BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ANONYMOUSE

Unlikely Bedfellows, Chapter 1
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This is just to start the ball rolling, as our Big Damn Heroes encounter an Alliance officer with a conscience (c'mon, there'd have to be ONE) and the people of Haven may yet get a little justice.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1788    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

CHAPTER 1
I.A.V. Dortmunder
200 metres off Serenity’s port bow
Ten days after the Miranda wave Commander Lindayne deVries had entirely expected Reynolds’ reaction to her statement: he collapsed in paroxysms of incredulous laughter. This went on for nearly two minutes, until he regained a measure of control, still whooping. She didn’t move, nor react. She knew that was what he expected her to do. Her detailed study of his profile told her how this would play out. Reynolds looked out of the screen at her again, expecting her to show annoyance or exasperation. She did neither, simply waited patiently. Finally, she asked mildly, “Are you done?” “Do you guys have time for jokes? Ain’t you all too busy bringin’ the light of civilisation to them as don’t need it?” “Save the sarcasm, please. I’m quite serious. I’ve been authorised by the Parliament directly to pay you 10,000 square just for hearing me out, and a further 90,000 if you agree. It’s an easy job, relatively little risk or work, and it won’t even cost you any fuel to speak of.” Predictably, the crew’s interest perked up somethin’ keen at that, though Jayne scowled. “Can’t trust no ruttin’ Alliance, Mal.” He then, surprisingly, affected a contrite look. “Hell, I should know.” Mal did not belabour the point in front of the others; there was no need, it was settled. He knew Jayne had genuinely regretted what he’d done. He’d have spaced him without hesitation otherwise. “We sure could use ten thousand square, Cap’n,” Zoe mused. “It wouldn’t hurt to hear them out, Mal,” Inara pointed out reasonably. “Might if they haul us in,” Jayne growled. “You all three got a point…Commander, what kinda guarantee can you give me an’ mine we ain’t gonna regret this?” “Given that you’ve been bound by law five times, I can understand your concern,” deVries responded sardonically. “I’ll come over in a med-shuttle, alone, unarmed, and transfer to your ship via whichever airlock you designate. The Dortmunder will then back off to a reasonable distance, to give you room and time to escape if you’re of a mind to. Of course, if I’m already on board that’ll add kidnapping of a Federal officer to the charge sheet, and you’ll be out 10,000 square since I won’t be able - or willing - to authorise the credit transfer, but it’s your choice.” “Credit transfer?” Mal frowned. “It’s my understanding that a Registered Companion, one Inara Serra of Sihnon, travels with you. The funds can be paid directly into her account, to ensure security for both parties. You’ll understand if I prefer not to come aboard your ship with that amount in actual coin,” she finished wryly. “Smart lady,” Mal conceded, smiling slightly. “Inara, you okay with this?” “Yes, certainly,” she replied softly. “This sounds intriguing.” “They’re bein’ entirely too reasonable,” Mal said doubtfully. “Don’t like it.” “It’s better than having them shoot at us, surely,” Simon opined. “And there must be a reason for their being so reasonable - hmm, that sounds like something River might say…In any case, I think we are in the stronger position. There’s only one explanation I can think of as to why they’re requesting our help rather than simply arresting us.” “And that would be?” “Obvious: they need us for some reason.” Mal thought about that. He met Zoe’s eyes, knew they were thinking the same thing: Time to put our crazy little psychic to work. As it turned out, there was no need. Silent as a ghost, River’s head suddenly appeared over Mal’s shoulder. “Gaah!” he yelled. River smiled mischievously. “How in the hell do you do that, little albatross? No, never mind; what can you tell us about -” “Nothing from this distance. Echoes lost in the waves.” She looked serious. “They’re not there. It’s okay.” ‘They’? Mal wondered. “River?” Simon asked gently. “Are we in any danger?” “Two by two...hands of blue...her hands aren’t blue and there’s only one of her. Not blue. It’s okay.” “She’s come out with that before, Mal,” Jayne recalled; he wasn’t gonna forget anythin’ ’bout that Ariel business any time soon - ’specially not the way it ended. “That ‘hands o’ blue’ crap...what the ruttin’ hell’s it mean?” “I think it refers to Alliance agents,” Simon suggested. “High-level cleanup operatives, that is. I believe she’s saying they’re not involved. That Commander deVries is on the level.” “Pickin’ up the lingo, ain’tcha,” Mal approved amusedly. “I take it what she picks up will be clearer if deVries is actually on this boat?” Simon nodded, as did River (she was clearly imitating him, as became clear when she stuck her tongue out at him). “Okay, Commander, we’ll bite. Come in nice and slow, and make for the dorsal airlock. We’ll meet you there. Jayne: I think Vera might appreciate a trip outdoors a spell.” Jayne grinned savagely. “Got it.”

