BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

ALIASSE

Identity
Friday, July 13, 2012

Mal recovers.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1371    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

A two-man security team on a routine patrol discovered Mal curled up outside the locked door of the barber’s. Muggings were not an irregular occurrence on the station, but the victims were not usually divested of all of their clothing.

One of the team knelt next to Mal, bringing her head down to his.

“Eyes half-open,” she said. “Call a med team. And let’s get something to cover him with.”

Mal heard her without taking in the meaning of her words. These two people, hovering around him: not a threat. The metal floor beneath him: a bearable discomfort. The medics when they arrived: there to help. He let the sensations – a prickly blanket, the worn give of the gurney, the occasional passer-by – go over him without analysis.

When he opened his eyes properly for a moment, one of the medics smiled at him kindly and said some reassuring words. Mal returned the smile and slipped back into sleep.

___________________________

He lay still while a nurse moved around the gurney, methodically tending each cut and scrape. It was impossible not to compare her ministrations with Simon’s, and gradually he became less conscious of the nurse as he reflected on the doctor. It was no wonder that Simon had been tense, even agitated, when he had treated Mal: from the start, the doctor-patient relationship had been defined by a certain deal, backed up by those first had punches – treat me and my crew and you won’t be thrown to the wolves. Simon had kept his side of the deal, faithfully, impeccably. It was only now that the crew was shattered that Mal saw that Simon had earned his place.

___________________________

Mal turned his head. He didn’t know how long he’d been lying on the gurney: the first nurse had been replaced by another, who’d looked him over once, maybe an hour ago. Mal’s body had settled into the gurney. There was no room to turn and his backside ached.

They were bringing another patient in, a woman in a wheelchair. As she stood, supported by medical staff on either side, she let out a long scream. There was blood flowing down her legs. Mal turned his head away, lest the woman feel him looking.

After she had been somehow half-hauled and half-tipped on to a gurney, a doctor pressed flattened hands all over her enormous belly.

“Baby’s fine,” he said.

The labor progressed; the father appeared. Mal studied him as he hovered and came to rest around his mate, clasping her hand, stroking her hair, listening to the doctor, hiding any anxiety he might be feeling. The arrival of a security guard on the other side of Mal’s gurney was an unwelcome interruption.

“Docs say you’re okay to go,” said the guard, laying some workman’s overalls across Mal’s legs. He yawned, covered his mouth; it was still the early hours. “Put these on. Got to take you to Passenger Control.”

The guard and Mal both turned, compelled to look as with a series of screams, punctuation by instructions and encouragement, the woman gave birth. Not something you got to see on a Firefly. The baby’s cries came, and everybody watched for the moment of connection as the baby was passed into its mother’s arms.

All was well. Mal began to ease himself up from the gurney.

___________________________

It would be some time before Passenger Control opened. Mal tried to get comfortable in one of a bank of plastic seats, the one with the least litter around it, tried to recapture the semi-dreamlike state of the trauma room as a way of getting through these slow, dead hours before the station returned properly to life. He closed his eyes and thought of Inara – their last conversation; the first time they had made love.

___________________________

Mal was first in line as the shutters covering the hexagonal passenger control office rattled up. He hoped he’d be called over by the soft-faced older woman, got instead the itchy-looking young man. The sort that was too intelligent for his job, who chafed under the mundane working conditions and inefficiency, tried not to take it out on his customers as long as they weren’t making it worse for him.

“Morning,” the young man said, a note of both challenge and entreaty in his voice: please don’t be an asshole. Or else. “You the guy was mugged last night?”

“Yup.”

“Got any coin?”

“Nope.”

“Want a coffee?”

“I’d be mighty obliged.”

The young man – ‘Largo’ it said on his name badge – pushed his wheeled chair back towards a jug of coffee, wedged between a stack of manuals and a roll of toilet paper, filled a disposable cup.

He tapped and swiped at his screen while Mal took a sip.

“So. You reported this?” Largo asked.

“No.”

“Planning to? You’re obliged by law.”

“Right.”

“Right.” The barest sigh. “You still got your ID?”

“Got stole along with my clothes.”

The tiniest of pauses, enough to register Largo’s cynical disbelief. “Right,” he said, tapping, swiping. “You know this can take a couple hours, putting an ID back together.”

“Ok,” Mal replied, taking another sip of coffee.

“Right,” said Largo again, his annoyed resignation more perceptible. Tap, swipe. “Ok, so – name?” Go on, said his tone – amaze me with your dishonesty.

“Reynolds. Malcolm.” Mal watched while Largo inputted the name. Didn’t realize he was holding his breath, waiting to find out that the Operative had lied about wiping his record.

“Date of birth?” Largo continued. The name hadn’t flagged up anything at all.

Mal answered automatically; in that quiet moment, he could begin to grasp that the Operative had spoken true.

