Eight days

Population – 1.57 million
Terraformed – 2400

Orbit – Eighth from Blue Sun  Blue Sun, also known as Qing Long (Blue Dragon*) in Chinese, is the farthest out of the main sequence stars in the Verse. The worlds in orbit around Blue Sun include:
Second: New Canaan, orbited by Lilac
Third: Muir
Sixth: Highgate
Eighth: Deadwood, orbited by Haven
Ninth: protostar Burnham
First from Burnham: Miranda
    •    Mining
    •    Naturally Grown Produce Farming
    •    Ranching
    •    Vid Production

Inbound- silk, linen cloth, linen shirts, gems, processed foodstuffs, medical raw materials

Deadwood’s capital city had a surprisingly sophisticated spaceport for a Rim planet. But even more surprising there was no noticeable Alliance presence checking incoming or outgoing cargoes.
Near the spaceport was a gated compound with an ornate wrought iron sign reading ‘VisIon enTRaInmenT’.
‘They make vids here for the Cortex nets,’ Sou-fen Macharia told Kaylee as they exchanged gossip in a tea room near the port. Their husbands, Mal and Monty, were deep in discussion of new contracts and prices. Monty and  Pretty Baby were doing the New Canaan Run too, but in the opposite direction to Serenity.
The women had been fast friends since before they had married. Both were mechanics and had met in a scrapyard in Frisco on Regina, Sou-fen’s home world. When Mal and Kaylee attended their wedding, they had learned that Sou-fen’s family was connected in some firmly unexplained way to the 14K Triad Tong. Pretty Baby had prospered from the shady connection and Mal was careful not to ask too much about the cargoes she carried.
Kaylee’s eyes sparkled at the idea of show business glamour in such a nowhere spot. ‘Why here?’
‘Not right sure. They was some films made for Corone Mining here whiles back, ads and recruitment and I reckon the makers thought the climate and landscapes were a good mix.’

Kaylee looked out the tea room windows at the heavily treed mountains. Serenity had flown over a lake district with some large estates on the beaches on their approach to Capital . And while the city itself was barely bigger than a town, there was a good mixture of modern high-rise buildings in sterile squares, shady residential streets and older, slightly shabby retail streets. ‘You could find most of what you needed here for a vid, eh?’
‘Well, Deadwood is a full planet. You got tropics and glaciers and oceans and beaches and deserts. Just a matter of getting to em, right? My cousin, Kwame Chen, handles security for one of the vid companies. He says they is working on a new kind of vid, hologrammic. Like 3-D but in the same room, not on a screen.’
‘That could be innerestin. Seen any vedettes around?’
‘Nobody top of the mountain, yet. Seen a few faces that look familiar.’
‘Fly the Black long enough, an yer gonna meet the same faces again and again.’
‘Nah. Nobody I could put a name too, but too good lookin  for spacers,’ she looked fondly over at her massive husband, whose full beard and flowing hair could not disguise that he was at best comfortable looking. Kaylee said nothing, admiring her own handsome man.

Zoe and Jayne had visited a weapons dealer, picking up ammunition. Zoe waited outside the shop with their heavy purchases while Jayne went to get the mule from its parking spot. Two men, deep in conversation and gesticulating wildly, approached and the taller one bumped into her.
Startled, Zoe’s hand went to her pistol. The tall man raised his hands. ‘My deepest apologies, madame. I was careless almost to blindness. Forgive this errant knave his wayward feet.’
‘And hands.’ Zoe said, returning her mare’s leg to its holster.
‘And hands,’ the tall man said, smiling winsomely. Zoe grunted. She didn’t trust winsome.
The other man, only slightly shorter, bowed. ‘Madame, my troublesome friend erred mightily but his fault was not in his stars but in his preoccupation with our converse. Might I too apologize for discombobulating you.’ His blue eyes shone with humble apology.
Zoe smiled politely. ‘No harm. Watch your path in future.’
The two men bowed in unison, both sweeping their hats off and sliding one leg forward gracefully. Zoe very nearly laughed.
Jayne pulled up in the mule as the men came out of their bow. He looked blankly at the two men, somewhat gaudily dressed for Capital, then turned to Zoe.
‘K, Zo. Let’s get this stuff back to the boat.’
“Can we be of assistance, madame?’
‘We got it.’
The taller man had already started to pick up the cloth shopping bag, not expecting it to be filled with steel and lead. He stumbled and Zoe caught him as he lurched into her.
‘Makin a habit, mister?’
‘Again my most humble apologies. Would you accept a ticket to our show this evening to make up for our behaviour?’
‘No need.’
‘What kinda show?’
Much Ado About Nothing.’  Jayne looked blank again. ‘It’s a classic comedy about love and marriage.’ Still blank. ‘We are with the Sock and Buskin Shakespeare Company out of Paquin.’
‘Playacting,’ explained Zoe.
The shorter man pressed a pair of tickets on Zoe, who was enough nonplussed to take them. The men bowed elaborately again and moved on.

