Call the Man [4] [repost]
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mother of Mercy. Take a wild guess who that is...


PART FOUR * She can kill with a smile She can wound with her eyes She can ruin your faith with her casual lies And she only reveals what she wants you to see She hides like a child But she's always a woman to me * She can lead you to love She can take you or leave you She can ask for the truth But she'll never believe you And she'll take what you give her, as long as it's free Yeah, she steals like a thief But she's always a woman to me * Oh-she takes care of herself She can wait if she wants She's ahead of her time Oh-and she never gives out And she never gives in She just changes her mind * And she'll promise you more Than the Garden of Eden Then she'll carelessly cut you And laugh while you're bleedin' But she'll bring out the best And the worst you can be Blame it all on yourself Cause she's always a woman to me * [Always a woman – Billy Joel] *

Zoe and Cliff were having one of their semi-regular discussions about the latter's religious experience, “I wish I could show you what I saw, what I heard, eh.” Zoe gave Cliff one of her very direct looks, “First and foremost, I'm a soldier.” “I know, whairapau.” “So, what I can see, feel and shoot at is what I understand. Saw Mal lose his faith right in front of me in that valley. Never really had any, above believing in Mal to get the job done.” “I understand that...but this...this wild, beautiful thing... I guess you could call it 'god' if you like, eh. It's deep love, music, harmony,” he smiled, “even sex.” Zoe's lips twitched, “Had a feeling that would come into it.” “I still adore you. That won't change. I just see and hear...deeper music. The stuff that underlines everything, like a golden thread going through the whole 'verse.” “You ain't gonna preach at me, are you?” Cliff shook his head, “Wouldn't dare! I can now at least understand how people like Buddha or Yesu burned so bright with the music of the 'verse, eh. Can't switch it off. Still figuring out what it means to me. I just might sound a lot like River sometimes. Can you live with that, whairapau?” Zoe considered, “You're a good man. You're wonderful with Sarah,” she saw the hopeful look on Cliff's face, “And I certainly can't complain about your prowess in...other areas.” He tentatively reached out a hand, “I love you.” Zoe's expression softened, “I know. I can't promise to ever give you those words back, but I do care. A lot. Deeper than I can say.” He smiled, “That'll do.” Zoe nodded, making a big concession, “After this job's done, I'll need you to rip my clothes off.” Cliff grinned, “Any time you like, whairapau.” * Serenity dealt with delivering the other goods first, laving the preacher lady to last. Mal used the time to ask idle-sounding questions to get some kind of angle on the ministry that was being delivered. By the time they swung in not far from the huge marquee on the edge of a substantial settlement, they'd got a fair picture of the operation. “Another ruttin' holy woman!” Mal turned to Jayne, “I know, but we're getting a good cut from this job.” “Just hope she don't want to talk like the last one, or I might have ta start hittin' women again!” “Didn't know you'd stopped.” Mal commented, drily. Jayne turned to him, somewhat riled and indignant, “Ya think I hit Vera or Clarry?! Might swat Vera's bee-hind now and then, but I ain't ever clocked her one; Clarry neither! I mean, I know there's folk who like a bit of spanky stuff durin' sex, but the one time I tried it, I *hated it. Was taught ta pleasure a woman in the sack; make her limp with my prowess, not hit on 'em! ” “Even whores?” Jayne was emphatic, “*Especially whores! They remember a fella kindly, it leads to sure 'n certain repeat business if you return.” Mal couldn't resist needling Jayne, “Huh. Thought there had to be *some reason Vera stuck with you.” Jayne grinned, “I handle *all my weapons expertly! An' my swingin' cod has made many a woman sigh or gasp with gratitude!” Mal dead-panned, “So, it's just good sex, then?” “You hav'ta know by now that I love her and she loves me. Nuttin' better 'n that; plus the sex...wuh de mah! Just afore Junior popped out I had me three solid sweet months of doin' it doggy style with my Vera, coz