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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Inara needs to work.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1531 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)
Follows BANDIAGARA (09).
Precedes WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11).
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)
Inara needs to work.
This chapter rated hard R for violence and language.
Previous Part | Next Part
* * *
Inara sat in her shuttle, fiddling with her daily planner on the cortex. Her empty daily planner. She might as well get a monthly planner, as her work was so infrequent these days. She thought about the last few months. They’d gone from Beaumonde to 尘球 Chén Qiú, a filthy dustball of a planet with only one town on it worthy of the name. The only thing it had going for it was that it was a step up from their next stop, 泥球 Ní Qiú, a world remarkable for the sea of mud surrounding the shanty town that formed its principal settlement. They’d stopped in Persephone, and she had seen a few clients there, but quickly they headed off to Beylix, the ‘garbage dump of the Kalidasa system.’ Then they traveled to Bandiagara, a Rim world so remote and insignificant that even other Rim-worlders didn’t pay it much attention. It was also under exclusive contract to Blue Sun for all imports and exports, and their landing there was completely illegal. She couldn’t schedule clients there even had there been suitable candidates, because how would she explain how she had arrived? Tell them she had taken a Blue Sun passenger transport? That would be a lie, and one that was easily detected. Tell them the truth—that she had come on an illicit cargo vessel? Tell them she simply dropped out of the sky?
She was not hurting for funds—yet—but she felt very much at loose ends when she was not working. She was not so much of a career woman as to have no life beyond the workplace, but still, she felt that her professional life was wholly integrated into her identity. It wasn’t who she was, entirely, but it was a core element. It was a central strand, and when she was cut off from her work, she felt that part of herself was missing. She needed to work. She really needed to talk to Mal.
“Mal, I need to know when and where our next planetfall will be, so that I can schedule some clients.”
He looked at her with a twinkling smile in his eye. “Well, we’re headed toward Beaumonde, darlin’. That suit you? Or do you need something more upscale?”
“Well, Beaumonde will do, but if it’s not too far out of the way…”
He did some quick calculations at the bridge console. “Bernadette is within range—could get there in two weeks’ time. Or if you want to go all out, we could make Londinium in three weeks.”
She felt a thrill. “Londinium! I haven’t been there in at least three years. That would be perfect!” She leaned over and gave him a kiss.
“How long you need planetside to conduct your business?”
She knew he liked to keep planetside stops relatively brief, so she scaled back her request. “Three weeks?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment, then smiled brilliantly. “Perfect. Monty gave me the name of a guy who deals in tech products on Londinium. Three weeks would give me enough time to meet and greet, clinch the contract, and load up.”
She gave him another kiss and settled into his lap. He wrapped his arms around her and held her against his chest. “Thank you, Mal.”
“When you got your schedule worked out, let me know. I was thinking we could add an extra day. Just for us.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Well, I heard there’s a new exhibit opening up at the Londinium Museum of Modern Art. I could get tickets. Then I was thinkin’ we could go shopping—”
“Oh, Mal! That’s just what I’d like. I need some new outfits, and shoes—”
“I’ll carry all your packages, and you can pick out a nice 阿曼妮 Āmànnī suit for me—”
“Are you in funds?”
“Absolutely, Inara. We’re flush right now. Legal cargo is pretty gorram lucrative. And then, I want to take you to dinner at Claverley’s Blanchisserie—”
“Oh, Mal—but can you get a reservation? I’ve heard the wait for a table can be months—”
“Not a problem, Inara,” he said with a wink. “I have an ‘in’ with the chef and owner. And after dinner, maybe we could go dancing—”
“Dancing!” she said delightedly.
“Or, if you’d rather, I’ll pick up some tickets for the Opera. It’s your call, darlin’.”
“I love this plan, Mal. You are just 绝对的天才 juéduì de tīancái when it comes to plans. This has got to be one of your best plans ever.”