-
“We’re clear, sir,” Zoe reported. “We can run any time. If we want to,” she added pointedly. Sure enough, Dortmunder was now several klicks off to port, well out of cannon range. The unarmed med-shuttle was holding station on autopilot, fifty metres off to starboard. And Kaylee was standing by in the engine room, ready to goose Serenity and give ’em all she had. Mal toggled the intercom. “Jayne?” “She’s aboard, Mal. She ain’t armed that I can see. Got her good an’ covered. Bringin’ her in now.”
-
Commander deVries walked carefully into Serenity’s common room, all eyes and Vera’s muzzle following her. She was, Mal noticed with surprise, looking around with appreciation, as she had on the entire trip from the dorsal airlock. Seems she likes a Firefly when she sees one. Maybe she ain’t all bad. Why do I keep thinkin’ that? She’s gorram Alliance! “Sorry for staring, Captain; it’s been a while since I saw a Firefly. I’ve always liked the design,” she confessed. “The newer models are flashier, certainly faster and more efficient, but they lack...style. They aren’t...they aren’t....sorry, I can’t find the words,” she ended a little lamely. They ain’t ships you can love, Mal couldn’t help thinking. This connectin’ he seemed to be doin’ with this girl wasn’t helpin’ him think clearly. It had to stop. Maybe he should leave her in River’s hands, at the point of that Reaver sword she’d insisted on keeping (and which no-one, not even Simon, had felt brave enough to argue about). deVries settled into a chair on one side of the room, his crew on the other, and Mal nodded to her. “Speak your piece. Ain’t makin’ no promises at this stage.” “Don’t you want to arrange the credit transfer first?” she asked, sounding surprised. “Oh, yeah - forgot about that,” Mal noted offhandedly. But she wasn’t fooled. “No, you didn’t. You’re trying to put me off guard by doing the unexpected. You’re a little unnerved by the fact that I haven’t even tried to arrest you. Nor did Dortmunder fire a single shot even when she was in range - and you hadn’t detected her.” “Mmm, I’d like to talk to you ’bout that at some point.” Mal was unnerved, and, worse, this Alliance bint knew it. She was sharp, shrewd, and gorram it, he had to stop complimentin’ her, even if it was only in his own head! What the gorram hell was goin’ on?! “I bet,” she chuckled. Damned if she wasn’t starting to like this rogue a bit. Whoa, reality check! Reinstall ’verse and reboot - he’s an Independent! Or was, anyway. Doesn’t stop him being handsome, though… “Okay, it’s like this. You probably know what happened immediately after you transmitted that broadwave -” “Oh, yeah,” Jayne grinned irreverently. “I think we upset some folk.” deVries sighed in tired exasperation. “I don’t think ‘upset’ really does it, do you? The result was chaos, not to put too fine a point on it. There were accusations and counter-accusations, rumours, misinformation, cries of ‘Shame!’ and ‘Fake!’ - surely you and yours didn’t expect anything else?” “Didn’t even think on it,” Mal told her quietly. “Didn’t matter much, way we saw it. Thirty million people needed someone to speak for ’em; Alliance sure as hell wasn’t gonna. An’ more than just them on Miranda paid, too.” deVries frowned. “What do you mean by that?” “Taken a look at Haven lately?” Mal stared coldly at her. He had never forgotten the depth of helpless rage he’d felt on seeing what was left of the camp, and never would. “I - I don’t understand. According to the latest reports, Haven was hit by Reavers -” “By the gorram Alliance, in point of fact! Oh, what, they didn’t tell you that? An’ what happened to the K-3 Mining Post on Whitefall, or the Sanchez brothers on Boros? Hey, those Reavers sure do get about, don’t they?” He was bluntly accusing her, but he saw immediately he was off-target. She’d gone pale. He suddenly knew she was ignorant of the Operative’s actions. “You - you’re alleging the Alliance murdered uninvolved civilians? Why? Why would we do that -?” “Well, not the Alliance proper, I mean, let’s be fair,” Mal allowed cynically. “But the gorram Operative who wanted to make sure me an’ mine had nowhere to run sure as hell did it. We found ’em, lyin’ dead just where they’d been mown down. Hardly any of ’em were armed.” The anger had a hold of him now. “There were kids lyin’ dead with bullet holes in ’em!” “One was only eight,” Kaylee interjected, almost in a whisper. “Li’l Hiroko. Only the other night, he’d been sittin’ on my lap, playin’ an’ gettin’ salad cream all over me...” She managed a brief, tearful smile at the memory, then told deVries the rest, forcing it out: “...an’ I was the one who found him...just lyin’ there, with...with bullet wounds in his side...” “An’ he weren’t the youngest - one couple had babies,” Mal added bluntly. “Found ’em burned alive in what was left of their hut. Add that to the tally.” “No,” deVries breathed, genuinely horrified, “you’re mistaken, you have to be. We - there’s no call to kill civilians...” “All for their ‘better world’,” Mal finished bitterly. “Even though he said his own self he wasn’t fit to live there. Got that right for damn sure.” “He admitted it?! Who - who was he?!” “Don’t know. For all I know, maybe that bunger don’t even have a name. Wouldn’t surprise me.” River poked her head around the door at that point and contributed: “She’s telling the truth. She didn’t know. Veils and secrets. She hasn’t seen behind them.” deVries had bowed her head, and Mal was surprised and a little touched to hear a muffled sob. Well, what d’you know...an Alliance officer with a conscience. Never thought I’d see the day. When she raised her head, she didn’t bother to conceal her tears. She gazed hopelessly at Mal, clearly willing him to admit he was wrong, and shaking her head when he showed no sign of doing so. “I...I had no idea. There’ll have to be an investigation...can - can you prove your allegations?” “You know damn well we can’t,” Mal growled. “But since the whole thing was ‘Closed File’, there won’t even be records, will there? You’d have to find the Operative who did it. Good luck with that.” “Would we even make such a claim without proof if it weren’t the truth? What would be the point?” Inara observed. “Those people hadn’t even committed any crime,” she continued, a rare anger gathering in her eyes. “All they did was to offer us shelter and decent hospitality for a few nights...and we had to repay six of them by tying their bodies to Serenity’s nose in the effort to make her look like a Reaver ship! We all paid dearly, everyone on this boat - we defiled our friends, desecrated them! Now what can you tell us that makes it all worthwhile?!” deVries had gone even paler, if that were possible. “I...there’ll be an investigation. There will,” she insisted, seeing Mal’s cynical expression. “I have considerable influence; my mother is the Director of Planetary Security on Londinium, and her wife is the Parliamentary Speaker. One word from me, and they will investigate, I swear. This is...this is monstrous,” she shook her head again, real shock visible in her eyes. “But - why was it so important to eliminate your hiding places? What made you so important -?” “Me,” River said brightly, poking her head around the door again. “Long story,” Mal sighed, and told it.
