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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal's got some kind of deathwish. Was the only thing Jayne could think of, way the man ran ass on fire into bad business and losing battles. (Adrenaline)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1281 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A marine pushed through the olive canvas flaps of the field tent, used for a temporary sleeping arrangement for the ground forces. Belatedly, the young man realized his mistake, as the captain rolled over on his cot and propped himself up on his elbow with a tired expression.
The young lieutenant, as though sensing his imminent demotion, came to an abrupt halt and saluted. "Permission to speak, sir!" Remarkably, he didn't think to alter the volume of his near shout.
The captain dragged himself upright, he hadn't been sleeping anyway. Really, the interruption was almost welcome, replaying as he was memories of reinforcing barriers, and laser fire, and women crying over the charred corpses of men who, just moments before, had been shouting at the security forces in an unfamiliar tongue. "Clearly your message is urgent enough it can't wait until morning," he replied dryly. He hoped. "At ease."
"Yessir." But the lieutenant didn't relax; if anything, the boy looked ready for a dressing down, like a drill sergeant from basic training might swoop down on him at any moment. He remembered this soldier now from the night before; despite the action earlier in the day, despite the vague resemblance of the open-faced helmet to a samurai warrior of old, the new-minted officer's armor still had its factory polish. "Kurtz VMO-3 reporting in from patrol on the east airstrip." The captain waved the boy on. "They were ambushed, sir."
Not unexpected, and he could see how it might have happened. Reduced visibility, and his men were all green, overeager and out looking for glory. They'd simply seen an opportunity to chase after. He sighed. "How many?" he asked, reaching under the cot for his folded grey trousers and mao jacket.
"Four casualties, two dead." Half the squad. "And they took the roller."
His mind stumbled over the news, taking a few moments to attempt to process the information before giving up. Rollers were their heavy armor, anti-infantry functioning as artillery, a mobile bunker for up to five soldiers, and in urban combat, a decent battering ram. To take one while it was fully armed and operational required both gumption and a lapse in sanity.
Reynolds, he realized. They'd heard the rumours, of course, every native they'd questioned earlier who they could understand had some story to tell.
He remembered the screams, the greasy smoke and the smell of ashes that would haunt him until the day he died. Never again, he swore. "Put a hold on the patrols at night, and have all patrol groups coordinate with air support in the future." They'd have to try to recover the roller in the morning.
The junior officer gave an affirmative, then stood by as he double-timed pulling on his uniform over his sleep pants and shirt, as though he needed a escort to the infirmary to assess the damage himself. The boy was completely unaware and had no conception of how dangerous their quarry was. More than ten years since that fateful day, the captain had hunted down Reavers and potentials under the guise of the Alliance Anti-Insurgency Force.
He knew what a desperate man looked like, and what they were capable of.
- - - -
Mal's got some kind of deathwish. Was the only thing Jayne could think of, way the man ran ass on fire into bad business and losing battles. Something about the war knocked them screwy, both Mal and Zoe, seeing she was feng le to follow.
Jayne leaned out the side of the transport, firing off a few quick bursts of think-twice-about-chasing-us from the rifle he'd took. There they were, barreling down some alleyway, walls too close for comfort and mowing down the wreckage those snot-nosed brats left when they gone and snatched the mule. Just his luck Mal tries to hijack them a ride from the slavers, ends up there's an entire gorramn convoy to take issue.
He missed wide, the snake-rattle of automatics gunning for them, their tires squealing like a stuck pig. Near got clipped from some of the bullets ringing off the metal around his head and he pulled back. Hun dan. His legs still weren't under him proper from taking that kayo hit. As a merc, he knew about job risks, but some of the free-doings he got up to with this crew just didn't figure right, in particular the kind what a man meets his own breakfast twice. "Hey!" he hollered, "the wuyazui girl gonna be right 'boutcha dying, you can't keep 'er steady!"
"You wanna drive?" Mal shouted back, not looking. Jayne gritted his teeth. What Mal wanted was obvious; Jayne had seen enough barfights started when a man thought some woman was his, or wanted her for his, even when she said no like Inara, and Kaylee was Mal's little sis like crazy was Simon's. Didn't matter they weren't blood, Mal did for them like they were. Jayne liked having some pretty around to look at himself, so long as they didn't take a knife to him, and so what he wanted was to get to his grenades in their mules without getting himself splattered. Better yet he'd like to lay down until his headache was gone away and not get shot for it, but weren't either happening.
Girls were going to owe him when they found them. Pay him back or pay for it, he didn't much care which, and he wouldn't say no to a fresh cooked meal either. Maybe they could get the captain some too, man was so wound up Jayne thought they might fall off.
