Spiritual pt 3
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Whilst Mal and the Crew chase down a debt as owed - Simon considers the nature of indepedence


Chapter 3:

Independence, thought Simon Tam. The Captain had been the one to rename the former Mr Universe’s moon. Independence – yes, it was pure Malcolm Reynolds. The man had a way of hitting a nerve even while viewing all around him through the single eye of his war experiences. Independence – Reynolds had fought, near died – watched many, many others die – for a confused cause rallied together under the banner of… Independence. And it was a joke too – a pun on so many levels.

There had been a moment – a turning point – for Simon it was Beaumonde. Racing into the devastation of the maidenhead bar – too late to save lives – too late to prevent his own sister from taking them – snuffing out the motley denizens of the bar as if it was just a workout at the gym – or a puzzle, fitting the pegs into their holes. A game. He had done what he could – brought sister back from the brink – using a particular phrase to make her sleep, hypnotic suggestion? Magic charm? But that was not the turning point exactly – there had been a moment – a single and precise moment – it transformed all the moments after – running through or beneath every decision, every argument – every choice, every conversation – like a sort of electricity. Even now it still made the hair on Simon’s prickle like gorse. And it had been the Captain. Malcolm Reynolds – hard hearted, smooth faced, gun totin’ space piratical ex-soldier Malcolm Reynolds… picking Simon’s sister up – picking River up from the floor where she lay unconscious – picking her up in his arms . And so - change.


Things never seemed to change much, thought Zoe as she leaned in close behind Mal – as she inclined her head – as she straightened her gun arms out, fanning in two directions and as she whispered into the Captain’s ear. “We still walking softly Sir?” Mal shrugged. “I’ll admit that running softly just entered my mind but…”

We must make quite a sight and there’s a truth, the Captain thought to himself. It was indeed an eccentric frieze that the townsfolk were looking at, here in the crowded tin church – the Captain and his first mate, guns out and standing centre stage, flanking a veiled seated figure, a figure heard to groan in a piteous and somewhat creepifying manner. There was Xavier Clem glowering darkly someways off and, to all appearances, trying hard to vanish himself clear into the shadowy aether… and there was Jayne, a giant of man and the whole bulk of him quivering before a tiny old lady.

“Ma?” Jayne was stepping awkwardly from foot to foot. His eyes wide and his hands wringing a hat that wasn’t there. “Don’t be waving loose gun hands,” said his mother sharply, “you never was too bright headed a child – but I don’t wanna see your feets blowed off… not after all the gorram trouble I went through to make ‘em in the first place!” She let loose a humphing cackle.

Jayne seemed to struggle some with his reply but Mal thought it might be “Oh Ma…” or some such - the Captain brought his concentration back to the moment. Like Zoe, his gun arms were still straight in their aim. This brought someone to their feet – detaching from the still dumbstruck audience, an apoplectic looking fella with a tangled white beard and dressed in a sober cotton shift. There was some yelling from him. “I am Pastor Nehru – and I tell you there will be no violence committed here – no blood spilled in the House of the Lord and the Church of his people!”

Another voice cut in quickly – projecting clear from one end of the shack to the other. “Not ‘less it’s a righteous killin’”, it said. “Are you folks righteous? I’m thinking this badge, not to mention the guns of my boys, goes a long a way in indicating that the righteous in this temple is Marshal Ryder, that, naturally, being me.” The owner of the voice was moving forward slowly from the back of the hall. It was a lean looking man wearing a black-waxed coat - parted to reveal a Marshal’s badge and the holster for the long pistol held in an unwavering right hand. His left hand waved at the rest of the assembled townsfolk to keep their place – but from two separate vantage points above could be heard the metallic throat clearing of rifles being cocked and raised in his support


Independence… even as he studied the glitter and swirl of the view screens that hung about the control suite, part of Simon Tam was curled up and tense – his stomach cramping. River… was not here – River was… gone. It was not strictly speaking the first time, but for some reason it felt that way – felt real. Hurt. River had chosen the crew over – she had chosen to go on the mission – a mission that struck the Doctor as petty and wasteful, pointless to any save the Captain – no, not true, pointless to Simon… and even there he had to admit that he understood Reynolds’ rationale. This man, Clem, had cheated them some while ago – money had not been forthcoming from a failed job and there had been danger where there was not meant to be. Mal could not let that lie – neither personally or professionally… and when Simon had read Clem’s name on an Alliance flight plan manifest the Captain seized on it hungrily. But – surely, surely by now the Captain must be realising that the jobs of old – and the mentality that went with them belonged in the past. Times had changed yet Reynolds refused to change with them – seemingly. And he had taken River with him – Simon hated him a little for that. Independence. Separation. Absence. Gone.


