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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
In the sixth part of WASH: DOUBLE BOOKED, The crew stages a big damn rescue, and everyone's invited -- you, too, folks. *grin* Will the plan go smooth? Read on and find out!!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 861 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Silas Macawber sat in Flynt’s air traffic control center and waited for the end of his shift.
That’s what he did most days, and even though it was boring as hell, it suited him just fine. After all, they paid him good credits every day just to sit there for eight hours at a time and monitor the planetary traffic system. Since the only ships that showed up were Alliance transports and cruisers, you could set your watch by the schedule they kept. That meant that Silas had one of the cushiest jobs on the moon – keeping an eye on something that didn’t really need watching.
Still, the regular schedule had to be maintained, and that meant Silas needed to be here every day for his eight-hour shift, regardless of whether there was any incoming traffic due. Today was a little different, what with the Firefly transport moving into orbit and the shuttle landing a few hours ago. But other than that, the sky above was empty, leaving Silas at loose ends, as usual.
To kill some time, the controller was getting a lengthy foot massage from Wynona, his personal slave girl. She was a stunningly beautiful brunette with green eyes, a beautiful smile, and absolutely no clothing – not that it seemed to matter to her. In fact, nothing ever seemed to matter to her but his happiness, which suited him just fine, considering the completely unfulfilling nature of his job.
He’d taken her as his only minutes after she’d first walked off the Alliance cruiser that brought her here, unaware that her career as a sensor maintenance technician was about to turn into a full-time job as a sex toy and personal slave. Whatever they were pumping into the air worked pretty quickly, and she barely knew what was happening before she found herself naked and collared ... and in the service of Second Class Air Traffic Control Officer Macawber for the past three years.
As Silas looked down at her kneeling before him, his toes resting on her magnificent breasts as her strong fingers pressed into his arches, he saw the look of adoration and love in her eyes, and wondered if he could take her right here in the control room before the next shift started.
‘Damn,’ he thought with a smile. ‘Life is good.’
Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
An alarm began to sound. At first, it was a gentle beeping, but when Silas failed to respond (never having heard that particular sound before), it grew louder and more insistent. By the time Silas reluctantly removed his feet from Wynona’s ministrations, the beeping had become a klaxon, and entire areas of the main board had begun flashing bright red. Cursing, he stared at the screens, only to find the words “PROXIMITY ALERT” blinking above displays that showed an object with a rapidly decaying orbital trajectory from several different angles.
Reading the object’s transponder ID, Silas realized it was the Firefly transport, and it seemed to be heading directly for the airspace right above Hustler. He flicked a few switches, swiveled the mike into position, and began speaking.
“Firefly transport! This is Flynt Control! Break off! I repeat, break off!” The warning came out a bit high-pitched with a slight quavering, and he struggled to regain some kind of command tone before trying again. After all, this was being recorded. “You are engaged in an illegal approach! Return to orbit at once! You have not been cleared to land!”
The response was a little slow in coming, but the vid screen came to life, revealing a close-up of a woman with a lop-sided smile and a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, honey,” she said, her voice clear and strong through the control room’s speakers. “We’re not plannin’ to land. We’re just gonna hover over your city for a while and let the engines burn it to the ground ... unless you release our two crewmembers and return our shuttle, a’course.”
Silas felt his jaw drop as the words registered. He reached over and turned on the external monitors, slaving the cameras to the telemetry data so he could focus in on the piece of sky where the Firefly was supposed to be.
He needn’t have bothered.
In the center of the monitor, less than a hundred meters above him, two balls of fire framed a spacecraft hull, holding it suspended almost directly above the center of the city. He could almost feel the heat from the engines through the screen, even though the sweat pouring down his face had nothing to do with fire – and everything to do with that Firefly.
The blood drained from his face as he realized he’d let that ship get too close to Flynt’s capital city. The fact that he had no real way to stop them wouldn’t matter to the mayor ... or the Governor. It was clear that no matter how this ended, he was going to find himself without a job.
At first, that bothered him more than the thought of watching Hustler burn. Until he remembered he was IN Hustler, towards the top of City Hall. And if she started from the highest point and moved downward ... well, that focused his attention.
“Maybe you should get your head honcho on the line,” the woman continued, still smiling, “before I decide to cut altitude and set fire to that big damned department store across the street. Be an awful shame to fry all that merchandise ... and all those shoppers. Don’t you think?”
Silas’s hand reached for the phone before his head even knew he was reaching.
Serenity’s second shuttle had separated from the main ship as the Firefly had passed over City Hall on its way to the center of Hustler. The small ship landed so quickly that it was barely in the air for a full second before touching down lightly in the center of the air car circle.