“World of birth?”

“Shadow.”

Largo’s hands dropped away from his data pad. He looked at Mal, with open irritation now, accusatory too: don’t think I haven’t heard it all before. “And I suppose you’ve lost your SCS number too?”

It was such a well-used scam, and for that reason contemptible: find a way of getting your records restarted, claim to come from Shadow and therefore eligible for the Alliance’s compensation scheme; claim also to be one of those who had lost all proof of being from Shadow in the process of the planet’s destruction, making yourself entitled, if you were wily and tenacious enough, for a decent monthly payment.

Mal smiled, acknowledging Largo’s suspicion.

“I never partook of that particular benefit,” he said.

Largo waited for Mal to go on: Mal waited back.

Largo tapped and swiped again, commentating as he went. “Only if I enter ‘Shadow’, that brings up a whole other form, most of it to do with compensation.”

“Told you,” said Mal. “Heard of it. Never looked into it.”

Largo turned the screen towards Mal. There was an abundance of empty boxes to be ticked and filled in. City of birth. Age at time of terra-loss. Family members. Family members lost. Names. Ages. Occupations.

“Young or old?” Mal asked, swallowing the grimness in his voice.

“What?”

“You get more, if they were young or if they were old?”

Largo hesitated, questioning the assumptions he had made so far about Mal.

“Older. Up to age 50. More economically productive.”

Mal smiled as a way of holding in his pain. “Mother would have been worth a lot. Sure was hard-working. Ran a real handsome ranch.” Largo sank back a little. “They worth more too? – country workers?”

“Yes,” Largo answered quietly.

“Can’t you just flick past that screen?”

“Sure, sure,” said Largo obligingly. Tap. Swipe. There’s a box at the bottom” – several long swipes – “a renunciation of claim.”

“’s that what they call it?”

Largo nodded, recalling the rows of covered bodies on the news reports at the time that Shadow suddenly failed. “You want some more coffee?”

___________________________

By the time they had finished, Mal felt a little more sure of who he was than since – a long time. Reynolds. Malcolm. No fixed abode. No fixed occupation. No next of kin.

As Largo reached towards him to shake his hand, Mal found himself making a request.

“You can get any cortex ID, I’m thinking, with all your – stuff.”

“Sure can. You want a hand with that?”

“My – my girl. She’s on Sihnon.”

“Sure. Let me just change screens.”

___________________________

The chit for his locker, where he’d been obliged to stash his weapon, had disappeared along with his coat. It was a blessing the station was big enough to have money dealers who could appreciate and handle bicarium. A few shavings off of each ring would be enough to pay for his onward passage and a gun. He couldn’t wave her now; she’d see he’d got beat up. But soon.

___________________________

He was clothed, had passage direct to Persephone. Transport left in two days. Mal returned to the barber’s, waited, hidden, for it to open. Felt shameful, lurking behind a pillar in the dark.

But the door remained locked; nobody came by. He missed this transport it would be a week before the next one. Looked like he’d have to leave the coat behind.

COMMENTS

Friday, July 13, 2012 6:18 AM

EBFIDDLER


I'm almost wondering if the chapter title shouldn't be Rebirth. You've stripped Mal of one crutch after another in the past several chapters, forcing him to explore what kind of person he is without his ship, his family, his baggage, and now finally stripping him of his last vestiges -- his gun, his browncoat, and even his clothes. The birth of the baby highlights this moment as Mal himself starts fresh. Heck, he doesn't even have a name, an identity, a past, a record. "Looked like he’d have to leave the coat behind." -- beautifully stated. No accident that he's going to Persephone; the symbolism is perfect.

Friday, July 13, 2012 7:37 AM

ALIASSE


Thanks very much EB. In the next chapter I'm going to kill off the rest of the crew and the verse will turn in on itself.

Not really.

Friday, July 13, 2012 8:20 AM

ALIASSE


Thanks very much EB. In the next chapter I'm going to kill off the rest of the crew and the verse will turn in on itself.

Not really.

Friday, July 13, 2012 10:20 AM

GUEST


Watching Mal deal with Shadow again, and turn down compensation, again. That plays into how in your story he wasn't really that happy with that life. Kinda also coming to terms with a mother he might not have been overly fond of, I suppose it still hurt to lose all that anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2012 11:48 AM

ALIASSE


Would you take that kind of compensation?

Friday, July 13, 2012 12:47 PM

BYTEMITE


No, probably not. It's a little bit crass. "Whoopsie we blew up your family and everything you knew in life. Here's some money."

Saturday, July 14, 2012 4:12 AM

AMDOBELL


I really liked how you turned Largo into a sympathetic character rather than a by-the-book unfeeling *hundan*. That was nicely done. Can't wait to see Mal putting himself back together again and reclaiming himself and those who used to mean so much to him. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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