BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA

JEBBYPAL

Those Left Behind: Ch8
Monday, June 21, 2004

Introductions


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2763    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: Sug is pronounced "Shoog" at least in my head. Thanks as always to Neroli, my beta. Thanks also go out to Cassandrae for insisting that my muse hurry this story up.

Chapter 8: Introductions Chinese Glossary Tzao-gao – oh crap Go-se – dog crap Da-ge – big brother

Mal stood behind Wash as the pilot guided Serenity in its docking to the smaller, faster Lightning-class mercenary ship. Inara and River had left the previous day when Serenity flew by Athens. The planet had been a bit out of their way before the meet with Sug's ship, but Inara had assured both he and Simon that the Companion's Guildhouse on Athens possessed several acquaintances and that the House Priestess had previously agreed to take several of the children once the mission was over. This way it would be their first stop after they hopefully succeeded.

Mal directed his thoughts away from his stray crew. The situation before him would be tricky enough without any distractions. Sug had agreed to join the mission, but only with her older ship and several of her more trusted comrades. Hopefully they were trustworthy enough.

"Serenity to the Expeditor, preparing to dock in 6, 5, 4, 3 . ." Wash called over the cortex as the two ships merged cargo bays.

"Expeditor here, everything looks tight on our end. Disengaging engines and controls to your helm Serenity," the pilot of the other ship replied.

"Shiny Expeditor. See you in a few." Wash flicked several switches and engaged the autopilot. "Everything's smooth Captain."

Mal nodded. "Good. Now remember, be cautious as to what you let drop. Don't know how much Sug has filled her people in on," he warned as he turned to head to the cargo bay.

"Captain, how come we haven't done business with this chick before? I mean, I thought we were in business with most of your old war buddies," Wash asked as he followed Mal through the ship.

Mal laughed. "Ask your wife."

In the cargo bay, the two men were greeted by Zoe who was waiting with the Shepherd and Jayne. "Where's the Doc and Kaylee?"

Jayne answered with a smirk. "She's comforting him over the departure of the loony."

Zoe swatted Jayne on the arm. "Remember, watch what you say. Sir, are you sure this early meet is a good idea?"

"The good idea is saving Sug's ship nearly three days worth of fuel for when we need our speedy get away. Besides, hopefully she'll respect the sanctity of marriage," Mal offered.

Wash raised his eyebrows. "Oh, so Zoe's been worried this war buddy will make a move on me. Don't worry lambie-toes, I only have eyes for you."

Mal laughed as he stepped onto the cargo bay floor. "Yeah, that's it Wash. We were all worried Sug would find your manly wiles irresistible."

Zoe shot a glare at Mal as she went to stand behind him with her husband. Mal hit the inter-ship comm before entering the code to open the bay door. "Kaylee, Simon, if you'd join us it'd be appreciated. Clothing required though. Look respectable people," Mal admonished as Jayne tried to quiet his laughter.

The doors opened to reveal a very muscular, butch woman of average height. Her black hair was cut shorter than that of most of the men surrounding her and her Hispanic skin was spotted with several tattoos where it was uncovered by clothing or bandannas. The rest of her group were similarly muscled and of varying ethnicities except for one tall, exceptionally well built man who bore a strong family resemblance to the woman in front of him.

"Sug, glad you could join us," Mal greeted. He pointed to his crew as he introduced each of them. "You know Zoe, and the ragamuffin beside her is her husband and the pilot of this fine craft, Wash."

Wash felt a moment of panic as the female Captain glared at him as if she were ready to kill him before she smiled flirtatiously at his wife. Tzao-goa, at his wife!

"The fella with the collar is Shepherd Book, he's surprisingly 'versed in criminal ways for someone of his order or so I'm told and the fella next to him is Jayne Cobb. Oh, and our late arrivals are Simon, our doctor, and our mechanic, Kaylee. Who is off limits by the way," Mal stressed.

"Monty said you needed manpower, but he didn't say you had no fighters," Sug greeted as she stepped onto Serenity.