-
“Incredible,” deVries marvelled when he and his crew were done telling a tale of two fugitives. “But they’re no longer concerned with her, or Dr. Tam? No, they wouldn’t be,” she realised, “once the wave was broadcast, everyone knew. No more secret. Which brings me neatly back to why I’m here, Captain - though I swear on my mother’s life,” she vowed earnestly, “I will call for an investigation into Haven. I will not forget. “Anyway: there are factions in Parliament who are insisting that the Miranda affair be investigated. Others have pointed out that the wave in itself isn’t proof of what happened, or of who was responsible. If indeed anyone was; it’s been suggested that this may have been an industrial accident. I know,” she added hastily, “that hardly sounds likely given what Dr. Caron said, but still. However, it isn’t as simple as sending a team...there might be, as I’m sure you can well imagine, accusations about favouritism, cover-ups and so on. We need an independent party to accompany the team, speak for voices other than the Alliance...which, of course, is where you and yours come in. “You’ve been there. You’ve seen it, which qualifies as what the Parliament calls ‘local knowledge’. The word of the Last Man Standing will carry considerable weight.” “Wish everyone’d just forget that,” Mal complained in an aside to Zoe. “Weight of history, sir,” Zoe couldn’t resist. “This could, if it’s not handled carefully, result in internecine war. You’ve already fought in one. I assume you don’t want another in your lifetime. But we can’t establish accountability, and thus ensure that the people of Miranda receive justice, without a full and impartial investigation. If we simply allow the furore to continue, it could split the Alliance asunder, and that would certainly lead to war.” She squared her shoulders. “We are here to escort you to Miranda - we can save you the fuel by having Serenity dock with Dortmunder. I know fuel consumption is always an issue with mid-bulk transports, so that’ll only add to your profit margin as an incentive.” “100,000 square total?” Mal mused. “And all we gotta do is kinda look over your shoulders while you snoop around Miranda?” “That’s it,” deVries confirmed. “No strings. When we’re done, we’ll drop you off in the vicinity of any world you specify, and then you can go your own way. I’m given to understand,” she added dryly, “that that’s essentially your guiding star.” Mal couldn’t help chuckling at that. Gorram it, this Alliance bint wasn’t half bad. Stop thinkin’ that, you dozy bunger! “You mentioned a credit transfer?” Inara reminded her. “If you’ll accompany me to my shuttle, we can arrange it.” “Of course,” deVries acknowledged, with a surprising amount of deference. As she followed Inara, she glanced back at Mal and held his eyes for a moment. In hers, he saw the immediate understanding of what Inara had just done, of her amused endorsement of the tactic...and something that Mal could only conjure was respect. What is going on here?! Mal wondered, again. “Gorram it, she knows,” he marvelled, shaking his head in admiration. “She’s good.” “Wouldn’t do to underestimate her, sir,” Zoe agreed. “She knows what?” Jayne demanded, having missed the subtleties in Inara’s body language. Simon chuckled. “Even I got that one: with Inara keeping deVries busy, we can discuss what we’ve just heard freely.” “Oh, yeah, that.” “So. Opinions?” Mal asked. “Sounds a reasonable offer, sir. Plus it keeps the Alliance busy once it’s done. Could be good for us.” “Could be bad for us,” Jayne snarled, “or are you forgettin’ the gorram Reavers? We got any more bodies handy, Mal?” “Won’t need ’em,” he pointed out. “Reavers ain’t no match for a cruiser. Only reason the Alliance never went into that territory was Miranda - now they know, ain’t no reason they can’t go in. Just one of those cruisers should be enough to blow the entire Reaver fleet to the hot place.” “Do we want that?” Kaylee piped up. “I mean, ain’t they victims as much as anyone else? They didn’t ask to become what they are...ain’t there any way they could be helped?” she asked plaintively. “Gorram it, girl, you’re goin’ too far with that softhearted go-se! Reavers ain’t no good ’cept for killin’!” “No, she’s got a point, Jayne,” Mal said, “Maybe there’s a way that what’s done can be undone. What d’you think, doc?” Mal turned to Simon, who frowned. “As a doctor, I agree: if anything can be done, it should be. Kaylee’s right; they are by definition not responsible for their actions. At the very least, they should be put out of their misery if the effects of the Pax are irreversible. We won’t know one way or the other without an investigation.” “There, see? It’s a win-win,” Kaylee opined brightly. “If we can help ’em, we will, and if not...well, let’s see first.” “Too risky,” Jayne shook his head. “It’s risky, sure,” Zoe noted, “but too risky? I dunno. Besides, we won’t be doin’ it. Leave that to the Alliance; they made ’em in the first place.” “Seems we got one ‘no’ vote and the rest ‘yes’, not that it matters as this ain’t the gorram Parliament -” Mal began. “If it don't matter, why'd you even bother askin' us?” Jayne interrupted. “I like my crew to feel involved, is all,” Mal grinned. “Anyway: much as the idea unsettles me, doin’ the Alliance any kinda favour, seems to me we’re helpin’ ourselves more’n them, and that’s good enough for me. We’re doin’ it.” “I’ll set up for docking,” River reported, peeking in again. Then she cocked her head to one side, like a bird, and asked softly, “Will we get them up? Can they get up? Will they say anything...?”
