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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Bethie's elections, and Zoe's campaigning. And maybe a hint of something in Jericho Wells' underbelly ... NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 976 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Here.” Bethie held out a half dozen slips of paper.
They were sitting in the common area outside the infirmary, while Simon busied himself inside, occasionally poking his head around the door just to make sure one or other hadn’t wandered off.
“What are they?” Ethan asked, eyeing them suspiciously.
“This is a ‘lection, so these are your ballot papers.”
“What are we electing?”
“A leader.” She puffed out her chest.
“Someone has to be.”
“That’s not a reason.”
Bethie had explained, as well as she could, but obviously had not been able to get her point across. “Uncle Mal is in charge of Serenity, right?”
“My Daddy, yes.”
“And my Daddy is in charge of the ‘firmary, right?”
“And my Momma is in charge of the engine room, right?”
“So that means I’ve got two people in charge of things on my side, right?”
“So you think that means you’re more in charge of us because you’ve got two on your side?” Ethan asked, trying to get it clear.
“No, course not.” Truthfully that had been in the back of her mind, although torture and being sent to bed early for a month wasn’t going to pry it out of her.
“Only Ben’s Momma is First Mate, and his Daddy is pilot, so maybe that makes him next. After my Daddy of course. Being Captain.” He rubbed it in, just a little.
She didn’t let the annoyance show. “And that’s why we have to have a ‘lection. ‘Cause it’s not clear.”
Ben and Ethan looked at each other, and the young Reynolds rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “Go on then.”
Bethie beamed and handed out the slips, quickly having to stop Cal putting his in his mouth.
“There’s only two names,” Ben pointed out, reading it carefully. Luckily, Bethie had written it very big.
“That’s right. Ethan and me. They’re the nominations.”
She was beginning to get really fed up with that word. “Because Caleb’s too young, so’s Jesse, and Hope ain't interested, and neither are –”
“I am.” He looked at her, his grey eyes shining in his coffee face. “I want to be on the list.”
“Why?” she asked, then slammed her mouth shut.
“Why not?” He could be just as stubborn as his mother sometimes. “Like Ethan said, my Momma’s First –”
“Fine!” Bethie’s raised voice had Simon looking out at them, but she smiled sweetly at him and he went back to counting his supplies, even if it was a trifle warily. “Fine.” She snatched back the ballot papers and added Ben’s name in angry, spiky handwriting. “Okay?”
He nodded. “Okay.”
Handing them out again, she went on, “So now we all put a cross next to the person we want to be in charge.”
Ben stood up. “Not going to let you watch.”
“Why? What do you think I’d do?”
“Make me vote for you.”
She sighed heavily. This wasn’t going at all to plan. “Shiny. Then we all go to different corners and vote there.”
He nodded, his dark curly hair bobbing slightly. “Back in a minute.”
Hope slid off the chair. “I’ll take Jesse. See who she wants to vote for,” she said, taking the little girl by the hand.
“I’ll look after Cal,” Ethan agreed, clambering to his feet and grabbing the young Cobb by the back of his shirt.
“’than?” Caleb asked, his ballot paper somewhat soggy already.
Bethie watched them head off to the other side of the room, and wondered why they thought she was going to make the youngest of Serenity’s children vote for her. Then she shook her head and leaned over the table, her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth as, her arm wrapped around so nobody could see, she put a large black X by her name.
“You can’t do that here!” Cromwell was almost shouting, gesticulating with his clipboard so close to Jayne’s face it was a wonder he hadn’t rapped him on the nose.
“It’s in the rules,” Jayne said, trying to keep his temper, even though his voice was as loud. “Those rules you’re so gorram proud of.”
“But it’s not … you haven’t fulfilled the criteria.”
The big man took a breath, forced his fists to uncurl, and said, as quietly as possible, “What?”
Mal and Freya hurried over. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“This hwoon …” Jayne stopped, took a breath. “He won’t let us set up.”
“That’s just what I'm trying to find out.”
Mal turned on Cromwell. “So? Why ain’t you letting Zoe here do what’s in her constitutional rights to do?”
