Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
(*WARNING* This fic contains some spoiler references to the BDM - if you haven't seen it yet, do so immediately!) Miranda is over a month in the past but its legacy lives on, and the crew of Serenity feel it more than most. There are new roles for some, new rooms for others, but still the same pressing need for food on the table and fuel in the tanks. Keen to reestablish his ship's solid name among the 'business community', Mal has taken up an offer of work from a old friend: a raid on an automated Alliance cargo ship. Despite Mal's misgivings about the nature of the heist, a fixed-up Serenity is soon back in the black and heading on an intercept course with their objective...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1483 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
On with the show! This chapter is a little longer than 1-3, but that's 'cause there's a ad-break cliff-hanger to get to! Enjoy...
Words like ‘composure’ and ‘restraint’ weren’t the sort that popped into Jayne’s head often, but they were what he’d had to use plenty of as he’d sat through Mal and Chen’s little meetin’ back on Trinity.
Seated now on his bunk, he furiously swabbed a soft cloth back and forth through Lola’s punched barrel. Seein’ to his weaponry, or workin’ out, or eatin’ some chow – those were his ways a’ tryin’ ta take his mind off a’ stuff, an’ all his ladies were in for the full wax ‘n’ wash treatment tonight.
Couldn’t make it work, though. Jayne hated leavin’ a score unsettled. Felt damn wrong, for one. Weren’t in his nature, for another.
His beef with Chen went back to long before Serenity; before Jayne’d even left his homeworld, when he run with a gang called the Round Hill Boys – ten of ‘em, all fine, upstandin’, respectable bandits to a man. Twenty-year-old Jayne Cobb was the youngest of ‘em, but they treated him like their equal best. Taught him everythin’ they knew; how ta fight, shoot, ride, how ta look out for himself. They were his brothers back then – best he’d ever had.
Cattle was their game. They’d rustle a few cows here, doctor the brands, sell ‘em on there, never get caught. On a world like Jasmine, the steer capital a’ the ‘verse, it was easy as lyin’.
Then Jepson’d come ta the boys with a plan. Weren’t his plan, a’ course: someone else’d done the thinkin’ for him. Off-worlder, little ‘tachioed fella named Osaki Chen. Weren’t no-one called him Ossie back then. Anyways, he wanted some herd or other snatchin’, but that was fine, the Boys did that sort a’ thing all the time.
‘Cept the herd’d turned out ta belong ta some ruttin’ fancy-dan landowner with a hard-on for sendin’ armed posses about his fields, lookin’ for just such as the Boys – but Chen’d neglected ta mention that. Four a’ the Boys’d never made it home that night, an’ little Jayne Cobb’d caught himself a bullet scar about the face for his trouble.
That little go-se rabbited first chance he got, a’ course, when he heard it’d all gone south. Jayne’d never heard a’ him again after that. Not ‘til Mal’d dropped his name in connection with an offer a’ work.
So the name Ossie Chen meant plenty ta him, all right, but this was the first time Jayne’d met him in the flesh, so ta speak, an’ a scrawnier, weasellier little rat-dog of a man he’d never seen. He’da liked nothin’ better than ta plug that ruttin’ lan dong xi liu-mang soon as he opened his door.
But the coin talked louder ta Jayne’s sensibilities. There’d been no kinda payin’ work since that job on Lilac, jus’ before their big damn escapade ‘gainst the Alliance, an’ he was growin’ dog-tired a’ pickin’ at the scraps outta the kitchen. Right now, Jayne wanted payin’ more’n he wanted payback.
So he’d swallow his score, get the job done, get his cut. No problem.
After that, though, mebbe he’d havta see ‘bout payin’ Osaki Chen ‘nother visit. Talk ‘bout old times. Him ‘n’ Lola, all sociable, like. Oh, yeah.
Lola gleamed at the notion.
“Don’t like it, sir.”
Mal shot Zoe a perplexed look. “Say ‘gain?”
“Don’t smell right to me.” Her lips were pursed tight. “Somethin’s up.”
