The Bouncing Ball Ch 12
Friday, November 26, 2010

Jane and me are on the way again to deliver our next chapter. Cat seeks Badger...



Standing outside the containers housing Badger's office, rain pounding on his unprotected skull, Mal could feel his headache growing and his temper shortening. "What?" "He ain't here." The man with the dreadlocks shook his head. "Is he dead?" Jayne asked hopefully. "Nope. Just moved." "Shit." The big man hunkered deeper into his jacket, but the rain was getting everywhere. "Where'd he go?" Mal wanted to know. "Outside the docks. East India Street. Cooper Building." "East India?" Even Mal was surprised. "What's he doing there?" The man shrugged. "Go ask him yourself." He closed the door in their faces. "Do you think Badger's the janitor, sir?" Zoe asked, ignoring the rain making her hair curl more than ever. Mal didn't answer, just stalked off, the others on his heels. Cat followed, a pace or two behind, her senses switched to full. She shook her head, droplets flying even as she tried not to smile. Woe betide anyone getting in Mal's way the mood he was in. ==== "You've got to make an appointment." The man was short, thin, and full of himself. They stood in the foyer of the Cooper Building, dripping onto the black and white marble floor, their muddy footprints decorating the parquet. "Appointment." Mal's temper, never under that strong a control at the best of times, snapped audibly. "An appointment? Why the good gorram would I be wanting to make an appointment? Just tell that goushi buru that I want to see him." "Really, sir, that kind of language is unnecessary." Despite being a good ten inches shorter than Mal, he still managed to look down his nose. "The Mayor will be more than happy to see you, but not until -" "Mayor?" "Mr Badger." "Nope, you said 'Mayor'." "That's right. Mr Badger is the Mayor of Eavesdown." Mal closed his eyes briefly. "Okay, now I know I'm dead. Or at the very least hallucinatin'." He looked again, but the man was still there. "Mayor of Eavesdown." "Yes, sir. It's an honorary title, of course, but with all the good works Mr Badger has been doing, it was only appropriate." "We're talking about different Badgers, ain't we?" Mal shook his head. "Has to be that. The one I'm wanting is probably some kinda poor relation." "Sir, there's only one Mr Badger." "That ain't even his name!" "It's the only one I know, sir." The man was starting to look around, probably trying to catch the eye of any security personnel. "Mal, those damn tablets ain't working," Jayne moaned. "You're not the only one." Mal took a deep breath. "The man I'm looking for is bit taller'n you, going bald, wears a wife-beater and a derby." "And a flamingo pin," Zoe added. "Ah, Mr Badger certainly has some idiosyncracies," the man smiled. "Although his suits are hand-made." "Suits. As in more than one." I'm in one of those other 'verses, Mal thought to himself. I'm gonna wake up in a minute. Maybe I can get Jayne to shoot me to do it ... "Mr Badger will be glad to see you tomorrow morning at 10 am." He'd relaxed a little, and out of the corner of his eye Mal could see why. Two men, both of them rivalling Jayne in size, were waiting in the shadows. "Sir ..." Zoe could see her captain was very close to doing something exceedingly stupid. "Fine." Mal made an effort and put on his affable face, which was fine as long as nobody looked in his eyes. "10. I'll be here." "I'll be sure to let Mr Badger know to expect you." "Shiny." Mal turned on his heel and stalked out, past Cat who was lounging by the doorway, back into the rain. She jogged to catch him up. "Don't," she warned. "Don't what?" "Whatever it is you're planning." "Me? Planning?" "Okay, maybe that was the wrong word to use. But don't do it anyway." "Oh, you mean finding the Mayor and letting Jayne tear him limb from limb?" "Pretty much." She took his arm, her strength making him stop dead in the middle of the street. "Whatever this Badger has been up to, you don't want to get on the bad side of him. He's got influence." "Influence?" "Even I can tell that. And you can't afford to make it hard for yourself here on Persephone." He glared at her for a long moment, then exhaled heavily through his nose. "Cat, you're right. You don't know me. And whatever that Mal who kept your bed warm might have done, he ain't