BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Ordinary Day - Part IV
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. In which Simon tells it how it is, and the search begins. And zombies. Well, not really. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1956    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“You want a history lesson?” Simon was surprised.

Mal leaned back in his chair at the dining table and smiled a little. “You’ve read Dr Bell’s books, and I know you’ve taken a look at the data disk. I had a notion you could give us a bit of background, without getting into all the begatting, of course.”

“I don’t actually know who begat who.”

“Good. So you can be brief.”

“Well, I -”

“Try.”

Simon pushed his plate away, and looked around the table at the crew’s faces. Kaylee’s was bright, expectant, while River seemed to be trying not to laugh. Hank was encouraging, Zoe placid. Jayne wasn’t quite surly as he finished the last of the food. Most of the children were sitting wide-eyed, listening to every word. Only Freya seemed vaguely troubled. “As it happens I have been doing some research, so I suppose I could … but if I get too long-winded or boring, let me know.”

“Don’t worry,” Mal said, smiling. “We will.”

For a long moment Simon gave him a cool stare, then began. “According to all the history books, the sect that settled Aegis was started by a man called Levi Bailey. He was a priest back on Earth-that-was, with some radical ideas on religion.”

“Like what?”

“For one that no-one should own anything. That it all belonged to the church, and the man in charge would apportion it out according to need. His intentions weren’t bad, but that kind of thing is open to all sorts of corruption.”

“Most good ideas are,” Mal muttered, then waved his hand. “Go on.”

“Anyway, the radical ideas would probably have stayed that, just ideas, except at that point the generation ships were leaving. Bailey took the followers he had and got himself a place on board. He knew he’d never see a blue sky again, and it appears to have sent him … well, crazy.”

“Nothing wrong with a little craziness,” Jayne put in stoutly, and River squeezed his thigh.

“This type should have been treated, but it wasn’t. He became a zealot, a fanatic, and his ideas began to take on a fantastical turn. He began advocating …” He stopped, glanced at the children. “There were things he preached that were really bad, but there was something about being cooped up on board ship for that long made people listen to him. By the time of his death it’s said he had over five hundred devout followers. By the landings it was more like five thousand. At least two of the ships were almost totally converted.”

“Pirates?” Bethie put in, her eyes wide.

“No, sweetie, not pirates,” her mother said quickly.

“Simon, is this all provable truth, or just rumour and innuendo?” Freya asked.

The young man shrugged. “A bit of both, I think. But there were at least enough people for his ideas to be kept alive.”

“I’m surprised the authorities allowed it,” Zoe said, removing Ben‘s bowl from in front of him where he was surreptitiously wiping his fingers around it.

“It happened over so long a period of time no-one really took notice of it until it was too late. By then they were approaching this system, and the people in charge realised they had to do something.” He stood up so he could pace, as if walking made it easier to remember. “All they did, though, was practise the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario.”

“All the other terraformed planets had been pre-claimed,” River explained. “Aegis was the only one left. I remember from one of my history classes.”

“It’s in geosynchronous orbit,” Simon went on, “and there was nothing they could do to alter that.”

“Daddy, what’s that mean?” Ethan asked in a stage whisper. “Gee-cin-krus.”

“Geosynchronous. Just that the same side stays facing the sun all the time, so it’s always day or always night,” Mal explained.

“Oh.” Ethan filed the information away. “Thank you.”

Freya smiled, smoothing the hair from his forehead.

“Actually Aegis has a number of occasions when there’s an eclipse, from Lian Juinn or the other moons,” Simon added. “I believe the Levites worked it into their religion, so that when they were all in precession and -”

“Simon,” Mal interrupted. “You know how you said if you got long-winded or boring …”

The young man blushed a little. “Sorry.”

“Anyway, Levites?” Hank asked.

“That’s what they called themselves, although by this time Levi Bailey wouldn’t have recognised them. They’d absorbed parts of religions as diverse as Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism -”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“No, except they’d also picked up on some of the more outrageous aspects from the Aztecs and Mayans, and some obscure sects I can’t even remember.” He leaned against the counter. “It’s not surprising they were considered unstable.”

“So they were given Aegis?” Zoe prompted.

