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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal faces a worse fate than he ever imagined, Serenity has an image change and Cally adjusts to life back on Toulouse
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 4416 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.
The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind.
* * *
‘You don’t call me Sir, I work for a living’
Every Army NCO since the days of the Roman Legions
Temporary Independent Military Headquarters – Toulouse – 2522AD
Mal Reynolds was not in the best of moods and it showed in his expression and demeanour as he stomped up the ornate staircase. He’d only just got back from Higgins Moon and had been planning to go see Inara straight away but instead he’d been met by a message at the Spaceport to report immediately to headquarters.
The Corporal at the reception desk had steered him towards the top floor of the Governors Mansion which meant Senior Officers country and that in turn meant big trouble. Usually if anyone much over the rank of Captain wanted to talk to an NCO it meant they had a really crappy job they were going to foist on someone and in Mal’s experience that meant some poor Sergeant, likely himself, wading through the shit.
There was a library room at the end of the corridor that had led from the stairs, with a Militia Private standing guard on the door. The Militiaman had been expecting him and swung open the door whereupon Mal found himself surprised to see River looking over the books.
‘Nice to see you sweetheart’ Mal said warmly his mood brightening a bit. He really was a mean old man at times but he had deep feelings for his crew and in some ways thought of both River and Kaylee as being practically daughters. Not necessarily perfect daughters but he had a sort of fatherly attitude to them regardless.
River turned and looked at him with a slightly annoyed expression. ‘Are we forgetting something Soldier?’ she asked rhetorically.
Mal’s expression switched back from its temporary warmness to a stony visage. ‘Sorry Ma’am won’t happen again Ma’am’ he said and saluted.
River in her Naval Lieutenants uniform snapped back a salute and indicated he should continue on through the next set of doors before going back to looking over the books pulling one from the shelves and flipping it open.
Mal bit back the comment he was dying to make and marched on. He’d known that Major Brown from Intelligence had been trying to make River more military minded and professional in her new job and apparently he’d succeeded. She was it seemed now very much the epitome of the junior officer with a rod up her pigu, just like all the rest of them before they got to lead troops in heavy combat and discovered there was more to being a good leader of men than salutes and having some bits of metal on your collar. Mal was well aware of the necessity of an officer corps but that didn’t mean he had a huge amount of respect for them as a whole, he’d known far too many assholes with rank and tended to judge each one individually based on his personal observations.
The next set of doors must have been fitted with a sensor because they swung open themselves as he approached. On the other side there was a largish office with a table in the centre and three officers sitting behind it. They stopped talking among themselves as soon as the doors opened and looked at him.
Mal inwardly winced and stepped on through making sure to salute. One of the three was a Captain Rapp of the Toulouse Colonial Legion who he’d never met before but he recognised the other two as being River’s CO Major Brown and Major Thomas, or rather Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas now it seemed from the insignia on his uniform, from the 21st Lancers. The Lancers had been recruiting hard and anyhow you couldn’t have a mere Major as the head of even a severely under-strength Regiment. Mal supposed that when the 21st had all three Battalions operational and fully manned they’d bump the man up to full Colonel assuming he showed he could do the job.
‘Take a seat Sergeant Reynolds’ Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas ordered which Mal obeyed sitting across from the three of them trying to hold as neutral an expression as possible. The doors swung shut behind him with an audible thump. ‘Firstly I’d like to congratulate you on the Higgins Moon operation’ the ranking officer said, ‘We’ve already got engineering crews on the way to increase automation of clay extraction and ceramic production which will greatly benefit the war effort, not to mention a few hundred volunteers for the service.’
Okay, Mal thought, that’s the pat on the head for being a good boy, now here comes the clubbing.
‘There is however another subject that needs to be addressed before we find you another mission’ Major Brown said. ‘The problem Sergeant is one of military protocol if nothing else. Several officers have noted, and reported, an ongoing tendency by you, and certain of your people, to describe yourself as “Captain Reynolds”, which would be acceptable if you were still just the Ships Captain of a civilian transport, but given that you are currently an Army NCO we just cannot let that slide.’
Mal resisted the urge to roll his eyes and kept a level head. ‘I’m sorry Sir’ he replied. ‘It’s just kinda become a habit.’
The Colonial Legionnaire officer chuckled. ‘We know it sounds petty but you must know the confusion it could cause. If you were to describe yourself as Captain in the wrong circumstances you could easily find yourself with Army Lieutenants who did not know you following your orders in the chaos of battle instead of you following theirs.’