me." He pulled his arm free and strode off back towards the docks, leaving her standing in the rain, trying to will her claws back in. ==== As they reached Serenity Mal stomped back up the ramp. "Cap? You okay?" Kaylee was standing by Cat's mule, hiding a wrench behind her back. "No." He stalked past her and up the stairs, dripping and squishing audibly as he went. "Jayne! Get a bucket and wash this mud out!" "What'm I, your slave?" the big man called, but was thankfully ignored. "I take it things didn't go well?" Kaylee asked Zoe. "Not so's you'd notice," the first mate responded. "I'd'a thought Frey'd've reminded him those were the boots that leaked," the young mechanic added thoughtfully. "They do?" "Mmmn. I told him the repair I did wasn't waterproof, but I guess maybe he forgot." Cat couldn't help her lips from twitching. "That explains so much." ==== "Gorramit." Mal was pulling the contents of the drawers out, dumping them on the bed. "Where the hell are they?" "Where are what?" Freya descended the ladder. "My clean socks." He'd changed clothes, putting on dry pants and shirt, but had been unable to finish. "I know there were some in here." "Have you checked the laundry?" "No, I haven't, 'cause I know I put some away last time!" "Okay." Her tone made him stop and he looked at her. "What?" "Nothing." "You think I'm making a fuss over nothing?" "I didn't say that." "You near as damn it said -" "Why don't you kill him and have done with it?" The change of subject threw him for a moment. "Who?" "Badger. You're always like a bear with a sore head when you've been to see him." "Yeah, well, this time I've got cause." "I know. Zoe told me." He glared at her. "Are you laughing?" "No." "Only your lips are twitching." "Purely involuntary." "Now, see, you're using long words. Which pretty much goes to prove you find all this amusing." This time she couldn't help but smile. "Mayor Badger? Mal, you have to admit, it is funny." "It don't bear thinking about." He slammed the drawer closed. "Badger's place is where he was - lording it over everyone at the docks. If he's got more power ..." She crossed the small room to stand in front of him, placing her hand in the centre of his chest. "Wait and see." "That's it?" He squinted down at her. "Wait and see? Your answer to all this?" She shrugged. "What else can you do?" "Find my gorram socks." He picked up his spare boots from the floor and climbed the ladder, his bare toes curling around the rungs. Freya sighed and followed. ==== "What's going on?" Kaylee asked in a low voice, having been attracted by the swearing. "It's Mal," Simon said, equally as quietly. "He's looking for something." "In the laundry?" "Socks," Freya said, leaning on the wall, her arms crossed. "He can't find any." "Socks? What kinda socks?" "Socks. You know, greyish, big ... socks." "Only I think I saw something like that in the cargo bay just now." "In the bay?" "Yeah. I was just ... taking a look ... at ..." Her voice faded away. "At?" Freya prompted. "Cat's mule." Freya had to smile. Nobody and nothing - not even Reavers - could keep their mechanic away from anything that had moving parts. "You saw what?" Mal had appeared. Kaylee coloured a little. "I don't know," she went on quickly. "Only Batha seemed to be ... playing ... with something that looked like ..." "My socks?" Mal finished. "Maybe." "That gorram cat ..." He strode towards the cargo bay, ignoring the grating under his tender feet. "Batha!" he yelled as he stepped through the common area doorway. 'Yes?' The panther was rolling on the deck, something between her front paws that looked suspiciously like ... "My sock," Mal breathed. Batha looked at him. 'This?' "My sock!" She rolled over onto her feet, looking down at the mangled grey thing, threads hanging, dubiously moist looking ... 'My chew toy.' Cat, sitting up on top of the mule, one of the panels off, shook her head. "Batha ..." The panther settled to her haunches. 'Mine.' "Where are they?" Mal asked, his hands on his hips. 'What?' "The rest of them. My socks." Batha started to clean a paw, getting her long pink tongue sinuously between the pads. 'Say please.' "Gorramit ..." 'That not please.' "Where are they?" Mal repeated. 'Not tell.' "I'll take away the kids playing privileges ..." 