Call the Man [5] [repost]
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Off into the black


PART FIVE * I can change the world With my own two hands Make a better place With my own two hands Make a kinder place With my own two hands With my own With my own two hands * I can make peace on earth With my own two hands I can clean up the earth With my own two hands I can reach out to you With my own two hands With my own With my own two hands * I’m gonna make it a brighter place I’m gonna make it a safer place I’m gonna help the human race With my own With my own two hands I can hold you With my own two hands I can comfort you With my own two hands But you got to use Use your own two hands Use your own Use your own two hands * [With My Own Two Hands - Ben Harper] * Before they set off on the long journey through the black, Serenity made the return delivery to Badger's part of Persephone. Badger was leaning back in his chair, slicing a peach with studied nonchalance. “Malcolm Reynolds, you *have been a busy beaver!” Jayne grinned, “'Beaver'! Now that conjures up a real *interestin' image.” he licked his lips, “Boy, do I *love beaver!” Mal looked at him sharply, “Jayne!” “Bet Badger here's gettin' plenty. Just coz you took way too long over nailin' Inara...” Mal ground his teeth, “That will *do!” Badger didn't turn a hair, “I get me oats nice and regular. Now then; here's your cut, as agreed. Had a feeing that preacher woman was a wrong 'un.” Mal narrowed his eyes, “Could almost suspect you *knew.” Badger acted offended, “Me? An honest merchant involved with a petty thief!” “She's pretty enough, if a scheming hussy. You could have worked out a scam together. Birds of a feather and all that.” Zoe nodded, “I can certainly believe they were working together.” Badger put his hand to his chest, “Mal; Zoe! I'm offended that you put me in the same company as that...that...woman!” Jayne's grin widened, as his fingers lingered near his gun belt, “Betcha this weasel was nailin' her as well as his other bit of skirt! Not that I blame him; came gorram close to introducin' her to my monster eight and a half inch python myself!” Zoe shuddered slightly. Mal bit back most of a groan, “Now I've got *that image in my head. Jayne, enough with the gutter talk. Would Vera approve?” Jayne's grin went even wider, “Hell yes! My wife can talk dirty real pretty!” Badger looked at Jayne, surprised, “You got *wed? An' here's me without even the smell of an invite!” Jayne shrugged, “Both times were kinda... sudden.” “Ah. Got her up the duff, eh? *Both? You got two kids or has she got a pater with a bigger gun than yours?” Jayne started in 'gutter' mode, “Ain't many men got a bigger gun than...” then he saw the look on Mal and Zoe's face, “Yeah, we got two kids.” “Well, well. Got a boatload of kiddies now, have you? Things have *certainly changed since I saw you all last.” Badger leaned his chair a little further off the horizontal and plopped his boots onto the desk, crossing his feet at the heels. Mal frowned, then found his 'angle', “Well, *you've found a woman who'll 'do' for you. *That's new!” Badger smirked, “I've always got plenty of skirt!” He started examining his nails nonchalantly, “Of course, *some was for...'services rendered', but everything's a commodity these days, even sex. Seem to recall you had a...working girl on your ship. How *is your whore Inara?” Mal's hands were around Badger's neck and both men were on the floor on the far side of the desk in what seemed to be less than a second, “That will *do! You say anything else bad about Inara and I swear I'll put a bullet in you...” Badger's boys were hovering menacingly with guns drawn, as were Zoe and Jayne a bit further back. “Oooh, touchy! Let me up, nice and slow, there's a good chap.” Mal eased off, mindful of the cocked guns, “Very well.” Badger picked himself up and made a show of dusting himself off, “Now then. Are we done here?” Mal was stony faced, “Yes. We're done.” “Anyfing I can do for you jobwise in the future, you only have to ask.” Mal nodded, conscious that Badger's jobs did at least tend to be well paid, “Bear that in mind.” Badger smiled, irrepressible to the last, “Ta-ta, then.” * After a stock-up at Persephone's markets, Serenity took off. Vera approached Jayne with a wry smile on her face some hours later. “Ai ren. What's this I hear about you disturbing Mal and Zoe's calm with talk about your diao...again?!” Jayne grinned as he