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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
River battles the Alliance to save her life while forces in other parts of the galaxy move toward her, some to help her, others to kill her.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 953 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River’s Run –Part 2
“We need a mechanic,” said Wash to his wife as they inspected the outside of Serenity II at the shipyard on Ariel. It was the morning after their conversation with Simon and they decided to get out and get their new purchase ready for flight and business.
“We’ll put the word out,” Zoe said as she looked in disappointment at obvious signs of rust she hadn’t noticed when they had bought the old Firefly the day before. “She also needs a good cleaning.”
“Time for that later,” said a voice and Zoe’s face changed from a scowl to a broad grin as Wash and she turned in somewhat mild, but not total, disbelief.
“Sir,” Zoe said with barely suppressed joy.
“Captain Washburne, I’m looking for a berth,” said Mal with a hint of mirth. “I got lots of experience and don’t mind taking orders.”
“Who do you think you’re kidding?” said Wash with a snort. “Say, Zoe, lets give him a trial run, see how long it takes before he pulls a mutiny and takes over your command. I bet it’s only a day.”
“I’d say an hour,” Jayne added as he joined them from the cargo bay. “Couldn’t stay away, huh?”
“Got the itch again,” Mal confessed. “Being around Alliance types made my skin crawl.”
“What’d Inara say to all this?” Zoe asked and Mal looked down and away and Zoe knew she didn’t know yet. “So, when you plan on telling her?”
“She’s due on Shadow in a few days. Hoping to have some things resolved before then. If it takes longer, might have to tell a few fibs.”
“What things “resolved”?” Wash asked in worry.
“River,” Mal said and then he started looking over the ship as Wash gave Zoe a look that said “what the hell are we doing” and she shot him her “shut up for now’ look.
“Sir, the ship is yours. Your money paid for it,” Zoe stated and Jayne let out a groan and Wash wished he hadn’t gotten up this morning.
“Thanks, Zoe. I know I promised you your own ship and this is your ship. But…”
“Here is comes,” said Wash with a groan.
“Gorramnit,” Jayne grumbled.
Zoe shot them both evil looks. “He’s got us through a lot of trouble.”
“And put us in a lot of trouble, too,” Jayne snarled back. “No offense, Mal.”
“None taken, Jayne. Seems you have a distinct knack for getting into trouble, too. Hey, remember that time on Ariel when we had to come rescue your dumb ass when you got snatched by the Feds?”
Jayne blanched and then mumbled. “Ah, sure, Mal. We all remember that, don’t we? So, you wanna be captain again. I guess no living with you unless you’re captain anyways. So be it.”
“Wash?” Mal said as he looked at the pilot.
“Whatever Zoe wants. It’s her ship.” Wash said without enthusiasm.
“Good,” Mal said as he started walking toward the cargo bay ramp. “Let’s get to work getting her shipshape. We got a little girl to find.”
“Where at?” Zoe asked. “No one knows where she is.”
“Paquin system,” Mal said. “Cortex full of reports of a shootout at a spaceport on its third moon.”
Mal had read those reports while he waited at their hotel, hoping they had just gone to breakfast or something when he found they weren’t in their rooms. Serenity took him to Ariel a few hours earlier and it had taken Mal a while to find his ex-crewmates in the shipyard after he gave up waiting at the hotel. Kaylee told the Alliance people on board that a run to Ariel was needed to check some more calibrations of the nav system for the Frye Drive and they bought her story. As soon as they popped into orbit Mal ordered one of the pilot’s to fly him in one of the shuttle’s to the hotel where Simon said he had found Zoe, Wash and Jayne though a Cortex hotel search system. By law, all guests at any legit hotel had to register and were logged into a galaxy wide database that could be used to find someone. If you knew someone’s Social Identity Number you could find them. Simon had everyone’s in his medical files.