Sean Barris, the young police officer in charge of the landing area, didn’t even see it leave the Firefly. He just saw it land in a restricted zone without clearance, and marched out to the landing pad intending to cite the people responsible before ordering them to clear the pad.
He reached the door of the shuttle just in time for its door to open and reveal a dark-haired man in an Osiris-tailored business suit, his eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. A young woman stood behind him, also in business attire, but her submissive posture and the silver collar around her neck made it plain she was just as much a slave as every other woman on Flynt.
“You can’t park that here!” The officer pointed at the shuttle. The new arrival held up one hand, gesturing for silence. When he raised the other hand, it held an Alliance ident badge, identifying him as Lawrence Dobson, special agent.
“Let me ask you something,” the man said, his voice as calm as a frozen lake. “Officer ...?”
“Officer Barris.” The man nodded, and put his ID away. “If you’ll look behind me, you’ll see a Firefly-class transport hell-bent on setting fire to your capital city. Your planetary governor made the mind-bogglingly stupid mistake of luring that ship to this moon – a moon the rest of the Verse doesn’t even believe exists, mainly because we didn’t want anyone to know it was here.”
“So the Alliance spent billions of credits to equip and hide this moon specifically to conduct highly classified, need-to-know research, and now that research is about to be burned to the ground by a ship full of women who want their men back, or else – and all because Hugh Aubrey wanted some pretty new slave girls to play with, and didn’t want to wait for the next Alliance ship to bring him some.”
He straightened his shoulders, and stared at the officer. “Now, here’s that question I was going to ask you, son, so pay attention. We’re in the midst of a planet-wide emergency, with the city in danger, lives on the line, and only minutes left before your capital starts to burn – and you want me, the only Alliance agent on the planet with a hope in Hell of stopping this massacre, to drop everything, get back in my ship ... and find another place to PARK?”
Officer Barris looked past the man at the Firefly a few blocks over, its engines cooking the tar on the roofs of the buildings below it. Then he looked back at the man.
“Sorry, Agent Dobson,” he said, snapping to attention. “What are your orders?”
“Let’s start by having a little talk with Governor Aubrey about what the words ‘operational security’ really mean,” the agent replied. “Maybe we can still salvage this mess if he hasn’t done something really stupid, like kill his hostages.”
“Yes, sir.” The two men and one woman walked back to the doors leading down into the building, completely oblivious to the two women who waited just inside the shuttle, watching them leave.
Zoe stood clear of the doorway and looked at Inara. Her hair had been lengthened to reach just above her hips and colored to a honey blonde, and her eyes were now bright green. She wore nothing but a silver collar, a smile, and a pair of silver four-inch heels.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” The first mate asked, her voice muffled by the breathing mask she wore. Inara nodded.
“We need the other shuttle for the rest of the plan to work,” the Companion replied, “and Kaylee can’t rig a remote control from the ship. So somebody has to go down and fly it while River and Simon are rescuing Mal and Jayne. Since I’m immune to the Pax, that somebody has to be me.”
Zoe put her hand on the other woman’s arm. Inara smiled. “I’ll be fine, really, Zoe. Just a short walk to the docks, over to the shuttle, then fly away. As Mal would say, ‘easy peasy.’”
“Ain’t nothing easy about walking to the dock in those heels,” Zoe smiled and shook her head. “Sensors say the roof is empty, and you’re clear at least three levels down before you’re gonna meet anybody. Good luck, ‘Nara. Anything happens, you know we won’t leave without you.”
“I know.” The Companion walked to the door, turned and gave a wave, and was gone.
Pressing the plate that closed the shuttle door, Zoe slipped into the pilot’s seat and watched Inara on the external monitor as she cat-walked across the landing pad to the stairs leading down. Once she was sure the other woman was on her way, she began bringing the ship as close to being fired up as she dared without actually tipping anyone who might come by that someone was still aboard.
“You really should consider joining us on Flynt, Captain Reynolds.” Aubrey leaned back in his chair and looked at his two prisoners. “It’s a man’s paradise.”
“Depends on the man,” Mal replied, “and what he thinks is paradise.”
“What could be better than a world where women do whatever a man wants?”
The captain grinned. “A world where a woman does what she wants – and decides to please a man because she wants to.”
Aubrey looked at Mal in disbelief for a moment, then shook his head and turned to Jayne.
“What about you, Mr. Cobb? There’s always a place for a man of your talents here.”
“Wrong fella to ask, I’m thinkin’,” Jayne replied, giving the Governor a smirk. “Hell, I only just figgered out a few weeks ago that a woman who wants me because I’m me is a hell of a lot better than a doxy who only wants me for my coin.”
“But the women here on Flynt are dedicated to your happiness,” Aubrey insisted, leaning forward in his chair. “You don’t have to lift a finger to get them to want you.”
