BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Jericho Wells - Part XXV
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. After their success, the crew gather for the results of the Elections. CONCLUDING CHAPTER (but see blog entry for Author's Notes)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1852    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The clock struck 11.00 pm, and the polling booths across Jericho Wells shut down. Automatically all the results were fed into the main computer in the Election Offices, coincidentally the same one that River had accessed. This was the final entry, arranged so that while the rest of the planet had finished voting some time since, Jericho Wells as the major city was the collation point.

“Come on, people,” Mal murmured, the boredom of the last few hours being replaced by tension. “It’s time we got gone.”

“What if the rest of River’s little plan doesn’t work?” Hank wanted to know, keeping his own voice as low as possible.

“I don’t believe we want to be asking that question.”

“Wait,” Freya said, watching Zoe amongst the throng of people clustered in front of the stage, Mercy next to her. “I want to see who wins.”

Mal raised his eyebrows at her. “You sure, xin gan?”

“Zoe’s not going anywhere until then, you know that. Just a few more minutes.”

He smiled, slid his arm around her waist, and kissed her cheek, not caring a jot for the looks he was getting for this very public display of affection.

Thomas Cromwell was conferring with his colleagues, each having to agree the results on the handheld terminal before they could be announced. In truth no-one had ever disagreed, not in the whole history of Jericho Wells. It was all checked by the computer first. Of course it would be right.

He nodded, then stepped up to the microphone, adjusting his jacket across his shoulders and clearing his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen ...” He smiled into the camera, somewhat oddly, as if his face wasn’t quite used to it. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that we have the results of the Jericho elections.” There was a dull smattering of applause before he went on, “And I am also pleased to announce yet another year of 100 percent attendance.” He coughed again, this time his gaze falling on Mal and his crew.

“Is he giving me the eye?” the captain of Serenity asked.

“Probably,” Freya agreed. “Now shush.”

Cromwell was speaking again. “I will read the results in order of planetary importance, and if the winning candidates would please join me on the platform. If we’re all ready?” He paused, milking the moment. “Then I will begin. First, in my official capacity as Election Officer, I take great pleasure in announcing the name of the new Lower Parliamentary representative for Jericho. I hereby state and declare that the elected candidate is Mr Patrick Donmar!”

This time the applause was longer, louder, as a portly, middle-aged gentleman wearing an expensive suit climbed the steps, the light in the hall glinting off both his teeth and his gold watch chain just as brightly.

“Well, I didn’t vote for him,” Hank said. “Did you?”

“Nope,” Jayne muttered. “Was he on the list?”

River stirred next to him, her hands wrapped around his bicep. “None of us did. Nor many others. It didn’t matter.”

“River?” Mal glanced at her. “Wanna explain that statement?”

“This decision was made months ago,” she said quietly. “Behind closed doors.”

“You mean it was fixed, albatross?” Mal’s voice hardened a little.

“I'm not the only one who can adjust the computer. Although Mr Cromwell doesn’t know. He’s not culpable.” She smiled. “In fact, I think it would probably shock him into insensibility to find out.”

“Stickler for the rules, ain’t he?” Jayne said.

’A man that lives by the rules of others cannot be considered responsible for the actions of others’,” River intoned. “Dominic Strachan, writing in The Way of Life, first published eighty-seven years ago by ...” Her voice faded as the others stared at her. “Yes,” she finally said.

“Then who is culpable, mei-mei?” Mal wanted to know.

“Much higher. Off-world.” She shrugged. “I did consider making it a fair fight when I found the details during my ... dancing, but that would have brought down the attention of the Alliance.”

“Didn’t want that, I agree. But it ain’t fair.” His face had set in a stubborn expression.

“As you’ve often said to me, life isn’t.”

“That ain't the point.” He stopped himself. “Well, no, maybe it is. But what I was meaning is that, no matter what we think of the reasons, elections should be free. One man, one vote, and the man with the most votes wins.”

“Man, Mal?” Freya teased.

“Man, woman, dog, pet flea for all I care. But it’s the principle.”

“I think in this case we’re going to have to let it slide.” She leaned against him, letting her considerable strength warm him. “This time, anyway. Next time we have to have someone stand for Parliament, you can holler from the rooftops.”

His eyes softened as he looked at her. “Promise?”

“Promise.”

Cromwell had announced the next two winners while they’d been talking, and now he droned on for another ten minutes before getting to the one important announcement, at least as far as they were concerned.

