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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal explains the election problem to the crew, while Ethan helps out with a different kind of answer. NEW CHAPTER (and apologies to my readers for the delay in uploading - family issues)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1765 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Would you mind telling us what the problem is?” Simon asked, sitting next to Kaylee at the big dining table, the rest of the crew ranged around. Only the children were absent, sitting in Bethie’s room playing quietly, although it was a fair bet the little girl was listening in to the conversation anyway. He looked up at Mal, standing at the head. “Particularly since we haven’t even set foot off the ship yet.”
“Name, number and pack drill,” River murmured, and Jayne took her hand, squeezing gently.
“It’s election time,” Hank explained quickly.
“So?” Simon hadn’t heard his sister.
“Didn’t you ever vote?” Mal asked, crossing his arms.
“Of course. Always. Although I think it was only twice, before I tried to find River.”
“Tap you on the shoulder, tell you where to sign,” River singsonged.
Her brother glanced at her. “Are you okay, mei-mei?”
“Try to run away, it’s the end of the line.”
Simon went to rise. “Maybe I should go and get -”
“It ain’t nothing for you to worry about,” Jayne rumbled. “Just a bad day. She ain’t gonna go crazy and kill everyone. Well, no crazier than she already is.”
River looked at him gratefully, aware right now that most of the words she wanted to say would come out jumbled, full of other meanings, and that just occasionally it still unsettled the rest of the crew. Knowing that her husband understood and could talk for her made it easier to accept, and, in accepting, the disorder in her mind would ease quicker.
“If you’re sure …” Simon wasn’t quite convinced. It might have been a good long while since he’d medicated River, but he was still a doctor, and she was still his sister, and sometimes he felt he should be able to do something.
“Yep, I’m sure.” It was clear in his tone that he wasn’t going to let anyone stick his wife with needles, not unless it was entirely necessary. And even then he’d make a fuss about it, and everyone knew his kind of fuss tended to end up with other folks needing Simon’s skills, awkward if it was the good doctor himself who was the one lying bleeding on the medbed.
“Okay.” Simon settled back down, and felt Kaylee tangle her fingers in his.
“Just for that you get a go with the feather and the strawberry powder,” she whispered in his ear, so proud of her man for being able to acknowledge Jayne’s rights as husband and father, even though it was something he still found difficult.
Mal raised one eyebrow. “As fun as this is to watch, it ain’t exactly solving our problem.”
Simon coughed and turned back, looking up expectantly. “Elections. Yes.”
“You know voting is supposed to mandatory.”
“Of course.” He shrugged slightly. “I remember back at MedAcad we used to discuss the various candidates, who we thought would be the best man for the job, then we’d all go to the voting station together. It was quite a party.” He brought his mind back from the past. “But out here, I wouldn’t have thought -”
“And you’d be right,” Mal interrupted. “Most places, ‘specially those as didn’t support Unification, don’t exactly play to policy. I guess we’ve been lucky, and never had to make planetfall around that time, and for the most part made pretty damn sure we didn’t, but it looks like our luck just ran out.”
“Jericho’s a stickler for the rules,” Hank added. “Most planets are more lenient over the regulations, and don’t make you vote if you’re not a resident, but this place … if you even touch the dirt in the week before the election, they make you stay and make you vote, whether you want to or not.”
“Then I don’t see the problem. We vote. Admittedly we’ll know nothing about the candidates, but I doubt we’d affect the results that much.”
“It’s not as easy as that.” Freya leaned forward.
“Oh? Why not?”
“Because they check our IDent cards at the voting office. And if you don’t have one, they check your fingerprints, retinal scan, DNA.”
“What my wife is trying to say,” Mal added, “is that you and River are still tagged as fugitives. Those warrants may be old, but a place like this … they’d lock you up before you could wink and put a call into the Alliance.”
Simon felt a frisson of fear run down his spine. “Then we hide. It’s only for a few days. If River and I don’t leave, aren’t seen by anyone outside the ship, then we should be fine. As soon as we’re … what? What is it?” He’d seen the look Hank and the captain had exchanged.
