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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity lands on Ithaca, and Jayne starts his search to find out what happened to his friend. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1863 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Priam, Ithaca’s single moon, was hanging low on the horizon as Serenity came in to land, casting a pinkish hue over the landscape. The sun itself had already set, leaving an odd twilight.
“What’s this place like?” Hank asked as he settled the Firefly into her berth with barely a bump. “Never been here before, myself.”
Mal, standing behind him, his arms crossed, shook his head. “Me neither,” he said. “Never had the need. It looks pretty much like anywhere else.”
From the advantage of height, they could see across the town spread out in front of them. It was built around two major roads in a T-shape, the horizontal abutting the port, while the vertical led away, the buildings getting progressively more fancy and therefore more expensive as distance wore on. The furthest appeared to be mansions, separated by landscaped gardens and ringing Cason’s Point in a huge semi-circle.
Further back, on the central of the hills surrounding the town, was something more akin to an old-fashioned Earth-that-was chateau, gazing down on everyone they considered below them. Even from this distance it appeared to be made from stone, probably imported at enormous cost on private haulage vessels, and the moonlight glittered from its many windows.
Close to, though, the predominant building material seemed to be sheet metal topped with solar converters for cheap power, with haphazard shanties at either end of the main road.
“Odd they’ve got somewhere like this,” the pilot commented, powering down.
“A dock like this.”
They’d seen it as they came down, directed by Port Control to land on a clearly delineated rectangle of heat compacted earth to the left of the tower (although a building that had only two stories probably didn’t warrant such a grand name). Most places this far out from the Core had at the most a desultorily-run Customs shed, landing field and small control building, often only manned during daylight hours, while here there were large warehouses in addition to the tower, razor-wire fences and watch-posts. Not that it looked well-used, but it tickled one of Mal’s memories.
“I seem to recall there used to be an Alliance camp not far from here back in the day.”
Hank’s head shot around. “Alliance?”
Mal chucked. “Don’t fret. They left pretty much the day the war ended, although there was talk a year or so back of reopening it.”
“They haven’t, have they?”
“No idea. But there’s not much here the Alliance might want. Besides, you were the one scouring the Cortex.”
Hank relaxed. “Then no. I found nothing like that. Ithaca seems to be a peaceful sort of place.”
“Apart from the shooting folks in the back, you mean.”
“Oh, yes,” Hank agreed fervently. “Apart from that.” He paused a moment then said, “You think he’s going to want to go out now? Only asking because it’ll be full dark soon.”
“Honestly, I’m surprised he ain’t up here breathing down your neck.”
“I'm glad he wasn’t. He makes my shirt wet.”
“I’ve told him not to.”
Both men jumped at the sound of River’s voice, and turned to see the young woman standing in the doorway.
Mal made play of putting his hand on the scar over his heart. “You tryin’ to scare me to death? You wanna be captain that bad?”
“It wouldn’t work,” she said, stepping inside on her bare feet.
“Good to know.”
“I meant there’s too many others to get rid of between me and the captaincy. Someone would be bound to notice.”
There was a pause.
“You know, sometimes I wonder if she means it,” Hank said quietly.
“Sometimes, so do I.”
River stuck her tongue out at him.
Mal’s eyebrows took on a life of their own. “You’re not too big to put over my knee, young lady.”
Her face dissolved into a grin. “Thank you, jia yan.”
Mal swallowed a laugh. “Anyway, you got that big lug of yours locked up someplace?”
“He’s reading Caleb a bedtime story.”
“You think that’ll work?”
“I’ve got a smoother from the infirmary if it doesn’t.”
“You dope your husband often?”
“Not overly.” She gave a delicate shrug and went on quickly before Hank could make the comment that sat so bright and stupid at the front of his mind. “He won’t need it. I shall make sure of that.” Playing with a lock of her dark hair she went on, “I have ways of ... persuasion you don’t have.”
“River ...” Hank complained, putting his hands over his ears. “I don't need to know that.”
“I meant the couch.”
“Jayne is ... unsettled.”
“I can understand that. And it is a bit late to go sightseeing,” Mal added, watching the moon dip even lower and the light fade. “Particularly as I for one ain't too enamoured of wandering around a cemetery at night.”
“I’ll talk to him. Persuade him to sleep on it.”
Mal’s lips lifted at the corner. “Think he’s gonna listen?”
She suddenly sighed deeply, her head drooping a little. “This Indigo was important to him.”
