Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - SUSPENSE
Kaylee starts to work her way through the security system protecting the prototype engine, but Wash and Zoe find out that another crew is getting ready to move in on the prize!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 809 RATING: 8 SERIES: FIREFLY
Kaylee woke up very early, with the twilight just starting to brighten outside the windows, and she was feeling restless. Part of it was excitement - very late the last night, after Simon had gone to bed, she'd found something that they might just be able to use against the security systems... the old simulations trick. In order to be sure that his own personal security staff was at top readiness, Bentley insisted on regular scenario drilling, and as part of that, the monitors could show constructed footage that had been provided by the makers of an expansion software pack, integrated with what the security cameras were really picking up at the time.
No drill had been scheduled for the duration of the conference, for obvious reasons. But Kaylee had found the expansion program, had managed to bypass the moderately strong security precautions against triggering it without authorization, (with the help of a little code decryption doohickey that she'd actually got from Niska's people before they realized what a sick little cat he was,) and explored some of its potentialities. What's more, she'd managed to figure out that the Alliance people were deeply enough into the same surveillance network that whatever fakes she fed in, they would see them too. If a massive distraction could help them with the heist, (and seriously, when would it not?) then that she could provide.
She'd sent the word to Mal, Inara, and Serenity about what she'd found, asking about when and how they thought it could best be put to use, and hadn't gotten any reply back in an hour, before going to sleep herself. That had been - only around five hours ago, but she didn't feel like she could stay in bed for any longer, so she got out of the bed and headed over to the cortex interface directly. About halfway there, she just made out a quiet moan or sigh from the direction of the living room.
That simple sound, hardly anything above the background noise of the sleeping giant mansion, managed to electrify her nonetheless, simply because she knew that it came from Simon. Why did things still work like that? He'd made it clear, in so many little ways, that they should only be partners for as long as this job lasted - and heist partners didn't in general have to stop and shiver every time they heard each other breathe. (It would make sense in some situations to signal the other person that THEY should stop when you heard them breathing, until they calmed down, because nobody else should be overhearing the breathing of a thief. But that didn't apply here, certainly.)
Of course, she should just carry on to the cortex, or maybe go to the bathroom. Both of those courses of action would be much better than opening the living room door and taking a peek, for certain. Especially if the reason that Simon had moaned was because he was waking up or awake, the fact that she was checking on him could get awkward, and even if he was still asleep and never knew that she was watching him, it wasn't really a healthy thing for her to be doing.
Nevertheless, she couldn't resist opening the door. Simon was asleep, although he did seem to be stirring, or at least turning about a little. She *was* able to keep herself from watching him for long, and made it to the Cortex screen quickly enough. There were two messages waiting.
Copy to: Serenity
Good work. Inara got a look at the security central this afternoon, so maybe the two of you should meet up privately to compare impressions if we can find a way to arrange that without being too suspicious. I've managed to acquire some details on the schedules for the laboratories, (attached,) that Simon can review, and answer the questions that I tagged in green highlighter.
I know that the progress feels slow, but we do have some time. Steady on.
To: Kaylee, Mal
Copying okay here. Remember to call in advance of when the job is going to go down, so that we can... get down to the surface, and be ready to pick you up. Best of luck, Wash.
Kaylee looked up, expecting Simon to be at the living room door. (A bare-chested Simon, somehow, though she wasn't quite sure how she'd gotten to that one, considering that she'd just seen him wearing a pyjama shirt. Maybe she'd just *hoped* that he'd take it off.) But there was nobody in the room with her. Had she heard something from the corridor outside? That was a bit worrying actually - if the soundproofing wasn't too good one way in the room, did that mean that they could have been overheard as well??
There it was again, and sounded much more like a crazed parrot than Simon, or anybody else she'd expect to be in the corridor outside. Where was it? "I... I'm doing fine," she said out loud, feeling very stupid, "but kind of confused. Where are you?"
Kaylee only just restrained herself from screaming on the grounds that it would wake Simon, and she'd feel very foolish for having disturbed him when the whole thing got sorted out. On nothing more than this blind frustration she closed the message windows - and saw an annoying little cartoon face that once again asked her "whazup?" in an annoying voice. Some sort of a Cortex pop-under? How had it gotten to her terminal, when all she'd done was access the secure messages? Had the spambots managed to compromise the Maren's cortex source?
