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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The crew reach Whitefall, and I'm not taking bets on if Mal gets shot. Or worse. And more threads are woven into the story ... NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1711 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Whitefall hadn’t changed. Still a ball of rock tinted mostly yellow, with the occasional flash of dirty green where scrub had managed to grab hold. As they dropped into atmo, Mal couldn’t help the thought creeping across his mind that maybe his crew were right and he was going to get shot again, but he ruthlessly pushed it away.
He turned, seeing Simon standing in the doorway. “What can I do you for, doc?”
“I just thought you’d like to know.” The young man moved forward, lowering his voice. “I've just taken the first batch of AntiPax out of the replicator.”
Mal glanced at Hank, but the pilot seemed intent on not letting Serenity shake herself to bits. It felt like the entry couplings needed adjusting again, or some such. “How many?” he asked, turning back, keeping his own tone quiet. “How many doses?”
“Enough for all of us, and a dozen more.”
“Good. Good.” The weight on his shoulders eased a little.
“I still can’t guarantee it’s going to work, Mal,” Simon said.
“But it’s the one for those turned Reaver, right?”
Simon sighed. “I know what you want me to say. That Freya and River can be injected and it will stop them … changing, if they’re exposed to Pax. But I can’t say it. I won’t. I simply don’t know.”
Mal put his hand onto the younger man’s shoulder. “I know, Simon. I ain’t asking you to perjure yourself.”
“Just so long as you understand.”
“Oh, I do. And what about the other one? The one they used on Hank.”
“It’s in the ViroStim as we speak. I should have a batch ready in five days.”
“Only five?” Mal was surprised. “It took twice as long for the other one.”
“Well, I don’t need to recalibrate,” Simon explained. “And this version of the antidote is simpler than the other.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Probably good. It’s a simple counter-reagent, and as such it merely mimics –“
Mal put up his hand. “I get the picture, doc.”
Simon had to smile. “I doubt it, but it doesn’t matter. Five days.”
“And I’m guessing you can’t guarantee this one’ll work either.”
“Actually I probably can. We know it worked on Hank, so I see no reason it won’t work on anyone else.”
“Just those that ain’t potentials.”
“If we’re right about those particular individuals who become Reavers.”
Mal laughed unexpectedly. “Awful lot of if’s, doctor.”
“That’s the way of life.”
Beyond them, outside the ship, the sky had turned blue, and they dropped through a layer of fluffy white clouds towards the surface.
“Where do you want me to put down, Mal?” Hank asked, glancing over his shoulder as Serenity ceased bucking under his hands.
“Patience’s compound. We’re here on legitimate business – no need to go sneaking about.”
The dust settled around the Firefly, and the ramp lowered. Mal walked out into the cool late morning, Jayne and Zoe at his back as usual, but was surprised to see one of Patience’s men come out to meet them rather than the old woman herself.
“Captain Reynolds,” the man said. “I'm Jed Macauliffe.”
“I remember.” Mal hitched his thumbs into his gunbelt, not far from his pistol but not so close as to be threatening. “You were at the play we did.”
Macauliffe smiled tightly. “That I was. Never been one for plays, but it was okay. Got yourself some pretty folks on board, though.”
“Yeah, that’s surely the case. Although not all the girls were mine.” He wondered at the air of tension.
“Not talking about …” Macauliffe bit off the words. “You’re here for the pick-up,” he said instead.
“That we are. And I'm more than a little upset Patience ain’t here to greet us. Seeing as she specifically requested we do the job.”
“Well, you see … there’s been a kinda hitch.”
“Hitch.” Mal remembered Patience using just those words once, and he’d ended up ruining yet another shirt, and having to mend his brown coat. His hand started to move slowly towards the butt of his gun. “What sort of hitch?”
Macauliffe suddenly looked … abashed. “Well …”
“Come on, boy. Spit it out.”
“Ms Patience has been kidnapped.”
Mal couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. “That old shao po got herself snatched?” He could hear Jayne chuckling, and he knew without even looking that Zoe was almost smiling.
“Yesterday morning,” Macauliffe confirmed, his ears turning pink.
“And …” Serenity’s captain gave himself a mental telling off and pulled himself together. “Just how did that little event happen?”
“Heading into town. Going to church.”
Mal’s jaw dropped slightly. “Church?”
“Ms Patience is a God-fearing woman,” Macauliffe said in stout defence of the woman who paid his wages.
“Doesn’t stop her stealing and killing,” Mal pointed out. “Both of which were strictly prohibited by the Ten Commandments, if my memory serves.”
“Along with coveting your neighbour’s ass,” Jayne put in.
There was a pause, then Macauliffe shook his head. “Anyway. She got ambushed. Shot a couple of my men.”
Now Mal understood. “Ah. And you were with her?”
Macauliffe stared down at his boots. “I’m her foreman,” he said by way of explanation.
