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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Saffron messes with River, and vice versa. And how do you think that works out? Jayne feeds the chickens.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 987 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)
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Follows TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10). Precedes ENDS WITH A HORSE (12).
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)
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)
Saffron messes with River, and vice versa. And how do you think that works out? Jayne feeds the chickens.
A/N: It turns out that there are a large number of expressions in Chinese involving the word for egg, 蛋 dàn. I was unable to resist the opportunity to indulge in a huge number of bilingual puns. In short, I was a 糊涂蛋 hútú dàn for egg puns. As usual, mouse-over the Chinese words to see the translation.
* * *
It took a little doing, but Saffron was skilled, and with the aid of one of the tools she had retrieved from the bathroom and a length of microfilament, she was able to disengage the lock on her door and override the security alarm. She immediately headed for the cargo bay to plant her toys where they could do the most damage. So far, so good. No one was looking for her, and the cargo bay was silent. Good time to seed the cargo bay with her devices. The device she held in her hand was one of her favorite toys, and the opportunity to play with exciting new toys like these was one of the reasons she’d wanted to play this particular game. Of course, the personal element was also a strong motivator. She carefully positioned the device, and worked through the sequence of steps to activate it. Finished with the activation sequence, she straightened up.
“Gah!” She found herself face to face with a disconcerting stare. A downright creepy stare, come to think of it.
“Forget your toothpaste?” River asked, and slugged her, sending her sprawling onto the deck.
“Are you out of your mind?” Saffron asked in a fury, as she rubbed the side of her face. She was getting slugged in the jaw altogether too often on this particular mission. She was also astonished. Had this ninety-pound slip of a girl really just knocked her flat on her 屁股 pìgu?
“Completely,” River answered, and looked it. “Have been for a good long while.” She gave Saffron a creepy smile, which was even worse than the creepy stare, if such a thing were possible.
“What kind of game do you think you’re playing?” Saffron sat up.
“What kind of game do you think you’re playing?” River rebutted. Saffron made to stand up. “Uh-uh-uh!” River shook her finger at Saffron, who froze where she was. This girl was just too creepy.
“Love games,” River chanted, dancing around the crates, right next to the spot where Saffron had concealed her device. She looked Saffron directly in the eye. “Good at them.” Saffron pulled back from the intrusive gaze. “Wanna play Hide and Seek?” River asked playfully. She took a few steps away from Saffron to a spot near the forward staircase, bent over gracefully in a dancer’s pose, and pulled out the device Saffron had just deployed. “Found it!”
“Hey!” Saffron exclaimed, in spite of herself.
“Looks like you left one of your toys here.”
“That’s not mine—” Saffron began, denying.
“Good,” River interrupted. “Then it’s mine.”
“Wait, it is mine. Give it back.”
“Give it back.”
“Thought it wasn’t yours.” River smiled evilly at Saffron. “What’s mine, is mine. What’s yours, is mine,” she chanted like a toddler, waving the device through the air. “If I want it, it’s mine. If I see it, it’s mine. If I don’t see it, it’s still mine. Hand over that tool.” She held out her hand.
Saffron played dumb, pretending not to understand. The girl couldn’t have seen the override tool. It was concealed in the folds of her clothing.
“Hand over the door security override,” River snapped.
Saffron reluctantly handed it over, stewing and growling under her breath. She had a back-up plan, of course, but the loss of the override tool was going to cost her.
“Oooh, she’s angry,” River said, stopping her dance. “Angry that she wasn’t invited to the wedding.”
“Peleus and Thetis.”
“I don’t know them,” Saffron said, brushing herself off.
“Looking for the Achilles heel,” River continued. “Threw the golden apple in amongst the gods.”
Saffron was puzzled. The girl really was out of her mind.
“What begins with an apple,” River intoned, “must end with a horse.”
Saffron froze and stared. Does she know about the Trojan horse?
“Polytekhnos and Aedon,” River announced after careful consideration. “Loved more than Hera.”
