BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Prospero's Legacy - Part IX
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The 'Mara' issue becomes clearer, but there's a sidetrip that might involve Mal getting shot again ... NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2133    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Simon stood up, easing his back from where he had been bending over the ViroStim, checking the calibrations.

“How’re we doing, doc?” Mal asked, leaning on the doorway.

“Fine. In fact, better than I’d hoped. I should have the first batch ready in about ten days.”

“Good to know. But it’s still a long time without it.”

“Mal, we haven’t had it at all before.”

“I know that. Just got me the feeling something is lurking around the corner, and I don’t like being unprepared.”

“Mal –“

“I know. You don’t have to tell me again. Nothing in this ‘verse is guaranteed, ‘cept death, taxes and the wonder I feel every morning waking up next to that woman. And I don’t even pay taxes if I can help it.” He smiled. “But anything is better than nothing.”

“I suppose.” He stretched again, and was sure the other man could hear the popping of his back.

“You got much else to do here?” Mal asked, seeing the flash of pain across Simon’s face, and sympathising.

“Not really. By tomorrow morning the calibration will be complete, and I can feed in the sample we have.”

“Then you go be with your wife. I figure she might need a little bit of comfort right now.”

Simon looked at his captain. “She’s thinking about Bethie and Hope?”

Mal nodded. “Sitting in the galley, rubbing her belly. That’s a sure sign Frey was thinking on the kids, too, whether they were born or not.”

“Then that’s one order I don’t mind obeying.”

“Not an order, doc. Just a suggestion.”

Simon smiled and walked out of the garden room.

Mal didn’t leave for a moment, just stood looking at the ViroStim and wondering how all his hopes had come to be pinned on a goushi piece of Alliance equipment. Then his gaze wandered towards the strawberry plants in one of the containers. A hint of red was peaking out from beneath a leaf, and as he moved it he saw a plump, ripe fruit, perhaps the last for a while.

Take it, he heard River’s voice in his mind.

You ever gonna stop reading me? he asked, unable to keep the amusement out of his thoughts.

No. And take it. Freya would like it.

Mal ran his fingers over the textured surface. Where is she, albatross?

Your bunk. And a smoother wouldn’t hurt.

He stood upright. She hurting?

Headache. Still got the concussion.

No wonder she didn’t want to … He stopped.

Make love last night? his surrogate daughter supplied.

And you’re not supposed to be looking on things like that.

I'm a grown woman. With a son of my own.

Not too big to be put across my knee. He heard her laughter in his head.

Have to catch me first!

Oh … go play with Jayne or something, he groused. Preferably near the airlock.

She chuckled again as he plucked the strawberry and went to find his wife.

---

“Kaylee?” Simon stepped down into the galley, concerned to see the love of his life sitting with her head on her crossed arms.

She looked up. “Oh, hey, Simon.” She smiled, but it wasn't her usual sunny expression.

“Are you all right?” He crossed to her, automatically putting his hand to her forehead to check if she had a temperature.

She pulled his fingers away. “I'm fine. Shiny.”

“Just missing the children?”

Kaylee’s eyes narrowed. “You catching being psychic?”

“No.”

“Then how did you –“

“Me too.” He tugged the chair next to her closer, so they could touch, and sat down. “I miss them terribly. Me. A man who never actually considered have offspring of my own.”

“No?”

“No. It wasn't in my plan.”

She leaned against him. “You had one of those?”

“Of course. Every man of my generation, particularly as a doctor, had one. Be top of my class –“

“Three percent,” Kaylee corrected.

He grinned. “Okay, top three percent. But head of department in eight years, consultant in another five, then sit back and let the big money roll in.”

“You didn’t really want that, did you?”

“Well, no,” Simon confessed. “I became a doctor to heal people, make them well again, so only seeing those who could afford it … No, bao bei. That wasn’t what I wanted.”

“And a wife? Children?”

“Honestly? Probably not until I was in my forties. And no children. I didn’t feel in the least bit fatherly.”

“When did it change?” she asked, snuggling into him. “Seeing as we already have two and you finally managed to knock me up again.”

He grinned, but it faltered somewhat as he said, “River’s letters. I thought she was alright until then, when they started to arrive.” He shook his head slightly. “You know, at first, I wasn’t sure she was really in trouble. But when I found the code …”

“You saved her, Simon.”

“But sometimes I wonder if I couldn’t have done it quicker. Got to her before they operated. Or at least before they made it so bad.”

“I thought it was only the Cap went on about what if’s?”

Simon laughed. “Well, it does seem that everyone on this ship wants to take on the burden of guilt somewhat.” He reached for the sketchpad that sat on the table in front of them. “River’s?” he asked.

Kaylee felt warm, comforted. “Mmn. I think she forgot she left it here.”

He flicked through the pages, smiling at the images of Bethie and the other children, the swift drawings capturing the crew doing the mundane things of every day life, the … “Mara?”

“Oh.”

Simon looked up sharply to see River in the doorway, Jayne at her back. “Why didn’t you show me this?” the young doctor asked, almost demanding.

