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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Complications abound for the crew on the ferry as well as those on the ship. New plans must be made.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1027 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Fish Job, Easy Tickets,
BS Book I, BS Book II, BS Book III, Chapter 1.
Timing, pairings, and canon blurbs are in my FFF blog.
Many thanks to desertgirl for the beta read.
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Jayne Cobb recognized the after-effects of a blow to the head; he’d experienced such things before. A weight like a heavy stone sat on his left temple, pressing down as if it meant to stop his eyes from opening. Normally, he wouldn’t argue. He’d found that the best way to deal with this kind of pain was to burrow down beneath it and not come up until several long healing hours could pass, but this time he couldn’t let himself do it. A mysterious but undeniable urgency wouldn’t let him be.
His sluggish mind slowly trudged its way to an answer, and like a sudden light in the dark it finally came to him: he’d heard a gunshot. He’d heard angry voices abruptly silenced by the sharp crack of a bullet turned loose. It wasn’t Jayne’s way to lay on his back while guns were in play. Stubbornly, he fought his way out from under the ache. The first thing he heard was an unwelcome voice.
“Jayne? Jayne, can you see?”
A good dozen fingers waved in front of Jayne’s eyes, an indistinct lily-white face behind them. Jayne did his best to slap the fluttering hand away and managed to mumble something he hoped was insulting. He didn’t need anyone making a fuss over him. He needed to see what was happening.
“Whoa there.” The doctor’s hand pressed against his shoulder, trying to keeping him down. “That’s not a good idea.”
Jayne ignored the advice and pulled himself up to a half-functional slouch, though the effort triggered a fresh bout of throbbing in his skull. He pried his eyes fully open and found himself sitting on the edge of a soft, mussed up bed. He was surrounded by Tams. Simon crouched to his right; River was curled against the headboard behind Jayne and on his left.
“The hate is gone,” the girl told Jayne. Her eyes were wide and earnest, her checks streaked with half-dried tears, but her voice was thick with relief.
“How in hell’d y’all get…” Jayne’s slurred words were silenced by the sight waiting by his feet.
A man lay on his back on the floor, a bullet hole perfectly centered in his forehead and a pool of blood thickening under his dark hair. Jayne tilted his head and squinted against his headache to study the corpse’s face. He recognized it. This was the stranger who’d shared a drink with Malcolm on Highgate, talking peacefully until Inara showed up yelling about the Alliance. She’d said that this man was working for Trevor Marone, tracking the captain. She’d said that this smiling, black haired fellow was one of the gang who’d hijacked Serenity on Niflheim.
Jayne raised a hand to his aching temple as he recalled a final detail, the last bit of information that hit home like the last long nail in the last long plank of his own coffin. This dead man’s gang had included a female gunhand.
“Ginger,” Jayne said softly. As discretely as possible he checked that his pants were fastened. They were, to his relief, though his belt was missing.
He glanced around; the ferry’s Penthouse Suite was in a different state than he’d left it. The room was fully lit now, and reflections masked the view of the `verse outside the see-through walls. Jayne saw that his face was streaked with blood, but he quickly looked away. He found that he wasn’t particularly eager to look into his own eyes.
Simon was still talking. “It’d really be better if you laid back down. I need to check—”
Jayne could do little more than hold up a hand, palm out at the doctor, and mutter, “Shuddup, doc.”
Inara was standing just past the dead man. Jayne’s pistol, the one he’d smuggled onto this ferry only to have Ginny—Ginger—knock him out with it, was hanging from the Companion’s right hand.
Jayne aimed a limp finger in the general direction of the corpse. “You did that?” he asked, incredulous.
Inara shook her head without looking at him. A fine spray of blood covered her face, and it appeared that she wasn’t entirely present. Her eyes shifted side to side as if her focus was trying to catch up with her thoughts. The answer to Jayne’s question had to come from the far side of the spacious cabin.
“I did it,” said a weak voice behind a pair of overstuffed chairs. “It was me that… I shot him.”
Using Simon’s shoulder as a crutch, Jayne awkwardly pulled himself to standing so he could see who was talking. The captain sat against the far bulkhead, legs flopped out in front of him but his arms folded defensively.
