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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
A "missing episode" that takes place...somewhere in the middle of the series. Mal and his crew just landed the job of a lifetime and there is much rejoicing. Unfortunately, things are never as they seem. Ch.4 - Inara is annoyed, everyone boards the Alliance ship, Kaylee falls in love with an engine, Wash falls in love with a bridge, and River exhibits her working knowledge of Latin.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1049 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter 3 can be found here:
- - - - -
Grant had gone to make sure the ship was fully prepared, taking Mal and everyone else's things with him. He had two armed men at his side, both of whom looked fairly dangerous, despite the fact that he seemed to trust them. Knowing Grant, they were probably in trouble with the law for whatever reason and he had offered them temporary jobs as lackeys. The two men loaded their lightly-packed bags on a floating dolly and lugged it along with them as they set out to stock up the ship. Mal made a move to follow, but Grant stopped him.
"If you don't mind, Mal, I'd like you all to wait here until Kent arrives. Then we can take all of you on board at once."
"Oh, uh. Sure," he said sheepishly. Inara snorted into her arm at Mal's impulsiveness.
Kent had taken his crew back to their quarters to quickly finish packing up. That left Mal with his own crew, waiting around restlessly in the empty corridor as Grant disappeared after his men. After a few moments of bored silence, Mal suddenly remembered what he had wanted to say to Jayne earlier.
He gave Jayne a good whack at the back of his neck that echoed down the hall.
"Ow! Ta ma de, if someone else ruttin' hits me today I swear I'll - "
"What's with you lookin' at their doc like that?" Mal accused, referring to his earlier gawking at the dinner table. "You leave her alone, you hear? We don't need her cryin' sexual harassment the whole trip. This job’s going to take a couple days, and I'd rather it be with a minimal amount of unfortunate happenings, dong ma?"
"Aw, Mal, I can't help that she's so dang hot. If she asked me to kill you right now, I'd do it," Jayne said dreamily. “Don’t even need to pay me. In gold.”
"You - what? Jayne, you keep those flushin' feelings to yourself. That's an order," Mal said sternly.
"Speakin' 'bout bein' too friendly with the girl-doc..." Kaylee muttered, so that no one but Inara could hear her. Inara put a comforting arm around her shoulder and gave her a half hug of sympathy. She, too, was well-versed in the idiocy of men. Simon hadn't heard, of course, being too busy shooting disgusted looks at Jayne.
"Speaking 'bout being unfriendly with the other crew..." Zoe hinted.
"I didn't hear anything 'bout that," Mal said, confused.
"Oh, that's a shame, seeing as you're going to rip out Captain Jamison's throat soon as Grant's back is turned," Wash said, watching as Mal's knuckles fist tightened instinctively at the other captain's name.
"That would be a shame, wouldn't it?" Mal grinned.
"Either that or you're going to give him one of those atomic wedgies the boys at flight school gave all the freshmen," Wash thought for a moment. "Which I actually might be able to tolerate, given there is popcorn present."
"Yeah, right," Jayne snickered. "Reckon Wash here was honorary freshman all them years."
"If you're implying that I'm aiming for some twisted satisfaction by seeing it done on someone else, I'll have you know that...you're more intuitive than you look and that's a little creepifying."
"What we're trying to say, sir, is that you two have to get along if we want this to go well. Wannabe Browncoat or not," Zoe clarified. "It's not like we're asking you to 'get along' in the 'Jayne-looking-down-Elise's-blouse' sense, just - ."
"I have no interest in looking down any man's blouse, thanks."
"You know what they mean, Mal," Inara said exhaustedly. The Captain had a nice talent of going absolutely nowhere if he put his mind to it. "And I do think you need to befriend them. This job might not be the easy cakewalk you think it's going to be, and you might actually need all the help you can get."
Everyone was looking at Inara now, and she suddenly felt as though perhaps she shouldn't have said anything. Getting her to forget her Companion training of contemplation and control was also among the man's talents.
Mal raised an eyebrow. "What makes you say that?"
