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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
They even had a variety of grenades to add in the explosion parts. They couldn't go wrong. "This is the worst idea you've ever had, Mal." (Strategy)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1570 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
At around eight in the evening, the yellow sun was low enough in the sky such that travel wasn't sure heat-stroke. Also made the garden before them look like some kind of Eden; expensive fèng huáng genmod birds set loose amid cinnamon, roses, and local citrus in bloom. Pathways lined with mistsprayers, winding around fountains and other impractical desert water works. Everything neat and orderly despite frenzied workers bringing in tables and hanging lanterns.
And between them and fortune, a gate covered in enough precious to make the greediest devil jealous, solid gold humming with enough electricity to send any thieves right to their waiting jaws.
"Okay then," Captain Reynolds clapped his hands, rousing his two crew members from their splendor induced trances. "Let's break it." His mechanic made a Kaylee noise and happily scurried over to the crumbly sandstone wall to listen for wires, eager to play with a new toy. Jayne moved to help. Compared to the riches in front of them, his crew looked raggamuffin, out of place. He felt a sort of pride at the thought.
"Mal!" Shock, dismay, then indignance from Inara. It was worth it, the teasing, to see her all flustered and huffy, one hand planted on her hip and her spirited dark eyes flashing at him. She'd put her curls up in some kind of twist as a defense against the wind, a few strands had escaped anyway. "This is completely unnecessary. The councilor is a client of mine and a friend. Could you act like a civilized human being for once?"
No matter how many times she reminded him, it still stung. He blamed the borrowed dress, the dark wisps drifting around to the emphasis of her long neck. Made it too easy to imagine a different life, that she might belong out here. "I am being civil!" he argued, kept the hurt out of it. Mostly. "This is just a little honest burglary to get us in." He stabbed a thumb over at the gate. "Unnecessary would be stealin' that bit of shiny off its hinges."
Then again, the posts weren't set too deep. If he hooked up the mule...
Ow! She pinched him! He glared at the miffy woman. "Not while it's electrified, please. Or ever." Inara's voice dipped low with distaste, and she met his scowl with an unimpressed expression.
Kaylee hesitated, looking between them, then gave a nervous smile. "No can do, Cap'n. Got a line runnin' from here," she pointed to the ground, traced some pattern, "to here, and more lines over there. Buncha circuits with their own return, and probably a SWER with backup generators." Couldn't even begin to process that, and she hastened to explain. "Means we snip one, still got others to supply power."
"So we take them out too," he told her, shrugging, what's the problem?
Inara scoffed gracefully. Somehow. "Or-" she corrected haughtily, striding over to the panel by the gate. "I could ask the head housekeeper to buzz us in."
His mercenary frowned, a keen and skeptical glint to his narrowed eyes that belied the usual dull confusion on his face. "Where's the money in that?"
The look she shot their brute was even more disapproving and annoyed, which Mal took some satisfaction from. Whatever he might be, at least he wasn't as bad as Jayne. She stepped up, pressed the intercom, and they waited.
Sure was taking a while. Kaylee had plunked down cross legged and was playing with her tawny hair, combing out the tangles with her little fingers, and Inara saw fit to help. The big man watched the girls, reached out his paws like he was tempted to join in; the captain put a stop to that with a hard look, half warning and half disbelief. Finally a section of the wall opened up to reveal a vidscreen. Grit crumbled from the sandstone shutters as they slid aside, almost like they'd been charmed by their ambassador.
And in turn, the companion was warmly greeted, and the housekeeper or whoever was glad to tell her that the councilor and maybe-would-be governor was busy preparing a welcome party for the Alliance officials. Inara quickly identified herself, to which she was kindly informed that the councilor had ended subscription for their engagements, and that her services were no longer necessary.
It was a few seconds after the feed cut out. Jayne was getting angry, muttering curses and insults at the wall the screen had disappeared behind again, where Inara was still staring, her smile slapped from her face, crashed and burned somewhere in the dust around her dainty feet. She hadn't moved, not even when Kaylee started a diatribe that turned into comforting chatter, tugging at the hem of the dress from her seat on the ground.
He hated them, her clients. To them, she was no more than a service, a pretty thing with two long legs they bought and owned for a night as a slave to their wants and comforts. And this was how they treated her, or worse. They'd take everything from her and give nothing back. Mal felt his teeth grind together, his hands clench.
- - - - -
She was a little stunned at first, something which she imagined the captain would, at any moment, make some cruel joke about. But, no. This wasn't about his antiquated ideas. When a client decided to stop seeing their companion, it was cause for celebration, a graduation to their next phase in life. The rejection was unexpected, yes, but if she had helped Judice return to her husband and son with their engagement, then she should be glad.
Her surprise was inappropriate. She should have discovered the councilor's marital status during the screening process. Then there would have been no infidelity, the Guild would simply have refunded any subscription fee. Instead, she had broken guild law, imposed on a client's home, and had almost shamed the councilor. Worse, she had begged for help, had asked the councilor to risk life and family and go up against Adelai Niska. No wonder that her reception would be so cold. And yet, she was upset, and disappointed, and wanted very much to call again and demand to be allowed in.