“Yeah, but some things are worth workin’ for, sah gwah. Some women, too, I reckon.” Jayne shrugged. “You like women who don’t say no. I just finished learnin’ I like the chase almost as much as I like catchin’ them. And I got someone I’m chasin’ right now. Somebody I love.”
Mal shot him a look, but the other man ignored it and kept looking at Aubrey. “So you keep your ‘paradise,’ mister. There ain’t nothin’ here for me.”
The intercom buzzed.
“Governor Aubrey?” The voice on the other end of the line shook a little. “This is air traffic control. There’s a Firefly transport hovering over the center of town, threatening to burn down the city. They want to talk to you about getting their men back.”
Aubrey stared at the intercom, then looked up at Mal. The captain shrugged.
“That would be my crew, I expect. Sounds like you’re at the mercy of a bunch of women who really like doin’ what they want.” Mal smiled. “Maybe you’d best tend to that before they turn your capital to smoke and ash.”
The Governor licked his lips and looked back at the intercom.
“Put them through,” he said. There was a click. “This is Governor Aubrey.”
“Well, hello, Governor!” The voice that came through the tinny speaker was cheerful and undeniably female. “So glad you could take the time out of your busy schedule to take my call, what with your city bein’ only a few inches from bein’ char-broiled and all.”
“What do you want?”
“Oh, some strawberries would be nice, maybe with a bit of ice cream on the side.” Aubrey could almost hear her smile. “But what we’d REALLY like is the captain and Jayne back, and sooner rather than later. Otherwise you’ll get to see what the engines on an unarmed transport can really do.”
“Maybe you should take your ship back into orbit,” Aubrey said, trying to sound in control. “Or I’ll kill them both.”
“And maybe you should think a while before you make a threat like that,” the woman replied, her voice taking on an unmistakable edge. “’Cause if anything happens to them, there ain’t gonna be nothing stopping us from flying across this little moon and frying every town we come across, startin’ with this one, until we run out of cities ... or fuel.”
“Don’t push me, girl,” the Governor growled. “Back off now, or we’ll blow you out of the sky!”
“With what, Mister Aubrey? As far as our sensors can tell, there ain’t anything on this moon bigger than a huntin’ rifle, and all that would do is scratch our paint and make me mad ... well, madder than I am now. If there was somethin’ bigger, you woulda used it already. So there ain’t.”
The voice took on a teasing tone. “Who woulda thought the Alliance woulda left you bare-assed naked when it came to defendin’ your own selves, just because they thought no one would know you were here? If only they had left you a few missile-launchers, maybe ... or a garrison of fine Alliance troops just to keep you all safe. But no – you’ve got nothing that can stop us. Nothing at all. And that’s why one little ol’ Firefly can come along and take it all away ... unless you give us back our men and let us be on our merry. Donh-mah?
As they approached the door to the Governor’s office, the Alliance agent stopped.
“River.” He spoke with an unmistakable air of command. “I need you to keep an eye on the location of the Firefly. Go to air traffic control and contact me when you know something.”
“Yes, Master.” The young girl threw a smirk at her brother behind the police officer’s back before spinning and gliding down the hallway. The officer in question looked at the agent curiously, and ‘Dobson’ looked back and smiled.
“Not to worry, son,” he said. “She knows her place, like all the women on Flynt. She’ll do her job, and that’ll help me do mine, right?” Barris nodded, and the agent smiled. “Good man. Now let’s head on in and see about saving your city.”
He reached for the doorknob.
“You can’t kill everyone on Flynt for two men!” Aubrey rose to his feet, his voice rising with the rest of him. “That’s insane!”
“Well, maybe it’s that time of the month, mister Governor sir,” the voice replied, shifting to a harder edge. “You know how moody and outta sorts a girl can get – especially when she’s not bein’ brain-burned by that gos se you’re pourin’ into the air down there.”
“You know about that?”
She laughed, and Aubrey felt the blood drain from his face. “You think a woman would want to be your slave ‘cause it’s fun? You got to be doin’ something to make ‘em obey. We just didn’t know what it was for sure ... until you told us just now.”
Aubrey fell back into his chair, stunned that he’d given away Flynt’s secret so easily.
‘How did this go so wrong so fast?’ he thought. ‘And how can I fix it before it gets any worse?’
“So let’s talk about how we get our boys back,” the voice continued, “so we can get on with our lives and you can go back to being a slave-mongering lecherous hump who thinks he’s God.”
The door swung open and everyone turned to see two men standing in the doorway. The tall one in a business suit put his finger to his lips as he walked across the room, holding his ID up where Aubrey could see it. He pointed to the intercom and watched as Aubrey punched the mute button.
