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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jim and Zoe fail to return, and Mal goes to find out why.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 748 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“It’s been twelve hours,” Mal said restlessly, pacing in his bunk.
“I know, ai ren,” River said tiredly, her own nerves frayed by the anxiety of the crew that washed over her in waves. What had started as a carefree day for all of them had turned into a night of bone-chilling worry for Jim. Though all of the adults tried to hide their fears from Serenity’s children, the children themselves were much too bright to be fooled by their dogged determination to appear at ease. Even Hannah had been fretful all evening, and River was exhausted from the effort of calming the child into a fitful sleep.
“I wasn’t expecting Jim back, truth be told,” Mal continued, unaware of River’s state of mind. “Conjured they’d keep him for a long while whether they finally let him go or not. But I was expecting at least some word from Zoe by now.”
“Perhaps she’s on her way back,” River offered, trying for optimism.
Mal frowned, unconvinced. “If we’ve not heard from her within the hour, I’m going,” he said.
Seeing the grim set of his jaw, River knew better than to even attempt to talk him out of that notion. She sighed, pulling the covers up to her chin and trying to block out the worried thoughts of the entire crew.
Kaylee banged on the stubborn part, letting her frustration and worry out with each swing of her wrench. “Just don’t seem right,” she muttered.
Simon leaned down to look at his wife under Serenity’s engine. “You need any help down there?”
“No,” Kaylee replied, giving the part another punishing blow.
“Sounds a little like you might,” Simon said gently, his brow wrinkling in concern.
Kaylee slid out from her workplace with the ease of long practice. “Don’t need any help. Just need to replace the part, when I get hold of a better one. Was plannin’ to tell the Capt’n about it when we got back from shopping, but what with the whole Jim thing….” Her voice trailed off unhappily.
Simon sighed. “It will be all right, Kaylee. I’m sure that the advocate will be able to straighten out whatever is going on, and Jim will be back in short order. I really can’t imagine why the Alliance would even want him back. Not only is he beyond the age of normal enlistment, but he has several physical problems that would make him a less than ideal candidate for being a soldier again.”
Kaylee’s normally sunny face fell. “It just ain’t right,” she said mournfully. “Don’t seem to me the pieces all fit together, less’n there’s something the purplebellies know that they ain’t tellin’.”
“I agree, it is…odd,” Simon said. “But perhaps we’re just a little paranoid. Perhaps it’s all a mix-up in paperwork somewhere. Our previous experiences could be clouding our perceptions.”
Kaylee snorted. “And well they should, if you ask me. Way I see it, the Alliance ain’t done nothin’ but hound us long’s we been flyin’.”
Simon could not argue the point considering their colorful history.
“Still,” Kaylee said, sighing. “I guess it’s like my Ma says. Ain’t no use to borrow trouble when you got enough of your own. Reckon we should just wait and see what happens, and try not to get to bibbledy in the waiting.”
Simon smiled, pulling her close and kissing the tip of her grease-smeared nose. “Can’t argue with your mother’s logic,” he said softly.
Zoe sat on the bench in the public waiting area of the military outpost, wondering fleetingly if rickety benches were a prerequisite for all military installations. She had sat thus for some hours, watching the wheels of Alliance bureaucracy turning with the speed of a severely impaired snail. Jim was nowhere in sight, having been whisked away into the inner bowels of the outpost immediately upon presenting his letters and informing the bored-looking sentry on duty that he wished to meet with an advocate.
As far as Zoe could tell, the request had been greeted with something less than pleasant surprise, but at least the advocate had been called and allowed to follow Jim into the inner rooms. Zoe took that as a good sign, though she was beginning to weary of sitting and staring into space without any word from her husband.
On the verge of threatening the desk jockey with bodily harm if she did not receive some kind of information immediately, Zoe saw the advocate coming toward her with a sure step.
“Mrs. Bowden?” he asked, his tone pleasant and soothing.
“Yes?” Zoe replied.
“I’m Phillip Harken. Your husband retained my services as advocate in the upcoming hearing to determine re-enlistment eligibility.” He held out his hand and Zoe shook it firmly.
“So, what’s going on?” she asked without further preamble.
Harken smiled, unruffled by her brusqueness. “The hearing is set for tomorrow. Mr. Bowden has been remanded to custody for the night, but that is standard procedure in these cases. Nothing to be alarmed about. He asked me to come out and tell you that there is no need for you to stay. You can come back in the morning and attend the hearing. I’ll leave word with the MP’s to let you enter.”
Zoe’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Don’t much like the idea of my husband being incarcerated for the night.”
“I understand,” Harken said kindly. “But I can assure you that there is nothing that can be done about it. While I hope that the tribunal will be lenient in the Mr. Bowden’s case, considering all the mitigating circumstances, I know with absolute certainty that he has to stay here until the hearing is held.” Harken’s voice lowered slightly and he leaned closer to Zoe. “I deemed it best not to exacerbate the situation by arguing for his release for the night. I’m sorry to say that your husband’s case is not exactly a normal one. We must tread lightly and use what we can to gain favor with the tribunal. One night’s incarceration seemed a reasonable concession to make for their good will.”
“And that was your assessment, or Jim’s?” Zoe asked, her voice deceptively calm.
“We agreed,” Harken said, straightening his shoulders. “I know you don’t know me, Mrs. Bowden, and know that you might find it difficult to trust me in this uniform, given your…history, but I am doing and will continue to do everything I can to help your husband. Dong ma?”