So acute was her distress, she didn't hear the mule, only the impact it made when it crashed through the wall.
The cloud was already dissipating, the powder settling on his coat, and as he stood, half out of the chassis when he saw her and stopped, she couldn't bring herself to feel angry. She wasn't quite sure what she felt, what her eyes were telling him; some mix of relief that he hadn't broken his neck, and weary acceptance for his exasperating brand of problem solving, and maybe a hint of gratitude, for his misguided attempts at gallantry. He nodded to her as she looked up at him at the start of the rubble, then glanced past her towards his crew, slower and more uncertain in their approach, and tipped his brown head towards the gathering crowd. Jayne quickened his pace, waving Kaylee back.
Some of the workers stepped aside to permit the Councilor, dressed in shimmering purple silk cinched tight at the waist, a matching shawl wrapped around her wrists, her blonde hair styled high on her head. "What is going on here?" She sounded impatient and annoyed, and made Mal's hand drop down to the pistol at his side, still just concealed.
Inara climbed onto the debris and pushed her way past him, in the little gap between the hovercraft and the rock. "Let me talk," she whispered to him, not quite pleading. He was still angry, and while she knew he didn't hit women, not unless they were armed (a concession against his nature that she was certain the war had forced into him), his mouth could do just as much damage. He thankfully complied and hung back, still looming over her protectively and ready to draw.
She stepped down into the circle and held herself with as much self-respect as she could manage, considering the circumstances. Councilor Judice Larrol frowned as she recognized her, then sighed. "I see." She addressed the foreman, a sun-baked, scrawny, frenzied local man holding a clip board. "I'll handle this. Get them unloading the other shipment." The man started shouting, dispersing the crowd.
"I'm sorry, councilor, to intrude like this," Inara apologized, feeling her cheeks flush in embarrassment. "You remember Captain Malcolm Reynolds?"
She narrowed his eyes at him. "Of course," she replied, clearly less than delighted to find him standing amid her damaged property. Her tone suggested that she also found this entirely consistent with her impression of him, and that his presence explained everything. "Is this a show of appreciation for the medical equipment I loaned you?"
Inara's blush deepened, and she stiffened her spine, resisting the impulse to rub at her arms self-consciously. "I'm afraid the captain can be somewhat overzealous on my behalf." She tried not to think of why they'd needed the dermal mender, what Niska, that sadistic yāoxié, had done to Mal the last time they'd been on Ezra. "I'll pay. Bill my guild accounts for any expenses, I'll cover everything," she promised.
"Not the only overzealous one," Councilor Larrol commented, renewing a line of speculation they had discussed before. Her focus intensified. "Since you're here, I can only assume you're trying to get through the Alliance barricade. Where is your ship? Docked in New Jerusalem?" Inara nodded, relieved to be off the subject of her relationship with the captain. The imperious blonde turned on him. "I am preparing for a soirée tomorrow evening. I expect you here at nine a.m. tomorrow morning. You will take an order slip to the local quarry, then you will come back here and fix my fence."
This was why Judice was the Governor aspirant.
The demand caught Mal off guard, and for a precious few moments he gaped at her, silent and dumbfounded. "Now, wait a minute," he started, the anger creeping back into his voice.
"In return," the councilor continued, louder, "I will get clearance for your shuttles to land here and then return to your ship. So long as you have my authorization, you will not be subject to inspection." He quieted again, working through the plan, how to best take advantage of the offer. She was studying him. "The Alliance is looking for you, captain. They believe you're the cause of this unrest and that you're fomenting a rebellion."
"Ridiculous," Inara objected, "Serenity crashed, and he was injured. He's barely been able to move for three weeks."
The councilor was unmoved by the argument. "Be that as it may, you did kill Niska, correct?" He didn't answer, but the line of his mouth thinned in confirmation. "Indirectly, they're not wrong. Niska's men are fighting among themselves, and there are many who would like to see them all dead, who hail you as a hero."
He leaned back, returning her scrutiny over crossed arms. "If that's how you feel, why help? Why not call the Ratched right now, turn us all in?"
Judice sighed. "Because you killed that bastard," she answered, dismissing them so that she could return to oversee the preparation activities.
They watched her give off another flurry of orders as she left them, and Jayne whistled, admiring the plunging line of her open-backed gown. "Hey, can she be our new captain?"
"Ooh," Kaylee seconded, also smitten with the councilor's dress, but for more wholesome reasons. The little tomboy considered her current commander then their other prospect thoughtfully, then gave a nod. "Yep, she's prettier."
"Your old captain is still alive," Inara pointed out, amused by their antics. Out of everything else, Mal looked most offended at 'old.'
The mercenary seemed to be liking this idea altogether too much, but Kaylee grinned reassuringly, an entirely different option in mind. "Ain't a problem, he can still be cabin boy."
