BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

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The Return Home - Part 21
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Serenity lands on Haven to say goodbye to an old friend and to start the crew's new life of freedom.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1270    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Return Home – Part 21

Mal ordered Wash to take it slow toward Haven, giving the crew time to rest and deal with the death of Book. Mal staggered off the bridge, the sudden peace and quiet, the presumed lessening of danger, all of it caught up to him and he couldn’t even remember the last time he had slept. He managed to make it as far as Inara’s shuttle and then when he entered and saw her on her bed, he just collapsed into her arms and she held him for a long time, Mal finally letting his emotions over everything come out, and thankfully sleep washed over him and brought a momentary respite to the burdens of command.

In the infirmary Kaylee sat on the bench as Simon wrapped her ankle with a heavy bandage. Kaylee’s eyes were red with her tears and lack of sleep and Simon wasn’t in much better shape. The infirmary was a mess of blood and discarded bandages, needle wrappings, sponges, and rubber gloves. Simon finished wrapping her ankle and then looked at Kaylee and they both just reached for each other and held on for a long time.

Zoe tried to sleep but couldn’t and after tossing and turning she got up and dressed and went to the bridge and collapsed in the co-pilot’s seat.

Wash reached out and held her hand. “Hey baby. How you making it?”

“I ain’t so good,” she admitted, knowing she could be herself in front of her husband. “Too much has happened. Can’t sleep. Too many images in my mind.”

“We all need a break. Somewhere quiet, no worries, no Alliance and definitely no Reavers.”

“Maybe we should avoid Haven then.”

“Got us a cargo to call on, remember?”

“Maybe they ain’t even alive anymore.”

“Guess we’ll find out. Mal got his mind set on making Serenity a legit cargo carrier. We can get us a real transponder and finally not worry about what the Alliance does.”

Zoe was thoughtful for a moment. “What about the Kovalev Drive and all that stolen Earth stuff we still got?”

“I say we dump the drive. If Mal’s instincts are right, no one but Cutter knew about it.”

“But we did flash our ass at a whole Alliance fleet. Someone has got to be wondering about that and then there’s that missing engineer. Why did Cutter need him to check on a Reaver cure? Lot of unanswered questions.”

“Let’s just hope no one is asking them.”

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

Someone was asking and that someone was Admiral Shin on Londinium. After Prime Minster Blakely returned to her office to prepare a press release regarding the death of Adam Cutter, Shin stayed behind at the Ministry of Internal Affairs to continue his inquires. Contrary to the orders of the Prime Minister his main inquiry was into Serenity and the strange events surrounding it. Adam Cutter was dead but he wanted that ship for more than the fact that River Tam was on board and knew his secrets. Maybe in the beginning that’s what it was all about but something happened in the last few weeks after Serenity suddenly made an appearance after hiding for four years.

That appearance was duly recorded by the cruiser Independence on the fringes of the Greenleaf quadrant. Serenity was just “there” as the commander reported and then in a few minutes was “gone” after the Independence hailed them and told them to stay put for an inspection. Then the cruiser Warrior filed a similar report from Greenleaf after the incident in New Caledonia, where a couple of criminals and some Alliance soldiers met an untimely end at the hands of Malcolm Reynolds and his crew. Then there was the fast movement of Serenity about the galaxy. Most of the Alliance fleet had seen that near Haven. Then they were one day on Greenleaf, three days later on Taos and then two days later on Persephone. Impossible for a normal ship. Which meant Serenity was not normal.

Also were the conflicting orders from Cutter. One order, long standing from when River Tam first escaped, was to capture her and her brother as fugitives. Then came an order to have them killed and Serenity destroyed. Then came a recent conflicting order to spare the ship, sent to two gunships on Persephone, after they had just tried to destroy Serenity. The gunship commander routinely sent all orders from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to fleet headquarters as a matter of protocol. Even though his two ships were under the command of Cutter and this Maston Forbes, who Reynolds claimed was dead according to the first reports from the returning wounded soldiers, the Lieutenant in charge was a fleet officer and the ships belonged to the fleet. His report on the events on Persephone and the subsequent order from Cutter to spare the ship but kill all the crew except Kaylee Frye was very odd. Now that Lieutenant and his gunship had disappeared. And then there was the arrest of Jonathan Frye. What did Cutter want with the Fryes? They were just…mechanics. Understanding began to dawn on Admiral Shin and he knew now what he was dealing with. But where and how had they done it?

“What do you know about this ship Serenity?” Shin asked Cutter’s assistant. Shin sat behind Cutter’s desk as the lieutenant stood opposite him in Cutter’s office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The lieutenant was a sycophant, a personality which went well with being Cutter’s assistant. He was now doing everything he could to please Shin and Shin knew he was worried more on his career than anything else.

“Yes, sir. The High Chancellor asked me for all files regarding the ship and its crew. Everything I uncovered is a matter of public record or is part of a police inquiry. Everything is in the reports I gave you, sir.”

