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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The bad guys have taken over Serenity, and they have a few questions for Mal. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1890 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Ethan waited, listening. Jesse was now wide awake, holding onto him, even as he shushed her.
“Mama?” she asked. “Mama?”
“You keep quiet,” he said, able to pick out her face in the small amount of light coming through where one of the bolts was missing and touching her lips, trying to get her to understand. She looked as scared as he felt. “She said we had to stay here.”
“Not sure,” the little boy said. Screwing up his face, he consciously dismantled the walls in his mind, taking them apart brick by brick, until there was nothing between him and the ‘verse. Mama? he called, then again, harder. Mama? He recoiled. She was there, but it was like she was faceless, just an outline, nothing more. “Not sure,” he repeated.
Cody Dean sauntered down the stairs to the airlock controls, pressing down on the button. The inner doors squealed open, and he grinned at the man revealed. “Boss,” he said, dipping his head just a little.
Reed Prater didn’t even crack a smile. “They’re all incapacitated?” he asked, walking into the Firefly, favouring his chest somewhat.
“Every last one of ‘em,” Cody agreed. “Worked like a dream.”
“That’s what you paid us for,” Sadie added, standing on the top catwalk. She’d changed her pretty dress for a more practical set of pants and shirt, but she still looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
That was why they were so successful, Prater decided. “And nobody’s hurt?”
Cody shrugged. “Can’t say there won’t be a few bruises when they come to, but that’s about it. No bullet or knife wounds, if that’s what you’re talking about.”
“Good. I have some ideas for Malcolm Reynolds, and I want him alive and conscious while I do them.”
“Well, he’s up in the galley with most of the others.”
“Jasper!” Prater shouted, wincing a little as the not-quite-healed wound pulled.
“Yeah, boss?” His subordinate jogged out of the other ship.
“Get the boys and bring the crew down here.”
“Sure, boss.” He disappeared through the airlock.
“You know there are kids on board,” Sadie put in. “Five, by my count.”
Prater barely raised an eyebrow. “So?”
“Nothing. Just thought you’d like to know.”
He considered. “Actually, that might be a good thing.” He looked up at her. “Get them all together. The kids. Put ‘em in one of the shuttles, and you keep an eye on ‘em.”
“I'm not a babysitter.” Her tone had dropped, chilled.
“You’re what I pay you to be, as your brother pointed out. And I'm paying you now to sit those kids.”
She didn’t quite scowl, as she knew it would harden her looks, but she glanced down at Cody.
“Do it, sis,” he said. “I'm sure Mr Prater here will be more than generous.”
“And if they get fractious?”
Prater gave a bark of laughter. “I'm sure you’ll be able to handle them. Just don’t hurt them too much. I've got plans for them.”
She nodded and disappeared through the top hatch.
“And me?” Cody asked.
“How long before they wake up?”
“The amount most of them took in, at least four hours.”
“Then that gives us enough time to make preparations.” He smiled grimly. “Can you fly this piece of gos se?”
“Sure.” Cody tipped his head to one side. “My father had one for a while, used it for smuggling. He taught me how to do what was needed to make a quick getaway. Until I slit his throat, of course.”
“You are such a lovely family,” Prater said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“But we’re worth every penny.” He grinned wider. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Figure out where they were going. I can’t see any reason to land on Ariel twice, and they stayed but a few hours each time.”
“The first mate said it was Persephone.”
“Yeah, except this isn’t the way to Persephone. I think they were taking a little detour, and I’d like to know why.”
“You know what curiosity did to the cat, don’t you?”
“No, I think that was your sister. Just do it.”
Cody inclined his head. “You’re the boss.” He took the stairs two at a time, adding under his breath, “Least for now.”
Someone was in their bunk, Ethan could tell. There were noises of someone moving around, tossing things about, and it was all he could do to keep Jesse quiet.
“Anyone down there?” he heard a voice call.
“Nah.” A different voice, deeper, gruffer. “Looks like there should be two kids, but the beds are empty.”
“Anything worth taking?”
“Coupla guns, that’s it.”
“Not that I can find.”
“Well, we’ll have plenty of time to look later. Come on, otherwise Jasper’ll start mouthing off.”
“Ain't him I'm worried about. More like that little bitch.”
“I know what you mean. Way she looks as you you’d just as likely to end up waking without …” Their voices faded as they climbed out of the bunk.
Ethan breathed a sigh of relief. The two men hadn’t even tried to find their hiding place. He mentally called again. Mama? Daddy? Auntie River? He swallowed. Bethie? Anyone? But there was still nothing. He started to bite his thumb.
“Ge ge?” Jesse whispered, clutching at him.
“It’ll be okay,” he murmured back. “It’ll be okay. They’ll come for us.” Mama?
Jasper organised the transfer of Serenity’s crew to the cargo bay, watching as Sadie carried two young children into the shuttle. This might have been his idea – keep tabs on the Firefly, and hire someone to pose as a passenger, dope everyone – but it was Prater found the Deans. And he was so proud of it, too.
