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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
“Well, let’s see. Hank and Kaylee are off seeing if they can get that generator back to strength, and Zoe’s watching out for ‘em. I ain’t letting Simon or River in the same room as Badger if I can help it, and as much fun as it could be seeing Inara trying to buckle on a gunbelt around that pregnancy of hers, it ain’t gonna happen. That leaves Sam, and I ain’t even gonna try and warp his sensibilities by suggesting he wear one.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Badger holds a tea party, Hank works for his living, and the results are in. Enjoy!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 831 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Can we stay another night? Pleeeease, Uncle Mal?”
They hadn’t even finished breakfast when the wave came in from Dillon’s home.
Mal kept his lips under control. “How come, Bethie? Can’t yet persuade Dillon to buy you your own spaceship?”
“He said no.” Bethie sighed mightily. “Not until I’m eighteen.”
“Hope you got that in writing.”
This time his mouth twitched into a smile. “How do the others feel about this? And, more ‘specially, Dillon and Breed?”
The latter appeared behind Bethie on the screen, grinning. “We’re fine with it. And the other children too. If you say yes we’ve promised to take them to the Spring Festival out by Cadrie Pond.”
Mal felt a phantom stab in his guts, but glanced out of the bridge window at the snow still lying thickly before saying, “Spring? You sure you’ve got the right time of year?”
Breed laughed. “I believe there was talk of cancelling it, but it was decided to go ahead.”
“And there’ll be ice skating, rides, stalls selling stuff,” Bethie put in. “Pleeeeeeease?”
Mal considered the puppy-dog eyes came across the ether pretty well. He glanced back over his shoulder towards the other parents standing in the doorway to the bridge. “Well? Do we let them?”
“I doubt they can get into that much trouble,” Zoe said.
“Really?” Mal stared at his first mate. “You met our kids lately?”
“I suppose one more night ain’t gonna hurt,” Kaylee murmured. “Long as it’s just the one.”
Simon squeezed her hand, but nodded.
Freya smiled. “You know you’re going to say yes.”
“Guess I am.” He turned back to the monitor but Bethie had already disappeared, and whoops of joy could be heard in the background. “I take it she heard.”
Breed nodded. “I think she’s pleased.”
“I think she thinks it means no lessons.” Mal chuckled. “Well, don’t let ‘em eat too much cotton candy.”
“I’ll remember that.” Breed grinned. “Hilde thinks they’re great.”
“Hmmn. I’m gonna have to meet this daughter of Callum’s.”
“I’m sure we can arrange that.”
“And if Bethie tries to get you or Dillon to sign anything, don’t.”
Breed chuckled. “I’ll try and get in the way.”
“They gonna be warm enough?” Mal could feel the women in his crew beaming at him for showing concern for the children’s welfare.
“Cold is a state of mind.” Breed laughed out loud this time. “And we’ve bought coats for them all. Like mine.” He held up a huge, shaggy fur coat. “I think they’ll stay toasty.”
Mal felt Freya lean over his shoulder, talking to the man on the vidscreen.
“When it’s my birthday and I get into a state about what I want, I won’t mind you remembering this conversation,” she said.
“I promise. In brown, of course.”
Breed laughed again and closed the wave.
“He’s too good to them,” Zoe commented.
“Well, we’ll see about paying him back,” Mal said.
“He won’t let you.” Freya put her hand on his shoulder. “You know that.”
“Makes me almost wish I hadn’t taken their passage money now.”
“They’re gonna look such a picture,” Kaylee said softly. “Wish I could see ‘em.”
“You will. It’s only another night, bao bei.” Simon lifted her hair away from her cheek and kissed it gently.
Hank put his arm around Kaylee’s shoulder from the other side. “Come on,” he said. “We’ve got those generators to take a look at.”
She brightened up.
“River, can you hack the Triskelion server?”
The young woman turned her dark eyes on her brother. “You’re asking me to break the law?”
“Dr Simon Tam.”
“I know who I am.”
“I don’t always.”