Inara squirmed. "It's just...Grant...he's been under a lot of pressure lately. Alliance is getting to him, hounding him. I'm just saying he's tired and perhaps you aren't under as much protection as you think you are."
"Do you know something?" Mal narrowed his eyes.
Inara looked away and Mal groaned inwardly. All companions were under a very strict oath of confidentiality. The term used was "oath", but really it was an unforgivable breach of justice to reveal a client's secrets. Whatever Grant had told her in the bedroom, she was bound by Guild Law not to repeat. Then again, he never did respect her occupation, nor the Guild Law which was largely influenced by Alliance Law...
"I'm all for what goes on in the bedroom stays in the bedroom, Inara, but if you know something that might be a danger to us..."
"Mal, if I thought you were in serious danger I'd tell you. I care about you all too, you know," Inara said indignantly. She was offended that Mal even thought something like that. As if she would risk them getting hurt for anything in the universe. "But I just want you to be careful. Treat this like any other job you have, with your eyes open. Don't just sit back and relax."
"All right, well, if that's the way you're gonna to play this..."
"What way? I'm not playing any way!" Inara cried. "Why do you have to be so infantile?"
"Inara, why're you even here? Don’t you have, I don’t know, primpin’ and tea-makin’ to do?" Mal said irritably. He was well aware she wanted to see them off, but he was tense now and he was snappy when under pressure.
"You are so - ugh!" Inara stormed away, sweeping up her elegant gown as she disappeared.
"Jing chang mei yong de," Kaylee muttered, as Wash and Zoe shot Mal meaningful looks that he ignored. He tapped his boots impatiently against the floor.
"Where in gorram hell are those - ?"
"You're not getting impatient, are you, Mal?" Kent strutted over to them, his crew in tow. They had thankfully shed their dinner clothes and were now wearing normal worker's class outfits. Unfortunately, Kent had still insisted on wearing the brown coat that made smoke come out Mal's ears.
"Impatience?" Grant arrived right after him, sans big scary men. "Hope we aren't getting too antsy here. Say, where has Miss Serra gone?"
Mal shrugged. "Mayhaps she's gone back to Serenity to freshen up a bit."
"Ah, right, well I shall go find her after I show you around the Arcanus."
"The Arcanus?" Kent asked. "That the name of the ship?"
"Sure is," Grant said cheerily and led them to where the ship was docked. "Arcane. It means mysterious. I'm not quite sure how fitting it is, unless the meaning refers to how in the 'verse humankind constructed something so big. A huge behemoth of a ship, it is. So large, in fact, that I couldn't find space to dock it on land."
Grant led them out and boarded them all on a shuttle so fancy that even Inara would have been impressed. Mal wasn't very fond of having so many people pressed up around him, but he didn't mouth a single complaint, even as one of Borneo's oversized earlobes dangled itself against Mal's face. He kept up the falsely jovial conversation all the while, even as his stomach twisted itself in knots. It was unnatural for a man to be cooped up too tight. That had been part of the reason he'd chosen Serenity. What most people called bulky, he preferred to call roomy. But he couldn't help but feel that there was another reason he was so uncomfortable. A reason that wasn't Kent's elbow jabbing into his ribs.
They wouldn't have Serenity with them. Inara, the Preacher, and River were being left behind as well. Nothing about that felt right at all.
- - -
The shuttle shuddered to a stop and its small door opened into a transparent walkway overlooking the entire planet of Gravine. To their left was the familiar endless expanse of black space, to the right, what looked like the biggest mobile object ever to be built by mankind.
"Ladies and Gents, I bring to you the Arcanus!"
"Shen sheng de gaowan..." Wash rubbed at his eyes.
To say that the Arcanus was indescribably massive was an understatement. Mal knew that he could probably easily lose fifty Fireflies in it, with room to spare. And that was at a distance. He had had no idea what kind of ship they were dealing with until they approached its airlock and it loomed larger and larger over them as they got closer. The Arcanus was oblong in shape, with several dome shaped pods attached all over its surface that glowed a deep, menacing purple. The entire bottom of the ship, however, was entirely rocket boosters, with four sets of massive wings extending outward. All of the wings were also equipped with burners. It was no surprise that a ship this size needed all the lift it could get. It still seemed unfathomable that a ship so big could actually move and maneuver, but no one really knew what kind of highly advanced technology that the Alliance was capable of.