“It’s mine.” She stepped down into the galley, but didn’t try to take it from him.

“I know, mei-mei. But I … it can help me understand your frame of mind.” He glanced down at the pictures again, the image of a young woman with her hair drifting across her face, seeming so familiar. “Is this you?”

River shook her head. “An echo. Me and not me. I can’t tell who is who.” Her voice fractured and she began to tremble. “Which is which. Me, myself and I. I’m torn asunder, a pair, not broken but split. I -”

Jayne immediately put his arms around her, pulling her into his embrace. “Moonbrain.”

“Mara,” Simon echoed, then his face paled. “Mara Tam?

“What?” Kaylee stared at him.

“Hey, is this a private party or can anyone join in?” Hank asked, looking over Jayne’s shoulder with Zoe at his side.

“Get the Cap,” Jayne muttered. “Think he needs to be here.”

Zoe retreated to the open hatch. “Sir, I think you’d better get up here.”

“Why? My boat crashing?”

“No. River.”

There was only a second’s delay before Mal quickly climbed up the ladder, Freya behind him. “What’s going on?”

“Not sure.” Hank nodded towards the galley.

Mal glanced at Freya, then strode into the dining area. “Well? Someone care to enlighten me as to the nature of this … whatever it is?”

Simon handed the sketchpad over. “Look.”

“Well, I'm looking. Seems River’s been busy.”

“No, you don’t understand.”

“Maybe you’d better explain it, then.”

Simon glanced at his sister, then said, “You know I use the name Mara sometimes.”

“Yeah. Instead of Tam. Always thought it was a pretty good alias.”

“Yes, well, there’s a reason I use it. I didn’t just pick it out of the air.”

Mal gave the pad to Freya. “Go on.”

“We had a cousin, on my father’s … on Gabriel’s side. Her name was Mara. Almost the same age as River.”

“So what’s she got to do with the price of fish?”

“I … I'm not sure. She’s dead.”

“Not dead,” River murmured, moving backwards and forwards in Jayne’s arms. “Split. Divided. Undone.”

“Honey, you need a smoother?” the big man suggested, but the look she shot him spiked to his heart.

“No needles.”

“Okay. No needles. But you wanna tell us about Mara Tam? Is that her?”

“I think so.”

“But she’s dead, Riv. You bro just said.”

“No. Dead but not dead.”

Freya looked closely into River’s eyes. “You mean dead like I was? Like you were?”

Mal glanced sharply at her. “What do you mean?” Then his eyes narrowed. “Academy?”

“Oh, God.” Simon had sat back in his seat, his normally pale face now deathly white.

“Doc?”

“Now I understand.”

“I wish we did. You care to explain?” Mal was getting more frustrated, and that frustration was turning to anger.

“Something my father said once. I didn’t … it didn’t click before, but now …”

“Simon.” Now Mal’s tone would brook no disobedience.

The young man looked up. “My father was talking to someone on the Cortex. He didn’t know I was there, but I heard him congratulating them on their decision. And he made some comment about River’s twin. Only I thought he was joking. I knew River didn’t have a twin. She was just a fat little baby in the bassinet who cried all the time.”

“Wasn’t fat,” his sister commented, burying her face in Jayne’s chest but at least the trembling had stopped.

Mal ignored the interruption. “So?”

“What if they used the same donors? The same as for when River was conceived?”

“Twins,” River murmured, her voice muffled. “Two halves make a whole.”

“You mean this Mara was psychic too?”

“But you said she was dead,” Hank pointed out.

“When she was twelve. We went to her funeral service.” He shook his head. “But what if she wasn’t? If she was stolen away, taken to the Academy, made into … something else?”

“Like me.” River turned back to look at them all with her disconcertingly dark gaze. “But not like me. My twin.”

“We have to find her, Mal,” Simon said, standing quickly. “If she’s being held by the Alliance, God knows what they’re doing to her.”

Freya felt a jolt from River, instantly repressed, but it was enough. “I think it’s worse than that, Simon,” she said slowly.

“Worse? How can it be worse?”

She took a deep breath. “I think it’s possible she might be the one controlling the Reavers.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

Mal leaned forward, his fists on the table. “Why? It ain't no more ridiculous than what the Academy was doing to folks like my wife and your sis. Turning ‘em into assassins, weapons.”

“But that would mean –“

“It explains why River’s feeling her now. God knows how much control it takes, but maybe that’s why she’s picking up on the overflow.”

“It might be proximity,” Zoe put in. “If we’re closer to her than we think.”

Mal nodded. He stood straight and looked towards the psychic. “Can you tell where she is, albatross?” he asked gently. “Pinpoint her for us?”

River shook her head. “I think she’s asleep.”

“When she wakes up?”

“I don’t know.” She couldn’t help the slight thrill of fear in her voice. “But if I can find her, she might be able to find us.”

“Can you do like a passive scan?” Mal suggested. “Just listen for her? Even if you could give us a rough idea of the direction –“

“So you can kill her?” River’s voice cut through the galley.

