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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Post-BDM Mal/Inara re-post. (There's stuff missing between 'Sorry' and this - Serenity's crew has discovered a settlement of Core revolutionaries and Zoe has broken down about the loss of Wash. 'Truth Was' pretty much carries on from this one.)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 916 RATING: SERIES: FIREFLY
There were a lot of conversations needed to be had and Mal didn’t know where to start. Knew where he wanted to start: what had Simon found out about Inara’s condition? But what he wanted and what was right? Seemed like those two things had always followed one after the other real nicely in the past. That leading to him nonetheless getting his ass kicked time and time again didn’t mean it wasn’t true. Right order of things in this case was: find River, get Zoe back to the ship with as much of her dignity intact as possible, fill Simon in on the boy. Find out more about him and what that meant for River. Find out how the hell these people had put Serenity and the wave about Miranda together. Find out what was going on with Inara.
Then there was the actual job of getting the settlers’ cross to Cornelius to be done. Probably that should go higher up on the list. But whatever way you looked at it, Serenity wasn’t going nowhere without her pilot. Which took him back to finding River.
“The locking in the mess part of the day – how’d that pan out?” he asked Simon, as they made their way through the ship towards the mule.
“She said she had to look for something and we’d get in the way.” Simon stole a glance at Mal’s expressionless face. “She didn’t hurt anyone.”
“She coulda walked. Didn’t have to bring the ship here. Only a couple miles. Waste of fuel,” said Mal.
“Are you serious?”
“How’d you all come to be in the mess?”
“Inara and I had finished on the Cortex.” (Good time to ask, all casual-like, Yeah, about that…?) “We were in the mess anyway. Kaylee came to join us. River came in, said she had a game she wanted us all to play. We were concerned. It felt like the sort of behavior we thought was over. So we went along with it. She said Jayne had to be there, so we called him in. And then she locked us in. We just sat there while she locked us in.”
“Don’t sound good.”
They were standing on the ramp. Simon sighed. “I know. But it seems like she had a good reason. You think this boy is from the Academy?”
“He’s from Londinium.”
“I’ve always wondered, if the Academy on Osiris was the only one.”
“What do you want for River? You want a cure for her?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes I want to remove every trace of what happened to her. Sometimes I just want her to be safe. Not to get taken back.”
“Think about how you might go about that?”
Simon looked out into the darkness surrounding the settlement. “Sometimes.”
Mal was about to ask him, ask him if he planned on ever letting the rest of the crew in on that, when he saw Susan approaching the ship.
“They’re back,” she said, immediately turning to show them the way.
Strike that first item from the Captain’s To-Do List thought Mal.
They were all gathered in the front part of the store again when Zoe appeared quietly at his side. Strike Item 2 was Mal’s thought as he took in Zoe’s calm and upright bearing. Wasn’t the time to be astounded all over again by her strength, courage and sheer reliability – not with River and the boy sitting on the floor surrounded by miles of rolls of strips of white paper – but he’d be sure to get to it later.
Simon was sitting on a wooden chair, bent over to the polished floorboards, watching River watching the boy intently unfurling the paper, spreading it around him as though there was a pattern to it all. Susan was there, also the man who had been with her upon their arrival, and a handful of other settlers.
“Who uses paper on this world?” Mal asked.
The man, Thomas, smiled. “There’s a man who owns the main general store in Warminger.” This was the planet’s ‘capital’, where Zoe had first met the settlers and offered Serenity’s services. “He’s a true eccentric in a lot of ways, one of them being that he loves ancient technology. And I mean ‘Earth-That-Was’ kind of ancient. Not antique, just ancient. Ancient junk. And one of the things he’s got is this thing he puts his sales into. When someone pays for something, he pushes some buttons on this machine and it prints the amount he’s taken on to paper. That paper. He’s got rolls and rolls of it.”
Mal stared closely. “Can’t see any numbers on it. More like dots. And dashes. Like Morse Code.”