The entrance that Grant led them through was ridiculously tiny, compared with the rest of the ship. As they stepped into the Arcanus, the airlock swooshed shut behind them.
"This is the entrance dock. Not much around here, but I suppose you could store any extra belongings here if you want. I had advised you to pack lightly, though, as this boat won't be able to take much extra weight," Grant said. "Don't let the size fool you, there isn’t as much roaming room on board as you think. Most of the space is used to either support the Dark Matter or actually lift the ship, even with the reduced size of the top-of-the-line Alliance machinery."
Mal's first thought was that it was weird. It was clean and made of a stainless alloy, not a single spot of rust or chipping paint to be seen. Not even the underlying nuts and bolts holding the walls together were visible like they were on Serenity. There were no potential hidden doors to hide questionable goods, and instead of squeaky steps leading down from the increasingly unsteady catwalk, there were two sets of shiny escalators, one that led up from the entrance dock and one that led down. It was a vast difference from what he was used to. Instead of this being a good quality, however, Mal couldn't help but find the place cold and unfeeling. There was no sense of home on the Arcanus.
"This's...different..." Kaylee murmured to Mal, her eyes wide. Evidently he wasn't the only one feeling that way. "Don't feel like Serenity."
"It's very...it's like a hotel," Simon whispered. "When you check into a hotel, it’s very nice but also very impersonal."
Mal agreed with the doctor's observation. It was a nice place to visit but unless Zoe shot some rusty bullet holes into the walls, Jayne stomped a permanent creak into that flawless escalator, Wash left his dinosaurs in the corridor for everyone to trip on, and Kaylee painted some nuisance flower patterns on the railing, Mal didn't want to stay for long. They followed Grant as he led them down a set of the escalators, and instantly Mal felt his skin begin to heat up.
"This goes down to the main engine room. There are four in all."
"Just four?" Borneo asked, his gruff voice startling everyone. Mal had assumed he wouldn't speak a word the entire trip.
"It's run on four Lu-Ming crystals," Grant told him.
"Wo de ma!" Kaylee exclaimed. "Real Lu-Ming crystals?!"
"The real deal, sweetheart," Grant assured her. "Each one provides enough energy to run a whole fleet of Fireflies, with minimal heat."
"This is minimal heat?" Jayne complained, tugging at the neck of his T-shirt. He wasn't the only one that was beginning to sweat profusely.
"Didn't catch the size of the ship when we were outside?" Lee sneered. Jayne scowled.
"Baby this big needs a lot of energy," Kaylee explained. Borneo nodded wordlessly.
"That's right, this is relatively cool, actually," Grant said. "I'll show our mechanics the engine rooms in a little bit. First, I'd like to show you how Dark Matter is 'injected' into a planet."
"Oh!" Elise exclaimed, genuinely intrigued as they followed Grant down one corridor. Thankfully it got cooler as they made their way into a large room that seemed even further below the engines. At the center was what looked like a massive rolled-up fire hose, coiled around a rotating spool. It was connected to a big steel container that had dozens of thick tubes branching out from it and into the walls. Simon frowned. It reminded him of all those wires the Alliance had hooked up to his sister’s brain when he had gone to rescue her. He looked down.
"This canister's hooked up to all the Dark Matter pods. Those were the big purple domes you saw outside on the surface of the ship. They're stored right now in a semi-liquid state, which is actually the least dense form of matter we could put it in. As soon as it hits oxygen at room temperature, though, it solidifies like no ones business and...Well, that shouldn't happen unless it’s where it’s supposed to be," Grant explained. "Now it’s simple. The Dark Matter pods are programmed to release their contents in a way that will keep the ship balanced. Your pilots will need to do a little work keeping the ship stable as all that weight is lost, but you should be all right. It will fill up that canister and go straight into the hose. The hose itself is programmed to drill itself all the way to the planets core once you reach the coordinates. Hrothgar's a more primitive rock, so you won't have to worry about molten cores or anything of that nature."