Jayne pointed at Mal and asked, “He back?”
“No,” Simon replied softly. “No, I don’t think he is.”
Jayne finally got his balance settled enough to let go of the doctor and step around the pooling blood. “Gotta be part way back to himself, to make a head shot.” He used a toe to push a gun out of the dead man’s right hand, then stiffly bent to pick it up. “Got him while he was armed, too. Only cap’n could manage that.”
“I took this from Mal,” Inara said in a distracted way. She glanced down at the small gun in her hand. “Simon freed my hands, and Mal didn’t seem well. I didn’t think he should be holding a weapon. Here.”
She held the small high-tech gun out to Jayne. He didn’t say anything, but tucked the dead man’s revolver in his waistband and took his own back. He might have asked how the piece found its way to Mal’s trigger finger, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He certainly didn’t want the rest of the crew to start considering that question.
“I think maybe you should sit,” Simon said. Jayne inhaled to give a sharp reply, but realized that the boy wasn’t talking to him. The doctor had found a new target for his unwanted attentions.
“No,” Inara replied, and she waved Simon off. “I have to think.” She turned to pace the empty area behind the cabin’s two chairs, passing in front of Serenity’s captain though she didn’t look at him.
As soon as she moved, Jayne saw someone that had been hidden behind her: a short, plump woman with hair way too black for her age sat against the bulkhead by the entrance to the suite, her pose similar to Malcolm’s. She was hunkered down, her face pale and her eyes fixed on her dead partner.
“Ginny, huh?” Jayne said. “Ginny for Ginger. I should’a seen that. Mèi bái chī, I should’a seen that.”
She didn’t respond, didn’t show any sign that she was even listening to him.
“You’re Alliance,” Jayne went on, “and you been following us a good long time. Since Niflheim at least. You and the corpse there tried takin’ our ship, didn’t ya?”
Her dead eyes didn’t shift. “Just doing my job,” she muttered.
Jayne’s foot landed on something: his leather belt on the floor. How it got there was a mystery to him, but he was glad to find it. Not for his own use; his pants would have to stay up on their own. He tucked his gun in his back pocket, knelt in front of Ginger, and bound her wrists tight enough that she should have winced. She didn’t.
“If I didn’t have this headache,” he told her, his voice low and soft so only she would hear, “I’d be turning violent on you `bout now.”
“I know it,” she replied calmly.
“We have to snap out of this,” Inara suddenly announced to the room.
Jayne stood up, annoyed because, despite his injury, he wasn’t the one in a daze. “What’s the problem?” he asked gruffly. “Looks to me like you all got the situation handled.”
“No. No!” Inara replied. She raised her hands in frustration, then dropped them and returned to pacing.
Jayne didn’t wait for her to gather her thoughts and explain, but went into the cabin’s roomy head and bent over the sink to wash the blood off his face. When he returned to the main room, little had changed. Malcolm and Ginger both stared at the cooling corpse as if they expected it to jump up and dance a jig, River was curled up on the bed, studying something behind the reflections on the far windows, and Simon hovered next to his sister looking useless. Inara kept with her pacing.
“We don’t have time,” the Companion said, speaking to herself in a firm voice. “We must decide what to do. We must act.”
“Oddly, I have to agree with Jayne,” Simon said. “We’ve got this handled. I mean, other than an agent of the Alliance held hostage, and another who’s a corpse. A rather convenient one.” He stopped. “I can’t believe I just said that. I don’t mean to take the murder of an Alliance agent lightly, even one who’s such a… such a…”
“Murder,” Malcolm murmured.
“I didn’t mean murder. I meant… It doesn’t matter. My point is, at least it happened here, in private. We can talk to the ferry’s captain, have him keep this quiet until Zoë’s delivered Kamath’s goods.”
“Zoë’s probably done already,” Jayne said, “seein’ as she got to Oeneus a good half day ago. We just clear out before anyone comes aboard and finds this here body. Ain’t no tracking the bullet in his skull to us, not as long as we don’t let this other one talk.” He turned his glare on Ginger. “That last part won’t be hard. Ship’s got airlocks.”
