BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Jericho Wells - Part XXIV
Monday, August 3, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Okay, the real heist. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1179    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

They made good time through the sewers, following Freya who was carrying one of the activated emergency lanterns. The bluish-green glow gave them enough light so they didn’t trip over anything, but luckily not enough so that they could see what they were walking in, for which they were grateful. Mostly the liquid running along the bottom of the drain only came up to their ankles, but in a couple of places it was lapping their knees.

“I'm gonna want an extra cut,” Hank complained. “I think something’s getting inside, and these pants were virtually new.”

“You think we ain't all in the same boat?” Jayne countered. “River’s never gonna let me near her ever again.”

“Hey, maybe there is a good side to this after all.”

Jayne growled, but reigned in his impulse to drown the pilot in whatever it was he was currently walking through. He knew Hank was talking because he was nervous, something that Zoe seemed to have come to terms with. Still, if he opened his mouth once more …

Bringing up the rear, Mal shook his head. In this light at least he couldn’t see the vividly bright orangeness of their garb, although he still felt like he was a refugee from some Alliance chain gang. That had been the idea, too, to some degree. If anyone had seen them climbing down into the sewer their coveralls were the same type used by official Jericho Wells Municipal workmen. Hopefully no-one had, but it was another tick in the box of being careful.

Of course, if they were really being careful they wouldn’t be down here at all. They’d all be waiting with Zoe for the results, instead of planning to knock over a bank. Still, the way Mal looked at it, it was Jericho’s fault in the first place. If they hadn’t landlocked his vessel, forced him to sit tight until after the elections, made him and his crew vote in said elections under threat of arrest … well, he wouldn’t be walking through crud right now. He glanced down and shuddered slightly, stepping out of the way of something solid that was being dragged by the current. Even though he really didn’t want to find out what it was, something about the movement fascinated him until it circled an eddy and drifted into the darkness.

“This is it,” Freya said suddenly, coming to a stop.

Mal waded quickly past Hank and Jayne, looking up at the circular hatch. “You sure?”

“Positive.” She pointed to a number stencilled on the underside. “No. 32.”

He smiled. “Shiny.” Glancing over his shoulder he added, “Hank, you’re up. Only I hope this works, otherwise I’m going to have to burn it with the sticky, and apart from being untidy that means it’s more likely we’ll get found out.”

Hank patted his arm. “No need to fret.”

“I ain’t fretting. Just want to get this job over and done.”

“No worries.” The pilot moved under the hatch. “These inspection portals were put in when the bank was built, converted from one of the original town houses,” Hank explained. “But for this design to work properly, they have to have a numerical entry pad either side, and I’m betting they’ve never bothered to change the code.” He blew on his fingertips, despite them being encased in orange plastic. Then, with a quick prayer to any deity that might happen to be listening, he punched in the sequence 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 0. There was a click, a pause, a second click. The lock disengaged.

“Hold it there,” Freya ordered, moving forward to stand directly under the opening, holding something in her hand.

“You getting a signal?” Mal asked, dropping his voice to a whisper

Freya studied the bar meter on the tiny box, the same one River had used to record an empty corridor, and smiled. “Good and strong.”

“How long?”

“Half a minute should do it. Just in case.”

Mal nodded, silently counting under his breath. It seemed like more than thirty seconds, a lot more, but finally Freya was satisfied. She flicked a switch, and the tiny LED on the top changed from green to red as it went from receiving to transmitting.

Mal nodded. “Let’s go, then.” He climbed the first two steps of the ladder attached to the wall, pushing at the hatch. It opened easily, and he continued up. Freya passed him the lantern, and he stood up straight inside the antechamber to the vault.

Heavy bars filled the only entrance, a circular doorway cut through heavy concrete. The walls were blank, featureless, but opposite … there it was. The Sirius Mark 3 safe, made by Holt, Maruck and Watson of New Birmingham, Londinium, all five inch thick, titanium reinforced carbonised steel of it, a small blue light flickering high up on the door.

