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The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu -- Chapter Eleven
Monday, September 19, 2005

Complex Group Dynamics -- the Jurassic Perspective


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3574    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu

Chapter Eleven

“You wanna let me in on what that was about, out there?” Mal asked Zoe, pointedly. They were in Shuttle One – one of the few places they could be assured of absolute privacy. He had invited her in to ‘lock down the shuttle’ as soon as the meeting had adjourned, and she had gone without question – eagerly, even. “You have to ask?” Zoe asked, her mouth hanging open. “I thought I had been crystal.” Mal smiled that fake I’m-being-patient-so-I-don’t-shoot-you smile she was so familiar with. “You were. You’re pissed. What I can’t conjure is why.” “I thought it was obvious,” she said, folding her arms. “I resent the fact that you didn’t see fit to confide in me about somthin’ I consider important.” “I told you why,” Mal said flatly. “I didn’t think I was being unclear.” “Maybe that’s what the problem is,” she shot back. “You were very clear: ‘need to know’. Since when don’t I need to know?” “Since I decided it. And I did decide it.” “I got that part. The portion I missed was ‘why’ I didn’t need to know. I been thinkin’ over this a lot, this last couple o’ minutes, and I can’t think of one gorram decent reason why you would think I couldn’t be trusted.” “Zoë! Of course I trust you!” He sounded hurt. He might have even been a little hurt. “I just didn’t want to ruin your good time.” “Since when has that ever been an issue?” “Since . . . gorram it, woman, I was tryin’ to do you a ruttin’ favor!” “From where I’m standin’ it looks a lot less a favor and a lot more a lack o’ trust.” “Well . . . it’s not!” “Mal, you listen to me, and listen good. I got no problem bein’ under your command. You’ve proven I can trust you a thousand times over, in battle and out. You’ve saved my ass almost as often as I’ve saved yours. You’re a good leader, a good Captain. After what we been through, I’d follow you through hell and back – and I have. I was with you in that gorram valley every split second. When I thought I was dead for the ten-thousanth time, I was still there, and largely because of you.” “You got a point?” “My point, is, Captain,” she said, emphasizing the title overmuch, “that my devotion to you is vast – but it’s based on mutual trust and respect as much as a common history. Now, you can, and will, pull crazy fong luh crap the likes of which would get a mortal man killed – and I’ve followed you in , taken action, taken wounds, and occasionally carried your sorry ass back out. I done all of that ‘cause you are my captain, and that bond is forged in blood. But when you start keepin’ secrets – and stupid secrets at that – from me, we got us a problem.” “Zoe, I’m captain of this boat –” “I think I just said that.” “I’m captain of this boat, and I gotta make some tough calls sometime. When I ran into Johnny, and he told me his story, I had to make a decision about whether or not we would consider the job. I didn’t make the decision to take the job, just that we needed to consider. And considerin’ his delicate situation, I considered the best place for him to hide out a while ‘till we got back was here. Now, I’m sorry if you think I was wrong about that. I’ll take that into . . . uh, consideration.” “That weren’t the issue!” she said, nostrils flaring. “The issue was that I asked you up front in that bar what was goin’ on, four bodies coolin’ outside your door, and you gave me a go tsao de gwon nee tze-jee duh shr. For the first time in our partnership, you blew me off. I don’t take to that – not from you, not from my husband, not from anyone. You told me in that bar that you didn’t trust me with the truth when I came out and gorram asked you for it! Little Chinese boys and crazy treasure hunts and the ruttin’ Emperor of Chi Shi, none of that matters t’me. What matters is, when I came to you for an answer, you gave me the back of your head. And that’s the first time that’s happened . . . ever. And the last. You do this again, we have to re-evaluate our relationship.” Mal blinked. He hadn’t heard this kind of argument from Zoe – directed at himself – since they first met. “You tryin’ to tell me what to do on my own ship?” “No,” she said, coldly. “I’m trying to let you know that I’m pissed off, why, and how you can avoid it – and any unpleasant consequences – in the future.” Mal had an expression somewhere half-way between a smirk and a sneer on his face. “This one of them relationship skills you learned from your flyboy husband?” “I’ll take it as a kindness that you leave him the hell out of this particular discussion,” she said, evenly, with steel in her voice. “This ain’t about him. It’s about us. You make it about him, and you miss my point. I ain’t leavin’ here ‘till you get my point.” “Fine. It’s about us, then. If we’re airing our soiled unmentionables, then, I’d like to point out that this here private chat was the proper place to address this – not in front of everyone else. I gotta depend on you for back-up Zoe. Who else am I gonna depend on? Jayne? Treacherous. Wash? Impotent – well, you know what I mean. Kaylee? Sweet and cuddly. I depend on you to watch my back, and you cut me off at the knees in front of everyone out there. You eroded the team by that.” “No, Mal, you eroded the team – the original team, you an’ me – when you decided you couldn’t trust me with a simple piece o’ gorram intel when I asked you point blank!” she shot back viciously. “You coulda said later, you coulda said you was workin’ on somethin’. You coulda told me somethin’ was up but you couldn’t discuss it yet. I woulda chalked it up as a fair answer and been satisfied. But you let me twist, got all mysterious, and that eroded our partnership. You want me to back you? I do, and I don’t care if there’s an army o’ Reavers in front of us and an army o’ purplebellies behind. Bring ‘em on, and if we kcik, we go out like big damn heroes. “But that devotion has a price, and that price is your trust. You blow that – Sir – and you kick in the ass the very thing that keeps this gang goin’. Dong ma?” “I understand, but—” “That’s all I wanted to hear. Now I got to go relieve my husband for the watch. I’d advise you to avoid the bridge for a while, ‘cause I think a little space’d be good an’ healthy for us right now. You ponder what I said. You ponder it mighty. And tomorrow, we start anew.” And with that she left, Mal’s mouth hanging open.