“Who the hell are you?” the Governor said, and the agent gave him a look that Mal recognized as being a male version of the one River used when she thought you were being stupid.
“Lawrence Dobson, Alliance operative,” he growled. “I’m the man who’s going to save your sorry ass, Aubrey, along with everyone else on this rock. After all you’ve done to screw up an operation it took us years to set up, you’re lucky the Alliance left somebody behind who knows what the hell he’s doing, instead of trusting you to keep things nice and quiet – like you were SUPPOSED to.”
The agent turned to the officer he’d brought with him.
“Get these men up to the roof and wait for me there,” he said. “I’ll be up in a minute.”
Barris saluted, and Mal and Jayne stood up. ‘Dobson ‘ looked at both men.
“Just go with him, both of you, and you’ll soon be back on your ship. Try anything else, and everyone loses, yes?”
The captain and the mercenary looked at each other, and back at the agent.
“Whatever you say, ‘Lawrence,’” Jayne said with a smirk. “We’ll just wait up on the roof, right, Cap’n?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Mal replied, the corners of his lips twitching just a bit. “Needin’ a bit of fresh air anyway.”
The two walked to the door and straight through it. The officer gave the agent a look and followed behind them, one hand on his gun still in its holster. He shut the door behind him, and ‘Dobson’ looked back at the Governor in disgust.
“I’d ask you what the hell you were thinking when you brought this man and his gorram ship to a top-secret installation, but I just don’t have the time – even though I suspect your answer would be, ‘thinking? I’m supposed to think first?’”
Aubrey’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. The agent nodded. “That’s about the level of intelligent discourse I’d expect from you, after deliberately bringing a known Independent sympathizer and his crew here.”
“He was a Browncoat, Aubrey! Sergeant in the war, fought at Serenity Valley. I know you knew that – I’ve read your mail, and watched your conversations with that idiot Berenger – and yet, even though you knew he was an enemy of the Alliance, you lured him here anyway. Now he knows about Flynt – and if he knows, others will, too!” ‘Dobson’ shook his head. “I can’t let him leave, but I can’t let them burn the planet, either. So I get to clean up your mess.”
The Governor cleared his throat.
“What ... what do you want me to do?” The agent pointed at the intercom.
“Tell them they win,” he said with a grimace. “Then tell ‘em to send a shuttle to the roof to pick up their men. I’ve got a magnetic mine placed on the center of the pad, disguised as part of the landing pad’s navigation array. They’ll land right on top of it, and the mine will attach itself to the bottom of the shuttle. Then they’ll fly back to their ship, and I’ll wait until they’re far enough away before I set it off.”
“Why wait?” Mayor Danbury spoke for the first time, and the agent gave him a withering stare.
“Because I’m trying to save the city, you idiot. Blowing up that Firefly over Hustler will start the very fire we’re trying to avoid. Am I the only person in this room who can think?”
‘Dobson’ turned his attention back to Aubrey. “Tell ‘em they win and get that shuttle down here, now. Let’s finish this thing.”
Inara Serra didn’t care about being naked and collared on a world full of people who wanted to see her dead. She just wanted to make sure her part of the getaway plan went smooth.
She was surprised no one had stopped her. Not leaving the police station, not walking through the center of town, not even when she’d reached the docks. It was like being invisible. Women mattered so little on this planet that even being stark naked barely managed to catch the interest of men who had their own sex slaves to look at.
Inara almost found herself a little upset at how little attention she was getting, until she realized that a woman about to steal a small spaceship from the center of a crowded city really should prefer being unnoticed. She shook her head and focused on her mission.
The clicking of her heels as she walked down the line of empty bays echoed on the walls of the dispatch office, and as she approached the shuttle, she heard a door open behind her.
Justin Hammer, Flynt’s dockmaster, was sitting at his desk when he heard something echoing out on the docks. He switched on the monitors just in time to see a lone girl walking down the line.
‘What the hell is she doing here?’ he asked himself, then rose and walked over to his office door. She was just passing by as he opened it.
“You! Girl!” His voice stopped her in her tracks, and she turned, eyes down.
She stopped and turned, eyes down. “Yes, Master?”
“What’re you doing here?”
“I was sent to deliver a message to dockmaster Hammer.”
Hammer nodded. “I’m him. What’s the message?”
“Governor Aubrey wants you immediately.”
“Well, now,” Hammer said, thoughtfully. “That’s strange. Why not just comm me?”
“He said something about not causing a panic, Master.” The girl stayed still. Hammer’s eyes narrowed, and then he looked up to see the Firefly hovering over the city. He nodded again.
“The bitches on that transport are trying something, and he doesn’t want to broadcast anything where someone would overhear.”
