’m just say’n it’s the students that set it all in motion.”
“What about people that fought for independence?” asked Mal.
“Why?” asked Badger. “Thinking of joining up?” Mal scowled at him. “Didn’t think so. You know, whenever people talk about these things somebody always bring up the old Browncoats. Then bout ten other people poo-poo the idea. People see independence as a cause rather than an identity. Obviously they never met you two. Because that cause was lost, people put it out of their minds that Browncoats could be involved. I, however, don’t count them out. Probably because I have met you two. I’d bet the barn some wily old independents are coaching those young rich radicals. Sure.” Badger nodded at the thought.
Zoe raised her hand as if she were in grammar school, “I have a question.”
Badger smirked, “Yes, Zoe?”
Zoe grabbed the flask of Badger’s backwashed gin and poured herself a glass, “How are we supposed to make any damn money with all this going on?” She tossed the drink down her throat in preparation for the answer.
“Oh, I got it,” said Mal. He sat up in his chair and pointed to Badger, “Laughing boy here has figured out a few ways to sit on the fence with his hands in the pockets of both the Alliance and the radicals. He’s probably set’n up fake farms, stores, and the such while transporting those kids out here to the nearest Alliance garrison.”
Badger shook his head, “That is so typically Mal. Name two sides good and bad then set them against each other for a fight to the death.” He looked at Mal directly in the eye, “Please. I tend to look at it differently. You see… well let me show you something.” Badger began to unbutton his white shirt.
“Whoa. Hey now,” said Zoe.
“Badger, we’ll take your word for it,” said Mal. “Please spare us from that.”
Badger pulled his tie to the side, “Oh, Bizui you two sarcastic pratts!” He spread apart his shirt, “There, have a look.”
Mal leaned in for a closer view. He could clearly see a series of irregular scars in a diagonal line across Badger’s wimpy chest. “I think I can make out a few hairs.”
“Happened when I was eleven. I’ll assume you know what a disc grinder is. At that time I was going with me uncle to his job at the shipyard. He was a welder. He was still flexible enough to get into all those weird nooks on the ships so he spent his days spot welding and doing simple joints where needed. He brought me along to smooth out the welds with a disk grinder. Well one day I come into the shop and can’t find any disks to use. I look in the trash and find one. Apparently there was a crack or chip that I didn’t see. I started that puppy up after my uncle tacked a bracket onto a bulkhead and it blew up right in me face. I staggered backwards and almost fell off the catwalk. I was screaming and crying like a stuck pig. Then me uncle is standing over me. I reach out to him. He swipes me arm away and punches me right in the face. Knocks one of me teeth out.” Badger pointed to the back of his jaw. “But I stop crying. I realized that me chest wasn’t hurt at all. It was just the speed of it. The shock of it. The sight of all those metal bits sticking though me bloody shirt. That’s what was so horrible. After I got me head nearly knocked off by me uncle I was embarrassed I even made a peep in the first place cause that really hurt.
Mal and Zoe exchanged glances. “You’re right, Badger,” said Mal. “This really explains a lot to us.”
Badger sighed and buttoned his shirt, “The point is: that’s how the central planets are behaving right now. The power source is the ideology of Parliament. The motor is the Alliance government. The disc is all the people, money, and loose resources in the Core. Miranda is the crack. All Parliament had to do to stop it all was to stop spinning for a while and check the bloody disc. All we have to do to get a hold of that money is position ourselves to where it will fly off the axis and be prepared for the shock. Keep our wits about us.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little too simple?” asked Mal with a raised eyebrow.
Badger shrugged, “It’s just a working model until I’m proved wrong. Which could happen any second. Things being as volatile as they are. It really is upside down. Money and demand are easy to come by. Its supply and trust that’s the problem now. That’s why I’m placing as many eyes and ears as I can spare in key places to give me a heads up if things do change and new opportunities pop up.”
“That explains why we’re having such a private time right now,” said Mal.
Badger nodded, “Yeah. You could say that.”
“What about these bombs going off?”
“You tell me, Mal,” Badger scratched his head under his hat. “Nobody can figure that one out. It could be just about anybody. People that thought what you did about the recruitment campaign. The students that I think are driving this thing. Those whiny anarchist.”
“Oh yeah, lot’s of talk amongst angry folk that we should kill’em all and start anew.”
“Well Badger, let’s hear about this job because I am sick and tired of listening to you brag.”
Badger’s mouth fell to the floor, “What? Bragging? What do you mean, bragging?”
“All this was bragging as far as I can see.”
