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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Celebrating aphorisms: Jayne has made his bed, and now he must lie in it. The others turn trash into treasure.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1585 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
Follows SHADOW (07). Precedes BANDIAGARA (09).
The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
Celebrating aphorisms: Jayne has made his bed, and now he must lie in it. The others turn trash into treasure.
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* * *
“I’m sorry?” Simon said, stupidly.
“What the 地狱 dìyù are you doing here?” the man reiterated. “This is private property. Get the hell out.”
“I’m…” Simon, for once, was at a loss for words. The man confronting him was no fool, and something about him told Simon that he was trained to use weapons and wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
After the ship had been invaded by the bounty hunter Jubal Early, Mal had insisted that everyone aboard learn to handle firearms, and had given some basic training in handling a stand-off. Simon was trying to remember what he’d said. He knew that in a situation like this, Mal would have a plan. He’d have a plan, and it would probably work. Simon tried to think like Mal.
He kept his hands in plain sight. That he remembered from Mal’s training—“Don’t give ’em a reason to shoot you.” He knew Mal was working somewhere off to his left, probably just out of sight, and started to walk that direction.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” the armed man demanded.
“I’m getting the hell out,” Simon replied, “like you said to.”
“Out’s that way,” the man gestured with his weapon.
“Right,” Simon said, and started walking.
“Sullivan, there’s no need for this.” Where had Mal come from?
“Sergeant Reynolds. What the hell are you doing here? Trespassing?” That was obvious. His face hardened. “Illegal dumping? That’s a serious crime here on Beylix.” Another thought crossed his mind, and he glanced over at Simon, then returned his gaze to Mal. “Don’t tell me you’re lifting 垃圾 lājī, too.”
Simon made a point of not looking at the pile of machinery he’d set aside for Serenity.
“Recycling, Sullivan. There’s things in here don’t belong in trash. Just re-sorting them into their proper places.”
The armed man did not change expression, and it was unclear to Simon if he had accepted the Captain’s explanation. “He with you?” The armed man, Sullivan it appeared—did the Captain know everybody?—gestured at Simon.
“No. Too young for the Valley.”
Sullivan inspected Simon. “He’s no soldier.”
Simon spoke up, “I’m a d—”
Mal interrupted. “He’s on my crew.” Mal flicked Simon a look. Simon couldn’t read volumes of battle tactics out of it like Zoe could, but he did get that “shut up” was part of the message.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re up to, Reynolds,” said Sullivan, as his dog trotted up to Mal, wagging its tail. “This is private property. No one’s allowed to haul stuff outta here, and no one’s allowed to dump here without paying the fee. Illegal dumping is a serious crime on Beylix,” he repeated, as if to emphasize the point.
“Ain’t planning on any illegal dumping, Sullivan,” Mal responded, patting the dog and scratching behind its ears. “Recycling, that’s the honest truth. Ain’t taking anything but what should’ve been put elsewhere in the first place.”
“Well, that’s the truth, now, isn’t it?” Sullivan responded, conversationally. “It boggles the mind, what people throw away. You wouldn’t believe how much effort we gotta put into sorting out the recyclables from the 鱼臭 垃圾 yú chòu lājī here at this dump. Half this stuff belongs in recycling, anyhow.”
“It does,” Mal agreed placidly. “I’ve always believed in recycling. Do it as much as humanly possibly. It’s just common sense, ain’t it?”
“Look, I’ll keep Hamm and Goldsmith from coming over this way. Just get it done discretely, and get out before Secka comes on shift at seven.” He turned half away, then added, “Reynolds, you make it worth my while, next time I’ll show you sector eighty-four. It’s already sorted.”
“Oh yeah,” Jayne said huskily, when he could speak again.
“My hero needs a little lovin’,” Janice said, picking herself up and straightening her clothes.
“Listen, Janice, about that hero stuff—” Jayne began.
“Ssshhh, don’t speak, sugar, I got better things for your mouth ta do.”
