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River's Run - Part 12
Saturday, April 25, 2009

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.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1633    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

River’s Run – Part 12

“That’s incredible,” Gabriel Tam said after Mal and the others had finished telling the story about Earth, and Miranda, and the Reavers. Everyone except Wash sat around the dining area table, it now covered in empty plates and glasses and cups from the big breakfast everyone had eaten while Mal and the crew talked and told the tale. Many questions were asked, exclamations of doubt voiced, and looks of wonder and surprise expressed not only from Gabriel and Regan but from Colonel Powers and Derek Bowen. Not all the news was a surprise, but a lot of it was truly shocking.

“I hardly believed it myself first time I heard it,” Jonathan said. “Course, second part I was right in the middle of.”

“Earth,” said Powers as if the word had a religious reverence. “Destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.”

“It was pretty awful,’ Inara said. “I…we…” she couldn’t go on, the horror of her memories too much.

“It’s a gorramn mess,” Jayne finished for her. “But there’s folks still alive and we helped get them back on their feet again.”

“Time travel?” said Regan as she looked at her daughter, sitting close by her. “You time traveled?”

“Not exactly,” River said. “We were in the wormhole for a only a few minutes as years went by outside of it.”

“Gives me a headache, too,” said Mal as he saw the puzzled looks on the Tams and Powers’ faces. “Simple to say we lost four years.”

“People chasing you, Alliance, bounty hunters, Reavers, nuclear explosions…. How did you survive, all of this?” Regan asked, looking in wonder at her daughter and son and the other crew members.

“We didn’t all survive,” Jayne said in a sad tone. “We lost the Shepherd.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Gabriel Tam said.

“He’s supposed to marry us,” Kaylee said in an even more forlorn tone.

“We’ll find another preacher,” Simon reassured her. “Make things proper.”

“You aren’t married?” Gabriel asked in wonder.

“We are, legally,” Simon said. “We just wanted to wait…for a ceremony.”

“Wait for you,” Kaylee finished. “And for River.”

Regan smiled, one bit of good news in all this horror and tragedy her children had gone through. Her son had found someone to love, someone to make his wife. But she still had one more question.

“River, what happened at your school?”

There was a long silence, people looking away, not wanting to tell the Tams the real truth about their daughter. Finally, River told them.

“The school wasn’t a school, Mother. Derek and I and so many others…we were….they made us….trained us to be….killers.”

Regan looked in horror at her daughter and then to her husband and saw he wasn’t as shocked as she felt. “You knew?”

“Not then, not until a few weeks ago. Blakely told me something about the island. Not much.”

Simon stepped in before something bad happened between his parents. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know, Derek’s parents didn’t know, none of the parent’s knew.”

“You knew,” Gabriel said to Simon, guilt on his face and in his voice. “And I didn’t believe you.”

“Can you believe it even now?” Simon asked and his father didn’t have an answer. “It’s just too incredible, isn’t it?”

All his father could do was nod, his face filled with the anguish of being unable to protect his children.

“Don’t go kicking yourselves,” Mal said to them all. “Anyone to blame, it’s Cutter,”

“And he’s paid the price,” said Powers.

Regan was still looking at River. “You have killed…people?”

“Yes,” River said quietly. “When I’ve had to. When they tried to kill me, and my friends. I’ve killed people.”

“And a whole mess load of Reavers,” Jayne added as he sipped coffee.

“She saved us so many times,” Zoe said, looking to River almost with pride.

“As did Simon,” Inara added. “We would have been lost without them.”

“As we would have been without you,” Simon said, looking from face to face, even to Jayne, who was about to mention money again and decided to follow Mal’s words about time and place for once in his life.

Gabriel had been looking at Derek, sitting on the other side of River, almost in a protective posture, wondering about this young man. “How long have you known River?”

“We were in the same class. Until a day ago I hadn’t seen her in over five years.”

“The same class,” Regan said. “Then you…you are the same as River?”

“Yes…they made us…kill.”

Derek’s pain was obvious and River took his hand under the table and squeezed it tight.

“And that’s it, the tale of Serenity,” Mal said after a long moment of awkward silence. “Few details to fill in, but you got the gist.”

“You’ve had quite an adventure, Captain,” Powers said. “An epic for the ages. But it’s not over yet.”

“You’re right. I think it’s time to make a plan and make a move,” Mal said. “First things first. We need a place to let the civilians lay low. And then we need to get to our cash on Ariel.”

“By civilians you mean my wife and I, I take it, Captain,” Gabriel said. “And will our children be coming with us?”

Mal was wondering when this would come up. The Tams were finally reunited with their children but Mal needed Simon and River for what was to come. But there was also only one way to do this right.

“That’s up to them,” Mal said. “Shin got us all marked for the gallows again or at least a prison colony. Anyone wants off this boat you just say the word and you can go on your merry. Me, I aim to fight, somehow, someway. They want a new war, want to run things without folks having a say. I don’t hold with that at all. I hate the Alliance and most times could care less about them that’s running it. But this is different. We’re gonna knock these sons-a-bitches off their high horse. You stay, you take orders from me.”

