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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Part Two of Three. When Mal and crew get an unwanted partner in crime, some things don't go as planned.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 974 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Part Two of Three
Three figures looked up at a male’s voice shouting with glee. Zoe and Mal looked over at their companion, the other woman giving a little smirk and a shrug. The woman brushed some auburn hair from her brown eyes, resting her arms loosely over the gun in her lap again. “Wha’ can I say, ‘e ‘as fun.” Just one more soldier now under Mal's command, Josephine was one of the few women he knew besides Zoe that would be willing to go on the dangerous missions. However, as Mal knew well, the best way to get her upset was to use her given name: she was known only as Josie on the battlefield.
A man ducked into their foxhole, a very large grin on his face as he flopped himself into a sitting position near Josie. The man kept his grin as he ran a hand through black hair, his dark green eyes flashing with adrenaline. He let out a deep exhale and smiled over at Josie. “Hi, honey,” he said.
Josie smiled. “’Aving fun?” she asked as she looked over at Leo.
Leo leaned over and gave his wife a kiss, Josie smiling and kissing his cheek in turn. “Of course I'm having fun, Josephine,” answered Leo, leaning his back against the wall of the foxhole again.
Mal smirked. “You two make me sick,” he joked as he shook his head. Of course, both Mal and Zoe knew Leo would be the only one to whom that rule wouldn't apply.
Leo smirked. “You’re just jealous, Mal.” A thought seemed to strike Leo, and he looked over at Josie. “Think I should bring a souvenir back for Little Josie?”
Josie gave her husband a questioning look. “Wha’ kind of souvenir?”
“Maybe the arm of an Alliance drone?”
“I don’ think tha’s such a grea’ idea, sweetie,” answered Josie, shaking her head.
“Phooey,” said Leo, pouting.
Zoe gave a small smile. “I don’t think your daughter would like an arm much, anyway,” she said. By now, Zoe and Mal knew all about Little Josie. Little Josie would be about eleven now, and she was living with some relative while Josie and Leo were here at war. They had even seen a picture of the little girl.
Leo smirked. “My little girl would love a souvenir like that.”
Josie reached in her brown coat and pulled out a wrinkled photo, looking at the picture. The picture showed a little girl, about five, with great green eyes and beautiful auburn hair. Leo leant his head on his wife’s shoulder to look at the picture, pursing his lips. “I miss ‘er,” whispered Josie. Leo nodded in agreement.
An explosion was heard outside, and the moment inside the foxhole was broken. Time for war faces. Leo leapt up, going outside ahead of Mal and Zoe. Josie put the picture back inside her coat as she followed the others.
Mal gasped and sat up in his bed. He took a deep breath and rubbed his forehead as he looked around, trying to get his bearings. He got out of his bed, shaking his head lightly. He wasn’t going to sleep after that dream. That dream. What was it about? It was so real. And in fact, it was real. It had happened in the year 2511, the Battle of Serenity Valley. Why he had dreamed that dream now, Mal hadn’t the faintest idea. Since he was now fully awake, he headed off toward the ladder in his room. He might as well go out and check everything now that he was up.
At the same time, on the other side of the ship, Jo was lying awake on her bed. Her fingers were linked behind her head as she listened to the silence, hearing nothing but the faint rumbling of the working engine. The girl slipped off her bed and out of the room, focusing all of her efforts and attention on being quiet as she walked past the rooms where others were sleeping. She arrived in the dining room and looked around. Quite a cozy little room, not something one would expect on a thieving ship. Jo looked at the little flowers painted on the walls of the dining room.
“Hello.” Jo jumped from surprise and spun around, her hand going to her boot and pulling out her dagger. She held the dagger up for a moment until she lowered it, seeing the speaker. Mal stood, arms crossed, looking at Jo. Jo put her dagger back in her boot.
“Wasn’t expecting to see you up so early.” Jo wasn’t about to admit that Mal had scared her.
“Same to you,” Mal mumbled, walking past her. “Actually, I’m glad to get a chance to talk. We need some ground rules.” Jo arched an eyebrow, crossing her arms. “Rule number one,” Mal began, stopping to turn to her and hold up one finger, “no hurting my crew. Under any circumstances.”
“What if they try to hurt me first?”
