Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal tries out Plan A. Then Plan B. And then there are chickens. Feathers fly.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2512 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)
Previous Part | Next Part
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)
Mal tries out Plan A. Then Plan B. And then there are chickens. Feathers fly.
Extreme Pun Warning
* * *
“Saffron is confined to quarters until we reach Hektor,” Mal informed the crew the next morning. Predictably, several people opened their mouths to offer commentary, but Mal would have none of it. “We keep 24-hour guard outside her door. Jayne, Zoe, River, and I will divide up guard duty. This here’s the duty roster.” He slid a scrawl across the table towards his first mate.
“Captain, did you know that I—?” Ip began, while objected Simon even louder, “Because you have shown yourselves to be so very adept at managing that 不悔恨的 潑婦 bùhuǐhènde pōfù. And I don’t think River’s in a condition to—”
“闭嘴 Bìzuǐ. Did I ask for your comments? The way it is, is the way it is. She ain’t allowed out for nothin’—not for meals, not for showers, not to use the head, not for nothin’.”
“Mal! That’s 惨无人道 cǎnwúréndào,” Inara objected.
Mal turned on her. “I’m done bein’ Mr Nice Guy.”
“As if you ever were—! 你不是人 Nǐ bú shì rén,” she muttered under her breath.
“We’ll keep her supplied with food packets,” he continued, ignoring Inara’s huffings and grumblings. “She can make do with spongebaths for the next couple of days, and she’s already been provided with a chamber pot.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Mal?” It was Jayne objecting this time.
Mal favored him with a glare. Jayne continued, undaunted. “’Cause someone’s gonna hafta empty the pot.”
“Why, that’d be you, Jayne,” Mal answered with a wicked grin. “Any other 笨蛋 bèndàn questions?” he asked. Not waiting for an answer, he ploughed ahead. “I got jobs for everyone. Zoe, I want you and Jayne conductin’ a full inventory of all the weapons and ammo we got aboard.”
Jayne still hadn’t learned. “This instead of the chicken-tending, Mal?”
“Nope. Chickens are still your responsibility, Jayne.” Mal ignored Jayne’s scowl and muttered cursings. “Kaylee, need you to run a full diagnostic in the engine room, and check over all your tools and make sure ain’t none of ’em walked away nowhere.”
“I’ll assist Kaylee,” Simon offered, but Mal turned on him.
“She don’t need no more of your kind of help, seeing as you already got her—”
“Captain!” Simon interrupted, with angry menace in his tone.
“Don’t you speak that way to me, boy, on my own ship,” Mal returned hotly.
“Simon—Cap’n—please, stop it,” Kaylee intervened with tears in her eyes. It was just like when Simon first came aboard and he and the Captain were always clashing. Or even worse, it was like when Inara left for the Training House and the Captain got into such a tailspin that it seemed like he wouldn’t stop ’til he had driven them all off the ship, one by one. “Stop bein’ so—”
“You got your own job to do, Simon,” Mal interrupted, his tone in no way softened. “You’re gonna be checking that everything in the infirmary is in order.”
Simon bristled. “Captain, I always keep the infirmary in perfectly good order, thank you very much.”
Mal ignored the interruption. “I want a complete inventory of every piece of equipment, all the medical and surgical supplies, every gorram bottle of medicine. Verify that nothing’s missing.” He turned to River, charging ahead with his agenda. “River, you and I are gonna run a system check on all the flight hardware and software. Zoe, you and I are gonna go through ship’s stores, startin’ with the lockers on the observation deck and workin’ our way right back to the aft store room.”
“Mal, I can help you,” Inara stated, as Ip began, “Captain, what should I—?”
“You two,” Mal snapped, “you look to your own gorram business and keep the hell outta the way of the rest of us what have real work to do.”
Inara threw down her chopsticks, giving Mal an angry look as she swept out of the dining room.
Ip sat with his mouth open, ready to speak again, but Mal barreled on. “That’s the way it is. Y’all got jobs to do, go do ’em. I don’t pay you to sit around lookin’ pretty.”