-
“He’s quite a man, I have to admit,” deVries told Inara, as the latter opened a secure data channel to the Federal Bank of Sihnon. “Don’t you agree?” she hinted. Inara smiled wryly. “He’s stubborn, overly opinionated, intensely annoying, and those are just his good points,” she returned. “I don’t believe you really have such a low opinion of him,” deVries demurred softly. “You wouldn’t do business with him otherwise.” “You seem to have a high opinion of him,” Inara countered thoughtfully, “which when considering your respective backgrounds is little short of remarkable.” “Because he’s a former Independent, I should automatically hold him in contempt? Is that what you’re suggesting?” deVries asked neutrally. “No, of course not...but it’s still surprising.” Inara paused, carefully considering what she should say. The woman was confusing her; her affect wasn’t in the least like the typical Alliance officer, still less a high-ranking one - and least of all like a scion of such a highly-placed family as hers, with whom Inara was familiar. She was much more...approachable. Warm, even. Human. That realisation decided it. She would play it straight and see what occurred. “He does, I will admit, have a curious sense of nobility, which emerges at the most inappropriate times; for example, he once engaged in what he thought of as defence of my honour...even though I didn’t actually want him to. Not only that, he won.” “Do tell,” deVries requested, fascinated. “He fought a duel. A swordfight, would you believe, despite knowing little more about swordplay than knowing which end of the sword to hold!” She hadn’t intended to laugh, but she couldn’t help it. “An old-fashioned gentleman, then,” deVries remarked. “That’s a rare bird indeed these days. Surely that’s a good point?” “He was lucky not to be gutted,” Inara reflected sourly. “So why...?” “My client on Persephone was, as Captain Reynolds saw it, mistreating me - treating me as property. It was a valid point, I admit, but it’s nothing new to me. But he decided he simply wouldn’t stand for it.” Her voice rose a little. “He drives me to distraction - he’ll call me a whore to my face, yet he won’t stand for any other man treating me with less than respect. It’s maddening!” “At least he’s honest with you,” deVries pointed out fairly. “Or is it that he respects you, but not your lifestyle?” she suggested shrewdly. Inara stared at her...and sighed in defeat. This little contest of wits was over, and deVries had won. “I’ll have to give you that,” she acknowledged. “And he was right, I suppose; the client wasn’t respecting me as a person. I wouldn’t want to admit it to him, but yes, he was right.” As she received an acknowledgment signal on the Cortex, Inara entered her account details, and motioned deVries to add her transfer codes; she did so. In seconds, confirmation was received: 10,000 square, transferred from the Alliance Fleet Finance Authority to her account. “Done,” Inara nodded. “And I imagine the crew are about done with their discussion,” deVries smiled. “It was very subtle of you to give them that opening.” Inara inclined her head in respect. “Well, we’d better rejoin them. But before we do, there’s something I need to know - because I’m about to trust him with the security of the Alliance. He’s a known, or at least suspected, criminal, yet I have to trust him to help us prevent a war; I have to. So I need to know, Inara...” It was the first time deVries had addressed her by name, and that immediately caught her attention. “What?” “Is he a good man?” deVries asked, very quietly. Inara’s answer surprised even her. “Yes,” she answered as softly, “I truly believe he is.”
-
As they approached the common area, Mal and the others were just leaving. “So, are we all paid up an’ ready for more Big Damn Heroics?” Mal asked brightly. “We’re paid up,” was all Inara would admit to. “I don’t know about the heroics...” “Captain, if you could put me in touch with Dortmunder, I’ll arrange for the docking and we can get underway.” Mal nodded, and once they arrived on the Bridge, Mal hailed the cruiser. “Transport ship Serenity, this is Dortmunder, receiving you.”Dortmunder, this is deVries; set course for Haven - I say again, Haven - and prepare for docking,” deVries ordered. “Aye, sir; standing by. Serenity, you are clear for docking.” “Take us in, River,” Mal nodded, giving her control of the docking manoeuvre for practice. River executed a neat barrel roll, and Serenity slid smoothly under the cruiser. They achieved hard seal on the first approach; Wash could hardly have done better, he thought. “Hey, comin’ on a treat there, li’l albatross,” Mal complimented her. “Dortmunder, we’re showin’ green lights here.” “Hard seal confirmed, Serenity. Engaging engines.” And with that, they were on their way.
-
“I don’t get it. We’re goin’ to Haven why, exactly?” deVries sighed. “To investigate the attack, I told you. It’s on the way to Miranda; we’ll stop there, check it out, I’ll make my report and then we’ll proceed with the mission.” “Haven’s done,” Jayne growled disapprovingly. “Ain’t nothin’ there now but wreckage an’ graves.” “And answers,” deVries growled back. “I want those answers.” Before long, they had arrived in close orbit of Haven. Except for the fact that the fires were long burned out, nothing had changed. deVries shook her head sorrowfully at the scene of devastation being relayed by Dortmunder’s scout craft. Its pilot, an awfully young-looking ensign, had been chirpy on being given the assignment; clearly she loved to fly and didn’t often get the opportunity. There was nothing chirpy about her tone now as she reported in. “I confirm no life signs, Commander, no power sources - nothing. Analysing the damage and deployment patterns now, sir.” A couple of minutes passed. Then the girl reported soberly: “Classic Alliance deployment, sir. We’ll have to land for confirmation, but I’m pretty sure: we did this.” “Acknowledged, Ensign,” deVries replied. “Land and secure the area. We’re coming in.” “Aye, sir.” “Take us down, River,” Mal ordered quietly. River glanced once at Steggy, as if asking Wash’s departed spirit for approval, and complied without a word.
-

