BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CBSTEVE

The Return Home - Part 22
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Many goodbyes are said as the crew comes to some life changing decisions.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1576    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Return Home - Part 22

Lulled into a false sense of security by their recent pardons from the Prime Minister, Serenity and its crew were now surrounded by Alliance troops on the ground and in the air above the spaceport of Coppermine on Haven. The Alliance objective was the Kovalev Drive and Kaylee Frye and her father. Mal, Jayne and River were off ship, trying to avoid the Alliance troopers looking for them. Mal was stunned by the turn of events, none more than his little Kaylee refusing a direct order. As soon as they had spotted the Alliance soldiers and four gunships in the air Mal had ordered the Kovalev Drive destroyed. But now Kaylee was refusing to do so and had barricaded herself in the engine room and disconnected the intercom. Fearing for the loss of anymore crew after the recent death of Shepherd Book, Mal had just ordered Zoe to surrender the ship.

Zoe sat in the co-pilot’s chair on the bridge of Serenity, unable to reply to her Captain’s order. She looked to Wash to see his reaction and she was not happy at all. He seemed actually glad that Mal wanted them to give up the ship. Wash let out a long sigh and then took his hands away from the control column and leaned back in his chair. Zoe saw the relief flooding his face and for an instant she felt like doing violence to her husband. But just for an instant and she knew why he had reacted that way. Surrender was better than death.

Surrender! Zoe had surrendered once before, and Mal had been the one to give the order that time, too. It cost her six months in an Alliance prison camp on Hera, with near starvation rations, and the added burden of doing heavy labor every day to clean up the remains of the Battle of Serenity Valley.

“Zoe? Did you understand?” came Mal’s voice through the comms. For some reason they could still communicate on the low band local communicators, which the Alliance was failing to jam like they were jamming the main comms and Cortex connections. Before she could answer the Alliance called again.

“You have ten minutes to open the ramp or we will attach explosive charges and blow it in,” repeated the same voice over the comms. Zoe cursed in Chinese, but not in the mic this time. She ignored the Alliance call and slowly pressed the button to talk to her Captain.

“Sir, I received the order. I…will comply.”

“Not our finest day,” Mal said to her in a voice filled with the pain of what he had done. “But we’ll live to see another.”

“Yes, sir,” was all she could say. “And the drive sir?”

“Just…can you get Kaylee to talk to me?”

“She’s cut off the engine room intercom. Sir, you stay clear of the ship. Things don’t go right…you know what I mean.”

“We’ll be watching,” he said and then his thoughts turned to the Kovalev Drive. “Give me a minute, Zoe. Don’t open the ramp yet.”

“Roger, sir.”

Mal was in a back alley in the streets of Coppermine with Jayne and River as his body guards. Think, gorramn it, think! What to do, what to do?

“Have Kaylee write everything down,” River said to him suddenly and he knew she was prying into his mind again.

“What you on about?” Jayne said as his eyes nervously moved from one end of the alley to the other.

“The drive,” began River. “The Alliance is going to get it. We can’t stop them now. They either get it and the Fryes, get the Fryes only if Kaylee destroys it, or get nothing if we fight and die and destroy the drive. I don’t think anyone wants to fight and die, right?”

“No,” said Mal wearily. “No more.”

“Then if the Alliance gets the drive we need to make sure everyone else does also,” said River and then Mal began to understand and keyed his comm device.

“Zoe, get Kaylee to record everything she can about the drive, get her to write it down!”

“Ah, Captain, that could take…hours, maybe days. We got ten minutes, less now.”

Mal knew it was impossible. But then he remembered he had someone else who could find out everything about the drive, could find out everything that was in Kaylee’s brain. He looked at River and in an instant she knew what he wanted and Mal knew she knew.

“Can you do it?” he asked.

“The images of the drive are already in my mind. I can draw it. The theory and the specifics of the engineering I can get from her. But I’m not an engineer so I will need to record it fast before I lose it. And I need to be closer to her,” River said.

“The only way to get closer to Kaylee is to give up,” Mal said.

“No ruttin’ way!” Jayne snarled. “I ain’t in the mood to go sit in no gorramn Alliance prison.”

“We’re free, Jayne,” River reminded him.

“Then why are we hiding like a bunch of thieves?” asked Jayne with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

“Cause they ain’t playing by the rules,” Mal said. “And someone is worried about us doing what we just did, namely contacting the Prime Minister. So they need to shut us up.”

“Ain’t no way they gonna shut me up,” said Jayne.

“Be a miracle if you shut up,” River quipped and Jayne and Mal just stared at her.

“Jeez, even little sis is cracking wise,” said Jayne.

“Alright, enough with the verbal garbage. We gotta make a plan,” Mal said.

“We just walk up to the ship and surrender,” River said.

