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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Tensions rise in the cargo bay, and something’s gotta give.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 789 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal’s hand hovered close to his holstered weapon as he looked intently down the barrel of Marcus’ gun. “You mind tellin’ me exactly what’s goin’ on here?” he said, his voice deceptively calm.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Marcus replied, his gun wavering not even slightly.
“Bein’ as how I’m the one with the gun pointed at my head, I’d say you got the floor right now,” Mal replied.
As he spoke, Jayne, Zoe, and Jim moved easily into position flanking him, their own weapons covering Marcus, Bear, and Pierre respectively. “Sir?” Zoe asked softly.
Jayne glared at Bear. “You’re outgunned here. Best be puttin’ that peashooter down.”
Bear snorted. “Don’t see as how that’s like to happen any time soon. Think I proved earlier I can take you down without undue fuss.”
Jayne opened his mouth to respond, but Inara’s voice floated down into the cargo bay from her vantage point on the stairs. “What’s going on here?” she said in her most soothing voice. “I thought we were all on the same side, Captain Hazzard. Whatever the problem is, I’m sure it can be resolved without bloodshed.”
“Wish I was,” Marcus replied. “But it seems your Captain neglected to mention a pretty significant fact when you boarded. Makes a body a mite suspicious as to motive.”
“What significant fact?” Inara said, walking down the stairs gracefully.
“Don’t come any further, Inara,” Mal said, knowing her intent was to come to stand between the two men. “Least not until we know what’s what.”
Inara stopped, and stood still on the bottom step. “What significant fact?” she repeated.
“That your pilot is a Reader,” Marcus answered.
Mal frowned. “Didn’t know as it would matter to you, Marcus.”
Marcus hissed angrily. “Didn’t know that I would be a little averse to having a government-trained assassin on my boat?” he asked incredulously.
“It ain’t like that,” Mal began.
Marcus held up his hand to forestall Mal’s answer. “Don’t bother trying to deny it,” he said. “I’ve seen what one of them can do, and I don’t aim to have another one on my boat.”
“What do you mean, you’ve seen what one can do?” Inara asked, before Mal could say anything else.
Marcus spared a quick glance at the Companion. “’Bout a year back, we were runnin’ a little low on funds and were on Osiris looking for work. Young man name of Aesop, ‘bout the age of Mrs. Reynolds, approached me, wanting to book passage to the outer Rim. Offered to pay a huge sum of cashy money for the trip, too. So, against my better judgment, I accepted the fare. For the first week, he kept pretty much to himself, stayed in the passenger cabin. Came out just to eat and walk around now and again. I began to think that maybe carrying passengers was the way to make easy money after all. But into the second week, Aesop started to act a little twitchy. I thought maybe he wasn’t used to being a long time in the Black, and offered him the use of the Cortex for entertainment.”
Marcus paused, swallowing thickly. “He sat watching the Cortex for hours, weird things like commercials and such. Started muttering to himself, and pacing the floor. Pierre found him pulling the labels off the supplies in the galley. He pulled a knife on Murdocke, almost got him too. So, I confined him to quarters.”
He stopped talking for a moment, looking directly at Mal. “As you might imagine, it wasn’t long before he was out. Freakish flexible, he was. Got up into the ventilation system and dropped down into my cabin. I woke up with a knife to my throat, and a babbling madman wielding it. Tried to calm him down, get him to talking so’s I could buy some time. And man alive, did he talk! Rambled on and on about the experiments he’d been put through, how the Alliance had made him into a super weapon. Told me all about what he was intending to do to me and my crew ‘fore he took the ship. Said the advertisements on the Cortex were talking to him, telling him that he needed the ship. Said that he could read us, and knew exactly what we were gonna do ‘fore we could get it done. Said he knew we’d have to try to stop him, and that we wouldn’t succeed.”
Mal nodded. “And then what happened?”
Marcus sighed, his arm getting tired from pointing the gun at Mal but not letting it show. “I managed to thumb the comm unit so’s what he was saying was broadcast throughout the ship. He knew it, of course, but said it wouldn’t matter, as he could easily take out all four of us at once if need be.” He shuddered at the memory of Aesop’s wild eyes looking much deeper into his soul than he would have wanted. “Pierre flooded my cabin with some of that stuff we used on the Feds today. Hurt like hell, and took me out for a couple of hours. Didn’t stop Aesop though. Stunned him enough for Pierre to get him pulled out of the cabin, but he revived too gorram quick, and Pierre took a nasty stab to the chest. If the hundan hadn’t been half blind from the gas, I conjure it’d have gone straight into Pierre’s heart, but fortunately for us, it didn’t. Whilst Aesop was carvin’ on Pierre, Bear got a clean shot. Dropped the kid where he stood.”
Marcus’ eyes held a haunted look. “Weren’t nothing but a kid, but he was the scariest thing I’ve met in the ‘verse. Apparently, sanity ain’t high on the list of requirements for Readers.”
Murdocke, who had come into the bay during the story to see what was happening, said, “We learned pretty quick that Aesop was not the only one. Started to pick up the odd news story about similar incidents, explained away as ‘freak accidents’ or ‘isolated incidents’ by the official Alliance reports. But what the kid had said made us know different.”
Marcus nodded. Looking at Mal coldly, he continued, “And now, you tell me that your wife is one of them.”
Mal sighed and looked directly into Marcus’ troubled eyes. “She is a Reader, but she ain’t one of them.”
“Yeah, well, I ain’t sure I want to just take your word for that,” Marcus replied.
