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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The continuing adventures of the crew in their quest to give Kaylee the birthday party she deserves . . . .
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1392 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal woke up with a start as Wash wandered onto the bridge.
“A very good mornin’ to you, Mal! You sleep here last night?”
“Figure I musta. Don’t remember droppin’ off though . . ” Mal stretched and yawned, “an’ I don’t remember getting out no blanket neither . . . “, he plucked at the offending article with one hand, “you’re soundin’ a might more chipper this mornin’. We there yet?”
“Should be touchin’ down soon as I can get myself near the controls to land this thing . .” Wash gestured to the chair in which Mal was sitting and nodded encouragement. Mal glanced down, “oh, uh huh . . .” He scrambled out and stood to one side rearranging his rather creased clothing. “Figure I’ve just got time to go freshen up, right?”
“Just about. Go, go!” said Wash through gritted teeth as he fought with the controls.
Harriet woke feeling rather optimistic, or at least a little less jaded - even five hours sleep is better than none, she reflected. They’d be landing at Andover in a few minutes. She wouldn’t be needed as cook, but as general crewmember, to help with the off loading. Perhaps - a subconscious thought wormed its way into her conscious brain for a single horrific moment - with no other woman on the ship, she might take the opportunity to look more like one for a change.
Rejecting her usual khaki overalls, she selected an off the shoulder three-quarter length pink and slightly fluffy angora sweater which served to emphasise her narrow waist and small but shapely bosom and a pair of serviceable, low slung, grey flannel trousers. Tying her hair in a high ponytail and looking herself over with some satisfaction, she headed towards the action.
Ten minutes later Mal strolled back to the bridge looking somewhat refreshed and wearing a clean shirt. Wash was just bringing Serenity in to land and Jayne was leaning against the bulkhead making sarcastic comments. Simon and River followed in behind Mal.
“Right,” Mal was serious and businesslike, “We play this one straight, but no harm in getting’ a feel for the place. Jayne, Wash, you two run together. Try and get as good a look as you can at the security, but just don’t as all hell make it obvious! *Dong ma?*” Jayne and Wash nodded briskly, “and Harriet,” Mal paused and glanced round, “where the hell is that woman?”
Jayne let out a low whistle and a soft “Wuo duh Ma!”, glancing up and down appreciatively as Hat bounced up the stairs to the bridge. “I’m here!”
Mal did a double take, making no direct comment, but saying; “ and about time too! ’Kay, Hat, you and I are gonna make with the schmoozin’. I want you acting all girlish and ditzy with a side order of vague - I must say, that look is just down right perfect! How d’you know? You been borrowin’ River’s psychic powers? - But keep your eyes peeled - any info is good. Oh and feel free to ask dumb blond questions. . .” Hat opened her mouth but nothing came out. She tried not to look scandalised and hurt. Gorramit, she was hurt, you make an effort to look nice and what do you get? Insults and from the very person who . . but any how, what the hell had she expected? She should have known he only ever valued her for her contribution to the ‘crew’!
“Right you are, boss!” She said, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. She was not entirely sure she succeeded, as Mal paused and gave her an odd look before saying, “Ok, people, let’s get to work, got a cargo to unload here.”
He headed for the cargo bay, followed by Simon saying “What about us Captain, what’s mine and River’s role in this?”
Mal turned on the overhead catwalk, “Not a gorram thing!” He answered. “I want you and yer sister staying nicely tucked away on Serenity. Don’t want no one takin’ too much of an interest in you, ‘specially here. Mine owners tend to have a vested interest in keepin’ the Alliance sweet thereby getting their whole slavin’ activities overlooked. You two settle in, we shouldn’t be here too long any how.”
“*Tyen shiao-duh* and yet another trip to the big outdoors passes us silently by!” sighed Simon. “Come on River, we’d better get ourselves stowed. Don’t want to be a burden to the Captain.” His last comment was sarcastically directed at Mal as he and River headed for the guest quarters.
“I’m thinkin’ girly ain’t such a bad look for you, Hat!” said Jayne as they progressed in convoy down the stairs to the bay. He leered over her from behind plucking at her sleeve. Hat shook him off roughly.
“Jayne, do me a favour and stop thinking with your *jan-doh duh ee-kwai-ro*! Trust me, I may look it, but I really ain’t THAT dumb!” Unseen by Jayne and Hat who were following behind him, Mal smiled a satisfied little smirk.