“And where do I fit into your chain of command, Captain Reynolds?’ Powers asked.

“Depends on what you want to do. But always remember, on my boat, I’m in charge,” Mal said, knowing this showdown was coming ever since they took the ship back.

“I want to fight like you do,” Powers said. “But we aren’t ready for a confrontation yet. It’s too soon. I think a more indirect method is needed first. I need to broadcast to the galaxy, tell people what we know.”

Mal looked to Zoe. “Mr. Universe?”

She nodded. “Yes, sir. Mr. Universe.”

At that moment Wash called from the bridge. “Mal, need you up here. Alone.”

Mal just turned and walked to the forward hall without a word. Zoe was about to follow him but knew Wash wouldn’t say “alone” without a good reason.

After Mal left, Inara and Kaylee started clearing the breakfast dishes. Regan and Mary tried to help but Kaylee told them to sit, that they were guests.

“What are we going to do, Simon?” Gabriel asked his son. He was lost, in unfamiliar waters and it confused him.

“Get you off this ship,” Simon said.

“And are you coming with us?” Regan asked, a desperate look to her eye, knowing what the answer was.

River just shook her head. “We belong here, Mother.”

“I’ve just found you again after all these years,” Regan said in almost a pleading tone. “Now we’ve been forced from our home, our lives, and you expect us to just start over again on some other world? No, I will not be separated from you again.”

Simon knew it was time to frighten her, didn’t want to do it, but knew it had to be done. “They want to kill us, all of us. If you are on Serenity when they find us, they won’t care who you are.”

Regan put resolve into her voice. “Then I will die with you. If I am separated from you again, won’t it be the same?”

Simon couldn’t argue with that. Despite his anger at his parents for not believing what had been happening to River, he knew they were good people caught in a web of circumstances that would try the hardiest of souls.

“Then we stay together,” Simon said at last and his father said yes and River said yes and it was decided. Kaylee overheard them and joined them by Simon’s side. She decided it was time to bring a little ray of sunshine to this gloomy group.

“Doctor Tam, I have a request?”

Simon smiled at his wife. “Yes, dear?”

“I think its time you made an honest woman out of me. Time we had our proper wedding.”

Simon couldn’t say no to her and suddenly the veil of gloom and doom was lifted as all the women got talking about wedding plans. Jayne couldn’t stand it and decided to go to his bunk and clean his guns. Powers wanted to talk some more with Mal and headed to the bridge, followed closely by Zoe. As they arrived on the bridge they found a very angry Captain, pissed off at the verse.

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

“What’s the word?” Mal asked as he stepped on the bridge.

Wash had a grim look and just pointed to a Cortex screen. “Not good,” he said.

Mal looked in wonder and then cursed and kicked the co-pilot’s chair and couldn’t believe this was happening.

There was his picture, splashed across the Cortex with the words. “Malcolm Reynolds, Rebel Leader” in bold print.

“It’s all a lie,” Mal said when he calmed down. “No one will believe it.”

“They’ve already started to,” Wash said and hit buttons and brought up a news report. It talked about Mal’s history as a soldier for the Independents, and his life as a criminal, and now his re-emergence as the leader of the new rebellion. It was all done with splash and pizzazz, cutting and pasting of pics and vids from the war and things Mal had never done and places he had never been. But it was propaganda and as such it was effective. The vid showed people on the street talking about this Reynolds fellow, how he should be shot and hung and all kinds of nasty stuff done to him.

“Gorramnit all to hell,” Mal muttered as he sat in the co-pilot’s seat feeling deflated.

“It gets worse,” Wash said and then showed a news reports of how Mal and his “gang” had captured the FTL ship Serenity and killed the entire crew. There was nothing in the report about how it was Mal’s ship to begin with or that Kaylee was his mechanic or anything even closely resembling the truth.

“They’ve put out a bulletin all over the Cortex, be on the look out for Serenity and Malcolm Reynolds,” Wash said. “One million credit reward for information that leads to your death or capture.”

“One million credits,” Mal said in disgust. “What they paid me for the ship I stole back from them. Guess that’s what they call payback or justice or…I don’t know.”

Zoe and Powers walked in then and with a Chinese curse word or two on his lips Mal told them what had happened and got Wash to show them. Zoe cursed as much as Mal did and Powers just sighed deeply.

“Shin has made the first move and it’s a killer,” he said and Mal just gave him one his grim determined looks.

“Time we strike back,” Mal said. “Wash lay in a course for Mr. Universe’s complex.”

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

“Sir, we’ve intercepted the Rose,” a captain of a gunship reported by secure Cortex screen to the Operative in his mission control center deep in the Ministry of the Interior.. He wished he was on the gunship but the distance was too great and he had to stay put for the moment to coordinate things.

When he talked with Shin hours earlier on the disappearance of the Tams and Jonathan Frye, one thing had occurred to him. The enemy would always have a tactical advantage over the Alliance as long as they could produce cheap FTL’s for those out dated ships. No, they didn’t have weapons on them, but that could change quickly. It might take years to modify the Frye design for an FTL for the large cruisers and years they didn’t have. The Frye’s were gone now, not longer working for the Alliance and that would be a big set back to the program. Outside of the Frye’s only a few people had practical knowledge of Serenity’s FTL and they were on the Rose.

