THE NEW CANAAN RUN – Leg Eight

ON NEW CANAAN
•    Type: Planet
•    Orbits: Blue Sun
◦    Orbital pattern: New Canaan -> Blue Sun -> White Sun
◦    Position: 2nd from primary
◦    Orbital Period: 1,053 days (2.88 years)
•    Surface gravity: 0.9743 G
•    Year Terraformed: Ongoing
•    Approximate Population: 238,000

INBOUND:     Grain , herbs and prepared foods bound for Silverhold.
Fine silk for Ugarit – crew on commission
Private cargo:herbal medicines, linen cloth, linen shirts, neographene fabric

OUTBOUND: Grain , herbs and prepared foods bound for Silverhold.
Fine silk for Ugarit – crew on commission
Private cargo:herbal medicines, linen cloth, linen shirts, neographene fabric,                     pineapples

‘Up, mummy, up, up!’
‘No, BabyGirl. You can walk just fine. Go play with Emma. And stay out of the cargo bay, the crew is unloading.’
‘Day guss.’
‘Yes, it’s dangerous for a little girl. Somethin will fall down you and kill you. And then capt’n will be annoyed,’ said Kaylee.
‘Look.’
‘Yes, he’ll give your cold flat corpse a Look.’
‘Mummy. Thooth.’
‘Thooth?’
B.G. thrust her feet at her mother.
‘Oh shoes? They’re buttoned just fine. You did a good job.’
’Thooth. Boo boo.’ Beege gave Kaylee her most ‘pitiful child’ eyes.
‘Lemme look.’ Kaylee took off one shoe with difficulty, then measured the shoe sole against BG’s foot. ‘Oh, no wonder, those shoes are way too small.’
‘Has that young’n been growin again?’ Mal had stepped into the galley for a tea break. He picked up his small daughter. ‘Ain’t I told you bout that, Beege? You ain’t supposed ever ta grow up. You gotta be my Baby Girl forever.’ Beege wrapped her arms around her daddy’s neck and kissed him sloppily.
“Pommis.’
‘Sentences, Beege. You can make sentences. You’re nearly three.’
‘I pommis.’
‘It’s a start. Capt’n, she needs new shoes. These are squashin her feet somethin fierce.’
‘Ain’t we got any of Derry’s old shoes that’ll do?’
‘He wore Emma’s shoes mostly an then wore ‘em right out past repair. She needs new ones that fit right. Come to think, I ain’t seen what’s on Derry’s feet lately.’
‘He feels Serenity,’ murmured River. ‘She feels like home.’
Kaylee’s blank look cleared as she glanced at River’s bare toes. ‘Well, he can’t go barefoot dirt side.’

Some investigation showed that Derry had no comfortable footwear either. Emma had stopped growing for a bit. At twelve she was only slightly shorter than her 1.3 metre mother. She had workboots for everyday and was proud of her first pair of five cm heels, which put her eye to eye with the Captain. Most of the time though, she wore beaded moccassins she had bought on Turtle Island, while visiting David Chen’s family.

Kaylee rounded up the old baby stroller and with Derry and Beege, headed out for the local shopping mall. “I just hope there is a place that sells kids’ shoes. Most of the people round here seen to be terraformin crews. Not many families.’

But behind the mall in a half-circle were a school, a small park, some churches and temples. and a theatre called Family Favourite—Eavesdowne Entertainment Group. ‘Looks like Badger’s family is spreadin,’ Kaylee murmured. They’d already passed a Sweet Sally, part of EEG’s chain of brothels, as they left the Baal dockyard.

