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Antebellum - Book I: Chapter Four
Friday, January 6, 2006

The Fourth Chapter in a Big Damn Sequel series. We're getting closer to a plotline, I promise.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1881    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Author's Note - Sorry if any of this sounds a bit stilted. As you may or may not have noticed, I enjoy writing dialogue a whole lot more than action, but sometimes a guy's gotta do what he's gotta do. And with that covering of my posterior region, behold! Also, it is pretty long, too. Just warning.

Book One – Chapter Four

Jayne Cobb never was afraid of guns. In fact, he had somewhat of a platonic love affair with every single one he saw.

Where he grew up, the doctors pretty much just gave them away to infants as soon as they left the hospital. Or that’s what Jayne figured anyway. It was the only way to account for the abundance of firearms that graced the schoolyard. Not that he ever showed up there, but he heard stories.

His mom never let him carry a gun. Not even a pellet rifle. Not even a plastic gun. She said that they led undoubtedly to a life filled with tragedy and mayhem, and also that a man who carried a big gun was simply overcompensating. Jayne never understood what the hell she was talking about when she used big words like that, but she obviously didn’t approve, so he kept his firearm collection a secret from her. It started underneath his bed. As it grew, his hiding places grew to his closet, beneath his floorboards, and the old, hollowed-out service transistor he bought.

In his past, he had to make new hiding places on his own person, as was often the case. He once successfully smuggled three separate pistols in his drawers through an Alliance security checkpoint on Turrents Moon. But he always was careful putting weapons down there, and he always followed the most important step: Put the safety on.

However, in the situation he was presently in, the case was different. Despite his lack of fear when it came to guns, he was a bit uneasy about the shiny silver pistol that was pointed at his crotch. The safety was definitely not on.

“Okay. You’re gonna wanta put that away right ‘bout now.” Jayne spoke softly and slowly, hoping for the first time that Simon would be back any second. It would have been just like that prissy boy doctor to be late to a gorramn rescue. His eyes were focused on the silver barrel pointed below his belt buckle.

“Or at least,” Jayne began again, “raise that pistol to mebbee ‘bout chest-high.”

“Keep them hands up, Cobb. You’re going to give me what I want, an’ no ‘mount of muscle will stop me, hear?”

Jayne got a good look at the man who was holding him up. He was short, stocky with tan skin and a bald scalp, but with a jet black ponytail coming inexplicably out the back of his head. He had five tattoos scaling the left side of his face, from his eyebrow to his chin. The tattoos all seemed to be Chinese characters, but years of wear and skin loosening had warped most of them to gibberish. Jayne thought that one of them said “tennis shoe.” He didn’t know why someone would get that tattoo.

“Listen, l’il man,” Jayne breathed, obediently raising his hands to shoulder-level, “whatever reward you may be thinkin’a getting’, forget about it.”

“Stop talkin’, boy,” hushed the Man with the Silver Pistol. “Now we’s gonna walk away, see? And we gonna do it ‘fore that man you run with gets back and causes all manner of complications.”

Simon must’ve tipped someone off of the Alliance warrant. The kid wasn’t good at hiding a secret. Obviously, the Man with the Silver Pistol thought that Jayne was worth a bigger reward than the scrawny doctor. Maybe the Alliance paid by the pound or something. But he knew that he was generally safe being that the federal warrant called for him to be alive.

Comforted by this knowledge, Jayne narrowed his eyes at the man. “You shoot me, you get nothin’. Feds don’t pay for corpses.” An idea suddenly hit him, which Jayne knew when that happened, he should definitely act on it. “But I can tell you where the rest of them are. Six fugitives, you’ll make yerself a killin’, so to speak.”

It was, of course, not Jayne’s intention to actually turn in his compatriots. He learned a long while ago that the people handing out rewards were usually as treacherous as he was, so he steered clear of that whole situation altogether.

This particular gunman, however, apparently wasn’t as on the same criminal level as Jayne was, since all he did was look at Jayne with an expression which crinkled up his tattoos even more.

“What in the hell are you talkin’ ‘bout, you mud-headed backbirth? I just want what you took, then we’ll all part ways, keepin’ all our parts.”

