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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Updated 27Feb06. The next chapter in my fluffy little saga of the crew of Serenity. If you want to start at the beginning Chapter 1-4, Chapter 5, and Chapter 6.
Thanks to Mal4Prez for beta-reading! I don't know what I would do without you to fix everything.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1576 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter 7: A Wrinkle in Time
“I ain’t eatin’ that!”
“Caroline, that’s breakfast. You don’t got much choice. What’s the Cap’n goin’ ta say?”
“Still ain’t eatin’ that.” Caroline responded to Kaylee pushing the protein porridge away. “It’s gross. Tastes like niu shi. An food taint that color. Ain’t natural, foods not grey. Only Alliance food is that color.”
Jayne looked up from sluping up his second bowl of mush. “I ’gree with mini-Mal; but, it’s food. Better then goin’ hungry.”
Caroline stuck her spoon in the bowl and pulled it back out watching the grey stuff slide off it in clumps. “I’ll go hungry then.”
“Xin gan, Cap’n said if’fn you didn’t eat it for breakfast you was eating it for lunch.” Kaylee said almost begging Caroline to eat. It had become the morning fight, the porridge. Simon had said that Caroline needed the vaccinations, vitamins, and minerals with which the protein was fortified. Golensa had been so paranoid about the Alliance that Caroline had none of the vaccinations that a “normal” seven year old would have.
“Nope. Ain’t eatin’ it.” And the set of Caroline’s eyes and chin made Kaylee and Jayne both think of Mal when he set his mind on something.
As a last ditch effort Kaylee tried a new tactic “Ya don’t eat it, Simon’s going to poke ya with needles. This has the stuff in it you need. I know how much you like being poked.”
Mal walked into the dining room looking a little grumpy. “Jayne, you just about done eatin’ us outta house and home? I need some help gettin’ ready for the meet.” He looked down at Caroline who had pulled the bowl back towards her, when she saw him enter the room, and was playing with her spoon. “Little one, don’t you go given’ Kaylee no problems ‘bout eatin’ breakfast, now, ya hear?” He leaned over and whispered conspiratorially in her ear “Stuff gets grosser when it gets cold.” It was nice not to have to be the bad guy for once. He’d have to thank Kaylee. Mal walked over to the coffeepot, and refilled his mug. It smelled like Zoë had made it. She made the best coffee on Serenity; couldn’t cook worth a damn; but, brewed a mean pot of coffee. “Me, Zoë, and Jayne ‘ll be back later. Caroline, don’ chu go given’ no one no trouble, no how. Do good on your lesson with Simon this morning.” He walked over to Caroline, kissed her on the head on his way back to the cargo bay. “I love you, little one. We’ll be back soon.” Dr. Spock had said that he needed to show affection both physically and verbally so Mal was workin’ on it. He felt like an old dog trying to learn new tricks.
“You goin’ thieving?” Caroline asked Mal’s back while playing with the porridge.
Mal’s back stiffened right up, he stopped in his tracks and almost dropped the mug of coffee. Niu shi. He thought to himself, he was hopin’to put off this discussion for a while.
Luckily Kaylee jumped into the conversation before Mal could respond. “Nope, he’s goin’ to go and get us work. Needa eat, needa work. Right Cap?”
“Yep.” Bullet avoided for the moment he thought and started moving again. “Jayne, ma shong. Get a move on. Don’ want to be late.”
Kaylee tried to distract Caroline from the topic of thieving. “What cha learnin’ today?”
Jayne snickered on the way out of the mess. “Prolly sumpin useless. Like how to be a fancy pants.”
“Ignore him, Caroline. I bet you’re going to learn all kinds of interesting things.”
“Numbers, Doc said numbers, ‘cause Shepard Book stayed at the Abbey last night. Do I really gotta eat this?” Caroline whined, trying to look pathetic and just looking petulant.
“Yep, don’t ask again. Or I’ll tell the Cap’n. I swear.”
“Tell him what?” Asked Wash wandering in for his usual Zoë-is-gone-on-a-meet chat with Kaylee.