“Not everything. What about this stolen jewelry? Where was it “stolen” from?

“The High Chancellor did not divulge such information to me, sir.”

“Surely someone must have made a complaint. Yet not one report about a robbery is present in all this information. If you are hiding something, for whatever reason I can’t imagine now that Cutter is dead, then lieutenant you will soon find yourself homeless, jobless, friendless, and forlorn on the streets of the farthest Rim colony in the galaxy.”

The lieutenant gulped. “Ah, there was a photo of the jewelry, sir. Sent from Greenleaf. It was most…unusual. Sir.”

“Show me.”

The lieutenant quickly came behind the desk and after a few moments work on Cutter’s computer, the photo of the bracelet with the markings of an Australian jeweler and the date came up. After a brief stunned moment examining it and taking in all it implied Shin told the lieutenant to delete the photo from all databases.

“You have told no one about this?”

“Only myself, the High Chancellor and the ministry commander on Greenleaf know about it. Perhaps the jeweler it was sold to also saw the markings, sir.”

“And what conclusion did you reach regarding this photo?”

“High Chancellor Cutter did not divulge…”

But he didn’t finish as Shin interrupted him. “Not Cutter’s conclusion. Yours.”

The lieutenant paused for a moment, wondering what his future would be once he answered and told what he really believe and then decided to lie. “Sir, the only conclusion I came up with is that the jewelry is a fake. Serenity’s crew did not rob anyone so that’s why there was no complaint. They made fake jewelry to such a high quality that they were able to dupe expert jewel salesmen.”

Shin stared at him for a long moment and a line of sweat beaded on the lieutenant’s forehead. “You and I both know that is highly unlikely. Possible, but highly unlikely.”

“Then the alternative is even more unlikely,” said the lieutenant and he knew he had just stepped off a very high place and wondered if he’d ever land.

But it seemed that the Admiral had also reached this conclusion in the brief moments since he had seen the photo.

“Yes, very unlikely. Impossible for a normal ship. To go so far and come back.”

“Yes, sir. Impossible…for a normal ship.”

“Lieutenant, do you know what Occam’s Razor is?”

“Ah, a term of philosophy I believe, sir. When all other factors are equal, than the solution to a problem is the simplest answer.”

“Indeed. The simplest answer. Which you will keep to yourself. No one would believe you anyway.”

“Yes, sir.”

“That is all for now, lieutenant. Oh, and by the way, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be going through a period of “transition”. You keep that in mind. Only a few personnel will be retained. I can see that your name is on that list. Or off it and never on any other government list in the future. Dong ma?”

“Yes, sir,” he said with a tremble in his voice and then he was gone and back to his desk outside Cutter’s office.

Shin sat for a long moment thinking on the implications of all he found out. If Serenity had an FTL drive and had been to Earth and back, then his fleet needed that drive. Various private and Alliance scientist had worked for hundreds of years on FTL technology and had failed each and every time. Most now thought it was impossible. For a few moments Shin debated whether to cross Susan Blakely or not. But it was only for a few moments. She was a civilian, temporarily in charge of the government. Powerful as she was now, that power was temporary. Shin was a career officer and he knew that the FTL drive would revolutionize the fleet.

And only the fleet would have it. Let the civilians go on as they were, taking days and weeks and months to travel from planet to planet and moon to moon. No one would cross the Alliance ever again, no more independence movements, no more danger from being toppled from power.

He immediately contacted the Haven fleet on a secure wave line using Cutter’s special technology and within ten minutes he was in touch with Admiral Byrd, commander of the fleet at Haven. They talked for five minutes and then Admiral Byrd promised to carry out his new orders.

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

Jayne sat at the dining room table for a long time, trying to drink himself into oblivion, but only numbing the pain he was feeling, inside and out. After his tenth shot of good American bourbon that had been liberated from that shopping mall in Melbourne, he staggered down the back stairs and made his way to the infirmary. Kaylee and Simon we’re cleaning up the aftermath of the battle.

“Doc,” Jayne mumbled. “We gotta take care of the Shepherd.”

Simon knew he was drunk as soon as he looked at him. “We will Jayne. But I think you need to rest now.”

“Can’t sleep,” Jayne said and then he sat on the stool in the infirmary, leaned against the wall and looked at Kaylee. “You guys look like you need a nap, too.”

“Can’t sleep either,” Kaylee said, he eyes red rimmed from crying and bloodshot from exhaustion.

“How’s your old man?” Jayne asked in a slur.

“He’s out of it, sleeping in a passenger room,” Kaylee replied. “Simon said nothing major damaged.”

“I took out a lot of small metal pieces from his legs, but no bones were hit or major blood vessels. He’ll be on his feet in a few days,” Simon said as he picked up the last discarded rubber glove and dropped it in a waste basket. Then he filled a basin with warm water and began to scrub the blood off the examining table.