Haven
Former mining settlement
Eleven days after the Miranda wave deVries and Mal walked through the settlement, Mal pointing out the former homes of the deceased inhabitants as they went - not out of malice, but for information. But when he pointed at the remains of Bernabe’s hut and told her what they’d found there, she quietly pleaded with him: “Please...no more. I hear you. Please don’t.” He nodded, and they continued...towards the graveyard he and his crew had made. Mal stared for a while at Shepherd Book’s grave, remembering that remarkable old man with such a mysterious past. Zoe had told him about Book’s part in the rescue at Niska’s skyplex; he’d been impressed with her tales of Book’s deadly accurate shooting. “As good as Jayne, easy,” she’d told him. Somehow he didn’t find it hard to believe. “A friend?” deVries inquired solicitously as Mal reached out to touch the makeshift gravestone. “I mean - well, they were all your friends, weren’t they? But this one was...?” “Truth be told, I dunno what he was,” Mal told her frankly. “Hell of a shot for a preacher man, I can tell you that. Derrial Book, his name was; a Shepherd from Southdown Abbey on Persephone. A good man.” “I’m truly sorry,” she told him sincerely. “Can...can we get down to business...?” He stared at her, not understanding. “The...bodies,” she explained delicately. “We need to retrieve the slugs from them, confirm they’re Alliance issue. Believe me, there’s nothing I’d rather not do,” she added hurriedly, “but we have to have proof. We have an ordained priest aboard Dortmunder; she’ll make sure they’re reburied decently. You have my word on that. Hell, I’ll do it myself,” she decided determinedly. “I don’t know what else I can do to prove my sincerity to you.” “I already got that,” Mal murmured. “I appreciate it. I’ll give you a hand. These folks deserve decent treatment.” She looked around the wrecked mining site, somehow seeing it as it had been, and nodded. “Yes. They do.”