And the mall had shoe stores that carried children’s sizes. Beege got new maryjanes, one pair for now in red and a larger blue pair for growth. She also got a pair of runners with slap fasteners for everyday. She sat quietly, gazing lovingly at her red shoes. Enrapt. Every now and then, as the clerk fitted her brother, she slipped out of her chair and walked daintily to the floor mirror to look at her feet.
Derry got new steel-toe high laced boots and two pairs of runners, one to grow into. Then he saw a display of high heeled tooled leather cowboy boots. His eyes glazed with lust. ‘Lookit mummy. Ain’t they grand!’
Kaylee picked up a pair of turquoise boots. They were well made, finely stitched of good quality leather. When she saw the price tag, she was surprised. They had been discounted again and again.
The shoe clerk sighed. ‘The price is excellent, m’am. We got a real good deal on those in a ‘private’ deal.’ His tone indicated that they were smuggled cargo. ‘But there’s not much call for boy’s sizes in cowboy boots, so they’re below our cost now.’
‘Not many cows in the Black,’ said Kaylee.
‘Mummy, Papa Lee has cows,’ her first-born implored.
‘Tell you what. This is a good sale for me even without the boots. Buy those and the shoes and I’ll throw in a five-pack of socks for each child.’
Kaylee thought. ‘Works good. Can the socks for my BabyGirl be those fancy ones?’ she pointed to a package of lace topped ankle socks. ‘So shiny.’
‘Done, an how about a pack of those, adult size for her mamma as well?’
Kaylee rewarded the clerk with her smile.
She paid in chipped and traceable Alliance scrip. The less trackable money on board, especially in their own pockets, the better the captain liked it. The coin buried on the Lee property, the product of years of hard scrabble and danger, was not going to be confiscated because of tags.
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She packed most of the parcels and BG, still enraptured by her own feet, into the stroller. Derry insisted on carrying his boots himself.

‘Let’s go to a restaurant for lunch,’ Kaylee decided.

Although the sky had been cloudy when they left Serenity, it had cleared and the light of Red Sun shimmered over the newly terraformed square. Small trees struggled to find stability and the early swathes of ryegrass, alfalfa and pulses chosen as soil enrichment covered what would be meadowland parks in a few years. Kaylee led her little family to a brightly painted building that sported large pictures of their offerings, mostly versions of the street food treats available across the ‘Verse. Kaylee noticed the frequent acidic rains that were a byproduct of the planet’s barely started terraforming had already etched the exterior and dimmed the colours.

The restaurant offered a children’s menu of cheap fried foods, but Kaylee chose market vegetable soup, fresh bread and, amazingly, pineapple juice for them all. Even when Kaylee cut up the whole brussels sprout in the soup, Beege spat it out, but she ate all the rest of her meal. As usual, Derry demolished his food, including his sister’s rejected sprout. Both loved the pineapple juice.

When she returned to the counter for dessert cookies, the clerk told her that the juice was a local product. “We don’t have a canning plant yet, so my uncle brings us the fruit when it’s ripe and we juice it right here.’ Kaylee got the farmer’s wave from his smiling niece, She was pretty sure Mal would like such an unusual cargo, if enough was available.

When the children had eaten their cookies, sitting by the big windows and watching all the strangers go by, they all went to the washroom under the stairs of the two story building. Derry insisted on going to the Men’s by himself. He also insisted on taking his new boots with him. Kaylee parked the stroller with the rest of the parcels outside the door.

As she monitored BG’s toileting, the building began to shake. A small tremble, then harder and harder. The mirrors cracked and parts of the wallboard fell away from the metal studs.
Beege screamed as she fell into the commode. Her mother grabbed her, sheltering the half naked toddler with her body. Fear for her boy froze her in place for the long minute of the earthquake.

When the shaking stopped, she heard Derry’s voice shouting for her from the next room. Beege was clinging to her, holding so tight that Kaylee had her hands free.

The washroom ceiling had collapsed and the door would not open, but there were no dangling live wires or broken water pipes. Kaylee tore at the wallboard separating the Ladies’ from the Mens’. She force a hand into a crack and pulled part of the wall down, but only to the top of the tile running hygienically  half way up the wall. She called out to her son. “Are you hurt, baby? Are there any grownups there?’