“We?” Mal said in surprise. “I’m with Jayne on staying out of Alliance hands.”

“But Zoe, Wash, Simon, Kaylee and Jonathan will be in Alliance hands. And so will Inara.”

“Oh, crap,” Mal said and just sighed as his relationship with Inara just caused a complication.

“Better if we are all together,” River said and then Jayne just started to walk away.

“Jayne, stop!” Mal ordered but Jayne kept walking. River ran up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Jayne…don’t leave us!” she said with a child like plea in her tone.

The big merc stopped and turned and there was fire in his eyes.

“My brother…Kaylee…our friends…they’re in trouble,” she said and his anger softened a bit.

“Look, I ain’t no hero. I am what I am. You all go and lay down arms and be on your merry. I got me too much drinking and whoring and robbing and killing of folks I don’t like to do to spend rest of my life in an Alliance lock down.”

“Jayne,” River said in a gentle tone. “What about your promise to Book?”

“What prom…?” but Jayne’s words died on his lips as he remembered. “The letters.”

“They’re still on Serenity,” River said and then Mal could see Jayne struggle with his conscience for a brief moment and then his face grew tight and he let out a low “gorramnit”.

“All right,” Mal said. “Let’s do this. But we don’t just walk in and give up. We negotiate, get something for us.”

“Like what?” Jayne asked. “They got all the cards, Mal.”

“Nope. That’s where you’re wrong. We got Simon.”

“The Doc? What the hell you on about, Mal?”

“Simon is Kaylee’s husband, remember?”

“Oh, yeah?” said Jayne. “I think I musta been drunk at that wedding cause I don’t remember them saying ‘I do'.”

“I do,” said River. “Shepherd Book married them in the cargo bay on Taos. It was a lovely ceremony.”

“Sure was,” added Mal. “And Simon just can’t go anywhere without his sister.”

“He’s so helpless without me,” River said and even Jayne had to grin at that one.

“Ok, I get it,” Jayne said. “You sure I can’t kill anyone? Make me feel better.”

“Don’t worry none Jayne. I’m sure there’ll be some killing to do yet. Time we headed back to the ship,” Mal said as he led the way out of the alley and headed for the spaceport. As they walked he called Zoe and in as cryptic a way as he could in case someone was listening in he told Zoe what was going on.

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

Back on the ship the crisis with Kaylee had reached a critical point. She had locked the engine room door and had disabled the intercom. Inara had finally emerged from her shuttle and was quickly filled in on what was happening and had gone back to see what she could do to help convince Kaylee to destroy the engine. Zoe told her Mal’s idea about writing everything down and Inara agreed it was a long shot but would ask Kaylee. Zoe couldn’t leave the bridge, having to stay in communication with Mal and the Alliance.

Inara immediately went back to the engine room. Simon was standing outside the door, which was closed and locked.

“Kaylee, we have to talk about this,” Simon said through the door. He could just make out Kaylee through the small glass window. She was lying on her hammock, holding a pillow very tight.

“Ain’t nothing to talk about,” she said to him and he could barely hear her.

“Simon,” Inara said as she arrived. “Zoe said Mal wants Kaylee to start writing down everything about the engine.”

“Something we should have thought of weeks ago,” Simon said in exasperation.

“There’s nothing we can do?”

“Inara, I’m actually not disagreeing with what Kaylee is doing. We are free now, or at least we will be once we give up the ship. Even if Mal manages to get through to Blakely and even if she intervenes, the military will not stop till they have this drive and Kaylee and her father. I say we just…let it happen.”

“They’ll take her away from you,” Inara said in a gentle voice.

“I…know. But it’s better than her, us, being dead…or prisoners. If we volunteer, they have to treat her properly. They need her.”

“And what happens after they get every last piece of information from her and Jonathan? When they no longer need them?”

Simon was stunned and it was clear he hadn’t thought this far ahead. “But…they….no!”

“That’s right. Do you think the Alliance will allow them to go free and give away the secrets to everyone?”

“Oh, God!”

“Simon! Simon!” Kaylee shouted from the engine room. “What’s wrong?”

“Kaylee….open the door! Please!”

“I…I….can’t!”

“Kaylee, we may not have time,” Simon said in a pleading tone. “We’re running out of time!”

“Time…for what?”

“To say goodbye,” Simon answered and then in a second the door was open and he was in her arms.

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

Mal, Jayne and River were spotted a block away from the ship by an Alliance patrol. In seconds they were surrounded by troopers, armed and wary.

“Hands up!” shouted a sergeant.

“No ruttin’ way,” said Jayne and for a second Mal thought Jayne had changed his mind and they would have a fight.

“Take it easy everyone,” said an officer as he approached the group. He was a major by his rank markings. “Captain Reynolds, Admiral Byrd, commander of the fleet, would like a word with you.”