More importantly, how could she shut the darn thing up? Just clicking on a spam-ware pop-under could give it a handle to invade the rest of your screen, and the usual zappers that she'd pre-installed back on Serenity weren't available here. She could probably manage to get a zapper off of the Cortex, but there had to be a different way to do it, a bit more simply - think, what was it? Oh, right - start with the running jobs list, do an 'identify by icon', and -- yes. That was the job ID; now kill it, for sure. Not quite as impressive as using a virtual handgun to shoot the annoying face and watch it sort of die, but it had vanished, and that was the important thing.
"Thank you." She spun around, and this time it actually WAS Simon. No bare chest, but heck - she should probably be glad for that much. "Did you do anything to tempt fate, or did he just creep in anyway?"
"Off the secure link with - our friends," Kaylee said softly. "Not a big deal. If Wash and Zoe are getting the same thing, then maybe they can root it out - or the Marens."
"Do you want the Privacy first today?" she asked him. "Or... Mal sent you some schedule stuff to look at."
"I'd probably better shower beforehand, so that I'm awake," he told her. "Thanks. And - it might be adding insult just to say this, but... I miss the give and take of our friendship, ever since - the big incident. It might be asking for a lot, to get back to that and ignore the hippopotamus lying between us, but... I want to try if you can."
Something about this request completely melted Kaylee's heart in an affectionate and friendly way, but still she wasn't sure. "Isn't there a way to lure the hippo into the next room, or at least the corner?"
"Food maybe. Hippos are usually hungry," Simon said offhandedly, and laughed quietly. And then he turned to go to the bathroom - yes, stripping off his shirt as he went. The bare chest was pointed away from Kaylee, but what she saw of his back muscles was nearly as impressive. How was Simon in such good shape, considering that he never seemed to pump iron like Jayne did, or even do that much that was good exercise?
As the shower ran in the Privacy, Kaylee was too distracted to gather clothes or consider her hair, so she opened up a secure file and started to consider weak points in the heist plan so far. With the security system addressed, at least partially, and Mal working the schedule for a good time, there was still the question of getting enough people to the South wing to carry the engine out of the mansion itself, and then getting it out. Based on what little Simon had told her of the location of the laboratory where he'd done work yesterday, it would be much easier to go to an exterior exit in the south wing - maybe just one staircase down and around eighty feet, compared to getting back into the Main house. Once they were out there, they'd need to get it to the shuttle, though - no, fly the shuttle around the building to make the rendezvous...
"All yours," Simon volunteered, and she looked up. Yeah, bare chest; why did it affect her so much? Definitely nice... definition, but... she shook her head, got up without even closing the file, and rushed for the Privacy door herself, starting the shower spray going again as quickly as possible.
"Charles, wake up."
"Jayne." The word was a fierce whisper that managed to get Jayne Cobb to shake himself to more awareness of his surroundings. He - he was sitting at the kitchen table, with the video player lying there in front of him, inches away from his hand.
"Oh, Gorram it." He looked up, and Book's face dialled into focus. "Did - did you check on the Marens?"
"Um, no, I wanted to see if I could wake you first. Just a moment," the Shepherd said, and walked quietly away. Jayne immediately fumbled for his gun, though he wasn't quite sure how likely any situation where he would be forced to use it immediately could possibly be. He blinked furiously, not letting his eyes close for long, as Book made his way to the master bedroom door, quietly opened it, and crept inside. After a pause, he emerged again on the balls of his feet, swung the door back closed, and returned to the kitchen. "Yes, both in the bed, and both asleep. I even verified that they were real people instead of pillows under the covers or some trick like that. Didn't get a facial ID from Rickard, but it seems unlikely that he would have managed to find somebody else to take his place all the way out here..."
