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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
new chapter: Pt 3 of 5. The crew held hostage, Mal off to settle a score, Book in a very strange shop...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1355 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
apologies for delay - been away!
this story is set just prior to Those Left Behind.
firefly credit this time therefore goes to Joss and Brett.
Three: Exile on Main Street.
The Serenity has landed at the township of Candle.
Zoë, Wash and Simon are at gun-point from a posse sent after Mal.
Inara is in her shuttle. Jayne is in the bath. River is - somewhere...
Kaylee is walking through town on her way back from visiting a strange shop.
Book is still there, with the owner, Jossiah Bell.
Mal meantime is on his way to find out why a job for the Drayton family has seen Serenity take onboard a cargo of oil that was meant to be wine.
Splashing unhappily in the blackening water of his bath, Jayne was glad of the earplugs he always wore in the tub. Kept out the Captain and the crew and the whole go tsao de Jayne - do this - Jayne do that - crisis, danger, emergency - heavy lifting - nice and simple. Just a muted background - ship's speakers most like. Normally Cobb hated the bath, didn't seem natural sometimes - and - hell on a hump! - trying to get the lousy oil off his skin was a pain in the fay-fay ... Still, he was glad of the chance to avoid whatever job he was being yelled for. He ducked under the water again - no mean feat, man of his size. Then he rose to spit a fountain of liquid, one of his favourite tricks. Well, that was the plan... like ever, turned out to end in a messy splutter of coughing and swallowing and "GAH!"
Gazing down through the black of the ceiling vent, River's face was luminously clear, her eyes placid and watching. Jayne slapped water, hard. "Girl!" he yelled, "you got a need to keep - gorram! - why are you - DOING this!"
"Can't clean the insides," River said.
"Huh?" Jayne was still wearing his ear-plugs of course, wouldn't made much of a difference though - gibberese that crazy filly liked to come out with. "Stop watching me!" Jayne shouted. He pawed the air with one hand and ripped an ear-plug out with the other.
"Cap' said - any of that and my wood gets chopped for tinder! Bet you'd like that huh?"
"And then they'll just be dead," River said clearly.
"Who - what now?" Jayne shook his head - and even as he did so he was reaching for the nightdress from the rail and pushing himself up from the tub.
River's eyes went wide. "Not wood! Not wood!" she shrieked vanishing back into the vent.
"Hey come back now gorram it!" Jayne called after her.
Still enjoying the feel of solid ground - and she really could feel it too, new boots – a girl can dream - Kaylee ambled her way towards the crude scrub that served as ship-port. Weren't much more than a square of pre-blasted ground and a couple of big gates - as if ships were horses like to get up and prance free down the main drag with a mind to. Got a vivid imagination, huh l'il missy?
Each step away from the 'toy'shop and she was feeling real good - and little wonder given the scenic delights of Candle town. There was nothing much - nothing so crazy different from the many other towns along the Rim Kaylee had seen, just nicer somehow. Warm sun, the sound of the wagon traffic, clippety clop and a faraway clapping of hammer, nail and wood. There was an occasional waft of howdy-doody talk from the parading fine-dressed folk out strolling. Such a Sunday feeling. Everyday should be like this, maybe. Pleasant. Well, 'cept that creepy shop of course and - oh, darn it!
There was a shadow on the sun - a ship moving in. Silent - till the sound caught up and that was as ugly as the soot spewing out of its rear.
Jeez, those Darrow-Hatch pulse pods, crappy just crappy. Oughta be anything like that just gets banned outright.
She watched the craft descend into the port.
Hell, I should just go on up there. Gotta be someone tells them 'you gonna use those leh-so pulsers, should at least rig an extra scrubber before you vent - that's half your fuel right there blowing out your ass. Hell, I should... Hell, I WILL at that!
Unhurried but with a new purpose now - Kaylee began to walk again towards the port.
Nursing his head, Simon Tam was blearing his way back to consciousness in Serenity's cargo bay. Giving the assembled tough guys who were pointing their guns at him and Zoë and Wash, a weary take-in, he said dryly, "Well this is usual."
The sound of his voice broke what had been a tense moment of silence and Wash, still clinging to the pretence that he was Mal, jerked into life and began to babble once more at the leader of the gun-toting crew.
"Ok, ok then - state your business. What is it you want? No, wait... Me right, right. What is it I can get you. Might sound like a whacky plan to such as you - keen minded, uh, strong - with guns... But hey, how about bribery? Everyone has a need for coin, aint that so?"