“Next we have the local planetary official for women’s rights.” There was no fanfare, no drumroll, although perhaps there should have been. “I hereby state and declare that the elected candidate is Miss Mercy Fischer.”

Mal started to clap, Freya only a moment behind him. Hank joined in, as did River and the others. It spread like ripples from a stone thrown into the centre of a pond, until everyone was applauding.

Mercy, for her part, looked shocked, and it was only Zoe whispering in her ear that made her take a breath. She pushed the new official for Women’s Rights gently towards the stage

“At least this is right,” Mal said over his shoulder, not noticing the slightly guilty look crossing River’s face.

Zoe made her way through the crowd to his side. “Time to go, sir?”

“Not going to congratulate Mercy?”

“I already have.” She glanced back towards the stage, where a certain young woman was still looking stunned, and a certain young man was standing beneath her, such a wide smile on his face it was a wonder his head didn’t split in half.

Mal’s own lips curved. “Sorry you didn’t win.”

“I’m not.” She looked into his eyes. “Honestly.”

He didn’t call her on it. “Then yeah. Time to go.”

“What about the deposit?” Hank wanted to know, despite the haul sitting tidily in the smuggling nook.

“Got it here,” Zoe said, patting her pocket. “For some reason Mr Cromwell was more than happy to hand it over straight away.”

“Probably thought you might want to take it out of his hide,” Freya suggested. “Or buy him dinner.”

Zoe shuddered slightly.

The crew made their way outside, enjoying the cool night air as a change from the fuggy atmosphere inside, walking in pairs or small groups towards the docks.

“So what’re you gonna buy with your share?” Mal asked, his arm around Freya’s shoulders.

“Not sure. I need some more soap. And some incense sticks.”

His eyes narrowed. “Not those ones’t smell like Jayne’s old bunk.”

“No. I was thinking of trying the ones that are perfumed like a bordello.”

“That’s okay, then.” He chuckled. “Guess I should be used to it by now, but I ain’t. I mean, not that I mind. Seeing you sitting there on that rug, all naked and meditating.”

“Hmmn.”

“What?”

“You put naked before meditating.”

“Frey, honey, I'm a man. A’course I do.”

“I suppose it’s what I should expect.” She sighed theatrically. “A husband who doesn’t understand me.”

“Oh, I understand you all too well. And I know you ain't likely to be buying yourself much in the way of frippery from our ill-gotten gains.”

“That’s not true.”

“No? So you’re telling me you ain't gonna be slipping money back into the pot to keep Serenity flying, like you’ve always done.”

“She’s our home,” Freya said, her chin coming up defiantly.

“I know.” He paused, and leaned down enough to brush his lips across hers. “I know, xin gan.” He started walking again. “But you’re to buy yourself something nice. Maybe something to wear.”

“All see-through and sexy?”

He stared into the darkness. “Maybe.”

She poked him gently. “You’re seeing it, aren’t you? In your mind’s eye.”

“In my mind’s eye, ear, nose and all places a lot further south.” Then he stopped still, his hand on his chest.

“Mal?” Freya was immediately concerned, her own fingers hovering over the scar. “What is it? Is it your heart? Do you want me to get Simon?”

He had to smile. “Not ‘less he’s got a doggy-bag.”

“What?”

The smile grew at the confusion in her eyes. “My stomach’s rumbling. Just realised I ain’t had anything since breakfast.”

Her face cleared, then she thumped him on the pad of his arm. “That’s for making it into a joke.” She thumped him again, and he grimaced owlishly. “And that’s for making me worried. I thought you were in pain or something.”

“Or something.”

She glared, then turned on her heel and strode off.

“You upsetting your wife again, sir?” Zoe asked, joining him.

“Seems like maybe I am.”

“Think you’d better apologise?”

He flashed her a grin. “I think maybe you’re right.” Breaking into a slight run, he soon caught up with Freya, and tried to put his arm around her, but she shook him off. It didn’t stop him, and eventually, as they neared the Firefly, she let him pull her closer.

“Good to be home,” Zoe murmured, then felt an arm slip around her own waist.

Hank nodded sagely. “That it is,” he said, before feeling himself being pushed to one side as Kaylee hurried up the ramp.

“’Scuse me,” she said, moving as fast as her bulk would allow. “Pregnant lady needing to pee.”

---

At two minutes to midnight the computer at the Election offices sent a low yield, high speed packet of information to somewhere in the docks, then promptly forgot it had done so.

At one minute to midnight a specific set of adjusted programme routines began, ran, and stopped, any trace of them erased as if they’d never been.

