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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Second part of a multi-part story. Vinnie reveals more about Tetris ... Please leave feedback, good or bad.
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“Tetris?” Mal stared at him. “What the hell are you saying, Vinnie?”
“I thought I was pretty clear myself. I’ve been a guest of the mining company, Mal.”
“I managed to get out ‘bout three months back.” Vinnie returned the look.
“Three months? That was – ”
“Yeah. I escaped using your little diversion,” he said, sitting back. “I guess I should thank you,” he added, but he wasn’t smiling.
“How did you figure it was us?” Mal wanted to know.
“Guards were talking about the new arrivals. There ain’t that many look like your mercenary, and the guards said there was a smart-ass man with them – I guess they musta meant you.”
“Thanks,” Mal said sarcastically.
“Once I got out I did some asking around, thought I might thank them. Imagine my surprise when I found out that a big man fitting that description worked for you, along with a couple of other panty-waist idiots. Didn’t take much to figure it, not since I know you.”
“How did you end up down there?” Zoe asked, sitting down at the table, her dark face implacable as usual.
“Got into a bit of bad business over on Santo. These guys thought I gypped them out of money in a card game, only I didn’t know they were slavers. Jumped me leaving the bar. Next thing I knew I was up to my ass in dust digging for that damn blue ore.” Vinnie picked up a stray piece of bread, chewing on it thoughtfully. “If’n I ever lay my hands on them again …” He brought his mind back. “Then the power went down, and I just took advantage. Busted the guard’s head with a lump of rock, deactivated the pacifier and ran. Managed to get to the surface, stowed on a transport and … well, here I am.” He put his arms out, indicating Serenity.
“You were damn lucky,” Mal said, shaking his head. “If it weren’t for my crew we’d still be there.”
“Yeah.” Vinnie studied him. “Guess you were the lucky ones, though. The kind of luck a lot of us didn’t get.”
“What are you talking about, Vinnie?”
For a long moment the other man didn‘t speak, then, “Did you even think about the rest of the men down there?” he asked finally.
“The rest of the slaves. A hell of a lot of men, Mal, all of ‘em with wives, kids, families, and all of ‘em just waiting to die.” His voice was matter of fact, but his eyes were cold. “Did you think about them?”
“I …” Mal paused. He hadn’t. “I had to get my people out of there. ‘Sides, they could have taken advantage, same as you.”
“Maybe they weren’t so fortunate.”
“That wasn’t my problem.”
“No? You, Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, the man who kept us all going during the darkest days, who never willingly left a man behind, are saying you don’t care about them?”
“Not a Sergeant no more, Vinnie. And I got other responsibilities. Like I said, they could have taken advantage of the situation like you did.”
“And what about now?” Vinnie leaned forward again. “Now you are thinking about them. Can you leave them there?”
“What are you saying?”
“You think what you did made any difference?”
“Never thought it did. We weren’t trying to close the mine, just get out.”
“And leave us?”
“I didn’t know you were there!”
They glared at each other for a long time, then Vinnie nodded slowly. “No, I guess you didn’t.”
“Look,” Mal said, trying to salvage the situation. “If I’d known you were there, don’t you think I‘d have tried to help? If there had been a chance, any chance of getting you out of there, I’d’ve taken it.”
“Then you’ve got that chance now.”
“I got out, Mal, through something approaching sheer luck. But there are others still down that mine. And one of them is very close to me.” His eyes closed for a moment. “I couldn’t get to him. I tried, but there were too many guards, and they’d’ve just killed us. He saw me, knew I had to go, but that don’t make it any easier.”
“Who?” Mal asked, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Who, Vinnie?”
“Tzao gao.” Harry. Vinnie’s brother. A man who had saved his life more than once during the war. “How long’s he been down there?”
“Nearly six months.” The other man shook his head. “He ain’t gonna last much longer, Mal. You have to help me get him out.”
The other man shook his head. “Don’t say yes or no right now. Just think about it. About Harry, down there on his own, no-one to care about him except me. And maybe you.” He stood up. “I’d better go see that doctor of yours, see if he’s right and I’m sick. Although maybe I’m just sick of being left to rot.” He walked out of the dining area.
Zoe looked at Mal. “Are you thinking of going back there?” she asked quietly.
Mal was staring into nothing. “He’s right, Zo. I didn’t even think of the other men down there.”
“You couldn’t have gotten them out, sir, no matter what Vinnie says. And it was Kaylee’s life on the line. And Freya’s. They were more important.”
