Labyrinth [Part 6]
Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leaving the Oriental bath house. En route to Avalon, with complications. Babysitting duties. Vera visits her mother, Simon offers medical assistance. Downbeat ending [for now].



But I had a most funny feeling it wasn't me they were shouting for. So when the tall dark lady smiled at me I said, "Oh, baby let us go for a ride." * Rainbow Blues – Jethro Tull * Love's maze is a crazy kaleidoscope All roads leading diff'rent ways Love's maze, like a swaying calliope One dance where the piper pays Love's maze is a hatter's mad party time One feast lasting nights and days Love's maze is a firework spectacular Bright skies as the bonfires blaze Love's maze is a magical labyrinth Close paths hidden far from gaze Love's maze is for lovers in jeopardy Lost there in a rainbow haze All praise as we dance in its corridors All part of these grand displays Behold every lover who's ever born All lost in their own love's maze * Love's Maze – By Jeeves * * When everyone was dressed in their freshly laundered clothes, the cleaned mules had been retrieved and they were walking back to Serenity, Mal took Jayne aside. “You didn't go with Patience.” Jayne made a disgusted noise, “Nah. Ya showed me some time ago there's such a thing as family and friends in the black. Weren't lookin' for it, but a spell close to breaking atmo and the prospect of not breathin' any more got my mind working powerful fast.” Mal wisely bit back any comments about the state of Jayne's mind, “So; it'll take more 'n five year's wages to buy you.” “Don't ruttin' like Patience either; she's a hard, ornery old crone. Plus, she offers me that much, tells me her grip's slippin' on that moon o' hers. And the six guys with her were just winder dressin' and not even worth my spit. They could barely hold a gun right!” Mal was impressed that Jayne seemed to have grown some extra brain cells. Maybe Vera was rubbing off on the big merc in more ways than one, “There was that. We've been double crossed by her before. Glad to have you still on board.” “I'll be stayin'; long as Vera's around somewhere.” Mal couldn't resist, “Your gun?” Jayne glowered at Mal, then realised he'd been teased, “Gorram; both of em! But there's only one I'm wed to and having lots of hot sex with!” Mal baulked at the images going through his mind, “Thank goodness it's not your gun you're sexing up!” “That's just kinky and plain dangerous!” Jayne then turned an evil teasing grin on Mel, “You sayin' you've had sex with a gun, then?” “Well, if it's in *your mind, perhaps *you have!” Jayne just snorted. * A rag-bag group of people were standing near Serenity, with Zoe 'guarding' them. “These folks are asking for passage, sir.” Jayne glowered, “Don't like ruttin' tourists!” Mal stepped up towards the group, “Any of you got coin or stuff to trade for a ride?” Most of the group melted away. Mal nodded, “Okay; rest of you; divvy up what you've got. Money or goods up front, want to see what I'm getting for letting you ride on my ship. We're headed to the Mythic system, most likely.” A few more gave up at that point. A month in the black without many opportunities to set foot on planet or moon was a significant consideration. In the end, a rich-looking Oriental business man called Wan Lo and a young African-looking couple plus toddler and very young baby got on. Mal double-checked that the paying guests had enough resources and Serenity was ready to depart. He had a long chat with the young family about their very young children, but they were desperate to get to Narnia. The crew stocked up at the local emporium, taking on loads of dried food, water and protein bars and they were off. * One week later * Mal had divided the crew in two. He took the 'day' shift with Inara, Simon, Kaylee, River and Zoe. Everyone else got the [hopefully] quieter 'night' shift. Cross-over points happened at supper for the day crew and breakfast for the night crew, with roles reversed around ten hours later. The paying passengers fitted in around that. Jayne and Vera were on 'patrol', walking quietly through the ship on the hour, double checking that all was quiet on Serenity's decks. Vera could feel sexual tension coming off Jayne in waves. Since they'd been making the most of their sleep and down times, this was puzzling, “What is it, Jayne?” “You'll think I'm kinky.” “Seem to remember we've tried