Trouble was, they made Jasper’s skin crawl. Most of those who’d heard of them had the same stories to tell, of how appearances were so deceptive, and they were willing to do anything for money. Anything. At all. Cody used his youthful, open looks to get into people’s confidence, gaining their sympathy. Then there’d be blood. Sometimes the bodies were found, sometimes not. On one memorable occasion an entire household was slaughtered, including the pets, but that was more a rumour than a proven fact. Although Jasper wouldn’t put it past them.
“Hey, be careful,” he said loudly as two of his crewmates dropped a young man onto the floor, his head cracking audibly on the metal decking.
“Why?” one of them asked.
“We can’t sell them if they’re damaged.”
The man shrugged. “Guess might be more difficult. But we ain‘t nursemaids.”
“Just … be more careful.”
“There’s two missing,” Sadie announced, appearing on the catwalk again.
“What?” Jasper stared up at her.
“Two kids. Looks like the captain’s.”
“Have you searched everywhere?”
“I’m not paid to search. I've looked in the likely places, if that’s what you mean.” She wasn't quite sneering at him, but close.
“Gorramit.” He exhaled heavily. “’Kay, you go keep an eye on the ones you got, and I’ll go tell Prater.” He shook his head as he trudged up the stairs towards the bridge.
“You sure?” Prater asked, staring at the screen.
“That’s the co-ordinates,” Cody Dean responded. “Aegis.”
“There’s nothing there but sand and a few derelict temples.”
“That’s true. Although there is something else you might be interested in.” He swung in the pilot’s chair.
“What? Look, I don’t have the time for you to be playing –“
“Yes, you do. There’s nothing you can do until Reynolds wakes up. Not if you want him to enjoy it.”
Prater held onto his temper, but it was by a whisker. “What else do you know that I might be interested in?”
“They went to Aegis before.”
Cody tapped the screen. “It’s all here, their entire trip. Ariel to Aegis to Ariel. And now back.” He raised an eyebrow at the older man. “I think that’s interesting. Don’t you?”
“What the hell was that man up to?”
“Can’t say. They don’t keep logs.”
“Could you have hacked them if they did?”
“No. But Sadie could.” He grinned. “Not that it matters. Their Cortex searches were just as interesting.”
“You know, you should have that recorded. Then you just press a button and you don’t have to keep saying ‘what’ all the time.”
Suddenly Prater had Cody around the throat, his hands pressing just hard enough to make the young man gasp for air. “I don’t take kindly to being made a fool of. You should know that by now. It’s why we’re here, after all.” He looked into Cody’s pale green eyes, like fresh grass. “You understand that, don’t you?”
Cody managed to nod. He tried to speak but the words were stuck behind strong fingers.
“Good.” Prater’s lips lifted, then he let go.
Cody sat up, taking in a deep lungful of air and massaging his throat. “That wasn't necessary,” he said, his voice rasping, making a mental note not to take this man for the pompous jiao lu he appeared.
“I'm the boss. I think it was.” He stood upright, ignoring the sharp pain in his chest. “Now. Cortex logs?”
The young mercenary twisted his head, trying to get his neck to feel normal, then said, “They were looking up a place called Ling Miao. And the tale of a golden statue.”
“Wha …” He stopped himself. “A statue? Actual gold?”
“So the books say. And a curse, but who believes in them?”
Prater ignored him. A gold statue. That would make up for Sullivan not paying him, for Reynolds taking the cargo out from under him, for shooting him … well, nearly. He still intended taking his resentment out of that man’s hide. “Do you think they found it?”
Cody shrugged. “I doubt it. If I’d come up with something like that, I wouldn’t be still flying round in this gou shi ship. But I guess you’ll just have to wait until they wake up to ask them. Boss,” he added belatedly.
Jasper, standing in the bridge doorway, coughed lightly.
Prater turned. “Everything done?”
“Pretty much,” Jasper said. “Only Sadie says two of the kids can’t be found.” He waited for Prater to blow up. “Reynolds’ spawn.”
Prater surprised them both. “They can’t have got off. Take the men, do a search, but I'm not too worried. They have to be somewhere.” A thought occurred to him. “How old are they?”
“The boy’s about three or four, the girl’s not a year,” Cody put in.
“Then they won’t be any danger to us, and if they’re hiding, they’ll soon come out when they get hungry.” He smiled slightly. “And when they do, maybe they’re just what we need to get Reynolds to tell us about that gold statue.”
It was like swimming through treacle, he decided afterwards. It was heavy, and sticky, and all around him, impeding his attempts to get to the surface. It was in his ears, too, so although he knew there were voices, he couldn’t make out what they were saying. His eyes wouldn’t open, either, glued together as if they were meant to stay that way.
Someone was talking at him. At least he thought it was at him. Right now, ‘Mal’ could be just about anyone.
“Mal. You have to wake up.”
He knew they were words, but what they meant was another matter.
“Gorramit, why ain't he waking up?”
“Just because your constitution’s like a horse, doesn’t mean other people can throw off the effects as easily.”
“Hey, I’m still sick, ya know. And you woke up ‘fore me.”
“Can we not fight? I know you two love to bicker, but this isn’t really the time. Did anyone see what they did with Ben?”