Mal waved Jayne down when the merc started to list his experience. "Yeah, well they can fool the eye, that's for sure."

"He's right sis, they managed to take out Niska's place after all," the heavily-muscle giant beside Sug pointed out in a baritone that matched the woman's.

"Yeah, well the angels always look out for fools and Malcolm Reynolds, right Zoe?" Sug stated.

"I don't know, that's the preacher's area, not mine," Zoe answered.

"Good ship you got Mal. Surprised you still got it with as little space experience as you have. Any way, you know most of my boys here. Good shots every one and my brother, Cecil, is the best hacker on the Rim, of course," Sug said as way of introduction of her group.

"And the worst shot too," one of the other mercenaries laughed. He was quickly silenced by a slap from Sug.

"God gives us all different talents and ways to kill folk. Now then, surely you got some liquor stashed away so the bonding can commence before the bloodshed?" Sug asked.

Mal nodded as Zoe opened a container of assorted alcohols and Book opened another containing protein rations.

"Try to make sure they put down their weapons before you let them have a drink," Zoe whispered in Wash's ear as the party commenced.

--

Several hours later, Wash finally managed to retreat to the catwalk where Kaylee and Simon watched the chaos below. He wasn't ecstatic about leaving his wife alone in the presence of that lecherous Amazon, but he was hopeful that Zoe possessed the fortitude to fend off Sug's advances. He shook his head as he plopped down beside Kaylee. "Never thought I'd meet any of their war buddies that were less cultured than Monty's gang," he observed.

Kaylee nodded, still a little dazed from the short amount of time she'd spent amidst the revelry below. "They's all cruder than Jayne!"

"Except for Cecil," Simon stated. "I don't think I've ever seen muscles that big."

Wash started to laugh at Simon's statement. The doctor had a way of managing to say things in the most wrong way possible. "Zoe told me that Sug wouldn't let her little brother fight in the war. Made him go off to school on Osiris instead. Maybe you two took some of the same classes Simon?"

Simon shook his head. "I would definitely remember anyone that… large," he replied with a slightly awed expression on his face.

Kaylee began to giggle with Wash. Someone had definitely had too much to drink tonight. Too bad they didn't have a recorder with them. This blackmail material would keep Wash out of kitchen duty for at least a month. "Well, he seems to know his stuff. Although how that man fits in a cockpit is beyond me!" Hell, the idea of the larger man behind Serenity's somewhat spacious pilot controls boggled the mind, Wash thought.

"They all seem to know their stuff," Kaylee stated somewhat soberly. "Heard some of the stories they was telling to Jayne."

"Well, it is what they do for a living. Although I'm surprised the Alliance lets a mercenary group of their size continue to operate," Simon said.

"Two Lightning class ships, they could run rings around most of the fighter groups the Alliance vessels have. And stand a reasonable chance of doing some damage to one of the big ones," Wash explained.

"Well, hopefully they'll be enough to get us in and out of the Blue Sun Complex," Simon added. Kaylee gave the doctor a hug after hearing his sad tone.

Simon had been pretty disturbed after his sister had left. He'd told Wash that River had made some unsettling statements that he hoped were due to her nervousness at their separation. Wash looked back down to the assembled mercenaries on the floor. He wasn't sure if he was comforted by the fact that Mal, Zoe and the Shepherd looked out of place in their company. "Hopefully it'll all go smooth," he said quietly to himself.

--

"You're a fool Reynolds if you think this go-se is going to go smooth!" Sug said dismissively the next morning.

Mal gestured carefully for his old army buddy to sit down at the table. Slowly drinking his coffee, he silently hoped that the hangover cure of Simon's would kick in soon. Otherwise he'd bait Sug into shooting him just to end his misery. "It's a solid plan based on reliable intel. If you can think of improvements, I'm all ears."

"How 'bout you scrap this stupid idea and hightail it to the Rim? We got some work we could use a ship of your size on."

Mal shook his head. "Tell me you didn't come out here just to offer me a job and waste my time."

"Hell no. Was hoping that Zoe would change her mind in the bargain."