“I take it that means yes.” Mal managed to stop his lips twitching. “You know who’s got her?”
The other man looked back up. “Yep. Creel. Walter Creel. He has a place not too far from here.”
“Then why ain't you gone in and got her?”
Macauliffe shrugged. “Creel said if we tried he’d kill her.”
“So what does he want?” Zoe asked, stepping down closer to her captain.
“For Ms Patience to sign over most of her land holdings. And the buildings she has in town. Plus the water rights to –“
“Pretty much everything, I'm guessing.”
Mal glanced at Zoe, who raised an eyebrow. “So you know he ain't gonna be letting her go, don’t you?”
Macauliffe nodded. “He ain't gonna let her tell the Alliance on him, that’s for sure.”
“So …” Mal made it look like he was thinking. “You’d be Patience’s representative, then.”
“I'm her foreman,” Macauliffe repeated, but his brow was furrowed as he tried to gauge what was going on.
“Then you’d be willing to make a deal on her behalf?” Mal suggested, hearing Jayne growl behind him but ignoring the big man.
“We go in, get your boss back for you. You pay us. You know – a deal.” He spoke easily, as if it was the sort of thing they did every day.
“I don’t know –“
“Be cheap. Fairly.” Mal watched as the man evidently had to think hard to make up his mind. Probably never used it much, except to steal whatever Patience told him to steal. He could almost hear the cogs turning. “You know, the longer you leave it, the more likely she’s gonna come back with a few holes in her. If she comes back at all,” he added.
“Cheap?” Macauliffe asked.
“Even Patience’ll be surprised.”
“Then you got a deal. How’re you gonna do this?”
“This Creel – he have a spread like this?” Mal glanced around at the compound.
“Pretty similar. Ain’t got no high walls to speak of, and but there’s few more outbuildings.”
“And the landscape?”
“House sits back against a slight rise. But look –“
Mal didn’t let the man air his concerns. “Sounds ripe for the plucking.”
“Sir,” Zoe said softly. “I think we need to discuss a few things.”
He glanced at her, noting the tightness around her mouth. “Shiny.” He looked back at Macauliffe. “You stay there.”
They walked back into Serenity’s dark interior.
“Sir, have you lost the last few of your senses?” Zoe asked, keeping her voice down.
“Is that what you think?”
Mal glanced at Jayne. “You too?”
“Hell, Mal, if the old biddy’s like to get herself shot, I say it’s fair time.”
“And if she dies before she can tell us what she knows?”
Zoe took a deep breath. “Sir?”
“We don’t go get her, we may never find out who put her up to this,” Mal said quietly.
His first mate gazed inscrutably. “You knew this was a trap?”
“Sorry, didn’t I mention that?” Mal could do innocence pretty well when he wanted.
“No, sir, you didn’t.”
“Must’ve slipped my mind.” He smiled at her. “Anyway, not a trap this end. But I'm figuring maybe it is the other, and I’d kinda like to know who’s behind it. And as much as I agree with Jayne and it’s time Patience got herself shot, if she ends up dead then that’s gonna make it a lot more difficult to get the intel out of her.”
Jayne looked at the other man, something approaching admiration in his eyes. “You’re one sonuva bitch, Mal.”
“Why, thank you, Jayne.” Mal turned back and strode down the ramp. “Macauliffe, better get any men of yours still capable of firing a gun together.”
“Do you have a plan?” Patience’s man asked.
“That I do. Now, here’s what we’re going to do …”
Chiang Goff knew he was being watched, and it wasn’t just by the ubiquitous surveillance cameras. Every time he’d left his quarters since he arrived he’d felt someone follow him, even catching sight of their reflection in a polished surface a couple of times. Different faces, the same objective. Keeping an eye on him. And it was starting to be annoying. Surely they were all on the same side, working towards the same end, and that led inevitably to the same question – why were they not trusting him now?
It would have been amusing if he wasn’t the object of such scrutiny, and he could imagine taking pleasure in mocking anyone else for such paranoia. But he was a politician. It was part of the job description, and had stopped the political equivalent of a knife in the back more than once. So here he was, wondering just why his paranoia should be justified right now.
Glancing over the crates in the landing area, he could see his shadow leaning against the wall, dragging on a cigarette. Smoke curled thinly above him.
Goff smiled tightly. He’d made a great play after dinner about heading back to his ship to do some work, needing to have peace and quiet, and went straight there. He’d hoped the man following him wouldn’t think to consider the small escape hatch in the other side of the vessel, and he’d managed to worm his way around the boxes and cages at the perimeter until he was only a few feet from the corridor.
Biding his time, he waited, drawing on every ounce of willpower to stay still, just watching the other man. It seemed an age, but it finally paid off. The man dropped the still glowing cigarette end to the floor, grinding it out beneath one booted foot. After barely a minute of nicotine-free air, he dragged a packet from inside his coat, pulling another white stick from it and placing it between his lips.