“No. Nor the other children.”
This time the worry in the last voice got through, and he managed to pry one eye open. He grunted as the light hurt. “Huh.”
A face swam into view, blurred and pale. “Simon?” He blinked hard. “How come I can’t see you properly?”
“Give it a few moments, Mal. It’ll clear quickly.”
“Oh, good.” He shifted slightly, realising quickly that he was bound hand and foot, leaning against one of the cages from the feel. “Anyone wanna tell me what the diyu happened?”
“I happened, Captain Reynolds.”
Mal looked towards the voice he almost recognised. “And would you be the hwoon dahn who’s invaded my boat?”
The man laughed. “You know, from your reputation, I really thought it was going to be harder. But you’re too honourable, Reynolds. Too trusting. Letting my people on board, just ‘cause they looked helpless.”
“Always did say that’d kill ya,” Jayne grumbled.
His vision slowly clearing, Mal felt his heart sink as he recognised Reed Prater. “All of this? Just because of a slight argument?”
“You shot me!”
“Only a little bit. And I don’t think it was me.”
“You’re captain. The buck stops with you.”
To hear Freya’s words when she berated him for not finishing Prater off almost repeated back to him made Mal sigh, then look around anxiously for her. She was sitting on the cargo bay floor, blinking at him. It looked as if she was tied up too. In fact, all his crew were there, trussed up like turkeys ready for market. All except the children.
They’re okay, he heard her voice in his mind. I think they’re okay.
He pushed the panic back under control, taking a moment to study his people. Hank, Jayne and Simon were bunched together, holding each other up, while River was glaring at Prater, her dark eyes unmoving, unblinking, as if she was truly trying to kill him with her brain. Perhaps she was. Kaylee looked as groggy as Freya, both of them propped against crates. Only Zoe still seemed to be out of it, her head lolled onto her chest.
“Zoe?” he asked softly.
“I think she hit her head when she went down,” Simon said, his face worried. “I don’t like her breathing. I need to –“
“You need to just sit there and shut up,” Prater said. “Or Cody here will shut you up.”
The young man next to him smiled, one arm cradling an awfully familiar gun.
“Hey!” Jayne protested, suddenly realising. “That’s Vera!”
“You name your guns?” Cody laughed.
“She ain’t yours!”
The young man ran a hand along the barrel, making Jayne squirm with anger. “It’s a Callahan autolock, isn’t it? Nice piece. I’ll enjoy selling her.” He put deliberate emphasis on the last word, his grin reminding them all of an alligator.
“She ain’t yours to sell.” Jayne was tugging at the bindings around his wrist, but they were too tight.
“Everything here’s ours now,” Cody said, going down onto his heels in front of the big man. “Every single thing.”
Jayne scowled at him, then glanced over at his captain. “You should’ve let me do that party for you, ‘stead of taking this job.”
Mal sighed. “Okay! Fine. We get out of here, you can arrange something. Small. Just the crew. And no balloons.”
“Aw, Mal -”
Prater was watching them in astonishment. “You seriously think you’re getting out of this?” he asked.
Mal looked up. “I’m gonna be burying your corpsified body, that’s what I’m seriously thinking.”
“Oh, I was planning on it being exactly the other way around. But you’ll be pleased to know I don’t want the others damaged too much.” He motioned Cody away. “That much harder to sell if they‘re not in one piece.”
“Sell?” Simon asked.
“Terraforming crews need labour.” He looked River up and down, unphased by her dark glare. “Although there’s a few places out on the Rim might take the women.”
“Slavers,” Mal spat.
“Hell, no sense wasting good cargo.” Prater smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Not that I’m gonna hand them over ‘til I’ve done with you. Besides, I’ve got one or two questions for you, and I think they should see what it means to try and take me on.”
“You think?” Mal almost laughed. “There’ve been worse than you after us, and we survived.”
“Worse?” Despite himself Prater was curious. “What fool’d let you get the better of him?”
“Ever heard of a feller called Niska?”
Prater’s eyes narrowed. “Adelai Niska?”
Jasper licked suddenly dry lips. “Boss, if they’ve -”
Prater shook off his restraining hand. “Nah. I don’t believe it.”
“Seen him around, have you? Lately, I mean?” Mal let his lips curve. “Not that you would. Not with how we left him. Or rather, what was left of him.”
For a long moment Prater just stared at him, then he nodded at Cody. The young man let loose with a kick that connected with the small of Mal’s back, propelling him onto his side, gasping in pain.
Freya fought impotently with the ties around her wrists, rage tinting her sight red.
“Ain’t got the time for your lies,” Prater said, looking around. “Where’s a good place to ask our good captain here about that gold statue?”
“Infirmary‘s through there,” Cody said, gesturing with Vera. “Lots of nice, sharp implements. Easy for the blood to be cleaned up too, before we sell this heap of junk.”
Prater glanced down at the man still writhing on the floor. “Pick him up.”
to be continued
Saturday, April 5, 2008 12:18 AM
Saturday, April 5, 2008 2:33 AM
Saturday, April 5, 2008 5:09 AM
Saturday, April 5, 2008 9:48 AM
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