“Half the time you don’t pay us at all,” Simon muttered.
“What was that?!” Mal challenged.
Zoe kept her opinion of this petty pissing contest to herself. Sometimes it was best not to speak. She avoided making eye contact with Mal. There was no point.
Simon rose from the table and stalked off toward the infirmary, his mutterings of “偏执的纠察员 Piānzhí de jiūchá yuán” only half-heard.
“Get to work.” Mal’s voice was hard and unrelenting.
Kaylee gave him a hurt and angry look as she left the room. “可怕的老暴君 Kěwù de lǎo bàojūn.”
“Jayne,” Zoe called in her corporal’s voice. “First watch. Grab your weapon.”
“You with us, River?” Mal inquired as his pilot arose with a miles-away look.
She suddenly snapped into focus. “Are you?”
Mal looked sharply at her, but she was already drifting off. Shrugging sourly, he trudged off to the bridge.
A few hours later, Mal was regretting his uncompromising outburst. Sure, he had stirred everybody into action, and they were going over every part of the ship in detail, but no one would talk to him, and the anger in the air was palpable. His foul mood had infected everybody aboard. And when he recalled River’s words about how Saffron was sowing the seeds of discord, he realized that he’d been doing the evil snake’s work for her.
It was time to come up with a Plan B.
He headed back to the engine room, where he found Kaylee’s boots sticking out from under the engine block, as she examined some sub-system from below.
She didn’t answer.
“I’m not speakin’ to you, Cap’n.”
“Well then, how’s about you listen? Listen, Kaylee, I weren’t…well, I was rude to you—”
“To me?” she responded, pulling out from under the machinery and sitting up. “How about to Simon? And Inara? And Ip? And Jayne, too, for that matter. You should oughtta—”
“I’m already apologizing, 懂吗 dǒng ma? Listen, fact is, I need your help.”
“So far, things are lookin’ okay,” Kaylee said, misunderstanding his drift. “But you weren’t wrong. This whole system needs checkin’ out. Saffron got in this room, and I’m worried she done a number on the engine, somethin’ we won’t find out about until it’s too late.”
“You have any reason to think that evil snake done somethin’ my engine?” Mal asked, more sharply than he was intending to speak.
“It’s a near certainty,” Kaylee answered.
“Thought you told me you stopped her at the door.”
Kaylee snapped at him. “I did, Cap’n. Woulda knocked her down with my wrench if she’d taken another step in. But that don’t mean she didn’t get in while I wasn’t lookin’.”
“This engine room is your responsibility, Kaylee—”
“I know it, Cap’n. But I can’t be watchin’ 24-7. Gotta eat, gotta sleep, gotta go pee—”
“Kaylee—” he interrupted. This was more detail than he wanted to hear.
“—And when she keeps gettin’ outta her room—”
“嘿 Hēi. We’re tryin’. She’s just—”
“Every time I turn around, she’s out of her room, sneakin’ around the ship again, Cap’n. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if she’s paid more ’n a couple a’ visits to the engine room unbeknownst to me. So I’m checkin’. Okay? I’m tryin’. ’Cause when y’all can’t do what it takes ta keep her in her room, she could come in here any time, an’ I—”
“Hey, hey, whoa there, Kaylee.”
“I can’t fix every gorram thing, Cap’n. I can’t guess what that 妓女 在 地獄 jìnǚ zài dìyù is gonna try next. Can’t guarantee I’ll be here with a wrench in my hand when she turns up next. So that’s why I’m goin’ through every gorram system, lookin’ for—”
“Hey, Kaylee, whoa—”
“—Every gorram system, don’t even know what I’m lookin’ for, just—”
“Kaylee,” Mal interrupted. “What’s wrong?”
“Every gorram thing!”
“Tell me what’s got you so upset,” he continued.
She rolled her eyes. “Better off not speakin’. Got work to do.” She started to pull herself back under the engine block.
“Kaylee, I need your sunshine.”
“Don’t got no more sunshine, Cap’n.”
