BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CBSTEVE

The Return Home - Part 2
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The crew learns some of River's secrets and emotions are high as contact is made with their famiies after four years.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1532    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Return Home – Part 2

River Tam bounced on the balls of her feet, hands held up loosely in front of her, as her opponent circled her in the sparring ring, both of them surrounded by cheering students and instructors. His name was Maston Forbes and he was the best in the program. Well, almost the best, thought River as she waited for his next attack. I’m the best and he knows it. Look at the glint of fear in his eyes. He knows I’m going to knock him on his ass in a second, right in front of all these people. River reached out with her mind and knew what Forbes would do next, knew he would lunge, punch right, spin and swing for her head with his left foot. It was all over in the blink of an eye, his punch hit air, she ducked under his kick and nailed him hard to the chest with her right foot. The fair-haired youth flew back, landing on his back with the air expelling from his chest with a grunt as he struggled to get to his feet. But the weight of River’s foot on his throat, pressing down, cutting off his air supply, prevented him from moving.

“Enough!” shouted a commanding male voice and River released her hold on Forbes. As she smiled and reached down to give him a hand up, there was a smattering of applause from their audience. They were in a gymnasium, at one end, surrounded by many young people dressed in light blue exercise wear. River and Forbes were similarly dressed, barefoot as were the others.

“Good fight,” River said as Forbes gave her a dirty look.

“Next time, Tam,” was all he said, his voice cold and unfriendly as he shrugged off River’s attempt to be magnanimous and began to walk away.

“Forbes! You will bow to your opponent!’ commanded the instructor, a small Chinese man in a white marital arts outfit.

“Yes, master,” Forbes said as he and River bowed to each other.

“And these are the two best, Dr. Mathis?” said a tall man in a grey suit as he approached the crowd. There was a sudden parting of people as the man approached, Dr. Mathis at his side, a large group of officious looking people and security guards behind them. The doctor was middle aged, with dark hair and was also dressed in a suit. He seemed very nervous and everyone knew why. The tall man was instantly recognizable to all.

“Yes, High Chancellor Cutter. Maston Forbes and River Tam are our two best subjects,” the doctor said nervously. “Ah, I mean the best in this initial stage of combat training. Of course there will be other…I mean…well, I can’t discuss that yet…unless…you want me too?

“Relax, doctor, I am not here on Athenian Island to shut your project down, merely to examine it. It has …potential.”

Cutter walked into the fighting area and stood before Forbes and River. Almost everyone cast there eyes away from this man as he scanned around the crowd, everyone except River that is. Cutter was Caucasian, tall, with black hair going to grey. He was thin and wiry, his grey suit tailored to perfection, a pair of round gold wire rimmed glasses perched on his hawk like nose. He could almost seem like a school teacher if all in the room did not know his reputation as one of the most ruthless men in the galaxy.

He was High Chancellor to the Parliament and this meant he was in charge of all police forces in the known verse. Cutter had been in power before the war and he was only in his mid-fifties, expecting to remain in his post for at least another decade. Several attempts to unseat him through political maneuvering had failed. Other attempts, of the kind assassins used, had been equally fruitless, and those responsible had suffered accordingly. During the war his name was cursed among the Independent forces as Cutter was responsible for the occupation of conquer Independent planets and moons and his rule was without mercy.

He stared at River and she didn’t even blink.

“You are not afraid, child?” he asked in a cold monotone.

“No, sir. We learn to control our fears when in combat,” she replied and she could feel the surprise and unease in the crowd of students and Cutter’s entourage.

“Indeed. That is wise. Tell me, River Tam, how long have you been here on Athenian Island?”

“Almost one year, sir.”

“And it is to your liking?”

“The food could be better.”

There was sudden stillness in the air as Cutter’s eyes narrowed and Dr. Mathis looked like he would have a heart attack. Then Cutter chuckled, a sound that most in his group had never heard before.

“Yes, I’m sure it could,” Cutter replied with a smile and then River’s mind was flooded with images and thoughts from this man. His small chuckle and smile had broken the veneer of his walls of protection and she could see deep into his mind, all that he knew, all his plans and ideas and projects, things he had done and was going to do. And one word kept popping up over and over again, Miranda, with the image of a blue white world with millions of people in lovely cities, working, playing, enjoying life. And then they were nothing but ghosts, husks of their former selves, and some were mad with rage at what had been done to them.

******************************************************************** “Miranda!” River screamed as she woke up in her bed on Serenity. Simon was by her side, holding her shoulders.

“It’s okay, River, its okay, just bad dreams,” he said as he held his shaking sister.

River suddenly remembered being on the bridge when all went black before her eyes. She was dazed and looked at Simon.

“How did I get here?”

“We carried you. Well, Jayne carried you actually,” Simon replied as he prepared a needle with medication.