He smiled brilliantly at her. “No more than you deserve, 宝贝 bǎobèi. I’d do a lot more than that to ensure your happiness and success. Now you get on the cortex and fix up lots of appointments. I’ll be waitin’ for you to get home from work.”
She kissed him long and deeply, and they made passionate and ecstatic love right there on the bridge.
Well. That was not going to happen. Inara huffed, willing the fire in her loins to simmer down. Mal shopping for shoes? Smilingly wishing her success with her clients? Cheerfully taking her to Londinium, the core of the Core? She had to laugh at herself. What a lot of 废话 fèihuà her overheated imagination came up with!
Still, she needed to talk to Mal.
“Mal, what’s our destination?”
“And when will we get there?”
“Ten days. Why do you ask?”
“I want to schedule some work while I’m—”
“Gorrammit, Inara! Can’t you go anywhere without spreading?”
“That’s really coarse, Mal.”
“And what you do ain’t?”
“Mal, I will not take this from you. You’ve shared my bed. Is what we do together coarse?”
“What we do together is what you shouldn’t be doin’ with nobody else! Why do you want to see clients? What’s the matter? I’m not good enough for you?”
She huffed out her breath. It was just like him to make it personal—to see it all in reference to himself. Egotistical 混蛋 húndàn. It had nothing to do with him. “They’re just clients, Mal. You’re my lover.”
“I’m having trouble seeing the distinction here.”
“They pay,” she said acidly. “You don’t.”
“You want I should pay, then?”
“Mal! Of course not!”
“Well, I don’t want to be your charity case.”
“You’re behaving like a child.”
“No, I’m behaving like a man who don’t want his woman sellin’ herself to the highest bidder.”
“I am not ‘your woman.’ I am my own woman.”
He grabbed her roughly and pulled her in for a hard, unpleasant kiss. “You are my woman! Mine. And I don’t share with the rich 他妈的 操的 混帐 tāmādē cào de hún zhàng of Beaumonde! Nor anyplace else!”
She tried to pull away. “Let go of me, Mal.”
“Ain’t lettin’ you go.” His grip was a chokehold. “You belong to me. Me. 懂吗 Dǒng ma? I won’t let you be a 他妈的 tāmādē whore.”
Her airway was constricted. She could barely breathe. Still she struggled. “It’s my life, Mal. It’s my choice,” she hissed.
“I’d rather see you dead than see you whoring!” His grip tightened. “该死 Gāisǐ, Inara! I’ll see you in 地狱 dìyù before I let you 操 cào for coin!”
She couldn’t breathe. His hands pressed harder and harder into her throat. Black spots clouded the edges of her vision, and stars exploded across her view. She didn’t have much time left. She pulled the knife out of its concealed place, and plunged it into his chest, with a hard upward thrust between the fourth and fifth ribs, as she’d been taught.
His eyes went wide with shock and his grip slackened. He collapsed to the floor as the life’s blood pumped out of his heart in hot, red spurts.
* * *
No, no, no! Not like that! Please, let it not end that way! Never. Tears poured down her face as she gasped for breath, trying to regain her control. She tried to clear the horrific vision from her mind’s eye. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself, tried to reach the plane of tranquility she found in meditation, but she was still too disturbed by the vision. Too disturbed by the scene that her own imagination had created. She knew he was jealous. She knew he could be violent. But could it ever escalate to that point? She shuddered to think it. No, no, no.
She took refuge in ritual. She lit some incense, and made herself a soothing cup of tea. She knelt in front of the little altar and prayed for Buddha to send her peace, to restore reason, to restore serenity.
Mal was possessive, yes. Passionate, yes. But he was also gentle and kind. Gallant and noble-hearted. Loyal. A considerate lover. A romantic at heart. He had spoken and acted against those who would do violence to women. He was the defender of the unfortunate, protector of the weak. A champion of lost causes.
Oh, Mal! Mal, my love, she thought. May we never come to this. Never.
She began the meditation exercises that she had been taught at the Academy, to calm the mind and soothe the body and heal the soul. The exercises were designed to be used in case of a traumatic experience with a client, but Inara had found they helped when she had a traumatic experience in her own head, as well. She had had more than one occasion to use them.
