Per Ardua ad Astra [part 6]
Monday, June 26, 2006

Mal & co go to the male Companion house on Aberdeen. Jayne and Vera get a ride going that way as far as Deadwood (with a small wriggling complication thrown in )



Well, we're rarely ever sane, I drive you crazy and you do the same But your fire fills my soul and it warms me up Like no one knows I'm feeling the way you cross my mind And you save me in the nick of time I’m riding the highs I’m digging the lows 'Cause at least I feel alive I’ve never faced so many emotional days But my, life is good I'm feeling you I'm feeling you Wreckers – I'm feeling you

Jayne eased the shuttle into land at Sihnon. Both he and Vera were feeling weary. The journey back had taken a long time, because of necessary refuelling plus needing to eat and sleep. They clambered out of the shuttle; hot, sweaty and tired. Sheydra greeted them. She was looking tired, but contented, “Mal and Serenity left some time ago. They've gone to the male training house on Aberdeen. We couldn't raise them on a secure line, so everyone took the evidence and left over a week ago.” Vera groaned, “It'll take us best part of a month in the shuttle!” Sheydra ushered them inside, “And there's far too much black without planet-fall for a small shuttle to manage the trip. Come inside, rest, have a wash. There's a regular cargo transport due tomorrow. We'll try to negotiate to get you safe passage as far as Deadwood; that's well over half way.” Vera looked at Jayne, “Deadwood's in the next system to Newhall.” “Not plannin' to go see Ma and Pa. Got us important hero-type stuff to do!”


Serenity touched down not far from the male Companion house. This part of Aberdeen was wild tundra; on the cold side, with tiny clumps of flowers nestling in hollows, stiff grasses, no trees and not a lot else. They'd evidently built the house to be remote and difficult to get to overland. Mal looked at Hori and River who were flying the ship. “Try hailing them again.” Hori shrugged, “They've been silent so far.” He tried, without success. Mal went back to fetch the crew who were going planet-side. A crooked half smile curved his lips when he saw Inara. The last few days, her health had really improved. Simon had said it wouldn't be much longer before her system was free of the mind-altering and anti-ageing drugs, maybe even a few days. Simon had left Sheydra with extensive notes and as many painkillers as he could spare. And here they were, possibly about to do the whole damn thing again. Zoe was ready, gun in hand. Mal raised an eyebrow. “Just in case of danger, sir.” She was over the shock of being pregnant and now firmly in business-as-usual mode. The baby kicked and she stifled her reaction. “Mule prepped?” Zoe nodded, “Just like on Lilac.” Mal climbed aboard and helped Inara and Simon get in. Zoe got in all by herself. “We try for tact and diplomacy first, show the vidpod, see what happens. Simon, you'd better be ready to check that the male Companions are on the same mixture as the ladies.” Simon nodded, “If they have the equipment.”

They flew towards the house. It was built on completely different lines to the female one. Some stone, but mostly shiny metal and big reflective blue windows. The sort that could look out of but not into the building A few hardy climbing plants trailed up the corners of the house. As they touched down on the grass and got out into the crisp breeze, there was the 'reception committee'. Seven foot of heavily muscled male guard, holding a huge gun and with a club strapped to his back. Even big guys like Hori were dwarfed by him. Jayne might have had a go, very likely unsuccessfully, but it was patently clear the muscle was there for two big reasons; intimidation and protection of the Companions. “This is not good,” Mal muttered. “No access to the house.” That was the big guy, in firm and deep tones. Mal made an attempt, “We've got a vital message to deliver.” The giant held out one enormous hand, “Give it to me and be on your way.” Mal kept going, “The message is private and has to be delivered in person. It's why we were hired.” River watched them, “He hurts, here.” She pointed to her head, “They poked things into his brain, made him big and strong.” The giant pointed at him, “Just you. No-one else.” He looked at River very strangely. Mal made some secret military signs with one hand behind his back, then departed with the giant. Zoe nodded, “Back to Serenity. Captain's orders.”