Jayne repeated what the Man had just said silently, then got a bit confused.

“Huh?”

***

Simon rolled the pendent in his hands one more time. No bigger than a bottle cap. It was a turquoise color, something rare on this end of the system. Kaylee liked that shade. Since they were so often in the black or stuck in the ship, the color blue was even more rare on the ship.

He made sure that no one was looking and silently scraped the stone. No paint flaked off. It was real, all right. He doubted that the chain was real sterling like the vendor had implied, but it would hold up enough. She would definitely like it.

He looked at the price tag again, and his stomach dropped a little. The price was about half what they made today selling their wares, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to escape the Captain’s fury and wrath if he returned with nothing but a shiny necklace for his girlfriend. But he didn’t know when the next time would be when she could see the blue sky again.

He looked up once more to make sure no one was looking over at him, and he slipped the pendent into his pocket. Then he disappeared into the crowd and looked for Jayne.

Being that Jayne was about a foot taller than everyone else in the market, it wasn’t too hard. He was standing in roughly the same place Simon left him, but it was clear that the situation had changed since then.

***

“What do you mean ‘what I took’?”

“My daughter over yonder said that you took my last crate of fruit, whiles you was tryin’ to put moves on her. Says your name’s Jayne Cobb. A girl’s name.”

“Listen, you—”

“Give’em back, and I’ll forget it all. It’s the Christian way, y’see.”

Jayne couldn’t remember the Bible story of Moses putting a man up at gunpoint, but then he didn’t do much reading. Besides, he was much too offended to worry about that.

It was one thing to be accused of stealing food in a crowded marketplace, but it was more than another to have such outstanding warrants only to be completely ignored. A federal warrant wasn’t something to be proud of, but then again, Jayne didn’t particularly like thinking about stuff like pride. His mother said it was a sin.

“You crazy? I’m Jayne Cobb! I’m a ruttin’ wanted fugitive, y’hear? You tryin’ to put me up fer theivin’?”

“I don’t care ‘bout your warrants! I just want my fruit back!”

“Federal warrant! Federal! I’m not ‘bout to be lashed for your daughter takin’ your gorramn fruit.”

“Are you implyin’--?”

“Implyin’ nothin’! I outright said--!”

“Is there a problem over here?” Simon walked up to the Man, completely disregarding Jayne and the gun between them. His shirt was buttoned up to his top collar and his shoulders were narrowly squared. His eyes were tinted red by his colored sunglasses. He looked like an Alliance prissy boy again, and Jayne rolled his eyes.

“Who the hell are you? This got nuthin’ to do with you,” the Man said not taking his eyes off of Jayne.

“If there has been any misunderstanding—”

“There’s been none such! This guy stole my fruit an’ hit on my daughter!”

“That’s a lie!” Jayne shouted, his pride now completely overshadowing his capacity for foresight. “She’s as ugly as a mule turned backward!”

“Jayne, maybe we shouldn’t draw too much attention to us right now,” Simon said pointedly.

“What, you another one’a them federal fugitives?” the Man asked, clearly irritated at how long this was taking.

Simon turned to Jayne, who shrugged sheepishly. “Jayne… you are not smart.”

“Listen, you two just give me my fruit back—!”

“We di’nt take your fruit, you chubby dwarf!”

“Jayne!” Simon admonished. “Sir, there clearly has been a misunderstanding, so if you could please--” Simon’s hand moved to the Man’s elbow.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Yeah, don’t touch him!” Jayne complained, once again aware of the gun’s direction. Then, another idea hit him. “But I would… like to touch… your daughter?”

The Man’s eyes flared and the tattoos stretched.

“Uh, Jayne?” Simon questioned.

“Mebbee you’re… wife, too!”

“You sonuva--!” the man started, raising the gun to Jayne’s face. Jayne smiled slightly.

The dull clicking of a .45 being cocked stopped the Man from finishing his sentence. Simon pressed the barrel snugly against his pudgy face, still trying to keep the scene from being any more public than it already was.

“Put it away. Now.”

The Man hesitated. Simon removed his sunglasses and spoke softly and firmly.

“Put it away.”