“So much blood,” Jayne said as Simon scrubbed and then he looked at his hands and they still had streaks of blood under his fingernails from where he held Book in his arms. “Ain’t never gonna be rid of it.”

Simon stopped scrubbing and then looked at Jayne. “If we take care of Book now will you go to bed?”

“Yeah,” Jayne said. “Think that will give me a bit of peace.”

“Follow me,” Simon said, and he grabbed a stretcher that was just inside the door and then he exited and Jayne and Kaylee followed him to the cargo bay, Kaylee using Mal’s cane she had made for when the Capt’n had been shot in the upper leg.

They found River sitting on the floor next to Book’s body, the tarp off him, her just sitting there and staring at him. There was a void in her psyche, an empty place that the presence of Book had filled. She had felt it when he had left them so many days ago, but now it was a yawning chasm of emptiness and she was bewildered by it. No one she knew for so long had died before and she felt this immense hole in the verse, a hole that that person should fill.

Simon put down the stretcher and knelt down next to River. “Sis, are you OK?’

“Where’s Book?” she said quietly, not even looking at them, still staring at Book.

“Right here,’ said Kaylee with a sniffle, fighting to hold back the water works that were on the verge of bursting forth again as she saw Book lying there.

“No, he isn’t,” River said. “He’s gone and I can’t find him.”

“I’m getting more than a bit creepified here, Doc. What’s she on about?’ Jayne asked.

Simon understood his sister more than the others and he knew she felt people more than saw and heard them. Now she could no longer feel Shepherd Book. “River, Book is gone and we can never find him except in our memories of him.”

River was still for a minute and then she smiled. “I have many good memories of him.”

“We all do,” said Kaylee and they all looked back on the good times they had with the Shepherd.

“Doc, ain’t right him being like this,” Jayne said with a slight slur from the bourbon. “Let’s make him ready to meet God.”

“Sorry, but I think we’ll leave that to you men,” Kaylee said. “Just too hard to…to…” but she couldn’t finish expressing what she was feeling.

“I understand,” said Simon with tenderness. “We’ll take care of him.”

Kaylee felt his understanding in his eyes but they were also filled with pain. He had seen so much blood and suffering. Now the death of Book as he tried to save him must have been terrible for Simon. They hadn’t talked on it yet but they would and she would help him come through this as he would help her.

River stood and took Kaylee’s arm. “Let’s go check on your father.” Kaylee held back a tear as looked at Book again and then she and River went off toward the passenger rooms.

Jayne and Simon placed Book on the stretcher and carried him to the infirmary. Working together they slowly removed Book’s clothing, and then with a referenced reserved for such an occasion, they cleansed his body of the blood, cleaned his cross and set it straight around his neck, and then wrapped his body in a white sheet from one of the passenger beds, and finally they cleaned the infirmary. After an hour they had finished and they left, Simon turning off all the lights in the infirmary except one which shone down on the still form of Shepherd Book.

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

Everyone except Wash managed to get some sleep, even Zoe in the co-pilot’s chair, but it was only for few hours and then they were up again and restless. Mal ordered Wash and Zoe to bed as he took the bridge and Inara prepared some food for the crew. Kaylee found her there as she hobbled in with her cane looking for something for her father.

“Sit down Kaylee” Inara said in admonishment as she helped Kaylee to a chair. “Simon will have a fit if he knows you climbed the stairs on that ankle by yourself.”

“My daddy needs food and something to drink and Simon’s still asleep anyways,’ Kaylee said in defense of her actions.

“Well, that’s what intercoms are for,” Inara replied. “Just give me a few minutes and I’ll have something ready.”

Inara brought Kaylee some tea and as Kaylee sat and sipped all that had happened came flooding back. She had come looking for food for her father but had also wanted to talk to someone. She hadn’t slept well and when she woke up Simon was in a deep sleep. She didn’t want to disturb him, knowing he had worked so hard and needed his rest and maybe he wasn’t ready to talk about Book yet. She got up and dressed and after using the bathroom had gone to see her father.

He was awake and Kaylee had a small shock as she saw his bandaged legs. He had always been so strong and she couldn’t ever remember a day when he had been sick or hurt and now here he was almost helpless.

“Hey, little Kaylee. What’s the news?” he managed to say with a slight smile.

She sat on the bed next to him, holding his hand and told him everything that had happened. He took the news of Book’s death hard and he told her how Book had been a comfort to him in the prison cells on the Dortmunder and then he told Kaylee the whole story about how he was taken and made to talk.

He was deeply ashamed. “Kaylee,…they did things to me…I told them about the ship and ..the engine. I couldn’t help myself.”

She gave him a big hug and he felt better. “Ain’t no shame in that daddy.”

“Mal must be awful mad,” he said.

“Don’t worry none about him. He blabbed himself, back when we went to Earth’s moon, told those people everything. He says one word I’ll shove that in his face. Jayne blabbed too now I remember. Ain’t no one gonna say nothing about that.”

