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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne tells Mal about rifles, and Mal confesses what he's going to do next. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2272 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Jayne had finished his butchering, and now sat on the edge of the ramp, a large cold box next to him, more than likely filled with the results. Every so often he’d reach into a pile of bones and other remains to toss a handful out into the dirt. From the comparative darkness of the bay Mal watched in surprise as a grey, dog-like animal darted out from a patch of bushes and grabbed the morsel, scurrying back under cover with his prize.
“It’s a Lupe,” Jayne said quietly.
Mal had to smile. Even with his concentration elsewhere the big man wasn’t easy to creep up on.
“Lupe?” Mal asked, joining him.
Jayne shrugged. “Kinda like a cross between a dog and a wolf. Mean bastards if you corner ‘em, but they gotta eat, just like the rest of us.”
For a moment Mal wondered whether to point out the similarities between his ex-merc and the animal in question, then decided that discretion was the better part of not having to pick up his teeth. “You sound like you know them.”
“Made their acquaintance once.”
“Let me guess. You were lying on the dirt with a broken leg.”
Jayne looked around, a startled expression on his face. “How did ... You catching being psychic off Frey?”
“Worse things to catch, I conjure,” Mal said, smiling. “But this was honestly just a guess.”
“Yeah, well, maybehaps you were right. They sure took an interest in me while Indigo was gettin’ me ready to travel. Did occur to me I might end up as dog food. Considered shooting ‘em, just to make ‘em stop staring at me.”
“And yet you’re feeding them now.”
“Indigo wouldn’t let me. Said it weren’t their fault they ate carrion.”
Mal wasn’t sure if he was honestly talking about himself or other dead animals. “Indigo was right. No point killing when you don’t need to.”
“S’what Indigo said.” Jayne managed a slight tilt to his sometimes cruel lips. “Maybe I can persuade ‘em to go gnaw on one or other of the Tanners.”
“You never know.” Mal didn’t speak for a long while, watching the Lupe get a little braver and wolfing down a handful of what looked like intestines without dragging it under cover. “Funny to think little Fiddler might be related.”
Jayne finally chuckled. “Hey, don't feed the runt for a week and you’ll find him chewing your ankle afore you can spit.”
“Don’t think I’ll try it. Bethie’d be as likely to make us draw lots to see who was gonna donate an organ to him.”
“Fried with onions.”
Jayne rubbed at the bloodstains on his hands, only some of which belonged to the deer. “So what did you wanna talk about?”
“Hank’s outta surgery.”
“Figured he might be. He likely to survive?”
“Simon’s ... hopeful.”
“Zoe’ll be pleased.”
“Well, let’s just say she’s happy not to be looking for a new husband quite yet.” Mal knew Jayne wasn’t quite as cold-hearted as he appeared, but it was easier on both of them not to push.
“Mal, I might not be psychic, but I know there’s something more.”
Serenity’s captain reached into his pocket and pulled out the metal slug. “I found this, managed to backtrack to where Hank got shot.” He dropped it into Jayne’s stained palm. “Looks kinda ... odd.”
Jayne stared at it, his cobalt eyes not blinking. “Ah ...” Nothing else was forthcoming.
“Jayne. Tell me.”
The big man took a deep breath, releasing it slowly through his nose before saying, “I wasn’t that far, not really. And the way the wind was running, I should’ve heard a shot. I didn’t.”
“Do you think he used a suppressor?”
“Nope. Maybe I wondered before I saw this, but now ...” He tossed the bullet into the air and caught it again, holding it tightly enough in his fist to make his knuckles white.
“Jayne, I ain’t in the mood to play games.”
“Me neither.” Out of the corner of his eye Jayne saw the Lupe approaching a little closer, but this time he ignored the animal. “What’dya know about Sharps?”
“Sharps? Ain’t that a gun from Earth-that-was?”
“Once upon a time, yeah. A rifle. Anyone selling one of ‘em nowadays could probably buy the small moon of their choice with the proceeds.”
Mal wasn’t going to argue. If there was one thing Jayne knew about, it was weaponry of all kinds, and particularly anything portable. “I somehow doubt it was one of those.”
“No. ‘Cept the name was re-surrected ‘bout thirty years ago by Lewis and Cameron.”
Even Mal had heard of them, a company sucked up by Blue Sun the minute the war had ended, pretty much like the makers of the Feldman that Zoe had carried on the Empress of Sihnon. Lewis and Cameron, though, were more rarified, kind of like the Crown Jewellers of the Alliance. “I don’t recall them producing anything like a Sharps.”