*

*

*

“So you ran some of the operations in Meridian City,” Book told, more than asked, Johnny Lei. They were in the lounge, just outside of the infirmary, where Simon was trying to coax River into taking her meds like a good girl – with limited success. For truth, Book thought she was being stubborn as much to get a rise out of him as because she really hated all things surgical – quite understandable, considering her past experience. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. I helped run the immigrant aid portion of the organization.” “Shaking down new folks when they get there?” There was an edge to Book’s voice that the crew would have detected at once. Johnny was new. He didn’t know any better. “No, no, no one gets coerced into joining. Bad for business. I know they do it that way in other Tongs, but in Yellow Ribbon, you join of your own free will or not at all. My father’s rule, and his father’s. That’s how the Tong got started, anyway. When the original exiles were brought to Epiphany, they were dumped into a dome with a blanket, a ration card, and the clothes on their backs. My grandfather was an important man, even as a slave. He organized the Tong. For many years, it was the only recourse the people had against the Company. Someone needs a . . . say a new blanket. My grandfather made it happen. Someone has a baby. My grandfather makes sure it has clothes and diapers. Someone gets harassed, we take care of it. But he never forced anyone to join.” “The reason I ask, is I just spent the better part of a week in your city, building a church. The head of the mission there told me the Tong was trying to shake him down.” “You worked with Brother Cyril?” asked Johnny, visibly impressed. “Yes,” Book agreed, after a moment’s pause. He hadn’t expected this kind of familiarity with the Mission from a Tong boss. “He’s a good man. Met with my father within a few weeks of arriving – Dad helped Cyril get the land and permits for the church. Dad always wanted a good strong church in Meridian – only about twenty percent Christian, but having one there would be good for business.” “I don’t follow,” Book said, confused. Usually religion and criminal enterprise were not complimentary pursuits. “Well, Dad explained it to me like this: the Tong makes money in a lot of ways – there’s the brothels and the illegal casinos, the loans and the insurance. But all of that depends on the workers being willing to empty their pockets with a clear conscience.” “And the church provides . . . absolution?” Book wrinkled his brow. “I still don’t follow.” “It has to do with the community – promoting good wu,” Johnny explained. “My dad was a great believer in wu. If the people are secure, and happy, then they are more willing themselves to invest in the community. That’s good wu. That’s why he made sure the Buddhist and Tao Chiang temples were built, and the monks were well supplied. It makes people feel more attached to a place. They’re also more willing to visit a brothel, or gamble a little. Dad had very strict rules about that, though – if someone had a problem with either, they got banned until they straightened out.” “That’s rather . . . enlightened for a Tong boss.” “My dad wasn’t just a Tong boss. In a lot of ways, he and my grandfather were the unofficial leaders of the Meridian community. Apart from job assignments and the Company store, the Company mostly left us alone to our own affairs, so the natural leaders stepped forward. My grandfather had been a member of the Imperial family, before the troubles. When he was shipped to Epiphany, he didn’t just give up and dwindle away in his dotage. He made the best of the situation. A lot of people looked to him. In a lot of ways, he always strove to become the perfect Confucian gentleman – when he wasn’t being a ruthless crime-lord. Same thing with my dad, even if he never enjoyed the kind of affluence my grandfather did.” “My experience with the Triads has usually been . . . less civilized.” “Most Triads are less civilized. The larger ones, especially the Core-world Triads like the White Lotus Society, the Red Band, the Black Rose – they’re that Euroitalian group – and the Yakuza, they have some pretty sinister intentions. It’s all about the money, the power, for them. Most of the small, Rim-world Tongs have a more benign purpose, though. They’re more immigrant mutual assistance societies than true criminal organizations. There are exceptions – a few Tongs who specialize in slavery, murder-for-hire, kidnapping, extortion, and piracy, like the Angels of Hell and the Red Rock Tong – but those are the exceptions, rather than the rule.” Book shook his head. “I suppose it’s only natural that such things develop – wherever there are people, there are criminal gangs. I