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HOPE SERIES: 16. "The Deal"
Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Mal and Patience hack out a deal but not everyone on Serenity is going to be happy about it. No one on Carousel can find Hope which brings Zoe to an alarming conclusion."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1827    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "THE DEAL" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "THE NITTY GRITTY". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "Mal and Patience hack out a deal but not everyone on Serenity is going to be happy about it. No one on Carousel can find Hope which brings Zoe to an alarming conclusion." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"THE DEAL"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Deep in the tunnel system a long wide cave opened up. The sulphur lights that had followed them down now hung strewn across the uneven ceiling of rock and impacted soil, reflections flickering off the walls, ceiling and floor. Working busily were about a dozen Chinese men, women and children. Mal blinked. The youngest looked no older than six or seven. He turned his head to glare at Patience but she wasn't looking at him. Patience walked over to Chin. The man stopped what he was doing to give a respectful nod. The sound of hammering tapered to a stop so they could hear each other.

"This is Malcolm Reynolds. Mal this is Chin, my foreman, an' this is his family."

The Captain gave Chin a nod. "What're you lookin' for?"

Chin gave Patience a look, waiting until she nodded back. Chin looked the Captain in the eye, sizing him up before speaking further. "Opals."

Mal blinked. "Opals?" He glanced around a mite confused. "Was thinkin' it would be gold or maybehaps diamonds, but opals?"

"Oh Mal, gold an' diamonds are common as dust." Said Patience affecting a haughty air.

His look was sharp. "Not on any world I been on." "You've just been on the wrong worlds."

"Ain't nothin' wrong with the worlds I been on, Patience, an' it ain't no sin to be poor."

Patience quickly headed him off before the Captain could launch into a bitter anti-Alliance tirade. That was not the direction she wanted this conversation to go in. "That's what makes 'em so valuable. You can pick up gold an' diamonds from any prosperous world if you've the money to pay for 'em but opals? They ain't so easy to come by. Pushes the price up, *dong ma*?"

The Captain could see how that would be the case but realised something else quicker than Patience liked. "On'y you weren't diggin' for Opals, *dui*?" The little bitter twist of her lips was answer enough for him. "You came lookin' for gold an' found these instead."

"Does it matter? All you need to know is you're lookin' at a fortune, Malcolm Reynolds."

Chin was watching the Captain's reactions like a hawk. Mal hooked his thumbs in his gun belt.

"An' just why is it you arranged for me to come here an' move this shiny cargo off-world? Ain't like we parted on the best of terms though that wasn't my fault, you tryin' to double cross me - yet again."

She wasn't going to go down that road again, especially not with Chin and his family listening even if they did pretend not to. "Mal, I already told you why."

"No, you really didn't."

Patience hesitated. The Captain's eyes narrowed. With a jerk of her head she led him away from her workers, gave Chin a hard stare and didn't turn back to Mal until the sound of hammers hitting rock filled the air again. Leaning in towards him, Patience spoke as if every word cost her a King's Ransom. "I got men but no ship. They're fine for muscle, *dong ma*? But I wouldn't trust 'em with a cargo like this."

"So you wouldn't risk buyin' a boat an' puttin' in your own crew 'cause what? They'd take the ship an' the cargo an' never be seen again, that it?"

Her face soured. "That's about it, Mal." Turning her head she spat out a plug of tobacco she had been chewing then turned back to him. "Now you know. I need someone to transport the gems off-world. Got a buyer all lined up."

"Patience, I may not know much about gems but ain't they gotta be polished an' such? Graded an' so forth?"

A smile broke out that looked kind'a incongruous on that leathery old face. "Mal, Mal, you ain't nearly so dumb as you seem." She chuckled drily. "That's why I like you, that an' the fact you always get the job done."

"Yeah, but I don't always get paid."

She nodded, solemn again, her eyes holding a grim promise like an olive branch. "You will this time, Mal, an' it won't be anythin' to sniff at."

"Care to give a figure? You know, enough to tell me how much it might be worth my while?" She could have mentioned he would get to walk out of here alive, get to put food in his crew's belly and fuel in that rat-trap of a transport he called a ship but now she had him here she didn't intend to lose her best chance of turning her find into a profit. 'Sides, if this worked out she would need someone to come by from time to time and get her gems to buyers. If she could tie Malcolm Reynolds into a deal she would have to let go of more cashy money than she ever had in the past. It would hurt, it being against her principles to let go of any money she didn't have to, but this could turn into a long term business. Profitable for both of them.

"Can I trust you, Mal?"

The Captain snorted, not bothering to be affronted. "You already know the answer to that or I wouldn't be here."

Patience gave a slow nod. Named a figure that made Mal think his hearing must be faulty. For a moment they just stared at each other. "Why so generous?"

Irritated, Patience was tempted to snatch the offer back but knew she had to hook him good or the deal was dead in the water. "Look around you, Mal. You can see what we're diggin' up an' there's plenty more where that came from."

