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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The treasure hunt commences, but our BDHs may not be alone out there. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1741 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“That’s it.” Dan Jefferson stamped the permit and handed it to Mal. “You are now an official prospector, and as long as you report any finds to this office, you’re assured of ownership, so long as nobody else disputes it and says they found it first.”
Mal thought of the man lying in Pritchard’s freezer. If they did manage to figure out where he got the coin, did that mean Ephraim Ingleby’s nearest and dearest had a claim on things? He decided not to ask, on the principle that he couldn’t be told they did if he kept his mouth shut. Instead he tucked the paper into his breast pocket. “Thanks.”
“And that map on the back’ll tell you where you shouldn’t be digging. If the urge takes you.”
“I doubt we’ll be going anywhere near the mines.” From the glance he’d taken at the plan of the surrounding countryside, and River’s description of the whereabouts of the cave where Jayne had found the coin, it was well off the beaten track.
“You heading straight out?”
“Pretty much. The wedding’s on Saturday, and we want to be done well in time, otherwise the girls will string me up for not leaving ‘em enough time to get ready.”
Dan smiled. “Yeah, they’re like that, ain’t they?”
“Mine are. All of ‘em, including the young ones. In fact, ‘specially the young ones.”
Dan perched on the corner of the desk. “How do you make it work?” he asked. “You know, being all together like you are, living in each other’s space. How do you not argue all the time?”
“We argue.” Mal knew the Sheriff was having a few home problems. “Sometimes we throw things. My wife’s got a damn good arm, and our medic’s had to patch me up before now. And the language my mechanic comes out with when she‘s mad at her nearest and dearest …” He shook his head. “Shocking.”
“Your mechanic. That’s the pretty pregnant one, right?”
“I wouldn’t’ve thought swear words would have passed her lips.”
“You should hear her when she’s working on the engine. That and the banging. She does more good with a wrench than anyone I know. Calls it percussive maintenance.”
“She sounds like a peach.”
“So how do you do it? Survive?” He saw Mal shuffle his feet a little and mistook it for embarrassment. “Sorry. I shouldn’t be asking this. I don’t even know you.”
“It’s okay. Just wondering if there’s a way to explain that you’d understand.”
“I'm not stupid.”
“No. But you live dirtside, with a whole town around you. It’s different for us.”
“I figured that. Just wondered if you had a magic secret.”
“Yeah. Don’t go to bed mad.”
“Pretty much. I'm assuming you love your wife –“
“That’s a given.”
“And you ain’t cheatin’.”
“She thinks I am, but truth is, no, I ain’t. And in a town like this, someone’d find out if I took it into my head to try.”
“No. You’re right. I love Deirdra, in all her moods.”
“Then that’s basically it. I could say talk to her, sit her down and try and explain, but … You thought of counselling?”
“Again, in a town like this?”
“No, maybe not,” Mal conceded. “So you make do with what you can, or you get out.”
“You mean leave her.”
“Someone once told me marriage is hard work. Admittedly, she was a con artist, but still … even the best of them take maintenance, percussive or otherwise. It’s an effort to understand women, and just as much for them to understand us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. It’s up to you how much exertion you put into it.”
“You put a lot into yours,” Dan said, seeing the softness in the other man’s eyes when he spoke of his wife.
“I’d die for her.” He said it quite easily, normally, as if it was something so obvious it didn’t need to be stated.
“Yeah.” Dan took a deep breath. “Well, you’d better be getting back to her, and I’ve got work to get on with myself.”
“Imagine you have.”
Dan stood up, started to move to the door, but something obviously occurred to him, because he stopped and gazed at Mal. “Look,” he began, somewhat diffidently. “I know Jayne’s from around here, and he knows something about our desert, but things happen out there. Stories have been handed down through the generations of fire from the sky, explosions, the landscape changing overnight. Just stories, but … people die out there every year, and some of ‘em’ve lived here all their lives. It’s a dangerous place.”
Mal smiled. “Anyone’d think you were concerned for our safety.”
“Well, you know, I hate filling out paperwork,” Dan said, chuckling. Then he was serious again. “I mean it, though. You be careful. Hate to be dragging your sorry corpses into town and arranging for the funerals. It’d surely put a crimp in Matty and Jolene’s big day.”
“Wouldn’t do that much for mine,” Mal muttered.
“Why can’t I go?” Bethie whined, picking at the paint around the doorway to the engine room.
“Because you can’t.” Kaylee was staring at something under the main console, lying on her back so it looked like she consisted of nothing much more than a pair of legs and a swelling belly.
“But it’s pirates.”
“That don’t matter. It’s not something little girls get to do. Least, not yet.”