“Sure you do,” he coaxed. “It’s just your sunshine’s all gone behind a big fat grey cloud. Cloud’s name is Saffron. Besides,” he continued, in a gently teasing voice, “you done an awful lot of talkin’ for someone who ain’t speakin’ to me.”
That made Kaylee smile a little, in spite of herself.
“I reckon now’s the time when I oughtta make some kind of lame joke about chickens or apples or some such, make you smile some more.”
“All your jokes are pretty lame, Cap’n.”
“Oh, come now, that’s harsh,” he answered, but he was smiling. Inspiration for Plan B had just struck him. “See?”
Kaylee considered a moment, then answered slowly, “Yeah, Cap’n…it is, actually. I feel a little bit better, just for smilin’.”
“Listen, Kaylee,” Mal said. “May come a time when I need your sunshine to help me through this. I don’t quite see the path yet, but I reckon I’ll need you, you in particular on this.”
“Why, Cap’n?” she asked.
“Because you are the most naturally sunny person in the ’Verse,” he answered. “Ain’t no power in the ’Verse can stop you from bein’ cheerful. Saffron’s trying to make us all angry and upset, with ourselves and with everybody else. Divide and conquer. Oldest play in the book. United we stand. Divided we fall. And we don’t want to fall, not to an evil snake—”
“妓女 在 地獄 Jìnǚ zài dìyù,” Kaylee inserted.
“—an evil, treacherous snake like that,” Mal concluded. “Don’t quite see what to do about it yet, but when the time comes, Kaylee, will you back me?”
“Back you? How?”
“Back me by bringin’ out the full force of your sunny personality, Kaylee. I don’t quite know yet what I’m gonna do, or how, but when I tip you the signal—you lay it on thick with the sunshine, 懂吗 dǒng ma?”
“Yessir, Cap’n Tightpants.”
Normally Mal would’ve hated to hear her call him that, but right now, it was the best sign in the world. Because it meant that she was recovering her humor, her natural joy—her sunshine. Things weren’t fixed, not by a long shot. But not everything was broke.
“How the gorram hell she get out again?” Mal demanded.
Jayne held Saffron in an armlock. She struggled, wriggling against him. Jayne was clearly enjoying being struggled against, but he was careful to keep his mouth clear.
That man has a one-track mind, Mal thought. He looked at Zoe.
Don’t look at me, sir, Zoe answered his unspoken question and implied accusation. “I locked her in,” Zoe defended herself.
“You see her get out?” Mal asked Ip and River, whose rooms were also in the passenger dorm.
“I was sleeping,” Ip answered with a defensive air. “You told me to mind my own business and keep out of the way.”
“I can’t be everywhere!” River snapped. “I’m not omniscient!”
“Let me at her, Mal, and I’ll kill her!”
“Get in line, Inara,” Zoe growled.
“Simon, you notice any…” Hell, of course not, Mal thought. Doc had been in high dudgeon, turning the infirmary inside out and generally crashing about, ever since the morning’s conference, making more noise than a herd of elephants trundling through the corridor. Simon stared coldly back at him. 混蛋 Húndàn.
Kaylee stood there with tears in her eyes, about to spill over. Oh gorram hell, Mal thought. Now the waterworks was starting.
“Everybody’s so mad,” Kaylee whispered.
“你們都閉嘴 Nǐmen dōu bìzuǐ!” Mal called. “一起 深 呼吸 Yī qǐ shēn hūxī.” He forced himself to take a deep breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now this here was just the sort of discord that Saffron (the evil snake) was tryin’ to stir up. They were playin’ right into her hand, he realized, as he caught Saffron’s satisfied smirk. This was exactly what he’d predicted. This was the crisis. Saffron could see how completely she’d rattled them, and to judge by her expression, she was thoroughly enjoying the scene playing out before her. Instead of answering his very reasonable question, how’d she get out, everybody was snapping at each other, defensively “not me”-ing. Saffron’s whole technique was to set them at odds with each other, so they wouldn’t cooperate. They needed to pull together. United, they could beat Saffron, easy. It was time for Plan B.