“Captain, the earlier order is cancel. Do not destroy the Rose, not yet anyway. Intercept, board, and bring the Alliance personal off the ship. Once they are safe, then destroy the ship.”

“Yes, sir,” the captain replied. “It shall be done.”

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

“You all be good, now,” captain Pritchard said to the Alliance people as they left his ship, carrying the bodies of Oren and the soldier. The captain of the gunship was the last off and didn’t even say goodbye as he closed the hatch.

Five minutes later the two ships disengaged. Pritchard and Anna the pilot were on the bridge.

“Good riddance to all of them,” Pritchard said. “I ever lay eyes on Reynolds again…”

“Funny you should mention him, Wayne. Look at the Cortex.”

“What the hell? Rebel leader? That’s a pack of….”

But he never finished his sentence. A beeping sound came form the control panel as a red light flashed.

“Missile lock!” Anna screamed in dread and just as Pritchard gave the order to take evasive action the missile slammed into them, exploding and shearing off the after part of the ship. Charlie the mechanic was still in the cargo bay, cleaning up the blood from the to dead bodies they had carried and in a blink he was vaporized into nothing by the explosion. Lee the other crewman was just coming down the stairs to help Charlie when the missile hit and he was riddled with metal shards and then sucked into space and dead moments later.

Pritchard and Anna looked in horror at each other and as a ball of flame came rushing toward the cockpit they hugged and held tight and then were gone in the fiery blast of the missile.

On the bridge of the gunship the pilot who had flown Serenity and the two engineers looked on in horror.

“Was that necessary?” one of the engineers asked in shock.

“Yes,’ said the Operative from a Cortex screen, startling the engineers and the pilot. “Who are you?” the pilot asked after a moment’s hesitation.

“I am in command of this operation and you three gentlemen are now part of my team. I have one question and one question only. Can you build a Frye drive?”

“The design for the cruisers is still not finished and as for building and…” started one of the engineers, but the Operative cut him off.

“Not for the cruisers. I want something a little less sophisticated. I want you to outfit a smaller ship, an older ship, preferable something exactly like Serenity.”

“That is possible, sir,” said the second engineer. “It might take a few days.”

“You have 48 hours,” the Operative said. “Land on Sihnon, purchase an old Firefly or something with a similar engine, and convert it and test it.”

“Sir, 48 hours hardly seems…” but again the engineer was interrupted.

“You have your orders, gentlemen,” the Operative said coldly. “The entire resources of the Alliance are at your disposal. Get it done.”

With that he was gone. The captain gave orders for the ship to head to Sihnon at top speed as the engineers and pilot went off to discuss what they needed to buy and build to turn an old Firefly into an FTL ship.

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

“This could bring all kinds of hurt down on you,” Mal said to Mr. Universe. “Are you sure?”

“Bring it on, bring it on,” the curly headed tech wizard said as he stuck out a hand for the two clear plastic vid tapes Mal had.

Mal, Powers, Zoe, and Jayne were inside Mr. Universe’s complex on the ion cloud covered moon he called home. An hour ago Serenity and the Cricket separated, with Jonathan and Mary taking the Cricket on toward Ariel where they planned to meet up with Serenity later. After a quick jump to Mr. Universe’s moon, Wash had contacted his old friend from flight school and he agreed to meet with Mal.

“Are you sure they can’t trace the broadcast?” Powers asked.

“Not a chance, no way,” said Mr. Universe as he took the tape to his control panel. “I am the signal and the signal is I. I send out it but no knows where or why or how and no one comes back to snoop. The truth the verse shall know, the truth of the truth, not the puppet theater truth of the Parliament.”

“Does he always talk this way?” Jayne asked in aside to Zoe.

“Few times I met him, yeah,” she replied. Zoe looked over at Mr. Universe’s blond love bot, sitting dutifully on a sofa. She smiled in a plastic sort of way and waved a hand. Zoe just nodded, very creeped out by the fact that this guy was sleeping with a robot.

“After the broad wave I want to make an announcement,” Powers said to Mr. Universe.

“Record it we…” he started to reply but Powers interrupted him.

“No recordings, live.”

“As you desire,” Mr. Universe said and then he hit the play button and the vid recording made all those years ago on Miranda began to play. The scientist stood there and described how they infected Miranda and how the people died. She explained about the Reavers and then she died, killed by a Reavers, all in color and in front of the whole galaxy. No one said a word as Mal handed Mr. Universe the next disk, which contained the earlier broadcast Professor Stanley Drummond had made from Miranda and then the one he had made while he was dieing on Serenity. After it was all over, Mr. Universe handed Powers a microphone headset. Powers put it on and began to speak as Mr. Universe replayed the Miranda images in the background.