“I gotta call home, tell them what happened.”

“Already took care of that,’ she said and told him how she had sent a wave to Taos to let Mary and his factory know where he was and that he was going to be fine. They talked a bit about what happened and then she realized he hadn’t eaten or drank anything so she had come looking for food.

“I can’t believe Book’s gone,” she said forlornly to Inara and the Companion immediately stopped what she was doing and came and sat with her. She searched for the right words but finally just said what she was feeling.

“Kaylee, you know that we all must go sometime. It’s just the way things are. We never know when it’s going to happen and these last few months have shown us that anyone can be taken away in an instant. On Earth, and now back here in our own galaxy, we’ve been so lucky. Until now.”

“But…he…I don’t know…I can’t say it right. Ain’t fair, that’s all.”

“Because he was going to marry you and Simon?”

“Yeah,” Kaylee said and then felt bad. “That sounds selfish, huh?”

“No, it doesn’t and you have every right to be upset. He was your friend, our friend and it would have been lovely to have him marry you. But that’s not going to happen now.”

“I know. Guess with Simon and River pardoned we can get married anywhere we want to. Wonder if there’s a preacher on Haven?”

Inara smiled slightly, glad to see her friend thinking on the future. They were all over the moon over being pardon, Simon and River especially, and the reality of their freedom hadn’t really sunk in yet, the pain of the loss of Book and the horrific events they had gone through still too recent.

“I think a wedding would do us all a lot of good,” Inara replied.

“Gonna have a funeral first, though,’ said Mal as he entered from the fore corridor and went to make himself some coffee. His morbid comment caused Inara to give him a dirty look and he immediately felt that he had made a mistake.

“Sorry. Just…well,…” Mal started and then stumbled over his thoughts and couldn’t find the right words.

“No, Capt’n, it’s okay,” said Kaylee. “He’s dead and not talking about ain’t gonna change that. I guess we should make plans.”

Mal came and sat with them with his coffee. “I’d take him home except none of us knows where he was born or if he got family. We find a preacher on Haven and we’ll find a cemetery or a piece of land and say goodbye to Book. That’s only plan I got for now.”

“What about the client? Any word from Haven?” Inara asked, hoping to change the subject.

“Nope, client ain’t answered our wave yet,” Mal said. “And that ain’t good.”

“Think Reavers got him?’ Kaylee asked in worry.

“Could be,’ Mal said. “But maybe their comms are out. We got the locale and the name of the dealer. Jasper Kincaid, near Coppermine. I’ll give everyone few more hours to rest. Soon as everyone is up and fed we make landfall on Haven.”

Inara looked at him in surprise. “What about the Alliance fleet? They might have something to say about that?”

“Already been in touch with them and they said we’re free to land. Also added that any surviving Reavers we run into is our own problem.”

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

Four hours later everyone was up and fed and Serenity passed through the Alliance fleet and made landfall just outside Coppermine. As they came in they could see the damage caused by the Reaver attack and the Alliance counter-attack. Burnt out buildings, corpses, human and Reaver, scattered about, and a few downed Reaver ships. There were also several large Alliance troop carriers and many soldiers on the ground.

“Don’t like the looks of this, sir,” Zoe said as she sat at the sensor boards on the bridge next to Wash as they stared down at the scene near the spaceport. Mal was behind them standing, with River in the third seat watching the rest of the sensors and damage control readings.

“Yeah, lots of Alliance about,” Mal said as he noticed at least three troop carriers and dozens of soldiers. “Makes one kinda twitchy. But we got a free pass from the PM herself.”

“Still don’t like,” Zoe said again. “We still don’t know what Cutter told anyone about us and that engine. I’m for staying on board and keeping the ship locked tight. Or maybe just getting the gorramn hell outta here.”

Wash looked at her in surprise. “But baby, we got Book’s funeral.”

“I’ll apologize to the Shepherd for missing his funeral when I meet him in the next life,” she answered. ‘Just don’t want it to be so soon.”

“I’m starting to think you got a good notion there Zoe,” Mal said. “But we have to meet the client and find a place to lay the Shepherd to rest. Everyone stays on board except me and Jayne and River. Little sis, you get that big brain working to see how these Alliance boys are feeling while we do a walkabout to find the client.”

“Aye Capt’n,” was all River said.

Wash landed Serenity at the small spaceport after getting permission from the ground control team the Alliance had set up.

Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Simon and River met in the cargo bay after Jayne and Simon took Book’s body out of the infirmary and laid it by the front ramp, ready to go.

“Zoe you got the boat and tell Wash and Kaylee to stand by to run if we have to,” Mal said as he loaded his pistol and Jayne and River checked their weapons.

Simon was deeply concerned. “I thought we put all this behind us.”

“Never know,” Mal said. “We flashed our ass at the whole fleet and Cutter could have told someone. We play this safe like we always do.”

“Safe?” said Jayne with a smirk. “Where in the verse is safe?”