Lancy sighed. "That would be the reason for taking your head back to those looking to see it on their mantle. Know for a fact the reward'll fetch more of the cashy precious than you all got between you. Well - 'cepting your head aint the one called for. Nope, Mr Husband who aint Reynolds, can't take you anywhere. Guess your body will just have to decorate this place once we depart and, heh heh, you are the departed."
Wash had gulped already till he could gulp no more. Think dammit! "Might be so..." he ad-libbed quickly, "then again - might be the terms of your warrant rule out killing innocents."
Closing his eyes in disbelief at his own actions, Wash threw the gun from his hand. There was a groan from the fallen Takei. "Uh, sorry," Wash was mortified, "but, uh, hey - unarmed!"
"Guess you are." Lancy didn't sound thrilled.
"So, uh - hostage?"
"Not sure anyone's likely minded to split the legal hairs on this dog."
"In that I believe you may be mistaken. The Guild will undoubtedly require an investigation into the murder of a registered Companion and her colleagues."
Neither Lancy nor Wash could quite believe their ears - but they had entirely differing reactions to the unexpected voice floating down to them through the grating. Wash's face lit up like a fireworked sky full of the happy and relieved. He raised a grateful eye to Inara who was coming down the access way in a stately fashion. "Ambassador has a point - yeah... that's a point right? It's a good point."
Lancy's reaction was angered frustration at the intrusion. "Well - I don't recall killing any gorram Guild member - as yet."
Inara smiled. "Oh but you'll have to. As a material witness - and an official representative of House Madrassa, I would have to lodge a full report with the Guild. You would then be required to give testimony before the GIA and possibly Alliance Federal Security."
Lancy spat. "Gorram whore!"
Inara smiled again. "Please, I feel it only fair to tell you that verbal abuse will not reflect favourably. But I'm willing to overlook initial ignorance before negotiations begin."
"Negotiations!?!" Lancy looked set to fit.
"If you would be so kind," Inara gave a gracious tilt of the head, "as to show me the warrant and authorisation for your posse? I'd be happy to discuss the relevant issues in a more appropriate environment, in a reasonable manner, over some refreshments."
Sighing was something of a Captain's lot. Some distance away from his ship and sighing himself, Malcolm Reynolds paused. He had found the house he wanted and was standing in the cool of the portico. The house belonged to the Drayton’s, the folk that set up the deal with the barrels. Barrels that had miraculously turned out to contain oil rather than wine - when wine had clearly - clearly - been the understood cargo. Well, that was a pause - and now he was done. Marching up to the door of the house he reached up to tug on the floral decorated bell-rope.
Weren't even that fancy a house, save them flashy pillars - and it had to have a bell rope? Let's be charitable here Malcolm - could be it added an atmosphere, calming. Calming would be good. Business needed settling, folk to put their cards on the table and explain the play. No need to be angersome, negotiations like to go smoother if folks kept a calm...
The door opened to reveal a scowling figure. Scowling - followed real quickly by groaning and then writhing - as Mal butted the man to the floor.
With a swift hand Reynolds pulled his pistol free from his belt and stepped smartly over the body and into the house.
Well? What 'well'? Hey now - that was fair calm, Mal thought to himself as he moved down a hall to a set of vanished wooden stairs. There were two closed doors facing him and he gave them a quick glance then headed on up the stairs. They creaked loudly and suddenly under his feet. He didn't jump.
See? I'm calm...
Over at the Emporium, a wary Shepherd Book was holding a monkey. It was metal of course and it’s curled tail and paws fit snug into his palm. There was a good weight to it.
"I have had Psycho for a very long-time," the shopkeeper was saying.
"You call your monkey Psycho?" Book gave a wry laugh.
"You must forgive me," Jossiah Bell smiled. "I have something of a passion for history. Both ancient and modern," he added. "Also names... Do you share that interest Mer? That's a fine name Mer - La Mer, or perhaps Myrrh the perfume of the ancients."
"That is not my name." Book was now looking with distaste at the figure in his hand. "And as for history, it has been peppered with psychos since the very beginning - and will do so until the last trump. Few things in life are certain," he slipped the thing back onto the shelf, "but that alas is one of them."
