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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The Cressida arrives and Theo talks to Mal about the rumblings of revolution. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1130 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“The Cressida?” Jayne looked at River as a ship came down near the house. “Ya mean Theo and his crew?”
“Not all of it,” River said, standing elegantly, Caleb held firmly against her chest. “But enough.”
The big man grinned, jumping to his feet. “They come to see our new arrival?”
The grin faded a little. “Not sure I like the way you said that.”
“There is more …”
Cressida settled to the ground next to Serenity, and almost before the engines had stopped the main hatch opened and a young woman stepped out. She held up her hand to shield her eyes from the sun, and was finally able to see a small group of people waiting outside the front doors of the house, with others heading their way through the trees. Suddenly four figures detached and ran forward, shouting.
Mal glanced at Freya, who’d been somewhat manhandled out of the way by the Reilly sisters, and chuckled. “You okay?” he asked.
“Oh, shiny.” She adjusted Jesse on her hip.
Inara smothered a laugh. “We’ll go over the rules of deportment again,” she promised.
“I’d be grateful.”
Mal put his arm around her shoulder. “You’d think they ain’t seen her in years,” he commented, watching the reunion and listening to the screams of delight. He glanced at Inara. “And I didn’t think we were gonna.”
Inara grinned. “It was a surprise. In fact they’re early. They weren’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow morning.”
“I think it’s shiny,” Kaylee said, her face all bright, holding Simon’s hand with her good one. “They’re fine folk. And what we did, all that acting, was fun.”
“I don’t recall you saying that at the time, mei-mei,” Mal reminded her. “In fact I seem to remember lots of cussing and the like.”
“That wasn't me, Cap’n. That was you.”
“Oh, yeah. So it was.” He smiled. “And Frey.” He turned back to the scene in front of him, and noted a large man stepping out of the ship. “There’s Theo.”
“He ain't changed.”
“In a few months? Shouldn’t think he would.”
“He might. Etta might’ve put him on a diet,” Simon commented.
Freya laughed. “There’d be mutiny if she tried.”
“If Etta decided to, he’d do it,” Mal said firmly. “We all know who wears the pants in that marriage.”
“As it should be.” She grinned at him, then blew him a kiss.
“Hmmn,” he growled at her, then started to stroll towards the squealing group of young women. One of them detached herself, and moved forward.
“Noni?” Now he couldn’t help the grin on his face. “You sure that’s you?”
“It is.” Hermione Reilly – stage name Noni Reynolds – blushed.
“Not sure I’d’ve known you, girl, away from here.” He looked her up and down. In the few months since she’d been with the Hawkins Troupe, she’d become a young lady, her face shining and bright, and full of self-confidence. Except for the blushing. He knew she’d had something of a crush on him, right from back when he’d first become the Reilly girls’ guardian, and it didn’t look to have abated at all. “But you look very pretty.”
“Do I?” She looked down at her dress, the blush deepening. “It’s just something I … It’s just something to wear.” Now she looked like the child she really was.
“Well, I’d hug you, but seeing as you’re a young lady now and you probably don’t take kindly to that kinda thing –”
She giggled and crossed the distance to him, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Noni, put him down,” Freya said, smiling. “You don’t know where he’s been.”
Hermione let go, her face bright red. “Hello, Auntie Freya,” she said.
“Come here.” Freya enveloped her in an embrace, whispering in her ear, “Just take a breath.”
Freya felt her do exactly that, breathing deeply, and when she let her go, Noni’s colour was more normal. “Good. And you are looking so very fine. Very grown up.”
“Perhaps my tuition paid off after all,” Inara said, and she in turn got hugged.
“Noni!” Bethie yelled, running full pelt from the trees to her friend.
Noni yelped and went down onto her heels, hugging the little girl. “Missed you,” she said.
“Me too.” Bethie couldn’t have grinned wider. “So much to tell you.”
“Babies! And puppies!”
“Well, only one, but there might be more on the way.” She glanced up at Mal and giggled at his stern look.
“Hey, don’t we get a hug?” Hank called, heading out of the orchard with Zoe, Jayne and River not far behind.
Mal left them welcoming each other and walked up to Theo. He held out his hand. “Good to see you.”
“I wasn’t sure you’d be feeling like that,” Theo said. “After before.”