All it took was the Man’s eyes to glance in Simon’s direction to give Jayne the signal to act. Putting both his hands around the man’s wrist, he thrust the gun into the air.

A shot rang out, and the chatter of the market turned into a sea of screams and chaos. Several fell to the ground instinctively, but the others simply took to running in every direction possible.

Simon’s hands went to cover his head, and he felt the blunt pain of a gun barrel hitting the back of his head and fell to the ground, underneath the feet of the stampeding crowd.

***

“What was that noise?” Mal asked, gazing in the direction of the marketplace. Distant shouts and screams followed.

River felt a sharp pain in the back of her skull. It wasn’t as if something hit her. It was beneath the skin, above the brain. As if it had always been there.

She touched where it hurt and pulled her hand back. It was covered with her blood. It soaked into her skin and began to crawl up to her throat.

Her hand began to wag back from side to side very slightly. It increased and she was no longer to control the shaking of her hand.

Oh, no. Oh, God, no.

This couldn’t be happening. She was better. She tried thinking about Simon. About Kaylee. About Serenity. Anything to keep her grounded. Her neck caused her head to shake and she couldn’t ground herself. She was falling. The wooden planking of the porch began to rise up to her and she felt weightless.

“Mal!” she shouted to the Captain, who was standing nearby on the porch.

Her body went limp, and Mal swung in low to catch her. Vibrations seized her body, and she tried desperately to focus her eyes onto something. Her hands clawed violently at the air in front of her, and she found herself writhing in the dirt.

Mal rushed down to calm her, but found it as difficult as trying to hold down a 90-pound trout. He managed to wrap his body around hers and cradled her head delicately, checking her pupils.

“River! River, you with me?”

She saw the sun, glaring at her from above. It began to melt. It blinked. It turned blue. An eye, its iris looming over her and coming at her, a vibrant shade of blue. It whispered to her. It whispered the word. The one word.

River gasped hard. It was trying to kill her. She knew it.

Then it stopped. Her body stopped shaking. And she could see again. Her captain leaning above her. She thought about Simon. About Kaylee. River looked at her hand again. It was perfectly clean.

“Bad,” she whispered.

“River?” Mal said, his voice only slightly shaking.

She looked at her Captain, who was leaning over her hesitantly.

“Antebellum.”

With her feet against Mal’s stomach, River pushed him a foot into the air and hopped to her feet. Not missing a step from the moment she hit the ground, she ran. She ran in the direction of the market.

When Mal hit the ground and looked up, River was already a ways away. No way he could catch her on foot now.

“Aw hell!” he muttered to himself, running back into Fuller’s shop.

He breezed past the back room to the docking area of the landing bay. In the corner of his eye he saw the bearded man look at Mal with quiet irritation.

“Fuller! Get my ship detached! We’re takin’ off now.”

“But you’ll be all fueled in less than five minutes.”

“Don’t have that time. Detach my ship and keep that red-headed bastard of a son of yours outta there or I’ll toss him out the airlock as many times as physics will allow!”

“You’re going to hell, Reynolds!”

“I’ve made my peace with that. Detach my ship!”

Mal ran up the loading ramp, stopping momentarily at the comm station:

“Kaylee, fire her up!” He then pounded the big, red button that folded up the ramp to the airlock.

As he made his way up to the bridge, Zoe met him.

“Something go wrong, sir?”

“Yep, exactly as planned.”

“Any specifics?”

Mal jumped to the pilot’s console and pulled down a control pad that led to the sleek autopilot casing that stuck out at an odd angle from the rest of the bridge equipment.

“Not at present, no. But River just went nutty and started running to the sound of a gunshot, so either something went wrong with Simon and Jayne at the market, or the girl thought she’d join a triathlon before we left.” He pounded the comm as Zoe took a chair at the co-pilot station. “Kaylee?”

“We leaving Simon and Jayne again?” Kaylee came through the speaker.

“Not this time. Why does everyone keep asking me that? Ship ready?”

“On your mark.”

“I swear I’m gonna be shootin’ someone on this boat today.”

“So the ‘lay low’ plan’s kinda gone out the window, sir?”

“Well, Zoe, that wasn’t a real realistic plan from the get-go, was it?”