“I could.” She sat back on the floor in Eden, the locker where she grew the vegetables and fruits that were a welcome addition to a sometimes bland diet. “Why?”
“Because I want to see Uther Triskelion’s DNA profile for myself.” He waited for a moment. “So, can you?”
Sometimes he thought talking to his sister was like pulling teeth. “Will you?”
This surprised him. “Why not?”
“Because I don’t need to.” She reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out an electronic wafer. “I already did.” She got to her feet in one smooth movement, stepping close and putting it into his hand.
“Of course. For not realising I would know.” She smiled and turned back to her bins. “Now go. Unless you’d care to help me with the weeding.”
Luke was waiting for them outside his house, wrapped up in his heavy coat. “Saw you coming,” he said, smiling. “Ma’am.” He nodded at Zoe.
“Unless you want me to call you Mr Brookner, you’ll use my name.”
“Mr Brookner was my Pa, so … Zoe.” He inclined his head again.
“And it ain’t how it looks,” Hank put in. “She’s not a chaperone. Or a guard.”
“Glad to hear it.” Luke glanced at her brown coat. “Are you going to be warm enough?”
“I don’t feel the cold. And I thought I’d go for a walk.” Zoe pulled her gloves on a little more firmly. “Take in some of the sights.”
“There aren’t that many. Not in all this.” His breath made little clouds in the still air. “There’s the maze, of course, but I don’t think you can get inside. And the lake, but that’s frozen.”
“Can you skate on it?” Kaylee wanted to know. “Simon skates.”
“I don’t know,” Luke admitted. “I’ve no idea how deep the ice is.”
“I’m sure I can find out.” She was already thinking about using one of the hand-held sensors to check. “It’d do him good. Get him out from underfoot.”
“And he needs the exercise,” Hank added. “He’s getting a bit pudgy.”
Kaylee wacked him on the arm with her gloved hand, and he grinned.
“And there’s the mausoleum.”
They looked at Luke.
“You mean … like … dead people?” Kaylee asked.
“Above ground. All mouldering in a … a box.” Hank shuddered slightly, wishing he hadn’t watched that vid the night before. He hadn’t been able to sleep, thinking about the way his life might be about to change, so he’d gone up to the bridge and found something called Scream While You Can. He’d fallen asleep halfway through, but he could remember something decaying climbing out of a crypt …
“More like a little house.” Luke turned to head down a recently cleared path. “Come on. I’ll show you.”
“Show us?” Hank squeaked.
“We have to go that way. The generators are right next door.”
They followed Luke, and Zoe stepped closer to her husband. “I’m gonna ask River to put parental controls on the Cortex entertainment channels,” she murmured.
Hank stopped. “Ben don’t … oh. Me.”
“You.” Zoe strode on.
He smiled weakly and hurried to catch up.
“I don’t trust him.”
“That’s ‘cause he’s got a soft spot for you.”
Freya glared at Mal. “You don’t trust him either. And he doesn’t have a soft spot for you.”
“’Less it’s at the bottom of a pit somewhere.”
“All the more reason not to trust him.”
A wave – no, more of a summons had come in from Badger.
“My office. Now. Got those details.”
That had been it, no pleasantries or threats.
“He doesn’t have an office,” Mal pointed out. “It’s more of a … a lair. I can imagine all kindsa things hibernating in there.”
“I think he’s trying to be a bit more upmarket.”
“Badger? He’s made a career out of being one of those scumbags we talked about.” He followed Freya off the bridge, stopping outside their bunk. “He’s looking up at low-life.”
“We don’t have to deal with him.”
“We do. ’Cause we don’t have any other cash coming in. Do we?” He looked at her pointedly.
She glared at him, then smiled suddenly and kissed quickly on the lips. “I knew you only wanted me for my money.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that was it.” He grinned. “Get our coats. We’ll take the shuttle, be easier.”
“We going somewhere, Mal?” Jayne was leaning in the doorway to the common area, River behind him.
