BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Dead Man's Chest - Part XVI
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Dan persuades Zoe that the others are in danger. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1859    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

He knew he was going to have bruises, but knocking on the cargo bay door was the only way he could figure of letting them know he wanted in. If he’d been sensible, of course, he would have gone back to the office, waved, or maybe even jogged to Gilford’s and used the Cortex link there. If he’d been sensible. Trouble was, he had the feeling the time for being sensible had just about run out.

Lifting his hand to bang again he paused, getting the distinct feeling that someone was just inside.

The small door creaked open, and he was met with a hand holding what suspiciously looked like a Mare’s Leg.

“Don’t shoot!” he said quickly, stepping back so the person with their finger on the trigger could see him clearly. “It’s Dan Jefferson.”

The tall, dark-skinned beauty he recognised as Zoe Mills appeared in the doorway. “Sheriff.” Odd how her gun hadn’t moved though.

He wasted no time on pleasantries. “Where’s Mal Reynolds?”

-

“Well, this is an interesting development,” Mal said, his hands raised.

He and Freya had exited the tunnel into the bright Ezra sun, but despite their best efforts hadn’t seen the men hiding either side of the entrance until they felt cold metal pressed into their necks.

“Sorry,” Freya said, her own arms likewise lifted. I didn’t feel them in time. Jayne’s still projecting.

“Not your fault. I figure this is just one of those things we can’t do a thing about.” I didn’t see ‘em either, ai ren. Light was in my eyes.

“I'm still sorry.”

“Then you can apologise in private later.” He flashed her a smile.

Chester Lau stared at them. Despite the fact that his men had divested them of their firearms in short order, they still looked far too comfortable, as if this sort of thing happened a lot. Perhaps it did. “Captain Reynolds,” he said to get their attention.

“That’s me.” Mal turned to the man standing in front of them, trying for friendly. “Chester Lau, isn’t it?”

“I am.”

“And your brothers.” Mal nodded at the other two men, each with guns aimed squarely at his belly. “To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“Four thousand credits,” Aiden Lau growled out. “You owe me four thousand credits.”

“Personally?” Mal’s brows drew together in mock confusion. “Did I play cards with you and I don’t remember or something?”

“Mal,” the woman at his side chided. “We really have to do something about that memory of yours.” Her eyes swept round to fix on his face, but in that move she’d made note of exactly where all the other weapons were that had been trained on them. Too many to take down, especially with their own guns more than ten feet away on the dirt.

“The fine!” Aiden spat. “It’s coming out of my own account!”

Mal shrugged. “Nothing to do with me. We paid our debt to Gideon, for something your man started, I’d like to point out, and got the sore muscles to prove it. Anything else you’d better take up with your brother.”

Aiden glared at Chester. “Oh, don’t worry. I intend to. After I deal with you.” The sound of his pistol cocking seemed very loud.

“Aiden.” Just one word, but Chester’s voice made it clear who was in charge.

“I want to –“

“I know what you want to do.” He narrowed his already almond-shaped eyes. “And you won’t be doing a damn thing until I tell you.”

“Chester –“

“ No.”

Aiden subsided a little, but neither Mal nor Freya were under any illusions about what he’d do if given half a chance.

“So,” Mal said slowly. “What are you planning?”

Chester smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Well, first off, you’re going to tell me what you’re doing out here.”

“Us? We’re just taking a look around. One of my crew comes from this rock, and he’s giving us the guided tour.”

“That’ll be one of those still inside, then?”

They’ve been watching, Mal heard in his mind. They know.

He kept the sigh internalised. “That’ll be right,” he agreed.

“Then why don’t they come out and join us? And bring whatever it is you’ve found.”

“Found?” Mal put on his innocent face. “What makes you think we’ve found anything?”

Chester’s smile took on a hint of triumph. “Oh. Pretty much this.” He held something up, letting the light catch the golden surface and making the eagle look as if it was about to take flight.

“Damn,” Mal murmured.

-

“You know where they went,” Zoe said, stepping out into the daylight. “You sold Mal the permit yourself.”

“I know that. But where, exactly?”

Zoe’s brows drew down. “Why?”

Dan’s temper was beginning to fray. “Just tell me!”

Huo Yan Shan.” The Mare’s Leg lifted again. “Now you can tell me why.”

-

“Jarrett found it in the backpack there,” Chester explained, tossing the gold coin into the air and catching it in his palm. “Heads or tails?”

Mal looked taken aback. “What?”

