BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

NEWOLDBROWNCOAT

A Swarm of Fireflies
Saturday, March 3, 2007

The BDH go to a convention. Disclaimer- This is science fiction, 500 years in the future. Any resemblance to real events or folks is a coincidence. Besides, I've never been to Burbank. A little different from my usual stuff- a little more action, a little romance.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3035    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

"Can we go, captain? Please, please, pretty please?"

"Kaylee, you know, we work before we play."

"But it's practically on the way. And we don't make the pickup 'till Tuesday. It's a weekend thing, see?"

Mal looked at the paper. It was a printed flyer headed " A Swarm of Fireflies." Various subheads and balloons popped out on it. "Owners." "Operators." "Buyers, Sellers." "Parts vendors." "Engineers and Service Techs." "Custom ships and Open Houses." "Food. Drink. Entertainement." "Veterans groups."

They had made a mail pickup, and this had come for Kaylee, from Monte's boat. It had circulated around the ship all day, capturing his attention as it moved from hand to hand, but, until now, at the dinner table, he hadn't gotten a look at it.

"Zoe, what do you think? Veterans groups?"

"Yeah, Mal, a chance to see your old war buddies."

"The Oberlanders are gonna be there. And the 76th."

"Dunno, sir, don't know as I want to be reminded of the things about the war I've managed to forget."

"Captain, look, Monte's gonna be there."

"Huh? His boat ain't even a firefly. What would he be doin' there?"

"Maybe he likes ships. Some people juggle geese."

Mal thought. If Monte was gonna be there, something underground was going on. Maybe a chance to acquire some legal

cargo. Or better, some profitable, illegal cargo. "Tell ya what. We'll drop by Friday night, see what's going on. Enough fun or entertainment, we'll stay awhile. See

how it goes. But Kaylee-- "

"Yes?"

"This costs me a bunch of coin for the boat, fees and such, it comes outta your share on the next job."

"Shiny, Captain."

********

So they found themselves circling this barren but terraformed asteriod called Calburba. There were bunches of

fireflies, and other ships in parking orbits, and shuttles everywhere. Traffic control was talking to Mal and Wash, as Kaylee

hung around the bridge. On the wave viewscreen was a young man, under a sign that read "This ruttin'job is not that ruttin'

easy."

"Yeah, captain, I think we can land you in a few minutes."

"What's this gonna cost me, berthin' fees and suchlike?"

"Do you have advance ticket holders on board?"

Kaylee suddenly materialized something from her coveralls somewhere, waved it at Mal. He looked confused, wondering

how come she had that. "Seems like we do."

"Well, we can waive the berthing fee, then. Have you heard the news?," The young man asked mysteriously.

"No, can't say we have."

"Oh, then I'll have someone meet you at your berth and explain. Now, do you want brown, or purple?"

"Huh?"

"We're parking Independents on one side , and Alliance on the other. Hopin' to keep the brawls down to a minimum."

"We'd be Browncoats, son."

"Very well, captain, berth marker 217. I'll trigger it now, and have someone meet you, explain what's going on." A light blossomed on the radar, and Wash said;," Oh yeah, I can land on that, easy.", and he began manuvering,

grimmacing and swearing mildy as the ship didn't cooperate. Presently, they were down, and the hatch open.

On one side was a ship done up for luxury cruising. A nameplate on it read " Inside Straight, BahiaMar, Florida." On the other side was a firefly painted glossy black, except for a white rabbit's head and ears. It seemed to be crewed by

an excess of young women, with an abundance of shape and a shortage of clothes. They were engaged in doing a sloppy job of

washing the ship, but seemed to be getting most of the soap and water on each other. Jayne drifted that way at once, eager

to help.

A young man and a woman were approaching. They were wearing the ugliest vests Mal had ever seen, diagonally striped

like zebras in purple and brown. They were both wearing buttons that proclaimed them SoCal Browncoats, and the woman was

wearing a large one that said," It's not my gorram fault. I'm a volunteer." The man was wearing one questioning the

parentage of someone named Joss. Most of The crew gathered to watch and listen, tho' Jayne continued to stare at the girls

nearby.