“Miranda, it’s a planet” she said quietly and Simon stopped what he was doing.

“Yes, Mr. Universe’s broadcast said that Miranda is the Reaver home world. When you heard the name you…collapsed… on the bridge.”

“The Reaver home world?” River asked with puzzlement.

“That’s what the report said. We don’t know anymore. Ah…do you?”

“Cutter.”

Simon felt cold as she mentioned this name. “High Chancellor Adam Cutter?”

“He saw me. At the academy. I remember now. His mind…I could feel his thoughts…he did something to Miranda…something terrible…I…can’t remember!”

She was almost on the verge of tears and Simon held her for a long while as she calmed down.

“You need to rest. This will help,” Simon said as he gave her the injection and River didn’t protest like usual. “Maybe when you’ve had a sleep you can remember more.”

“Sometimes I never want to remember anything,” River said as she drifted off to sleep.

*************************************************** All of the crew except Wash was in the passenger lounge, some sitting, others standing, as Simon came out of River’s room.

“How is she?” Kaylee asked first as she came to his side.

“Good. Sleeping now,” he said.

“Any ideas on why she went…ah, had a seizure,” Mal asked, thinking to say ‘woolly’ at first but then realizing it might upset Simon. Mal owed the Doc a lot more than he could even re-pay and decided it was time to treat him with more civility. Long as he didn’t tell him to shut up again.

“The report triggered a reaction in her memory cortex,” Simon replied. “She knows the name Miranda, said it’s a planet.”

“Well, Doc, we figured that much from Mr. Universe,’ said Jayne sarcastically.

Mal gave him one of his looks and then turned to Simon. “How does she know this name?”

Simon paused, wondering how much he should say and then just spit it out. “A key member of the government was in her presence once and she read his mind.”

“Who was it?” Book asked before anyone else could voice the question that came to them all.

“She read High Chancellor Cutter’s mind at the academy.”

Mal and Zoe both swore at the mention of that name. “I’d like to be in his presence,” Zoe said with venom. “Long enough to gut him.”

“Cutter?” Kaylee said with some confusion. “Ain’t he a policeman?”

“That’s too nice a term,” said Inara.

“He’s top cop,” said Jayne, knowing that name and the image of the man the instant Simon said it. Jayne always wanted to know who the enemy was and Cutter was top cop so that made him the enemy of people like Jayne who lived over the edge of legality.

“Yes,” said Book. “Cutter. A ruthless demon of a man.”

“Ever meet him?” Jayne asked the Shepherd and Book just smiled.

“Still wondering about my past?”

“Yup. Ain’t we all?” Jayne answered as he looked to his shipmates and he could see the curiously in all their eyes.

“No, Jayne I never had the…pleasure. But I know enough about the man. If River met him, read his mind, then we finally know why the Alliance is after her. Cutter’s secrets are the secrets of everything the Alliance has done during and after the war. If he had something to do with Miranda, maybe the reports about the Reavers having a home world are true.”

“But there ain’t no Miranda. Is there?” Kaylee asked.

“I’ve never heard of it,” said Inara.

“Don’t think anyone has,” Zoe added.

“Been all over this part of the galaxy and never heard tell of a planet called Miranda,” said Mal. “But don’t mean it don’t exist. If Cutter and the Alliance did something there, then they’d want to hide it for sure.”

“Cutter has been High Chancellor since before the war began,” Book said and then looked at Simon. “When was River at the academy?”

Simon thought for a moment. “She left home in 2514. It was almost three years before I got her out of there.”

“And how long have the Reavers been about?” Book asked next as he turned to Mal.

“Well, seeing as we lost four years, add them on and I’d say going on fifteen, sixteen years since I first heard of them.”

“That sounds right,” said Zoe. “It was during the war.”

“How can the Reavers have a home world?” Kaylee asked. “I mean, they live in space, on ships and all, don’t they?”

“From what little we know, that much is true,” said Simon. “If anyone recalls our previous encounter with them.”

“With one,” said Inara. “And he was a human, not a Reaver.”

“Least not at first,” Zoe reminded them. “Then what was human in him was gone.”

“Reavers ain’t human,” said Jayne with a touch of fear.

“Yes, they are,” Book answered. “They are just men who have lost their humanity.”

“Let’s save the debate for tomorrow,” Mal said in his “I’m the captain” tone. “Time to get some shut eye and we’ll figure things out in the morning.”

“Capt’n, what about our families?” Kaylee asked as everyone began to rise and leave. “I mean, I ain’t told my daddy yet I’m still alive.”

“I gotta wave my folks, too,” said Jayne quickly as if he just realized someone out there much actually care he was still around.