Once they were seated around the galley table, Simon and Kaylee turned to Zoe. “So what was all that about?” “Captain told me to take you back here and give him half an hour. If he's not out again after that time, we go and get him.” Kaylee nodded, “I'll make sure the engine's ready for take off, smartish like.” Simon chipped in, “I'll go help her.” Everyone but River rolled their eyes as the two left. 'Getting the engine ready' often took in lustier diversions along the way. Zoe nodded at Hori, business-like again, “Got your guns ready?” “No worries!” River looked in the direction of the Companion house, “Captain's okay. He's talking to the guy in charge.” Zoe looked at her, “You tell me the second you think Mal isn't okay and we'll ignore the half hour rule, okay?”

Mal couldn't help feeling a might nervous showing the vidpod evidence to the Supervisor of this house with seven foot of muscle behind him. One hair out of line and the giant could probably floor him with a single blow from one of those huge fists. The Supervisor was around fifty, Chinese and suitably inscrutable. He watched the film without a flicker of emotion. At the end, he looked at the giant and snapped his fingers. Mal was left on his own with the Supervisor. “Tea?” A button was pressed on the desk. Within a few moments, an acolyte had brought a pot of jasmine tea and two tea bowls. The Supervisor poured in silence and handed a bowl to Mal, who sipped at the hot liquid politely. “So... Do you know for a fact that the young men here have the same mixture as the ladies?” Well, that was a thought that had recently crossed Mal's mind, “No, we don't. But since it's a possibility...” “Indeed. But there are fewer male Companions in the 'verse and they are hand-picked very carefully for their...appetites...and physical prowess. A female can keep going all night long to please a client. The same is less true of men.” “I've heard that there are drugs to help with that.” “Quite so; but not ideal for regular useage. You will have to accept my solemn word that anti-ageing and mind altering drugs are not part of a male Companion's injections. The fact that it is used on female Companions is monstrous, however. It goes completely against the basic stated ethic that this life-style is one of choice and aptitude. I personally pledge to inform all the students here and if the Sisters need our help, we will stand with them against this covert oppression. Come out on strike if need be!” Mal's lips curved into a smile, “Thank-you. I have a feeling you may have to stand by those words.” They shook hands.

Mal walked back to Serenity. He told everyone what had happened. Zoe spoke first, “Do you trust him, sir?” Mal nodded curtly, “I believe I do.” River was peeling an orange, “He's telling the students. They are angry.” Hori looked at her, “And will they help us?” “It will be a long road. They will stand at our backs. The giant will fall,” She looked up towards the sky and gasped in shock, “Company!” The intercom crackled into life, “Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. This is the Alliance.” Hori ran and checked the identity of the feed. He went pale, “It's the real ones this time, eh.” “Please stay right where you are. I am Commander Grayson.” River shivered, “They'll take me back; no, no, no...” “You are under arrest on charges of perverting the operations of the Companion houses and being in possession of secret material. Do not try to take off.” Hori's fingers flew over the console, “Wouldn't recommend it, eh. There's an entire fleet up there.” Mal walked over and deliberately kissed Inara, slowly and tenderly. If it was going to end here, he wanted his last memories to be filled with something precious. Then he looked at the crew. “Well, we slipped past them for a goodly time. I for one don't intend to go quietly. If it comes to us dying, and any of you wants to take the other way, I'll ask Simon to get you an overdose of something that's as painless as possible. But as far as I'm concerned, if I have to die, I'm dying with my boots on and my gun in my hand.” “Right behind you, sir.” Mal looked at Zoe; really looked, “And the child inside you?” Zoe gasped and then became rock-like again, “Not having her born in prison, sir.” Simon and Kaylee came back, having heard all of this on the intercom. Kaylee's face was suspiciously wet. Simon was white and trembling, “As much as it goes completely against my ethical training, I've got a spare vial of that smallpox if you want to use it on them.” Kayle winced but stood beside him, “I can rig the engines to make us explode.” Mal knew how much that would cost her. He nodded, “One step at a time. Be ready for take-off in case we get very lucky. Let's see if we can talk our way out of this first.”