“Janice—no, Janice—stop. I’m s’posed to talk to Ray.”
“’Bout a job. You see, the ship I come on, need a job—”
“You want a job?” Janice sank to her knees in front of him.
“Gorrammit, woman, stand up, and stop interruptin’!”
Janice made a pouty mouth at him, but didn’t speak.
“Ship I come here on, we’re lookin’ for a job, haulin’ or somethin’, and I thought as how maybe you had an in with Ray’s Haulin’ here and could maybe help us to some payin’ work.”
She was silent for a moment, and he was afraid she’d taken his admonishment not to speak a bit too seriously, when she said, “Jayne, you know why I come to Beylix?”
He didn’t, truth be told, but ventured, “’Cause it’s better than Canton?”
“It’s ’cause I got family here, Jayne. Ray is my uncle. Office manager is my Aunt Ginny. I got a job here, and they both help me out, so’s I can—” She stopped short. Then she took his hand, and said, “Come on back, Jayne. There’s someone here you need ta meet.”
Jayne followed her as she led the way through a doorway, down a hall, and into—not an office, as he expected, not to Ray, but to—a nursery? “What the 地狱 dìyù ?” he began.
She reached down into the crib, and picked up a five-month-old baby. “I’d like you to meet your son.”
Mal, Zoe, Simon and Kaylee were tired, hot, and covered with filth. They’d loaded up the shuttle several more times, as well as the mule, and taken turns shuttling the stuff back to Serenity. All had their share of getting out of the hot sun and taking a quick snack break on the ship. But there would be no real rest until the job was done. They packed the shuttle with a last load, including a windfall of five reels of wire, various gauges, a liquid crystal display, and a discarded electrician’s kit containing an assortment of resistors and capacitors, including micro sizes for solid state boards.
They were about to load the mule with the last load when the comm crackled to life. “Mal!” Jayne’s voice came through loud and clear over a background of women’s screams and children’s wailing. “I got a situation here. Need some back-up!”
“On our way,” Mal responded, as he and Zoe checked their weapons and hopped onto the mule. “Kaylee, you and Simon take the shuttle back to Serenity and load ’er up. Tell River we might need to fly 马上 mǎshàng.”
“Right, Cap’n,” Kaylee responded, as Mal and Zoe left a trail of dust behind them.
“It’s true, isn’t it, that we throw away many things we should re-use,” Inara agreed.
“I’ve always said, that sooner or later, we will be mining the trash dumps for rare metals and parts,” Ip said, “things that were not valued when they were thrown away. They’ll become increasingly rare, and we’ll kick ourselves for being so callous and casual about their use. The dumps will become the richest sources for some elements, and it’ll be cheaper than mining or smelting ore, or manufacturing de novo.”
River agreed, adding, “Nothing is wasted, on a spaceship. We recycle the air, we recycle the water. Even the solid waste is re-usable.”
Inara didn’t want to think about re-using the contents of the septic vac system, and was silent. Suddenly the comm crackled to life. It was Simon.
“River, the Captain and Zoe took off on the mule to deal with a situation with Jayne. The Captain wants you to get Serenity ready to fly, just in case.”
“Where are you, Simon?”
“Kaylee and I are at the dump, with the last load of spare parts. We’ll be returning to Serenity shortly.” The communication ended with a pop.
“That’s what you think,” River said, to an astonished Ip and Inara.
As the dust settled, Simon and Kaylee looked at one another for a moment. Then Simon wiped the sweat off his forehead, picked up a broken bicycle pump, and he and Kaylee headed for the shuttle.
The entire cargo area was packed with parts, reels of wire, machines in various states of disrepair, metal pieces more or less corroded, and bits of metal and plastic. It was a full load. Kaylee and Simon threaded their way through to the cockpit and sat down in the seats. Both waited, taking deep breaths, as the intensity of the last few hours’ work began to drain away. Simon opened his eyes, realizing that they were still sitting on the ground.
“So…do you know how to fly this thing?” he asked, hopefully.
