Jericho Wells - Part XXII
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Find out if River's shenanigans work, as the crew go to vote. NEW CHAPTER


Election day dawned, as days planetside will, to a fanfare of birdsong and the sound of people complaining as they made themselves ready for whatever was likely to come their way during the next twenty-four hours or so.

Up early, the crew of Serenity had a comparatively leisurely breakfast before congregating in the cargo bay, the sun still low enough that it threw long shadows behind them.

“Now, you be good,” Kaylee said to Bethie, pushing her hair back behind her ears.

“Yes, Momma.”

“’Cause I’m leaving you in charge, just while we’re gone.”

“Yes, Momma.”

“But that don’t mean you can wander off and do whatever you want.”

“No, Momma.”

“We won’t be long.”

“We’ll be good, Momma.” Bethie beamed at her, her hands behind her back, her fingers all crossed and knotted together.

“Mmn.” Kaylee looked up at Simon. “Maybe I should stay. ‘Til everyone gets back.”

He put his hand in the small of her back. “Sweetheart, the sooner we get this over with, the better. And Serenity will be locked up tight. No-one will be able to get in.”

“I know that, but after yesterday …” Kaylee gave her daughter a look that could only be described as piercing, and Bethie managed to look apologetic. Simon had, after all, filled them in on what had happened, since Zoe and Hank were bound to notice the bruising on Ben’s face. “Maybehaps we ought to take ‘em all with us.”

“Not happening,” Mal said, walking down the stairs from the top catwalk. “If something goes wrong, we can’t be having the kids to be thinking about rescuing too.”

“Then I’ll stay. Vote later.”

“That ain't gonna work either. We need you on the end of the line while we relieve Jericho Wells of their hard-earned cash.” He stepped down onto the deck. “’Sides, we might need all hands if things don’t go well,” he added.

River leaned on the railing outside her shuttle. “Things are going to go fine,” she said, an icy tone in her voice.

Mal looked up at her. “You keep saying that, albatross, but until we’re done and back …”

She looked down her nose at him. “It will work.”

“I’m sure it will. Just looking out for all contingencies.”

“Not for mine.”

“You talking back to your Captain?”

“Are you calling all of my careful and considerable calculations into question?”

“No,” he admitted. “Not you I’m particularly worried about. It’s other folk making a mess of things that distresses and concerns me.”

She smiled suddenly, her face young and bright. “That’s all right then.”

“He’s just winding you up,” Freya said, passing her husband by and heading for the sunshine outside.

“I know.” River ran lightly down the stairs to join her. “Fathers are allowed to do that to their daughters.”

Freya laughed and pulled the young woman into a hug. “I suppose they do.”

It was unusual for all of Serenity’s crew to be out at once, and Kaylee kept glancing back towards the ship as they headed for the Election Booths.

“They’ll be fine, mei-mei,” Mal assured her.

“I know.” She managed to smile for him. “Just my babies …”

“You think Frey ain’t keeping an eye on ‘em?” he asked, nodding towards his wife walking a short distance in front with Zoe and Hank. “If there’s even a hint of trouble she’ll be back to sort it out.”

“And me,” River added, sidling up to them both. “And Jayne. And Simon. And –”

“I get it,” Kaylee laughed. “Must be my hormones.”

“You give it another couple of weeks and you won’t be able to blame everything on them no more,” Mal pointed out.

Her chin raised. “Try me.”

He chuckled.

It didn’t take long to reach the booths, set up halfway between the docks and the centre of town. There was already a long queue of citizens waiting to cast their votes, and they joined the end.

“Any idea how long this is likely to take?” Kaylee asked in an aside to her sister-in-law.

River watched for a moment, then said, “Twenty-three minutes and fourteen seconds. Roughly.”

“Well, I ain’t standing.” With that the young mechanic opened out what everyone had taken to be a walking stick until it extended two arms at the top and three at the bottom.

“What the hell’s that when it’s at home?” Mal asked, one arm around Freya, the other hitched into his pocket.

“Well, I’m not planning on sitting on the sidewalk, so I brought this.” With a final flip the top two extenders magically produced webbing.

Simon grinned. “Is this what you were working on in the engine room last night?”

Kaylee nodded, her sunniness back to full blast. “You know how fiddling calms me down.” She ignored the snigger from Jayne and the swift elbow into his belly from his wife. “Seems it does the same for this little one too,” she added, running one hand over her belly.” She held up the contraption. “And now I get to sit wherever I want.”

“Here, let me.” Simon manoeuvred it under her, and she lowered her weight, gingerly at first, then with a wide grin as she felt the pressure ease on her back.

“Can I have one of those?” Hank asked.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she promised, even as Mal rolled his eyes.

Every so often the line would move forward, and Kaylee had to stand, with some assistance admittedly, then perch again at the new location.

“Wheels,” they heard the young mechanic mutter. “Gonna put on wheels.”