“Yeah? I don’t got too much to say to him since he’s got my ship surrounded and is making threats. He does know the PM herself pardoned us, doesn’t he?”

“Circumstances have changed since that deal was made,” said the Major. “He wishes to discuss terms for the peaceful surrender of the ship. Otherwise…”

“Yeah, I get it. But I got nothing to say to him.”

“Fine. Then you may deal with me. You are all free to go as you please, with the exception of the Fryes.”

“That ain’t good enough,” said Mal.

“It’s the best you’re going to get. The crew may retained all personal belongings and will be provided transportation to anywhere in the galaxy. But the ship and the Fryes will be detained.”

“We don’t want to go anywhere. We want to stick with the ship,” Mal said.

“That’s not going to happen. We don’t need you and you are not engineers and could in no way be a hindrance to what we want. You will gather your effects and leave the ship in peace. Otherwise we will detain you indefinitely”

“Gorramn Alliance,” Jayne muttered under his breath and seemed to be reaching for his gun but River put a hand on his arm and shook her head “no”. The soldiers looked with curiosity at this frail girl calming the big man who they all thought was about to pull his gun.

“She’s married,” Mal said as he hatched his plan. “Kaylee’s married to the Doc. She’d be more cooperative if he was with her.”

The Major frowned. “Doctor Tam you are talking about?”

“Yeah. And this here is his sister. She goes along too or he’ll be mighty pissed and so will Kaylee.”

The Major thought for a moment. “Very well. But no one else.”

“And I want compensation for my ship.”

“Of course. We expected that.”

“One million credits,” Mal said and the looks of surprise and shock on all faces was clear, Jayne’s included, even River’s, at the size of the sum Mal was asking.

“One million credits?” said the Major in awe. “That’s a princely sum.”

“And I’m the prince that expects to be paid, in cash or certificate bonds,” Mal said.

“You do realize we can force you to do whatever we want,” said the Major.

Mal smiled. “Cutter tried the same thing and look what it got him. Now Major, we can jaw all day and you can make threats and my crew inside the ship can cause untold amounts of damage to the thing that you and Byrd and whoever’s puling his strings wants. And you can blow in the door of the ship and again you got a damaged ship that ain’t gonna fly anywhere real soon. You guys give me what I want and you get what you want. Dong ma?”

“Give me a moment,” said the Major as he walked away and pulled out a comm device and could be seen talking into it.

“A million credits, Mal?” Jayne asked in stupefying surprise. “What’s my cut?”

“Nothing since it’s my ship.”

“Jeeze Mal, my trigger finger getting’ a bit twitchy here. Few credits thrown my way might make it stop.”

“Alright. How’s….ten…”

“Twenty thousand,” Jayne said with a grin.

Mal smiled. “Deal. Was gonna offer ten percent but since you want twenty thousand its all yours.”

“What? No, wait a sec here!”

“Deals a deal,” Mal said with a smirk.

“We ain’t shook on it yet!”

“We don’t have the money yet, Jayne,” River said as she kept her eyes on the troops around them. She could pick up feelings of disbelief and curiosity, disbelief over the fact that this fool expected to get paid a million credits for a run down old Firefly and curiosity about the ship and why the Captain and the Major both thought it worth so much.

The Major returned. “The Admiral agreed to your terms Captain, as long as you can convince the Fryes to cooperate with as little fuss as possible.”

“Well, that’s up to them. But you let the Doc and his sister stay, should make life easier for them and you all,” Mal said, not wanting to give away the fact that Kaylee had already decided to give up. Only thing Mal could really do he was doing, unless he wanted more blood shed and he was trying his best not to have it come to that.

River could sense his plan in broad strokes. Get River on board, get her to find out everything about the engine, get her off, get the money, get to Badger’s cousin on Hera, buy a few Fireflys, get the machine shop on Hera to build the thing and test it. Then stick it in the Alliance’s face and make the blueprints available on the Cortex for all. Then they would have no reasons to keep the Fryes. He hoped.

“As for the money,” the Major continued. “We don’t exactly have that amount here, but we can have it transferred to a bank account…if you have one.”

“Nope. Let’s see. I know someone who does. Tell you what. Get me at least ten percent now and have the rest wired to an account I give you in a few minutes.”

“That can be arraigned,” the Major said and then he went off to do some more talking.

Jayne was all smiles now. “Jeez Mal, I think today is turning out to be a shiny day after all.”

River kicked him in the shin. “Hey! What’s that for?”

“Lunk head! Don’t you ever think of anyone but yourself? What about Kaylee and her father?”

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

“Simon, I’m so sorry, but I can’t destroy it,” Kaylee said as she sat on her hammock with Inara and Simon standing beside her. “They’ll never leave us be. It’s better this way.”

