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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE
here is the conclusion to River being abducted. It's more, to me, about how everybody contends with the things that have been done than anything else. I hope you all enjoy. If you didn't read "A River Taken", you probably shold to get the whole gist of it.....hope you enjoy, and please please please leave feedback, let me know how I'm doing.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1053 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
It was the wee hours on Serenity, a time when people used to sleep like stones, a stretch of time now punctuated by screams and sobs.
For all of her shortcomings, the ship had fantastic acoustics, and, couple with a voice that carried in and of itself, everyone heard poor River when the nightmares ripped her out of sleep.
This was the eleventh day since she had been rescued out of a fetish house auction after the crew had essentially torn a town to pieces looking for her. Killing had taken place that evening, but worse than that, the crew of Serenity had been forced to bear witness to one of the nastier sides of the ‘verse.
Simon, who now bunked on the floor of River’s quarters, leapt to his feet from his dead sleep, an ability that mal admired in the doctor, one almost exclusively found in soldiers. He knew the right words, and the right ways to say them, to calm her screams and wild-eyed disorientation down to sobs and babbles.
Inara was there at the door to River’s cabin, as were Wash and Zoë. Mal sauntered over and asked “Same thing?”
“Yeah, I guess it is…..I haven’t seen the pictures Mal, and thanks, but I would just as soon not, but whatever they were doing to her must have hurt,” Wash said.
“I did see them, dearest, and I would expect they did,” Zoë said flatly. “It makes me wish the good Shepherd had the Almighty power of resurrection, so would could bring them……gentlemen back to life and get to killing them all over again.”
Wash never liked to encourage his wife’s unpleasantness like that, so he said nothing at all. Jayne, of course, was absent. He could sleep through a battlefield.
“I’m sorry, but bringing back to life is a trick I leave for higher powers than myself,” Shepherd Book said as he approached River’s cabin.
“Good God, man!” Mal exclaimed. “Would you kindly put yourself together before the poor child sees you and truly enters hysteria!”
“How about before I enter hysteria?” Wash said. He grabbed his wife‘s arm. “Zoë, make the bad man go away!”
They were referring, of course, to book’s wild, untied hair, which he was completely unconscious of. Embarrassed, he pulled it back and tied it secure. “Have I allayed everyone’s fears now?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Wash said. “I may just still have Zoë keep a gun on you.”
Inara always wanted to snap at them when they started this kind of bantering at serious times, but it was almost three in the morning by ship’s time, and they wee awake again, and a little good natured back and forth wasn’t too much to endure, she supposed. “Simon, let’s bring River to my shuttle, my bed is big enough for two, maybe I can calm her back to sleep.”
Simon agreed this was a good idea, certainly worth a try, and they led River into Inara’s home, where she closed the door, to emerge twenty minutes later with Simon, they talked for a bit, and Inara placed her hand on his right cheek, held it there for a moment, and let it trail down his chest. Of the group that was originally gathered, only mal remained, and he saw the two of them. She look at Mal watching them, and he perceived that she had a caught look about her face. Of course, he had been known to imagine things before.
“Simon, I reckon we need to have a talk about now,” Mal said to the Doctor. They had both more or less written off sleep for the evening.
“Captain, I know, this is every night, I don’t have any idea how to get through to what they did to her on that planet. I know they…….abused her, and made her to perform some pretty awful things, but I don’t have the sort of training to get through to that and deal with it. All I can really do is be her brother.”
“Oh, I’m not talking about that, Doctor, ‘twas a terrible thing done to her down there, a thing she was powerful lucky to have walked away from.”
“I’m going to ask you something, doctor, and it is your right to tell me it’s none of my business and to go hump myself, and I will respect you as a man for telling me so……..and then I will shoot you dead where you stand, but I will respectfully do it, trust me on that.
“I want to know, what is going on with you and Inara?’