“Considering that your bodyguard already did try – ”
Mal looked rather annoyed at the girl. “I cleared it up with him. So don’t try that as an excuse if you suddenly feel like killing one of my crew.” He turned and began walking off.
Jo, rather annoyed now herself, followed. “You think I would just hurt someone for fun?” she snapped, walking next to Mal.
“Don’t know you well enough to say.”
“Well, you’re obviously assuming that I’m my uncle!” Jo retorted, eyes flashing angrily at the Captain.
Mal couldn’t resist. He stopped and turned toward Jo, Jo stopping to meet his angry gaze with her own. “No,” Mal corrected, sounding exasperated, “you’re worse than Badger! At least I know what to expect with Badger! Badger hates us, this fact has been affirmed! But I don’t know what to expect from Badger’s niece!”
“Element of surprise is important in our business, Reynolds! You of all people should know that!” Jo shot back sarcastically.
“And I don’t have to deal with Badger tagging along on my jobs!” added Mal angrily. Mal saw Jo’s hand zip inside her coat for something, and Mal followed suit. Before either one of them could blink, each person was staring a revolver in the face. The two people holding the revolvers were both seething.
“So the truth finally comes out, does it?” snarled Jo. “Badger’s the only reason you would ever consider letting me ‘tag along’.”
“Why else would I want a rug rat underfoot?” Mal snapped back, glaring at the girl. Both guns cocked in one simultaneous motion.
“No touching guns.” Mal and Jo looked back toward the kitchen to see the person who had just reprimanded them. River stood in the doorway, hands resting on her hips as she looked at the two. “Shooting wakes people up.” Jo and Mal sent a glance at each other before looking back at River. Both guns lowered in unison. River gave a satisfied smile before turning and wandering off.
Mal and Jo put their guns away at the same time. “Does she always do that?” asked Jo.
“Only when given opportunity,” returned Mal. They threw each other another glance before they both walked off their separate ways.
Zoe, Mal, and Jayne sat around the dining table, discussing the settlement they were en route to. All three of them looked up when they heard Kaylee’s familiar voice. They saw three girls walking down the hallway toward the dining room: Kaylee, jabbering away about something or other; River, looking at Kaylee with a small smile; and Jo, who, for once in a long while, had a sincere smile on her face as she listened to Kaylee.
“So then ‘Nara had to go in and get Zoe and the Cap’n!” continued Kaylee as the three girls entered the dining room.
“From the train?” Jo asked Kaylee, who nodded with a grin that revealed dimples on the mechanic’s cheeks. Jo looked at Mal with a smug smirk. “Is that so?”
Mal rolled his eyes and pointed to a seat. “Sit,” he commanded Jo. Jo sat at a chair at the table, Kaylee sitting across from her and River sitting next to Jo. “No more smart comments, we’re talking about the job.”
“Speaking of job: Why in the ‘verse would you guys accept a job from Adelai Niska?”
“Enough!” cut in Mal again, looking over at Jo. Jo held up her hands innocently. Mal turned his focus back to the job at hand. “So we were talking about the settlers.”
“Actually, we were talking about the living settlers,” corrected Zoe. Jo glanced over at Zoe. That was one of the few times Jo had heard a comment from Zoe.
“Right,” admitted Mal. He looked over at Jo. “Any idea how to deal with them?”
“Well, we just have to distract ‘em,” Jo said as if it was nothing,
“Just have to?” asked Mal with a laugh. “Bandits just knocked their town over. You think they’ll allow themselves to be stolen from again?”
“We could use brute force,” Jayne suggested with a crooked grin, stealing an apple from a bowl in the center of the table.
Jo shrugged. “Only if we’re as heartless as you.” Jayne glared over at her. Jo continued with, “I could juggle.”
Everyone in the room looked at her.
“What!” asked Jo, holding up her palms in a questioning gesture.
“You can juggle?” Kaylee asked Jo, looking at her.
Jo held up a finger. “Badger deals with some interesting folks, and that’s all I’m sayin’.”
The apple in Jayne’s hand stopped in mid-flight to his mouth. He grabbed another apple from the table and threw them to Jo. “Prove it.”