"Hi, we're from New Caledon--"

"Southern Caledon- the northerns are over with the purple guys--"

"Do any of you have presold tickets?"

Kaylee waved one. Mal looked confused, again. Someday she was gonna hafta explain how she had done that. "Well, there's been a problem. BlastOff Enterprises, that were promoting this thing, stiffed all the invited guests

they were supposed to pay, and all the money seems to be missing." The young man gestured around. "But a lot of folks showed

up anyway. We've put together a bunch of volunteer programs, and events, and a bunch of folks are helping out. Here's maps,

and a sorta schedule--" There seemed to be lots of drinking and eating, and some sales of stuff, but not much else. Mal

frowned like a big thundercloud, and Kaylee looked like one of Wash's black market beagles, if someone had stolen its last

bone.

"Can I get my money back? I paid over 200 platinum for this ticket--"

"Kaylee, where'd you get that much coin?"

"Aw, gee, some I borrowed, and most of it I saved, and I paid it in a long while ago, months, when I first heard

about this."

"And how'd you know I'd let you come to it?" She looked shy, and Mal, looking around, noticed the silly looks on

everyone's faces. "Never mind. Zoe. Jayne... Jayne, cut that out and get over here, ya got work to do. I want both of you to

get busy. Find these folk. Get Kaylee's money back. "

Zoe looked not just determined, but pleased. Mal looked around at the rest, passing out money.

"Here ya all go. Wander around, have fun. Eat, shop, whatever. Keep yer eyes out for stuff that might benefit the

boat-- food, parts, work. Try to keep in touch, but don't worry about it. We ain't goin' nowhere'till we get Kaylee's money

back." But the crew was already departing in many different directions. He secured the ship, leaving only the personell door

unlocked, then departed to locate Monte Reynolds.

********

The young browncoats had shown Zoe and Jayne where the main ticket office was, and they had reconnoitered. They had

decided to approach a side door down a short alley. As they approached it, a man even larger than Jayne turned into it first.

Zoe spoke up. "Hey, hold it."

The man turned. Suddenly he was carrying a very large double barreled shotgun. It was at full alert, and while not

pointed exactly at them, it was clearly intended that way.

"Who are you?"

"Cobb. Jayne Cobb--"

"Jayne Cobb? THE Jayne Cobb? The Hero of Canton Jayne Cobb?" The shotgun had gone away.

"And this is Zoe. She's my, uh--, uh---, uh --- partner. But yeah, I'm him. the hero of song and story. Who are you?"

"My name is Bigelow Johnson."

"Yer Big Johnson? "

"The one and only."

Zoe asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Folks on my boat had a bunch of prepaid tickets. They want their money back. And you?"

"Pretty much the same." Up close , she noticed that the man was wearing combat fatigues, with a purple flower in his

lapel. " You Alliance.?" It sounded like a swear word.

"Folks on my boat are, mostly. I didn't fight in no war. .. Y'all Browncoats?"

"I was. Jayne didn't fight in no war either."

"Ya reckon we could form an --that is to say, a working relationship?"

"You got a plan?"

"Side door. Get the money back, or find out where it is."

"We were thinking much the same. All right, let's try it. "

"I'll go first. Gimme a minute, then follow me in." The big man fired his shotgun into the door, then crashed thru

what was left of it. Jayne and Zoe waited till the screaming inside died down, then entered. There wasn't much to see. The

ticket windows were shuttered. There were a couple of desks and chairs. A couple of youngsters stood back terrified. Big

Johnson had a scrawny young man pinned against the wall, the shotgun an inch from his nose, smoke still coming out of the

barrel.

"Where's the money? I want the money."

The young man looked terrified, unable to speak. Jayne moved in. "Easy, big fella."

"Ya don't know, ha? Mebbe I'll just blast you, ask one a these others. They'll know I'm serious." 'The others' had

headed for the door, but stopped when they saw Zoe with her mare's leg out.

The shotgun was now in the young man's ear. "Alla you over here against the wall, before I impair this fella's

hearing something permanent. What happpened to the money?"