The four crewmembers stood on the ramp of Serenity’s cargo bay looking out at Andover. The planet appeared to be basically burnt red earth with here and there a scrub tree or a patch of yellowing grass. In the foreground some way in front of Serenity’s doors was a high, chicken wire fence. Behind it could be made out a row of long, low wooden huts and, rearing behind, the huge slag heaps of earth and rock spewed from the mines.
“Attractive little world”, remarked Wash conversationally.
“Yup, certainly ain’t no holidaymakers moon”, agreed Mal, heavily, “still, lets get this done!”
He turned back into the ship, where Jayne was beginning to round up the people and herd them out of Serenity’s big bay doors.
“Er, Mal . . .” Hat caught his arm and gestured to where two men were making their way over the scorched earth to the ship. One was tall and dignified, decked out in the trappings of a gentleman, fine linen and no small amount of gold embroidery, the other was smaller and darker, dressed in serviceable leather and metal, with a large whip attached to his belt.
As they got near enough to be heard, the tall gentleman spoke: “One of you would be Captain Reynolds?” His voice was imperious and peremptory.
“That’d be me.” Mal’s voice was bland.
“I’m Governor Wilkes and this is my prod, Bull Dog.” He indicated the smaller man; “You got a cargo for me?”
Mal gestured behind him, “You can see I have. All present and accounted for. You got the coin for me as agreed?”
“All in good time”, said the Governor. “You won’t be minding if Bull Dog here checks ‘em over first. Need to make sure none’s been lost in transit and you ain’t keepin’ a likely one or two for yourself.”
“Sure,” Mal was affability itself, “ain’t got nothin’ to hide, but likewise you won’t mind as how a coupla my men’ll go with yours. Ain’t got no notion to be cheated neither.”
The Governor laughed. “I like a man as is partic’lar about trade.” Mal smiled a tight smile and nodded to Jayne and Wash who fell into step with Bull Dog as he drove the cargo towards the distant fence. Mal and Hat looked on as ragged men and women and skinny children stumbled in the bright sunlight towards their waiting hell.
The Governor looked at the burning sky, followed by a lingering look at Hat, or more particularly her bare midriff. He glanced nonchalantly back towards the fence. “And while we’re waiting for the hired help to do their thing, how’s about we get out of this godforsaken landscape, go have ourselves some refreshment. Sure the lady here could use it.” He grinned lasciviously at Hat who blushed and fanned her eyelashes gently in his direction, feeling like an idiot. As they turned from Serenity to head over towards a hacienda style dwelling laid out some way from the fence, she eye caught Mal’s. From his look it would appear that, however much she felt the fool, she was doing exactly what he wanted her to. His look was warm and appreciative with a hint of humour.
“Nice place you have here, Governor, you don’t mind my saying,” said Mal. He, Harriet and the Governor were seated at a table to one side of a cool courtyard watered by a pool and fountain arrangement. Bougainvillaea bloomed against the walls and the sound of the fountain played gently in the background.
Governor Wilkes smiled, “Sweet, ain’t it? An’ knowing the likes of those poor idiots are just the other side the fence, makin’ me the coin for all this, makes it just that little bit sweeter.”
“Imagine it does,” Mal’s smile didn’t reach his eyes.
“Let’s just say, I ain’t a poor man myself, like to see my money around me.” He gestured to the fountain and pools. “Ain’t no water to be had on this here moon; rock, stone and minerals, that’s what this moon has and plenty, but water, nah! Every bit of it has to be shipped in. Which is why you’ll appreciate that this here fountain is a very high priced commodity. Water here’s dearer than gold and I like to show mine off.”
He nodded towards the fountain, leaning over to allow the water to run through his hands. In the distance the noise of a foghorn, ordering the workers down the mines, could be heard. “Can I offer you another glass?” the Governor gestured to Harriet who had finished her glass of frosted juice.
“Thanks, that’d be mighty fine!” she purred. As he gestured for a servant to come up and take her glass, she continued, laying a concerned hand on the Governor’s arm, “ain’t you at all worried by having so many workers so near by? I’d be awful scared I’d be murdered in my bed by one of that mob fixing on escape!”
The Governor laughed. “That’s the beauty of a waterless planet like ours. Makes the hired help awful docile. They only gets as much water as we chose to give ‘em. They play up, they die a thirst.” He smiled, “’course, also, cuts down on my security bill, you catch my drift . . .”