the tying up and played 'dress up' a few times. Anything not involving deliberate pain and sex in the same breath and I'll listen.” “It's that knife o' yours; the one you wear high up on your thigh.” Vera mentally crossed her fingers that she was making the right leap, knowing Jayne's preferences pretty well, “Want me to model it for you; maybe wearing nothing else?” Jayne growled and grinned widely, “Hell, yeah; but work up to that! Is there some bit of flim flam you can wear with it to start with and mebbe slowly strip off?” Vera nodded, “My black bikini do the trick?” Jayne took a beat or three to fill in the mental picture and contemplate it thoroughly, “I hope you weren't plannin' on gettin much sleep later!” Vera smiled to herself, “Apparently not,” she murmured. * Jayne and Vera were tangled up in her bed, about eight hours later. They were fast asleep and both snoring after several epic sessions of sex. Suddenly there were feet pounding hard on the catwalk above, yelling and the alarm went off. Jayne sat up, hair tousled and brain temporarily fugged from too little sleep, “Hungh?” He pulled on his pants on autopilot and grabbed a pistol and one of his knives. Vera sat up too, “What? Oh, the alarm. 'Kay.” She pulled on a tee shirt, boots and shorts very quickly, adding her own guns and knife to the mix. Jayne ran his fingers through his hair and helped boost Vera up the ladder. He copped a good feel while he was at it and appreciated the scenery. She grinned down at him, “We've got an emergency, wan nao!” “I know!” They stepped out onto the catwalk. Mal was standing there in his pants and boots, gun out and suspenders dangling. Inara was just behind him in a long blue robe with a knife in her hand. Mal swept his gaze up and down the corridor, “Anyone tell me what's happening on my gorram ship?” The young man of the couple stumbled up, bleeding heavily, “He stabbed us! My kids!” The man fell over. “Simon?” The doctor was right there and checking the guy's vitals, “Someone help me carry him to the infirmary.” * Jayne pitched in and then everyone apart from Simon went to the couple's quarters. It was a mess, clothes, bedding and blood all over the place. The woman lay dead on the floor, neck broken and stab wounds to the belly. Under a huge pile of bedding, the toddler lay, quivering and whimpering. A further search revealed the baby, who began to cry really loudly as soon as she saw them. Vera picked up both children and Jayne and Mal went in search of the other guest. He was trying to break into the spare shuttle. Mal held the man at gunpoint and Jayne had the man pinned against the bulkhead in seconds. “Juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean-jan! You wanna tell me why?” The man stayed silent, eyes rolling wildly. Mal gave a tiny nod, “Jayne?” Jayne had his knife under the man's chin, “Wanna talk *now?” The man babbled, clearly incoherent and not firing on all cylinders. Jayne snorted, pressed home the blade and the guy was dead on the floor. “Jayne; he *might have talked.” Jayne looked at the corpse, “Got no time for killers gone bibbly.” Mal sighed a little bit, it was too late now, “Okay, space him.” Jayne picked up the man as though he was as light as a child and went to the airlock, checking the man's pockets as he did so. All those that were now wide awake made their way back to the infirmary. Vera was in the galley with Kaylee, giving milk to the toddler and baby. The kids seemed to be calming down a little bit. Zoe was slightly bleary-eyed at the stove, making coffee for everyone, Sarah in a sling on her back. * Mal went into the infirmary, “Simon?” The look on his face was enough, “Not good. Extensive stab wounds. I've made him comfortable.” “Did he say why?” “The Oriental guy broke into their room and went haywire. Mad as a bucket of frogs, apparently. Are the kids okay?” Mal nodded, “Yeah. Crying up a storm, but they seemed unhurt.” “I'll check them over. Oriental guy?” “Dead. I spaced him!” Jayne threw a wallet on the counter, “Had this on him. Fancy papers 'n stuff.” Mal flicked through them, “Well, I did *not see these! He made out he was a business-man, had some I.D. to prove it, right down to retinal scans. Seems he was the regular chameleon. Try hacking into the Cortex and see if we can't find the truth about our passenger.” Simon left his drugged up patient and went with everyone to the galley. Mal and Hori