“Because there aren’t enough of her!” Cromwell realised what he’d said, and turned red. “I meant, there needs to be at least two candidates wishing to campaign. And no-one’s ever done it before, not here on –”
“Here on Jericho, yeah, I get it.” Mal looked at Zoe standing next to Kaylee and Hank, the pilot’s arm around the young mechanic, who looked almost close to tears. Must be those hormones again, he thought. And she ain't the only one. “Look, if it makes you feel any better, we can let the others know. And if they want, they can come play. Ain't that the point of free will?”
“It doesn’t work like that!” Cromwell was more than stubborn. “You have to ask for written permission, then send a formal request to all candidates to attend … you can’t just set up and expect to get away with it!”
Freya had been standing back, her head slightly on one side, her brow furrowed, looking at nothing in particular. “That’s not true,” she said now.
“What?” Cromwell glared at her.
“There’s a clause in the codicil to the rules, put in after just such an occasion as this started a riot on Linken.”
Everyone stared at her, but it was Mal got his mouth working first. “What clause, ai ren?”
Freya didn’t speak for a moment, then said, as if repeating something she was hearing, “That if, during the last four days running up to the election, two of the official candidates make a verbal request to the Presiding Officer –” She looked pointedly at Cromwell. “That’s you.” She went back to the slightly sing-song voice. “– then that Officer has to allow an ad hoc debate to occur at a place and time of their choosing.” Freya smiled. “And that’s here. And now.”
River? Mal thought pointedly.
She read the rules. Freya’s mouth twitched at the corners.
“But … but …” Cromwell tried to get the words out. “But there’s only one of you!”
“No, there isn’t.” Mercy Fischer walked out of the gathering crowd, her colour high but her shoulders determined. “I'm an official candidate, and I’m saying we need that debate. Here and now.”
Mal was glad he wasn’t taking Cromwell’s blood pressure at that moment in time, because it was probably sky high. “Looks like we’ve fulfilled those criteria of yours,” he said jovially.
Cromwell was holding his clipboard so tightly to his chest that his knuckles had gone white. “I … there’s …” He pulled himself together. “I shall go and check the regulations. If I find you’ve circumvented them in any way I shall have no alternative but request the presence of the local Federal Commander to break up this gathering and bind you all into custody.” He turned sharply on his heel and hurried back towards the Election Offices, barely able to stop himself from breaking into a run.
Mal grinned and slapped his hands together. “That went well,” he said.
Freya slid her arm through his. “You just like to upset the establishment.”
“Hey, a little revolution once in a while is a good thing.” He leaned over and put a surprisingly chaste kiss on her cheek, then looked at Mercy. “I think you came along just at the right time.”
“I wasn’t going to come at all,” the young woman admitted. “Then I thought about what you said yesterday, about it being beholden to all of us to try and put right something wrong if we see it.” She gave a shaky smile. “So here I am.”
Zoe walked forward. “I'm glad.”
Mercy went pinker.
“Okay, people,” Kaylee said loudly. “Time to get this show on the road.”
“Quite right, mei-mei,” Mal agreed. “What do you want us to do?”
Kaylee couldn’t have grinned wider. “Been waitin’ all my life for you to say that, Cap!”
He laughed. “Just remember I ain’t at my full health yet.”
“Really?” She looked him up and down. “That ain’t what I heard this morning from your bunk ...”
“I swear I’m gonna get the boat soundproofed,” Mal said, shaking his head but not losing his good humour. “For the sake of my sanity if nothing else ...”
Kaylee soon had them working, and the crowd grew bigger, some going away and telling their friends, then coming back. It didn’t matter where a body was in the ‘verse, Mal mused, but they loved a spectacle. Especially if there was the possibility of violence.
From the corner of his eye he saw Leo Gunn sidle out of the press of people, heading towards where Kaylee was directing Jayne to attach one of the speakers to a conveniently placed metal stanchion.
“Just hold it there,” she was saying, laying the cable along the ground. “I’ll get the fixings and ... oh, hi.” She smiled warmly at Leo.
“You shoulda told me what you were planning on doing, little Kaylee,” he said. “I wouldn’t’a charged you for the gear.”
“That’s okay,” she said. “And if you’re that guilty you can always buy it back again after.”
He chuckled. “Maybe I will. But I got something back at the yard might be a good extra.”
