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GUENEVER

Extra Cargo -- Chapter 12: Children Underground
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

This is the first time I’ve used a little known movie as the chapter title, and my first venture out of pure fluff. But, once again I dreamed about it. Learned an important lesson; never watch depressing documentaries when you have PMS, had a fight with your husband, and drunk two glasses of wine. So this is again another story about grey goop. I found it haunting and felt that Caroline’s background in many ways mirrored that of the street children of Romania. I was sobbing by the end of Children Underground; but, then I do admit that when I’ve got PMS I’ll cry over a Hallmark advert. Oh yeah, and this is probably about an R rating give or take a little. Drug use is an adult theme?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1526    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

I always think starting at the beginning is good, so if you haven't been keeping up with me: First off, shame on you! Second: Chapter 1-4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, and Chapter 10 _______________________________________________

Kaylee was lost in thought as she was doing breakfast duty. She was the only crew member on board with the patience to make it through breakfast with Caroline. Simon’s mustache, it made him look really different; but, that was the point, to look really different. A lip ferret is what Zoë called Wash’s when he’d had one. Inara had said that since it wasn’t growing in too quickly she’d fill it out a little today. Extensions, hair extensions, fancy that. A man getting hair extensions on his face -- that was funny.

Breakfast was in the common room today, not the galley. Still had all of the holo-imager’s wiring diagrams spread over the table. The physical guts of the holo-imager were spread across the cargo bay. River and Caroline were kneeling at one of the small tables in the common room. Kaylee was sitting at the dining room table was reclining in a lounge chair, keeping one eye on her two charges and staring at wiring diagrams with the other. She and Wash had been poring over them for what seemed like days, and just looking at them made Kaylee’s eyes buggy. They were pretty sure they had it mostly figured out.

“I ain’t eatin’ that!”

“Caroline, that’s breakfast.” Kaylee rolled her eyes, reverie broken. “Everyone else is eatin’ it. Sides you don’t got much choice. What’s the Cap’n goin’ ta say?”

“Still ain’t eatin’ that.” Caroline looked at River who was pushing her spoon around in the bowl “It’s gross. Tastes like niu shi. An food taint that color. Ain’t natural, foods not grey, Aurolac is that color.”

“Niu shi” River added emphatically, her hair drooping over the bowl like a waterfall. “Bad, like lip ferrets.”

“Aurolac? Little one, what’s that?”

The stream of dark hair lifted as the grey goop slid off River’s silver spoon in a plop-plop motion, much like throwing a rock into a running river. “Aurolac is paint thinner. It is highly toxic and commonly used by the homeless as an inhaled drug. It provides a quick, low-cost high, makes you forget hunger and provides an escape. Side effects include destruction of the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Users have a tell tale silver marks on their faces and hands.”

“Huffing.” Caroline stuck her spoon in the bowl and pulled it back out watching the grey stuff slide off it in clumps. “River, it’s called huffing. I am not eating this niu shi. I’d rather go hungry.”

Kaylee realized that she’d had a sheltered life compared to most of the other females on Serenity. Zoë had seen her family slaughtered by the Alliance. River had been tortured by them, and Caroline… Caroline had lived in the worst section of Persephone, running from the Alliance, and living in abject poverty. Living in a society where it was accepted to inhale the fumes of industrial solvents. Inhaling to forget, to forget about what was happening and all that would never change. Hopelessness. “You ain’t never tried that Caroline have you?”

“Yuh, some.” Caroline stirred the protein porridge taking a bite. “Everyone at the docks did.”

“The docks.” Horrified Kaylee sat down hard in the nearest chair. “Why were you down there? It’s not safe there. What did your mother do?”

Caroline took another bite “We lived there, we worked there. Didn’t go to the other side, that’s where the Alliance was mostly. Two Snouts said I was the best pickpocket in all the docks. Ma found out I huffed, she beat the shit outta me. Alliance goons found us, cause I was cryin’ and threw us in the clink. We was hidin’ and they were doing a sweep to remove the un-sirables. That’s what ma said we were called, un-sirables.”

“Undesirables, mei-mei.” Kaylee gently said when Caroline looked over at her for confirmation on the word.

“They took me to this swai doctor who poked me with needles; he said that ma broke a couple of my ribs. She didn’t do no such thing. That was Two-Snouts, said I didn’t get ‘nough wallets the day ‘fore. Kicked me. Purple bellies put me in a home. I ran away, went back to the docks, found ma. They’d let her go.”

“Qing wa cao de liu mang.” Kaylee gasped. How could someone be so matter of fact about such horror?

“Ma said she didn’t want me doin’ no niu shi that would kill me. Said it would make me into her. Didn’t want me to be like her.” Caroline paused to take another bite, an unprompted bite and Kaylee’s eyes got wider. “Said I could be anything I wanted. Didn’t have to be no used up junky whore, I could be anything. Maybe even a Companion, like, ‘Nara, iffn I wanted.”