Kaylee shook her head. “No. You?”
Zoe pulled the mule to a halt near Ray’s Hauling, and Mal and Zoe tumbled out, ready for immediate action. They could hear the commotion inside the building—screams and crashing sounds, as objects were thrown, breaking. They entered the building expeditiously, and with caution.
The nursery door burst open, and Zoe and Mal pointed their weapons into the room. The scene was chaotic. A loudly shrieking woman held a loudly squalling baby on one hip, while she used her other arm to hurl objects, with good aim, at Jayne Cobb. Jayne was trying to make himself small against one wall, using his arms to shield himself, but not making a move against her.
“You are, you are!” the woman yelled.
“No I ain’t,” Jayne replied, like a broken record. “Ain’t no way.”
“You are, an’ I know it!” 哎呀 Āiyā that woman had a good set of lungs. “An’ you know it!”
“Ma’am,” Mal said. “Ma’am,” he repeated, raising his voice to be heard above the cries of the infant. “嘿 Hēi ma’am, listen up!” he shouted, approaching her.
“Jayne, call off your man!” Janice hollered. Mal looked offended. “And your woman, too!” she added, as Zoe flanked her. She eyed their state of filth. “They stink to high heaven! What the 地狱 dìyù they been doin’? Dumpster divin’?”
“I ain’t no ruttin’ father,” Jayne said stubbornly, ignoring Janice’s comments about Mal and Zoe.
“This is your son. Your son! Don’t ya understand?” Janice shouted, as the baby sucked in a deep breath and started up again with a great wail.
“No way, no ruttin’ way,” Jayne repeated insistently, as Janice commenced more incomprehensible shrieking.
“你们都 闭嘴! Nǐmen dōu bìzǔi!” Mal demanded.
Even the baby was stunned into silence for a moment. Then he resumed his fretful crying, in complete sympathy with his mother’s emotion.
“Call off your man,” Janice insisted, with quiet forcefulness, for a change.
“I ain’t his man,” Mal said in an irritated voice. “I’m his captain. Now, anybody want to explain what the 地狱 dìyù is goin’ on here?”
“There has got to be an operators’ manual somewhere,” Simon said, with increasing frustration, as he pulled out the contents of the cockpit storage locker.
Kaylee sat with her hands on the controls, trying to feel her way into the machine. Nothin’. Then she got on her back and looked up under the control panel. Everything was right where it should be, in good working order. She understood that part just fine. Machines just had workin’s, and they talked to her. But when she sat down in the pilot’s seat and put her hands on the yoke, she felt nothing at all.
“You know how this shuttle works, don’t you Kaylee? There must be an ignition, a throttle, a start button, a—” Simon ran out of synonyms.
“I know how the engine works, Simon. I got no idea about the start-up sequence.”
“Maybe we can download an operators’ manual from the cortex feed,” Simon suggested. “How do you turn the cortex feed on?” He searched around the multitude of buttons and dials on the control panel, at a loss. Most of the buttons and sliders were unlabelled, and those that were had incomprehensible abbreviations. “What’s an R-NAV?” he asked.
“I got no idea,” Kaylee answered.
“I thought machines just…speak to you…you know—”
“Sorry, Simon, this machine just ain’t talkin’ to me at all.”
“Well, let’s try logic, then,” Simon said, with increasing irritation. “There’s got to be something that turns the engine on, then something that creates vertical thrust to lift the shuttle off the ground…”
“Yeah, Simon, and there’s horizontal stabilizers and attitude jets and a grav boot and a—Simon! It don’t matter!” Kaylee was getting increasingly annoyed. “It don’t matter a bit! There’s all the parts there, right where they should be. Don’t mean I know how to fly the 该死的 gāisǐde thing.”
They sat and huffed for a moment, then she said, “Didn’t you never fly a hovercraft or nothin’, when you were back in the Core?”
“No, we had a driver,” he retorted, more sharply than he really intended.
“Ya never even learned to fly a hovercraft?”