The transport swerved again, this time purposeful into the cloth cover of a sales booth, and he heard someone yell in surprise, stuck his head out in time to see a bundled up slaver go rolling out behind them. Also came face-to-face with a one man boarding party, and Jayne made quick work of tossing the other man to the ground, saw another outrunner pulling up, doing what they did best.
Mal just started on a new string of curses at the water way the slavers had chased them to. That was it, then, they were trapped. Bridge was blown up, stoneworks black and pitted, fallen in the middle. Didn't slow the captain down any. They lurched forward, up and over. Landed hard not even seconds later, sprawled him on the floor like one too many hits of the hootch. They skidded, screeching, finally came to a stop and settled back onto their wheels.
He couldn't hear any more engines, no more gunshots. Just the dark and the sound of their own breathing. He stayed down for a few, not sure. "We do it? They're gone?"
The captain was staring out the windshield, tense. "Think the tāmā de Alliance tank might have a say in that." Huh? Jayne scrambled up, trying to see for himself over the dash.
"They aren't Alliance," said a girl come up front from the back. They looked; teens, but small for her age, black fringe around her face. She was grinning, toothy, her narrow eyes less than friendly. "And this is our turf."
- - - -
The darkened alley was riddled with death; bullet holes in the sandbrick walls, blood cooled around the blanched overseer, and their boss, coolly surveying the four guards and two drivers responsible for the mess and his missing chattel. His fingers drummed a funeral march against his crossed arms. Folsen had been a drunk and a beast, mad with power, but useful for weapon procurement.
His ten other mercenaries had an arsenal aimed at the unlucky six, and a twenty platinum bet that the short one would squeal. "Let me understand this," he began, endeavoring for complete calm. "I have Alliance breathing down my neck, my pet Federal Marshal has been killed, and you just lost the new merchandise, that I already have a buyer for."
Presentation was everything, and contrary to popular opinion, crime paid plenty. With Niska out of the picture and the old man's playboy son off gallivanting around the core, Shoshenk was the only one left in the organization with close access to the docks and in any position to keep business running as usual. Unfortunately, the other splinter cells disagreed, but the Syndicate would bring them to heel.
He'd forgotten his people, they all said, terrorizing his homeworld, had greed too big for his eyes. Called him Niska's shadow for his swarthy looks and suits. He saw the envy, buried under the hate. Out here, wealth was the difference between have and have not, freedom and slavery. Himself and them, these worthless buffoons. He shook his head, smoothed down his slicked back hair. "I can't decide which is worse, that according to your stories, none of you could take down two unarmed men -" he spit them with a hard glare - "Or, more likely, this was some ill-conceived plot to steal my slaves from me, and you couldn't even get that right."
They stayed quiet, cowed, but for the short one, also apparently the stupid one. "It was him," the boy insisted, still trying to defend himself, "Reynolds and his crew."
"It doesn't matter," Shoshenk snapped. Incompetence perhaps was marginally better than treachery, but in the long run had the same result. Both were a waste of his perfectly good credits.
Niska would have tortured him, but so long as he had an Alliance cruiser hanging over him in orbit, he wasn't going to put one foot out of line. The core worlds so loved their stories about human rights, ignorant as they were that large scale corporate operations, terraformers, and even the Alliance itself were all big players in the slave trade. He'd already contributed some muscle to the occupation, helping set up barricades and basic improvements for the solders' base camp, but he wasn't so foolish as to make himself a target.
Unfortunately, killing his own men was also a waste of resources, tempting as it was to set an example. "Clearly you're worthless as guards, but one way or another, you will get me my money back," he decided. "Perhaps your Captain Reynolds will save you."
- - - -
Hope was the bigger danger; back then, morale was the battle, more so even than the Alliance or seekers and squad killers. So long as there was still hope, a soldier could still keep moving, keep fighting, keep breathing.
The real world was full of creeping gas that killed them screaming and disease that crusted over the tongue and eyes. Pus leaking from limbs blown off. Corpses of men and women they stacked waist high for cover. They'd crawled elbows and knees through six inches of muck and blood, eaten the maggots off the dead and called it rice because to stop was to give up, and to give up was to die.
He'd tried to keep it at bay, spouted from the fat book like it would save him and his men, and it was only when the angels he'd called hadn't been theirs sent them all to fiery hell, when false hope finally betrayed him, that he surrendered and let despair in.
Even then, he learned that there wasn't so much a man could lose that he couldn't lose more. Here he was now, with lifetimes of regret for them who ended premature, for Wash and Zoe, Kaylee and Simon, for the Shepherd, and even Jayne.
And Inara, he could pour his heart out and fill an ocean with things unsaid. Things he couldn't ever say, not when they were nearly out of air, not even to say goodbye on some godforsaken moon; things he whispered in her ear, arms wrapped around her when he was dreaming, that scraped him raw when he was awake.