‘What ya gonna do with those?’
‘See the play if time allows. Take one of the girls. Kaylee might like some time off.’
The ammunition packed on the mule, they returned to Serenity.

None of the female crew wanted to go to the theatre that night. Kaylee was happily involved with a tricky upgrade to the ship’s plumbing, Emma was working on an essay for her Level Eight social contracts class. River had had a bad day and was in a drug-induced sleep.
‘I don’t want to leave her,’ said Simon. ‘Perhaps the captain would attend with you?’
‘I got calls to make for our next stop, ask Jayne or David.’
David responded enthusiastically. ‘I love live theatre. Never saw a  play till I was in nursing school but moving about since I never really have a chance.’
‘I’m, sorry, honey. We’ll make more plans when River is…’
“It’s okay, 爸. I never said.’
‘Geez, quit with the googoo eyes already, ‘ complained Jayne.

David hired a rickshaw to take them to the theatre. The children watched as he gallantly handed in Zoe, in a flowing gown and short cape.

They were surprised to find that Deadwood actually had a theatre district. Five marquees advertised live or recorded performances from their own Much Ado About Nothing to an All-Girl Revue.
‘Something for every taste,’ said Zoe.
David pointed at the broadsheets outside the All-Girl Revue. Half advertised the night’s performance and the others an All-Boy Revue. ‘All tastes.’

Their tickets turned out to be a box quite near the stage. ‘That actor must have felt some apologetic,’ said Zoe, surprised.
‘Or these expensive seats are harder to sell and having a beautiful woman on display in them is good for business.’
‘Iphm,’ muttered Zoe. ’That part of your beside manner with your patients?’
David laughed. ‘Early on, yes. And in the labour room, I need all the goodwill I can get. You’d be amazed how hard an unhappy woman can punch, even during a contraction.’
Although they had crewed together for several months they did not know each other well.  Before the screen came down for advertising, Zoe learned about David’s home world , Turtle Island, which had been heavily settled by North American Indians and worked hard to keep up their important traditions and languages.

David learned less of Zoe’s background, except that the Alleynes had been traders for generations, first on Earth-that-Was, sailing those oceans, then as spacefarers throughout the ‘Verse.
‘We scattered with the War. I saw my brother Alcibides just after we was demobbed. He sold Serenity to the captain.’
‘Must have been quite a  sales pitch.’
‘Weren’t the ship he wanted us to have. He had a Scarab, bigger and in better shape. But Mal saw that beat-up Firefly and fell in love. ‘Course he was still some shell-shocked at the time.’
‘But you went along with him?’
‘No place better to go. No one better to go with.’ Zoe was silent, thinking of the one she had lost, long before Serenity Valley. ‘Mal had the cash and I knew the business. Worked.’
David knew there was more to the the strange relationship between the captain and his first mate, but the advertising screen had descended and the theatre became too noisy for chat.
Halfway through the commercials, Zoe stiffened. ‘Good thing we didn’t bring River,’ she said. David was puzzled, but the Fruity Oaty Bars commercial was too loud to ask.

The screen rose and the performance began. David was entranced by the graceful language, updated from the millenium-old English of Shakespeare.  When Dogberry made his appearance, he nudged Zoe.’Older and fatter, but he could be the captain’s cousin.’ David made a capture of the actor as he protested against Conrad’s libels.

Zoe had a little trouble deciding which actors were the two men who had given them tickets. But at intermission, a card was delivered to the box inviting them backstage for the opening night party

They made a handsome couple as they entered the green room backstage.  A waitress gave each a glass of shimmerwine and waved them to the buffet.  ‘Dogberry’ was already there, his part having  ended well before the denouement of the play. He bowed to Zoe, and gave David a lascivious glance.
‘Definitely not the captain,’ she murmured.
David was well worth a second look. Taller than Zoe, his glossy black hair was loose down his back,reaching nearly to his waist.  He was as always clear eyed with a fine coppery skin.  In a ‘verse where Asian and European heritage dominated, and Zoe’s African features were not uncommon, most people could not identify David’s ancestry.