Mal nodded, putting in and explaining to Hat; “How many guards and fences do you really need on a moon where, if a body escapes, he’ll die of thirst if he don’t give himself up quick. This ain’t exactly a forgiving landscape . . .”
“Well put, sir,” laughed the Governor. “It’s certainly cheaper to run this kinda enterprise on a world where your employees, or should I say belongings, ain’t got no choice but to work for you. Its even better for ‘em to go on down the mines of a day rather than stay top side in this heat!”
Harriet glared at him. His complacency at the horrible business he conducted was getting to her. She opened her mouth to spew forth vitriol, just as Mal placed a seemingly possessive, but actually warning hand on her arm.
“I must say I congratulate you on the set up you got here, Governor Wilkes, it’s a mighty fine piece of organisation, but I see my boys and yours is done.” He nodded to where Wash, Jayne and Bull Dog were coming over from the worker’s camp, “so, if everything’s in order, I’ll be taking my payment and getting gone. Got other jobs waitin’ for me and it don’t pay to hang around.”
“Of course, of course,” the Governor was suavity itself. He glanced an enquiry at Bull Dog who nodded curtly. “Well then, seems everything’s as it should be. Bull Dog here will fetch your pay. One moment . .” Bull Dog disappeared into the house and reappeared some moments later with a wadge of cash which Mal counted carefully before glancing up. “Pleasure doin’ business with you, Governor,” he smiled.
“And you”, replied the Governor. He took Hat’s hand and kissed it, “and, madam, it was an enchantment all its own to meet you!” Hat tired to hide her distaste as his lips brushed her hand.
“Governor,” she said “a pleasure” and taking Mal’s arm headed as quickly as she dared back towards Serenity.
“Whoa slow down girl! Ya gonna break sommat!” Mal whispered as Hat towed him determinedly back up Serenity’s ramp.
“*Tah-shr suo-yo dee-yure duh biao-tze duh Mah*! Jus’ wanna get off this gorram planet, is all”, she hissed. “Feel like am gonna need about 3 good showers before I’m in any way less grubby!”
Mal grinned. “Well, ain’t gonna get that on Serenity and you’ll need to go easy on the water anyhow, it ain’t as though we got that much our own selves.” He smiled smugly. “Serves you right for wearin’ such a mighty provocative outfit, don’it? Can’t blame the Governor for takin’ an interest!”
Harriet glared at him. “Oh for God’s sake, Mal! Inara wears stuff way more risqué than this every good gorram day, and do you comment? No. Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to change.”
Mal smiled indulgently at her as she headed up the cargo bay stairs and hit one of the buttons on the cargo bay panel, closing the doors. “Wash”, he called up to the pilot who was moving along the catwalk, “take us outta here.”
He strolled towards the stairs, “Let’s go redeem our womenfolk.” He said.
From the moment Captain Reynolds stalked determinedly into his office, coat billowing more dramatically than a reasonable person had a right to expect a coat of that cut to do, Badger knew, could see in his eyes, that here was a man ready to take his head off (and not metaphorically) given the slightest window. Not that Badger let this show. If anything, Badger became more cocky and self-assured the more untenable he felt his hold on a situation to be. Play it how you want others to see you was his motto.
“Well, well, well. Captain Reynolds, as I live an’ breathe and what brings you to my ‘umble ’ome?”
“You know full well, Badger, so I suggest we can the social niceties.” Mal was icy. “Job’s done.” He threw a bag of cash across the room. It hit Badger’s desk with a heavy clink and coins rolled out knocking into the ornaments and cups placed there. “And I want my womenfolk back, now!”
Behind Mal, Jayne was squaring up. Eyeing Badger’s henchman with a far less concealed, less contained anger. Tempted as he was to taunt Mal, Badger had a feeling that the big mercenary wouldn’t wait. Any procrastinating and he was likely to start shooting indiscriminately. Standing next to the mercenary, looking, if anything, more worrying to Badger, was a smaller man, a look of such intense hatred in his eyes that Badger all but flinched. He caught the eye of one of his henchman hovering in the doorway of another room. The man read the unspoken directive and melted from the room.
“Well Mal,” he began.