Simon nodded. “To do with as they wished. Terraforming hadn’t been that successful, and nobody else wanted it, it had nothing worth mining, the soil wasn’t even good enough for farming … I think the powers that be hoped they’d die out, solve the problem that way. Which they did, surprisingly quickly, but not before they’d built a handful of temples.”

Mal leaned forward. “And this Ling Miao is one of them.”

“Yes. Carved from solid rock.”

“You think Bell’s right? There’s something there to find?”

Simon sat down again. “I don’t know. The whole complex was explored pretty thoroughly, more than once, as there was always rumours of golden statues encrusted with diamonds hidden somewhere -”

“Gold?” Jayne sat up straighter.

“It’s just a story,” River said quietly.

“There’s always stories like that,” Simon added. “Every tomb, every sacred site has a tale of a golden crown or sceptre … they’re never true.”

“So what exactly is this thing we’re gonna go steal?” Hank asked.

“A plaque, carved from wood. The Levites collected a large amount of religious ephemera, and most of it is now in Alliance museums. But this piece is considered to be the oldest by far and the most sacred. And it was never found.”

“So Dr Bell could be right.” Mal pursed his lips slightly. “Although I won’t be surprised if we find the thing’s gone.”

“Are we really stealing?” Kaylee asked, glancing at Bethie. “Not just … discovering it?”

“I think we’d better call a spade a spade here, mei-mei,” Mal said gently. “Aegis is a protected planet, an Alliance heritage site.” He chuckled. “From a place to dump undesirables, to annexing the whole kit and kaboodle … sounds just like the Feds.”

“Well, we’re likely to find out in around eighteen hours,” his pilot added, lifting Ben onto his lap. “Just enough time for everyone to get a good night’s sleep.” He stood up. “Which I’m planning on starting. Honey?”

Zoe nodded, getting to her feet. “Good idea.” She smiled at everyone. “Goodnight.”

The crew dispersed to their own quarters, and Mal could hear Bethie as she went down the stairs.

“But if it’s treasure it must be pirates,” she was saying. “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest …

“Where did you hear that?” Kaylee asked, her voice a little disapproving.

“Auntie River.” Bethie started to sing, “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum …

Mal chuckled. “I think Auntie River’s going to be in trouble,” he said to Freya where she still sat next to him. When she didn’t answer, he looked closely at her. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said, giving him a brief smile.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not being truthful?”

“I wouldn’t know.” She stood up, lifting a sleeping Jesse out of the high chair into her arms. The little girl wriggled then settled down again, her arms around her mother’s neck, not waking.

“Frey, from previous experience I’m getting the notion you have a problem with this job.”

“No more than usual.”

Ethan held out his arms, and his father picked him up, perching him on his hip. “But there’s something.” They headed towards their bunk, Mal switching the light off behind them. “Tell me.”

“It’s …” She stopped outside the hatch. “It’s just a niggle.”

“Something about the job?”

She gazed at him, her brown eyes unreadable. “We’ve never been grave robbers before, Mal.”

“They’re long gone, Frey.”

“It just … feels wrong.”

“Most all the jobs we do are wrong somewhere along the line. It’s the way we have to live. Much as I’d like to be able to take legitimate jobs all the time, they just ain’t out there. Feds’ve seen to that. So we do what we can to survive.”

“I know.”

Mal felt a thread of something cold slide down his spine. “Is that it? Just a concern we’re breaking the law again?”

“I think so.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose.

“When’s River gonna stop pushing out this static?” Mal asked, opening the hatch. “I thought, soon as she’d given birth, it’d be better.”

“It’s settling down, Mal,” she assured him. “It takes a while getting used to being a mother.”

“Being a Pa too,” he agreed, smiling as he glanced down at Ethan, who had laid his head on his shoulder and was fast asleep, drooling just a little. “Not that I’d give it up for the world.”

“Me neither.” She laughed. “Come on, let’s get these two to bed.”

“You up for an early night?”

She didn’t reply, just kissed him lightly and climbed carefully down into their bunk.

---

Aegis had a tiny temperate zone in the twilight area, just a thin circle of green, banding the world like a thin emerald bracelet, backed with the darkness of perpetual night. Not that the Levites had done anything remotely sensible like building anywhere fertile. The rock temple of Ling Miao was almost dead centre in the sunward side, carved at the beginning of a crack that ran for almost a hundred miles across a scarred plateau.

“Anyone about?” Mal asked as Hank manoeuvred Serenity in to land.