we couldn't fit face ta face. Came gorram close to movin' the 'verse every time! Still do, more's the point.” Mal boggled somewhat with a dose of far too much information, “Well, as long as that doesn't adversely affect your gun hands.” “Nah! Keeps everythin' supple and well oiled. I'm getting' laid regular with an amazin' feisty woman at my back an' a family to boot and I'm *more focussed on the job.” * Mal drew this discussion to a rapid close, “Well, that's all right, then. Let's go deliver the stuff and check out this Mother of Mercy.” The marquee tent was huge. It had two peaks and was tinted in shades of pink and cream with glossy red poles holding up the fabric. A large awning with 'Mother of Mercy' written on it was suspended between two more red poles about thirty feet in front of the tent. In the space in between were several fast food vans with a booth at the entrance of the tent. Mal, Jayne and Zoe steered the first mule full of items and Cliff, Vera and Inara steered the second. Mal got down from the hovering mule to check on where the goods were to be received. After checking with the young woman in the booth, they took the mules around the side of the marquee. There was a fenced-off area to the rear, with a couple of generators gently humming away. They brought the mules to a halt and unloaded the goods. As they were finishing, the foreman gave them all free tickets for the meeting later, with spares for the other adults on board. Jayne looked at Mal, “We ain't gonna use these are we?” “Much as I'd like to say 'no', we ought to check out the message being delivered and the so-called Mother of Mercy to see if there's a scam going on.” “More ruttin' religious twaddle!” “Seem to recall you appreciated Shepherd Book.” “Till he turned out to have been a bad 'un a ways back. Said some good words now 'n then.” “That he did.” * Mal picked the evening team carefully. He chose River and Cliff automatically. Good to have a reader and a guy who seemed to have got a dose of the real deal. Jayne and Zoe were next to provide fire power in case things got ugly. Inara to see if this Mother of Mercy was perhaps an ex-Companion. Everyone else stayed behind, either minding the ship or the children. They hid their weapons as well as possible, even given Jayne's propensity for packing enough heat for a small army. They entered the marquee and found seats about half way to the front and at one side. There was seating for about six hundred people. Quiet recorded 'background' music was playing through speakers at the front. There was a plain stage with another 'Mother of Mercy' banner hanging over it across the proscenium arch. At either side of the stage were displays of flowers in the same shades as the marquee. “Pretty fancy, sir.” Mal nodded, “Nice window-dressing.” Zoe sniffed, “Interesting...aroma.” Jayne took a nose-full, then grinned, “Hash!” Zoe looked at him, “You don't say!” Her comment was as dry as the desert. “Relaxing and stoning the audience into complicity? That's novel!” River was regarding everything, “Lace. Decoration. Chocolate box.” Mal turned to her, “River...?” “Something sweet but sour. She's offering, but she's taking. I *know her.” “We've met this woman before?” “'She's a liar and no good will come from her'.” Inara put her hand over her mouth, getting River's reference instantly, “Gao yang jong duh goo yang!” Mal looked at her sharply, “Huh?” Just then the erstwhile Mother of Mercy came on stage, “Go se; hoe-tze duh pee-goo! It's the wife!” Inara looked back at him, faking a good slice of indignation, “Mal?!!?” “A mere annoyance on the way to marrying you, bao bei.” Jayne had lazily folded his arms and was leaning back in his seat, plotting mayhem, “Saffron!” Cliff looked at all of them, “You *know this woman?” Jayne grinned, “Hell; Mal was married to her!” “And she's not genuine?” Mal harrumphed, “As a gold-painted lead credit coin. Fugitive from justice. Probably got a hefty bounty on her head. Devious as a snake.” River commented, “We'll have to surprise her.” “Indeed. Okay folks, we sneak out of here as soon as we can and plot how to catch her *again, then bring her back in.” * The young woman at the booth was impressed. They'd scored a fancy and very wealthy woman from Ariel attending the meeting. The name was even more