“Zoe, you know Ossie well as I do.” Glad as he was to see Zoe up on the bridge, he didn’t like her to be negative about a scheme. “He’s been good to us before. Never let us down. He says it’s an easy job, I believe him.”
“I know, sir. It’s not him. It’s that.”
She nodded toward the windshield, almost filled now by the nose of the giant ship, looming ever larger as they closed lazily on one another. The hull was blacker than space, arrayed with banks of green lights, and it dwarfed them: easily hundreds of times bigger than their little Firefly.
“It’s an Alliance ship,” Mal said. “What’s to like?”
“Can’t say, sir. Just a feelin’.”
“Well, your feelin’ is givin’ me bad karma.”
The layout of it put Mal in mind of an old-time road train: at the back, the vast, angular bulk of the cargo unit, and at the front, a little automated control tug, maybe a touch smaller than Serenity. The one was connected to the other by a spidery-looking framework, through the middle of which ran a thin, tubular passageway, the purpose of which, Mal presumed, was to allow mechanics and the like to access the tug’s inner workings.
“You’re sure there’re no life readings?”
“None whatsoever.” Mal leaned forward in the co-pilot’s chair and tapped up the forward scanner display for her to see. “Nothin’ but clicks and whistles. Nobody’s there hadn’t oughta be. Leastways, not yet.”
Zoe frowned, unconvinced.
Serenity was transmitting the friendly access codes that Ossie had supplied, and so far all was shiny: the transport was virtually inviting them to tea. They skimmed along its smooth flank, following the beacon, until finally their target came into view: a dock-and-lock unit, protruding from the ship’s hull like a tiny skin-tag.
“Where’s the doctor got to?” he asked.
“Last I saw? On his way to the engine room.”
“Thought as much.” Mal got on the ‘com. “Kaylee, drop whoever you’re doin’ and get ready to cut the engine on my mark.”
“Sure thing, cap,” came the slightly-out-of-breath reply, a few seconds later.
“Gonna have to have words with that young man,” Mal muttered. “Okay, little one – your play. Ain’t much of a target, so take your time.”
“I said not to worry,” River said chidingly.
“Yeah, well – I’ll take your leave to do so, if that’s okay. Got a seventeen-year-old novice pilotin’ my ship, never docked before. Sort a’ thing to make any captain a mite edgy.”
River shrugged. “Novice. Trainee nun. Not me. Never was one for the church, all just paper and ink,” she sniffed. “Right words, wrong order.”
“My kinda talk,” Mal said. “But just you pay attention now.”
Serenity glided closer to the dock-and-lock, River turning her onto her side with little precise squirts of the manoeuvring thrusters. They could no longer see the speckled black; the vast ship filled the windshield now, a vertical wall of dark metal.
“Kaylee,” Mal said into the ‘com, “all stop.”
A slight shudder ran through the ship as Kaylee put the engine into neutral, and then they were coasting. River gently applied the forward thrusters to slow their momentum.
“Almost there,” she said, her voice as a whisper. “Close enough to touch.”
The dock-and-lock disappeared from view, under the nose. Moments later there came a minor jolt, and a dull scraping noise, as the assembly mated with that of their cargo bay, bringing Serenity to a docile halt.
Blue lights showed on the console, indicating that the airlock connection was both secure and pressurised.
“Clean dock,” Zoe said, giving River an impressed look. “First time.”
“That’s my little albatross. Good job.” Mal patted the back of the pilot’s chair. “Alright, we’re here. Let’s do this. River, you stay here, monitor the ‘com an’ make ready for departure. Zoe, go get booted an’ suited with Jayne, meet me downstairs in ten. I don’t plan on bein’ here any longer than we need.”
She nodded and left. Mal looked across at River, who was staring after the retreating Zoe, a glistening in her eyes.
“Already begun,” she said forlornly. “Can’t be stopped – too many cells. Too many to count. They’re dividing all the time.”