"Well, let's hold off on the mutiny for a while," the captain suggested, strangely at ease with their impending treachery. He vaulted himself back into the mule. "Still need to find our way into New Jerusalem. Those shuttles return to Serenity and port control thinks no one's home, we're gonna get company real fast."
"You gotta plan?" Jayne asked, dubiously.
He nodded, worrisomely confident. "You drive."
- - - - -
One thing he had learned in his long career resisting and ducking the encroach of the Alliance, the moment any authority started telling people to do this or that, folks could always be counted on to find a way to disobey. Commanding a handful of soldiers, someone always bit into the gorramn apples. On his boat apparently his no fraternizing rule was blown to hell. And as for finding himself with a cruiser overhead and a blockade around the city with the docks yonder side, all he had to do was drive around the walls to the worst part of town, and trust in the ingenuity of the criminal mind to provide a way. And they had a variety of grenades to add in the explosion parts. They couldn't go wrong.
Inara broke into his musings. "This is the worst idea you've ever had, Mal."
Now, that was harsh, and uncalled for. Well, of course she would complain. She never appreciated his keen strategems. "You don't even know all the ideas I ever had." He shrugged, though probably she couldn't tell. "'sides, it's worked before."
She shook her head at him, like the lesser creature he was. Maybe she had forgotten her training, her companion graces and how to soothe egos with pretty talk. Not that he could afford any of it in the first place. "I'm afraid to ask how often you've done this. Twice is enough, really."
Jayne snorted a laugh. "One of them times a fellah was gonna bed 'im." Had a broad and unsavoury smile, recalling that misadventure.
This was the one downside to the veil. Wearing a glorified blanket seemed to make his crew forget that he was still impressive and commanding underneath it. He tried to ignore how Kaylee was squirming with man-to-man imagining delight. "Maybe next time I should get pretend-hitched to the doc. Not a big fan of chin whiskers." There. That put a end to it. "You see anything?"
They returned to their stake-out, and after some time passed, the air stirred a little, sending the desert night's chill through them. Their tracker's head jerked up in surprise, then he pointed. There it was, a passage concealed by hologram, stones shimmering around the edges, windblown sand interfering with the display. Only one thing left to do: barge in.
He probably should have expected it. Cramped alley between a couple of adobe huts, four guards armed to the teeth, many of them wearing multiple bandoleers, and the poor wretches off to the side, dressed in rags and bound together with chains, the empty look of abject misery and filth all over them. The slavers were staring at them, surprised by their sudden appearance, their guns were coming up, and Kaylee was starting to make frightened noises, the kind he'd hoped to never hear from her again.
Drive, Jayne. Drive. Go now. Go already, you bái mù chuíxián de jiunáng fàndài...
The mercenary stood up, gave a look around. "So... Yeah," he rumbled. "Got a few more for ya. Where'dya want 'em?"
Cào ni zuzōng shíbā dài. Jayne was climbing down from the mule, and the gunmen were coming closer to get a better look, still wary. Now they had to see this farce through. He glanced at Inara, she had already discreetly palmed a couple of flashbangs even as she was trying, quietly, to keep Kaylee calm. He tore his eyes away again, not wanting them to catch on, but damned if the look they'd held in those spare seconds hadn't cut right through him.
One of the guards pulled him down for a better look, a lean dirty blond spacer gone local, apparently suspicious. They were leaving the girls alone. Good. Keep the attention away from them, he could do that. Got right up in his face, smell thick with sweat and blood and the unnameable. None of his people had showered for near a month either, sure, but the man had breath that could gag the dead. Spirits alone said the man ought to be fallen over. Looked him up and down, and across the shoulders, and sneered, showing blackened teeth. "I think may be this is the worst looking burqa I have ever seen."
Three more of them, locals by their looks, had climbed into the mule. Young, maybe former slaves themselves, graduated into the ranks of their keepers after having known nothing else in their lives. The closest one looked overly nonchalant. "That would be because he is a man," he told the slaver. "Doesn't matter, yeah? If he's pretty someone will want him, and if not, we can sell him for the labor. We'll take them around front."
The slaver just frowned at the boy. "El khara dah? And who are you, you ibn himar?"
Mal couldn't quite process what happened next. All three of the kids froze, then one of them started yelling, "Jalla, jalla!" and the mule sped away recklessly, clipping a few buildings and merchant stands as it went. With Inara and Kaylee still in the backseat, holding on desperately.
He stared after them, pulling open the long gash he'd cut in the cloth to see through and pushing back his makeshift hood. "Did they just steal my mule?"
Jayne was backing towards him. "Uh, Mal?"
They did. "They just stole my mule!" He waved at the trail of destruction they'd left. "My gorramn mule, and now they're gonna wreck it!"
The whining charge of a few automated and sonic rifles told him he had much bigger problems.
Sunday, July 31, 2011 8:22 AM
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