Goff readied himself. There was the flare from a lighter, and he moved, taking advantage of the temporary blindness of his shadow to cross the small space and move into the darker area of the corridor. He paused, listening hard to try and tell if he’d been noticed, but there was no sign of movement. He nodded slightly and moved off, determined to find out just what Emil Quintana was hiding.
“You sure?” Mal asked, looking hard at his albatross. “’Cause if you ain’t –“
“Well, if you’re sure …” He adjusted his grip on the reins, his borrowed horse more than a little skittish. “Only seeing as how we’re the diversion, I’d kinda like to be sure I'm gonna get out of this without bloodshed.”
“I'm sure, Captain.” She sat easily in her saddle, looking like a young woman out for a pleasant ride, despite the two gunbelts Jayne had adapted for her fastened securely across her chest. “Our friend here knows the house, and can tell me where Patience is likely to be kept. There will be no bloodshed.”
“Good. Good.” He didn’t sound convinced, even to himself. He looked once more up the track towards the big house just visible over the ridge. “Okay, people. Let’s go do this nice and easy, and we’ll all get home in time for tea.”
River smiled, and with just a nudge of her knees her mount turned and she galloped away, her hair flying behind her. Zoe sighed and followed, one hand kept close to the Mare’s Leg strapped to her thigh. Macauliffe shrugged, then dug his spurs into his own horse’s flanks and chased after them both.
“It seem to you she’s enjoying this a mite too much?” Mal asked no-one in particular.
Jayne merely looked pained. He’d been told in no uncertain terms that grenades were not to be invited to this particular shindig, and he’d sulked pretty much the whole way over. Even River riding next to him, her dress floating around her hips and giving him an excellent view of an expanse of milky white skin, wasn’t enough to get him out of his funk. He had briefly considered gutting Macauliffe, since the man had taken the opportunity to get a good eyeful as they rode along, but he decided to keep that until he was really bored.
Seeing that he wasn’t likely to get much in the way of an answer, Mal urged his horse forwards along the road, and he actually found he was enjoying himself. It had been too long since he’d ridden, and being outside, hearing the sounds of cattle not that far off … if they weren't on a job he would have taken his time.
As it was it didn’t take long before they were heading into the main area in front of the house, and Mal could see what Macauliffe had meant. Walter Creel obviously thought a lot of himself, and the house reflected that, with an expanse of bottle glass windows and a verandah that went all around the lower floor decorated with curlicues and other fancy adornments. Mal, a man who hardly ever bought anything unless it was practical, thought it looked like one of the whorehouses Jayne used to frequent.
Except it had to be one of the houses on one of the more rambunctious moons, at least taking into account the two very large men with very big guns standing on the verandah and looking at them like they were about to shoot.
“Gentlemen,” he called, smiling, pulling on the reins and making his horse come to a halt. “I'm looking for Walter Creel. Are either of you fine folks be that person?”
One of the men, a mountain with red hair and an enormous handlebar moustache, stepped down to the ground. “Nope. Mr Creel ain't here.”
“Now, that’s a shame.” Mal slid from the saddle. “Any idea when he’ll be back?”
“What’s your business here?” the second man asked, also stepping down into the sun, his bald head reflecting the light.
“Well, I’m a rancher, and I’m considering buying a spread around these parts, and I heard tell Walter Creel is the man to talk to about getting a seed herd. Seems he has good breeding stock.”
“That he has,” the redhead agreed. “But there ain’t none for sale.”
“That’s unfortunate.” Mal managed to look most put out. “Only I’d really rather hear it from the man himself. I’ve got good coin –“ He patted his pocket. “– and the inclination to spend it here. Why should that cause anyone any fuss?”
Red was insistent. “Mr Creel would tell you the same. Only he isn’t due back tonight until late. He has business in town.”
“Then permaybehaps I can call again tomorrow.” Mal could see the bald man flexing his trigger finger slightly. “Like I said, all I'm looking to do is buy some cattle.”
“And I told you there’s none for sale.” Red stepped forward. “Best you be on your way. Before I get to thinking you’ve got some other reason for dropping by.”
Mal held up his hands, hearing something on the edge of his attention that his inner captain was telling him was important, but that he was ignoring. “Relax, friend,” he said instead. “Just tell your boss that I called, and that I’ll be back in the morning. Maybe we can do some business after –“
The click of two safeties being removed was loud, but they were drowned in the noise of something else, something that began to rattle the ground beneath his boots.
“Mal!” Jayne interrupted, yelling and pointing frantically. “Stampede!”
“What the hell?” Mal barely had time to look and see a wall of livestock bearing down on him before it was too late.
to be continued
Monday, October 6, 2008 8:34 AM
Monday, October 6, 2008 11:43 AM
Monday, October 6, 2008 3:46 PM
Monday, October 6, 2008 4:29 PM
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 7:11 AM
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