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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Serenity’s crew settles in on Athens, and Thompson goes to work in the lab.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 558 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River set Serenity down several miles away from the Athens settlement in a small clearing surrounded by trees. Mal had little desire to make a grand entrance in the small training camp, and even less to make the whereabouts of his ship public knowledge. True to the Operative’s word, there were horses enough for the crew so that no one had to walk the distance to town. Anya eagerly climbed up on Zoe’s mount, and Adam fairly bounced in River’s arms after his first real look at a horse.
Arriving at the settlement, Mal was somewhat discouraged to see that no one was guarding the perimeter of the encampment. Making a mental note to remedy that situation as soon as possible, Mal asked directions of a fresh-faced young man, who led them to the small storefront where the Operative had set up a temporary headquarters of sorts.
His face registering genuine pleasure, the Operative greeted Serenity’s crew with enthusiasm. Coming to River, he looked with something akin to wonder at the child in her arms. Adam, as if sensing the drama of the moment, regarded the Operative soberly. Uncomfortable in the sudden silence, Mal took Adam in his arms and spoke. “This is Adam, my son.”
The Operative shook his head, as if abruptly released from his thoughts. “Of course,” he acknowledged. “He is a fine-looking little boy.” Moving out into the sunlight, he continued, “I was unsure whether you would prefer to stay on the ship or in the settlement, so a house has been prepared for you. Come this way.”
Walking along the busy street, Mal could feel the curious stares of the crowd milling about. He supposed they did make a rather unusual sight, with a registered Companion arm-in-arm with a mercenary, an obvious warrior woman holding the hand of a seven-year-old girl, a Core-bred doctor escorting a woman with a speck of engine grease on her cheek, and an ex-soldier with a baby on his hip and a young slip of a girl on his arm. He smiled at the thought.
On the edge of the settlement, they came to a large two-story house sitting slightly apart from the nearest neighbor. It was quickly decided that the house would do very nicely, as its kitchen was well-stocked and there was a barn in the back to house their newly-acquired horses. The three bedrooms on the second floor would accommodate the needs of the Tams, Jayne, and Inara, and the Reynolds family and Zoe would occupy the bedrooms at the back of the first floor. Apparently built for a rather large family originally, the house was ideally suited to their particular needs.
“I’ll leave you to get settled in,” the Operative said. “Tomorrow will be time enough to get started with the men.”
“You’re sure I’m goin’ to agree to take the job, are you?” Mal asked.
“Positive,” the Operative replied easily. “Did you think I wouldn’t notice the way you were already assessing the people you passed on the street? Or the way you were looking at the lack of perimeter defense for the settlement? This is the kind of thing you were born for, Captain. How long can a man deny his true nature?”
Mal smiled wryly. “You might be surprised,” he said lightly.
“With you, Captain Reynolds, I have no doubt that I will,” the Operative said blandly. “Until tomorrow then.” He bowed slightly, and left Mal standing on the porch, pondering the work to be done.
Mal awoke to the tantalizing smell of something like bacon wafting from the front of the house. Mouth watering, he dressed quickly and headed to the kitchen, where the rest of the crew was also gathering in short order. Kaylee smiled sunnily. “Mornin’, Cap’n,” she said cheerfully. “Think this might be real bacon I’m fryin’. Ain’ that just all kinds of shiny?”
“Sure is, mei mei. It’ll be a real treat,” Mal replied, rummaging around to find plates and utensils for the table. The Operative surely knew how to sweeten the pot, he thought wryly. “Do I smell real coffee too?”
“Yup,” she said. “Found a big tin of it back of the cupboard.”
Jayne appeared, rubbing his hands together eagerly. “Neighbor came by this mornin’ with a pail of milk fresh from the cow. Looks to be a right good place you found for us, Mal.”
Surprised at the sentiment for a moment, Mal could only stare. Recovering, he said, “Well, thank you, Jayne. Glad you like it so far.”
“Sure,” Jayne replied. “What’s not to like? Bed’s comfortable, food’s good, and far as I know, ain’t nobody lookin’ to kill us this mornin’.”
“That does make it an improvement over some mornings,” Mal said. “You plannin’ on comin’ with me and Zoe this morning?”
“Figure I may as well be doin’ something, long’s we’re here,” Jayne answered, pulling a chair up to the table as Kaylee set down the platters of food with a flourish. Silence descended upon the table, as they all savored the unusual bounty set before them. There were some advantages to living dirtside, Mal thought briefly as he looked around the table at his family.