“Doc, I love how innocent you are,” the pilot said, shaking his head. “They’ll’ve scanned us by now, probably the moment we touched down. They know exactly how many people are on board, down to the little one that isn‘t even born yet.”
Simon could see Kaylee wrapping her arms around her belly even as the fear turned to ice. “So what do we do?” he asked.
“We make a plan,” Mal said. He looked at his mechanic. “Mei-mei, how long to put that part in once we get it?”
“Not long. Maybe a coupla hours. But that’s just to do the replacement. There’s a whole load of other adjustments needed, since we been flying on the primary, and that’s gonna take a lot longer.” She sighed heavily, adding regretfully, “And I ain’t yet figured a way to lift a landlock.”
“So running ain’t an option.”
“Not your fault.”
“Yes, it is.” She sniffed. “This is all my fault.” Her voice had dropped to a whisper. “If’n I’d been paying attention more, if I hadn’t been fooling around with stuff, this wouldn’t’ve happened.”
“Now you know that ain’t the truth,” Mal said. “I asked you to.”
Hank raised his eyebrows at his wife in query, but she shook her head. No-one else seemed to know what this particular conversation was about. Except perhaps two particular Readers.
Kaylee wasn’t surprised that Freya had told Mal what had happened, but she was surprised that he didn‘t appear to be angry. “Yeah, but everyone kept telling me I should be taking more care. And I didn’t listen.”
“No, you didn’t. But it ain’t something we can go back and change, so we live with it and move on.” His blue eyes were gentle. “Kaylee, we’ll figure a way round this.”
She nodded, even though she didn’t feel particularly reassured. All she could see at the moment, in her mind’s eye, was Simon being hauled on board an Alliance ship and taken away from her, just as she went into labour.
“Won’t happen,” River said softly. “Won’t let it.”
Kaylee lifted her eyes to her sister-in-law, seeing the certainty on her face.
“Maybe we should just go take over Port Control,” Jayne suggested. “Kaylee gets her part, then we go in, all guns blazing, make ‘em lift the lock.”
Zoe gazed at him. “And then what? Every Alliance ship within a parsec would be looking for us.”
“Us?” he scoffed. “Ain't they got better things to do?”
“Not during the elections.”
“Besides, it wouldn’t work,” Hank said. “You wouldn’t get within ten feet of Port Control, not armed.”
“Because they’d arrest you. Or maybe just shoot you.”
“Why?” The big man was suddenly on the defensive, fingering the gunbelt around his waist.
“There’s a blanket order of no weapons allowed this week. Not a one. Not even a knife.”
Jayne looked stricken. “I can’t go out there without some kinda –”
“If it’s a choice between walking free and getting bound, yes, you can.” Mal was adamant. “No guns, knives or other implements of mayhem.”
“Not even –“
“Not even. Whatever it was you were about to suggest.” Mal looked at the man’s broad chest. “Jayne, there’s enough of you to intimidate anyone, as you well know. And those fists of yours can do enough damage to stop a small army.”
“But I don’t get why I can’t carry Betsey.”
Zoe spoke, her gaze not moving from the big ex-merc. “Because they’re in the middle of an election. And Jericho Wells is very particular about weaponry around this time. After the incident.” At Mal’s raised eyebrow she went on, “Hank did some checking while you were calling everyone together.”
Hank nodded. “Apparently a few years ago there was a local election, and someone didn’t like the result, and they shot the newly elected dog catcher. Caused something of a riot. So they just don’t let you carry at the moment.”
“I'm gonna feel naked,” Jayne grumbled.
“Then stay onboard. We don’t want to be having to rescue you too,” Mal said firmly.
“Ain’t like I was gonna shoot anyone or nothing.”
“Yeah, sure, fine. I’ll … I’ll be good,” he said with as much sullenness as he could manage.
Mal knew he was contemplating which of the smaller guns he could hide about his person, but decided he was better off not asking. “Fine. Then we need to –“
“Uncle Mal?” All eyes turned to Bethie standing in the far doorway, her hands clasped tightly behind her back.
