Bladud [4]
Monday, May 28, 2007

The crew take on Todd's offer of a job on Cairo. Journey upstream in a paddle-steamer. Edfu. Camels. Journey to the hidden gold and diamond mines. Fight. Start of return journey.


PART FOUR * It's asking for the taking. Trembling, shaking. Oh, my heart is aching. We're coming to the edge, Running on the water, Coming through the fog, Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small Stand on a star And blaze a trail of desire Through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking. Come run with me now, The sky is the color of blue You've never even seen In the eyes of your lover.

We're coming to the edge, Running on the water, Coming through the fog, Your sons and daughters. Let the river run, Let all the dreamers Wake the nation. Come, the New Jerusalem. * Carly Simon - Let The River Run * [This chapter is/was firmly inspired by a recent trip to Egypt] * Alexandria. Possibly the dustiest and sandiest spaceport in the 'verse. Endless-looking brown and yellow cliffs and dunes punctuated by a big slab of metal and concrete. Relentlessly utilitarian, basic, rusty around the edges. Sun bouncing off the metal and concrete; making the wearing of sunglasses a necessity. Everything – including the workers and foliage – looks in need of a good wash and oiling. Definitely not the prettiest port in the 'verse. The workers in Alexandria are all dark-skinned and clad in either kaftans, utilikilts or loincloths with big brimmed hats or turbans. Serenity is duly booked in for a service, the log and inventory are handed in, chickens safely relocated and the crew and children are striking out with their luggage and documents towards the paddle steamer they've booked passage on for a 'holiday trip' down to Edfu. Jayne was grumbling, “Don't like these go se sissified cotton trews!” His pants were white and fairly voluminous with a matching loose top. He'd even condescended to wear a wide brimmed sunhat. Vera smiled at him in a conciliatory fashion, “Well, you *could have worn the kaftan. All the other men on Serenity are.” She'd gone for the ankle-length white cotton kaftan look, as had all the women on bard. Jayne's glower deepened, “Ya know what I think about wearin' a *dress!” Vera pointed, “Some guys around here are in utilikilts; plenty of belt space for tools and weapons.” Jayne's look turned disgusted, “Pansies!” Vera shrugged, “It'd keep your boys cool *and provide ease of access when we want to get frisky.” A gleam came into his eyes, “And would the thought of me goin' commando under one of those turn you on?” Vera grinned, “Like crazy!” “Mebbe I'll get me one of those then. Have to get one in extra long though, to cover my swingin' cod.” Vera smiled, ignoring the basic language as she was more than used to it by now, “On a related topic; I went to see Simon just before we hit dirt,” she squeezed his bicep, “That last time in your bunk near Miss 'Lilah's was successful.” Jayne turned a three hundred kilowatt smile her way, picked her up and whirled her around, then rather belatedly gently put her down, “Are you...okay?” Vera's smile widened, “I'm pregnant, not ill! It's been a four weeks since then, so it's early days yet. Simon says he'll do an ultrasound as soon as there's anything to see. Junior's still tiny at the moment. And I'm fine. My uterus has regrown perfectly, apparently.” Jayne did some maths in his head, “Two to three weeks down to Edfu, moseying around; same back... Erm...” “Junior will be visible by ultrasound when we get back.” “River said it was gonna be a boy; we oughta think of names or summat.” Vera tenderly slid her hand up his bicep, “Let's see what the baby looks like, hmm?” Jayne was still grinning, “I'm gonna be a proper dad an' everythin'!” Vera grinned back, “Don't forget Clarry!” “Ain't *ever gonna forget her! She was a beautiful gorram bonus all by herself an' she called me Pa first of all. Getting' me – us – a family goin' on.” Clarry came up to them, rolling her eyes, “You two! Going all mushy 'cause you're having a baby!” Vera put her spare arm around her adopted daughter, “*You are our special one too, Clarry. You know that, huh? *You're the one who made us parents; this little one is just a bonus. Maybe we'll adopt a few more along the way; who knows? But *you'll be the first; always. No-one can take that away from you.” “I know, Ma. And I'll help with the baby, promise.” “Ah; the paddle steamer. Time to go on board and settle in.” * It was a fine ship; painted white with black on the paddle wheels and little decorative flourishes in gold. She had her name at the prow and on the side. Kaylee said it first, “'The African Queen'. But this ain't Africa!” Jayne bared his teeth and spoke in a fair approximation to the long dead Bogart, “'There's death a dozen times over down the river'.” Vera got the reference and chuckled, “Do I have to call you Charlie now? And