Labyrinth [Part 2]
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The crew arrive at Boros & Ping Han's place. Guided tour; festival. Jayne gets his hands full! River asks Vera some very personal questions [G].


PART TWO * Sounds like someone called my name... Then, you see, I'm here... Strange it is to find myself in this noble place... Remember our name, it comes from inside, stronger than all we are sons of thunder!

Hidden in the shade we creep, deadly as a silent blade We are wherever (everywhere you go) disguised in the night... Remember our name, it comes from inside, stronger than all we are sons of thunder! * Sons of Thunder – Labyrinth * * [Some of the Bunkmates on the Prospero boards were recently discussing wrestling and oil wrestling in particular, involving at least Jayne. So, for those of you who would like to visualise Jayne in leather pants, covered in oil and wrestling; this one's for you!] * Jayne frowned and muttered, “Don't trust the ruttin' Sensei.” Vera gently touched the fingers of his hand with hers, “Not keen on 'em myself either. But these guys aren't White Triad.” “Sure about that? Coz I got me a gun or two full of bullets for 'em.” “If they turn out the same as the nasty Ariel lot, I'm right with you, Jayne.” Mal stepped forward as another man joined the two Sensei. He was somewhere in his forties, Chinese and wearing a blue Chinese style suit. His English was excellent and barely accented. “Ping Han's compliments. I'm Jiang Jin, Mister Han's estate manager. As it's late, I've been asked to escort you to your suites in his house. I will give you a tour of the estate personally in the morning. Breakfast will be delivered to your bedrooms. Please, follow me...” So they did. Mal locked up Serenity and they fell into line behind Jiang Jin and the two Sensei. A broad walkway with something like gravel or small stones on it led towards the big house. Along the walkway were Chinese lanterns, with little hats over the top to direct the light downwards onto the path. Kaylee commented, “That's neat.” “Mister Han likes stargazing,” Jiang explained, “This way the light doesn't get in the way of the night sky.” * The night sky was certainly soft and velvet above them and peppered with stars. The spectacular Amoeba nebula could clearly be seen, all orange and purple, along with many of the stars in the 'verse. The house ahead was built on roughly Georgian lines, even down to real stone and a tiled roof. Near the roof, big picture windows gave out onto individual solid stone terraces. It was just possible to make out folded parasols on each one. The front door stood open, with yellow light spilling out from it onto the wide path outside. Jiang Jin led them inside. Mal, Zoe, Jayne and Vera were still slightly on the alert to things like traps. They went up the wide staircase to the rooms below the roof. * Jiang Jin opened the first door, “Single suite for Miss River Tam.” River flipped on the light and smiled, “Safe here!” The room was decorated in tasteful yellow and lemon shades and the bed had several cylindrical cushions along with the pillows. Mal relaxed a little bit at River's commendation. He and Inara got a room of browns and reds. Hori got mauve and purple shades. Simon and Kaylee had pinks and reds and the cushions were frillier. Zoe got a single brown and cream room with a cot for Sarah. Last of all, Jiang showed Jayne and Vera into a room decorated in shades of green. “As it's late, I'll leave you to settle in and get some sleep. You've had a long flight here. Sleep well, and I'll see you all in the morning.” * Jayne and Vera both checked the suite over once he'd left. The outside terrace had a round wooden table and two chairs under the parasol. There was a fair sized wardrobe and a small but well supplied bathroom with a shower in it. Vera smiled, “Well, it's not as swanky as the 'Chicago' but it'll do.” “Hmmm.” Jayne was still checking all the drawers and cupboards. “Shall we keep a gun each under the pillow, firmly set on 'safety'?” “Mebbe not under the pillows, darlin', but nearby. Plannin' on gettin' inventive with those pillows afore long! I want to be armed in a heartbeat, though.” * Vera nodded and dumped her bag, stripping off her clothes down to her underwear. She grabbed her washbag and cleaned her teeth and brushed out her long hair. She walked back towards the bed, drawing the curtains and flipping on the bedside light before picking up her gun, dropping her undies on the floor