“Heads we kill you, tails we don’t.”

“Then I call tails. Always tails.”

Chester slapped the coin onto the back of his hand, raised his fingers slowly and glanced down. “Looks like your luck is in, least for the moment.” As he lifted his head, though, his eyes were hard. “Call them out. With whatever you found. Or you might not be so lucky next time.”

-

Inside the tunnel, out of sight of the Laus and their men, Jayne leaned back on the wall. “Gorramit.”

“Too many,” River breathed.

“We can take ‘em,” her husband said, looking down into what he could see of her face in the gloom. “Even your bro here’s getting to be a pretty good shot.”

Simon grimaced, but it went unnoticed in the dark.

“Too many,” she repeated. “They would be hurt. Perhaps killed.”

Jayne knew she didn’t mean the bad guys. “Then what?”

“No choice.” She saw Simon nod, then he turned away and jogged back towards the Arc shuttle.

-

Back in the sunshine there was a discreet beep, and a voice saying “Chester.”

The oldest Lau pulled a new comlink from his pocket. “Yes.”

“We’re ready to go.”

“The engine is fixed?” Chester was surprised.

“Soon as you like.”

“Can you get a fix on us?”

There was a pause. “Got it.”

“Then come and pick us up.”

“On our way.” There was a click and the comlink went silent.

Chester tucked the unit back in his pocket and looked up at Mal. “So. Are you going call them out, or do I send my men inside?”

-

“Are you sure?” Zoe asked, heading for the internal com.

“Positive.” Dan followed her. “And that Aiden Lau isn’t one I’d like to cross on a dark night. Or even in the middle of the day, come to that.”

She thrust her hand down on the switch. “Hank.”

“Yeah, honey?”

“How long to get us in the air?”

“Five minutes?”

“Can you cut it back?”

“Not really. Not ‘less you want us maybe crashing on take-off.”

“Quick as you can, then. And call Mal. I’ll be up in a sec.”

“Zoe, what’s the problem?” His concern came over all too clearly.

“Just do it.” She let go of the switch, about to turn back to Dan when she was stopped.

“Auntie Zoe?” Bethie stood in the doorway to the common area, her eyes wide, frightened, Ethan holding tightly to her hand, the exact same expression on his face. The little girl was biting her lip hard enough to draw a single bead of blood.

“Shit.” Zoe didn’t need it spelled out for her.

Hank’s voice sounded through the bay again, the worry obviously multiplied. “Mal ain’t answering. And I know I got a good signal.”

Zoe and Dan exchanged a glance as she thumbed the switch again. “Get us going.”

“Um, and … Zo?”

“What?”

“Golden Dragon’s taking off.”

Dan was outside in the blink of an eye, staring up at the Clipper lifting from her berth, turning smoothly on her horizontal axis and heading away from the docks, her engines making everything rattle. He called out. “They’re going for the hills.”

Zoe closed her eyes, then said, “Hank. No safeties. Get us airborne.”

“They’re faster’n us.”

“Then start praying too.”

-

“You have to, Jayne,” River said quietly. “They will kill otherwise.”

“But moonbrain –“

“No time to discuss it.”

“All of it?”

“All of it. If they don’t believe us, come in to search and find more …”

Jayne looked down into her face, into the eyes that promised him so very much. “Yeah. I guess it’s what I’d do.”

Simon held out the gunny sack he‘d gone to fetch. “Sorry,” he murmured.

“Yeah.” Undoing his gunbelt and dropping it to the dirt, Jayne took the bag and moved towards the entrance. “Don’t shoot,” he called. “We’re coming out.”

Leaving their weapons with the ex-mercenary’s, River and Simon followed.

Chester nodded in appreciation as he watched the three people leave the tunnel. “At least some of your crew are sensible,” he said, eyeing the sack in the big man’s hands. “And bearing gifts, too.”

“Ain't yours.” Jayne hugged it tighter.

“You will give it to us.” He stepped forwards.

“You know, it ain’t what you think.” Mal nodded towards the bag in Jayne’s embrace, trying one last time. “It’s just some bits my man here hid when he was a kid. Playing pirates. You know, sentimental value. But it ain’t worth anything.”

“Of course not.” Chester held out a hand. “Then you won’t mind us taking a look.”

“Like hell,” Jayne growled, holding it tighter. Even though he knew he had to, it wasn't going to be without at least making sure everyone knew it was against his better judgement.

Chester sighed. “All I have to do is say the word, and I will take it from your cold dead fingers.”

