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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal has something like a plan forming in his head, and the crew is getting closer to some action. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 859 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Indigo was the last at breakfast, having stopped off in the infirmary to check on Sara first. He spent a few minutes chatting to Hank as well, marvelling at the laid back attitude the man had, especially considering his recent very close brush with death, but he realised there was no point in being surprised all the time at this crew. Jayne, a married family man, the number of kids on board, a captain willing to take him and Sara someplace safe ... if he let himself be amazed all the time he’d go around with his chin to his knees.
By the time he arrived in the warm kitchen the rest of the adults were already seated around the large table, bowls of what looked like oatmeal in front of each of them.
“There’s enough in the pan,” Kaylee said. “And sweetener if you want. Or salt, if that’s how you like it.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Kaylee laughed. “Don’t you go calling me that. Makes me feel like I'm about a hundred.”
“Can’t think you’re old enough to be married, let alone have a couple or three kids.” He smiled.
The mechanic pinked up. “I think you’re a bad man, Indigo MacCready.”
“Wouldn’t be at all surprised.” Indigo picked up the bowl that sat ready and spooned oatmeal into it.
Jayne growled slightly, only stopping when River put her hand on his.
“Should I be worried?” Simon asked in a low whisper.
Kaylee blushed ever deeper. “Nope. Course not. But his voice ...”
She glanced at the other women around the table, seeing understanding in their eyes. “It’s ... like he’s had too many cigarettes, or cigars, or something, you know? Only it’s been oiled, like when I do the compression bearings. A bit like ... I don’t know, it rolls through a person, you know?”
“Not ... really.” Simon looked up at Mal, who shrugged, never having noticed it himself.
“Oiled,” Zoe said quietly. “Sounds about it.”
She’s right, Freya murmured in Mal’s mind. It’s quite ... hypnotic.
You planning on leaving me for an old gunhand? he asked, his mental tone amused.
No. Just saying. Her lips curved.
Indigo, showing no signs of having heard the out-loud conversation, let alone the unspoken one that followed, sat down in the empty chair next to Kaylee and reached for the sweetener. “Where’re the kids?” he asked as he sprinkled the white crystals onto his oatmeal. “Somehow I doubt they’re usually absent.”
The warm room immediately chilled.
“Happen you’re right,” Mal agreed. “They’re eating in their rooms.”
“Breakfast in bed? Used to think that was a real treat. Back when I was their age, o’course.”
“We’ve got things to discuss that aren’t for little ears.” Mal took a pull on his mug of coffee, feeling it scouring his throat even as he knew at least one of the children was still going to be ‘listening’. “And I'm pretty sure you know what about.”
Indigo nodded, stirring his breakfast slowly. “The camp.”
Mal went on. “Seems like I might have been persuaded to not leave quite yet.”
Mal didn’t look at Freya, but he might as well have pointed and done a jig. “There are some of us don’t think slavery is right, especially when there might be kids involved.”
Indigo glanced towards the woman at the captain’s side. “So we’re going to ... what? Mount a rescue mission?”
“And how, might I ask? Considering we don’t know how many we’re up against, and they’re not likely to be armed with feather dusters. We don’t even know where any captives are being held. If they’re there,” he added pointedly.
“You know they are.” Freya wasn’t accusing, but her meaning was clear. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have been there with Sara.”
Indigo looked at Mal. “You told her?”
“She’s my wife.” And she peeked anyway, Mal thought but didn’t say.
“And a man doesn’t keep secrets from his wife?”
“Not if he wants to stay married, no.”
Simon coughed. “I have a question.”
“Is it relevant?” Mal asked, a little testily.
“I think so.”
“Fine.” He waved the other man on. “Go ahead. It ain’t like we’re under the clock much.”
“Thank you.” Simon ignored the sarcasm and cleared his throat again, then looked at Indigo. “As much as I'm loath to suggest it, why didn’t you just call the Alliance down on it? Slavery’s illegal, even if they do turn a blind eye, but a concerned citizen making a specific complaint ... they would have had to do something.”
“Oh, they do more than that.” Indigo, despite his earlier protestations that he did anything that paid, looked disgusted. “From what I can gather, there’s been more’n one Alliance ship doing the pick-up.”
River, who had been silent all through the conversation, now spoke, but it seemed more to herself than anyone else. “Talented child, we can offer so much, make your world wider than you could ever imagine. We will pay handsomely, and if money is not an issue then we will take what we need and leave nothing but weeping to purge the pain, to put out the fire of loss and change and deliverance and adaptation and if we lose some on the way then there are many more who will fill the gap for us to make what we need ...”
