BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - MYSTERY

STEAMER

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Prologue)
Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Prologue. Crippled and low on fuel, Serenity lands on an outer planet, where Kaylee and Inara have separate encounters that may lead to a solution....or the end of the line. (Takes place between 'War Stories' and 'Trash' with spoilers for WS.)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3253    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Here it is at last - my very, very first attempt at Firefly fanfic. Sincere and profuse thanks to PhyreLight for agreeing to see that it's fit for public consumption. ;)

(Note: Hover your pointer over the Chinese phrases to view the translation.)

Four out of five doctors agree that feedback is a vital supplement to the heart and soul! *hint hint* ;)

DISCLAIMER: God is #1, Joss is #2. (No, not that kind of #2. I mean, he's the....I mean....aw, gorrammit.)

********** Prologue

There was a chance that casual bystanders might have taken more than a passing interest in the Firefly-class light transport touching down in the spaceport of Janus City on Roma, but the chance was so remote that it might have been out near Whitefall. And with no trace of a doubt, that was just as well to the nine low-lying personnel manning the small spacecraft.

Serenity was in rough shape. While that might hardly be news to the crew of many a fifty-year-old Firefly, 'rough shape' for Serenity meant some kind of fortune in the extreme to get it off the ground again. Not a day earlier the ship had been caught with an abnormal list to port, which revealed that one of the attitude thrusters on the starboard side was out of commission. There was no call to speak the crew's dread of a rough ride and dwindling fuel reserves. Some lip-biting would be confessed following the final approach to Roma, in the uncertainty that flight control and fuel would last long enough for re-entry and landing.

Staring unblinkingly toward the small airlock windows, Malcolm Reynolds gratefully allowed his lungs to deflate when the burn-through gave way to the clear skies of planetside. Looks like Lady Luck can't make up her mind about us, he thought dryly to himself as he returned his attention to the interior of the cargo bay. Other thoughts of dry humour crossed his mind, but passed from it almost stillborn: he was all too aware that the responsibility was his in more ways than one. Kaylee Frye had been quiet but certain of voicing her concerns about crash damage after the rescue mission at the Ezra Skyplex. Grateful though Mal was for his crew's daring effort to save his life, the aftermath was snapping at his heels and theirs alike.

As outer planets went, Roma was probably one of the more successful terraforming attempts of the last several decades. Unlike Lilac or Whitefall, there was not an overabundance of desert land: unlike St. Albans, the entire world was not locked in deep freeze. In fact, most of the land was forested or mountainous, with according climates, and several fair-sized cities and numerous small towns scattered across its three major landmasses. As he felt the soft bump of one such landmass against the footpads, Mal recollected an event on this world nearly a century past, akin to the Industrial Revolution of Earth that was: breaking free of the limited equipment they had brought with them, the settlers had tapped the planet's resources to the point of industrialisation. Yet there was still a limit, efficiency aside. Although mining and agriculture were the mainstays of the world’s economy, shipbuilding was the plum place for settlers to get started – Mal wouldn’t have been surprised if later-model Fireflies were still under construction here.

Nor would he be surprised to find that the natives were still finding new and remarkable ways to make a home for such settlers here on their Alliance-unfriendly world. They were noted for their traditionalism, but systemwide curiosity still abided as to why they so tenaciously clung to what had been – and their aptitude for keeping the Alliance out of their hair. There were plenty worse places for Serenity to find safe haven, so long as traditionalism didn’t preclude the needed repairs: Mal wouldn’t mind a few days’ ease here, but was doubtless that his itch for flight would flare up again in no time.

Back on the bridge, Hoban Washburne exhaled a sigh that could have blown a hole in the nearest viewport given any more force. "Tian sha de," he said heavily as he secured the helm. "We're lucky this ship runs on fumes when she has to."

"Better go easy on the luck," Zoe Washburne said in lugubrious tones. "Else we’ll be sucking air instead of fuel in less than three days." She patted Wash on the shoulder and turned to exit the bridge, trailed eventually by her husband – but not before he hesitated, gazing forlornly at the control panel. Zoe was all too correct, as usual, and his passion for flying was just as starved as the ship. One could only hope that the fuel for the brilliant plan was yet plentiful.

