BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

MARKOMI

Book of Secrets (Part 3)
Monday, July 30, 2012

"My friends, if you're reading this, I'm dead."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3413    RATING:     SERIES: FIREFLY

Five and a half months earlier

It was slow work.

The heat was close to unbearable, and the dry and arid desert sand not the easiest to work with. Sometimes it seemed to Jayne like the more he dug, the more dirt rushed back into the hole again. He could spend the whole morning digging and produce no more than a single, shallow grave.

At times the whole endeavor seemed pointless. What good would it do these people now, anyhow? And yet he knew it had to be done. Book would have wanted it. Book would have expected it.

But the job was tough, it was horrible, gruesome – and he was more or less left alone with the task of getting it done. The captain and the doc were still recovering from their near fatal injuries, Zoë was caught up in her own grief, and he couldn't exactly ask the girls to help him out. They'd seen and done enough already.

Hell, it should've have fallen to the gorram purplebellies! They should be here, cleaning up their own mess. But those ruttin' cowards, those babykillers, were long gone.

Then again, maybe it should be him? Perhaps it was best this way? Doing something was better than doing nothing, anyways. And as long as his hands were busy, his mind didn't have to be.

Only it was.

He stood up, dropped the shovel and pulled off his hat to wipe the sweat off his brow. Then he looked at the hole at his feet. It wasn't big. But big enough for one of the little ones.

He bit his lip.

Those were the hardest.

He glanced back at Serenity. She was parked a good distance from the settlement. From where he stood she almost looked like a derelict. Lifeless, soulless… like the rest of this gorram place. He saw none of the others. They didn't venture outside the ship much. Just Zoë, and where she went he had no idea.

He walked over to the long line of bodies that took up most of the main market square, each carefully wrapped up in cloth or tarp. They didn't smell too bad. Inara had done something to them.

He found a small one. A little bundle with a piece of paper attached to it. Kaylee's handwriting. Easy to read.

Katie.

Gorramit, he remembered this one. Light brown hair, freckles… She'd reminded him of his sister Jude when she was a kid.

His hands were shaking, he noticed.

Hatred.

He drew a deep breath and then, tenderly, as if the child was still alive, he scooped the bundle up in his arms. She wasn't heavy at all. How old had she been? Four? Five?

Hatred.

He was filled with it!

He hadn't hated many people in his life. He'd disliked quite a few, but never hated.

He hated now.

And he didn't much care for the feeling.

He made his way back to the freshly dug grave and carefully put her down, before he shuffled the dirt back on top of her. Fast, because he couldn't bear looking at her much longer.

Maybe he oughtta say something? A prayer or some such? But he couldn't think of any.

"There ain't no God," he whispered to no one in particular, because only the dead were there to hear it. A God wouldn't have allowed this to happen.

He should get on with the job. There were plenty more to go. But he was tired now, and his shoulder was aching up again.

Hatred.

He couldn't hold it back this time, and he screamed out loud. Wailed like a wounded animal. And instantly regretted it. What if the others had heard him?

He glanced back at the ship again. He still couldn't see anyone.

Hell if they were ever gonna see him break down!

He ran.

Down the street.

Around a house.

And then fell to his knees and emptied his stomach.

Gasping he glanced up and noticed that he'd ended up next to the chapel, and he crawled inside, because this room was as good as any, and leaned against the wall, pulled his shirt over his head and cried.

There ain't no God…

But if there ain't no God, there ain't no Heaven. And the little girl he'd just buried surely deserved Heaven.

And the only person who could ever explain this to him, or at least would've tried to, was dead and gone with the rest of these unfortunate people. And the only thing left of him was the leather bound book lying on the minister's chair.

*************

The galley was unusually quiet. It was not unlike that fateful day back on Miranda, Zoë mused, when Mal had told them he aimed to misbehave. But he wasn't standing this time, not rallying them with some inspired speech about honor. Instead he half slouched in his chair, silently watching the still unopened package in front of him, drumming his fingertips against the dinner table.

Kaylee was to his left, looking excited and a little sad and scared at the same time with her wide eyes. Simon was next to her again, patiently waiting for someone to take some initiative but clearly not planning on being that person himself. Jayne was on the captain's right hand side, glaring at the package as if it trying to kill it. Next was Inara, and she mostly kept her worried eyes on Mal. Jo was the only one not seated. She stayed back, leaning against the kitchen counter on which River had curled up. And Zoë herself was at the far end of the table.

The tension in the room was heavy and suffocating. Zoë knew she wasn't the only one thinking this. They were all hoping for somebody to say something, but for some reason all of them hesitated to do so. The memories came flooding back and she didn't welcome them.

Not now.