“What, you mean getting myself handcuffed to a lying jien hro and nearly drowned just so you could do a little spying?” Mal waved a hand. “All in a day’s work.”
“That’s not what you said back then.”
“Well, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.”
“That’s nice of you.”
“I'm a nice man.” They shared a half smile. “So, Noni behaving herself?”
“She’s been exemplary.” He chuckled. “Of course, as soon as she heard about young River giving birth, she insisted we come here.”
“And you gave in?”
“She begged. Mal, have you ever had a young woman turn the eyes on you? And the lip?”
Mal sighed. “All too often. Damn feminine wiles.”
“She’s a master of them.”
“Figure they come outta the womb with a full working set. Talking of which, you drop Saffron off okay?”
“Saff … oh, you mean Janith.”
“That woman goes by so many names I doubt even she remembers ‘em all.” He shook his head. “But you put her off on Boros like you planned?”
“That we did. And kept her locked in her room until we landed.”
“From the outside?”
Mal looked approving. “You do like I suggested? Frisked her ‘fore she stepped off your boat?”
“Etta did.” Theo laughed. “I didn’t know a woman could know such foul language.”
“From bitter experience, very little about her surprises me.”
Theo dropped his voice a little. “There was a man waiting for her.”
“Older, very well-dressed, appeared to have a great deal of money, at least from the groundcar he had at his disposal.”
“Really?” This time the smile leaked out.
“Would you happen to know this individual?”
“Let’s just say I might have an inkling.” Mal laughed. “Did he manage to get her inside?”
“I think after the way she was claiming she’d been treated, she would have left in an Alliance paddy-wagon rather than stay with us.” Theo chortled.
“Did Dur … did the man look like he believed her?”
Theo’s chins disappeared into his chest as he showed all the signs of being extremely amused. “As it happens, no. He was very attentive, very courteous, but there was something about him …”
“Maybe he’s learned. Getting your jaw broke’ll do that to a man.”
“Is there a tale behind this I need to hear?”
“Maybe one day. Over a glass or three of something strong.”
“I’ll look forward to it.” Theo’s mood darkened a shade. “Now. Walk with me?”
Mal glanced at the group all laughing and chattering by the door, then back at the imposing man next to him, noting the unusually serious look on his face. “Sure.” They turned towards the orchard, the favourite place for conversations, Mal pondered. He just wondered what it was going to be about this time.
He didn’t have long to wait. They were barely out of sight of the others before Theo spoke again.
“There are rumblings, Mal.”
Mal shrugged. “People’ve been talking about that kinda thing since the end of the war. We lost, that’s what folk don’t seem to get. And the Alliance ain't gonna be easy on letting anything get started again.”
“It’s more what the Alliance will do to stop it.” Theo glanced around, almost as if he was afraid there were Feds hiding in the trees. “There are things going on you need to know.”
“I hope you ain't been going back on your word to get out of that spying business,” Mal said, stiffening slightly. “Not with me letting you take Noni under your wing.”
“No, no. I promised, and I wouldn’t break that. Besides, I'm too old for that caper. It’s a young man’s game. But we travel a lot, visit different worlds. You’ve seen that yourself. And in that travelling I still hear things.”
“I'm not interested, Theo.”
“But you were an Independent. You still wear that brown coat –“
“’Cause it’s warm.”
“And I have heard all about your proclivities on Unification Day.”
“Mal, pretending to be some kind of space yokel won’t change the subject.”
“Still ain’t interested.”
“Don’t you think it would be wise to hear what I have to say first, before dismissing it out of hand?”
“You are a stubborn man.”
“It’s said to be one of my finest qualities.”
Theo had to laugh a little. “I think they were lying to you.”
Mal looked at the older man. “Theo, I got a wife and kids, and a family. There’s always been talk of gathering ranks, of men and women ready to fight for the cause of freedom, willing and able to arm up and take on the might of the Feds.” He shook his head. “Ain't gonna happen.”
“And if it’s yours who are threatened?”
They stopped by the wrought iron chairs. “Mine?”
“I've seen a communiqué. I wasn't meant to, but actors are like waiters, we blend into the background when we need to. Someone is after your young friend Simon.”
“Theo, the Alliance’ve been beating the trees for him and his sister for a long time. I’ll admit there’ve been moments I thought maybe we’d won and they were safe, and yet more when I thought we’d lost ‘em for good. Luckily that ain't happened as yet, and I’m praying it won’t.”