“I’m scared, mummy.’
‘We all are, Derry honey. Are you hurt? Are you bleeding?’
‘I got hit by the ceiling, mummy. It hurts a bit. I’m not bleeding though.’
‘Okay, Derry. Beege and I are fine too. We’ll be fine. There will be rescuers along pert soon. There any places on the walls where you can pull off the wallboard?’
‘I think so. Should I try?’
‘Yes, but be careful of any wires you see. Stay right away from those. And don’t scratch yourself on nails or fasteners.’
She could hear him grunting as he pulled at the walls. The lights went out. She heard Derry scream. Beege clung closer and started to cry.
“Derry. Derrial. Are you hurt?’
His voice was shaking. ‘The lights went out mummy…. It’s dark.’
That’s okay, honey. That means the wires don’t got no electricity.You’re safer now.’
‘I’m scared.’
‘It’ll all work out, darlin. The Captain will come for us.’
‘I still have my boots.’
‘Good. You take good care of them,’ she thought. ‘Put them on, Derry. You may as well start breaking them in.’
She could hear no noises from outside the washrooms but the occasional ‘crumph’ as a stressed building fell.
It had been a good five minutes, she thought and glanced at the time on her comm, which suddenly started buzzing.
‘Frye!’
‘Kaywinnet!’ came Mal’s frantic voice.”Where .. you’re … babies…’
Zoe’s calm voice took over. ‘Are you and the kids okay? Where are you?’
‘We’re all scared shitless, but no one’s hurt. We’re …uh… we’re behind the Diablo Mall in a restaurant. I don’t remember the name, but it’s yellow and orange and red and there are big windows. Kaylee shuddered wondering what had happened to the people sitting by those windows and to the families walking down the road. ‘We’re in the washrooms under the stairs. Beege is with me, Derry is by himself in the Mens. What’s happening?’
’Seems our Tross reads planets too. She closed up the ship and took off. We were about a hundred metres straight up when the quake hit.  There was a crew of longshoremen aboard and they was yelling no end till we heard bout the quake.’
‘An earthquake? I thought it was just this building.’
‘No, pretty widespread. An’ pretty strong. Jayne is preppin the hover mule and we’ll be there soon as the Captain gets himself together.’
‘Rank insubordination, Zoe. I’m snowy cool… Let’s move out.’ he paused. ‘Kaywinnet, I love you.’
‘I love you too, Malcolm. Come and get us.’

Mal drove the mule,while Jayne rode shotgun. Two of the longshore crew were also aboard, since their families lived near the Mall. They brought crowbars and winches. ‘I never even knew we had a comealong on board,’ said Mal.
‘Never know when you might need one.’ Jayne had the same focus he had in a fight.
The longshore crew dropped off at the school, where both had children. The building appeared intact and the janitor was outside by the events sign, slapping up letters that spelled ‘NO ONE HURT’.
’Smart move that,’ remarked Mal as they stopped outside the restaurant. Kaylee’s GPS showed this was the right building.
‘We’re here baobei.’
‘Could you say somethin to Beege. She’s real scared.’
‘Hey, BabyGirl. Daddy’s here to get you home. Uncle Jayne will help too. You just be my brave girl okay?’
‘K, daddy.’ Mal could hear her sobs slowing.
‘Did you buy nice shoes, BabyGirl?’
There was a fresh howl.

images
‘Bad move, capt’n. Our parcels are in the stroller outside the door. Look, Beege, you have your new red shoes on.’
‘Any chance of talking to Derry?’
‘He ain’t got a comm. Somethin else for the shopping list.’
Only Mal and Jayne were at the restaurant.  Mal waved Zoe and learned that rescue crews first concentrated on fires, then on  schools, but that Blue Sun had pulled all its workers  off terraforming. They were all cross-trained as first responders since they worked in such dangerous environments. About ten thousand rescue workers would be spreading out across the earthquake zone.

Shortly one of the longshoremen joined Mal and Jayne. His wife had arrived for their children. “If your lady sez she’s not hurt, she should be okay. These short buildings are good in a strong quake like that one. Long as she wasn’t near a window.’
‘They’re in the washrooms.’
‘Those are under the stairs. Built that way a’purpose as quake shelters. They alone?’ He was already testing some of the debris for weight and stability. ‘Oh.’
A partition, lightly built with steel studs and wallboard shifted, revealing a body, bleeding heavily.
‘Bleedin’s good. She’s alive,’ said Jayne. shifting the partition to reveal more of the woman. He pulled her free revealing a terrified child beneath her, silent and shocked. ’S’okay,kid. Yer mamma’s hurt but she’ll be fine. C’mon over to….’ he saws a grass boulevard across the road. ‘Yer goin there. Yer gonna be quiet an sit with yer ma. We’ll bring her right over. Dong ma?’
The child nodded, responding to the command in Jayne’s voice. ‘We ain’t got time fer you ta be a whiney lil pisspot, kid. Stay with yer ma. Don’t cry. An if we say jump, jump.’ The  child nodded.
Mal and the longshoreman carefully removed the woman, who was unconscious and had a badly broken leg, to the boulevard.