I hope you're wrong, by the way.” Jayne was still in Bogart mode, “'Ah, it’s a great thing to have a lady aboard with clean habits'.” Vera chuckled, “Some of the things I do with you could scarcely be called clean habits!” Jayne reverted to himself as they traversed the gang-plank, “Even ol' Charlie thawed out his Rosie by givin' her a darned good rogering or three in that boat.” “Bet she was as keen as he was when push came to shove.” Jayne leered, “Talkin' of shoving...” Vera gave him a look, “Later. When we've unpacked and had a long cool drink of something. It must be close to forty degrees C out here and slated to get hotter.” “Doncha like it hot?” Vera chuckled, “Oh, yes; and you *know you can take that both ways. I just feel a bit dusty after all that tedious hanging around getting Serenity secured and the chickens handed over.” Jayne's mouth was close to her ear, “Our cabin's got a shower in it.” Vera recognised *that tone of voice, and so did her libido; perking up immediately, “Well, *soon, then.” Jayne slipped back into Bogart mode, “'It makes your blood race, your face numb and your spirits soar'.” Vera countered right back with a Hepburn line, “'I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!'” Clarry rolled her eyes, “Are you two at it *again?” Vera shrugged, “Sorry, Clarry. We just spark each other off. You must have noticed that by now. One of us starts getting up an appetite for love-making and it's like a spark to tinder. The other one of us recognises it, picks up on it and starts responding; like pulling back the trigger on a prepared gun.” Jayne cocked his finger, eyes gleaming, “Bang!” Clarry patted Vera on her shoulder, “At least I'm sharing with River and won't get in your hair too much.” “We'll be just down the corridor if you need anything.” * Everyone had been assigned rooms down near the water-line, complete with surprisingly large, unopenable thick glass windows. The married couples got doubles, River and Clarry got a twin room and there were modest family suites for Zoe and Cliff and Kaylee and Simon, complete with junior beds in an adjoining room. Every room had a pocket en suite bathroom with a shower and a fridge near the bed, stocked with still and fizzy water and a six pack of the local beer. Jayne threw his and Vera's grips onto the bed. He whisked off her wide-brimmed hat and loosened her hair. His eyes gleamed, “You; shower; now!” Vera chuckled, “I'm still dressed!” “Yeah,” his eyes heated, “Wanna see how that thin cotton stuff looks all wet and clinging to you.” Vera looked down to where Jayne getting visibly aroused and her mouth went dry, imagining the cotton getting wet, translucent and clinging, “Uhm. Sounds like an excellent idea!” He lifted her chin, “Slow tease, followed by hard and fast?” She grinned, “Rather have hard and slow, but something along those lines. If we time it right and this ship is resonant enough, the engines kicking in as we leave port in about an hour might provide extra...stimulation.” Jayne swept her up in his arms, “Darn it, woman; you do have the most inventive dirty mind!” * Mal and Inara were in the shower already. They'd raced ahead of where Vera and Jayne were planning to be and were going for a violent and passionate 'quickie'. Inara's silky kaftan was around her hips and Mal's was hitched up similarly and he was pounding into her against the corner of the shower, using the practised rhythm which sent her into helpless stratospheric heights of pleasure. Finally they collapsed in a sated tangle onto the tiled floor of the shower. Mal pulled off her clothes and his, holding her tenderly now. “Mmm, Inara.” She smiled, all pleasured satisfied woman, “Your pirate tactics are always gloriously devastating, Mal.” He turned on the water and adjusted the temperature, “Wash you?” Inara smiled impishly, “You know what'll happen if we do that!” Mal smiled back, “Yes, and I'm planning to carry you still wet to our bed to dry off...naturally.” “Mal.” There was a world of feeling in that one word. “I know,” he said, understanding and smiling, “I adore you right back.” * The 'African Queen' served three meals a day, there was drinking, dancing and gambling in the evenings, a small on-board pool and air-conditioned exercise room. Every day was sunny and pregnant with dry heat. Mid-morning and afternoons often found people sitting or lounging near the rail, watching the scenery drift past. It was fascinating watching the vast ribbon of palm and banana forests, dotted by small farms and hamlets. In almost every place where there was a house, one or more skinny brown children would shout and wave excitedly from the bank or the shallows and people on the boat would wave back. Where the edges of the river sloped gently, farmers in loincloths tended herds of basking cows, water buffalo and oxen, which munched lazily on the lush vegetation. After three days, the paddle steamer