“This girl does not know.” There was a slight pause. “My Master wishes you to take the Firefly’s shuttle to City Hall and land on the roof, Master.”
She shrugged, her eyes still down. “This girl does not know,” she repeated. “She does what she is told, and Master wanted her to tell you to take the shuttle.”
Hammer eyed her from the doorway to his office, and sighed.
“I’m going to have to check in with the Governor on this,” he said. “Come in here while I make the call.”
“Yes, Master.” The girl strutted forward, and as the dockmaster watched her walk towards him, he thought maybe he could have a bit of fun with her before sending her back to the Governor.
As she walked through the door, Hammer’s hand reached over and cupped a breast, giving it a small squeeze. The girl smiled at him happily, then took his hand and twisted it hard, pinching it in such a way that the pain shot up through his arm and took him totally by surprise. He gave a strangled cry.
“Oh, am I hurting you, Master?” She smiled and gave his arm an extra twist. “Let me put you out of your misery.”
She slipped her leg behind his and pushed him hard. As Hammer fell, Inara kicked him in the head, and by the time he reached the ground, he was mercifully unconscious.
The Companion stripped off the man’s shirt and tied his arms with it, then dragged his body into a closet and left it there.
‘Zoe was right,’ she thought with a smile as she walked out the office and headed for the shuttle once more. ‘The hardest thing about this job was walking here in those heels.’
Kaylee shut down the main comm, smiling like she’d just won a million creds.
“That was so shiny! He up and folded like a busted parasol, just like River said he would.” She looked over at the pilot. Linda’s arms were shaking, and sweat was slowly trickling down the sides of her face. “Oh, honey! You look beat. Can I take over for you?”
“Nice thought,” Linda replied, sparing the mechanic a quick smile even as her voice betrayed her fatigue. “But you can’t. If I let go of the stick even for a second, bad things will happen.”
“I could turn on the autopilot ...” Kaylee’s hand strayed towards the button.
“NO!” Her strangled yell froze the mechanic’s finger an inch from the button. She looked at Linda, eyes wide, and the pilot sighed.
“I’m sorry, Kaylee, but we can’t. The autopilot’s fine for out in the black with nothing but vacuum to bump into. But this close to dirt, surrounded by buildings with changing winds and balanced on the big engines, Serenity needs someone at the controls who can keep her steady – a human pilot. That means me. I need to keep her balanced every second, and that’s ... hard. So let’s just hope they get back here quickly.”
Wash focused on flying, and finished her thought in the privacy of her own head.
‘Otherwise there might not be a ship for everybody to come back to.’
Simon walked across the landing pad towards the waiting shuttle. Playing “Bucky Batson, Alliance super-spy” was starting to get tiring, and he was looking forward to being back on Serenity – and being Simon Tam once more.
‘Still a few more minutes to play before the curtain goes down,’ he thought, and straightened his shoulders.
Mal and Jayne stood on the landing pad, looking like they were waiting for a bus. Barris stood beside them, staring at them both with his hand still resting on the butt of his gun.
“Stand down, son,” he said, and the officer took a step back and let his hand slide off the gun. Simon held out Mal’s revolver and Jayne’s pair of Enforcers.
“Here are your weapons. I’ll keep the ammo. Just take ‘em, get in your shuttle when it comes, and go.”
There was a muted whine from the side of the building, and a second shuttle rose up next to the roof, its hatch opening. Mal and Jayne looked at each other and ran for the door, diving in headfirst. The door slid shut, and the shuttle turned and headed for the Firefly.
There was the sound of heels clacking on the permacrete rooftop, and River fairly flew across the landing pad towards her brother. The door to the shuttle still on the pad slid open, and she ran through it. Simon turned to the officer and put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.
“We’ve got to follow that shuttle,” he said. “After it docks with the transport, we’ll follow it until it gets far enough away, then we’ll detonate the bomb it’s carrying and end the threat to the city. We may not make it back. If we don’t ... well, thanks for your cooperation, son. The Alliance won’t forget your help.”
He slipped on his sunglasses, threw the boy a smile, and jumped into the shuttle. It rose almost immediately and headed after the first shuttle, chasing both ships away from the city and over the horizon.
Officer Barris watched them as they flew away, and eventually saw a bright flash that lit up the sky where the ships had vanished.
The Firefly and all its crew were gone.
“Full burn in atmo!” Kaylee danced around the cockpit. “Damn, girl, that was somethin’! Lit up the sky for miles around. Musta looked like we blew up into a million tiny bits of Firefly.”
“I think that was the idea,” Linda said, her voice faint. “Now that everyone’s back on board and we’ve got some space ‘tween us and the dirt ... could you take over for a while, Kaylee? I think I need to take a little break ...”