“And I should contact the Guild,” said Inara and then Book thought he should contact his order at the Southdown Abbey. Even Zoe said it might be a good idea to see if her and Wash’s parents were still alive.

Mal knew this moment was coming and also knew it was a mistake to go off telling everyone in the verse they were still alive. People thinking they were dead or missing had its advantages, like them not looking for you if you owned them money or a shipload of guns that were four years late being delivered. Mal threw away one of their advantages when he told that Alliance cruiser the name of his ship, but it was painted in big bold letters in English and Chinese on the side so at the time he thought that he had no choice but to tell the truth seeing as an Alliance cruiser carried all kinds of firepower and a Firefly had none. Mal had no one to wave, everyone he cared about in the verse being on Serenity. Oh, he had an aunt and an uncle or two and a few cousins about back on Shadow but no close family. Everyone else wanted to contact someone. Only Simon said nothing

“And Doc? You thinking on waving the Tam homestead?” Mal asked and Simon shook his head.

“With us still being wanted fugitives I’m afraid the Alliance may have a trace on their wave address. Not sure my father would care if we were alive anyway.”

‘Don’t say that,” said Kaylee softly as she held his hand. “They’re your parents.”

“It’s…complicated,” was all he said as he suddenly felt embarrassed discussing his parents in front of everyone.

“Look,” Mal began. “I know you all got people out there think maybe you’re dead these four years. But we gotta think before we make contact with anyone. Like, how you gonna explain where you been for beginners.”

“Say I was in jail,” Jayne replied with a chuckle. “They’ll believe that for sure.”

“Even jails let you write letters,” said Book. “No, the Captain is correct. We need a cover story and a good one.”

“I don’t care none about no lies,” said Kaylee with some steel in her words. “My daddy probably got a broken heart since I was all he had left. I ain’t gonna lie to him.”

Mal softened a bit and he could see Kaylee was hurting about this more than the others. She was looking at him with puppy dog eyes and Mal knew her father was probably thinking she was dead and Kaylee would do anything to set that straight, even disobeying him and he couldn’t have that. Lying came easy to some people but Kaylee wasn’t one of them.

“Okay, little Kaylee, you tell him the truth. But do you think he might even believe you.”

“Course he will,” she said with certainty. “Especially after I show him the Kovalev Drive.”

That brought surprised expressions to Mal and everyone else’s face except Simon’s.

“Show him the drive?” Mal started and then shook his head. “Kaylee we can’t show that thing to anyone.”

“But he can fix it, make it so we can operate it safely!” Kaylee said almost pleading. “He’s the best mechanic in the verse.”

“Kaylee, I ain’t even sure we’re gonna keep that thing yet.”

“I ain’t lying to him,” Kaylee said quietly and Simon put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

Mal sighed, knew it was a losing battle. “Okay, Kaylee…you can wave him….”

Kaylee gave a squeal of delight and was all ready to run to a Cortex screen when Mal stopped her.

“Wait a second! Just…don’t lie….but try to…fudge it a bit. You can do that, right?”

“Ah, guess so…yeah I can,” she said quickly.

“What about the rest of us, Mal?” Inara asked, and everyone was waiting for his answer.

“Guess I let Kaylee I gotta let everyone. Just…you may not hear everything you expect. Lots can happen in four years.”

“Bad news or good news, it must be heard,” said Book and they all moved off to find a Cortex screen, fear and hope in their hearts.

************************************************* Kaylee took Inara’s offer to use her shuttle Cortex screen and Kaylee also asked Simon to join her, worried on what she might find out. He couldn’t be…no, her father was healthy and was only fifty years old…now almost fifty-four she remembered. What was five weeks for her had been four years for him.

She sat in front of the screen, all nervous, Simon and Inara off to the side. Kaylee hesitated, looked at them.

“What am I gonna say?”

Simon came over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Kaylee, does your father have any love for the Alliance?”

“Hell no, hates them almost bad as the Capt’n and Zoe.”

“Then tell him the truth. Never mind what Mal said,” Simon told him.

Inara agreed. “It’s going to sound fantastic but he knows you never lie so he’ll believe you, Kaylee.”

Kaylee nodded and gave a weak smile. “Oh, boy.” She said, the nervousness in voice clear as she punched in her father’s wave address. After a few moments came a pleasant female voice from the Cortex screen.

“Jonathan Frye, New Shanghai, Taos Moon cannot take this wave as you are currently out of range for direct face to face contact with Taos Moon. Would you like to send a wave message?”

Kaylee hit the “yes” button and the voice said “Begin recording.” And the Cortex screen started recording the image of Kaylee as she talked.