“We are, you ain’t. Stay here and guard the ship.”
“’Gainst what? Snowmen?”
“You never know. Me and Frey’ll get the details of the job from Badger, but you be ready to perform a heroic rescue if things go south.”
“You know …” Freya began slowly. “If Jayne really wants to go, I’m quite happy staying here. I could … knit.”
Mal turned to look at her, knowing exactly what was going through her mind, how she felt about the king-pin of Persephone. “Well, let’s see. Hank and Kaylee are off seeing if they can get that generator back to strength, and Zoe’s watching out for ‘em. I ain’t letting Simon or River in the same room as Badger if I can help it, and as much fun as it could be seeing Inara trying to buckle on a gunbelt around that pregnancy of hers, it ain’t gonna happen. That leaves Sam, and I ain’t even gonna try and warp his sensibilities by suggesting he wear one.”
“So if I take Jayne I might just be inclined to shoot Badger, whereas you, xin gan, could probably talk me out of it.”
She smiled softly. “Is that just a long-winded way of saying you want to spend a little alone time with me?”
“You got me.” He pulled her closer.
“Aw, shit, you two’d better go,” Jayne said, waving a hand at them in disgust. River slipped past him. “Hey, where’re you going?”
“To get our coats,” she said from the turn to the stairs. “So we can build the snowmen. Better that they’re on our side.” She disappeared.
The big man shrugged. “One thing I’ve learned, Mal, is not to ask.”
“That’ll be the day.”
Luke had been right. The mausoleum was like a little house, in fact a small replica of the main mansion. The same wings, turrets, little windows … the only difference was that the steps and doors were much bigger, enough to allow people – or coffins – to get through.
“So … they’re all in there?” Hank asked, licking his lips with a dry tongue.
“Pretty much. Uther and his wife, most of Peder, his –”
“After the accident they … uh … didn’t find everyone straight away. Apparently Peder wasn’t recovered for a couple of weeks, and by then …”
Kaylee looked a little shaken, taking hold of Hank’s hand. Zoe’s imagination had a lot more empirical evidence to work with, but nothing it could throw up could beat what she’d seen during the war.
Hank swallowed. “So he was …”
“Closed casket,” Luke confirmed, rattling the padlock holding the doors closed.
“Is that to keep them in?”
Luke chuckled. “No. But a few years ago we had the odd problem with transients sleeping inside.”
“With the dead folks?”
“It was winter, pretty much like this. And if it was a choice between freezing to death, or sheltering with cold clay, I know which one I’d choose.”
Zoe peered inside. “It’s been that bad? People with no place to go?”
“It’s got worse,” Luke admitted. “There’s a lot of displaced persons about, tossed off their properties, no cash or prospects.” He took a deep breath. “Crispin wanted to shoot them, but I persuaded him it was less likely to draw the law down onto us if we just stopped them.”
“And you might have given them a little money?”
He stared at her, then laughed. “Am I that obvious?”
“I think I’m getting a feel for you.”
Hank coughed. “Do you mind? That’s my wife you’re flirting with.”
“Sorry.” Luke didn’t look it, though. “Anyway, the generators are a bit further along the path.”
“Lead on,” Zoe said, smiling just a little.
“Well, this is a surprise.” Badger actually took off his hat, pulling his sparse hair across the top of his head before settling it back. “’Ere, Dorley.” He leaned over and shouted out of the door. “Get off your backside and make some tea.”
“No, please, I –”
He ignored Freya’s protest. “And some of them little biscuits from the tin with the kitten on it.”
“Your mother make them?” Mal couldn’t stop himself from asking.
“Nah. Butch. He’s got a light hand with pastry.”
There wasn’t really an answer to that, so Mal contented himself by saying, “The job?”
“Later. Tea first.”
It didn’t take long for the kettle to boil, and Dorley had found a tray with a cloth on it from somewhere, holding a flower-decorated teapot, matching cups and saucers and a plate of pastries, so it looked almost respectable as they sat down.