impressive – Rothschild. Tall, slender but firm build; long, dark honey blonde curls artfully tumbling down her back, power dressed tailoring in powder pink silk, lace and linen. Tall heels to match, seamed silk stockings. Wore a hat with a wide meshed lace veil down over her face, but beautifully made up underneath. Violet eyes. Every inch reeked money and class. Had paid her entrance with a diamond. A *real one. Got shown to the best seats, along with her Maori bodyguard. Word went around that there was money in the house. The meeting began. The Mother of Mercy, otherwise Saffron, wafted on stage in a clinging green silk kaftan. Saffron, “Dear ones. Let's start with some singing. One of the old favourites from Earth-that-was. 'Come to the River of Life'.” The organ kicked in, heavy on the tremolo. There was a waft of floral fragrance, covering a good dollop of airborne marijuana. The Maori whispered something in his lady's ear and she nodded. After the song, Saffron continued, “So; dear friends. My message is about love. It's that simple. Loving each other. That's what we're here for,” another dose of marijuana, “Can't we all just get along?” There was more of this non-descript religious waffle until the audience were at least partially, if not wholly, under the influence of Saffron's 'perfume'. Another song, then came the subtle suggestion that more money might change hands. Most people barely blinked as they parted with their hard-earned cash and baubles. A large ruby came from the hands of the Rothschild woman. Saffron's eyes gleamed, intent on fleecing the rich lady. She received the baskets of cash and other offerings and put them on a table on the stage. “Madam...Ms...Rothschild. An honour to have you with us. Why don't you join me up here and we'll talk about your own journey of faith?” Ms Rothschild duly came up on the stage. At that moment several things happened at once. There was an explosion, a cloud of stun gas pumped out of the hidden vents over the audience and Mal, Jayne, River, Zoe and Inara burst onto the stage whilst the Maori guy leaped up from the audience and joined them. Within seconds, mayhem broke out, as if it hadn't started already. * Saffron jumped Ms Rothschild. There was a scrap in which the latter's suit got ripped off, along with the hat. Saffron was pulled off, swearing violently with recognition and fury. Ms Rothschild stood up, providing her own form of visual distraction in cream, lacy underwear, complete with cleavage, stockings with lace elastic tops, heels and a thong. Jane stared, grinning, his eyes hot, “Wuh de ruttin' *mah!” Then he turned with an effort and got back to the fight. Saffron was jumped by Mal and Zoe and pinned to the floor. She kicked and screamed, frustrated and angry at having been thwarted again. Mal grinned mirthlessly as he pinned her to the floor – again, “Hi honey. Time to go back to prison!” Zoe got on the radio, “Chicken secured.” Half a dozen armed prison police also burst onto the stage a couple of moments later and put Saffron in chains. A lot of them, with nice heavy leg-irons and a control collar, just in case. Saffron tried to resist, but the lead prison guard tasered her. Mal winced, he knew from personal experience how much *that hurt. He checked the audience; out for the count with the stun gas they'd used. Everyone would wake up in an hour or so with a hangover, but they'd be fine. He nodded at the others and they swiped most of the cash and baubles from the stage as they exited, then hit the pay-booth as well for its coin. The prison police took Saffron with them on their official ship. Mal plus everyone except Jayne and Ms Rothschild hopped on to the mule. Jayne grabbed Ms Rothschild's hand and dragged her to Saffron's luxury camper van. He hot-wired it expertly and began driving it back to Serenity as swag, with the luscious blonde lady on his lap. “Gorram; you were a sight for sore eyes up there in your unders, woman!” She grinned, “I love driving stick shift!” Her hand wasn't anywhere near the vehicle. Rather it was fondling Jayne's own...stick shift. “Lord have mercy! Ah'm tryin' to drive here!” His protest was spoilt by a lascivious grin. She grinned back, “So am I!” “You are a bad, naughty dresser-upper! You know what you're gonna get, huh?” Her hand traced him, root