"Yeah, yeah, okay," Jayne muttered. He still felt incredibly foolish about falling asleep on watch, but if himself and Book were unhurt, and the Marens had not escaped, there didn't seem to be any harm done or foul. And of anybody who might have caught him asleep at the switch, Derrial Book was the only one who would probably never tell the tale, or use it for his own advantage later. That was just the kind of kind, noble guy that he was. "I... I'm trying to figure out when I nodded off. Remember switching to a new program at around 0400 local time, because I was wondering if the battery would last for any longer..." It was 0525 now, according to the chrono readout on the electronic stove. "Not too bad I suppose. Hey, wait a second. I... I can't be sure, but I think that the little woman was in here."
"Miz Maren?" Book asked quietly, pulling up another chair at the table and sitting down.
"Yes. Juli. She... she was asking me about my past - or was that the night before?"
"Juli Maren was asking you about your true identity... the night before this night just past?" Book repeated.
"Yeah." Suddenly I realized something. "Yes, I shoulda mentioned that before now, but it didn't seem that important. Maybe I'm just remembering the same thing all over again..." He reached out to grab the video player, and then something else occurred to him. "Coffee. She fixed a mug of coffee for me to drink, and that WASN'T a full day and more ago."
"No mugs on the table," Book pointed out. Jayne shot him a nasty look. "I'm just saying. If you really did drink a mug of coffee, then it was cleared away. Might you have done that yourself?"
"I... I don't remember it. Mighta put it in the sink." Book got up again. "No, you don't really need to look for it."
"Yes, but... but I'm not sure. There seems to be a minor mystery. Perhaps the answer is nothing more than you slipping off to sleep early at the end of your third night watch, but, if there's anything else going on here, I would want to know, wouldn't you?" Jayne shrugged his acceptance, and Book inspected the sink area. "No mugs in the sink, but these two were propped up among the other items drying in the drain rack. Do they look familiar?" He held up two brightly patterned cups.
"Yeah, umm... I was using the one with the Reaver design on it, though that did seem odd even to me." Book chuckled at the way Jayne had put that. "And - and Juli was taking something from the woodland scene. Not tea - hot sweet lemon or something?"
"Interesting," Book admitted. "It would seem that she made a point of cleaning up after you nodded off, then. Perhaps we should ask her about her midnight visit."
"Why?" Jayne asked. "Don't - don't bring it up in front of her husband. Rickard ain't the possessive type, but still, he might take this amiss."
"Wouldn't you want to know, if you were in his place, Jayne?" Book asked softly. "If Juli was your wife?"
"Hahahe." The laugh emerged from Jayne automatically. "Well, maybe I would at that, but that doesn't mean that I'd have a right to know, if she weren't crossing the line. Listen, we can talk to her, as long as Rickard's otherwise occupied, and as long as I'm there." He yawned. "Which probably means not right away, if that's alright."
"By all means, get you to your bed," Book said, but as Jayne got up, he suddenly reached out and took Jayne's fingers in his, and looked deeply into the other man's eyes with slightly less than the usual affection, and a serious, probing gaze.
"What, what is it?"
"Just - just trying to see if I could recognize the signs of anything that might have helped put you to sleep," Book whispered. "From in the coffee."
"Huh? Coffee doesn't put you to sleep, it's got caffeine in it," Jayne muttered.
"Ordinarily that is true, yes."
"You - you think that she mighta slipped something in the coffee to make me drift off?" Jayne asked him, still confused, keeping his voice down. "But - but why? If she wasn't doing it to - to get the jump on us, or sneak away..." Something else occurred to him. "She coulda used the Cortex link to call for help, call the local Feds or police force. We didn't get it locked out from them."
"No, I suppose that's true," Book said, frowning slightly. "But that would be to turn this situation from something like having unexpected strange guests over for several days, into an armed hostage situation - with Juli herself in the role of one of the hostages. I'm not sure that would make sense in her mind. If she really did want to be rid of us, then trying to leave in the middle of the night would seem much more sensible."
"Except that she knows I'm an excellent tracker," Jayne put in.
"She does, does she?" That probing look was in Book's face again.
"Well, I hinted at it, at least... she wanted to hear stories, and I didn't exactly tell her the truth, but..."
"I see," Book told him. "Well, I may not be able to find traces of Cortex activity if either of the Marens wanted to cover themselves, but I shall make the attempt. And something else has occurred to me."
"What's that?" Jayne asked.
