BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CBSTEVE

The Return - Part 7
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Plans are made and surprises are in store as Zoe comes to a decision with regard to rescuing her lost companions.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1151    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Return – Part 7

Serenity sat on the surface of Earth’s single moon, over an underground base where its crew had hoped to find help in the quest to return to their quadrant of the galaxy. Instead, they found deceit and danger of a magnitude that was revealing itself in bits and pieces. First, Mal, Jayne, and Simon had been taken below the surface when a lunar spaceship landing pad descended while they were standing on it. It was clear to Zoe now, as she sat on Serenity’s bridge, that this was done on purpose. Kaylee then EVA’d in an attempt to find a way under the surface to find their missing crewmen. Just as she reached an elevator in the abandoned surface base, she was taken by force and was now under the surface also. Three and a half hours had passed since Kaylee’s capture and with no more spacesuits and no way to get below the surface, Zoe felt helpless. Then came the voice from the comms.

“Serenity, this is Commander Samuel Jackson of Moon Base Armstrong. I would like to speak to Zoe Washburne, please. It’s time we had a chat.”

Wash had been dozing but instantly opened his eyes and turned to his wife. River looked at both of them and had a wild look in her eyes.

“It’s him, the leader.”

Not now River, keep it together for a few more minutes, Zoe wanted to scream but didn’t. Zoe waited a second before answering, exhaustion clouding her judgment and she needed to be fresh to talk to this man and rescue her people. She heeded the Shepherd’s words to be careful, not knowing what has happened or would happen to their crewmates and friends if the other side perceived hostile intent. Slowly she reached for the comms button.

“This is Zoe Washburne. Go ahead, Commander.”

“Captain Reynolds, Doctor Tam, Mr. Cobb, and Miss Frye are safe. Doctor Tam has been most helpful in treating some of our injured people. Our intentions are not to harm anyone. We simply need your spaceship.”

“You can understand from my point of view Commander that keeping four of my crewmates by force in no way eases the path toward a peaceful accord here. You could have just asked for our help and we might have given it. I’m sure Captain Reynolds has told you by now that we accidentally ended up here and we just want to return home.”

“That is very clear. But I cannot allow that to happen. Not yet at least. I am responsible for the lives on this base and those remaining on Earth. We have been out of communication with Earth for almost two years and could very well constitute the only known entity of the Alliance still remaining and thus the role of leadership falls to us and to myself specifically. We know that there are planets filled with humans in your quadrant. But in ours not much remains. I need Serenity to ensure contact with Earth and to hope to rebuild our civilization. And Captain Reynolds does not seem to be the type of man to have given up his ship so easily.”

“Darn right he wouldn’t have. Guess we’re at an impasse here. I ain’t opening the door to this ship till my people are free. All I got is your word that they are all right.”

“Zoe?” and it was Kaylee’s voice, quiet and scared sounding but Kaylee nevertheless.

“Kaylee? What’s happening? How’s everyone?”

“I’m fine, we’re all fine. I saw Simon and the Capt’n and Jayne. Everyone’s fine. It don’t seem like they hurt anyone. Simon spent his time taking care of sick folk. Don’t know what Capt’n and Jayne been doing but these folks, they know an awful lot about us and Serenity. They’ve got atmo down here, and more gravity, and water and some food.”

Jackson came back on the line. “I hope that eases your fears somewhat. I take it from a chat I had with Captain Reynolds that you are second in command. I do not wish to harm anyone but we are in a precarious position here and so are you. You cannot have enough supplies to outlast us and even if you did return to Earth you could not protect yourself against possible radiation poisoning. We can. So, I offer a deal. Bring Serenity to the landing pad, we’ll bring it below. I will outfit an expedition to return to Earth with some of my people and some of your people. When the expedition is complete and we assess the situation on Earth we will make a decision with regards to the future. By that I mean whether we will stay in this quadrant of space or attempt to return to yours.”

“Then I’m guessing you all have the means to send us home?”

“It’s possible.”

Wash smiled as he heard this and River also gave a little lopsided grin. Zoe could see the exhaustion lined in both their faces and she felt the same.

“Commander, I need time to think. We’ve been up a long spell now and my people and I need a rest.”

“I didn’t realize. Our day had just started when your crewmates went for their first moonwalk. I understand. You may have the necessary time. From my discussions with your crew members I’ve come to understand that your corner of the galaxy still relies on a 24 hour time measuring system, at least in space travel. How does six hours sound?”

