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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The Firefly lands on the world of Bandiagara amid a shower of meteors, and Mal tries to make friends with the locals. Also, Juggling Geese.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1092 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Follows ONE MAN’S TRASH (08). Precedes TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10).
The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
The Firefly lands on the world of Bandiagara amid a shower of meteors, and Mal tries to make friends with the locals. Also, Juggling Geese.
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* * *
Mal addressed the assembled crew at dinner. “I think most of you know already, our destination is Bandiagara, Juju Kamara’s world. We got a load of machines and parts to sell, by her account they got a need for it, and we got a need—desperate need at this point—for cashy money. It works out right, it’s win-win all around.”
Zoe knew there was something he wasn’t saying.
Simon could be counted on to ask. “So what’s the catch?”
“How can a corporation own a whole planet?” Jayne asked.
“Well, properly speakin’, they don’t. Bandiagara’s got mineral resources—timonium—”
“What’s that good for?” Jayne asked.
“Don’t know exactly.”
“Superconducting technology,” Ip put in. “Electronics, state-of-the-art communications, stealth technology. Medical scanners. Power transmission. I’m sure there’re other projects that are still classified.”
“Anyways,” Mal continued, “mining company came and bought up all the mineral rights about eight years ago.”
“All the mineral rights, sir?” Zoe asked.
“Whole planet,” Mal nodded, with his arms folded. “Bandiagara World Council signed over mineral rights to Allmine Corporation. Been re-elected in a landslide every election since then.”
“I wouldn’t trust no mining company what causes landslides,” Jayne said.
“Neither would I, Jayne,” Mal agreed, “neither would I.” Wisdom from the mouths of 傻瓜 shǎguā.
“Allmine is a division of Blue Sun,” Ip offered up. Mal was already aware of this, and he and Zoe shared a loaded look.
It was Simon who brought the discussion back on point. “So the mining corporation controls the planet politically. Is that any concern of ours?”
“It is,” Mal replied. “Corporate property. Imports and exports are a concession owned by a company name of 狐狸 Húli Network. No outside vendors allowed.” His eye glinted, and his regular crew, recognizing a certain piratical gleam, immediately knew exactly what he had in mind. Ip, however, had no such knowledge.
“Isn’t 狐狸 Húli Network also a Blue Sun affiliate?” Ip asked. The Captain nodded. “So, was it difficult to get a permit?” he offered, innocently.
Mal was actually taken aback at the unexpected question. “Permit for what?”
“Permit to land. Permit to trade.”
“Ain’t got no permit,” Mal replied. “We’ll be makin’ an illegal landing.” At Ip’s shocked expression, he added, “What we’re doing is illegal. But it’s also the right thing to do. Besides, not like we’ll be losin’ any friends. Blue Sun already don’t like us.”
“How does Blue Sun—or 狐狸 Húli Network—enforce the exclusive concession, sir?” Zoe asked.
Mal gave a bit of a snort. “Mostly they just rely on Bandiagara being too remote, too poor, and too uninteresting for outsiders to take a bother.” He scratched the side of his face, thinking that he’d been one of those uninterested outsiders himself until his conversation with Juju Kamara. “But they also have a planet-wide space traffic control system in place, tracks all approaching vessels. Mostly it’s passive—it’s just meant to keep the Allmine and 狐狸 Húli Network fleets from colliding. They all use standard approach vectors and all the traffic is concentrated on the side of the planet near the capital city, where most of the timonium ore is mined. It sends out an alert if any of the vessels get too close to one another as they’re vectoring in, or if it detects anything out of the ordinary.”
“How are you going to avoid that, Mal?” Inara asked.
Mal shared a look with River. Clearly, they had an understanding. He gave River a grin. “Wanna tell ’em, Albatross?”
“We’re going to take a shower,” River said, with an answering grin.
“Take a bath?” Jayne asked. “What the h—”
“A shower,” River re-stated, emphatically.
Mal’s grin grew wider. “We’re gonna be part of a shower. Kaylee’s gonna disable our transponder, and we’ll enter on a vector with the Wolofid Meteor Shower. Anybody ain’t specially lookin’ for a ship, gonna see a streak in the sky like a Firefly-sized meteor. They won’t be payin’ no attention to the alerts from the space traffic control system ’cause the meteor shower gonna be settin’ the thing off every couple of minutes, drivin’ ’em crazy. We avoid the capital city, land near Juju Kamara’s village on the far side of the world, ain’t nobody from 狐狸 Húli Network gonna know we’re there.”