"If Juli Maren wanted to find out more details of your background, on the basis of a personal curiosity, then maybe what she put into your coffee was just to make you more compliant in that respect, and sleep was an unintended side effect."
Jayne considered that. "Yeah, maybe you're right. Shoulda been more careful and not taken the drink that she was offering me, perhaps?"
"Maybe. But it doesn't look like this will imperil the mission. If she went to such lengths to find out this information, somehow I suspect that she might not give it up to Alliance investigators so easily." There was a moment's silence. "Go to bed, Jayne."
Once Jayne was in the guest room, Book considered for a few minutes, and then put on some porridge to cook and water for tea. He'd let the Marens wake up and come to him on their own schedule.
Mal watched closely on the closed-circuit monitors as Simon and eight other researchers started to 'put the lab to bed' for the day. Soon they would be coming back through the South wing, and he wanted to check on something. The last time this had happened, apparently, those watching had been able to follow their return nearly all the way back, jumping from camera to camera. Mal hadn't been watching, but had been told this much by one of the other 'observers' in the intermission of some dreadfully boring live music performance -- dozens of fiddles without spirit to them, and funny wind-tootlers, and so on.
But if he could match the route to the blueprints that Inara had gotten a hold of, and identify exactly where the lab was, then not only would he know where they'd have to go to grab the engine, but he'd be able to figure out the route outside, and guess if he and Simon, working together, could carry the thing that far. Let's see, ah, yes, there the first of them go, out the door, and to the left, then...
It was hard to reconstruct a bunch of glimpses from different cameras on different screens into a single route, but Mal had had a guess of where they might have been starting from, and what he was likely to see at each step, so he was pretty satisfied with the results at the end. Once Simon had made his way back through the security checkpoint, Mal left the observation room, and set about trying to track down Inara. It would have been convenient if the little light pointers could home on each other, but that might also be frustrating. (Of course, they probably had computer tracking gizmos inside them, so when they didn't want security to know what they were up to, all of them would have to be prepared to leave them behind and make their own way through the mansion.)
When he finally caught up with Inara, he saw that she was part of a chatting crowd that also included Kaylee, and so he was reluctant to join in, just in case. So he grabbed a few simple things off a buffet table and headed back to his own suite. Simon had posted his observations about the laboratory layout and scheduling, so things were definitely starting to fall into place. Mal checked the blueprint files, and noted the laboratory location on them. Then he went a bit further into the Cortex, and found a message waiting from Book. He didn't start reading it until the annoying 'whazzup' face had appeared and Mal zapped it away with some satisfaction.
To: Mal, Kaylee, Serenity
I'm not sure how much concern this is, but there are some disturbing developments between Juli Maren and Jayne. Jayne's been pulling all-night watch duty, and the last two nights Juli got up in the middle of the night to speak with him, asking about his past and so on. First time, he assured me that he didn't reveal anything. Second time around, Juli apparently drugged his coffee, and he didn't seem to remember everything that happened very clearly. I believe that she might be infatuated with him, and unhappy with her marriage to Rickard.
Oh, great, Mal thought to himself. Why do the plans *never* go smooth? On impulse, he typed out a response, encouraging Book to take over the night watch shift himself, so that if Juli Maren wanted to interact with Jayne, she'd have to do it while her husband was awake as well. Then he logged off the cortex and lay down onto the bed to think for a moment.
Juli Maren had a thing for Jayne? She certainly wasn't his usual type - brilliant, pretty in a girl-next-door way, acid-tongued yet possessed of a certain sophistication. And no matter what Book had said about an unhappy marriage, Mal was also upset at the notion that their visit might prove to be the splitting wedge. How would Kaylee react when she read that, since she had some little tendency towards the starry-eyed romanticness, and it had really been her brainwave to start the whole thing? Not to mention, playing Juli's part here at the conference, she had probably been feeling some sympathy for the woman, but Kaylee did *not* feel that way about Jayne herself. Not since Simon had showed up, certainly...