Inara shook her head in the hurried way of a person with busy thoughts. “No, we can’t wait. Will was in contact with someone. He made a wave while she—” Inara waved a hand at Ginger. “—was off getting Mal. People will be waiting for us on Oeneus, military people. They’ll be at the docks and we’ll never get past them. Too many of us have faces they know.”
Simon sat down on the bed and took River’s hand protectively in his own. “We can’t let it happen.”
“We have to find a way to get of the ship before it lands,” Inara said firmly.
Jayne snorted. “Lots of windows to jump out’a.”
Inara glared at him. “A way we’ll survive.”
“Zoë,” Simon said. “The ship.”
Inara nodded. “Right. Of course. We need Zoë. We need to contact her. Jayne, you’ve been talking to the captain of this ferry. I’m sure he’ll let you use the comm system, if you ask nicely.”
“What are the odds?” Simon muttered.
Jayne ignored the doctor. “But what about her?” His control over himself had steadied, and he was able to level a hard finger at Ginger. “Airlock’s on the way to the bridge.”
“No!” Inara replied sharply. “No more killing.”
“Pardon,” Jayne said, his voice firming up to match the Companion’s tone, “but you ain’t in charge.” His eyes went around the room, checking people off one by one. “No, you ain’t,” he added with more force, “I’m the senior crew present. Senior sane one, that is. Any decisions need be made, I’m thinking it’s my call.”
Inara’s eyes crackled; she’d pulled herself together, and though she was small in stature, she could be formidable when she chose to argue a point. “Why, Jayne? Because you’ve made so many good decisions lately?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
In reply, Inara grabbed Jayne’s elbow and pulled him into the passageway leading up to the rest of the ship. She stood close to him on the stairs and spoke in a low voice. “Jayne, I understand that you have good reason to be angry with that woman, but we can’t waste time with revenge. The ferry is scheduled to land in less than an hour. We have to focus.”
Jayne didn’t like her tone. “I don’t see as how you should be making the call. You ain’t crew, lady. You ain’t even a renter anymore. I know the deal Zoë made—if we didn’t need your money, you’d be nothin’ to us.”
Inara’s face fell. She took in a deep breath, then nodded grimly. Her jaw clenched, as if she hated the taste of her words, but she said them anyway. “So what do you propose we do?”
Jayne looked back down toward the suite, then over his shoulder up the stairs. He hadn’t expected her to give in; in truth it deflated him a little. He’d been set for more of a battle. More than that, it worried him that Inara seemed to have an idea of what had passed between himself and Ginger. But if that was the case, he had to appreciate Inara’s tact in keeping this little talk private.
“Fine then,” he said. “I’ll go on up to the bridge and ask the captain nicely if I can wave Zoë. You stay down here and watch over Will’s saobi.”
As he climbed the stairs, he heard Inara’s sighed response. “Brilliant plan.”
Inara returned to the suite to find Simon busy stripping the comforter from the bed. He laid the thick blanket over his sister, who’d moved to the floor on the far side of the room from Will’s body, then returned to pull at the sheets. Inara soon understood what the doctor was doing; he was spreading the largest sheet over the dead man. The fabric quickly stained bright red, but at least Will’s expression of frozen surprise was hidden.
Inara stood in the doorway and watched Simon work for a moment, then suddenly remembered the gun in her hand and the dangerous stranger sitting on the deck beside her. She stepped away from the doorway, but found that Ginger had still made no attempt to fight her captors. Inara stared down at the woman, not sure what to do. She should probably ask questions. That’s what Mal would do in this situation, she supposed: question the captive. Find out exactly what dangers the crew faced, the reason the Alliance was looking for Serenity’s captain.
Before Inara could decide how to carry out such an interrogation, or whether she was capable of being successful, she found Simon standing in front of her holding out a wet towel. At her confused look, he gestured at her face. Inara took the towel and wiped a corner of it over her cheek. To her horror, faint smears of brown-red came off on the rough cloth. She quickly went to the bathroom to wash more thoroughly.
Glad to hear… been tryin’ to get…
“Zoë? What’d you say? Zoë?”
I said… developments… customs talked to… what I mean.