and climbing on to the bed. She put the gun on the bedside shelf. She smiled, “Come to bed?” Jayne grinned, “Hell, yeah!” He stripped off his own clothes, brushed his teeth and joined her, hanging the other deadly Vera from the bedpost near his head, “We'll try out the springs in this bed in the mornin'!” Vera flipped off the light and snuggled up as they pulled the covers over themselves. Jayne threw out all the cushions and Vera used his chest a pillow. * Mal was pacing to and fro, shirtless and with his suspenders dangling. Inara sighed, “Come to bed, Mal.” “I heard what River said, but I still feel uneasy, Inara.” She shrugged elegantly, “Can the uneasiness wait until morning?” Mal was still thinking, “Jayne and Vera will have loaded guns near them, so will Zoe and Hori. I can keep my pistol on the bedside shelf.” “I've got my bow, Mal.” He smiled slightly, “I'd noticed, love.” He nodded, having made his decision, “I think we're prepared for surprises.” He checked the door onto the terrace, finished shutting the curtains and dumped his suspenders on the floor and pistol on the shelf. He got into bed still wearing his pants. He saw the look on Inara's face and shrugged, smiling, “Can't help being an old soldier. Be ready to leap out of bed and shoot at stuff or run at a moment's notice. Ingrained habit; be likely to stay with me all my life.” “You could do both of those things naked, darling.” Mal's smile widened, “I could and I have. Remember the desert where Saffron left me! But in a mixed platoon of men and women, seeing the opposite sex naked can get fair distractin'.” Inara beamed at him, “I completely understand. It's just that it'd be nice to lie naked with you sometimes.” “I'll think about that, Inara. In the meantime, there's only my pants between us both bein' naked.” Inara curled up to him, “And I can certainly live with that.” * Jayne woke up just before dawn. The local birds were getting excited about the sun rising and he could hear the cheeping and singing even through the closed doors onto the verandah. Jayne vaguely remembered that Boros had two suns and wondered which one was rising. Vera was snoring softly on his chest, hand over his heart. He lifted a strand of her hair and ran it though his fingers. She murmured and snuggled closer. He put his free hand over hers and Vera's eyes fluttered open. “Mmm, Jayne.” He eased her closer as she came fully into his arms, “Time to test those bedsprings, Vera!” Vera chuckled, “And 'good morning' to you, too!” * Kaylee started, “I think I felt something!” Simon put his hand on her stomach, “Yes; could be one or both of our babies in there. It's about time for you to start feeling them move, bao bei.” He got out his stethoscope and listened, “Mmm. Yes, gentle noises; we'll hear the heartbeats clearly soon.” He let Kaylee have a listen. “Sounds a bit like my stomach gurgling, but lower down.” “Indeed. They're very tiny still, but probably having a grand time dancing around in your amniotic fluid. If we can get to Serenity's on board ultrasound, we might even be able to see them.” Kaylee's eyes were wide and round, “Really?” Simon smiled, nodding, “And maybe I'll be able to tell if we're expecting identical or fraternal twins.” Kaylee grinned, “Shiny!” * Breakfast arrived for everyone a little later, in the form of a jug of orange juice, piles of croissants and pancakes with jam or syrup and a fruit basket. Once that had been digested and everyone had washed and dressed, they drifted down to the huge entrance lobby. Jiang Jing joined them shortly afterwards. “Everyone slept well? Good. I'll show you around. Breakfast will be delivered to your room daily. If you want anything different or extra, please let me know.” Jayne put in his bid, “Coffee would be good.” Jiang nodded, “Caffeinated?” “Hell, yeah!” “Anyone else?” Kaylee put up her hand, “Could I have some tea? I'm expecting twins and it would help settle my stomach.” “Green tea with peppermint?” Kaylee nodded enthusiastically. Zoe stepped forward, “Maybe a rusk or two, or porridge for Sarah.” Jiang smiled at the baby, “Of course. It's been a while since master Ping was that young, but we remember. Now, then, follow me...” * He led them through a door at the foot of the stairs, “We have a complete health complex here for everyone in the house. Exercise room, swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room. Through those windows you can see the tennis court and the croquet lawn. If you want a snack at