“That she doesn’t want to eat her breakfast.”
“I see,” said Wash looking down at the bowl and trying to look very wise stroking an imaginary beard. “I see said the Wiseman. How do we fix that muck?”
“Make it go away? Turn it into toast and jam? I like toast and jam.”
“Hmmm… let me think. No toast; but, I have a little jam. A spoonful of jam should make it taste better.” Wash opened one of the storage containers and pulled out a little jar of jam. He put one spoonful on top. “Mix it in; and it’ll taste better. Tell no one.” And he let his eyes wander around the room making exaggerated eye movements like there might be spies in the walls – and more to the point making both Caroline and Kaylee laugh. “Shh… a secret.”
Mal posted Jayne and Vera about a mile away on the top of an abandoned quarry tower. Impossible shot for all; but, the most experienced. For Jayne it was a rather routine shot, he’d done harder shots without a scope huntin’ back home, nuthin’ but, a set of open sights. “Keep a look out.”
“Yep, Cap. We’ll do that.”
Lou Hiao wong liked to meet in deserted places. Made him feel safe; or some such. This one beat all though; gorram boondocks, what it was. Made him feel safer to know that Jayne was keepin’ a lookout, that he had Zoe at his back, and Wash in his ear. Mal took another look around at the landscape desert is what it was, and he hated the desert. Hot as Hades. “Zoë you ready?”
“Shirr ah, Sir. Ready here.”
Mal felt comforted by that. “Wash, you ready?”
Wash’s response came in over everyone’s ear pieces. “We are all ready here. Breakfast is done. The dinos are all fed.”
“Great. Now we wait. I hate gorram waiting.”
“Jayne, shut up.”
“Zoe, my lamby-toes., that was so succinctly put.”
As Mal and Zoë waited in the mule, Mal’s thoughts started to wander back to Caroline and the comment she’d made at breakfast. They weren’t really thieves – just didn’t approve of the Alliance. Shit, who was he kidding; they were thieves. Smugglers too; pretty goods ones if he did say so himself.
“Sir, they’re. Sir. SIR! ”
“Wha? Huh? Sorry. Lost in thought.”
“Wong’s comin’. Best be payin’ attention.”
“Let’s get this show on the road. Nice to be home by lunch.”
“It would, Sir, it would.”
“Ooh, lamby-toes pie for lunch.”
“Wash, my dear, shut up.”
Mal walked over to where Lou Hiao wong was standing. He and Zoë looked at the Chinese man wearing a beaver skin top hat, tails, and a bright red cravat. Zoë thought the contrast between wong and Mal was about as big as it could get; but, for the moment she was more interested in keeping her eye on the man with him; the taller hired muscle with the twitchy eye.
“Capt-tain Reigh-nolds how are you on this fine morn?”
“Good What cha want us to do? Mr. Lou?”
“I need you, your fine crew, and that bucket of bolts you call a ship to pick up and deliver some goods.”
“I s’pose we can do that.” Mal replied a little pensively wondering what the rest of the details were. “Ya got some details for us? Need a little more information fore I decide to ‘cept.”
“It’s a paltry little task really. A trifle. Just need to move some boxes of retail merchandise to Pythagoras from Boros. I will ensure that it is worth your while.”
“Hmm… worth our while?”
Wash came over the ear pieces. “You all know that Pythagoras is being blockaded by the Alliance right now? Some type of unrest there. Only certain ships are being allowed in; and those are being checked real well.
“Pythagoras. That’s the moon being blockaded right now, ain’t it? Mal mused out loud. Looking directly at Lou Hiao wong. Challenging him.
“It is; my fine man. It is; which is why the recompense is larger than usual. Half now, half later.” He handed over a heavy silken bag containing credits. “And a bonus for speedy delivery, say another twenty-five percent if it is there prior to the end of the month.”