bounced Junior up and down, “Was only teasin'!” Junior had his parents' blue eyes and dark hair, the latter still tending to stick up like fluff no matter how it was brushed, combed or washed. “Well, if Zoe's report of proceedings is on the money, you were a whole lot closer to the truth this time about your...dimensions.” Jayne shrugged and began 'flying' a giggling and excited Junior as if the latter was an aeroplane, “Didn't mention width, darlin'.” Vera touched his arm and Jayne stopped, recognising the nature of that touch, “I know you're not shy about your body. It's one of the things I love about you. But would you like me to describe my breasts to Mal?” Jayne whirled, managing to hold a wriggling and enthusiastic Junior with one arm whilst pressing Vera hard against the bulkhead with the other, “Hell! Ya didn't! Yer *mine, woman; *mine!” He kissed her, quite hard, starting sparks of arousal in both of them. Vera smiled at him, “See what I mean?” “Huh?” Jayne frowned in concentration, the cogs turning. Then he got it, “Ya feel possessive about me; about my body?” A slight smirk teased his lips. Vera grinned, “Hell, yes. I want every inch of you just for me!” There was heat in both their eyes. Junior recognised that look, even though he was too young to understand completely what it meant, “Pa 'n Ma?” Vera picked Junior off Jayne and ruffled his hair, “Time for supper, little big man !” Jayne continued, “*Every inch, huh?” His eyes were still hot. “Oh, yes!” They both knew exactly what they meant, after so much practice. Vera grinned, “Keep the good stuff between us, huh? Don't want to make Mal feel inadequate and less than Captainy.” Junior bounced eagerly, “Cap-tin, cap-tin!” Jayne lowered his mouth next to Vera's ear, “An' I'll still be tellin' you naughty things about him bein' big an' hard an' hungry when I want to rev you up.” Vera squeezed his arm, “You do that. And I'll rev you up right back, like always!” Junior frowned, “” Jayne grinned, “Tell ya in about twelve years, squirt! Then you'll understand!” “Supper!” Junior enthused, getting to the word which had really interested him, as they took him towards the galley. Ares met them half way with Camulus as the two dogs had long since smelt food cooking and wanted their share. Since Ares had saved the latter's life as he was born a few years back, Camulus had remembered the smell of his father and the bonding between the two male dogs was complete. Camulus was the most Staffy-like of the fluff-ball Felicity's offspring, though his short coat tended to get curly, especially on his white-haired stomach. He was also small, because of his mother and because of being the runt of the litter. The two dogs often went around the ship 'on patrol' together with two noses ready for scraps to eat. * After supper, Mal spread out the charts for the crew. “Okay, folks. We've got a bit of a hop to the school on Fife. What we've got now will keep us flying for some time, then we need to pick up supplies on either Dionysus if we go this route or Cwmbran the other way. There are a reasonable sprinkling of moons or docking stations so that we can put down fairly regular if we need to. Asteroid belt here, then a stretch of nothing but black either way followed by landfall on Fife.” Zoe nodded, “We can ask for a mail drop on either Dionysus or Cwmbran from anyone wanting to send us stuff.” “We'll miss the harvest jobs on Newhall.” Vera commented. Mal shrugged, “Have to wait until next year. This trip, plus sorting any mess Saffron's left behind her, will keep us busy for quite a spell.” Zoe considered, “With the journey there and dealing with what we find, could be several months.” Kaylee asked, “What if the children on Fife are in danger?” “Ain't much we can do about that above make best speed. Kaylee; can you get the engines into turbo-charged mode or summat?” Kaylee smiled, “Will do, Cap'n! Here, Lee and Sam; come and help me hold spanners!” Lee protested, “Wanna help Dad with bandages 'n stuff.” Simon's lips twitched into an indulgent smile, “One twin for me; one for you. Seems fair.” “We could Wave Fife and let them know we're coming.” “I know; and mebbe alert some hwoon dahn that the jig is up. I'll let them know we're 'delivering' stuff and therefore able to take goods onwards. Staying around the system for a week or so, willing to do runs. 