BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CBSTEVE

The Return Home - Part 24
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mal finds a new ally and River finds herself far from her friends as Kaylee finds that command is not what she is best suited for.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1041    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Author's Note: Sorry for the delay. Other writing projects, one's that actually pay money, and other things got in the way. At least one more part coming. Thanks for reading.

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

The Return Home - Part 24

River Tam had just confessed to sending the plans to Serenity’s FTL drive across the Cortex, thereby ensuring the wrath of the Alliance. She was now confronted by Major Grace in Inara’s shuttle and was told she was under arrest for treason. There were three of them, all armed with pistols and River was less than three feet away, well within striking distance. She knew she could disarm them in an instance, but that wasn’t the plan. Her plan, not Mal’s this time. The FTL drive plans were gone, through the Cortex at trillions of bytes per second and were by now arriving at Badger’s cousin’s metal shop on Hera. The memory stick was erased immediately after she sent the message and she had hidden it under Inara’s bed. It didn’t matter anyway since the plans would be out there for all to see soon enough. There was no need to fight, the job was done. Now she had to protect her brother, Kaylee, and her father Jonathan from the blow that was to come. River held out her arms, wrists touching.

“I surrender” she said and she could sense the tension ease in the two soldiers accompanying Major Grace.

“Wait! Wait!” came Kaylee’s voice as she burst into the room, followed a few seconds later by a groggy Simon. Kaylee was dressed only in her purple silk nightdress, Simon in just pajama bottoms. Right behind them were two other guards.

“What’s going on?” Simon asked in a very surprised manner as he took in the scene.

Grace turned to him, anger filling his eyes. “You sister has just sent an unauthorized Cortex message which she seems to be claiming were the plans to this ship’s….special equipment!”

“It was,” said River matter-of-factly, still holding out her arms. “I’m under arrest.”

“No, no, no,” said Kaylee in a mournful tone. “You can’t arrest her!”

“I should arrest all of you!” Grace shouted.

“They know nothing of what I’ve done,” River said. “I did it all by myself.”

“River,” Simon said as he looked at his sister while he held Kaylee. “Do you know what you have done?”

“Yes,” River replied and she stared into his eyes and into his mind. “Are you sure this is the best way?” Simon’s mind asked her and she nodded slightly.

“Where’s that Cortex screen?” Grace demanded.

“Behind the curtains, there,” River said as she pointed. In seconds he had found it and turned it on. After a quick search he found where River had sent the message.

“Who’s on Hera?” he asked. “What’s with this metal works shop?”

River was silent.

“We’ll find out eventually. Place her in one of the empty bunks and lock the hatch,” Grace ordered his men. “We’ll get to the bottom of this one way or another.”

River was taken away as Simon and Kaylee gave her reassuring smiles.

“All will be well, River, don’t worry, “Simon said.

River smiled, “I know.”

“She doesn’t know how much trouble she’s in,” said Grace as he walked out onto the catwalk.

“I’m Capt’n here,” Kaylee said but her statement had no conviction. “You can’t just lock up my crew.”

Grace glared at her. “Mrs. Frye I have a half a mind to lock you up also. Don’t think I’m not wondering if you playing with the lights allowed her access to this shuttle and its Cortex screen. Now go to bed. That’s an order.”

Kaylee glared back, feeling some anger but also knowing she was on thin ice because she had helped River.

“Come on Kaylee,” Simon said gently. “Let’s go.”

“Just one thing, Major,” Kaylee said as they were leaving the shuttle. “If anything happens to her, you may as well do the same to me. Cause I ain’t gonna help no one.”

Kaylee went off in a cloud of anger and soon she and Simon were back in their room.

“God, oh God, Simon, why did she stay there?” Kaylee asked as she paced. “Why did she tell them? Why didn’t she lie and say it was to her father or someone else?”

Simon was sitting on the bed and seemed unnaturally calm for someone whose sister had just been arrested, not even a day after she had been pardoned for other crimes. “Kaylee, River did the right thing. They would have found out, they would have traced it to Hera and it doesn’t matter because soon those plans will be all over the Cortex anyway. River acted in our best interests, to keep suspicion from us. I understand what her plan is now. And only she can do it.”

“What plan? To be tried and executed by the Alliance?”