Hori held up a cup of water and prayed, “May the calm be widespread, may the sea be as the smooth surface of the greenstone, and may the rays of sunshine forever dance along our pathway. If we're going to die or be separated, I'd like to share hongi with you guys first. No obligation, eh.” He came to Mal first, “Just sharing breath. Nose to nose, spirit to spirit.” Mal held himself stiffly, “Not a believer in God, Hori.” Hori smiled, “Believe in yourself, in your cause, in your ship. It's all the same to me, eh.” Mal smiled, “Shepherd Book said something similar once.” Hori's smile widened, “Truth is truth.” He gently touched his nose to Mal's then went around the rest of the crew, River last, “Well, you're going to be a mighty tohunga when you're done, River.” “I know,” she said brightly, “You and Simon are helping me.” Simon was going to ask what that meant when there was a banging on Serenity's main bay door. “Open up, please. We've a valid warrant to search your ship from top to bottom.” Mal pressed the switch on the console that would release the big door and then took the vidpod out of his pocket. “Will this harm me if I swallow it?” Simon felt his lips curve into a smile, “Might hurt going down, but I think your stomach acids will probably dissolve it.” “No nasty toxins?” Simon shook his head and Mal walked to the galley for a glass of water and promptly swallowed the evidence.

On the transport; Jayne and Vera; heading to Deadwood

The cargo ship was old, battered and slow, but a lot faster and safer than a small shuttle. Sheydra had helped Jayne and Vera negotiate passage for themselves and another fresh shuttle as far as Deadwood. They had a very basic double bunk and three square meals a day. The meals were basic, greasy and mostly made from reconstituted stuff of uncertain origin. The 'Green Giant' was delivering and picking up stuff from planet to planet using its own shuttles. Mostly stuff on the large side – machinery, bulk goods, livestock and some people who couldn't afford regular passenger transport. It was the antithesis of the luxury of the 'Chicago'. Jayne and Vera passed the time watching movies, running through the corridors to keep fit and having daily sessions of highly satisfactory sex. The 'Green Giant' finally achieved orbit around Deadwood. Unfortunately, so was an Alliance cruiser. It started firing on the 'Green Giant'.

Vera looked at Jayne, “Do you have any clue why...?” Jayne shrugged, “Let's make like Mal's pants and split!” As they grabbed their stuff and ran for the shuttle, the 'Green Giant' was beginning to come apart around them. They had to dodge falling bits of metal and steam – and other gases – spurting out of the bulwarks around them. The other passengers were equally terrified and running amok. As they neared the hanger a huge metal girder came crashing down onto a Chinese woman and baby ahead of them, pinning the woman across the stomach. Jayne leapt to try to help her, but she was wedged tight. Blood was seeping from under the girder; her lower limbs were twisted awkwardly and her general sudden pallor suggested very strongly that removing the girder wouldn't have done any good. The woman held the small baby up to Jayne. “Save my child, please?” Jayne looked at the baby as if it was a two-headed alien for a moment, then took it in his arms. Vera knelt near to the woman, “Any family?” The lady shook her head, “His name is Ping Choi. Just find him somewhere safe, please.” Vera touched the woman's arm, “We will.” “His bag's over there. Milk, diapers.” Vera nodded and picked it up. She held the woman's hand. The unknown woman gave a last juddering sigh and died. “Damn.” Vera wiped a tear from her eye. “Let's get the heck outta here.” Jayne's tone was suspiciously wobbly, but Vera decided not to reveal that she knew he'd been touched as well. They ran to the hanger. Jayne and Vera plus baby got into their shuttle and flew down into the atmosphere of Deadwood.