did some major hacking into the Cortex and then they all sat around the refectory table with the results. * River was staring over her milk, “Didn't see him. He seemed fine to me.” Jayne couldn't resist needling her, “Ya powers slippin', moonbrain?” Simon glared at him, “The Cortex intel is plain. He was a schizophrenic psychopath. Took some of the best doctors in the 'verse to diagnose him, then he went a.w.o.l. from his secure facility. Probably talked his way out. By the time he bumped into us, the role of influential business man was so stuck in his mind, that he'd convinced himself and everyone round him. Maybe you can't read schizophrenics, or his make-believe world was so strong that he slipped by you.” He put one hand over River's. “Should have read him. Brain should have been all weird.” Jayne went to say something snarky, but Vera nudged him under the table. She looked down at the baby in one arm and the wide-eyed toddler in the other, “And these two need looking after till we get to the Mythic system.” Mal nodded at her, “Seems like you've got yourself a job, Vera.” Jayne protested, “Hey! What about Kaylee and Inara; don't they get to look after babies?” Mal turned to him, “You did pretty well with little Ping Han. Maybe you could give Vera a hand.” Jayne glowered, realising that he'd been played, “Not ruttin' fair!” * The Mythic system * Vera knew that Jayne was in a foul mood. She was close to feeling the same. The last three weeks had been busy, to put it mildly. Day after day of entertaining a toddler who was apt to start screaming at any moment from the memories in his mind, thereby setting off his little sister, had been wearing on both them and the rest of the crew. Vera had used the Cortex to research games and activities for three year old children fairly early on. She'd used some flour and set to with the little lad making play-dough in different colours every three days or so. Kaylee had kindly donated her paints to entertaining the toddler and Jayne had got involved in the physical education side of things. Endless games of scaled down hoop-ball and French cricket had been played. But the nights had been the worst; not much sleep due to the mutual screaming from nightmares. The children's father had succomed to his injuries and two bodies were waiting in coffins along with two case loads of effects. Everyone was grumpy. Mal stomped into the engine room, “You'd better keep yours under control better.” Kaylee smiled, “Not to worry. They won't have seen their parents murdered, I hope.” Mal checked himself. He needed sleep, some quality time with Inara and a rest, “Sorry. Ready to land at Avalon?” “We'll be shiny, cap'n.” “The children's aunt is waiting at the port; ready for the big handover.” * Avalon port was next to a low green hill with a windblown tree on the top. Avalon itself was mostly on the other side of that hill. A small space ship was docked near Serenity. Vera looked over, baby on one arm and a suitcase on the other, “Mosquito class.” Kaylee nodded, “Smaller version of Firefly class, built for up to four people. Not so much cargo space; like a wagon for families wanting to move 'tween planets. Engine's new though; good condition. She's space-worthy enough.” A statuesque African woman dressed in jeans and a stylish cream top walked over. She'd been crying recently, but was now poised. She approached Mal, keeping an eye on the children, “Ola Smithson. You got a copy of my papers and the children's birth certificates?” Mal nodded, “We did. I'm sorry about...” The three year old shrieked with recognition and ran to Ola, clinging to her leg. Ola picked him up and held him close, “Forgive the brevity, but the Smithsons and Lonsdales are planning a big twin funeral back on Narnia before Winter closes in.” Mal nodded, “I understand.” The coffins were sent aboard with the personal effects first. Vera handed the baby girl to Ola who thanked them again and went back to her ship. Jayne pulled Vera to one side, out of earshot, “No more tiny kids! I get the least bit broody for small 'uns again and you remind me of three weeks without decent sleep and long, hot sex!” “Don't worry, I totally agree with you!” At that moment a tall red-haired woman of about fifty in very smart doctor's uniform came over, “Vera?” Vera smiled, “Doctor Cartwright. How is my mother?” The doctor looked uncomfortable, “I'm sorry to break it like this, but