“Kaylee. We understand,” Simon said, trying to keep cheerful, but inside he was felling like the verse was ending, knowing that soon he might be seeing her for the last time, ever.

Inara smiled and tried to make Kaylee feel better but knew she had to say what they were thinking. “Mal ordered Zoe to surrender the ship, to not fight but he needs some time to negotiate with them. We’re just afraid about what’s going to happen to you and your father.”

“What do you mean?”

“They might never let us see you again, for starters,” Simon said and she could sense his sadness.

“Ah, that’s not going to happen,” said Zoe as she stood in the doorway. Kaylee looked at her and then turned away, all red faced.

“What’s going on?’ Inara asked.

“You know the Captain. Every deal has an angle. Thing is….he needs to talk to you Inara.”

“Me?”

“Said it was urgent. You can take it on the bridge.”

Inara hurried away and Zoe quickly filled Simon in on Mal’s plan.

“Married?” Simon said and looked at Kaylee who still wouldn’t look at Zoe.

“It’s want you wanted, right?” Zoe asked and Simon just smiled, one minute thinking he wouldn’t be with Kaylee and the next being told he could stay with her.

“But what about the rest of the crew?” Simon asked.

“We got our walking papers,” said Zoe quietly. “They’re kicking us off Serenity. Maybe Blakely might intervene, but maybe she won’t.”

Then Kaylee finally turned to Zoe.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “It’s all my fault. I never shoulda built this thing”

Zoe sighed. “No, Kaylee, ain’t anyone’s fault. If you never built it we’d never get home and we’d be dead now from one of those close calls we had that the drive let us escape from. Things just happened. They found out and they want it and that’s that. Just…didn’t want it to be like this. Forced out of our home.”

“How’s Wash taking it?” Simon asked.

Zoe grunted. “He’s up there all smiles and grins and calm as a windless day.”

“He’s happy?” Kaylee asked in surprise.

“Yeah. He even started talking about getting a job on a big freighter or cruise ship and only shut up when I gave him my dirtiest look.”

“He told me once if you hadn’t been here he would have left a long time ago,” said Simon.

“I know,” Zoe said. “Maybe it’s time to settle down somewhere, have a few babies. Ain’t getting younger that’s for sure.”

Kaylee’s face lit up. “Babies! Now that’s the kinda talk I like!”

Simon was aghast. “Whoo! Slow down a minute ladies! First we are in mortal danger and now the family planning starts!”

Kaylee pouted. “You said you wanted babies.”

“Yeah, but a wedding first…oh yeah.”

“You two better brush up on your story,” Zoe said. “Mal was very cryptic when he mentioned ‘the newlyweds’, so you make a story and we’ll follow along. Just make sure Shepherd Book was one who married you in that story. I gotta get back to the bridge.”

As she turned Kaylee stopped her. “Zoe. I’m sorry I disobeyed you.”

Zoe shook her head. “No, it was the right thing to do. They would win in the end, engine destroyed or not. Just…hope Mal feels the same way.”

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

“Hi, how are you?’ Inara asked into the comms as she sat beside a grinning Wash.

“We’re fine, just got a lot of Alliance guns pointing at us right now,” Mal whispered, trying to make sure no one overheard them. “I gotta ask a favor.”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Need your to give your account number of that bank on Ariel to the Alliance.”

“What?” she said in shock. “What the….what for?”

“Cause I sold Serenity. And they need a way to send me the money.”

“He sold Serenity,” Wash said as he snapped out of his daydream of being a luxury cruiser pilot with all the perks that went with it and started paying attention. “Damn that’s a good idea. How much did he get?”

“Mal, how much should I expect?”

“Oh…about…900,000 credits.”

Wash and Inara just stared at each other. “Are you serious?’ Inara asked Mal.

“Yeah. The other ten percent they are gathering now. In cash.”

“One million credits!" Wash said in stunned disbelief. "For this piece of junk?!?”

“Hey!” said Kaylee as she and Simon and Zoe came on the bridge. “Stop insulting my lady!”

“He sold it!” said Wash in awe. “For one million credits!”

There was a stunned silence, then a loud ‘ding” as the Cortex screen came to life. “In coming message,” said Wash. “For Inara Serra.”

“Mal, someone is trying to contact me.”

“That would be the Alliance fleet accountant. Needs your info.”

“Mal, you sure you know what you’re doing?” Inara asked.

“Ain’t got much choice,” Mal answered. “Just doing the best for everyone.”

“Okay,” Inara said and then she handed the comm mic to Zoe as she went to the Cortex screen. She read the message and then from memory she punched in her account number. It was always in her mind, not trusting anything so vital to a piece of paper.

“Captain, she sent it,” said Zoe. “Might take a few hours to confirm it, distance involved..”