“Ship’s detached,” Zoe said to Mal. “Got a plan?”

“We haven’t tried a Baby’s Bassinet in a while.”

“No, not since last time,” Zoe reminded him with a sharp look.

“That was a fluke. It usually works, right?”

Zoe’s answer was overcome by the sound of the engines thrusting Serenity straight into the air.

***

Where’s the gun? Where’s my gun?

In times like these, Simon had the habit of defining certain words in his head.

Mayhem. Noun. A state of violent disorder or riotous confusion. Havoc.

Simon tried to prop himself up on his hands and knees among the stampeding crowd. He got a good kick in the ribs and was back down.

“Jayne!” he called.

Above him and a distance away, he could hear the unmistakable sounds of Jayne’s fists hitting skin, followed closely by his gruff chuckling at his own performance.

Simon crawled across the dirt in between the forest of legs, nursing his side with one arm and scraping through the ground in search of his weapon with the other. He did everything he could to keep his head, both literally and figuratively. But everywhere he looked, he only found a lungful of dust and had to stop for a couple seconds before continuing.

“Simon! Where in Satan’s glory hole did you run off to!?” he heard Jayne calling.

“I’m over h—!” Simon began, but breathed in more dirt.

The sounds of violence seemed to get close to him, and the crowd began to thin considerably. So much so that Simon was able to struggle up to his feet. And he saw, in maze of people, something coming right at him. He could pick out the sounds of pain coming from the line of people in the path of the “something.” It was coming right at him.

The “something” was River.

***

The Baby’s Bassinet wasn’t an easy maneuver. It was complicated in the way that it required both smooth piloting skills and a complete reliance on equipment. At the present time, both were a bit sketchy.

The premise behind the technique involved the dorsal airlock hatch, four cords, a small platform, and a synchronized system of motorized cranks. Mal’s intent was to have Kaylee control the crank system to lower the platform down to where the others were, hopefully, waiting. He wasn’t ignorant of the problems, though. The cables were sturdy, but he wasn’t sure how much weight they could hold. On top of which, he wasn’t sure that he was a good enough pilot to conduct the technique. It took speed, precision, and grace. Mal had one out of the two.

“Kaylee?” he screeched through Kaylee’s comm.

“All shiny, Cap. Just tell me when.” Her voice betrayed her tacked-on confidence.

“This’ll definitely work, right, Kaylee?”

“Definitely probably’ll work.”

“Good enough. Stand by.”

***

To the right. Swing. Kick up, kick back.

Bystander. Let her go.

It was still a blur. River could see out of her eyes, but her feet kept moving, her hands still punching. She was getting dizzy.

Screaming. Their mouths weren’t moving, but she could hear their screaming. Their wordless thoughts that usually stayed in the back of their subconscious pushed to the forefront and into her ears. They drove her crazy sometimes.

Spin kick. Chop left.

Simon.

She saw Simon’s eyes go wide at the sight of her. She tried to stop, but there a man was bringing his fist around and into her face.

Then it slowed to a near stop. It was still moving at her, but not nearly fast enough to get a hit in. The crowd around her got quiet and only the wordless gibberish of this one man could be heard.

She creased her brow at the man’s fist, getting closer to her. She caught her breath and saw that everything else had been caught in the slow motion. People running froze in mid air. Simon was putting his hands up in front of him. His lip was bleeding.

“Simon,” she whispered, unsure if he could really hear her.

Then, the fist moved fast again, so she ducked under and instinct took over her eyes and muscles. A jab to the man’s throat dropped him to the ground. She reached out in front of her to next opponent and found her hand wrapped firmly around her brother’s neck.

Simon tried gasping, but her fingers were too taut. Air through his nostrils was forced back out when they got blocked at his esophagus. When he noticed them loosening, he managed to squeeze out a few words.

“Eta Kooram…” He was cut off by River’s other hand covering his mouth urgently, tears glazing her eyes.

“Simon…” She dropped both her hands and wrapped her arms around him, drying her tears off on his dirty shirt. She looked back up at him, dirt now covering her cheeks. “We have to go. Now.”