Since the end of the war, and the beginning of his life on Serenity, Mal had been to dozens of Rim worlds. Some were newly terraformed and newly settled, places like 泥球 Ní Qiú, Jiangyin, and Whitefall, where terraforming had yet to take hold completely, and local culture was hard-scrabble frontier mixed with whatever customs the settlers had brought from whatever world they’d come from. Some more established Rim worlds, like Hera—like Shadow once was—had been fully terraformed for longer, and there had been some time for local culture and government to develop—hence the puritanical streak on Shadow, the penchant for independent thinking on Hera. Bandiagara was a case apart. It had been terraformed for decades, but had not taken to the process particularly well. Much of the land area of the world was desert, far more than the typical planet, and although few of the world’s inhabitants actually lived in the desert, many of them did live in the wide arid regions bordering the deserts, areas where rainfall was seasonal but not abundant, where weeks of hard agricultural labor could be ruined by an inopportune dust storm rolling in off the vast desert. The dry lands where much of the agriculture took place depended on irrigation from wells bored deep into the earth, tapping underground aquifers that, most fortunately for the inhabitants, did not depend upon the current state of rainfall for their fullness. This region was known as the Sahel, named for an ancient land of Earth-that-was. Many of Bandiagara’s inhabitants traced their ancestry to the peoples of the Sahel on Earth-that-was, and the local culture reflected those traditions.
Mal stood on the bridge behind the pilot’s chair as River vectored Serenity in for the approach to Bandiagara. It was always his place when Serenity broke atmo, unless he himself was in the pilot seat. Although it may have appeared he was simply following the ancient sea captains’ tradition of conning the ship from near the helm, there was more to it than that. It was one of the most exciting times in any space flight, and Mal always felt a sort of tense pleasure as his ship performed re-entry, watching Serenity glow red with the heat and experiencing a kind of joyous anxiety as the flames of re-entry licked around the windows of her bridge. It was also one of the most dangerous moments of space flight, and as a practical matter the captain’s duty was to be on the bridge ready to deal with any emergency—such as a fly-away buffer panel—before it became a fatal one. This particular entry was especially risky, because following the path of the meteor shower meant that the entry vector was unusually steep, and it also vastly increased the chance of a dangerous meteor strike. They were in for a rockety ride.
Serenity shot out of the night sky of Bandiagara from the direction of the constellation Sugum Bi, along a vector that mimicked the paths of dozens of meteors that had already fallen that night. If anyone in the capital city of New Bamako looked out into the night sky at one a.m. local time, it would be hard to distinguish that Serenity was not a meteor unless one was specifically looking for a ship. River guided the ship through the night sky and into the dawn on the other side of the world.
Serenity settled down in the pure morning light in a clearing outside the village of Fajara. Fajara was a sizable collection of rectangular mudbrick houses. Each house—or rather chamber, for none was more than one room—had a flat roof, and many of the roofs were accessed by ladder, and provided an extra space for storage or open-air sleeping. The houses were arranged in a pattern that was not apparent at ground level, for the village had grown organically from a single family compound of chambers arranged wall-to-wall around a central square. New family compounds had sprung out from the original one, budding like blocky yeast from the original unit until the village covered a large territory. At ground level, the village was a labyrinth of foot passageways between offset blocks of mudbrick walls. Within the larger courtyards and surrounding the village were a number of old shade trees, including several magnificent baobab trees, that served as the gathering places for village residents.
Mal lowered the ramp and cautiously approached the large group of people who had assembled to watch the unexpected ship land. He was not visibly armed and he approached with his hands spread wide in a peaceful gesture. Zoe and Jayne had his back, but it wouldn’t matter much if he got shanked first. The villagers, mostly men at this point, approached with cautious hostility.
“Hi,” said Mal, waving a greeting. His smile fell like a lead blimp on a sea of unsmiling faces. Not exactly a warm welcome. Perhaps coming out unarmed had been a mistake. No choice now but to go on. “I’m Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the independent transport ship Serenity. We’ve come to trade.” More unsmiling looks, accompanied by unfriendly murmurs. “I have a cargo of machines and machine parts and medical supplies that y’ all might find useful. Hope we can come to terms.” The villagers continued to stare with silent hostility.