As soon as the pilot returned with the shuttle, Kaylee decided it was time to head to Taos. They hadn’t wanted to say goodbye to Mal just yet, but they knew he was doing what had to be done and they really didn’t need him anymore and River did. Simon, Jonathan, and Kaylee all walked with Mal to shuttle two before he left. Kaylee didn’t shed any tears but worried on what she would say to Inara.
“I’ll try and make her understand, Capt’n,” Kaylee said before he got on the shuttle. “Just…what if she doesn’t?”
“We’ll work it out,” Mal said. “Let’s keep things under wraps for a few days. Maybe this will all be over before it even starts.”
“You really think so?” Kaylee asked with hope and knew he didn’t from his look. “Oh.”
“I’ll find her and then I’ll find a way to make things right,” Mal said to her and Simon.
“Thank you, Mal,” Simon said. “Wish we could go with you.”
“No,” Mal said sternly. “Don’t get any foolish heroic notions. You two…you got a shot at real happiness, a real future.”
“So do you!” Kaylee said as she realized finally what was eating him. “Capt’n…Inara loves you! She’ll do anything for you! You have a future also!”
“I know,” he said in somewhat embarrassment. “Just…something in my gut tells me…it ain’t time for settling down yet. And until I’m really ready, I can’t be asking her to do something she’ll regret later.”
“She won’t regret anything!” Kaylee said in despair.
“I gotta go, Little Kaylee,” Mal said, trying to ignore the topic of Inara anymore, painful as it was. He looked to Kaylee’s father and looked him straight in the eye. “Jonathan, you keep these two on Taos. I’m counting on you.”
“Got my word, Mal,” the big man said as they shook hands and then Mal was gone.
A short time later they went into an upper atmo orbit and the shuttle returned. After that they made the jump to Taos and as they prepared to land Kaylee finally voiced what she was thinking to Simon as they strapped into the dining room lounge chairs. “He thinks he doesn’t deserve happiness.”
Simon grasped what she was saying but not why. “Because he did something so terrible?”
“Maybe,” Kaylee said. “Maybe he just can’t accept the notion that the fight isn’t over yet. He’s got a big hole in his heart and soul. Only Inara can fill it. I wish she was here!”
The landing went smoothly and soon Serenity was at the small spaceport of New Shanghai where it had blasted off in such hurry just a few weeks ago. As they left the ship with their Alliance guards and crew, a reception committee of many local people and Alliance personal and dignitaries was waiting for them, much to their surprise. As Kaylee, Simon, and Jonathan came down the ramp a band broke into the Alliance national anthem and a local high school chorus broke into song. Everyone snapped to attention and even though there were a few boos from the crowd, most joined in the song.
As they stood still as the anthem was being played and sung, Simon whispered to Kaylee. “This was all supposed to be a secret!”
“Looks like someone opened their big mouth,” Kaylee whispered back.
“Ah, my fault,” said Jonathan. “I waved Mary and the factory and…I guess word got out you were coming home.”
After the song was over a pompous, officious looking little man in a suit and top hat with a blue yellow and white sash across his chest, ran up the ramp straight to Kaylee and shook her hand. “My word, my word, a celebrity right here in out little town. Welcome home Miss Frye, welcome home!”
Kaylee recognized him as the local magistrate, a man who had once tried to get her father to pay kickbacks to keep his factory opened. He held up her hand and the crowd cheered and clapped and Kaylee turned red with embarrassment.
The Alliance officer in charge stepped in at that moment. “Look here, mister whoever you are. This ceremony is over, so send these people home.”
The little official seemed as if someone was usurping his territory. “But, but, there’s a banquet and speeches and the reporters, they all want to talk to Miss Frye…”
“Mrs. Frye,” Kaylee corrected him as she took Simon’s arm.
“Yes, why yes, the happy married couple,” said the official and then he turned back to the officer. “It’s all been arranged! We plan on giving tours of the ship and the new marvelous engine!”
“The hell you are! Cancel it! All of it!” yelled the officer, his voice a little loud in the suddenly quiet spaceport. People began to whisper and Kaylee decided she had to do something.