“Then we’ll wait,” Mal said. “Don’t open the ramp till I say so.” Mal confirmed this with the Major who gave a reluctant assent and then ordered the troops to stand down. They all retired to a café and Mal ordered drinks for all, but of course the troopers refused anything but bottled water and juice. As Mal sipped a glass of his favorite Chinese wine he felt a whole lot better, hoping somehow that Blakely would get the message before those few hours were up.

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

On Osiris Gabriel Tam was sitting in his office when the Cortex screen chimed with a message. Most messages his secretary routinely handled but she had forwarded this one to him as top priority. It was from a bar on Haven. Gabriel buzzed his secretary.

“Louise, what’s with the message from Haven?”

“Sir. It’s….your daughter.”

“My…thank you. Hold all calls and messages.”

Gabriel didn’t even hear her acknowledgment as he opened the message. My God! It’s really River. She was older, looked…sadder….but it was no doubt her.

“Hello, baby…” he started to say in his excitement but then he realized it was a recording.

“Hello, father. Simon and I are well. We are with the Firefly class transport Serenity at the town of Coppermine on Haven. We were recently pardoned for our supposed crimes by Prime Minister Blakely but now the military is here and they want to take our ship for reasons I can’t tell you at the moment. They are threatening the crew and we don’t know what will happen. I need you to contact the prime minister and ask her to intervene on our behalf. Hopefully we will see you soon on Osiris. Good bye, father.”

The message ended and she was gone, He played it over three more times and then just sat and thought. They had been pardoned? No one had informed him or his wife of this news yet. And now they were being threatened. Why? What was with that ship and crew that made Adam Cutter search for them for so long? And Haven? There were already rumors going about concerning a battle between the rebels and the fleet at Haven. Some rumors said the fleet lost ten ships, others rumors said it was the Reavers, not the rebels, and a still more unbelievable rumor was that Adam Cutter was dead. Tam knew only one thing to do. Contact Blakely. As he reached for the screen to find her address, his secretary buzzed him.

“Sir. Prime Minister Blakely is giving a live news conference concerning the fleet.”

“Thank you Louise,” he replied and then turned on the all day news channel on the Cortex. There was Blakely, speaking behind of a bank of microphones.

“…..the fleet at Haven. High Chancellor Adam Cutter died of heart failure in his cabin on board the cruiser Dortmunder yesterday evening.” As this news hit the reporters like ice water there was a babble of voices as they all asked questions.

“Please, please, let me continue.” After a few more moments she spoke again. “The High Chancellor has no family and as such his remains were cremated and he was given a burial in space. As for his successor, that is something I must decide on in the next few days. Laws will be upheld, citizens will do their duty, life will go on in his absence. The High Chancellor has gone to a greater reward. His dedication to his duty will be long remembered and admired. As for the fleet, the fleet has found no rebel fleet as yet. They will continue to search the Burnham quadrant for any signs of a rebel base of activity. I must also sadly report, the loss of three of our smaller gunships to a meteor storm in the region. The families of the deceased will be so notified as we get more information. Now I will take any questions.”

Gabriel was aghast. Haven! That’s where his children were. What was going on? He looked at the wave address again. The Bulletproof Bar, Coppermine, Haven. The message took three hours, twelve minutes to reach him. Where were River and Simon now?

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

Simon was on board Serenity, examining Jonathan’s legs in the infirmary as Kaylee sat on the counter, writing furiously in one of River’s notebooks.

“They’ll find that,” Simon said.

“I don’t care, I gotta try,” Kaylee said as she wrote down everything she could remember Gregori Kovalev telling her about his theories. Then she remembered his warning, about destroying the drive, and she just stopped writing.

“He told me to destroy it if it ever came to this.”

“Kovalev?” Simon asked.

“Ah, that’s his name. Couldn’t remember his…hey! Easy, Doc,” Jonathan said in pain while Simon probed for more metal in his legs.

“Sorry, just missed a few small pieces. Let me give you a shot.”

“No, no more shots. Need to keep a clear head,” Jonathan said. “Can’t we run?” Jonathan asked Kaylee and she shook her head.

“No, Daddy. Won’t work in atmo. At those speeds, we’ll burn the front of the ship to molten metal just trying to get out of atmo. We gotta give up and…help them.”

“I ain’t too fond of helping the Alliance.”

“Me neither, but we ain’t got many choices here. Least we can try to make sure rest of the galaxy can make the same drive.”

“I still think they’ll be very angry if they find us trying to smuggle your notes off ship,” Simon said. “We are on a delicate balance with them.”

“Yeah,” she said as she stopped writing again. “Maybe you’re right. But they’ll want to see it themselves, so if they find it I’ll just say it was for them.”