“Make it eight,” said Zoe, not wanting to have to rush any plans she needed to make.

“Then it is agreed. We will continue these discussions in eight hours time. I will enable you to talk to Captain Reynolds at that time if it will make things any easier.”

“Letting my people go will make this mighty easier,” Zoe said and let a trace of her anger out.

“Eight hours,” Jackson replied, ignoring her request. “Moon Base Armstrong, out.”

“Serenity out,’ said Zoe. He sounded pleasant but his intentions were not. Zoe understood Jackson’s situation but that meant nothing to her under the circumstances. He had to look out for his people and she had to look out for hers. She turned to Wash, “Can you put us in a low moon orbit?”

“I could but I’d really like to save the fuel for the VTOL’s. Why not just stay here?”

Zoe shook her head no. ‘Don’t trust them not to come in while we sleep and we’re all too beat to set a night watch.”

“I’ll keep the proximity warning set and tune it so even the smallest thing will set it off, even a person in a spacesuit with a cutting tool.”

“Sounds like a better plan. Set ship for night planet side rest, baby.”

“Roger that,” Wash said as he started powering down the various instruments and controls and adjusting the proximity warning system.

“River, come with me,” Zoe stated as she turned to leave the bridge and River followed her.

“We’re going to the infirmary,” the teen said as she followed Zoe down the bridge stairs and through the fore hall.

“That we are. Time we talked on your medication plan.”

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

Kaylee had told Simon everything that had happened and he told her all about his experiences and working with the medical staff examining and helping the injured. He also explained everything Doris told him about the war and the base. Kaylee was intrigued about their power supply and how they recycled the water and everything else, but Simon didn’t know much about that and she could see the effect her story was having on her man. He was shocked that Kaylee had been forced by laser point to come here, all the more so since he had nothing but good experiences with the residents of the base. A man had even come to show him to this room, told him he could rest here. Simon had thought Mal and Jayne would be here and they would be getting ready to leave. He was stunned when he opened the door to see the love of his life lying on a bed almost in tears. Now after hearing Kaylee’s tale he suspected that Jayne and Mal and all of them were in deep trouble.

“What are we gonna do?” Kaylee lamented.

“We stay calm first,” he told her as he hugged her tight. Waves of exhaustion and anger swept over Simon, unable to fathom why this was happening when they all needed each other, the Earth devastated and both parties far from any form of civilization. He only had the briefest encounters with Commander Jackson and Gregori Kovalev so could not understand what was really going on.

“You must be hungry,” she said, wanting to take care of him. “There’s some water here and a bit of food and they got a bathroom.”

“Yes, I am hungry. Thank you,” he said and then Simon washed his face and hands, and then drank and ate some, sharing it with Kaylee as they sat on the bed. If it hadn’t been such a terrible situation he would have enjoyed this first meal alone with her.

“Such a crazy day,” Kaylee said, finally putting into words what they were both thinking. “Just this afternoon I was hoping to finally…you know…us.”

Simon smiled a bit. “Us. Yeah.” And he looked at the bed they were sitting on. “Kaylee, I’m dieing to be with you, too, but now, this situation, and I’m so tired, and…”

“Don’t worry. I know that you want it as much as me. I’m beat, also. We could lie down together, though? Bed’s big enough. If we lie real close and hold each other.”

“I think I could stand it,” he said with a slight grin.

Simon took off the slippers they had given him and Kaylee did the same. She lay down and then he was beside her, lying face to face, looking into each others eyes, arms around each other tight.

“Tell me it’s gonna be all right,” Kaylee whispered as she kissed him and snuggled into his arms.

She was so warm and felt so wonderful Simon wanted to tell her all would be well but that would be a lie. “I wish I could, but I don’t know what will happen. There are some nice people here. We’ve got to talk to this Commander.”

Then they hear the sound of the door being unlocked. They quickly sat up and two armed men entered the room.

“Come with us,” one said and both Simon and Kaylee stood.

“No, Doctor, you are to remain. Just the lady will come.”

Simon stood in front of Kaylee. “We’re not moving until I talk to someone in charge,” he said as fiercely as he could.

“Will I do, Doctor?” Jackson said as he moved into the room with two more guards.

“Commander Jackson? What’s going on?” Simon said with a touch of the angry that was now building in him.

“We have need of your ship and this young lady as I’ve been told she is the ship’s engineer.”

“Mechanic,” Kaylee said quietly.

“Captain Reynolds raves about your talent Miss Frye so I would not be amiss to call you an engineer.”