“My name is Colonel Justin Powers, formerly of the Alliance military forces. The images you have just seen, the words you have just heard, are all true. The Reavers do exist, Miranda is a real planet and as I speak the Alliance is there, using Professor Drummond’s cure to end this madness started by Adam Cutter all those years ago. Reavers were once real people, like you and I, turned into monsters by the ambition of Adam Cutter. He has paid for his crimes. Cutter did not die of a heart attack. He was killed by Reavers on Miranda. The fleet was not attacked by rebels, but by a Reaver fleet. We destroyed most of it. The rebellion is scattered and uncoordinated. It has no center. It has no fleet.”

“Malcolm Reynolds is not a rebel, not their leader. He is the owner of Serenity, the now famous ship the Alliance forced him to give to them in return for the lives of his crew. His only crime and his crew’s only crime is helping me fight back against those who are trying to take away your freedom. Prime Minister Blakely was not murdered by rebel assassins. She was murdered by Admiral Shin and the military. They used programmed assassins that Cutter made in a school for assassins on Athenian Island on Osiris. They want to make you think the rebellion is large and growing. It isn’t.”

“I call on military and police forces to not obey any orders from Admiral Shin or any other high ranking member of the military. My men, you know me. We bled together on many worlds and moons. You know I do not take this step lightly. You are trained not to disobey orders. Now you must go against that training. Protect the civilian government. Protect the people. Arrest Shin and his confederates. Make them pay for their crimes.”

As he ended no one said a word. Mal just walked up to him and shook his hand. “Thanks,” Mal said.

“What now, sir?” Zoe asked.

Mal looked to Powers, this kind of thing a bit beyond him. “We wait for the reaction,” Powers said. “Whether they believe it or not, the kernel of doubt has been sowed.” He looked at Mr. Universe, shook his hand. “You will be a hero if this turns out for the best.”

“Yeah, and if it don’t, you’ll have a big bulls eye on your forehead,” Jayne added.

Mr. Universe smiled. “They can’t stop the signal.”

They made their goodbyes, and twenty minutes later were back aboard Serenity and Wash had them in the air.

“I’m not much for waiting,” Mal said to Wash when they got on the bridge. “Lay in a course for Ariel. Time to make a withdrawal from the bank.”

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

While Mal and the others were with Mr. Universe, Serenity sat by on a landing runway just outside. Kaylee stood by the engines while Wash manned the bridge. Simon found room for his parents in a passenger room and they were tired, their bodies out of sync with the daily rhythms of Serenity. For their bodies it was nighttime and bedtime on Osiris. Soon they were asleep.

Simon came out and found his sister and Derek sitting and talking in the passenger lounge. He felt a twinge of embarrassment having heard them making love the night before. As he flashed on this memory River gave him a look and her faced turned a bit red and then Derek also gave him a look and Simon wished they couldn’t read minds for the millionth time.

“We can’t help it,” River said. “You know that.”

“I know,” Simon said as he sat down. “Sorry…but…last night…I mean…”

“We’ll be quiet tonight,” River said and Derek looked at her in surprise, clearly not expecting this.

“Ah, River…your parents are here…maybe we should slow things down…just a bit.”

“My father already thinks you are after me,” River said.

“I know,” Derek said, slightly embarrassed.

“Please stay out of my parents’ heads at least,” Simon said in a pleading tone.

“I’ll try,’ Derek promised. “Let’s talk about tonight later, River, OK?” and she agreed with him.

“So,” Simon said after an uncomfortable silence. “Let’s get to know each other, shall we?”

Derek smiled and for a long time, the three chatted, and Derek told them about his life and his family. About the academy they had many blank spots and many unanswered questions.

“I had a nightmare last night,” Derek said to Simon and then he described his nightmare.

“Is this a man you killed?” Simon asked.

“Yes…I’m sure of it,” Derek replied. “It seems logical. He was a criminal but had money and connections and they couldn’t arrest him. I know I know this but not why. They sent me after him. Made me kill him.”

“Cutter sent you,” River said.

“More than likely,” Simon answered.

“I never met Cutter. I don’t remember any orders,” Derek said, his face bewildered and uncertain. “No one spoke to me, told me what to do, nothing in writing. I’d just know, where to go, what to do. Does that make sense?”

Simon pondered this. “I think, somehow, they were sending messages. Something…they did to you…all of you. Gave them the ability to contact you. It could be subliminal. I’m not sure. Cutter was using you, and the others, to eliminate those who the justice system could not touch.”

“They can still control us,” River said in a way that unnerved both Simon and Derek. “Make us do what we don’t want to do.”

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

Admiral Shin left his home in the suburbs of the capital city of Londinium with his personal body guard of a ten soldiers at 7 AM as he did every day for the last thirty years. Ten more soldiers stayed behind to guard his home and his wife and her four dogs. Shin was a family man, had four children, two daughters and two sons, all married and in various careers, all still on Londinium. None had followed him into the military, something his wife had been happy about. She had never understood his love of this life but had dutifully did what was required of a military wife, attending the functions, pressing the flesh, helping him rise to the top. Now he was about to rise higher than he ever imagined and she was mad at him.