Mal, standing at a large gap in the main deck of the cargo hold, was staring at them from the corner of his eye as they made their way down the catwalk stairs. Across from him, Jayne Cobb stood with arms folded as belligerently as ever. He had been the most doubtful of Wash's ability to land Serenity safely and in spite of the relief of that concern, he was clearly no happier. There was yet to be any movement from Inara Serra or the Tam siblings, although the unholy sputtering noise echoing from belowdecks hinted strongly at the cause. Mal and Jayne seemed intently focused on it – it was, Zoe deduced, no coincidence that Kaylee was nowhere to be seen either.

"We oughta put out a 'No Peace and Quiet Beyond This Point' sign by the airlock," Wash commented as he and Zoe set foot on the main deck, raising his voice to a near holler to be heard over the ungodly racket.

"One argument we won't have," Zoe agreed. "What in the black is that ruckus?"

"Can't be Jayne snoring unless he's learned to sleepwalk." Wash had finished speaking before he even realised that the noise had ceased a poor second before – just long enough for Jayne to hear the wisecrack and reward him with a blistering glare.

"You oughta talk, little man," the big mercenary growled. "Why d'ya think that attitude thruster's loose to begin with?"

"No skin off my back, I don't snore a tenth that loud," Wash shrugged. Then he frowned, glancing at Zoe for support. "Do I?" he queried uncertainly.

"When you learn to snore in Chinese, I'll let you know," Zoe smirked in reply.

"Speaking of loose attitudes, the lot of you stow 'em," Mal cut in. Returning his attention to the gap in the deck plates, he bent slightly over it. "Kaylee, how's it look down there?"

A few seconds' pause and Kaylee's normally pert face appeared from the gap, with a newly removed rubber mask hanging from her neck below it. She clutched a pneumatic needle scaler in one hand and a pair of goggles in the other, which she laid to either side, her usual cheer usurped by an apologetic look upward at her captain.

"That thruster's had it," she reported dolefully. "Even duct tape and baling wire won't do the trick, and that's about the best I can do with it. Even Wash'll have his work cut out for him, we don't find a replacement."

"And if we can't?" Zoe hazarded.

"We could use the starboard engine to compensate, but not for long," Wash volunteered. "It'll drain our fuel reserves close to three times as fast as normal."

"Already has." Kaylee's remark had the bite of a Reaver bad-tempered even by Reaver standards. She shoved herself upward out of the bilge, coveralls reeking of fuel, spurring all hands to a minimum distance of five feet as she pulled and pocketed her earplugs.

Mal would have needed mechanical aid to detach himself from the ceiling if he had given in to the urge to hit it. He barely kept the urge under control by folding his arms, taking a very deep breath, and very quickly counting to ten as he tried not to glower at Kaylee. "That mean what I think it means?"

"I was just down there needle-scalin' the starboard fuel tank," Kaylee went on. "It's near on dry, Cap'n. We probably got enough left on the port side to keep the main engine idlin' a spell, but even if we got her off the ground, we'd have to set her right back down again."

"Just another ruttin' day in paradise," Jayne grunted.

"Gorrammit." Mal's muttered curse was perhaps the safest expression of his bubbling fury at Adelai Niska. Torturing him to within a quarter-inch of his life was one thing, but as far as Mal was concerned, the elderly psychopath had signed his own death warrant by seizing the crew's badly needed money and ultimately causing Serenity's disability. Should they ever cross paths again....

"It ain't the first time we dropped dirtside in this kinda shape, sir." Zoe's tone was calm but firm. "And maybe it's – "

"It's hot water."

Every tongue stilled, every head turned and every heart fluttered at the toneless sound of River Tam's voice.

She was standing perfectly still between Simon and Shepherd Book, staring fixedly into the gap in the deck. Simon's usual anxiety about his sister's safety on this latest of strange worlds was visible as ever, but now paled beside the crew's apprehension. Even as it struck Mal that she had drawn the undivided attention of every person in the hold, it also struck him that her curious outbursts were still not considered a normal occurrence on Serenity by now.

"Boiling hot," she went on. "We're in the middle of it, but have to find it before we get out of it. Got to search out Old Faithful. He's waiting to be released. He's the only one who can shoot us back into the air."

Her eyes had yet to lift from the deck.

"Now what?" Jayne growled. "What's she spoutin' about this time? Damn sure’n she’s gonna find out, she don’t zip that crazy lip."

"Could be that's so," Mal said absently. "But we got no kinda time to mull over it. Need to get our bottom dollars in gear."

"If I'm not mistaken, our dollars are pretty well at the bottom already," Simon spoke up, evidently nonplussed by River's utterance. "You wouldn't happen to have an idea about our prospects?"