“You’re lying. Capt’n’d never tell you nothing about us or the boat.”

“You’d be surprised what I now know. Such as your affection for the Doctor here,” and Kaylee was indeed surprised at this from a man she had never met in her life.

Simon’s anger was now peaking. “I know that I’ve been doing nothing but helping your people since I came here against my will and this is how you repay us? By kidnapping Kaylee and doing who knows what to our crewmen to make them talk. And now it seems you are also demanding our ship?”

“You have every right to be angry, Doctor. We are most grateful for your aide. I don’t wish to harm anyone but I have need of Serenity and your captain’s temperament seems too independent to allow this. The young lady will come to our communications center and will talk to Zoe Washburne on Serenity and tell them that no one has been harmed. Then she will return here as soon as possible.”

Simon was about to argue more but he saw the look in Kaylee’s face, pleading with him to remain calm, and also knew it was good to have her talk to Zoe, if Jackson was telling the truth about this. And then there were the four men with the machine pistols, which made any protests of Simon’s in vain. But Simon had to make Jackson understand how much he truly cared for Kaylee. “If anything happens to her I’ll never lift a finger to help anyone on this base ever again.”

“You and she are perfectly safe, Doctor. I need you both. Your talents are indispensable.”

“It’s OK, Simon,” Kaylee said to him gently. “I’ll go. Just wants me to talk to Zoe, that’s all.”

Simon nodded but had a knot of tension in his gut. “See you soon,” he said and wanted to kiss her but felt awkward in front of these people. Kaylee didn’t care though and gave him a quick peck to the cheek, put on her slippers and followed the commander and the men out the door. Simon sat on the bed, worried and dejected, the second time in one day someone had forced him and Kaylee apart.

*********************************************************************** Kaylee was led down a corridor until they reached the main corridor that was like a central artery through the underground base. Tired as she was, Kaylee kept her eyes opened, looking for as many details as she could, trying to get the lay out of the base in her head. The corridors were all covered in plastic sheeting and Kaylee was sure steel or another stronger material was underneath. No rock or part of the moon were exposed anywhere. Lighting was bright but muted, strong lighting not being necessary in these corridors. The walls and floor were scratch and marred in places and there was a distinct age about the place. She noticed a few burned out light fixtures and some other small problems. Maintenance of these little things did not seem to be a priority. Or maybe they didn’t have the supplies to repair everything. Simon said it had been almost two years since the war and they had had no re-supply since then. Nothing seemed more advance or much different from what her corner of the verse had. Of course, she hadn’t seen everything yet. One thing she did notice. Nobody else was about, the corridors silent and empty.

At last they reached the communications center and the first thing Kaylee saw was a set of screens showing both her and Simon’s rooms and where the Capt’n and Jayne were. She felt a slight bit of anger mixed with embarrassment as she realized they had been watching her and Simon and maybe that’s how this man knew of their feelings for each other. There had been no visible cameras or vid devices but Kaylee knew from experience how small they could be. Simon now sat on the bed, leaning back against the wall and Kaylee felt a tug of sadness as she saw the worry on his face. In the other room Jayne and the Capt’n were on different beds, the Capt’n lying down staring at the ceiling, seeming to be talking to Jayne. The big man was sitting up in the bed and he was obviously talking to the Capt’n. There was no sound so Kaylee had no idea what was going on.

Jackson contacted Zoe and Kaylee felt so good hearing her voice. After Kaylee’s brief chat with her ship, she was led back to her room and once more into Simon’s arms. She whispered into his ear about the camera and possible recording devices and she briefly explained what had happened in the communications center. Then once more they lay down together, both exhausted from the days events and sleep came to them in a brief time.

************************************************** Try as he might, sleep wasn’t coming to Mal. Must be the drugs, he thought, or my brain is too full of guilt for my sins, recent and past, and thoughts on escape. One thing for sure, they’d need spacesuits to get out of here. He couldn’t very well talk to Jayne about any escape plan, not knowing who was listening in on their conversations.

“What you think they got planned for us, Mal?” Jayne said from his perch on his bed.

“Don’t know. Could be he just wants the boat to take look around Earth, get some supplies. Think if he could get to our quadrant they would have done so themselves long time ago. No, they ain’t perfected this here wormhole thing yet. We’re an “accident” according to them. Wasn’t supposed to be us coming through it. Maybe it was supposed be them coming through our side or someone else from our side coming through. Remember how he seemed to think we were a scientific expedition or representatives of our government?”