“Oh, no. They will take her off this ship and they will take her to the fleet and maybe even to the Core. Then…she will escape.”

“Maybe. But what do we do?”

“We tell the Alliance everything about the drive.”

Kaylee sat on the bed next to him and seemed to calm down. “Maybe in a few days it won’t matter. Everything they need to know will be on the Cortex.”

“Let’s just hope Badger does what’s in the best interest for him and us.”

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

“We’re gonna be bloody rich, old mate!” said Badger in excitement as he and his cousin Jim Jamison looked over the plans River had sent them.

“Wanker! We’ll be dead first!” said Jamison in fear.

It was early morning on Hera at the Jamison Metal Works and they had just had their morning tea and were getting set to meet someone interested in buying Mal’s guns when the Cortex screen chimed and there was a message from Inara Serra.

“Bloody hell! Ain’t that Reynolds’ doxie on Serenity, Tommy?” Jamison asked.

“Too right. What the hell she waving you for?”

“Maybe she got tired of his ugly mug and is looking for new digs,” Jamison said with a broad grin.

“Na, she’s got better taste than that. Open the damn thing already, eh?” Badger demanded.

He opened the message and there was no vid, just an intro message and the file with the plans.

“Hi. This is from River Tam on Serenity. Attached are plans to a faster than light drive we have on Serenity. There is no time to explain how or where it came from. We have been captured by the Alliance and they plan to rebuild it and use it exclusively for the military. At least we think they do. We smuggled these plans to you so you can then send them to ten people and they can send them to ten people and so on. The galaxy must share in this technology. If you don’t do this, the Alliance will be paying you a visit very soon because I expect to be arrest any second now and they will surely discover where I sent this wave. If the plans are all over the Cortex, there would be no point in arresting you. We hope so anyway. By the way, the bounty on my brother and I has been removed. Please spread the word. Have a nice day. Bye.”

They opened the file and quickly looked over the plans and Badger began to dream of riches.

“I knew there was something fishy about Serenity. We sell them to the highest bidder. Everyone will line up to kiss out arses!”

“Wake up, no brain!” Jamison yelled as he stood and faced his cousin. “She’s right about the Alliance. I bet they got a ship enroute here as is. I managed to keep outta their way for almost eleven years now and I aim to stay that way. I just know the ten to send it to, too.”

He sat back behind his Cortex screen and start opening his address page.

“Just a gorramn minute there old boy!” Badger said in disbelief. “We can get round these Alliance boys. I’ve had practice for years.”

“And look what it got you! Run out of your own shop and home! No ruttin’ way. We send it off to as many as we can. Why make it only ten? I’m sending it to everyone and posting it on all the engineering boards.”

Badger just shook his head. “You just sent us to the poor house is what you did.”

Jamison just shook his head. “Better than the jailhouse.” He clicked some more buttons and within a minute the plans were flying across the galaxy.

Badger let out a long sigh. “And to think I’m related to you.”

Jamison grinned. “We can still make some coin off this thing. Chances are not everyone can build the thing. We’ll have a crack at her. We got the shop and the know how. And if we run into a snag, we can always get that little mechanic on Serenity to lend a hand. She’s right smart around ships.”

“Idiot! River said they was captured.”

“Oh. Right.”

Badger paced and thought and then stopped and sat down, put his feet up and grinned. “But if I know Reynolds, he won’t stay captured for long.”

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

Mal wasn’t in Alliance hands but he was in the grip of a dilemma that was making it hard to sleep. He secretly hoped River didn’t destroy the ship and at the same time was thinking it was a good idea if she did. Mal had hoped she got the message from their staring contest at the café earlier in the day but maybe she didn’t. Truth be told, he wished he could have his ship back and things were like they were before. But that was wishful thinking and he knew it.

He sat up in bed, trying not to disturb Inara. Mal ached all over and wished he could take ten years off just to heal. The past two months had added more scars to his battered body and he was feeling his age and the mileage accumulated through all he had done. It was time to retire. Now that he was rich, had a good woman at his side, it was time to settle.

Yet the old feelings were still there, too. The adventure, the freedom, the feeling of being in command, of not knowing what was going to happen from day to day. Maybe he would get bored being a rancher. Maybe he couldn’t give up this, whatever it was, that kept him out among the stars.