other than mealtimes or you want a packed lunch, you have a phone in your rooms, or you can come down to this kitchen here on the left and make something yourself. Please don't use the main kitchen through there; it's always a hive of activity for us and other people on the island. We even sell produce from the estate over on the mainland. Out through the main door or this door here you can find bicycles. The roads on the island are dedicated to walking or bicycles mainly; there are very few cars, so it's safe. The parkland to the front goes right to the sea and it's fine to bathe at the beach you can see in the near distance. Just don't expose too much flesh if *both suns are up. The combined rays will turn you brown very fast or give you sunburn. A modest walk or quicker bike ride away to south will bring you to the port and all the local facilities. We have boat and shuttle links to the mainland if you want to go further. Around to the back of the house you can see our kitchen gardens and beyond the wall are paths leading to walks in the hills and forests.” * Mal nodded, using a walking cane with his plastered leg, “Any wild animals?” Jiang shook his head, “Nothing dangerous; maybe the odd grass snake. Mister Ping Han's grandfather supervised the whole terraforming of this island and kept dangerous animals off it. You'll find brambles, nettles and poison ivy which have got themselves here under their own steam in the woods; as long as you steer clear of those, you'll be fine.” Jayne nodded, “Leaves of three, let them be.” When several of the crew looked at him, he shrugged, “Got poison ivy on Newhall. Had ta steer clear of it when I was huntin' a ways back.” Jiang led them out onto the grass in front of the mansion, “Boat takes about thirty minutes to the mainland. If you want to fly, you can take your own Firefly class ship or we have large mule-type transports from the port that go over regularly as soon as enough people gather to use one. Flight's a few minutes.” Mal enquired, “What's over there?” “Pretty big lumber town and textile mill with a harbour, lots of pine forest with a rail road going into it for the timber. They'll take passengers if you don't mind riding in the open and returning perched on a pile of logs. The local mainland's covered with very long marked hikes and bicycle rides. Couple of lakes and volcanoes to the south. Hunting, fishing, skiing in the Winter. Boros is fairly quiet, but next week, we have carnival, I hope you'll take the time to see that.” Kaylee's eyes were shining, “Sounds jing-tsai! Is there a fair or something?” Jiang nodded, “Yes; over on the mainland, near Zoltan – that's the name of the town. Rides, entertainment, games of skill and luck.” “Won me a big green stuffed turtle in one of 'em once,” Jayne put in. “Also lots of fireworks nightly, dancing, a honey hog roast every night, fabric and lace for sale, lots of off-world goods, cheap beer and a chance for us to trade our stuff with the rest of the 'verse. There's a big parade with lots of wine and ale at the end where everyone who's not incapacitated is expected to come along and take part in fancy dress. The main theme this year is pirates. You can interpret that as freely as you like.” Jayne grinned, “Food and cheap beer? I'm in!” “We have our own hog roast over here on the last night and Mister Ping Han will be expecting you to be his guests at the gold ticket event of the season; the pirate masked ball.” * The first week passed in a blur of swimming, exercise and generally settling in. Vera, Kaylee, Zoe, River and Inara found a beauty parlour in town and went for a number of complimentary treatments, since Ping Han was picking up the bill. Everyone went over to the mainland to lay in costume supplies. The shops were full of just about everything covered in skulls and crossbones in every shade of the rainbow. Mal even found a brown patterned sleeve to turn his plaster into a 'wooden leg'. Then he and Inara hired a small two person mule to see the fair, since his leg wasn't good for walking too far just yet. Jayne, Vera, Hori and River wandered through the stalls together. Jayne had managed to obtain roast pork on skewers, probably by devious means, and they were all happily munching an extended hors d'oevre before the main honey hog roast at Ping Han's place later. There were several large marquees at one end of the fair, advertising juggling, acrobatics and similar attractions. One marquee was much smaller than the others. * Jayne