Mal stood still, hearing the others join him, just staring at the safe, his hands loose by his side. It was possible the damn thing was empty, that they were doing this for nothing, but he was betting that wasn’t the case. It might not be much, but if it paid for the parts Kaylee had needed, maybe put a little into their own safe for a rainy day, then it was worth breaking his already stretched-thin moral code once more.

Jayne humphed. “Sticky ain't gonna work, not on this,” he observed. “Although I do got me some good quality explosive I’ve been itching to try.”

“Not yet,” Mal said, then held up his hand to forestall the inevitable complaining. “I know you’d like to make a big noise, smoke, maybe a little flame, but let’s see if the right way works first, dong mah?”

“Just saying,” the big man growled.

“Hank, anytime you’d like to make me proud.”

The pilot grinned. “Mal, I thought you’d never –”

Guard. Freya didn’t speak, just dropped the word into each of their minds as she switched off the lantern and grabbed the backpacks before pressing herself against the wall by the bars.

Hank quickly pushed the inspection hatch closed, his fingers crossed that it would open again, then joined the others, trying to become one with the grey concrete.

A torch beam flickered around the room, making the shadows dance. It rested for a long moment on the vault door, and they held their collective breath. If the guard decided to come inside, to even peer into the corners … then they heard footsteps walking off, and the room became dark again.

“Now I'm really gonna need a new pair of pants,” Hank muttered as the lantern light bloomed again.

Mal was at the bars, listening carefully. He glanced at Freya, who nodded. “Shiny,” he said, then ordered, “Hank, do it.”

“And for my final trick …” Hank pulled the small EMP gun Kaylee had been playing with, the reason all this started, from inside his backpack. “They tried to hide it,” he said, conversationally. “Did their best to destroy all evidence of the article like it never existed. But once it’s out there, it’s always there. Hanging in the ether. Just waiting for someone like me to –”

“Get on with it,” Jayne growled.

Hank glared at him. “Can’t I have my two minutes of fame?”

“You’re rapidly getting to the end of it,” Mal said, crossing his arms and feeling the coverall tighten across his back.

“Anyway …” Hank drew the word out, pronouncing every syllable. “It was an accident, and they said it wasn’t worth recalling all their product, because who would think to fire an EMP pulse at a safe?” He grinned. “Except me.” He aimed, pulled the small trigger.

Nothing happened.

“That it?” Jayne asked, his forehead creasing, then his eyebrows raised in hope. “You mean I get to blow it anyway?”

“Just wait a minute,” Hank requested, trying the EMP gun again.

“’Cause if I do it’ll take but a few minutes to –”

“Oh, for heavens sake,” Freya interrupted, walking up to the safe door. She glanced up at the blue light that had been flashing but was now dark, and span the circular metal handle. It seemed to freewheel, but there was the noise of bolts being withdrawn, and a low rumble vibrated the floor under their feet as the door swung free.

“See?” Hank said, grinning widely. “Told you. Doesn’t even have the chance to ring an alarm, just disrupts the entire system.” He wiped his hand across his forehead, then sniffed it and grimaced.

Freya pulled the door wider, and Mal stepped through carrying the emergency lantern. He stopped as if he’d hit an invisible wall.

“What?” Jayne asked, surging forwards. “What is it? Is it empty?”

“No … Not … empty.”

The others crowded behind him, seeing the close-packed deposit boxes lining three walls, the locked mini-safes in the back, the central podium with half a dozen steel-reinforced fabric bags sitting right on top …

“Do you think …” Hank began, but couldn’t finish.

“Not sure.” Mal put the lantern down and unbuckled the straps on one of the bags. Unfolding the top, he looked inside.

“Well?” the pilot asked.

For answer Mal tipped it so they could see the jumble of coin and notes inside.

Cao,” Hank breathed as his jaw dropped.

“Gotta agree with you on that,” Jayne said, licking his lips. “How much do you figure’s in there?”

“Enough to keep us flyin’ a while longer,” Mal said, shaking out one of the waterproof sacks they’d brought with them.

