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Extra Cargo -- Chapter 14: The Guns of Navarone
Friday, April 28, 2006

Another chapter, another book title. The Guns of Navarone and Force 10 from Navarone were some of my favorite books as a teen. I’ve actually gone hunting fro my copies so that I can pull them out and read them again.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3259    RATING: 8    SERIES: FIREFLY

It’s been a few weeks since I posted the last chapter. I’ve been busy, that whole working for a living thing, and a massive case of writer’s block. I’ve taken my “Anonymous’” comments to heart and have tried to work with other points of view and other people in the Firefly universe – it does make for a better story. Thanks to D and Mal4Prez for putting up my kvetching about writer’s block. Lastly I always think starting at the beginning is good, so if you haven't been keeping up with me (or have forgotten things): First off, shame on you! Second here are all of the chapters from the beginning: Chapter 1-4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13. -------------------------------------------------

The crew was assembled in the cargo bay of Serenity. Wash, Zoë, Dr. Mengle (aka Simon) and Captain Reynolds on one side of the bay. Wash, Zoë, and Mal were chatting about what dinner was going to be that that night; who was cooking and the possibility of a poker game that evening. It was Wash’s to cook; that made everyone happy, he was one of the better cooks on board. Right now the chore wasn’t so much cooking as it was cajoling, cajoling the crew to not whine about molded protein. Simon was standing a little to one side of the conversation all nervous, twisting a damp handkerchief around in his hands.

Shepard Book and Inara stood apart keeping to themselves, quiet. River, now B’andra stood holding hands with Caroline; they were both wearing pigtails. Kaylee stood nervously behind them her hands clutching both of their shoulders. Jayne stood a little in front of ‘his’ women folk holding Vera. His stance was protective. Ain’t no one getting between him and his women (that included Vera).

Everyone on board had felt thump when they had docked with the Alliance cruiser. Mating it was called; not like any sex was gonna be happening. The Alliance cruiser basically sucked up the smaller ship. Probably more like fucking then sex or making love. No kissing on the mouth kind of fucking. Caroline had asked if the bigger ship was going to eat them; Wash had tried to explain that they were mating to her. He had been up on the bridge guiding them in making sure nothing would go wrong. Now everyone was standing in the cargo bay staring at the hatch waiting for it to open. Waiting, just waiting.

Clang, clang. The sound of something metallic crashing against the cargo bay’s door made everyone jump. River and Kaylee clung to each other huddling against Jayne. Caroline leaped into Jayne’s arms clutching Zoey and whimpering. Inara visibly winced and shifted closer to Shepard Book. Zoë and Wash shifted closer to each other; Mal clenched his fists and then unclenched them in a visible effort to calm himself down. Simon just about leaped out of his potbelly. He was convulsively twisting the handkerchief, and gulping. Mal glared at him trying to glare him into submission. Buddha only knows Mal wished that this went better then when they had Simon playing a clay buyer.

“Niu shi. Ni ta ma de.” Mal whispered furiously at Simon. “Calm down!”

Simon paused. He was sweating, and gnawing on the inside of his mouth. “Uh, uh, urm… I am calm.”

River snorted. “And the black has turned blue.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “Dr. Meng-Gla.”

“Don’t be a brat. R-r-r…” He caught Zoe’s glare. “Urr. B’andra.”

“Thank you.” She added very primly. Flipping one of her braids. “Still don’t see why I couldn’t have a cool name like Buffy.”

They all heard the clang, clang, clang again. The Alliance was getting impatient.

“Shut up, Moonbrain.” Jayne growled at her trying to look fierce, it was kind of hard as he was holding a quivering child.

“Jayne. Be mute.” Mal growled right back at him walking to the hatch and wincing as he swung open up the door. He was greeted by a pair of stern looking gun-toting teenagers wearing the distinctive Alliance uniform. “Buddha, I must be getting old.” Mal thought to himself. “These kids couldn’t be any older then River.”

“Welcome aboard Serenity.” Mal looked at the pair of kids on guard duty, and then behind them to the rest of the boarding team. He held up the papers hat he’d gotten while they were on Hilliard. His hands were off his gun belt, he was trying to appear relaxed, trying to appear like he wasn’t smuggling high end medical equipment into a restricted zone. “Our papers are all in order.” He pointed at person in turn “My crew, the Washburns; pilot and my first mate. Dr. Mengle. Shepard Book. Inara Serra. Our passengers: B’andra and Caroline Yang, their nanny Kaywinnit Fry, and their bodyguard Jayne Cobb. My name is Captain Malcolm Reynolds.”