Simon had a terribly shocked look across his face that answered Mal’s question for him. “Nothing! Nothing at al! We are friends!”
“Fine, you two be as chummy as you like, but don’t be letting Kaylee see that, ok? The last thing I need is a heartbroken mechanic.”
“Captain, I really think--”
“That this is all none of my business, and I seem to recall how the conversation was going to go if that was going to be your approach--” Simon’s eyes shot down to Mal’s sidearm, which was so far holstered “--but that’s not here nor there.”
Mal took a step closer to Simon. “Doctor, you’ve had a rough run of it, and this past business has got to have taken some out of you. I may be the Captain and the owner of Serenity, but I ain’t any less of a man than you are, and I ‘spect a little comfort is about what your needing right now. I don’t hold that against you none. I do understand such things, Doctor. But that poor Kaylee been lugging a torch around for you could light up half the damn ‘verse, and you’ve got to know about that. Personally, I can’t imagine what you don’t see in her, but to each man his own.
“I’m going to explain something to you here, and maybe you understand it, and maybe you don’t. I never know with you. I am the captain of this boat. That makes all of you something like my children, to as much as I feel a responsibility to each and every one of you. Kaylee is not to be hurt, Doctor. Period. End of conversation. You and Inara carry on as you like, but you close the gorram door first. She is not to see or even get the slightest, wildest conjure of anything taking place between you two.”
Simon opened his mouth to protest, but Mal had already walked away.
Later, in Inara’s shuttle, River was back to sleep. Simon had debated on whether to tell her about his chat with the Captain, and had not really made a decision, until she made it for him. “Simon, what was Mal on you about earlier?”
“On me? He was, just, about River.”
“Simon,” she said with a hint of sternness in her voice, “the acoustics on this ship carry everything everywhere. What did he say to you?”
He knew he was beat, and he knew that there was no way to tell how much Inara had or had not heard. “He wanted to know what was going on between us,” he surrendered.
She almost laughed, but held back. “I actually am not overly surprised, but I wish he would have come to me, instead of you. This has very little to do with you, Simon, it’s about Mal and myself”
“Simon, it’s…………complicated isn’t a strong enough word for it, but it will have to do. What else did he say?”
“Well, he was worried about Kaylee getting an idea, and her heart getting broken….”
“He said that to you?” Inara asked, gape-mouthed. “Malcolm Reynolds said that to you?”
“Yes, he did.”
She shook her head, and the hint of a smile played around the corners of her mouth. “If I live to be a thousand, I will never be able to predict that man.”
Mornightime found Zoë in the galley, up before everyone as was her way, making coffee and just enjoying some quiet time, a thing that had become increasingly hard to find since River’s abduction. She felt no guilt about the things she did in that bunker, in fact, she felt nothing at all, and she struggled to make peace with that fact. Killing those who were out to kill you was a soldier’s work, and she had no compunctions about it whatsoever, and that rationale had passed over to their new life aboard Serenity.
What had taken place down in that bunker had been something else. She had hurt those men, no different than the Captain or Jayne had done, before killing them. She had taken tremendous joy in making them cry and beg, in making them soil themselves, in making them see that there was no good way out of that bunker for them. The three of them had killed spirit and soul before finally killing flesh. The beast behind her eyes had gotten loose, had been let to run rampant, and she had made no effort to put it away. In fact, she reveled in it, rolled around in it like a dog, and when it was over, when they stood and looked at their work and at themselves, no one could think of anything to say. She knew the Captain was having the same troubles in his own heart, though he would never speak of them publicly. Jayne, though, was anyone’s guess, although she wondered what was in the big man’s head now after the wild animal rage he had displayed. Things were simpler for Jayne, Zoë knew, and she wondered if he even gave it thought now that is was all over.
She was lost in her considerations and almost missed River’s entrance into the kitchen area. Zoë was a soldier, above all, and she always knew what was going on around her at all times, but River had the uncanny ability to move soundlessly, like a shadow across a wall. It was a habit which could very easily get her killed in jumpier company, someone was going to have to explain to her someday.