Slowly the three men worked their way across the restaurant floor. They could see the stair is still standing but there was a lot of debris in the way.
Hours passed. No rescue crew had come to the area. ‘They’ll have checked that the school kids is fine…. They’ll be downtown were most of the damage is.’ ventured the longshoreman.

Beege had cried herself out and was asleep. Kaylee and Derry kept up a desultory conversation while trying to break through the wallboard. Their first attempt turned out to be between different studs so the holes didn’t match up. When Kaylee, stronger than she looked from her work on Serenity’s engines and systems, tried to break through the wall on Derry’s side she found it was cement board faced with tile. Derry’s hole revealed pipes blocking the way to the Ladies’.
‘I’m awful thirsty, mummy,’ he complained. Kaylee could hear that he was close to tears.
‘There’s water in the taps, sweetie. You don’t need a cup, just scoop it in your hand.’
‘But I can’t get out of the cubicle, mummy. The walls is too smooth.’
There ain’t a gap at the bottom of the door?’
There’s something in front of it.’
‘Can you slide into the next cubicle?’
‘There’s only one.’
‘Okay,’ she thought for a moment then tested the tap on the sink in front of her. ‘Derry, the water is still running. Did you flush the toilet?’
‘Yes, mummy.’
‘Is there a tank?’
‘Yes, mummy.’
Kaylee sent a prayer of thanks to Jesus, Buddha and Mithra.
‘Take the top off the tank. The water in there is clean and you can drink it.’
‘Eeeew!’
‘Yeah, eeew. But it’s better than the water in the commode.’
‘I’m not that thirsty, mummy. I can wait till the Capt’n gets here.’
‘Okay, Derry. Your sister’s in the Land of Nod.  Why don’t you stretch out and try to sleep too?”
Kaylee knew he would be crying himself to sleep. At eight , Derry was determined to be manly and macho. He modelled himself on Jayne and David, but mostly on his father. Once he had listed Zoe as one of the men of the crew, leaving out the gentle doctor.
She checked that Beege was still sleeping, then commed Mal.
‘The kids is asleep, capt’n. Any idea how much longer?’
‘We’re about two metres away, darlin. But we’re at the counter and there’s a lot of hurt here. Sharp things, hot things and boilin oil. ‘
‘Any sign of the counter girl? Long black hair in a back braid?’
’She got a scald from the tea machine, but nothin too serious. Prolly won’t scar.’
Kaylee could hear Jayne shouting instructions. ‘You got help at last?’
’Still just local folks. Rescue crews is downtown.’
There was a cheer.
‘We just found another group. Looks like they got scratched and bruised is all.’
‘Beege is still sleepin. I think Derry is too. Gotta choice, get him out first.’

A few minutes later, light flooded into the dark room. Mal kept into the opening, his arms encircling his wife and baby, who woke with a howl, then burrowed into her daddy’s neck. He led them to the boulevard and returned for his son.
Kaylee saw the triage area that had been set up by the neighbours. There were only a dozen people on the boulevard, one lying very still apart from the others, but most were moaning quietly. A few small children, too young to have been safely in the school, sat by wounded adults.
Mal returned, Derry wound around him. Against all expectations, he was pulling the remains of the stroller. It looked as if all the parcels were still there.

EPILOGUE

After a wave to Zoe, Serenity’s shuttle put down near the triage area. Zoe and David began moving the worst of the casualties aboard. David explained that Simon’s surgical skills had been co-opted by the first responders as soon as he reported in.
David , as a nurse, and Zoe,with battlefield paramedic training had been allowed to set up an ambulance service using the shuttle.
On their third trip, Kaylee and the children return to Serenity. The other passengers were two dead and the scalded counter clerk. Mal and Jayne worked nearly another four hours at the restaurant and the mall before being relieved by a Blue Sun crew.

The next day, Zoe and Mal made an inventory of the cargo. All of the goods they had sold on New Canaan had been offloaded and payment completed before the quake. They had not purchased any new cargo yet so there was lots of empty space in the cargo bay.
Kaylee’s lead on pineapples gave them an interesting cargo for their next stop, the resort moon of Ugarit, where Mal also had a contact interested in shipping some pretty hot jewels.

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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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