-
The grisly job was soon completed, with, it had to be said, typical Alliance efficiency. At one point, though, a handler was a little clumsy and the pathetic remains he was handling nearly tumbled to the ground. Mal was startled by deVries’ angered snarl. The forensics officer performed a rapid analysis of the rounds extracted from the Haven settlers, and nodded grimly. “Standard Alliance ammo, sir. Rifling, twist patterns, propellant characteristics - all a match for DT-17s.” “Standard Striker-class air-to-ground ammunition,” she noted bleakly. “Yes, sir. There’s no doubt.” “As if we didn’t know already,” she cursed, “as if the downed skiff over there wasn’t proof enough. Very well; log your findings, Lieutenant, and transmit a copy to Serenity. Then return to Dortmunder and fetch the priest, if you would.” The lieutenant saluted. “Aye, sir. On my way.”
-
deVries had decided to exhume only three bodies - Book, a woman (probably Mildred, Bernabe’s wife) and little Hiroko. As she and Mal returned them to the ground, the priest, a stately dark-haired woman, surprised Mal by singing “Amazing Grace”. He thought Book might well have approved. As deVries patted the earth down on Hiroko’s grave, she choked up and began crying. Mal crossed to her side and found himself putting an arm around her shoulders; she leaned into him gratefully. “Hey, what’s this?” “I’m sorry, I get like this at children’s funerals, I - I just...” She gulped for air through her sobs, and blurted, “I can’t have kids...” When this relationship, or association, whatever the hell it was now, had started, Mal had decided to be cynical because he didn’t figure an Alliance officer deserved anythin’ more. But he didn’t feel like keeping it up now that she was showing herself to be pretty human after all. So he asked as gently as he could, “What’s that?” “I...I have a very strange genetic condition I inherited from my father - actually, it killed him. He was only thirty. It’s lethal to men, though it only sets in during their twenties or thereabouts; he was lucky to last that long. Girls aren’t affected as such, but they pass it on...it isn’t treatable, even with the best facilities. We’ve tried.” He could tell this was difficult for her, but once she’d started she couldn’t stop. “So I had myself sterilised - I couldn’t pass on that horrible thing to a child, I just couldn’t. The worst of it is...I love kids. I spend as much time in the nursery as my duties will allow. The idea of someone killing children indiscriminately, murdering them, all for an abstract ideal - it repulses me. I wanted to be sick when you told me...oh, God, those poor kids...” she broke down anew. Mal tried once more to be cynical, but in the face of Lindayne’s obviously genuine grief, he did not succeed. He didn’t know how to comfort her; the priest, too, looked distressed, but said nothing. He decided to just hold her for a while and see if that worked. It did, to an extent. After a time Mal didn’t bother to figure the length of, she pulled herself together with a deep, shuddering breath, and quietly thanked him. “And now, Captain...let’s end this.”
-
“I’d like you to accompany me to Dortmunder, Captain,” deVries requested, once they were back aboard Serenity. Mal was immediately on his guard. “What for?” he asked cautiously. “So you know I’m keeping my word, of course. I’m going to call for an official investigation, and I’d like you to be there when I do.” “Ain’t there regulations ’bout unauthorised folk aboard Alliance boats?” “If I invite you aboard, you’re authorised. Quit worrying.” “How does it go?” Mal couldn’t resist a quip. “Enter freely and of your own will?” He didn’t really need to turn and look at Inara’s expression. But he turned anyway. For Malcolm Reynolds of all people to have read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was enough of a shock to her, but for him to have read a novel too, and for it to be, of all the Earth-That-Was literature available, that one - for a moment, she seriously debated running to the infirmary and jabbing herself with the Big Damn Syringe, as she was feeling in need of it.