As she watched his eyes widen with realisation, Patience felt a smug satisfaction.

"Why d'you think I bought this place?"

* * * * *

It was late by the time Martin Frye returned with Simon and Zoe. Despite rousing the other families and searching every room of every house, every barn, loft and cellar, every nook and cranny they had found no sign of Hope. Zoe was beside herself with worry, where in the nine hells was she? Nothing Mr and Mrs Frye said could calm her down. Kaylee couldn't understand it. Why would Hope go into hiding and why couldn't her cousins find the hiding place? It didn't make sense.

"It's like she's not on Carousel any more." Wailed Kaylee without thinking.

Zoe stopped her pacing and stared at Serenity's mechanic. "What did you say?"

"*Yiwusouyou*."

Zoe stalked towards her, Simon moving closer to his wife. "You said it was like she wasn't on Carousel any more."

Kaylee shrugged and wrung her hands nervously. "I was just talkin'."

"No, I think you're right."

She blinked in surprise. "I am?"

Ignoring Kaylee for the moment, Zoe turned to Mr Frye. "Do you have a cortex link I could use, Mr Frye?"

He shook his head apologetically. "*Bu qu*, but old man Peters has one on his ranch."

"How far?"

"Less'n an hour's ride. I'll go saddle a couple of horses."

"You don't really think Hope would have done that, do you?" Asked Simon.

Zoe wasn't looking at him, her gaze distant, little clues slotting into place that were chilling her. Why didn't she see what was right under her gorram nose? All that badgering to be allowed to practice using a gun, getting Jayne to show her how to throw knives and such. Zoe had thought it was random, a sign that her little girl was growing up but now she realised it wasn't that at all. Her daughter knew that Zoe had only agreed to stay on Carousel because of her. Normally nothing and nobody would stop Zoe being right alongside the Captain whenever he looked to be heading into danger. But that was it, the sticking point, there was no danger. Was there?

"She's gone."

Mrs Frye was confused and concerned in equal measure. "*Wo bu dong*, gone where?"

"When Serenity lifted off Hope was on it. It's the only thing that makes sense."

Kaylee shook her head, "No, she was playin' with the kids Zoe. I saw her."

"We all did, that was the point I'm thinkin'."

"Um, I'm confused." Simon paused. "How could she be gone if we all saw her?"

"My girl is smart. Hope knew if she just hid away too early I'd start lookin' for her, catch on to her plan an' stop her goin'. My guess is she made sure we all saw her playin' with Kaylee's cousins. Remember her yellin' about a game of hide an' seek?"

Mrs Frye nodded. "That was just before..."

"Yeah. Serenity took off a few minutes later an' we never thought any more about it 'cause the kids were playin' hide an' seek."

In the silence that fell heavy and ominous over them, Simon and Kaylee exchanged anxious looks. Simon squeezed his wife's hand, glad that the twins were sleeping in a spare cot by the fire. Close enough to keep an eye on yet blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding. Mr Frye opened the front door with a jerk and stuck his head inside. "Ready when you are."

Thanking Mrs Frye, Zoe grabbed her jacket, gave Kaylee and Simon a stern look that clearly told them to stay where they were and hurried out of the door. For a moment no one spoke then Mrs Frye turned a sharp look on her daughter. "Why would Hope go worryin' her mama like that?"

"Ain't like that, ma. Serenity is Hope's home an' she kind'a looks on the Cap'n as a father figure. I think she wants to be there, protect him if somethin' happens."

Both of her mother's eyebrows rose in surprise. Simon Tam-Frye couldn't blame her. The thought of Malcolm Reynolds needing a twelve year old girl to come to his rescue was laughable. But then wasn't that the kind of thing his sister did? The thought jolted him. "*Wode ma*!"

Kaylee turned her head to look at him, alarmed by the look on his face. "Simon! *Shenme shi*?"

"River. What if she saw something and told Hope?"

"Why would she do that? An' why, if somethin' was wrong wouldn't she just tell the Cap'n not to take the job?"

Simon frowned, not wanting to admit that not knowing the answer disturbed him even more than Hope going missing. He was pretty sure that the girl was fine but what about the others?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *dui* = correct? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wode ma* = mother of God *shenme shi* = what's the matter?

COMMENTS

Sunday, October 25, 2009 5:54 AM

BYTEMITE


Hmm, there's still got to be a twist coming up, because otherwise why would River convince Hope to come?

Sunday, October 25, 2009 10:24 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Ali is finding her groove. This chapter is pretty long there. ;)

Wonderful, though I agree with Byte. Something more is in the works and I am not sure how long I can wait before we find out what's to come and knowing you, my friend, we are all in for a few more surprises. ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2009 12:42 PM

TAG


@ Angellemarcs:

The next enthralling chapter will be coming soon, rather than not so soon. Fear not!

Monday, October 26, 2009 12:30 AM

NUTLUCK


Yeah River and Hope will be in so much trouble when this is all over.


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