Jo caught the apples with ease and blinked at Jayne before throwing the apples into the air, guiding the fruit until she was juggling. River watched the fruit, seemingly fascinated. Mal exchanged a glance with his crew members before grabbing an apple from the middle and throwing it wordlessly to Jo. Jo took the hint and lightly added the apple to her juggling trick. Mal crossed his arms. “And how is this going to help us?”
Jo shrugged, adding into her act an apple that Kaylee had tossed to her. She looked up at the four apples she was now juggling. “Oh, I dunno, Reynolds. It might keep the settlers occupied while you guys steal the cargo. Or at least scope the place out. See, I find that working at night is better when we’re dealing with stealing things from right under people’s noses.”
“How many living people you think’ll be there?” Jayne asked throwing another apple to Jo. Jo merged the apple easily into her juggling act.
“Depends on the bandits. They could be ruthless and have left few living, or they could have been the ‘take-the-stuff-and-run’ type, robbing the settlers blind and only killing people who were in their way.” Jo took her eyes off her five juggling apples to look at the others in the room. The five were all staring at her. Actually, four were staring at her. River’s eyes were swiftly following the apples. Jo shrugged as she juggled. “What!” she said, frowning.
“How old are you?” asked Zoe casually. Jo looked over at the first mate.
“Seventeen, why?” Jo answered. Zoe and Mal exchanged a glance, which Jo caught. “I told you! Uncle Badger deals with some – Gorramit, Jayne, stop throwing me apples!” Jo took her sixth apple and juggled that as well.
Jayne’s crooked grin was back. “If I throw you another, will the apples fall on you?”
“Maybe,” Jo answered, glancing at Jayne. Another apple was tossed to her by the big man, Jo easily juggling that one along with the other six.
“You said they would maybe fall!” protested Jayne.
“Maybe I lied,” Jo said. She took one apple out of her juggling, tossing it over to Kaylee while Jo juggled the others. Kaylee put the apple in the basket on the table, a big grin on her face. “So you guys just tell me when you decide on a plan,” Jo said as she threw another apple to Kaylee, lowering her level of apples being juggled down to five.
“And you’ll just go along with that?” Mal asked, sounding surprised.
Jo shrugged. “Probably not, but you can try anyway.” Jo threw another one of the juggling apples to Kaylee. “How long ‘till we get to the settlement?”
“A few weeks.” It was Zoe that answered. “That juggling isn’t something most seventeen-year-olds have mastered.”
“I’ve barely - ” Jo threw an apple to Kaylee. “ – mastered the skill.”
Zoe got a little smirk. “You must hang around your uncle a lot.”
“I used to. Only when I was littler. As soon as I found someone to teach me to fly a ship, I started working for Badger.” Jo clammed up as she threw one more apple to Kaylee. Jo mentally kicked herself for spilling all this to people she barely knew. Now that she was just juggling two apples, she caught one apple in each hand before replacing the apples in the basket on the table.
Kaylee laughed and clapped for Jo, River smiling and joining in the applause. Jo stood and gave a little bow for the two girls, a small smile on her face. Jo nodded to Zoe, Mal, and Jayne before walking out of the dining room with Kaylee and River.
“The girl knows her stuff,” Zoe told Mal. Jayne took an apple from the table and began to eat.
Mal sighed. “As much as I hate to say this, I agree.”
“Simon!” Simon stopped in the middle of the hallway to his room, turning with a frown to see who had called him. Jo walked up to Simon and stopped in front of him, looking at Simon. “So what’s up with River?” Jo could ask this since she knew River was safely with Kaylee, not listening to this conversation. It had been a while since the trip had started, and Jo had some serious questions.
Simon frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked cautiously.
“She’s smart, but she’s not all there, doc.” Jo tapped her temple with her finger lightly to get her point across. “Since you’re her brother, I’ll bet my boat that you know what’s going on.”
Simon swallowed and shook his head. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re a bad liar, doc,” Jo said, putting her hands on her hips. “What, you don’t trust me?”
“Give me a reason to trust you,” returned Simon, looking hard at Jo.
“I’m not my uncle,” Jo shot right back, returning Simon’s gaze.
“I never said you were.” Simon turned, continuing toward his room.
Jo gave an exasperated sigh and followed. “Well, it’s obvious that everyone on this ship thinks I am.”
“You seem to be enough like him sometimes,” Simon said, glancing over at Jo.