“Nowhere it seems,” said Simon with a downcast face. “River, be….”

“Careful, I know and I will big brother,” she said with a smile.

After a few more words of caution the trio opened the door and departed and then Zoe slammed it shut and locked it. She and Simon stood for a few moments looking at Book’s body wrapped in the white sheet.

“What killed him?” Zoe finally asked.

Simon hesitated and then decided to tell the truth. “From the wounds I would guess gunfire from those Alliance fighters.”

Zoe’s face grew hard and she felt the anger building in her. “Alliance fighters?”

Simon sensed her anger but knew he had to press on. “The wounds are two big to be regular gunfire. Zoe, I didn’t say anything to Mal. Or anyone else. I don’t think we should tell them. Not now, not after it seems we finally have our freedom. Please understand.”

“I…guess I understand what you mean,” Zoe said slowly, trying to lessen her anger by breathing deeply. “Mal’d be very sore if he knew and it won’t bring the Shepherd back by getting all in a twist over this. Just…makes my blood boil. Those fighters saved Mal and River and Jayne. But not Book.”

With that she stalk off toward the stairs and then up and toward the bridge.

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

Mal, River, and Jayne were greeted at the foot of the spaceport landing pad by an Alliance official, probably part of the Coppermine administration.

“What’s your business here?” the middle aged official asked.

Mal didn’t like his tone and would have decked him if there hadn’t been so many soldiers about. Alliance, always getting in man’s way.

“Got a cargo to pick up,” said Mal. “Meeting the client here. What happened here, by the by?”

“We’ve had a…problem,” said the official.

“Looks like a big one," said Jayne with a smirk

“The area is not secure yet,” said the official. “We cannot guarantee your safety from the…the …”

“Reavers?” said River. “Don’t worry. We’ve had practice killing them.”

“Yeah,” Jayne added. “Lots and lots of practice.”

The official looked at them with bug eyes. “Ah…ok….but your ship…it has no transponder code.”

Mal smiled. “Well, you can just call the admiral of the fleet up there or Prime Minister Blakely and they’ll explain it all. Right now I got business to tend to so step aside or….”

“Ok, Ok,” the official stammered as he moved aside. “It’s your funeral.”

“Speaking of which, is there a preacher about?” Mal asked as he calmed down.

“Yes, church just down the street, about fifteen minutes walk.”

“Much obliged,” Mal said as he walked past.

Jayne stopped and River almost ran into his back. “Hey, what about a whorehouse?” Jayne asked the official.

“Ah, well….ah…”

River gave Jayne a shove. “Jayne, do you always have to do that?”

He turned and gave her a look. “Do what? Man needs sex. So does women too, by the way.” With this last he gave her a leer and River got a glaring mental image of what Jayne had in mind.

“In your dreams, ape brain,” River said in disgust as she walked on by. Jayne quickly got the locale of the nearest whorehouse and then ran to catch up to Mal and River.

“He has no clue about our ship,’ River said to Mal in regard to his question about the official.

“No, he wouldn’t,” Mal said. “If it comes it will be a surprise. Let’s just find us the client and the preacher. Hey, I see the preacher right there.”

Down the street from the spaceport, they came upon a large group of people, many of them armed, and they were standing around many bodies, about twenty, lying in the street, all dead. A preacher, an old, white man, was standing over them saying some words from his Bible. Mal, Jayne and River stood by respectfully and waited while the preacher finished his words. Mal knew that he and his crew were responsible for bringing the Reavers down on this place and feelings of guilt occupied his mind as there were tears and many cries from the crowd of people. After the preacher was done the people started to collect the bodies in two horse drawn carts.

“Excuse me,” Mal said to the preacher. “I’m Malcolm Reynolds. I need your services.”

“How so, Mr. Reynolds?” the preacher asked as he helped load a body.

“I run a cargo ship. One of my crew died recently and we’d like to give him a decent burial.”

“Burial be fifty credits. You want a coffin, take a day to make and be another hundred credits.”

“Don’t need a coffin,” Mal said.

“Then bring the deceased along to the cemetery and we’ll set him to rest,” the preacher said as he bent to another body. This time Mal stooped to help him, grabbing the feet of a heavy set man. Jayne also lent a hand to the people.

As they placed the body in the cart Mal asked another question. “Also looking for a fellow named Jasper Kincaid. You know him?”

“Yes,” said the preacher. “You just put his body in the cart.”

“You don’t say,” said Mal as he saw his cargo and profit disappearing.

“Gorra….sorry preacher,’ said Jayne.

“You bring along your dead crewman,” the preacher said ignoring Jayne’s remarks. “Cemetery is on the hill other side of town.”

“We’ll be there,” said Mal as the two carts and the crowd of people moved off.

They walked back toward Serenity. “No client, no cargo,” said Mal with a touch of anger.

“Maybe someone else is in charge of that iron ore mine now,’ said Jayne.