Okay, the girl really was just crazy. Saffron couldn’t make head or tail of it. The girl was waiting for her to answer. “Haven’t been to Hera,” she said at last. “Not recently, anyway.”
“Hera was wrathful,” River announced. “Sent you to rack discord upon the lovers. Defeat, rape, nubile little slave girl. Chopped up the son.” River paused to consider. “Chopped up the Sun?” she queried, then answered herself. “Chopped up the son.”
“Chopped up the son?” Saffron echoed. She didn’t understand a thing. This was just creepy. Not to mention disgusting.
“The gods were angry. Turned them all into birds. The seer Tiresias understood the language of the birds,” she informed Saffron. River paused and reconsidered. “Bird seed. Chicken feed. Turned them all into chickens. Gorram chickens.”
Saffron glanced over at the chicken crate where she’d concealed many of her toys. She said nothing.
“Time to go,” River announced.
“Go where?” Saffron asked faintly.
Saffron stood up. “Walking? Walking where?”
“Pick a direction. Just start walking.”
It was at that point that Saffron noticed that the girl had a gun in her hand. Where had that come from? So, not only crazy, but also armed with lethal force? She started walking.
“It’s just an object,” River said, studying the gun in her hand uncertainly. She lifted her gaze to meet Saffron’s eyes. “It doesn’t mean what you think.”
Saffron fled to her dorm room, and shut the door herself. She was glad to be safely locked away from the creepy crazy girl.
Saffron breathed a sigh of relief to be back in her prison. That girl…that crazy girl was one of the fugitives that she’d seen aboard Serenity the first time she’d been there. River Tam and her brother Simon Tam, the doctor. It really was too bad she hadn’t known they were fugitives then, because the reward for turning them in would have been far more than the pay-off for sending Serenity into the net. Still, it wasn’t about the pay-off—it was never about the pay-off, it was how you played the game. She’d tried to capitalize on it later, when she sent Fergus and his boys after Simon Tam, offering to cut them in on the reward money. (It was a task she had delegated—because she was busy elsewhere and the crew of Serenity needed a distraction.) Ah yes, Fergus…her Beaumonde boyfriend. Had she married him? Oh. Right. Yes, he was one of the ones she’d married. Her husband. At least when it suited her. He wasn’t the brightest candle in the box, but his physical attributes made him very attractive. As an enforcer, of course. He had the fight skills and the underworld contacts to make him very useful to her when she had that kind of work to do on Beaumonde. And life on Beaumonde sure had been busy of late.
Still, it was too bad that the opportunity had passed. The reward money for apprehending the Tam siblings was no longer on offer. (She had of course done her research before boarding Serenity.) Turned out, the arrest warrants that she had shown Fergus were now out of date, superceded by an official notice of rescindment. The Alliance was no longer after the Tams. She was sure someone, somewhere, would be glad to pay good money to get their hands on the pair of them, but without specific information, she was disinclined to act on spec. Especially since it seemed to involve getting slugged in the jaw and knocked on her 屁股 pìgu far more often than was tolerable for an operator of her caliber.
“Doesn’t play well with others.”
River could tell that the Captain had correctly surmised that she was talking about Saffron, but he stared at the device that River proffered, as if utterly perplexed.
“What is that thing, River?”
“She wasn’t invited to the wedding. Got angry. Brought her toys, wouldn’t play nice. Wouldn’t share.” She wasn’t answering his question, but it was important. Important to say…she couldn’t find quite the right expression.
“What wedding are you talkin’ about, Albatross?” he asked, eyeing the device in her hand curiously.
“Peleus and Thetis,” River proclaimed confidently, on surer ground. Sometimes the Captain understood that he needed to ask the questions. Too many meanings swirling in her brain, too many feelings, too many stories. The strands got tangled, the meanings obscured. Hard to sort them out, find the pattern. Can’t find the clear path through the woods. The trees. The orchard. The grove. They grew in Hera’s garden in the west. Hesperides. Something about the garden…
“Who’re they? Don’t think I know ’em. These folks have a wedding recently?”