“Ain’t you supposed to be downstairs looking after the rest of the kids?” Mal asked.
The little girl shrugged. “There’s someone outside, and they want to speak to you.”
Mal and Freya exchanged a glance, and she opened her mind a little.
“Bethie’s right,” she said. “And he’s got a list.”
Mal pulled the outer airlock door open, letting in the fresh air of Jericho. For a moment he wondered how they’d managed to get the dock air to taste so sweet, since the scent of most ports was a mixture of fuel, metal and body odour, combined with a thousand other perfumes, each worse that the last, but his contemplation was put on the back burner at the sight of the man in front of him.
Smallish, maybe five foot and a half, his suit was steel grey with knife-edged pleats down the pants. The shirt showing above the collarless jacket was so white it was almost blinding, and obviously freshly laundered, buttoned up to the neck. His head, almost completely devoid of hair, shone in the sunlight, and he had a look on his face that said exactly what he was.
Official. Bureaucrat. A speck of grit in the wheels of liberty.
He even had a clipboard.
“Morning,” Mal said, putting on the slow smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“It’s 12:37,” the man said, consulting his watch.
“Then … afternoon.”
“My name is Jennings. I work for the election office here on Jericho and I will be taking a census of the people on board this vessel.” He glanced down at his clipboard. “And you are?”
“Captain Malcolm Reynolds. This is my boat, bought and paid for.”
Jennings made a notation against one of the boxes. “Our scans indicate you have eight adults on board, as well as six children. Is that correct?”
“Well, six and a half, seeing as my mechanic is about to drop another pup.” He watched the man make a meticulous note.
“Is that likely to happen whilst you are in port?”
“And their names?”
“Well, we got me, my wife Freya, then there’s my pilot Hank Mills and his wife Zoe, then -”
Mal did as he was asked, Jennings writing the names in precise, exceptionally legible script. “Then we’ve got my medic, name of Simon Frye and his wife Kaylee, and finally River Cobb and her husband Jayne.”
Jennings looked up, his pen pausing. “Jayne?”
“Long story. And I ain’t even sure I’ve heard it all.”
Jennings nodded, and annotated the page. “And what does he do?”
“And the children?”
Mal hitched his thumbs into his waistband. “Now, as far as I know, there ain’t a one of ‘em old enough to vote, so why do you need that information?”
“As I said, I’m taking the census. This information will be passed on to the relevant office on Osiris, and the population records updated.”
“Six kids. That’s all you need to know.”
Jennings opened his mouth to argue, but saw the look on Mal’s face. “Very well. I suppose that will do. For the moment.”
“We got a dog and a cat too, and the odd spider or three, considering the cobwebs I’ve seen around. You need to know about them as well?”
“I am only doing my job, Captain Reynolds.”
“And I’m sure you do it real well.”
“I will, of course, need to see the adults’ IDent cards.”
“I’ll make sure they have them when we go to vote.”
“No. I mean now.”
Mal’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t ever recall being asked to produce them beforehand.”
“It’s how we do things here on Jericho.”
Mal wondered just how long it was going to take to get heartily sick and tired of the phrase ‘here on Jericho’. Probably not long. “Well, Mr Jennings, that might take us a while. Seeing as truth to tell I'm not sure where mine is, and I know Frey’s just as bad at keeping things in one place, so … how about you say you saw them, and we just show ‘em at the election booth like we planned?”
Jennings shook his head. “That isn’t possible. I have to see them before you can leave your ship.” He waved the clipboard. “I need to make a note of the numbers.”
“So we can confirm who you say you are on the day of the election.” He sighed, as if the weight of Jericho was on his shoulders, and his alone. “You’d be amazed at the number of people who try and get away with claiming they’re someone they’re not.”
“Oh, yes. And the full weight of the law is brought down upon them.” He made it sound like a sermon. “Nothing will be done unless you try and leave Jericho Wells, but I do need to see them.”