“D'you know Deadwood?” Vera shook her head, “Not so much, no. Been through the system on the way to other places, that's about it.” Jayne struggled with the controls, helped by Vera, who had one hand full of wriggling baby, “It's the place I came to be bodyguard of that rich kid I told ya about. He came to Newhall for fancy schooling by the monks and saw me in a number of fist fights about that time. Guys see I'm big and might be eyeing up their woman, they tends to get ornery.” He managed a smile, “Heck I was just fifteen and big for my age – all over – they had reason.” Vera smiled, “I expect you were giving some of those women a look as well.” Jayne grinned and shrugged, “I was full of ragin' hormones and still a virgin at the time. Not for long though! The mother of the guy who hired me relieved me of that problem pretty smartish!” “I don't blame her! So where's the best place for finding transport to Aberdeen?” Jayne chuckled, “We're makin' for it right now. 'S'called Hickock after Wild Bill on Earth-that-was. Pretty much buy or sell anything there, good space port.”

They were on a reasonable approach vector when a big missile came whining past them. “What in holy hell was that?” Vera struggled with the controls. Jayne gritted his teeth. The shuttle was complaining mightily at the harsh treatment, “Alliance bomb. Big ruttin' monster. Wuh de mah!” The bomb had impacted with deadly accuracy right on Hickock and it was suddenly transformed into a ball of flame, “What the go se bastards do that for?” “Might have been after us; came damn close.” “Gotta beach this baby. Try to do it in the sea, it's a might softer that way. After that, it's a three day walk northwards to Calamity. Turnin' us that-aways...” “Right with you!”

The shuttle made a rather rocky glide downwards and crashed deep into the sea. Jayne and Vera kept steering and persuaded the engines to slow and the shuttle to beach with a huge thud in the sand of a bay somewhere north of Hickock. Jayne and Vera grabbed their stuff and the baby and got out as quickly as they could. The beach was backed by unbroken pine forest as far as the eye could see in all directions. If it wasn't for the shuttle and the explosion, they could be walking on a pristine world. Jayne pointed north, “Nothing we can do for the good folks of Hickock. That bomb will have burned every damn thing.” Vera was pale, “I know.” “How's junior?” Vera looked at the baby, “Whimpering, but okay.” Jayne managed a smile, “Got us mebbe half a day closer to Calamity.” Vera nodded, “Just in case it was us they were after, let's walk in the sea; it'll cover our tracks.” “Till we get to the mountains. I know an old goatherd track over them with an abandoned hut near one of the few passes.”

In the next bay along, the baby's whimpering turned insistent. Happily, there was a large rock near the waterline, so Vera sat on that and got out one of the bottles of formula. The baby latched onto it and drained it very quickly. Vera looked down, “Someone was hungry!” Jayne looked at Vera holding the child. She was a little awkward, obviously not much experience with babies, but it looked surprisingly domestic. Jayne reckoned she'd do okay with one of her own some day, but he didn't like how that made him feel. The baby gave a huge burp and then promptly filled his diaper. Vera sighed and looked up at Jayne, “I expect you're going to refuse, but I could really use a hand with this part. Never done it before.” Jayne sat beside her and fetched out a clean diaper, “Been a long while, Vera.” She looked at him in surprise and his mouth curved slightly, “I was six when Allison came along and nearly eight when Matty was born. Ma was sick so I had to help some,” he made a face, “But that go se smell; never got over that...” They managed to remove the dirty diaper then washed little Ping's nethers in the sea. He chuckled, seeming to enjoy that part. The new diaper in place, they used one of the disposal bags his mother had provided and carried the smelly evidence with them. Vera wrapped Ping in a spare tee shirt of hers and managed to fix a carrying sling out of a sarong, so Ping could be carried on one hip. “He's sitting up well.” Jayne nodded, “'Bout eight months, I'd guess.” And so they walked on, Jayne keeping an eye out for animals which might serve as lunch.