guess it’s too much to hope for to expect a world without them.” They were interrupted by River making loud chicken noises as Simon tried to convince her to lay back down on his table. When it was clear the entertainment value of this was limited, they returned to their conversation. “My guess is that such a world would still have them – but they would be government controlled. There is an unpleasant symmetry in society between government and organized crime. The Triads themselves were originally a political movement, back in the Middle Kingdom on Earth-That-Was. Revolutions by their very nature are criminal acts, and to staff and fund one, well, that usually means recourse to crime. But on a large, heavily populated world like Sihnon or Londonium the syndicates behave almost like corporations or government agencies.” Book nodded, impressed. “You have quite an understanding of the world, for one so young and born into such circumstances. I have to admit to being staggered.” Johnny laughed good-naturedly. “Just because I was a thug – a well-meaning, good-natured and optimistic thug, but a thug nonetheless – doesn’t mean I wasn’t a well-educated thug. Dad made certain I had tutors on every subject he could, from fencing and martial arts to the Analects, the Tripitika, the Tao Te Ching and the Bible, to economics and political science. He got me unlimited cortex access. He was very proud of his lineage, and wanted to do well by our ancestors. So I became a scholarly thug.” “What you became, I believe, is a real Prince. I believe your father had aspirations beyond Tong-hood for you.” “That’s a conclusion I’m rapidly coming to,” Johnny admitted. “Though I don’t know to what end.” “My experience has been that the journey is the important part, not the end.” “That’s not something I’d expect to hear from a Christian minister,” Johnny laughed wryly. “On the whole, you folk seem overly concerned with ends, not journeys.” It was Book’s turn to laugh. “That’s been pointed out more than once. By people in my own faith. Including Brother Cyril, actually.” “He’s a fascinating old monk, ain’t he?” Johnny asked, smiling broadly. “My dad sent me over a few times with messages, and we would chat. Very instructive. And very . . . knowledgeable about issues one ordinarily doesn’t associate overmuch with preaching the Word.” “We all pick up a few things on the journey,” Book admitted softly. “But what concerns me is this new boss trying to shake down the mission. I’d caution him that Brother Cyril is not to be pushed lightly. He’s a man of God – but he is still a man, and a very intelligent, very dangerous man if pushed.” River ran out of the infirmary and up the corridor, clucking like a chicken being chased by a hound – a hound which Simon was emulating. “I certainly hope so,” Johnny said, shaking his head. “The Tortoise – that’s the new boss – is a brutish thug and no more. A pimp, more than anything else, without the delicate understanding of the complex dynamics involved with running a successful criminal organization. He’s been pushing for my dad to take a stronger stand with the temples for years – they were exempt from our ‘insurance’ plan on account of good wu – and whenever there was a sermon against the evils of prostitution, the Tortoise’s business suffered for a few weeks. “But should he press, it won’t be just Brother Cyril he has to contend with. Master Ho at the Tao Chiang temple was a mercenary for years before he studied the Tao. And Master Dargyay was a Tong himself on Ariel – Blue Hat, I believe – before he took refuge and came to Meridian City on mission. I suspect that he will discover the Street of Temples is a lot less helpless than it seems.” “Does he have any . . . overt weaknesses you’re aware of? Something Cyril could exploit before things get too . . . uncivilized?” “Plenty,” Johnny said, rolling his eyes. “Starting with his own stupidity. If you would like, I will give you some ammunition for Cyril to use against him.” “That would be very helpful, young man,” Book said, nodding. His opinion of the lad had grown considerably in the last few minutes. “I enjoy the idea of him getting beat by a bunch of monks. Now, Shepherd, I have to ask you – Captain Reynolds told me of his smuggling business, and hinted of some of the . . . other activities his crew indulge in. And there is the Companion – a beautiful woman whose profession is supposed to be at odds with your own. A fascinating mix of folk. I cannot help but wonder how you came to be on Serenity.” Book smiled fondly, thinking back to the young, enthusiastic engineer who had told him that Serenity was the best ship in port. “That, my boy, is a long story . . .” he began, as River made a return trip through the lounge, clucking maniacally.

