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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal tells the crew about the next job, and there's a little more plot. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1821 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“You get the feeling that went too smooth?” Simon asked, following Kaylee up the stairs towards the galley.
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Just … unexpected. No bullets to remove, knife wounds to stitch up … not like our usual jobs at all.”
“You should look on the bright side,” his wife said, smiling at him over her shoulder. “Means you didn’t have to clean up the infirmary.”
“No, that’s good, honestly. Just unusual.”
“Stands to reason some jobs are gonna go well. It’s the law of averages.” She stepped down into the dining area.
“Then why do I feel like the other shoe is about to drop?” Simon muttered.
Everyone was already assembled, except for Hank, who hurried in from the opposite end.
“We’re off,” he said as he dropped into the seat next to Zoe. “Just need a course.”
“And I’ll be glad to give it to you.” Mal looked around at his crew. “Looks like things are going our way for a change,” he said, smiling. “We got paid, and another job’s fallen into our laps.”
“What kind of job, sir?” his first mate asked.
“Simple retrieval, at least from what Sam says.”
“Sam Nazir?” Her eyebrow raised.
“I conjure he’s the only Sam we know, unless you’re considering Sam McQueen, and he’s been dead eight years.” He chuckled. “Seem to recall burying him too, so if it’s him he must be mighty pissed at us.”
Zoe didn’t comment on her captain’s apparent good humour, and just gazed at him.
“So Sam’s found us a job?” Freya asked.
“That he has. A pal of his back on Ariel wants us to pick something up for him. Good money, too.”
“Are we allowed to know what it is?” Simon inquired.
Mal shrugged a little. “Not rightly sure. We’re bound for that planet –“ He glanced at Hank, who nodded. “ – and we’ll be given all the details in person by the man who wants to hire us.”
“He’s not doing it through a third party?” Zoe was surprised.
“I don’t think he does this kinda thing at all. Least, not usually.” Mal smiled. “He’s offering damn good money, too.”
“He’s not that stupid. Half now, half on delivery.”
“Just who is this he we’re talking about?” Hank wanted to know.
“A professor at Ariel University. One Dr Bell.”
“Randolph Bell?” Simon’s interest was tweaked.
“That’s the feller. You know him?”
“Of him. He’s an archaeologist. Very highly regarded in his field.”
“I've read several of his books,” River put in. “He’s brilliant.”
“He certainly is,” Simon agreed, then shook his head slightly. “Which makes it all the more unlikely that he’d be dealing with …” His voice trailed off as he realised what he was about to say, and finished instead, somewhat lamely, with, “us.”
“You mean crooks?” Mal’s good mood wasn't dented. He had money in the safe, hadn’t been shot, had another job in hand … and, best of all, he’d put Jayne off the idea of a party. “Doc, we know what we are. And there’s no saying this is illegal. Not yet, anyway.” He turned to Hank. “How long to Ariel?”
The pilot considered. “Below or above the radar?”
“Above. We ain't carrying anything we shouldn’t.” He glanced at River and Simon. “Well, no more’n usual.”
“Then if we’re sensible, best part of a week. Can your professor wait that long?”
Mal shrugged. “He ain't my professor. But if’n he’s an archaeologist I conjure he can. The stuff he works with has been around a long time already – a week more ain't gonna make that much difference.”
“I wanted to be an archaeologist after I read his books,” River said dreamily, her eyes focused somewhere out beyond the hull.
“Yeah?” Jayne asked curiously. There was always something new to learn about this wife of his.
“For about seven point three four three seconds. Then I realised it meant digging up dead people.” Her nose wrinkled.
“I can see that might be a problem.” He grinned at her, and she smiled back, leaning into his shoulder.
“What’s this guy’s area, anyway?” Kaylee asked. “I knew a guy once, back on Phoros, used to go around looking for old things. Mostly from the first settlers.”
“I gather it’s more of an academic exercise for Dr Bell,” Simon explained. “He’s an expert in ancient religions, although by its very nature that tends to mean studying artefacts already discovered.”
“Not like he can go and dig up back on the old home planet, eh?” Hank said, trying to sound knowledgeable.
Everyone laughed until Mal clapped his hands and said, “Okay, you got jobs, go do ‘em,” and the galley began to clear.
Simon paused. “Mal, if you’re going to meet Dr Bell, can I come with you?”