They had been eating dinner the night before and Soo Young was in a foul mood. She was mad about their lack of privacy, about the recent bodyguards following her and their children and grandchildren everywhere. She understood that it was necessary in the wake of the Prime Minister’s assassination, but did they have to follow them everywhere? He assured her it was only for a short time, until the crisis passed.

As Shin sat in his bullet proof car, with a squad of soliders in a car in front and behind, his aide handed him the latest reports from the galaxy concerning the Malcolm Reynolds ploy. It seemed to be working. News media outlets were putting together stories about Reynolds, interviewing people on the street whipping up hostility. Cutter’s files had included the names of a few reporters, editors, broadcast journalist, all with secrets they did not wish to see on in the headlines of their own newspapers or Cortex information services. They buckled quickly, agreeing to take the story of Reynolds and run with it.

As his luxury car approached the downtown area, Shin turned on the morning Cortex news on the screen in the back of the car. He was greeted with the images of Miranda, Reavers, and the voice of Professor Drummond. He changed channels and sites and found it on every one. Aghast, he and his trusted aide listened to Justin Powers’ speech as the images Drummond and of the Reavers being killed played in the background.

“Gorramnit,” Shin said quietly as they pulled into the underground parking lot of Fleet HQ. He looked at his aide before they exited then car. “You know what to do?”

“Yes, sir. We’ll trace the broadcast, find out who did it and start an immediate control campaign.”

“Pull out all the stops, every media outlet, across the galaxy. It’s propaganda, nothing else. Brand Powers as a criminal. Let’s make sure his name joins Reynolds as a leader of the rebellion. And get me that arrogate Operative ASAP.”

“And the news of the Reavers? What shall we do?” his aide asked.

Shin thought for a moment, then decided. “That was the work of Adam Cutter and the previous administrations. We have nothing to do with it. The military followed orders to keep the Reavers and Cutter’s death a secret. Release a statement to this effect.”

“The deputy Prime Minister and the cabinet will not like this.”

Shin almost smiled. “No, they won’t. They will bear the brunt of this news and suffer accordingly.”

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

“On Londinium many people were still asleep or did not have Cortex screens on,” said the Operative on the Cortex screen in Shin’s office two hours later. “But damage has been done. Across the galaxy many people saw it live. Some people copied it and are spreading it on bulletin boards and through private waves. We cannot stop all of the traffic.”

“We have initiated a counter to all of this,” said Shin from his office. His ears were still burning from the long discussion he had with his wife, assuring her that he did not order the death of the Prime Minister, that rebels and terrorists were responsible. She had caught the broadcast soon after he left home.

What was more important was the fact that the news of the Reavers being real was spreading like wildfire through the galaxy. Shin was now looking over the statement his men had prepared for broadcast. The deputy PM had twice tried to call him this morning but he was conveniently “away”.

“What is the source of the broadcast?” Shin asked.

“We are still investigating. A broadcast this powerful can only have come from someone sophisticated in the ways of communication. Only a few people could possibly be responsible.”

“Keep me posted. Any news of Serenity? Powers is still with them I’m sure.”

“No news of Serenity. But we’ll have them soon.” The Operative told Shin his plan to build an FTL ship.

“A wise decision,” Shin said. “What of the other matter? River Tam and Derek Bowen?”

“Already preparing the broadcast now. The files from Athenian Island have been forwarded. We have all of the messages and know what most of them are for. Unfortunately, we cannot make them to suit specific targets.”

“Specific targets are unimportant. Just make sure they get this message. Kill everyone on board Serenity.”

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

“I hate this get up,” Jayne said as he adjusted the collar on his Shepherd’s outfit. “Shoulda left it on the Rose.”

They were standing inside the cargo bay of the Cricket, which was sitting on a landing pad in Ariel City. Jonathan had an old transponder box and code and had rigged it up so they could land safely without being questioned. Mal, Inara, Jayne, Gabriel, Jonathan and Zoe prepared for their mission, which Mal couldn’t go on since his picture was all over the Cortex.

“Now, now, Shepherd Cobb,” Mal said. “You are here to add a bit of respectability to this venture.”

“Feel naked without a gun,” Jayne said as he place Vera and his pistol belt on the deck near the ramp control panels. “Why can’t I just stay outside in case of trouble?”

Zoe shook her head. “Big lug like you hanging around outside of a bank going to be mighty suspicious.” She was dress in fine dress, purple silk, one of the few she owned, and high heels, and also felt a little naked without a gun.

“You’d never get a gun into the bank, anyway,” Inara assured Jayne. “Very high tech security.”

“She’s right,” Gabriel Tam said, yawning a bit, still not adjusting to the time changes. “This is no backwaters bank with a simple safe to crack.”

Mal looked at him and grinned. “Simon been telling stories, has he?”

“Captain Reynolds, I’m not as naïve as you think. You did what you had to do. As I am slowing learning, not everyone in the galaxy has lived a life as rich as mine.”

“Darn right,” Jayne said with some disgust. Bad enough dealing with prissy Doc, but now his old man, too? Soft hands, counting money all his life, I bet.

