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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Marcus and River have a talk, and Murdocke develops a plan.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 803 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
River turned to gaze intently at Marcus, who looked distinctly uncomfortable suddenly. She smiled softly, “Don’t have to worry. I’m not going to snap, and I rarely bite.”
Marcus smiled sheepishly, but River could tell that his heart rate was still elevated and she carefully moved to sit in the co-pilot’s chair. Resisting the urge to pull her knees up to her chest as she would on Serenity’s bridge, she crossed her legs gracefully at the knees instead, trying to project the image of a well-balanced, perfectly sane woman. Marcus waited, still and quiet.
River cleared her throat and began. “Shouldn’t have drawn your weapon on my husband,” she said quietly.
The short hair on the back of Marcus’ neck prickled uncomfortably. “Probably not,” he acknowledged, his voice betraying none of his inner turmoil.
“But I forgive you,” River continued after a long pause. “Know why you did it.”
“I suppose you do, being as how my brain is an open book to you,” Marcus said.
River shook her head. “It may be, but that doesn’t mean I choose to read it.”
Marcus frowned slightly. “You got that much control?”
“Now I do,” River said. “Didn’t used to, but I’m better now. Not like Aesop.”
Marcus flinched at the name. “I sincerely hope not.”
River sighed. “I knew him. We were at the Academy at the same time.”
“That right?” Marcus said, the thought sending a tendril of dread down his spine.
“Aesop was alone,” River said. “Father was an Alliance general, loyal to the powers that be. Considered it a privilege to sacrifice a son to the glorious cause.” She shuddered, imagining the horror of having no one to call on for help in the hell that had been the Academy, no hope of rescue from any source. “Not like me. I had Simon to get me out, and later, Mal to keep me out. Made all the difference.”
Marcus nodded. “I can see how it would,” he said softly, drawn to her despite himself. He frowned, thinking back to his interaction with Aesop. “But he’d gotten out somehow,” he observed. “Was walking about free when he came to me for passage. And he seemed fine, in the beginning.”
River nodded, working it through in her head. “But obviously, something happened to change that.”
Marcus thought about it. “I just thought he was a mite twitchy about space travel. Some folk can’t take much time in the Black. But even then, he was all right until he got hold of the Cortex.”
“Triggers,” River said quickly. “He was triggered somehow.”
“What do you mean?” Marcus asked.
“The Academy plan was that we would all be able to function as normally as possible in the general population until we were needed. Then, through subliminal messages encoded in regular transmissions like advertisements or commercials over the Cortex, we would be triggered to perform whatever assignment they wished. He must have been inadvertently exposed to one of the triggers.”
Marcus looked at her, the horror of what she said reflected on his face. “So, the others….the other students of the Academy….they might be out there right now being triggered by commercials to wipe out folk?”
“Perhaps,” River acknowledged. “Though I don’t imagine there are many left, and I know of some whose triggers have been…deactivated, like mine.”
“You were…activated?” Marcus asked as delicately as he could.
River closed her eyes for a moment before answering. “Yes,” she said finally. “In a bar called the Maidenhead. By an advertisement for Fruity Oat bars, of all things. Wiped out the entire bar before Simon said the safe words to stop me. It triggered the memory of Miranda in my head. It’s what led Serenity’s crew to Miranda, and led Mal to release the Miranda Wave.”
Marcus stared at her for a long moment, digesting that information. “That must have been horrible,” he said softly.
“Yes,” River said. “It was.” They sat silent for a time looking out into the Black, both lost in their own thoughts.
“But why would the Alliance still be broadcasting the triggers, if the Academy project isn’t operational anymore?” Marcus asked finally.
River looked at him bleakly. “I hope that it’s simply an oversight on their part. But the more likely theory is that someone somewhere is still actively working on the project.”
Marcus whistled low in his throat. “That’s a less than comforting thought.”
“I would say that is a gross understatement,” River said wryly.
“True enough,” Marcus agreed. After a short pause, he added, “Could I have done anything else with Aesop? I mean, could I have stopped him without having to kill him?”
“Probably not,” River said honestly.
Marcus nodded, oddly relieved. “Look, I’m sorry I drew on Mal back there.”
River smiled. “I’ll let it pass this time,” she said. “Since you remind me somewhat of my husband, that is.”
Marcus grinned. “Well, I hate to disappoint you, but I think I might already be spoken for,” he said, thinking of the woman who’d almost managed to catch him a few months back.
River couldn’t resist reading him for just a moment, catching a glimpse of the woman he was thinking of. Surprised, she hid her reaction well. “Well, I suppose that’s a good thing, then,” she said lightly. “Wouldn’t want any more complications than I already have.” She grinned and rose easily from the chair. “Think I’ll go see to one of my complications now. Good night, Marcus.”
“Good night, River,” Marcus said, watching her go, a slight smile curving his lips.
“Should work,” Kaylee said nervously, filling the first of the small tubs with water. “Can fit four to each tub.”
Murdocke nodded, gingerly putting the first four plasticell containers in the tub. Setting the tub in the airlock, he backed into the cargo bay, shutting the door carefully. Then, thumbing the airlock controls, he opened the smallest of the hatches, instantly freezing the tub of containers. Closing the hatch again quickly, he waited for a moment for the room to re-pressurize before opening the door. Looking down into the tub, he grinned. “Looks like they’re frozen well enough. Now to put the guiding mechanism on this block of four, and we’ll aim it at that sun we’re passing. Should get rid of this go se without any more fuss.”
