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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal and the crew carry on as usual, and the Operative runs into a complication.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 495 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal watched the troops staring at his wife with something akin to worship as she spun and danced her deadly dance for their instruction. River had been at it for hours, training partner after partner in basic offensive and defensive maneuvers. As one student would master the rudimentary skills, Mal would send him off to teach them to another, until now, at midday, half of the two thousand men and women were spinning and twirling in the hot sun.
Calling a halt for the noon meal, Mal figured to get the second half into the action by day’s end. He knew the rapid training method left them more vulnerable than he would like, but at least they wouldn’t go into battle like lambs to a slaughter.
“Not lambs,” River said, unabashedly reading his thoughts and daintily wiping the sweat from her brow. “A few might even be lions.”
“I’d take it as a kindness if you’d point them out to me,” Mal said, “Need some lions to send to the other camps.”
“Of course,” River agreed as she took his hand. They walked slowly back to the house where Inara was occupying the children while Simon tried his hand at cooking. While the doctor had a sure hand in surgery, he became a little less confident with household duties, so everyone was dealing as well as they could with the dubious results of his culinary experiments. No one, however, complained about the fare, as they had all worked up an appetite for anything filling after their various strenuous activities of the morning.
“When do you expect the Operative to return?” Zoe asked, taking a slice of the misshapen loaf of bread Simon had proudly presented.
“Should be back sometime next week,” Mal replied. “Hope he comes back with good news. He’s meeting with some private businessman about supplying the ships needed for air support.”
Zoe had a quick flashback of the crushing disappointment of knowing no air support was coming in Serenity Valley. Shaking her long tresses to halt the memory, she said blandly, “That would be a good thing.”
Mal looked at her briefly, re-living the same moment. “Will make all the difference, I’d wager,” he said softly.
Sensing the sudden gloom around the table, Inara said brightly, “The children have been painting this morning. Anya’s made some beautiful pictures, and Adam’s been…enthusiastic.”
Kaylee laughed. “I was wondering why his hair was kinda yellow in spots.”
“Well, yellow is a pretty color, isn’t it, sweetie?” Inara said, smiling with affection at the little boy.
“Nawa yike yeyow,” Adam said, grinning.
“Yes, I do,” she said, kissing his forehead.
“Adam yike yeyow too,” he declared happily.
With the mood thus lightened, the crew continued to meal with their usual blend of humor and camaraderie, until it was time to get back to work.
Kaylee tinkered busily on the odd assortment of transport vehicles the Operative had managed to procure for the camp. Horses were still the most reliable transportation on Athens, but Kaylee was working her own brand of magic on the mechanical conveyances as well.
She hummed a tuneless little song as she worked, and Simon smiled when he heard it. Having been consigned to the kitchen all day, he was pleased to be out and about in the fresh air. It was surprising to him how unaccustomed he had become to such a luxury in his time on Serenity.
Looking up from her task, Kaylee jumped. “Sheesh, Simon, you near gave me a heart attack sneakin’ up on me like that.” It was one of Kaylee’s weak points since Jubal Early’s menacing encounter with her, and Simon was instantly apologetic.
“Sorry, ai ren,” he said, crossing the small space to pull her into his embrace. “Didn’t mean to startle you. I was just listening to your song.”
Kaylee blushed, well aware that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. “Sorry you had to hear that,” she said sheepishly.
“Don’t be silly,” Simon said, favoring her with a boyish grin. “I love the sound of it. It’s ….happy.”
“And are you?” Kaylee asked. “Happy, I mean?”
Simon drew in a breath, and exhaled slowly. “Not as unhappy as I thought I’d be, coming back here. Sometimes it seems like we were just here, burying all those poor people in the heat of the day. Other times, it seems like a lifetime ago, something almost surreal about it.” His eyes glazed over, pondering the nature of the memory. Shaking himself slightly, he turned his attention back to Kaylee. He saw her worried look, and gifted her with another smile. “But there’s a difference here now, an energy in the air. These people believe in what they’re doing, have a hope for the future that staggers the imagination given the odds against them.”
“Yeah, they do,” Kaylee said, looking out across the busy camp. “But they’re just normal folk, plannin’ and dreamin’ like the rest of us.” Wiping her oily hands on her jumper leg, she took Simon’s hand. “D’ya come here just to talk pretty, or was there somethin’ you wanted?” she asked saucily.
“I very much wanted to take a walk with my wife. I thought we might re-visit that little spot by the stream where we had our picnic.”
Kaylee’s eyes misted with unshed tears. “Thought you wouldn’t remember that, after everything else that happened.”