*

*

*

“So, sweetie, you want to tell me what’s happening with you and the Cap?” Wash asked as he undressed. Dinner had been an interesting affair, with Johnny Lei telling stories from his time with the Yellow Ribbon – it was amazing how funny loan-sharking and protection racket anecdotes could be, when told correctly – and Inara and Simon discussing the upper levels of Epiphany’s society. But there was a strange cold-front between Zoe and Mal that Wash had never seen before, going back to the moment he set foot on board. “It’s personal,” Zoe said, stripping off the last of her own clothes. “So’s our sex life, but that seems to come up an awful lot these days,” he pointed out. “I’m not asking for a blow-by-blow – just want to hear how you’re feeling about it. It’s one of those sensitive husband things I’m supposed to do – all the women’s programs on the CorVue say so.” “I told you,” she said, her face like a mask, “it’s personal. Between me and Mal.” “You just called him ‘Mal’ and not ‘the Captain’, so I know it’s serious,” he said, softly. “I don’t want to be a pain – I just want to make sure you’re okay.” “Peachy,” Zoe said, her voice like iron. “Look, I made sure you didn’t come up in the discussion – I wouldn’t feel right talkin’ ‘bout him when he ain’t here.” “I respect that,” Wash acknowledged. “Except, he’s your Captain and business partner, and I’m your husband. You can tell me anything.” “And I’m about to tell you somethin’, and it’s bound to be painful to you, you don’t drop it. Wash, I don’t feel right discussing it with you,” she insisted. Ordinarily, he would have backed off. But something told him she did want to talk, but couldn’t overcome her years of personal loyalty to Mal easily enough to do so. “Well,” he said, slowly, “if you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine. Like I said, I respect that. But if you won’t talk to me,” he added, reaching up to the shelf over their bunk, “perhaps you’ll talk to . . .” “Oh, God, don’t do this!” “Howard the Sensitive Brachiosaur!” he said, triumphantly, pulling down one of his larger and friendlier looking dinos from the shelf. “Go ahead, Zoe, tell Howard what’s on your voluptuous mammalian mind!” he said in a squeaky falsetto, moving the toy as if it were a puppet. “Where’s my gun?” she asked in exasperation. “You’ll feel better! Promise!” “After I shoot you in the foot, I’ll feel better,” she growled. Wash kept pushing. He had pulled this trick once or twice before, when she was too emotionally distraught about something to be forthcoming with him. The humor broke through her hardened, polished emotional armor – usually. “C’mon, Zoe! Talking about your feelings will be cathartic!” he continued in the fake voice. “Fine! You wanna know? I’ll tell you then!” “That’s it, let it all out!” he encouraged, still wiggling the toy at her. “Oh, you are the most infuriatin’ – look, I got steamed up at Mal ‘cause after that gunfight in the hallway I suspected that there was more to things than could be plainly seen. So I asked him. And he blew me off. Total stonewall. I get up here, see a charming young Chinese kid with a treasure map eatin’ pancakes in my kitchen, and, well, I got pissed ‘cause Mal didn’t see fit to inform me back when I asked him too.” “Oh, so it’s a trust issue,” Howard the Brachiosaur commented. “Yes, that’s exactly what it is. We spent years together, coverin’ each others asses in trenches, in barracks, on the battlefield – playin’ lookout when one of us had to take a piss, sharin’ what little food we scrounged, and generally being two sides o’ the same ruttin’ brain – and now he comes and gives me a stiff arm when I ask him a simple question. So I reamed him out. In private, and that’s where it needs to stay. Dong ma?” “Brachiosaurs are covered