Humor! Hadn’t he seen how he and River had made the most progress figuring out what Saffron was up to, when they were trading horse-related banter? Humor—the crazier, the better. Hadn’t they seen that Saffron couldn’t deal nohow with River’s crazy talk? Feeling like he’d just found the key to the city, Mal proceeded.
“Might as well take this opportunity—” Mal began, feeling that slightly 神经病 shén jīng bìng thrill that generally accompanied the launch of one of his improvised Plan B’s. He tipped Kaylee the signal. Kaylee gaped back at him, not yet understanding, but he continued, trusting that she’d back him shortly. “—Everyone being here, and Saffron having somehow got herself outta her chicken run. We need to have a serious talk, a really serious talk—” he paused dramatically, and winked at Kaylee “—about chickens.” It worked! She stopped crying, stared a moment, and winked back. “And speaking of chickens, I want to inform you all about an incident in my bunk…” Mal began. He noticed that River tuned in to his plan, the moment he alluded to Saffron being a chicken in his bunk. Two on board.
“It was a little nocturnal encounter in my husband’s bunk,” inserted Saffron, unaware of the peculiar form of craziness that had just infected Serenity’s crew. She gave Inara a knowing smile, one that implied all sorts of naughtiness. The Companion looked stonily back at her with unruffled features.
“She snuck into my bunk while I wasn’t there,” Mal said, not rising to Saffron’s bait. “Reckon she took a look around. Probably took some other stuff while she was at it. An’ I don’t doubt she laid a gorram booby trap, too…or maybe an egg.”
“Oh, but you were there, 爱人 àiren,” Saffron countered, her voice seductive. “You and I, and the feel of naked flesh—”
“I came in partway through her wild naked romp,” Mal explained calmly to the others. “She was bare as an egg, but I was fully clothed, with boots on. She’s a bad egg, people. Saffron, if you get excited by your own naked flesh, that’s 鸟事 niǎoshì.”
“I can see why you want to conceal what really happened from your crew,” Saffron retorted. “They might be shocked to know that your bunk was the scene of such deviant acts.”
“You tellin’ tales on yourself, darlin’?” Mal asked coolly. “鸟话 Niǎohuà from the mouth of a 鸟人 niǎorén.”
“Can my bunk be the scene of some deviant acts?” asked Jayne.
Mal wasn’t sure if Jayne had just caught on to the plan, or if it was just Jayne being Jayne, but he took it and ran with it. “Ya mean chokin’ your chicken ain’t deviant enough?”
“Ain’t no more deviant than answerin’ the call a’ nature.”
“Let’s ride on past the part where you explain exactly what that means, Jayne,” Mal said hastily.
“Don’t mind Jayne,” Kaylee told Saffron with a conspiratorial wink, “he’s just got chicken house ways.” Kaylee was shocked herownself at her boldness, but her Cap’n had tipped her the signal. She wasn’t sure if this was what the Captain had in mind, but for what it was worth…
“That’s right,” Jayne affirmed, not offended in the least. “Happy as a rooster in a henhouse.”
“She just don’t understand the peckin’ order around here.” Kaylee pointed a finger at Saffron, amazed at how easily she’d gotten into the swing of it.
“Sure do, pumpkin,” Saffron retorted. “Your Captain thinks he’s cock o’ the walk.”
“He rules the roost,” Simon inserted.
“Thinks he’s a tough old bird,” Jayne added.
“Hey, leadership’s not everything it’s cracked up to be,” Mal exclaimed. “It’s not somethin’ to crow about. ’Specially on a boat full of insubordinate 疯子 fēngzi like y’all. A gorram hen party.”
“Are you feeling hen-pecked, Mal?” Inara asked, getting in the game.
“Nope. I always liked hangin’ around with chicks.”
Saffron had been trying to get a word in edgewise during this rapid-fire exchange of chicken humor, but she was half a beat behind the others, looking somewhat baffled by the new crew dynamic.
“See, Cap’n may think he’s hard-boiled, but he’s really over-easy,” Kaylee remarked.