“Shiny.” Mal took a deep breath. “Well, it’s a nice day, so you can take the weight off your feet while me and mine see if we can’t find those cards.” He stepped back inside. “Don’t you be going anywhere.” The door closed with a loud metallic thud, and he turned to look on his crew. “Yeah, that went well.”
“Now what?” Simon asked, holding up his IDent. “This card might look okay, but if he runs the number …”
“Dillon paid good cashey-money for that, Doc,” Mal assured him. “That and your sister’s. They’ll pass first view, don’t you worry.”
“I just think it’s nice you wanted your last name to be Frye,” Kaylee said, leaning against him. “Even though I’ve always loved being Mrs Dr Tam.”
“I didn’t want it to be Mara. Not anymore.” He patted her hand. “But I’ll always be Simon Tam for you.”
“S’real nice.” Her eyes promised more than just the feather.
“Simon’s right, though,” Freya put in. “I wouldn’t put it past Jennings out there to run all our numbers, just because he can.”
“And even if he don’t, we’re still deep in it when it comes to voting day,” Jayne said. “And I ain’t letting anything happen to River.”
“I’m not letting anything happen to anyone,” Mal avowed.
“But I still got to get to that yard,” Kaylee said. “If I don’t get that part, this is something of a useless conversation, don’t you think?”
Zoe nodded. “Then we have to think of a plan.” She turned to look at Mal. “Sir?”
“I'm pondering.” Mal felt a tugging at his pants leg, and looked down.
Somehow Ethan had managed to sneak up on them from the cluster of children in the entrance to the common area, and now he was gazing at his father. “Daddy, I want to help.”
Mal reached down and picked up his son, settling him onto his hip and wondering at the back of his mind how much longer he was going to be able to do that, considering how fast the little boy was growing. “Not at all sure you can,” he said, looking into familiar blue eyes.
“You know what’s going on?” Mal asked, not angry, just resigned.
“Bethie was peeking,” Ethan admitted. “She told,” he added in a stage whisper so loud that the little girl bridled with indignation at being ratted out.
The corner of Mal’s mouth twitched. “That young lady should know better.”
“But I want to help.”
“Sir.” Zoe stepped closer. “I think I have an idea.”
The ramp lowered, and for one moment Mal felt the hope leap within him that maybe Jennings had got fed up and gone away, but the officious little man appeared around the corner of the Firefly.
“Did you know your mandatory registration markings are almost illegible?” Jennings said, pointing upwards with his pen.
“Really. Have to do something about that,” Mal said, stepping down onto Jericho soil. He held out his IDent card. “Here you go.”
Jennings almost smiled, taking the card and running it through the small reader attached to his clipboard. “Thank you, Captain.” He handed it back. “And the others?”
“Found it!” Hank shouted from inside, jogging down the ramp. “It was under my manuscript.” He waved it in the air. “I’ve been writing this tome for a long while now,” he explained to Jennings. “And it won’t be long before this says ‘Best Selling Author’ rather than pilot. Of course, I’ll still fly just to keep my hand in, but it’ll be my boat, not someone else’s.”
Jennings reached for the card but it was jerked out of his fingers.
“Or maybe I’ll buy this one,” Hank went on. “She’s a good old crate, and it’d only take someone spending some credits on her to make her even better.” He ignored the look he was getting from Mal.
“Mr …” Jennings consulted his board. “… Mills? Can I have your card, please?”
Hank opened his eyes wider, as if surprised he was still holding it. “Oh, sorry.” He let the little man take it.
“And she ain’t a crate,” Kaylee added, waddling outside and thumping him on the arm. “She’s Serenity.”
“I know, I know!” He rubbed his bicep. “Do you have to get quite so physical?”
“Yes.” She smiled at Jennings. “I'm Kaylee, and here’s my card.” She held it under his nose.
“Just a moment.” The man looked like he was about to drop things.
“And mine.” Zoe strode down the ramp, her own card held out. “Although I still don’t see why you need to check them now.” She tossed it onto the clipboard.
