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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The crew searches for Simon and River. Simon and River wake up. Action with angst.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1596 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Any idea where we should start looking, sir?”
Mal had been waiting for Zoe to voice the question since they’d left the ship. He’d known it was coming, because he didn’t have an answer. “Not rightly, no,” he answered, hurriedly crossing the street away from the docking port and heading back into the center of town. “But if something untoward happened to the doc and his sister, two guesses who’d know about it.”
“Cortez.” It was a statement not a question.
“Exactly,” Mal grimaced, glancing behind to be sure his second was keeping up. Matching his stride, Mal told her, “I’m thinking we need to pay that rat another visit.”
As Cortez watched one his men fly across the bar’s back room, he sat back with bemusement and waited to see who his assailant was. When it turned out to be Reynolds his bemusement quickly turned into suspicion. Serenity’s Captain did not have a reputation for launching much larger men across rooms. It wasn’t in his nature which meant something was terribly wrong.
When Mal and his second-in-command, Zoe, rounded the corner to take up wide stances in front of him, Cortez crossed his arms over his chest and eyed them both. Reynolds was mad, seething actually. The warrior woman was as unflappable as ever.
“Problem,” Cortez asked, flicking his gaze to his man who was slowly getting up and back to Mal.
“Maybe,” Mal answered, stepping closer. Resting his fists on the table, he leaned forward and brought his face right into the other man’s. “Depends on what you know and how much of it you tell me.”
“Know about what?” Cortez wasn’t much for game playing.
“My doctor and his sister get pinched off my boat, while I was picking up cargo for you,” Mal told him, his voice losing none of its edge. “You know anything about that?”
Cortez was almost disappointed. Sighing heavily, he stood and crossed the room to pour himself a drink. “Kidnapping, Mal, really? You came here to accuse me of kidnapping?”
“Don’t act so offended,” Mal bit out, again standing next to Zoe. “From what I hear, you’re known for worse.”
Chuckling quietly, Cortez took a long sip of his whiskey and nodded in his visitor’s direction. “True ‘nough,” he said. “But when I make a deal, I don’t welch on it. We had a good thing goin’. What makes you think I’d jeopardize that to get some of your crew?”
Mal bit back the obvious answer. If Cortez had any idea how much the Tams were worth, he would have been the first one knocking down the door to get at them. Glancing to Zoe, he read the almost unreadable expression in her eyes. While Cortez might know something about what happened to Simon and River, he hadn’t been the cause of it.
“You’ve got a point there,” Mal admitted, trying to get his anxiety under control. “So tell me, who on this moon would stoop so low as to kidnap?”
Cortez shrugged and resumed his seat. “Hard to say. Truth is, there’re enough lowlifes on this planet to make your search incredibly long. Sure would help if I knew why these two people’d be so important.”
Mal again looked to Zoe, wondering how much of this he should divulge. The look the woman gave him told him everything; regardless of the decision he made, she’d be right there, defending him to the death.
“They’ve got prices on their heads,” Mal admitted. “Big ones.” Cortez’s eyes widened slightly at the implication, but otherwise, there was no reaction. “Does that help?”
“Well, it does a bit,” Cortez said. “The only man I know stupid enough to go after bounty is Sterns, Alastair Sterns. He fancies himself a pretty highbrow criminal, but truth is, he’s a bottom-feeder, just like the rest of us.”
“Where does this Sterns call home base,” Mal asked, hoping against hope that Cortez’s information was on the level.
“A shady dive ‘cross town, the Blue Note. I can have Marty take you there,” Cortez offered, waving one of his bodyguards forward.
“No, that’s all right,” Mal declined, raising a hand and retreating towards the door, Zoe following. “We’ll scout it ourselves.”
Turning to go, Mal reconsidered, “What do I owe you for this Cortez?”
The man eyed him up and down and said, “Get my cargo where it needs to be on time and I could care less what you do in the interim.”
Nodding once, Mal turned and grabbing Zoe by the elbow fled the room before the criminal’s common sense returned.
River was alone and scared.