It’s like Alex said, Mal thought, risking a glance at Freya.
Yes. It barely showed on her face, but he could feel the anger inside her as if it was a fire.
River was still staring into the distance, then Jayne took her hand. “Moonbrain.”
She came out of her reverie and looked at him, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “So many ...” she murmured.
River’s expression was so achingly familiar to Simon that for a brief moment the old thought surfaced that perhaps he should consider doping her. Then she turned her head to look squarely at him, and the word Boob span into his mind. He almost laughed but turned it into a cough.
Jayne thumped him on the back hard enough to dislodge any obstruction, including ribs and teeth, and it was with aching shoulders and streaming eyes that Simon said, “Thanks.”
“Is she okay?” Indigo whispered to Kaylee as Simon was ministered to.
“River’s had a few problems. But she’s fine now,” the young woman assured him, equally quietly. “Least, most of the time,” she added, needing to be honest.
River, in the meantime, had got up in her silent fashion and gone to the corner cupboard, returning with the portable screen Freya used for lessons. She put it on the table and fired it up. The surface glowed for a moment then settled on what appeared to be ground plans but on closer inspection were wire images of buildings. “Besides,” she said, almost in response to Indigo and Kaylee’s quiet conversation, “I have been doing ... research.”
“Am I seeing things or is that the Alliance camp?” Indigo asked.
“It’s amazing what you can find on the Cortex,” she said conversationally. “Hank is quite right.”
“He often is. Just don’t tell him I said so.” Mal leaned forward to study the plans, and the others joined him.
The old camp buildings looked like two capital Es back to back, a distance of some fifty feet between them. As the wire rotated slightly it was apparent that the horizontals of the Es were taller than the sections in between, four stories to two, giving an impression of castellations on a huge scale, while filling the gap at the far end was a single building, reaching up higher by as much again. The plans showed windows overlooking the empty road between them, but there was no indication of the usage each of the rooms had been put to.
“Not the easiest of places to mount an attack on,” Mal muttered.
“I don't know about that.” Freya reached out and manipulated the image on the screen so that their POV dropped below ground to show the four levels beneath, mirroring those above at least in floor plan. “It looks as if the only access to these areas is through the elevator shaft here.” She tapped the tall building at the end of the road, then the lower floors. “And common sense says the prisoners are likely to be as deep as possible.”
“Nothing you’ve said so far has made me reconsider, xin gan.”
She sat back and smiled at him. “Mal, even you wouldn’t make a frontal attack down that kill alley.”
“So ... there has to be another way in,” he finished. “Or out.”
As if you hadn’t already thought of that. Freya’s voice was almost as amused as it had been when they were discussing Indigo’s rolling tones.
For once Mal didn’t comment, but she didn’t take offence.
Indigo, on the other hand, had made the same connection. “No.”
“Ain’t your call,” Mal responded.
“She’s a child.”
“It gets tiresome to remind folk that I’m captain, but it surely seems to be necessary on occasion.” Mal raised an eyebrow. “And it’s not like I'm planning on taking her.”
Kaylee looked from one to the other. “Do you mean ... Sara?”
“She got out,” Freya said gently.
“Yeah, but ...” The mechanic’s objections faded before she admitted, “I suppose.”
“Well, I ain’t happy about it.” Indigo was angry, it was obvious from the slight trembling of his moustache, even though the rest of him was suddenly very still.
“I’m just gonna ask her a couple of questions,” Mal said. “Nothing else.”
“And if she don’t remember? What then? You gonna threaten her like you threatened me?”
Kaylee started to protest, but a look from her captain quelled her.
“I ain’t so far gone that I’d do that.” Mal stood up.
“Then what?” Indigo pushed.
Mal suddenly leaned forward, his fists pressing into the old wooden table top, and even Jayne moved back a couple of inches. “You’re not the only one with a kid, MacCready. It wasn’t many days ago that our own were in danger, maybe to go the same way as Sara. Now my first instinct is to leave here, soon as River or my wife can get Serenity into the air. But if I do that, thinking there might be children in that camp, then neither one of ‘em would ever talk to me again, and I wouldn’t blame ‘em at all.”
“No, I get that.” Indigo spoke slowly, glimpsing the soldier he’d heard about in the man in front of him. “And I didn’t know about Ethan and the rest. I might not be the best father in the ‘verse, but it’s made me understand what I’ll do for her.”
“Well, shiny.” Mal straightened. “Then let’s go see your daughter.”
“But it won't help much.”
Mal’s eyes narrowed. “Why not?”