Mal opened his eyes and looked across the table. He let out a loud curse when he saw Sug grinning widely at him. The gorram woman was pulling his chain while he was hung over. There oughtta be a law, he thought.

"Seriously Mal, I'd prefer to be doing this with at least twenty more men," Sug stated.

Mal sighed. If wishes were horses he thought. "So would I. If you know twenty more we can trust, be happy to pick 'em up."

"That's the kicker ain't it," Sug said as she rose to get a cup of coffee. "Tell me straight out sarge, ain't you ever considered turning 'em over? The re-ward would have you flying without a care for more'n two years."

Mal sighed. Leave it to Sug to force him to talk about the elephant in the room in return for her help. At least he knew the rest of the crew was still sleeping off the night's celebrations. "Thought about it for eight hours actually….till our mechanic woke up after the gorram fed shot her. After that, started to enjoy the idea of having something the Alliance was searching for so hard."

Sug nodded. "Yeah, well, you and Zoe never did let go of your grudge much after the camps."

Mal's eyes flashed with anger. "You wouldn't have either if you'd stayed in the war."

Sug held up her hands. "I didn't come looking for a fight Mal, just stating a fact," the muscle-laden woman responded in a surprisingly soft tone. "Besides, not like I didn't warn you. When Cecil told me what the Alliance had held in reserve, how much they planned to throw at us there at the end… Well, I wasn't fightin' out of conviction like some. So no, I don’t hold a grudge, but I don't mind making their life a little harder either. I lost a lot of friends at Hera."

"And I watched them die and kept fighting amongst their bodies."

"That you did. Guess I'm still a little sorry that I abandoned you two before y'all shipped out to Serenity Valley. But I don't plan to walk into a massacre with ya out of guilt neither," Sug said as she walked to the table. Mal met her eyes and realized that the one person he feared on a battlefield more than Zoe was determined to get through the coming battle alive. "Now then, let's go over these plans again and see if we can't eliminate the desperate from our situation."

--

Cecil finally found Kaylee deep in the bowels of Serenity where she was trying to implement the latest pieces of hardware that Mal and Zoe had purchased on Boros. "Need any help?"

Kaylee squeaked and jumped when she heard the deep voice behind her. Briefly she was reminded of the last time she'd been surprised by a non-crewmember in the engine room, but that memory was quickly wiped away when she saw Cecil's large, concerned face peering down through the engine.

"Sorry about that, just thought I'd see if there was anything I could do," Cecil apologized as he helped her maneuver her way out from under the engine block.

"Nothing to worry about, just gave me a fright. Would think you'd make more noise," Kaylee answered as she gingerly rubbed the knot on her head.

Cecil chuckled. "Well blame Sug, she was disappointed enough I didn't have any aim as a kid, said there was no way she was going to let me embarrass her by being clumsy on top of it."

"Where..?"

"Left her lifting weights in the cargo bay with your man Jill, is it?"

Kaylee silenced the giggle that threatened when she imagined Jayne's reaction if he heard that. "Jayne," she corrected.

"Right, sorry. Jayne is attempting to prove that no woman can out lift him. I think he's going to be horribly emasculated before the day is over."

"That or in love," Kaylee joked as she started to clean up her tools.

"Like I said, emasculated. I don't think Sug's gone out with a guy since she was fourteen," Cecil explained. "Anything I can do? I've never been on a Firefly class before, although I've tried to get Sug to consider buying one."

Kaylee lit up at the chance to show off her girl. "Serenity may not look like much, but she'll fool the eye. Anything in particular you wanna see?"

--

Mal watched the scene below from the catwalk. Jayne was struggling to lift an extra twenty-five pounds more than the heaviest weight he normally used during a workout. He was going to have to go and break up the testosterone battle downstairs before Sug crippled his mercenary. Course, first he'd need to go and rouse Zoe as well as find several large guns.

Mal turned when he heard a large groan behind him. Simon Tam stumbled down the steps from the galley holding a cup of coffee. The boy looked a touch worse than Mal had been feeling earlier that morning. "Thought I told you to not get into any drinking contests with those lugs doc."