Not yet.

In the end she had to break the silence herself. "Sir?"

Mal tore his eyes away from the package and looked up to meet hers, and now as she'd finally burst the bubble, everybody started talking at once.

"What ya'll think he sent us?" Kaylee asked warily.

"Hell, how did he do it?" Jayne added. "He's dead."

"Well, he obviously had someone do it for him," Simon said, and there was that little hint of impatience in his voice even if he clearly tried to hide it.

"I knew that!" Jayne scowled at him.

Zoë had kept her eyes on Mal the whole time and he hadn't looked away either."Shouldn't we open it?" she asked.

"Yeah," he replied and sat up straight. "Yeah, we should."

Everybody fell quiet again and kept their eyes intently on their captain as he grabbed the package and pulled it towards him. He struggled a little with the strips and accepted the knife Jayne handed him. He tore off the paper and paused a little before lifting off the lid, and as he did they all cringed their necks to see what was inside.

It was filled with straw.

And a single white envelope.

There was a lot of quizzical frowning around the table, but nobody spoke as Mal used Jayne's knife to cut the envelope open. As he pulled out a sheet of paper something else fell out as well and jingled across the table before coming to a rest next to the centerpiece. It was a small object and it glittered in the light from the candles, and everybody leaned in to see.

"Oh gosh, it's the Adelaide pin!" Kaylee exclaimed. "You know, the lapel pin that we… well, you know." She blushed with shame at the memories.

It was indeed that tiny silver cross that once upon a time had caused them so much grief and worry, and Mal picked it up and held it up towards the lamp to inspect it more closely.

"I don't get it," Jayne grunted. "How come he used such a big box for such a tiny thing?"

The rest of them efficiently ignored the question.

"Read the letter," Simon urged.

Mal put the pin down and slapped Jayne's hand as he tried to grab it, and then unfolded the paper and began reading out loud.

'My friends,

'If you're reading this, I'm dead. Perhaps I died peacefully in my own bed, satisfied and full of years as they say, and you're all old and grey – or at least older than you were – and have gone your separate ways by now. But I don't think so. I always expected death to claim me violently and suddenly, because that's the only fitting end to the kind of life I've lived.

'Yes, I picture you all frowning right about now, thinking these are strange words coming from a shepherd. But then again I know you've always suspected I was a lot more than just a preacher, and you were right to do so. But I'll spare you the details. My life's no longer important. What's important is my legacy.

'I've instructed my brethren at the abbey to mail you this package upon receiving words of my death, which I'm – as already stated – sure will find me not too long after we parted ways. And I hereby declare that I'm leaving all my earthly possessions to you, the crew. You will find it isn't much, mostly only the shirt off my back and this pin, which I recall Zoë and Kaylee taking particular interest in. Speaking of the pin, you will need it.

"Need it for what?" Jayne asked as Mal turned the sheet to continue reading. He was only met by a chorus of shushes.

'Because there is one more object I have intended for you to inherit. For now it's safely hidden away, and deliberately so. I have left you clues that will eventually lead you to it, and it is my hope that by the time you find it, you will know what to do with it.

'You'll find that some of the clues will be easy to interpret, others maybe not so much, but they are created in such a way that only you – the crew of Serenity – will be able to do so, and you will all be needed to complete the puzzle.

'My friends, I must warn you; this object that you'll be searching for is desired by a lot of people. You will not be the only ones looking for it, and some will stop at nothing to get to it before you. These people must not – and I can't stress this enough – succeed. So take care. Do not speak of this to anyone. And good hunting.

If the Lord grants me the chance, I'll put in a good word for you.

Sincerely,

Book.

"And then there's just some numbers," Mal finished his reading.

"Numbers?" Kaylee frowned.

"Yeah. Nine-one-one, one-one, one-seven."

"Must be the first clue," Simon said. "May I see?"

The captain wordlessly handed him the letter and the doctor flattened it on the table in front of him and studied the string of numbers scribbled on it. "Looks like a simple book code," he quickly concluded.

"Yeah, we know it's Book's code," Jayne said, sounding a little annoyed, the way he always did when he didn't catch up on something right away.

"No, not Book's code," Simon explained, more patiently than usual. "A book code. You use a certain book that only you and the receiver of the coded message know of, and the numbers represent the page, the line on that page and the word, or sometimes letter, on that line."

"Okay," Mal said. "Which book?"

"Man was a preacher," Zoë said quietly. "There's only one book."

A moment of silence fell between them.

"Well," Mal eventually said, leaning back in his chair, "there ain't no Bible on this boat."

"Bible's broken," River muttered from her place on the kitchen counter. "Doesn't make sense." She looked at Mal. "It fixes you."