“Zoe, we were only down there a short while. Can you imagine what hell it must be like to be there for months, maybe even years? Just waiting for the dust, the pacifier or a gorram cave-in to kill you?” He finally looked at her. “Harry’s down there. I’m not sure I can walk away from that.”
“No, sir,” Zoe said regretfully. “I doubt that you can.”
“You wanted to see me, doc?” Vinnie asked, leaning on the door of the infirmary.
“Yes.” Simon patted the examining table. “I just want to check you’re okay.”
“That’s not what Mal said,” the other man chuckled. “He told me you thought I was sick.”
“I ain’t sick, doc. Just been somewhere makes a man ill.” He lifted his sleeve. “Pretty, ain’t it? Kinda reminds me of a jewel sometimes. ‘Course, that’s when it ain’t hurting like it’d be easier to cut my own arm off.”
Simon pulled the magnifier over and examined the sore. “Where did this come from?” he asked.
Simon stepped back, staring him. “You were –“ His normally pale face lost all its colour.
“Yeah, thought that might make you feel a little awkward. Been there a while, just got out. Left me with a couple of little gifts.” He pulled his collar away so Simon could see the others.
“You were down the mines?”
“That I was. And I think I’ve given your captain something to think about, too.”
At dinner that night Mal waited until everyone had eaten before he asked for everyone’s attention.
“Where is Vinnie?” he asked Simon.
“He’s eating in his quarters. I told him to get some rest.” Simon stared at him. “Mal, you know where he’s been?”
“That I do. And that’s what I want to explain to the rest of the crew.”
Simon nodded, but the look on his face was strained as Mal spoke.
“… so he wants us to help him get his brother out,” Mal finished, looking around at the rest of his crew.
“Where’s he being held?” Jayne asked, chewing on a piece of bao.
“That’s the problem,” Mal said, not looking at Freya or Kaylee. “He’s in the mines on Tetris.”
Freya pushed her chair back in shock, the legs scraping on the floor in the sudden silence. “Mal, you can’t be serious,” she said softly. She stared at him until he looked over at her. “We all nearly died on that moon. And you’re asking us to go back?”
“I am. Frey, we have to get him out of there.”
He didn’t answer, just gazed at her as if willing her to understand.
“Mal, I have to agree with Freya,” Hank said slowly. “This is a really bad idea.” Mal switched his cobalt gaze to his pilot, but for once Hank didn’t back down. “Surely the Alliance can do something? Slavery’s still illegal, even out here. Can’t they go in, close the place down?”
“And lose the ore?” Simon put in. “They’d never do it. Most of the stuff that comes out of those mines ends up in Alliance ships,” he said bitterly, grasping Kaylee’s hand tightly. “They’ve turned a blind eye for a long time; they’re not suddenly going to develop 20:20 vision.”
“Simon’s right,” Mal agreed. “They won’t do a damn thing. Which means we have to.”
“Why?” Kaylee asked, trembling. Her face had gone white as soon as Mal had mentioned the name of the moon, and there was still no colour in her cheeks. “Why us, Cap’n? I know he’s your friend ‘n’ all, but why us?”
“There isn’t anyone else, mei-mei,” Mal said gently, looking at her. “And there’s a lot more men down there who could maybe use our help. I ain‘t saying we can get them all out, but maybe we should try.”
“For just one man?” Inara asked, shaking her head.
“He’s my friend,” Mal said, as if it explained everything.
“We ain’t getting paid for this,” Jayne pointed out. “And they ain’t gonna take kindly to us waltzin’ in and demanding they release your pal.”
“Wasn’t planning on doing any waltzing, or any other kind of dancing around. But they got weak spots, we know that. Just need to find the right one and push hard enough.”
“And if they push back?” the big mercenary asked. “What we supposed to do then? Turn round and run with our tail between our legs?”
“I don’t intend leaving there without Harry,” Mal said firmly. “But I ain’t gonna make anyone go down that don’t want to. This is volunteers only.”
“Right,” Jayne mumbled. “Volunteers.”
“Are you crazy?” Freya said at last, a tremor of anger in her voice. “How the hell can you say that, when you damn well know you can’t take half your crew with you?”
“Might be best I can’t anyway,” Mal said, turning to look at her again. “Might be better as a small operation, in and out. Less likelihood of getting pinched.” He looked around the table.” But you don‘t have to tell me yet. Let‘s get there first.” He glanced down the table at Hank. “Need to get us a course set. How long do you reckon it’ll take us?”
Hank pursed his lips. “I figure you don’t want to make it too obvious, so we’ll be taking the longer route? Under the radar?”