“Nope,” the pilot said, touching the Firefly down above the gorge with nary a bump. “Looks like our luck’s holding.”

“Let’s hope it stays that way.” He thumbed the com. “Zoe, Jayne, we’re down. Time to get moving.”

---

Inside the temple Mal held up his torch. “Come on. Sooner we get this done, the sooner we’re home.”

Jayne blew on his fingers. “Place gives me an uncomfortableness,” he mumbled.

“I’m not that keen on it myself,” Zoe agreed. “Hank, are you sure we’re alone?” she asked.

Neither sight nor sound of anyone else. Just you, me and the zombies.

“Zombies?” Jayne stared into the darkness, swinging his light fast and making the wall carvings dance.

“He’s yanking your chain,” Mal soothed.

“Well, he yanks any harder and I ain’t gonna be responsible for my actions.”

There was a snigger over the earwigs even as they walked towards the back of the huge room.

Zoe stared up at the giant figure carved into the wall, dimly illuminated even by the powerful torches, some kind of altar at its base. “What’s he holding?”

“Best not to look too closely.” Mal turned left. “This way.” He led them through an arch into a smaller vaulted space. “And this was obviously where they held parties,” he added dryly.

“This is as creepy as hell,” Jayne moaned, eyeing the skulls cemented into the wall all along one side, their empty sockets gazing back at him.

“Grieves me to say it, but I agree with you,” Mal said. “Ain’t natural.”

“They’re just skeletal parts, sir,” Zoe pointed out. “We all have them.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want mine to end up grinning at some passerby.” He hurried along until he reached the end of the chamber. “Hank, it’s a dead end.”

What do you see?” the pilot’s disembodied voice echoed in their ear-pieces.

“A dozen alcoves. With piles of … bones in them.”

There was a pause, then Hank came back. “Second from the left, under the bones. There’s a -

“Hang on,” Mal interrupted. “Under the bones?”

That’s what it says. There’s a small knob. You gotta push it down and it’ll show the next step.

“What the hell are we doing here?” Mal asked no-one in particular. “We had a job, went well, got paid. Why ain’t we enjoying the ill-gotten gains instead of standing here about to handle someone who’s been dead for a coupla hundred years?”

“’Cause you don’t want a party,” Jayne grumbled. “Just ‘cause you’re paranoid about getting older, don’t mean we had to come out and get all zombified just ‘cause you don’t wanna be -”

“Jayne, move those bones.”

“Aw, Mal -”

“Do it.”

“They get up and start dancing, I’m gonna be pissed …” He moved forward, putting the torch down carefully before drawing Binky.

“Jayne …”

“You think I’m gonna touch these, you can think again.” Using the point of the knife he flicked the first bone off the pile, hearing it clatter to the ground. Again and again, until they lay scattered across the floor. “There ya go.”

“Vandal,” Mal murmured, but stepped forward. Sure enough, there was a small protuberance set into the rock at the back of the alcove. “Okay …” He pushed at it, feeling it give grittily. There was a grinding noise, and he saw something move out of the corner of his eye.

Aiya! Hwaile …” Zoe murmured.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 23, 2008 1:24 PM

KATESFRIEND


“They get up and start dancing, I’m gonna be pissed …” Ahh, the secret fear of every tomb raider finally revealed!

Loved the action and pacing in this. Poor Simon and his explanation - restricted from too much info by Mal and the kids too.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 3:29 PM

BADKARMA00


Love, LOVE, the way you used the children to hide parts of the story, and build the suspense! Masterful work here, Jane. Of course, the day it isn't I'll be surprised, lol. You're awesome.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 3:33 PM

AMDOBELL


Uh oh, grave robbing now? I'm thinking growing older is a better option than growing creepier... Ali D :~)
Cue the Indiana Jones music

Sunday, March 23, 2008 4:42 PM

SLUMMING


Poor Binky, to be used in such a fashion! LOL

Sunday, March 23, 2008 4:57 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Skulls, bones, dark tunnels, what else are you going to throw at the crew? Can you tell that I'm loving this chapter?

Monday, March 24, 2008 3:49 AM

MDBROWNCOATGIRL26


A cliffhanger? I kind of figured Jayne would be the most creeped out and Zoe the most level-headed in this adventure. Loved River teaching Bethie pirate songs.


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