A stocky man pushed through the boarding party. “Malcolm Reynolds?”

“Last time I checked.” Mal took a closer look at the bulbous nosed man in uniform. “Fred, Fred Burkle?”

The stocky man waved at his men “Put your guns down. We aren’t going to get any problems from these people. Guess it ain’t Sergeant no more, eh?”

Zoë looked rather incredulously at Mal, and then at Fred. She didn’t say anything. Just looked. Wash nudged his wife. “Who is Fred?”

“Hush, I’ll tell you later.”

“This is one of those war stories things isn’t it?”

“Hush.”

“It is.” Wash looked mildly disgruntled. “Another great story.”

Zoë looked over at her husband and glared. A glare that had sent many a man scrambling for cover. “Hush.”

“I see Zoë hasn’t changed.” Fred commented gesturing with his chin, taking the sheaf of papers from Mal.

Mal didn’t move a muscle the pounding in his head just turned into a whole marching band. “Changed a little. You’ve changed too.”

Jayne put Caroline down behind him and River piped up from the back “To the victors go the spoils.”

“See that little one knows something.”

“Sometimes a little too much.” Mal was very careful when he answered. He threw a glare over his shoulder at Kaylee and Jayne. “Nice uniform.”

“Yep, it is. Decent pay, good hours. Got me a wife and three little angel’s back at home.” Fred gestured to his boarding team. “I’ll take care of this. Know these here folk good. Fought with ‘em in the war.”

Mal and Zoë both noticed that he didn’t mention which side of the war they’d all been on.

Everyone assembled in the cargo bay watched the armed boarding team stand down. The tension visibly lessened. Everyone took a breath, and Caroline peeked out from behind Jayne’s legs. The majority of the team left leaving only the pair of guards standing at the hatch connecting Serenity to the larger cruiser. Fred still watching Mal and the assembled crew and passengers pulled out his wallet and some captures. “Yep, I show these to just about everyone that comes through here. I’m so proud of them, my three little ones. Winifred, Frederick, and Lorne. You got any rug rats Mal?”

Mal wished with all of his heart that he could whip out his wallet and show off captures of Caroline. But, he didn’t have any. And it would break the whole B’andra Caroline as sisters thing. “Uh, not really. Just Serenity and the crew here, they keep me plenty busy.” He was going to have to get some captures of Caroline; be nice to have some with him.

“Mal what ‘cha you got goin’ on here in this side of the verse? You gotta place where we can set down and sort out the paperwork. Takes a lot to go on planet.”

“I do. We can use the galley. Follow me. Zoë you’re with me. Wash make sure nothing happens to Serenity. Jayne stay here and watch.” Mal gestured to the pair of remaining guards. “Kaylee take the little ones to their cabin”

“NO!” Caroline stomped her patent leather clad foot and yelled. “My Jayne, I ain’t leavin’ my Jayne ‘lone.”

“Shush, little one.” Kaylee tried to sooth her. “Caroline, he’ll be fine.”

“He’s mine. I ain’t leaving him!” She pushed away from Kaylee and climbed up on Jayne’s foot clinging to his leg. Kaylee tried to peel her off, and quiet her down.

“Fine.” Mal barked. “Caroline, stay with Jayne. Kaylee take R- the beatific one to your chamber.” He glared at Caroline a look that said when this is done you’re gonna get it. “Inara, Book, Dr…”

Inara interrupted him “Captain. The Doctor, the Shepard and I will be having a cup of afternoon tea in my shuttle.” Inara tilted her head toward Simon and regally led the way towards her shuttle. The sooner he was out of sight of everyone in any type of official position the better.

Mal led the way from the galley Fred followed him. Zoë took up the rear her hand never straying far from her gun. She didn’t trust this man who could so easily change sides. The last time she’d seen Fred Burkle he’d been a browncoat; a volunteer like Mal. He’d believed in what they were fighting for; at least she’d thought he’d believed. How could someone just switch sides? Like a chameleon changing colors. She watched Fred walking in front of her, he didn’t say anything; but, with the way his head was moving it didn’t seem like he was missing anything.