"Well, Zoe ain't wrong. We have had plenty rougher landings, still managed to scrounge up enough cold-and-hard to get us back in the air. Chances then were a tad worse than they are now."

"You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Zoe said.

To Mal's mind, her query was almost rhetorical. "Not so much what as who," he answered. "Ain't no way we'll reach him by wave. But if he's anywhere on this planet, he's within an hour's walk. Just gotta try and suss out where."

"Would it be too prying to ask who this might be?"

Mal looked up the stairs with a twitch of surprise that was imperceptible to all but River. Usually Inara's scent gave away her approach long before her voice or her appearance: however, the lingering stench of fuel on Kaylee's coveralls had well masked it this time. He paused, collecting himself from Inara's flaming red, jewelled and beaded appearance, a sure intimation that she had an appointment already.

"Old C.O. of ours," he answered presently. "Took his ease here on Roma after the war. He's got the occasional odd job, long as we can find out where to reach him."

"Indeed." Inara's eyebrow arched – River wasn't the only one who could tell that something about this mystery meeting struck a chord with her, possibly to the tune of helping Mal to find work worth his while. "If you're able to contact him, would I be prying any further to ask how odd the job?"

"No job's too odd, long as it pays." Mal paused, regarding Inara with a gleam in his eye that heralded his low opinion of her career. "Well, almost no job. I take it you're gainfully employed for a night or three?"

"You might say that," Inara's smile was wraithlike in its faintness, hidden under her don't-call-me-a-whore stare. "I suspect it depends on how long it takes for you to reach your friend. But if you can't, I'll be meeting mine at the Ventura Plaza an hour from now, if you have the desire and the need to meet him."

"Sure you're good with that?"

"As you say, as long as there's a paying job at hand. But don't worry, you won't be depriving us of anything right away."

"How 'bout later on?" Jayne asked.

However lewd the implication, his manner was altogether deadpan. Even River had a rotten look to add to the other seven that spurted in his direction but evaded his notice completely.

"Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on him," Mal said to Inara with a forced smile. Turning away from her, he regarded the rest of the crew with a commanding eye. "Rest of you best keep on your toes in the meantime. Rather we avoid any run-ins with some inspection-happy Fed if there's any about."

"From what I understand about this planet, we've very little to worry about there," Book spoke up at last. "Roma isn't one of the Alliance's finer points of interest."

"Just the same, we'll lay low," Mal said. "And don't get lost. Roma may not be crawlin' with Alliance overmuch, but all's it takes is one nosy Fed and we ain't leavin' here with Serenity."

"Say, Cap'n?" Kaylee piped up. Mal braced himself for the specialty of the request as soon as he saw the pretty-please expression in her eyes. "I'd, uh....kinda like to stick around here awhile, see if there ain't more I can do for Serenity. Be good to give that fuel tank a good scrub-down."

Mal frowned – it wasn't like Kaylee to want to stay vesselside while they were on the ground, especially this soon after landing. "You sure'n all, Kaylee?" he asked. "I was gonna let you browse around a little for any bits 'n' pieces we could afford later on."

"Good 'n' shiny, Cap'n." Kaylee smiled, but Mal could still see a strange, atypical apprehension in her eyes. "But I'll stay put if it's right with you. Might happen on somethin' I missed before."

"Okay, then." Mal nodded once, yet his gaze lingered on Kaylee for a long moment before he gave his attention back to the rest of the crew. "Jayne, let's you and me go for a little hike, try and get a line on where work's to be found."

"Sounds like fun if you get off on foot corns," Jayne said with a twinge of sarcasm, turning away and pushing past Simon on his way to the common area. Disgust at his crudeness filled the pause that followed, and then dismissal as it forcedly passed from the others' minds and the want of employment took over.

"If it turns out you can't reach your friend, I hope you'll consider my offer," Inara said as the rest of the crew disassembled. "It may be he has just the kind of work you're looking for."

"Guess anything's possible," Mal stated loftily. "Whether it's him or Ray, long as one of 'em can help get us in the air again, I'm happy. Don't much care to guess whether that's what River was blabberin' about, though."

"I'd rather you didn't. Though if it's all the same to you, I'd also rather that this be the only time either of us has to dabble in the other's business, should it come to that."

The cynicism in Mal's slight grin was not lost on Inara. "Things get that bad, I might just take up religion," he goaded.

"Don't let me stop you," Inara smirked. "'From Petty to Piety: The Spiritual Journey of Malcolm Reynolds.' It almost sounds worth a read."