Finally they reached the front of the queue.

Mal straightened, letting go of Freya so his hands were free. “Okay, people,” he murmured. “Let’s stay sharp.”

For the last time Kaylee was helped to her feet, and she folded up her portable seat, holding it like a shield as they walked through the entrance, Freya first.

Simon, following her, swallowed, even as he heard his sister in his mind saying, Relax. I know what I’m doing.

“IDs ready, please,” a bored-looking young man said from his seat at the table.

“Of course.” Freya handed hers over, and everyone held their collective breath as the man slid it into the reader.

He glanced at the details on the screen, looking up just once to check the holoimage was accurate. “Booth seven,” he said, unable to control the jaded sigh in his voice. “Full instructions are on the door. If you are unable to read them, they will be read to you.”

Simon took a step forwards, holding out his own ID. “Here.”

There was a minor tension as the Election Booth officer double-checked the entry, staring first at the screen then at the young man. Just as Jayne was starting to fidget, his hand slipping towards the small of his back, ready to blast their way out...

“Fine.” The officer handed Simon’s ID back. “Booth eight. Full instructions are on the door. If you are unable to read them, they will be read to you.”

“Thanks.” Simon hurried away down towards the booth indicated.

Jayne stepped forward, holding out his own ID.

The officer took it, pushed it home, read the information off the screen and once again barely glanced at the big man to confirm. “Booth nine. Full instruction on the door. If you are unable to read them, they –”

“You suggesting I can’t read?” the ex-merc growled.

“No, I ... that wasn’t ...” The Election Booth officer was flustered, dragging his fingers back as if burnt when Jayne grabbed the ID from him and stalked away.

River, behind him, sighed. “Don’t mind him. He got out of bed the wrong side this morning.” She passed her ID across, and giggled. “Mine.”

The officer ran her details as quickly as he could, his cheeks burning as he considered this pale, waiflike woman in the arms of that mountain. “Booth ten. Full –”

“Yes, I got that.” She wafted away, her feet seeming to float above the floor, despite the serviceable boots she was wearing.

Waiting outside booth seven, Freya shook her head. “Stop annoying the man,” she said.

“Why? It’s fun.” River smiled sweetly and carried on her way.

Freya chuckled and went to vote, the door with its instructions closing with a click behind her, considering her surrogate daughter was a lot more like her surrogate father than was really healthy.

It was odd, and probably the crew would have had a good laugh about it if they’d thought to discuss it, but the manner in which they all voted said a lot about who they were.

River was very careful, having touched the minds of those listed, going through the candidates and matching them to the posts with clinical precision.

While not quite as pedantic, Freya did much the same, although she had kept her research to the Cortex information, only Reading them as a last resort.

Mal wasn’t anywhere near as methodical. He scanned the brief resumé beside each name, and if they even hinted at any kind of independence he flicked the switch to choose, or in one case because the guy was wearing brown.

Kaylee, on the other hand, went for the names she liked, trying them out on her tongue, rolling them around her mouth before making her selection.

Zoe, like Freya, had watched the Cortex infologs, and did the best she could, knowing that while they weren’t going to be staying on Jericho, the people as a whole deserved good representation, even if for the most part individually she wanted to kick them into the middle of next week.

Jayne chose randomly, seeing if he could complete his voting while holding his breath. He grinned as he pulled air into his lungs.

Simon would never know, and certainly didn’t do it while his face became congested, but he voted the same way as Jayne.

Hank tossed a coin.

The one thing they all had in common, though, was the seven checks against Zoe’s name. Only Zoe herself had voted for someone else. For Mercy.

Eventually they had all finished and congregated outside the exit.

“All done?” Mal asked, looking from one to the other. There were various nods, and comments of agreement. “Shiny.” He looked at his first mate. “Zo, you’ve got to get to the Town Hall, make sure you’re seen.”

“Yes, sir.”

He put his head slightly on one side. “Have to say, you don’t look quite so bad as before,” he commented.

“Thank you for the flattering words, sir.”

“I mean since you let Simon take the swelling down.”

She touched her face, her fingertips skirting the edge where the young doctor had drained the fluid. “At least I can see now.”

“And that’s a good thing.”

“And I don’t feel like people are staring any more.”

“Zoe, for that to happen you’d have to be wearing full-length sprigged muslin, your hair tucked up neatly in a bun, and your eyes downcast to the ground. And even then you’d still stand out in a crowd.” He coughed, aware he’d paid her a compliment, no matter how backhanded. “Well, go on. Don’t wanna be late.”

She smiled broadly. “I’ll tell Mercy you said hi.” Giving Hank a peck on the cheek she strode away.

“Shall we?” Mal said to the others.

“Better,” Jayne growled. “I’m still feeling like I wanna go back inside and beat the crap out of that feller for suggesting I couldn’t read.”

It was only Freya’s firm foot on top of Hank’s that stopped the potential bloodshed.