To be honest the latter scenario didn’t really sound too bad to Mal as it happened, there was many a time in the last war where his platoon would have been better off with him running it instead of some green LT, but he had the brains not to tell the officers that, they might take exception.
‘Look Sergeant all we need to know is can you guarantee not to let it happen again?’ Major Brown asked.
Mal considered lying but his damn inconvenient streak of personal honour and morality got in the way again and instead he shook his head. ‘No Sir I’m afraid all I can promise to do is to try, I rightly can’t give my word I won’t do it again inadvertently like.’
The three officers looked at each other. Eventually Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas frowned and looked back at Mal, ‘Sergeant you really have no idea how much it pains me to do this’ he said.
Mal inwardly flinched then by reflex caught the small box that the Lieutenant-Colonel threw across the desk at him. It had a hinged lid which he pulled open and looked inside.
Oh God it was worse than he could have possibly imagined.
‘Congratulations Captain Reynolds’ Sean Thomas said and reached out his hand. ‘By the way, you either accept the Commission or you resign from the Army so I don’t want to hear “I work for a living” because I’ve heard it all before’ he continued. ‘With your experience, not to mention your age, we decided skipping the usual Lieutenancy wasn’t that much of a problem.’
After a seconds hesitation Mal looked up from the brass Army Captains Bars in the box and shook the proffered hand whilst maintaining an extremely pained expression. Major Brown tipped his head back and started laughing. He’d nearly strained something trying to keep a straight face throughout.
The Colonial Legionnaire offered his own congratulations and then the use of a penknife so Mal could cut off his Sergeants stripes before leaving the room. Apparently he was then going to take the newly promoted Captain to the officers club because he really looked like he needed a drink.
Captain Mal Reynolds was still fixing his bars into place when he stepped back into the Library where River was waiting. She clicked her heels together and saluted Mal crisply before breaking out in a broad grin. As a junior grade Naval Lieutenant she was now outranked by him.
Mal fixed his Captains Bars to his collar and returned the salute with a glare. He might have known it was a set-up, the gorram girl loved to play tricks.
After several drinks in the officers club, the first few very uncomfortable in the unfamiliar environment, and he couldn’t help but think they were all looking at him like he shouldn’t be there, but getting more relaxed as his ratio of blood to alcohol started to favour the latter, Mal eventually returned to Serenity, where Zoe waited for him, having dismissed the rest of the Rangers for two days leave and not wanting to head off without him. River must have given her the heads up because instead of being surprised she just looked at his new collar decoration and couldn’t resist smirking as she gave him an extremely elaborate salute.
Mal grunted then smiling evilly he wiped the expression straight off her face by reaching into his pocket and handing her his Sergeants stripes.
Zoe looked at the stripes with approximately the same expression Mal had used when confronted with his Captains bars which made him feel a whole lot better. Misery loves company, and Company commanders love inflicting misery.
‘If there’s an opening for a Corporal’ Jayne called out from where he’d been watching. ‘I’m next in the chain of command.’
Mal looked at Jayne and considered the proposal for a few seconds.
‘I’d be more likely to promote the ships cat’ he said eventually. ‘Now make yourself useful and find a Taxi.’
The Hicks Household - Toulouse – 2522 AD
Structurally the house was exactly the same when they returned as when they’d left but the furniture and décor were revolting. Jennifer Hicks had opted to throw it all out and start again with something with a bit of taste.
The only reason their home was intact after fleeing Alliance “Justice” nearly four years earlier was that it had been seized by the Federal Authorities and given to an Alliance Bureaucrat as a reward for his own loyalty. The bureaucrat had lived there quite happily, although his new neighbours weren’t exactly friendly, until the day in 2522 when whilst cowering in his home from the Independent Invasion he had answered an ominous knock at the door and found himself facing a short scarred man in a beret who told him he had 24 hours to pack up and get the hell out.
The fact that the short scarred man was wearing a pistol on his belt was not so much the clincher on the deal as the fact that there was a thirty-five tonne hovertank parked out in the street behind him. Steven Hicks was a great believer in the “show-of-force” principle.
Jennifer and the children had arrived from Whitefall a week later and moved back in with an extremely emotional welcome home party thrown by her mother and sister. It was all quite overwhelming, especially to young John who could not really remember his relatives but he did relish all the attention and presents he got.
Redecorating the house was not exactly the most difficult adjustment after years away from home. Putting Claire-Marie, and especially Cally, back into school had not gone smoothly at all. They just weren’t used to other children any more and Cally insisted on making sure she was the “Alpha” at all times.