Zoë softened her features as best she could whenever she looked at River. “Morning, little darling, what brings you up so early in the morning?”
River looked at her with that simple, mater of fact expression she so often had, and said, “He can’t follow me when I wake up.”
Zoë wished she knew what to say to something like that, but she came up short. “Child, he can never bother you again, trust me on that.”
“Because Simon killed him?”
Zoë found herself shocked at the simple and direct way for her to say it. “Your brother made sure he wouldn’t hurt you nor no one else ever again, River.”
“When Wash does it to you, does he make it hurt?”
Conversations with River could be like minefields on good days, and these had not been good days. Zoë ran through the options of trying to lie to the girl, and thought better of it. She had had enough done to her recently, why add lying to the mix?
“No, River, he doesn’t make it hurt. He makes me feel wonderful, in fact, because of the way we love each other. I do surely hope some man loves you the way my Wash loves me, and then you will know what I mean.
“But to answer your question, child, no, he doesn’t make it hurt.”
“Do you like to hurt people?”
“No, girl!” Zoë said. “I get nothing out of hurting people!”
“But you will.”
“If I need to, yes, I will. I’m a soldier, River, and soldiers have to protect people.”
“Why did they like to hurt us?”
“Girl, that’s a question I surely hope I never will be able to answer. I do hope I never understand the joy someone gets from that, River.”
River looked at her for a long minute, and turned around and walked out.
As she left, Shepherd Book walked in. Zoë poured him some coffee and handed it to him, which he took with a thanks. “You handled that very well,” he said.
“Lord knows I just don’t know what to say to that child, Shepherd,” Zoë told him.
“I know just how you feel. Inara is quite talented at counseling, and prior to us dropping those girls at the companion training house, she did wonders with them. I happen to think I have some pretty good talents in that area, but River…..”
“I know, you never know where her mind is going at any point. It can make conversation a mite tricky to keep on course.”
“Her brother is having a very tough road of it,” Book said. “I came across the boy in a corner of the ship crying the day before last….I thought to go to him, but thought better to let him be. He was sobbing not just out of his heart; he was sobbing out of his soul.“ Zoë nodded, understanding what the Shepherd meant. She’d heard such things before, and you tried not to let the person know you saw them. You tried to let them ride that out in their own privacy. “He is lost in how to help her with this. He doesn’t have a medicine or a treatment for this, Zoë, so he can’t pick a path to take with her.”
“I don’t envy him one smidge, preacher. He’s in over his head, and he knows it, and he must be wondering if he might have finally lost her this time.”
Book finished his coffee, and refilled his mug. As he did this, Mal entered the room to find coffee of his own. “I may have a thought and treatment for him that he had not yet considered.”
“What’s that, preacher?” Mal asked.
“There is an ancient art from Earth-that-was called hypnosis, which is based upon the human ability to take suggestion. A subject is put to sleep, or something close to sleep, and the hypnotiser puts a suggestion into their head, perhaps in this case something like blocking out what happened in that bunker.”
“You really believe in all that, preacher,” Mal asked.
“I do,” Simon said, walking into the room. “Though as far as the medical community goes, it really all depends upon who you talk to. Some people swear by it, and some people call it sideshow go-se. And any number of things in between.”
“Well,” Book started. “You walked in on the middle of a conversation about hypnotism as a potential treatment for River. I’m sure you must be feeling open minded regarding a way to help the girl.”
“Preacher, I’m so lost with River now, I want to just sit down and give up sometimes. She asked me to overdose her last night, did I tell anyone that?” Everyone looked down or away, not sure what to say. “She was so afraid of nighttime and sleep and dream time. She told me he was waiting for her there with his “Big scary thing” to hurt her with, she wanted me to give her all the dope I had, turn her brain into jelly.” Simon looked down at a counter and took a deep breath to steady himself. “So sure, my mind is pretty much wide open right now.”