That one went right past him. He rolled his eyes and went to find Inara, which proved easier than he’d expected, since she was already on her way to the bridge. In a rare move she was not dressed to the nines, but rather in a plain, brown, paint-spattered jumpsuit and black boots. Her hair was pinned back into a simple bun.
“If that’s your new look,” he said, after a moment’s appreciation, “it works for me, but I’m not sure ‘bout your fancy dandy clients. Might run into some trouble with those zippers.”
“Since I’m along for the ride on this criminal enterprise,” she said, unperturbed, “I may as well lend a hand. Is there anything you need me to be doing?”
“Maybe so. S’pose you’d want your share of the cut, were that the case?”
“That won’t be necessary.” Inara smiled serenely. “But thank you for the offer.”
Mal nodded back toward the cockpit. “Well, you could stay with River. Make sure she don’t do anythin’ wayward while we’re off robbin’.”
A look of genuine surprise flickered across the Companion’s face. “You still don’t trust her?”
“Not enough to leave her alone on my bridge. Things are still too close in the past for that. She might get in a mood for flyin’ away somewhere, an’ that’d be more’n a mite annoyin’ for everyone. So no – not yet.”
“I don’t think that’s very fair on River,” Inara said, suddenly fractious. “Mal, she’s helped you out of a spot by offering to pilot for you, in spite of everything else she’s got to cope with. But if that’s what you think of her, then maybe you’re better off not putting her at the helm at all.”
“Girl’s got the talent for it. Ain’t nobody questionin’ that. And I do need someone with talent. Just - not all the other stuff.”
“And what she doesn’t need is her captain second-guessing her all the time. Has she ever let you down?”
“Seem to recall the time she broke Jayne’s yuben de head an’ commandeered the ship over a little planet named Miranda?”
“That’s not what I mean, Mal, and you know it.”
He sighed. Another day, another dispute. No wonder they barely spoke anymore.
“Look – ‘Nara – I ain’t got time to talk ‘bout this now. Work’s a’callin’. So here’s the deal: go sit up with River, keep her company, maybe help her with the ‘coms. Please?”
“Finally, a ‘please’. We’ll have you saying thank you soon.” Inara smiled again, tetchiness forgotten. “Very well. Should be fun, if nothing else, listening to you and Jayne blundering about in the dark.”
She stood aside to allow him past. “Mal?” she added. “Look out for each other in there, won’t you. I have a bad feeling about this enterprise.”
“You know, I wish everyone’d stop saying that,” Mal said, surprised as much by her sudden concern as by her echoing of Zoe’s words. “Don’t worry, ‘Nara. Sit tight. We’ll be back before you can say kuai.”
Three brown mylar-clad figures stepped cautiously across the threshold, lit by the bright beams of their hand lamps.
There were no lights on aboard the cargo ship, but that was to be expected: computers didn’t need to see to operate. Similarly, there was also no atmo, since they didn’t need to breathe, either. Mal knew enough about these automated hulks to know that once the loadin’ crews had finished fillin’ up the holds, the air was pumped out of the passageways and rooms and the ship sent on its merry. Once it arrived at wherever it was goin’, O2 processors were connected and atmo restored for unloadin’. All very economical.
There was, however, artificial gravity, which also made sense. If the cargo was hot, as Ossie’d admitted, it wouldn’t do for it to be floatin’ about, maybe bumpin’ off walls, spillin’ all over…
In the vacuum, he couldn’t hear the ship’s mighty engines – only the hiss-wheeze of his suit’s regulator – but he could surely feel them, as a gentle rumblin’ sensation in the decking beneath his boots. The ship was not long into its journey, only an hour out of Beaumonde, but the hard burn was over; it was runnin’ at cruisin’ speed now.
He heard Jayne grouchin’ in his earpiece. “Where in hell are we, Mal? Can’t see a gorram thing in here.”
“Jayne, don’t worry. Got our map to light the way.”
Mal was armed with Ossie’s handheld, and he was following the animated schematic on the bright screen. The compartment they needed was located deep in the heart of the ship.