“There was no occasion to learn—”
“On Harvest, all the rich kids learned to fly a hovercraft, an’ everyone learned to drive a groundcar, ’less they were too poor to have one,” Kaylee retorted, scornfully. “If this were the mule, I could drive it, easy.”
Simon folded his arms disdainfully. “So because I can’t fly a shuttle, or a hovercraft—”
“Well what gorram good is that top three-percent brain a’ yours if you can’t even fly a gorram—”
“Gorrammit, Kaylee! You’re the mechanic! I’m just a rutting ship’s doctor! What the 地狱 dìyù do I know?”
“Seems to me there’s an easy solution to this problem,” Mal said, deliberately calm. “Now let’s just be reasonable.”
“I’m all manner of reasonable,” Janice said in a voice that threatened to go from zero to shrieky in a matter of seconds, “it’s him what’s acting like a jackass!” She stabbed her finger at Jayne’s chest.
“Ain’t no jackass. Ain’t nobody’s father neither.”
Mal intervened before they could escalate again. “The solution is we all go back to the ship. Our doc is top three percent, Core-educated, best doc anywhere. I’m sure he’s got a test he can run, figure out which one a’ you is right.” He cocked his head at them. “So we got a deal?”
They all piled into the mule, Jayne making a point of sitting next to Mal in front. Zoe sat in back next to Janice and the baby. As they got in, Janice looked assessingly at Zoe. “You’re carrying, aren’t you?” Janice asked.
Zoe raised her eyebrow slightly, and by the slightest movement of her body, indicated the gun strapped to her leg.
“A child,” Janice amended.
“I am,” Zoe replied coolly. “And I know damn well who the father is.”
“So do I,” Janice said huffily, and settled herself in the seat with the baby on her lap.
“Are you sure about this?” Inara asked. “Simon said Mal wanted us to stay with the ship.”
“False alarm,” said River. “Jayne made his bed, and now he must lie in it. Simon needs rescuing.”
“What about Kaylee?” Inara asked.
“Holding her own,” River answered.
They landed at the edge of the dump, right next to Shuttle Two. They opened the door to a blast of hot, putrid air that roiled up from the mounds of trash baking in the sunlight and recoiled, both momentarily glad that Mal hadn’t assigned them to dump duty that afternoon. They turned their attention to Shuttle Two, where the sounds of escalating bickering could be heard even through the closed door.
“Gorrammit, Simon! You’re so gorram smart, you figure it out! I’m leaving!”
The door slid open, and Kaylee appeared, with an expression like thunder on her face—looking like something neither Inara nor River had ever seen. Where was Miss Sunshine, and who was this scowling witch who had taken over her body?
“Oh!” Kaylee exclaimed, astonished, and her face underwent a dramatic shift.
“Rescue party,” River announced, and strode into Shuttle Two.
“Come with me, 妹妹 mèimei,” Inara said, putting an arm around the younger woman’s shoulder and guiding her towards her shuttle.
Simon was still seething when he emerged from Shuttle Two after it had docked with Serenity.
“You’re needed Simon. Have to figure out about the babies,” River called after him, as he stomped down toward the passenger dorm.
“I need to wash this filth off my body!” Simon shouted. He slammed his way into his now seldom-used dorm room, grabbed his kit bag and a towel, and was headed toward the shower when a commotion at the cargo bay door demanded his attention.
Mal strode up the ramp, followed by Jayne and a woman Simon didn’t recognize carrying a baby, both of them quarreling back and forth, while Zoe brought up the rear, glowering at them all.
“Simon!” Mal called. “Got a job for you! I need a paternity test here, 马上 mǎshàng!”
Simon stared at Mal, dumbfounded. Mal scowled back at him and quirked an eyebrow at Jayne and the woman. Simon got it. They all crowded into the infirmary. Simon readied the test, and took finger pricks from Janice and the infant. He was tempted to take a finger prick from Mal, but another look at the Captain’s exasperated face told him the joke was not worth the price he would pay, so he pricked Jayne’s finger without further ado.