under dino/patient confidentiality rules,” Howard assured. “So, how did that make you feel?” “Earnestly? It made me feel like one of y’all – crewmen, no more, no less. Like I hadn’t had all that shared history with him. Like I was . . . like I was being demoted, somehow.” “Perhaps it’s because you continuously define yourself by Mal and what he does, and who he is?” “That’s . . . that can’t be true.” “Oh, it happens all the time,” the dinosaur said, soothingly. “It’s quite common in female psychology. Women – even strong women -- have a tendency to define themselves by the men in their lives, rather than becoming comfortable in their own personhood. Considering your shared trauma during the war, it’s quite possible that you are using this experience to vent some long-held animosity due to his egocentric mannerisms and his domineering personality. It would be interesting to see how a group session with the two of you would proceed. Not that I do that sort of thing – but I know an apatosaur who can work miracles. He could probably work you in next week.” “You and your fe hua psychobabble and your gorram dinosaurs . . .” “It’s perfectly normal in a stressful situation like this to lash out at your dinosaur. Now, tell me about your mother . . . did she breastfeed?” “Put that stupid toy down and come make sweet flabby love to me, you idiot flyboy!” “Okay,” Wash said, returning to his normal voice. “But just this once.” He replaced the toy on its shelf – carefully separate from the carnivores – and slid into bed next to her, putting his arms around her lovingly. “He’s right, you know,” he whispered in her ear. “What?” “You probably do have some built-up issues with Mal. I’m not about to get into the middle of it, but despite his charmed life and obvious survival talents, he can be a real chou wang ba dan sometimes. Don’t get me wrong – I like him . . . mostly. But sometimes I feel like he thinks he’s the only one in the ‘verse who really matters.” “But he always looks out for his people!” Zoe defended. “He’s protected each one of us, a hundred times or more.” “But always in the context of us being beholden to him. Oh, he’s too freedom-lovin’ and noble to admit it – but he likes having other people depend on him. He gets a certain thrill from it, I think. Look at the crew: I need a job. So does Kaylee. Jayne, he’s treacherous and ruthless, but as smart as that T. Rex – without Mal keepin’ stuff organized, he’d be starved, dead, or in prison. “Simon, he’s very beholden to him, and Mal enjoys that all the more – keepin’ a Core world boy on a leash when the Alliance is after him, that’s got to be a rush for Malcolm Reynolds. River . . . I don’t know if she counts. I don’t think she considers herself beholden to anyone but Simon and maybe Serenity herself. Book has kept himself at arm’s length, and from what you’ve told me, Mal used to be religious enough to still have a sliver of respect for a man of the cloth. And Inara pays him rent. Everyone on this ship is beholden to him. “And then there is you. You, alone, know him like no one else does. You knew him before Serenity Valley, before Serenity the Spaceship.” “But I ain’t what you would call . . . beholden.” “Perhaps that’s why this little trust thing has gotten under your saddle so much. Because of all the people on this ship, you are the one least indebted to him – if at all. So when he pulls the same power-trip stunt on you as he does everyone else, your righteous indignation fills up the room.” “That’s . . . that’s a lot to think about.” “I s’pose I should give you somethin’ else better to think about,” he said in his most manly voice, snuggling up behind her. “Hot, sweaty, manly, flabby love!” “I so love you, you moronical baboon!” she groaned affectionately, and turned out the light.

