The New Canaan Run- Leg Six

Harvest to New Canaan: Sixteen weeks

Inbound- foodstuffs- prepared foods including protein – canned foods
– fresh produce and grain
-herbs and lithium- raw material for medicines
-linen shirts for Farraday Moon
Outbound- stolen gems from Ugarit  for Hera
-smuggled gold from Beggar’s Tin for Hera
-linen shirts – several drops
-foodstuffs- prepared foods including protein – canned foods
-New Canaan Brandy
Landing at Bishop Docks which are technically restricted

Simon and David arrived from their clinic at Sweetwater as Mal and Jayne pulled up. They were shocked by their friends tired and filthy appearance.
As they stored the mule and the medics brought in their luggage and equipment from their taxi, Mal explained what had happened overnight.
Simon made a call to the Flying Doctors station and arranged for them to stay on Harvest to help at the Book Hospital. A trauma surgeon with expertise in cosmetic burn surgery would be invaluable. Arrangements were made to pick up Simon and David on Dyton Colony.

While arrangements had been made for the medics’ changed schedules, Emma had washed the men’s clothes and repacked their bags. River and Kaylee were preparing Serenity for the next leg to New Canaan. Zoe was accepting the last pallets of cargo, fruit and vegetables bound for New Canaan, relatively low cost at this time of year on Harvest but a high value cargo if delivered promptly to the Baal, the major centre of the terraformed basin on the almost unliveable planet.

The sixteen weeks they would need for travel to the Blue Sun world meant that most of the foodstuffs were frozen or canned. But even those would be welcomed by the terraforming crews on New Canaan and Lilac. Some unprocessed fruits and vegetables, apples, oranges, potatoes and cabbage, were cheap on Harvest, but would still command high prices on the lonely outpost.

There were less than half a million people on the planet and its two moons, and only Ugarit was comfortably terraformed. Lilac was just a mining colony, supplying basic raw materials for the unusually difficult work on the ring planet.

All the children were restless. With the cargo bay crammed with boxes and bales, there was little room for them to run and play.
Like all the crew, Derry and Emma did weight training with Jayne and gymnastics with River. Zoe and River also gave occasional lessons in formal fighting techniques. The captain and the mercenary had decided that their own streetfighting skills could wait until the kids were teenagers.
But that was lessons and the children needed more imaginative play. Without that they were cranky.

And the baby was hungry. After being bitten once too often, Kaylee decided it was time to wean. While her body adjusted, her breasts were sore and too late she found that Simon had not stocked any prolactin suppressants or even pseudoephedrine to help reduce her milk supply.

BabyGirl (‘Really, Malcolm, we should get her a proper name real soon.’) had been eating solids for a few months happily enough until she noticed that her nursing times with Mummy had abruptly stopped.  So she cried incessantly, refusing solids, pushing away her sippy cup with the Fruity Oaty Girls logo, making big sad eyes at everyone. If anyone picked her up to comfort her, they soon found damp spots on the front of their shirts where she tried to suckle. And since she had quite advanced motor skills she was quite capable of opening buttoned or zipped tops.

Jayne’s face when BG opened his shirt and latched on to his nipple was a picture.

Weaning the baby was hard on Kaylee too. Her breasts were engorged and sensitive. It was fortunate that the cargo of fresh vegetables included a lot of cabbage. Drawing on advice from her friend Sou-fen. Kaylee was making compresses of chilled cabbage leaves to soothe her sore breasts. But BG’s attempts to nurse whenever she was picked up and fury at being refused, hurt her emotionally as well as physically.

River had been managing well for the past couple of months without the care of her brother. Piloting gave her an interest and a way to use her active mind, keeping the ghosts away. She also took some responsibility for the physical education of the children and was training Emma as a pilot, even though herself she had no papers for the job. But Simon had always kept careful records of her hormone levels as a gauge of her stability. Without her brother, her cocktail of medications had slowly become less effective. Forgetting that she had brought Kelly on board would have been a signal to him, but the crew did not understand that as a symptom. If anything they were relieved that perhaps she would be able to forget the horrors that had been visited on her.

She took to suiting up and spacewalking. The Black had long been a source of comfort for her. After a week or so on the Harvest to New Canaan leg, she was spending ten or more hours a day, tethered to Serenity‘s skin, bathing in the starlight.

It was not a happy ship.