gestured with his skewer, “Dwarf bearded lady? I ain't seen me one of them!” Vera put her free hand on his arm, “Chances are she's a fake, Jayne.” He turned a rather predatory smile her way, “Then the dwarf will get an ass-kickin'! Ain't had me a good fight in *ages.” “Thought you didn't hit women; at least not very often.” “Might not be a real woman, then it's fair game!” Hori stepped in, “Let's go see first, eh.” River stared at the tent as though it was transparent, “Real dwarf, real beard, real lady.” Jayne looked as if someone had stolen his teddy bear, “Darn, no fightin'!” Hori pointed to the right, “Oil wrestling contest over in that marquee.” Jayne grinned, “Dwarf first, then wrestling! Ain't been beaten too many times! Might win me a prize or summat.” Vera sighed, realising Jayne was set on his course of action “Please try not to damage anything vital, Jayne.” He grinned at her, “Don't you fret! I'll be wantin' to 'wrestle' with you later!” * So they went into the dwarf's tent. There was just enough room for all of them, plus a chair and table for the dwarf. There was a fairly large 'puff' of dry ice or something similar and the dwarf appeared through it. River was correct, she was clearly female and bearded. “Greetings, travellers. Welcome. My name is Hippolyta.” She sat down on her chair with a flourish, “Let me see your hands; I can tell fortunes.” Hori proffered his large brown hand first, “Ah; warrior.” Hippolyta looked into his face, “And his lady. Your loss was also your gain.” Hori's eyebrows flicked, “Something like that.” Hippolyta turned to River, “Wounded lady. Going to be a priest one day, a psychic healer. You will storm the castle and free your prince.” “I know, but not yet.” Vera was next, “Long life, with him,” indicating Jayne, “Raising children not your own. Danger, peril, hot passion, excitement.” Vera chuckled, “Sounds about right!” “And a labyrinth-maze. The pirate king's fortune last of all. Yes; the same danger ahead. A *very active sex life.” “Hell, yeah!” Hippolyta chuckled, “I hadn't finished! With your lady, your wife. Right until Spirit takes you both at a good age, you will find it almost impossible to keep your hands off each other. You were lovers before and you'll be lovers again when the wheel turns. Getting into scrapes, getting out again. Those same adopted children; one's a niece or nephew of yours. The labyrinth again. Becoming a folk hero in the end, like Robin Hood.” “I ain't a hero! The mudders had the truth all sideways.” “You'll go back to them. The offer of being real lasting help to the mudders will be given you. It's up to you whether you take it.” Hippolyta laid out five wooden cups, “Now, tea.” She poured some hot fruit concoction into them, “Drink.” Jayne sniffed his, “If this is drugged...” Hippolyta fixed him with a look, “You can easily kill me later. But I promise you it isn't; just rosehip and redcurrant. It's part of the hospitality.” So they drank, handed over some gold pieces each and left. * “Labyrinth?” Jayne was puzzling over that part. Vera shrugged, “She also said 'maze'. The former has one path leading to the centre and out again; the latter has many paths and blind alleys.” “Can't think of any place in the 'verse that has either one, eh.” River was looking at the sky, “Yes; there is. Underground maze, made long ago by the sky-gods. Dangerous, dark. Holding many secrets and perils. Great treasure too. Some parts used by humans for scary things. Hands of blue. Don't like, not nice...” Jayne frowned, “Sounds most like the supposed Alliance or Blue Sun facility buried under the mountains on Whitefall. Thought that was just a rumour.” “Well, maybe it's more than just rumour, Jayne.” Jayne sighed, “Think I know where Mal will be heading us next. Hope Patience has moved on, coz there's one woman I *will hit or kill!” * They walked towards the wrestling marquee. It was covered in red and green stripes, with a huddle of people near the entrance. A barker was standing on a tea chest. He was about fifty, with a barrel chest and wearing a dark tail suit and a top hat, both of which had seen better days. “Come on, gents! Any of you likely lads goes three rounds with the Mighty Crusher will get this bag of gold!” He tossed the bag gently in his hand, the coins jingling. Jayne muttered, “Bet *they ain't real!” The barker noticed Hori,“You're a big lad!” Hori pointed to his missing eye, “Still getting used to this, eh.” The barker turned to Jayne, “And you?” Jayne