'I take away leg.' Cat could feel Mal's annoyance ramping into anger. "Batha, don't." The panther looked at her then got up. Not say please. She strolled past Mal towards the lower crew quarters, studiously ignoring the mauled sock on the floor. 'Captain Man look good one leg.' 'Batha ...' 'What? He has another.' Cat sighed. 'Don't wind him up.' He start it. Him and Princess Merc - win three-legged race. 'Princess Merc?' There was a sudden image of Jayne in Cat's mind, complete with a larger version of Bethie's Princess Persephone t-shirt, and she couldn't help chuckling. 'Besides, Bat ... that would be two-legged.' There was no response, just a growling laughter. Mal, in the meantime, was staring at the remains of his sock, his face an interesting pale puce colour. "I can lend you some of mine," Freya said soothingly. "That ain't the point," he grunted. "She'll bring them back," Cat added. "She's only playing with you. She likes you." Whatever Mal was going to say was put on hold by Freya slipping her arm around his waist. "I've got to go and get some bits for Ethan and Jesse ... why don't I pick up another couple of pairs for you?" "If I could get that damn panther to tell me where they are you wouldn't need to." "I'm not having you wearing the same socks day in day out." He started to grumble, but her lips on his stopped him in mid grum. "I guess," he eventually said. "'Cept you ain't going alone." "I'll go," Cat said, jumping from the mule. "I need to replace a certain bottle of tequila." Mal narrowed his eyes, then nodded. "You got an hour. After that and I'm sending out search parties." Above them on the catwalk, Hank looked at his wife. "How do you suppose she got down the ladder into their bunk? And opened the drawers?" Zoe put her hand on his arm. "Husband, I don't think you want to know." ==== "I don't know ..." Freya said uncertainly. They were standing outside a multi-coloured, neon-lit bar that proclaimed, in garish flashing lights that it was Chai's Alcohol Emporium. "It looks fine." Cat hefted the bag she was carrying over her shoulder, having insisted on doing the heavy lifting on account of Freya's delicate condition. The other woman had been very scathing but didn't argue that much. "We've been more than an hour already." "You really think Mal's going to come looking for you?" "Well, no, but -" Cat put her hand on the other woman's arm. "Frey. Live a little." "I can't even drink." "I'll drink and you can watch." "You mean like last night?" Freya raised an eyebrow. "And how did you and Declan get on?" "You stay out of my head," Cat said, pointing with an elongated claw. "Just for that you're paying." She shoved the doors open and strode through, shaking the rain from her long red hair and giving half the patrons palpitations. Freya looked up once more at the sign, and sighed. Somehow she had the feeling this was not a good idea. Still, maybe she shouldn't lose her companion quite this early on. Cat was standing at the bar already. "Tequila straight up for me, and an orange juice for my friend." "Orange juice?" The barman, probably not Chai as he was a skinny kid of no more than twenty, squinted at her. "Just juice?" "That's right." "I don't think we -" Cat held up a hand. "Look, just make mine a Tequila Sunrise, but put the juice in a separate glass." Her eyes flashed green for a moment. "Okay?" "Yes, ma'am." The boy hurried away. "You're going to give him a complex," Freya muttered. "Or wet dreams." Cat grinned. "Thanks for that lovely image." "You're welcome." Behind them the door slammed open again, and half a dozen men sauntered through. Cat eyed them over, deciding they were probably no danger to anyone but themselves, and turned back to the bar as the boy brought their drinks. She smiled at him, showing just a hint of fang. "Cat ..." Freya warned, but it was only a murmur. ==== Mal was standing at the open airlock, his foot tapping. Simon had taken pity on him and loaned him a pair of his socks - with the strict proviso that he return them, washed, with no holes or anything else to mar their silky black surface - and at least he was suitably booted, but it wasn't improving his temper. Nor was the fact that his hangover seemed to be lasting longer than was necessary. "Hey!" he said, his hand jumping to the side of his neck as he felt something sting him. "Stop being a martyr," Simon advised, pocketing the hypo. Mal glared