“I ain’t got a government,” Jayne said in disgust. “Got no need for anyone telling me what to do.”

“Me, neither,” said Mal. “Guess that’s one thing we do have in common.”

Jayne looked a bit guilty now. “You know Mal, those things we said back there. I didn’t mean but half of them.”

“No, Jayne we both said what we really meant. I know you’ve wanted to take over the ship since you came on board.”

“Tell the real truth,” Jayne started after a long moment of silence. “I ain’t got much leadership experience and would do a hell of a lot worse job than you or Zoe. Sides, Doc probably just knock me out again like last time.”

Mal almost smiled. “Well, if that’s the real truth then I guess you’re still ready to follow my orders.”

“If it means killing that son-of-a-bitch who I hope is listening now and getting out of this mess, I’m your man.”

“That it does.”

“You know who I’d like to give some of that there truth stuff they filled us with? The Shepherd. Bet he’s got a lot to tell.”

“Yeah. Maybe River, too, figure out what the hell they did to her.”

“Bet Doc thought of that already and figured it wouldn’t work. Maybe her brain can fight it.”

“Maybe,” Mal said. “Ain’t no use using it on Kaylee either. Don’t think a lie ever passed her lips. She probably couldn’t lie even if she was being questioned like we were.”

“Mostly likely not. Now Inara, there’s someone who’s got a story or two to tell. And I ain’t talking about no bedroom story. Course, that’d be nice to hear also.”

“Enough, Jayne.”

“Just she’s got a lot of mystery about her. Didn’t mean to talk bad about your lady.”

“She ain’t my lady!” Mal said with a trace of irritation. “You know the things I said about Inara? Let’s keep all that ‘tween us.”

“Ain’t gonna say a word long as you say nothing to Kaylee about how I wanted to turn in her sweetheart and his sis.”

“Not a word,” Mal said.

“What you think Zoe and the others are doing right now?”

“Making a plan to get us outta here I hope. If not, she’s fired. Now, let’s get some rest. We got a long road ahead of us.”

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

River sat on the infirmary examining table while Zoe looked at all the vials of medication on the shelves. Finally, she found the right one.

“I don’t think I need it. I feel fine,” said River.

Zoe looked at River’s chart again in Simon’s medical logs. She had asked River what he had given her and she said she didn’t know. Either she honestly didn’t know or did and didn’t want to take her medicine. After a few minutes searching Zoe found a file folder box with all their medical files, each one labeled with a crewman’s name. On River’s was her daily schedule of medication and the amount she was to be given.

“River, I need you and the rest of the crew to get some sleep. I recall how the first few months on board you’d wake up two, three times a night screaming with nightmares.”

“I hate nightmares. Except they’re not.”

Another cryptic comment which Zoe had no time or energy to decipher. "Real or not I need you to sleep and the rest of us also need to sleep. Wash set the proximity warnings and the ship is locked tight so there’s no worries there.”

“Drugs make everything fuzzy. Need to think. So much fear and worry.”

“Who’s afraid?”

“You are. Shepherd is, Inara, Wash. Jayne. Mal is angry, so much anger. And guilt. Simon and Kaylee are together. Simon is worried. Only Kaylee seems happy, a little bit, lying in his arms. But she’s worried, too. About us. About Mal. About her father.”

“If I give the drugs then you can’t sense them, can you?”

“Not much. Now I can feel them. All of them.”

“And the base people? This Jackson?”

“Don’t know him, can’t picture him or his thoughts. He’s too far away. But if we were together, I’d know.

“Let’s make a deal. I’ll give you your night shot so we can rest but only a little, say half, in the morning. When we meet this Jackson, I don’t want anything to be too fuzzy.”

“Deal,” River said and she put out her hand for Zoe to shake it. Zoe put on big grin and River did the same and then they shook hands. Then Zoe filled the syringe with the correct amount and gave River her injection.

“What’s our plan?” River asked after a few moments. “I’m very good with a gun, you know. Well, Kaylee knows at least.”

“So I’ve heard. No gunplay needed yet. Oh, we’ll meet then with guns but no shooting. We may just accidentally shoot the fellow that can send us home. Want you at my side when I talk to Jackson. Search out his thoughts and intentions.”

“Aye, aye,” said River and then she jumped down, yawned, and made her way to her bunk after saying goodnight to Zoe.