“That’d be best.”
“Maybe five days. Little less.”
“Not too circuitous, then, Hank. But get it laid in.”
Hank nodded and headed for the bridge.
Zoe stood up. “Kaylee, you best check the engine room, make sure nothing’s gonna break down any time soon,” she advised.
Kaylee nodded, her face still pale. “I’ll see to her.” She glanced at Freya, who hadn’t taken her eyes off Mal, then hurried out, Simon close behind.
Jayne got to his feet. “If I ain’t getting paid, I don’t see a profit in taking on this job,” he said slowly.
“That’s your choice,” Mal said. “I ain’t gonna hold it against you.”
“Just so long as you don’t,” Jayne said, walking out of the galley towards his bunk.
“Mal, I wish you would reconsider,” Inara said, getting to her feet. “It’s too dangerous.”
Mal smiled sadly at her. “Never known us to take the easy path, ‘Nara.”
“No, but I‘ve known you be this pig-headed before. And people tend to end up getting hurt.” She turned on her heel and left the dining area.
“Wrong, captain,” River said, her first words since he’d outlined the problem, her feet on the chair, hugging her knees. “Can’t do this.”
“You against me too, little albatross?” Mal asked, looking at her.
“Have to think of another way,” she insisted, her dark eyes very large.
“There ain’t another way, River. But it’ll be easy. They ain't expecting anything like an assault, so we go in, get as many out as possible, easy peasy.”
“Never that,” she murmured, getting gracefully to her feet. “This will not be smooth.” She gazed at him for a moment, then ran out of the galley.
“She’s having one of those days again,” he commented, then shook his head, glancing at his first mate. “Can you make sure she’s okay?”
Zoe looked at her captain, then at Freya, whose own gaze hadn’t wavered, and decided this was not a conversation she wanted to be a part of. She nodded and walked out after River.
Mal turned back to the woman sitting next to him.
“You really think I’m crazy,” Mal said quietly.
“Gorramit, yes!” Freya stared at him. “I can’t believe you intend to do this! That place …” She stood up, needing to pace. “You have to leave half your crew up here, maybe the better half.”
“So you said before.”
“Well, I’m thinking maybe you didn’t hear the first time! And if Jayne doesn’t go, who have you got? Simon? He’s a doctor, Mal. He can’t kill without thinking, and that’s what you need.” A fleeting look of guilt passed across Mal’s face, but she didn’t notice. “And as for Hank … well, I don’t know what use he’d be in a real fight. Even if he was Alliance once, he admits he’s not happy with guns.”
“Vinnie’ll be there. He‘s more motivated than the rest of us to get Harry out. He‘ll be at my back.”
“But we won’t!” She leaned on the table top in front of him. “Zoe, River, me … we none of us can go down there. Mal, think what it nearly did to Kaylee!”
“That’s why I don’t intend any of you to go near that place.”
“And as for Vinnie … Mal, I don’t trust him.”
“I do.” He looked at her, their faces close. “I trust him, Frey.”
Freya stood up slowly. “This isn’t a discussion, is it,” she said softly. “You’ve already made up your mind. This is what we do because you say so.”
“It’s my boat. I’m captain.” A note of belligerent stubbornness had crept into his voice.
“And we don’t have an opinion?”
He pushed his chair back and stood up. “You’ve told me what you think. No-one need go if they don‘t want to. Volunteers, Frey. Volunteers.”
Freya stepped around the table until there was only a foot between them. “And what are we supposed to say when none of your ‘volunteers’ come back?” She looked into his face. “What are we supposed to tell your children?”
His blue eyes turned to ice. “That’s low, Freya.”
“Maybe it is. But you ain’t a man on your own any more, Mal. You have responsibilities.”
“You say that to me?” He closed the gap, anger beginning to fill him. “You think I need reminding of that fact, do you?”
“I’ve had responsibilities all my life. On the ranch, during the way, even here on this boat - I’ve been responsible for people. And right now it’s my responsibility to try and save Harry.”
“Mal, this is your child I’m talking about,” Freya said, trying to take in air, anger and concern making her short of breath. “I want him to actually get the chance to meet you.” She felt tightness in her chest. “You forced me into this pregnancy, Mal: I’m not going to let you run off and get yourself killed just so you can get out of …” Her voice faltered and her eyes half-closed.
“Frey?” he said, taking her weight in his arms as she collapsed against him. “Simon!” he shouted.
to be continued
Thursday, October 26, 2006 4:35 AM
Thursday, October 26, 2006 5:12 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006 8:15 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006 9:39 AM
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