“Well, technically they’d probably still be warm, but I think we get your drift.” Mal looked at the gunmen ranged around them. He sighed. This had all the hallmarks of the story of his life, at least so far. Just as he thought he was getting somewhere, maybe with enough money in the safe so that he didn’t have to worry about where the next job was going to come from, maybe even the next meal, someone had to come along and throw a wrench into the works. “Jayne, hand it over.”

“No rutting way, Mal!” The big man took a step back, and all guns moved to follow him. “This ain’t theirs!”

“It isn’t exactly ours either,” Freya said softly.

“Yeah, but … finders keepers. Ain’t that what you said?”

“And that’ll just make you the richest corpse around,” Mal put in. “Can’t spend it if you’re dead, Jayne.”

“Aw, Mal …”

“Hand it over.”

Jayne’s face crumpled, but he tossed the heavy gunny sack towards the older Lau.

It fell into the sand, but before Chester could bend down Aiden darted forward and picked it up, tugging it open. “Wu de mah …” he muttered.

“What is it?” Jarrett asked, trying to see over his shoulder. “Cao.”

“Tell me,” Chester demanded.

Instead Aiden reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of coins. “It’s … gold. Damn near full of it.” He glanced quickly at Mal, then went back to the sack, dribbling them back through his fingers. “Are they real?” he asked.

“Real enough.” Serenity’s captain dropped his hands, settling his thumbs into his empty gunbelt. No-one said a word, every single person watching Aiden. “So … you got what you want. No point in anybody killing anybody today, don’t you think?”

“Where did it come from?” Chester wanted to know, mesmerised as much as the rest of his men.

“Where does any buried treasure come from?” Mal shrugged. “Prob’ly someone stole it, thought this was a good hiding place. Maybe even the man that owned the backpack.”

“Mmn.”

There was silence for a moment.

“Um … well?” Mal prompted. “I think we can part company now, don’t you?”

Chester’s eyes moved back to the five people in front of him. “And if I decide to send my men inside? Take a look around?”

“Fine. Be my guest. They won’t find anything, but it’s your time to waste.”

A low booming sound infiltrated their hearing, and the Golden Dragon appeared, swooping low.

“Chester, let’s just kill ‘em and be done with it,” Aiden said, going back to his first inclination.

Jayne settled himself, ready to launch at the nearest gunman if necessary, and he could feel River doing the same. He couldn’t see Freya too well, but he knew she was preparing herself.

Mal let his hands hang loose by his sides, adrenalin running through his system as the Clipper touched down.

As it settled into the dirt, the landing gear adjusting minutely to take the weight, a hatch opened in the side of the vessel, and a man stepped out. “Chester!” he called.

“What?”

“Looks like that Firefly’s right behind us, boss. And Riley thinks the sheriff might be on board.”

Chester’s lips thinned to non-existence.

“Then we don‘t have time to be wasting,” Aiden said, lifting his gun again, pointing it at Mal‘s chest.

His brother turned on him. “Are you totally fong luh?” Chester snapped. “They know we’re here.”

“No they don’t.”

“They’ve got a pretty good idea. And that sheriff is already sympathetic towards them. Do you honestly think he won’t put two and two together as soon as he finds the bodies? There’ll be a warrant issued on us before we’re even out of atmo.”

“But Chester -”

Bizui!” His glare could have shattered glass. “Now get the hover back on board.”

“Chester -”

“Do it before I decide you’re the one that’s going to get buried here.” Nobody believed he was telling anything less than the absolute truth.

Aiden slammed his mouth shut, thrusting his pistol back into its holster so hard it was amazing it didn’t go off. He stalked to the vehicle and jumped into the driver’s seat, giving it so much unnecessary revs that the sound filled the air, and turned it towards the Clipper. In a flurry of sand he gunned the engine, and the mule leapt forward, the Golden Dragon’s ramp barely down in time before he disappeared from view.

“Chester, what about the horses?” Jarrett asked, motioning towards where they’d tied their mounts.

The oldest Lau ignored him, turning back to Mal. “You’ve gotten away with it this time,” he said.

“Seems like.”

“But I can’t guarantee that’ll happen if our paths cross again.” He moved so he was standing directly in front of Serenity’s captain. “In fact, I can pretty much predict the future, and if I ever see you again there will be blood.”

Jayne went to take a step forward, but River’s hand stopped him.