“Ah, daddy…it’s me….Kaylee…I’m okay….ain’t dead or nothing…it’s a long story. I’m still with the ship…you know the one…we’ve had an adventure that you could write a book about. This gonna sound crazy but we’ve been to… Earth….and back…crazy right? It took four years…seemed like only a few minutes but….anyways, lots to talk about when I see you, hopefully soon. We’re about a week away from Taos. Maybe closer if…well, can’t say why just yet. Might need your help fixing the boat. You okay? Sorry I missed your birthday….last four birthdays I guess. I…love you…and I’m sorry if I caused you any heartache, weren’t none of my fault and that’s the God’s honest truth, daddy. But I’m still in the verse and, you wave back soon as you can…hope this ain’t too big a shock for you…but it’s really me. Love you. Bye.”

Two big tears flowed down her cheeks and Simon knelt by her and wiped them away.

“You did good,” he said and gave her a little kiss.

“Gonna be a terrible shock,” she managed to get out in a voice heavy with emotion.

Kaylee stood and looked to Inara. “Thanks. Guess you want to wave the Guild now?”

Inara took a deep breath. “I think it might be best if I do a bit of truth twisting for them.”

“We’ll give you your privacy,” Simon said as he and Kaylee left the shuttle.

Inara sat at her Cortex screen and punched in the wave number without any hesitation. After a few moments a female face came on screen, an elderly woman, strikingly beautiful despite her age. Her eyes widened in shock as she recognized Inara.

“Inara Serra! Will the verse never cease to surprise me! My stars, child, you have been out of touch for…”

“Four years, House Mother. It is good to see you.”

“As it is you. You don’t look like you’ve aged a bit.”

Inara smiled, knowing the reasons why. “Thank you, as I can say the same about you.”

“Oh, Inara, always the flatterer,” she said with a smile. Then her face grew serious. “Dear, your license has lapsed.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“When you failed to contact us and update your Companion license, it lapsed. Your name has been removed from the Guild rolls and the belongings you left here were auctioned off after three years of no contact.”

“I do not care for those trifles. But…can I be reinstated?” Inara queried and suddenly got the strange feeling that she wanted the House Mother to say “no”. Where did that come from? It couldn’t be because of…him? Or could it? Inara’s conversation with Shepherd Book came back to her mind vividly, his surmising her true feelings for Mal and her not denying it. The House Mother’s voice brought her back to reality.

“Of course you can,” she said and Inara felt like someone had just told her some bad news. “You just need to present yourself at the nearest Guild house for the paper work and for a medical examination.”

“Thank you,” replied Inara but her heart wasn’t really in it and the House Mother knew, having been a practicing Companion for many years and a trainer of others for just as long.

“Dear, what’s the matter? Can you tell me anything of where you have been?”

“I…fell in love with a man…” Inara started and it wasn’t a lie, not really.

“Oh…I see,” said the House Mother. “Did you marry him?”

“No, but….we’ve had a relationship and now it’s over,” Inara said using all her skills at deception, knowing she probably failed to fool the House Mother anyway.

“Well, dear, you are certainly welcome back. Perhaps you may even think of coming to join us at the training house.”

“That…sounds wonderful. Let me think on things. I’m near Greenleaf. I’ll report to a Guild house as soon as possible.”

“Be well, Inara Serra,” she replied, her face showing that she understood more than Inara had said.

“Thank you. Farewell,” Inara said and ended the wave chat. She stood and looked around her shuttle bedroom, wondering if being a Companion was what life had intended for her. She remembered the night they had been taken involuntarily to Earth. Kaylee was right; none of it was their fault. Inara had been about to pack her belongings, to finally leave Serenity and Malcolm Reynolds. Now she didn’t know what to do.

************************************************* The other crew except Simon, River and Mal waved their families. Book sent word to the Southdown Abbey on Persephone in a wave message that he was fine but didn’t explain exactly where he had been. Wash and Zoe’s parents were well and full of questions, wondering why there had been no contact for so long, with Zoe’s father being particularly angry at Wash for keeping their daughter away from them. Zoe assured them it wasn’t Wash’s fault and promised to write a long letter explaining all, afraid of who might be listening to the wave. Wash’s mother cried when she saw her baby and couldn’t continue the conversation. His father knew Wash had a good reason for being missing for so long, telling him to come home as soon as possible.

Jayne told everyone to get off the bridge while he waved his family and then he punched in the wave number of the family home. His mother came on almost instantly and she just stared at him, not a look of surprise like the other crew had gotten from people. Jayne’s mother was a stern, religious woman, tall and rail thin, black hair in a bun and Jayne withered under her glare from the Cortex screen.

“Hi, Ma,” he said in a small voice, the big man reduced to a little boy in front of his mother.

“Four years. No wave, no letters, nothing!” she yelled at him.

“Ma, I was in jail,” he lied.

“Liar,” she said right away and Jayne couldn’t deny it. “That’s first place I looked. Where else would a no good son end up? Alliance had no record of you in any jail. You’re the devil Jayne, a spawn I unleashed on the world.”