"Simple," Kent said nervously.
"Yes, as I said, everything is preprogrammed. Other than the work it'll take to keep the ship steady, all you've got to do is pull a lever and wait," Grant grinned.
"Sounds good to me," Mal grinned. Piece of cake.
Next, Grant made good on his promise and took them back down to the engines, where Kaylee practically screamed with joy. Zoe had to literally tug Kaylee away from the Core generator, and then Mal had to pluck her out of the whats-it and block her from playing with the whatever-it-was. Even Borneo seemed to exhibit some form of emotion, his eyes growing wide at all the unidentifiable machinery whirring around them. Fortunately, he didn't go completely nuts in the engine room of every mechanic's wet dream. That would have been a disturbing sight to see, Kent peeling Borneo off the rotating grav boosts.
"Kaylee - Kaylee, get down from there!" Mal yelled, trying to rein in the girl's energy. He did admit the engine room was all sorts of impressive flashiness, but he didn't think it was anything to drool over.
"Lu-Ming crystal, Captain! This thing's worth more'n all our souls put together! Can't even imagine the thrust this thing can - tian xiao de, that a real cold fusion sparker?! Shiny!"
Borneo looked down at a set of red wires attached to a complicated-looking chip board. "This grav system is...really nice."
"Nice?! Best gorram grav system in the 'verse! Never thought I'd live to see a real rotating grav shift!"
Grant grinned at Kaylee's excited-ness and Borneo's slight smile. "If you two prefer, we can leave you here to become more acquainted with the - "
"Hoppin' space monkeys, ain't these synchronizers shiny? I knew those thinkers was workin' on inventin' these but I had no idea they went'n invented the gorram things already! This is pure Numinite!" Kaylee gushed. "Numinite, Wash!"
Wash did have an interest in machines that paled in comparison to Kaylee's extreme passion, but even he looked amazed. Everyone knew that it wouldn't take long before Kaylee had the place memorized like the back of her hand. There were no explanations needed from Grant. Borneo seemed to know exactly what he was doing also.
"Alrighty then," Mal clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "Might we continue the tour and leave these two mech-heads to become freakishly aroused by their little cold fusion things and crystals and whatnot?"
"Perhaps that would be best," Grant said, amused by how Kaylee was practically hanging upside down from something that looked like a small crane with a hopelessly unpronounceable name. It occurred to Mal that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to leave little Kaylee alone with the mysterious Borneo, but he seemed too busy fondling the precious grav system to do anything to Kaylee.
"Let's go," Mal said. They left the two mechanics to their work and climbed back up to the upper deck. A quick left took them into a large room, pristine and white, with three steel examination tables and three comfortable looking beds. This time it was Simon and Elise's turn for their eyes to bug out of their skulls. They were in the Infirmary.
"Guess I don't need to tell you what this place is," Grant chuckled as the doctors went to work, peering into med kits and opening up cabinets. "I doubt you'll be needing this room much, but it’s always good to be safe, right?"
"Hydeine," Simon whispered. "Alliance-grade. I saw it once in MedAcad but no one was allowed to touch it. Highest quality."
"Invisi-stitch," Elise gasped. "I didn't even know these were on the market yet!"
"It looks like we're about to lose two more," Grant said.
"They should have their fun too," Grey smiled. Everyone was led out of the infirmary, leaving behind the doctors, and up another escalator that led straight into the bridge.
"Can't believe those guys," Wash smirked as they walked. "Getting all riled up over their little engine rooms and Infirmaries. Absolutely crazy, I'm telling you. The doc was practically licking those bottles, and I swear I saw that Borneo fella rub his cheek against - Aiya!"
They entered the bridge and Wash half-stumbled towards the blinking control panel. Sheer wonder and awe spread across his face as he gingerly ran the pads of his fingers over the colorful buttons and switches.
"Wash, baby, calm down," Zoe said soothingly. "I know the panel's real pretty but - Wash, yi qi shen hu xi, come on, let go of the...thing. We ain't flying yet."