“Ah, hi, everyone,” she began and got no further as they all yelled and screamed her name. After a few moments they calmed down and Kaylee began again, squeezing Simon’s hand for courage. “Thanks for such a warm…homecoming. I know you all think I did something wonderful…but truth is….it ain’t no big deal.” Now they were puzzled. What was she talking about, not a big deal? “In fact, those things you saw on the Cortex, all that, well, it’s just a big pile of nothing. I didn’t do anything. I’m sorry you all came out here. I ain’t no hero.”
The crowd was stunned for a few moments and then one small boy shouted out. “Didn’t you make the super engine?” and everyone waited while Kaylee tried to answer. Simon could sense her struggling and knew she didn’t want to lie so he stepped in.
“My wife…” and he got no further as more cheers rang out and congratulations came from the crowd. “Thank you. As my wife….was saying, she, we didn’t do anything special…yet. Yes, Kaylee has some part in those plans you may have seen and some of the reports are true…but the engine…it isn’t perfect and doesn’t work…yet.”
More quiet and then someone, an old fat man yelled out. “We want to see the engine!” and more bedlam broke out as people pushed and jostled each other and some started up the ramp. The Alliance officer pulled his pistol and fired into the air and that got everyone’s attention.
“Step back!” he yelled. “This ship is property of the Alliance and no unauthorized personnel will be allowed on board. Is that clear?”
Silence and dirty looks from the crowd but they got the point.
“Good,” said the officer, a little more calm. “Now please, go home.” Slowly they began to disperse, grumbling and some shouting curses at the Alliance.
“But, but, the food and…” said the official.
“You, too,” said the officer to the little official.
“I’ll, I’ll…I know people!” he shouted.
“Good. Tell them Prime Minister Blakely and Admiral Shin have given me full authority here.”
The little man opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again and then just turned and left in a huff. Suddenly though the crowd came a little blond woman in her forties. One of the soldiers was about the stop her when Jonathan yelled at him.
“Hands off, sonny boy. That’s my Mary.”
“Oh Jonathan,” said cried as she threw herself into his arms. “Oh, God, it’s so good to see you!”
“It’s alright,” he said. “I’m home now.”
“I’m so sorry. This is all my fault,” she said to Kaylee. “I told someone and they told someone and it just got out of hand.”
Kaylee smiled. “It’s OK. It would have happened anyways.”
“Come,” Mary said to Simon and Kaylee. “Home is waiting for you.”
Kaylee looked at Serenity and the officer assured her. “Don’t worry. No one will touch a thing.” And then he snapped orders and four guards began to follow them as they walked to the Frye home.
“People are looking at me,” Kaylee said as they made their way home with their Alliance escort. She was scared and very nervous. Everyone was staring at them.
“It’s going to be fine,” Simon said, smiling and nodding to the people. “I think they believed me.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said in a sad voice. “Nothing will ever be the same again.” And Simon had no answer to that because he knew it was perfectly true.
At home many cousins and aunts and uncles and some of Kaylee’s friends from school were waiting with a big party. Simon wanted to chase them all away but Kaylee told him no and put on a brave face and smiled and for a few hours everyone got caught up, Kaylee proud to introduce her doctor husband to everyone. She told them how they had met on Serenity, and mentioned how he and his sister were passengers, but left out all of the stuff about River and the academy and that the Alliance had been chasing them and especially about the part where she was still a fugitive. Kaylee and Simon knew that not all the stories could be told, that some wouldn’t be believed since they scarcely believed them themselves, especially not about Reavers and Miranda and their role in Adam Cutter’s demise and most definitely not the real reason for the missing four years. And nothing was said about the engine, even though almost everyone was dieing to ask. Jonathan told them all about being arrested because of what happened at the spaceport that other time and his leg wounds were from an accident on a ship, not a missile explosion and they mostly believed him, but not totally. They knew that some things needed to be left unsaid and the Fryes were the type of people who understood and knew in due time most of the answers would come
Long hours later after they finished a nice meal and everyone had gone home Simon logged on to the Cortex screen in the Frye home. There was a brief message from Mal telling how he had found the others and they were in the process of preparing a new Firefly for a voyage to Paquin. Why Paquin? Then Simon put two and two together and started searching for any news from Paquin. Soon an item caught his eye. Shootout in a spaceport on the third moon of Paquin. Three dead, seven injured, all Alliance personnel. An escaped female fugitive was to blame. River.