“Sounds reasonable.” Wong was one for the little niceties, even though Mal now had suspicions that he’d been raised in a gutter somewhere. The cultivated accent slipped occasionally. Jayne had been the first one to point it out. The last time they’d had dealings with him. Jayne made surprising observations sometimes. Although, given that he was a tracker by trade it probably wasn’t that surprising. Trackers were supposed to notice changes in character and habits. Can’t track something if you don’t understand it. “Three weeks to get to Boros and then to Pythagoras. Pushing it a little. Call it an even month? Don’t want us takin’ no unnecessary risks with your crates.”
“That sounds fine to me, Captain. One month. Details on the pick up and delivery rendezvous places and times are included in the bags.”
“What are we transportin’? If’n I gotta get it by the Alliance I like to what I’m riskin’ my crews hide for?”
“That sounds fair; medical supplies. Crates of medical supplies and some equipment support for the rebellion.”
Mal looked at Zoë “I don’t got a problem movin’ medical supplies.”
“It is nice doing business with someone so reasonable and dependable. Have a good day Captain Reynolds, Mrs. Washburne.”
Caroline finished her porridge helped Kaylee with the dishes and went to find Simon to work on numbers. Wash and Jayne were going to teach her to play Blackjack later if she was good and didn’t cause too many problems. Wash said it was a counting game. Kaylee went up to the bridge for the Zoë-is-gone-on-a-meet-chat that didn’t happen earlier.
“What ‘re they up to?” Kaylee asked poking her head into the bridge.
Wash made his voice squeaky as he waved his blue plastic brontosaurus “Waitin’ on Lou Hiao wong.”
“Grr…” went the yellow T. Rex “Just like every other time we’ve ever dealt with him. Drive ‘em out to the middle of gorram nowhere and make ‘em wait.”
Kaylee sat down in the co-pilot’s chair and picked up a palm tree. She put her booted feet up and fondled the fronds. “I wonder what he wants. Hope it pays enough for some parts and some spares. Serenity ain’t had no spares in too long.”
“Yep, be nice not to worry.”
“Wash, what’s up? You sound down.”
“Zoë brought up kids again last night. Said with Caroline on board; it would be good practice for us.”
“Yeah, oh. Babies are a lot different then a seven year old.”
“Some; both take a lot of effort. Just different kinds of effort.”
“I suppose.” Wash replied absently twirling the brontosaurus around by its long blue neck. “I spose.”
“I wonder if they’ll be back by lunch.”
“Nope.” River announced poking her head in. “After.” And she popped right back out, dancing off to where only she knew.
“Wash, you really going to teach Caroline how to play Blackjack?”
“Figured I would. Makes counting fun. That’s how I learned to add. Old guy next door taught me to play when I was about five or six. Used to bet chores, cookies, coppers whatever. He’d put copper coins in the pot, I’d put in emptin’ the trash or some such. I remember being so proud one day I won two cookies, a coin and a plastic dinosaur. That was my first apaeotosaurus. I had a couple of others; but, that one was the one I was the most proud of.”
“Did you ever lose?”
“Quite consistently. I don’t think he ever took his garbage out, or had to go to the store. When I got older we switched to poker; then I’d end up fixing things for him.” Wash’s eyes were glazing over as he was remembering. “He used to play with a bunch of buddies from when he worked at the plant. They all knew I had no money, I think I was twelve or so the first time I got to play with them. Shoot, I was run ragged for a month. Had so many chore chits out there; learned to play pretty good. Those old guys were crafty. After a while had me a nice little nest egg. Blew it all on a date, Adaleen Si-Yue Theral.”
“Adaleen. You ain’t never told me about her ‘fore.”
“Adaleen. My first true love. Ooh, wong’s there.”
Kaylee sat forward as if she could hear. “Now, we find out what we’re doin’.”
“Call me if you need me Wash.” Kaylee heaved herself up and went out to check on things in the engine room in case they had to leave suddenly.
“Ho-ok.” Wash went back to his thoughts about Zoë and Adaleen. They were different; Zoë was wow. Zoë was his warrior woman, his lamby-toes, an Amazon. Adaleen was well she’d been a girl. Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Adaleen was like Little Red Riding Hood; that was it.