At last an older man stepped forward. “You work for 狐狸 Húli Network?”
“No,” Mal replied. “Point of fact, I don’t. As I mentioned, this ship is independent.”
“You have a permit from 狐狸 Húli Network?” the village elder, for so he was, insisted.
“I do not,” Mal acknowledged.
“Then what are you doing here? We trade only with 狐狸 Húli Network. Or we buy from the Government Store. There is no illicit commerce in this village.”
“Not interested in interfering with the workings of 狐狸 Húli Network,” Mal said, as he began to understand what underlay the hostility. “Got nothin’ to do with 狐狸 Húli Network, near nor far, nor the government.” He thought these words would diffuse the tension somewhat and was surprised when a menacing murmur rippled through the crowd. He caught the words ‘pirate’ and ‘slave’ and hastened to counteract these ideas. “I ain’t no pirate. Nor slave trader. Just an ordinary trader. I got goods to trade. I got reason to believe you folks might want ’em, might even need ’em. Ain’t lookin’ to gouge or sell you something you don’t want. Just fair trade.”
The elder spoke cautiously. “What have you to trade?”
“Electric generators. Water pumps. Bicycles. Refrigeration units. Vehicles and transport, water purification systems, air compressors, solar panels, sewing machines. Medicines.” As he spoke there were murmurs of interest here and there in the crowd, but the mood was still tense and cautious. “Ain’t none of it new. It’s all reconditioned, I won’t try to mislead you.” Mal tried to follow up on the positive signs. He’d had no idea it would be so very difficult to break the ice here. “I was told you all could use such things. That they didn’t make it out this way so very often. So I brought ’em here, hopin’ we could trade.”
“Who told you we wanted such things?” the elder asked.
It was as if he’d spoken the magic words. “Juju Kamara!” the elder exclaimed, his face brightening with a great smile. “Yes, she is Fajara, like me.” He approached Mal and grasped his hand in both of his. “Welcome, my friend, welcome.”
* * *
Jayne set to unloading some of the machinery Kaylee had assembled in flight, while Mal and Zoe discussed terms of trade with the village elder, who introduced himself as Mamadou Conteh.
“Kumba Jobarteh…Babacar Dal…Alieu Suso…” he named some of the other village elders. “Nana Kuyateh, my wife. She is also called Jabaru Mamadou. It simply means ‘Mamadou’s wife.’ I am also called Jëkkëre Nana—Nana’s husband.”
“This is my First Officer, Zoe Washburne.”
“Your wife?” Mamadou inquired, eyeing Zoe’s gravid state.
“No, sir. Zoe’s a widow,” Mal answered, pre-empting Zoe’s reply. “Her husband died in the line of duty four and a half months ago. He was our pilot. Crash landing. Saved the lives of all of us, including, as it turns out, his own unborn child.”
Mamadou addressed Zoe. “Madam, it is a tragedy that one so young as you should know such loss. Siggil ndiggale. Yalla na ko Yalla xare ajanà. Yalla na ko yalla yërëm. What is written cannot be unwritten. May Allah the Merciful help you find the strength you have within yourself to weather this loss and rebuild your life, and may the love of the new child heal your heart.”
Now that the Captain had made friends with the inhabitants of Fajara, the landing turned into something of a celebration. More and more villagers turned out to see what kind of wonders the trade ship contained. Rumors were already spreading that this wasn’t just another load of cheap cast-offs that wouldn’t sell in the Core.
Most of the crew turned to, helping Jayne and Kaylee unload the electric generators, bicycles, sewing machines, and communicators that had been assembled during the flight from Beylix.
“That’s strange,” Ip said to Simon, as he passed him on the ramp.
“Did you see how many people are wearing ’Verse Cup T-shirts here?”
“Sure,” Simon answered. “Are you surprised? People are 球迷 qiúmí all over the ’Verse, not just in the Core.”
“Yes, of course,” Ip said, dismissing that as a given. “But didn’t you read the shirts?”
Simon took the opportunity to do so on his next trip down the ramp. Many of the villagers were wearing loud, garish T-shirts reading “Ariel Strikers, ’Verse Cup Champions 2517.” When he next passed Ip, he remarked, “I’m a bit surprised that so many people here are supporters of the Ariel World Team.”
“But that’s not what’s so odd, Simon,” Ip said. “Ariel didn’t win in 2517. Bernadette did. Ariel got eliminated in the semifinals.”