The rain pounded on the windshield of the small shuttle as the scared pilot flew River across the landscape of the third moon of Paquin. River stood behind her in the narrow cockpit, the pistol held in her hand, keeping an eye on the navigation screen in front of the control column. River had found more weapons on board the shuttle, including a fire and forget rocket launcher and several hand grenades, flash grenades, and smoke makers. She quickly added some to her backpack.
“Nest, this is the Saratoga. Contact, over,” came a voice from the comms.
“Shut it off,” River said.
“It’s the Saratoga,” the pilot said. “If I don’t answer…”
“Shut it off,” River said slightly more sternly and the pilot reached over and switched off all comms. “And the tracker.”
“I can’t do that,” the pilot answered. “They are built into the structure of the vessel internally and can’t be disabled.”
River knew she was telling the truth, knew quite a lot about her just from her thoughts.
“What’s your name?” River asked casually, one thing she didn’t know since not many people actually think about their own name.
“Pilot Officer Flowers,” the pilot answered in a stammer.
“No, what’s your name?’ River said again and this time the pilot understood.
“Janice,” she said.
“Ok, Janice, this is what we are going to do,” River began and then explained it all to the pilot.
The ground search team boarded a new shuttle at the farm an hour after they had picked up Patterson and discovered River Tam had hijacked their original shuttle. After no contact for thirty minutes the Saratoga had sent a new shuttle and when they were in radio range the lieutenant with the search team contacted them and told what had happened.
“Where is it?” he asked as soon as he and his team were on board. They were soaked and tired and in a foul mood. They had left Patterson with the farmers and the team medic to be picked up by a med shuttle which was already descending from the Saratoga.
“At Port Wilson, twenty kilometers away,” the pilot answered.
“Head there, now,” the lieutenant commanded.
Port Wilson wasn’t big by spaceport standards. It had only five docking bays, a large shipping warehouse, and a few small buildings for maintenance crews and the one lonely Alliance civilian employee who was in charge. Nearby were some bars and small hotel and a few shops. At present only two ships were docked, both short range transports which hauled farm produced from the moon to Paquin and brought supplies the farmers needed.
The Alliance official in charge of the place had just taken payment for landing rights from the crew of the second transport and told them there would be no cargo loaded or unload until the rain stopped. The captain grumbled and he and his crew headed off to the local bar to join the crew of another ship which had landed just a short time ago.
As he finished entering the details of the two ships in his computer console at a desk behind a counter, the door opened and two people entered, one of them a bedraggled looking figure in a green shirt and skirt, her long dark hair soaked from the rain. She had a look a fear in her eyes. The second figure was an Alliance soldier, a pilot by the looks of her uniform and helmet and she held a pistol on the first woman.
“What have we here?” asked the official with slight bemusement. He was lonely and had no companionship for some time and here two wet lovely looking ladies had just come into his life.
“Prisoner, tried to hijack my ship,” said the pilot. “I need to contact my cruiser, tell them where I am.”
“Prisoner, eh?” said the official with a smirk. “What did such a little girl do to get in such a big pile of trouble?”
“Nothing!” said the girl.
Click, went the pilot’s pistol. “What did I say about talking?” Silence. “She’s a killer, murdered five troops on a prison barge and escaped.”