She had awoken in the transport’s guest room, lying on a comfortable bed that was not her own. She wasn’t on Serenity anymore. For a moment she thought that perhaps she had run away and just couldn’t remember, but then she started to piece together the events of the past couple of days and she realized, no, she had wanted to stay on board the ship with Kaylee and Mal.
Apparently, it didn’t matter what she wanted, not to their father. River knew he had done this. He had been the one to bring her here. She had been awake now for three hours, thirty-nine minutes and four seconds and no one had come to check on her. She had expected her father to be quicker than that. Although it had taken him over three years to come looking for her before, so logic dictated, this time could be even longer.
She didn’t want to wait. She wanted to find Simon and go back to Serenity. It was her home now. She could barely remember her other home, the one before the cell. She remembered it was big and dark with old things lining the walls and toys that were never played with. She remembered her room and Simon’s the two places they had spent the bulk of their time. She remembered waking in the middle of the night, trembling with fear after a nightmare and Simon being there to chase the monsters away, not their mother and not their father. Simon was the one who heard her screams and tried to make them stop.
Simon was the one who had heard her screams at the Academy. She hadn’t thought he could. She thought he was too far away. And then for a few terrible months she thought that maybe she had imagined him, from start to finish. There was no Simon, there was no mom or dad, there wasn’t even a River. There was just this girl, a broken girl riddled with fear and anxiety. A girl filled with despair because she was alone. A girl who couldn’t make the pain stop.
But no, Simon was real. River was real and together they had managed to reform their family and they had joined a bigger one. And now they lived in a house called Serenity. And River was homesick.
The sound of the lock on the door releasing startled her. Scrambling off the bed, River wedged herself into the corner of the room, wishing she could be invisible. Tears came to her eyes, tears she hadn’t even known were on their way, and she glanced up through strands of hair as the door pushed open and a gray-haired man entered. Her father. Her first father.
“River, sweetheart?” He looked around the room for her. He wanted to own her, he had come to check and see that his property was undamaged. He was in for a surprise.
“Didn’t get what you paid for,” she whispered.
Her voice startled him. Taking in her small, trembling form, he asked tentatively, “River, are you all right? How long have you been awake? Are you hungry?” His questions came one after another. But through it all, River could hear the one question he was afraid to ask.
“Not River, not anymore,” she told him, still staring off into space. “Not your daughter.”
He inhaled sharply and went to the girl, placing gentle hands on her knees. She recoiled at the touch and curled herself into a tighter ball. “River, you are my daughter and I love you. Everything’s going to be all right now. We’re going home,” he said it hopefully, almost willing her to smile.
“Not home, a house. Four walls, 25 windows, fourteen doors. A building, a structure to keep out the elements, meant to serve as protection. A necessity of life.” She was rocking back and forth, still not meeting his concerned gaze. “Not home. Necessity.”
Gabriel Tam was at a loss. He tried to reach his daughter for a few more moments and then with a heavy heart and a deep sigh, gave up. As he left the room, he heard her broken voice start to sing, “Two by two, hands of blue. Two by two, hands of blue …”
The eeriness of the melody and the hollowness in her expression chilled the older man to the bone. What had happened to his little girl?
By the time Mal and Zoe had tracked down the Blue Note, Jayne had joined them. The merc had been getting more and more antsy staying on board, and although he saw the disappearance of Simon and River as a convenience, he was ready for a little action.
They entered the establishment, and even though it was mid-day, it was full of people, many in various states of drunkenness. Winding his way through the crowd, Mal made it to the bar and caught the eye of the barkeep. “You know a Sterns,” Mal asked, having to raise his voice over the din.
The hush that fell at the mention of the name gave Mal an uncomfortableness. Glancing back to the door, he saw Jayne and Zoe both tense, ready to spring into action. Of course against who and how many was still something of a mystery.
Turning back to the burly barkeep, Mal asked, “Well, do you know him?”
The man smiled tightly, and in a flash, reached out and grabbed Mal by the shirtfront. Pulling him off the ground with one heave, the other man met Mal’s face and asked him, “Who wants to know?”
Mal wished against all the Feds in the ‘verse he had a breath mint for the guy. “How ‘bout that’s none of your business and you just tell Sterns he’s got visitors,” Mal retorted, wishing he could get down wind of the man’s foul breath.