“A long time ago.” The apple. That was it. The apple was important. “She gave an apple. Launched a thousand ships. The Achaeans—”
“What is that thing?” the Captain interrupted, referring to the toy she held in her hand.
“Toy.” Something was missing. She tried again. “Troy.”
He gave the thing a cursory examination. “Looks a bit like a fuse filament to me. Wonder if it’s the programmable kind.” He spoke into the comm, “Kaylee, you available? Come on up to the bridge. Got something for you to check out.”
“So, where’d you get that thing?” the Captain asked.
“Oh!” River was startled to find a fuse filament in her hand. Where had it come from? “Found it.” As she gazed out the bridge window into the Black, she spotted their destination, Beaumonde’s Trojan planet Hektor, in the night sky. Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles Peleus’ son, the ruinous wrath that brought on the Achaeans woes innumerable, and hurled down into Hades many strong souls of heroes, and gave their bodies to be a prey to dogs and all winged fowls.
“Found it where?” The Captain’s voice commanded her attention again.
“Cargo bay.” Oh, right, that’s what she wanted to tell him. “She put it there.”
“Who? Saffron?” He looked at her sharply. “You tellin’ me that evil snake was in the cargo bay?”
“他妈的 Tāmādē. How’d she get out of her room?” He exited the bridge, pulling River along.
River knew the answer to that question. She pulled the door security override tool out of her pocket.
“Where’d you get that?” the Captain asked sharply.
“Took it from her.”
“他妈的 Tāmādē. Kaylee,” Mal asked, turning to the mechanic as she entered the corridor on her way towards the bridge, “is this what I think it is?” He indicated the tool in River’s outstretched hand.
“Standard door security override tool,” Kaylee affirmed.
The Captain was really stuck in a rut of uncreative cussing, River thought. At least his epithet for referring to Saffron—that evil snake—was a little more poetic. “More colorful language—”
“You recognize this thing at all?” He held out the first device River had showed him.
Kaylee took the thin strip of filament. “Don’t rightly know what this is, Cap’n. Looks like it might be programmable, though. Could be set up for a variety of functions.”
It’s a—the word evaded her. She couldn’t think of it. She tried paraphrasing. Maybe it would come to her. “Sing, goddess, the wrath of Peleus’ son, the ruinous wrath that brought down woes innumerable, and hurled down into Hades the souls of heroes, and gave their bodies to be a prey to all winged fowls.” Began with winged fowls. Ended with a horse. Sing, goddess.“And gave her a…Lecture on horses, and chickens, and eggs, And told her that she had such beautiful…Manners—”
“Hold off on the singin’ a moment, willya, River?” He didn’t want to take the effort to sort out what the crazy girl was saying. Turned to his 妹妹 mèimei, since she would answer in language he could understand. Comprehend. Apprehend. Get. “Apparently, it’s something Saffron planted in the cargo bay.” He turned back to River. “You think she went anywhere else, or just the cargo bay?”
Frustration. “How would I know?” she exclaimed. “Not omniscient. Δεν είμαι θεά (Den eímai theá). Of discord or otherwise.”
The Captain stared and shook his head slightly, exchanging a look with the mechanic. I’m not crazy, River thought. Just can’t find the words. “The words won’t come.”
“Well, darlin’, while you’re thinkin’ on those words, how’s about we keep moving on down to the cargo bay and you show me just where you found this gorram thing? Disturbs me to no end to know that evil snake got outta her room. Where’d she get ahold of a security override tool?”
“Chickens,” River answered promptly. The Captain ignored her. “Chickens,” she insisted, more forcefully.
“What about chickens, darlin’?” he queried, good-humoredly.
“Chickens!” River exclaimed. He wasn’t getting it.
“River, honey, calm down,” Kaylee said soothingly.