Jayne frowned as he tried to interpret the few of Zoë’s words he could separate from the static coming through the comm. He didn’t have much success, so he looked over his shoulder to glare at the ferry’s captain. “You got something works better n’ this?” he demanded.
The captain, a portly older fellow, shifted uncomfortably. “Uh… well, uh, the engines are firing to slow us down. That makes for interference.”
…few complications… Zoë went on. You need… as soon as…
“Complications?” Jayne shouted into the comm. “I can tell you a thing or two about complications!”
What? What’d… into? …have to slap you… I swear…
To Jayne, that sounded alarmingly like Zoë had made a snap decision about who to blame. He didn’t like the accusation, even if, in some tiny little way, he might have earned it. Still, he didn’t immediately respond to defend himself. His ear had caught something else, a few words muttered in a low voice. Jayne’s eyes quickly found the speaker; the captain had meandered his way to the port side of the bridge where he was perched on the edge of a control board, his eyes on a viewscreen and one hand resting innocently against his chin.
How long do you need them held up? were the whispered words Jayne had caught. A ratty looking guy sat at the board near the captain, but was busy with his own tasks. The captain couldn’t have been talking to him. So just who was he talking to? And what did he mean, “held up”?
Jayne looked again but quickly turned away; he didn’t want to be caught staring, and he’d seen enough to understand. The captain had a tiny comm plug in of his ear, barely visible in the dim light, and a small black cylinder snuggled in the palm of the hand so casually hovering near his mouth. A comm mic.
The ferry captain had lied; he’d kept the working comm for himself. It seemed that he didn’t want Jayne talking to Zoë, nor did he want Jayne to know about the wave he was making at the moment.
Jayne managed to shout something at Zoë, just to keep up appearances, but his mind was elsewhere.
He had to figure out why this idiot captain, who’d been a bit dense but nothing but helpful throughout the two day voyage, was suddenly playing games. Jayne’s cheeks heated at the unfairness of it; he had enough to worry about as it was, and now to have this added complication, even after he had taken care to be nice to the man (relative to his normal manners, anyhow) was more hard blows than a man ought to take in a day.
But so it was. He had no choice but to keep moving and figure this out.
Trying to look guileless, Jayne studied the crew. Most of them seemed unaware of anything happening besides the day’s regular business. Only the captain radiated nerves, with tense shoulders and a free hand tapping his leg convulsively. His eyes danced toward Jayne and quickly away again. Zoë was still busy giving instructions Jayne couldn’t understand, but under the static of her voice, he caught a few more low words from captain:
…wait at the docks. I’ll delay them while we unload, then they’re all yours to take….
Jayne felt the man’s flick nervously toward him again, clearing up who exactly he meant by “they”.
That settled it. For whatever reason, this ferry’s captain was no longer on Jayne’s side. The man meant to hand him over to someone, and it wasn’t likely to be someone pleasant. The man might be doing this on Kamath’s orders, or he could been an Alliance mole all along, but it didn’t matter. Jayne didn’t intend to be all anybody’s to take.
“Uh… Zoë?” he said into his own mic, but he couldn’t finish, not without being overheard. It wouldn’t matter anyway. He had to handle this on his own.
When Inara came back out from the head, drying the damp hair around her face with a fresh towel, Simon was checking on Mal. She couldn’t hear what the doctor said, but the captain’s response was firm.
“I’m fine,” Malcolm said. “Leave me be. I did what I had to do, and it’s fine.”
Simon stood and turned to her, then held out his hands helplessly.
“Leave him alone,” Inara said. “And don’t worry—we’ll be all right. Zoë’s been on Oeneus for more than a day. Her business must be finished, the delivery made. She should be free to come help us, and then we can deal with….” She looked toward Malcolm, then Will. “…all of this.”
Simon wasn’t convinced. “Sure. Unless she managed to destroy that mysterious cargo she was forced to carry and Kamath isn’t pleased with her.”
Inara sighed. “Let’s hope she didn’t do that.”
Simon cleared his throat. “Pardon me, but I have to remind you—if Zoë went through with the delivery, a lot of people could die. They could be dying right now, horribly. I don’t know what those chemicals Kamath loaded onto Serenity were, but they certainly weren’t rice flour. That cargo could do a great deal of harm unless Zoë found a way to stop Kamath’s plan. I, for one, hope she did.”