strode forward, “Lemme see that coin o' yours!” He took the proffered bag and examined the contents, biting several coin for good measure, “I'm in if I can get a look-see at that Crusher of yours first; but switch this bag fer another and I'll have your ruttin' go se head, dong ma?” “I'd lose my carnival licence if I played that trick.” * So Vera, Hori and River followed Jayne and the barker into the marquee. A small crowd followed them. The barker broadcast an announcement that a bout was likely to be happening soon. The marquee filled up behind them. Jayne and Vera noticed the rest of the crew, drawn by mention of Jayne's name over the loudspeakers. The barker bent to him over the ropes. “Don't worry mate; if you don't go for it, one of these other lads will. We'll get a wrestling bout today.” Hori nodded at Jayne and moved to the side of the ropes to watch for any funny business. The barker announced the Crusher and out he came. Six foot six of over-muscled blonde Viking. He was wearing a pair of supple black leather pants and nothing else. Jayne narrowed his eyes and watched as the big lug paraded around the ring. “Hmm,” Vera murmured, “He's favouring his left leg very slightly.” “I'd noticed, mi mei gui. Bit over-pumped too; reckon he's been takin' summat naughty to build muscles.” “Can you take him?” Jayne grinned at her, “Watch me!” * River turned to Vera as Jayne agreed to wrestle the Crusher and moved off, “Honey Rose Flower?” Vera smiled at the smaller woman, “It's what he calls me some of the time. His pet name for me.” “I've heard you call him wan nao and when I catch the sex coming from your bunks I sometimes 'hear' you call him man diao in private. Is it true?” Vera chuckled a bit, “Not sure you should be knowing such things, River.” River held her hands apart by a good number of inches, “Reckon about this big?” Vera looked, “Merciful Buddha! River...!!! Well, if you insist, about here...” She widened the gap. River's eyes were wide, “And it fits?” Vera coughed and laughed at the same time, “Yes!! But remember I wasn't even close to being a virgin when we met. I'd had lots of practice aforehand, with other...big...guys. And I'm a tall woman with what my mother calls big bones, I can take it. Plus Jayne and I have lots of experience in making it really good for our lovers.” “I guess I'd need a guy with a smaller diao to start with.” “Maybe, or one who could rouse you expertly and love you gently the first few times. I know you're old enough, but you've been through a lot, River. Let Simon and Hori help you heal as fully as possible first.” “I'd like a boyfriend first. Just kissing and holding hands.” “Good place to start.” Vera mentally crossed her fingers that River wouldn't be tempted to take it further. Simon would have kittens. * The barker helped Jayne onto the stage and led him behind the scenes. In very short order, Jayne was wearing a pair of those black leather pants, same as the Crusher. The barker led him back. “Okay, guys; we fight clean here. No biting, gouging, deliberate scratching or going for the nuts. Plain, clean wrestling moves, plus you can punch and kick to the torso and the legs. Only variant here is you do it covered in oil.” The barker handed a medium sized bucket of oil to the Crusher first. The man made a great show of posing and pouring it all over himself, including over his pants, whilst flexing his muscles for the benefit of the audience. It was a routine practised to the point of boredom. Jayne watched carefully, noting slight weaknesses here and there. Crusher had evidently been doing this gig for some years and it was starting to show itself in his body. The barker handed another bucket to Jayne. He grinned and started by slowly pouring a good deal of the contents over his head, keeping his eyes shut. His nose picked up on olive oil as he moved to coat his chest. Even from this distance he could sense Vera enjoying the visuals. He slicked his back and arms, making the exposure of musculature look much more accidental. He heard a good few women and a couple of men gasp appreciatively. He coated the pants, then poured the last handful of oil down inside the front and let his hand follow for a few inches; just enough to provide a final visual tease. As he strode to his corner, he could feel quite a number of pairs of eyes burning at him with a heady mixture of admiration and lust. He grinned at Vera and beckoned her closer as he walked to his corner. “Like the show so far?!” “Like