Even Zoe usually calm and stoic, was restless. Mostly this meant snapping at Jayne as they moved from stop to stop between Harvest and New Canaan picking up and delivering small cargoes.

Small, but high value and often fragile . Just keeping the fresh furits an vegetables in condition for over two months was a challenge. Jayne and Mal had built capsule housing for each crop from bamboo and oiled cloth that helped control temperature and humidity, Designed by River and Emma,they kept the apples from rotting the cabbages, the yams from sprouting, the bananas green.
Still the houses required constant monitoring and  Jayne was still upset about losing Rosa-Lucia back on Harvest. Perhaps if this leg had been shorter, he would have had other things to think about. The cargo was not uppermost in his mind.

‘Like she’s allys on her period,’ he grumbled. checking humidity levels for the second time that day. “Snappin and bitchin. I done this already an it ain’t like there ain’t no alarm on it.’

In the three weeks between Harvest and the stopover at Dyton Colony off Greenleaf, the only light spot was a new game developed by River. with the gravity turned down , she and the older children would race through the ship swinging from railings, running up walls, leaping from one level to the next. “Parker’ she called it, explaining she had found ids on the Cortex.
But after two weeks of noisy fun that terrified Derry’s mother and showed Jayne that there were things a fifty kilo girl could do that were almost impossible for a 1.9 metre man no matter how fit , disaster struck.

Derry, the shortest of the parkers, missed his landingand fell six metres to the floor of the cargo bay, breaking his arm.
“It’s not just a greenstick either, ‘ said Zoe, back in her old position as ship’s medic while Simon and David finished their assignment on Harvest.  ‘This is the real thing, I think I got it right and the dia-x shows it straight, but if it ain’t it may have to be rebroken and reset.’

The two mothers were furious with River. They had tried to slow down the game but were just willing to allow it so energy could be burned off. Even Mal bawled her out for lack of judgement.
River retreated to the bridge and to spending long hours  tethered to Serenity’s skin, contemplating the Black as she gracefully flew on to her destination.

The men met them at Dyton with the sad news that no trace of Rosa-Lucia had been found in the ruins of the Triangle Shirt Factory.
The old man who had been rescued by Mal and Jayne had succumbed to smoke inhalation, but somehow he was the only death among those taken out of the smashed windows by the volunteers and their mules.
‘The news reports are  useless.’ said Simon , “But the hospital believes that no more than a hundred were killed by the fire out of the five hundred or more working that night.’
‘Why zat?’ asked Zoe.
‘A lot of the workers were slaves or bonded.,’ said David.’ some have been seen since the fire.”
‘Mamma?’ asked Emma.
‘They’ll change their identities, get their chips removed or replaced with fakes, and move on free, nu er, ‘ Zoe replied.
‘Expensive,’ remarked Mal.
David smiled, ‘The Book was removing chips for free on request. I did a few dozen myself.’
Simon said,’Of course, on every case it was medically necessary. High heat exposure can make those chips toxic.’ He showed his most charming and innocent smile, holding his husband’s hand.
‘But the replacement chips are still real cashy money.’
‘Now I would have thought that too, but identity chips were going real cheap. and there were a lot of them around. From what I hear anyway.’
“Like someone, some group, expected a rush on chips?’ asked Mal. “Huh.”
“Maybe Rosie got one of them new chips, then?’ asked Jayne.”Maybe she ain’t kilt?’
“Or maybe she’s goin bare. Carry ID is cheaper but the Feds look at it closer.’ Mal pointed out.
“You still ain’t chipped, are you, sir?’ asked Zoe.
‘I’ll let em check my papers, anytime.’
‘We should get ID for the kids, too, y’know.’ Kaylee mused.

‘They chipped Emma when she was born. I didn’t get to object.’ Zoe aid. Kaylee touched her friend’s hand.  The chaos surrounding Emma’s birth was still a hot memory.

‘So she’s dead or she’s someone else,’ said Jayne. ‘An that’s the way of it. I’ll be in my bunk.’
“He really liked her, reckon?’ asked Kaylee.
‘Probably longest he’s ever spend with a female, wan’t crew,’ said Zoe.
‘And now he will pine forever for his lost love,’ said Emma.
‘You been readin Kaylee’s romance books, nu er? Real life ain’t like that. Love at first glance, princes on white horses. People come and go. Best you can hope for is your family.’