"Blastoff took it and split, late last night. What there was. Most of it was presale, months back. They always had

it. We never saw it."

"Money ain't here, huh? Well, gorrammit, my people want their money back. Reckon I just gotta kill you all. They

can't have money, mebbe they'll be happy with a bag fulla heads!" The shotgun made a very large CLICK! as he cocked it.

Jayne stepped forward again,pushed the gun aside. " Hey, Big, easy. Ain't no call to kill all these kids. Why'nt you

and the lady step outside, let me talk to 'em a minute." Big and Zoe left and Jayne turned to the kids.

"You see how he is. We just met him, ain't sure how much we can hold him back. We're tryin', see? But ya gotta give

me somethin' ta calm him down with. Anything? Anybody?"

Silence.

"Well, I tried. I'm sorry." Big stepped thru the door, closing the obviously reloaded shotgun.

"Line 'em up, son. I reckon that way I can kill 'em all with only one shot. Mebbe two. Won't hurt so much, but what

the Hell--"

"Big guy, give me just one minute more--"

"NO. Wanta kill 'em all, get after them folks. They're gettin' away."

"Ain't no need ta be killin' folk what don't know nuthin'."

"But I wanta anyway--"

Jayne pushed toward the big man. "Just a gorramm minute, I said! Now wait outside!" The tension was high for a

moment, then Johnson turned and went outside.

"You see how he is. Acts like he's about half reaver. Can anybody tell me anythin', calm him down? Where was their

ship?"

"All we know is it was in berth 21, right outside here. They were here last night, and gone this morning."

"And where are you all staying?"

"We're all on the dorm ship, berth-- uh, 327."

Jayne caught the hesitation. " You all sure of that?. He ain't the type to be fooled by some simple lie. He hasta

look for ya, he'll just get madder. And he won't stop lookin'. The longer he has ta look, the madder he'll be, You all

wannta see him when he's really mad?"

"Oh, that's right, I forgot, we moved the ship . It's in berth 428."

"Other side a' the moon, huh? Well, I'm glad you remembered in time. Just keep doing yer jobs, don't nobody leave

the planet till this is over, we'll all be OK."

As Jayne came out, Zoe and Big were leaning against the wall, listening. The big man smiled." Aiya, I ain't never

seen good cop, bad cop done better. You got natural talent, boy."

"What next?"

"Check out their berth, nose around, see what we can find. But I need a drink."

"Now that sounds like a plan--"

********

Mal had found Monte. He had a few drinks, made a quick deal to do a little smuggling. Then he wandered out into the main area of the convention, from shop to shop, booth to booth, ship to ship. From time to time , he spotted some others of

his crew- River and Simon having a snack, Kaylee and Wash looking at chrome plated engine accessories. The Shepard seemed

to be completely missing. Finally he returened to Serenity, where he found Inara brewing a pot of tea in the galley.

"Mal-- would you like to join me in a cup of tea?"

"Don't mind if I do, but are ya sure there's room fer both of us?"

She giggled at the old joke, then sat and poured. "Not yer kinda place, I don't suppose?"

"No, not at all. The ones that aren't more interested in machinery than women are out making their own fun. And the

ones with money are spending it all on engine parts--"

"Can't imagine a man with priorities that messed up."

"So I've decided to just take the weekend off. No work, just recreation."

"Guild must have pretty complicated rules on just what's allowed."

"They do indeed."

"Heard the rumors?"

"No, I can't say I have."

"Seems there are these 3 armed bandits terrorizing the ex-management. Shooting up ticket offices, harassing

employees, causing trouble. Brawling in saloons. Supposedly trying to get somebody a refund."

"Anybody we know?"

"Descriptions are confused. Two men and a woman, or maybe 3 men, or maybe 1 man and 2 women, one of whom is

supposed to be the ugliest lesbian anybody's ever seen. Answers to the name of Jane. They're white, or black , or some

combination. Witnesses seem to be on their side, so reports aren't very accurate or helpful. Everybody's hopin' they'll get

some money back for somebody." She was laughing discreetly, he saw, a hand over her face. Apparrently companions didn't just laugh out loud like

folks.