Taxes, they all heard, flavoured with River’s unique taste. Collected before the election for passing to the Alliance. She seemed to laugh. Perhaps the truth will stop your morals snapping quite so easily.

Hank and Jayne stared at each other in confusion, but Freya smiled slightly at Mal. He felt a blush burn up his chest, but it stopped before it reached his face. “Don’t just be standing there,” he said quickly. “Get the bags inside. We don’t wanna be tempting fate by hanging around longer’n we need.”

It was a matter of less than a minute to collect the loot, with Freya back down in the sewer to take the sacks as they lowered them to her.

“You sure you don’t wanna have a look-see through the deposit boxes?” Jayne asked, wiping the floor with half a dozen clean rags of anything noxious they’d brought up on their feet. “Seeing as we’re here.”

Mal shook his head. “We got what we came for. More, I’ll conjure. And I don’t particularly feel like taking the little some of these people have.”

“Ya mean like Mercy.”

“Exactly. Taxes, I ain't got no problem with. Loose cash lying around, fine. But family heirlooms, keepsakes … no. Not happening.”

“You know, you really ain’t got the criminal mentality,” Jayne said, stepping out of the safe and wiping the rim.

“I think I might just take that as a compliment.”

“Prob’ly best.” The big man stood straight. “So you’re sure?”

“I'm sure.”

“O-kay.” He pushed the door closed and span the lock. The bolts re-engaged, and the tiny blue light began flashing again.

“See?” Hank said, sitting with his feet in the hole. “It’s just like they found out. The system resets itself like the pulse never happened.”

“All right, all right,” Mal said, sighing. “An extra quarter percent. Just this time.”

Hank grinned. “And on that effusively grateful note …” He held his nose and dropped down.

Jayne went next, handing Mal the rags for the final polish. “You’re gonna spoil him,” he grumbled as he disappeared.

Mal took a few moments to look around, checking Jayne had cleaned up well after them, but every trace had been wiped clean. Smiling slightly, he glanced once more at the closed vault door, then, giving where he’d been standing one last swipe, he dropped back down the inspection hatch, pulling it closed after him. There was a whirr, and it locked.

In the guard’s office there was a tiny break in the signal going to the close circuit screen, one that appeared to be nothing more than a fragment of static, perhaps a breeze caught in the works, which might have been noticed if the guard hadn’t at that moment been answering a call of nature. As it was, when he returned there was nothing out of order, and he settled down with his thermos of cocoa and a well-thumbed comic book.

---

Kaylee was waiting outside Serenity, but before they were even close she was backing away, her face screwed up, a hand clamped over her mouth and nose. “Phew!” she exclaimed. “You stop right there! You … that …”

“Just imagine it from our side,” Mal said, sniffing at his shirt and finally letting his reaction to the stink show on his face as he pulled the ATV to a halt.

“I thought those coveralls would do a better job than that,” Kaylee said indistinctly.

“Jericho Wells seems to produce something that’s a whole lot more corrosive than anticipated.” Mal climbed down. “But then, that’s the way they do things here.” He chuckled, even as Hank and Jayne rolled their eyes.

“I set up a hose so you could clean the mule, but I'm thinking maybe I should use it on you too,” the young mechanic said. “’Cause I think I’m gonna be making an executive decision and not letting you on board until you’re clean.”

“Are you mutinying?”

“You bet.”

Jayne jumped from the mule. “Fine by me,” he said. “Won’t be the first time I've been hosed down ‘fore someone’d let me on a ship.”

Mal closed his eyes briefly. “I’m sure there’s a good story behind that, but for now I really don’t wanna hear it.” He climbed to the ground. “’Kay, little Kaylee. Do your worst.”

---

Some hours and several careful showers later, the crew of Serenity rolled up to the Town Hall to give Zoe moral support for the evening. This time River had insisted on attending, stating, quite plainly, that she was now legal, at least for the time being, and she wasn't intending on missing any fisticuffs.