Well, dwelling on this wasn't helping the mission, though. What could he do that *was* helpful? Not meeting with Inara, probably, or trying to find Simon... Perhaps he should just get an advance on his sleep, in case there was middle-of-the-night action anytime soon. Yeah, that was a notion. Of course, he'd need to relax a bit more before he could nod off. Maybe - did they have some of those sleeping pills that Juli Maren had sent along? Kaylee and Simon had taken most of them, for snoozing in that little gravity sled, but...
He managed to find one in Inara's bag, and swallowed it with water from the Privacy sink. Could hardly manage to stumble his way back to the bed before keeling over.
"Alright, this is looking promising," Inara said, smiling at Kaylee. "Not only can you introduce new visual elements, it looks like by recycling old footage, you can essentially blank us out from certain security cameras at certain times, so that as long as we stick to a travelling schedule they won't be able to see us moving or doing anything else."
"Yeah, that'll be key," Kaylee admitted. "Of course, it probably won't last too long before they figure out that something is wrong, but ideally they won't have too much time to sit and think. Sudden pandemonium is the effect we want to achieve."
"Alright." Inara got up from the chair that she'd been sitting in, next to Kaylee in front of the Cortex screen, and sat on the edge of the bed. "I... I realize that tempers flared somewhat the last time, but - would it be proper to inquire about a return to the topic of... of you and Simon being on this mission together? And, for that matter, myself and Mal."
Kaylee looked up, and her face flicked between a sad frown and a smile. "Oh, I'm really sorry for what I said, first off, 'Nara. You - you were just trying to warn me about the dangers of my own heart, and -- and I was so excited and keyed up for everything that I couldn't even bear to listen. You... you were right. Things between Simon and me have gotten turned upside down and halfway back again... and yes, I think that I could use your advice in figuring out what's what, and what I should be doing about it." She paused. "But - but if you're having trouble with Mal too, then maybe you should go first."
"I... I think that you might have the greater need," Inara allowed. "It's been a bit strange, sleeping next to him, and pretending to everybody that he's a client, which suggests that we're - well, you know. But, you know, I'm managing."
"Sounds like you were right after all, then," Kaylee said with a sigh. "And yet another example of my foolishness, that I thought you was transferring your own baggage onto me. Well, let's see. The ride over wasn't too bad, except for this weird dream that I had after I took the knockout pill. That - that I'd lost my memory, and woke up already at the conference for more than a week, and Simon and I had already... had sex, and that sort of thing. He told me that playing at being married had given our feelings a chance to express themselves. In the dream."
"Ahh, I see." Inara nodded. "They may say 'in hypnos, veritas,' but you probably don't need to ascribe more to a dream than a jumbled re-expression of the desires that you probably already knew that you had."
"Hypnos veritas?" Kaylee repeated.
"In sleep, there is truth," Inara translated. "Or something like that."
"Oh, okay. Yeah, but I guess I was thinking of the dream when... we were studying, getting ready for the first real day, and I kissed him. Woulda taken things even further, but - but he said that while the important mission was going on, we couldn't either of us get distracted by other stuff. I saw his point, but still - it was hard, hearing that, and I guess things got frosty for a day and a night - or two nights and a day, rather. This morning, he said that he missing having his good friend here with him and if we could get back to that. I said that I'd try - but we haven't really spent much time together since then."
"Hmm," Inara considered. "As you said, his point is a reasonable one, and focusing on the friendship aspect of your connection with him does seem like a reasonable strategy for proceeding. Remember that after being through something like this, he probably isn't going to remain blind to your intentions afterwards, so pressing the point is just counter-productive." Inara giggled softly. "And fantasy can be a great outlet for... for your untimely urges, if it's handled right."
"Mmm, huh?" Kaylee turned her seat around to face the bed directly. "How's that? Doesn't it just help you to dwell on whatever you're fantasizing about, so that you can't even get it out of your head when you need to?"
"Well, that's where it's important to do it right," Inara told her with a knowing smile. "You have to banish guilt entirely, embrace the moment completely when you're thinking about... Simon, and simply allow those thoughts to pass when you're actually working with him. There are a few meditation techniques that I can teach you to counterpoint the technique too."
"Hmm." Kaylee thought about it. "Okay, alright. Have you ever used this... technique, on someone who I might know?"