“Could be. Things’ll be pretty crazy here for a few days. We’ll see after we lay Book to rest,” Mal answered.

“Hey, Mal, there’s this…ah, whorehouse and…” Jayne said as they got closer to the spaceport.

Mal stopped and gave him a look. “Jayne, now ain’t the time.”

Jayne nodded. “Yeah, OK, but after the funeral can we make time?”

“Please let him go, Captain,” said River. “He’s been having…thoughts.”

“About what?” Mal asked and then he got it. “Jayne, don’t be having thoughts about River…or any other crewmates. Didn’t I tell you about my no crewmates…sex thoughts… rule?”

“Jesus Christ,” Jayne exploded. “Simon’s doing Kaylee, you’re doing Inara, Wash and Zoe is married. Only one left is River.”

“I’m going to be sick,” River said as she quickly walked ahead of them for the ship.

Jayne laughed. “Sure got her going.”

Mal just glared at him. “Jayne, she’s half your age and not all there. You want I should tell everyone about Ariel.”

“Gorramn it Mal. I am just joking with her. She ain’t my type anyways. Too skinny and….crazy. Just…we need to have a few laughs. Been too much crying lately.”

“Can’t disagree,” Mal said. “But save it for now. And yes, you can have some whore time when…”

But Mal never finished. As they came up to the spaceport he could see dozens of Alliance soldiers surrounding Serenity. River had stopped short and was waiting for him and Jayne.

“What’s happening?” Mal asked.

“They have orders to stop the ship from leaving,” River said and as her words impacted on Mal, Jayne nudged him and pointed skyward.

“Sons-a-bitches,” Mal growled as he saw at least four gunships in the air over Serenity.

“I thought we was free of all this crap!” Jayne snarled.

They could now see the middle aged official talking to some soldiers. River tensed up and then grabbed Mal’s arm.

“Quick, follow me,” said River as she stepped into a side street, Jayne and Mal not far behind.

“What’s up?” Mal asked as they quickly walked away.

“They have our names. They are talking to the official. He told them we went looking for the preacher.”

Mal took out his comm device and called Zoe.

“Zoe, ship is surrounded and they’re looking for us.”

“I know, sir. We just got hailed. They told us to stay put or we would be shot out of the sky.”

“Zoe. Get Kaylee to dismantle that thing right now and smash it to bits.”

“Roger that, sir.”

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

“Smash it to bits?” Kaylee said in shock as Zoe relayed Mal’s order to the engine room from the bridge. “But Zoe…it’s….it’s….”

“It’s what Kaylee?” Zoe asked impatiently. She could see the troops outside the bridge windows, could see the four gunships on radar on her sensor boards, could see her husband tensing up, wanting to fly the hell out of here but knowing he couldn’t, knowing they couldn’t fire up the Kovalev Drive in atmo. Now Kaylee sounded like she was losing it.

“It’s just so….shiny,” Kaylee said in a small voice.

“Captain’s orders, Kaylee.”

“Zoe, I have to turn off all the power to do this. There’s no chance of…escape?”

Zoe looked to Wash. “Not a chance,” he said. “We can’t use the drive in atmo and those four gunships….”

He didn’t need to say anymore. It finally came to what they had expected for the last few weeks. Lured into a false sense of security by recent events, the crew had been caught on the ground surrounded by the Alliance. Zoe knew it was a mistake to come here. And she knew the Captain knew it was, too. Now at least, but now was a bit too late. She turned on the intercom for the engine room. “Kaylee, get to work,” was all Zoe said and then there was a sigh.

“Roger that,” Kaylee answered.

Simon appeared in the engine room at that moment. “Hey, your father wants to see you.”

Kaylee just stared at him. “What?”

“Your father, big guy, you know,” he said in a joking way and then he caught on because of her stunned look. “What’s happening?”

She gulped. “We ain’t free yet.”

She quickly filled him in. “Where’s River?” Simon asked in worry.

“Don’t know,” Kaylee said as she picked up a wrench. “But Capt’n ordered me to destroy the Kovalev Drive.”

“Oh,” Simon said and he could see she was hurt by this news more than anything else. “Ah…what can I do?”

“Tell me I ain’t crazy for feeling sad,” she said in a forlorn tone.

“You’re not crazy for feeling sad,” he said as sympathetically as he could.

She smiled a bit. “Thanks. Time to do it.” She reached for the power levels and just as she was about to turn off the engine Simon stopped her.

“Wait!”

“But Simon…Capt’n’s orders.”

“I know…but…I need to think….just….the Cortex! We need to send a message to someone. To the Prime Minister!”

“Simon…that’s crazy! You’ll never get through! And them ships be sure to be jamming our broadcast anyway.”

“Damn it, you’re right…but River…she’s outside the ship! I’ll be on the bridge! Give me a minute to get there before you turn off the power.”