This comment seemed to piss Jo off, though she didn’t retaliate. Jo took a deep breath through her nose and looked at Simon as they walked. “I’m not Badger. The biggest thing me and Badger have in common is that we’re both thieves, and actually, Badger doesn’t have enough courage to do the thieving himself.”
Simon was still unwavering. “So you want me to trust you because you’re a thief?”
“Would River have trusted me so quickly if I was like Badger?”
Simon stopped and stared at Jo, Jo returning his stare with her own.
“River’s different.” Jo had lowered her voice. “No matter what you say, you can’t convince me otherwise. She doesn’t want to tell me about her past, and she’s scared of the infirmary. And when she talked to me . . . she knew things no one could know, things I’ve never told anyone. I just want to know how she knows these things and what happened to her that she doesn’t want to mention.”
Simon was silent for a moment. “You wouldn’t stay around Badger for so long if you were so different.” It was a long shot, but he wanted an excuse not to tell Jo about River.
“I don’t stay with Badger. I go to Badger because I need jobs. I need jobs because I need money.” Jo frowned. “And it isn’t like Badger is my father. My parents died when I was eleven, so don’t even begin to think my loyalties are with Badger. Even if he was my father, I wouldn’t automatically have to be loyal to him.” With two fingers, Jo poked Simon’s chest to emphasize her point. “Maybe you should get it through your head that all kids aren’t exactly like their parents, uncles, or whoever. People make their own choices, doc, not their relatives’ choices.”
Simon’s mouth moved a few times, words not coming out. He finally closed his mouth and sighed through his nose, looking away. Jo shook her head and walked off toward her bedroom. Simon frowned and went inside his room, closing the door after himself. “You can tell me when you trust me,” Jo said quietly to an empty hallway before going into her room and closing the door.
A few moments later, River glided through the hall. She wordlessly opened Jo’s door to see Jo lying awake on her bed, looking up at the ceiling with her fingers linked behind her head. “Not just you.”
Jo looked over at River, slightly surprised to see her there. Jo sat up on her bed, removing her hands from her neck. “What’s not me?”
“Not just you he doesn’t trust. Doesn’t trust anyone. Can’t. Not safe. Doesn’t even trust himself.” River gave a little smile before closing the door to Jo’s room and going off to her own room, leaving a very perplexed Jo all alone.
“Not right, the people on this ship,” whispered Jo to herself, falling back on her bed again and covering her eyes with her hands.
A few weeks later, Mal, Zoe, and Jayne stood in the cargo bay of the ship, waiting for Wash to land the ship a ways away from the settlement. The three talked quietly until they heard boots treading down the stairs. All three looked up as Jo jumped over the last step and landed on the floor of the cargo bay. She looked at them as she walked over. “What’s the final plan, Reynolds?” she asked, crossing her arms.
Mal launched into the plan explanation. “We’re just going to scope it out now, sneak in to see what’s going on with it. We’ll hike over there, check it out, see what the goods are, come back tonight, rob ‘em blind, come back to the ship, and go on our merry way.”
“No jugglin’?” Jo asked, arching an eyebrow. In truth, she was a bit disappointed.
Mal shook his head as the door to the air lock opened. The four set off toward the settlement.
Jo hopped up across the rocks on the side of the hill they were by and stood on one rock, peeking across the crest of the hill. Indeed, the settlement was down at the bottom of the hill. Quite a small settlement, but that was probably due to the fact that it was new.
Mal looked up at Jo. “What’s the situation?”
Jo had a frown set deeply on her face. “Something’s wrong.”
Mal exchanged a glance with Zoe, leaving Jayne to just look confused. Mal looked up at Jo. “What kind of something?”
“What would you be doing if your settlement just got hit by bandits?” asked Jo.
“Trying to get the settlement back on its feet,” Zoe answered.
“No one,” Jo said.
Mal blinked. “What?”
“There’s no one here. Not a one person doin’ anything around the settlement.”
Mal was still in the dark as to what she meant, so he hopped up the rocks. Since Jo was smaller than Mal, Jo had made it look pretty easy. Not so easy when Mal’s coat got stuck on a rock. He lost his footing, only to flail his arms and have his arm grabbed by Jo. Jo pulled Mal so Mal did a sort of falling motion, hitting his head on a rock before he was finally crouching beside her. “Thanks,” Mal muttered, glancing at Jo and rubbing the back of his head.