“Did Jayne ever tell you about him?”
“And you didn’t look?” Mal asked quietly.
She shook her head. “It didn't come up, and Jayne is much more sensitive to me running barefoot through his thoughts now. It can be ... spiky.” She shifted from foot to foot as if she could feel them pricking her.
“I might have to try that myself.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “He will tell us. When he’s ready.”
“Is that likely to be before or after he kills someone?”
Mal crossed his arms. “I’d kinda like to hope so. If he gets himself bound for murder, I’d be more’n a little annoyed.”
“I shall tell him.” Her chin went up. “He’s finished the story.”
“Well, better get to your feminine wiles, then.”
“Yes, Father.” She placed a chaste kiss on his cheek, then was gone.
“You think Jesse’s gonna be like her when she grows up?” Hank asked, his head on one side.
“If Jesse brings home a man like Jayne …” Mal paused. “Then I'm gonna leave it up to Frey.”
River must have worked her wiles on her husband, since there was no sign that night of the big man waiting in the slips at the doors. For that matter, nobody seemed anxious to get off next morning either, something Mal was surprised at.
“Don’t want to feel the breeze on your face?” he asked, staring at his crew standing well back in the cargo bay.
“Can feel that from here, Cap,” Kaylee said, sitting on the metal staircase. “Only have to open the door.”
“And I’ve got things to be getting on with,” Simon put in. “The scanner needs recalibrating, and the washer isn’t going to empty itself.” He was on laundry duty. Again.
Mal’s eyes narrowed. “And the rest o’you?”
“Someone needs to mind the ship, sir,” Zoe said. “We don’t know this planet. It could be prudent.”
“And I’ve got lessons,” Freya added.
“You too, huh?”
River sighed. “What they mean is that this place feels wrong.”
Mal looked at his psychic surrogate daughter. “Care to elaborate, xiao nu?”
“An itch. Continuous. Irritating. Out of reach.” She shifted, rubbing her back against the wall as if it might ease it.
“Hmmn.” Mal wasn't about to admit he felt the same way, that he was tempted to join her, but the flash of humour in River’s eyes suggested he didn’t have to. “Yeah, well, I can’t make you get off.”
Kaylee looked relieved.
“Didn’t used to be like that,” Jayne muttered. “Leastways, not that bad. And you don’t have to come.”
“That ain’t in question,” Mal said.
“I’ll come too,” Hank added, then blushed slightly as everyone stared at him. “If you want, that is.”
Jayne gazed for a moment, then nodded, just once.
“Okay.” Mal clapped his hands together, suddenly mindful of the last time he and his crew had been waiting to disembark, and he offered up a silent prayer that it wasn't going to end as badly. “Looked to me like there was a church not too far from here, on the main road outta town. We can start there.”
The day looked like it was going to be fine, but the night chill still hung in the bushes, lacing the spider’s webs with crystal drops.
“What season is it?” Mal asked, walking briskly to ward off the shivers.
“Autumn,” Hank supplied. “Nice and crisp.”
“Your wife made you put your long underwear on?”
“Me three,” Jayne admitted, grumbling. “Even a man’s long johns’ ain’t his own anymore.”
“You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Mal laughed.
Jayne shrugged. “Nah. Guess not.”
Hank went to make a possibly painful comment, but Mal stopped him with a glance. As tight as the ex-mercenary was wound, it would only take a wrong word for him to snap.
They walked in silence for maybe ten minutes, the sun creeping up and slowly warming the air.
“There,” Jayne pointed.
Some hundred yards along was a break in the wall to their left, a metal arch above proclaiming Cason’s Point Cemetery.
The churchyard was big, looking like it was originally half the size and expanded when folks realised Cason’s Point had a future. Traces of the original wall remained, rougher than the current perimeter boundary. The white clapboard church also looked like it had been added to, a bell tower tacked on one end, and extra wings down the sides to make it look like a cross from above. A stained glass window in one wall winked colourfully at them in the morning light.
Jayne stalked between the rows of neat headstones, just like the houses getting more and more fancy as they got closer to the church, until the final few were carved stone crypts with doors on them, all inscribed with texts from the Bible and adorned with disapproving angels.
He got to the end of one row, made a noise in his throat like an elephant snorting, and started up the next.
“You know, the church my Gran went to had different sections,” Hank said quietly. “Rich people at one end, poor at the other.”