After she left Zoe stayed and looked at the medical records. She knew she shouldn’t do it, it was personal, but couldn’t help herself, even as tired as she was. All of their basic information, height, weight, age, hair and eye color and so on was there. Kaylee and River were the youngest, Kaylee 21 and River almost 18. Shepherd was older than she thought but not by much. So was Inara for that matter. Her beauty hid her age. How Simon got them to tell him the truth when they didn’t tell the rest of the crew she didn’t know but guessed it was because he was a doctor and all this was supposed to be confidential. Now that Zoe thought on it Inara had been aboard Serenity for over a year and they hadn’t celebrated a birthday for her yet.

Kaylee’s file was filled with her shooting and the operation and her recovery. One particular note was that the bullet had not damaged her reproductive system. Zoe imagined how the shy Kaylee had maybe asked the handsome doctor she was falling in love with about her ability to have babies after being shot. The other files described the various wounds they had sustained; Mal’s file was the thickest with these notes and charts and scan images. There was also a long passage on how Simon had reattached Mal’s ear that been cut off by Niska’s henchman.

Otherwise there were few medical problems, with the exception of River of course. Wash’s file made her laugh as he had once asked Simon to help him find his funny bone cause he thought he’d lost it when no one laughed at one of his jokes. Why Simon wrote that here she didn’t know but guessed his medical sense of humor couldn’t resist having it for some future reference. Jayne’s bad diet and high cholesterol was one problem mentioned, which it appears Simon had warned him about a few times, and it appears Jayne still refused to take care of it, with a note about how Jayne declined any medication. The Shepherd had his heart checked out and it was as strong as steel. Simon had also done a few cancer tests on the Shepherd, prostate, lung scan, and so on and there were no problems. Guess a man his age had to worry on these things. For all their science and technology, no one had ever found a cure for cancer, diabetes, or many other problems. Maybe the people of Earth had. River’s file was the thickest of all and much of Simon’s work was spent in trying to find a cure for his sister. Zoe didn’t understand it all but it was apparent her brain had been manipulated by surgery and psychological conditioning of some type. And that’s all he knew.

She put away the files and then checked on River and Book, both of whom were fast asleep. Zoe then did a quick walk about, made sure everything was locked down and the ship was tight for the night. At last she made it to the bridge and Wash was waiting for her.

“What took you?” he asked as he gave her a hug. “Got lonely up here.”

“Did you really ask Simon to find your funny bone?”

“What? Hey, that’s supposed to be….you looked through his files!”

“Just a little peek to find out what to give River,” she said to his look of mock hurt. “And I ain’t telling you nothing about the others, so don’t ask.”

“Wasn’t going to. So, time for bed?”

“Definitely.”

And so the crew of Serenity let slumber overwhelm them, both on and off the ship, as their minds and bodies needed a rest for what was sure to be a trial of fortitude, courage, and desperation if they ever wanted to see their home worlds again.

************************************************** Zoe awoke after six hours of deep sleep. She washed and dressed without waking her husband and made her way to the bridge. All was silent and quiet inside and outside Serenity. Soon after she set the kettle to boiling in the kitchen the Shepherd came up from below.

“Seems I slept the night away,” he said with a yawn. “Any news?”

As they drank coffee and prepared breakfast Zoe informed him of her conversation with Jackson and her brief chat with Kaylee and all that River had sensed. Then they began to plan for meeting with Jackson and his people.

“How many are there?” Shepherd pondered.

“Hard to say. X-ray scanners only show the base near Serenity but we can tell it goes off further. River counted at least fifty some figures on the scans but we don’t know who’s who or where our guys are except the room where Kaylee was taken. And River believes Simon’s with her now.”

“Let’s not let anyone on Serenity,” Shepherd began. “Except Jackson and maybe one guard. You and River meet him in the cargo bay, talk, find out what he’s up to. Maybe have Inara there too, let her beauty distract him a bit. Wash and I will be on the catwalk, armed. You have your gun at your side, let them see you are armed and give River an automatic pistol she can have at her back. If trouble comes she can surprise them. From what Kaylee says, it will quite a surprise if River opens fire.”

“We can’t chance it. They got our people.”

“Zoe, at some point we have to realize that we may have to spill blood, ours and theirs, in order to survive.”

“I’m all set to spill their blood. Not sure I want any of ours spilled.”

“But we cannot allow this base and its people to get total control of Serenity. We must maintain some advantage here. This is the only spaceship left in this quadrant by all appearances and that is our one and only advantage. They will not damage the ship. They need it as much as we do. If they try to force their way on Serenity, we must fight. And leave if necessary.”