“I got lots of money I can send you,” he said, hoping to curry favor.

“Want nothing to do with your rotten money,” she said. “Been whoring and robbing and killing decent folks I suspects. Where did I ever go wrong with you boy?”

“Don’t know, Ma,” he said like a small boy. “Just hate authority, that’s all. One too many whips from your stick I guess.”

“I should have hit you many a more time. You need religion, Jayne. Only God can save you. All you need is to ask His forgiveness and a place will be saved for you in Heaven.”

“Might be too late for me. I got a preacher for a friend if that helps any,” Jayne said with a little hope.

“It don’t help if you don’t listen to him or pray with him. Here’s your father,” she said suddenly and a big man, bigger than Jayne with brown curly hair and a handsome face came on screen. He tried to control his emotions but his eyes couldn’t hide the joy at seeing his son again.

“How ya doing, son?” he got out in a slightly choked voice

“Good, Pa. Had me a spot of trouble but all is okay now.”

“Four years? That’s more than a spot of trouble, son. Well, write us a letter, explain it and try not to lie too much. You send that money boy, to your brother’s house, not here. Never mind your mother. Work been hard to find lately and could use some help. When you coming home?”

“Don’t know, Pa. Still on Serenity. Works been good of late but we a few days from home. Business comes first.”

“Understood. Well, it’s late here, time for bed. She loves you Jayne, just…you know how it is.”

“Yeah, I do. Guess I ain’t the topic of discussion at no church socials.”

“Only when I spike the punch,” he said with a laugh and Jayne couldn’t help but laugh too.

“We’ll raise a few cold ones soon, Pa.”

“Be good son. Bye.”

Jayne turned off the Cortex screen and sat for a long time in the co-pilot’s chair just staring out into space.

******************************************************************* They landed on Greenleaf the next morning after everyone had some sleep. However, not everyone slept as much as some others. Kaylee worried on whether her father got her message or not and how he reacted to it. She also fought a rising tide of nausea during the night but the pills Simon gave her helped. Simon assured a worried Kaylee it would pass in a few days. Many others also had bad dreams, fears on the future, and a restlessness that showed the strain of their recent close encounters with violence and death.

Kaylee awoke in Simon’s room in his arms and looked at the wall clock. Six twenty three a.m. ship’s time. Simon still slept soundly and Kaylee gently moved his arm from around her, trying not to wake him. She got up and started to dress, the same clothes she had from last night, and wondered if it wasn’t time she and Simon talked about her moving in here permanently. It had been a month already since they first made love. She didn’t even have so much as a toothbrush in his room. She exited the room and the first thing Kaylee did was run to the bridge and check for wave messages and there was one for her. She sat in the co-pilot’s seat and nervously opened it and gave a small cry as her father came on screen. He was large, had a shock of dark brown hair with touches of grey. He looked older, Kaylee thought, and then she noticed the tears in the corner of his eyes.

“Kaylee? Is it really you? I can’t…believe it…been so long baby. What happened to your forehead? And Earth? That’s incredible! Four years missing to Earth and back? That sounds crazy for sure….but…you come home, right away…and tell me everything. And tell Malcolm Reynolds if he’s alive I’m going have words with him. I…” and then he broke down, couldn’t continue, started crying, long, jagged sobs and Kaylee touched the screen as tears came to her eyes also.

“Daddy!”

He got a hold of himself. “Wave when you’re in range for face to face. Don’t matter what time. I ain’t home I’m in the factory, you got the number there, too. Love you little Kaylee. Bye.”

The message ended and Kaylee just curled up in the seat and hugged herself as long waves of joy and tears came over her.

Kaylee finally felt she had cried enough and went to start preparing breakfast as the rest of the crew stirred. Inara was first up and helped her make breakfast. She was overjoyed to know Kaylee’s father was well and had waved her. Inara told Kaylee what had happened with the Guild and the two sat and had tea while breakfast was cooking, talking about what they should do. Soon everyone was up and eating, Kaylee telling Simon about her father and he was happy for her. Mal could sense the morale improve among his crew and felt that whatever the consequences, letting them talk to family was the right choice.

After breakfast, Mal sat on the bridge for a long time with Wash and Zoe, plotting their course for landing, using long range visual scanning to pick out an Alliance cruiser near Greenleaf. They would have to avoid it and its scanners because of the lack of a transponder. Mal even worried there might be some ground tracking stations like the military had near sensitive areas.

He and Wash finally found a town called New Caledonia in the northern hemisphere on a big island that was big enough to have what they needed and far enough away from most places to hopefully avoid the Alliance. Zoe pointed out that that was where they were supposed to delivery the guns so long ago.