Studying the tense faces on all sides, Mal had to admit – this was a situation. Wouldn’t take more’n a spark in this tinderbox, he thought, blow us all to – wherever... “We aint meaning no disrespect here, uh, Marshal?” He was smooth talking now. “Plain fact is we travel in the company of a Shepherd ourselves – but we do have ourselves an honest dispute and I’m aiming to get it settled.”

Marshal Ryder gave a tight nod. “Speak your piece.”

Mal kept his gun up but gestured with his free hand to the skulking figure up stage. “That man – his name’s Xavier Clem – employed us on a goose chase, got us all near killed in the process. Mines, like you got here no doubt. The man loves his mines.” The Marshal considered this – even as Clem himself called out, “How’d yer find me Mal?” in a voice as deep as the mines he so often frequented. The Captain called back. “I got a good source said you might be headed this way… plus,” he pulled a battered looking blue paper flyer from his belt, “on the way in to town, we got some of your literature and someone who can… read.”

“And this?” The Marshal interrupted to ask. “This was what – a plan?” Mal looked sheepish. “It was an element of surprise thing.” The Marshal had nothing to say to that. “Guess you had to be there,” Mal finished.

The Marshal considered this. “Ok, so you have business – could be you’re both felons then for all we know.” Mal nodded. “Could well be, Marshal – but only one of us is honest.” The Marshal waved the barrel of his gun in a neat circle. “And just who are you exactly?” “Captain Malcolm Reynolds.”

Mal had heard many reactions to the sound of name over the years – but the bloodcurdling wail from Pastor Nehru was a first. The man was going all kinds of colours and waving frantically to boot. Took a while till he could choke out his words. “But we know you Captain Reynolds”, he said finally. “We know you well. And mercy on us all for we know too that you stand at the front of the Legion horde itself!”


Independence. Biting the corner of his lip Simon stared blurrily at the largest of the screens – feeling his hands clenching and crushing… what? He looked down and saw he had bent the metal frames of his glasses into a madman’s version of origami.

It was amazing how fragile an object could look once twisted and ruined. The Doctor felt his stomach clench harder yet as he fought against the inevitable memory – his own body lying rent in just such a fashion. Shot. And his sister leaning down over him – and her face so calm, so calm – as if Simon were just about to sleep and River was going to sing him a lullaby. In a way, perhaps, she was. “My turn now”, a refrain that echoed still within him, lay down your burden and take your ease, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. All he had to do was let go. Let go. It was not so easy…


Pastor Nehru was in full flow. “This is the man that who runs at the front of Reavers – leading them on the path of death and destruction… from Whitefall to Lilac - and how many other places now wasted.” That got a reaction. There was pandemonium. Almost all the audience were on their feet now – and objects, bottles, nutcrackers, keys – even a hammer – were flung violently at the stage. Angry mob, thought Mal – I seem to bring that out in folk. He needed a way out but the Marshal’s boys were blocking the exits.

As for the Marshal himself, well… as he locked eyes with him the Captain swore under his breath. Damn the man – Reynolds recognised the expression on the Lawman’s face… seen it plenty in his life – and in the mirror too. Marshal might be any number of things as a man but for certain he was holding a line – might not be such an obvious heroic thing to do but a line nonetheless. If Regis was bonded by anything it was by men such as he. “Survival makes criminals of us all,” Mal had said once. Made heroes too.

…………………………………. Simon sighed – stepping back – making the effort to draw a deep breath. Exhaling again he opened his eyes to study the data the monitor was revealing – the stock value and share prices of many companies – the ebb, flow, traffic and dance of corporate commerce…There – Blue Sun. Carefully putting his glasses in the pocket of his waist coat, he made himself – he attempted to - feel – satisfied. The value of Blue Sun had been dropping sharply in recent months since a host of revelations regarding their investment in Alliance Military programmes and rumours of ill-treatment in their elite academies – at least one of which had to be completely evacuated and there were consequent tales of self-harming, suicide and disappearance. The trend looked to be accelerating. Times had changed indeed.