Then he looked at Inara and knew he could give it up after all. He could scarcely believe it had been less than two weeks since they first kissed. Now he was making plans to live the rest of his life with her? And she was agreeing? It had to be love, for both of them.

But Kaylee and her father and Simon and River were still out there and that bothered Mal more than anything else. He got up and dressed and put on his pistol and had just reached the door when she awoke.

“Be careful,” she said in a groggy whisper. He walked back over to the bed and sat down by her.

“Just going to check…check that everything is fine.”

“Everything isn’t fine, is it?”

“No. Not yet.”

“You take Jayne and Zoe if you plan on anything, you hear me?”

“No plans yet. Just need to do some thinking,” Mal said and then he bent and kissed her and in a moment was gone.

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

“And don’t come back!” yelled the madam of the whorehouse as she threw Jayne’s hat at him as he stumbled out the door. “Your money’s no good here! You’re a degenerate Jayne Cobb! I run a clean house!’

“Don’t expects I will ever come back!” Jayne shouted back. “Your whores ain’t trained proper anyways. Who ever heard of a whore who didn’t know how to….”

“Jayne!” Mal interrupted him as he came up the street. Mal has passed two soldiers who were looking toward Jayne with interest. “Best get out of the street. There’s some kinda curfew going on cause of the Reavers. Told them I was looking for you, so they let me go.”

“Hey, Mal!” Jayne said in a drunken slur. “My old pal Mal, richest guy in the verse. And I’m in for twenty percent.”

“You’re drunk. Come on.”

They moved off down a street, heading toward the Bulletproof Bar where they had sent the message to River’s father earlier that day.

“Mal, you ever hear of a whore that didn’t know how to…”

“Jayne, spare me the nasty details. Me and whorehouses and whores’ got nothing in common.”

Jayne laughed. “I beg to differ, Captain, sir! You’re sleeping with one and bedded another at the Heart of Gold if my memory is correct.”

“If you wasn’t so drunk I’d smack you for implying Inara’s a ….”

“Whore?”

Before Mal knew what he was doing he did slug Jayne. The big merc took the right cross and barely flinched.

“Hey!” Jayne said as he wiggled his jaw around. “That hurt.”

Mal stood in front of the door to the bar with his fists up. “Guess now is good a time as any to find out once and for all who the better man is.”

Jayne just shook his head. “Oh, hell Mal you’re the better man. We both know that. You’re just crazy enough to kill me if I beat you in a fair fight anyways.”

“You gonna hit me?”

“Nah. Guess I deserved it for calling Inara a wh….never mind.”

“You two best keep it down unless you want Alliance around here,” said the Browncoat who owned the Bulletproof Bar. He was in the doorway and motioning for them to come inside.

After they had seats and beers in their hands the bar owner looked at Mal. “You Malcolm Reynolds?”

“Why you asking?”

“Message came through about hour ago on my Cortex screen. I thought it was a joke at first.”

“Huh? Why’s that?’ Mal asked.

“Cause it said it was from the office of the Prime Minster.”

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

Kaylee could barely sleep most of the night and kept Simon awake for hours with endless questions and worries until finally he simply dozed off in the middle of a conversation and she let him be. She was more worried than him about his sister and she wondered why and could only surmise that Simon had faith that River could escape from the clutches of the Alliance or some other fortune would smile on them. Kaylee was usually the optimist but this time she could see no light at the end of the tunnel.

She managed a few hours rest but was awakened by the Major’s voice coming from the intercom at 7 am ship’s time.

“Mrs. Frye, we are expecting our guests in an hour. Please prepare for the day.”

She mumbled a reply into the intercom and then just sat on the bed. Simon wrapped his arms around her and whispered in her ear. “Morning sunshine,” he said and gave her a kiss on the side of her neck, smelling her hair as he did so.

“I ain’t in a good mood,” she said in a grumpy tone.

“River will be fine,” Simon answered as he sat and faced her. “A year ago, even a month ago, I would have been worried to death, but after seeing the things she can do…I think what she did was the only did that could have been done.”

“She ain’t invincible.”

“I know. But remember we, you, still have the upper hand. The plans are out there and even once they see them, there is still the matter of building the drive and you are the only one who has ever done that.”

Kaylee felt more confident as he said this. “I want that contract and I want River released. Or I ain’t doing a thing.”