Simon brushed his lips against her soft hair. “Remembering things like that kept me sane through the other things and ever since,” he admitted. When Kaylee raised her eyes to look at him again, he kissed her tenderly, as if she were a fragile thing, though in truth he knew she was the greatest source of strength in his life.
The Operative waited, outwardly calm, in the reception area of Jared Thompson’s offices. He felt strangely ill at ease, an unaccustomed sensation to him. Attributing it mainly to the thorough weapons scan that had divested him of even the most concealed of his weapons, he tried to shake the feeling. The room was quiet, except for the click of the fingers of the receptionist on the keys of her cortex terminal. By the look of things, she seemed well in control of everything in the room. The Operative thought idly that he could use such an efficient assistant back on Athens.
As if sensing his scrutiny, she looked up at him and smiled pleasantly. “Is there anything you require while you wait, sir?”
“No, thank you,” he answered.
Nodding, she returned to her keyboard. The Operative took the opportunity to look around the room, trying to devine the personality of the man who would create such a space. He knew nothing of Thompson, beyond the generic information he had acquired on the Cortex. It seemed that the man had come from nowhere, amassing a personal fortune that would make a man blush for its excess. He had no clue as to how he had come to Thompson’s attention, but felt confident he could persuade the man to contribute considerable coin for an air defense if he really was inclined toward supporting the cause of the Independents.
However, in the back of his mind was the disconcerting thought that somehow such a thing would be almost too convenient. The Operative had lived a long time by paying attention to that little section of his brain where alarm bells sounded despite the seeming peace of circumstances around him. He wished briefly that he had been more specific when he had told Reynolds about the meeting, but his natural reluctance to reveal information had kept him quiet. He decided that the best course of action at this point was extreme caution. Relaxing his posture, he settled back to wait.
Just as he was beginning to consider the possibility that Thompson had changed his mind about the meeting, the receptionist smiled brightly. “Mr. Thompson will see you now.”
She hit a series of buttons on her console, and a panel slid back to reveal a long, plushly-carpeted hallway. “Mr. Thompson’s office is straight ahead at the end of the corridor,” she instructed.
Nodding his thanks, the Operative stepped forward, noting that there were several closed doors between him and his destination. The panel slid shut behind him, and the sudden complete silence was strangely unnerving. Thinking wryly that he must be losing his edge, the Operative noted no obvious exits. The observation did nothing to allay his concerns.
As he approached the open door, Jared Thompson himself appeared, smiling broadly. “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” he said warmly. “Unfortunately, sometimes such things cannot be helped.”
“That is quite all right,” the Operative replied. “I am just pleased you had time to meet with me at all.”
Thompson ushered him into the office and indicated a chair across from his desk. “Would you care for some refreshments?” he asked graciously. “I know I’ve kept you waiting through tea-time.”
“No, thank you,” the Operative said, refusing by long habit to indulge in any refreshment from an unknown hand.
Thompson nodded. “As you wish,” he said smoothly. “Now, to business, if you don’t object. I understand from my sources that you are somewhat connected with an organization that has, shall we say, certain goals that run counter to those of our current government. Are my sources correct in this?”
“They are,” the Operative replied. “It is my understanding that you might be interested in furthering certain of those goals.”
“Perhaps,” Thompson replied smoothly. “As you must know, I have access to a rather large supply of resources of all sorts that might prove helpful. Of course, I will require a certain amount of disclosure from you regarding the endeavor before I would feel comfortable lending my support. You understand.”
The Operative smiled thinly, something in the man’s tone making his skin crawl. “I am not at liberty to provide full disclosure. Perhaps if you ask specific questions, I could more readily ascertain what you wish to know.” He let the faintest hint of steel show in his voice.
Thompson’s eyes glittered menacingly, and his tone became suddenly predatory. “Then let me speak plainly. I want to know the number of troops assembled. I want to know their location. And I want to know every dirty little secret you know about the dealings of the Alliance. I want to know, in short, everything contained in that subtle brain of yours.”
The Operative was not a man easily intimidated. Imperceptibly readying himself for defense, he said pleasantly, “Then I fear you will be disappointed.”
“I make it a point to never be disappointed for long,” Thompson replied, touching a button beneath his desk before the Operative could stop him.
The sound of sliding doors made the short hair on the back of the Operative’s neck rise in anticipation. Standing up almost casually, he turned his body sideways to keep Thompson in his view while also surveying the room. Just as he had assumed, it was filling rapidly with men fairly bristling with weaponry.
“For your own safety, I would advise you to take your seat, and answer my questions,” Thompson said calmly. “If you would prefer to be taken by force, that is, of course, your choice.”
Assessing his options with lightning speed, the Operative spun into action.
To be continued
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