Talking of change, he thought as his hands rummaged around the control desk, damn it – how? – He’d misplaced the hand control for the screens – the channel changer, the TV remote.

Despite everything – a certain sardonic humour could creep over the Doctor at the most unlikely of moments. And so it was now. He looked around once more at the screens, blurred as they were – and now fixed on what they were showing. He could imagine Mr Universe drinking in the feeling of omnipotence, feeling like a God. Well maybe that was insight in itself. Maybe there WAS a God – maybe He watched everybody, took interest in the story of humanity – but maybe this creation was just one of a multitude, an infinite number of universes was theoretically possible after all. Quantum physics, River would know. Maybe that’s how it was for God – an ever increasing number of channels. And the funny part? What if God himself had lost the remote?


Stood by the back exit of the rude church building, Shepherd Face was doing his best to conceal a gun under his coat and to avoid the worst of the rain by staying close to the wall. River Tam was next to him busy hugging herself in the big parka coat she wore over her dress. For a while there was no sound but the rain bouncing off the tin – and the sound of raised voices from inside. Angry voices, it seemed to Face, a lot of violence in them. River was regarding him steadily. “Violence, Shepherd man – you’re carrying violence.” She said. “Face, Shepherd Face. And no – well, yeh. Ok. I’m tempted to go kick over a few tables in the temple right now.” For good measure, he scowled at the poster tacked up on the door. Empty collection plate aint nuthin but a rudeness , he had read the damn sign many times now. River nodded. “Sheckles and shackles,” she murmured, “Jekylls and Jackals.” “Huh.” Face decided to let the girl alone on that. River pointed at the door of the tin shack come church. “Like your room on Serenity…” she began and the Shepherd nodded cautiously. “Your God lives in such tiny houses…” River grinned unexpectedly, “Is he a midget?” “I don’t believe so.” The Shepherd refused to be riled. Time was when nothing really crossed him. Figure times must be changing then… he thought. River however was still talking belief and there was a questioning look in her eyes. “You don’t believe… in me.” She didn’t make it sound like much of a question – but the Shepherd could tell she wanted an answer so he pondered on it nonetheless. “Strange choice of words girl,” he said at last. “I don’t need to have belief in your… abilities. I seen your handyness – that’s a powerful thing right there. I hear you got a big heart too – people around you? – they value you.” “I’m a weapon.” River said flatly – rubbing her hair free from her goggles. “Yeh. Heard that too.” The Shepherd nodded. River looked up at him and smiled. “I killed a Shepherd once.” There was a beat – then Face blinked, he made a connection, “You mean Book? Right. That wasn’t you – that was…” “He had secrets.” River said firmly. Face felt his brain lurching again to keep up with the conversation. “Don’t every man?” He asked – then added, “or a need for privacy at least – folks don’t always wanna show what’s hid – don’t mean too much necessarily.” “I have secrets.” “Well then.” River drew a circle in the muddy floor using the tip of a combat boot. “Not my secrets”, she said finally. The Shepherd shrugged. “You, uh, read em then – is that right?” River said nothing. Face tried to judge her expression – but it was more than hard – her face and voice seemed but rarely in alignment. “You reading me?” He asked. River screwed up her eyes, “Too much noise and the game’s no fun”, she sounded almost dismissive – but the eyes were still scrunched. Face was tempted to press her but he got the feeling that lead to a road best left alone. River looked up suddenly. “Simon left me alone too.” “He was acting for the best – I’m sure.” The Shepherd spoke quickly, maybe too quickly, trying to sound reassuring – he didn’t really know the deal between the two Tams, but he knew that ‘close’ was too small a word. “Sometimes, River… a family gotta breathe apart – to stay together.” River looked him straight in the eye. “You should go inside now Shepherd Face.” “Wh-”, Face never got to ask the question in his mouth – it was stopped as soon as the shooting started.


Back in the shack and on the stage, the tense stand-off was continuing. Only Jayne seemed to ignoring the fact. The rest were grim faced and trigger fingered. Pretty soon someone’s right hand gonna ache and then… thought Marshal Ryder. He often had thoughts he didn’t like, damn badge got a mind all it’s own… but it aint wrong. He sighed through his nostrils, the rest of him stayed perfectly still.

