A NEW CONTACT – 2529C.E.

CHAPTER TWENTY
A NEW CONTACT  2529 C.E.

The tall man strolled through the Eavesdown Dock, followed by admiring feminine
glances.

As he approached a group of shabby transport ships, he glanced at a gossiping group of women, sitting in folding lawn chairs and watching a gang of noisy youngsters playing a round game.

“Mei mei!” he called. “Zoe! Zoe Alleyne!”

The tall dark woman’s ringlets swept around as she responded to the call. “Zoe
Washburne” she corrected. Then “Perse!”

The tall man pulled his sister to her feet, hugging her leather vest to his own broad
chest.

“How long has it been? “

“Near on twenty years since I joined up.”

“And now ?”

“First mate on Serenity here, You?”

“Working for a big wholesaler, just promoted to manage my own franchise here on
Persephone”

Zoe nodded. “Steady work.”

“And are these ladies also part of your crew?”

“Kaylee is our mechanic, the others are with other ships, but we meet up from time to time to exchange news and let the kids play together. Kaylee, Lin, Sou-fen this is my older brother , Perseus Alleyne.”

“Pleased to meet you all. I’m actually here to find some new contacts for hauling in and out-system. Good to find people with shared connections.”

“Serenity is always looking for contracts.“ smiled the mechanic, switching her baby from one breast to the other. “Zoe, maybe you should introduce your brother to the Captain.”

Zoe nodded, turned and headed up the cargo bay ramp of one of the ships.

Perse Alleyne made a small bow to the other women and followed.

“Well,” said Sou-fen.” Who woulda thought that Zoe would be the plain one in her
family?” The other women started giggling lasciviously.

“Washburne, eh? Is your husband the Captain? “

“No. Mal Reynolds was my sergeant. I’m a widow.”

“It has been a long time. Have you been in touch with any of the others over the years? I have Cortex addresses for most but we are far-flung nowadays. Are any of those kids yours? Lord, girl, you look good.”

“The Captain bought Serenity partly through Alcibides. The others? No. The blonde girl is mine, Emma, she’s eleven.”

The merchant looked back at the rowdy children and spotted a slender, composed pre-teen with blonde dreads and a deep tan rescuing one of the smaller children from  older rougher playmates.

“Another niece. I think that means Mum and Dad would have about 29 or 30
grandchildren now. You know they have both passed?”

“Figured Dad. ‘Bout a dozen years ago, tried to contact him when I was discharged, but got a “No account” message. Mum was alive then, but Al didn’t give me her address.”

“Al’s not good at keeping up. He may not have had one. She kept the ship going for
another ten years after, then retired. Died about six years back, mostly of boredom, I think.”

“Sir, this is my brother, Perseus Alleyne”

“Brother? Welcome to Serenity, Perseus.”

“Perse, please, Captain Reynolds. I understand you are looking for contracts.”

“Always looking for jobs. Got a crew and some pesky kids to feed. Zoe tell you about
our setup? We’re based here but we make a regular circuit of worlds because we have a permanent passenger who does medical clinics on worlds too small to support a regular doctor. Makes us steady but still flexible in our scheduling. Means that we can afford to do small jobs that are on our route at a reasonable price. “

“A doctor? That’s unusual.”

“The government pays him to run the clinics with his nurse. He has a route, but he is allowed to stop at other worlds as the opportunity or need arises. Useful sometimes when we want a reason to be somewhere.”

Perse grinned. “Sounds like your business is very much like the Alleyne Family
Concern. Flexible. “

“It’s good to have a respectable reason to go dirtside sometime. Not always a good
idea to land in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes the Feds notice, sometimes you’re meeting up with people whose idea of doing business is too flexible. Doc lets us land at the local shipyard and have a reason for being there.”

A small boy with a mop of light brown hair, raced up the ramp and hugged the Captain’s leg.

“Captain! Mummy says I can have an ice planet if you give me the money. And for Emma  too.”

Mal picked up the boy and kissed him, gave him an aluminum coin, and swatted him on his bum.

“Grownups are talking business, Derry. Git.”

“Kids travel with you on jobs?”

“Just the baby ‘cause she’s nursing. The other two stay on Persephone now when
we are away. Their school has a scheme for the ship families. Kids can take classes
through the Cortex when they are out in the Black, or board at the school if the trip might be dangerous, or stay shipboard with their parents when they are on Persephone.”

“So my niece mostly lives here?”

“On the ship or in the school dorm.” Her mother said.

“Well, well. I’m glad I found you. The family will be happy to hear too. Can I invite you and the crew to have dinner with me? Being new, I don’t have much of a social circle and it would be good to talk.”

“Sir?”