"Look at the view," Grey commented appreciatively, looking out the front view. It was very wide and wrapped around the entire bridge, giving them the feeling that they were standing right in the middle of empty space.
"It's one way," Grant said. "You could look out, but no one out there could see you in here."
"Look at that steering column," Wash whispered hoarsely. "This...this isn’t synthetic..."
"That's real rubber," Grant said proudly. "From genuine rubber trees, wrapped in real leather and suede for a tight and comfortable grip."
"You were saying before, Wash? About the others being crazy?" Zoe pushed Wash in the shoulder playfully. He collapsed into the oversized pilot's chair.
"Oh god, Zoe, this chair! It's like rubbing a cloud on my ass!"
Mal blinked. "Well that's mighty nice to hear."
"I'm going to take a leap here and assume we're about to lose Wash and Grey at this point," Grant motioned for everyone to step back down. The pilots didn't even notice them leave.
Grant showed them to the galley and dining area, which was where they lost Jayne, and then the living area with several doors to everyone's bunks. He had earlier mentioned that the entire job would take at least three days back and forth, since the Dark Matter took a while to pump itself. Along the way they lost the rest of the crew as they explored their swanky living area. By the time Grant rounded back to the original entrance dock, only Mal and Kent were still walking with him.
"I do believe you have been oriented enough around here," Grant said, looking to his two captains. "And it certainly looks like your crews have taken a liking to the Arcanus. They're a bloody brilliant lot you've got yourselves. Now, if you have any questions, now is that time to ask them. I will be within wave range of the ship most of the time, though, should you need me."
"I'm all right," Mal said. The sooner they left, the sooner the got the job done, the sooner they got paid, and the sooner they got back to Serenity. Unlike his entirely mesmerized crew, he was not yet completely enamored with the Arcanus.
"I think we can handle it," Kent said, sounding just as confident as Mal was sure he was pretending to be.
Grant nodded. "All right then." He put a hand on each of their shoulders and squeezed. His hand did not fall away, instead keeping its grip as if he were unwilling to let them go. "I'm...I'm trusting you two. I know you can work together. I wouldn't have...I wouldn't have picked you if I didn’t think it were possible."
Mal put a hand on Grant's. "We won't let you down, Grant."
"Right. Godspeed, then." Grant smiled at them and turned around. The two captains watched him go, without looking back. Mal took the liberty of closing the hatch and then all of a sudden they were very, very alone. The two captains looked each other directly in the eye. It was time to shake hands and make nice, as civilized men were expected to do.
"Going down to the engine rooms," Kent muttered.
"Bridge," Mal grunted. They parted ways.
There was plenty of time to make nice later.
Shepherd Book swung around in the pilot's chair.
"River, Inara's coming back. Would you mind opening up the - ?" He stopped. He could have sworn just a minute ago that River was right behind him playing with Wash's dinosaurs. Where had she gone off to...? The Shepherd hoisted himself out of his chair and winced as his muscle pulled. He really was not getting any younger. When he had retired and took up the cloth, he hadn't quite anticipated that his career as a man of God would be just as physically demanding.
"River? River, where are you?" He started down for the cargo bay, checking rooms as he passed by. She was nowhere to be seen. "River..."
He got to the catwalk hanging over the cargo bay and looked down. River was there, sitting on top of a large crate, her finger circling the red button that opened the door. She looked up at the Shepherd and waved happily.
"Inara's back." She pushed the button and the door to the cargo bay rolled open slowly and loudly. Inara walked in, holding a small white cardboard box and looking somewhat put out by something.
"How did you know...?" He gave up. There were many questions attached to River Tam, and until her brother got to the bottom of the mystery, none of them would be answered. It was pointless to even ask. Inara waved up at the Shepherd and then greeted River warmly, holding out a hand to help her off her crate. Shepherd Book watched as the two climbed up the steps together.
"How was dinner?" he asked pleasantly. Inara's mouth pressed into a thin line.
"Fine," Inara said, in a tone that indicated that it was anything but. Then she brightened and held out the box. "I've brought some leftovers."