“Please, please, one at a time!” Jennings implored. “And as I was explaining to your husband, we –“
“You were?” Hank asked. “Did you explain something to me?”
“No. To him.” Jennings pointed at Mal and looked flustered. “Aren’t you Mrs Reynolds?” he asked Zoe.
“Me? Marry him?” Zoe chuckled. “Not if my life depended on it.”
“And I kept you alive all these years,” Mal said, shaking his head.
“I thought it was the other way around, sir.”
“I'm Mrs Reynolds.” Freya stepped out into the sunshine, with River, Simon and Jayne at her back. “And I don’t think I’d wish Mal on anyone else.”
“That hurts, you know that, don’t you?” Mal said.
“Going to play, Daddy!” Ethan yelled, darting out between them and pounding along the road, his little legs almost a blur.
“Ethan!” Mal yelled. “You get back here right now!” But his son took no notice.
“We’ll get him, Mal,” Jayne said, and starting to run, River at his heels, Simon keeping pace.
“Kaylee, stay here,” Freya ordered, her feet already moving. “If he comes back, keep a hold of him.” She followed the others.
“Hank, go the other way, I’ll make sure he doesn’t double back on us,” Zoe said, heading around the side of the Firefly.
“Got it.” The pilot was off, kicking up tiny puffs of dust.
“Gorramit,” Mal muttered, almost to himself. “The last time he did this it was suppertime before we found him, and that was only because he was getting hungry.” He picked up the cards from Jennings’ clipboard. “Look, I have to go help. He’s my kid, after all, least according to his mother. You just say you checked, and we’re all fine and who we say we are. It’s not like we’re going any place, are we? What with the landlock, ‘n’ all.”
“Well, I don’t know …”
“And you wouldn’t wanna have to let your superiors at the election office know you didn’t manage to catch us all before we left the ship, do you?”
“No, I suppose I –“
Mal pressed home his advantage. “It’s only a few days, then we’ll be voting anyway, like the good Alliance citizens we are.” He had to hold back the bile on saying the words, but managed to sound helpful and honest instead. He gave Jennings a gentle push in the small of his back. “We won’t say anything.”
Jennings looked agonised, but to his credit managed to pull himself together quickly. He put the top back on his pen and thrust it into his jacket pocket. “Captain Reynolds, you and your crew are required to present yourselves at the election booth on June 1st between the hours of 6.00 am and 11.00 pm, with all relevant documentation, in order to cast your vote. If you do not, you will be held accountable by law.”
“Oh, we’ll be there. Nothing my crew likes better than to show what they really feel about the Alliance.”
For a moment Jennings paused, as if Mal’s words and his meaning weren't quite the same, then he nodded. “Good.” Taking a flyer from the board he held it out. “The candidates. You are at liberty to attend any of the meetings being held in the next few days, subject to all the rules and regulations appertaining thereto.” Holding his clipboard in front of him like a shield he nodded first to Mal, then to Kaylee. “Sir. Ma’am.” He marched off, his head high.
Kaylee waited until he was out of sight before exhaling loudly. “Can’t believe we got away with that, Cap’n,” she said, fanning her face.
Immediately Mal was next to her, helping her to sit down on the edge of the ramp. “Truth to tell, I can’t quite believe it my own self,” he admitted. “But Ethan surely made it work.”
She grinned. “He just wants to be a pirate like his old man,” she said.
“Hey, less of the old, xiao mei-mei.” He lowered himself next to her. “Now we just gotta figure out how to keep it working.”
They sat in silence for a few seconds before Kaylee said, “You think they’re gonna be back any time soon? Only I gotta get to the yard, see about that part.”
They were quiet for maybe half a minute more.
“I guess Ethan’s just having too much fun leading them a merry chase.”
“Yeah,” she said, laughing quietly. “Just like his dad.”
to be continued
Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:23 AM
Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:47 AM
Sunday, April 26, 2009 7:55 AM
Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:32 PM
Sunday, April 26, 2009 4:41 PM
Monday, April 27, 2009 8:03 AM
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