Before she could say anything he was gone. Kaylee just looked at the engine and she almost cried. She knew it would come to this eventually but now it was time she felt like disobeying the Capt’n. This was the most advanced technology ever seen. She knew the secrets, knew how to build it. Knew the theory. Even if she destroyed it, the Alliance knew who she was, knew what she and her father knew. Least she thought they knew, otherwise why would they be here now. Maybe it was best just to let them take us. Simon and River had been pardoned. That was the real reason she wanted to avoid the Alliance. Kaylee wasn’t a criminal, not in the strictest sense of the word. Alliance would never give them peace now. Cutter had told her father that if they had cooperated they would be hailed as heroes. Kaylee didn’t give a hoot for that and neither did her father. The drive could actually do some good for the people of the galaxy. And maybe they could even find a way to contact Earth without losing time. Kaylee made up her mind. For the first time ever, she was going to disobey Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

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

“You are surrounded,” said the voice on the comms. “Take off and we will shoot you down. Open the ramp and surrender.”

“Fuck you,” said Zoe into the comms, using the common curse words of the Aussies back on Earth, and she added a bunch of Chinese curse words just to make sure this bureaucrat got the point. “We have pardons from Prime Minister Blakely herself, signed, sealed and delivered to us not more than eight hours ago. We are free citizens!”

“My orders are to detain the ship and one Kaylee Frye and Jonathan Frye. The rest of the crew may leave in peace.”

“No gorramn way you get my ship or the Fryes,” said Zoe and Wash winced as she cursed in Chinese again.

“Zoe, what’s the story?’ Mal said on the personal comm link.

“They want the ship and Kaylee and her father. The rest of us can go, sir.”

“Gorramn double dealing backstabbing sons-of-a-thousand whores,” Mal cursed in Chinese.

“Think Blakely’s behind it?” Zoe asked.

“Could be, but why go through all the trouble with the pardons and letting us go. I bet it’s the military,” Mal said in anger.

Just then Simon came on the bridge. “I need to talk to Mal!” he shouted and Zoe just looked at him and handed the comm mic.

“Mal, it’s Simon. You need to get to a Cortex screen and contact Blakely or someone in the government.”

“Nice idea Simon and we’ve thought of but we’re a little busy avoiding Alliance patrols right now. And I’m guessing these boys have all transmissions jammed.”

“We need to try,’ Simon said. “The ship will be jammed but maybe not in town.”

“River said we should try it. Ok, but you get Kaylee on wrecking that thing and have her ready to shove the pieces in the face of those bastards. Zoe, under no circumstances are you to fight.”

Zoe took back the mic. “What about Kaylee and her father?”

Simon looked at her with wide eyes and understanding began to dawn again.

There was silence from Mal’s end. “Zoe, you guys just stall long enough for Kaylee to do her job. Then open the ramp. Once we get in touch with Blakely we’ll figure way to get them free. For God’s sake don’t fight them. For now, I just don’t want to see anyone else… killed.”

Zoe was pissed but knew he was right. “Roger that, Captain.”

“Zoe,” Simon said. “What’s going on?”

“They want to take Kaylee and her father with them,” Zoe said, her anger obvious.

Simon just collapsed in the third chair. “I knew it would come to this. Had a feeling all along.”

Wash then noticed that they still had power. “Ah, Kaylee’s hasn’t shut the engine down yet.”

Zoe hit the button for the engine room. “Kaylee, time to wreck the drive.”

There was a long silence. “Sorry Zoe but…can’t do that.”

All three on the bridge just stared at each other. “What was that?” Zoe asked in disbelief.

“Can’t…sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

“Can’t because it’s impossible or can’t because you don’t want to do it?”

Another silence. Then a small voice. “Don’t wanna do it.”

“Kaylee!” Zoe screamed into the mic. “Gorramnit all to hell! Wreck that thing right now!”

“No,” came the reply and then there was a click.

“She’s shut off the intercom to the engine room,” Wash said. Zoe tried to reconnect but it was no go. Kaylee knew everything about the ship and knew how to disconnect the intercom.

“I can’t understand her,” said Zoe as she looked to Simon.

“I do,” he said quietly. “Destroy the engine and only her and her father would be left who understand it. They’ll never leave them be.”

“He’s got a point, honey,” Wash said.

“I don’t give a good gorramn,” she said with venom in her words. “That drive falls into Alliance hands, they’d be invincible!”

Simon stared at her in puzzlement. “Zoe, do you want to bring down the Alliance?”

His question shocked her. “No….I mean….I hate them…all of them….if they have that drive….Simon, don’t you understand?”

“I understand. But do you understand what’s going to happen to Kaylee and Jonathan?”

“Captain’s orders,” was all Zoe could think to say.

Simon said nothing, just stared at her and Wash finally spoke, directly to Zoe. “Baby, I think it’s time we ended this. Time to let go and just go our way...in peace.”

Zoe glared at Wash but Mal called back before she could even think of a reply to what Wash had said.