to tip, “Ohh, yes!” Jayne carefully and reluctantly removed her hand and put it on the wheel, “Soon. Gorram soon, ya minx! Built me a powerful head o' steam seein' you look like one of 'em posh nobs from Cambridge Heights on Ariel and me all dirty, sweaty merc bad boy!” She growled eagerly, “I like that fantasy! So, you want me to keep the blonde wig for the moment?” “Just for the first couple 'a times or so. An' the purple eyes. Then you can go back to bein' m'Vera.” Vera fluffed her wig, “Never thought I'd look good as a blonde.” Jayne's eyes were temporarily on the somewhat bouncing cleavage lower down, “Yeah, ya do!” “Junior okay?” Jayne smiled tenderly, “Last I saw him, Clarry was tuckin' him in with his blanket, a story an' the cuddly dinosaurs. Everyone 'n everythin' else is shiny and we dealt with that double-crossin' hussy!” “Let's hope he stays asleep.” “Amen to that, mi mei gui!” * The next morning, Mal popped the haul on the table, “Before you even get to asking, I think the folk in that tent should get a fair slice of their money back. We'll take a cut for our...'trouble'. Jayne was leaning back in his chair, eyes half-lidded with deep post-coital satisfaction, “Got Saffron's camper van!” “Yeah, I saw the acquisition in the hold. Good call! Any good stuff in it?” Jayne grinned, “Bed's comfy and the shower room's big enough for two, at a pinch.” “Do I need to know how you know that?” “Gave 'em a test run!” Vera squeezed Jayne's hand and smiled at him. Mal sighed, “Coin? Jewels?” “Could be. Me 'n Vera will go check it out for contraband.” Mal gave Jayne and Vera a look, “Contraband. No...trying out the facilities, dong ma?” Jayne grinned, “We went six rounds last night till Junior woke us up this mornin'! Ah'm rechargin' my batteries!” “Take the tyke with you, huh?” Jayne nodded, “No problem! C'mon Junior, we got us a camper van to 'splore.” Junior looked at his father, trying out the words, “Camper...van?” Jayne smiled indulgently, “You'll see!” * Vera hoped that Junior was too young to identify correctly the lingering scent of hot, passionate sex in the camper van. There was the spot on the dashboard where they'd started, then the wall in the corridoor leading back into the camper section with the shower on one side and the lavatory on the other. The bed was mussed and rumpled and the carpet pile was interestingly ruffled. Her cheeks warmed as she remembered the first three times here in this van, followed by a second session later in their bunk. Judging by the gleam in Jayne's eyes, he was remembering too. It had certainly been pretty rampant between them. When Jayne had lifted her against that wall and taken her the first time, she'd bitten him hard as she came. Vera started in the driving section, after asking Junior to help her look for hidden cupboards, making it a kind of game for him. He was pretty keen-eyed and spotted a couple of places where the panels came off. Searching the whole vehicle in and out took some time, but eventually they returned to the galley with their new stash. Junior tucked into juice and a biscuit with Lee and Sam as Jayne and Vera went through the haul in front of the others, apart from Kaylee who was prepping the engine. Vera started, “We've got some jewels, share certificates, coin. Some nice changes of clothes and jewellry. Religious texts.” Jayne put some guns and weapons on the table, “Mostly standard issue stuff. Nice ladies' mini-gun with a pearl handle and one of those tiny garter guns, adapted to shoot poison darts in this case. Couple of knives and a cleavage stiletto.” Mal looked at the pile, “Not bad. Share certificates might be helpful, same with the jewels and coin.” He ruffled through the papers, “Hello. What's this? 'Mother of Mercy's academy'?” He spread the document out, “River was spot on about the school full of kids. It's some kind of private school which Saffron seemed to own or run.” Vera's eyes narrowed, “Bet it's fake.” Zoe looked at her, “You don't say!” she commented, dryly. Mal considered, ticking off on his fingers, “Lots of possibilities. First it's legit and Saffron just bought in for some reason. Second, it's a scam. Third, she's training the little dears to be thieves, just like her.” Zoe nodded, “Let's find out.”



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