Jayne managed to bag a small deer and they found a secluded glade not far into the forest to play cook-out. They barbecued small pieces of one of the legs on twigs for speed. The baby had enough teeth to be interested in trying some as well. Most of a leg of fresh venison later, they set off again, with the carcass slung around Jayne's neck. The day wore on, and they didn't make it up the mountain until it was growing dark. They finally reached the hut and almost fell inside. Jayne made a fire in the grate on one wall whilst Vera tended to the baby. Another huge feed and diaper change later, Ping was a lot happier. Jayne found a stream outside and brought in water for boiling. The hut had been fitted out some time ago for life in the wild; basic cooking pots and utensils, a pile of rather moth-eaten blankets in one corner, fire-lighting stuff and a big pile of logs near the grate and chimney. Some tins on a shelf yielded rather old stock cubes, tomatoes, beans and some dried herbs. While one pot boiled water, a second was used for a fairly basic stew with more of the deer. They'd have to wait till morning for that to be ready, so another leg was barbecued on skewers again. When everyone was fed and watered, Jayne and Vera made a makeshift bed near the fire. One of the drawers from a battered old dresser served as a cot. Vera placed the cot plus baby near enough to the fire to keep him warm. She and Jayne both knew that one of the first rules of getting warm was sharing body heat, so they stripped off naked and got under the covers together.

Ping woke a couple of times in the night and Vera dealt with his needs both times. On the third occasion, near dawn, she was flat out, fast asleep. Jayne saw the dark circles under her eyes and eased himself out of bed and took his turn. He carried Ping back to bed to get him warm again. Ping's hand curled tightly around Jayne's finger. Jayne gave the stew a poke. It would be ready soon from simmering away slowly all night. He lay down, with Ping holding tight to that finger. He looked down, remembering Allison and Matty like this. Jayne looked across to Vera. He knew that this was as close as he was probably going to get to having a family of his own. A merc who travelled from pillar to post earning his money in doubtful, violent and highly illegal ways wasn't the sort a woman might bring home as husband material. And he'd known for a long time that he wasn't a 'catch' in other ways. Minimal schooling - except in the school of life – a dislike of conformity and what might pass as normality, a resistance to being tied down to any one woman or planet. Well, there was the silk scarves option of tying down, he damn well enjoyed that. And there was a final big reason that he'd never shared with any woman he'd sexed up, not even Vera. Wasn't about to go spilling that right now, if ever. He'd enjoy her as long as she was around, then wave her farewell when she finally decided to settle on a guy who could give her stuff like a house and maybe kids. Wasn't going to think about that now. Just lie down and pretend for a moment or two that this sort of domesticity could be permanent. When Ping finally drifted into deep sleep, Jayne placed him tenderly in his cot bed.

Jayne drifted up from a hot, explicit dream where a gorgeous naked woman was undulating against him, begging him to take her now, dammit. He found his arms pretty full of naked Vera. Check one for the gorgeous naked woman part. Her leg was slung high over him and dammit, if she wasn't wet and ready and sliding against him in a way that no man could resist. Second check for the wanting him right now. Third check, he was as hard as a rock. Vera was still asleep, though. Jayne grinned. He'd wake her up good and proper. He flexed his hips and bit back a groan of pleasure as he slid home inch by inch inside her. As he made the final thrust and seated himself all the way inside her, Vera's eyes fluttered open. He grinned at her, “Mornin' darlin'!” She grinned back, “What a wonderful way to wake up! You can do that more often!” He bent to nuzzle her neck, “Wake you up all the way.” “Ohh, yes please!” Jayne chuckled and gave her a good, intense and vigorous wake-up call.

Jayn, Vera and little Ping came down into Calamity two days later. As they looked at the town from the slope, it was clear that it was swarming with Alliance. They waited until full dark and managed to break into a reasonably sized ship on the outskirts of Calamity. They checked it was fully fuelled up and then took off without further delay and set course for Aberdeen.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006 7:49 AM


Oh no, its' the gorram Alliance! Can't wait to see what happens next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 6:50 PM


Oh ho...things just got interesting for Jayne and Vera;)

And the male Companions are gonna go to war, huh? Be an interesting thing to see, must admit:)



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