"I just hope nobody catches them."

"Not likely. And they haven't done much harm. No folk injured, just scared. A little property damage, but no worse

than any other saloon brawl. "

There was a moment of silence. "'Nara, would Guild recreation extend to havin' dinner with me?"

"I could argue that it's a landlord tennant meeting."

"Would you like to?"

"Yes I would, Mal. Give me a few minutes, I'll change."

********

The place was called the Starlite Lounge, and for a temporary structure at a convention site, it was pretty

luxurious. It had four walls, and a real roof, even if a lot of that was windows to show the beautiful stars shining in the

black. If dinner was by candlelight because there was no electricity, no one was rude enough to mention it. There was a dance

floor and a live band playing sweet music. Mal had had a steak, and Inara something Asian and vegetabley. They were

finishing their desserts, tiny dishes of rich vanilla ice cream and small cups of strong sweet coffee.

Mal leaned forward. "Would you like to dance, Inara?"

"Why, yes, I'd like that."

They rose and joined the other couples on the dance floor just as the band began playing a slow dance number, an old

love song from Earth-That-Was. It might have been a waltz, Mal thought. It had been a very long time since he'd danced close

with a woman, held one in his arms and felt her softness, enjoyed the warmth of her body against his, smelled the sweet

fragrance of subtle perfume. Inara put her head down on his shoulder, and he buried his face in her hair, content in the

bliss of the moment and the music. There was no need for words. It was over much too soon.

"Another?"

"No, Mal, that was lovely, but I don't believe we should. I think you need to take me back to Serenity."

So he walked her back to the ship, and escorted her right to her shuttle door. He hesitated. "Been a long time since

I was on a date with someone I wasn't married to. I forget the protocol. Is it OK to kiss on a first date?"

"Guild Law says sometimes. Especially if you're not sure about a second." She flowed into his arms, and he kissed

her, softly and gently, but thoroughly.

After a moment, she broke away. "Thank you, Mal, for a very lovely evening."

"You're welcome. I surely enjoyed myself. Ya know, Wash and Jayne are wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, kissin' girls doesn't always make ya sleepy. And if Jayne don't kiss'em on the mouth, he don't know what he's

missin'." She smiled, then went inside and closed the door.

********

Sunday was a quiet day. Mal and the crew prowled the convention, taking in the sights. One of the original ship

architects had shown up, and there was a panel discussion and autograph session with some of the original engineers. Zoe and

Jayne were still out prowling with someone called Big, but not having any luck. NO one had seen the shepard. Kaylee kept

trying to get Mal to buy parts, and he had to discourage her. No chrome widgets for the engine. No wall to wall carpet, not

even in the bunks. No upgrades for the nav radar, even though they could use that- it was too expensive. By nightfall, the

crew had begun to return to the ship.

Jayne and Zoe finally returned to check in. " We're sorry, Mal. Them Blast Off folks are just plain gone. They ain't

anywhere. Don't like ta say it, but there ain't no way we can get Kaylee's money. "

********

Monday Mal was up early, determined to get the ship under way that morning. The Shepard was in the galley, preparing

some kind of feast with fresh eggs, while the smell of GOOD coffee floated thru the doors.

"Shepard, ain't seen you all weekend. Where've you been hiding?"

"Some of my brothers, from the Abbey, turned up. One had served on a firefly med ship during the war. I joined them

in a spiritual retreat. They provided us with fresh provisions from their gardens and henhouse."

"We'll be thankin' them, I'm sure."

"Uh, Captain--"

"Yes?"

"As I was returning to the ship last night, the young doctor was leaving. He hasn't come back yet."

"Aiya, out all night, all by his lonesome? Likely got himself inta some kind of trouble. We can't be waitin' on him

to leave. He say anything about where he might be goin'?"

"I believe he mentioned the ship next door."

"The one with the girls? They're way outta his league. He's in trouble fer sure."

"No, Captain, he meant the other."

"Not sure that's any better. I'd better go check it out."

"Breakfast soon. Hurry back."