“Oh, there will a fight all right if it comes to that. But we don’t leave our people behind, either”

“I’m not saying that. Just, we have to protect the ship, at all costs. It’s all we have between survival and death and it’s our only way back home”

“He’s right, baby, “said Wash in a groggy voice as he entered the dinning area. “No way they get the ship and no way anyone flies her but me.”

Zoe nodded. “I see what your point is Shepherd but we got to have a plan to rescue them.”

“We will. Agree to his terms but tell them you need Mal, Kaylee, and Simon on Serenity. Mal to lead the expedition to Earth, Kaylee to operate the engines, and Simon to help any survivors on Earth.”

“And Wash to fly her. Right?” said the pilot, a little bit nervous that Book forgot about him.

“Of course,” Book said in a reassuring tone.

“They ain’t gonna like that. Then they’ll just have one hostage, Jayne.”

“And an ornery one at that,” said Wash as he sat with a cup of coffee he had just prepared.

“No, they won’t,” Book answered. “Because Zoe, Inara, River and I will take their place.”

“What? That’s a bad idea,” Wash said. “Then they’ll have five hostages instead of four. Baby?”

But Zoe was thinking on the Shepherd’s words and what he said was starting to make sense.

“Okay, we’ll see if they play along. What’s the plan once the exchange is made?”

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

Kaylee and Simon had managed to get some rest, despite knowing people were probably watching them, and the nearness of each others body. Why they didn’t place them in room with two beds Kaylee didn’t know and didn’t care. Having him next to her, holding her, was some compensation for the way they were being treated. Of course, if they were on Serenity she’d have and hold him and a whole lot more.

Simon was awake when Kaylee opened her eyes, her handsome doctor staring at her. The lights were on, lower than before but still on, so Kaylee was quite certain they were being watched.

“Morning," he said as she yawned a bit.

“Morning,” she replied a little sleepily. “Or is it? Don’t really know what time it is here.”

“Don’t know. I haven’t seen any clocks. Sleep well?”

“Mostly. And you?”

“Sort of. The situation we’re in and lying next to you made it a bit….difficult.”

Kaylee almost smiled. “Glad I can still make a man feel that way.”

“Kaylee, you make me feel that way and a whole lot more.”

“How much more?” she asked, half teasing but really wondering where he was going with this.

He was silent for a few seconds, looking into her eyes before speaking.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen so I want to…that is… I feel I should tell you…oh, this isn’t the way I planned this. I wanted it to be a lot more romantic.”

Kaylee’s heart was beating wildly in her chest and she knew what he wanted to tell her. She gave him a little kiss. “It’s okay. Just tell me.”

He nodded and then took a deep breath and whispered. “Kaylee, I love you.”

Time stood still for a brief instance for Kaylee as she savored those words she had so long wanted to hear from him. She couldn’t help but break into her sunniest smile and looked deep into his eyes. “I love you, too.” And then they kissed and were lost to emotion and didn’t care who was watching.

After a long while they broke the kiss and just looked at each other. “Whatever happens, you just remember that I love you,” Simon said to her.

“I’ll never forget,” she breathlessly replied, her body screaming for release of the sexual tension ready to explode. But not now, not in this place, it couldn’t happen. And then she couldn’t resist asking him. “How long have you…felt this way...about me?”

“Since you picked me up from the dirt in Canton, after that crazy man beat me and threatened to kill me. I think it started then.”

“For me, too. My heart almost broke when I saw what had happened to you. All this time…and you never said anything?”

“It’s not hard to fathom why. I have River to look after and people chasing us and couldn’t have you become part of that, endangering you, too.”

“I would have and will be a part of that if we ever get back home. I don’t care what the Alliance does. I love you and want to be part of your life.”

“Let’s hope we have a chance to have that life.”

************************************************** Mal and Jayne were awaken by armed guards entering their room and giving them bottled water and some apples and oranges, weapons raised and warily watching the men as they handed over the food.

“Ain’t you all got bacon and eggs, and oatmeal and pancakes here?” Jayne asked as he looked in disgust at what was given him. One of the guards just shook his head.

“You’re lucky you’re getting this.” And then they left.

Mal picked up an apple and was looking at it a bit paranoid. “I don’t have a knife. You try it first.”

“What? Ain’t no bombs in these apples, Mal. You get killed you think Zoe gonna let them near Serenity?”

“Suppose not. Still, be mighty grateful if you tried one first.”