"You neglected to mention how to politely decline a drink from someone that outweighs Jayne by two hundred pounds," Simon complained softly.

Mal laughed. "Can't say I've figured that one out yet either."

They remained silent for a few minutes as they watched Sug easily bench an additional fifty pounds from what had been on the bar a few minutes earlier. Simon nearly choked when he saw Jayne slide onto the bench and turn an angry color of red as he struggled to complete five reps. Book shot a significant glance at the two men above from where he stood spotting for the two competitors.

"He's not going to be able to move tomorrow. Of course, that's assuming he doesn't pull anything," Simon pointed out.

"I know, but I'm more scared of waking Zoe so we can put a stop to it than I am about whether he'll heal in the few days till we meet Monty."

Simon frowned as he searched for a political correct way to discuss his concerns. These barbarians didn't seem to possess an inch of skill at anything approaching stealth from what he'd witnessed so far. Somehow he doubted that brute strength alone would give them success. "Captain..Mal," Simon started before going silent.

"Spit it out son. I promise I won't hit any unarmed men with hangovers," Mal said with an easy grin.

"It's just, are you sure these are the right people to go about this with? I mean, obviously their skilled and …well, the term big springs to mind, but they don't seem to have much finesse."

"Don't worry doc, Sug's been killing men and scaring the fight out of the rest since before the war. When it comes to top notch plans and soldiering though, I'd wager that she ties Zoe easily. And I promise, she wouldn't have brought anyone down there if she didn't think they were capable of doing the job," Mal reassured him. "Trust me, Sug is even less fond of the idea of this job going anything but smooth than I am. Now, looks like I'd better go and save Jayne before you end up with a patient."

Simon sighed as he watched Mal descend the steps to the contest below. Privately he hoped he was more impressed with the appearance of Monty's crew. Despite Mal's assurances, he silently worried that Sug's group was all brawn.

--

Sug and Cecil joined Serenity's crew for dinner that night. Kaylee was glad for their presence. The one meal that the crew had had before meeting Sug had been terribly depressing. River and Inara's empty chairs had seemed to suck almost all of the energy out of the room. Even Jayne had been subdued that night.

But then, Jayne was pretty subdued tonight too, Kaylee thought as she poked him in the ribs when he tried to get a taste of the chili she was preparing.

"Oww!" Jayne yelped as he shuffled away from the pot.

"What are you hollering about you big sissy?" Kaylee sassed.

"Nothing, just hurt is all," Jayne complained as he gingerly lowered himself into his chair.

Kaylee shook her head at his movements. Book had filled her in on Jayne's impromptu competition with Sug and the end result. The preacher was still put out that the Captain had let the folly continue as long as he had, but Kaylee knew the Cap'n couldn't have stopped it earlier without making Jayne look bad in front of the other fighter types. As it was, he'd timed it well enough that Jayne was still mobile. Or sorta mobile, Kaylee corrected as she watched the sore mercenary struggle to reach a dropped fork without moving his torso or arms much.

"Let me get that for you," Cecil said as he walked into the kitchen with his sister. Kaylee hid her grin as she saw Jayne roughly brush the larger man's hand away and grab the fork with only a hint of a grimace.

Book moved to help her carry the pot of chili to the table as the rest of the crew straggled in. Once everyone was seated, casual conversation surrounded the table as the food was passed. Kaylee smiled to herself, it was nice to have a break from the stress of planning the mission. It was nice to see everyone relaxed and enjoying themselves again, at least for a short while.

--

Mal awoke with a strange sensation. As always, he carefully examined his surroundings. In space, some might consider such a precaution a sign of paranoia, but Mal found his training from the war to be useful so he'd never tried to change it. Looking around on the battlefield before being fully awake had saved his life more than a few times so it only made sense to keep up the practice.

This time though, his senses told him things that couldn't be true. Instead of Serenity's gray walls and the decorations that he had accumulated in the years since finding his girl, he saw white. White and drips of red. This had better ruttin' well be a dream he thought, otherwise someone was going to get hurt.

