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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. It starts. The crew head to their various tasks, but there's more than one lot of trouble ahead. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1002 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Zoe slipped into town under cover of the miniature snowstorm the hovermule made, following them into town and watching as they took a right turn down one of the side streets and away towards the hills. Her own easy skill made sure nobody saw her as she made her way around the back of the saloon Mal had described as Vic Carroway’s place.
Unwinding the pale scarf from her hair and face, her dark beauty would have immediately stood out from the surroundings if she hadn’t found the perfect shadowy corner, protected enough that there was barely a scattering of snow on the hard-packed earth. It even had a small window that overlooked the main body of the saloon, where she could see the two men described to her sitting at a table, tossing cards about and calling loudly for more beer.
“They’ll look like they own the place. Which they more or less do. Vic had a mortgage with their Ma, and I don’t see her letting him pay it off much before he ends up being cared for by Mordecai.”
Mordecai Hampton, the cemetery keeper. Sometimes Jayne had an interesting turn of phrase. But he wasn’t wrong about this pair: Wes and Brad Tanner, the life and souls of the party.
Something about the way they were making a lot of noise and generally a nuisance of themselves had her wondering if they were also making sure they had lots of witnesses to their being in this place at this point in time, and a suspicion crawled up her spine, settling in the base of her brain and pulsing nastily.
She’d felt it a lot during the war, and more than once since, when she just knew things were going to go wrong. Mal mostly listened to her, at least after the first time on Clarendon, when he’d been badly wounded. He’d spent a while flat on his back, wondering if he was going to walk again. In fact he’d been lucky, and a lot more respectful of her gut feelings. And right now they were pinging painfully.
She fingered the comlink in her pocket. Trouble was, if she told Mal, there wasn't a hell of a lot he could do, apart from call off the plan. She had no idea what the Tanners were up to, and short of going in and threatening one or other of them until they told her, she didn’t have a whole lot of options either.
Sighing to herself, she dragged a convenient empty barrel to the window and settled on the edge. She was used to being uncomfortable – couldn’t be a Browncoat and expect to live the high life on Osiris – but there were times she sincerely wished Mal’s plans didn’t usually involve some kind of unpleasantness.
She knew why she was here, too; “Keep an eye on ‘em, Zo, make sure they don’t put two and two together and make trouble before we’re ready for ‘em,” Mal had said.
“And if they do?”
“Have fun.” He’d winked at her, something he used to do when he was about to rush in where angels trod at their peril, only this time it was all because of Freya.
It wasn’t jealousy, not really, not that kind at least, but her place was at Mal’s side, backing his play, being there when he needed her. She understood that Freya was going to be involved, that she felt the possibility of there being children at the camp very fiercely, but then they all did. Admittedly Ben showed no signs of being anything but his father’s son, but that wasn’t the point – they all felt the same way.
Of course, Freya was a soldier in her own right, once having outranked them all, and while Zoe had known piss-poor officers in her time, Frey wasn't one of them. She was good, her natural talents augmenting what that long-ago Academy had done to her. There were odd occasions she’d exhibited a ruthlessness that outdid Jayne, a coldness that could make blood run far too freely, but they were just few and far between. Beneath all that she was far more complex – mother, wife, lover, Mal’s self-appointed conscience ...
No. This was just sour grapes. Here, behind Carroway’s place, Zoe couldn’t help feeling she was out of the action, not taking care of business, and that was obviously making her uneasy.
Zoe checked the saloon again and noted a man in a green vest talking to the Tanners, and felt another sigh erupt from her full lips. She understood, but she didn’t have to feel happy about it.
They skirted past Mallory’s place, taking a wide path just in case anyone was watching – no point in putting her in unnecessary danger. Even Indigo hadn’t complained about being so cramped in the footwell, but how much of that was concern for Mallory’s safety and how much because he’d got his Sharps back was up for debate.
As they entered the foothills Mal guided the hovermule to a stop in a stand of stunted and gnarled trees, with not one leaf amongst them to form any kind of protection, and turned the engine off.
“Rest of the way we walk in.” He jumped down, his hand automatically reaching up to assist Freya.
Jayne took it a step further and lifted River from the vehicle, setting her delicately on the snowy ground. “You be careful, y’hear?” he said quietly.
She touched his cheek lovingly. “My Jayne should watch his back, or his wife will be most annoyed.”
The big man grinned. “Can’t be having that, can we?” He leaned down and kissed her fiercely.
She responded in kind, her slight body pressed hard against him.
“You wanna put him down, xiao nu?” Mal said, managing a touch of asperity in his tone. “He’s got his own job to do.”
Releasing her husband River gave Mal a dirty look, making him busy himself with his gun to hide the smile.
Indigo climbed slowly from the vehicle, watching the display of affection, and wondering yet again what a man like Jayne had done to get a woman like that. And if Cobb could do it, maybe there was hope for him yet.