“How grateful? I sure could use a pay raise.”

“Well you’re on 10% now. Let’s make it twelve. Deal?”

“Deal. And don’t think I ain’t gonna hold you to it if we get out of this mess.” Jayne said as he picked up an apple and took a bite. “See,’ he mumbled. “No bombs.”

“I guess not,” Mal said as he picked up an orange and began to peel it. “Maybe I’ll just stick with these.”

“Gorramn critter food,” Jayne snarled as held the apple in his hand. “How do they expect a man to survive on this?”

“Eat it, cause I got a feeling he ain’t lying about being lucky to have this,” Mal said. “This is fresh fruit, the real thing. Bet they grow it all here.”

“Grow fruit on an airless, waterless moon? No rutting way,” Jayne replied as he peeled an orange.

“Called hydroponics. You use artificial sunlight, chemicals, and soil and you can grow anything under ground here. You ain’t never been a farmer, have you?”

“Nope. Horses is for riding, cows, pigs, and chickens is for eating. Put something in the ground and then it grows, you pick it, cook it, and eat it. That’s all I know about farming. My father was a welder and my mother was a piano teacher. And a God fearing woman at that.”

“A piano teacher? You ever play?”

“Till my fingers bled from her hitting my hands with a stick. One day I took it from her and broke it into kindling and that was the end of any piano lessons for me. My brother is good at it though. I’m more partial to the guitar. Had an uncle, her brother, taught me guitar. Now that’s a man’s instrument.”

“How come you don’t have a guitar on Serenity?”

“Lost the last one I had in a poker game. Or did I use it to pay off a whore? Can’t remember.”

In a few minutes their meal was done and both were still hungry. “If this is all folks are eating here I can see why Jackson wants my ship to get to Earth,” Mal said after he used the bathroom that was attached to their room.

“Fat chance Zoe’ll let him on,” Jayne said.

“Maybe if I was asking things go smoother.”

“Mal, you don’t mean to give up do you? Not to this son-of-a-bitch!”

“He’s got all the cards, Jayne. Ain’t got much choice. ‘Sides, I don’t want to be roommates with you when you start seeing me more like a cow than your captain.”

Jayne almost laughed. “Sounds good but I ain’t got a pan big enough for you.”

But Mal wasn’t paying attention as he looked around at the ceiling. “Jackson! If you’re listening, it’s time to make a deal!”

“Very well, captain,” came Jackson’s voice. Then after a few moments the door opened and the guards came in again.

“Come with us, Captain Reynolds,” one said.

“What about me?” Jayne asked.

“Just the captain,” the guard replied. Mal looked at Jayne.

“Don’t worry, we won’t leave without you.”

“Sure about that? After all I said yesterday.”

“Still need you to do some work for me.”

Jayne smiled. “That’s one order I’m looking forward.” And then Mal was gone.

*********************************************************************** Zoe, Inara, Book, River and Wash sat in the dining area, taking a break from all the heavy lifting they had just done. After a quick breakfast and discussion they set to work putting their plan in motion. The first step was to take care of all the weapons on Serenity. The weapons crates were stowed away, some in the secret hiding place near the stairs, others in the crew bunks, some more in the service crawlspace under the fore hall, a few in some nooks and crannies in the engine room, and the rest in the arms lockers in the forward part of the bridge. All places with weapons were well locked or hidden. If anyone came on board this ship there was no way they would find any weapons loose. Following that, Zoe had given River a half a dose of what Simon normally gave her, deciding that she needed River calm, but not too out of touch with her abilities. Neither River nor Zoe had any idea if it would work but they had to try something.

“Almost time,” Book said.

“Are you sure about this?” Inara asked Zoe.

“It’s the best plan we can come up with. Time to prepare yourself.”

“On the way,” Inara replied as she rose and left toward her shuttle.

“River, you just follow my lead,’ Zoe told the teen. “Whatever happens don’t let on that you can read their minds.”

“Read what?” she asked in surprise and Zoe wasn’t sure if she was serious or joking.

“Minds!” said Wash, almost shouting like he was talking to someone who couldn’t speak English. He then said it in Chinese for good measure.

“For a funny guy you sure don’t know a joke when you hear one,” said River and they all had a small chuckle at Wash’s expense.

“Time to call Jackson,” Zoe said as they made their way to the bridge.

*********************************************** The doors of the landing pad opened and the platform rose into view. Wash expertly guided Serenity onto the platform and turned off the VTOLS. The ship then slowly descended, the doors above closing as the ship went down. The platform reached the bottom and then all was silent as atmo was pumped into the large hanger.