Kaylee just looked at River. She couldn’t look at Caroline; if she did she was going to start crying.

River was intently staring at her porridge. “Holes.” She looked up at Kaylee. “Post hole digger. Need a shovel to fill the holes in.”

Realizing she was going to start crying Kaylee bolted from the room leaving Caroline and River alone in the common area.

Caroline spun her spoon around wondering if the blob of porridge would fall off or hit the wall “what’s up with Kaylee?”

“Holes, she doesn’t have any. Innocence, the essence of purity. She is all lightness, we are shadows.”

“Uh, huh.” When River got weird, and started spoutin’ moon-brain stuff it was just best to say uh huh and ignore her.

“Any more breakfast left? I’m still hungry.”

“Ape-man, didn’t your three bowls fill you up enough?” River asked.

“Moon brained brat.”

Caroline looked up at Jayne with adoration in her face and stuck her tongue out at River. “He’s not an ape-man. He’s the biggest, strongest, bestest man in the ‘verse. Super Gorilla, like in the cartoons.”

Jayne tousled her short hair “Ain’t nothin’ like that mini-Mal. Whatcha doin’ today?” Jayne went into the galley grabbed a bowl, a spoon, and served himself some porridge.

“Hair, Miss ‘Nara’s dying our hair so we look like sisters.” Caroline put her now empty bowl in the sink and went back for Kaylee’s. At breakfast, mostly everyone had to wash their own dishes. Zoë had dish duty at dinner tonight that meant that Wash was going to cook. Wash was a pretty good cook, better then Zoë – everyone was a better a cook then Zoë. Her food was worse the Aurolac colored porridge! Well almost everyone was better, Jayne’s food wasn’t any better. He even managed to make real food, fresh food, taste bad.

“Colorin’ your hair?”

“Yep, I want it to be red. I like red hair.”

“Purple.”

“Normal people don’t have purple hair moon-brain girl.”

“Auburn. I’m dying their hair a very light auburn,” Inara said as she glided in on a cloud of silk. She looked at the two girls eating, thinking that River really looked like a young teen, not someone on the brink of woman-hood. “Caroline, your manners really are improving. Good work little one. Has anyone seen Kaylee? I’m having issues with one of the consoles in my shuttle.”

“She’s in a hole. Fell, didn’t know holes existed. Light, dark. Shadows. Monsters.”

Inara looked over at Jayne, and then Caroline.

“Don’t look at me, she’s gorram crazy. I don’t speak crazy.”

“Jayne.” Inara rolled her eyes at him.

Caroline looked up from washing River’s porridge bowl “Kaylee’s upset. Something about lightness and dark. Not sure. Can we watch cartoons when you do our hair? I like cartoons.”

“Yes, bao-bei. You two can watch cartoons on the cortex when I do your hair.” Caroline cheered, River mused, and Inara glided out looking for Kaylee.

“Where’s Kaylee, little one?” Mal asked as he wandered in with an empty coffee cup in his hand and looking at the wiring diagrams and notes scattered across the table.

“Whad idth thith” Jayne grumped with his mouth full “a gorram train station?”

“Everyone wants Kaylee. Ain’t no one wants to talk with us.” Caroline mumbled around a grudging mouth of porridge.

“Not ain’t.” River looked over at Caroline. “We’re all fancified now.” She said imitating Jayne’s demeanor and making apelike movements causing everyone in the room to laugh.

Caroline threw the towel at Jayne and also mimicked River “Super Gorilla, just like in the cartoons, you can wash your own bowl.”

“Dry-run from now on in. Couple of days, we should run into the blockade off Pythagoras. You all ready?” He looked at each crew member in turn. “Jayne?”

Jayne dropped the towel on the counter like it was on fire. He hated anything to do with kitchen duty. “Ready. I’m moon-brain’s and Mini-Mal’s bodyguard. Kaylee’s their nanny.”

“Ya ain’t gonna call them moon-brain and Mini-Mal neither.” He pointed at River and then at Caroline “They’re B'andra and Caroline Yang, ages fourteen and six. Second and third children of Tran and Abigail Yang, newly made fortune who wants his off-spring to see their roots.”

“Yep, B'andra and Caroline. Brat one and brat two. Who comes up with names like that B'andra?”

River looked at Jayne. “Utah. They are Utah names.

“Huh, what’s a Utah?”

She gave him the patented you are such a boob look that she usually saved for Simon “Not a thing ape-man, a place. Place on Earth-that-Was.”

She stood up pirouetted around the room “B’andra the beatific” leaving on a pointed toe and perfectly positioned fingers flying like a delicate little bird.

Mal shook his head. “Got it little one? You’re B’andra the beatific’s little sister.”

“Yep, I’m Caroline. Admanzah is the oldest, he’s the boy child. In school too old for the trip. Then B’andra, then me, Caroline. Danagail is three years old, and Ethan is still a baby. Momma’s baby boy. A, B, C, D, E. F might be next.”