at the doctor. "I'm captain. I can be what I want." "And they'll be back when they're finished." The glare hardened into sapphire. "You think I'm worrying about my wife being out with a 'Lliance created weapon?" "You wouldn't be Mal if you weren't." "You and your sis need to stay outta my brain." Simon smiled and headed back to his own domain. "Last time I looked I'm not psychic," he tossed over his shoulder. "I just know you. And Freya can look after herself." "I suppose ..." ==== The new arrivals had all bellied up to the bar, invading the space very effectively. "Beers all round," one of them ordered, then dragged a pack of cigarillos out of his pocket, followed by a box of matches. ==== 'Captain Man.' Mal didn't quite jump out of his skin, but he did turn to glare at the panther. "What?" Batha looked at him with her eerie, green eyes. 'Trouble.' ==== It smelled terrible. Far worse than the cigars Jayne had been known to purchase. If Freya didn't know better, she would have sworn this man had chopped up all the used socks on Serenity and rolled them into smokes, on naked thighs or otherwise. She waved at the air in front of her, trying to push the odour away, feeling nausea rolling in her belly. "Hey," Cat said, tapping the man on the arm. "Can you go and smoke that someplace else?" "What's that, darlin'?" the man asked, leering at her. "Anything I can do for yah?" "Cat, I'm fine," Freya said quickly. "I'd rather go somewhere else." Cat ignored her. "My friend's pregnant. And that thing you're smoking isn't doing her any good." The man leaned in, taking a puff on his cigarillo and blowing a perfect smoke ring into Cat's face. "That right, is it, sweetheart?" Freya closed her eyes. ==== "Where?" Mal asked. 'Bar.' If a panther could shrug, Batha did. 'That way.' Mal hit the comm switch with his closed fist. "Everyone, cargo bay. Now. And bring your guns." ==== It really wasn't fair, Freya considered, looking back on it afterwards. The initial six were quickly dealt with, but then the rest of the bar's patrons decided to get involved, and fists - and bodies - began flying. Not that it was against the two women, per se. Everyone was being treated with equanimity. Ducking under one man's outstretched arms, Freya buried her fist in his solar plexus, hearing his breath whoosh from his lungs as he staggered away, clutching his belly. Stepping on another's toes, her elbow connected with his jaw, and for a moment she stood in a pool of quiet amongst the sea of action, and she was able to appreciate what her companion was doing. This wasn't the dark side. This was just Cat. Okay, mostly Cat, keeping her claws sheathed but calling on some of her strength. And this Cat was enjoying herself. Her movements were lithe, powerful, taking out some men with well-placed fists, while only tickling others to encourage them to make a mistake. She was grinning. Freya waded through the fighters and grabbed Cat by the arm, narrowing missing a left hook. "Sorry," Cat said. "We have to go. Now." "When I'm having fun?" She kicked backwards without looking, and a man the size of Jayne howled, his hands trying desperately to protect his crotch from the pain. "Yes. Now." Cat stopped. "I was protecting you. You know smoke isn't good for a woman in your condition." "I'm pregnant, Cat. Not broken." "You're pregnant?" Freya's head whipped round, her jaw dropping. Mal stood in the doorway, his eyes wide, obviously having heard the last few words. "Oh, shit." Cat and Freya spoke together. Then he was pushed out of the way and five Law Enforcement officers ran inside, brandishing sonic stun rifles. "Everyone stand down!" one of them yelled, his voice filling the bar thanks to the electronic mike at his throat. "You're all bound!"


Friday, November 26, 2010 10:01 AM


I loved Batha winding Mal up, so funny though I am a mite disappointed at Cat getting Frey in trouble in the bar they didn't need to go to. Thank goodness Batha was looking out for them and told Mal but now oops, the news about her being pregnant is out of the bag. Great stuff as always! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, November 26, 2010 7:26 PM


Yay... Uncle Badger is mayor of Eavesdown!

- 'Ski

Sunday, November 28, 2010 6:47 AM


Badger? MAYOR Badger? I'm with Mal. :o


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