“Oh?” Kaylee plugged the cable into the small generator, turning her face away from the small shower of sparks. “What’s that?”
“Well, I happen to have this Cortex recorder,” he said, glancing around to make sure they weren’t overheard. “Nice little piece, works a treat. I can link it straight into the public access sites, so if I set it up here, your friend’s campaigning is gonna be waved all over the planet.”
Kaylee’s eyes grew wide. “You’d do that?”
“For you?” He put his hand on her shoulder and grinned, showing the gaps in his teeth. “For Eddie Frye’s girl? Anything.”
“That sounds real shiny,” Kaylee said excitedly. “Only don’t tell Zoe. Least, don’t tell Mercy. I ain’t sure she wouldn’t take to the hill if she knew.”
“Just give me a few minutes to go get it.”
He nodded at her and disappeared into the crowd again.
“Um, Kaylee?” Jayne tried to get her attention. “My arms are getting tired?”
“Oh, sorry,” Kaylee said, hurrying as much as her condition would allow.
“Here.” Ben held out his ballot paper. “All done.”
“Ours too,” Hope agreed, putting hers and Jesse’s onto the table.
“And mine,” Ethan said. “Sorry, but Cal ate his.”
Bethie shrugged. “Counts as a spoiled vote.”
“’Less you wanna wait a day or two,” the little boy went on, his nose crinkling. “Though I ain’t going through his diaper.”
Bethie didn’t dignify that with an answer, just smooth the slips out. “Huh.”
“What?” Ethan studied them with her.
Of the five remaining papers, one was clearly marked with a cross next to Ben’s name, two were marked up for Ethan and one for Bethie. The last had a very accurate pencil sketch of the little girl next to Bethie’s name.
Hope grinned. “That’s mine,” she said, then glanced at Ben. “Sorry.”
“S’okay,” he said, holding her hand. “She’s your sis. It’s allowed.”
“So that’s two each,” Ethan said, looking up at Bethie. “Now what?”
Bethie thought for a moment. “We vote again.”
“And how’s that gonna be any different?”
“Just you and me. Two names.”
“And Cal’ll eat his again – he liked the taste. And I’ll vote for me, you’ll vote for you, Jesse’ll vote for me, Hope’ll vote for you …” His eyes moved to Ben. “Looks like it’d be up to you,” he said to his friend.
“Casting vote,” Bethie agreed, remembering Auntie Frey talking about just that option.
“Me?” Benjamin Malcolm Hoban Mills squeaked, and felt his heart sink.
“You’re it,” Ethan said.
“You get to decide who’s in charge,” Bethie explained more fully, moving forward.
“I get that.” Ben backed up. He knew who he wanted to vote for, because Ethan was his pal. But self-preservation suggested he might be better off –
“No.” It was River, standing at the turn of the stairs, looking down at them. “The game’s over.” She walked down towards them, her bare feet making no sound as usual. “No more elections.”
“But there has to be a leader,” Bethie insisted.
River smiled. “Of course. But it depends on what the situation is.” She slid into one of the easy chairs.
“I don’t understand.”
River lifted Caleb off the floor and onto her lap, where he immediately began to play with the bullet on the chain around her neck. “Mal is the Captain. But if someone is hurt, my brother takes over. And if there’s a problem with the engine, then Kaylee is in charge.”
“And if we’re having to get away from Reavers …” Bethie said slowly, not liking where this was going.
“Then Hank is the leader.”
“How old are you?” River asked, as if she’d forgotten.
Bethie was caught off guard for a second. “Six.”
“Is that all?”
“Six. And a half.”
“How old am I?”
“Auntie River …”
“How old is Caleb’s daddy?”
Bethie slumped in her chair. “I know.”
“We’re just kids.”
“Yes, you are. And you can run and jump and play and fight and do all those things that grown-ups get told off doing.”
“Still do them,” Bethie said, her voice quiet but still with a trace of belligerence in it.
“Yes, we do.” River smiled. “But if someone tried to take Cal away from us, what would you do?”
The little girl sat up straighter. “Fight ‘em,” she said.
“Exactly. Because he’s your brother.”
“Yes.” River looked at her. “Do you understand?”