She just managed to turn on the autopilot before everything went black.
Wash opened her eyes to find herself staring up at the ceiling in sick bay.
“You gave us quite a scare, Linda.” Simon moved into view and shined a bright light into her eyes, one at a time. She winced. “Nobody realized how hard that was going to be on you – keeping the ship steady that long so close to the ground.”
The pilot shrugged, then winced. Her shoulders felt like there were icepicks embedded in them “That was my job. Got to do my part, no matter how hard it was.”
Simon moved the light away and looked down at her.
“Maybe, but it didn’t have to be as hard as you made it, did it?” Wash looked up at him, confused. The doctor sighed.
“I’m not a pilot, but I know you could have taken the ship up a bit once the threat was established,” he said. “You could have given yourself more space, made it easier for a while before coming back down to threaten the city again. Right?”
Wash shook her head. Even that hurt. “That would have burned more fuel, and I needed to save everything I could for the full burn in atmo at the end of the con. Besides, they needed to think what I was doing was easy. If I had to back off, they might have figured out just how hard it would have been for us to torch the entire moon one city at a time. We needed them to be scared and stay scared long enough to pull this off.”
“Maybe, but you also cut things awfully fine, and hurt yourself in the process.” The doctor sighed. “Linda, you wouldn’t have fainted if it hadn’t been too much for you. You pushed hard and now you’re paying the price. I’m taking you off of flight duty for twenty four hours, starting now, and you’re going to be pretty sore for a while even after that.”
She lowered her head and closed her eyes. “Okay, Simon. I give. I’ll be good.”
Simon looked at her for a moment, then leaned forward. “You did great up there, Linda. No question about it. But you don’t need to prove anything, you know. You’re crew. You’re family. And you sure don’t have to try and out-macho Mal or Jayne. Or even Zoe – as if anyone could.”
“Says Agent Dobson, Alliance operative!” She opened her eyes and threw him a grin. “From the idle chatter I heard over the comms before I passed out, you did pretty well at being all take charge and everything.”
“I did what I had to, to make the plan work.”
“So did I,” Wash replied, reaching out and touching his arm. “I’ll be more careful from now on, okay? Even though I don’t think we’ll need to try that same stunt again anytime soon.”
“I hope not.” The doctor grinned. “I’ll be happy to retire Agent Dobson and go back to practicin’ medicine.”
“Looks to me like you can stop practicin’, Doc.” A voice came from the doorway, and both of them turned to see Jayne standing there, grinning. “Seems like you’re doing just fine takin’ care of Linda.”
Simon smiled. “That joke is so old, they were groaning at it back when we left Earth That Was behind.”
Jayne’s face went blank. “Joke?”
The doctor looked at Linda, then looked back at the mercenary and shook his head.
“Never mind,” he said, stifling a grin. “I think you and Linda have some things to talk about, so I’m going to leave you alone for a bit. Get a little more rest, and then we can move you to your bunk, all right?”
Wash gave Simon a small smile and nodded once before looking down. The doctor turned and walked out the door, leaving the two of them alone for the first time since the rescue.
“Hey.” Jayne spoke first, and Linda looked up into his eyes and smiled.
“Hey,” she replied. “Thank you for coming back alive.”
He smiled, just a little, but his voice was serious. “Thanks for, uh ... caring, I guess. I don’t think I ever had anybody who did, before.”
She nodded. “I do. Care, I mean. A lot.” She held out her hand, and Jayne moved forward to take it. His hand was hot and rough in hers, and Wash felt a flash of ... something, deep inside. It rolled through her, warmed her inside with promises of something more, just out of reach. And for once she just let it. She didn’t push back, she didn’t second-guess it. She just let it happen, because it felt good, and right, and at that moment, a little bit more of Linda and Wash came together as one.
Wash – and Linda – looked up into his eyes.
“In your message, you said you loved me, even though you’ve never felt this way about anyone before,” she said softly. “But when I heard you ... when I looked into your eyes, I could feel it. It touched a part of me that made me see ... that I love you too.”
His eyes opened just a little wider, and his hand squeezed hers.
“Because you trusted me, Jayne.” Her voice became almost a whisper. “You’ve always been so tough, so hard. Never letting anyone in. But this time, you took a chance. You opened yourself to me ... let down your walls, showed me how you felt, and trusted me not to hurt you. You trusted me. You must really love me to trust me enough to let me in – and I realized I love you because you loved me enough to take that chance, even though you couldn’t know how it would end.”
“There wasn’t nothin’ else I could do.” Jayne’s voice was rough with emotion. “I didn’t even want to think about what life’d be like without you in it, that’s how scared I was. But if I didn’t get the nerve to tell ya how I felt, I’d never know if you felt the same. And I really needed to know.”