“Getting atmo readings,” Washes voice came from the speaker in the cargo bay.

“Roger. Get to your position,” Zoe said into the intercom. River was standing beside her and Book was above on the catwalk with a semi-automatic rifle. “Where’s Inara?” she asked impatiently.

“Coming,” said the Companion as she descended the stairs. She was all done up in her Companion finery and looked like she was ready for business, with her hair coiffed and her face radiantly made up. “How do I look?”

“Fantastic,” said Wash as he appeared on the catwalk above. Zoe just shot him one of her steely eyed looks. “Well, she does!” he added nervously and then looked to Book for support. “Shepherd?”

“Yes, indeed, Miss Serra is radiant as always.”

“Wash, get your gun and try not to shoot yourself,” Zoe commanded her husband. Wash reached his position opposite where Book was and picked up a machine gun and a fifteen shot automatic which he tucked into a hostler on his belt. Near him and Book were a few more ready for quick use.

Down below Zoe’s sawed off Winchester was strapped to her hip as always and a pistol was at her other side. River had an automatic at her back, ready to pull out if there was trouble. Only Inara was unarmed but any man and probably a few women wouldn’t have thought so, the Companion’s weapons on full display for all to see.

Then there was a knock on Serenity’s outer door. Zoe stepped forward and looked through the window. She laughed and then said, “Well, I’ll be.”

She opened the door and Mal stepped through, alone.

“Good to see you, sir,” Zoe said.

"Good to be seen, Zoe."

She turned to River. “And you didn’t see this coming?”

“Wanted it to be a surprise,” River replied. “Also, I didn’t know if he would be alone or not.”

Inara was just stunned speechless. Mal looked at her all dressed up. “Guess someone knew I was coming and got all gussied up.”

She wanted to kiss him and slap him at the same time. She smiled in her sarcastic way. “Well, captain, for your information this wasn’t for you.”

“Didn’t think so,” he replied unable to resist a verbal joust even at this time. “All ready to set up shop here?”

“Only if their money is good enough.”

“Well, don’t strain yourself. Jayne’s already found out that whoring is illegal here.”

“Can’t you two ever stop?” Zoe said in exasperation. “Sir, where are the others?”

“Jayne was with me and they said Simon was taking care of the injured. Haven’t seen him for awhile.”

“They got Kaylee, too,” Inara said, feeling so happy to see Mal and even enjoying their little sparring just now she forgot how serious things still were.

“I heard and was mighty unhappy to know you let her out there alone, Zoe.”

“She volunteered, Mal,” Inara said as Zoe was about to answer.

“We needed Zoe to be leader,” said River and before Zoe could open her mouth Book added his support.

“Was only thing we could do, Mal,” Book said as he and Wash came down the stairs. “We had no idea what was going on and Kaylee was only one qualified to open those airlocks or check this landing platform”

“They wouldn’t let me go, sir’ Zoe added, almost standing at attention before her captain.

Mal just nodded to Zoe. “Okay. You all did what was right. Was the best move. Now we got to talk on what’s next.”

“Which is what?” Wash asked. “Our standard run away or fight?”

“Neither,” Mal began. “I made us a deal.”

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 10:05 PM

AMDOBELL


Uh oh, now I am all manner of worried about what kind of deal Mal cut with those *tamade hundan* on the base. Not that I think he would really leave Jayne behind or anyone else for that matter but I sure hope he has a trick or two up his sleeve so they can turn the tables on Jackson and his people. Hope the next part is up soon! Also, I was ten kinds of anxious when Wash set down on that landing platform and Serenity descended into the belly of the beast. If Jackson doesn't get everyone playing ball his way all he has to do is seal them in and wait until their air and food run out then he has a nice shiny ship to steal and no awkward crew to deal with. Gulp. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, April 11, 2008 1:40 PM

INVICTUS12


g great continuing story sb!


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As the crew rests and heals, Shin and his confederates take a step closer to power, and Mal faces a new, deadly dilemma.

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Mal strikes back at the Alliance, a little trip to the bank doesn't go as planned, and the Operative reaches out to River and Derek.

River's Run - Part 11
The Operative makes a plan to trap Serenity, escape plans are made, and those long separated are together once again.

River's Run - Part 10
Inara makes a date with Paulo Chase, Mal gets back his first love, and Shin plans the next move in the galactic chess match.

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