Bell was laughing at some private joke - but he made efforts to say sincerely. "True, yes indeed, true. But Psycho here is not named after so dark a thing as the petty evils of man - or monkey. Ha, ha. No. No, Psycho was a famous oracle on the Earth-that-Was. I have read that many rich and powerful people sought advice. I have to admit that I could have used some myself when I was recreating his likeness. I had but one image to work from - and, as I said, I have an eye for minutiae. I was forced to embroider somewhat to cover the lack of detail."
The Shepherd moved impatiently away from the shelf - but Bell was blocking him. Book frowned. "I have never heard of such a thing, but I suppose it's testament to the Dark Times."
"Perhaps, but it is only through the experience of darkness that we learn to aspire to the light. Then even a candle can become holy."
"Hmmm..." Book was becoming increasingly irritated. Bell seemed to consider something - a course of action - then quite suddenly he clapped Book enthusiastically on the arm, he rolled his large body backwards and Book was free to move. However, as he stepped forward, Bell spoke again - and his tone was insistent. "You have heard of the Beacon worlds of course."
Book had meant to go to the door but he couldn't let that go. "There is no of course,” he said. But catching the tone of his voice decided to add "but I suppose the Priory - it is a beacon of sorts, yes." Gently does it Shepherd.
Bell frowned. "An adroit answer - but..." He looked at Book as a teacher might when a reluctant pupil pretends to miss the obvious. "Never mind. Beacon worlds - an old phrase, back from the Earth-that-Was. History again - but you of all people should realise how important history can be. We, the first to go forth into the long night between the stars shall shine ourselves as like unto a beacon for those that follow. The first pilgrims, Seeds in the desert - lights in the dark - goodness in the hearts of men."
"I thought that was just a legend. Then Candle?"
"Oh yes, yes certainly - a long and lonesome time ago. Of course, there's barely a memory of that now. This place... it's hollow. Do you know what it means to be hollow?"
"I would hardly be a Shepherd if that were so..."
"A Shepherd? Oh yes. Well, I'll be generous - and in the past?"
Now it was Book's turn to frown - I'm forgetting something... "It is given to every man to be empty until he realises he is not." Yes, that must have been it.
"That is... simplistic. Have you wondered how it feels know you are NOT empty - but to realise you are the only person who understands that?"
He waited for Book's answer - gliding a hand once more across the faces of his silent figurines. Some of them seemed to be watching, waiting.
"Yes." Book admitted, finally.
Slow, so as not to alarm the tense men around her, (Wash for one,) Zoë eased a cramp in her legs, shifting to sit more comfortably. Her eyes were looking ahead and through the open bay, she could see a painter's dab of blue sky and the tops of the gate polls. Neutral enough gave her mind a chance.
This posse, raggedy though they were, they were legit - she believed them about that, didn't serve much to worry over who sent them. Not Feds. That was something. Serenity had a fair roll of angered by now, to be expected - but Bounty Hunters she'd met enough to last. Posse might be a problem, threatening her husband weren't endearing - she'd prove that come the chance - but it was fair. Hell - time was that she and the Captain had seriously considered that line of work, before Serenity. Posse's were Rim operators - didn't side with the Alliance particularly, had weapons and a measure of freedom.
A measure weren't enough for Mal... And Zoë, though she'd fit right in with a unit anyplace, had got used to being a right hand. Yeah - and the proof of the pudding was sitting across from her, chewing on his fingers.
Zoë cared but squat for destiny. There were chances - you took them, choices - you made them. I would have missed you honey... Zoë smiled to Wash, and that would have been just a damn shame.
Wash was looking at her now. his face was full of sorry sweet pea, this is all my fault somehow - I don't know how - well maybe it wasn't but... you'd tell me right - if I asked? You wouldn't just save it for Mal so I get the mystery glare and the not talking. And if we die - I'll never forgive myself.
Sigh. She owed him so much and Wash never could see it. Could have been I'd close myself off like Mal. Nearly did... and look now, Inara - hell, the fun we had with Mrs Reynolds... Or Kaylee, dressing up the place something pretty and me walking in on her and the Doc' chatting plain as children in a schoolyard, Crush was a warming thing.
Wash, that's why our child - you don't get it - you gave me a family again you jack-ass. Now I want to give one back. That's a damn good reason. No, not the only one... but a good one.
Might have to shoot some more people first though, seems like.