********

The boat was called Inside Straight. Just inside the airlock, two men were cleaning up at a bar and poker table. The bigger one, a large , raw boned man with a permanent sunburn, looked up as Mal entered. "Can I help you?"

"I'm Captan Malcolm Reynolds. I understand ya might have my doctor over here?"

"I'm McGee, and that's Meyer over there." Meyer was a chubby man with a friendly face and a full beard. " That doctor

is yours?"

"Well, he's on my crew."

Meyer laughed. "That boy is a fine poker player, sir. Took us in completely."

"My Doctor? A fine poker player?" "Yes. We tried the old hustle on him, thinking he was a rube. You know how it works. Play badly, lose some hands for

low stakes, build up the mark's confidence. Make him think he's a great player and you're a fool. Then raise the stakes and

clean him out quickly."

"You tried to hustle MY Doctor?"

It was McGee's turn. " It's what we do, Captain. Funny thing, though. Every time we'd try to close him out, he'd walk

away. Played him all night. Six, seven times we tried to put him down. He wound up walking out the airlock at daybreak with

400 of our platinum. Coulda been 700, but he gave us some back the last two hands. That's when we figured it out."

"Huh?"

Meyer again. "The boy was there ahead of us every time, watching us come, waiting for us. Looked so naive and

innocent, and he's a better player than either of us. Gave us fair warning, too, and we still didn't see it. "

"He did?'

"Yes. Gave us his name. Halliday. Simon Halliday. Doctor Simon Halliday."

"Yep, that's my doctor. He say anything about where he'd be going?"

"Said he had a gift to buy. Headed off toward the vendor's area. "

"Gotta run, gentlemen, see if I can catch up with him. Pleasure meetin' ya."

********

Simon was just turning up Serenity's ramp as Mal came back to the ship.

"Hey Doc--"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Halliday, is it, huh, Doc?"

"Well, I am a traditionalist."

"And a poker player, too. Where'd you learn it so well?"

"MedAcad. There's little else to do in the Intern's Quarters, and on night shifts when nothing's going on. It was

fun, though. No one's tried to hustle me since my Second Year." Simon reached into a pocket, drew out an envelope. "Could you

give this to Kaylee for me, quietly?"

"Reckon so. What is it?"

"The price of her ticket. It wasn't right for her to lose out like that. Somebody had to get it back for her, from

somewhere."

"You could give it to her yourself."

"No! My relationship with her is, difficult. Money must never enter into it. She might get the wrong idea. Believe I

think of her the way men think of-- Inara." The boy could barely say it out loud. Mal smiled a little smile of approval. The

boy might be clumsy and clueless, but he would never hurt Kaylee on purpose.

He tucked the envelope away as they entered the galley. The crew had gathered, and were eating whatever is was that

Book had prepared. It didn't look like much, but it sure smelled good.

Simon stopped next to Kaylee, looking shy. SHe looked up. form her food. " Oh, hi, Simon."

"Good morning, Kaylee. I-- uh-- I bought you a little something. A friendship ring." He fumbled at his pockets,

produced a little jewelry box, almost dropping it. SHe took it, opened it, looked. It was made of mixed copper and gold

wires, fine as human hair, wound, braided, twisted, knotted.

She looked at it, and smiled her very most wonderful smile. " Oh, Simon, it's beautiful. And it's a baby compression

coil, isn't it?"

"You keep saying Mal should buy you one, and he won't. Somebody should---"

She slipped it onto her right ring finger, then hesitated, looked at it again. Her voice broke into an excited

scream. " OH! OH! SImon, simon, Simon--" She broke off and pointed to it in silence. What looked like a highlight was a tiny

embedded jewel, carved into the likeness of a firefly.

COMMENTS

Saturday, March 3, 2007 1:38 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Now THAT was just too ruttin' awesome for words, NewOldBrownCoat! Between the Playboy Bunny Firefly (now that's a sight I think a few Browncoats wouldn't say no to seeing;D) and Simon's mad skillz with a poker hand, I was laughing my ass off;D

Also...Simon's a right gentleman for getting Kaylee her money back, even if it wasn't from those who took it in the first place:D

BEB


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