“A companion’s words of persuasion are effective,” River quoted, again from The Iliad. River rolled her eyes at the blank looks directed her way by both the Captain and Kaylee. Whatever happened to a classical education? “The classics…” she began, but her attention was distracted as they entered the cargo bay on the upper catwalk.
“Now whereabouts was this filament thing?” Mal asked River. “Can you show me the exact spot?”
River nodded, and danced down the stairs. She skipped between the rows of crates and pinpointed the spot by the forward stairs, right next to the cargo bay door controls. Mal and Kaylee stared assessingly at the area.
“What do you reckon this device is for?”
“Not rightly sure, Cap’n,” Kaylee answered. “Thing like that, could have any purpose from tracking the location of a crate to starting a fire. It’s thin enough it could easily be overlooked, or mistook for a patch or label.”
“I wonder…” Mal began, rubbing his jaw thoughtfully, “why did she choose this spot in particular, out of all the whole cargo bay?” Kaylee was bent down, shining a light onto the spot in which the device had been adhered, examining the surface, looking for connections.
River almost had the answer, she knew it was in there, in the swirling miasma, but it eluded her grasp, eddied away before she could acquire it. She swiveled her head over toward the chicken crates. “Chickens hold the answer.”
Mal eyed her warily. With her neck sticking out strangely, River walked over to the crate, flapped her arms, and bent over, eyeing the chickens within through the narrow gaps in the boards. “Don’t think the chickens got a gorram clue as to Saffron’s motivations or methods, sweetheart. Chickens ain’t very smart.”
Kaylee caught the Captain’s eye, and shook her head slightly.
“Am not,” River shot at them.
“Not what?” Kaylee asked, trying to look all innocent-like.
“Not cracked.” River looked the chicken crate over. Something…something about the crate, the chickens. “Why did the chicken cross the ’Verse?”
“To get to the other…” Kaylee answered readily, trailing off as the Captain glared at her. He thought she was being distracted.
“Kaylee, you got any notions as to why or what for—”
River interrupted. “Which came first, the chicken or the—”
“Listen, this is very amusing, Albatross, very philosophical. But it ain’t on topic. Some of us are still tryin’ to figure out what sort of trick Saffron’s tryin’ to pull here, and all this talk of chickens and eggs ain’t helpin’.
“—the chicken or the apple,” River finished, then frowned, unhappy with how that came out.
The Captain gave her a sharp look, then hit the comm button on the wall. “Zoe, need you and Jayne down in the passenger dorm. Gonna search Saffron’s room for contraband.”
“So why’d you stow away on my boat, Yo-Saff-Bridge?”
She didn’t answer.
“Who put you in the chicken crate?”
She gave a silent snort.
“Where’d you get that door override?”
His question was met with silence.
“What was the fuse filament device for?”
Saffron pouted at him.
“Where’d you put the other ones?”
She rolled her eyes.
Well, that, at least, was a bit of information. There were other ones, she just wasn’t sayin’ where or how many. But it wasn’t very helpful. It just confirmed his suspicions. He and Zoe searched Saffron’s room to no effect, while Jayne and River held her at bay in the corridor outside. Jayne stood there with his best intimidating look, his hand hovering near his gun, while River put on an extraordinary performance, miming chicken antics. Between the two of them, they kept Saffron silent and motionless in a corner.
Mal was left with a raft of unanswered questions. How long was Saffron in the cargo bay before she was discovered? Was she there just to plant the device that River found, or did she do something else? Did she plant other devices, and if so, where? Was she inspecting the cargo looking for the secret information Buck Holden had hidden in it? Even Mal didn’t know where that was hidden, but if Saffron knew enough to look for it, then that opened the door on a whole new series of questions.
So far, Saffron had succeeded in embarrassing him in front of Inara, provoking Zoe to a murderous rage, escaping from her room, and stimulating River to embark upon a round of incomprehensible chicken-inspired lunacy. And still he was no closer to having an answer to the fundamental questions: why was Saffron on his boat, and what was she up to?
“Where are you bound?” Saffron’s voice suddenly demanded—just as if she were the one with the right to question him, after stowing away on his own gorram boat.