Grabbing his arm, River led Simon through a path that she forged herself through the sea of bodies. By no time they were back with Jayne, who was still wrestling with the tan Man who was half Jayne’s size, and the hulking man seemed to be having a little trouble with him. So River batted the Man to the side with her fists and addressed Jayne.

“Get the cart. We have to leave right now.”

“Sounds like a great plan, girlie,” Jayne said, apparently not caring that River was now helping them fend off their attackers. “Got any follow-up as to where we escape?”

Serenity breathed a loud roar as she passed over the market, knocking many to the ground. The boat then hovered above a small patch of empty land and lowered the platform a couple meters above the ground.

“Baby’s Bassinet?” Simon asked incredulously, grabbing one end of their half-full cart. “Did that even work last time?”

Jayne grabbed the other end, avoiding Simon’s questioning eyes. “That was a fluke, all right? I was drunk.”

“Run. Now.” River led the other men through the crowd, hitting, kicking, and beating all in their path.

Hobbling along with the cart, Simon felt like an ancient Israelite escaping through the Red Sea. He thought about bringing this reference to Jayne’s attention, but then remembered who Jayne was, and he thought better of it.

To their surprise, even after escaping the riot of people, many still chased after them, apparently not taking well to the fact that a small girl just senselessly beat each one of their market vendors.

“Gorramn it! Don’t these people have enough folks to chase after back there?” Jayne’s shirt was ripped at the neck, from where the Man with the Silver Pistol was grabbing him. Simon knew that Jayne would make him pay for it.

River hopped on the platform and helped Jayne up next. Together they managed to get the cart up on the “Bassinet” with them.

“All right!” Jayne shouted up to Kaylee. “We’re good, let’s go!”

“Where’s Simon?” she shouted back.

“We have to leave him, let’s go!”

“Shut up, Jayne! Help me up!” Simon was getting tired chasing the rocking platform that was being held up by just a few cords.

Some of their pursuers were getting pretty close.

River took Simon by the hand.

“I’ve got you, Simon. I’ve got you.”

Simon scrambled up onto the platform and it immediately began to ascend. This event, however, did not stop those on the ground from shooting at the trio. Sparks jumped off of the parts of the ship where bullets hit.

***

“Are people shooting at my ship!?” Mal shouted at no one, but Zoe was the only one on the bridge at the time.

“Seems that way, sir.”

“Take over.” Mal sprung from his seat and scurried down the series of steps down to the cargo bay.

***

“We’ve got a straggler!” Jayne announced.

A man weighing roughly 190 lbs latched onto Simon’s leg and proceeded to try to climb up onto to platform.

“Get him off! Get him off!” Simon shouted.

“You’re not wanted here.” River said sadly to the 160-lb man.

Jayne grabbed the fellow by the collar and began punching him until he was unconscious and a little bit afterward.

“Jayne!” Simon yelled.

“What?”

“Let him go!”

Jayne obediently dropped the man where he landed on a small crowd of people of less girth than he.

As soon as the platform was within the confines of the airlock, the hatch closed, and everyone breathed deep to find they were back in the safety of the cargo bay.

Kaylee rushed over to Simon and held him in a long, deep kiss. It slightly stung the cut on his lip, but he didn’t complain.

“You all right?” she asked.

“Honestly? No where else I’d rather be.”

“Zoe, take us outta atmo.” Mal barked into the comm station. “River, help Zoe.”

“Ha! And people say that shoppin’s boring!” Jayne laughed as he hauled the cart across the bay. He was soundly met by the collision between his face and Mal’s fist.

“Mal!” Kaylee shouted instinctively.

“I told you, ‘be careful!’ Apparently to you that sounded like, ‘Cause a ruckus and tell everyone on the damn moon we’re here!’ Why didn’t you use a gorramn bullhorn!”

“Hey, I didn’t start the fight! A li’l man with ‘tennis shoe’ on his face did!”

Mal was fuming, and too caught up in his indignation to understand Jayne’s comment. “Well, now, Jayne, we have to hop three times as fast to get off the Alliance report that’s gonna follow this fray!”

“I’m not sure if that’ll happen, Captain,” Simon piped in.

“Were you fightin’?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’ll want to keep quiet yourself.”