put in at a large village to take on new supplies of food. There was dancing on the wharf that night, complete with helpings of the local palm wine, which was very strong. Everyone went to bed pretty late that night. So the days went on. Jayne eased his tendency to go stir crazy by getting into the tall card games on board and spending a significant portion of each day having spectacular sex with Vera. Of course, Mal was doing the same, only with Inara; it was just that he was less obvious about it. Simon held surgery each day, but the worst he had to deal with was odd cases of sunburn, heat rash and slightly upset stomachs. He and Kaylee took turns being parent, and also had some daily family 'together' time. Kaylee initially spent her free time away from the twins checking out the engines on board and sitting with the engineer, talking engines and machines they had known and loved. Then she found the on-board health and beauty spa and told Inara, Vera, Zoe, River and Clarry about it. It was most definitely relaxing, but Mal did his best made sure everyone kept their eyes and ears open and kept fit, including practising the Tai Chi which Jasmine had taught them. * After two weeks' journeying, almost everyone was relieved to see Edfu coming up ahead at the prow. Mud brick houses, some built in terraces, flat rooves, white painted walls. It looked a little like old pictures of basic housing of the Middle East and more than a little like a pueblo style Mexican village of Earth-that-was. However, Edfu also boasted a huge Buddha carved out of the cliff face behind it with a sculpture of Christ alongside Mary Magdalene a bit further along. The river became too shallow for paddle steamers at this point, so here was the dock and the end of the cruise. The river wound back through Edfu and 'disappeared' into [or rather, emerged from] the bottom of the cliff face. Despite several exploratory expeditions, no-one had ever been able to trace the river further back. On top of the cliff, at the edge of the real, harsh desert, was a tall obelisk with a flashing beacon on top, for any poor souls who might be unfortunate enough to get lost in the desert to find their way to safety. Edfu itself was sheltered and very hot and dry, in spite of the river. * Everyone disembarked, happy to get onto solid ground again. River gazed to their left. “Mines are that way. Hidden. Very hot. Hot and dangerous. There's trouble.” Mal heard her and gently touched her shoulder, “There usually is, with us around. Do you see what *sort of trouble?” “Illicit smuggling. Skimming the profits.” “Any idea on how we can reach these hidden mines?” River bestowed a brilliant smile on him, “Buy camels!” Mal got everyone else settled in the local hostelry for food and beer, then went camel-trading with River, Jayne and Zoe. Several hours later, most of them were kitted out for a 'desert safari' with Mal having blagged his way through things and pretending to be an expert guide. Kaylee, Simon, Clarry, Cliff and the children booked into the local motel with Ares in tow. The motel had access to a safe spot on the river and kids' activities. Everyone else led the camels out into the edge of the desert, apparently headed for the approved route, *then River 'communed' with each animal. Jayne had a deep frown between his brows, “Whatcha doin', moonbrain?” He was, of course, tooled up to the teeth with weapons. “You've heard of horse whispering? I'm camel whispering.” One camel nudged Jayne, “Gerroff, you crazy spittin' thing!” River chuckled, “She likes you!” “How can ya tell it's a girl?” Jayne looked and clearly saw the difference between male and female camels, “Oh. Like a horse. 'Kay; it's a horse with weird feet and humps.” Vera could tell he'd never seen a camel up close and personal before; neither had she, “Can't be too much different to riding a horse.” River nodded, “It won't be. I've told them most of us have ridden horses *and where we're going and they promise to get us there safe and sound in a few hours.” The camels all knelt down. Jayne grinned, “Well, all right then!” He clambered on and immediately took to riding the camel as though he'd been doing it all his life. Zoe looked at Mal and carefully sidled her camel over closer to him, “Maybe he's a natural because of the whole ape-man thing, sir.” “He's got a lot less ape-ish since Vera came into the picture on a permanent basis. Maybe that's because he's getting laid regular.” “And he adores her. For some reason I don't understand she loves him right back. Love does tend to iron out the kinks, sir.” Mal pursed his lips, “Well, at least the ones I want to know about.” He had his suspicions about what Zoe herself got up to with Cliff and was already planning to find earplugs for when the on-off couple got reunited after this latest jolly. “Yes,” Zoe said, the word laden with pregnant meaning. So, the camel train set