Some time later, feeling somewhat restored, Inara sat up and straightened her dress. She still needed to talk to Mal.
“Mal, where are we bound?”
“We’re headed for Beaumonde, Inara. Should get there about ten days’ time.” He turned toward her with a quizzical half-smile, not asking the question that was clearly at the tip of his tongue.
So she answered the question he did not ask. “I need to work, Mal.”
He immediately turned away with a scowl, reigning in the burst of bad temper that clearly threatened to spill over his lips. He took a deep breath, and at last he said without turning back, “I don’t like it.”
“Mal, I have to work. I can’t sit around being ornamental. I have to earn my keep.”
“Do you have to earn it that way?” he asked, his voice an angry whine.
“Mal, I trained for this job for years. I’m skilled at it. I’m very good at it, in fact. This is what I know how to do.”
“You could change what you do,” he said, clearly expending some effort to keep his voice reasonable.
“So could you,” she returned. They were at it again. Neither of them had said the words, but the old volley of “whore” and “thief” was up and running.
He exhaled. “I already have, Inara,” he said, with a tightness in his voice. “Or ain’t you noticed? How many robberies you seen me pull lately? How much thieving? I’m trying, Inara. I know a lot of what I do to make a living is illegal. Don’t mean it’s all wrong.”
She had to give him some credit. He had given up violent crime. He’d carried a number of perfectly legal loads of cargo since Miranda—engine parts, terraforming gear, Ip Neumann’s scientific experiments, recycled machine parts. And he added a little black market dealing, illegal landfall, smuggling, and corporate espionage to make ends meet. He had a ship to keep in the sky and a crew to feed. She could hardly blame him.
“What I do isn’t wrong, either, Mal,” she answered. “To be fair, I know you are trying. I’m willing to try too.” She paused, thinking of how to phrase what she had to say next. “I know you find some of what my job entails distasteful—”
“Distasteful?!” he exclaimed, clearly astonished at her delicate choice of words.
She rode over his interruption. “But not all of it. Maybe you’re not aware of how much of my job is to be a social facilitator, a companion in the ordinary meaning of the word—someone to talk to, to unburden one’s self to, someone to counsel. Do you really object to my seeing clients in that capacity?”
“In that capacity,” he admitted, grudgingly. “But don’t it regularly run over into the other capacity? What’s to stop a friendly comforting talk from spilling over into other kinds of comfort? What am I supposed to think when you—”
She cut him off before he could accelerate over the edge. “Control is the first lesson of a Companion’s training. If I contract with a client for talk, that is what he or she gets—talk. It won’t go any farther than I wish for it to go.”
“I still don’t like it, Inara,” he said. He huffed out his breath for a while, fiddled with the console and flicked the three test switches, then turned to her again. “We’ll be on Beaumonde for three days,” he said at last.
She knew it was as close to grudging acceptance as she could get from him at this stage.
And that seemed to her the most likely outcome. He wouldn’t be delighted, but neither would he try to kill her. He would grumble, he would make it difficult, he would probably cuss—but he would do it. And he wouldn’t be happy about it at all.
She opened the shuttle door, and went to talk to Mal on the bridge.
Mal laid in the coordinates for the trip to Beaumonde and Holden Brothers headquarters. He wasn’t sure if Buck Holden would be willing to deal with him regarding the timonium crystals, but it was worth a try. There was a strong possibility that Holden Brothers wouldn’t touch it. Buck Holden set great store in his reputation for honesty—didn’t want the taint of illegality or even dubious dealings touching his shop. Hell, he’d even made quite the show of throwing Mal out in the dust last time—same time he hired him to transport secret information on Blue Sun under a cover cargo of terraforming gear.