It’s often said that girls that age can be very cruel to outsiders, and they certainly form into little cliques to ostracise other groups, but the first trio who made a series of comments regarding Cally’s rather utilitarian choice of clothing discovered that whilst emotional hurt is easily inflicted, physical harm isn’t to be taken lightly either.
When told afterwards by the Principal that she needed to keep a hold on her temper Cally replied that she had done so which was why the three were merely slightly bruised rather than hospitalised. ‘I didn’t even draw blood’ she protested when put into a weeks’ suspension only a few days after restarting school.
After about six weeks Cally had found herself with a following and that improved things since she liked having her own “Pack”. Nobody would mess with anyone that Cally Hicks was associated with so several flocked to her, she was clearly vicious when provoked and seemed to know unarmed combat techniques which they just don’t teach you in karate class as a boy that attended one found out to his cost. A graduate of the Jayne Cobb dojo of close-in nastiness, and with a few things she’d picked up from Captain Reynolds and Zoe, Cally was one of the most dangerous teenage girls you’d meet outside of the Academy and she knew it. The fact she’d killed a man with a handgun at close range at ten years old was pretty much the icing on the cake.
Claire-Marie meanwhile was all sweetness and light but she annoyed the hell out of her Math teacher by correcting her every time she made a mistake. She had also developed a slight touch of agoraphobia from living on ships, and in domed colonies, a bit too long and found it hard to adjust to being outside sometimes. The only problem people had with John at his own school was that if you took your eyes off him for a few minutes he would be off exploring the schools heating and air-conditioning ducts.
Inara had moved in to the Hicks' spare bedroom. She hadn’t wanted to impose but Jennifer insisted upon it given that her former home, one of Serenity’s shuttles, was now very much co-opted by the military.
Little Erica, Zoe and Wash’s daughter, kept Jennifer very occupied. Inara was well-educated but dealing with babies wasn’t a subject taught with anything like as much detail during Companion Training as stopping yourself from having one as it were.
Strangely Erica seemed far less demanding than any of her own three children had been at the same age. Jennifer wondered if that was due to either inheriting Zoe’s calm demeanour and laconic nature, Wash’s fascination with huge extinct reptiles (Erica had a huge collection of plush dinosaur toys) or if it was simply due to the fact that her own children carried Steven’s DNA and that meant they were bound to be a pain in the ass. As it was with the war expected to calm down for a few months soon, as both sides consolidated their positions, Zoe was planning to stay on Toulouse to look after her own daughter again for a while.
Of course if you wanted to talk pains-in-the-ass you couldn’t come up with any better than Laura who was now imprisoned in the old Alliance Political Prison situated far to the North (the previous residents having been liberated). A Mag-Lev railway line meant it only took half an hour to get there and both Jennifer and Cally visited every Saturday, Jennifer from a sense of duty and Cally because she liked her. Book was there too and found himself prison chaplain to an increasing number of high-ranking Alliance POW’s arriving from across the Rim. He even knew a couple of them from his previous life in the Federal Military which at least gave him someone to talk to about a life he had been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to discuss with others.
‘Cally answer the door’ Jennifer called out from upstairs.
‘What did your last indentured servant die of?’ Cally called back, walking over to open the front door.
Zoe, Mal and Jayne were waiting outside with a taxi disappearing behind them. ‘Erica and Wash are outside in the garden’ Cally told Zoe. ‘There’s beer in the fridge’ she told Mal and Jayne ‘but Dad left a note if you drink it all before he gets here he’ll have you both doing a ten mile run tomorrow morning.’
Mal shook his head. ‘No he won’t’ he said and tapped his new Captain’s bars.
Cally smiled at Mal ‘They gave you a commission. Shiny’ she said. ‘But Dad got promoted to Major so he still outranks you so I guess the running thing still stands.’
‘Everyone’s getting promoted but me’ Jayne moaned.
Wash was indeed outside in the garden enjoying a long summer evening with his daughter laying on a blanket on the grass laughing as he made faces at her. He’d been with her for hours waiting for the others to arrive.
Kaylee and Simon were setting up the dishes on a long table. It was very much like the first time they’d been to the Hicks home years before except the gorram Alliance húndàn who’d been living here had dug up the strawberry bushes which had been at the bottom of the garden much to Kaylee’s disgust. She was still quietly seething about that.
Inara appeared carrying more dishes and Mal dashed over to help. She smiled sweetly at her helpful beau then smiled more broadly as she noticed his new rank insignia. ‘You’re an officer’ she said happily ‘that’s wonderful.’
Mal looked at her, she looked so pleased at him. ‘You’re a bit of a snob woman’ he observed.