“Is now the right time, Mal?” Jayne asked.

Before Mal could answer Gabriel spoke. “My son has told me about your deal, Mr. Cobb. You found my daughter and I am grateful. Payment shall be paid, once we get the money.”

Jayne just grinned. “Let’s get going then.”

How to get their money was another problem. ATM machines were everywhere, but they could only give a certain amount per day and they couldn’t hang around that long for all the cash they had waiting for them. The big worry was whether the Alliance had closed Inara’s accounts or not. She had checked from the Cortex on Serenity when they popped into space near Ariel and it all looked good, her accounts were still open and the money was still there but Mal smelled a trap. Gabriel had wanted to check his also, but Mal worried they might have a flag out for their accounts and didn’t want to raise too many suspicious by checking both accounts. To get these large sums in cash they would have to have fingerprint and retina analysis and sign many documents.

“We need the money,” Mal said to them as they prepared to leave. “But not if it cost too much to get. Zoe, you’re in charge. You smell trouble, just drop everything and leave.”

“Yes, sir,” she said and Mal handed her a comms device which she placed in her handbag. Seeing Zoe in a dress and heels and carrying a handbag was quit the sight. Gabriel was in the only suit he managed to carry with him, while Inara was as lovely as usual.

“Good luck, “Mal said and after one last look to Inara they were down the cargo bay ramp and Mal closed it tight.

“They’ll be OK, Mal, you’ll see,” Jonathan said.

“Just wish like hell I was with them.”

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

“Yes, Miss Serra, welcome back to First National of Ariel. How can we help you today?” said a stunning female bank clerk.

“I’d like to close my account,” Inara said and smiled and the clerk smiled back as Inara handed her the account number. She was blond and very voluptuous and Inara felt a twinge of sexual attraction and Jayne’s eyes were ready to pop out of his head from where he sat on a bench a few feet away. Zoe kicked him on the foot.

“You’re supposed to be a preacher,” she whispered in an aside.

“You all been getting some lately, even little River, while I ain’t had me…” she kicked him again and he shut up.

“Eyes open and not just on the blond,” Zoe whispered as she stood and walked to where the bank had an information screen. She glanced over at the two guards by the doors with stun guns loosing hanging from straps on their belts. The bank had about ten customers, doing various things. Jayne stood and walked over toward the water cooler and got himself a drink, his eyes looking around. Zoe pretended to read the information on the Cortex screen. Next to it was a bulletin board with a poster of Mal, rebel leader. Zoe felt like ripping it down but controlled herself. As she pretended to read the information, she glanced over to where Gabriel Tam was at another teller window.

“I would like to withdraw some money from my account,” he said as he talked to a male bank clerk.

“Yes sir. We have machines for…”

“It’s a substantial amount,” Gabriel said as he handed a piece of paper to the clerk. The clerk just smiled.

“Yes, sir. I need you to come to our secure room, sir.”

“Of course,” Gabriel said and as followed the clerk he saw that Inara was doing the same. They entered the rear area of the bank and entered separate small rooms.

In front of both was a fingerprint and retina scan machine. Both placed their right index fingers on the device, and stared at the optical laser as it scanned their right eyes. After a moment a message flashed. “Account Number.” After they typed in the number, a message flashed, “account confirmed.”

After fifteen more minutes Inara walked out with a large black case, which she struggled to hold with one arm. She came over and stood with Zoe.

“Where’s Gabriel?’ Inara asked in worry. They waited and waited, five, ten minutes and then he came, with two bigger black cases, and then they started towards the doors, Zoe and Jayne in front, the others a few steps behind.

“Zoe!” Jayne whispered fiercely and then she saw them. Coming through the bank doors were a squad of five Alliance troopers, all with stun guns, coming up and pointed at them.

“Inara Serra, you are bound by law!’ one shouted and even before the words were out of his mouth Jayne Cobb’s ham sized fist smashed him in the mouth and he dropped like a stone. The other four were stunned for a moment, a preacher hitting their leader, and then one was blown back by Zoe firing the leader’s stun gun. The two guards by the door moved over and Inara used all her strength to slammed her heavy case into the face of one and he went down. As Gabriel moved to hit one a stun gun blast hit him and down he and his bags went.

It was now a melee, Zoe firing, Jayne punching and kicking, people shouting and running away, Inara smashing one more soldier with her heavy bag. Jayne got a punch to the face, which he shook off, a stun blast winged Inara and spun her but did not knock her out, and in less than twenty seconds it was over, the guards and police all down and moaning or out cold.

“Move, gorramnit!” Jayne yelled. Zoe helped Inara to her feet.

“I can walk. Wait, Gabriel’s hurt,” Inara said. Indeed he was hurt, out cold, and Jayne just cursed and picked him up and on his shoulder, grabbing one bag with the other hand.

“The other bag!” he shouted to Zoe. She was already heading for the door, stun gun out, looking for trouble.

“Forget it!” she yelled. Jayne hesitated, looked at the bag, cursed and then was out the door.

Zoe stood in front of a yellow car and pointed the stun gun at the motorist. “Out!”