The smaller man spoke for the first time. “You don’t know me Badger, but I can tell you I ain’t a fighting sort normally, but you’re holding my wife and you don’t bring her out this instant I’m just gonna shoot you make myself feel better! *Dong ma*?” His hand strayed to the handle of a gun, stuffed in the front of his overall.
Badger grinned cheekily, as from behind the speaker a slightly amused voice said: “Husband, put that gun away, you could have someone’s eye out!” Wash and the others swung round to find Zoë and Kaylee standing in the doorway with Badger’s henchman. Kaylee greeted them in her own inimitable way with an enormous grin and a little waive of the hand. Mal breathed a sigh of relief, letting out the breath he’d been holding ever since they’d walked in.
“See, Captain Reynolds,” Badger said nonchalantly, “never let it be said that Badger don’t keep his word. I’m a businessman see, I get fings done any way as is necessary but I ain’t no *shiong tse sha sho*. So I’ve kept my end of the bargain since you’ve kept yours, so let’s not have no fuss. Girl’s’ll tell you as I din’t treat ‘em half bad . . . “, he added to Mal’s stony face. “Hope we can do business again if I need ya - don’t want ta be cuttin’ off ya nose to spite ya face, eh?” He pleaded.
Mal raised an eyebrow and Jayne added, “nose, yeah, you all full a snot, ya know that, right?”
Badger glared. “Get ya hound in order, Captain, don’t wanna spoil an amicable conflab with agro now, do we?”
“Can’t say as this has been so gorram amicable, Badger,” said Mal. “But we got what we came for so we’ll be goin’. See ya around, or rather not, I’m hopin’. Come near us again, I ain’t gonna be responsible for my men or me, you get me?”
Badger didn’t answer, but as Mal and the others were leaving, he called out, “’ere, Captain! You forgotten yer part of the payoff, don’ you want yer coin?”
“Keep it Badger, I ain’t takin’ money from a *chiang-bao hoe-tze duh* deal like this.” Mal said over his shoulder without looking back, “best put a down payment on some kinda health insurance, if I were you.”
Badger glared and sighed, but turned to gather up the cash, when a huge and hairy hand reached over and gathered up Mal’s cut. “The Cap may be too high and mighty to take the coin, but I figure he’ll be needin’ it sometime.” Jayne flashed Badger a smile without one jot of humour and hurried after his boss.
“Well, fun and all as the whole kidnapping gig undoubtedly was” said Zoë, “I’m mightily relieved to be back on Serenity!” She smiled at Wash who was practically jumping up and down beside her, pleased to have her back. He pulled out a chair and nudged up behind her at the table. Harriet turned from the stove, a pile of fresh pancakes in her hand. Kaylee bounced in “Ohh, Hat’s special “Welcome Home” pancakes, Su ruttin’ perb!”
She slammed into a chair and grinned around the table. River was already there, reaching for a plate and Simon now came in, pleased as anyone to have the girl’s back. Mal and Jayne came in from the cargo bay.
“Well, we’re sealed up tight,” said Mal. “I reckon Persephone ain’t such a healthy place for us to be right now.”
“Yeah!” Jayne agreed, “Sooner we get gone the better, you ask me.”
Mal leaned over and kissed Kaylee’s head, hugging her from behind. “It ain’t half shiny to get my women back!”
“That it is, Cap,” said Hat from the stove, turning round, spatula in hand, like a sword, “so lets talk about what’s to be done now.”
“Well,” said Wash. They were all now seated round the table, papers spread in front of them. “As I see it we got three main hurdles.”
“And they would be, Wash?” Mal was suddenly all about the job.
“Number one,” Wash counted them off on his fingers, “the fence.”
“Yeah, well, I ain’t denyin’ as its high, but a pair of wire cutters and I don’t see it causin’ much bother”, said Mal.
“Ain’t so much the fence as the guard on it,” said Jayne. “For all that eyewash Governor Wilkes gave you about not botherin’ with security, they do take a few precautions.”
“Yeah,” put in Wash, “Bull Dog was tellin’ us. They have two guards patrolling the perimeter 24 hours.”
Zoë and Mal exchanged a look. “I think I can help you with the guards”, Zoë put in.
Wash began to say, “but how . . .?”, took one look at Zoë and decided to shut up, muttering, “yeah, sometimes I figure its just best not to ask.”
“So, fine”, said Mal. “Wash, what’s number two?”
“Collars.” said Wash. “Another nifty security device Bull Dog decided to show off to us. Very proud they are of it! They put collars on a lot of the kids. Keeps the parents docile.”