“Doctor, I hate to bring this up right now, of all times, but I reckon I kind of have to,” Mal said.
“Are you going to threaten to shoot me again?”
Everyone looked at mal, who waved his left hand at them and muttered about “Different conversation.” He looked back at Simon. “Your sister’s a fine girl, Doctor, and ‘tis a shame and a sin such things should have been done to her, but I got not just her to concern myself with.”
“Now, just let me finish. River’s a mite feisty and hard to predict on her good days. Ask Jayne about that. These are not her good days. And Doctor, since I got no words to put this gentle, I will put it direct instead: if she chooses to take her own path out, I need to know she won’t take all of us with her.”
The silence that hung over the common area was thick enough to be felt. There were so many ways this could go, they all knew, most of them decidedly ungood, and Zoë and Book subtly moved to position themselves between the two men.
“Captain, everything you just said is more than fair, believe me. I spend all of my time thinking about that. If I am not watching her, Inara is. She won’t get the chance.”
“Doctor, I’d feel a fair deal better if I knew she wasn’t feeling so feisty,” Mal said.
“Are you asking me to sedate her?”
“I would feel better if I knew she was slowed down some, Doctor. I’m not going to ask anyone else to speak up with me, but I doubt I am the first to have this thought.”
Simon knew that Mal wasn’t asking, and he knew that he would secure her if she did anything outlandish. This was the best option he was going to get. “I will try to slip something into her breakfast.”
“However you feel best to get it done, Doctor, I’ll leave that part of it to you,” Mal said. “Now, preacher, tell me more about this ‘hypnotizism’ you are talking about.”
Book went through the explanation again, and finished with “There is a man who is considered the tops in his field living on Cleo.”
“That not much more’n five, six hours from here,” Mal said.
“I’d like to talk to the man,” Simon said. “I don’t know what, if anything, he can offer to River, but I would like to find out.”
Mal finished his coffee and set the mug down. “Zoë, tell your husband to set us a course. Shepherd, send this fella a wave, let him know we are coming.
“Let’s get our little bird put back together.”
Cleo was a nothing little moon midway out to the rim where diamond mining was controlled by off world corporations, with few of the profits being left on Cleo. Wash set Serenity down outside of the compound where the Hypnotist, Millhouse Book called him, lived.
They were ushered in by a butler, who announced them on arrival. Simon and River had stayed behind on the ship, as they often did in new places, until it could be determined that this was not a Fed trap.
Millhouse was a round man, though not overly obese, with a thinning front hairline and a lot of gray at his sides. He dressed in brightly colorful robes, and moved with a grace surprising in a man his size.
“Well, you would be Derial Book,” he said jovially. “Ah, it is Shepherd Derial Book. They didn’t tell me about that part. And you would be the crew of Serenity. Where is our disturbed young girl?”
“She is on the ship, resting,” Mal said.
“Until you were sure I wasn’t a Fed trap?” Millhouse asked with a smile. “I have no great love, nor hatred, for the Alliance. They leave me alone to conduct my practice, and I give them as little reason as possible to pay attention to me.”
“I wonder what his main practice is,” Wash muttered to Zoë.
“Yes, that is a point of curiosity, isn’t it?” Millhouse said, hearing Wash’s mumble.
“Maybe,” Mal said, stepping in. “But not an overly important one.”
“Very tactfully said, Captain. You must be quite the diplomat.” Mal turned to smile at Inara, who was almost choking at what she had just heard.
“Why don’t we all sit down and you tell me about your young lady.”
Which they did. Simon spoke mostly, along with Mal and Zoë. Millhouse listened intently, nodding, asking questions, taking notes. When the story telling was done, he sat back and considered, and told them he felt he could help River, after which he named a price.