“Perfect. Now, can I have a good morning kiss?”

Kaylee smiled and placed her hands on his thick locks of dark hair. “I love you,” she said and gave him a long slow, wonderful kiss.

“I love you back,” he said as he hugged her. “Now, let’s decide what we will say to get the most out of them.”

She gave him a wide eyed grin. “You’re turning into a devious one, ain’t you?”

“It comes from hanging around criminals so much. Now first we should….”

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

Admiral Byrd was a portly man, in his 50s by the looks of it, with thick grey hair, of average height, and with the ruddy face of a man who likes his scotch and water. He was accompanied by four other officers, all men and with different uniform markings, which meant nothing to Kaylee, Simon or Jonathan as they stood in the cargo bay to greet them. Kaylee was dressed in her overalls as usual and knew Major Grace disapproved cause he said so as he met her for breakfast just thirty minutes ago.

“Is that how you are dressing?” he asked with some distaste as Kaylee entered the dining area for breakfast. The table was full of food already prepared and it was apparent that Grace had the soldiers up early getting breakfast ready.

“Yeah,” Kaylee replied as she gave him a surprised look. “I ain’t going to a ball, am I? I’m a mechanic. This is what I wear.”

“Very well,” Grace replied as he sat. Jonathan and Simon entered a few moments later after Simon had finished examining Jonathan’s legs and gave him his anti-biotics shot for the day.

As they ate Grace addressed them “Admiral Byrd will be coming aboard with his aides and some engineers. We will conduct all meetings aboard Serenity and, in light of last night’s …breach of security… you will all be confined to this ship and held incommunicado until this procedure is finished. Any questions?”

Kaylee only had one question. “What will happen to River?”

“That is up to a tribunal which will judge her based on her actions.”

“Not good enough. I want her released, now,” Kaylee demanded.

“Or what?” Grace asked with a hint of impatience.

“Or you can tell Admiral Byrd to go to hell.”

“That goes double for me,” said Jonathan with anger, already being filled in on what happened last night by Simon.

“Kaylee,” Simon began. “Why don’t we meet with the Admiral and see what he can offer us before we make any decisions?”

Kaylee was silent for a long moment, pretending to be angry and then relented, as per the plan they made earlier. “OK. But it better be good.”

Grace seemed mollified for the moment and soon after breakfast they moved to the cargo bay to greet the Admiral.

No one said a word as the party came on board and Kaylee certainly wasn’t going to offer them any greetings on her beloved ship they had taken from her. Grace finally made introductions and they went to the dining room to being the discussions. Grace was allowed to stay but all guards we told to leave the room.

“First, we would like to know how you acquired the knowledge to build this FTL drive,” began Admiral Byrd. He had a gruff voice, almost like a cartoon bear Kaylee remembered from her childhood. “Frankly we are skeptical. After 500 years of trial and error, no one has come close to building such a drive.”

“Look, I don’t know what anyone told you, but we ain’t talking without some kind of deal in place,” Kaylee said and Jonathan and Simon nodded in agreement.

Byrd’s face broke into a grin that surprised them all. “Well, you know what, Mrs. Frye, I’m not buying the horse till I see her and ride her, if you get my meaning.”

Kaylee got what he meant. “I can show it to you all, but if we ride her, were gonna end up a long ways from here.”

“But you can get back, yes?” asked Byrd.

“Of course,” said Kaylee. “If your pilots do exactly as I say.”

“They will. Let’s get on with the show,” Byrd said as he stood and then Kaylee helped her father up and they headed back tot the engine room and Kaylee soon found herself in the unusual position of leading an Admiral and his party on a tour of her engine room.

Simon did not join them but instead stopped Grace before he followed them.

“I would like to see my sister,” Simon demanded.

Grace balked for a moment, shifted his eyes and then seemed to make up his mind about something. “You can’t.”

“Why not?” Simon asked with rising fears.

“Because we transferred her to the fleet last night. Direct orders from the high command. She is to be taken to Londinium for trial.”

Suddenly Simon did feel an overwhelming worry about his sister. Not since he had broken her out of the facility on Athenian Island had they been separated with such seeming finality.

“When will they take her?” he asked in anger.

“She’s already gone.”