Mal barely blinked. “Wasn’t our fault. And you’re taking away a hell of a lot more than you arrived with.”

“Believe me, that’s the only reason you’re still walking and talking. But that can change.” Chester looked Mal up and down. “I’m a bad man to have as an enemy, Captain Reynolds.”

“We’re kinda used to it,” Mal admitted. “But we seem to survive.”

“If we meet again, I wouldn’t put that to the test if I were you.” Chester didn’t wait for a response, but turned on his heel and strode to his ship, his men following.

They were barely out of sight before Jayne darted into the tunnel, grabbing their weapons and running back outside. He tossed River her guns, dropped Simon’s to the dirt and pulled Betsey free from her holster.

“No,” Mal said quietly.

“They’re getting away, Mal!”

“I know.”

“But they got the gold!”

“I noticed.”

The Clipper took off, her engines roaring as she lifted from the ground, making it tremble, and masking the popping sounds from inside the tunnel.

“Aw, Mal!” Jayne complained, seeing his life of total luxury and decadence disappearing over the horizon, or at least into the upper atmo.

“You’d rather I let them kill you? ‘Cause if that’s the case I can always -”

“But gold, Mal. All that money …”

Mal picked up his weapon, wondering if he was going to have to hit his gunhand with it before he did something really stupid. “If you’re seriously considering the two options -”

River interrupted. “No, he isn’t.”

Jayne stared at her. “But -”

“No.”

He subsided a little, muttering under his breath.

River turned her huge dark eyes on him. “Black lace and leather …” she said softly.

What she was saying dawned on his face, and the pink blush tipped his ears. “Riv, you wouldn’t.”

“Try me.”

“Aw, hell.” He sighed dramatically and looked at Mal. “Okay. No chasing the Dragon.”

“I’m fair sure that’s somethin’ else entirely, but I’ll take it that you’re now in agreement.”

“Yeah, Mal.”

“Good.”

“But that don’t mean we can’t get back inside, finish checking the logs,” Jayne said, strapping his belt back around his waist. “Figure out where the rest of it is.”

“No,” River whispered.

“Moonbrain, we gotta find it.”

“No,” she repeated, placing herself squarely between him and the tunnel.

“Riv?“

In answer she turned towards town, looking up expectantly.

A familiar engine note got louder, encroaching on their hearing, and they all turned to see Serenity come into sight, getting closer fast. She touched down less than fifty yards away and the earth beneath their feet shuddered.

It was too much. With a groan, sounding like fifteen men crying out as they died fighting over a chest full of gold, the props inside the tunnel shifted one more time, and collapsed. Dust and dirt poured from the darkness as if hell itself had opened up and smoke from the fiery pits was escaping.

Wo ni cao …” Jayne stared, half expecting demons to materialise.

The haze settled, showing rubble and large stones filling the entrance.

Mal swallowed. “Yeah.”

“I would have been …” Jayne couldn’t continue.

“That you would,” Simon agreed.

Serenity’s ramp lowered, and before it even touched the earth Zoe was out, Dan Jefferson a close second, but even before she could speak a deeper rumbling vibrated through the ground, making them stagger, seeming to last forever as the sound of rocks grinding set everyone’s teeth on edge. At last the silence surged backwards.

Mal looked at Freya. She nodded.

“Tomb,” River whispered.

“Sir, are you okay?” Zoe asked, coming to a fast stop in front of him. “And what was that?”

“We’re shiny.”

“Only we thought the Golden Dragon was going to be here.”

“Oh, she was. But she left. Coupla minutes ago.”

Zoe relaxed her hand off her Mare’s Leg. “Really.”

“Yeah.”

“And that noise?” Dan asked, holstering his gun. “Sounded like … not sure what.”

“Seismic activity,” River supplied. “The area is riddled with fault lines and occasionally these shift, allowing the ancient volcanic -”

“Earthquake,” Mal said succinctly, ignoring the young psychic’s annoyed look.

“An earthquake.” Dan just gazed at him.

“’Xactly.” Mal turned to Jayne. “Better get our hover on board.”

“Okay, Mal.” The big man glanced at the tunnel once more, imagining his broken body crushed under tonnes of rock, then jogged away.

“Better go with -” Mal began, but River had already taken to her heels after her husband.

I’ll stop him thinking about digging in that cave, she whispered in his mind. Nothing left but debris now, anyway. And I hadn’t finished.

You can blind him with your superior knowledge later, xiao nu.

And you don’t get out of it by calling me ‘daughter’.

No?