"Well, now. That was very thoughtful of you, child!" Shepherd Book took the box. "But River and I had a nice dinner already. I cooked up some - "
"My gastric acid is failing in its attempt to break down the nutrients into sufficiently large surface areas and the pili of my small intestine is therefore having difficulty absorbing their nutritional value." River said. Shepherd Book and Inara looked at her curiously. River quickly grabbed the box from the Shepherd and ran towards the galley.
"Thank you!" she called over her shoulder.
Shepherd Book laughed. "Looks like little River's not a big fan of protein chunks fried in synthetic settler's oil."
"Evidently." Inara smiled. They started after River, who was probably well on her way to...successfully absorbing nutritional value.
"So is our plucky crew on their way to wealth and good fortune?" the Shepherd asked conversationally.
"They should be. I expect Grant is showing them the ship now," Inara said. They both ducked into the dining area where River was sure enough devouring the leftovers of Grant's feast. "I warned them to be careful, but Mal decided to be so difficult about it..."
"It's a rare occasion indeed, when that man does things the simple way," Shepherd Book nodded.
"Yes, well, they do need to be careful. Grant is growing tired of all the pressure Alliance puts on him. That, added to his business stress and the fact that he's advancing on years, doesn't exactly help. Mal seems to think Grant is this big blanket of protection, but the poor man is losing grip on his little empire. He's not as powerful anymore."
"He told you all this?"
Inara sighed. "Mr. Grant has no one else to turn to. I'm afraid that our sessions have been practically bordering on psychological therapy. We do have training, but not so much that I can claim to be a certified psychologist...he has a lot to get off of his chest. I'm glad to listen, of course, as long as it helps."
"Ah. You don't think they're in any excessive danger, do you?"
"Of course not," Inara said honestly. "I warn them to be careful on every mission. I'm just concerned this time Mal's taking too much for granted."
"Pun not intended?" Shepherd Book smiled. Inara laughed softly.
"I'll be returning to Mr. Grant shortly. I've only come to gather some things and check in with you and River. I may come back again tonight, just to - "
"Inara, believe me when I say River and I can handle ourselves," the Shepherd assured her. "It's not like we're docked in the middle of a dangerous desert plain or anything. And even if we were, I've got quite an aptitude in getting people in the kneecaps."
"Right," Inara said. "Sorry, it's just so odd with the rest of them gone. Serenity feels so..."
"Yes. And the thought of them all on some other ship. It all feels so unnatural," Inara shivered. "I try not to be too superstitious about things, but..."
"If there is one thing I learned out here with this crew," Shepherd Book said as they sat down at the table next to River, who was still eating. "It's that one must learn to adapt."
"Now, what did you say this ship was called again?" The Shepherd grabbed a pair of chopsticks and helped himself to some of the turkey that wasn't already be ripped apart by River's mouth.
"The Arcanus?" Inara recalled Grant telling her earlier.
"Ah, arcane. It means 'mysterious', I believe," Shepherd Book said thoughtfully.
"From the Latin," River said suddenly. The two of them looked at her.
"Latin, bao bei?" Inara asked.
"From the Latin arcere, to shut up," River mumbled. "To hide. In a box."
Inara didn't quite know what to make of that, so she changed the subject.
"You're really gobbling it all up. Poor thing, how horrible was the Shepherd's cooking?" she joked. Shepherd Book wrinkled his nose. It wasn't like he had had a lot of ingredients to choose from. He had to admit, though, even the cold leftovers were heaven on his taste buds compared to what he had served up for dinner.
"Did you think it was that bad?" he chuckled.
River shrugged. "It was arcane."
- - - - - END CHAPTER 4 - - - - -
Chapter 5 can be found here:
Thanks for reading! I try to update less than a week apart but this time it took a full week because of Holy Week. Lots of family thingys I had to do. And the next update’s probably gonna take a week too, since I decided to not do a shred of work over the break and therefore have like a bajillion school thingys to do :-D Hooray! Bahaha…hah…ha
Anyway, please review and tell me what you think :-)
Monday, April 09, 2007 12:28 PM
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 8:50 AM
Saturday, April 14, 2007 9:59 AM
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