“For maybe a coupla years. Mostly for high-ups in the Government, a coupla thousand of ‘em maybe as gifts among the stiffnecks on Osiris and the like, but some managed to make their way down to the Rim.”
“You sound like you know. Far as I recall, you ain’t got one in your collection,” Mal said slowly.
“Not me, no.”
Something about the way he said those three words had the hair on the back of Mal’s neck standing on end. “Jayne, you’re nibbling around the edge of this. Take a bite and tell me what you know.”
Jayne took a moment to pick up the last of the deer carcase and tossed it towards the Lupe, who grabbed it between sharp white teeth and dragged it into the bushes. “It’s gas powered, damn near silent, which is how come I didn’t hear a gorram thing. They tried a smaller version, a hand gun, but it tended to blow up, so they stuck to the rifle version.” He snorted half a laugh. “Lefty Maguire had one of the pistols, least before he got to be known as Lefty.”
Mal tried to ignore the mental picture flashing across his brain. “And you’re sure about it being one of these Sharps rifles that fired that bullet?”
The ex-merc held up the bullet, turning it so it caught the weak autumn sun, showing a faint purple sheen on its surface that might just have been a trick of the light. “Sharps is the only thing that I know of can fire a slug like this.” He tossed it to Mal, who caught it easily. “And only Lewis and Cameron made ‘em.”
“Already seen it, Jayne. And it looks pretty standard to me.”
“You said yourself, there’s something odd about it, but yeah, it’s standard weight, size ... ‘cept it’s got a gel core and is coated in Herschelium.”
That rang a bell, partly because they’d had dealings with Herschelium before, when they used it to disable the Golden Dragon a few months back. “That’s the stuff the Alliance use in their armour,” Mal said slowly, looking closer at the slug, realising the hint of purple wasn’t make believe. “Makes it bulletproof.”
“Yeah. Only Lewis and Cameron realised it also made bullets that much more likely to get through that armour, so when the war started the Feds told ‘em to stop production in case the Independents got their hands on any.”
“I’ve a notion they wouldn’t’ve liked that.”
“If’n the Browncoats had, you might not have lost.”
But Mal didn't want to talk over old times. “Jayne, you’re still only telling me half the story. You had an idea it was a Sharps before I showed you the bullet.” The big man didn’t respond, and Mal could feel the tenuous hold on his temper getting weaker. “Dammit, Jayne, I’ve got a pilot in the infirmary and a first mate who’s already been widowed once in this lifetime. Tell me.”
“Hank’s armour is pretty good stuff,” Jayne said at last. “It shoulda been able to stop a rifle round, even that close, and even if it didn’t then the armour shoulda stripped the outer coating on its way through.” He nodded towards the bullet in Mal’s fingers. “It ain’t even that deformed.”
“No, it’s not,” Mal agreed. “Unlucky for Hank.”
“Nah.” Jayne stood up suddenly, scaring the Lupe who had been slinking nearer into running back into the tall grasses, tail between his legs. “If Hank hadn’t been wearing his armour he’d be dead. Really dead.”
“There’s levels of dead?” Mal asked, getting to his feet.
“With one of them? Yeah.” He leaned down and picked up a stone, throwing it as hard as he could into the distance. “That was the other thing about the Sharps ammo. The gel core makes it ... I don't know the word, but it kinda vibrates.”
“Oscillates?” Mal suggested.
“Yeah. That’s it. Soon as it leaves the gun, it starts ... that vibrating ... and when it hits its target it’s got enough momentum to rip a body apart from the inside. ‘Cept hitting the armour the way it did, at the angle it did ...”
Mal understood. Hank’s armour had reduced the oscillations to almost nothing, and the short distance through his body hadn’t been enough to get it going again, so he’d been left with much more of a conventional bullet wound. Jayne was right – Hank had been very lucky indeed. “How do you know about all this? I know you read what you can get on guns, but this ... you seem to know more’n you're telling me.”
“We found a couple,” Jayne admitted. “Me and Indigo. In that stash in the camp.”
“Did you sell them?”
“Nah.” He picked up the coolbox and balanced it on his shoulder, walking up the ramp into the darker interior. “We were crazy and broke, but not that crazy and never that rutting broke. If we’d tried it woulda got back to someone, and we didn’t need that kinda trouble.”
Mal followed, closing up the doors after them. “What did you do with them?”
“Left ‘em hid. We might not’ve wanted anything to do with ‘em, but we didn’t want anyone else to either.”