The shocked man got out, not knowing it was a non-lethal weapon, and they got in, and in seconds they were moving at a clip down a highway towards the spaceport, Zoe driving, Inara in the front with her and Jayne and the out cold Gabriel in the back..

“Gorramnit!” Jayne cursed again. “The other bag!”

Inara just glared at him. “Is that all you can think of. Money?”

“No, I think of ladies and good booze and..” but Jayne didn’t finish as a burst of gunfire tore through the back window and he was struck in the back of the right shoulder. “I’m hit!”

“Get down!” Zoe yelled and they crouched down as more bullets came. In her review mirror Zoe saw a flying police chase vehicle, to the back and left and it was lining up to fire again. Zoe moved the car into heavy traffic and the idea worked, the police chaser afraid to fire into the crowd of motorists. But it wouldn’t work forever and they needed a plan.

“Inara, get Mal!” Zoe said. Inara grabbed the comms device from Zoe’s bag and called Mal.

‘We got made,” she yelled to him. “Jayne’s shot, Gabriel’s out cold. We stole a car, we are on…”

“Highway 7, nearing the spaceport!” Zoe shouted.

“Highway 7!”

“We’re coming for you!” Mal shouted and then Jonathan fired up the Cricket and in seconds they were flying and moving toward the highway. After a few moments Mal saw the flying police car and looked down trying to find Zoe’s car.

“Which car are you?” Mal shouted to Inara.

“Yellow, I think a Nexus 6000,” she yelled back.

“What the hell is a Nexus 6000?’ Mal said. He knew more about horses than cars.

“I see it,” Jonathan said, knowing his cars like he knew his spaceships. “Go open the cargo bay. They can drive right in.”

The cargo bay of the Cricket was in the back and opened below the engines. Mal ran down to the bay and hit the controls to open the ramp. Suddenly the ship turned right around and they were flying forward and Mal could see the traffic coming behind them, many bewildered drivers wondering what the hell was going on. The ramp scrapped and bounced off the asphalt, sending sparks flying as cars served and slowed to avoid the danger. Then he spotted the yellow car and the police chaser following it. Next to Mal on the deck was Vera, Jayne’s heavy gun, and he picked it up, shouldered it, and without hesitation hosed a stream of heavy slugs toward the police chaser. Several hit it, it shuddered, stopped, started smoking and flaming and then it blew up in a spectacular shower of glass, metal and human body parts.

“Yeah!!” Mal shouted, feeling the old surge of adrenaline he always got in combat, and then he jumped out of the way just in time as Zoe drove the car up the ramp. Mal closed the ramp and hit the intercom. “All on board! Punch it!”

Zoe jumped out of the car, and quickly opened the back door. “How is it?” she said to Jayne.

“Just a scratch,” he mumbled through clenched teeth, and he climbed out and then immediately fell to the deck as Zoe started giving him first aid.

Mal had Inara out and in his arms in no time. “I’m okay,” she said. ‘I’m okay.” But he felt her trembling and she just buried her face in his shoulder and hugged him tight for a long time.

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

Thirty minutes later they were one system away and rejoined with Serenity. Jayne was transferred to the infirmary and Simon got to work on his bullet wound, knocking him out despite Jayne’s protest to not do so.

Gabriel woke up in the passenger lounge and was groggy and bewildered but after a short while he felt better. His wife had been asleep the whole time and when she awoke and heard the story she was mad as hell at him.

“Don’t be mad, Mother,” River said. “He did it for you. For all of us.”

“I know,” Regan said. “But he’s still a fool.” She walked away toward the infirmary and looked through the windows and watched as her son worked and Inara helped him.

“It’s okay, River,” Gabriel said as he stood, a little unsteady, and went and stood by his wife. He whispered something to her and she just started crying and they hugged. River knew they were okay, just her mother worried so much about all of them.

River made her way upstairs to the dining room where the two black bags were sitting on the table, as Kaylee, Wash, Powers, and Derek sat and counted money.

“Close to ten million,” River said, just glancing at the piles of notes. Everyone stopped and looked at her.

“Ten million?” Kaylee said in awe.

“I think,” River added and then she sat and started helping them. “Father said they lost a bag.”

“That was unfortunate,” Powers said, feeling a bit like a criminal as he counted the money. “But all are safe. That is most important.”

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

Zoe had just finished telling Mal the tale on the bridge, where he sat brooding in the pilot’s seat. She had changed out of her dress and felt more like herself

“Too close,” he said. “Too close.”

“We got the money, Jayne will live,” Zoe said.

“And how many Alliance died or got hurt?”

She was quite surprised. “Since when did we care about that?”

“Not ever,” he said. “But more we go on doing stuff like this, more people think maybe we are rebels.”

“We are what we are, sir,” Zoe said. “They made us what we are. We didn’t ask for it.”

“I know,” he said and didn’t elaborate further.

“What now, sir?’ she finally asked.

“I need time to think,” he said. “Go check on Jayne for me, will you?”