Badger held his arms above his head, “I’m sharing with you valuable information, Mal. Information you asked for. These are things that billions of people are trying to figure out.”
Mal nodded, “Bragging.”
“Oh, well fuck me running!” shouted Badger at the top of his lungs. Zoe covered her mouth to chuckle. “I swear to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph that you purposely make it impossible to be civilized around you, you tit!” Badger jumped from his wicker chair, “You want to talk business? Fine! Let’s talk business over by me desk where I can sit and you can just stand, you miserable bastard.”
Badger stomped to his desk. He patted his chest down for the cigar he smoked earlier. He gave up the search and dug into a drawer for a new one. He lit it and puffed nervously. He looked at Mal who simply waited with a smirk on his face. “All right. No harm done. That was a lot to take on at once.” Badger’s eye twitched uncontrollably, “But Mal, never insult me like that again.” He inhaled deeply from the cigar and let out a long smoky breath. “Got a sweet deal for you. Although you don’t deserve it much. But here you are.”
“What is the deal?” asked Mal.
“Thirty units. Twenty five grand per unit.” Mal’s snarky grin was replaced with an impressed nod. “You pick it up in Santo and sell it to a buyer by the name of Dedrick Collins. He’s got a camp in Athens.”
“Thirty units. What kind of weight and bulk are we talking here?” asked Mal.
“You can handle it,” replied Badger. “Guaranteed. Now, Dedrick an I go back a long way. The deal shouldn’t be a problem. But then again, its you do’in the deal. So be cordial and things shouldn’t get too buggered up. Only thing is…” Badger mumbled something that Mal didn’t quite hear.
“He’s a bit hard to understand. Speech wise.”
“Oh, Badger. Don’t tell me its one of those dead Anglo languages where they sprechen sie whatever.”
“Nah, Nah. Nothing like that. It’s English for sure…just a dialect you ain’t used to, is all.”
“Okay. We’ll manage. What’s the cargo?”
“What? Are you taking inventory these days?”
“Badger, this part here ain’t negotiable. I won’t recount the entire history of our dealings. But I’ll tell you the smoothest deal we ever did got me stabbed, my ship filled with cow pies, and a passenger shot.”
Badger shook his head, “You’re pushing it, Mal.” He hesitated and said evenly, “Alliance issued laser pistols with unknown accessories.”
“Kwong-juh duh. You want our first job after we get our records rightfully cleared to be this? Why so low on the price? What, with all the talk of lots of money and demand but no supply.
“Dedrick is going to be a valued customer and perhaps a sort of silent partner later on.” Badger pointed at Mal, “All the more reason to behave around him.”
“This friendly discount is going to cut into our share of the take while we shoulder all the liability.”
Badger dug his chin into his chest and covered his eyes with the hand holding his cigar, “Mal, I’ll up your cut to fifty percent. But if you demand one more thing from me I swear on me mother’s grave I will tell Ramone over there to fire off that crowd pleaser and put us all out of our misery.”
“How did those things fall in your lap in the first place?”
“Alliance deserters. Want to hear about them too?”
“No. Because right now I’m think’n we walk away. If there’s so much opportunity out there that it’s going to stick to us why not look for it else where? Pay might not be as good but maybe it’ll be safer and friendlier business.”
“For the record Mal, I am doing me damnedest to be nice to you. You just won’t have it. But yeah,” Badger nodded, “you could walk away. Get some other work. Rest easy. But I must ask: Have any problems docking today?”
Mal sighed, “As a matter of fact we did.”
“Do you think you’ll be lucky enough to find some new clients that can help you out with that?”
“Can you clear up our red tape dilemma?”
Badger stood and sauntered over to the metal table. He picked up the Serenity crew files and blew smoke all over them, “With these records I can get you docked in Parliament Admiralty Station. Do we have a deal?”
Mal looked at Zoe. She nodded once. “We do,” said Mal.
Badger walked to Mal and offered his hand. Mal didn’t hesitate to shake it but he felt nauseas to do so. It was the first time they ever shook on a deal. “One more thing, Badger.”
“Santo contact. How do we contact them?”
“Ha! Right. I forgot about that.” Badger fished a small plastic case from his breast pocket for them to see, “You don’t.”
Near the fuel pump station by Badger’s office Mal and Zoe stood beside each other in silence. The breeze was cool, calm, and pleasant coming from the North which meant they were upwind of all the garbage processing and shipyard smells. Mal kicked at the ground and said, “Well Zoe, we picked up a big money job, have cleaner files than we were born with, got a little stipend for operating expenses, and our registration is about to be solid gold. Do you think we’ll make it back to Serenity alive?”