off; Mal in front with Inara and River, then Jayne, Zoe and Vera. * It took a day and a half to get within sight of the mine area. The six of them lay on a bluff about two miles away and very carefully used a pair of binoculars to scout out a way in. The narrow valley was dotted with pit wheels, trucks, containers, assorted industrial trappings and one short landing strip. River finally found something. “There's an old track down over there, probably used by desert goats or something.” “Hmmm,” Mal said, looking through the binoculars, “Looks pretty steep and several kinds of dangerous. I'd conjure it hasn't been used in a while and we'd be seen in daylight.” “So, we go down tonight.” “Ta ma duh! Well, it brings us out right near those suspicious-looking unmarked containers and carefully camouflaged huts. We could get in, cause all sorts of explosive mayhem and be outta there gorram quick. I'll see if I can get any chatter on this radio as might confirm our suspicions.” As Mal tuned in, they crawled back to the tethered camels and then made their way slowly and carefully closer to the old track. Right after sunset, there was movement down near the containers and objects were being put inside. Mal switched to night vision on the binoculars and took a peek. “Ah. Gorram River, you were right. Smuggling dead ahead and down there at about eleven o'clock. Okay, everyone; tool up and let's get these camels to take us down there!” * The camels duly picked their way down the track. Being on top of them for the enterprise was daunting, to say the least. As Mal, reached the bottom first, he made a sign to Zoe and the others. She unholstered her gun and Jayne and Vera followed suit. Inara notched a couple of arrows in her bow and River unsheathed her sharpened Tai Chi sword. Mal made another signal, the camels picked up speed and the guns sang out, shattering the velvet darkness. After that, it was pretty hectic. A lot of the smugglers got picked off in the first moments, then the people who came running to find out what had happened needed to be dealt with. After maybe a minute or two of shooting, fighting and dealing with hysterical camels, arc lights came on nearby and the site foreman with his hired muscle gestured for quiet and a ceasefire. The fact that he was toting a rocket-launcher and a taser did help. He gestured for lights on the fallen smugglers, “Huh. Adams, Cartwright, Jones, Smith, Ellison.” He looked at Mal, “Well, you've discovered my 'problem' smugglers in a rather terminal way, but I'm not going to complain. I knew it was going on, of course; just could never actually catch any of the hwoon dahn at it. They had a mole in my office,” he kicked one body, “Which was Adams here, I now discover. Okay, boys, secure the goods, torch the containers and huts.” He looked back at Mal, “Hired guns sent by someone official, and undercover.” “Yes.” Mal was staying tight-lipped. The foreman nodded, “Huh. 'No names, no pack drill' eh?” “Something like that.” “Well, please go on your way. I'll take your camels as collateral and one of my boys will drive you back to the outskirts of Edfu. You'll be blindfolded, of course. The powers that be pay me handsomely to keep this place secret.” A few gestures later and they were in the back of a jeep. The foreman gestured to one of his goons, “Blow that goat trail, Simmons.” “Yes, sir.” The explosion was very loud, being so close, “There's an old cave entrance under here, sir.” “We'll look at that in the morning. Okay, sonny,” to Mal, “No funny business and no trying to remove the blindfolds until the jeep stops. My boy here will be watching you all the way and will kill anyone who so much as breathes funny, dong ma?” “Understood.” Jayne grumbled a bit, but he gave in to the blindfold. Early next morning, they stumbled into the motel in Edfu. After a day at leisure, the whole reunited crew got on another paddle-steamer called 'Cotton Blssom' headed back to Alexandria. About half way back, the crew went to stop for supplies at a modest sized village called Abydos. River was at the rail and she gasped as they drew closer to land, seeing something no-one else could see beyond the peaceful looking facade of buildings. “Oh, no.” “What is it, River?” She looked at Mal, “Reavers!” *


Monday, May 28, 2007 6:22 AM


Heheheheheheheeeeee... I was wondering when our favorite carnivores would be showing up! Very nice storyline so far.. just curious- did the foreman know there were folks coming to "solve his problem"?

Keep flyin',


Tuesday, May 29, 2007 10:17 AM


Yep...ain't a rollicking adventure in the Serenifly 'verse until Reavers are involved somehow;)

Utterly fabulous work here, Vera...if a bit on the short 'n' quick side. Definitely have to admit I was cackling maniaclly when Jayne and Vera started quoting lines from "The African Queen" at one another;D



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