The happy couple stood around bickering while waiting for the test results.
“I always use protection,” Jayne insisted. “Always.”
“It’s not one hundred percent effective,” Simon pointed out, as he followed the test protocol.
“He’s right,” Mal added. “There can be accidents. Half the babies in the ’Verse wouldn’t be born if contraception was one hundred percent foolproof.”
“That’s for damn sure,” Zoe said, patting her belly, “and I for one am glad of it.”
“You are?” Janice asked. “I was. I was so proud to be carryin’ the Hero of Canton’s child!” she declared. “Now he ain’t even glad to know I done it for him!”
Simon took a deep breath. He turned to face the assembled people. “This child is not Jayne’s.”
“Not Jayne’s!” echoed Janice. “Well whose is he, then?”
No one had an answer for her.
Mal steered Jayne out of the infirmary and spoke to him quietly, pressing something into his hand. Then Zoe guided Janice out of the infirmary. Janice spoke to her son in a tearful sing-song, but the baby, worn out by all the emotion, had fallen into a peaceful slumber. Like most sleeping babies, he now looked like a perfect angel, and if she hadn’t heard it herself, Zoe never would have believed him capable of pumping out the decibels like he had. Though, perhaps, given his inheritance from his mother’s side, it wasn’t surprising.
“He really is a sweetie,” Zoe said quietly to Janice, asking permission with her eyes to stroke the child’s soft downy hair.
“He is the best baby ever,” Janice said tearfully, “and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the ’Verse.”
Zoe joined Mal in the cargo bay, giving Jayne some privacy with Janice in the passenger lounge. Janice looked at Jayne with tears in her eyes. Now he was gonna gloat, and tell her I-told-ya-so. Men could be such 混蛋 húndàn. Jayne approached and she braced herself.
He spoke in a surprisingly soft and gentle voice. “Janice, I want you ta know—I’m a—it’s—well, I’m honored ta think you wanted a child a’ mine, even knowin’ I weren’t gonna be around ta help you with it. You’re a brave woman.” He cupped her face in his hands. “You’re a very fine woman, an’ I’m pleased I met ya again here on Beylix.” He gave her a kiss. Weren’t gonna be on her mouth, but she turned her head. Then he handed her a little package. “This is for the little one. Even though he ain’t mine, it’s only right that somebody give you a helping hand.” Whatever else he was gonna say was cut off by another kiss.
“Jayne!” she said, in a breathless whisper. “You’re still the Hero of Canton.” Then she carried her little bundle of joy proudly across the junk-strewn cargo bay, down the ramp, and into the mule, where Zoe waited to take her home.
“It don’t make no sense,” Jayne said. He and Mal were leaning over the catwalk rail, overlooking the mountains of spare parts heaped all about. “Hell, Mal, she still thinks I’m some kind of ruttin’ hero. Don’t understand why them Mudder folk thought I was a hero in the first place.” He paused, a disturbed look on his face. “Hell, the kid’ll probably grow up with her tellin’ him that I’m his father, no matter that the test said I weren’t.”
“Most like,” Mal agreed. “It’s not about what’s true, it’s about what she needs. You already done more fathering for that kid than whatever 混蛋 húndàn sired him. Just by showin’ you cared about him and his mother.”
“Never aimed to be a father.”
“It’s about what she needs, Jayne. She needs her kid’s father to be a hero, and you’re the hero she knows.”
“Still don’t make no sense.”
地狱 dìyù [hell]
垃圾 lājī [garbage]
鱼臭 垃圾 yú chòu lājī [fish-stinking garbage]
马上 mǎshàng [right away]
哎呀 Āiyā [Damn]
嘿 Hēi [Hey]
你们都 闭嘴! Nǐmen dōu bìzǔi! [Everybody shut the hell up]!
地狱 dìyù [hell]
该死的 gāisǐde [damn]
妹妹 mèimei [little sister]
马上 mǎshàng [right now]
混蛋 húndàn [bastards]
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