Mal looked at the young doctor. “He a hero of yours?”
“River wasn't the only one who read his books. Actually, they were mine to begin with, but she stole them.”
“That’s my albatross.” Mal smiled.
“But I’d like to meet him.”
Mal pondered a moment. “I've a notion that might not be a bad idea.” His eyes narrowed just a little. “But you have to stay close to us. It’s Ariel, after all. And you ain't coming at all unless Kaylee’s got that mini-beacon going.”
“I know she’s working on it.” He glanced to where his wife was standing talking to Jayne, just outside the engine room.
“Then you might make yourself useful. I wouldn’t be surprised if this professor didn’t use a whole lot of long sentences I don’t understand.”
Simon might have taken him at his word if the captain’s blue eyes hadn’t been sparkling a little.
The week went by, as weeks do, and Mal felt the urge to space Jayne only a dozen times as it became apparent the older man had recruited others to his cause.
“Cap, you got a minute?”
Mal looked up from the accounts. “What’s up, little Kaylee?” he asked, smiling. “And should I be bothered that you’re asking while I'm cooking the books?”
She grinned. “Nope. Nothing like that.”
“Good. For a moment there I thought maybe Jayne was getting you to do his dirty work for him.”
“Oh.” Her smile stayed put, but it was an effort.
“Kaylee?” The cold realisation crept up his spine. “You’re not … are you?”
“It’d be fun, Cap’n,” she said, her tone wheedling. “Streamers, cake, balloons –“
“Yeah. You know. Big things you blow up.”
“Thought that was Alliance skiffs.”
She swatted him playfully on the arm. “But it’d be good.”
Mal shook his head. “Not happening.”
“Kaylee, read my lips. It’s – not – happening.”
“But Bethie –“
Mal stared in shock. “You got that little girl involved in this?”
“Well, no,” she admitted. “But –“
“I hear another ‘but’ coming from you and I won’t be pleased.”
Her chin jutted forward. “You planning on giving me a date with the airlock?”
“Not … as such. But I ain't above telling Simon to remonstrate with you.” At the look on her face as she obviously remembered a somewhat happy and fulfilling remonstration, he rapidly changed his mind. “Or maybe not. But you might find yourself on septic vat duty for the foreseeable.”
“That ain't fair.”
“Life, as I’m sure I told you once or twice before, ain’t.” He tapped the ledger in front of him. “Now, go finish that beacon, otherwise your other half’s not gonna be pleased when I tell him he can’t go visiting.”
“Visiting?” Kaylee asked, her radar twitching.
“Go ask Simon.” He watched her walk away with a calculating look in her eye, and wondered why the doctor hadn’t thought fit to tell his wife he’d asked to meet Dr Bell. Probably knew she’d tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn't getting off on a Core planet, and that was that. Mal couldn’t help the smile. That was one argument he wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall for.
“Mal, you got a mo?” Hank asked, turning in the pilot’s seat to look at him as he came up the steps.
“I'm here, ain't I?”
“Unless you’re a very solid optical illusion, yes.”
Mal glared at the words very and solid so close together, but said, “We likely to run into any patrols ‘fore we hit Ariel?”
Hank shook his head. “Nope. Nearest cruiser is the De Gama, and that’s heading away from us.”
“Good. Keep it that way.” He hitched his thumbs into his back pockets. “What did you want to ask me?”
“Oh. Yeah.” Hank turned back to the console, suddenly taking an interest in one of the dinosaurs still ranged there. “I was just wondering what you’d like for your birthday. You know, in case I lose my mind entirely and decide to buy –“
Hank looked up. “What?”
“There is no birthday. No gifts. No cake or shiny balloons.”
“No celebration of any kind.” Mal stood firm, his mouth a fixed line.
“What, not even with Freya?” Hank teased. “Not even a little bit?”
“If she … if we … what we do in the privacy of our own bunk is our own affair.” Mal took a deep breath. “And tell Jayne to stop this.”
“Jayne?” Hank almost pulled it off, the innocent look, except for a slight twitch in the corner of his left eye. “What makes you think Jayne’s got anything to do with this? I was just asking my captain and friend what he’d like as a present.”
“Peace and quiet,” Mal said, striding off the bridge. “Something that seems to be in very short supply on my boat at the moment.”
Hank sighed and reached for the com.