“Yes, sir,” she said and waited for a second, but he said nothing, just stared out into the black and after a moment, Zoe left him alone with his thoughts and his burdens.

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

“Ariel?” Shin said in surprise to the operative on his Cortex screen.

“Yes, sir. Inara Serra’s name was flagged for the murder of Paulo Chase. She closed her bank account and they did a retina scan which alerted the local police. Unfortunately they didn’t send a large enough force. She was not alone and they escaped…again. We have two officers dead and seven injured.

“How do they keep doing this?” Shin said through clenched teeth.

“The galaxy is vast and they can go where they please, when they please and as fast they please.”

“How soon will your ship be ready?”

“A day or two.”

“And the messages for Tam and Bowen?”

“They are ready now.”

“Send them. Perhaps all this will be over before you need take up the chase.”

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

Serenity and the Cricket separated for the night, to allow for a quick getaway in case they were surprised. Jayne was out of surgery and Simon had gotten the bullet, but kept Jayne in the infirmary and out cold to help him heal better. Simon examined his father and Inara and saw there was no damage from the stun guns. Gradually the crew went to sleep as the two ships drifted in a barely traveled area nearby the Ariel system. River and Derek kissed goodnight in a dark corner of the passenger area and agreed not to spend the night together until things became a little more stable. This basically meant he didn’t want to be sleeping in her bed, with her parents just next door. She wished she could have him again, felt the desire, but was still sore from the night before so maybe it wasn’t a good idea. His body and love making had driven her wild and she knew she could never be quiet. They were both so new at this, but knew what each wanted and that more than made up for their lack of experience.

Mal saw Inara to bed, kissed her good night and promised to be back later after he talked with Powers. She didn’t argue, needing a rest after what she had just been through. Mal joined Powers at the dining room table, and they both got a cup of coffee. Mal nodded toward the two black bags, the money back inside them.

“How much?” Mal asked.

“9, 957, 456 credits, mostly in large denomination bills. A lot, but a trifle compared to the Alliance’s resources.”

They sat up drinking coffee as they discussed the reactions they had been observing on the Cortex to their broadcast.

“Where to now, Captain? We can’t stay here forever,” Powers said after the talk drifted a bit.

“No,” Mal replied. “I know a place or two, where you can lay low, maybe even contact the real rebellion, set up a camp.”

“But you’re not joining us?”

“No.” Mal didn’t say anymore.

But Powers knew. “You’re going to Londinium?”

Mal nodded. “Funeral tomorrow. Gotta pay my respects.”

“That’s madness, Mal,” Powers said through clenched teeth. “You’ll bring Serenity right to them. Your face is everywhere. You’ll never get near that funeral.”

“Don’t need to get near the funeral, just Shin,” Mal said.

“He’ll be protected,” Powers warned him, almost in a pleading tone.

Mal put down his coffee cup, looked steadily at Powers. “I wasn’t much for schooling, but I did learn a thing or two. One thing history has taught us, any man can be gotten to.”

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

Derek Bowen dreamed again. This time he was walking through a strange spaceship, barefoot and clad only in a blue t-shirt and pajama bottoms. He walked past a small room where a large man lay face down on a bed and had a white and bloody bandage on his shoulder. Another man, thinner and shorter and with dark black hair, was standing over him, looking at the shoulder, and then he was writing something on a clipboard.

Derek walked on, through a large cavernous area and then to a set of stairs. He went up and up and then was in a hallway. He looked left and could see two men sitting at a table, drinking something and talking, but he couldn’t hear their voices.

He moved down the hall and was on the bridge of a spaceship and didn’t know why but he sat down in a chair and then went to a screen and started hitting keys. For ten long minutes he went through the system, looking at news, advertisements, dating pages, sex sites, animation channels, and many others. Then he stopped and something was there, something for him. After ten seconds watching he knew what he had to do.

He stood and went to the small stairway leading to the lower part of the bridge. A locker was there and without hesitation he turned the tumblers of the combination lock and opened it. He found a large pistol, picked up a magazine with fifteen rounds and loaded the pistol.

Derek walked down the hall toward the two men talking. One was older than the other, had grayish hair, and wore a white shirt and grey suit pants. The other was younger, with brown hair, a large nose, and wore all brown. They just started to notice Derek when he pulled the pistol from behind his back and fired directly at the man in the white shirt.

“Jesus Christ!” Mal yelled in shock as Derek’s bullet hit Powers dead on in the chest and the former Alliance Colonel’s chest blossomed in red as he pitched back in his chair and fell without a sound to the floor.

Mal stood and knew he was dead, the distance between him and Derek too great. He had to run or duck. As his mind raced through his few options, Mal heard a woman scream “Derek!!” and then the gun reported loudly. As Mal started to duck, he felt something strike his head and then all went black before his eyes.

COMMENTS

Sunday, April 26, 2009 6:35 AM

JANE0904


Good chapter! Mr Universe was odd enough to be accurate, and I enjoyed the bank withdrawal that went wrong.

But Derek isn't dreaming, and Mal is now hurt. If River has to take her lover down, what's that going to do to her?


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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.

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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.

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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.