Kaylee adjusted one of the diode boards minutely, then tapped another, causing a small rain of dust to fall onto her chest. “Try it now, Hank,” she shouted.
There was a moment, then the pilot’s voice came over the com. “That’s it. Thanks, Kaylee.”
“No problem.” Even though he couldn’t see, she grinned and pulled herself out.
“When, Momma?” Bethie said again.
Kaylee looked at her daughter, at the knee-length shorts she’d put on today, and the t-shirt that announced to the world that she was Daddy’s Princess. She was doing the foot roll, as was her habit when she was trying to get her own way, and flecks of paint were sifting from her questing fingernails. “Honey, stop doing that and come over here.” Kaylee held out her arm.
Bethie sighed dramatically, but crossed the warm, red room and allowed herself to be pulled down to sit on her mother’s thigh. “I wanna go,” she said quietly, blinking hard.
Kaylee tried not to smile. “I know, sweetie. But they’re going on the mule, and you know it only holds five.”
“I'm small,” Bethie pointed out. “I wouldn’t weigh it down much.”
Brushing her hair from her forehead, Kaylee said, “I know. And I know how much you like pirates, and treasure –“
“It was my coin. Uncle Jayne gave me the box, and it was inside, so it’s mine.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Hank said, leaning on the bulkhead by the door. He reached inside and switched off the com.
“Sorry.” Kaylee shrugged. “Not quite got up yet.”
“That’s okay.” He stepped inside and went down onto his heels next to Bethie. “You know,” he said, touching her hand with one of his fingers, “I ain't going either. And considering it was my idea to hypnotise Jayne, I find that … insulting.”
Simon appeared, looking slightly less well put together than usual. He’d finally decided on a pair of jeans Kaylee had bought him in an ill-advised shopping expedition, and a loose shirt, rolled up at the elbows. From the boots on his feet to a hat he’d found somewhere, its wide brim overshadowing his face, he was every bit the cowboy. Apart from the pale skin and the medical bag in his hand.
“Honey, you look swai,” Kaylee said, grinning at him.
“I feel like an idiot.” He looked down at himself. “Like a cut-price version of Jayne.”
“Who knows,” Hank said, grinning as he headed back for the bridge. “Maybe your real Pa was a Cobb.”
Simon’s eyes widened as he tried to think of something suitably pithy to say, but only managing to flap his mouth like a fish.
Down in the cargo hold the mule was already hovering off the bay floor, the anti-grav thrusters keeping it airborne.
“Did you tell Matty where you were going?” Freya asked, settling herself into the front seat, River behind her.
Jayne closed the weapons compartment behind him and sat down next to his wife. “Waved him at the store. I didn’t go into any detail, just that we were heading out into the desert for a while. Sightseeing.”
“And he believed you?”
“Nah.” Jayne grinned. “I reckon he read between the lines okay.”
“He didn’t ask to come?”
“He did, I said no.”
“’Cause this is where he lives. Has to, after we’ve gone n’all. Ain't getting him mixed up in anything might mean problems once we’ve left.”
“That’s very considerate, Jayne.”
“Just being sensible.”
River snaked her arm through his. “My Jayne,” she murmured.
Mal came out onto the catwalk above, Zoe right behind him. “Not anticipating any trouble,” he was saying, “but you know how these things can turn out.”
“We’ll be listening, sir.”
“Long as that’s all you’re doing on my bridge.” He looked at the mule’s occupants as he descended the stairs. “Where’s Simon?”
“Here,” the man himself said, heading out of the common area doorway. He tapped his medical bag. “Just wanted to make sure I had enough supplies with me. In case of accidents.”
“Then it looks like we’re ready to go. Climb aboard, doc.”
Simon pulled himself up onto the running board, then realised the spare seat was the other side. A hint of annoyance must have shown on his face, because Jayne chuckled and moved across, River following him so the young man could sit down. “Thanks.”
“No probs.” Jayne grinned. “Have to say, you’re looking mighty stylish today.”
River smiled. “He means you’re looking nice.”
“I know what … I just …” Simon looked down at his clothes. “Never mind.”
Mal felt his lips twitch as he climbed into the driver’s seat, then looked down at Zoe. “Why do I feel like I’m taking a whole bunch of kids out on a field trip?”
“Not sure, sir. Experience?”
“Ah. That’ll be it.” He settled his hands on the steering yoke. “Okay, people. No fighting, no spitting, no swearing. And keep your hands off each other at all times.”
River giggled, but Jayne just sighed heavily.
Freya shook her head. “Mal, just …”
“Shiny.” He put the vehicle into gear and the mule moved smoothly out of the cargo bay, turning right towards the edge of town.