“So they weren’t ’Verse Champions?” How disconnected he’d become from the Core, Simon thought. Back on Osiris, he would have been a social outcast if he hadn’t known who won the ’Verse Cup, whether or not he was a football fan. Now he realized he didn’t give a good gorram who won or lost the Cup. It just didn’t matter out here in the Black. Goodness, had he just had that thought? ‘A good gorram’? He really wasn’t in the Core anymore. How he had changed!
Ip’s thoughts were rather different. The T-shirts were all reasonably new, and didn’t even have a year’s wear on them. He guessed that some hopeful Ariel entrepreneur had ordered the shirts in anticipation of a victory, and then was unable to sell them in the Core when the team was trounced. A year later, having somehow escaped the watchful eye of the Football Federation’s licensing division, they found their way to Bandiagara on a 狐狸 Húli Network ship, to be unloaded on the local population who was unable to choose anything else.
Jayne found himself whistling as he unloaded Kaylee’s machines. A verse of a song by his favorite group, The Juggling Geese, popped into his head, and soon he found himself singing.
“Come all you singers, all here in a throng,I’ll sing you a ditty that’s turgid and long,With words that don’t rhyme and a meter that’s ruttin’ wrong,And it’s not what I’d sing when I’m sober,”
Jayne remembered his amusement when he’d heard Zoe’s man Wash talking about Juggling Geese. Thing was, Wash didn’t have a clue. He thought, honest to god, that there was actual geese—baby geese—bein’ juggled. Someone had pulled a fast one on the little man. Jayne could just picture it. Wash: Whatta y’all do ’round here for fun? Local: Juggling Geese. Wash: You juggle geese? Local: (duh) Juggling Geese. (to his pal) What planet this doofus come from that he don’t know about The Juggling Geese? Jayne pictured this scene happening on Yinyang. The Juggling Geese practically owned that world, they had so many fans there. After all, it was where the lead singer was from, too.
Broke Jayne’s heart when The Juggling Geese broke up three years ago. Right before their last concert tour. More of them gorram “artistic differences” that seemed to do in so many fine touring bands. They’d toured anyway—had to, to fulfill their contracts most like—but their heart weren’t in it no more, and the music weren’t no good no more, neither. Jayne was sure there was lots of unsold music waves, lots of unsold concert T-shirts—good gorram! That was it! The Bandiagarans prolly never heard of The Juggling Geese, neither. Just some ship come and dump the surplus on them, ’cause they couldn’t sell it nowhere else. Filled with nostalgia, Jayne wondered if one of the villagers would trade him a Geese T-shirt. Never got a chance to get one, back in the day.
傻瓜 shǎguā [idiots]
狐狸 Húli [fox]
泥球 Ní Qiú [name of a world]
Sugum Bi [The Beehive (in Wolof)]
Jabaru Mamadou [Mamadou’s wife]
Jëkkëre Nana—Nana’s husband
Siggil ndiggale [Condolences].
Yalla na ko Yalla xare ajanà [May Allah keep him in paradise].
Yalla na ko yalla yërëm [May Allah take pity on him].
球迷 qiúmí [football fans, crazy about soccer]
The name “Bandiagara” comes from the Bandiagara Escarpment in Mali. It refers to the large eating bowl that communal meals are served in. The fictional world of Bandiagara is not a depiction of any real present-day country. I’m making use of phrases in the West African language of Wolof in this story. Wolof is not really a Malian language—this is fiction! The Wolof phrases are all translated in mouse-overs and in the glossary. If you want to get an idea of the architecture of the fictional village of Fajara, this image conveys it reasonably well:
(I removed this link because it seemed to be causing line-wrapping problems. I moved it to the comments, below.)
or maybe this one:
(same thing, see below)
Jayne’s song is adapted from “The Folksinger’s Lament” by David Diamond. The song is a real hoot!
Saturday, November 19, 2011 7:20 AM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 10:24 AM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 2:49 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 4:23 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 4:27 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 5:18 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011 7:23 PM
Sunday, November 20, 2011 3:39 AM
Sunday, November 20, 2011 10:55 AM
Sunday, November 20, 2011 12:19 PM
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Monday, November 21, 2011 7:39 AM
Monday, November 21, 2011 3:58 PM
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Monday, November 21, 2011 6:52 PM
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 6:05 AM
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 9:00 AM
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:00 AM
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