Lunch was mostly quiet. Simon was exhausted; he’d never taught before; especially a seven year old. Wash was worrying about Zoë and the meet. Kaylee was hoping that everyone got back soon. And River was talking about filling in old holes, fixing faith, and the Three Little Pigs. After everyone was done eating, Simon collapsed in the common room, Wash went back up to the bridge wishing and hoping his thoughts could get Zoë home sooner Kaylee, Caroline, and River were cleaning up the lunch mess, and packing plates for Jayne, Mal, and Zoë.
“Is the Cap’n a thief?” Caroline asked while bringing the last of the plates and flatware over to the sink where Kaylee was washing and River was drying and putting them away.
“No, honey. Of course not.” Kaylee said defensively almost dropping a glass.
“Is too, a good thief. Like Robin Hood.” River added giving Kaylee a don’t lie to her look. Different then the ‘you’re a boob’ look Simon got a lot.
“Keeps us afloat. That’s good.” Kaylee said trying to dance around the topic.
“Robin Hood. Huh? Ma always said stealin’ from the tan lan ‘Liance was a good thing. Cause they is a bunch of chsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo”
“Caroline.” Kaylee said sharply “You ain’t supposed to talk like that.” She really hated having to tell Caroline no all the time but, she didn’t want the Cap’n to be angry.
“Just tellin’ you what ma said.”
“She says that’s not enough of an answer to fill a pin hole.” River added in putting down the dish towel and pirouetting over to the table. “Draw. Need clouds. Clouds. Not the horizon. Up high”
“Bao bei, that’s something you need to ask your ba’.” Kaylee said bending down and kissing Caroline on the head. “I’m going to go see how Serenity is feeling.”
“Clouds on the ceiling? Like in my bedroom; where you and Kaylee painted clouds and stars and the sun on the ceiling, and a castle on the wall? Can we paint clouds here on the ceiling over the table? That would be shiny. And stars and the moon!”
“Draw now; paint later. Paper.” River heard the mule first. They were drawing. A picture for Jayne; Caroline had decided that Jayne needed a picture to hang on his hatch. It was a picture of Vera wearing an orange hat drinking a beer; with shaky letters underneath it spelling J – A – Y – N – e. “There back.” River stood up in her seemingly permanently bare feet, which of course Caroline had to imitate.
“Cap’n, n Jayne, n Zoë?”
“Let’s go see them. Hurry.” Off they went tearing down the passageways like a herd of wild horses yelling at the top of their lungs “They’re back” waking Simon up, and startling Kaylee into dropping a wrench. Everyone headed down to the cargo bay to greet the returning crew. Caroline followed River up onto the catwalks so they could get a birds-eye view.
“Hey Captain Daddy.” Yelled River.
Caroline added in. “Hey Jayne, Hey Zoë!”
“Hey. You two be careful up there. Don’t fall and break your head’s open. Don’t need no excitement today.”
“How’d it go? Cap? We got work?” Kaylee asked skidding to a stop by the mule. She checked it over to make sure nothing was wrong with it as everyone milled around in the cargo bay talking.
“Yep, should keep the wolves at bay for a while.” Mal responded heading in towards his quarters. He needed to do some planning, budgeting, and other captainly stuff. “Tell you ‘bout it at dinner. Shepard back?”
“Not yet. He’s due back in time for dinner. He extended his stay at the Abbey; something about fasting and meditation.” Simon added from the back where he’d been looking over the returnees to see if there were any obvious injuries. There weren’t any -- that was rare.
Wash took Zoë back to their quarters to personally check her over for injuries; and to help her clean up. Caroline cornered Jayne before he could say gorramit mini-Mal . She wanted to show him the picture she’d drawn for the hatch down to his bunk. River had helped her hang it up. Simon went to guard his infirmary from Jayne’s intrusions. Jayne liked to make forays into his supplies for gun cleaning supplies, and generally it looking more like a war-zone then an infirmary.