“I guess that will work,” said Simon. “If they find it on the ship, and not in Jayne’s duffel bag full of guns and knives.”

“He’s got a duffel bag full of guns and knives?” Jonathan asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” said Kaylee. “Had it when he came on board. Bet he’s got more now. Oh, by the by Daddy, Simon and I are married.”

“What!?!”

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

Inara and Zoe made dinner while Wash sat at the table and blabbed on and on.

“You think Mal will give us a share. I mean, I know it’s his ship, but that’s a lot of money. Be a nice severance pay for seven years of taking his crap.”

“Wash!” Inara said in admonishment. “Mal….crap is too…strong…oh never mind!”

“Come on, Inara, you thought he was the worst in the verse for years,” Wash said with a chuckle.

“I was hiding my feelings, that’s all. And as for the money, if we get it, I’m sure Mal will give everyone some, but don’t expect too much.”

“What? Why not?”

“Cause he’s got a plan,” said Zoe as she placed a salad on the table. Wash reached for some lettuce and she slapped his hand away.

“Owww! Hey, why all the sudden hostility!”

“Husband if you gotta ask you’re too damn stupid to even answer.”

“What? Oh come on, just because I’m happy we’re leaving the Death Ship?”

“Death Ship?” Zoe scowled in anger at Wash. “This has been my home for seven years. And I like it!”

Wash stood and had fire in his eyes. “Well, I hate it! There I said it! Should have said it years ago. Baby, we could live a good life, no danger, no Reavers or bullets flying past our ears. A cruise ship! Swimming pools, movie stars, just imagine!’

“Makes me wanna puke,” Zoe said as she glared back at him. “Wash, you just don’t understand. It’s not only the ship we’re losing. We’re losing our…family.”

“I understand babe. And I’m gonna miss everyone a whole lot. But we gotta go out there and start thinking about having a life and making our own family. Without Mal telling us what to do every second of the day. That’s living!"

With that he grabbed a big handful of salad and stuffed it in his mouth. "I’ll be on the bridge!” he mumbled and stalked off toward the bridge.

Zoe's eyes smoldered with fire as she watched him go.

“He’s right,” Inara said and Zoe turned on her in astonishment.

“What? He’s right?”

“Zoe, Mal didn’t tell you…but, after all this was over, he was going to give you Serenity.”

Zoe was stunned and sat down. “Give me…Serenity?”

“Yes. As soon as we reached the Core, Mal and I would leave ship and head to Shadow. He wants to retire, buy a ranch, raise horses again.”

“He never said a word.”

“It’s not a concrete plan, but we’ve talked on it. More than once in the last few weeks. He might have changed his mind, but now…I think he won’t.”

“Hell, I get a ship and lose a ship in the same breath.”

“What do you think the money is for?”

“To finance building a FTL drive on another Firefly. I’ve been thinking. River can…can do what she can do. When she gets close to Kaylee…she can get it all.”

“Maybe, and maybe that’s Mal’s plan. But I think he’s going to give some of it to the crew. To start a new life. For all of us.”

Zoe nodded. “For us that will walk away, if they let us walk away. But what about Kaylee and the others? Think the Alliance will put them up in luxury? Give them a salary, give them credit for the miracle they are about to give them?”

“I’ll pray to Buddha that they do.”

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

Two more hours passed and its was getting to late afternoon. Mal and the Alliance gang had dinner in the cafe, Mal feeling his hatred for the Alliance at an all time high, but trying to keep things running smoothly, promising to pay for all when his money arrived. The rest of the crew had dinner on board ship, Zoe barely even talking to Wash, her anger still there despite Inara's calming words.

After dinner Inara received word on her bank account and the money was there. She told Mal and then the Major made a call. Soon a small shuttle landed and an officer came with a briefcase to the cafe. Mal took the briefcase which held the other 100,000. Mal pulled out some bills and paid the tab and some of the soldiers even nodded to him and said thanks. Jayne was all bugged eyed, not believing this was happening, all this money theirs, well at least Mal's, and then he recalled all the swag on board the ship and began to think of ways to get it off ship. Mal called Zoe and told her to start packing. She told him it was mostly done.

“Mal, tell her not to forget my 'special' …things?” Jayne said and Mal looked at him in puzzlement and then caught on.

“Oh, Zoe, Jayne wants his…magazine collection. He says they are his prize, the jewels and gem in his life of lonely manly solitude.”

“Gorramn it Mal!” Jayne said as some nearby troopers snickered.

Zoe laughed but she caught on. “Don’t worry sir, already taken care of. Tell him I got those letters, also. Found them in his room under the bed with the...magazines. Sir, what about the Shepherd?"

"Taking care of that right now."

Mal stood and took his briefcase and walked over to the Major. “I got one more thing I want.”