“Mm-hmm. Look,” Jo said, pointing to the settlement. Mal looked. Jo was right: there was no one. Well, no one living. A few dead bodies were scattered around the streets, but Mal could see no movement. “I’m going to check it out,” Jo said.
“Wait, Jo - ” protested Mal, holding up his hand. Too late. Jo had already hopped over some bushes on the hill, and she was now in the process of sliding down the hillside. Mal motioned for Zoe and Jayne, the two making their way up the hillside to join Mal’s watching. Jo landed at the bottom of the hill, brushing some dirt from her hillside slide off her body. She turned to look at the three others before turning back and walking toward the settlement. Her hand went inside her coat, bringing out her revolver. She walked cautiously toward the settlement.
Jo stopped by the first building, pausing only to look around for any sign of life. Seeing none, she continued on. She turned the corner of the building.
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne watched some force blow Jo backward onto the ground, a large cut now on the unconscious girl’s forehead. A man stepped from around the building, a metal pipe in his hands and a corrupt grin on his dirty face. Three other men popped out from behind buildings, pointing guns at the three on top of the hill. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne drew their guns, gunshots erupting from the six people as the fourth bandit was busy picking up Jo’s dropped revolver. Mal and his crew soon sunk back under the hill’s cover. They waited for a while, all breathing hard. Mal hit Jayne’s arm, Jayne sending a glare Mal’s way before peeking over the hill.
“They’re gone,” reported Jayne gruffly.
“What?” Zoe and Mal asked in unison.
“All of ‘em,” Jayne confirmed. “The four guys must’ve taken Jo.” A crooked grin appeared on Jayne’s face.
“We should find her.” It was Mal that had actually made the suggestion. Jayne and Zoe both looked at the captain. Mal looked back at them. “But we should tell the rest of the crew first.” He got up and stumbled down the hill, Zoe and Jayne exchanging a look before following Mal.
“They took her?” Kaylee’s tone was one of excruciating worry as she looked at Mal.
Mal nodded as he looked at his worried mechanic. The attitude was infectious, the air seemed to feel just as worried. The crew was gathered in the dining room with everyone looking at Mal, the captain standing at the head of the table. Even River was sitting at the table, sitting cross-legged in a seat next to Simon.
Book was the next one to speak up. “I think we should go find her. I’ll come.”
River spoke up as well. “Gotta. Gotta find her. Hurt, but alive. Cell’s underneath. Can’t just leave her there. I’m helping.”
Simon’s eyes widened as he looked at his sister. “River, no, you aren’t leaving here.” He ignored the glare River sent to him. “You aren’t leaving when bandits are still around.”
Jayne looked a little annoyed at the news that Jo was still alive. “Shouldn’t we be focusing on the cargo that we were sent here for?” River and Kaylee both glared at Jayne, though Kaylee’s glare was quite a pitiful one.
“No one’s leaving,” Mal cut in sharply, completely ignoring Jayne. “Me, Zoe, and Jayne will go look for her.” His mind was dwelling on River’s comment about the cell. Jayne looked annoyed about being roped into the search party.
Inara looked slightly shocked from her seat near Mal. “You’re going to look for her?” she asked in a slightly hushed tone.
Mal gave her a look. “Yes, we are.” Inara’s eyebrows raised.
Wash gave a little laugh, though the crew could tell it was a very nervous one. “Why are we worrying? Maybe it was just a diversion Jo cooked up!” he reasoned. He looked over at Zoe, who Wash couldn’t help but thinking about. It normally would have been Zoe going out and doing the venturing. Jo was a tough little girl. Wash looked back at Mal, an unspoken offer to do all that he could to help clearly apparent on his face.
Mal nodded. “So that’s an order: no one is to go outside this ship until we get back with Jo - ”
“And the cargo!” Jayne added roughly as he stood. Zoe stood as well, squeezing her husband’s shoulder as she walked over to Mal.
Mal glanced at Jayne before looking back at the crew. “And possibly the cargo. We should be back soon.” With that, the search party headed out.
Friday, June 3, 2005 6:36 PM
Friday, June 3, 2005 6:52 PM
Sunday, June 5, 2005 11:21 PM
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