Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.


Mal didn't stay in his chair for long. These folks seemed friendly enough, but he'd never let down his guard in a stranger's house and he wasn't about to start now. He got to his feet and started moving around the room, and then realized how pointless it would seem to the others, as the room was small and there wasn't that much space to move in anyway, and so he ended up by the big dining table in the middle of the room, stiffly nodding to the people sitting there, and then took the time and the opportunity to count the heads. Himself and Simon not included, there were four grown men, five grown women and six children – four boys and two girls, and apparently none of them older than about ten years of age – crammed inside the four walls.

Speaking of walls, there were no windows – and why should there be? It wasn't like there was anything outside to look at, them being underneath the snow and all. The room was lit by lamps in the ceiling, giving off a bluish light, and the flames and sparks from the fireplace. Simon was still in his chair in front of it, looking out of place as always, his eyes darting around the room.

"So what brings you to St. Albans?"

Mal jumped at the sound of John Hensley's voice, and mentally kicked himself for allowing the man to surprise him like that. Of course he would ask questions, what else would you expect? In fact, the deafening silence coming from everybody else in the room, was a whole lot more disturbing.

"Work," he answered truthfully.

Hensley raised his eyebrows slightly. "You won't find work in the direction you were headed. Only wasteland that way for miles on." He pulled out a chair and sat down at the table with the other men. "Unless of course your work is more of the under-the-radar sort of thing."

In his mind Mal debated whether he should dare to throw him a look or not, but decided on the first option. He was a good liar, and even if they didn't believe him, he knew that look would still be enough to make them back away.

Hensley didn't even blink. "Oh, we see them all the time," he explained matter-of-factly. "The smugglers." He shrugged, grabbed a pipe lying on the table and began stuffing it with dried leaves probably meant to pass as tobacco. "Who else would come here? And no," he added before Mal had the chance to say anything, "I don't know where they hide their stuff. If I had I would've taken it for myself." He lit his pipe and puffed on it. "And you wouldn't have blamed me for it."

With a slight nod he gestured towards the kids who had resumed their playing in front of the fireplace. Simon was still in his chair next to them, watching them with a soft smile on his face.

Mal admittedly was a little taken aback. He had not expected the conversation to go in this direction, and he was still thinking about how to respond, when Hensley just continued, "You don't look the part, though." He pointed with his pipe at Simon. "And he certainly doesn't."

He clearly wasn't expecting a response, because he just offered up his pipe to Mal, who declined by shaking his head. He smoked the occasional cigar now and then, but pipe… no. Hoping to lead the conversation another way, he asked, "So how come you know what the weather's like when you're cooped up down here?"

What a fabulously stupid question! Again he wanted to kick himself.

Behind his pipe Hensley grinned. He looked older with that pipe, Mal mused, though he guessed the man was hardly more than thirty-five. "I'll show you," he said, rising from his seat and waving him along.

He led him through a door into another, smaller room. The only thing there was a control panel surrounded by several monitors. Hensley pulled out a chair in front of it, sat down and pushed a few buttons, and the monitors came to life. At first Mal thought there were something wrong with them. The only thing he saw was waves of white and grey. Then he realized it was snow. Apparently the blizzard was already upon them.

"Live feed," Hensley more or less needlessly explained. "From cameras placed around the village. There used to be more, but they tend to break down."

"The storm is here already?"

Mal turned around to see Simon's lanky frame fill the doorway. He hadn't heard him arrive and been unaware of his presence before he spoke. The doctor stepped inside and moved closer to the monitors, eyed wide with surprise and shock.

"That it is," Hensley said. "Good thing I spotted you when I did. You'd've been caught in it for sure."

"Will the others be okay?" Simon asked, keeping his eyes glued to the screens.

"Serenity's a space ship," Mal replied. "A little snow won't hurt."

"How long will it last?" The doctor's next question was directed at Hensley.

He shrugged. "Hard to tell. Anything from a few hours to a week."