“That’s what we thought, at first! Dogger started disappearing to Warminger and coming home with all this paper stuffed into his pockets. We took it back to the storekeeper but he said he’d finished with it. Said Dogger was coming every day, sitting in front of the Cortex screen for hours and from time to time scribbling things down. The storekeeper was starting to keep the rolls he’d finished with so that Dogger could use them.”
“This store’s got a Cortex screen?” Zoe asked. “How’re they powering that?”
“It’s Blue Sun-sponsored. You’ll see them more and more in the Rim worlds’ big towns. This one’s virtually brand-new. The storekeeper didn’t want it – of course not – but his wife signed the contract over his head. Must have been seduced by the promise of a new shop-front with a holo-window, Blue Sun products at less-than-wholesale price, all of that.”
“It’s advertising,” Zoe stated.
Thomas nodded. “That’s pretty much what it shows. Hours and hours of broadcasting of Blue Sun’s message of peace and hope, whether it’s soda commercials or the news – it’s all rank shit coming out of the same backside.”
Mal smiled; there was something about Thomas he liked.
“Anyway,” Thomas went on, “until the screen was installed Dogger spent most of his time round here, doing things that were clearly very meaningful for him but not wholly understandable to anyone else. Building things, making things, mainly.”
“He’s” – Zoe lifted a shoulder – “backward? Forward?”
Susan answered. “We think he’s autistic.”
Everybody looked at Dogger, who was still endeavoring to pin down the paper that kept curling up.
“Everything we know about the school in Londinium suggests that the pupils were autistic, of the type that are very gifted.”
“Triad of diagnosis details inability to relate socially with absence of imaginative play and poor speech and language,” River said without removing her eyes from Dogger. “But he likes me.” She surprised by everyone by leaning over to him and kissing him on the cheek with a loud smack.
Susan conveyed further surprise at the fact that Dogger smiled: “Well. They’ve formed some kind of bond.”
“She’s special too,” said Mal, in a tone that earned him a sharp look from Simon.
“A bond formed by similar experience,” Simon said, standing up. “Don’t you think that’s what it must be?”
“Yes,” said River. “Hansel and Gretel.” She held up her hands with her shoulders hunched and fingers splayed like claws. “Deep, dark wood.” She cackled. “Bad blue witch!”
Mal and Zoe exchanged a glance, looked over at Simon, hovering near River, making an effort not to reach out to her, to stroke away her behavior. As he had said to Mal earlier, it was a throwback to a River that they could hardly have forgotten – it was the only way any of the crew but her brother had ever seen her – but which they had all been hoping was in the past. Only, it was different. And that word that had surprised Mal when he’d searched and found it before – happy – came to him again.
She was excited. She was playing. She was pleased.
“So – about the paper,” Mal prompted Thomas.
“Oh yes, right. Well, so we realized why he was spending so much time away from the settlement when we found about the Cortex screen. And we worked out that he was writing down something that he was seeing. In the dots and dashes. Some kind of message, or series of messages. And then one day he came back with some writing on it.”
“That’s what he’s looking for,” said River.
Thomas held up his hands in exasperation. “Dogger!” he said. “Don’t you remember, you gave it to me! It’s here! – I’ve got it in my pocket.”
It seemed that now that the paper had been found Thomas was content to cross his legs and gaze past the others, as though the gathering was no longer of any interest to him.
Thomas went over to the store’s main table, where jeans, soap, candles and various other things were laid out. He cleared a space and unfurled a strip of paper about a metre long. A series of neat characters covered it from top to bottom. Everybody but River and Dogger gathered around.
Simon read out loud, translating directly from the Chinese: “Serenity. Miranda. It was Serenity. Firefly Serenity. Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Former Independent. First Officer Zoe Washburne. Former Independent.”
Simon continued reading: Serenity’s specifications to the digit and letter. And then the message seemed to start again – ‘Serenity. Miranda. It was Serenity.’ Mal felt his blood run cold.
Friday, November 20, 2009 5:52 PM
Saturday, November 21, 2009 11:51 AM
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