Inara dropped her eyes. “I know, Simon. I didn’t mean that. I just hope she’s able to help us.” She looked toward River. “All of us.”
“Does that include me?” The woman sitting by the door suddenly spoke up. “You gonna leave me here, bound up like this?” Ginger’s eyes flicked between Simon and Inara, as if she couldn’t decide who was more likely to hear her out. “I ain’t stupid. I know the folks running this boat must be helping you. They’ll try to hide this crime by dumping Will, either in the Black or in the ocean deeps after they land. They’ll do the same to me.”
“Wouldn’t be the worst outcome,” River said with a blank face.
“River!” Simon admonished.
“She’s just like the rest of them,” River told her brother, her voice sharp. “She wanted to hurt us.”
“Never was my aim,” Ginger said, shaking her head. “I had a job to do. Didn’t like all parts of it, but when do you ever like your job? It don’t matter. If you’re a soldier, you do what you’re told.”
“We can’t kill her,” Malcolm said faintly. “Been killing enough. We have to take her along.”
“Of course we’ll take her,” Simon said, though his expression seemed to be pleading with Inara. “We can leave her somewhere far away, where she can’t tell anyone about us until we’re long gone. It won’t matter then. She has nothing to tell that the Alliance doesn’t already know about us.”
Inara pulled her eyes away from Mal and looked down at the woman. “You’re right, Simon.” I hope. “But not for the reasons you think. I doubt this ferry’s crew would harm her. They’d let her go, let her tell her superiors about us. She’s more of a danger to… to us if we leave her here.” She’d been about to say to Mal.
Ginger shook her head. “Not a thing. I got nothing at all to say about the lot of you.”
They all jumped at a voice crackling through the air in Jayne’s familiar accent.
I got a PA system here, the mercenary explained unnecessarily. Got a line straight to the penthouse. Only talks one way. But, uh, I could use some help. His voice lowered and hissed through the speakers, as if he was trying to whisper. I got a bit of a situation up here.
Inara met Simon’s eye and they both frowned.
The other passengers were awake now, busy having a last snack and packing up their belongings for the arrival to Oeneus. As Inara passed through the dining room, she noticed a few of them pressing their noses against the windows and murmuring in questioning tones. She saw why: the ship was rotating, turning away from the blue world that was their destination.
A final stairway led to a door with a sign declaring: NO PASSENGERS PAST THIS POINT, but no one tried to bar her way. Apparently, the crew was busy elsewhere, and the halls were vacant. Inara passed through the door and down a short passage, then rapped sharply on a metal door with a sign proclaiming that the bridge was on the other side. A buzzer immediately let her in.
The first thing she saw was a portly older man slumped over the counter to her left, blood staining in his thin gray hair and the collar of his uniform. The rest of the small crew was herded into a corner in the back of the bridge, their hands on their heads and their eyes wild with fear. They ducked as Jayne waved his fancy little pistol in their direction.
“Yeah, we’ll be needing you to meet us right quick,” Jayne was yelling into a comm hand piece. “I think I pretty much wore out our welcome with this bunch. Oh, `Nara’s here. Be seein’ you in a few.” He pulled a receiver bud out of his ear and looked toward Inara, who was checking the injured man on the floor. He was alive, but out cold.
“`Bout damned time!” Jayne yelled at her.
“I take it you have good reason for this?” she asked, her hand on the unconscious man’s shoulder.
“Blame it on Zoë. She’s the one got on Kamath’s bad side and pissed off his pals here.”
Inara looked up hopefully. “You mean she stopped the attack?”
“Guess so. Kamath’s people sure aren’t happy with the lot of us. But we got a plan, if you’ll just cover this crowd while I set up the details.”
He held out his gun toward her, but she straightened and folded her empty hands behind her. “I’m sure the weapons aren’t needed here. These people are civilians. They didn’t ask to take part in our… situation.” The cowed workers were indeed a pitiful and helpless looking lot.