“How ‘bout I just kill you instead?”
The voice came from the back of the busy establishment and Mal felt the hand on his shirt slacken. In a second, the barkeep, Bruno had dropped Mal and losing his balance, he fell to the ground. Rising quickly, he searched the crowd for the owner of the voice.
“You want to see me?”
Willing himself not to jump at the closeness of the sound, Mal counted to three before turning to face the other man. He was no taller than the captain, perhaps a bit stockier and by the looks of him, older. Wondering if this guy was even capable of a double kidnapping, Mal motioned Zoe and Jayne over with a nod of the head and he saw them start to edge their way through the crowd.
Addressing the other man, Mal extended his hand and said cordially, “I sure do, if you’re mister Alastair Sterns?”
Sterns eyed the outstretched hand as if waiting for it to attack. Deciding he could take it if it did, he shook and said, “I am. And you are?”
“Malcolm, Malcolm Reynolds.” Mal just needed to wait until Zoe and Jayne were a little closer. “It sure is an honor to meet you. I mean, your reputation – well, it speaks for itself.”
Alastair seemed at a loss. “I guess it does. What can I do for you Reynolds?”
There. Tightening his grip on the other’s hand, Mal pulled him roughly into his chest while he unholstered his weapon. Bringing the gun up to point at Sterns’ throat, Mal saw that Jayne and Zoe both had their weapons raised and trained on the crowd – just like clockwork.
“You can tell me where my ruttin’ doctor and his sister are,” Mal whispered vehemently. “Or I can just start shooting.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he bit out, trying to wriggle his way out of Mal’s tight hold. “What doctor?”
“Annh, wrong answer, thanks for playing,” Mal said, giving Jayne a furtive nod. The taller man fired his gun into the crowd just over their heads. It was meant to be a warning and apparently it did the trick.
“All right, listen, I did a job, last night. It was a guy and his sister. I didn’t know he was a doctor,” Sterns told him, trying to turn and face him. “Listen, I’ll let you in on the cut.” The man was getting desperate; Cortez had been right, bottom-feeder, just like the rest. Couldn’t even withstand a little interrogation.
“Try again,” Mal told him, tightening his hold.
“Ow, all right, I’ll split it 60-40. That’s a hell of a deal.” Sterns was still missing the point, even as all circulation was cut off to his right hand.
“Where are they,” Mal bit out.
“Wait a minute,” Sterns asked, confusion evident all over his features. “You want ‘em back?” Taking in Mal from the corner of his eye, he said, “Do you even know who’s after ‘em?”
Mal was getting ready to point out that the other man should really be more concerned with his own safety, when he heard Zoe’s voice from behind him. “Sir. You almost done?”
Glancing to her with an annoyed expression on his face, Mal was ready to scold her for hurrying his fun. But catching a quick glimpse of what had her spooked changed his mind.
“All righty then,” Mal said, taking a deep breath. Positioning Sterns so he was between Mal and the three very big, very angry men quickly approaching them with guns, Mal started backing toward the door, Zoe and Jayne still training their guns on the crowd. “We’re gonna get out of here, nice and slow. Call them off,” he ordered Sterns.
Grinning fiendishly, Sterns said smugly, “Don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never seen those men a day in my life.”
Grimacing, Mal said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Just as he cleared the threshold the first shot rang out and cursing violently, Mal went to the ground.
Inara found Kaylee in the engine room; no surprise. What did surprise her was the earnestness with which her friend was working on the room’s main equipment. Normally when Kaylee was upset she’d cry, possibly even mope. She never, to Inara’s knowledge, had thrown herself into her work before. That was more Mal’s style, and the role reversal had the Companion puzzled.
“Kaylee,” she questioned, standing in the room’s doorway.
Poking her head out from around one of the engine’s turbines, Kaylee gave the woman a friendly smile. “Oh, hey ‘Nara. What are you doing here?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Inara told her, walking down the entrance’s few steps and sitting on the last one. Clasping her hands in her lap, Inara asked, “Don’t you want to help Wash look on the cortex? We might be able to find some news.”