“Yeah, well… this ruttin’ trolley ain’t helpin’ none.” Jayne was attempting to tow a four-wheeled loading truck down the corridor, a task that was being made more difficult by, well, by Jayne. Serenity hadn’t docked with one of the main holds – her small cargo bay door wasn’t compatible with such a big hatch – but rather with one of the maintenance access ports, and consequently the corridor down which they were walking was not of the wider type. But even so…
“Jayne, could you handle that yuben de thing a little better?” Mal snapped. He imagined he could hear it clunking off the walls. “How hard can it be? Zoe, would you give the genius a hand before he gets it wedged?”
“Can’t help it, Cap,” Jayne muttered. “Feels like one a’ the wheels is stickin’.”
“Hope those crates ain’t too big, sir,” Zoe said, as she took up station at the back of the trolley, “or we’ll have trouble gettin’ ‘em back down here.”
“Should be fine. Ossie gave us this route, so he must know it’s suited.” Mal cast his torch beam over the flat, burnished panels lining the passageway. According to the handheld, their objective lay behind the sealed door at the end of it.
Simon sat on the catwalk steps and watched as his significant other went about her trade – poking screwdrivers into panels here, keeping check on the airlock seals there, all the while listening to her earpiece for any instructions that might come from the Captain.
He’d always felt kind of like a third engine when it came down to the business end of the work. He was the ship’s medic, after all; a role that only came in useful if someone on board sustained an injury. This was, when he came to think of it, just a little maudlin – in the same class as an undertaker standing by with a carpentry set and a roll of measuring tape.
Kaylee hadn’t noticed him when he entered the cargo bay, but he didn’t mind that. He liked just to watch her sometimes, drink of her high spirits. She loved her work so much; he could hear her humming a bouncy little tune as she sauntered about the bay floor. He’d come to realise that Kaylee and River were quite similar in that respect – when they were happy, both girls put it all out for everyone to see and share.
Kaylee and River.
Kaylee or River…
It was a dilemma that haunted his thoughts ever more frequently. Could he really juggle both commitments, with any kind of success? Already it was proving difficult, and would only remain thus, as long as River’s condition did not show any signs of significant improvement.
Yes, she was more lucid more of the time. Yes, she was piloting the ship now, and Captain Reynolds seemed to have more or less accepted her as one of his crew. But nothing was ever permanent with River. Nothing was predictable. Sooner or later she would fall again… and Simon would be there to pick her up. He had to be. She had nobody else.
And she was getting in the way.
He knew it was terribly, shamefully wrong for him even to think such a thing. He loved his sister deeply; she had become his whole life. He had destroyed their family for her. He had personally rescued her from the Academy’s abusive program, and turned them both into wanted fugitives, so sought after that the Alliance had rained down all kinds of destruction along their path. He had done everything in his power and more, short of reconstructive brain surgery, to understand and medicate her, to give her a better standard of living.
And in this, at least, he had succeeded. River had grown to think of Serenity as her home, and so, largely, had Simon.
No more so than now, he thought, gazing longingly at Kaylee.
It was with dejection that Simon realised that, no matter how much he wanted or tried to deny it, the time would come when he was going to have to make a very difficult choice.
“Here.” Mal clipped the flat handheld onto his belt and turned to face the others. “This is the one. Zoe, you got the thing?”
“Sure, sir.” Zoe stepped forward, retrieved a small white cardkey from her pocket and swiped it down the reader beside the door. A panel on it winked green; there was a noiseless puff of escaping residual air as the hatch unsealed and slid open.
“Like breakin’ and enterin’,” Jayne grinned, “only without the breakin’.”
Mal’s bright lance cut through the darkness, joined moments later by those of Jayne and Zoe.
They picked out long rows of containers; high stacks of rusted drums and crates, all marked with stickers in a rainbow of colours. They picked out tiny particles, motes of dust that floated still in the air, weightless in spite of the gravity. What they did not pick out was the other side of the hold.
“Go-se,” Jayne breathed, peering through the doorway.
“Did you ever see such a thing,” Zoe murmured, although Mal felt that Jayne’s line had been more fitting.