“Why do you ask?” he countered.
“You left Beaumonde in a tearing hurry,” she rejoined with a hint of a sneer. “Just wondering if you actually know where you’re going.”
Well now. Seemed like provoking Saffron into a snarky mood might actually yield some information. If Saffron had placed herself in that crate deliberately, he couldn’t imagine that she didn’t know where it was supposed to be delivered. He made a mental note to issue a direct order that no one divulge any information to Saffron about their course, to Hektor or beyond. “Well, how’s about you tell me where we’re goin’?” he replied.
Saffron stared back at him defiantly. She was a good actress, but he was watching her closely and saw that she realized she had slipped.
“How did you get in that crate?” he repeated. “Your choice?”
“No, of course I didn’t choose to be cooped up with those foul beasts for a day and a half!” she exclaimed. “No one in their right mind would.”
“Never said you were in your right mind.”
She gave him a foul look, but wouldn’t say another word.
With Saffron safely locked up again in her room, Zoe returned to the bridge to resume her trick at the helm, River flapped about the passenger lounge imitating a chicken, and Jayne headed into the cargo bay to tend to the chickens. Mal followed him.
Mal had been astonished by Jayne’s initial enthusiasm for taking on the duty of fowl manager. The chickens needed to be fed and watered frequently, and the straw bedding in the two crates had to be changed daily, or they’d start to smell. After all of Jayne’s moaning and groaning about tending the cattle during the run to Beylix, Mal really hadn’t expected that the man would give him anything but the barest cooperation, and that grudgingly. But Jayne had more than cooperated, he had jumped at the job.
At first Mal didn’t question it, just accepted it and figured if Jayne was gonna make it go easy this time, he wasn’t gonna argue. But by the second day, he began to get the sense that Jayne was no longer satisfied with his new job as Serenity’s official chicken-wrangler.
“Gorram good-for-nothin’ 蠢蛋 chǔn dàn chickens!”
It wasn’t possible to avoid overhearing Jayne’s curses as he stood in the opened chicken crate, tossing the fouled bedding into a nearby bin.
“What kind of 无用 wúyòng chicken can’t lay a gorram egg?” he muttered.
“Problem with the chickens, Jayne?” Mal inquired, strolling over crate-side.
“I’ll say there is, Mal,” Jayne replied with a disgusted grumble. “Gorram chickens ain’t good for nothin’.”
Mal peered into the open crate. Jayne’s mucking-out process had certainly stirred things up. The excited chickens were strutting about and enthusiastically pecking at the real and imagined specks turned up by Jayne’s removal of the foul straw. “Far as I can tell, they look to be ordinary chickens,” Mal shrugged, “sure as eggs is eggs.”
“Well, ain’t that just the gorram problem!” Jayne exclaimed in a completely exasperated tone of voice.
“That they’re chickens?” Mal responded, uncertain exactly why chickens acting like chickens was a problem. After all, they were chickens.
Jayne gave him a glare that he couldn’t quite interpret, although he got this message as loud and clear as a rooster crowin’ in the mornin’: Jayne’s foul mood was like to boil over soon.
“Don’t play 呆若木鸡 dāiruòmùjī with me, Mal,” Jayne growled. “Don’t you come tellin’ me some know-it-all farm-boy 屎蛋 shǐ dàn about how all these chickens is really roosters. Or heifer-chickens.”
Heifer-chickens? Didn’t take Mal long to cotton on to Jayne’s meaning. He remembered Jayne’s disgust at discovering that none of the cattle in the herd they’d transported to Beylix was capable of producing fresh milk, seeing as they were all heifers and steers. And now Jayne was—
“Ain’t no 笨蛋 bèndàn,” Jayne continued, with unintentional humor. “Even I can tell these ain’t no gorram roosters. They’re hens, Mal. Hens.” Jayne folded his arms, as if his statement settled the matter, and glared at the Captain.