“What do you know of my ‘history’?” Zoe asked.
“What Mr. Bowden has told me, of course,” Harken said, his lips curving into a reassuring smile. “He thought you might be a little….resistant to the idea of leaving him here.”
“Did he now?” Zoe asked, her eyebrow rising.
Harken chuckled. “He said to tell you that he would prefer not to see you take out the entire outpost by yourself,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “Might hit him by accident if you go in guns blazing.”
Zoe knew then without a further word that Harken was relaying the message as Jim had said it. Her heavy heart lifted slightly. “So, you’ll stay with him through the night?”
“Will do,” Harken said. “We’ll be up until the wee hours discussing our best line of argument, I expect. Setting the hearing for tomorrow puts us a little under the gun, so to speak.”
Zoe nodded. “Tell him I’ll be back at first light.”
“Of course,” Harken said, inclining his head in acknowledgement. “See you in the morning, Mrs. Bowden.”
“You surely will,” Zoe replied, standing up to head back to Serenity with the weight of worry on her shoulders.
“Ain’t waiting any more,” Mal said firmly, pulling on his boots and tucking in his shirt tails. “Shoulda’ heard from her by now.”
River sat in the middle of their bed, the covers pulled up over her bare shoulders. “I’ll go with you.”
“No,” Mal replied, flashing her a determined look. “You stay here, case something happens. Don’t want to have to worry about the ship too.”
River nodded solemnly. “Well, at least take Jayne,” she suggested.
Mal paused for a moment. “All right,” he agreed grudgingly. “Though I got no notion to wait around whilst he gets ready.”
“He’s already ready,” River replied, feeling the tension of the mercenary as clearly as if she were in the room with him. “Never went to sleep.”
“That’s good then,” Mal said, not even bothering to ask how she knew such a thing. Climbing the rungs of the ladder, he looked back at her and his face softened briefly into a smile. “Be back soon’s I can.”
“I know,” River replied, forcing a thin smile onto her face.
She shivered as she watched his feet disappear up the ladder, filled with a strong sense of foreboding that left her almost breathless in its wake.
Jayne was relieved to be doing something, even if that something was walking with Mal toward the Alliance outpost. The Skyplex itself tended to make Jayne a little jumpy, filled as it was with too many opportunities for unpleasantness, in his opinion. Once upon a time, he would never have even considered the danger, but the ‘verse was a different place to him now in these years since the Miranda Wave. And there were people he didn’t want to lose in it.
“So, what’s the plan?” he asked, picking up his pace to keep up with Mal’s long-legged stride.
“Get Zoe,” Mal replied simply.
Jayne rolled his eyes. “Sorta’ figured that much out already. It’s the how of it that has me wonderin’.”
Mal drew in a deep breath. “Ain’t rightly sure. Still workin’ it through.”
Though that statement was less than comforting, it was essentially what Jayne had assumed. Just as well, he thought, considering how the Captain’s plans generally worked out anyway. Constantly scanning the crowds milling around them for signs of trouble, he replied, “Just so you know, I didn’t bring grenades this time. Figured they’d blow up Zoe and Jim too, if we had to use ‘em.”
“Good thinking,” Mal said dryly, glancing over at his mercenary.
Jayne stopped in his tracks, looking into the crowd intently. “What is it?” Mal asked, seeing his sudden wary look.
“Think we’ve got a tail,” Jayne said softly, turning to continue walking smoothly. “Two men in grey suits, ‘bout thirty yards behind us.”
Mal nodded almost imperceptibly. “This day just keeps getting better and better,” he muttered. “Any idea who they….” His words abruptly stopped as a strange buzzing sound came from somewhere behind them. He tried to turn to look at Jayne, but the action seemed impossibly difficult somehow. Mouth still slightly open, he fell to the ground in a boneless heap. The last thing he consciously registered was Jayne’s stunned look as he, too, crumpled to the Skyplex platform beside the Captain.
Zoe walked up Serenity’s ramp tiredly. River rose from the cargo bay floor to meet her. “Where are the others?” she asked, the urgent tone of her request setting off alarms in Zoe’s head.
“Jim’s in custody,” Zoe replied.
“And Mal? Where is Mal?”
Zoe frowned. “Thought he was here with you.”
River shook her head, her inner voices screaming to be heard. “He and Jayne went looking for you, about an hour ago.”
“Never saw them,” Zoe said. “And the outpost ain’t that big. If they were there, I’d have seen them.”
“And on the way back, you didn’t see anything?” River pressed.
“Nothing of the Captain nor Jayne,” Zoe replied, unconsciously fingering her mare’s leg.
“We have to find them,” River said, a slight edge of hysteria in her tone.
“All right,” Zoe said as calmly as she could considering River’s unraveling state. “We’ll go together. Just need to let the others know where we’re going. Dong ma?”
River nodded, her hands trembling at her sides. “Hurry,” she whispered.
To be continued
Sunday, September 07, 2008 3:13 AM
Sunday, September 07, 2008 5:51 AM
Sunday, September 07, 2008 5:59 AM
Sunday, September 07, 2008 11:26 AM
Sunday, September 07, 2008 5:42 PM
Monday, September 08, 2008 1:45 AM
Tuesday, September 09, 2008 9:32 PM
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