Kaylee shrugged indifferently and the motion confirmed for Inara that her friend was in denial; a nice, perfectly calm state of denial and perfectly un-Kaylee-like. “Nah, Wash knows what he’s doing. I figure there’s no use me getting in his way.”
“Uh-huh,” Inara said skeptically. “The captain and Zoe called about an hour ago. Jayne went to meet them. They think they might have a lead.” She looked to Kaylee for her reaction. The girl paused in her work, for just a second, but kept her head buried in the engine.
“Well, that’s good then,” the mechanic’s muffled voice floated down to Inara. “The sooner the cap’n finds ‘em the better off we’ll all be. Got jobs to do, you know.”
Deciding enough was enough Inara rose and walked to the young woman. Taking her by the elbow, she pulled her out of the machinery and sighed. Kaylee was crying silent tears and she reached up an arm to wipe her face on her sleeve. “Oh mei mei,” Inara breathed, reaching out to pull her into a hug.
“No, ‘Nara,” Kaylee said, pulling away from the woman’s touch. “I’m fine. There’s no use crying about the doc and his sister. Maybe they weren’t even kidnapped, maybe they just decided to leave.”
“Kaylee you don’t believe that.” Inara was startled by the harsh tone in the girl’s voice. Guessing at its meaning, she said, “There’s no way Simon would leave you without a goodbye.”
Kaylee snorted derisively, another expression completely out of place with her usual demeanor. “We don’t have any kind of hold on each other. I don’t mean nothin’ to him.” Her voice faded away at the last statement and Inara’s heart broke for her. Although Kaylee was fiercely trying to deny it, her pain and her fear for the young doctor and River were playing across her features.
“That’s not true, Kaylee,” Inara said gently, taking the girl by the shoulders and forcing her to meet her gaze. “Simon does care for you, but I think he’s confused by what that could mean. He’s been very focused over the past year on River and her needs and that has left him little time for himself or anyone else. But I think he’s coming around, and so do you. I know you do.” Inara tried to judge the mechanic’s reaction to her words and the fresh wave of tears they elicited confirmed her suspicions. All of this: Kaylee’s nonchalance, her unaffected attitude, even her tone was part of a carefully constructed façade she had built to protect herself. And it was crumbling fast.
“I’m so scared, Inara,” Kaylee bit out, collapsing into the older woman’s embrace. Inara stroked her soft hair and just listened. “I thought we were really gettin’ somewhere. I thought we might actually have a chance, but …” Kaylee’s voice trailed off again as it was overtaken by sobs. “But now, who knows? I mean, maybe he’s fine, but maybe he’s been arrested or tortured or killed.” She inhaled sharply at that last admission and buried her tearstained face into Inara’s shoulder. “And if anything happens to River I don’t think he’ll be able to live with himself. The man I –" She broke off suddenly and Inara knew she had stopped herself from saying love. “The man I care about will be gone. I don’t know if I can survive that.”
“Mei mei, you can survive anything,” Inara assured her, pulling back to look at the girl. She was trying to get her emotions under control, but as Inara had noted a few days before, Kaylee felt everything with such an intensity that her feelings were hard to mask. They were always there, just under the surface, waiting. “You’ll get through this and so will Simon and River and then we’ll just have another thrilling story to tell around the dinner table.”
Kaylee smiled weakly and Inara reached out to hold her again, when Wash’s voice crackled over the comm. “Kaylee? You down there?”
Reaching the receiver in a few steps she thumbed it on and answered, “Yeah, Wash. What’s up?”
“Get ‘er ready,” the pilot answered a grim tinge to his voice. “We’re leaving in five and it’s gonna be hot.”
Exchanging glances, Kaylee switched off the device and headed back to the engine. Picturing a million things that could have gone wrong, Inara headed out the door and back toward the cargo bay to await Mal’s return.
Saturday, March 04, 2006 5:59 PM
Saturday, March 04, 2006 6:10 PM
Saturday, March 04, 2006 8:48 PM
Sunday, March 05, 2006 10:31 PM
Monday, March 06, 2006 10:09 AM
Tuesday, March 07, 2006 5:31 PM
Wednesday, June 07, 2006 7:30 AM
Thursday, November 23, 2006 4:55 PM
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