“That’s not got wood alcohol in it, has it?” Mal asked, eyeing the golden liquid suspiciously.
Mal glanced at Freya, who delicately picked up one of the cookies and bit into it, a crumb staying on her lip until her tongue darted out and licked it off.
Stop it, Frey.
Winding him up. He don’t need it. Or deserve it.
If it stops him shooting, it’s worth it.
Not sure about that, ai ren.
“Tasty,” she said, taking a sip of tea.
Badger ran a finger around the inside of his disreputable neckerchief, then gulped some tea of his own.
“As nice as this is,” Mal said dryly, “we’re still waiting on details of the job.”
Badger pulled himself back from wherever his mind had taken him, and concentrated once more on Serenity’s captain.
“I hear one of your crew’s come into some cash.”
“Who told you that?”
“Oh, I’ve got my ear to the ground.”
Don’t, Freya advised quickly.
You were going to make some comment about it being his natural position.
Would I do that?
Badger, meanwhile, had gone on, “Not much happens around here I don’t get to know of it.”
“And if one of them has? What’s it got to do with you?”
“Well, I might have some significant investment opportunities I could discuss with him.”
“I doubt he’d be interested.”
“There could be a good return in it.”
“Are you suggesting I’d …”
“If the cap fits.”
Badger looked like he might take offence, but instead he laughed. “Then maybe you’d be interested in my other proposition.”
“Wasn’t talking to you.”
Freya held out her cup. “Thank you, yes. It’s very nice.”
“I bought it special. In case.”
Mal tried hard not to sigh. Or shoot. “Badger, can you stop … whatever it is you’re doing with my wife and explain this job?”
“You ain’t got no manners.”
“So it’s been said.”
“Fine. It’s a straightforward acquisition.”
“Trinkets. Baubles. Land deeds. Anything that’s in the safe or you can lay your hands on.”
“Here on Persephone.”
“You’ve got goons. Why can’t they –”
“It’s the Triskelion house.” He looked concernedly at Freya, who had choked on her tea and was now coughing. “You okay?”
She waved her hand and managed to wheeze, “Fine. I’m fine.”
“Badger, what’s going on?” Mal demanded. “If you know about Hank you’ll know I’m not going to rob the place if it does end up being his.”
“Hank, is it?” The look of ingenuousness on Badger’s face was almost enough to start Freya off again.
“Be straight with me or I’ll set Frey on you.”
“Mal …” Freya complained.
“You think that’s a threat?” Badger glared.
“You’d still be dead.”
“Point taken. Although I’d like to see you both get out of here alive if that happened.”
“You’d be dead. You wouldn’t be seeing anything.”
Freya put her hand on his arm. “Mal, nobody’s killing anyone.” Remember what you said about me talking you out of it.
“You listen to your better half,” Badger said. “And I wasn’t suggesting we wait.”
Fine. Not today. “Why would you want to rob the house before it becomes Hank’s?”
“Well, maybe I know it might not.”
“What do you know? And does it have anything to do with Septimus Pike?”
Badger oozed admiration. “You’re good. And maybe. His family and mine were friends back on Dyton – I went to school with his daughter. He mighta mentioned finding your pilot as a potential heir.”
“So … I know that family. John Foster may look like a kind old gentleman, but he’s hard as nails. I wouldn’t turn my back on ‘im. And there ain’t no way he’s gonna let an outsider come in and do him out’ve what he thinks is rightly his.”
“You think Hank’s in danger,” Freya said slowly.
“I think Foster’s got a plan, and it don’t end with your pilot being rich. So we jump the gun and get the goods first. It’ll be kosher – you’ll know what there is, where the safe is. It ain’t like you’ll have to break in.”
“And if you’re wrong and Hank is welcomed with open arms?”
“Then I’ll apologise ‘n’ hand the stuff back.”
“Right.” If Mal’s voice had been dry before it now resembled the Great Desert of Isis.
“Yesterday, when you were talking about children, did Frey … talk to you?”