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

As soon as River was placed in Mal’s old bunk she lay down and went to sleep immediately knowing she would need her rest for the ordeals to come. Nothing interrupted her for six hours and then she was awakened by Grace at 6 am ship’s time and taken to the airlock under heavy guard. She asked Grace nothing and he offered no information but she knew exactly what was going on from the thoughts bouncing around inside his and the guards heads.

“This little girl could cost me my future promotion,” Grace thought. “Once she gets to Londinium I hope they hang her!”

“Damn I’m tired,” thought one of the guards. “What they hell is so special about this ship and her?”

“I shoulda been a farmer,” thought another. “But no, had to go off on the big adventure, join the Alliance, see the verse! My father was right. I am a dumbass!”

A small shuttle had docked with Serenity and River was transferred to it with two of the guards. The shuttle disconnected from Serenity and maneuvered through the fleet until it docked with a small gunship, much like the ones Forbes had used in his search for Serenity.

River was taken to a corridor with many enclosed cells and she surmised at once it was a prison barge. She let them put her inside the cell and she wasn’t chained or restrained in any way.

After a while she could sense stronger vibrations most likely from the engines and she knew the ship was moving and they were heading on the almost week long journey to Londinium. River lay down on a hard bunk built into the wall of the cell and relaxed. She had plenty of time. Once she knew the routine of the ship, it would be easy to escape from this cell and overpower or kill the crew and then take command and find a nice place to land and disappear. Or maybe I’ll even keep the ship. It would be nice to be in command after all. Course I’ll need an engineer and a doctor, maybe even a few hired guns. And I know just the people, she thought as she lay on her bunk and recalled all the star charts she had seen at the academy and began to calculate the fastest route to Londinium and which worlds lay along that route.

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

“She asked you to do what?” Inara asked in disbelief as Mal told her, Zoe, Wash, about the Prime Minister’s wave as they sat down to breakfast in the hotel dining area early in the morning. They were alone and Mal guessed things were slow at the hotel cause of the Reaver problem. He thought the place was full the night before with the prices he had to pay for what he was told were the "last rooms" but now realized it was the opposite, the hotel owner sensing some exhausted desperate people and he gouged them since he had no other guests.

All of them were armed, even Inara, Mal not wanting them to be caught unarmed if any stray Reavers dropped in for morning tea.

“Hard to believe, sir,” Zoe said as she sipped some coffee. “You said no, right?”

“No, he didn’t,” Jayne said as he arrived from upstairs and collapsed into a chair. “He smiled and said ‘Yes, Madam Prime Minster. Just tell me when and how long to kiss your ass for!”

“Gorramn it Jayne!’ Mal growled in anger. “You want another slug in the jaw like one I gave you last night!”

“You hit him?” Wash asked Mal in surprise. “You boys sure did have an interesting night.”

“Just cause I called Inara a …..never mind,” Jayne quickly added as Mal started clenching his fists again. ‘Sorry”

That last comment was directed to Inara who was glaring at Jayne.

“Hey, I was drunk,” he said as way of an excuse.

“Let’s get back on the main topic here,” Zoe said. “What exactly did she say, sir?”

Mal took a sip of coffee and leaned back. “Well, there was a lot of cussin’ over our stupidity in letting River send them plans to the whole galaxy.”

“So she got them out?” Inara asked.

“Yeah,” said Jayne. “And then got herself caught.”

“No,” Wash said in sad surprise. “What’s gonna happen to her?”

“Blakely said she will be tried for treason,” Mal answered. “It’s the death penalty if guilty.”

There was a quiet pause as the others let this news sink in.

“But,” Mal said quickly before any tears fell. “There’s a big but. Blakely knows what River is. And no one in the fleet does, she told me. So…I took that to mean Blakely would not be surprised if River escaped.”

“If she can,” Inara said sadly.

“I bet my share of Mal’s fortune that she can,” said Jayne as he attacked a plate of scrambled eggs he had grabbed from Wash, who no longer seemed to be interested in eating them.

“She’ll be a fugitive again,” said Wash. “Back to where she started.”

“Why’s the Prime Minister so interested in River Tam?” Zoe asked and the others were puzzled.

“Maybe her father, some connection,” said Mal.

“Could be that island she was on,” said Wash. “Maybe they know what happened there.”