They all took spots at the table. Mal sat at the head, Zoë on his right and Burkle across from her.

“So you got anything to drink?” Fred asked. Mal cocked his head at Zoë who went and prepared the service. She prepared the tray like she’d seen Inara do innumerable times. Inara prepared the tea service with the grace of a trained companion, a geisha. Zoë used her own style of grace to prepare the tea service, the leonine grace of a leopard, awesome and ferocious. The tea she brewed was Inara’s special blend a fragrant blend scented with jasmine grown on Sihnon.

Zoë remembered how much Fred Burkle liked his alcoholic beverages; she figured she would see if he still pooh-poohed tea as a sissy beverage only drunk by core muckety mucks. Except that he’d phrased it jian jiu xiu shi ni ta ma de, dandified mother humpers. More then once she’d had to track down his passed-out ass somewhere and haul it back to camp.

He’d changed since she’d last seen him. Older, more weathered; but, Zoë figured that the war had changed them all. Fred was a lot plumper then he’d been during the war, it looked like marriage agreed with him. His eyes were a lot harder then they used to be, they were flinty. That was a good description, flinty, the description had been in a book she’d read; one of Kaylee’s romance novels. ‘Love On A Windy Hill’ or something like that.

With an authoritative clunk Zoë set the tray with three delicate cups on it and a pot of tea on the table. They rattled, clinking together. Mal had never heard them rattle before. When Inara served tea everything had an order to it, and nothing was ever out of place, not a hair on her head or a cup on her tray. Tea service it seemed to Mal was Inara’s way of controlling the chaos that was Serenity, it provided a sense of serenity to her, a haven in the storm.

Fred delicately took a small china cup from the tray, his ham like hands overwhelming the cup. “Cordi calmed me down; I like to say she turned me into a man. She’s a real nice lady; you all would like her.” He took a sip of the tea; it was fragrant with jasmine blossoms. “Met her in Navarone. She was working in a shop, had just finished up school.” He paused, smelled the tea, looked over at Zoë. “Well the short of it is we fell in love. I needed a job; a real job. Not running guns, like I had been. So her daddy is some high muckety-muck in the Alliance power structure in Navarone; he got me a job with the local garrison in Navarone. Done pretty well, hours are regular; well they were until the blockade started about 3 months ago. Some kids from the local college studying ancient history. Earth-That-Was gao-se. They go get idealistic six ways to Sunday, and next thing you know we’re all stuck out here monitoring traffic in and out. Being fucking traffic cops. Haven’t seen my kids or Cordi in three weeks, we got a nice little house outside of town, got a garden and everything. It’s more boring then staring at a feifei de piyan being stuck out here.”

“Huh.” Mal grunted; he took a sip of tea at stared at Fred. Hard to imagine him all domesticated. He didn’t have a clue what to say. “Zoë got married.”

“Washburn you said your name was now?”

Zoë glared at Mal. “It is.” The little hairs on the back of her neck were tingling; it was a feeling of suspicion. Everything was off, something was not right. This whole job was just not right.

Mal added “She married our pilot, best gorram pilot in the verse.”

The whole conversation seemed off to Zoë. A man she thought was a friend, a browncoat like them was sitting across the table in an Alliance uniform sipping tea like they were in a gorram tea house. “Fred, what in the name of Buddha are you doing working for the Alliance? You were a volunteer, what happened?”

“Zoë.” Mal gave Zoë a warning glare. It was much the same look that he’d given Caroline earlier.

“No, it’s all right. I’ve been asking myself that every morning. Don’t agree with their politics. Don’t agree with a lot of things they do in the verse as a whole. Pythagoras and Navarone they pretty much leave us alone. Provide some stability. Keep the wife and kids fed. Give the rug rats some schooling, so I figure it’s all good.”

“Heard some rumors about a Firefly, doing Robin Hood exploits, that you?”

“Robin Hood. I don’t think so. That’s an old fairy tale.” Mal tried to brush off the question even as he felt his innards clench and twist with the question.

“Huh, there aren’t too many Firefly’s left out in the black. Flew on one for a while. Only ones I ever run into are transports and smuggling ships. Got a message sent over the cortex about a Firefly.” Fred looked pointedly at Mal. “What’re yall doin’ out in this part of the black?” Fred shifted his attention from Mal to both of the other table occupants.