to see you repeat that in private and get a whole lot naughtier!” He snatched a brief, hard kiss and gestured at Vera, “My sexy woman! Sorry folks, I'm off the market, but you can keep on lookin'!” He turned back towards the Crusher. The barker held up a large red handkerchief, “Three rounds of three minutes each, with a minute's rest between each one. Ready, gentlemen?” They both nodded. The barker dropped the cloth and a bell rang. The fight was on. * The Crusher strode to the middle of the ring, “Nide muchin shr ega da wukwei!!” Jayne shrugged, so it was going to start with Chinese insults, “Qin wode pigu!!” “Runt!” “Steroid-happy idiot!” That did it. Crusher ran at him. Jayne dodged at the last second and slammed an elbow into Crusher's back ribs. Crusher whirled, perhaps a little ponderously and grabbed Jayne around the waist. They fell to the floor, slipping around and trying to grapple for well over a minute before Crusher got a hold on Jayne by the waistband of his pants. Crusher flipped Jayne onto his back, but Jayne managed a handspring up and gave Crusher a head-but to the chest. They both rocked on their haunches. Crusher ran in reverse and used the ropes in a slingshot move. Jayne dived left out of the way and caught Crusher's feet on the way past. Both men fell to the stage, panting. The bell signalled the end of the first round. * The barker handed water and sponges. After the brief rest, Jayne tackled the Crusher first and both men again went sliding around before finding their feet. Crusher jumped and twisted so his back was to Jayne. He scissor locked Jayne around the waist with his legs. Jayne recognised the move and punched sideways to Crusher's face, knocking him off. Jayne jumped over Crusher, on the way down he did his own waist-lock, then Jayne rolled over Crusher's back. Crusher kicked Jayne and again both men broke free, breathing heavily. Crusher grabbed Jayne's arm by the wrist and lifted it. Jayne kicked hard at the leg nearest him. It was the slightly weaker right leg Jayne and Vera had spotted earlier. Crusher's knee buckled and he knelt hard on the stage with a gasp. The bell for the end of the second round rang. *. In the final round, Crusher managed to jump at Jayne and hits him at an angle, knocking him down to the mat. He got Jayne in a bear hug. Jayne clapped his hands around Crusher's head, disrupting his equilibrium. Crusher broke free, bouncing off the ropes again. He charged Jayne, limping visibly now. Jayne bent down forward. As Crusher reached him, Jayne stood up, lifting Crusher up and over so he landed back first on the mat. Crusher slapped the stage to show he gave in. The barker raised Jayne's hand and the crowd went wild. “Good wrestling, son. If you fancy a change of job...?” Jayne smiled through a number of growing bruises on his body, “No thanks. I'm a merc first and handfasted close second. Found me a home in the stars with a crew. Can shoot a gun better 'n I can wrestle.” “Well you've certainly earned your coin, Jayne Cobb.” The barker handed over the bag of money. Jayne double-checked it yet again. A peremptory wash and a quick change later, he emerged back in the marquee to renewed applause. He jumped off the stage and put an arm around Vera. Kaylee was standing nearby with Simon, “That was so shiny! Didn't know you could fight quite like that!” Jayne just grinned. Simon gazed at Crusher, “Serious steroid abuse. Badly mended torn ligaments. Right knee needs surgery pretty much immediately. The knee cap's about to pop. A bit punch drunk, and not just because of you.” He caught the barker's attention and told him about the knee problem, offering to fix it. Some quiet and fervent discussion ensued, ending with Simon taking his bag and Kaylee behind the scenes in the marquee. Everyone else meandered back to the island and Ping's house.

Qin wode pigu - kiss my a** Nide muchin shr ega da wukwei - your mother is a big turtle man diao- handsome [implied 'large'] **** (figure it out from context!!)

Wrestling moves copied from a couple of websites describing the same; any errors in the moves being feasible together are mine!


Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:43 PM


Oh...wonder who gets to be the prince River storms a castle for? Another Academy student perhaps?

And I gotta admit, your choice to have Simon recite the Crusher's weaknesses in almost a Jayne-like fashion was rather brilliant I must say:D



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