Mal only argued for the sake of it, giving in more or less gracefully, even when the young woman kissed him on the cheek then told him he’d missed a spot.

Once inside the hall, if they were a little more ebullient and happy than most of the other people standing it around, it was put down to the fact that they were off-worlders, and likely to stay that way. In fact, for the most part, they were totally ignored.

For the most part.

Leo had obviously been waiting for them to arrive, because he waved as soon as they stepped in the door and sidled through the crowds. However, he paused when he got close, his eyes narrowing slightly.

Mal was instantly on the defensive, even more so when the older man pulled him to one side.

“You might wanna take another shower,” Leo said, dipping his head so no-one could hear.

“What?”

“There’s a particular aroma that’s hard to miss. I call it eau de Jericho myself. It comes from wandering around the sewers.”

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“I’ve had to go down ‘em a couple of times myself. When something’s blocked and they can’t find another idiot to do it. Made ‘em pay through the nose, too, but that’s beside the point. Thing is, once you’ve smelled it, you ain't likely to forget.”

Mal looked steadily at the older man. “Like I said, I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if I did, I’d kinda like to know … were you planning on making trouble?”

Leo’s eyes narrowed shrewdly. “I thought you had me figured by now. I ain't one of these fellers around here. They might sell their mother for a leg up, but it ain't in my nature.”

Mal relaxed a micron. “That’s good to know.”

“I just don’t want little Miss Kaylee getting into any trouble. Not in her condition. Hell, not in any condition whatsoever.”

“No trouble, Leo.”

“You can assure me of that? I ain't gonna turn on the Cortex and find her face plastered all over it with a sum of money written big underneath?”

“Not today.”

Leo studied him, for a long time, and was apparently satisfied. “Well, guess that’s the most I can ask for. Eddie’s girl seems to have a good man for a captain.”

“I try, Leo.”

“And I know you can’t promise something you can’t see, but as long as she’s okay today …”

“She is.”

“Good.” Leo nodded. “And I reckon I don’t really want to know what you’ve been up to, although there are a couple of ideas going around my head, at least one of which would make me smile from now until Sunday.”

“You just remember that. In a few hours.”

Leo grinned. “Then that’s good enough.” He slapped Mal on the back and turned to look at the ladies. “Well, here’s a young’un I ain’t met before. Who’s gonna do the introductions?”

River smiled and stepped forward, her hand outstretched. “River Cobb, Mr Gunn.”

Leo shook. “Cobb, eh? You any relation to this lummox?”

Jayne bridled but only said, “This here’s my wife.”

“Wife?” Leo shook his head. “Looks like I'm too late again.”

River laughed, and looped her arm through his. “You’re a bad man, Mr Gunn.”

“Leo, please. And I do try.”

Mal dropped back to stand next to Freya. “Well?” he whispered.

“He won’t tell,” she assured him, then sniffed. “And he’s right, there is still a slight perfume hanging around us.”

“I told you we should have showered together.”

“Then we really wouldn’t have been here on time.”

to be concluded

COMMENTS

Monday, August 3, 2009 7:06 AM

SLUMMING


Well, other than the aggressive stink of the sewer, that little operation went slick as spit! Good times! :)

Monday, August 3, 2009 1:12 PM

WAKEUPSOON


Leo makes me giggle :) He reminds me off my Pa. Overprotective, but in a good way. Lol. Good job XD
Anna.x.(:

Monday, August 3, 2009 4:03 PM

KATESFRIEND


Great job on the heist. And no moral ambiguity of robbing from the Alliance. Loved Hank's criminal mind in this venture. It fit his character perfectly. Looking forward to more.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 3:24 AM

FREEVERSE


Please with the everything turning out all right? I'm loving this tale, Jane.
~freeverse

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 3:36 AM

MAINEAXE


Looking forward to the "Uh Oh".. things are going WAY to smooth.. but then again, Mal didnt plan this "caper". I still feel that "Go se" in the near future and not just the aroma..
Like .. ZOE GETS ELECTED!!!!????!!!
Great stuff..

Yes Please!! may we have another????


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