“Zang shang liu core folk.” Jayne muttered putting his bowl in the sink with a crash and leaving. “I’ll be in my bunk.”

“I’m going to go watch Super Gorilla in ‘Nara’s shuttle, and get new hair. Pretty hair.”

Mal kissed Caroline on the top of her head grabbed a cup of coffee; it smelled like Zoë made it. She made the best coffee on Serenity. Couldn’t cook worth a damn though. “I like your hair just fine the way it is little one.”

Caroline looked up at Mal, “Can I have a sister? Someone my age to play with?”

Mal just about spit his coffee all over the galley, and the wiring diagrams. Caroline didn’t seem to find anything odd about the question, she just asked and skipped out. He watched her thumping out the hatch in her combat boots. It was a miracle she was wearing any shoes at all. He looked down at his own scuffed boots and went to find Kaylee and Simon and make sure they were ready. Actually it wasn’t Simon now, it was Dr. Merle Mengle, traveling doctor and surgeon and long time supporter of the Alliance. Mal wanted to know how the re-wiring was going; Wash and Kaylee had spent the entire day and a good part of the night staring at wiring diagrams and trying to figure out how to make the holo-imager only partially functional. Functional enough that it could do some things; but, not enough that it could be used for torture.

“Maybe I should polish my boots” Mal said more to himself then anyone else. Which was a good thing since no-one was there to hear him. It was a much simpler thought then other children, more children. He was worried about Zoë; she’d been walking around looking peaked since Simon had made his grand announcement at dinner. Maybe he should say something to Wash, they needed Zoë in top form for this job. Actually he needed Zoë in top condition for every job. Mal kept walking to the infirmary poked his head in, then the rest of him.

“Merle” thinking to himself that he must think of everyone in their new names: B’andra, Caroline, Merle, Jayne, Zoë, Wash, Shepard Book.

“Captain?”

“Are you ready?

Simon turned around showing the slight paunch that Kaylee had helped him make, and the mustache that was growing in. “I am. I am. Does this make me look fat?”

“Yep, that’s the point.” Mal sashayed around in a slow circle indicating for Simon to imitate him so that he could see Dr. Mengle from all sides. Simon awkwardly imitated Mal, trying to mimic the movements he’d seen his mother do whenever she’d wanted to show off a new piece of clothing. “Dr. Merle Mengle is ready and reporting for duty.” There was only a little sarcasm in Simon’s voice, Mal chose to ignore it.

“Look really right frumpy, Dr. Mengle, right frumpy.” Mal waved his hand in the air indicating for Simon to continue.

“I’m an itinerant physician, obstetrician, and surgeon. I have supported the Alliance since the beginning, and have the paperwork to prove it.” Simon paused for a moment “Who came up with these names anyway? Merle Mengle?”

“Just the names on the paperwork we got.”

“Do you know who Dr. Mengle was?”

“Nope, and I don’t rightly care to.”

“He…”

Mal raised his hand the air. “Before you start pontificating at me, I got stuff to do. Captain-y stuff. You’re worse then the preacher.”

“But, he was…” Before Simon err… Merle could get any further Mal left the infirmary. Captain-y stuff, Simon grumped to himself, the man was probably going to go and take a nap somewhere. It was kind of funny, he was playing himself, the old himself. The himself before he became a wanted fugitive.

Bao bei -- Precious/treasure Gorram – Damn Niu shi -- Cow dung Qin aide wo de ma – Dear mother of God Qing wa cao de liu mang -- Frog humping son of a bitch Swai – Handsome Zang shang liu – filthy rich (upper class)

Children Underground. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0264476/ Interview with Edet Belzberg. http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Belzberg_Edet_010919.html

Utah Baby Names http://www.wesclark.com/ubn/

COMMENTS

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 3:19 PM

COPILOT


Keep writing I love this series! Little Caroline is just so darling and kinda sad.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 3:58 AM

BOOKADDICT


Such a great chapter, I love the teasing in the kitchen and Kaylee's realisation of how lucky she is.

Can't wait to see how the caper turns out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 3:21 PM

ANONYMOUS


I've plowed through your whole story today, and I loved it. I'd love a little more of the other characters stories, like Simon, Kaylee and Inara, but you are doing a great job.

Sunday, March 19, 2006 3:22 PM

GUENEVER


Damn you Anonymous (24.23.168.67)! Making me think. Making this frigging story longer. Hmph. If you want to read the next chapter before I post it I always need another beta-reader.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 12:24 PM

ANONYMOUS


I'm impressed, read the whole story (thus far) in just one day. I'm really quite excited to see more very soon, it completely brightens the Serenity to have little Caroline on board.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 2:02 PM

ANONYMOUS


I am now going to have to read your story....I stumbled upon it today when I did a Google search on my name. Just thought that you would find it interesting that I am the original B'Andra from Utah, age 29. My dad was pretty creative. Utah baby names posted them after our names appeared in a local newpaper article.


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