*

*

*

Kaylee looked around the engine room with a warm feeling of satisfaction. Never had Serenity – in her experience, at least – been so well tuned. The new core was like a fresh breeze in her sails – Wash had told her it gave him an almost twenty percent boost in velocity, without any direct modifications. She was proud of what her little ship could do. There was always room for improvement, though. She had dug out her precious engineering manuals the moment she had the time and had started going through the systems one by one. The increased power supply was bound to have an effect on several of them, and it would take days – if not weeks – to readjust them to their new optimal configurations. It would be a lot of work – but it was happy work. She had dressed for the occasion in her grease-stained tan coverall, and her hair was pulled up under a blue bandana. She started the maintenance run the way she always did – by putting her head up against the engine casing, placing the side of the case just behind her ear, closing her eyes, and listening to the multitude of noises and vibrations the engine was making. She smiled, her eyes still closed, as she heard the closest thing to a purr Serenity had ever made. There were still some rough edges – the starboard synchronizer was still just a hair behind its mate on the port side – but nothing pressing, nothing requiring her immediate attention. She plopped back into her hammock and opened the engineering manual and looked up what her next step should be. That manual was more important to her than the Bible or any other three books you could name. It had been salvaged from the corpse of a slightly older model Firefly in the ship graveyard on Onyx, a failed terraformation project, and not only was it a comprehensive engineering manual, it was filled, cover to cover, with notes and marginalia from other Firefly engineers, describing hundreds of quick-fixes, workarounds, and cheats that could be used to coerce the ship to do any number of things she wasn’t designed for. It was like having a magical spell book from a fairy tale. She had been reading steadily for nearly half an hour when Simon popped in. “How’s the new core performing?” he asked, conversationally. He didn’t have much interest in it, directly, of course, no more than what she had about the equipment he’d picked up in their last heist. But he was kind for asking, as it meant a lot to her, and his taking an interest in it meant even more. “Shiny!” she beamed. “Not a flutter, yet. But the day is still young.” “That bodes well . . . I suppose.” “River settled in?” “Yes. She and her ‘flock’.” “Yeah, the most expensive art project I’ve ever seen. What do you conjure she means to do with it?” Simon shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. She keeps saying that it will ‘set her free’ somehow. I have no idea – ten thousand credits may seem like a lot of money – and right now, it is a lot of money – but realistically speaking, it’s unlikely that she can find any degree of real freedom with it. I think it’s another case of River being River and us trying to figure it out.” “She sure excels at the mooniness,” agreed Kaylee with a warm smile. “But she’s a right sweet one. A real dear heart. When she’s not bein’ an evil teenager, that is.” Simon grimaced. “I agree. And it’s possible we might need that money. Captain is making noises about us . . . I don’t know, going somewhere, I guess, while Serenity goes on to Wuhan. I kind of wish he had left us back on Epiphany, come to think of it.” “You stayed long enough as it was,” Kaylee said, shaking her head. “Any longer, and someone was bound to figure out who you two were. I’m surprised we didn’t have any kind o’ brush with the Feds as it was.” “I know,” Simon agreed, glumly. “But the hotel was nice – when people weren’t shooting it up – and that restaurant was really top grade. Like nothing else I’ve seen out here.” “Oh, tasty yummies is easy enough to get – long as you ain’t too particular about the service,” Kaylee giggled. “I’ve had some mighty fine feeds in places you wouldn’t suspect. But the beach . . . that was real nice. I liked that part.” “The whole vacation was nice. I honestly haven’t done anything like it since college. By the way, what do you think of our new . . . employer? And his story?” “I think he’s a nice boy. Smart, cute, and criminal employment aside, comes from a good family. Why? You think of marryin’ off your sister? He might make a decent brother-in-law.” Simon looked horrified at the thought. “I’m going to assume you’ve been drinking. I did not ruin my life and tear through my fortune to spring her from the Academy so she could marry the first Tong boss she happens across. No matter how ‘cute’ he might be.” He considered a moment. “Although, to be fair, he does seem an intelligent fellow. I overheard a conversation between him and Book while I was checking our infirmary stocks. Very polite – almost Core-world polite. And well read, too.” “Well, he is the great-grandson of an Emperor, after all. Good breedin’ must count for somethin’.” “I suppose,” said Simon, a note of doubt in his voice that indicated just how valid he found Johnny Lee’s pedigree. “I guess if we have to go somewhere – and we do – might as well be on this damnfool quest. Treasure, indeed!” he added scornfully. “I think it’s kinda romantic,” Kaylee said. “Lost legacies, and adventure. We never hit no museum before. Should be fun!” “You have a very warped sense of fun,” he chided good-naturedly. “Just ‘cause you don’t properly ‘preciate the finer points of tearin’ down an induction coil assembly, or robbin’ and thievin’ precious artifacts from those who don’t really need ‘em that much, don’t mean you got a corner on the fun market!” She stuck out her tongue at him good-naturedly. “I just prefer my fun a little less . . . potentially lethal, is all.” “Like what?” “What do you mean?” “What does Dr. Simon Tam do for fun?” He thought about that one for a while, looking off in various directions. Finally, he brought his gaze back to her. “Well, for starters, I like chess. And go.” “Book said you were a decent player. What else?” “I’ve always been partial to the theater.” “Bleah. Next?” “Reading . . .” “Bleah.” “Fine dining . . .” he offered. “Better,” she admitted. “Exchanging pointed barbs about lowbrow entertainment with a certain attractive grease monkey?” “Now that,” she said with a wide smile, “sounds like entertainment!” “Matching socks . . . organizing my thoughts . . . reading medical journals . . .” “Bleah, bleah, bleah!” “Dancing?” he proposed. “I’m not very good at it – not nearly as good as my sister – but it was one of the few enjoyable things about cotillion.” “Dancing, I like that. What about sex?” “Sex?” “Yeah, the hot and sweaty stuff that you boys are supposed to think about all the damn time?” “Hmmm,” he said, smirking. “Let me check my encyclopedia and get back to you on that,” he said as he left the engine room. “Sex. Sex? Sex. Is that ‘sex’ with a ‘c’ or a ‘k’?” “Both, ya idjit!” she yelled after him. “And it starts with an ‘f’ and a ‘u’!” She could hear him chuckling all the way down the corridor. “Yep,” she said to herself as she tried to find her place in the book again. “Definitely need ‘u’ for sex.”