A sharp glance from River had his thoughts straying once more to the possibility that she might be a Reader, but Jayne’s giant hand clapping him hard between his shoulder blades brought him back to the here and now.
“Time to go,” the ex-mercenary said.
“You know where?” Mal asked.
Jayne nodded. “Looking forward to it.”
“Try not to kill anyone.”
“Aw, Mal ...”
“You’re no gorram fun.”
“And you’re only going to make sure they don’t interfere,” Mal said firmly. “This ‘verse ain’t so big we can afford to make another enemy if we can help it.”
Jayne ran a finger down the grenades strung across his chest and said, with just a hint of pained innocence, “A’course, Mal.”
Mal’s blue eyes narrowed a fraction, but he could see River was almost vibrating with the need to get going, and Freya wasn’t much better, so against his better judgement he just nodded and strode away, only tossing over his shoulder, “Remember where we parked.”
The hovermule, semi-obscured by the displacement of snow, slipped from the Firefly’s belly and out of the docks.
“Now, where do you think they’re off to?” Pederson asked nobody in particular.
He’d taken five others with him, all more than familiar with the kind of job they’d been tasked, and all more than willing to take the extra coin offered. The others back at the ship had been pissed, but Pederson had enough command of them that they only grumbled.
“Least we ain’t watching the cargo,” Rafferty had said, pushing his hand through his thinning hair. “That’s gonna be cold enough to freeze a man’s pigu today.”
The rest agreed, but still didn’t look pleased when Pederson and his hand-picked men left their ship.
“Looks like there was four of ‘em,” one of his men now commented. “Headed into town, I guess.”
“Less for us to deal with.” Pederson cracked his knuckles inside his leather gloves. “And they won’t be expecting us inside when they get back.”
“You think we can get in?”
Pederson grinned. “Hell, even if we can’t, we can make a mess o’ the engines so they can’t leave, then we just pick ‘em off one by one.” He nodded at MacDonald. “Get on with it.”
Snick. Snick. Snick. The section of razor wire fell to the ground, instantly swallowed by the snow drifted against the base of the fence. Without another word the men slipped through, their white coveralls blending them into the landscape, and only the rifles in their hands clear against the pale shadows as they kept the warehouses between themselves and Serenity.
Whether it was the shape of the hills or just some anomaly of the weather patterns on Ithaca, but there was less snow on the ground, and they made good time until River held up a hand. Mal was immediately on the alert, his eyes scanning above, to the sides and behind them.
“What?” he hissed.
“Wait.” She handed him her rifle and slid between two rocks, through a space that shouldn’t have been wide enough.
Mal looked at Freya who shrugged. She had no idea what the young woman was up to either.
A minute later they found out as River shimmied back out, her hands clutching something rolled up in what had once been a white cloth but was now discoloured with mould. “Here,” she said, holding it out.
“Do I want to?” Mal asked.
“Jia yan ...”
He took the package and unrolled the material, folding back the waxed paper he found inside. “A Sharps?” He looked up at her.
River shrugged. “It might come in useful,” she said before picking up her own rifle and striding off.
“No, no,” he said, catching up to her. “How come you knew it was ...” He paused. “Of course. Jayne said him and Indigo had found a couple of them.”
“Indigo went back for one, but even he wasn’t stupid enough to even consider pawning the other. It would have drawn down entirely unwanted attention.” River kept walking, but dug into her pocket and pulled out a clip of bullets. “Eight shells,” she said, tossing them to him over her shoulder. “Be frugal.”
Mal stared at her as she vanished around a corner, leaving almost nothing in the way of footprints.
“Coming?” Freya asked, something that might be considered amusement in her eyes as she passed him by.
“Gorramit,” he muttered before following.
Jayne consulted the small map River had drawn for him. “Not far,” he said quietly, comparing the delicate pencil lines with the terrain ahead. “Nothing we can’t handle.”
“Just like old times,” Indigo said.
“’Cept this time we’re on the side of the angels.”
“Angels? I’m not so sure about that.”
Jayne grinned. “Maybe you’re right.” He tucked the map back inside his shirt. “Come on. Last one there buys the booze.” He settled his coat more firmly around his shoulders and started to make his way through the sea of boulders.
Indigo didn’t move. “Jayne ...”
“There’s something I think ... maybe I should ...”
The big man stopped, the expression on his face halfway between angry and resigned. “What? You gonna confess something else now?”
Jayne resisted the temptation to shoot his oldest friend. “Well? We ain’t got time for this.”
Indigo pulled the end of his moustache into his mouth, something he only did when he was anxious, or at the very least concerned. “I think ... I think someone might’ve seen me in town.”
Jayne’s jaw dropped a little. “You think ...” His fingers tightened, and if he’d been holding a gun it would have fired. “Why the diyu didn’t you say something before?”
“’Cause I wasn’t sure!” He lowered his voice. “And the whole point of the exercise was for us to talk to Addie without anyone knowing I’m alive.”
“And now you think someone does,” Jayne said, shaking his head as he pulled the comlink out of his pocket.