“Captain. Mine and Admiral Byrd’s patience is running a little thin.”

“Won’t cost you a thing. We got a dead crew man on board ship, killed in the Reaver fight on Miranda. We just wanna say goodbye.”

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

As the star that was the sun in the Burnham quadrant was going down, all the crew, including Jonathan on crutches, stood in the cemetery surrounded by Alliance troopers as Book was lowered into the ground, his final resting place. The whole time River barely paid any attention to what was going on and just stared at Kaylee, her mind a whirl. As they had approached the cemetery River had gotten close and told Kaylee to think about the engine. Kaylee tried but the emotions of the funeral kept overlapping. River got some of what was in Kaylee’s head, but it was incomplete.

The preacher said the proper words and the women all shed tears and the men tried to be stoic.

“Does anyone wish to say anything?’ the preacher asked.

“He was a good, man” said Jonathan. “Gave me hope when I had none.”

“He was a good friend,” added Zoe. “Listened to all our woes.”

“He was a hell of a fighter," said Jayne and everyone gave him a look. “What? He was and you can’t say he wasn’t. Anyways, we’ll miss you Shepherd.”

Jayne walked up and took a handful of dirt and toss it in the grave and then one by one they all did the same, Kaylee last as she laid a bouquet of flowers on top of his body. Simon took hold of her as the tears came.

Mal led them off the hill and back through the town toward Serenity, the troops following behind. Kaylee wiped her eyes and hurried to catch up to Mal as he walked with his long strides.

“Capt’n?”

He kept walking, didn’t say a word. “Capt’n? I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about.”

“I went against you.”

“You ain’t the first to have done that.”

“But…I got us in this jam.”

He turned and smiled at her and then gave her big hug that startled everyone so much they stopped behind. “No, you got us out of it.” Mal whispered in her ear.

“What?” she whispered back.

“Your stubbornness made me think more, stead of giving up so easy with nothing to show for it. Just do what they ask, stay alive, and all will turn out well. You’ll see.”

Mal let go and gave her a little kiss on the forehead as Simon came up to them with the Major and the troops not far behind.

“Ah, sorry Simon, just saying goodbye to your wife here. You all take care of each other and drop us a line when you can.”

“We will,” said Simon and Mal just nodded and then what was about to happen seemed to overwhelm him, but just for a moment and then he was fine.

“Ok. Let’s go say goodbye to Serenity.”

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

An hour later, all those leaving’s belongings were outside on the ground. Mal walked through the ship one last time as everything was coming back to him. The day he first saw it in the lot of the used spaceship dealer on Shadow. The day he and Zoe first looked her over, the hiring of Wash and Bester, a few others whose names he couldn’t even remember, then Kaylee, Jayne, Inara, the Tams, Book, how they had all come on board. And now some of them were leaving.

Mal stood with Kaylee, Simon, River, and Jonathan at the top of the ramp. Everyone had said their goodbyes, tears had been shed, mostly by Kaylee and Inara and River, and now it was time to say goodbye for the last time.

“You take good care of her,” Mal said to Kaylee. “Don’t let them push you around. You’re the one they need.”

“I know, Capt’n.”

“Little Kaylee, you got the boat,” Mal said and Kaylee just let the water works come again and she gave him a big hug and then Mal shook Simon’s and Jonathan’s hands and came to River.

“Little sister, you watch over them,” Mal said in a whisper as he hugged her. “Be waiting to hear from you.”

“Soon as I can,” she whispered back.

Mal stood back, took one last look around the cargo bay, and then he walked off Serenity, for what he thought could be the very last time.

They all waved goodbye as the Alliance pilots and troopers started to come aboard.

“Treat her like a lady!” Wash shouted to the pilots but they ignored Wash. “It isn’t right. I should be flying her!”

“Thought you wanted off this Death Ship?" Zoe said, still mad at Wash, and it was loud enough for all to hear. Mal gave him a dirty look.

“Death Ship? Is that what he called her?”

“Now, Mal, take it easy,” Jayne said as he felt the weight of the bag full of jewels and gems Zoe smuggled off the ship. “We got us a nice pay day today. Let’s not ruin it.”

Mal glared at him too. “I’m getting the feeling more than a few people is glad to be off my ship.”

The Major approached Mal. “We will find you accommodations…”

“Don’t bother,” Mal said, interrupting him. “We are free, right?”

“Yes, as long as you break no laws.”

“Can’t make any promises," said Jayne in an aside to Wash.

“Good,” Mal said to the Major and then stepped right up to him eye ball to eye. “Now I hear of any harm coming to those I left behind, I'll find you and make you wish your Ma never met your Pa. Now you can run along and play tin soldier while us real folks go about our lives.”

The Major bristled at this threat and insult but kept his temper and just turned and walked away and up the ramp on the ship. As he arrived he gave the order to close the ramp.