Dinner was a raucous affair. A bottle of Kaylee’s finest engine room hooch had been brought out to celebrate the new job. Shepard Book had conjured up a fine meal with produce from the Abbey. Most of the Shepards there were strict vegetarians; not like Shepard Book. There was even dessert, pastries. Not made from protein; but, from butter and fresh fruit from the orchard and farm that provided the financial and physical support for the Hilliard Abbey. Everyone was back but Inara; and she was due back in the morning.
After all of the post-meal adulations were complete; Jayne hadn’t broken any dishes while washing them; and the table was clear. Mal started laying out the plan. They would leave Hilliard for Boros the following evening. The next day would be spent laying in supplies, food, fuel, spare parts (Kaylee gasped when she heard this news!), and such. Reaching Boros they would lay in the medical supplies and head to Pythagoras. They were going to disguise themselves as a long distance transport ship transporting the children of a wealthy family to Boros from Pythagoras for an extended visit. It was much easier with actual children on board, River and Caroline were going to be the children, Kaylee was going to be their nanny, and Jayne was their guard. Can’t have wealthy children floating around the ‘verse by themselves. Book was on board, because he was an itinerant preacher and was spreading the Word wherever he went. Inara was their Ambassador. And everyone else was themselves. Simple really, assimilate the equipment and supplies into the stocks of Serenity and fly through the front door. A motley crew providing a medley of services for a price.
“Kaylee you and Wash go get what you need for Serenity tomorrow morning.” He handed them a small stack of credits. He’d spent a chunk of the time in his quarters budgeting, and doing important captainy stuff. “Don’t spend everything in one place. Dong ma?” Kaylee nodded and pertly responded “Cap’n there’s only one yard on Hilliard. You want me buyin’ new parts?”
Mal just rolled his eyes. Then on to Jayne “Ammo, grenades, and whatever we’re running low on. Limit yourself, and bring back some change. Get IDs, you seem to have the contacts around here.”
Zoë was next. “Zoë you and me are going to go and pick up the cargo.
Caroline had been sitting quietly at the table amusing herself by drawing a picture of Wash’s dinosaurs. “IDs are easy. You don’t buy ‘em, you take ‘em. I used ta sell em to Two-Snouts. Get ma drops and Zeus, keep her from screaming.”
The only response anyone at the table was able to come with was “huh.” Except Jayne who added “Now that makes some sense, first thing I heard all night with any horse sense in it.” Kaylee promptly smacked him. Zoë and Mal glared at him.
Mal had no idea what to say so he kept going as if nothing had been happened and turned to Shepard Book “Groceries and supplies, for the next two months.”
Caroline added in “None of that grey breakfast gao se.” While glaring at Simon.
Mal sighed and looked at Caroline. “Language, little one. Language.”
“Yes, Xiān sheng. What do I getta do ‘morrow?”
“Well, you got lessons to do in the mornin’. In the afternoon …”
Book added “She can come with me; we’ll go shopping together. Is that ok with you little one?”
Caroline nodded and returned to drawing. Book continued “I’d like to go and say good-bye to the brothers at the Abbey in the morning if that is all right with you, Captain?”
Mal nodded his assent and looked over at Caroline “Little one this ain’t Persephone; don’t want you goin’ out by yourself.” Next Mal turned to Kaylee. “Kaylee you need some type of uniform?”
Simon answered that question. “Our nanny always had a uniform. The whole staff had uniforms; grey with lavender and white trim.”
“Purple belly.” Caroline muttered under her breathe, again glaring at Simon. Everyone ignored her.
“Simon, go with Kaylee and Jayne tomorrow, get some type of appropriate uniforms for them. Simple is better.” Mal ordered looking at the three of them. “Nice to be off this rock by 2000 hours tomorrow.”
Now that the planning was over Mal sat back. Everyone else was considering their parts. Jayne was the first to leave the table. He went by Caroline’s chair. “Nice picture Mini-Mal. It’s as good as the one on my bunk.”