Indigo gestured towards the screen. “Your wife’s right – the sensible thing would be to keep the slaves in the lower levels. But at least one of them is flooded, particularly this time of year. And they’re going to be guarded by men who won’t think twice about killing hostages. And that’s without if they raise the alarm. There’ll be more gunmen coming from their ship, which isn't likely to be that far from the camp, and that could mean they outflank you. Not a good prospect.”
“You think I haven’t considered that?”
Indigo looked at the other man, and realised he had underestimated him. “You have. Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, hero of Serenity Valley, is going to have thought of all the angles,” he said with a trace of wonder.
“Don’t mean his plans always work without a hitch,” Jayne grumbled.
“They work well enough when other people don’t get in the way,” Mal said. “And I ain’t a hero. Far as I can see, there’s no such thing, just folks with a job to do." Pushing his chair away with a screech he strode towards the back stairs.
Simon, by dint of being the ship’s medic, followed Mal into the infirmary, but otherwise only Indigo stepped over the sill after him, the rest of the crew clustered in the common area.
“Hey, Sara,” Mal said, smiling at the young girl on the side bed. “How’re you feeling?”
“Better. Thank you, sir.”
“As much as it flatters me, you don’t have to call me sir. I’m Mal. Or Captain will do.”
“Okay, sir. Captain.”
Mal nodded. “Shiny. Sara, I need to ask you a couple of questions. About your time at the Alliance camp.”
Sara’s face dissolved into anxiety and she reached out for Indigo, who took her hand.
“It’s okay,” Indigo said. “I'm here.”
“Just tell Mal what he wants,” Hank said from the medbed, smiling encouragingly.
“I don’t remember much,” Sara said, her voice so quiet it was little more than a murmur. “I think maybe they drugged us.”
“Then how did you get out?” Mal asked.
Sara swallowed but answered honestly. “I was ... sick. Threw up a couple of times.”
Mal glanced at Simon who said, “It depends on the medication, but yes, vomiting could have taken enough out of her system to bring her round. She was just lucky she didn’t ...” He stopped, but Mal had taken the inference.
He looked back at Sara. “So you woke up.”
“Yes. But I didn’t ... they didn’t know. I hid the food they brought, and I was so hungry, then ... they didn’t lock the door properly. I got out into the corridor, heard them coming.” She closed her eyes tightly, trying to stop the memories, and two tears squeezed from beneath the lids, running down her cheeks.
“Sara ...” Mal moved a step closer. “You’re safe here. You got out. But I need to know how.”
She nodded and opened her eyes again, releasing more tears that she wiped away with the back of her free hand. “I heard them so I ran. I got turned around so much, ended up in a dead end, but there was a grill in the wall that was only held on by one screw and I managed to get behind it. I was only trying to hide but it was an air shaft. It was a tight fit, but I managed to climb up.”
“Near cut her hands to pieces doing it,” Indigo commented, a strange hint of pride in his voice.
Mal understood, but didn’t have time to appreciate it. “How tight? Could a man make it?”
Sara shook her head. “There were a couple of places I thought I was stuck, that I was going to die in there ...” She started to tremble, ceasing only when Indigo stroked her hand. “But no, sir. I don't think a man could.”
Mal patted her knee, slightly awkwardly. “You relax, now, Sara. Like I said, you’re safe. And you’re a brave girl.”
She managed a smile as Mal walked out of the infirmary into the common area.
“I could,” River said quietly.
Mal looked at her. “You think?”
The young psychic nodded. “It will be difficult, but ... yes.”
He took a deep breath, giving himself time to consider the options. “Can you ...”
He knew she’d understood, that he wanted to know if she could read the way in Sara’s head, more clearly than any map. “Shiny.”
“I'm not staying behind,” Freya warned, her face pale.
“No. I figured as much, ai ren.” He turned to Jayne. “Can you keep him under control?”
“Hey, I am still here,” Indigo complained mildly from the doorway, but was ignored.
“Bethie thinks he’s trustworthy,” the big man said slowly.
“Jayne, I know you trust her, but –”
“We’ve worked together before,” Jayne interrupted. “We know how the other works, what we’re likely to do before we do it. Besides, Sara’s staying on board.”
Indigo’s boots thudded on the deck as he joined them, his face stiff. “So you’re holding my daughter hostage?”
“Not really,” Mal said. “But she is staying put, mostly ‘cause it’s the safest place for her right now.”
“It’s okay, Daddy,” Sara put in from the infirmary. “They won’t hurt me.” She glanced quickly at Hank and a small smile lifted her lips before disappearing.
“That’s right, honey,” the pilot said. “And I’ll ... well, probably have harsh words with anyone as tries.”