“At least one of `em meant us nothing but bad,” Jayne said. He cast a glare at the still body on the console, then grabbed the man by the back of his shirt and pulled him up to something closer to sitting. “You can thank this one for givin’ it away. Ought to learn to whisper more quiet-like.”
The unfortunate man half-woke and groaned at the rough treatment.
“Could you please not do that?” Inara asked.
Jayne’s tone turned aggressive. “This captain, and maybe them others there, wanted to hold us for Kamath’s folks to come get and do gods-know-what to. I figured you wouldn’t welcome that, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t abuse my methods of maintainin’ your personal freedom.”
Inara sighed, then replied with full sarcasm: “Oh, you did this for me? That’s sweet Jayne.”
Jayne carelessly tossed the half-conscious man back onto the console. “Sweet’s my middle name.”
“Please don’t feel like you need to prove it,” Inara muttered. “But you’ve talked to Zoë? We have a plan?”
He returned to the console. “I got us on a changed course, going away from Oeneus, to the emptiest spot of space I can find. Serenity’ll be meetin’ us in the next half hour. We just need to work out the airlock situation so we can dock up to her. I guess since you ain’t playing guard, you’ll have to work the machinery.”
Inara again found herself shifting uncomfortably; she had no skill for that task. Jayne understood. He turned to the half dozen cowering crew members and addressed them sternly.
“Here’s how it works. All you are gonna stay here with me, `cept one lucky and very well-behaved fella who gets to help the lady here make hard seal with our ride. Volunteers?”
Tentatively at first, but then with competitive eagerness, all hands rose.
The business end of the ferry wasn’t built to supply nice views, so Jayne had to watch Serenity’s approach on a scanner screen. The Firefly wasn’t the only thing that caught his eye; a faint blip far out from the planet made his stomach twinge nervously. But the distant passerby showed no interest in the clandestine rendezvous between an old freighter and a public service ferry; it hovered for a short spell, then moved on.
Jayne couldn’t focus his attention as much as he’d have liked, given how he was guarding a huddled mob of The Enemy. A few tentative calls from the decks below didn’t help; the passengers and staff had a clear view of the ferry’s change of course, and they wanted to know what was happening. Jayne ignored their waves. He used the intercom system to call down to the Suite and tell the others to come up, then occupied his time making a last detailed threat to the ferry’s crew. He was still expanding on his methods of dealing with those who would try to follow after the escapees when he felt a slight shudder run through the hull. The airlock where Inara and her aid were working was just outside the bridge, so close that Jayne could hear contact being made.
Inara guided her crewman aide to the bridge. Jayne followed her back out the door to find that the others had already arrived. Malcolm stood aside as the Tams scurried up a ladder to the open airlock, but Jayne’s eyes fastened on the women waiting beside Malcolm.
“No way!” Jayne said. “We ain’t taking her!”
Malcolm spoke up. “We leave her here, she’s as good as dead. You know that.”
“And I care?”
Mal’s face was shadowed. “You ought to. It ain’t right to kill.”
“What? You feel bad about shootin’ Will, so you’re gonna put it on me? Well, I ain’t lost my sense, and I know there ain’t no way this woman ought to step foot on your ship!”
“Jayne!” Inara warned, and Jayne realized what he’d just said.
Luckily, Malcolm didn’t. His mind was on other things, on them enough that he kept his calm despite the way Jayne was jawing at him. “I did what was needed,” Malcolm said with a slow shake of his head. “But there’s no call for doin’ more. Won’t be any harm in taking her along.” His voice firmed up. “Now, let’s stop with the jawin’ and move out. ”
Not waiting for any argument, Malcolm turned his back on Jayne and pushed the woman toward the ladder. She went up awkwardly but quietly, and Inara following just behind.
Jayne stared at Malcolm for a moment. “Gotta be partway back,” he muttered to himself, then he raised his voice. “Diyu, fine. Get on up. I’ll be along behind ya.”
He ducked into the bridge one last time so he could have some partings words, then he fired a few rounds into the comm system just to make sure no one broke orders. Finally, he made his own exit from the ferry, sealing the airlock behind him.
In truth, he was glad to be going back to Serenity, even if he wasn’t happy with all the company he was bringing with him.
mèi bái chī: blind idiot
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 6:24 AM
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