“Bringing you all some visitors from the core -- the two girls. Their dad is from round here; feels that all his progeny need to know what it’s like out in the rim worlds. Or something like that. And our Companion has an appointment out here. Planning on staying ‘bout a week.”

“Don’t see as that is going to be a problem. We’re just supposed to stop people who might be supporting the insurgency.” Fred rifled through the papers and scrawled his signature in a couple of places and his initials in a couple of more. Holding the pen out to Mal, he gestured. “Sign here and here. Initial here and here. Today’s date goes here. You got anything to declare?”

Mal signed, initialed, and dated where Fred pointed. “Just a couple of kids.”

Fred chuckled and stretched. “All right, you’re good to go. Stop by on your way off-planet and we can catch up some more. I’ve got to get back. Don’t want the natives getting restless. Zoë, thank you for the tea. It’s the best cup I’ve had since we’ve been out here. Reminds me of home, similar brew to what my Cordelia makes.”

Mal stood up, with Zoë following his lead. “Fred it’s been great seeing you.”

The men shook hands, and Fred gave a very startled Zoë a bear hug. “Zo you keep this fengdian old warhorse out of too much trouble.”

“I try.”

“Still as bad as ever? Eh.” He clapped Mal on the shoulder and started walking back towards the cargo bay. This time Zoë was behind Fred with Mal bringing up the rear.

Walking out Fred took a look around the cargo bay of Serenity. Pretty tight little operation he was running; playing taxi service to a couple of kids and mother ship to two shuttles wouldn’t keep a Firefly in the air for very long. There had to be something else going on.

The crew of Serenity watched Fred converse for a moment with the guards and then leave. A hush fell over the cargo bay punctuated only by soft rumbling of Jayne talking to Caroline.

Zoë looked at Jayne who was still holding Caroline, and then at Mal. “Too smooth, it’s too easy. I don’t like it at all.”

“Smooth would be nice for a change. We could use an easy job. Ain’t gonna complain.”

“Ya mean we’re clear. Ain’t gotta shoot no one?”

Mal shook his head no to Jayne’s question, and headed up towards Inara’s shuttle. He gestured at Zoë and Jayne that they were free to go. Jayne took Caroline’s hand they headed off. It was gorram weird seeing a gorilla like Jayne be so tender and sweet to such a small thing like Caroline. Zoë he assumed went to go be with Wash. He paused before opening the hatch to ‘Nara’s shuttle. Wouldn’t do to break tradition and actually knock.

“Inara, Shepard, Dr.” The trio was sitting all cozy like sipping tea, it was a very intimate setting. “We’re good to go. Cleared the checkpoint without a hitch, as soon as we break atmo you are good to go.”

“When will that be Captain?” Inara chose to ignore that Mal hadn’t knocked. She supposed that would be breaking some weird little rule of his.

“Soon. Soon I hope.” And with that he strode out, feeling a little envious. Inara was with her type of people. His daughter’s best friend was a mercenary. His first mate’s mate and best friend was the pilot.

He walked the familiar corridors of Serenity. Maybe he could interest Caroline in a game of blackjack. She was getting pretty good at it. Last week he’d ended up setting the table three nights in a row.

De piyan -- Baboon's ass crack Fengdian -- Crazy Gao se -- Crap Gorram -- Damn Jian jiu xiu shi – Dandy Ni ta ma de -- Mother humper Niu shi -- Cow dung

COMMENTS

Friday, April 28, 2006 3:36 AM

BOOKADDICT


Yay, you're back! And with such a good chapter.

I don't trust that Fred *shakes head* he's way too calm.

I love the description of Simon nearly jumping out of his pot belly!lol.

Caroline not wanting to leave Jayne and the Captain's wishing he had captures of her are two of the best moments.

I am waiting now for the next chapter!

Friday, April 28, 2006 6:06 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


I too loved those Alistair Maclean books, Guenever:)

This chapter was mighty interesting....numerous Buffyverse references....former Browncoat turned Purplebelly...Mal wanting pictures of Caroline.....great work:D

BEB

Monday, September 18, 2006 6:45 AM

4NATHAN


Wow! Can't wait for chapter 15!


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