Inara frowned back at him and sniffed the air. ‘You’ve been drinking’ she said.
‘Officers Club’ Mal replied. ‘I’ve gone down in the world.’
‘Nonsense’ Inara told him. ‘Now we just need to find you a good tailor for your new outfits. There’s an Officers Ball coming up that we simply must attend and you’ll look so handsome in a new Dress Uniform.’
Mal grimaced. Things were rapidly turning from bad to worse.
River arrived a few minutes later bringing a large bottle ‘liberated’ from the cellar of the Headquarters building. She had changed into civilian clothes and was also carrying a couple of books from the library which she thought Simon would like to read.
Not knowing for sure when her husband would be back Jennifer had everyone start dinner. It was a mighty fine spread as Jayne observed and he made sure to behave himself, Jennifer told him off if he showed poor table manners.
Eventually Steven turned up bringing Claire in tow. They’d been on a training exercise for the last week with the 21st, running the new recruits ragged teaching them how to be soldiers. They’d already showered back at their temporary camp and went straight to the table where Steven couldn’t help but observe tongue-in-cheek that you’d never be a “proper officer” if you were raised from the ranks.
Lieutenant Claire Hart pointed out that she’d been raised from the ranks herself to which Steve commented that she was helping prove his point because her elbows were on the table.
‘Much as I love this internecine class warfare’ Jennifer said ending the inevitable escalation. ‘I should point out that thanks to River we do have this particularly fine bottle of 2488 vintage cognac and I think a toast may be in order’ Jennifer watched Cally’s mouth open to speak. ‘No you can’t have any’ she told her eldest which resulted in a retaliatory glare.
‘You can have a glass of wine’ Steven told his daughter. ‘Cognac is a bit too strong.’
Cally passed her glass to Simon who was closest to the wine bottle and who poured her a small amount of Red before handing it back. The cognac meanwhile was passed around and the adults poured themselves a fair share, except for Jayne who poured himself a very unfair share. Claire-Marie and John had fruit juice.
‘So what do we toast to?’ Kaylee asked.
‘Family?’ Wash said looking at his wife and daughter, little Erica being perched on Zoe’s lap snoozing away as Zoe tenderly stroked her hair.
‘I’d say “victory” but that seems a little out of place’ Steven said.
‘Friendship?’ Simon suggested which resulted in Kaylee beaming at him.
‘Any objections to friendship?’ Jennifer asked.
‘Well Jayne can be mighty anti-social but…’ Wash said then grinned at the big mercenary to show he was kidding.
They toasted friendship.
Later that evening, Major Steven Hicks commented that it was a good job he took friendship seriously, because otherwise someone was going to pay big time for not leaving him the last beer forcing him to drink wine instead.
Toulouse Spaceport – Toulouse – 2522AD
Kaylee was in a state. She ran over and grabbed Mal’s arm and started dragging him towards the oversized hanger. ‘They’re interfering with Serenity Cap’n’ she said utterly distraught. ‘Stop ‘em.’
Mal let himself be pulled, there was no point fighting to break free, where the ship was concerned Kaylee had a will, not to mention a grip, of iron.
From the open hanger doors upwards of a dozen ground-crew were clambering over the ship with tools and welding gear. Spotting Mal’s arrival the crew chief trotted over and saluted. ‘Captain Reynolds Sir we got ahead of schedule so we started the refit this morning instead of tomorrow’ he said and looked at Kaylee. ‘Your ships mechanic has not been very helpful’ he said disapprovingly ‘she does not appear to respect authority.’
Mal looked his up and down. ‘She respects my authority and that’s good enough for me’ he replied. ‘Kaylee let the man do his job it’s his field of expertise not yours.’
Kayee sulked and watched the engineers. They were messing up Serenity’s beautiful lines with all that luh-suh.
The crew chief was carrying a clipboard. ‘The mountings for the rocket pods on the extenders will be ready within an hour. They don’t require much fitting and we just needed to run a cable through to the cockpit to fire them, they’ll be another button on the pilots control column plus a safety switch on the console’ he said. ‘They’re just straightforward unguided rockets, which just fire straight ahead, so your pilot needs to be pretty good to hit anything more than a couple of klicks away.’
‘My pilots’ the best’ Mal told him.
The crew-chief didn’t comment but in his experience but most every ships captain thought that, or at least said so. ‘The mounting for the chain gun under the cockpit takes a lot more work’ he said. ‘The turret is fitted with a multi-function camera alongside the barrel which sends an image to a helmet mounted sight which anyone in the cockpit can wear. You just turn your head and the gun turns and you can see what it’s pointed at projected on the eye-piece of the sight. It’s got zoom, and to use it, or fire for that matter, you’ve just got a little gadget in your hand connected to another wire.’