Mal hitched his thumbs in his pants pockets and turned his sapphire gaze on Indigo. “What’s the schedule?”
“You mean how long are the slavers about?” At Mal’s sharp nod Indigo went on, “Could be a week. Less. It depends when the other ship comes for them.”
“The other ship?” Kaylee interrupted. “You mean the Alliance.”
“Technically, probably not. They’re usually one removed.” Indigo paused. “Pretty much like the slavers.” He looked like he had a bad taste in his mouth. “They work for Brad and Wes, sort of like sub-contractors, and keep the Tanners out of the shit. The brothers don’t get their hands dirty at the front end, least not from what I’ve been able to learn. They’re more middle men, employing the slavers and letting them use the camp, supplying guards, guns, whatever they need ‘til the transports arrive.”
“How do you know about the camp?” Simon put in sharply. “About the levels flooding? Sheriff McCoy was adamant the place is off limits, and you didn't get inside. So how do you know?”
“The doc has a good point,” Mal said thoughtfully. “You surely do know a lot about these bad men. Are you sure you ain’t one of them?”
“Somebody shot me, Captain.” Indigo’s hand went to his back. “Remember?”
“And maybe you weren’t happy with your share, wanted more money. Became something of a nuisance, and they decided to get rid of you.”
Indigo’s eyes darkened. “And Sara? Are you saying I sold my own child?”
“No. But maybe they took her for insurance.”
His hand hovering over a naked hip, Indigo shook his head. “I've killed folks for less.”
They glared at each other, the atmosphere congealing more than the oatmeal left upstairs in the pan, until ...
Both men looked around.
Serenity’s first mate shook her head. “I said enough, sir. I know trust is an issue here, but we won’t get anywhere by fighting.”
“Zoe’s right,” Freya said. “Whatever else Indigo is, I don't think he’s in with the slavers.”
“He still knows more than he should,” Mal pointed out.
Indigo’s shoulders slumped. “Addie told me.”
All attention was back on him.
“Addie? How would she know?” Jayne asked sharply.
“She ...” A faint expression of disgust crossed his face, but whether at himself or the saloon keeper was hard to tell. “She takes supplies. For the ... cargo as well as the crew.”
“We met her coming from that direction,” Freya realised. “When we were out for our walk.”
“Yeah.” Mal’s lips tightened. “And that’s how Indigo here found out about the slaves.”
Indigo nodded. “Yeah. Addie ... she doesn't have much say in the matter, but she told me. In confidence. She’s been keeping me and Sara supplied too.”
“Okay.” Mal looked at his crew. “So we have a way in. Maybe.”
“If it’s not blocked,” Simon said.
“Won’t know until we try. But that still doesn’t get us around the slavers themselves.” He turned to River. “Where’s their ship?”
“I’ve scanned but can’t find it,” River admitted.
“Camonet?” Mal was referring to the device they’d come across before that could hide a ship from everything but visual discovery.
The young psychic shook her head. “Expensive. More probably hiding.”
“Give me a chance to take a look,” Hank begged from the infirmary. “I know a few tricks.”
“Then you can tell River,” Zoe said firmly. “You’re not getting up.”
“Honey, you really think I’m gonna let her in on the few secrets I got left –”
“Forget it,” Mal said sharply. He looked at Indigo. “Would Addie tell us?”
The tattooed man shrugged. “I don’t think she knows. She takes supplies to the camp, that’s all. What happens to it after that ...”
“Can she at least tell us how many are on board? I'd hate to be in the middle of something and find a whole passel of mercs on my back.”
“She can probably make an educated guess based on the stuff she takes out there, and how often.”
“Do they come into town?” Jayne growled. “Use her girls?”
“I don’t know,” Indigo admitted.
“Then I think we’re gonna take a walk and find out.” Mal straightened. “Kaylee, make sure Serenity’s ready to fly when we need her. Same with the shuttles – I ain’t planning on using ‘em, but better safe than sorry.” Kaylee nodded and hurried up towards her domain as Mal went on, “Jayne, get yourself armed. And yes, a grenade if you really want, but I’m hoping Addie’s going to be forthcoming.”
“Only the one?”
“For now. Not planning on blowing up the whole town.”
Jayne smiled, but there was no humour in it. “Might not be a bad idea. Clean the place out and start again.”
“Well, I’ll take that under advisement.”
The big man grunted and strode out, heading for the shuttle and his guns.
“She might tell me,” Indigo said.
“Yeah. You’re coming too.”
“I need a weapon.”
“What if I have to defend myself?”
“Indigo, you know Jayne. You really think he’s not gonna have a spare on his person?”