Zoe stood in the doorway to the hall, and looked around. It was full, mostly with people she hadn’t seen before.

“Kinda makes you wanna get a big gun and finish the lot of ‘em, don’t it?”

She looked around to see Leo at her side. “Who are they all?” she asked.

“The other folks standing.” He pointed to a tall, very thin man who looked like the first good breeze would carry him off. “He’s going for local education officer. And that one by the window?” He poked his finger towards someone with greasy hair and a moustache. “Dog Catcher.”

Zoe had to smile. “So what are you doing hanging around here?” she asked him.

“Oh, just like to see the fireworks.” He grinned, the gaps in his teeth seeming wider than usual. “I reckon there’s some folks here likely to come to blows before the day’s out.”

“And have you done your duty and voted?”

“Well, now, normally I leave it to the last minute, and they have to come around and bang on my door, escorting me all the way. But in this case … yeah, I voted. Voted for you, as it happens.”


“’Cause I know you ain't staying, not once the landlock’s been lifted, but I think your heart’s in the right place. And you showed everyone on this gorram planet what a real woman’s like.” He looked her up and down. “If I’d known there were people like you out in the Black, I’d never’ve settled for an ass-end place like Jericho.”

“Maybe you should get out there and take another look.”

He shook his head, “Nah. I’m too old for that kinda thing any more. I’ll leave it up to the striplings like Kaylee. ‘Sides, give it a few more years and I’ll own the freehold of my place outright. Then everyone’d better look out.”

“Considering standing for office yourself?”

“Maybe. Just maybe.” He laughed.

“Leo, I’d vote for you. Just to be polite.” She looked around. “Where’s Mercy?”

“Over in the far corner, with the others.” He laughed. “Can’t miss ‘em. They’re the only females here.”

“Thanks, Leo.” She pushed through the crowd, ignoring the affronted glares and muttered comments as she went. “Hey,” she said, seeing Mercy sitting on one of the few chairs against the wall.

The young woman immediately got up. “Did you vote?”

“Of course.”

Mercy sighed, relieved. “Good. It wouldn’t be the first time a candidate forgot, and the authorities don’t look kindly on that sort of thing.”

“So I gather.” Zoe looked around. “So where is he?”



Mercy blushed bright red, almost the same colour as the ribbon in her hair. “Oh, around,” she managed to say.

“And did he take you all the way home?” Zoe teased.

“He … yes, he did. And he was a proper gentleman, too.”

“So he didn’t spend the night.”

Mercy dropped her wide violet eyes to her hands. “Well, maybe he did.”

“Mercy …”

“Nothing happened!” she insisted.

“But you wish it had?”

A smile crept across the young woman’s face. “Oh, Zoe, it was so nice. We talked, for a long time. I never knew he … I mean, when we were in school he never seemed interested … and when we left, he …”

“Are you going to see him again?”

The smile turned into a grin. “I think I am.” She sat down again, this time with Zoe next to her. “He was so sweet.”

“And if you win, here, today. Is he going to stay sweet?”

To give her credit, even in her somewhat infatuated state Mercy thought about it before answering. “I think so.”

“And if he isn’t? Or if this is just the start. What if he wants you to give it up? Will you?”

“No.” She seemed surprised by the speed of her answer, but went on, with utmost honesty, “I might have. Before. Before all this, the elections, everything. If anyone had shown even the slightest interest in me, I would probably have walked away.”

“But not now.”

Mercy shook her head. “I've seen, first hand. Those men, Bea … I know what people are capable of, and it scares me, but I … there are things to do, and I’d like to do them.”

Zoe shouldn’t have been taken aback, but for a moment she was. Then she remembered Mercy was far more intelligent than she let on, and those pretty eyes hid a sharp mind. “You will, you know. I feel it.”

The other woman coloured. “I haven’t won yet.”

“That’s true.”

“But if Dean wants to be by my side, then that’s fine. If not, then he isn’t the man for me anyway, is he?”

Zoe patted her on the arm. “Mercy, you’re going to do fine.”

If anything the blush deepened, and Mercy asked quickly, changing the subject, “Where are the others? Your captain, the rest of your crew.” She looked around. “I can’t see them anywhere.”

“Oh, they’re running some errands.”

“But nothing’s open. Nothing ever is on election day.”

Zoe smiled. “I’m sure they’ll make do.”

to be continued


Tuesday, July 28, 2009 2:38 AM


Great job - loved that Mercy was infatuated AND practical. Now what is Bethie up to?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 6:42 AM


Love how they all voted differently. And help us if Zoe does win.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:38 PM


Another fine chapter though I can't help thinking Mercy is going to be mighty disappointed when Serenity has left and the theft is discovered. bright as she is I can see her putting two and two together pretty quickly. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:52 AM


Oh dear...Miss Bethie is up to no good again, I see. As for Mercy, I think things are gonna get a bit interesting with that girl!! :)


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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]