“You thought you might be able to come back one day and retrieve them,” Mal hazarded, knowing his crewman perhaps better than he’d like.
“Maybe.” Jayne wasn’t going to be embarrassed by his own proclivities, his bootsteps firm as he crossed the bay. “Never know what a man’ll do when he hits rock bottom.”
“Kinda glad you never found out.”
“Maybe I did. Then someone offered me full run of the kitchen.” Jayne stopped at the bottom of the stairs. “But it’s kinda a coincidence, don't you think?”
“You’re considering Indigo might’ve gone back for one.”
“I thought about it.”
“And whoever killed him took it.”
“I don't know. I never asked Mallory about Indigo’s stuff.”
“Then maybe you should.”
Jayne looked at him, surprised. “We ain’t leaving?”
“You want us to?”
“No. Someone killed Indigo, tried to kill Hank ... But I thought maybe you’d want to run.”
“It’s my first instinct, I’ll admit. But like you said, someone tried to kill Hank, and I ain’t gonna let that go by without at least trying to find out who. And why.”
They both felt Serenity powering up beneath their feet, but were too engrossed to really notice.
“Jayne, Hank ain’t a threat to anyone. And I for one think it’s too much of a coincidence that he got shot that close to the Alliance camp.”
“If we ain't leaving, where are we going?” Okay, maybe the big man had noticed the Firefly taking off after all.
“Back to the port. And the sheriff’s office.”
“Sheriff? You mean Cutter McCoy?”
“My pilot’s been shot. I need to report it.”
“But to McCoy?” Jayne dropped the coldbox to the decking by his feet. “Mal, he was in the Tanners’ pockets back in the day, and I can’t see it having changed over the past few years.”
“I’m counting on that.”
A lot of people had underestimated Jayne in the past, and a fair percentage of them had lived to regret it. Admittedly, not lived very long, but that didn’t mitigate the fact the big man had a sort of raw intelligence which allowed him to surprise people. Mal, in point of fact, wasn’t surprised when Jayne suddenly chuckled, which was okay since he’d known him for quite some time.
“You really wanna shove a stick in that particular wasp’s nest?” Jayne huffed a breath through his nose. “Mal, I knew you were crazy, but I kinda thought you’d grown outta being suicidal.”
“I'm just doing my duty,” Mal insisted. “Being a good Alliance citizen.”
“There’s a coupla words I didn’t think I’d ever hear you say.”
Mal smiled slightly. “Okay, so maybe I’m being a sneaky Browncoat hwoon dahn, but I’m figuring that if we stir stuff up enough we might just get to find out a few things.”
“Before or after they shoot you?”
“Hey, I wasn’t planning on getting shot at all. But there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and where I would’ve just taken off from here and never looked back, someone tried to kill Hank, and that makes it not just about you anymore. ‘Sides, Zoe ain’t gonna let it rest either.”
“Can’t say I’m surprised.” Another thought occurred to him. “Frey know you’re sticking your pretty neck out again?”
“Yeah, she knows. So does your wife – she’s the one flying the ship.” River had dropped her intentions into his mind before she’d fired up Serenity.
“Moonbrain knows a lot about justice,” Jayne admitted. “Me, I never had much need for it.”
Mal started up the stairs past him. “I don't know what we’re likely to find out, or if it’ll ever get as far as a courtroom, but let’s turn over a few stones, see what crawls out.”
Jayne was never going to say thank you, nor confess that he felt a weight lift from his shoulders, but he nodded firmly. “Want me to come see Cutter with you?”
Pausing on the top step, Mal turned to look down. “Want to renew your friendship?”
“We ain't friends,” Jayne said. “In fact he’d prefer to see me strung up with my heels kicking. I just thought maybe you’d like some back-up.”
“I'm going to report a crime, Jayne. Not commit a murder.”
“You sure I can’t persuade you?”
“No.” Mal smiled again. “But if I’m not back in an hour you can come break me outta jail.”
“If you insist.”
“Right now, though, you’d better get those steaks in the freezer before they start to stink the place out.” He stepped up to the catwalk and crossed to the door.
“Okay, Mal.” Jayne hefted the cold box onto his shoulder again.
“Oh, and you go around saying my neck is pretty and I’ll be telling River,” Mal added as he disappeared.
“Better’n saying what I really think,” Jayne muttered, but there was just the ghost of a smile on his lips.
to be continued
Sunday, March 20, 2011 10:25 AM
Sunday, March 20, 2011 3:00 PM
Sunday, March 20, 2011 5:10 PM
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