“They guy didn’t even want us for any warrants! He just thought that we stole his fruit!”

Kaylee pulled out a large wooden crate that was buried at the bottom of the metal cart.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“That’s the fruit we stole from ‘im,” Jayne mentioned casually.

Mal rolled his eyes so hard it gave him a headache, while Kaylee looked at Jayne, aghast. “You stole his fruit!”

“Yeah. So?”

“So what would possess you to steal stuff in a populated market when we’re laying low!” Mal shouted. “Something like that tussle was bound to happen, jackass!”

“Plus,” Kaylee said. “You shouldn’t be stealin’ the literal fruits ‘a their labors!”

“What?” Jayne asked. “Does anyone remember when we useta steal stuff for a livin’!? If this ain’t helpin’ our livin’…”

“Captain, we gotta return this stuff!”

“Return?” Mal’s temper lowered when he turned his attention to Kaylee. “Kaylee, did you just forget the big daring rescue we were just a part of? We can’t go back.”

“Hell,” Jayne muttered. “This is some thanks we get for getting our crew some eatin’s, huh, Simon?”

Kaylee backed away from Simon. “You helped him? You helped steal this fruit?”

“I… I thought we were still pro-stealing.” Simon got out quietly.

Kaylee, fed up with the situation, stormed out of the cargo bay.

“Kaylee!” Simon called after her, but was stopped from going after her by Mal. The fire had gone out of his eyes, and was now replaced by a cold sadness that Simon couldn’t quite define.

“You two. We gotta keep movin’, so either case, you all get this stuff loaded in double-time, y’hear? Afterward, report back to me.”

Mal turned and walked up the stairs to the bridge.

“Report to you?” Jayne called after. “What the hell for?”

“We gotta have a meeting. Something very bad happened.”

COMMENTS

Friday, January 6, 2006 7:07 PM

MAANTRE


"What's this"
"That's the fruit we stole from 'im"

awesome:)
I enjoy your diaologue AND your action!
please don't stop!

oh, and this :
"Jayne thought that one of them said “tennis shoe.” He didn’t know why someone would get that tattoo."
had me laughing so hard, my roommates now think I'm a crazy woman;)

Saturday, January 7, 2006 2:34 AM

AMDOBELL


Very much fun, not sure why Kaylee was so upset about handing the fruit back but no doubt we will be finding out. And a nice shiny rescue that actually didn't go wrong. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, January 7, 2006 7:54 AM

BELLONA


- Did that even work last time?
- That was a fluke, all right? I was drunk.
and somehow, i believe it...

b

Thursday, January 12, 2006 7:44 AM

AGENTROUKA


I shamefully neglectedto feedback you, but now I've reread this since you posted it and can comment with more detail. :D

Speaking of detail, I adore how much you put into these episodes. Focusing something special on each crewmember. That being Jayne and the slow revelation of his situation, or Simon and his shifting morality. (Stealing! *gasp*) I loved seeing him adapted to his poorer status now.

As always you have a great hand at dialogue ("...as many times as physics will allow." LOL!) and creating situations just outlandish and normal enough to feel as if they're satraight from the show. Jayne and Simon... what a team.

The scene of River's vision was excellently done. So focused on every sense, the physicality of her quasi-seizure. It really drew me in.

"The “something” was River." Oh hell, great line!

“I… I thought we were still pro-stealing.” Bwahahaa!

I loved the rescue. Wonderful episode, and for someone who proclaims to be not as good ataction as at dialogue... well, that was some very entertaining adventure!

Saturday, May 6, 2006 6:23 AM

LEIASKY


Little action, lotta funny! This is just excellent!

Wonder why Kaylee was so upset about stealing a box of fruit? And how is she going to feel when Simon gives her a necklace he stole!

Saturday, May 6, 2006 10:11 PM

LEIGHKOHL


OMG I was cracking up at Mal-
“Are people shooting at my ship!?” Mal shouted at no one, but Zoe was the only one on the bridge at the time.


“Seems that way, sir.”


“Take over.” Mal sprung from his seat and scurried down the series of steps down to the cargo bay.

I am so sorry I haven't discovered this earlier but it's a hell of a nice read to get to go through all at once!!! Great Job!




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