“Ain't my intention, xiao nu. Not if I can help it. But if the Alliance has her, and they’re planning on making use of her again to attack good and innocent folks … something has to be done. You can see that, can’t you?”

She glared at him, but finally she nodded. “Yes.”

“That’s my good girl.” Mal crossed his arms. “Best we leave it at that for the moment.”

Jayne tugged gently on River’s arm. “Come on, moonbrain,” he said. “Let’s you and me go and sit quiet someplace.”

“So I can look for Mara?”

“No. So you can rest.”

She smiled at him and tangled her fingers in his, letting him lead her out of the galley.

“Mal, I'm not sure this is going to be good for River’s state of mind,” Simon said quietly as they turned the corner and were out of sight.

“I know. But I ain't asking her to read this Mara, just to tell me where she is.”

“It might not be possible to separate the two.”

Mal put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Then I conjure it’s your job to keep an eye on her. Jayne ain't gonna let her out of his sight, but he might not see something medical that you do.”

“I still have the ViroStim to check on.”

“Then do both. Get her weeding, or whatever she does in that garden of hers. Might even help her.”

“I’ll be watching her too,” Freya added.

Simon smiled slightly. “Thank you.” He pulled on his ear. “You know, I hope we’re wrong.”

“Me too,” Mal agreed.

“Will you? Kill Mara if it comes down to it?”

“Let’s wait and see what happens.” Mal deliberately sidestepped the issue and gave the doctor a slight push. “Now go on. It’s nearly dinner time, and someone has to cook.”

“It’s my turn,” Kaylee admitted, standing up. “You wanna help?”

“Of course.” The smile widened a little. “As long as it isn’t protein.”

“Well, if you like you can take a look and see if there’s anything left from the spices my Ma gave me.” She took his hand. “And we got rice.”

“Sounds … exciting,” Simon said with a dry tone, allowing her to lead him behind the counter.

Mal glanced at the other three and nodded fractionally towards the bridge. They followed him out.

“You think we’re wrong, sir?” Zoe asked. “That it isn’t Mara Tam?”

For answer Mal looked at Freya. “What do you think? You were reading River while we were in there, weren’t you?”

Freya looked troubled. “I was, at least as much as she’d let me. She’s right, though. There is a … a presence. Someone very like her, but not her. No wonder she was talking about having too many legs. She couldn’t tell the difference.”

“And she can now?” Hank asked.

“Now the pieces are coming together, yes.”

“And controlling the Reavers?” Mal prompted. “You think it’s her?”

“I don’t know.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “If Mara is River’s genetic twin, there’s no knowing what she’s capable of.”

“Your instinct, Frey. What’re your guts telling you?”

She rubbed harder. “It’s too much coincidence. I think it …” She finally looked at him. “Yes. I think it is.”

“Me too.” He could see pain in her eyes. “You okay?” he asked, stroking her arm.

“Still got that headache.”

He took hold of her shoulders and turned her around. “Then you’re gonna go back and lie down a while.”

“Is that an order?”

“Do I have to make it one?”

She chuckled, low in her throat. “Okay. Just ‘til dinner.” She climbed down.

“Mal, I need a heading,” Hank said. “As much as I like flying around with nowhere to go, we keep doing that for long enough and we’re out of fuel.”

“No need for that,” Mal said, stretching his own back out a little. “I got word of a job. Just a pick-up and delivery.”

“Now, sir?” Zoe looked almost shocked.

“Apart from everything else, we still need to eat. But that ain't the reason we’re taking it.” Mal hitched his thumbs into his suspenders. “If we fall off the radar entirely, there are some folks might wonder what we’re doing, and that could draw more attention to us than we really need right now. So we’ll do this job. Like I said, easy money.”

“You really think this is a good idea?” Hank asked, glancing at Zoe, who barely shrugged.

“Good, maybe not. But we’re doing it.” Mal put his foot on the first rung of the ladder into his quarters. “Get us a heading to Whitefall.”

“White …” Hank’s stare widened so much his eyeballs should have fallen out and been rolling around the decking. “Patience?”

“Patience.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:32 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Ummmmm...I think he will get shot in the arm. I guess a job's a job, but I hope Mal knows what he's doing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 11:52 AM

AMDOBELL


I'm not sure looking for Mara is a wise thing to do but could be she is looking for River which might be why our little Albatross is beginning to sense her. And Patience? Really? Seems to be proving her words to Mal last time they met when she told him he wasn't very bright. But then, he still deals with Badger from time to time so she may have a point. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 1:03 PM

SLUMMING


River's twin, Reavers, and Patience...oh my! :D

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:20 PM

KATESFRIEND


What a way to ruin your day. Very creative solution to have a twin of River. Loved loved the Mal, River dialogs - they're very special.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:25 PM

FREEVERSE


I cheered when I saw this chapter was up, but oh my, what a tangled web! I'm finally understanding Mara's relationship to River--the genetic end, at least. But what possibility of redemption is there for Mara, without the grounding Simon offered? Ouch, with Patience for what, comic relief?!

~freeverse


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