By mid-afternoon, Mal was not so sure about staying dirtside. Having surveyed the meager munitions stockpile, and discovered that there were scarcely two thousand men and women on Athens to organize into the beginnings of an army, Mal knew he would be fighting, at best, an uphill battle.
“There are other camps, scattered on several worlds, where troops are gathering,” the Operative offered. “But they are waiting for orders. These people were selected because they had, in my opinion, the potential to be officers. Once you’re comfortable with their organizational abilities, they will be sent out to the other camps. Eventually, I envision this place as a base for operations for most of the Rim worlds. What do you think?”
Mal looked at him skeptically. “I think you may be a mite too optimistic. I was never more than a sergeant my own self, and now you’re expectin’ me to run an Officer’s Training School?”
The Operative smiled calmly. “We both know what you did in Serenity Valley, regardless of your official rank. And we both know you have the desired skills for the job. Let us not play, Captain Raynolds.”
Mal grimaced. “I ain’t altogether sure we agree about the ‘desired skills’, but I’ll do what I can, long’s I’m here. First, I need to meet the ones you think are the best of the lot.”
“Of course,” the Operative agreed. “I’ll have them assembled immediately.”
Mal nodded, slipping shockingly easily back into command mode as he turned back to the desk where he was working on plans to construct a defensive perimeter as his first project. “By the way, approximately how many volunteers are there in all these other camps?” he called out to the Operative’s back.
“Forty thousand…and growing,” the Operative answered from the doorway. “Hence the urgent need.”
“Huh,” was Mal’s only reply.
“I trust you found the laboratories up to your exacting standards,” Andrew Chau said.
Jared Thompson nodded. “Most satisfactory. With minor modifications, my people were able to begin work today, in fact. I am most pleased.”
“I’m glad,” Chau replied. “I am headed back to Persephone tonight, and wanted to be sure everything was satisfactory before I go.”
“All is well,” Thompson replied. “I will keep you apprised of any issues that require your attention.”
Realizing the statement for the dismissal it was, Chau made a hasty retreat, glad to be away from Thompson’s chilling presence.
Thompson stood behind the transparent partition watching his lab technicians at work. He was fascinated by the possibilities of the technology he had recently acquired. Pleased beyond measure that he had been able to lure some of the top scientists in the field of behavioral modification away from BlueSun to work for him, he found that sheltering them from the grasp of their former employers was a small price to pay for the technology they had brought with them.
He had learned of the Academy Project through the cortex news, as had everyone else. But the former BlueSun scientists had given him the additional information he had needed regarding the results of their experimentation. While using gifted Readers as their test subjects had produced interesting results, Thompson was much more interested in the possible applications for use on normal subjects. Most particularly, he wanted to explore the possibility of implanting triggers that could be used to control the actions of a normal test subject. Such a thing, if successful, could bring him almost limitless power. And power was what he craved above all other things.
Eager to please their new benefactor, the scientists rushed to give Thompson an update on the progress of their project. “Both subjects seem to be responding much as we had anticipated,” the first scientist reported. “Of course, it is too soon to tell with any degree of accuracy how well they will tolerate the procedure in the long run. Because neither man had any special mental ability, they are not able to absorb the stimuli as quickly as the Academy students. However, as what you require of them is nowhere nearly as complex as what we were trying to accomplish with the Academy Project, we should have no major trouble in satisfying your requirements.”
“And you’re certain no one will be able to detect the tampering?”
“Even the subjects themselves will have no idea,” the scientists assured.
“So, they will behave just as you would expect. They will be able to be released back into their normal little lives, with none the wiser.”
“Yes sir. Unless…”
“Unless what?’ Thompson snapped, in no mood for bad news.
“There is a minute possibility, remote really, that a gifted reader might be able to sense something different, though perhaps only on a subliminal level.”
Thompson considered that possibility for a moment. “As far as I am aware, these men would only be exposed to the presence of the three Academy students who have already disappeared.”
“Then there should be no problem.”
“How soon can I expect to be able to return these illustrious leaders to their little Underground Movement?” Thompson asked.
“If you want to be absolutely certain that they can be triggered as you wish, it would be advisable to let us proceed slowly. Perhaps three to four weeks would be sufficient.”
Thompson scowled, unhappy with the cautious timeframe. “Then we’ll have to construct some plausible scenario in their minds as to where they’ve been for a month. And one that will convince all their paranoid little followers,” he said, thinking aloud. “No matter. I’ll come up with something. Proceed.”
“Yes sir,” both scientists said in unison, turning back to their merciless task.
To be continued
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