“The crew is seven adults and two kids. Plus the baby. If you can handle that…?”

“The job comes with a house and a housekeeper. Tomorrow evening? About 1830?
And perhaps I will have some work for you by then.”

“Must be real shiny for you, meeting a long-lost brother after so long.” Kaylee smiled. “You two will have so many stories to share.”

“Mmm. Not my favourite brother.”

“He’s really handsome, too. Do you have any captures of your family? How many
kids were there? Mal says you started him in this business when the two of you were demobbed.”

“There was nothing for him on Shadow. I knew my family business so we went that
way.”

“Mal never told me that! I guess I never thought of him as anything but a ship’s captain. Was the crime your idea too? “

“My dad never liked going through customs posts much. I reckon most small transports do some smuggling. Our ship had even more hidey-holes than a Firefly. “she chuckled. “We lost Theseus for a couple of days once when he got wedged into a duct.”
———————————————
Families again. Zoe has two brothers who are not her favourites. And although Perse appears to be a bachelor, the other siblings have produced some 30 offspring.
Family is one way of knowing who you can trust when the job might be a little shady.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
PANSIES FOR ZOE

Perse was all charm with the crew. Kaylee was already entranced by his good looks,
Simon by his fine Core manners. He and David kept exchanging glances, as if they
were making some plan for the handsome bachelor. Hope and Derry were on their best behaviour, as was Jayne, who managed not to make any crude remarks by the simple expedient of not talking at all. Fortunately, there was plenty of food to keep his mouth busy.

River was mostly silent. The young pilot was a bit restless. She was more and
more focussed now that she had a steady family around her and a responsible job. But she seemed slightly upset, in spite of the good food and pleasant chat.

Mal was expansive, pleased to have found a new contact who needed a trustworthy
shipper. He and Perse spent much time discussing the plans of Perse’ company to
expand in the Rim.

“They like me because I’m from the Rim, and know more about the culture out here than their Core-bred employees. They understand that rules can be more like guidelines here. And they see a strong future as the Rim worlds develop and get more prosperous. A strong middle class is what these worlds need, not just rich owners and poor workers.”

“What kind of cargo do they need moved?” asked Mal.

“Well, at the moment, we have a cargo of frozen bull semen for the ranchers on
Whitefall, Burgess and Beaumonde. Needs a little TLC, but doesn’t take up much space for the value. Taxes on it are high though.”

Mal ignored Jayne’s guffaw. “Better than an entire herd of beeves. We’ve done that and it took a month to get the stink out of the cargo bay. Jayne,  要小心”

“爸爸,我们说中国” Derry pointed out.

“There’s a couple of worlds where the crops were too good, and they have surplus fruit for sale. Shipping on a big transport would be expensive, price the fruit right out of the market.” continued Perse. “Or I’ve got some glass. Not fancy stuff, but jars and the like for canning plants on some of the agricultural worlds. Bulky and pretty cheap, so the shipping gets to be the expensive part.”

“We could handle most of those cargoes. One thing, we don’t want to deal with slave planets. Those folks have strange ideas about what a contract means. And they don’t just shoot you if you disagree. You can end up working out your days for some 头上拉屎 with a whip. “

“Understood. “

“They don’t look for clinics either,” Simon added.”Their people are just worked until they die.”

“Doctor Tam, what sort of services do you offer at these clinics of yours?”

“Not what I was trained to do, which was trauma surgery. But we handle general family care, prenatal care, Davie gives vaccinations, we do a lot of immunizations and he has a gentle hand with a needle.” Simon stroked the big nurse’ arm. “Give kids their annual exams and actually I do some cosmetic surgery.”

“Cosmetic? Like nose jobs and tummy tucks?”

“Well, I correct for deviated septums and poorly set broken noses. But what we do a
lot of comes from burns. Some Rim planets use stoves for heating and there are a lot of burns from careless handling and even house fires.”

“Hydraulic ram pumps!” exclaimed Perse, “Those Rim worlds need small scale hydro plants and ram pumps are perfect for the homestead user. I’ll have to look into getting some in from Boros. Electricity is much safer and cheaper than burning wood or candles.”

“Earth-that-was had petroleum, and they used it for everything. ” Emma interjected.”They could break it down and turn it into stuff they could mould , like glass or ceramic jars, and the like. But they also used it for fuel, just burning it up. They had a rock that burned too, coal. We don’t have those in the ‘Verse because the worlds here didn’t have any life until we terraformed them and petroleum and coal were made from the dead jungles and huge animals that lived there billions of years ago. “

Perse gave his newly met niece a bemused look. “Huge animals?”

“My daddy had a lot of models of them. They were called dinosaurs.”