Pierre, who was feeling weaker by the minute from the blood trickling down his neck and dampening his shirt, said to Marcus, “Could be River is a natural Reader.”
Marcus glanced at him sharply. “What would lead you to that conclusion?”
Pierre sighed, his gun arm starting to tremble from being held up so long. “I think Adam is. And the Alliance hasn’t tampered with him, I suspect.”
Mal drew in a sharp breath at the mention of Adam’s abilities. It was one thing for River to be threatened, but quite another for Adam to be involved. River could handle any or all of Marcus’ crew with no problem if it came down to it, he thought, but Adam was still largely defenseless. Making a quick decision, he said, “River is a natural Reader. But it’s the truth that she was tampered with by the Alliance. Simon saved her from the facility where she was being hurt, and brought her onto my boat. He helped her, tried to undo the damage that they’d done to her. Doesn’t she seem sane to you?” He gazed unblinkingly into Marcus’ eyes.
Marcus frowned. “Yes, but so did Aesop, ‘til he snapped.”
Mal nodded. “I understand your concern. Believe me, I do. I’ve been there, and done that. But, I swear to you, River ain’t insane, nor is she like to be. She’s got it under control. Do I look like a man who would marry an unstable woman?”
Marcus snorted, the question striking him suddenly as funny. “Maybe,” he replied, but Mal was heartened to see his gun begin to lower.
Mal smiled. “Well, maybehaps I do. But River is fine. I trust her with my life, my crew, my children. Dong ma?”
After a long pause of absolute silence, Marcus lowered his weapon completely, his arm tingling as the blood flowed back into his hand. “All right, then,” he said softly. “Sorry to have drawn on you, but it sorta took me aback, considerin’ my history and such.”
Mal nodded. “S’all right,” he replied. “No harm done. Can’t blame a man for trying to protect what’s his.”
As everyone lowered their weapons with a sigh of relief, Pierre staggered slightly. “Think I might need to see your medic,” he said.
Marcus nodded. “Go on and see to your wound. Guess we’re ‘bout finished here.”
Mal frowned. “Well, now that we ain’t gonna be killin’ each other, I conjure we need to figure exactly why those Feds were on your boat tryin’ to kill us.”
“I’d say that’s a fair question,” Marcus said.
“They were eyeing the cargo awful close right before they opened fire,” Zoe remarked.
“If they wanted the cargo, why didn’t they just take it ‘fore we got there?” Jayne asked. “They were already on the docks, after all. Don’t make no sense.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Mal started to say, when Murdocke interrupted him.
“You see that?” he said, pointing up to a container above them. Mal glanced up to see the seal glowing red, and he made out a distinct hissing sound emanating from the container.
“Must have been damaged in the gun fight,” Mal muttered, just as the container toppled over, spewing out a load of fertilizer all over Marcus.
Marcus sputtered in surprise, as Inara covered her mouth and nose with a handkerchief. “That’s…strong,” she said delicately.
“Oh,” Jayne said, his face screwing up at the smell. “That’s the worst-smelling shi..”
Mal coughed roughly, almost gagging at the smell. Putting his arm over his mouth and nose, he said, “Glad it didn’t land three feet to the left.”
Marcus frowned, spitting frantically. “And my gorram mouth was open,” he muttered darkly to no one in particular.
Mal could not contain his laughter. “Wish that happened to every hundan who pulls a gun on me. Kinda ironical, ain’t it?”
Marcus glared at him, shaking as much of the offensive material off himself as he could. “Ain’t too late to riddle you with holes just yet,” he replied, peeling off his duster with disgust.
“Think maybehaps you best keep me around a little longer,” Mal replied, spying a strange object on the floor of the cargo bay in the middle of the pile of manure. Gingerly picking it up with a handkerchief, he held it up for Marcus’ inspection.
It was a small, green cylinder with a gel-like substance oozing lazily about in it. “Any idea what this might be?” Mal asked. “Seems I don’t recall the cows on the ranch back on Shadow having anything like this in their droppings.”
Marcus took the cylinder from him carefully. “Made of plasticell,” he observed. “S’posed to be air tight and shock absorbent.”
“Yeah, but what’s that goo in it?” Murdocke asked, peering over his shoulder.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Marcus said grimly.
“Have they spotted us?” the man asked, coming onto the bridge of the small ship.
“Doesn’t look like it,” the other man replied. “At least they haven’t tried to change course or anything. Looks to me like they’re headed straight to Shiva, right on schedule.”
The first man smiled. “That’s good then,” he replied. “She don’t like it when things go wrong, and I don’t like having to hear about it neither.”
The pilot chuckled. “She keeps you on a short chain, don’t she?”
Scowling, the first man replied, “And you ain’t on the same chain? I don’t s’pect you’d fare too well neither, if something goes pear-shaped with this deal.”
The pilot looked at him calmly. “Well, I got the advantage of being able to fly this thing away from the problem, if’n it comes right down to it.”
The first man snorted. “Pretty gorram hard to fly with a gaping hole in your chest. And don’t you be thinking for a minute that she won’t put one there, if she takes a notion.”
“Well, then, I guess we’ll just have to be careful-like, and not let anything go wrong.”
“Yeah, ‘spect that’s our best bet,” the first man said, looking at the display on the navigational panel. “Just keep a good watch on ‘em, and I’ll worry about the rest.”
The pilot nodded, wondering exactly how likely it was that the Hit or Miss had not seen them in its aft sensors. His hand briefly brushed over the gun stuck into the top of his boot. Either way, he was planning to be prepared, he thought.
To be continued
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 3:20 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 6:37 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 7:44 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 1:24 PM
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