“All she said was she knew River had special training,’ Mal replied. “So…maybe she does know about the island.”

“The Shepherd,” Jayne said with a look like he just solved a tough puzzle. “Bet he told her.”

“Maybe,”’ said Mal.

“So,” said Zoe. “You said yes to Blakely’s offer?”

Mal looked ashamed. “Yeah, I did.”

“Who brought it up?” Inara asked.

“He did,” said Jayne in disgust. “By trying to blackmail her again.”

“Drummond and the Reavers and Cutter?” Wash guessed.

“Yeah. That did come up,” said Mal. “So we had us a kind of wave face off. And she asked me what it would take to shut my mouth short of killing me. Well, I told her those vids and all that info is with a safe third party, which of course it isn’t yet but she don’t know that, so killing me won’t do any good. So…I said I want to make sure my crew was safe. And she said best way to that was if I was on board Serenity. And then offered me…the position…and I said…yes.”

Zoe just shook her head. “Gorramn it, sir,” she said quietly. “Never thought I’d see the day.”

“So…what exactly are you?’ Inara asked Mal.

Mal spoke and the words almost got stuck in his throat as he felt the shame that went with them. “The Special Representative of the Prime Minster to the Alliance Fleet.”

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

“I find this very difficult to believe,” said Admiral Shin to Blakely as he sat in her office at 9am the following morning. “Reynolds is a renegade, a thief, a low life living off the scraps of humanity on the edge of the galaxy. He has no training for this job and no loyalty to you or anyone else except that ship and its crew.”

“Which makes him perfect for the job,” Blakely said with steel in her voice. “The only thing he is to be concerned within is the operation which is taking place on Serenity. He has no agenda except the safety of his friends. I will speak with him daily as to what is going on and I’m sure he will report honestly and thoroughly.”

“And what about River Tam and the damage she has caused?”

“She will be punished if found guilty. And remember, Admiral, the plans may be out there, but we still have the only two people who have built it and operated it.”

“Others will be successful. We won’t have any advantage whatsoever!”

“It will take time and there will be failures. I’m sure we can start a campaign of disinformation of some kind to discredit the plans, have our intelligence organs discover who is close to success and make sure they have ‘accidents” if you get my meaning.”

“I think this is a job more suited to a man like Cutter,” Shin said in distaste.

“Indeed,” said Blakely, the irony of the situation not lost on either of them. “But we will proceed as before. The Fryes will be given what they what, will sign the exclusive contract to only work for the Alliance, and Reynolds will report to me that my orders are being carried out.”

“Is this still about the Reavers and Cutter?” Shin asked.

“Of course it is.”

“I understand. It will be as you ask. And what about the rest of Reynolds crew?”

“Allow them to leave Haven to wherever they want to go.”

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

“We want to go on Serenity,” said Wash in a whining tone.

“Can’t,” said Mal. “Not even…Inara. I asked. She said no one but me.”

“It’s a trap,” said Zoe, ever watchful over her leader.

“Zoe, they wanted me dead, they had their chances. Listen, I know it means we’ll be separated for some time, but I gotta do this. For Kaylee. You all understand?”

Inara took his hand. “We do. We don’t like it, but we understand.”

“So, what are your orders, sir?’ Zoe asked after a moment.

“I don’t know where Serenity will end up. If they’re testing that drive, could be anywhere. You all got the wave address and I’ll be checking for messages. Get to somewhere civilized, get some of that money, and go see your families. Then…,” Mal stopped, not wanting to say what he was going to say but knew it was time.. “Start looking for another ship.”

Zoe and Wash both broke in big grins but Inara’s face was full of anger. “Malcolm Reynolds. We had a talk on this I seem to recall.”

“Sorry, Inara, you misunderstood. The ship ain’t for me.”

Now a look of surprise crossed Zoe’s face. “Then…who for, sir?”

“For you,” he said and grinned his devilish grin.

“For me?’ Zoe replied in shock. She knew he was thinking of this but to hear him say it was another thing. “Sir, I don’t think…”

“You’re ready,” Mal said. “Just make her all legal and keep your nose clean and things will run smooth. And no matter how much you’re tempted, try to stay away from any dicey jobs.”

“Do my best. Thank you, sir” Zoe said, her face a mix of conflicted feelings, joy and gratitude with a touch of self-doubt. “But…are you sure you don’t want to be…Captain?”