COMMENTS

Monday, September 19, 2005 1:16 PM

RELFEXIVE


Nothin' like wrangling followed by comedy for a good read.

Yay Howard!

Monday, September 19, 2005 1:29 PM

BENDY


Pure shinyness.


Nice work showing us the jerk facet of Mal and the playa facet of Simon.

易弯曲

Monday, September 19, 2005 2:26 PM

LEXIGEEK


ROTFLMFAO at that ending!

I love where you're going with Zoe. Of course she'd follow Mal to the edge of the 'verse and back, but it's nice to see a fuller picture of their relationship and to see the cracks in the veneer. Makes it feel more real and alive.

Monday, September 19, 2005 2:32 PM

LAFEEVERTE


*runs out of room to find dictionary*

Wow. It turns out "marginalia" is a real word. I'm gonna be using it all the time now.

And yes, I can see how the entertainment value of River clucking would be quite limited.

But it's entertainment value to me is beyond measure!

Monday, September 19, 2005 3:48 PM

SCREWTHEALLIANCE


I've had an interesting time with this book, most notably because I received The Official Visual Companion to the movies (Yep, I've been spoilerized for a while now) and I've been having a crisis, of sorts. Without spoiling anything germane to the movie, it does quite clearly state that the Alliance is all in one solar system.

The only problem is, this is highly improbable, astrophysically speaking. I know Joss isn't a sci-fi writer -- he's an extremely gifted screenwriter who likes using sci-fi concepts and vehicles to tell a story. I appreciate that more than you know.

But I AM a sci-fi writer, even if inactive, and the 'verse, as he writes it, is not logical unless you want to say "aliens did it" or something equally as cheesy. So I have ignored the "one solar system" idea in favor of the "multi-system, we have FTL but we just use it so much that why bother mentioning it" idea. I feel a little guilty about that, as I hate to contradict the creator of the show on such a fundamental level. But I am.

Why should you trust me over Joss? I mean, I ain't a rocket scientist.

But this guy is:
http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue439/labnotes.html

I'll elaborate on my 'verse vs. Joss' 'verse as this story progresses, and I think you will see why I think my idea should prevail.

But all of that is far, far more secondary to the plot and characters, and I don't want to get embroiled in "nerd fights" over whose got the best idea. Just enjoy the story.

But I'm right.

ScrewtheAlliance

Monday, September 19, 2005 6:43 PM

DAWGFATHERJR


*** WARNING ***

Mild spoilers in this. It won't ruin any part of the movie or give anything away, but if you're avoiding ALL spoilers, please cease reading this post.