“Sir, could I –“
“No!” Mal slammed the coffee mug down on the counter, splashing very hot liquid over his hand, then having to suppress a gasp at the sensation.
Zoe just looked at him, no expression on her face as she watched him lick at his skin. “I’d run that under cold water, if I were you,” she said.
He glared at her but did as she suggested, feeling the burning subside. “No parties,” he said, glaring at her.
“Of course not,” she agreed.
Taken aback, his jaw dropped a little. “What?”
“No parties. I understand. You’ve never been one for celebrating. Not all the time I've known you.”
“No. I haven’t.” He was losing ground here somehow. “So you weren’t going to …?”
“Oh.” Picking up a tea cloth, he wiped his hand. “Then what was it?”
“I just wanted to ask if we were going to have some time on Ariel to get supplies. We’re running low on a few items.”
“Yes, sir. And balloons definitely aren’t on the list.”
He tried to gather the remnants of his dignity. “Yeah, I guess there’ll be time. Although I'm not too keen on too many of you all leaving the ship unattended.”
“I'm sure River can fight off any intruders, sir.”
He finally smiled. “I guess she can.” Then a thought occurred to him. “You’re not trying reverse psychology on me, are you?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.” She smiled at him and turned back towards the bunks.
Mal wiped up the remaining liquid from the counter top and told himself off for thinking the worst of his first mate.
Outside the bridge, just around the corner by the stairs, Jayne was waiting for Zoe.
“Well?” he asked.
Ariel was an oddity. Viewed from the sky she shone like a silver jewel: it was only up closer that it was obvious a lot of that shine was from factories on the edge of the seas.
Ariel City, on the other hand, was a mass of skyscrapers and patches of green, as if the buildings had thrust up through the landscape rather than been built on it.
Freya looked out and tried to suppress the tremor that threatened to run through her.
“It ain’t like last time,” Mal said softly, putting his hand on her waist, knowing what she was thinking. “You’re well, and nothing like that’s gonna happen again.”
She nodded, but couldn’t help seeing Dr Yi’s office in her mind’s eye, hearing her own voice telling the diminutive woman what Wing had done to her, what others had put her through, feeling the tears on her cheeks as she spoke.
Mal slid his arm around her, and thought as strongly as he could, You’re healed. She did a damn good job, and I’m grateful. But we ain’t gonna be here but a couple of hours. That’s all.
Freya looked into his blue eyes and managed to smile. “I know,” she whispered.
Hank glanced over his shoulder at them. “You know, I feel like Ethan. I know you’re talking without using words, and it’s downright annoying.”
“You really want to hear what we’re saying?” Mal asked, his voice dangerously low. “Considering what it might be?”
“Well, no, not if it’s ...” Hank coughed and ostentatiously adjusted their trajectory. “Coming in to land, folks,” he said with only slightly forced gaiety. “Make sure all your seats are in an upright position, and please tip your pilot on leaving.”
“I'm gonna get Simon to put something in your coffee,” Mal threatened, but his lips were twitching, as Freya noted. He thumbed the com. “We’re landing in Ariel City, people. As usual, no-one gets off unless they’ve cleared it with me first, but since no-one actually takes any notice of me anymore, those of you deciding to mutiny should be ready in the cargo bay in ten. And Kaylee? Stop fiddling and bring that beacon.” He released the button and looked at his wife. “You’d better be getting ready.”
“Me?” She was surprised.
“I’ve been thinking, and it occurs to me, if Simon’s coming along, maybe you should too. Make a good impression on our prospective employer. He might up the ante a little.”
“And what do you suggest I wear?” she asked, turning to gaze into his blue eyes.
“Clothes would be good. But I was thinking perhaps one of those bits of frippery Dillon got you.”
“I was pregnant then.”
“And some of ‘em have belts. Can’t you just hitch one in a little?” He winced as she trod on his foot.
“You found ‘em yet?”
“Not so far.”
“Gorram it, there ain't that many rust-buckets out there, are there?”
“I'm doing my best. And you’d better calm down, else you’ll tear that open again. You know what that doc said back on Argus. And that infection’s only just clearing up. You need to –“
“I need to find that ye zhong Reynolds! That’ll do me more good than anything else. So get looking.”
to be continued
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 9:24 AM
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 5:15 PM
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 5:36 PM
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 6:28 AM
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 7:52 AM
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