“True.” Indigo started for his temporary quarters, tossing over his shoulder, “But I’ll be mighty pissed if I end up under that headstone.”
“I’m going with you,” Freya put in as the tattooed man vanished, still being circumspect as she added, “You might need a ... need me.”
“I can go,” River said.
“No,” Mal said firmly. “Same reasons as before – Medea finds out you’re wandering and she might put two and two together. ‘Sides, might need you for the big rescue if something goes wrong.”
The young woman pouted. “Not fair.”
He put his hand on her arm. “Xiao nu, I don’t think you’re going to be lacking for action before this is through. Now go make sure nobody’s gonna be watching us leave.”
She looked like she was going to argue, but saw the resolve in him. “Yes, sir,” she said instead, turning and running up the stairs, her bare feet making no noise.
“And me?” Zoe asked, know what the answer was going to be.
“You make sure I’ve still got a ship to come back to,” Mal said. “Something about this ... can’t help feeling I’ve got cross-hairs on me right now.”
“Or Cutter McCoy. Or a combination.”
“Perhaps I should borrow one of Jayne’s grenades.”
“Good idea. Better get me one of those micro beacons while you’re at it.”
“Just in case, sir?”
“Just in case.”
Her lips curving, Zoe climbed the stairs in her stately fashion towards her bunk and her Mare’s Leg.
Simon exhaled heavily through his nose. “I think we’ve got enough medical supplies,” he commented.
“Not planning on starting a war, doc.”
“No. But as Jayne has a habit of saying, what you plan isn’t always what goes down.” With something approaching a half-smile Simon retreated into his infirmary.
“You think this is a good idea?” Freya asked, stepping closer to her husband.
Mal put his hands on her hips, drawing her in. “A good idea’s running with my tail between my legs, but somebody ... uh ... persuaded me that wasn’t in my best interest.”
“I never said I’d throw you out of our bed if you ran.”
“No. But I wasn’t far off with what I said to Indigo, was I?”
She gazed into his eyes, noting with only a small part of her mind that their hard blueness had softened, as it always did when he looked at her. “Maybe ... not so far off,” she conceded.
“So what was all that about the feller’s voice?” he asked, allowing himself the time to inquire.
Freya smiled. “Are you telling me you don’t feel it?”
“Feel what?” Mal leaned back a little. “Frey, nobody on this boat is making any sense.”
“When Indigo talks, there’s a sort of vibration that goes through you.”
“Maybe it’s a female thing.”
“You feel it?”
“I'm not going to deny it.”
He leaned forward again, just a few inches between them. “So you’re wanting him now instead of me?”
“Might make a change.”
“Is that what his voice does? Turns you on?”
Freya had to laugh. “Don’t worry. I won't act on the increasingly interesting pictures I have in my head.”
“Really?” His blue eyes narrowed. “Do I need to go and have a word with Indigo?”
“Mal, I love you, but I think you’d lose.” She cupped his cheek in her hand. “You’re not a natural killer.”
The atmosphere changed from light-hearted to more serious. “And he is?”
“More so than Jayne?”
To her credit Freya paused, considering. Then she said slowly, “How did you first meet Jayne?”
“Him and his pals were holding me and Zoe up for the goods we’d got hidden onboard and he ...” He stopped. “I get it.”
She nodded. “I knew you would.” She paused for just a moment, finding the right words. “Jayne became a mercenary because of personal circumstances, but it only allowed him to utilise his ... natural talents.”
“He was down on his luck when we met him.”
“That happens to the best of us.” She smiled slightly. “Some of us had ships of their own before having to take a menial job to pay the bills.”
“Menial job?” His mouth dropped open in feigned shock. “You talking about me taking you off the street and stopping you starving to death?”
“And there I was thinking inviting you into my bed was a kindness.”
“I have to admit I was getting to the point of asking Simon for something to drug you with so I could have my wicked way with you.” The smile had widened.
“You’d have done that? That wouldn't have been fair. I wouldn’t’ve enjoyed it.”
“Well, maybe not remembered enjoying it ...”
His eyebrows raised. “How do I know you didn’t?”
She chuckled, a deep, throaty sound. “You don’t.”
“That’s all kinds of unsettling.”
She moved even closer, so much so she could feel him breathing. “I didn’t, Mal. I wouldn’t. Ever.”
He pulled her tight against him. “I know that, ai ren. Just joshing with you.” Leaning forwards, just that centimetre more, he kissed her, feeling her opening up to him as her arms came up to encircle him, taking a moment to be husband and wife before the real battle began.
to be continued
Monday, January 02, 2012 5:19 AM
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