“That a fact,” said the official not quite believing such a little girl could kill anyone. “Well, comms console is right here.” He pointed to a cabinet behind the desk which he opened, revealing a high powered comms system, powerful enough to reach the Saratoga and maybe even Paquin. “Perhaps you ladies would like to change clothes and dry off while…
“No, thank you,” said the pilot and then she fired three quick shots into the console and smashed it to pieces with a showering of broken metal and sparks.
“What the hell!” yelled the official and then said no more as the pistol was in his face.
“I’m the pilot,’ said the girl in the green clothes. “She’s the…killer.”
River removed the pilot’s helmet from her head and placed it on the counter.
“Now,” she said to the official. “Do you have any rope?”
“No,” said the official. “But I have…” He said no more as River fired a bullet through his head and he dropped and flopped for a few seconds as blood squirted from his head and then he was still.
Janice Flowers was too stunned to do anything, just stared at this wisp of a girl who was so ruthless. “Why?” she finally managed to get out in a croak.
“He has a gun,” River said as she moved behind the counter.
“No, he…” Janice was about to say but then she saw River remove a pistol from the man’s hand and tuck it into her uniform belt.
“It was hidden behind the counter and he was going to kill me,” said River.
“How…how did you know?”
“I just know,” River said matter-of-factly as she keyed into the computer console. “And I’ll know if you try to run, like you are thinking about right now.”
Janice had been planning to run and stopped just on the edge of doing so, staring wide eyed at this girl, wondering who in the hell she was.
“River Tam,” River said and Janice was too flabbergasted to reply. Had she…read my mind?
“Yes, I did,” said River from the computer stations and Janice knew she was in the presence of a unique person.
“What…what…now?” she asked.
“We take a ship,” River said. “And leave here.”
“Yes, we. You are my hostage.”
“I…have a husband…and a son…and…”
River stared at her for second and Janice knew she knew she was lying. “I’m sorry…I won’t do that again.”
“Good,” River replied. “Now, which ship would you like?”
“I have a choice?”
“Yes. And then we disable the other and its comms systems. Both crews are probable getting drunk nearby.”
“How do you know? I mean…you can…?”
“I know because I know cargo crews and that’s what they like to do. I lived on a Firefly for more than a year.”
“The other soldiers…they will look for me.”
“Yes, and I hope they find us.”
They found them alright. The hijacked shuttle was sitting in a small opening space near the buildings as the second shuttle came into Port Williams. After landing nearby, the search team disembarked into the pouring rain, pissed off at their discomfort and the merry chase they were being led on. With hand signals, the lieutenant led his team to the shuttle. They formed a semi-circle around the door and the lieutenant pointed for one of his men to open the door. As the soldier moved in and slowly opened the external door, the others readied their weapons. Then with a flash and a deafening bang the shuttle’s door blew off throwing the soldiers around it back, some of them hit with flying shrapnel. As the squad moved to help their injured comrades, there was a whoosh and then a second deafening bang came, this time from their second shuttle, which caught fire as the pilot came stumbling out into the pouring rain, his uniform smoldering from flames which were quickly doused.
“Find her!” the lieutenant yelled and it was the last thing he ever said as a bullet entered the top of his head and he dropped to the ground without a sound. The standing squad members turned around in all directions, looking for their target in the murky visibility. In milliseconds two more were down from bullets and the rest panicked, now leaderless and began to shoot in all directions, hitting buildings, spaceships, everything except River.
In moments they were all down, not all dead, but down.
River slowly leaped down from the top of the warehouse from where she had launched the rocket at the second shuttle and had shot the soldiers. As she walked past the second shuttle’s pilot lying on the ground he moaned and she kicked him in the head to keep him quiet. She took a grenade and tossed it inside the shuttle cockpit to make sure it’s comm systems were destroyed. As it exploded she moved to the rest of the squad, some dead, others groaning. One reached for his weapon and River kicked it away and then pressed her pistol to his head.
“No time to be a hero,” she said and the young man’s eyes were filled with terror and pain, fearing she was going to execute him but she didn’t to his relief.
River collected all weapons, threw them in the first shuttle and tossed in another grenade. As it exploded and the shuttle’s fuel supply and the ammo began to go off, those on the ground who could crawled away.