Everyone tried to maintain a poker face at hearing the number. Mal took Zoë’s arm and excused himself as they walked a little distance away. “Where the hell are we supposed to get this kind of gorram money?”
“Sir, I was sort of hoping you had an idea in place.”
“That is not the sort of answer I was looking for from you, Zoë.” They both turned back, smiled, and approached the rest of the group. “It will take us a bit to put that sum together, you need to understand.”
“What I understand is that you do not have the money,” Millhouse said flatly. “I knew this as soon as you set foot in here. Which doesn’t mean we can’t do business, mind you. We will have to find another method of compensation.”
Millhouse got up and strolled around his sitting room. “There is a man named Tucker who controls the flow of drops coming onto Cleo. Anyone who wants to peddle drops to the miners has to buy from Tucker. At any given time, there is a significant amount of cash to be found in Tucker’s home.”
“How fortified is it,” Mal asked.
“Not so much as you might expect. He relies more on stealth that armament. One would have to be quite the talented finder to discover his whereabouts.”
“Unless they had directions?” mal prodded.
“Exactly. Diplomatic and clever, Captain.” Mal turned to Inara again, positively beaming. She looked like she might vomit on him. Zoë kicked him in the shin to tell him to cut it out.
“It would make me happy if his money and product ceased to exist. As it is, I am making a very nice living off of drug addiction, by curing those who have let themselves get trapped. Now, I would like to control the other side of the industry.”
“What else do you want from this?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I am given to understand that our Mr. Tucker has a gambling…..hobby, and is in no financial condition to replace a take of cash and product. This one hit would ruin him.”
“And the money?”
“Yours, by half. Product too.”
“I got no interest in the product,” Mal said. “You do what you want with it.”
“Then you take half the money, and I fix your broken girl.”
“Would you excuse us long enough for me to have a word with my crew?”
They all stepped away from Millhouse to confer. “It sounds like a simple home invasion job to me,” Jayne said. “We’ve done that before.”
“He’s right,” Zoë said. “This is a lot less complicated than some of our other……..escapades.”
“Mal,” Inara said. “How do we know he can even help River?”
“He comes very highly recommended,” Book said. “He is considered about the best in his field.”
“Sure, and he wants to expand his clientele base with out help,” Inara said.
“That don’t concern us none,” Mal reminded them. “Need I remind you we got ourselves a bird needs her wing mended?”
“Can we trust him,” Kaylee asked.
“The good Shepherd here is speaking for him, though one of these days my curiosity will get the better of my kind and gentle nature, preacher.” Book said nothing to that. “I say we take the job. Simon and River can’t go on living like this, and let us not bullshit one another, when River goes boom, she won’t go boom alone. The family has to be mended, simple as that.”
“I’m in with you, sir,” Zoë said.
“Me too,” Was Wash’s vote.
Jayne shrugged his shoulders. “My calendar is clear this week, what the hell, let’s go do some armed robbery.”
One by one, they voted in, and went back to Millhouse. “of course you are saying yes,” he said.
“I reckon so,” said Mal.
“Good, I expected you would. Before this begins, though,” Millhouse said. “I want some time with your young lady. I need to know if I can help her or not. If I cannot, then perhaps we can arrange other business, but I know I Come well recommended. I believe in doing right business to keep it that way.”
“I like your up-fronted ness,” Mal said. “I think we will do some fine business here together. Two things: first, the girl doesn’t leave the ship. I honestly don’t reckon she is up for it, although we may be able to arrange something in my tenant’s shuttle.” He shot Inara a look. She was going to kick his ass later, and he knew it, and it was well worth it. “Second, her brother is present with you at all times. She needs to feel safe, and he needs to put the brakes on if you start to dig too deeply.”
Millhouse nodded his approval, and said, “Those are reasonable caveats, I see no problem with any of that. I would like to start this as soon as possible.”
“The shuttle will be here within two hours, probably less.”