“I don’t mean the Alliance.”
Mal looked up sharply. “Then who?”
“Where I was, when I saw this message … it was in the company of an Independent sympathiser.”
His jaw dropped. “What?”
“It’s not just the Alliance you need to worry about. You have to be careful of your friends too.”
Mal sat down in the iron chair and closed his eyes. “When? When d’you see this letter?”
“Two months ago.” Theo eased his large frame next to him. “I couldn’t wave you.”
“No. I conjure you’re right about that. But …” He pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose. “Any idea why? Did this message say why they want Simon and River?”
Mal’s eyes flew open. “What?”
“It only mentioned Simon. And someone named Andrew Brooks.”
Andrew Brooks on Corvus. If someone had found out what Andrew knew, and … “Run-tse duh fwo-tzoo.”
“I take it you aren’t ignorant of the matter.”
“Depends. What else did that thing say?”
“I couldn’t get too close a look at it. My … the man who had it put it away very quickly, but it said the search was continuing, and as agreed it was taking a softly softly approach. It used those words. Unfortunately, it went on to say that the time may come when a more straightforward line of attack would be necessary, as had been proved in the case of Andrew Brooks. That was it.”
“You sure? Nothing else?”
“I'm an actor, Mal. I memorise lines easily, and I don’t make mistakes, not with something this important.”
“But the truth is I don’t even know who it was from. Do you know what it was talking about?”
Mal didn’t speak, just let the memory of standing in that bedroom, seeing the old man fighting to stay alive long enough to pass on what he knew. Talking of Simon and River, about how they were created from the same donor father, but different mothers …
“Simon, I think there’s more to it than that. When they found what they thought was the perfect combination, they used it again.” Andrew Brooks struggled to take breath.
“How many times?” Simon asked hoarsely, leaning over the bed.
“For as many eggs as they had. Some dozen or so.”
“Dozen …” Simon couldn’t help the image in his brain of a row of children like River, all sitting in those chairs, probes in their skulls …
“They’re not,” Andrew said, almost reading his mind. “Like River. As far as I can find out, most showed no sign of her level of skills, if any. I think … I think you’re the key.”
“They thought it was the female bloodline, but I think they’re wrong. I think River would have been like this no matter who her natural mother was. That in this case it was the male line that carried the psychic gene.” He grabbed Simon’s arm, his grip surprisingly powerful. “I think they’ve realised this, and it’s why they’re still looking for you. There’s no other reason for the warrants to be still active. Miranda’s over, long done, and they can’t possibly believe River can hurt them any more. It’s you they want, Simon. And Bethany.”
Mal pushed away from the wall. “Bethie?” he asked.
“If she’s in any way gifted, they’ll want to breed from her.”
“Wuh de mah …” Simon breathed.
“You need to keep her safe. If they ever find out about her …” He coughed, letting go of Simon’s arm to wipe at his lips and the blood that stained them, his form quaking with pain.
Mal shook himself. “No mention of Bethie?”
He released a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. “I can see how it might read,” he admitted. “But it could just as easily have been talking about finding him to tell him he’d won the Osiris lottery.”
“And I might have thought that, but … It isn’t just them, Mal. I’m afraid that’s just the tip of a large and very dirty iceberg.”
“You’d better go on.”
“That outbreak on Persephone, the illness that killed a number of people … you are aware of it? A year ago?”
Mal nodded. “Heard about it.” To his knowledge no-one had informed Theo or his troupe about Freya and Kaylee getting sick, and he wasn't about to go into it now. The memory of having to tell Dillon’s doctors to save Freya by giving her the vaccine, even at the possible cost of their daughter, still weighed heavily on him. If Jesse hadn’t been fine, been the beautiful little girl that she was, he didn’t know what he would have done.
“It’s happened elsewhere. Nowhere near as large, almost as if it was being contained deliberately.”
“Rim moons?” Mal asked, knowing the answer.
Theo nodded unhappily. “I don’t know whose side was responsible, but –“
“I haven’t changed my views, Mal, even if I don’t act on them any longer. I’m behind independence as a matter of belief, like you.”
Mal shook his head. “I'm just a transport captain trying to make a living –“
“You’re lying to yourself if you think that.”