Mal felt jealous that Caroline had drawn Jayne a picture not him. He was her father; shouldn’t she draw him a picture? He got a second cup of coffee and sat back in his chair and thought. It would be nice not to have to purchase IDs; good ones were expensive. And unless you’d had dealings with the seller beforehand you didn’t know exactly what you were getting. Kid was a good pickpocket; she’d managed to take his wallet without him noticing. He didn’t want his daughter being a thief. No child should have to be a thief. She didn’t need to be a thief anymore. Nope, no daughter of his was going to be a gorram thief.
He put his cup in the sink; figured he’d wash it later. If he was lucky someone else would wash it. He went on what had become over the years a nightly routine of checking on Serenity and her crew. He started walking and could hear Zoë and Wash talking softly up on the bridge; like they did most nights. Jayne was sharpening his knives in the common area talking with Shepard Book. Simon was reading a thick book in there also; and apparently keeping one ear in on the conversation. Mal kept on walking; he poked his head in on Kaylee in the engine room where she was putting Serenity to bed. Kept on going, walking the catwalks of the ship that was home. He paused outside the hatch to Inara’s shuttle, which wasn’t back yet. It seemed empty without everyone onboard.
Serenity was a sanctuary for him and Zoë from the horrors of war; a home to Wash and Kaylee; a prison in many ways to Simon and River; and a job to Jayne. Mal hoped that he could translate his love of Serenity to Caroline.
Mal kept on walking. He heard voices coming from his berth, and went to check it out. Caroline and River were reading inside ‘Caroline’s Castle.’ That’s what it said on the wall behind her mattress. Inara, Jayne, River and Kaylee had done a wonderful job of making Caroline’s berth something special. They’d moved some non-structural walls around and made here a spot just a little bigger then a mattress. They’d done some moving around all over. Jayne and Kaylee had put doors on both Mal’s and Caroline’s bunks; screens that when closed made the small compartment into a living room you couldn’t tell that there were beds in there at all. The inside of Caroline’s nook had been painted; a daytime sky down at the foot of her bed progressing to a night sky at the top. On the side Inara and River had painted a castle and animals along with the words ‘Caroline’s Castle.’ Kaylee had donated her pink ball gown; she and Inara had sewn it into some girly frippery pillows and trim for her blanket and the such.
“What ‘cha reading, little ones?”
“River’s reading me the Le Morte D'Arthur. I like listening to her, she reads nice. You want ta stay and listen for a while?”
Mal settled in his chair. “I think I might, if’fn you both don’t mind?”
“Nope, River read.” Caroline poked River in the side.
“Terrabyl / So his wyf Dame Igrayne he putte in the castell of Tyntagil / And hym self he putte in the castel of Terrabyl the whiche had many yssues and posternes oute / Thenne in alle haste came Vther with a grete hoost / and leyd a syege aboute the castel of Terrabil / And ther he pyght many pauelyons / and there was grete warre made on bothe partyes / and moche peple slayne / Thenne for pure angre and for grete loue of fayr Irayne the kyng Vther felle seke / So came to the kynge Vther Syre Vlfius a noble knyght / and asked the kynge why he was seke / I shall telle the said the kynge / I am seke for angre and for loue of fayre Igrayne that I may not be hool…”
Mal closed his eyes and listened to River’s voice as it rose and fell in the cadence of a long dead language, Middle English. It was very melodic and peaceful. After a long while he looked up and saw that Caroline had fallen asleep. He made a motion to River who stopped reading. Together they got her ready for bed trying not to disturb her anymore then necessary.
“Good night River.” Mal told River after they had Caroline tucked away in her castle and River was halfway up the ladder.
“Good night Captain Daddy.”
I’ve included a link to Le Morte D’ Arthur in English:
Ba’ – Father
Bao bei -- Precious/treasure
Chsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo - animal fucking bastard
Gao se -- Crap
Gorram -- Damn
Ma shong -- hurry; on the double; stat
Niu shi -- Cow dung
Shirr ah -- Affirmative
Tan lan -- avaricious/greedy/insatiable
Xiān sheng – Sir/Mr/Teacher
Xin gan – Sweetheart
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 9:58 AM
Wednesday, February 1, 2006 1:37 AM
Thursday, February 2, 2006 6:10 AM
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