The hold was vast. It stretched for a thousand yards in either direction, and at least the same again across. It was clear to Mal this place had been modified since Ossie’s schematic was drawn up – most of the subdividing walls had been removed until it was basically just a big shell, which could then be filled to the rafters with whatever the Alliance chose.
And filled it was. Giant, tarnished freight boxes formed sheer, corrugated walls; created streets down which they made careful progress, all the while following the handheld toward what they approximated to be the location of Ossie’s crates. Mal made a mental note to have a few stern words with his old friend once they returned to Trinity.
“Hey, this is fun,” Jayne said sarcastically. “In an’ out, huh?”
“Just focus,” Mal said. Somethin’ was jumpin’ up and down in his mind, tryin’ to get his attention. Somethin’ he’d missed. “Skin your eyes for those crates. You too, Zoe. I don’t wanna be strollin’ round here all day an’ night.”
“This ain’t right, sir,” Zoe said. She’d noticed it too. “This cargo... it ain't what we expected.”
The something in his head finally managed to make itself heard. “That's it. It’s just junk,” he said, feeling foolish for not recognising it before. “Boxes of trash. Scrap.”
“Thought Chen said it was hot?” Jayne said. “Explosives and such. A hot cargo.”
“Not that I can see," Mal said. "Look at the stickers – all of ‘em the same."
"‘For SD’," Jayne read, his brow furrowed. "What the goushi is an SD? Some kinda itch?”
“Space Disposable,” Zoe said. She sounded suddenly uneasy. “Sir –”
“I know, I know. Ossie skipped the wrong facts on us. This ain't no hot transport.”
“No – sir. The handheld. Look.”
Mal glanced down as best he could through the glass of his helmet. The flat screen was flashing against his leg – on, off, on, off. How he hadn’t noticed it in the semi-darkness, he didn’t know.
He snatched it up and stared at it.
INCOMING WAVE, read the font on the screen, across the ubiquitous Blue Sun logo. Mal blinked. It hadn’t occurred to him that the handheld was a portable waver too.
What in hell was goin' on?
River’s eyes banged open.
She had been dozing lightly, allowing her mind to wander along with the Captain, since she found his head an easier ride than that of Jayne, all belligerence and primal aggression, or Zoe, who was full of conflict and new secrets. She preferred not to visit their thoughts too often. With Mal’s, however, there was a certain affinity, a kind of congruent pattern that River found soothing.
At first she had frowned slightly, recognising as he did the erroneousness of the cargo, but now she fair screamed with terror, almost startling Inara off her seat.
“River – sweetie – what is it?” she said, trying to recover her scattered composure. “Has something happened?”
“Danger,” the girl whispered. Hunched forward over her knees, she shook her head, trying to rid it of the sense of evil, warped, callousness, bitterness, and then looked across at Inara. “It’s not what he thinks. Not who he thinks.”
“River, I don’t…”
“We have to get out of here,” she said, urgently. “Get them out. Now!”
Fumbling with gloved fingers, Mal found his suit’s ‘com lead and plugged it into the small I/O port at the side of the device. The wave then connected, seemingly automatically. But the face that appeared wasn’t that of Ossie Chen.
The worn, craggy visage and recedin' pate were those of a benevolent old uncle, the kind who might read bedtime stories and turn ‘em into fine, stirrin’ epics. The glitterin' eyes, however, encased behind their little circular lenses, were those of a stone killer.
They were horribly familiar.
“Mr Reynolds!” came the kindly, stilted voice. “So long since we last met. You are much better now, I see. And your ear – ah, yes, back in its rightful place. This is good. I would hate to think,” he added, glowering over steepled fingers, “that I had missed any part of you.”
Dumbstruck, all Mal could think to say was, “Niska. I shoulda killed you when I had the chance.”
The old man smiled thinly.
“And I, Mr Reynolds, should have left you dead.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 7:35 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 7:54 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 9:47 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 3:08 PM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 3:28 PM
Thursday, January 11, 2007 6:34 AM
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.