“Not hard for me to be that way, when you’re so sunny side up,” Mal responded. Taking advantage of Saffron’s uncharacteristic hesitancy, he pulled a small piece of electronic paper out of his pocket with a flourish. “This here’s the key to the city,” he proclaimed dramatically.
Saffron was hard-pressed to suppress a gasp when she recognized the access code she had used to activate the bridge protocol, and which she’d been using to activate a special feature on the Captain’s personal cortex connection when he’d surprised her in his bunk. The key to the city? Does he know what it is?
“River,” Mal continued, having noticed Saffron’s start of surprise, “can you make any sense of this chicken scratch?”
River examined the paper carefully. “The turtle lays thousands of eggs in secret, but when a hen lays an egg, the whole country is informed,” she intoned, with the air of one reading a secret message. She directed her penetrating gaze at Saffron and repeated, “王八蛋 Wángbādàn.”
Mal, knowing that River was making it up as she went along, that she was in fact reading and memorizing—and perhaps cracking—the code that lay encrypted in the “chicken scratch” on that paper, played along. “Looks like your chickens come home to roost, Saffron. Everybody knows you laid an egg.”
“She looks good with egg on her face,” Inara said wickedly. “I’ve seen her that way before. On Bellerophon. In a dumpster.” She paused long enough for everyone to conjure up the mental image. “What, you didn’t see it coming? Don’t tell me you were counting your chickens before they were hatched.”
“People who count their chickens before they are hatched, act very wisely, because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately,” River quoted.
“She was tryin’ to feather her own nest,” Jayne contributed.
“That she was,” Mal agreed. “Figured she’d make herself a nest egg, fly the coop, leave us here tryin’ to scratch out a living.” It was easy, now that they’d started. This was fun.
“Working for chicken feed,” Saffron retaliated with a sneer, cackling nastily. Her counter-attack was short-lived.
“Don’t cackle if you haven’t laid,” River retorted.
“Yeah, quit your squawkin’,” Kaylee rejoined.
“Zoe, you ain’t said a word,” Mal remarked. “You just been settin’. Time to weigh in.”
“No need to, sir. Just thinkin’ on the henway.”
“What’s a henway?” asked Ip, playing the straight man.
“’Bout eight pounds,” Zoe deadpanned, as she flipped Saffron the bird.
“You ain’t hardly said nothin’, Ip. What’s the matter, you chicken? Nor you, Simon. Last one in is a rotten egg.”
“呆若木鸡 Dāiruòmùjī,” Simon hastened to insert.
“No, but I’ve just about run out of chicken puns,” Ip answered. “I’m just trying to make sense of your cock-eyed view of the ’Verse.”
“Run out of chicken jokes?” exclaimed Kaylee, wide-eyed. “You mean, like, empty nest syndrome?”
“No, I just mean that chicken puns are scarcer than hen’s teeth,” Ip replied.
Saffron rolled her eyes. These people were crazy, abso-frickin-lutely 神经病 shén jīng bìng. Not just the creepy girl, but all of them. And the lunacy seemed to be catching.
Mal caught the look. “What you lookin’ up for, Yo-Saff-Bridge? Afraid the sky is fallin’?”
“Hardly,” she scoffed.
“Or is it just that you won’t help plant the wheat, but you still want to eat the bread?”
“She’d like to be the fox guarding the henhouse,” Inara inserted.
“Don’t crow over me, Companion.” Saffron made the title into a sneer.
Mal intervened. “You’d rather apply the law of the henhouse,” he responded, recollecting the old proverb. “Bird on top 拉屎 lāshǐ on the birds below.”
“The rooster may crow, but the hen delivers the goods,” Saffron returned nastily.
“’Cept this time, the yolk’s on you, you dumb cluck.”
“This is absurd. This is ridiculous,” Saffron seethed. “It’s enough to make hens laugh.”
“NOT FUNNY!” River yelled, stunning the room into silence.