Giggles sounded all around him. He attempted to spin to locate the source, but couldn't get a bearing on any point. Come to think of it, he couldn't feel his body none either.

"He's not aware. We could finish it now," he heard a boy's high pitched soprano say.

"She'd be upset. Still can't stand against her even with distance as a buffer," a small girl echoed from the same unseen places. The gorram room echoed something awful and Mal felt himself getting a tad worried at the current situation.

"He refuses to accept what he cannot understand. He'll be of no help anyway," a boy said. Mal was too disoriented to tell for sure if it was the same voice as the first one or not.

"Do you see anyone else offering?" someone said. They sounded a little older, a little more tired.

Mal found himself trying to speak, but was unable to overcome the fact that he couldn’t feel his face or anything else. Had he gotten hurt? Did Sug shoot him and fail to miss this time?

"This grows tiresome. Accomplish your task before you run out of time . . . THEY will return soon."

"We know what we're doing. If you don't like it, do it yourself," the girl's voice said sullenly.

"You know why you received the task. Just accomplish it…or do you enjoy how we live?" the older individual asked.

"Bi zui!" the boy ordered.

"He's right though," the girl whispered.

"Now then Mal, can we call you Mal? If we can have your attention," the boy began. Mal struggled to react, to move. He had a feeling that he'd need to do so soon.

"He's too agitated. I can't keep him asleep much longer like this," the girl stated in a tentative voice.

"No one appreciates the dramatic touches," the boy complained. "Calm down Captain, you're still on your ship and not in any danger…well not much anyway. If you want to say something, just think it. Mei mei will hear it and pass it along. Do you understand?" the boy asked in a more soothing manner.

Mal tried to calm down as he thought through what he was hearing. This didn't feel like any dream or nightmare that he was used to, but no one could reach out and talk to you in your dreams…Could they?

"You give her all kinds of powers that she doesn't possess and you can't conceive of her or us being able to speak in your mind? You disappoint me. She'd made you seem almost intelligent," the boy said in a dismissive tone. "This is a waste, as are you."

Dan nang! It wasn't River, but then…the other ones? How they would even know who he was or how to…Okay, okay, getting downright terrified weren't going to help matters none, he told himself. He tried to organize his thoughts, but it was a difficult process when one was asleep and struggling to accept all kinds of foreign and alien notions.

"What do y'all want?" Mal attempted to ask by thought. "Ya know, it's generally good manners to introduce yourselves to strangers before threatenin' 'em and the like."

The girl laughed, but not in a pleasant way. "He's just like she described."

The boy grunted in response. "Introductions are complicated for us. Memories of names, of lives, those things attract attention…attention that would most likely be harmful to you right now. If necessary, you can name us to help you cope for the duration," the boy offered.

Oookay. This dream was getting less dream-like by the minute. However he wasn't comfortable talking to people without names especially when he couldn't see them. Brought back all kinds of unpleasant memories and not all of them recent.

"How 'bout Danny? Does Sue suit you honey?" Mal asked.

"Those are fine, it makes no difference. We are running short on time though," the boy explained. "If you are comfortable enough to not be in danger of expiring, perhaps we could continue with something relevant?"

"Fine then. I'm listening," Mal said while thinking about how this kid needed to learn some old fashioned manners. T'weren't right to be disrespecting one's elders.

The boy laughed. "You are odd. I see why she likes you, she always did like anything different. Course, we all thought she was stupid. Always going on about how her da ge was going to come and save her from these evil people. Joke was on us, I'd guess you'd say," the boy said.

"Danny, you're getting distracted," Sue called to the boy.

"Don't get attached to the name he gave you. It will only cause trouble," the boy chastised her. "Now, Mal, how long until your group attacks the complex?"

Mal suddenly froze up, his thoughts going silent.

"Made! Are you always this suspicious? We're not THEM and we won't inform on you. We just want to have those as can help ready and alert," the boy said with frustration.

Mal remained silent and even attempted to hold his breath. No way was he going to do anything that might jeopardize his crew.