“Yeah. I’m done. It’s time to go back to Shadow and live.”

Inara smiled and squeezed his hand and they exchanged looks that said more than words ever could.

Zoe looked to Wash. “I’ll need a pilot.”

“No, you won’t. Cause I’ll be there.” Wash said and Zoe gave him a smile.

“Knew I could count on you. Jayne?” Zoe asked as she looked at the big merc. “Might need a gun or two by my side.”

“I want twenty percent.”

“No ruttin’ way. Fifteen, tops,” Zoe countered.

“Ok. But first you gotta take me on a few stops. I gotta deliver them letters for the Shepherd.”

“Deal.”

“Deal…Captain,” Jayne said as he shook her hand.

Zoe looked back to Mal across the table. “Captain…the money, I’ll pay you back, whatever it takes.”

Mal shook his head. “Consider it severance pay for, what was it Wash said, oh, yeah, seven years of taking my crap.”

Wash suddenly turned red and glared at Zoe. “Hey! You didn’t have to tell him that!”

“She didn’t,” said Inara. “I did.”

“Well….hell….oh never mind,” Wash said as he tried to recover from his embarrassment.

Just then an Alliance officer entered the hotel and spotted them in the dining area and started walking toward them. Jayne and Zoe were instantly on guard and hands were reaching for weapons, the habits of years hard to let go of so soon.

“Relax,” said Mal as he stood and faced the officer.

“Malcolm Reynolds?”

“That’d be me,” Mal said.

“I have orders to take you to the fleet and to provide transportation to anywhere the others would like to go.”

“Mighty decent of you all,” Mal said. “Give us half an hour to pack up and we’ll be at the spaceport.”

“Yes, sir,” said the officer and in a moment he was gone.

“Did I hear right?” asked Jayne in disbelief. “Did that purple belly call you ‘sir’?”

“Yeah,” said Mal in disgust. “I think I’m gonna hate this new job.”

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

“So, what do you think?” Kaylee asked the party in the engine room as they examined the Kovalev Drive with intense curiosity.

“Can you explain it to us?” Byrd asked.

“Nope,’ Kaylee replied. “Not till we have a deal.”

“At least show us it in operation.”

“Okay. Where you wanna go?”

“Does it have any limits? I mean for distance,” one officer asked.

“Don’t know. Ah, well we did make one long journey…and a few shorts ones. I think a short one would be better. How about to…Taos Moon?” Kaylee suggested with a big grin.

“Say, that’s a great idea,” said Jonathan from where he was sitting on Kaylee’s hammock, his legs sore from his wounds and all the moving about.

“No, that’s their home world,” said Major Grace and Kaylee gave him a dirty look.

“Okay then,” she said. “How about…Londinium?”

“No,” said Byrd this time. “Too much traffic about and we don’t want this to become too public too soon. I think a trip to Miranda and back will suffice for now.”

“Not a problem,” said Kaylee.

They went to the bridge and Byrd ordered the shuttle that had been attached to the ship disconnected after the airlock was closed. The pilots were ordered to break orbit and head for Miranda. Thirty minutes later they were far enough away from the fleet to avoid its many eyes. Ten minutes after that all the computations were done and Kaylee told the pilots what to do. Serenity accelerated and then as it approached light speed with a pop, flash, and groan it leaped through space and a six hour journey took milliseconds and they were about ten thousand kilometers from Miranda.

“Mother of God,” said Byrd in awe. “It does work.”

“Told ya so,” said Kaylee, a bit proud of what she had done. She wished Simon had been up here, but she hadn’t been able to locate him since she had come back from the engine room.

A few minutes later they were back near Haven and Kaylee and Byrd faced off with each other across the dining room table. Simon entered and before the discussions even began he told them he needed to talk to his wife, alone.

They went down into Kaylee’s old bunk and he told her what had happened with River.

“Bastards,” Kaylee said as she felt herself about to cry and she and Simon hugged each other. “Are we ever gonna see her again?”

“We will. How do you want to handle things now?”

“I told Grace I ain’t doing a thing till I knew River was fine.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do.”

A few minutes later and Byrd knew also. “You are making a big mistake,” the Admiral said, no longer so pleasant, his anger rising. “We have the ship and we have you. And now we have the plans that are spreading across the Cortex.”