“Ain’t like their still waiting for them,” Mal said. “Besides, they never knew what I looked like, just my name. What’s the season and the weather like?” Mal asked Wash.

A quick check of the Cortex reveled that Greenleaf had an almost perfectly lined up axis and thus each locale had hardly any weather changes with the seasons. The area they choose would have a cool, almost spring like climate.

They made preparations to land and for that they needed Kaylee in the engine room. Simon protested saying she had enough rads already but Mal said she’d be wearing a spacesuit so Simon relaxed. Kaylee donned the suit, having a bad moment remembering the last time she had worn one. They only had Serenity’s supply now since they had left the five Alliance suits with Wills’ spacecraft back on Earth. The radiation suits that had once been on Serenity were also back on Earth. And there was only the one spacesuit undamaged after their battles on the moon and Kaylee’s near fatal accident. That was a problem Mal would have to fix soon as he had a chance.

Kaylee opened the door to the engine room and closed it quickly right behind her. A fast examination of the super inductor and Kovalev Drive showed no damage but she wouldn’t know for sure till they had a chanced to check them closely. She took about twenty minutes to uncoupled them from the main engine, the bulky suit making it more difficult, and then told Wash all was ready. Kaylee powered the engine down to twenty-five percent and Wash fired up the VTOLs for the landing sequence.

Wash slipped the ship around the more traveled corridors, avoided the Alliance cruiser and Serenity made landfall about noon local time, touching down in a secluded woodland area far from any prying eyes, about five kilometers east of New Caledonia. As soon as they landed Mal opened up the cargo bay and ordered everyone off the ship as they vented the radiation from the engine room. Kaylee set up some radiation monitors and then walked away from the ship to a safe distance. Mal put on gloves and worn one of Simon’s surgical masks as he washed down Kaylee’s spacesuit with water and then helped her out of it.

After a quick inspection of the area by Jayne and Zoe to make sure they were alone, all relaxed and took the opportunity to stretch their legs. Kaylee still wasn’t feeling well and Simon took her to rest under a nearby tree in the shade where she took some more pills and drank some water. River sat with them, seeming to feel better after her long sleep. Jayne and Book decided to do some exploring and Wash, Zoe and Inara found a log and sat down and chatted about what they were going to do next. Mal sauntered over to where Kaylee, Simon and River were.

“Hey, River,” Mal said as he sat next to them.

“Not yet, Mal, please,” Simon said and Mal was taken a bit aback by this.

“No worries, Doc, I just want to ask her if she…”

“No, I don’t remember anything, Captain,’ River said, cutting him off, with Mal getting the feeling she had read his thoughts. “All I know is that something bad happened on Miranda.”

“Rebels seem to believe whatever it was people are saying. Calling it the Reaver home world.”

“Not their home world,” River said. “Reavers have no home except space.”

“They must come from somewhere,” said Kaylee. “Miranda. Now I think about it, name seems familiar. Something about workers, long time ago. My daddy thought about moving there. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was somewhere else.”

“Could be, Kaylee,” Mal said. “Funny how none of us know about it. After the ship is safe we’ll check the Cortex for any info.”

Meanwhile Jayne and Book had found a stream nearby the ship. “Looks good for fishing,” said Jayne as he stood peering into a deep pool.

“Yes, a nice fish fry would be pleasant after all the canned food we’ve been living on the last few weeks.”

“Think I’ll cash in some of that swag and get us some fishing poles and a nice load of grub for the boat,” Jayne said as his mouth watered thinking on fried trout.

“Fresh bread,” said the Shepherd, warming to the idea of a shopping trip. “And some ham and eggs, milk, potatoes, lettuce, maybe some steak, apples and oranges”

“Oh, Shepherd,” Jayne groaned. “You’re killing me. Think its time to get Mal to get this show on the road.”

Jayne and Book climbed up from the stream bed and went back to the ship where Inara, Zoe, and Wash were sitting nearby.

“Let’s go to town,” Jayne said. “Got a need to get some real food.”

“We wait for the ship to be safe,” Zoe ordered.

“How we going to town?” Wash answered. “Its five klicks east of here. Mule’s burnt to a crisp, shuttle two is gone, that only leaves…”

“My shuttle,” said Inara.

“You just rent it,” said Mal to Inara as he Kaylee and the Tams came back to Serenity.

Inara smiled at him in her sarcastic manner, trying to hide her sudden feeling that he didn’t care one bit about her. “Seems our relationship will always be about business, won’t it, Mal?”

“Guess that’s best cause least I know where we both stand with business,” said Mal and everyone sat back and enjoyed the little repartee. “For now would you mind if we borrowed ‘your shuttle’ to head into town?”

“Of course not,” Inara said. “Long as I am flying it.”