At one second to midnight the main town computer dialled up and logged onto the Cortex.

At one second past midnight all the new information was exchanged and updated, and coincidentally all landlocks lifted.

At two seconds past a small vessel lifted off from the surface of Jericho Wells, breaking atmo and vanishing in a flare of light into the ‘verse.

---

Out in the black, on Serenity, the crew sat around the large wooden table and enjoyed a very late meal of real steak, with mashed potatoes and steamed greens, accompanied by a whole pitcher full of gravy, and everyone said it was the best dinner Simon had ever cooked. He smiled, blushed a little, and said the secret was that the meat had roasted for a long while, and he’d used one of the recipes Mrs Boden had supplied. Even Jayne was complimentary, and everyone ate until they could eat no more.

Mal surreptitiously undid the top button on his pants and held up his glass of Kaylee’s finest interengine fermentation product. “A toast,” he said. “To success.”

River studied her glass carefully, watching the light refracting through the alcohol and calculating the possibility of being able to drink it without actually physically bursting. “Win, lose. Yes, no. Off, on. One, zero.”

They all looked at her, but it was Mal who asked, “River, you mind putting that into English for me?”

“Captain dummy talk?”

“If you don’t mind.”

She smiled at him. “The law of averages states that for every time a job goes wrong, one has to go right. This was the one.”

“Just the one, albatross?”

“We survived. They even out.”

Jayne chuckled. “Well, seems to me we must’ve won – Mal didn’t get shot.”

“I don’t get shot every time!” Mal protested.

“The law of probabilities versus the law of diminishing returns suggests ...” River saw the look on Mal’s face, and laughed. “It’s time for bed.”

Mal grinned. “Yeah. I think that’s as good a toast as I can conjure.” He lifted his cup again. “To bed.”

His crew joined him, each exchanging warm glances with their loved one.

---

Zoe sat brushing her hair at the mirror, her eyes fixed on her reflection even as the repetitive motion soothed her. After a minute or two, she took the print-out from the dressing table drawer, smoothing it flat. It was a list of candidates for the position of women’s rights campaigner, with their respective totals for the ballot. Paulette Adams, Sarah Cordell, Mercy Fischer, Bea Jarvis ... and Zoe Mills. It was still there, her name, with the number of votes received.

“You wanted to stay?” Hank asked quietly, not wanting to interrupt but needing to know.

“No.”

But he could hear something in her voice. “You sure?”

She looked up, seeing him reflected in the mirror. “I would have done a good job. Those women on Jericho ... they need someone strong to speak for them, change the way things are.”

He kneeled down next to her, reaching up to ease her chin around so he could look directly into her eyes. “If you’d wanted to stay, you only needed to say. I know Mal wouldn’t’ve like it, but –”

“I didn’t want to.” She watched his face relax. “This is my home, my place in the ‘verse. But I wish ...”

He took her hand, holding it tight. “You did good, Zoe. You showed Mercy how to speak up, how to not let any man walk over her, and how to show those bun tyen-shung duh ee-dway-ro that any woman is as good as they are.”

She glanced at the flimsy that River had printed from the information sent before the results changed. “She didn’t win.”

“She doesn’t know that you did.”

“It’s just ...” She stopped, not sure she could put it into words.

He stood up, tugging at her hand until she joined him. “Come on.” He led her to the bed and made her sit, joining her on the blankets. “Zoe, my beautiful beloved, I’ll tell you something. One day we’ll come back here, to Jericho Wells, and we’ll land, take in the sights, maybe even take the shuttle and head out to the sea, go for a swim.”

“You think Mal’s gonna let you do that?”

He ignored her interruption. “And while we’re doing that, we’ll check the Cortex, see who’s Mayor, or maybe who the planetary representative is to the Alliance. And I’ll lay odds of a hundred to one – if I bet on anything anymore, anyway – that you’ll find the name Mercy Fischer up there.”

Her lips curved. “You think?”

“I do. In fact, I’ll put it in my diary, make sure we head back in around, oh, maybe twenty years or so.”

“You keep a diary?”

“Well, no. But I’ll start. Today.”

She looked into his honest grey eyes. “You’re an idiot, Hank Mills.”

“But an idiot that loves you.”

“Then I don’t think I can do better than that.” She leaned forward and kissed him, their lips melting together, her hands in his untidy brown hair.

When they finally parted, each a little flushed, Hank asked, “Hey, you got any of those candied fruits left?”