Mal had trouble reining in his smile. He couldn’t help egging him on. “Why, Jayne, you look just as disgusted as if you smelled a rotten egg—” he began.
“Gorrammit, Mal! No. Not no kind of egg, not good, bad, nor rotten. These gorram chickens are 废物 fèi wù. I been cleaning these crates since yesterday morning, and ain’t none of these hens laid a single egg. Not a gorram one.”
“滚蛋 Gǔndàn!” Mal exclaimed, straight-faced.
“Damn straight, Mal. What kind of no-good 捣蛋的 dǎodànde hen is it can’t lay no eggs? I was countin’ on these birds to gimme eggs for breakfast, and they ain’t providin’!”
“And you can’t make an omelet without breakin’ eggs,” Mal quipped, unable to resist.
Jayne glared. “I ain’t no 糊涂蛋 hútú dàn, Mal,” he replied, as Mal bit his cheeks to keep from bursting out laughing. “These chickens are hens. Oughtta lay eggs.”
“So, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, is it?” Mal inquired provokingly.
“He that would have eggs must endure the cacklin’ of hens, Jayne,” he quoted, as Jayne cursed ineffectively at him. “Chickens in transit don’t nest. Too nervous.”
Jayne pulled up short in his cussing. “They don’t?”
“Well. Then I quit.”
“Don’t want this job no more. The chicken-tending, I mean,” Jayne added as Mal’s glare made him back-pedal slightly.
“You mean to tell me you can’t take it no more, just ’cause these hens ain’t givin’ you free eggs for breakfast?” Mal demanded, letting Jayne feel the full force of ‘The Look.’ “What are you, chicken-hearted? Well, I ain’t gonna let you chicken out! I ain’t no spring chicken, but I’ll make you run around like a chicken with its head cut off!”
“Gorrammit, Mal!” Jayne exclaimed, finally getting over the paralysis that the Captain’s ‘Look’ always put him in. Mal was just playin’ some kind a’ rooster game with him, tryin’ to establish the pecking order. Well, he weren’t gonna brood over it. He could give as good as he got. “I ain’t the one laid an egg here.” He was on a roll—an egg roll, he thought to himself with a smirk—as another one occurred to him. “I’m a good egg.”
“Don’t over-egg the pudding,” Mal warned.
“Oh, go fry an egg!”
“You’re just eggin’ me on,” the Captain replied with an obnoxious smirk.
Jayne gestured with his fist. “I’ll give you a goose egg, you don't cut that out.”
“Goose that laid the golden egg? I’ll take it…”
River paused, mid-peck, as she overheard the Captain and Jayne going at it with the chicken and egg humor in the cargo bay. Aha! Key to the city. Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. The Captain was now examining the chicken crates, looking for evidence of hidden contraband, and coming up with a big goose egg. She overheard Jayne saying, “I dunno what you think you’re gonna find in there, Mal. I done told you, they ain’t laid a single egg.” River shook her head. Sometimes, she reflected, it’s necessary to teach fish to swim.
屁股 pìgu [butt]
他妈的 Tāmādē [Damn it]
妹妹 mèimei [younger sister]
Δεν είμαι θεά (Den eímai theá) [I am not a goddess (Greek)]
蠢蛋 chǔn dàn [fool, lit. “sluggish egg”]
无用 wúyòng [useless]
呆若木鸡 dāiruòmùjī [“dumb as a wooden chicken” (idiomatic expression for “dumbstruck”)]
屎蛋 shǐ dàn [crap (lit. “shit egg,” turd)]
笨蛋 bèndàn [dummy, fool (lit. "dumb egg")]
废物 fèi wù [good for nothing]
滚蛋 Gǔndàn [Get out of sight! (lit. “boil an egg”)]
捣蛋的 dǎodànde [trouble-making (lit.“falling egg”)]
糊涂蛋 hútú dàn [confused/clueless person (a sucker) ( lit. “confused egg”)]
Saturday, June 16, 2012 3:50 AM
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Saturday, June 16, 2012 10:04 AM
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