“I ... thinking about it, yeah. I’m coming to the conclusion it wasn’t my imagination.”
“You shoulda told me. Told Mal. Hell, Serenity ain't exactly defended at the moment.” He thumbed the switch on the comlink. “Zoe.”
“Kinda busy here, Jayne.”
Her voice was low, neutral, although he could imagine the look on her face, but right now that didn't matter as much as Caleb and the other children. “You need to get back to the ship. Someone mighta seen Indigo in town.”
“No. But we can’t take the chance, can we?”
“On my way.” The link went dead.
“Are you gonna tell Mal?” Indigo asked.
“Nope.” Jayne pushed the handset back into its home. “Nothing he can do, not right now.”
“But one woman ...”
“You don't know Zoe.” Still, it wouldn’t hurt ... River, he thought firmly.
My Jayne. What is it?
He let what Indigo said spread out in his mind. Better tell Mal.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Mal muttered, his brows drawn together.
“We don’t know anyone saw Indigo,” Freya said, playing peacemaker again.
“We don’t know anyone didn’t.” Mal shook his head, almost too tense to get more angry. “I’d just like to’ve known before we left Serenity.”
“Would it have changed what we’re doing?”
“Might not be doing it.”
“And then what?”
He gazed into her face, into the eyes he could lose himself in at times. “I’d be sleeping on the couch, but at least my crew wouldn’t be in danger.”
“Might have beens.”
“Maybe. But I still prefer to know where all the pieces are before I start playing.”
“Zoe’s heading back – she’ll make sure everything’s okay.”
“And nobody will be watching the Tanners. We’re stretched too thin.”
There was a long moment of silence, then River spoke.
“We’re here,” she said quietly, resting her rifle against a rock.
Mal dragged himself back to the matter in hand. “You sure?”
The young woman nodded, then pointed to an area of snow that had an odd, dimpled look. She slipped her coat off and draped it next to her coat, her bandoleers following.
Mal approached, going down onto one knee and scraping at the snow to reveal a square-cut grill. “It’s gonna be pretty tight.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?” River asked, her hands on her hips, the grey bodysuit making her look more fragile than ever, although the knives sheathed tightly to her thighs were rather disconcerting.
In response Mal grabbed the grill, using brute strength to tug it free and cause a small avalanche of snow to slither into the vent revealed. “Just get inside.”
“... and we managed to get the ore right into the Dragon’s engines! Made a helluva pretty light show and stopped ‘em dead.” Hank let his hands fall back to his chest, exhausted from telling Sara tall tales and slightly censored stories.
Sara’s eyes were wide. “You were the hero,” she breathed, her arms tight around her drawn up knees where she sat on the side counter.
“Nah.” Hank shook his head. “I’m a card carrying coward. But someone had to do it, and that’s what Mal pays me for.”
Simon, counting swabs and making sure he had enough needles and thread ready, just in case, chuckled. “Don’t let him be so modest. He saved our lives.”
Hank blushed, pink against the white of the bandages.
“All of us,” Kaylee agreed from where she had appeared in the doorway.
“Hey, bao bei.” Simon smiled warmly at his wife.
“Hey.” She grinned. “I was just gonna go make the kids something to eat, and I wondered if any of you wanted anything. Sara?”
The girl bit her lip, looking worried at being asked a direct question. “I ... don’t know.”
“Some soup. Maybe a coupla sandwiches.”
“I ...” Sara found some courage from somewhere. “That would be nice. Thank you.”
Hank moaned slightly, and Simon was instantly at his side.
“Are you in pain?”
“No,” the pilot admitted. “Unless you count being hungry.”
“Well, you won’t be on solids for a while, not until you’ve given yourself some time to heal.”
“But a beef sandwich, pickles, maybe some chips on the side ...” He shook his head. “It’s torture.”
“It’s doctor’s orders.”
Kaylee, her kind heart as always attuned to the suffering of others, looked beseechingly at Simon. “Can’t he have something? Even if it’s just some soup?”
“Please, doc,” Hank pleaded. “My stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.”
Simon looked from one to the other. “I suppose some soup can’t hurt too much.” At Hank’s delighted look he went on quickly, “But if there’s any pain, discomfort, anything like that –”
“I’ll tell you,” Hank promised.
“Shiny,” Kaylee said, turning and running up the stairs before Simon could change his mind.
“Hey, don’t thank me. Not yet. Not until you don’t have any ill effects from it.” A sound behind him had him turning. “Bethie, sweetie. Your mother’s just gone to get some ... what is it?”
His daughter stood just outside the infirmary, rolling her hands around each other. Fiddler, at her feet, had picked up her distress, and was cowering against her, whimpering a little. “Bad men,” she whispered. “Bad men. Outside.”
to be continued
Monday, February 27, 2012 11:23 AM
Monday, February 27, 2012 11:33 AM
Monday, February 27, 2012 11:42 AM
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 4:42 AM
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