River moved inside the Alliance building and out of the pouring rain. Janice Flowers and the dead man in an Alliance civilian official’s uniform were behind the counter. He was lying in a pool of blood by his head. She was tied up and gagged, feet and hands tied together behind her back so she couldn’t walk. Flowers hadn’t dared move, believing River would know in an instant and kill her. Nearby was the comms station smashed and full of bullet holes. River bent to Flowers and took off her gag and began to untie her feet.
“Time to go,” River said as she picked Janice up, quickly retied her hands in front her and took her to the door. As they were about to exit into the pouring rain suddenly River stopped.
“People are outside,” she said. “The crew from one of the ships.”
“Just give up,” Janice told her in exasperation and near tears. “Are you going to kill everyone?”
“If they get in my way.”
“What did you do?” Janice asked in a choking voice, ready to cry. “Why is all this happening to me?”
“My life was stolen from me by the Alliance,” River said. “I tried to take it back but they wouldn’t let me.”
And without another word River opened the door and quickly moved off with Janice toward the nearest ship, the one they had selected earlier. It was smaller than a Firefly and was a Hornet class short haul cargo carrier. River had overridden the port controls and had the cargo ramp opened. Just as they reached the foot of the ramp a male voice yelled to them.
“Hey! What the gorramn hell is going on here?”
“Get on board,” River said to Janice and pushed her up the ramp and Janice was glad to get away from her and be dry and especially to avoid seeing anymore violence.
The man walked steadily toward River. Behind him in the rain more people were bent to help the injured Alliance troopers and the two shuttles were burning despite the rain. River was still in the pilot’s uniform with the helmet on as the man approached her. He hesitated, not sure what was happening, but one thing he knew was that someone had somehow gotten his ship opened and was trying to board it.
“Hey, I’m talking to you,” the man said as he pulled a pistol and came right up to River. “Your people are hurt. And this is my ship! How did you get…”
He said no more as River kicked away his gun and dropped him to the ground with more swift blows. “They aren’t my people,” she said and as she turned to enter the ship bullets whizzed past her and the rest of his crew came running and shooting at her. She ignored them and ran up the ramp and closed it. Then she noticed Janice was missing.
River had no time to search for her, knew she was on board somewhere and headed straight for the bridge. There sat Janice Flowers, in the pilot’s seat, holding out her tied hands to River.
“I fly better with these free.”
River almost grinned and pulled out her knife and cut the bonds. In a few seconds Janice had the engines started and they were soon airborne, heading for the black of space.
“Ship taking off from Port Williams, sir,” said a radar operator on the bridge of the Saratoga.
“Class and transponder code,” the captain demanded.
“Hornet class, short range cargo hauler. Transponder coming up…named Katya.”
“Check it,” the captain ordered and after a few minutes got his reply.
“No warrants, nothing. It’s a legit carrier. Seems to be heading to Paquin”
“Let it go,” the captain ordered. “And get that green lieutenant on the comms so I can tear him a new asshole for not checking in on time!”
The green lieutenant was dead as were another of his men and the Alliance official. The crews from the two cargo ships soon realized the second ship was disabled and gave up the idea of chasing the Katya, they started caring for the wounded Alliance people, taking them inside the warehouse. Most of the wounds were in the arms and legs, as if the shooter was not trying to intentional kill them. More people came, from nearby businesses, and soon they figured out what happened.
“We got no comms?” a wounded solider asked the captain of the ship River had stolen. The captain was soaking wet, had a black eye and a bruised ego, but was otherwise unharmed.
“They took the Katya and disabled the other ships engine and its comms,” he said sheepishly.
“I have a Cortex screen in the hotel,” the owner said. “But who do I send a message to? Do you know the cruiser’s wave address?”
The soldier was stumped. “We…we use radio comms…not Cortex. Just send…send a message to…Paquin. Pick anyone you know. Tell them to contact any Alliance post and they can contact the Saratoga.”