Mal thought about protesting and then had an idea. “Sure, you can fly her. But you gotta do a job for me.”

“A job?” she said with wonder. “It has been a while since I’ve had a client. But the Guild has said my license has lapsed.”

“Really? Well, it ain’t that kind of job,” Mal said quickly. “Want you to mix with the locals, go to a dress shop or get your hair done or something. Find out what you can about this here rebellion. Same with you Jayne, hit one of the local bars.”

“Can’t say no to that plan,” Jayne said with a big grin, already forgetting his mother’s admonishment from the night before. “Might even check out one or two of the whore houses.”

“Ain’t got time for you to indulge yourself, Jayne. We’re here for info and supplies and see if we can get a transponder. Kaylee want you to come too, see if you can find out what these things look like.”

“Sure, Capt’n.”

“Zoe you’re with us, too.”

“As always, sir.”

“Wash you got the boat.”

A quick check of the radiation monitor in the cargo bay revealed all was well and then the other monitors were showing normal radiation also. The engine room was a bit higher but within safety limits. Mal ordered everyone to stay out of the engine room for the time being though.

Jayne filled a knapsack with some jewelry and some unmarked silver bars from the Melbourne bank haul and then joined the others in Inara’s shuttle. Simon gave Kaylee a last kiss goodbye as she boarded and she told him not to worry. With the flip of a few switches and the skill she had from doing this countless times Inara flew the shuttle off Serenity’s right docking port and headed for New Caledonia to the east.

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

New Caledonia was a small town, maybe five thousand people with some outlying farming areas and a small port for its few fishing vessels and cargo ships. As they flew into town toward the small spaceport Mal noticed an Alliance naval patrol boat at the dock.

“Be on your toes,” he said to them. “Gonna be a few Alliance types about.”

Jayne grinned. “Let’s just hope they start a fight.”

Mal gave him a stern look. “You do, we don’t know you, dong ma?”

“Yeah, yeah. Go to a bar get some info, I got it. Also, see where I can pawn some of these goodies.”

“Don’t flash too much of it around,” Zoe said. “Might attract attention.”

The shuttle landed at the spaceport and Mal took the few Alliance bills he had left and paid the port controller for two hours parking fees.

“That was a bit much,” said Kaylee as they walked toward town.

“Inflation,” said Inara. “I’m sure lots of prices have risen in the last four years.”

It was nice town, well laid out streets and buildings, plenty of trees and flowers about, a few cars and trucks and many horses and wagons. Greenleaf wasn’t the Core but it was far from being the Rim also. The streets had many pedestrians and no one looked at them, except a few men eying Inara.

“You always gotta attract attention?” Mal said with slight irritation she walked by his side.

“Jealous, Captain?” she said, wanting to take it back the instant she said it, knowing his answer would hurt.

“Ha! Jealous? Me? No, not likely,” he said and Kaylee caught the look of pain on Inara’s face.

“As I expected,” Inara replied and then wanted to be away from him as soon as possible. “Ah, a dress shop. If you will excuse me. I'll meet you back at the shuttle.” And she entered before Mal could reply.

“Jeeze, Mal,” Jayne said as they continued. “Why don’t you just tell you love her and get it over with?”

Mal stopped and turned on Jayne with a raised finger, struggled to say something and then just shook his head.

“Jayne, sometimes I just want to sew your mouth shut.”

“Maybe give you some of that truth serum will help you get over your shyness.”

“Ah, I knew it!” said Kaylee as she looked at Jayne. “He confessed, didn’t he?”

"You think carefully before you reply to that Jayne," Mal said and Jayne knew he was talking about Ariel.

“Ah, no, nothing of the kind, Kaylee. Just got a feeling,” Jayne said quickly.

"You ain't the only one, Jayne," Zoe said, almost enjoying watching Mal squirm, just a little.

"You love her," Kaylee said firmly to Mal. "I know it."

Mal sighed and looked at them all. “What do you want from me? Ain’t nothing to be done about. Now come on, got business to tend to.”

“I knew it,’ said Kaylee one more time with glee as they walked up a street and then Mal stopped so suddenly she almost plowed in his back.

“Sorry, Kaylee. There's a jewelry shop,” he said to Jayne and the big merc grinned.

“Leave this to me,” he said and went inside. Zoe spotted a small outdoor café across the street and they sat and ordered some coffee and tea while they waited for Jayne. Kaylee tried to get Mal to talk about Inara but he quickly put an end to that talk and steered the conversation toward her father and the Kovalev Drive. Jayne came out after twenty minutes and spotted them.

“How we do?” Mal asked.

“Got us some seed money, twenty-five thousand,” Jayne said and they all grinned. “Only cost me ten pearl necklaces, four diamonds rings, and a big old emerald bracelet. He said he would’ve bought more but that’s all the cash he had on hand.”