"Oh, more than one." Kaylee boggled slightly. "What, you think that the only one in the crew who I have erotic thoughts about could possibly be Mal? Wash, for instance, is *very* cute and obviously in possession of a talented set of hands. Obviously, I could never act on that, but no reason a girl can't dream."
"Huh." Kaylee sighed. "Alright, no time like the present. What do I do?"
"Why don't you lie down on the bed," Inara suggested, getting up. "And I don't think that I need to tell you how to get started with fantasizing."
"Umm, no, of course not. Do - do I have to tell you what I'm picturing?" Kaylee sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, as if ready to spring right back up again.
"No, not if you don't feel comfortable." So Kaylee spread out, on her back, closed her eyes, and almost instantly in her mind Simon was there with her, propped up on an elbow and watching her from the side. He brushed his fingers through her hair and across her cheek, then bent down and kissed her tenderly. Kaylee reached up, almost believing that she could feel the strength of his shoulder in her palm, and things proceeded quickly from there.
When Inara finally left Kaylee and Simon's suite, the arranged time for Simon to come by and pick her up for the evening buffet banquet had almost come, and Kaylee was taking advantage of the privacy to clean up and cover the tracks of what she had been doing while fantasizing. Inara checked the buffet banquet herself, but started to wonder what was up when she couldn't find Mal. She asked a few questions, found out that he'd been scarce ever since leaving the observation room that afternoon, and decided to try in their suite, to see if he was working on the Cortex.
He was and he wasn't, in that order. Inara was rather surprised to see Mal lying on his side of the bed, shoes and all clothes on. Carefully exploring the rest of the room, she noticed the container of sleeping caplets on the bathroom counter, and that set her mind somewhat at ease. Quietly she opened up the Cortex interface herself, with the sound turned all the way down in case the 'whazzup' face was lurking again, and caught up on all the messages that Mal must have read himself. She was rather curious what Mal had thought about the Jayne and Juli thing, but had to admit that she didn't feel too surprised herself.
And with that, something drew her back towards Mal. The things Kaylee had mentioned about having strange dreams after taking one of those sleeping capsule intrigued her, but she wasn't really interested in having any herself, even if this was a good time to go down for a nap. Still, there was something else that she was tempted to do, but couldn't quite tell what it was offhand, so she kept staring at Mal's face as she struggled to put it into focus.
So deeply asleep like this, Mal reminded Inara of that time when she'd found him after Saffron(/Bridget/Yolanda) had knocked him out with the goodnight kiss. She had been so relieved to know that he was alive and not seriously hurt that she'd kissed him herself, unwittingly got some of the knockout compound on her own lips, and more or less passed out. As far as Inara knew, Mal still hadn't figured out the exact sequence of events there, and she wasn't sure if he ever would work it out. But at this moment...
Knowing that it was safe, Inara bent down and once more kissed Mal's unresponsive lips, putting as much energy and feeling as she could into the contact under the circumstances. This time, she didn't grow woozy and faint herself, but after she had straightened up again, Mal did something that she hadn't expected and stirred, like the slumbering lovely wakened by a Prince Charming. (Or Princess, as the case might be.) "Umm... Inara. Hey."
"Hello, Mal. Good to see that you're not down for the night."
"Not so sure about that," he muttered. "Did... did you just kiss me good morning?"
Hoping that he wouldn't be seeing clearly enough to spot her broad grin, Inara replied, "No, of course not."
"Good. Glad that we got that cleared up. Keep on with whatever it was that you were doing, then," Mal muttered, and then rolled over onto his other side, facing away from her. Inara checked by circling around to that side of the room, behind the bed, and by then his eyes were closed again.
She didn't press her luck, but pulled out a pad and a pen from her suitcase and started drawing out ideas and possibly movements on a rough schematic of the house. It was hard to keep track of so many floors on any two-dimensional medium, though.
"Santiago calling Serenity!"
Wash groaned - he'd finally gotten a good hand, and now Zoe was going to insist that the deal should be scratched. But maybe just... he headed over to the intercom panel, wearing only his pants and undershorts, (the match of Strip Rummy having gotten to that point by now,) and pressed a series of buttons, hoping that the rest of the system had been arranged so that he could route the audio down through to here.