“Well, now you do.” Linda brought his hand to her lips and kissed it softly. “I’m not sure what the future is going to bring for either of us. You’ve never loved anyone before, and I ... well, I had someone I loved once, in another life. I gave that someone my heart, and it was wonderful – but it ended too soon, and there’s no way I can ever bring it back.”
She stared up into his eyes, seeing him become very still, wondering what she would say next. Then she smiled.
“But I can honestly say that I have never loved another man the way that I love you. And a girl would have to be pretty stupid to run away from love ... especially when the man you love loves you back so deep, he’d put his heart on the line just to hear you say it.”
Wash-and-Linda took a deep breath, and reached up with her free hand to touch his jaw.
“I love you, Jayne Cobb,” she said.
His eyes lit up, and his smile was full of happiness. The pilot felt the same happiness filled her soul as well, and Wash finally embraced who she was and who she would be at last.
And when he leaned forward to kiss her, she raised her face to his and kissed him back.
Simon stood out in the corridor, giving the pair some privacy. From the silence, it seemed they’d come to some kind of decision, and he hoped that both of them would wind up happy, and together.
“They have, and they will,” a voice behind him said happily, and he turned to see River dropping down from the ductwork above.
“Kaylee’s right, you know,” he said with a smile. “You’re going to get yourself electrocuted if you keep that up.”
She smiled back and shook her head. “Never gonna happen.”
River shrugged. “Serenity likes me.”
She danced her way across the compartment into the passenger lounge, with Simon not far behind. He walked over and sat down on the threadbare sofa, watching his sister moving around the room to music only she could hear.
“Are you telling me the ship is sentient, now?”
“I don’t know whether she thinks or not,” she replied with grin, dropping down beside him. “But she sure talks to Kaylee a lot, and I don’t think she’d love Serenity so much if the ship were as dumb as a post. Although come to think of it, she does love you, so maybe I’m wrong ...”
Simon faked outrage, then reached out and tickled River. She wiggled around giggling until she managed to roll away from her brother’s fingers, even though both of them knew she could have easily moved away long before his fingers could reach her.
“You just be careful, Simon Tam,” she said, grinning from ear to ear. “Remember, I can kill you with my brain.”
“Maybe so,” he replied, leaning back on the sofa. “But I’m not too worried. You are my sister, after all.”
“More’s the pity.” River sighed, feigning disappointment. “I really have been wanting to try out that whole killing people with my brain thing.”
She curled up on the sofa next to him, a small smile twitching at the corners of her lips.
“I wish we could have done something about Flynt,” Simon said. “I know we’re not here to police the Verse, and yes, we were lucky to get out of there with everyone on board and the ship intact. But still ... after all that, we left the moon with only what we came with – and half the population still enslaved.”
There was silence for a moment, and he turned to find River’s smile had shifted to become something more appropriate for a Cheshire Cat then a little sister.
“Well, we did leave empty-handed,” she said cheerfully, “but only because after you sent me off to erase us from all from the central database, I found an empty terminal and used the Cortex to transfer a nice chunk of the planetary treasury and all of Governor Aubrey’s off-world holdings to a numbered account on Osiris. So technically, we’re not actually holding onto the coin at the moment, but it’ll be waiting for us when we need it.”
Simon stared at her, almost too shocked to speak. “You stole ...?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t steal anything. What is it Mal said to Patience on Whitefall? 'I do the job, and I get paid.' Think of it as payment in full for all the trouble they gave us, just for trying to do our job. And yes, I wiped all the records of the transaction – not that anyone there will be in a position to wonder where the money went. Not anymore. I know Aubrey won’t be needing it.”
River stood up and rolled into a handstand, balancing on the back of the sofa.
“And yes, technically half the population of Flynt is currently enslaved.” She spoke without a hint of strain entering her voice. “But we both know that G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate is a complex chemical compound, full of all sorts of enzyme interactions and RNA recoding processes that can turn on themselves without warning. What happened with the Reavers proved that.”
River rolled forward off the sofa and landed on her feet. She turned her head and looked at Simon over her shoulder, still grinning. “Since formulations on complex compounds tend to get a bit ... wonky after a few years, sometimes odd things happen. Especially when a clever girl finds her way to the environmental processing controls and starts wandering through the systems.”
Her brother stared at her, his thoughts racing.
“Oh, please,” she said, reading his mind. “What’s good for the gander is better for the goose, Simon. Just a minute ago, you were complaining about us not being able to fix things on Flynt before we had to go. Well, I did my best. For a while, the slaves will be the masters. And when the Alliance shows up, they’ll find their grand mind-control experiment in ruins, with the formula apparently intact. With any luck, they’ll think it’s another flawed attempt, like Miranda and the Reavers, and drop the whole idea before they realize it actually succeeded.”