COMMENTS

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:59 AM

ANONYMOUSE


It begins.

(Correctly formatted, this time...after repeated editing!)

Comments, please?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:39 AM

KENAN82


Flat out brilliant A-mouse! I like the extent at which Mal and the crew is off-balanced my their guest...... well, Zoe's not taken in anyway.

Send more Please!!

Keep flyin',

K

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 7:20 AM

NUTLUCK


Different I will give you that. I like it so far. I am curious where it is going to go after Miranda though.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:04 PM

AMDOBELL


Interesting. Not sure the Captain and crew would be won over so quickly or deVries would be so emotional, especially having risen to the ranks of Captain in the mighty Alliance. I felt sad that Book and the other two were dug up to provide forensic evidence to establish who had been responsible for the atrocity on Haven but glad they were buried again with respect. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 7:52 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Hmmmm...I gotta say there are some mighty interesting things afoot here, I will admit. It would be powerfully strange for the crew to return to Haven and Miranda, sites of such horrible events for the crew, though I think they would want to complete the journey to representing the Mirandan people and the Haven settlers in showing the Alliance's population that good intentions can spiral out of control.

However, like AMDOBELL, I am not sure how to take Captain DeVries and her behaviour shown so far. Yes, I think the series would have had Mal encounter "faces" of the Alliance who acted counter to how he perceived Alliance officers and politicians would behave, and Mal needs that encouragement to revise his attitudes...but Lindayne deVries just seems too openly emotional and touchie-feelie for a military leader or CO of a naval vessel of any purport. Especially of a cruiser the side of the Dortmunder (if it's the same city sized vessel from "Serenity" and "Bushwacked"). Still, the Alliance wouldn't have picked just ANYBODY, so I have to wonder just how much of the shown behaviour is true and how much is an act to get Mal & co. to trust....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 2:13 AM

ANONYMOUSE


Yay, positive feedback and constructive criticism! Thanks, guys!

Okay. About Lindayne deVries: yes, she is rather sentimental when it suits her - I may have overdone that a bit, and I might even rewrite it. This is due at least partly to her upbringing - you may recall she mentioned her mother (Londinium's Director of Planetary Security) and her mother's wife (the Parliamentary Speaker). Backstory to follow, but suffice it to say for now that these two women, who incidentally have a 10-year age gap (the former is the younger of the two, though both don't look any older than mid-thirties - Lindayne is 29) have very different attitudes, both to motherhood and to the Alliance. Lindayne's birth mother is, as you might imagine, devoted to the Alliance. Her wife, however, hates her job (as mentioned in the Prologue) and is, at best, rather disillusioned. Her position accords her access to rather more information about the Alliance's doings than the average citizen, and in fact she has acquired access to rather more than that. She is in fact a very naughty girl. :)

But I defy anyone who has strong motherly drives and is unable to have kids for whatever reason to be anything other than sentimental about them. Motherhood is a powerful force indeed, as surely anyone on this site who's a mother can confirm.

You may recall the Alliance captain in 'Bushwhacked' calling for a double guard on the nursery? Oddly enough, that line created Lindayne in my mind. Doesn't the fact that those ships have nurseries imply that they're rather like Picard's original Enterprise, carrying families as well as crew - with crew actually having families, in fact? Does it seem reasonable that a woman who can't have kids but desperately wants them would like to spend time with them? Joss created Firefly with the express intent of pointing out that people won't really be any different in 500 years' time. There'll still be crusaders, criminals, cheats, liars and all grades in between. Lindayne is an expression of this notion.

I would argue about the crew being won over by her. First off, hey, this is a job, they're bein' paid!
Second, Jayne isn't going to trust her an inch. Zoe is cautious as always, but as always she's following Mal's lead. Kaylee always trusts everyone unless they turn on her, bless her. :) Simon is warily trusting, because River accepts her - of course, River's cheating a bit by reading her mind. Mal and Inara don't know what to make of her yet - Mal because of his (understandable and usually accurate) preconceptions of Alliance officers, and Inara because she's reading in Lindayne's body language that she's a mass of contradictions.

But of *course* she is - conflicted characters are always interesting. :)

However, I think I'll risk giving a bit away by saying that Lindayne is NOT trying to manipulate Mal. She has no agenda of her own other than either trying to clear the Alliance's name, or trying to root out what she sees as a few bad apples. Her feelings are honest, her tears genuine. I say again, the Alliance officers can't all be robots - especially if they're veterans, as Lindayne will later reveal herself to be (she fought at Du-Khang, New Dunsmir and other battles, but did not take part in the offensive which left Shadow devastated, and was injured in action two weeks prior to Serenity Valley).

I do apologise for sending our Big Damn Heroes back to Haven and, later, Miranda; still more for exhuming Book, Mildred and Hiroko (the latter two mentioned in the novelisation). In self-defence, anyone who knows anything about military matters will tell you there's no substitute for on-the-spot observation, the whole boots/facts on the ground thing. How else would they prove what happened? The Alliance is no more immune to left hand/right hand machinations than any other government; I doubt the officers on Ariel expected to be murdered by what they saw as high-ranking officials. Similarly, it's likely the Operative's actions would be off the record - and I doubt that anyone lower in the hierarchy would be aware of such events. This will contribute to a growing disillusionment on Lindayne's part, and later on, when they land on Miranda, I am planning for Lindayne to have her own Serenity Valley moment...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 2:26 AM

ANONYMOUSE


By the way...does anyone happen know which novel Mal was quoting from? <grin>

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 5:58 PM

RIVERTAM1


Brilliant!!! more more more!

Thursday, May 12, 2011 5:04 AM

ANONYMOUSE


It's coming, honest! Unfortunately, my lousy writing practices are interfering again...