Bethie sighed. “Yes, Auntie River.” Then a shrewd look crossed her face. “Can I still tell them what to do?”
River laughed, a giggle so like the girl she had once been before she ever became the woman that it made Simon look out of the infirmary at her, and grin widely. “Of course you can. That doesn’t stop. But sometimes they’ll tell you what to do too, and you have to do it. That’s why it’s called a democracy.”
“A dem … what?”
River stood up. “Ask your Auntie Frey at the next lessons. I'm sure she’ll be glad to explain.” With Caleb on her hip, she walked to the stairs. “Now, who’s for …” Her voice faded away and she stood silently, her eyes unfocused.
“Auntie River?” Bethie prompted.
“River, are you all right?” Simon hurried to his sister’s side.
A slow smile grew across her face. “Bethie, do you know where Auntie Frey keeps the portable Cortex link?”
Bethie nodded. “In the cupboard in the kitchen.”
“Then go and get it out.” She looked up at Simon. “Things are about to get interesting.”
And interesting it was. By the time they were ready the square was filled with people, and the small cafés were doing roaring business selling coffee and other refreshments.
“You ready for this?” Zoe asked, looking down into Mercy’s violet eyes.
“Me neither. But let’s give ‘em a good show.”
Mercy nodded, then caught hold of Zoe’s arm. “I ... don’t know what to say.”
“Say what you think. What you think of me, coming here, making waves. About my history.”
“I couldn’t do that!” Mercy was shocked at the very idea.
“You can, and you must.” Zoe looked past her towards the audience, waiting for the fireworks to begin. “There’s a good few women out there, maybe more than half. And they want to hear what you have to tell them. They need you, Mercy. More’n they know.” Zoe had seen Leo surreptitiously setting his Cortex recorder in place, half hidden behind some foliage but getting a good view. Not that she was about to frighten the young woman in front of her even more. “Just tell them what’s in your heart.”
When it was all over, none of the Firefly’s crew could be certain exactly what was said, although River kept a memory tab hidden safely amongst her trinkets in case anyone ever asked.
Zoe used some of the speech so painstakingly written for her, putting the case for women to have the right to decide their futures for themselves clearly, concisely, winning over more than a few waverers to the cause.
But it was Mercy who was the revelation. She had obviously taken good note of Zoe’s words, because she let her own flow. And if she made her opponent seem a little tarnished, it was done with subtlety and wit, not overtly criticising, but making it plain that Jericho Wells needed a Jericho-born, not someone who just happened to land at the wrong time.
“You know,” Mal said to Freya standing at the edge of the crowd, “I think maybe we’ve created a monster.”
“She’s a natural,” his wife said. “It just had to be let loose.”
“Kinda what I said.”
Freya nudged him. “Look.”
He half-turned. “Ah. Think they’re gonna complain?”
It was Polly Adams and Bea Jarvis, huddled together, their forms radiating tension as they talked quietly.
“I don’t see how.” She glanced at Zoe, who was rebutting some of Mercy’s claims. “They could just as easily join in if they wanted.”
Anger was evident on Polly’s pinched, thin face, and her finger was poking at her companion.
“Maybe they figure it’s a real competition now, ‘stead of just a game,” Mal suggested.
“Then that’s all to the good.” She didn’t sound convinced, though.
“Ai ren?” Mal dropped his head to look into her face. “What is it?”
“I’m ... not sure.” Freya’s forehead wrinkled. “Just a taste ... it’s probably nothing.”
“Well, it ain’t like the crowd is armed.” He looked around at the wide variety of expressions on the faces of the people watching the debate.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Freya said slowly. “I am. So are you. And Jayne. I’m pretty sure Zoe’s got something tucked in her boot. That’s four of us. I can’t say I’d be surprised to find most of the Jericho men have something on them.”
Mal stirred uneasily. “Maybe we should warn Mercy, make sure she has someone to keep an eye on her.”
to be continued
Monday, June 29, 2009 3:45 AM
Monday, June 29, 2009 6:37 AM
Monday, June 29, 2009 11:40 AM
Monday, June 29, 2009 1:04 PM
Saturday, July 04, 2009 8:17 AM
Sunday, July 05, 2009 2:57 PM
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