"A week?" There was panic in Simon's voice, whether he'd made an attempt to hide it or not.

"You're welcome to stay here for as long as it lasts," Hensley reassured him.

"Yeah, we'll be safe here," Mal added, though he was pretty sure that was not what worried Simon.

He was right. "You told Zoë to come look for us if…"

"She won't take the shuttle out in this weather," Mal interrupted him. "She ain't stupid. We'll be safe and they'll be safe, no worries."

"And Jayne?"

"What about 'im?"

"He's very sick, Mal. I gave him a shot of antibiotics and instructed Zoë to give him another, but if it doesn't do the trick…"

"Well, it's not like we can do much about it, is there?" Mal interrupted him again, and hoped he didn't come across as too cynical. But really, what was the point of worrying about things you couldn't change? "We'll just have to sit it out, I s'pose."

Hensley was looking at Simon with renewed interest. "You a medic or something?"

"I'm a doctor," Simon replied.

Hensley nodded, but asked no more questions. They returned to the other room and were met by Hensley's wife, Jennifer. "I hope sleeping on the floor will suffice," she said apologetically.

"Of course," Mal reassured her.

"And I don't have much food to offer you, I'm afraid. Though luckily we've been saving up a little extra, Christmas being just around the corner and all."

Mal glanced sideways at Simon and could easily read from his face that the prospect of robbing these people of their Christmas dinner horrified the young doctor just as much as it did him. He rummaged through his pockets and found the wrapped bars of protein they'd brought for provision, and handed them to their hostess, "Please include these in the meal, ma'am."

She smiled a somewhat relieved smile and headed back to the stove.

"So what do you do for a living here?" Simon asked. Mal closed his eyes for a second. At least the doctor's questions were more ignorant than his own.

"We mine," Hensley said. "The soil of the planet's full of minerals. You only have to dig through the snow to find them." A heavy sarcasm had found its way into his voice. "And our beloved Alliance government pays us in food and supplies to do the job for them."

Simon wisely shut his mouth after that. He returned to the chair by the fire, but Mal remained at his chosen spot in the centre of the room. He sensed the tension emitting from everybody there, but something told him his and Simon's presence was not what had caused it. These people had all but given up, accepted their fate, succumbed to it.

The Alliance had succeeded here. It had crushed their spirit.

His eyes fell upon the other Hensley brother, Richard, who hadn't moved from his cot in the corner at all. He sat propped up against the wall, his legs covered by a heavy blanket, his eyes staring out into the air, never focusing on anything. There was a haunted look in those eyes, and Mal knew.

This was the one.

The reason these people lived here.

He looked away.

Then suddenly the sound of someone singing pierced the gloomy atmosphere. Not loud or proudly, but softly and hushed. Mal turned around and identified Jennifer Hensley as the source. She seemed lost in her task of cooking; possibly not even aware that she sang out loud.

"Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the place…"

Mal felt himself tense.

He wished she'd picked a different song.




Sunday, January 13, 2013 9:35 AM


Gorram blizzard. I'm hoping that when Mal and Simon can continue with their plan they can also find a way to help these good folks. Just hope Zoe doesn't go looking for the in the meantime, Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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Angels We Have Heard (Part 5/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 4/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 3/5)
Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 2/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

Angels We Have Heard (Part 1/5)
Christmas special. Mal teams up with Simon to search for some hidden crates on the ice planet of St. Albans. They find something else instead.

The Night Before (revised and reposted)
It's the night before Christmas and Jayne is having spiritual problems. Literally.

Book of Secrets (Part 8)
Mal drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes for a moment. "Gorram preacher," he muttered.

Book of Secrets (Part 7)
Kaylee comes clean and River goes for a swim.

Book of Secrets (Part 6)
The captain dances, Inara's feeling out the new girl and the first secret is revealed.

Book of Secrets (Part 5)
Zoë and Inara have a heart-to-heart, and Mal discovers more shades of grey.