“If only to see her explode right in front of us, sir,” replied Zoe.
“Well let’s not be late for the fireworks.”
The two of them began their walk back to Serenity. “Do you believe it? What Badger is saying about the Alliance and the Rim.”
Mal frowned, “Got no reason not to. Seems possible given the information we have. He obviously has some inside tracks on a few things because he damn sure didn’t think of all that on his own. But I will tell you one thing. Badger can think about this anyway that he likes but he is sitting the fence. The problem with doing that is always the same. Gravity and discomfort will pull you to one side or the other. Then you have no choice but to commit to the side you landed on. Better to choose a side before that happens. But in his case I’m bet’n whatever side he falls on we won’t be welcomed there.”
“That’s a very expansive metaphor, sir.”
“Thank you Zoe. I’ve been think’n real hard on it for a couple minutes now. I like it a lot better than the grinder.” Mal looked at Zoe. She smiled. There, he thought, it’s amazing what a little human interaction can do.
“What do we tell the others?”
Mal exhaled slowly, “Don’t really know. Kaylee doesn’t need to know. To be honest I haven’t a clue as to how Simon will react to all that news about the university students. Having one foot still in that culture and all. And Jayne…hell, he hears everything Badger said and he’ll be look’n to jump ship for certain. He and Badger have a way of seeing things the same. But River, I think, should be let in on it.”
“Get some advice from our resident psychic. Do you think she can keep a secret?”
“She’s a reader, Zoe. She keeps all kinds of secrets. Plus she handled Early, ripped through those Reavers bare handed, and does a fine job piloting the ship. River’s been quite the asset lately. Maybe we should be seeking her council in a more official capacity, so to speak.”
“I know she’s been showing a lot of merit but when I look at her I still see a delicate little girl.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” said Mal. “Another thing comes to mind about Badger. This might be even more important. He is in way over his head in all of this. Set aside, for a second, the grand scale of it all. Badger has gotten to where he is now first and foremost by being careful. He ain’t that bright and he doesn’t have friends. So that only leaves being careful to explain his success. Well now he’s taking all kinds of risks. He’s pedaling Alliance high tech weaponry when before he was afraid to touch their food. Before, he never met us with less than a dozen armed goons. Now, we’re down to one and maybe another lookout somewhere. And what about that crap with him showing us his boney chest. How does he know I’m not going plunge my knife into it?”
“I was contemplating that myself, sir.” They looked at each other and laughed at the morbid thought.
Mal gathered up some nerve and set his eyes strait ahead, “Zoe, there comes a time when people should shut up and do what they’re told and then there’s a time when a leader leads by example. The time for the latter is now. I’m sorry for snapping at you earlier. You are the absolute last person left in the Verse that I need to curse at. The emotion of the situation isn’t an excuse at all.” Mal waited a while for a response as Zoe thought it over.
“Apology accepted sir,” said Zoe.
“You still have to apologize to Kaylee. Just don’t rush it. You take your time until you’re good and ready. Kaylee, will know if it’s sincere or not. You have to understand that you and I have a completely different way of looking at things from the way she looks at them. We believe the point of flying with Serenity is to have a little piece of freedom. A place to make our own without the say so of the Alliance. Serenity needs a crew, parts, and fuel to get her flying. The parts, fuel, and crew cost money. So the crew needs to get work.”
“Kaylee believes,” Mal continued, “the point of Serenity is to sit down at that dinner table like a family and enjoy each other’s company. To her, that’s why we need to keep flying. But that’s just her way. She will always look at the softer and lighter side of life. Ain’t nothing gonna change either of our minds. The only thing that can change is how we feel about each other.”
“You’re wrong sir,” Zoe’s voice was shaky and uneven. Mal looked at her for the first time since he apologized. Zoe was blinking away tears and her face was contorted into an expression of anguish. He could see it was taking all of the great womanly strength she had to keep walking forward. “Kaylee’s idea of Serenity and a family around the table…was always a better idea than what we thought.”
Mal could remember it as clear as day. Wash coming from the bridge. Zoe presenting him with a dish she made up and saved for him. “I love my wife,” he said and kissed her. With everybody together, laughing and enjoying life for a while. Around every personal tragedy, Mal thought, is an emotional minefield.
Monday, February 25, 2008 10:39 PM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:05 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 3:25 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 6:27 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 8:06 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 11:18 AM
Thursday, February 28, 2008 1:53 PM
Monday, March 3, 2008 10:44 AM
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