“And did you find anything?” Dan asked, interrupting his thoughts. “Seeing as you came out here prospecting.”

“Well, we thought we had, but …” Mal deliberately didn’t look at the debris. “Looks like we were wrong.”

“What about the Laus? I got the feeling they weren’t likely to be leaving without something, at the very least a goodly portion of your hide.”

Mal smiled slightly. “Can’t really say, Sheriff.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Dan, I think you scared ‘em off before they could do anything. Besides, Chester told ‘em to leave us alone.” This time, he added mentally.

“Hmmn.” It was obvious Dan didn’t believe a word of it. “Well, we’d better be getting back to town. Unless you have some yen to spend the night out here.”

“No, no, that’ll be fine.”

Simon draped his gunbelt over his shoulder. “What about the horses?” he asked. “The Laus were right - we can’t exactly leave them.”

“We could load them into Serenity,” Mal considered. “It wouldn’t be the first time, and it’s a short trip.”

“And they ain’t never been on a ship before,” Dan pointed out. “They’d probably kick you to pieces, let alone what other little gifts they’d leave. Could be a hell of a mess to clean up.”

“That wouldn’t matter. That’s what I’ve got Jayne for.”

Dan snorted a laugh back into his chest, but shook his head. “No, I’ll take ‘em back. Give you a chance to decide whether to tell me the truth or not.”

“What makes you think I haven’t?”

“Call it a lawman’s instinct. And it‘s shouting right now that you ain‘t telling me everything.”

“Dan.” Freya linked her arm through his. “If we did that, it would take a very long time, and we’d probably have to kill you afterwards.” She smiled sweetly at him.

He glared at her, but finally had to chuckle. “Oh, you women are all the same. No wonder Deirdra runs me ragged.” He disentangled himself. “I’ll ride the horses back. But we will be talking about this again.” He walked firmly away.

“Looking forward to it,” Freya called.

“Were you flirting with him?” Mal wanted to know, his brows drawn down suspiciously.

“Who, me?” She looked at him, all wide-eyed innocence, looking just like her daughter caught out in a misdemeanour. “I don’t know how to flirt.”

“Well, you’re giving a pretty damn good impression of it.”

She smiled, this time warmer and far more genuine. “Why would I flirt with him, Mal? When I have you.”

“Just you remember that.” He turned back to Zoe, and away from his wife’s amused gaze. “How did you know we were in trouble?” he asked.

“Bethie and Ethan. They picked it up.”

“Oh.” Mal shook his head. “They probably saved our lives, but -”

“They’re okay now,” Freya assured him, putting her arm around his, just like she’d done with the Sheriff, but pressing her body much closer. “They know we’re fine.”

“Well, that’s good.”

Zoe raised an eyebrow at them both. “And you’re really not hurt.”

“Not even a splinter,” Simon supplied as he went past them to go and check on his own wife and children.

“Huh.”

Mal grinned at his first mate. “What’s up, Zoe? It feel like the ‘verse is turned upside down because your captain isn’t having to have a bullet dug out of him?”

“Honestly, sir, I think it’s against nature.” She strode back inside, leaving him laughing.

to be continued


A.N.: This was going to be another cliffhanger, but I thought if I did that I might get lynched!

COMMENTS

Sunday, February 22, 2009 9:06 AM

KATESFRIEND


We don't really mind your cliffhangers, it's just that you do them a little too well, and leave us with an anxiety attack until the next posting. That results in adrenal fatigue and a hyperactive stress response, meaning tired and crabby until you post again. But other than that, we LOVE cliffhangers! Especially yours. Very glad Dan is not corpsified - yet. They gotta have new old friends to visit, don't they?

Sunday, February 22, 2009 4:28 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


I agree with Katesfriend. We don't dislike your cliffhangers, but it does give us a heartattack on ocassion! I am glad to see good old Dan will be around long after this is done. He is a great character to revisit in the future. I also like the way I hold my breath at each word I read. And the last few lines had me spitting out my coffee!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009 6:35 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


All I can say is the same. We love cliffhangers and they increase the sale of heartburn medicine.

I'm also sure that's not the last we'll see of the Laus and I'm sure that they'll get their just reward some day.

Monday, February 23, 2009 1:25 AM

AMDOBELL


While I am really happy that none of our heroes got corpsified by those Lau brothers it irks that they took the gold coins and got away with a nice little haul, AND still hold a grudge! It would be poetic justice if it turned out that the coins were fake. - Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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