And so the hotel owner scurried off to try to get help and within minutes had sent a message off to Paquin, which he sent to his cousin, who owned a Cortex news station, who passed on this news of a shoot out to the nearby Alliance station, but not before he had the story written up and sent out on the Cortex, getting good prices from re-write rights from the major news services. Before the Saratoga even knew its troops were in trouble on the ground, most of the galaxy news services were already sending out the buzz across the Cortex.
On Londinium Admiral Shin had received the news of the shoot out and the escape once again of River Tam just before he left his office for Blackburn Mental Hospital. He sent out orders to have that cargo ship stopped and searched when it reached Paquin and then went down to his waiting car. As they drove to the hospital he popped open his car’s computer screen and began to review the records of the four Athenian Island subjects who had reported in so far that General MacCready had just sent him. MacCready had seen the light and knew what Shin had said about Blakely was true. He had sent Shin all documents on Athenian Island and the names of the 24 who had checked in and their expected arrival times on Londinium.
The four who had recently arrived were all around Tam’s age and had similar backgrounds, coming from well do to families in the Core. Each had shown remarkable skills in their earlier years and had been selected by Dr. Mathis and Cutter for training on Athenian Island. The cover story of an advance academy had fooled all their parents. Some had made inquiries but all were mollified with the story that their children had graduated and were now in an advance research project that could not be disclosed due to its sensitive nature. All had written letters to this effect to their parents and fake photos were taken of the children at the secret graduation ceremony from the “academy”.
Of course, River Tam had been the exception and her brother had done what was thought impossible. Now he was pardoned but his sister was still out there and Shin was now suspecting that his soldiers had no business chasing such a dangerous person, not after what had just happened in the Paquin system.
Tam’s file was in his hands now and he knew she was a psychic, something the Prime Minister surely knew but kept from him. Until they choose Cutter’s successor, Shin would continue the search for Tam. She knew too much, knew about Cutter’s death and the Reavers and all that sorry, miserable tale. And no one knew what else Tam knew, what she had learned from Cutter.
Shin and his escort walked through the quiet halls of Blackburn Mental Hospital. It had been built during the war as a place of refuge for those soldiers who had suffered mental breakdowns in battle. The place was full following the massive battles at the end of the war, especially after Serenity Valley on Hera. Now it was mostly empty, the few patients remaining were those too chronic or too dangerous to release to the public.
The four were waiting for Shin. They sat in a conference room at a long table. They were two males and two females and Shin got right to the point.
“Cutter is dead and now I am in charge. You don’t need to know my name. Just follow my orders.”
He slid a photo of River across the table. One of the males picked it up. “Tam.”
“Correct. River Tam is a former classmate of yours. She has gone rogue and is now operating on a free lance basis. She has killed at least eight Alliance personnel in recent days. Find her, bring her in or kill her, it is up to you. She was last seen near Paquin. Transport awaits you. You will be taken to a military airfield and receive further instructions on new comms systems and more details on Tam as we get them. Report in everyday at 1pm Londinium capital city time, to me personally. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” they said as one.
“Good,” Shin said. “And don’t come back until the job is done.” With that he turned and was gone.
Now, Tam, lets see how you do against your old classmates.
Little did Shin know that River had already faced one her old classmates, Maston Forbes, and had bested him. And River wouldn’t be alone. Not for long anyways.
On Sihnon, Paulo Chase sat in his office in his family’s mansion and was disturbed by the news that his bride Inara Serra was returning after all these years and now wanted a divorce. The money would be welcomed but there were too many unanswered questions. Why now? What had happened? She said she had enough money, that she was retired and working as an instructor. That was a lie and now he knew it for sure.
Paulo had connections, his family one of the original families from Earth to settle on Londinium and then Sihnon. They were an old and proud family and the Serra business had cast a stain that was never erased. With his parents dead Paulo was in charge. The Companion Guild headquarters was on Sihnon and he requested an audience with the headmistress, which was quickly granted.
