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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal is startled to discover that Isabel Warrick agrees with the Jayne Cobb philosophy of public relations.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 677 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
No money, no intent to defraud. Don't mind me, here, just foolin' around.
“Gerard, I don’t want that skinny bitch to have our money,” Bothney said. “I’m not going to take on that Firefly crew, but that Miss Whoever-She-Is is not going to get our money. We earned it, wasting our time out here on this god-forsaken rock. Let’s go take it away from her.”
Mal and Isabel Warrick walked through the passageways of the Edgarton docks. It was well past midnight, but there was still occasional traffic, mostly local fliers bringing market goods in for the greenmarket. They walked in silence, both alert. In spite of Isabel’s protestations, she was more grateful than she cared to admit that Mal had elected to walk her home. She was sure of her ability to defend herself, but accompanied she was less likely to have to. Mal kept Miss Warrick on his left side, his coat concealing his gun in its holster, but his hand never far from it.
They had been walking perhaps ten minutes when Bothney and Gerard slid in behind them. Mal and Miss Warrick both heard the footsteps.
“They’re not very accomplished, are they?” she whispered without turning her head. “Just like Atherton to try to do this on the cheap.”
“Miss Warrick, you need to run. Now,” Mal whispered back.
“No, I don’t think so,” she answered. “If I run and you draw your gun we’ll both be shot in the back. We need to walk slowly, let them catch up. I’m going to take my gun out of my pocket slowly, don’t be nervous. Don’t you reach for your gun; I said I don’t want to be shot in the back.” Miss Warrick half-turned toward Mal, leaning against him and slowing his steps. She pressed her right thigh against his left side and tipped her head back to look up at Mal soulfully.
“It would be more convincing if you would put your left arm around me,” she said. Mal complied. As he did she slid her hand into her coat for her gun, concealing her gesture from the followers with her own right shoulder and Mal’s left arm.
“Imagine I’m whispering sweet nothings to you. Don’t worry, I’m not, but they don’t know that. Look down at me, not back at them; they’re going to catch us up but if they think we’re all involved we can surprise them. Do try to look involved, Captain.” Isabel Warrick delivered this speech as though it were pure pornography. “I don’t suppose they can see that expression. I rather wish I couldn’t. I think it’s safe for you to reach for your gun, I’m between you and them.”
Mal was stupefied, which worked admirably to allay the suspicions of Bothney and Gerard. Just at that moment, they sprang at Isabel Warrick and Mal, grabbing them with both hands. Isabel trod heavily on Bothney’s instep with her booted heel, causing him to flinch. This gave her the opening she needed to bring her gun to bear against his ribs. A single shot sent Bothney to the pavement. Miss Warrick whirled back to her left where Mal and Gerard were grappling with each other. She leaned into Gerard and fired again.
“Tian shiao de!” Mal shouted.
“Don’t shout. Let’s just walk away quickly, shall we?” Isabel Warrick said. “Come along, we don’t want to stay here; although I imagine no one would doubt that we shot them while they were attempting to rob us.”
“We didn’t shoot them. You shot them.” Mal said, as he followed her away from the bodies.
“Yes, I suppose I did. Well, it’s doubtless just as well. If there should be an inquiry I think it’s probably best if you don’t know anything about this.” She looked inquiringly at Mal. “Don’t you think? And at any rate, now we needn’t concern ourselves about them any further.”
Mal suddenly began to laugh. He stood with his eyes closed, laughing and shaking his head.
“Do you remember Jayne Cobb?” he asked, once he had stopped laughing.
“Your muscle, I think such an employee is called? Yes, of course. Why?”
“You two should get to know one another. He was just tellin’ me we should shoot more people so’s we don’t haveta watch our backs so much.” Mal wiped the tears of laughter from under his eyes.
“There is something in that, I should think. In your line of work,” Isabel said.
“I suppose there is. That was some quick thinkin’, there, and quick plannin’. I appreciate it.”
“It was a bit embarrassing, talking to you like that. But it seemed like our best option. Thank you for taking it in good part.” Isabel nodded crisply at Mal.
“Isabel, ma’am, c’n I buy you a drink?”
“Yes, Captain Reynolds, I should be delighted. But I think I need more than one.”
They sat at a small table in the bar of Edgarton’s best hotel. Best is always a relative term, Mal thought, looking around. It was definitely a finer watering hole than some he had drunk in. Had ferns and everything.
“So, Isabel, as you said to me, tell the truth. Are all rich girls like you?” Mal interrupted a mildly amusing story Isabel was telling about her chickens, over her third drink.
“First, I haven’t been a girl in years. And second, like me how?”
“Able to shoot common criminals, for starters.”
“I don’t know that many are given the opportunity, so I don’t really know whether they can or not,” Isabel answered. “But I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t; if they’re armed, of course. It is true that not too many debutantes carry a revolver.”
“Isabel, Miss Warrick –“
“Oh no, don’t go back to that Miss Warrick. I really hate it – that’s who I was on Persephone.”