'Just passing through, never mind us raggedy folks'.” Jayne looked at Mal, “We *are going in armed, ain't we?” Mal gave a curt nod, “To the teeth, but hidden. The odd pistol for show and the rest tucked away out of sight, but reachable.” Jayne grinned, “Sounds like my kinda party!” * So, after the best part of two months, Serenity arrived at Fife. High mountains tipped with snow and covered in tall pines surrounded a valley with a river. The air was redolent with pine and fresh mountain air. There was a settlement, a landing strip and a large imposing building up amongst the trees. Sarah spotted it first, “Looks like a castle.” Zoe appraised the building, “Don't think any princes live *there!” It certainly had a couple of solid square towers and castellations in the walls. “Well, that's the school.” Vera looked at it assessingly, “Someone's been reading 'Tom Brown's School Days' a little too closely. Mal nodded, “It is a bit 'Mr Chips', isn't it?” Clarry smiled, having read other old 'school' fiction from Earth-that-was, “Hogwarts.” “Less wizards and no magic, I'm hopin'.” Jayne grinned, “I always wondered if there were mebbe dogs like Fluffy.” Vera chuckled, “We've practically got a *two-headed dog already.” Ares and Camulus were romping around crazily, chasing each other's tails eagerly in the fresh air. “Have ta call our next dog 'Fang'.” “Well, you're more warlike than Hagrid.” “Ain't that the truth. *Parts of me are close to giant size, though.” Jayne winked. Vera laughed, shaking her head, “Wan nao; you are *incorrigible!” Melissa grabbed Vera's hand, “'Dopted Pa's being naughty again!” “He's naughty a lot! 'S'one of the reasons I love him.” Junior was slung over one of Vera's hips, “Trees! Lotsa trees!” She smiled at him, “Indeed; lots of trees.” She let him down to stretch his legs. * Mal let everyone get lungfuls of fresh air while the children and dogs ran around nearby. “Okay, folks. Half of us will go get supplies and look for something like legitimate work, whilst the other half checks out the school. Jayne, Zoe, Vera, Simon, Jessop and Clarry with me; everyone else go find food!” Clarry's eyes were shining, “You're taking me? On my first job?” “You're nearly fifteen now, plus some of those kids up there might be happier seeing someone closer to their own age in our group.” Clarry beamed, “Thanks!” River, Cliff, Kaylee and Inara rounded up the youngsters and took them with them, after various hugs and kisses. The dogs stayed with Jayne and Vera, who started up the hill with Mal and the others. “So, how are we playing this, sir?” “Well, we've got kids. Maybe we want to enrol them in the school.” As they got closer, it seemed there would be no enrolling going on ever again. What looked like a solid building from a distance was a shell and one with fire damage and serious holes in the masonry at the base. The gate swung open; bricks, wreckage and fire damage writ loud and clear. “Ta ma duh!” Mal swore. Those who remembered the ruin at Haven exchanged glances. “Dear God,” Vera murmured, “Is *anyone left alive around here?” Mal set his jaw, “Let's go and find out.” Vera touched Clarry's shoulder, “This might be bad.” She nodded, “I know. Seen dead bodies before.” “Ruttin' hell. These were *kids, Mal!” Mal's eyes narrowed, “And if Saffron has *anything to do with this, I'm sending evidence and pressing for the death penalty.” They spread out, searching. The fires which had caused a significant amount of damage were black and cold. It seemed to have rained since the mostly unidentified cataclysm occurred. Jayne calculated, “Been a coupl'a days at least.” He picked singed grass from the edge of one of the fires and sniffed, “Make that three days since this fire at least. Footprints are fading, too. Whoever passed this way is long gone.” “And the students?” Jayne scanned, ears and nose alert, “In the main building. *Something's alive in there.” He shouldered his gun and the two dogs ran ahead, having apparently caught the same scent and noises. They moved onwards, carefully through the ruined building. The dogs were scrabbling at the wooden floor. “What is it?” Jayne felt on the floor, then caught at something, “Panic room. Kinda like that hidden vault on Venice.” Vera and Mal set to helping him lift the hidden trapdoor, which was lined in metal. There was a whoosh of stale air and over a hundred pale, dirty, terrified children of assorted ages slowly clambered out into the light. Behind them, in the vault, was a huge pile of golden coins.



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