“I might. Why?”

“There’s a couple of other things I’d like to try ...” He grinned wickedly at her.

“Don’t you ever grow up?”

“Is that an order? Because I don’t mind if you don’t.” He pushed her back onto the bed, her thick curls splaying out over the pillow.

She laughed. “Oh, I don’t mind. And the box of fruits is in the bottom drawer.”

He grinned even wider and scrambled off the bed, ready and willing to do anything for his Zoe that would keep her happy like this.

---

At 7.55 am Jericho time, the day after the elections, the manager of the bank input his security code and the door to the walk-in Sirius Mark 3 safe swung silently open. Stepping inside the vault he staggered to a halt, staring. He walked around the unit, waving his hand through the air, as if somehow they’d just been made invisible and he’d be able to feel their steel reinforced canvas, but of the several bags of Alliance tax cash that should have been sitting there ... nothing.

The local Alliance Commander looked. He ran his steely eye over all of the surveillance footage from the security cameras, but there was nothing there. Just empty corridors. And no sign of anything suspicious elsewhere, either. There was a faint scent of something in air, an odour he couldn’t quite identify, but he put that down to the manager standing next to him, rubbing his hands together nervously.

The Commander and his men called the local Port Control, asked if there had been any unusual activity on the ground, any ships that had been in the docks that no-one knew. Port Control said there had, that there had been ... no, wait. The computer said nothing had landed, not in more than a week. And if the computer said so, it had to be true.

They talked to the Election office, and Thomas Cromwell, otherwise an upstanding member of Wellsian society, swore there had been a woman who ... except there was no record of her ever standing. Not for any of the positions, not even the campaigner for women’s rights. Mercy Fischer had won by a landslide, according to the computer. And if the computer said so, it had to be true. Besides, Cromwell announced he had decided to retire, that all this excitement was no good for his health, and he was going to buy a little house by the sea and raise geraniums. The Commander looked at him askance, but said nothing.

They even dropped in on Leo Gunn, out at his scrapyard, and he said to their faces that he’d not seen no-one, let alone anyone as’d come to him and asked for anything. Why, did the computer say there had?

They’d looked at each other, then at Gunn, standing in the faint blue haze from the cigar he was smoking, and sighed. Whoever did it must have parked out in the wilds, walked in, and spirited the money into the ether. If there had ever been any money there to begin with. The Commander walked away, muttering, and determined to look into the bank manager’s background, see if he’d been buying things lately he shouldn’t.

Leo Gunn blew a perfect smoke ring, and smiled, mainly because it appeared he was now the legal and outright owner of the land his scrapyard sat on, and there was a sizeable chunk of change in his bank account, which had, of course, always been there.

No-one ever found out what had happened, and in an attempt to keep the integrity of the First National and stop any possible runs on it, the possible robbery was kept secret. A rumour surfaced every now and then about people living it high on the hog, coming into town and buying all manner of inappropriate goods, but there was never anything to substantiate them. And Mercy never heard one of them. She was too busy working to make sure people kept up her election promises, while also maintaining a passionate and satisfying relationship with a certain waiter.

And if no-one thought to check the Cortex records, watch the tapes of a certain dark-skinned Amazon stating that Jericho Wells needed to change, had to become better than it was, and didn’t put two and two together … well, that was nobody’s problem. After all, she hadn’t won.

COMMENTS

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 8:26 AM

MAINEAXE


Great Fic.. Sorry this ride is over. Aptly tied together in a nice ending.
Looking forward to your next..

~Maineaxe~

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 8:32 AM

SLUMMING


Excellent end to a satisfying tale all around! Great work! :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 3:43 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Very good. Think the election went the right way. Could see someone trying to assassinate Zoe if she did win and that would be a very interesting day!! nicely done. Ready for the next

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 5:05 PM

KATESFRIEND


Wonderful fic! Glad that River was a little busier than you let on and that they all had a happy ending. Looking forward to more!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 12:26 AM

AMDOBELL


I absolutely loved the way you wound up this story. Such a deft hand in weaving in those little details that never leaked out from your pen until the very end, River making sure Serenity and her crew were excised from any record, that the cameras never held their images, that Leo got his cut, and the bit I loved best - Zoe having that print out with the true score showing she had actually won. I'm glad things got tweaked by the enemy in Mercy's favour but like that Zoe knew the truth. It means there IS some hope for the women of Jericho Wells after all. As for their menfolk, that may taken another hundred turnings of the world. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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