<SPOILER>
In the visual companion, there is one screen capture from the movie that was of a viewscreen that the Serenity crew was looking at. In this viewscreen, it appears that there is more than one star in the Serenity 'verse. So what about this: Is it possible to have a cluster of stars that are very close (as stars go) to one another? Like maybe 1/200th of a light year (on average) apart or something like that? If this were the case, then a ship that could travel at 1/3rd of the speed of light could travel between systems in a few days or weeks. That way, you wouldn't have to have the "perfect storm" of planetary system formation depicted in the "Labnotes" page referenced by StA in his last post. If there were 30 or 40 stars in this cluster, you could squeeze out 100 habitable planets, especially after terraforming.
</SPOILER>

Just a thought.

Oh, and it'd still be nice to have hyperlinks at the end of your chapters linking to the next chapter. Sorry--had to throw that in there.

GREAT story!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 2:11 AM

SCREWTHEALLIANCE


Dawgfather,

I'm quite open to the idea of a small stellar cluster with 20-30 stars -- it's quite plausable. And I do think that planets outside of the "Goldilocks Zone" could be terraformed successfully, especially moons of jovians, because most jovians radiate quite a bit of heat which moons soak up. Not to mention the idea that a sufficiently large moon would have a molten core, which in turn would tend to heat a world from the inside-out. The only minor geeky point I would make is that no such system exists within 100 lightyears of Earth-That-Is, that I know of. But one could be lurking out of sight, somewhere, and I freely admit that astronomy ain't my for-tay. But that is a minor and unimportant point. A star cluster would make the Alliance worlds quite plausable, without incurring the wrath of fellow sci-fi geeks.

Also, I'd like to put hyperlinks in to my next chapters -- but the site doesn't seem to be accepting html, and it's hard to put that in when I initially post -- simply because it's difficult to do that when I haven't written the next chapter yet.

I have considered re-posting KL in its entirety, to eliminate that problem.

Thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading my little tale. It's fixin' to get excitin'!

StA

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 5:08 AM

ARTSHIPS


I love that you don't have to rely on action to have an interesting story - The character development is quite entertaining itself. Thanks for the good read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 1:30 PM

AMDOBELL


That was something of a shock but very bracing the way Zoe chewed Mal out for leaving her out of the loop with regards to the upcoming job notion and I could see her getting ansty and angry with him over it, just surprised she felt that threatened by it. After all she has Wash now, I loved Wash's thought processes on the why of it as he tries to help his beautiful but deadly wife come to terms with it. And Kaylee at the end was great stuff. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, January 20, 2006 7:09 AM

SCREWTHEALLIANCE


Because women are more complex, 3d creatures than that. Mal is Zoe's Boss. Wash is her Husband. Despite their long acquaintance and friendship, Zoe has a more intimate relationship with Wash, one in which she has the freedom to be vulnerable. I don't think Zoe has any issues with being strong AND being vulnerable, nor do I think it dimenishes her as a person. Indeed, I think it strengthens her as a character to see how she responds to two different relationships with men who play an important role in her life.

Zoe was justified for telling off Mal . . . but she was also justified in revealing her vulnerability to Wash and listening to his perspective. Plus, there are plenty of strong women who feel defined by their relationships with men. I'm not saying it's necessarily Right, but I am saying that it is Real. From Wash's perspective that is what he sees happening here -- that doesn't make it True, but it does make it Real.

They aren't much worth as characters if you can't stretch 'em as people every now and then.

ScrewtheAlliance

Saturday, January 27, 2007 11:19 AM

GIRLFAN


>Because women are more complex, 3d creatures than that. Mal is Zoe's Boss. Wash is her Husband. Despite their long acquaintance and friendship, Zoe has a more intimate relationship with Wash, one in which she has the freedom to be vulnerable. I don't think Zoe has any issues with being strong AND being vulnerable, nor do I think it dimenishes her as a person. Indeed, I think it strengthens her as a character to see how she responds to two different relationships with men who play an important role in her life.

Zoe was justified for telling off Mal . . . but she was also justified in revealing her vulnerability to Wash and listening to his perspective. Plus, there are plenty of strong women who feel defined by their relationships with men. I'm not saying it's necessarily Right, but I am saying that it is Real. From Wash's perspective that is what he sees happening here -- that doesn't make it True, but it does make it Real.
They aren't much worth as characters if you can't stretch 'em as people every now and then.

Very well said. Lovely chapter (I'm reading them out of order). I really loved Wash here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 10:25 AM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


Bahahahaha Kaylee and Simon at the end were PRICELESS!!!!!


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