“Interesting. You should show me more about them, Hope. And Doctor Tam, let me know what worlds are overly dependent on burning solid fuels. I may have a line on some ram pumps that would be in great demand there. ”

Perse is looking for people he can trust. Who better than family?

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
GOOD MEDICINE

Perse was as good as his word and the next day the crew had a contract to fly a load of agricultural implements, hoes and shovels mostly, to Kerry for a homesteading ship that was heading out to a newly opened Rim World. The strictly legal cargo was supplemented by a few dozen  sealed steel boxes stowed in the hidden compartment off the cargo bay. A secret cargo of high-yield grainseeds and protein packs, and genetically-enhanced grass seed and oxygen-producing single-cell organisms in stasis. Highly-prized Alliance materials, a black market cash-cow and automatic jail-time for possession.

David came aboard with a crate of vaccines, picked up from the Alliance Central Medical Depot, which Simon would be using on their next stop, a scheduled clinic on Higgins’ Moon. Simon had been on the Cortex for a few hours conferring with the local midwife on a maternity case whose eclampsia would make a caesarian delivery necessary when Simon arrived.

“Then we pick up a shipment of dry beans and of that syrup they make from trees on Turtle Island, and back to Persephone,” Mal informed the crew.
“Syrup from trees?” asked Emma.
“Maple or mebbee birch,” Jayne put in.”Good on porridge or on pancakes. We made it back home. Takes a powerful lot of sap and very particular weather.”
“Luxury trade stuff. Compact for the value. The beans cover our costs for the run back here. Syrup is our profit. Doesn’t even have to be in the hidey-hole. Purely legal.”

“So we can take the kids, no problem?” asked Kaylee.” Perse offered to keep the kids for a visit if we wanted.”

“Nothin’ wrong with the school dorm,” said Zoe. “The kids have friends and we know all the staff.”

“Yeah, nice of him to offer, but what fun can little kids have with an old bachelor?” said Mal. “Let’s stick to the plan. The whole family travels this run. Mebbee another time they can spend some time with Uncle Perse.”

The jobs went smooth. Perse’ company was known to the Alliance authorities, even if one or two of the customs agents gave Serenity the fish-eye, having investigated other, more problematic, cargoes. Mal took delight in being the “by the book” captain, providing his strictly legal by the book paperwork. The hidey-hole with its “special” crates went unobserved.

At Higgins’ Moon, Simon delivered the endangered baby at the midwife’s clinic. Once the baby was safe, treatment for the mother’s eclampsia could be left in the capable hands of the local nurse-midwife.  Davie cornered her for a few hours when he and Simon stayed over and got more background on her training.

“David feels we could offer a better service for normal pregnancies and births if he added midwifery to his own nursing and my surgical skills,” Simon told Kaylee. “You didn’t need  me for your kids and let’s face it, I’m not really the most empathetic person for a worried prima partum.”

“Calling someone a prima partum proves that, Si,” laughed Kaylee. “You was fine with Zoe and me, but Davie is more of a people person. You picked a good man there.”

“Your opinion is very valuable to me, Kaylee.”

Kaylee hugged Simon and kissed him soundly. “Your opinion is valuable to me too.”
Mal entered the kitchen at that moment with Davie and Zoe in tow.
“Hey! That’s  my wife you’re fondlin’!”
“And my husband!” added Davie.
“Husband! When did that happen?” cried Kaylee, hugging Simon enthusiastically.
“Fiance, actually. Turtle Island is David’s family home and we hoped to go there on our next voyage to be married in the same church where he was baptized and confirmed.”
“Aw, that’s so romantic, ain’t it, Mal?”
“Congratulations to both of you. And again, if you would get your hands off my wife, I would appreciate it.”
“Actually, Mal, I wanted to talk to you about this. I’d be honoured if you would stand up for me as my witness. River would be the other of course. David’s father and brother will be his witnesses.”
“Still waitin’ for you to stop fondlin’ my wife, you know,” Mal laughed and hugged Simon himself. “I appreciate the askin’ and I’d be happy to witness for you.”

Simon slowly loosened up as Firefly went on. During the BDM, in spite of his continued courtship of Kaylee, his true preferences were coming forward. But since there were no out gay characters in the canon, I had to introduce someone for him, because Simon needs someone to love him. His fierce love for his sister shows he has a capacity for passion. We’ve seen that same sex pairings are not scandalous, especially on the Rim. And for those who might doubt the church wedding, my own church was performing religious weddings  well before the Canadian government allowed civil same sex marriages.

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About femmefan1946

Retired professional writer and editor. Nominated for an Aurora Award for work on CAN-CON 2014, which concentrates on introducing new and aspiring writers and artists to agents, editors and publishers.
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