"All four sentences of it," Mal came back. "You can read it to your clients at bedtime. Meanwhile, I got a job to find somewheres on this dustball."

"At least it won't be as hard as you thought." Inara started to edge toward the stairs, but the teasing was gone from her lovely tanned features and there was a genuine care in her eyes, holding Mal inexplicably motionless for some seconds. "Jian ni jin qi, Mal," she said finally.

A short nod and Mal began to turn away, moving to join the rest of the crew near the door to the common area. "You, too," he answered. Any further words that drifted past their minds were obliterated as the infernal din of Kaylee's needle scaler filled the cargo bay once more. Then Inara dropped her eyes and turned, sailed away up the stairs to her shuttle: and the swirl of her fiery red garments and curled black hair were all Mal had for it. Time for work was come. Sighing, he turned away from the stairs and made a beeline for the common area to retrieve his coat.

"So, any idea where I can take another crack at fry-cooking?" Wash asked with forced enthusiasm.

"Not unless it pays better than I do," Mal said with as nonchalant an air as he could muster. "Zoe, long as Kaylee's stayin' with the ship, why don't you and Wash circulate around town a spell, just in case me and Jayne can't pick up on Ray's whereabouts. Wherever he's hidin', I'd wager he'll jump at the chance to cure all our ills."

"I just hope that doesn't have a hidden meaning," Simon commented.

Book turned a piquant glance upon him. "At the risk of sounding unmotivated, it's better that people need your services than mine."

"What I mean is," Simon clarified, "if he's saying that we're walking right into something, I'm sorely tempted to agree."

That temptation might have been equally sore for Mal, bar his few seconds' linger to part with Inara: if not for that, the three shady lurkers nearby might well have caught his eye. Keeping themselves to the shadows and their eyes on the ship, they rated a wide berth from every other individual in the street as they took up a concealed lookout across from Serenity, waiting darkly and silently for their moment to pounce.

******************************************************************************* Take my love, take my land Take me where I cannot stand I don't care, I'm still free You can't take the sky from me

Take me out to the black Tell them I ain't comin' back Burn the land and boil the sea You can't take the sky from me

There's no place I can be Since I found Serenity But you can't take the sky from me... *******************************************************************************

Continue to Part 1....

COMMENTS

Thursday, April 17, 2008 6:52 AM

ETEDDYG


Well, you got my attention!
More please!

Thursday, April 17, 2008 7:02 AM

PHYRELIGHT


Well, FINE! I'll read it here! LOL! ;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:15 AM

CHAOSSERENITY


Very nice. Patricularly enjoyed the dialogue between Inara and Mal.

Thursday, April 17, 2008 8:33 PM

BLACKBEANIE


Yeah, the M/I banter was fantastic.

Friday, April 18, 2008 11:33 PM

WYTCHCROFT


good to see you back in action!:)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 7:07 AM

HOPERULES


Ok,I'm hooked. It reads like an episode.

Friday, May 9, 2008 7:04 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


OK, I had read it, but never commented. I love this series and its writer is pretty cool, too. ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008 3:58 AM

2X2


Certainly a promising beginning! Really well done, and now I must continue on to part one!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 1:17 AM

AMDOBELL


Typical, they find a planet that is not Alliance friendly to land on with the hope of getting some much needed work to raise coin to fix the ship and no sooner do they land than three coachroaches lie in wait to heap more doom and gloom on them. The only good thing is they won't be able to take the ship because she can't fly. Really excellent start for a first fic, mighty impressed. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Epilogue. Kaylee and Serenity are once again flying. Mal and Inara are once again at odds.

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The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 16. The crew reaches the end of the line, only to find out that the confrontations - and the mystery of the ghost train - are by no means finished.

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The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 15. The stakes are no less than Inara's life when Mal commences the last fiery showdown.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 14)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 14. Mal has a trainload of destruction behind him and a passel of violent criminals ahead, holding Inara hostage. With no backup, how can he emerge victorious without destroying himself and his crew?

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 13)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 13. Mal's cover is altogether blown, and he must figure out how to keep the mission from going south - but he has only one dangerous way to get the word out.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 12)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 12. Tensions mount on the Yamenmiao expedition, coming to a head when Mal enters exactly the dire strait he feared the worst.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 11)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 11. The crew finds that their venture to recover the train is not without its unspoken fear of grievous injuries or death - but River finds herself concerned by something altogether different.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 10)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 10. The train has been found, the plan has been made, and Mal and the crew are all set to head out and put it into action - before an unexpected hitch forces them to act far faster than hoped.