“What do the collars do?” asked Hat, looking sick, “as if I couldn’t guess!”
Jayne made a cut-throat motion, “soon as a kid walks off the compound . . . stops the parents form tryin’ to escape.”
“Electrifies ‘em or such, huh?” Hat was grim. “*Ta ma duh*! Sooner we stick it to that piece of *gou shi*, the better!”
“Too true, Hat,” put in Mal, “which is why we gotta keep our heads and think this through. Wash, Kaylee, I’m guessing them collars got some sort of connection to the computer system, make ‘em work right. You think you can swing some kinda an upgrade?”
Kaylee looked relieved to be doing something, “I’ll talk to Serenity, see what she’s got.”
“I’m sure we can rustle up a change in instructions,” smiled Wash.
“Good, you do that.” ordered Mal, “but first, thirdly? I’m guessing it could be the good Governor hisself. Am I close?”
“*Shr ah*!” Wash smiled.
“Well, we know as he ain’t gona be keen on alertin’ Alliance if he got problems with his slaves runnin’ off”, said Hat. “So where’s the gorram problem? We just let Jayne hit him over the head with sommat heavy, no?”
“Ain’t as simple as all that,” explained Mal. “We don’t want to have ourselves another Niska situation. A Man like Wlikes knows we’ve crossed him, he’s gonna take it personal. Maybe even get Badger involved. But that’s as maybe. For sure, if we make off with his entire workforce you can bet your sweet life he’ll do more’n just shrug! Don’t wanna end up runnin’ more than we already are,” he glanced at River and Simon, “and I ain’t keen on lookin’ over my shoulder the next 50 years or so.”
“I think that’s something I may be able to help you with, Captain,” said Simon, speaking up for the first time. “I think I may have a little something of a pharmaceutical nature that could make him forget he ever saw us - that he ever had slaves, come to that.” Mal smiled at him. Simon continued, “problem is getting close enough to him to inject the stuff. It’ll be no small hypodermic and I doubt he’s the kind of man that’s going to let us just walk up to him and dope him.”
Harriet sighed. “I think that may be where I come in!” she said.
Inara leant over Book, mopping at his head with a cloth.
“I am soo sorry, Shepherd! I had no idea Mr Turner would react like that to what was a very sensible suggestion, if I may say so!”
“No harm done!” sighed Book, a little wearily. “Still I thought we were nearing a breakthrough - now I’m not so sure. Only thing we seem to have attempted to break through is my skull with that blessed chair!”
“I think you may be looking at the wrong end of a sizeable headache,” Inara commiserated. “Why don’t you go and rest. I’ll deal with the warring parties for the rest of the evening. As soon as the doctor gets back I think he should check you don’t need stitches. Seems to me you’re always being knocked on the head!”
“It must be particularly solid then,” smiled Book ruefully, “because I never seem to learn, do I?”
He stood up form his chair. “I think you’re right though, I will go have a lie down, I’m feeling my age a little tonight. You young ones have so much more stamina!”
Inara laughed. “I’m not sure that’s it, Shepherd, I just know when to duck! Sleep well!”
She turned back towards the doors that led to the main bar and squared her shoulders. Taking a deep breath she pushed them open forcefully, making as much noise as she could muster while staying as graceful as ever. The clatter of her entry caused the man and woman seated at either end of the table to pause in their tirade against each other and look round. Their factions, arrayed down the lengths of the large makeshift negotiating table, paused and looked up as well.
“Right.” Inara steeled herself and then she did something she had never, in all her years as a Companion, ever done in public before. Had any of the House Madrassa Companions been present, they would have undoubtedly found it most shocking. She raised herself up to her full height and she yelled.
“*Nee mun doh bee-jway* Enough! . . . Mrs Leong, Mr Turner, you have both had your say. You have each aired grievances as long as my arm which have led you to turn this town into a battle ground and it is, quite simply, enough! The last straw was allowing a perfectly innocent Shepherd, who has only ever tried to help you, to be hit over the head with a chair. He has gone to lie down!” She paused and moved to sit in the middle of the table with a quiet dignity. The room was full of a stunned silence. Into it she said, in a tranquil but firm voice, “we will have peace and reconciliation and we will have it this instant!”
Monday, March 28, 2005 10:47 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 2:59 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 3:24 AM
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