"Knew I should have done this by myself," the girl stated. "Go away, I'll handle it."

"It's dangerous…You might not be able to make it back," the boy said with something that might be construed as concern.

"And would that be so bad?" the girl asked him. "Go, I'll be back or I won't."

Mal thought he could almost see her smile lovingly at the boy, at Danny. See? How was that possible in this blinding whiteness?

"Can't make a place with three…too difficult for me. Maybe even too difficult for her," Sue said as a body grew a little more substantial beside him. Beside him! Thank god, finally. Sue smiled at him, "It is a little bit easier to do this when you're not scared out of your mind. Sorry about Danny, but he gets a little uppity."

Mal nodded. "Boys can do that sometimes," he told her.

Sue giggled. "He'd be mad to hear you call him that. Sometimes I think he may be as old as you." She shook her head and got serious quickly. "This is difficult though, not sure how long it will last. We do need to talk."

"If you want to know what he was asking, I ain't telling you neither little girl."

Sue sighed. "You don't understand Mal, we're not going to impede you. THEY can't do this and THEY haven't quite figured out how to force us to tell THEM anything. Not and still have us able to do what THEY want anyway."

Mal nodded. "That's good I suppose, but I ain't got where I am by trusting every cute little girl who wanders into my dreams neither."

Sue cocked her head. "I suppose it doesn't matter. We'll know when you arrive..." Sue smiled as she realized something. "We'll all know once you kill one of THEM. That should be proof enough."

"Proof? Why don't you just state plain what's going on in your head hon?"

Sue looked up at him, considering. Mal was amazed at how real she looked. Her hair was a bed of white-blonde curls around a small elfin face. She looked to be no older than nine or so. If this was a trick on the part of those Academy freaks, then they couldn't have picked a better guise. If it weren't, he swore he'd make them suffer for her.

Sue gave him a shy smile as if she'd heard his promise. "That's sweet, but just succeeding will be enough for me. Anyway, she didn't tell us you know. We picked it up and hid that we knew. I've told Danny we shouldn't have been so hard on her anyway." Sue shook her head. "Sorry, it's hard not to get distracted sometimes. Our plans are simple really. Most of the time we don't dare to see if we can do anything to THEM…partly we don't want to know their thoughts and partly we know that eventually we'll have to stop and then we'll be at their mercy….But when you come, we could do something to give you an edge. Maybe just enough of one to actually turn the tide of fate and rewrite our futures."

Mal almost spoke his plans…he almost gave in. She looked so full of hope and all of it placed in him. He'd had that before…and all it had given him was a load of guilt and regrets. He stopped his mind and blanked it before he gave it all away. He'd never forgive himself if he failed River like he'd failed at Hera.

Sue smiled and approached him. She wrapped her small, frail arms around his waist. "It's good that you won't tell us. I think it will help convince the others we haven't gone crazy. Remember, as soon as you kill one of THEM, we'll know. Then we'll be able to help. Remember."

"Wait a second," Mal told her as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Who's THEM?" he asked the air in the white room.

Mal awoke the next morning with the memory of a pixie girl who wanted him to kill.

***

TBC in Chapter 9: Moonshine

A/N: The dream sequence was probably unconsciously influenced by Neroli and AMDobell's works although I was not purposefully copying. The plot bunnies just thought that someone other than River should be creepy for a change.

COMMENTS

Monday, June 21, 2004 6:48 AM

ARTSHIPS


Rich characters and an interesting plot. Doesnt get any better than that. Thanks!

Monday, June 21, 2004 2:48 PM

AMDOBELL


This was really good. I laughed so hard with Jayne trying to prove he was harder and stronger than Sug and *failing* - poor Jayne! Loved the part where the children they are going in to save reach out to communicate with Mal. Can't wait for the next part! Very shiny and very much crying out for more, *dong ma*? And no, you weren't copying anyone.
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 9:45 PM

NEROLI


I love it, one of the best chapters so far. Little bit of humor coming in, but still has the creepy down! :-)


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