“You’re suggesting Indigo ain't good enough to lie with the gentry?” Mal teased, keeping his own voice low.
“Gunhand, shot in the back … yeah, I’d say Cason’s Point ain’t likely to put him in the ground anywhere close to the upstanding citizens of Ithaca.” He glanced around, seeing a small hut off to one side, a thin trail of grey smoke drifting from its single chimney. “I’ll go ask, shall I?”
Mal nodded. “Good idea. Else Jayne’s likely to start getting fractious.”
A mental image in his mind of the big man doing just such a thing, Hank ambled towards the hut, and as he got closer he caught the distinctive smell of frying bacon, warring with the odour of decaying vegetation. The latter he traced to the compost heap piled high against the side of the small building, steaming gently, a mixture of dead flowers, long browned wreaths, and apparently tea leaves. The former was as easy. As he reached the open door he could see a man inside, tending a frying pan.
“’Scuse me?” Hank said, telling his taste buds to stop salivating. “Sir?”
The man, stooped from years of back-breaking work digging the last resting places of his neighbours, expertly flipped the bacon over, then glanced up. “What’d’ja want?”
“I was looking for a grave.”
The man chuckled, sounding like he wasn’t far from one himself. “Got a lot to choose from, young feller. You buyin’?”
“No. No,” Hank repeated quickly, feeling odd that he could look like he was wanted to purchase a plot. “Uh … do I look like I need one?”
“Nope. But business is business.” The old man chuckled. “Son, I’ve put folks in th’earth from less’n a day old until they were near double their three score and ten. It ain’t never too early to start thinking about it, making arrangements.”
“You don’t happen to sell insurance as well?” Hank joked feebly.
“Nope. That’d be my brother.”
Not sure if the man was just going along, Hank simply said, “Right.”
“Well, if you ain't interested in buying, then you must be visiting.”
“Um, yes. That’s why I … we can’t find my friend’s grave. Well, the friend of a friend, actually. Although technically –“
The old man held up his ancient metal spatula. “Name?”
“Who, the friend?”
“If’n he’s the dead one.”
“Right. MacCready. Indigo MacCready.”
The old man’s eyes narrowed. “You kin?”
“Not personally, no. Why?”
“Just askin’. Only if you was, I could do you a good deal on upkeep.”
“Of the grave. Keeping the grass down. Making sure any flowers had water. That kinda thing.”
“I’ll … pass it along.”
“You do that.” The man spat, with considerable accuracy, into a brass spittoon by his cot bed. “And he’s down near Potter’s Field.”
The caretaker pointed with his spatula. “Far corner. Go outta here and around to the left.”
He spat again and Hank felt his hunger vanish. “Right. Thanks.” The frying pan spit, sending a blue flame up into the rafters, and he remarked as he backed out of the door, “Your bacon’s burning.”
“S’okay. I like mine cremated.” The old man cackled, sounding like stones down one of his own gravestone.
With the aid of Hank’s directions, they soon found the right area, at the back in the corner, away from everyone else.
“Ain’t right,” Jayne grumbled.
“When a man’s dead he’s dead. Isn’t that what you’ve always said?” Mal asked.
“Yeah. Well, maybe,” the ex-merc quickly amended. “Whatever, it ain’t respectful.” He was walking quickly, scanning the simple markers.
“At least he isn’t with them.” Mal nodded to a small enclosure further on. This section had no stones or crosses at the simple mounds of earth. Potter’s Field, where those with nobody to mark their passing were buried.
“Nope. Least he had a name.”
“Jayne,” Hank called. “Over here. And I think you’re gonna be surprised.”
They hurried to join him.
“What?” Mal wanted to know.
“Look.” Hank pointed.
“Damn,” Jayne muttered.
“Looks like maybe someone was respectful after all,” Mal said softly.
It was a headstone, far more substantial than any of the others dotted around. It didn't say much – just a date some four months previously, and three deeply carved words.
Indigo MacCready. Missed.
Hank glanced at Mal, who shrugged.
Jayne, on the other hand, chuckled unexpectedly. “Figure I know who put this here,” he said. “Guess she’s still around.”
“She?” Mal looked at his crew member.
“She always did have something of a warped sense of humour. ‘Missed’. Yeah. Like they did.” He strode back towards the entrance.
Mal and Hank shared a glance, then followed the ex-merc out towards the town.
to be continued
Monday, October 4, 2010 6:55 AM
Monday, October 4, 2010 8:03 AM
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