Mal could hear their captors, maybe ten of them, milling around, keeping the slaves in one place and them away from the slaves. He was kneeling, a gun at the back of his neck, Jayne laid out on the ground next to him, snoring from a direct hit from one of their own stolen sonic rifles. And their chances were growing dimmer by the moment.
Jayne snorted abruptly and went quiet a few moments while his memories caught up to the present. Mal didn't envy him much, actually getting knocked out from a kayo felt worse than just getting hit by one, what with the longer exposure time for it. "M' I dead?" There was something nervous in the question, almost a tremble.
Jayne conscious wasn't much of an improvement over unconscious. "Couldn't talk if you were," Mal pointed out.
The mercenary mulled this over, taking too long by far, then spoke again. "Mal? Can't see anything."
"We've been blindfolded," he explained tiredly. "The girl and her friends took us captive."
"Oh yeah. Qīngliàngjí ruo guǐ suckered me," Jayne growled. "You see her anywhere? Need to smack her one."
Mal wasn't sure which part to address, that the odds by weapon number weren't in Jayne's favour or his wounded pride, or that them being blindfolded meant he couldn't see either. Instead, he tried to remember what he was still paying Jayne for. To his credit, the man had helped bust them into a city under Alliance lockdown and hadn't complained too loud when they were fending off gunfire and those outrunners. So why his hired muscle couldn't handle ninety pound girls, psychic assassin or not, Mal couldn't understand for the life of him.
Truth be told, Mal didn't know how many more people he could take losing. Even though the man was lewd to the women, antagonized his doctor, and had table manners this side of appetite-ruining, the lummox had a place on his crew. Still. "Jayne," he said flatly, "if you get us both killed tonight, I'm takin' it outta your next paycheck."
Jayne grumbled a bit, then seemed to listen for something. "Hey, there's another mule comin'," the tracker announced.
He heard the hovercraft approaching soon after, pulled up with some whispering, then a few light footsteps as someone crossed the distance to stand behind him. They tugged at his shirt collar, and he sighed, got to his feet and spread his arms. They'd checked him over for concealed weapons once already, removed his piss-poor cover and coat, but he supposed they were just being thorough.
Speaking of which, what the hell where they doing? This was no pat down, it was all slow and lingering, soft hands moving over him and deft fingers and... They were touching his belt. Why were they touching his belt? He tensed. Were they going to strip him down? Was he being sold off right now? This was what stud horses at market felt like.
Then the blindfold was ripped away, revealed those familiar unreadable doe-eyes. "Wǒ zǔzōng shíbā dài huànyǒu xīnjīsāi!" He had to look away, clench his own eyes shut against the onslaught of the fire licking across his skin, along the path she'd traced. He grew annoyed, his only defense. "Yāo húnǚ, you are evil," he huffed, and scowled at her, because her carefully blank expression had grown into a slow smile. "You are pure evil, and so not funny," he insisted, and Inara grinned, too gracious to laugh at him outright.
"Am not!" Jayne objected.
She looked over at the annoyance then back. "Aside from the heartattack, then, you're both fine?" Hard to stay angry with her when she sounded like that, like she was still trying to reassure herself, and she'd just been making sure he was real and all there.
He crossed his arms, tried for as curt and brusque as possible. There was pride at stake here. "Kaylee?"
She merely splayed an elegant hand towards the mule, and there Kaylee was, and not having near as much success containing herself. The girl managed to wave at him. "Hey Cap'n!" That was as much of a greeting as she could handle, before she toppled sideways into the seat, giggling like the little space monkey she was.
Great. He shook his head, relief finally catching up to him and sapping his energy. "Just so you know, that ain't how you do a frisking. S'posed to be quick, and aloof, and..." He struggled for the right word. "And not so friendly. The longer you take, the more chance you give for someone to turn on you."
Jayne had pulled his blindfold up away from one of his eyes. "Wait, you got frisked? How come I don't get frisked?"
There was some mischief about her, a way she sharpened, somehow, as for the kill. She shrugged a shoulder, bare for the dress she'd borrowed from Kaylee. "Next time I'll use a pair of handcuffs," she suggested, blithe, flippant, all wanton innocence as she chalked up another point in their ongoing battle. Oh, she did so not play fair. "Those three boys talked to their boss about arranging some kind of apology for us. We have rooms waiting, if you're interested." Her nose wrinkled, and she reached out and pushed him away. "And baths. Unless you'd like to revisit that mutiny idea."
Saturday, September 03, 2011 11:04 AM
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011 4:03 AM
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Friday, September 30, 2011 9:07 AM
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