Inbound- foodstuffs- prepared foods including protein – canned foods
– fresh produce and grain
-herbs and lithium- raw material for medicines
-linen shirts
Outbound- homeopathic medicines
– counterfeit electronics from dwarf craftsmen
-knives and axes

“Dyton Colony, armpit of the ‘Verse.”
“C’mon, capt’n, We’ve seen worse. Whitefall, frinstance”
“Any world that produced a psychotic lowlife like Badger is not goin ta be on my list of attractive tourist destinations, Kaywinnet.”
“But they can produce custom made parts for less than used parts cost most places, ain’t that worth a visit?”
“Other girls like flowers and perfume, how is it you go all mushy over engine parts?”
“I kin get flowers from Hope’s garden. She’s even got tomatoes grown in the hydroponics room. But nuthin can replace a vertical integrator when it rusts out. And ours has become a garden of iron oxide.”

Somewhere, Simon had found a tourist guide to Dyton, and persuaded Mal that a sightseeing walk through the ring city that made up Dyton’s primary commercial centre would be interesting and educational. Putting on his best grumpy face, Mal collected Kaylee and Derry and strapped on Babygirl in her back carrier for a shopping tour of the colony. Simon and David were planning to stop at the Apothecary Gardens to see what herbal and homeopathic medicines might be available.
“You know, if a herbal infusion works, we call it medicine.” said Simon.
David laughed, “Some of my ladies prefer the milder effects of homeopathic products.”
“Like belladonna? If the water remembers the medicine, why doesn’t it remember all the urine that has been poured into it over the centuries?”
The spouses continued their bickering as the party crossed Misbegot Bridge .
“The apothecary I was talking to said in some seasons, ailments can be cured just by breathing the air in the Gardens.”
“That would be the slicker whose stock seemed to be made up of penises from every species on Earth-That-Was?” asked Mal. “I wouldn’t go near that feller again less I was wearin a cup.”
The medics found a herbalist whose wares were less embarrassing than David’s informant, and stopped to shop for both medicinal and culinary products.
“See if they have any good hoisin sauce,” instructed Kaylee. “And lots of chili peppers to take the bland out of the protein.”
“Now, bao bei, we don’t eat that go se so much any more,” Mal protested.
“Nah, but dried peppers keep, and if we can get a good stock here, we may as well.”
The Reynolds family strolled further along their sight seeing route, passing the elaborate bandstand that local legend claimed was actually designed as a decoration for a wedding cake by an architect who was notorious for his inability to measure. Leaving the Gardens near an ancient boozer called the Mortar and Pestle, they turned onto Prouts, then turned left onto Misbegot Bridge to cross what the Dytoners mistakenly called a river.
The river was so thick with pollution and garbage that it was almost possible to walk on it, although doing so would probably dissolve the walker’s shoes.
The Bridge was wide enough that houses and shops had been built along both sides leaving only the narrowest passage for pedestrians. Kaylee kept her squirmy son firmly by the hand as they passed narrow house facades, many of which had been turned into shops selling pastries and candies, tobacco and sotweed, brummagem tat and fine jewellery.
As they approached Treacle Mine Road the street widened. On their left was a pleasant building in the Arcadian style, with a plaque that identified it as a Companions’ madrassa.
But the inhabitants of Treacle Mine Road were of a more practical bent than the graceful Companion House would indicate. In the tall buildings that lined the road, and in the basements and sub-basements of those buildings, were the workshops and factories of some of the finest craftsmen in the ‘Verse.
Dyton was originally colonized by convicts, especially when word got around that the terraforming company would pay to reduce sentences for non-violent criminals who were willing to work on the habitation. Many of those convicts had been counterfeiters, not only of money, coin and fiat, but of any high value product that had a ready and ignorant market for cheap knockoffs.
Kaylee was watching for a craftsman who would be able to turn out the parts she had been unable to find in her thorough winnowing of junkyards in every port they hit.
“Time is money, capt’n,” she explained again.”sometimes it’s cheaper to pay for the right thing right now, than to try to mod up something’ that ain’t quite quite.”
Mal just looked stubborn, and  Derry was practicing his own stubborn face. She sighed. These Reynolds men.
Just before they got to Cable Street, Kaylee found what she was looking for, and left Mal with the children to find a snack in the noisy produce market with its array of possibly edible things on sticks and other Dyton specialties.