“Fine,” said Kaylee like a petulant school girl. “See if you can make it work without me.” Simon almost expected her to stick her tongue out at them.

“Major Grace!” Byrd shouted in anger, his face turning red, and Grace appeared obediently at the side of the Admiral.

“Yes, sir!”

“Take Mrs. Frye’s husband to the cargo bay and shoot him!”

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

Mal had made his goodbyes at the spaceport before shuttling up to Serenity. He spent the longest time with Inara and they hugged and kissed and after a few brief words of advice for Zoe and briefer goodbyes, with promises to meet again real soon, he was gone.

“Where to?” Wash asked after Mal’s shuttle left and the officer stood by waiting for them to make a choice so he could arraign transport.

“Ariel,” said Inara with a touch of sadness in her voice. “The money is there, mine and his. You can buy a ship, and make plans.”

“And what about you?” Zoe asked. “I mean, after Ariel.”

“I’m going to Sihon. I have…some things to take care of. Then to Shadow. Mal will meet me there.”

“Alright,” said Jayne as he hefted his bag of clothes in one arm and his bag of guns/knives and jewels and gems with the other. “Let’s blow this hick planet. Time to go have us some fun on the Core!”

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

There was a moment of stunned silence in the dining area as Byrd’s words echoed in the room. Kaylee felt all the blood drain from her face, not believing what she just heard, looking wide eyed from Byrd to Grace and back again.

Neither did Grace. “Sir? Shoot him, sir?”

“You heard me Major! Now take him to the cargo bay and put a bullet in his brain!”

“Noooooooo!” wailed Kaylee from the depths of her soul as she hugged Simon and held on, Simon unable to find his voice, in shock from this turn of events.

“Then tell us everything!” Byrd shouted to Kaylee. “Or I will start hurting people! Don’t think you are so indispensable!”

“You son-of-a-bitches just gave up any good will you all had!” Jonathan shouted back. “You better kill me too cause I’ll rip your throat out!”

Guards had heard the commotion and entered and some had weapons drawn now and pointed at Jonathan.

“Major! Follow my orders or you will be shot yourself!” Byrd shouted as he stood. The other officers stood back, not quite believing what was happening, stunned into silence.

With a sick look on his face Grace pulled his pistol and pointed it at Simon.

“Dr. Tam, please come with me,” he said in a choked voice. He had been angry at River and had felt the urge to shoot her because she was endangering his career, but this, this was sheer madness.

There was the sound of a pistol hammer being clicked back and there was Mal in the fore hallway, with two officer’s and many Alliance men behind him and his pistol was drawn and pointed right at Grace.

“Major, drop it or in the next second you’ll be full of holes.”

COMMENTS

Thursday, October 30, 2008 7:29 AM

KATESFRIEND


Well that was certainly exciting! Loved Mal's interesting and creative solutions to his troubles. Talk about timing, though - very thrilling! Good work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 1:03 PM

AMDOBELL


Yay, Mal's protective instincts prove right yet again - arriving just in the nick of time to save Kaylee, Simon and Mr Frye! What does that make him? A Big Damn Hero. However I don't like how the Prime Minister is becoming a darker less wholesome character, selling her soul to the devil because of the drive. Kaylee should have destroyed the damn thing when Mal first ordered her too. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, October 30, 2008 1:20 PM

CBSTEVE


Politicians sell their soul all the time. Goes with the job. If Obama wins, I bet him and the devil will be making a deal a few days later, if they haven't already.


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YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

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

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

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

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

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

River's Run - Part 12
Mal strikes back at the Alliance, a little trip to the bank doesn't go as planned, and the Operative reaches out to River and Derek.

River's Run - Part 11
The Operative makes a plan to trap Serenity, escape plans are made, and those long separated are together once again.

River's Run - Part 10
Inara makes a date with Paulo Chase, Mal gets back his first love, and Shin plans the next move in the galactic chess match.

River's Run - Part 9
Things come to a head as Shin makes a fateful decision, Powers makes plans, and Mal once more sets foot on his beloved old Firefly.

River's Run - Part 8
Inara makes plans, Mal and River have a long discussion on what is to come, and Simon and Kaylee arrive back on Miranda, in the company of two assassins.


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