To explain: I tend to write a fic as bits & pieces, then have trouble tying them together because other ideas keep occurring to me, plus I fall in love with particular scenes and keep endlessly tweaking them. It's a bad technique, I KNOW it's a bad technique, and I've been TRYING to stop it happening, I've been fighting the ideas. But the ideas are winning...

Next chapter soon, I promise!

Thursday, May 12, 2011 11:27 PM

RIVERTAM1


Shiny! Cant wait!!!
You can't stop the signal!

Saturday, May 14, 2011 6:02 AM

BYTEMITE


Hmm. Maybe in the future, soldiers don't have to have the tough insensitive attitude. Maybe gender stereotypes have been dissociated, and emotionality in some cases is allowable, or something.

Captain Lindayne strikes me as a "fixer" character, already beginning to see the issues of the crew and working to address those issues, even as she conducts her investigation. Take care that she does not become too powerful or insightful as she goes about her fixing, you might also consider throwing in some mistakes and misunderstandings.

The actual premise here is a very interesting one. I'm wondering if confirming what has happened to prevent a war will have a twist. And if so, what choices will the crew make?

Saturday, May 14, 2011 6:06 AM

BYTEMITE


You're correct about the Tohoku class cruisers, however, they are actually floating cities (not just looking like them), with teachers, nurseries, doctors, and humanitarian concern types. They can hold up to 4000 people. And yes, in this sense, for most of these cruisers they act very much like the Enterprise with a similar mission. They also bust crime, such as illegal salvage and smuggling on the side.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 3:15 AM

EBFIDDLER


Great story!
I avoided reading/commenting for a while as I was working on my own story that also involves an unexpectedly sympathetic Alliance character. I like what you've done here and hope you'll be continuing this story and posting more soon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 2:02 AM

ANONYMOUSE


I'm posting it today, hopefully!

Thanks again for the comments! There are all sorts of ideas I've been having lately, to the extent that I'm seriously thinking of writing an entire SEASON. Among these are:

Another encounter with Lindayne (after one or two changes in her career which are happening later in "Unlikely Bedfellows"), in which she and our BDHs encounter slavers;

Mal, Zoe, Jayne and Kaylee are stranded on Ezra, Kaylee's hurt to the point where it's doubtful she'll make it to the nearest outpost (remember Ezra's a desert planet...with Niska's skyplex in orbit!), and the others have NO idea even of what planet they're on;

Someone may (or may not) have developed an FTL drive! Our BDHs and the Alliance are, needless to say, anxious to get their hands on it...

More soon (for a given value of soon)!


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OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

The Hot Place, Act II
Our heroes are plunging towards Ezra, and meanwhile Inara & co. have a little trouble with police...

The Hot Place, Act I
Mal's taking Zoe, Jayne and Kaylee in Shuttle II to meet a paying passenger, despite Jayne's misgivings. Unfortunately, those misgivings prove to be well-founded, as Niska's skyplex is currently under attack by police (who aren't particularly good shots) and the passenger's ON the skyplex!

The Hot Place (teaser)
This one's in script format. Our Big Damn Heroes are in trouble again - Mal, Zoe, Jayne and Kaylee end up stranded on Ezra, with Kaylee hurt, and the others have NO idea where they are. During a battle to seize Niska’s skyplex, their shuttle is caught by a stray shot; the passenger they’d arranged to pick up neglected to mention a) the battle or b) that he was on the skyplex, the inconsiderate bunger. This takes place 3 weeks after “Unlikely Bedfellows”.

Unlikely Bedfellows, Chapter 2
It's here, as promised - a bit more background on Lindayne and her family, our Big Damn Heroes are off to Miranda...and the Hands of Blue are coming! In fact - they're he-eeeeere...!

Unlikely Bedfellows, Chapter 1
This is just to start the ball rolling, as our Big Damn Heroes encounter an Alliance officer with a conscience (c'mon, there'd have to be ONE) and the people of Haven may yet get a little justice.

Unlikely Bedfellows (Prologue)
I'm just posting the Prologue for the moment because if I don't post SOMETHING I'm gonna go outa my gorram mind! Anyway: it's just after the BDM, questions are being asked in Parliament, our Big Damn Heroes are coming up with new ways of makin' decent coin - and the Hands of Blue are on the move. Expect to see familiar faces, friends & enemies both!

Unlikely Bedfellows (Prologue, rest of)
Oops, I only posted one page of the Prologue. Here's the rest...

Unlikely Bedfellows (Prologue, rest of)
Oops, I only posted one page of the Prologue. Here's the rest...

Unlikely Bedfellows (Prologue)
I'm just posting the Prologue for the moment because if I don't post SOMETHING I'm gonna go outa my gorram mind! Anyway: it's just after the BDM, questions are being asked in Parliament, our Big Damn Heroes are coming up with new ways of makin' decent coin - and the Hands of Blue are on the move. Expect to see familiar faces, friends & enemies both!


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