“Maybe I am. But I ain't going to war. With all the belief in the ‘verse behind us, I don’t ever see us winning that kinda fight, not with the firepower the Alliance has out there.” He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped. “I keep my ear to the Cortex, just as much as the next man. I know they’re rolling cruisers off the production line fast as they can, spreading themselves further out than ever. Anyone even begins an insurrection they’ll be put down faster’n Jayne can cuss.”
Theo looked closely at him, seeing the obstinacy in him. “You think it’ll be battles, like before. But I'm afraid there won’t be a war, Mal. At least, nothing so clean.”
“War ain’t clean.”
“Oh, it’s pristine compared to what may happen. Each side pecking at the other, using any and all dirty methods at its disposal, and people dying, not because they signed up to fight, but just because they’re caught in the middle. What happened on Shadow was just a taster. If the war had continued, other sons wouldn’t have had a home to go to.”
“And what do you think this has to do with me?” Mal asked, a memory flashing across his mind of a grey land, grey sky, and a grey headstone propped against the remains of his home … “I ain't gonna fight, Theo. I lost everything in that damn war, and it’s taken me this long to get any of it back.”
Theo sighed. “I had an inkling you’d be like this.”
“Then you pretty much knew what I’d say.”
“And I'm sorry. If we could find the men, the firepower, make a clean strike, take out the Alliance at its source –“
“And if wishes were horses all men would ride.” Mal shook his head. “Like I said, war ain’t clean. I've read about campaigns before, getting bogged down ‘cause neither side could claim an outright win. Hell, I experienced it. And it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference if I were leading them or not.”
“You don’t have much faith in your abilities.”
“All I was good for was leading them to their deaths.”
“You know that isn’t the case.”
“You ask all the boys and girls who didn’t get to leave Serenity Valley.”
Theo heard the bitterness in his voice and sat back. “Well, I've done what I can. And I've warned you about Simon.”
“And I'm grateful. But we’ve been running a long while, and it won’t make that much of a difference that someone else is after us now.”
“But you’ll think on it? What I've said?”
“Get involved?” Mal shook his head. “I'm no general. Not even a captain, back then. Had to buy my way to that by getting my own boat. But I don’t have the fire no more. The utter faith in winning. That got burned out of me. Now I keep me and mine safe. And if that means hiding under a rock, I’ll do it.”
Theo studied him, then smiled. “I know you’d like to believe that, but I know people. I've played enough in my time. And you’re an honourable man, Malcolm Reynolds.”
“Then I'm an honourable man who ain't gonna fight.” He stood up. “I think we’d better be getting back to the house, ‘fore all the womenfolk start wondering where we got to.”
“Etta will certainly be looking for us,” Theo agreed, levering himself out of the chair.
“It’s amazing how our lady loves keep us on our toes, isn’t it?”
“Can’t live with ‘em, can’t toss ‘em out the airlock.”
Theo laughed. “By the way, we can’t stay,” he added as they walked back. “At least, we have to leave tomorrow. That’s why we’re here early. We have an extra performance on Magdalene.”
Mal cracked a smile. “Always looking for the paying job.”
“We’re not so different, Mal.”
As they approached the house, only Freya was outside, waiting for them. “Everyone’s gone into the dining room, and Mrs Boden is performing miracles.”
“Ah, the famous Mrs Boden.” Theo laughed, his chins wobbling. “I have to meet this lady. Perhaps I can steal her away.”
“You’d be fighting Jayne if you tried,” Mal pointed out. “If that man ever leaves River, it’ll be for the best cook in the ‘verse.”
The laughter rolled out of the large actor, and he walked into the house.
“You okay?” Freya asked, looking at Mal carefully.
He pulled her into his arms. “I'm fine.”
“But. There’s a but hanging there.”
“You were peeking?”
“No.” She shook her head. “But I can feel it coming off you, Mal. You’re … disquieted.”
He looked into her brown eyes. “Can we hold this conversation until later?”
“Sure. If you want.”
“I do. I just need to think on things a little.”
“Okay.” She still looked concerned. “As long as –“
“I will tell you. Promise.” He smiled. “And you know I keep my promises.”
“Come on. I’d like to see these miracles Mrs Boden’s performing myself.”
“Well, you know the parable of the loaves and fishes …”
to be continued
Friday, March 07, 2008 5:14 AM
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