Zoe waited for the dust to settle, then strolled into the sunlight, glancing just once at the Golden Dragon skulking next to them. Something was tickling her senses, but there didn’t appear to be anyone in sight. She shrugged and headed back inside, closing the ramp up behind her, not seeing the man in the shadow of the Port Control building speaking into a sleek comlink.
Aiden Lau flushed the toilet then looked at himself in the mirror over the sink. His hair, jet-black like the rest of his family, hung straight over his forehead, but it didn’t hide the lines between his eyebrows. He was angry, and it was beginning to show on his face.
Splashing water over his fingers, he told himself he had to stay calm, that it wasn't going to last forever. Chester might be in charge, but that was only due to an accident of birth making him the oldest. Their father should have drowned him the moment he came crying, but he hadn’t, and instead made him the heir to the whole shebang.
Okay, he’d been lucky in a business sense, and their bank accounts had grown fat – well, they would have if any of them trusted banks. Chester believed in investing, and now the Laus owned pretty much all of their home moon, and sizeable chunks of several others. In the process he’d been accused, quite accurately, of some very unsavoury practices, but since there was never anyone around who would testify …
Not that it did them any good, of course. Chester made sure of that. He handed out cash like it was pocket money, and that was just another bit of grit in the oil lubricating Aiden’s own personal wheels of life. What was the point in being rich if someone else held that tightly to the purse strings? And Chester baulked at taking the really big risks. The ones which would pay so much they could roll in credits.
He dried his hands. Now, if he’d been in charge, things would be different. He’d have made a much better leader, doing jobs all over this sector, and making sure people quaked when they heard the name Lau. He smiled, his reflection copying him. Aiden Lau, though, not Chester. He’d never have let that judge walk all over him like that.
Four thousand credits … and Chester was insisting it came out of his cut! That wasn’t right. It wasn’t even as if he’d started the fight. That was all down to that crew from the crappy Firefly next door, although that si gui Berg had had something to do with it. Couldn’t keep it in his pants without causing hassle, then trying to grab a freebie. His reflection grimaced with him. And with one of the bar girls too. No telling what kind of diseases they had. At least Berg wasn’t going to be worrying about that for a while, though, since he was going to take some time to heal. Aiden glanced down at the grazes on his knuckles, and flexed his fingers, his lips twitching at the memory. That hole in his hand was the least of Berg’s worries.
But then having that no-account Sheriff come round, say they had to behave or they’d all be bound. One shot. Just one shot, that’s all that was needed, and they could have taken this town. But no. Chester wanted to play nice. Or as nice as he got, anyway. Telling the crew what to do, and including Jarrett and himself.
Still, he had his plans.
There was a knock on the door. “Aiden? You in there?”
He flung it open. “What?”
His brother Jarrett was standing there. “Riley’s just called. They’re on the move.”
Aiden Lau smiled.
“Never knew you got travel sick, doc.” Mal had his thumbs hitched in his gunbelt as he stood watching the young mad disappear behind a convenient bush. From the sounds emanating it was pretty clear he wasn't going to get an answer immediately.
River climbed elegantly from the mule and stood beside him, a bottle of water in one hand. “He used to do this when he was young. Father got annoyed one trip to the mountains.” She smiled. “We had to stop every half an hour.”
“Well, it don’t appear he’s grown out of it.”
“Perhaps he has an inner ear imbalance,” Freya suggested, rubbing more sunblock over her arms and neck and taking Mal‘s mind somewhat from the matter in hand. “That could explain why he hates being weightless, too.”
River considered for a moment, then said, “I’ll make him check when we get back.” She walked forwards as Simon finally stood up.
Jayne was scouting the area, chuckling slightly at the doctor’s discomfort, then dropped to his heels with a surprised grunt.
“You got something?” Mal asked, strolling over, anything to stop imagining massaging the sun cream into Freya‘s skin himself.
“Tracks.” The big man waited until Mal reached him, then lifted a broken twig. “The wind ain’t got to it.” Underneath was the imprint of a boot, or at least the heel and outside edge.
“You sure it’s his?”
Jayne nodded. “He was wearing Sukis. Expensive. Supposed to be made by half-naked girls under palm trees.”
“That’s just the Cortex advert.”
“Still, kinda fancied a pair myself.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“Anyway, it ain't likely anyone else on this dump’s gonna be able to afford the coupla thousand credits they cost.”
“This is your home, Jayne. And that much?”
“Just ‘cause you don’t spend more’n you have to on clothes, don’t mean other folks do the same.”
“This from you, a picture of sartorial elegance.”
“If you’re waiting for me to say ‘huh’, you’re gonna be burned to a crisp from the sun ‘fore I do.” He stood up, adjusting his hat. “And I may’ve been born here, but it ain’t my home.”