"Serenity here... is this Jorge?"
"Washburn! Yeah, hello man. Is Reynolds around?"
Wash shot one look at Zoe, (she was wearing a few more clothes than he was, which was why he had been looking forward to one deal going his way, when he could have doubled or tripled the stakes,) and she shrugged. "Sorry, Jorge, Mal's off, and I'm under strict instructions not to bother him with anything short of the destruction of a planet, preferably whichever one he's standing on, which I'm not inclined to tell you in case you could actually arrange the destruction." Jorge just laughed at Wash's ramble. "I can give you Zoe."
"As much as I'd normally love to hear those words, mi amigo, I think I'll stick with you for now because you amuse me so much, though I'm sure that your fine lady wife is standing nearby and listening. First off, you're not accomplishing much with us by stonewalling. I know that Mal took the job for the Baty engine, and if he's not on board the ship, I'm going to guess that he's already undercover at the conference. Now, for some reason, Badger has a confidence in Mal's performance and in his team. Because Mal said that he didn't want interference, Badger has called off every other crew from trying for the engine. But, you see, me and my people are independent contractors, the same as you, and I don't see any reason why we should take the warning. If we get that engine prototype, then Badger will deal with us, just the same as he'd deal with you. Badger might not want to get Reynolds angry by refusing to 'call off the troops', but for anybody not on Badger's own direct payroll, that's not an order with a lot of teeth in it. Do you get what I'm saying?"
"Umm... yes, actually I do understand what you're saying," Wash said, his mind racing. "But why are you calling us to talk about this decision that you've made? It doesn't sound like you're wanting to open a casual dialog about the matter."
"If you're fishing for a payoff to stay out of the deal, then you can talk to me, Jorge," Zoe put in. Frantically Wash cut a hand over his throat, but Zoe just nodded and smiled, her silent version of 'trust me; I know what I'm doing.' "I may not offer you what you want to be getting, but I think I'd be as generous as Mal would be."
Jorge laughed over the signal. "No, no Zoe, nothing like that. Just wanted to make sure that he got this message: I'm not going in there to declare war on his people. If he steers clear of what I'm trying to do, then none of you get hurt. Get in our way, and... Well, it would be a mad, terrible idea to be in our way. Get the picture?" And all of a sudden there was nothing but dead air.
"Okay, I've got a wild notion," Wash muttered, after he'd made sure that they weren't broadcasting anymore. "There's still something that hasn't fallen into place in the master plan, and I think that Jorge making his move just might be the element that they need. If that's it, we'll need to follow the 'Santiago' down into Bellerophon atmosphere fairly closely."
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing," Zoe agreed. "That's why I made a point to ask him that thing about a payoff - I didn't think he would want one, and I wasn't going to seriously offer him one, but it seemed like a good attempt to make him not realize we were barking down this trail. Better get on the Cortex and talk to Mal and Kaylee. If they don't check in in time, and Jorge starts making his move, we might need to use the pens to signal him."
"Right," Wash said, thinking it over. "I'll go up to the cockpit to see what they're doing. If Santiago could spot us, I can spot them too."
"Good boy," Zoe told him with a little smile. As Wash dressed, (the game nearly forgotten,) he saw River coming out of her room area and heading forward as well. Wouldn't hurt for her to be hanging around while he looked for the other ship. Maybe she'd even try to help out.
"You dance beautifully, Miz Maren," Simon whispered into Kaylee's ear as they moved together, arm in arm, across the floor.
"Oh, you haven't seen anything yet," she replied, but didn't elaborate much. They danced away in silence, and then Simon realized that the song was starting to wrap up.
"Let's go back to the table once this one's done," he suggested.
"Come on, I... I know that it isn't doing anything particularly helpful, but I love the dancing so much. One more number..."
"No, I've had enough. Please." Simon wasn't feeling that tired, in fact, he did sense himself being energized from moving to the music himself, but one particular example of that was mostly the problem. If Kaylee felt or otherwise noticed anything stirring in his pants, from holding her curvy body so close to him - it would ruin everything that they'd managed to sort out in terms of the friendship thing.