The shuttle, piloted by Inara, with Jayne hidden behind curtains and Simon sitting n the bed with River, arrived in just a little over an hour. He flowed into the living section of the shuttle and introduced himself. “I am Emory Millhouse, and you must be River. Such a lovely name for such a lovely young lady.” River looked down at her bare feet and almost blushed. Millhouse had plenty of charm, Inara thought, no question there. She honestly thought this could be a square deal here. Millhouse had much to gain, and so did they. Everyone had a chance to walk away with what they wanted.
Simon sat near River, who looked blankly at Millhouse. “has she had problems before the…..incident?”
“Yes, she is what you might call disturbed, though I cannot really get into the exact nature of that.”
“Nor will I ask you to, my young friend,” said Millhouse. “If I feel it is pertinent to her treatment, then we will need to discus it further, but for now, it isn’t important.”
Millhouse placed a three by five inch capture screen on a table in front of River. On it played out fields of flowers and shrubs, a peaceful garden. Millhouse whispered closely into River’s ear, and, much to Simon’s deep surprise, River’s chin was on her chest in five minutes.
Millhouse exited Inara’s shuttle shaking his head. Jayne was standing there, smoking a cigar, watching him. “You were there for most of that, I take it?”
“My eyes have never worked too well, but my nose is quite powerful. I could smell your cigars when you were hiding.”
Jayne knew he would have to remember that for future reference. Millhouse looked at the big man, and said, “I am not a very good person, you know. I have a talent, and I use it for making money, and I will use you people to put me in a position to make much more money.”
“Don’t phase me none, mister,” Jayne said around his cigar.
“No, I am quite sure it doesn’t. you don’t strike me as a man for who it would.” Millhouse rubbed a spot over his right eyebrow. “I learn new things every day about what men will do to men, about our never ending inhumanity to one another. There really is no end to it, is there?”
“Mister, you weren’t in that cell room with me and the others. You didn’t see what they went and done to a six year old girl,” Jayne said, closing his eyes hard at the memory and the tears it wanted to pull up. “I killed more folk’s I can remember, Mister. I’m a bad guy, no nice way around the fact, but what I seen done to a little child………that’s just bad way beyond my kind of bad. I’m honest, stand up bad, but that’s just the devil’s work kinda bad.”
“What did you do to them? Were they turned over to feds?”
“Now that’s just a plain dumb question,” Jayne said with a smirk. “I think we gave them a lesson in bad that night. Real bad.”
“And you are fine with that?’
“It don’t matter I’m fine or not, it’s been done, and I got not a whore’s hair of sorrow for doing it. I told you, I’m a bad guy, I do bad things, but sometimes there is a need for bad guys, cause you got a bad job needs be doing.”
Millhouse sat with Simon and Mal. “You sister is clearly deeply traumatized,” he said. “Though you seemed to keep me from seeing the deeper sources of her troubles.”
“Let’s just say we would like to keep focused on the matter at hand,” Mal said with a smile.
“Yes, of course, let’s not get ourselves off course.” Millhouse got up to pour himself a drink. He held the bottle towards Simon and mal, but both shook their heads no. “When will you fulfill your part of this contract?”
Mal spoke up. “Tonight will be for reconnaissance, get a feel for the terrain and land. How reliable are your maps and layouts?”
“Extremely so, Captain. One of Tucker’s higher lieutenants had a terrible habit with the drops. He had no idea he was mapping it all out for me.”
“So,” Mal said standing up. “I guess we will talk more about this tomorrow.”
“Wash, bring us up at a high enough altitude not to look interested.. Kaylee, open up our belly doors and put the cameras out there, full intensity, we’ll look it all over later. Everyone else, let’s enjoy a ride.”
The recon flight went off without a hitch. No radars or other tracking systems ever lit them up. It was as if they had never been there at all.
Mal, Zoë, and Jayne went over the films that had been taken, along with Shepherd Book. “What I see,” Mal said. “Is a massive skylight right here. I’m liking the idea of dropping Jayne right through there for shock and surprise, open the fire right there on the spot.”