Kaylee nodded, pulling her gloves on to protect her skin from the freezing containers. Working together quickly, Murdocke and Kaylee affixed the small guidance system to the block of containers. Then, standing back to admire their work for a moment, Murdocke said, “Can easily push all this stuff out the trash chute in the galley once it’s frozen. Save us some time and our shadow out there won’t be likely to be looking at the garbage too closely.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Kaylee said, as Murdocke shouldered the container. She followed him to the galley, calculating how long it would take to dispose of all the plasticell containers in such a fashion. “We’re gonna have to hurry if we want them to all be makin’ it to that sun,” she said worriedly.
Murdocke nodded. “I know,” he said, entering the galley to find Jayne at the stove, making some kind of obnoxious-smelling green glop. “What in the hell is that?” he asked, eyeing it suspiciously.
Jayne glared at him. “You such an idiot you can’t tell green pea protein stew when you see it?” he growled.
“Haven’t ever seen it looking exactly like that,” Murdocke said, opening the trash receptacle and angling the container into it gingerly.
“My ma’s own recipe,” Jayne said, his chest expanding proudly. “Best gorram green pea stew ever.”
Murdocke looked at him skeptically. “I’ll take your word for it, big guy,” he said. As Jayne stirred it desultorily, Murdocke had a sudden burst of inspiration. He grinned at Jayne. “Say, can I maybe have a little of that? I mean, for later, when me and Kaylee are finished with this?”
Jayne looked at him appraisingly. “I guess so,” he said, reluctant to share his stew, but trying to get along. “I’ll set some aside.”
“That’d be great,” Murdocke said enthusiastically, his mind whirring with possibilities.
Kaylee reached over him to push the disposal button. “Guess I’ll just handle this, since you’re suddenly so focused on eating.”
Murdocke looked at her with confusion, then smiled. “You know, I gotta say, I was wrong about you, Kaylee Tam. I’m sorry I acted like such an idiot at first. You’re the second best engineer I know.” He grinned, a twinkle of merriment in his eye.
“Funny, that’s what I was aimin’ to say about you,” Kaylee said absently, checking the small tracking device in her hand. “Looks like it got where it was going,” she said after a moment. “And bein’ as how we ain’t all dead, I’d say it worked.” She smiled up at Murdocke happily. “Think I’ll head back to the cargo bay, and start with the others. Time’s wastin’.”
Murdocke moved to join her, but Jayne’s meaty paw stopped him. Helplessly, he watched Kaylee walk out of the galley before turning. “Mind tellin’ me why you’re manhandling me?” he asked as casually as he could.
Jayne leaned down to his eye level and looked at him steadily. “Just wanted to give you a little reminder,” he said, his voice sending a shiver of fear down Murdocke’s spine. “Kaylee’s taken, and even if’n she weren’t, you’d not be makin’ any moves. Got that?”
Murdocke tried to look innocent. “I don’t intend to ‘make any moves’, as you put it. Can’t a man admire a fellow engineer without this kinda thing?”
“I don’t know,” Jayne said, not easing his grip even a little. “But, for your sake, I surely do hope so.”
“I got it,” Murdocke said, shaking free of the man’s iron grip. “You made your point. Okay?”
“Shiny,” Jayne said, smiling again. “Best you go on and help her get through with that go se so she can get on back to her husband. Dong ma?”
Murdocke nodded and walked quickly out the galley. “And I’ll be sure to set some of this stew aside for you,” Jayne called after him, laughing at the fun he’d just had. Some days, you just had to make your own entertainment with what was available, he thought with a wicked smile.
“We’re about thirty minutes from entering atmo now,” Pierre said to the group assembled in the cargo bay. “Right on schedule.”
“And our tail?” Marcus asked.
“Still there, but no closer than they have been,” Pierre replied.
Marcus nodded. Turning to Murdocke, he said, “And the plasticell containers are disposed of?”
“Yep,” Murdocke said, smiling widely and rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. “Me and Kaylee saw to the last of them a few minutes ago.”
“Good,” Marcus said, relieved to be free of the dangerous contraband. “Okay, so here’s the plan. Captain Reynolds will be taking the shuttle and leaving in the next few minutes with Zoe, Jayne, and River. I’ve already given him the coordinates for the drop off. We figured there’s no need for all of us to arrive at the same time. Better to have a backup in place if this thing goes south.”
“So, we’re the sniper team,” Jayne said, happy at the thought of giving Vera some exercise.
Mal nodded. “Seems the thing to do, bein’ as how we still don’t know who our shadow is, nor if the Feds will be waiting for us once we get there.” Turning to his own crew, he added, “Jim, I’d like you to stay here with Simon, Kaylee, Inara, and the children. Hope we won’t need a gun hand on the ship, but I’d feel better knowing we got one, needs be.”
Jim nodded. “No problem, Captain,” he replied smartly, glancing quickly at Zoe. “I’ll see to it.”
“Good,” Mal said. “So, there any questions?”
Everyone remained silent. Marcus nodded. “That’s good then. Let’s get this done, get our coin, and get out of here just as quick as we can.” Shaking Mal’s hand, he said, “See you in the world, Mal.”
Mal nodded and the crews dispersed, ready to earn their keep. Turning to the Tams, Jim asked, “So, anybody up for a game of Tall Card?”
“Rather play Go Fish,” Adam said, tugging on his hand.
Jim laughed, ruffling the boy’s hair. “Go Fish it is then. Lead the way, little fella’.”
Holding Kaylee’s hand tightly, Simon watched them go, hoping beyond hope that his skills would not be required any time soon. Squeezing his hand as if she could read his thoughts, Kaylee whispered, “It’ll be all right, Simon. Capt’n’s got it handled.”
Simon smiled, “I’m sure you’re right,” he said, kissing his wildly optimistic wife softly.
To be continued
Monday, December 24, 2007 9:27 AM
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 5:53 AM
Thursday, December 27, 2007 2:27 PM
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