Under the lights and on the stage itself, the Serenity crewmembers were beginning to sweat some – Mal could feel the itch under his eyes and in the small of his back. Zoe could feel droplets of perspiration sticky across her forehead. Given the cramped nature of the shack, the damp of the rain and the mixture of fear and anger coming off the crowd like steam – things were getting powerful odorous too.

Jayne and his Ma meanwhile were in a play of their own. The woman was shaking her head. “You aint even wearin’ the rutting hat I knit for you!” Cobb shook his head. “That aint fair Ma. I keep that hat safe, with Vera.” The tiny figure of his Ma was shaken again by laughter. “How long you two been steady now? Love at first sight…” “First kill anyway”, admitted Jayne. His Ma was looking across now at Mal, her expression was not kindly disposed. “Glad you got someone at least looking after you”, she spat, “and tell me again why you aint Captain yet?” This was too much for Mal. He swore loudly in the galactic tongue. Marshal Ryder took that as his cue. “I’m thinking maybe you’re done here Captain Reynolds. Private dispute aint got no place here. Now, I could invite you down to the gaol for a little straight talk and reckoning – but way I figure – you’ll just make a break for it and I aint up for playin’ nursey to any of my deputies as wind up bruised.” He pointed his gun at the ceiling. “Would you care for some air Captain?” Mal was silent for a moment, before he nodded – pointing his own gun up. “You seem fair minded Marshal – how’s this for a deal. We take our business over to my ship – and you can hear it out, see it settled as a legal matter. Or not, your choice – but that’s where we’ll be headed.”

Pastor Nehru chimed in. “Sooner you’re out of our place a worship the better.” Both the Captain and the Marshal ignored him. Ryder made a ‘stand down’ gesture to his men. “Oh I’ll tag along Captain – I aint calling you dishonest but accidents can happen to a man with a grudge ‘gainst him” He indicated the silent slinking figure of Xavier Clem. “Cold blooded accidents at that.”

Mal lowered his gun – motioned to Zoe to do the same. “That’s the play then”, she acknowledged.

Jayne was following the talk finally and he looked at his Ma quizzically. “Yeh – how come you with this hwoon-dong anyhow?” He pointed to Clem. Ma Cobb looked unrepentant – “We make ourselves a fine business is what. How often can you say the same?” Jayne growled “Hey now – I tell you all that happens to me, aint all about the money, y’know that. I’m a Big Damn Hero now.”

Now it was Clem’s turn to break. “Oh for God’s sake shut up!” He snapped. “It’s getting’ so I’m almost tempted to let Reynolds shoot me!” He glared openly at Cobb and put his hands on his hips aggressively. Jayne himself was more than angered now – he stepped sideways to bear down on the man. “Why you little runt…” he began. But the rest of his words were cut off as the trick gun built into Clem’s waistband went off. “You…” Cobb staggered, “you shot me!” He hit the floor boarding face down. “Yep - I surely did”, said Clem, and even as the others reacted, he pulled a concealed weapon from the back of Ma’s bustle and clamped it to her head. “Gonna shoot her too – less I get to walk outta here.” Ma barely felt the cold iron against her – her eyes were fixed on the body of Jayne as he rolled himself over in obvious pain. “Ma…” He gurgled – and there was blood in the sound.

………………………………………………………….. end of pt 3.

Next chapter: Annabelle James speaks up – Face gets in on some action – and Kaylee gets to grips with a mule…

Hope the tale is entertaining… Thanks to those whose posts inspired some of my thinking for this story. All comments welcome.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008 3:18 AM


There is something about the image of Mal leading the Reavers that gets to me ... and I can see it being used by certain fanatical types! He does seem to attract them, doesn't he? I'm still somewhat confused with some of the timeline/characters, but it's fun!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 12:34 PM


Shooting Jayne in front of his Ma, big mistake. Not a mom I know that wouldn't stomp him stupid for that and I bet Jaynes Ma is a bit tougher than the ones I know.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 3:47 PM


Simon's reflections were interesting, as were River's summation on what she is, both being subtly sad.

And the mob's reaction to Mal, the Reaver Resonator, was quirky and unexpected.

Jayne's been a bad boy for not wearing his hat, love that!


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Independently Blue parts complete 3 parts
just a coda to wrap things up is all.

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There are complications. Book and Kaylee are taking in the town of Candle.

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