At that moment Jayne suddenly pushed back his chair and stomped out of the kitchen. The others followed him with their eyes as he disappeared through the hatch, but didn't comment on it.

"It's on the Cortex, ain't it?" Kaylee said.

"You'll need one with pages," Jo pointed out.

"We'll probably need his," Simon added. "Or one just like it. For the numbers to make sense."

"It's probably still on…," Inara began.

"We ain't going to back to Haven," Mal declared before she could finish. "I ain't settin' my foot there ever again."

"But how else we gonna solve this?" Kaylee asked.

"Who said we were?" the captain retorted.

Another moment of pregnant silence followed. Then Kaylee put her hand on the shepherd's letter and pushed it towards her captain. "It's Book," she said, looking him straight in the eye. "He's askin' us to."

Mal looked back at her for a few short seconds, and at the other end of the table Zoë had to cover her smile with her hand. The mechanic was working her puppy eyes for all their worth.

"Well, I still can't just conjure up a…," the captain began, but was promptly interrupted when Jayne burst back into the room and dropped something down on the table in front of him. "Bible," a slightly shocked Mal finished the sentence.

And that was precisely what it was. The shepherd's own leather bound copy.

Everybody looked from it to Jayne.

"I took it," he muttered, looking down as if uncertain where else to put his eyes. "Don't rightly know why, so don't ask, okay?" He shrugged. "Figured he wouldn't need it no more."

"I'm sure he wouldn't have minded, Jayne," Inara said softly. The mercenary just grunted.

Simon reached out for the book, but Mal was faster. "Let's see, then," he said, and started flipping through it while he glanced at the letter to recheck the numbers. "Page nine hundred and eleven… line eleven… word number… There ain't seventeen words on this line, Doc."

"Maybe it's verse," Simon suggested. "The seventeenth word in the eleventh verse."

"Alrighty." Mal counted his way down the page, then frowned and looked up at the others. "Harvest," he said.

"The treasure's on Harvest?" Jayne mused, while Mal, Zoë, Simon and Inara all turned to look at Kaylee.

"What ya'll lookin' at me for?" she asked when she eventually noticed.

"Harvest's your homeworld," the captain replied.

"Well, yeah, I was raised there, sure, but…"

"Book said only we will know how to solve the riddles," Zoë explained. "And that we would all be needed."

Mal nodded. "Mayhaps this one's for you, Kaylee."

"But I don't get it," she said, looking from one to the other. "Where would I look? I mean, Harvest's a pretty big planet."

"But that town we found you in ain't," Mal pointed out.

"No," the mechanic hesitantly agreed. "But I wouldn't know what to… I don't even have family there no more. My brothers found work on Deadwood 'bout six months after I joined you guys, and my folks went there with 'em."

"Still, it's the best and only option at this point," the captain said.

"Maybe it'll make sense when you get there," Inara suggested with a sympathetic smile.

"So we are going there?" Zoë asked, addressing Mal.

"Well," he mumbled, trying rather unsuccessfully to hide the sudden and somewhat uncharacteristically look of thrill and excitement on his face, "it's not like we got sumthin' better to do. And if nothin' else, we might find work there. So…"

"Plotting a course for Harvest!" River happily exclaimed, before she jumped off the counter and started skipping towards the bridge.

"Hey, what? Wait!" Mal shouted and hurried after her.

"Looks like we goin' to Harvest," Zoë dryly remarked.

"Shiny," Jo smiled. "I ain't never been to Harvest."

"You ain't never been anywhere," Jayne pointed out.

"Tha's what I'm sayin'."

Jayne snorted. "Harvest is wheat, barley, corn and more wheat."

"Shiny," Jo repeated and kept smiling.

Kaylee still looked a little confused and taken aback, but she glanced up at Simon and smiled when he took her hand. "Now I get to see where you grew up," he said.

"Yeah," she replied and a dreamy and, Zoë thought, slightly worried look fell across her face. "Yeah, you do."

***********

A/N: The Jayne section at the start of this chapter is adapted from the closing scene of the last "episode" of Firefly Season 2 at Virtual Firefly. I really wish I could take the full credit for it, but honor where honor is due ;)

As for the Bible references; I'm using the New International Version by International Bible Society. The "book code" might not work with other versions.

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COMMENTS

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 11:25 AM

AMDOBELL


Really felt sad about all those bodies needing burying and poor Jayne having to put little Katie in the ground. As for Book's legacy, I have the feeling it is going to be the kind that will maybe cause them more pain than pleasure. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:22 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well...the game's afoot and Kaylee gets to lead off the charge with whatever clue or mystery needs to be handled by the crew on Harvest! Huzzah!


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