things look serious.” Vera prepared herself for more upheaval, “She's dying?” Doctor Cartwright nodded, “Looks like it.” Simon stepped in, “What's the medical diagnosis?” Doctor Cartwright recognised a fellow medic without any further identification, “Early onset Alzheimer's complicated by cancer. Mass is right near the aorta.” “Inoperable?” Doctor looked at both Simon and Vera, “That's the opinion of our surgeon. We're giving her painkillers and her other regular medication, keeping her comfortable.” Simon looked at Vera, “Do you mind if I...?” Vera managed a smile, “If you can help, I'd be very grateful.” Jayne quietly squeezed her hand. * Avalon sheltered home and hospice * Jayne, Vera, Kaylee and Simon went into the waiting room. Vera gave permission for Simon to read her mother's notes, then she went with Jayne into the single room where her mother lay. Jayne saw a tall woman with greying hair and pale green eyes, lying in a bed, muttering to herself. Vera went over and took her mother's hand, “Hi, Mum; it's me. This is Jayne, he's my husband.” The pale green eyes fixed on his piercingly, “Bad boy, huh?” “Well...erm...” Jayne was at a loss in this situation. Vera's mother snorted, “Going to take me to the dance tonight?” Vera stroked the greying hair, “Maybe later, Mum. Sorry it's been a while since I last visited.” “Sally should be home soon.” Vera nodded as if nothing was wrong, “Yes, and Dad too.” “Thought they was dead?” Vera turned to him, “Yes; but to Mum they're as real as you and I.” The conversation went into all sorts of cul-de-sacs until Vera's mother drifted back to sleep. Then she and Jayne went back to Simon. * Simon sighed and looked at Vera, “I'm sorry; the mass is actually all around the aorta now. Even in a young, fit person, I wouldn't want to risk surgery.” Vera took a breath, “How long?” “The cancer could stop her main blood flow at any time, and then the aorta will go and she'll basically bleed to death in minutes, probably less. It'll be quick, and with the drugs she's on, painless. Next few days at the most. I've talked with Doctor Cartwright and they really are giving your mother the best care. If you want to arrange a funeral, now would be a good time.” * Avalon cemetery. Rain, fine and misty falling on a coffin and a small group of people mostly dressed in black or sober colours. An interfaith minister saying carefully picked words gently and supportively; pointing to the greater Reality beyond the physical. A single freesia dropped into the hole on top of the coffin. A strong arm around Vera's shoulders. Quiet tears. Everyone quietly melting away to have some time alone before the wake later. Vera dragging Jayne back to Serenity and practically demanding that he make her feel alive again. On the galley table, twice. Jayne readily complying with the same and then holding Vera very close when the big sobs finally hit after her physical release. Helping her redress afterwards, brushing her hair gently. A rather drunken wake followed by a long sleep-in for everyone aboard Serenity. A new day, the green of Avalon washed and fresh as the countryside can be after a slow drenching bout of rain. Time to get a really good look at the labyrinth and for Vera to hear her mother's will. Sunshine, a rainbow. A new day. **


Saturday, September 23, 2006 6:14 AM


Just to let you know I'll be going on my hols soon, so part 7 might be some time. But there will be more, promise; I've sowed a few plot seeds in various parts of this which will come to fruition and the ending is going to be a doozy [GGG].


Saturday, September 23, 2006 9:53 AM


Aww...we're gonna have to wait? Crap...


Still...this was a great chapter, Vera. I get the feeling that the schitzo killer and the couple he murdered are definitely gonna play into later chapters. Along with Vera's mum. Mainly cuz characters in your works rarely are there for mere window-dressing.


Saturday, September 23, 2006 10:01 PM


Well, Vera's mother is all kinds of dead, but there is her will to be read. And the labyrinth/maze. And the 'boy' who was taken from the Whitefall facility. And River's 'prince'. We will probably have a trip to 'Narnia' (the planet) so Ola and the kids could be part of that. I've got a good idea where this is going and the ending of this part of the story arc. Prepare for plot bunnies to come hopping back!



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