“Zoe, what’s happening?” Mal’s voice came through the comms. No one answered him. “Zoe!”

Kaylee was disobeying orders is what was happening. Zoe couldn’t tell him, handed the mic to Simon, who stood and took it.

“Mal, Kaylee’s refusing to destroy the drive,” Simon said into the mic.

“What?’ Mal said and his disbelief was clear. “What in the gorramn verse is going on there?”

“You’ve got a mutiny, Captain,” Simon said. “And...I'm sorry...but she’s not alone.”

With that, Simon handed the mic to Zoe and then walked away from the bridge.

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

Mal, Jayne and River were in a small tavern, having decided to get off the streets of Coppermine and try to find a Cortex screen. They had quickly ordered beers and found a public Cortex screen at the back behind an electronic pool table. The place was empty except for the bartender and he said he expected more when the funerals were over. As River tried to log on and contact someone in the government Jayne kept a wary eye on the front door. Now the news that reached them from Serenity had Mal’s blood boiling.

“That….that….girl!” was all he could say.

“She will never be free,” said River from her seat at the screen. “They will hunt her and her father to the ends of the verse. Their knowledge is too vital.”

Jayne added his two cents. “Little sis got a point Mal. May as well give it to them now. Save everyone lot of heartache and trouble.”

Mal couldn’t believe them. “That thing is going to make them invincible!”

“Ain’t they already?” Jayne said with a touch of sarcasm. “Let’s see. How’d that little war you all have go?”

“Ain’t a time to be pushing my buttons Jayne less you want a hole in your head!”

“Be good boys,” River said as the two big men glared at each other. “We are trying to hide, remember?”

"I can’t believe you all,” Mal said in disgust and then drained his glass of beer in one shot. “Thought you we’re on board with us keeping that drive out of Alliance hands.”

Jayne pointed a finger in Mal’s face. “You was one all fired up to come here for that load. We shoulda just steered clear!”

“Get that meaty paw outta my face Jayne ‘fore I make you eat it!”

“Boys!” River said in admonishment. “Your anger is giving me a headache. We have a Cortex connection. What address?”

“The Prime Minister,” Mal said quickly as he bent over the screen. River’s fingers flew over the buttons until she came to a general public message box for the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Best I can do,” River said. “Her private wave address is…private.”

“Not good enough,” said Mal. Then he had a brain wave. “Your father.”

River froze. “My father?”

“He knows people Simon said once. Maybe he can get to her.”

River didn’t move a finger. “Captain, I haven’t spoken to my father in…almost eight years of his time reference, almost four in mine.”

“Then it’s about time you dropped a line,” said Jayne. “My Ma was awful sore I hadn’t called in four years. Bet your old man is pissed.”

“River, this is for Kaylee,” Mal said and in an instant River’s fingers flew through the wave address for her parent’s home. They were out of range and River recorded a message, just the facts of their situation and the details, without emotion and without any greeting or any personal questions.

“Done,” she said. “It will take four hours to reach Osiris.”

“Let’s get outta here,” Jayne said. “Feel better if we’re on the move.”

They started for the front door but as Mal opened it a crack he saw the back of a soldier standing right there. He closed the door quickly and then asked the bartender. “Say, you got a back door?”

“Yeah. It’s in back,” said the bartender with a grin and Mal lay a 50 credit bill on the bar.

“You ain’t seen us. Right?”

“Seen who?” the bartender smiled and handed back Mal’s money “Was a Browncoat, too.”

“Thanks, brother. I’d love to trade war stories but…another time,” Mal said and shook his hand and then they were gone out the back door. They were in a back alley.

“Zoe, what’s happening?” Mal asked again in the comm device.

“Kaylee’s barricaded herself in the engine room, sir. Simon and Inara are back there. I don’t know if they are trying to get her out or are agreeing with her. I’m pretty sure Simon is agreeing with her.”

“We sent a message to Simon’s father, hoping he can get through to Blakely. But it’s gonna be a while.”

“They just threatened to blow in the ramp if we don’t come out, sir” Zoe told him.

Mal stopped walking and stood for a long moment, Jayne and River watching both ends of the alley, hands on their pistols but not out.

“Sir?” came Zoe’s voice through the comms.

“Zoe,” Mal said with heavy heart. “I’d never thought I’d say this but….surrender Serenity.”

COMMENTS

Monday, September 29, 2008 9:39 PM

JANE0904


I wonder what would happen if they tried to use the Kovalev drive while parked ... And as much as it would be true that, without the drive, Kaylee and her father would be pursued, I doubt that the Alliance would give them up if they did hand it over. Why not make a clean sweep - the drive, and the two people in the 'verse who know how to make it work? If nothing else, it would stop the information getting to those who might not use it the way the Alliance want - namely, the Independents!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 12:37 PM

KATESFRIEND


Tough choices for Mal to make - and very dramatic too. Who or what to save and sacrifice and for what reason. Very interesting read!


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