“Mr. Chase, how good to see you. You family is well, I trust,” the headmistress said as Paulo was lead into her luxurious office and sat down opposite her at a heavily ornate wooded desk. The Companion Guild was rumored to be even wealthier than the Blue Sun Corporation, the largest conglomerate in the galaxy. She was in a peach gown, heavily jeweled, with graying blond hair in a bun, her age a Guild secret.
“Yes, mistress. I have come on the matter of…my wife.”
“Oh, of course. She has contacted you.”
“You don’t seem surprised,” Paulo said. “It has been five years.”
“She contacted us recently.”
“You mean she isn’t working for the Guild anymore?”
The headmistress was silent for a moment, knowing something was going on that she did not know about. “I cannot discuss the inner workings of the Guild, as you well know.”
“She is my wife!” Paulo said with rising anger.
The headmistress glared at him across her ornate desk with steely eyes. “A wife who never shared your bed, a wife your family and hers choose before she was ten years old, a wife whose family was ruined by yours!”
“Because she refused my hand!”
“After what happened to her father she had no choice!”
“She was stubborn and proud and now look at her, nothing but a common….”
“Don’t you dare say that word in this house! You will be blacklisted from here to the rim if such a word passes your lips!”
Paulo held his tongue and then said more calmly. “I am the laughing stock of Sihnon because of her. Fifteen years! I cannot enter a room without someone staring and asking, ‘Is that him? The man whose wife is now a Companion?’ Oh they are quiet, but I know these snobs, know what they think. My family has suffered this indignity far too long. I will have my justice.”
“That is up to Inara,” the headmistress said more calmly.
“She has agreed to repay the bride price plus interest,” Paulo finally said.
The headmistress smiled. “Excellent. Then this matter will be at an end. You will divorce and your reputation will be restored and you can marry and begin a family.”
He was silent and she knew something wasn’t right. “Paulo, this is what you want, isn’t it?”
“Yes…but why now, why after so long? She….must be in love, must have another man she wants to marry.”
“Perhaps but why do you…oh, I see. You still love her,” the headmistress said.
“Yes,” he barely managed to mumble. “I thought I had forgotten her, had moved on…but when I saw her…I can’t help myself. She is coming, will be here in two days. Then…I don’t know what I will do.” The headmistress came around her desk and stood next to him and pressed his head into her bosom and held him.
“Poor Paulo…how can we help ease your pain? Christine? Julie? Both?”
“Both,” he said in a bare whisper and the mistress rang a bell and an assistant came and took Paulo to the upper rooms of the Guild building. The most talented and beautiful of the Companions were here and Christine and Julie could have passed for sisters of Inara, so alike in appearance they were, raven haired beauties both. In their arms he imagined it was Inara, the honeymoon that never was.
The headmistress knew he was still in love with Inara, had known for years, for he always choose Christine or Julie when he came here. It was a tragic story, well known on Sihnon among the elite families. As she thought back on the story, the headmistress contacted her secretary.
“Check all cruise ship passenger tables enroute to Sihnon. Please find out if Inara Serra is a passenger on any ship.”
Now, Inara, are you really in love with someone else? If so, I hope he knows what he is in for. A child in the arms of a woman, Paulo Chase was a different person among men. He was no longer so rich and so powerful, but he was quick tempered and ruthless in a duel and the few men who had dared to openly insult him about Inara in the early years had died at his hands. Only a real man could hope to steal Inara away from him. By the sounds of things, Paulo would not give her the divorce so easily. The headmistress feared blood would be shed before all this was over.
Thursday, January 8, 2009 1:44 AM
Thursday, January 8, 2009 2:52 AM
Thursday, January 8, 2009 6:04 AM
Thursday, January 8, 2009 4:55 PM
Friday, January 9, 2009 4:31 AM
Saturday, January 10, 2009 7:44 PM
Friday, January 30, 2009 4:12 AM
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