Before Mal could comment, he heard Simon.
“Thank you, mei-mei,” the young man said, handing the water back before wiping his mouth with a handkerchief from his pocket. “And I don’t have an inner ear imbalance. It’s just that tea of Kaylee’s mother’s doesn’t exactly sit well on the stomach sometimes.”
“You still drinking it?” Mal asked, faintly surprised. “Especially since I got the notion Kaylee’s already knocked up. Unless it‘s gas.”
Simon didn’t rise to the mocking tone. “I’m … testing it. After the concoction River made up for the morning sickness –“
“It wasn’t a concoction!”
He ignored his sister. “After that worked, I began to wonder why. I drew some of my own blood yesterday, and I’m going to compare it in a few days time, see if the tea actually does something. If it really has an effect on my DNA, that could be a medical breakthrough in the treatment of any number of genetic diseases.”
Freya leaned over the side of the mule, resting her chin on her forearms. “Have you told Kaylee what you’re doing?”
“Then I suggest you don’t. As far as she’s concerned what her mother does is only a little short of magic, and I don’t think she’d take too kindly to you analysing everything.”
Mal nodded. “Frey’s right. Kaylee’s likely to take offence at you for not just having faith.”
“But I'm a doctor, a scientist –“ He stopped as River put her hand on his arm.
“Kaylee believes,” she said quietly. “That’s the important part.”
Simon looked into his sister’s dark eyes, seeing a moment of sanity gazing back. “I suppose you’re right,” he admitted slowly. “But I intend carrying on with the tests, at least of the tea. And if she asks I will tell her.”
“Doc, that’s up to you. And you can use one of the guest rooms when she kicks you out of her bed.” Mal suppressed a smile at the mixed emotions crossing Simon’s face, then deliberately turned away. “How far, do you figure?” he asked Jayne, nodding towards the outcrop still some distance away.
The big man thought for a moment, then said, “Maybe an hour. Not much more.”
“An hour?” Mal was surprised.
Jayne shrugged. “Perspective’s all wrong out here, something to do with the light. And it’s bigger’n you think.”
Mal stared at the upthrusting rocks, striated and worn by the wind. “Then we’d better get moving again.”
“Least we know we’re going in the right direction,” the ex-mercenary said. “Not just pissing in the breeze.”
“You have an artist’s way of putting things,” Simon said, climbing back on board. He looked at his sister, expecting her to make some comment, but she was staring behind them. “Mei-mei? Is everything all right?”
She wasn’t blinking. “I don’t know.”
“Do you think someone’s following us?” Mal asked, trying to see into the bright light himself.
“I … it might just be an animal.”
“But you’re not sure.”
Mal pulled the com from his pocket. “Hank, you there?”
“Where else would I be?”
“Any signs of trouble back there?”
“Not that I’m aware. Why?”
“Just … keep the engine warmed over. And tell Zoe to stay armed.”
“Mal, if you think there’s going to be a problem, maybe we should come out there anyway.”
Mal looked at Freya, who shook her head. “There’s … something, but it might be an animal, like River says.”
“There’s some pretty big cats out here,” Jayne supplied. “Could be one of ‘em keeping an eye on us, seeing if we’re tasty enough to consider attacking.”
“Then we won’t be wasting any more time. Doc, you feel like you’re gonna throw up again, you’re gonna have to do it on the move.” He spoke into the com. “Just don’t go any place, dong mah?”
“You got it, Mal.”
The eldest Lau made another notation in the ledger. “What is it? I'm busy.”
The door opened and one of the crew peered nervously through the opening. “It’s Aiden.”
He looked up, a sigh rolling up from his boots. “What’s that prick done now?”
“Not what he’s done, but what he’s going to do.” The crewman gave an uncertain laugh.
Chester Lau closed his eyes in irritation.
“Dan.” The deputy sheriff stuck his head in the doorway. “You wanted me to keep an eye on the Golden Dragon crew?”
“That I did.”
“Well, looks like they’re taking a small excursion.”
Dan Jefferson felt something crawl up his spine. “Where?”
“Into the desert.” The deputy shook his head. “Thing is, they weren’t the first. ‘Bout twenty minutes before that five other fellers took off on horses they hired from Bailey’s.”
“Gorramit.” The Sheriff stood up, taking his gunbelt off the hook on the wall and buckling it around his hips. “Come on. We’d better find out what they’re up to.” And if it has something to do with Captain Reynolds and his crew, he added silently to himself.
to be continued
Sunday, February 15, 2009 9:58 AM
Sunday, February 15, 2009 10:49 AM
Monday, February 16, 2009 7:29 AM
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