Mal re-played the record of the wave that River had made. Holden was excited, nervous, and genial, all at the same time. “I’m going to have to keep you waiting again, Zoe, so bring reading material,” Holden-in-the-vid told him. “Might even have to throw you out on your ear again. Well, don’t think I could throw you out, in your current condition—” (Zoe had mentioned about the baby) “—but tell Mal, so he expects it.” All a show, to throw Holden’s enemies off the scent, and protect the Firefly’s crew from the agents who seemed to be only one step behind. Mal was willing to play the game. But this time, he was taking no chances about a dockyard saboteur. He would choose Serenity’s parking space at Pedro Docks with care, and set a twenty-four hour watch on the ship. “Now why is it that son-of-a-gun can’t come speak with me himself?” Holden inquired. “Has he really got something that important to do right now?”
“I can only guess what you’re talking about,” Holden responded, when Zoe hinted at their valuable cargo, and Mal knew that Buck had more or less got it all figured out. He was a sharp one, and he knew better than to ask for details over a wave. “But I’m familiar with the aphorism—‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ I’m sure there’s a terrific story there, but I’ll have to wait for you to tell it in person.”
Mal had transported many a cargo that was less than legal—smuggled goods, black market goods, illegal goods, stolen goods, but the timonium crystals were without a doubt the most valuable illegal cargo he had ever carried. And the amount they had was significant. Although they’d done a brisk trade in fruits and vegetables, and had traded for local crafts like basketry, musical instruments, and fabric, timonium had become the currency of choice. The Bandiagarans had cleaned Serenity out of everything tradable she carried—all the machines and machine parts, all the medicines until Simon stopped the process, insisting that they retain a small stock in case they had a medical emergency themselves before they could re-supply on Beaumonde. They sold the veterinary medicines that were left over from the cattle job to Beylix. They sold the nets that had secured the cargo of junkyard parts, to some folk who wanted to rig it as shade netting to protect their vegetable gardens from the harsh Bandiagaran sun. Spare hoses from the engine room had been sold, to become a drip irrigation system for some lucky farmer’s dry-land plot. Hell, they’d even sold the contents of the septic vac—and been paid good money for it, too. All that well-digested cattle manure was worth its weight in platinum—or timonium, rather—in a land where fertile soil was a precious commodity. And all of this had happened under the unsuspecting nose of Blue Sun.
Blue Sun had an exclusive contract with the Bandiagara World Counsel for mineral rights and all import and export. The mere fact of the Firefly having landed on Bandiagara without having been hired by Blue Sun to carry an approved cargo was already all manner of illegal. If anyone found out he was carrying timonium crystals from Bandiagara—if Blue Sun knew that anyone was carrying timonium crystals—. Mal smiled to himself. Blue Sun had found rich sources of timonium ore, pressured and corrupted the local government into compliance with their wishes, and screwed over the common people. The corporation then carried on with raping the planet of its resources, enriching itself, keeping the government officials as lap dogs, and keeping the rest of the population in a state of subjection. By ignoring the true needs of the Bandiagaran people, Blue Sun had missed out on the mother lode. The bag of crystals hidden in Mal’s bunk was worth as much as ten Blue Sun transports fully loaded with partially refined ore—enough to buy Serenity many times over. Alls he needed was a proper dealer. And he suspected that Buck Holden had the proper motivation to want to put one past Blue Sun. If he couldn’t manage the valuable crystals himself, he’d know who could. Mal smiled again—a genuine smile. Weren’t often things went his way.
And speakin’ of good things comin’ his way—Mal became aware that Inara was hovering just outside the door to the bridge. “That you, darlin’?” His voice carried a clear invitation, and Inara stepped closer.
“Mal? I—” Inara began.
Mal turned in his chair, giving her a bright smile. He reached out his arms, and Inara didn’t need her Guild training to understand his body language. And, oh, yes, she wanted him to sweep her into his lap, and dot her face with sweet kisses, and—stop. Control is the first lesson, she told herself. She’d come here with a purpose. It was important for both of them that she carry it through.
“Mal, please—I mean for this to be a business-like request—I—yes, afterwards—Mal. Behave yourself!”
He stopped short. There was something very serious in Inara’s eyes, so he paid close attention.