“I don’t like that idea,” Jayne said. “Why am I getting dropped like a bomb?”
“Because you are like a bomb,” Zoë said patiently. “The Captain and I will come in from the ground in the front, and Wash and the Shepherd will come in from behind. Meantime, you will be keeping everyone busy upstairs. It’s a simple home invasion, Jayne. We’ve done this before.”
“You try being the one gets dropped out of a fast moving spaceship, and tell me how simple you think it is!”
“Why are we talking about this?” Mal asked. “Jayne, we’re dropping you because Serenity has no torpedo tubes with which to fire you, ok?” As he walked away, he could be heard musing “I wonder if Kaylee could set us up with torpedo tubes…..”
The job went down without much of anything that could be called a hitch. Jayne came through the skylight armed to the teeth, firing everything he could possibly hold at once. Mal and Zoë kicked in the front door and shot the security near their entrance, and Wash and Book did the same from behind. As they all converged together, there were only six surviving guards left out of the thirty or so that had been patrolling the house only half an hour before.
“Where is Tucker?” Mal asked the first. A very rude comment was made about Mal’s mother, and this was answered by a gunshot to the abdomen. Mal turned to the second guard. “That’s a belly shot, and it’s going to take a fair amount of time for him to bleed to death and die. It’s going to be a painful period of time, you might be able to imagine, and either you give me what I want, or you can die the same way he does.” Mal leaned in closer. “Where is Tucker?”
“Don’t know no Tucker.”
“Don’t know no Tucker, huh?” Mal shook his head in sorrow and frustration, and shot the man in the gut. On to the third. “How about you? I will shoot my way through all of you and just put m’self through the effort of tearing the place apart. I would just as soon not do that, if’n you wouldn’t mind too terribly much, so just gorram answer me!”
This guard had a stronger survival instinct than the first two, and he pointed to a basement door. “He’s down there,” he said.
“You just got yourself a college degree, friend,” Zoë said. “You and your friends, get! Don’t stop running till the sun comes out, y‘hear?” They took her advice and got to running. “Sir, what about these two?”
“Remind Jayne to shoot them before we leave, would you?” mal said, heading downstairs.
Tucker was like most crime bosses, big enough to be threatening, and full of that animal cunning that makes anyone in the know understand his dangerousness. He also knew that life as he had known it had just changed quite drastically. Roughly six feet tall with very dark black skin and a shaved head that shined, he stood to meet his invaders as they came downstairs.
“I reckon you might understand if I felt better t’were I to be seeing your hands,” Mal said. Tucker obliged him on this. “You probably figured by now we mean to take what you have here, and that we are working for a competing party. All of that would be correct. But I got no quarrel with you, and I got no reason to not want to see you walk away from this business intact. I want your money, and I want your product.”
“You mean to put me out of business,” Tucker said.
“Party employing us does, yes, I won’t debate with you there. But just let us have what we are looking for, and there can be no more uncalled for violence this evening..”
Tucker looked at the team around him, and did the math. “Wall safe, over here,” he said.
“Open it up,” Mal told him, “but don’t be stupid. I don’t care how fast you think you are, you can’t take us all. Just open it and step way back”
“I’m not interested in losing more than I already have tonight,” Tucker said. “Just take what you came for and leave me be, if you would.”
It was just as he said. Crates of refrigerated vials of narcotics wee stored with crates of cash. Jayne, Wash, and Book carried the all to the front entrance and onto the ship which had parked outside the front door.
“You do know what a terrible mistake you’ve made here tonight,” Tucker said.
“Come again?” Mal said.
“You don’t honestly think this is the end of this, do you?”