“Ramp’s going up,” Inara said sadly and then the ramp was going and they had their last look of Kaylee, her father, Simon and River as the ramp closed. They could clearly see and hear Kaylee crying as Simon hugged her tight.

Inara held Mal’s arm. “Let’s find somewhere to stay for the night.”

“Seen a hotel back aways when we was running through the streets before,” Jayne offered. “Near the whorehouse.”

Everyone groaned. “Mind always in the gutter, Jayne?” Inara asked.

“Least I didn’t work there,” Jayne shot back and Mal was about to slug him, when Inara grabbed his arm.

“Stop it! We’ve got enough problems!”

“Number one is how we get our stuff to the hotel,” Wash said.

They looked around and they had a pile of bags, and crates and other things too numerous to mention.

“Guess asking the Alliance for help is out now, sir,” Zoe said.

“Hell, we got money. Let’s just pay for it,” said Jayne.

Jayne saw a horse and cart down the street and in a few minutes the owner was there with his conveyance, a few bills changed hands and then he walked away as Mal became the owner of a horse and cart. The crew started loading their gear.

As the last bag came on a horn sounded from the spaceport nearby, a warning that a ship was about to take off. They backed away and as all watched in silence, Serenity’s VTOLs’ came to life and in a few seconds the beloved ship was rising in the deepening darkness of Haven's skies as its sun set, getting smaller and smaller and then she was gone.

“Will we ever see her again?” Inara asked as she stood next to Mal.

“I ain’t done yet,” he said with determination and with that he turned to the horse and grabbed it by the bridle and started leading it off down the street, with the rest slowly coming behind, Jayne the last one, looking up at the spot where Serenity had been.

“Good luck, little River,” he whispered and a sadness came to his face and he turned and joined his comrades.

COMMENTS

Thursday, October 9, 2008 5:22 AM

BRIGLAD


Please tell me you have more!!!!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008 11:16 AM

AMDOBELL


Have to say I was annoyed at Kaylee turning off the com and barricading herself in the engine room and not destroying the Kovalev drive. While fearing for herself and her daddy if that happened it is not as if she created it, she didn't, even if you have her telling Zoe she built it. And trying to build a completely new one from scratch would have been a hell of a job and not necessarily doable. All the time spent trying would be more time the thing was out of Alliance hands. I do however like the idea of levelling the playing field and putting the details on the cortex for everyone to go and make their own though the over simplification implies any engineer could do it which I really doubt. Like Zoe I was not happy with Wash practically cheering at losing Serenity. Even if he really feels that way I would not expect him to be crass enough or insensitive enough to say so when to the Captain and crew they are losing not only their ship but their much loved home. I never can imagine Wash being that uncaring. The other thing that felt wrong was Inara telling Zoe that Mal had it in mind to buy a ranch and settle down when that is for him to say not her.

Apart from that this has been a good story but there seems a long way to go yet especially as the way you left it sounds as if Mal has a sneaky plan up his sleeve and I can't wait to find out what it is. I'm guessing none of the crew will be expecting it when it comes. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, October 9, 2008 12:44 PM

CBSTEVE


Yes, there will be more, a least two or three more parts. I have tried to finish the story but threads keep popping up that need to be resolved. As for the comments made, Kaylee's intentions are that she is trying to save herself and her father and more importantly the crew from any more pain. Book has died and this has changed the view of what they are trying to do. The view of Mal's plan was only what River read from him and in no way reflects how easy it is or isn't to build an FTL drive. Obviously, it's extremely difficult or it would have been done already. Kaylee sees no point in destroying the one they have, thinking the Alliance will never leave them be no matter what. And they are all tired of running. Getting the theory and plans to everyone is the idea but will it work? Will Kaylee even be able to recreate it with all the resources of the Alliance? After all, she did it with Gregori and Tanya's help. Wash's reaction is again related to Book's death. And there are many hints in the show and comics that he is not happy on Serenity and only stays because of Zoe. He clearly doesn't like being ordered around by Mal. Jayne definitely doesn't like that. Inara told Zoe about their plans because she is trying to get her to see Wash's side of things, that there is a life after Serenity, that, even though the ship is home, even Mal was thinking it's time to move on. Zoe is pissed because Wash is "too" happy. But you saw at the end how he was worried about the Alliance pilots and their flying skills. He's not that uncaring about the ship and he feels some guilt, which will be explored in the next section. All in good time. Thanks for all comments by the way. Hope this clears the air a little.

Thursday, October 9, 2008 4:01 PM

KATESFRIEND


Loved the on the spot plan of Mal's to save them all - it might actually work and was a whole lot better than other alternatives. Hope Wash doesn't remain such a jerk - he was better after War Stories, remember? Looking forward to more.


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