“Mal, I have secret business on Beaumonde. I need to go there.”
He blinked. Yes, he recognized those words. She was quoting the discussion they’d had those many weeks ago, when he’d claimed that what bothered him about her keeping secrets was that she had tried to play him, to manipulate him into compliance with her agenda. He’d implied that if she told him straightforwardly that she had secret business, he wouldn’t object. He blinked again and tried to swallow the stupid, jealous words that were rising in his throat. Inara, looking into his face, clearly saw his turmoil, for she spoke again. “If Beaumonde is not convenient, I can arrange to do my secret business on Boros or Persephone.” She waited again, watching him closely.
一 起 深呼吸 Yī qǐ shēn hūxī, Mal thought, closing his eyes and waiting for the wave of irrational anger to ebb away. With an effort of will, he re-engaged the rational part of his brain. When he spoke, his voice was only a little bit tight. “When do you need to get there?”
“Next week at the latest. Is that possible?”
Mal checked the console, running course calculations, fuel load, and other factors through his mind and through the flight software. “Should be able to get there Tuesday. That soon enough?”
She nodded. He added, “I can push it a bit, get us there Monday p.m., if you need.”
“Tuesday will be fine.” She looked at him. “Thank you, Mal.”
She leaned towards him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He responded by sweeping her onto his lap and pressing his lips to hers. They kissed until they needed to come up for air, then kissed again. Inara pulled back a moment. “Aren’t you going to ask what my secret business is?” she gasped out, as Mal dotted feathery kisses along the edge of her jaw and across her neck.
Mal interrupted the line of kisses he was dotting on her collar bone just long enough to say, “Nope. Don’t think I will,” and he darted his lips back to her skin with a whispery touch that had her shuddering.
“Yep. That went well.” Mal lay back in his bunk, hands clasped behind his head, and recollected the sequence of events on the bridge with great satisfaction. He was glad he was alone, because he was sure the self-satisfied smirk on his face was obnoxious in the extreme. But 哎呀 āiyā if he could help it. Now if that weren’t an object lesson for rising above jealousy and taking the high road, he didn’t know what was. Let’s see, which way worked out better? Plan A, challenge Inara’s secrets, call her names, get slapped in the face and spend four weeks alone in his bunk with his nightmares for company—oh yeah, and six days in jail, too. Or Plan B, let Inara keep her secrets—for now, anyways—get kissed, get laid, get pleasured beyond all rational thought—beyond irrational thought, too, for that matter—and wind up completely sated, with parts of his body sore he didn’t even know he had. You’d be an idiot, Reynolds, not to go for Plan B, he thought, and the smirk stretched even wider.
尘球 Chén Qiú [name of a world]
泥球 Ní Qiú [name of a world]
阿曼妮 Āmànnī [Armani (syllabic translation)]
绝对的天才 juéduì de tīancái [an absolute genius]
宝贝 bǎobèi [sweetheart]
废话 fèihuà [nonsense]
混蛋 húndàn [asshole]
他妈的 操的 混帐 tāmādē cào de hún zhàng [motherf---ing bastards]
懂吗 Dǒng ma [You understand]
他妈的 tāmādē [f---ing]
该死 Gāisǐ [Goddammit]
地狱 dìyù [hell]
操 cào [f---]
一 起 深呼吸 Yī qǐ shēn hūxī [Take a deep breath]
哎呀 āiyā [damn]
If you'd like to refresh on the past events referred to in this scene, the last time Inara came onto the bridge and asked Mal to take her to a civilized planet for "secret Guild business" was in Break Out, Part 2. The chapter where Mal told Inara that she should have just asked him straightforwardly was Shadow, Part 1.
Saturday, December 31, 2011 1:18 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011 1:19 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011 1:23 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011 1:46 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011 4:36 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011 5:00 PM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 2:17 AM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 6:36 AM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 7:09 AM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 7:12 AM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 7:24 AM
Sunday, January 1, 2012 11:28 AM
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