“Escort Saffron back to her coop,” Mal directed Zoe, breaking the tension. “I mean, her nest—roost—room,” he corrected. “After all, if she’s gonna get up with the chickens, hatch a few plots—”
“Early bird gets the worm,” contributed Ip.
“Hey, that’s a bird joke, not a chicken joke.”
“Don’t brood over it,” Ip retorted.
“A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird,” Jayne added.
In the event, Zoe marched Saffron back to her room, passing Kaylee’s chicken lights along the way. Saffron actually seemed relieved to escape back into her prison, as if she feared contagion from the chicken-punning madness that was running rampant on the ship.
When Zoe returned later, River having relieved her at watch on Saffron’s coop—er, room—she found the crew gathered for the evening meal.
“Saffron put up a squawk about bein’ sent back to her room?” Mal inquired.
Zoe’s response was a low cackle. “Oh, I ruffled her feathers but good, sir.”
They sat down at the table to eat. “Who made this stuff?” Jayne asked, critically.
“I did,” Ip proclaimed.
“Man, you could make chicken salad outta chicken poop,” Jayne responded, shoveling it in.
Ip turned to Simon. “Is that good, what he said?”
“I have no idea,” Simon replied.
“You can’t make omelets without breaking an egg,” Ip remarked to Jayne, “unless, of course, you use egg-style protein packets.”
“Good on you, Doc Ip,” Jayne chuckled. “This’s good.” He chewed the protein mush for a while, considering. “Tastes like chicken.”
Laughter really was the best medicine, Mal decided, when he thought about it afterwards. Saffron—Eris, the goddess of discord, as River so rightly called her—had had them all spun about, at sixes and sevens—dare he say scrambled?—and ready to jump down each other’s throats. One good session of chicken jokes, mostly at Saffron’s expense, and the crew was pulling together again. Everything was healed.
Or nearly everything. Inara had pulled with the crew against Saffron, but things weren’t healed between himself and Inara yet. Not by a long shot. Saffron hadn’t helped it none, but she hadn’t started it neither. Inara and he had created this problem for themselves, and he guessed they had to solve it for themselves, too.
There was only one way about it. He picked himself up, walked to Inara’s shuttle, and knocked on the door.
不悔恨的 潑婦 bùhuǐhènde pōfù [remorseless harridan]
闭嘴 Bìzuǐ [Shut up]
惨无人道 cǎnwúréndào [inhumane, brutal and unfeeling]
你不是人 Nǐ bú shì rén [You’re not human]
笨蛋 bèndàn [dumb fool (lit., “dumb egg”)]
偏执的纠察员 Piānzhí de jiūchá yuán [Stubborn disciplinarian]
可怕的老暴君 Kěwù de lǎo bàojūn [Horrible old tyrant]
懂吗 dǒng ma [understand]
嘿 Hēi [Hey]
妓女 在 地獄 jìnǚ zài dìyù [whore from hell]
妓女 在 地獄 Jìnǚ zài dìyù [Whore from hell]
懂吗 dǒng ma
混蛋 Húndàn [Bastard]
你們都閉嘴 Nǐmen dōu bìzuǐ [Everybody shut up]
一起 深 呼吸 Yī qǐ shēn hūxī [Let’s take a deep breath]
神经病 shén jīng bìng [insane]
爱人 àiren [lover, husband]
鸟事 niǎoshì [bird matters, idiomatic expression for “I don’t give a damn”]
鸟话 Niǎohuà [Bullshit (literally “bird speech”)]
鸟人 niǎorén [bastard, asshole (literally “bird person”)]
疯子 fēngzi [lunatics]
王八蛋 Wángbādàn [Bastard (literally, “Turtle egg”)]
呆若木鸡 Dāiruòmùjī [Dumb as a wooden chicken (idiomatic expression meaning “Dumbstruck”)]
拉屎 lāshǐ [shits]
Sunday, August 12, 2012 10:27 AM
Sunday, August 12, 2012 1:49 PM
Monday, August 13, 2012 5:02 AM
Monday, August 13, 2012 6:14 AM
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 10:27 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 3:42 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:57 PM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.