Kaylee sat back on her heels and wiped the back of her hand across her forehead, leaving a streak of grease. “Was it that obvious?”
Hank shrugged. “Only to me. She must’ve heard me and Luke talking.” He adjusted the output valve.
“Luke said …”
Now she was getting unsettled. “Hank, what did Luke say?” She took hold of his arm, pulling him around. “Hank?”
“That we weren’t to mention Ben. That’s all.” And that he wasn’t to be trusted, but he was going to be telling her that last part.
Hank didn’t answer for a moment, then said, “What did Freya say to you? I mean, when she …” He tapped his temple.
“Just to not go any further with what I was saying. I thought it was because I was … you know, being me.” She coloured a little.
“Kaylee, Frey’d never stop you being that.”
“No, I know, but …”
“No buts. It wasn’t that, not at all.”
“You’re probably right.” She leaned forward, effectively putting an end to the conversation by hitting something deep in the generator with her wrench.
Something stalled, whined, gave something very like a human cough, then the generator began to purr strongly.
“What did you do?” Hank asked, his untidy brown hair standing up in surprise.
“Cap calls it percussive maintenance.” Kaylee laughed suddenly, her brightness shining through again. “Sometimes you just have’ta hit it.”
“Yeah, but you know where to do that.”
She grinned. “That I do.”
He was glad to see her back to normal. “So, does mine need it too?” He indicated the generator he’d been working on.
“Maybe just a touch.” She reached in, but instead of whacking anything she twisted the valve Hank had been adjusting, just a millimetre more. The strained grinding evened out, and the hut began to sound like the big cat house at the Persephone Zoo.
“I was that close?”
“Like a ferret down a rabbit hole.”
“Something my Uncle Cal says.” She dropped the wrench back in her tool bag. “That should keep ‘em going for a few more years.”
They both turned to the doorway to see Luke standing there, listening to the smooth hum.
“You like?” Kaylee asked.
“Whatever your captain is paying you isn’t enough.”
“I keep telling ‘im that …”
“And we owe you.” Luke smiled.
“You’re more than welcome.”
Hank got to his feet and pulled Kaylee to hers. “So I take it the results are in?”
Luke nodded. “That they are. And you’d better come up to the house to hear them.”
Hank glanced at Kaylee. “But Mal and Frey ain’t here. They’ll want to be in on this.”
“Then you can tell them later. Come on. The family are waiting for you.”
Hank vaguely saw Zoe appear behind Luke, and he knew she hadn’t been too far away while they’d been working, no matter what she said, but all he could concentrate on was saying, “You mean …”
The shuttle was almost back at Serenity when Mal asked, “Do you believe him?”
“To a point.” Freya adjusted their heading a degree, bringing them around to come up from behind the Firefly.
Mal raised his eyebrows at her from where he sat in the co-pilot’s seat. “Which one? When he said hello?”
“Oh, Badger’s lying about something, but I’m not sure what.”
“Didn’t fancy tip-toeing through his brain?”
“Would you?” she countered.
“Nope. But no idea what he’s being less than truthful about?”
“Hank. I’m pretty sure he knows Hank isn’t the real thing, at least as far as being the heir goes.”
“But you think there’s more.”
“Mmn.” She brought the small shuttle down over the ship’s starboard side, neatly settling it into place.
“We need proof. One way or the other.”
The engine shut down as the hydraulics pulled the shuttle into place. “The blood Luke took?”
“He should have the results by now. And if we ask nicely maybe we can get Simon a look at them, close up.” He chuckled. “Maybe River can hack the family server, get us a gander at old Uther’s original DNA profile.”
Freya smiled. “I imagine it will be waiting for us.”
Mal stood up and stretched, then crossed to the door, opening it. “Whoa.”
Kaylee, River and Simon were waiting outside.
“Cap …” Kaylee began but couldn’t get any further.
“What’s wrong?” Freya joined him in the doorway.
Simon stepped forward. “Mal, I think you’d better sit down.”
to be continued
Sunday, April 10, 2016 1:53 AM
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