There was a pause then in the darkened shop, Book could feel spiders of sweat crawling across his scalp, down his arms. The shop was becoming a claustrophobic hot house, unwholesome somehow - hard to breathe, to think. The air seemed to clog up in his lungs - the thoughts to clot in his brain.
"I've seen enough... toys." Book said, trying to clear the fog.
"Ah yes, toys," Bell seemed not to have noticed Book's awkward movements, "toys with the semblance of life - puppets of metal, wood, ceramic. But then, what is man after all but a rude thing made of clay, sealed with a word and made to live; a Golem. Golem - I often think it translates well as 'God-toy.' Are we not just automata of the flesh?"
"No." Book said with disgust. "And you could hardly expect me to agree."
Yet Bell appeared genuinely surprised. "Really Shepherd - I - Are you not simply a servant of the Word?"
"That is a distortion - your own hubris. People are individuals - despite everything - with a free will. We are not controlled so easily... We are not slaves to mere words."
Bell laughed full and hard - waving a hand as he did so in apology. The man's reactions were bewildering. He must be mad entirely.
"I'm sorry," said Bell, clutching his rotund sides, "but oh, the irony is priceless. Ahem! I think 'Shepherd', that in time you may change your mind on that."
This is my imagination, Book chided himself, it is quite cool in here and I am not given to sweat easy. Enough.
"You talk of the past - I assume you were a scientist. Certainly, you were not a shopkeeper - and I doubt you were a mechanic - though these mechanisms are fine. Yes, you were a scientist I should say."
Bell seemed to wince at the directness. "Yes, I was a scientist, one of that breed - no small number. Just one of many."
"I doubt that you do."
"That you were worked for the Alliance is obvious - but in what capacity I wonder. Hiding out here - suggests guilt, but directly or by association. An eye for details... that is a talent some may have frowned on."
Bell nodded encouragement as Book continued - breathlessly. "I would hazard to guess - you spoke of many... I would say your work - a team - the work was distorted... somehow. Are you - Well, it is not likely that you have done good works is it."
Again the nod.
"So... Is it simply hiding that has you here, this town, this shop, this street - or exile I wonder?"
The round jaw of Jossiah Bell - clenched and unclenched, looked almost mechanistic as it did so. But the words were impassioned.
"Some of us..." Bell said, "We tried to speak out..." He caught himself. "I'm sorry, 'out'? How foolish. Some of us tried to speak. Yes - but interesting how quickly networks of strong research groups can be disbanded... And think-tanks?"
Bell paused to dab at the greyish spittle forming on the corners of his mouth. He was no longer even looking at Book - addressing instead the shadowy figures of his mannequins, his voice floating.
"Think tanks... do not encourage speech. This is meant to be a Think-Tank not a Talk-Shop. They said that. I remember, I remember... they said that. Words, yes... semantics... when is a purge not a purge, except of course that it was, uh, enforced - as you know Mer.”
"I know only that you are feeling sorry for yourself."
"Yes, well - that's quite understandable. I'm tired. Do you understand? I want back in - I want to go home."
His hands clutched at the air. "I want to go home."
Stomping now – Jayne was heading down the narrow corridors of Serenity – towards the loading bay. The nightdress was clinging to him damply but it was a comfort. As was Vera – his very favourite gun. Nestled in the loving crook of my manly arms, just where you should be.
Stomp, stomp, stomp.
Damn Witchbit best not be playin’ no ruttin’ game now…
Stomp, stomp, stomp.
Vera purred as the safety was released and the ammo was charged.
“Why Malcolm Reynolds – I do declare.” Lucille Drayton gave an amused fluttering laugh as an unkempt Mal burst dramatically through the white and silver door and into the room. He was armed and dangerous and belligerent to boot. He was also at a loss.
This being manly due to the number of carbines pointed his way, not the least of which was in the slim hand of Lucille. Her free hand she extended in a gracious wave. “Handsome as the devil – quick as old nick too. I mean, how you have been and gone and come so swiftly back. Life is just full of surprises.”
“That is so – truly, Lucille I’m surprised myself.” Outnumbered as he was, Mal didn’t drop his weapon. “Family just keeps on growing I see.” He gave darting glances around at the assembled men, their guns, their clothing – which was not on the cash stingy side if he was a judge.
“That is so – why I’m just crawling with brothers and cousins and uncles.”
“I’m glad you share my deep and abiding joy therein, but really honey what brings you scampering back so post hasty?” She sniffed, “And sweaty too.”