Mal took the cash and counted it. “Okay, Kaylee take five thousand see if you can get us a transponder. Don’t spend it if you don’t have to. Jayne, take a couple of hundred and buy yourself and some mouthy drunk a few drinks, get some info on this rebellion and Miranda. Zoe, let’s get supplies for the boat. What’s left, we fuel up and pay the crew.”

Mal divided up the cash and they had just began to rise from the table when suddenly a gun was cocked and they looked up. Three men, armed with pistols, were on the street in front of their table spaced out a few feet apart from each other. The one in the middle was heavy, a short, fat man with a large cowboy hat and scruffy black beard.

“Malcolm Reynolds. Last person I expect to show up around these parts,” the fat man said.

“Well, stranger, you seem to know who I am but I haven’t had the pleasure.”

“Course not, cause you never did make that delivery I was waiting on.”

“Ain’t never been late with no delivery’s,” Mal replied with a rising anger. He could see Jayne and Zoe both reaching for their guns and he would have done the same already except Kaylee was here and she was clearly frightened to death. Mal just had to move slightly to his left and then he was between Kaylee and the gunmen.

“That so? Remember about four years ago? Shipment of guns? Siefert’s the name, Ron Siefert. Remember me now?”

“Oh, that delivery. Seems to ring a bell,” Mal said slowly. He knew the name but wondered on how this man knew what he looked like. “Well, why don’t we sit and have a drink and we’ll discuss this like businessmen.”

Siefert shook his head. “Don’t think so. Not like to do business with someone who cheated me once. Word around the verse is Malcolm Reynolds ain’t to be trusted no more. Even got you listed on the Cortex bad businessmen listings and someone even added a photo. Guess who put your name up there? I’ve been looking for you for a long time and just about gave up. Then a miracle happened. Someone I know owns a transport, spotted a Firefly with the name Serenity painted on the side yesterday. Said she almost ran into you when you showed up in the black out of nowhere. Now to find you here, well, I think I do believe in a God.”

“You gonna talk us to death?” Jayne said with a growl as he kept an eye on the guy opposite him, a twitching character who looked like he was about to run or start spewing lead from his pistol.

“Nope. See my partner just eyed you all dividing up some cash. Think we’ll take that and maybe put few bullet holes in you and call it even.”

“Like hell,” said Zoe.

“Calm down everyone,’ Mal said. “You know what, I still got them guns on my boat. In fact, this here’s one of them.”

And with blinding speed Mal’s pistol was out and in his hand and Seifert had a big hole in his forehead before he could even blink. One of his men got off a shot that shattered a coffee cup in front of Zoe before she dropped him and the third man was about to run when Jayne caught him in the side and down he went.

Screams filled the air as many people came out of shops and buildings to see what had happened, shocked to see three men bleeding and lying in their peaceful street.

“What you think on our chances of running into those guys now, sir?” Zoe asked Mal as she grabbed a paralyzed Kaylee by the arm as they hustled it down the street toward the shop where Inara had went.

“Oh, I’d say about zero percent now,” Mal replied. "Seeing as they're dead or close to it. Let’s get Inara and get the hell outta here.”

“Stop!” came a loud shout down the street just as they reached the shop where Inara went. Zoe took Kaylee inside as Mal and Jayne turned and saw four Alliance policemen heading their way. They raised their weapons and shouted for them to stop again.

Jayne looked to Mal. “Hey, I didn’t start this fight.”

Mal shook his head wearily “Can’t we just go anywhere without getting into a scrap?” And then he raised his pistol and Jayne leered sadistically as they both let lead fly at the Alliance policemen.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 8:31 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Terrific!! I am looking forward to more. You have done well with the characters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 8:31 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Terrific!! I am looking forward to more. You have done well with the characters.


POST YOUR COMMENTS

You must log in to post comments.

YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

River's Run - Part 19
Things come to a head on Londinium as the plan to win Mal's freedom begins to unravel.

River's Run - Part 18
Mal’s heading for a hangman’s noose. Will a rescue party come in the nick of time?

River's Run - Part 17
As the crew rests and heals, Shin and his confederates take a step closer to power, and Mal faces a new, deadly dilemma.

River's Run - Part 16
As Simon patches up the crew, Mal and his lawyer make plans, and Badger and his cousin have some unexpected visitors.

River's Run - Part 15
Mal finds a new friend on Londinium, his crew makes contact with River and Zoe, and events come to head on Whitefall.

River's Run - Part 14
Battle rages through Serenity as the crew tangles with an Alliance boarding party.

River's Run - Part 13
Shock and a sense of tragedy fill Serenity as the crew struggles to deal with Derek's betrayal. Meanwhile, the Operative comes a step closer to finding Serenity.

River's Run - Part 12
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.