After a moment, Kaylee nodded, and she led the way back to the table when a new musical number began, a Latin tango sort of thing with a very passionate beat. "There you go, sweetie," Kaylee said, smiling broadly and helping him into his chair like he was some sort of an invalid. "Do you want me to grab you something more from the buffet table?"
The question was faintly overbearing, but he didn't actually mind having a little while to recover from Kaylee's presence before she sat next to him again, so he told her, "Yes, anything, whatever you think I'll like." She winked and headed off, leaving Simon to sit there and hope that if he looked fierce enough, nobody would come up and talk to him about anything. The tactic seemed to work, even when he closed his eyes for a moment.
"Okay, here you go." He looked up and saw - nothing, because Kaylee had just sat herself down next to him. There was a plate in front of him, with a pile of yellow corn kernels, a slab of bread easily two inches thick and liberally doused with a thick brown-green that had a greenish tinge and little chunks of various stuff in it. The glass of sparkling water that he'd been working on before the dancing was still mostly full.
"Well, first things first..." He took a forkful of the corn, which was great - just a nice touch of butter and salt in it. "Mmm. Now, what's the rest of this stuff?"
"Huh?" Kaylee leaned close, dropping her voice and showing off cleavage without looking like she was meaning to. "It's a slice of home-style bread with a hamburger, veggies, and gravy sauce. I thought you'd really like it."
"They really had this up at the buffet?" Simon asked, though he wasn't sure why he was making such a point. It wasn't like there was anywhere else that she'd have gotten it from.
"Well, yeah." Sure enough, Kaylee was starting to sound a little bit hurt. "It's all self-serve. You can slice your own bread from the loaf, nearly fresh out of the ovens, and then pick a sauce and ladle it on."
"Okay, okay," Simon said. "Umm - well okay, this sounds a bit strange, but I'm not sure how to eat it. It looks like it would be very sloppy if I picked the bread up in my hands and munched like an open-faced sandwich, but..."
"Well, no, that's just for the very adventurous, and probably not in such polite company," she assured him. "You can cut squares of the bread out with a knife and fork, eat them with the fork. Then work on the leftover sauce with a spoon" Simon tried this, following her example, because she had a similar slice of her own - and smiled in appreciation.
"Yeah, it's an interesting combination of flavours, but..."
"Yeah, what is it... Rickard?"
"What is it about the sauce that gives it that green tinge?"
"Hmm, I'm not sure," Kaylee admitted. "Maybe they mix pureed peas or green beans into it."
"Oh, yeah, okay."
After finishing those platefuls, and sharing a bit of small talk with a few people that Simon couldn't remember meeting, they walked hand in hand towards the double doors. Simon couldn't entirely shut out his awareness of the way Kaylee looked in a little black dress, something with a bit of slink to it as Zoe might have said, her hair tightly curled and flowing to her shoulders. Just as they were about to leave, there was a faint whistling sound in an unusual pitch pattern, something that Simon didn't really pay attention to until Kaylee whipped her head around, looking for the source of the noise, which got Simon curious too. She pushed through the crowd, a puzzled expression on her face, until they both caught sight of Mal and Inara, in a tight knot with a few other people.
Mal was gesturing emphatically, in fact he seemed to be acting out some kind of impromptu charade, but after he repeated a series of motions a few times, Kaylee nodded emphatically and started dragging Simon away again, towards the doors. "What, what is it?" he asked.
"I just can't wait for your touch, for your kisses," she said in a sort of loud stage voice. "Can't wait until we get back up to our room."
Oh, brother. But if she was doing this as a way of playing to the crowd, as it were, instead of for her own self, then he couldn't complain - it was 'on the job.' As soon as they were out of the ballroom, she pushed him up against the wall, started to delicately lick at his neck, and whispered. "What Mal was signing - it was a message for me, and for me to relay on to you."
"Oh, okay," he groaned back softly. "What does he have to say?"
"Plans change. Tonight. Cortex."
"Ohh." Simon considered. "Why couldn't this wait until we were back in the suite?"
"I wanted to let you know how serious I was," Kaylee said, leaning forward to plant a wet kiss onto his neck. "Let's go, now."
And he led the way up to their suite, wondering what would be waiting for them on the Cortex screen.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 2:34 PM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.