‘What’s the gun from?’ Mal asked.
‘It’s a twenty-millimetre recovered from a splashed Alliance ASREV. The Helmet sight is from the same bird with a few modifications. Ideally we’d put in a twenty-five or a thirty on something this big but we’d need heavier mountings to deal with the recoil -- and anyhow we haven’t got one.’
‘They come off again easily enough, the weaponry I mean?’ Mal asked looking at the obvious shape of the chain gun which was still resting on the back of a trailer next to Serenity in the hanger.
‘You can just take them off and on as you like but the position and weight of the chain gun mounting makes it a bit awkward if you haven’t got some scaffolding or such’ the crew chief told him. ‘The extender rocket pods are pretty heavy, even without a load of rockets, but a handful of men without equipment can fit them.’
Kaylee was upset. ‘Cap,n this is our home’ she said.
‘This is a warship now Kaylee. If Serenity is going to go into battle she needs teeth and claws and now she’s getting them’ he declared in a tone that indicated there wasn’t going to be any discussion here.
‘The modular weapons pods for the shuttle-bays won’t be ready for a few days I’m afraid Sir’ the crew chief continued ignoring the highly-strung mechanic. ‘But we can work on those separately, the electronic interface and power-couplings we can get fitted by tomorrow.’
‘Modular weapons pods?’ Zoe asked appearing in the hanger with a couple of rangers carrying ammunition crates in tow.
The crew chief nodded. ‘Best approach to arming a Firefly like this’ he said. ‘Plug in weapons systems the size and shape of a shuttle so they just slot right into the same hole. They’re big enough to carry a good choice of armaments, we’re working on a Particle Cannon with its own power-plant for one, and a heavy anti-ship missile battery for another, but the one we’re going to fit to most of these boats is a multi-role pod which carries a fifty-milimetre railgun, a small missile battery for air-to-air work and an ECM suite to increase the ships chances in a firefight.’
‘And they just slide right in place and they’re ready to go?’ Mal asked.
‘Yes Sir but they’ll weigh several tonnes each so you’ll either need a crane or you’ll have to fit them in freefall’ the chief replied. ‘They’ll come in port or starboard versions so you can mix and match as required by mission.’
‘Firefly Gunships’ Zoe said. ‘Well I suppose there’s thousands of them out there already so its easier than trying to start from scratch.’
The chief nodded. ‘Yours is only the third we’ve worked on’ he said, ‘but we’re already planning on hundreds at least, they’re just a good design from a manoeuvrability and adaptability standpoint. We can equip them with a decent punch without too much structural change, and they’ll haul fifty Infantry and their gear as far as you want them to go then land just about anywhere.’ The chief looked back at Serenity. ‘We call them “Lampyridae” by the way’ he said. ‘It just means Firefly in Latin but it differentiates the civilian boats from these militarised ones.’
‘You said this is the third you’ve worked on?’ Kaylee asked still not too happy at seeing her ship changed like this.
‘The other two are in the next hanger waiting for you to take command’ the chief told Mal. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me Sir I’ve got work to do’ he said and saluted before returning back to his men.
‘Take command?’ Zoe asked.
Mal nodded. ‘Got my orders this morning, Take command of 1st Ranger Company, 57th Airmobile Brigade’ he said. ‘We’re getting reinforced, I’m going to have myself 150 men and three Fire… Lampyridaes to play with.’
‘Airmobile?’ Zoe asked.
‘Overlanders just ain’t gonna cut it no more’ Mal replied. ‘It’s the dawn of the New Model Army, we hit hard and we hit fast. The rest of the Brigade will be formed up as we get the boats and the troops. For now we’re being attached to the Colonial Legion and we’re leaving in three weeks.’
Zoe took a breath. ‘Where are we heading Sir?’
Mal turned and looked at her. ‘Going “home”’ he replied levelly, ‘Hera.’
Sergeant Zoe Washburn looked at her commanding officer, turned to look at Serenity named for a valley on a world that was home in some ways if only because they'd never really left in their hearts, then turned back to her Captain.
‘Well it’s about ruttin time’ she said.
Sunday, March 26, 2006 11:03 AM
Sunday, March 26, 2006 1:03 PM
Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:08 PM
Monday, March 27, 2006 8:26 AM
Thursday, April 20, 2006 8:19 PM
Friday, May 12, 2006 2:01 AM
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