“See, now, you just had to go and say something real dumb like that, didn’t you?” Mal said. “here I was, all ready to just walk away with my takings, and you just had to throw a wrench into things like that. Gorrammit!” Mal paced a few steps and looked back at Tucker. “Zoë, pat him down, see if he’s carrying.” She did, and found a medium sized semi-automatic in an ankle holster. Mal put his own piece into its holster. “See, I’m not a big fan of killing a man in cold blood, not one I meant to leave in piece, but we can’t go that way tonight, can we?” Tucker said nothing. “Zoë, put that in his belt there.” She did, and stepped away.
“Fill your hand, Mr. Tucker.”
They both did.
Mal was faster.
The drugs were delivered, the cash was split, and River had been treated. Millhouse had put subconscious walls around the events that took place in the cells during her captivity. “Understand me clearly when I tell you that I can’t guarantee this won’t crop up in her dreams periodically,” Millhouse explained. “The subconscious is not a bulkhead that can be welded over. The good news is that if and when it does come to her forefront, it will do so with much less clarity and definition, more like some far off terror that she can’t quite remember.”
Simon told him that he was familiar enough with the way these things worked to understand the hypnotist.
“Well then, our business is completed. I thank you all, and I wish you the best with that poor young woman, and I see no good reason for us all not to forget ever seeing one another.” And with that, he was gone.
The bay door raised shut, and with that, so were they.
River was asleep, deeply, comfortably asleep for the first time in what seemed ages, and Simon went out for a walk. While his head had no specific destination in mind, his feet had other plans.
He was in the engine room, of course, but there was no Kaylee. Maybe next time, he thought to himself as he turned around and there was Kaylee, completely unexpected, startling him into a yelp.
“Oh, God, Simon, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--”
No, No, No, I’m ok, my mind was a million miles away, I should be apologizing to you….”
They laughed, and she put the question to him “What are you doing down here?”
“Oh, I, um, uh, was just strolling, River’s asleep nice and peaceful at last,” he said. “So I just thought I would walk around, see the ship a little….”
“Simon, you hate this ship,” Kaylee said.
“I don’t hate it, so much, I just….”
“It wouldn’t be my first choice in transportation,” Simon said as diplomatically as possible. “But we are safe out here, so I guess that makes Serenity something special.”
“So,” they both said at once, and laughed nervously.
“Simon, can I ask you something?”
“Of course, Kaylee.”
“Are you and Inara………..”
“No! God no! We’re not,” he paused, recalling his conversation with captain Reynolds. “There isn’t anything going on there, Kaylee. Inara and I, we have a lot in common socially, we know a lot of the same circles, and she is becoming a good friend for me.”
Kaylee looked down at her shoes and peered up at Simon. “And that’s all?”
“I promise you, Kaylee. I’m not blind, and I’m not stupid, and you don’t know how much I would like arms to hold me right now, but River…….River needs so much attention, they took her when I was watching her, what could happen if I wasn’t watching her?” He rubbed under his left eye and sniffed. “I don’t want to hurt you, Kaylee, and I will try hard not to, but I am all about River, not about me.”
Kaylee didn’t know what to say to that.
“But if I was about me, yours would be the arms I would look for.”
Kaylee smiled bright enough to light up the whole ship, stood on her tip-toes, and kissed him square on the mouth, and skipped merrily into her engine room.
Simon turned, and started walking back, and found Mal standing at the corner. “Good evening, Captain,” he said, unsure of what had or had not been heard.
“You did that right nicely with Kaylee, Doctor. Right nicely indeed. You’re on my ok list for now.” with that, the Captain turned and walked away.
Sleep came hard to the Captain that night as he played out all that had happened to him and his crew. There had been so much blood, so much terror and suffering, and so much darkness had poured out of him to try to make it right.
He stood and looked at the empty cargo hold, thinking long thoughts about where his life had gotten him to at this point. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t see Inara watching from her shuttle door, wanting to go to him, but knowing she didn’t dare, and he barely registered the sound as her door slipped shut.
Saturday, October 21, 2006 9:19 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006 8:28 PM
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