A vendor carrying a tray with small oil burners offered them meat pies.
“What kind of meat?”
“Oh, you want the special pies! With mustard!”
Mal and Derry were nibbling on BBQ dog with sweet chili sauce and discussing what might be in the baker’s Spotted Dick when she returned in triumph.
“He’ll make us a vertical integrator for five platinum and an extra for another two. Says the biggest part of the work is in making the model, then he can turn ’em out easy. But he asked that we let any other Firefly mechanics know that he can make ’em . Which is fine by me. Sou-fen was complaining’ that their mechanic always wants new parts and don’t know how to make secondhand ones work. I’ll send her a wave when we get back to Serenity.”
“Are you hungry, boa bei?” asked Mal, “That street vendor has hot pies, and there are some other things around. Prolly safer things.”
“Oooh! Rollmops!” squealed Kaylee. “i’ll get some of those, and look, baked potatoes with refried beans. And how about Sticky Toffee Pudding for afters!”
“Ain’t you the one fussin us all to eat our vegetables? ”
“There’s pickled onions in the rollmops, and potatoes is veg. So’s beans.”
Kaylee picked up a disposable bamboo bowl and chopsticks with her rollmops, but kept the potato in its little wooden bento box as being too difficult to eat while walking.
They reached a major junction where The Scours met Easy Street. The Museum of Antiquities of the Guild of Historians was on the corner. Street theatre, always a threat on Dyton, broke out as they passed in the form of a historical re-enactment troupe dodging sedan chairs, hover cabs, and rickshaws while re-enacting one of the skirmishes of the War of Independence that had occurred on Dyton.
They turned left up Easy Street to Rime Street where a Mr Scant , keeper of monuments, was showing his treasured architectural wonders, built by the same dimensionally challenged architect who had built the bandstand/cake ornament in Apothecary Park.  For six coppers, Derry was allowed to gaze on the Dyton Colossus and the Unification Triumphal Arch, which Mr. Scant, kept in a small cardboard box in his pocket.
Turning right, they headed upriver along Rime Street from where they looked across to The Butts on the Isle of Gods, then on to Contract Bridge and up Contract Alley onto ancient Filigree Street.
“We better stop and feed Babygirl. She’s getting restless.”
“More important, she seems to have completed digestin her breakfast.” sniffed Mal.
“Baby made a poop! Baby made a poop!” laughed Derry.
“Right entertainin’ if you’re eight, and not carryin the little stinker,” his father muttered.
They were outside a pub called The Mended Drum, and Kaylee marched them all inside. She signalled the bartender to serve her men and a quick whisper to the waitress, a very short woman wearing leather skirt and chainmail top who seemed to need a shave, got her instructions on how to find the Ladies.
When they returned, Mal had a large pewter mug of beer and Derry a glass of something neon and bubbly. Both seemed content. Babygirl and her mother were somewhat shaken by experiencing the Ladies. “Ain’t this town never heard of a honeywagon?” she muttered.
Mal ordered her a beer and to calm her asked for a little something to add to it. “Something fruity, ” he specified.
The waitress looked doubtful. “We’ve got scumble. That’s made with apples. Well, mostly apples.”
Kaylee was feeding the baby with the potato and beans. “Great. I like cider. That should be fine.” She directed Mal to give each of them some of the Sticky Toffee Pudding purchased on the street earlier.
Probably she should have been more attentive when the waitress brought the beer and shot in treenware mugs.
When Derry ,on a sugar rush from the pop and toffee pudding, and his giggling mother started trying to harmonize on Browncoat songs Mal had taught them, Mal and his redheaded daughter exchanged old-fashioned looks.
They took a rickshaw back to the Docks and Serenity.
Kaylee was able, just, to take possession of the new vertical integrator when the stumpy bearded craftsman delivered it, two days later. But she complained that it was too shiny and had Hope install it because the engine was humming like a planet sized beehive.

We never saw enough of the variety of worlds in the Verse. This visit to Dyton was inspired by reading the Serenity MUSH, which seems to be an extension of the RPG, and getting The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide for Christmas. The family follow one of the suggested sight-seeing walks in the Guide. I think the dwarves and BS “Bloody Stupid” Johnson fit in well enough and I was glad that Mal had the good sense not to eat one of CMOT Dibbler’s pies. Not even one with named meat. The BBQ dog on a stick was a better choice.


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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