“You forgot one thing, lil’ Albatross. The Alliance would just as soon fry that little moon from orbit ‘stead of lettin’ ‘folks free to tell the Verse what they were up to.” Simon and River turned to find Mal standing in the doorway with Inara at his side. “Of course, the anonymous tips I sent to the newsies will make sure they get to Flynt long before the Alliance does. Hard to kill thousands of folks with cameras watchin’, I’m thinkin’. Reckon I learned somethin’ from Miranda after all.”
River grinned. “I reckon you did, too.”
She tilted her head, almost as if she was listening to something, then looked back at Mal.
“Please excuse me. I need to make a few calls before we’re out of range.”
Without missing a beat, she leaped upward and slipped into the ductwork above the lounge. She stuck her head down and looked at Mal.
“See, Captain? Sometimes a plan really does go smooth!”
The girl pulled her head back up and disappeared.
“I guess she and I got differing ideas of what smooth means,” he said slowly, staring up at where her face had been. “Still I remember Wash sayin’ somethin’ once about any landin’ you can walk away from being a good one, and right now we seem to be walkin’ away just fine.”
Mal turned to Simon, a half-smile on his face.
“In fact, didn’t I hear somethin’ about a great big stack of creds waitin’ for us on Osiris?”
Hugh Aubrey sat in his office, pretty much numb.
At first, after the Firefly had exploded (and apparently taken that Alliance agent along with it), he had worried about what his Alliance contacts would say about his little “adventure” with Captain Reynolds and his crew. But if Dobson had managed to get a report back to his superiors, Aubrey was going to wind up in a prison cell on some backwater moon for violating security on a top-secret project. At the very least, he’d be out of a job.
But after an hour or two, Aubrey had started feeling ... empty. As if he didn’t know what to do next, or didn’t care. It was as if the part of him that made decisions had decided to take a vacation for a while. And that suited Aubrey just fine, since he was pretty sure the last few decisions he’d made didn’t turn out so well after all.
The viewscreen on his desk lit up with the picture of a pretty young girl. Her eyes caught his and held them, and he just knew he had to listen to whatever she had to say – that it was going to be very important.
“Hey, there, Mister Governor, sir. You and all your friends need to forget all about me and my friends on the Firefly. After all, do you really want to remember how badly you messed up?”
Aubrey shook his head, and the girl smiled. “Good boy. I’ve already taken all of the evidence we were there out of the database, so you don’t need to worry your pretty head about that.”
“Thank you.” Aubrey’s voice was rough, and the girl’s eyes flashed.
“Did I tell you to speak?” Her anger poured through the screen, and Aubrey flinched and looked away.
“Then don’t. If I ask you a question, the correct response is yes, Mistress or no, Mistress. Understand?”
The former Governor swallowed once, suddenly afraid of the girl and her anger. He felt tears begin to form in the corners of his eyes.
She smiled at him. “Good boy.”
The smile washed over him and through him, and his eyes closed as a wave of happiness flowed through him from head to toe. He had pleased her! So much happiness from something so simple! He had to do it again.
“I’m going to leave and call all your friends, now, and when I’m gone you’ll forget all about me and mine.” From that blissful high, Aubrey felt his spirits drop to the floor. His tears began to fall, and his lower lip began to quiver. But he couldn’t say anything. She had forbidden him to speak.
She saw it, though, the goddess on the screen. She looked into his eyes and sighed.
“Don’t worry, boy. You won’t be alone for long. I’ll send a new Mistress to look after you.” His whole body shuddered with relief. “But you want to show her what a good boy you are, right from the start. So why don't you just take off all those uncomfortable clothes and kneel by the door with your head bowed and your hands behind you? She’ll be along shortly, and of course you’ll do whatever she tells you, won’t you?”
“Yes, Mistress.” She smiled again, and his heart flew towards the sky. He’d pleased her again!
“You get ready for her, then. And remember ... we were never here.”
The screen went dark, and Aubrey stood up quickly, knocking his chair back in his haste to get his clothes off as quickly as possible.
His new Mistress could be here anytime, and he knew ... just knew ... he had to be ready.
He just hoped he could be waiting by the door when she arrived. If the first thing she did was frown, he didn’t know what he would do to make it right.
But he did know she’d tell him, in time.
Sunday, May 02, 2010 9:57 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 10:11 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 11:16 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 11:32 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 11:57 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 12:01 PM
Sunday, May 02, 2010 2:03 PM
Monday, May 03, 2010 5:00 PM
Tuesday, May 04, 2010 2:53 PM
Thursday, May 06, 2010 2:31 AM
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