“Isabel, you don’t haveta tell me, but I will say I am powerful interested in how Lord Warrick’s daughter came to be runnin’ a ranch out at the edge of nowhere and able to manage a gun the way you can,” Mal quirked his mouth at her. “Do tell, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t really mind, but the truth is rather discreditable. I was an abject failure and I ran. I was, as we say about horses, a dirty little quitter. This is where I stopped running,” Isabel looked into her drink.
“I can’t see you as a quitter, Isabel.”
“Well, I am, or at least, I did. I don’t think I will again. I try to be straightforward these days,” Isabel answered.
“I’m still listenin’ for my answer.”
“It’s a long story and not very interesting, really.”
“I got nothin’ on my plate tomorrow, I guess it’s today now. I got all the time in the world; nobody’s waitin’ up for me.” Mal looked at her speculatively. “C’mon, did’ya leave somebody at the altar?”
“Oh, no, I made it past the altar.” Isabel paused. “I had a very happy childhood, Captain Reynolds, I had all the ponies any girl could ever dream of and all the space to ride them in. I spent all my time outdoors or in the barns. It was lovely. Then, in my teens I competed hard as an eventer, and that was wonderful, too. My father doesn’t have any sons and as his oldest daughter I filled that role in some ways. He gave me all the freedom I could want. On Persephone, girls can go to school and have jobs, but for rich girls it seems as though the list of acceptable jobs is rather short.” Isabel looked away and sipped her drink.
“And,” Mal prompted.
“And there was my mother. I never doubted that my mother loved me but I wasn’t what she had in mind as a daughter. Mother grew up out here, on my grandparents’ place. She couldn’t wait to be someone else, somewhere else. Being a rich man’s wife on Persephone was perfect for her. I hated to come indoors, hated pretty dresses, wanted only an outdoor job. The older I got, the bigger a problem this was for her. Look, this is very dull. Tell me about your childhood, Captain Reynolds.”
“Oh, all right, be that way. Eventually I was a grown woman and I couldn’t see myself as a nursery school teacher and I didn’t want to go to university and I didn’t want to be a landscape architect – I think plants are extremely boring, don’t you? – which was the only outdoor job anyone seemed able to suggest. And so, I got married; which made my mother very happy. Please don’t think my husband was a brute. He was very nice, I’m sure, but I wasn’t really what he wanted in a wife. He didn’t realize, I didn’t realize, that I just couldn’t be right. The condensed version is that I had a stupid fall from a horse that John had asked me not to buy and I was a bit banged up. He wanted me to stop riding and have a baby. I couldn’t – well, I don’t know that I couldn’t, but I wouldn’t, anyway. So as soon as I was able to walk I went home and -- oh, this is awful. I just, quit. I hardly ate, I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t ride. It was horrible. So shame-making. I think I’ve had too much to drink.”
“I doubt it.” Mal said, and nodded at her to continue.
“My grandmother, Alice, came to visit while I was non compos mentis and she told me she was ashamed of me. She said I ought to be ashamed of myself. That if I knew what I wanted I should do it and stop feeling sorry for myself. So I tried to figure out what I did want. I realized I wanted to be like Alice, out at Elysium, and I asked her whether I could come to her. She said yes, but that I had to come to work, that what she needed was a ranch manager, not a decorative element. I went to ag college, Captain Reynolds, and learned everything I could about raising beef cattle. I try to run ‘em smart and hard, as they say on Halcion. So here I am. How do you come to be here?”
“Firefly class transport ship.”
“No, really. Turn and turn about is fair play, don’t you know? You said you were raised doing ranch work. Why aren’t you raising beef somewhere?”
“My mother’s place was on Shadow.” Mal answered flatly.
“Oh, dear. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have been so inquisitive.” Isabel closed her eyes, remembering that Shadow was one of the places that no longer really existed after the war.
“S’alright. How about the guns? You didn’t explain the guns, Isabel.”
“Well, I was always a good shot with a shotgun and I like bird hunting. When I asked Alice what I would need to learn in order to be successful out here she told me I needed to be able to defend myself. So I learned. I must say, I’m glad to discover that the lessons paid off. One never knows what one will do in the heat, does one?”
While Isabel had talked Mal had finished a third and then a fourth drink. He stared at Isabel with a look that bordered on ferocity.
“I’m gonna tell you somethin’. You are not a quitter. Quitters leave other people in trouble. As near’s I can make out the only people you left was those who didn’t want you anyway. It’s no sin to make a life for yourself.” Mal stopped and left a long pause. “I’m gonna tell you somethin’ else. Thank you. Don’t often haveta tell somebody thank you, but I’m tellin’ you.”
“For shooting those men? Don’t be silly. What else was I going to do, let them shoot us?” Isabel raised her eyebrows at Mal.
“Nothin’ to do with that. For tellin’ the truth. Good night, Isabel Warrick.”
*End of part 16*
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 4:50 PM
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 7:08 AM
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