“Hey now! No call to be personal on my odour – it’s just sweat, honest sweat.”
Lucille raised a long auburn eyebrow.
“Well honest-er.” Mal said – as in ‘ha!’
The Drayton belle made a tut-tut motion with her lips. “Now really Malcolm – are you calling me dishonest or just saying I sweat – because you know. Ladies – we don’t. Sweat that is.”
One of the new ‘brothers’, squat and bullet headed – Aint they all, Mal moaned mentally, he was beginning to think Wash was right. Fine. Next time it’s planet of the koalas for us Wash, I swear.
There was a discreet cough.
“Oh yeah – sorry – little attention problem,” Mal smiled disparagingly, “account of maybe concussing myself on one of your servants.”
“Not Doddsworth surely? Oh that poor man. Henriette – do go down this instant and get the fellow an iced tea for his pains.” Lucille looked around. “Now where were we?”
Mal pointed helpfully.
“Oh yes, of course – dear me – that’s right, you go ahead Charles.”
One of the new ‘brothers’, squat and bullet headed, leapt forward with a growl. “Sir, your conduct towards my sister is un-gentlemanly.”
“Charlie’s so sweet, don’t you think Malcolm?”
Mal looked pained. “Ok, sure, not a gentleman – oh I’m a villain, regular black heart.” He raised his hands in mock horror – then narrowed his gaze. “I don’t pretend to be anything special. For instance, unless I’ve had a calling and slept clean through it? Don’t recall being able to turn wine into oil – unlike some.”
Bullet boy Charlie took to growling again.
"Home." The word sounded odd in the Shepherd's mouth, almost bitter. "I'm not sure what that means..." It was another admission, but Bell seemed not to hear.
"You of all people must -"
"I am not all people," Book pointed out.
"No, most assuredly... you are not ALL people. You are a particular person."
Again - an edge had crept into Bell's voice. "Allow me to show you something."
He glide around the room again - but this time Book could see hands stretching, heads turning, eyes rolling as every figure in turn was touched.
Book felt buffeted by the force of the din - he staggered for a moment - caught himself and sat down heavily on the nearest chair. He was glad there was a chair.
"Admirable is it not?" Jossiah Bell stood like the conductor of some marvellous symphony waving his arms at the cacophony around him. Each and all of his creations awoke, active and individual - contributing to the chaotic concert he was orchestrating. The trumpeting of elephants, the bellow of bovine beasts, clowns crashing cymbals and their horns tooting. Bagpipes wheezed from the kilt wearing grandfather. A crazed tap dancer kept up the timpani in synch with a drum bashing gorilla.
Still seated, Book struggled to focus. It was hard to hear the shopkeep above the din. What was he saying?
"Perhaps now I should play the villain for you - yes? The reassurance of a pantomime... And together they tumbled over the dread Reichenbach rocks, the great falls obscuring within the torrent the flailing of the greatest hero of the age - and his monstrous opposite. You know, I rather fancy that for my next project. It would be an epic in clockwork. However, the task at hand is perhaps more... intimate.”
"What do you want from me?"
"Oh screams perhaps - let's not rule them out, Mer. I have to admit that my work is usually planned to a meticulous degree - but you are an unexpected gift of fate."
"You do not frighten me." Book had had enough. "Stop this foolishness!" He gasped.
With a curt gesture Bell cut the power to all the creatures of his shop. How? How? Book wondered, his brain dizzy. The silence hurt his ears. Bell was looking at him now coldly.
"So the time of magic is gone," he said. "And all our revels ended. And deeper than did ever plummet sound, I'll - drown - my - Book."
The Shepherd didn't see Bell move, heard nothing but a far off clang - yet with a rush he was falling through space, chair and all - into a chasm, the watery dark.
"Hey ho," said Bell. "That’s that then." A sigh, “I didn’t even get to tell him about my oil.”
End of part 3.
Next chapter -
What Kaylee Did Next:
A River runs free - Jayne runs wild - Mal runs away and nothing runs smooth... oh and some actual info on the oil – maybe…
special thanks for this chapter – some of the ideas for this were stoked (way back when) by a threads on Myths in sci-fi, Shepherd Book (and his name) and History of Earth-that-was, can’t find them now but hey, whomsoever didst post? Rock on.
and thanks again, spaceanjl
ALL FEEDBACK WELCOME:)
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