He had complemented Zoe’s evening gown with a fine wool broadcloth suit and had borrowed  from Simon a silk waistcoat that laced up the front allowing room for his broader chest.
Dogberry asked how they had enjoyed the play, politely moving his glance to Zoe.
‘Got hard to follow in places. Reckon the customs have changed more than the language.’ she said.
’We actually use a translation that’s less than a century old. I don’t think anyone would understand the original language at all. For example, at one point, my character wants to explain to Leonato that he is a man to be respected, with roots in the community. He says ‘I wear fine silk vests’  in our version, but in the original he says ‘I have two gowns.’ which would just sound odd. And the pronunciation!’
‘We hear different dialects on every world, even on moons that trade with a larger planetary population,’ said David.
‘Are you military personnel then?’
Zoe pressed her foot against David’s. ‘No, traders. We’re doing the New Canaan Run; mostly agricultural products.’
‘Footloose, dear lady,’ said a voice behind her. The actor who had given her the tickets had moved up behind them. Zoe was annoyed with herself for being surprised by his approach. ‘We are travellers ourselves. Indeed, most of us are actually Travellers from Earth that Was.’
‘Gypsies,’ said Zoe.
His voice chilled.  ’No. The Roma are our friends, or at least, not our enemies, but we Travellers are a different nation,’
‘Thank you for the tickets, you played Don John, but I don’t believe I know your actual name,’ she said, changing the subject both from the touchy question of Roma versus Traveller and from the business of her crew.
‘Our names are as changeable as our roles,’ the actor said. ‘Don John is my name while I am playing him.’
‘Not something to boast about, being the villain of the piece.’
‘From my point of view, I am the hero, trying to bring justice to an unfair society that ignores me for my birth while praising other no better men that hold a higher social position.’
David smiled, ’Every man is the hero in his own story.’
‘Exactly! So every night I work to bring down this unfair society, and every night sadly I fail.’ he signalled the waitress for more wine. ‘But some night, I may win my battle.’
Zoe laughed.

Dogberry wandered over deliberately, bringing a bottle of shimmer wine.
‘Top you?’ he enquired archly.
David proffered his glass. ‘This is very interesting. I’ve never been backstage before.’
‘Would you care for a tour? Most of the backstage is still lit. Maybe you can raise the curtain?’ Still holding the bottle the two men departed.
‘Was he saying what I thought?’ asked Zoe.
‘Probably. He finds a boy in every port, often several.’
‘Well, he’s a good looking man, but David is married.’
’Never bothered Joey before.’
‘And David’s relationships are no business of mine.’
‘As long as they don’t do it in the road and scare the horses, eh?’
Conversation drifted after that and Zoe was waiting impatiently when David returned, a little breathless.
Zoe’s arched eyebrow was enough to make David blush. ‘No, I’m still the faithful husband, although that guy can be pretty beguiling,’ David paused,smiling. ‘But I solved a problem Simon was upset about so I think he’ll forgive me a few kisses.’

“I found a buyer,’ David told Simon in the privacy of their cabin.
Simon looked relieved.
‘One of the actors will take the the gum off our hands and there will even be a small profit.’
‘Actors have money?’
‘He says so. I have to meet him this afternoon at his rooms,’ David paused. ‘D’you want to come along?’
‘I want to stay out of this entirely. Buying that stuff was a stupid move on your part.’
‘Yes, honey, you’ve told me. Several times. Funny thing is, this guy looks a lot like the captain. They could be brothers, if the captain had a heavier, sly brother.’
‘Huh. Did you have to use your devastating sex appeal on him to sell the stuff?’
‘He came on to me, Simon! I din’t try anything, even pushed him away when…’
‘When.’ Flatly.
‘He kissed me. Which was weird, him so like Mal otherwise. But I told him politely I was married and he politely took his hands out of my pants.’ David kissed Simon’s cheek. ‘Besides you know I like my man small and perfectly formed.’
‘I am not small, bao bei. I’m above average height. It’s just that all the other men on this ship are behemoths.’
David captured his mouth and whispered. ‘I’m right about the perfectly formed part though, ain’t I?’
Simon pushed him away.’Maybe I should come along to protect you from this Reynolds clone.’
David lay back on the tidy bed.’Yeah, and if we decide an adventure would be fun….it’s up to you. From what I observed , he’s pretty impressive in that department.’
‘I thought he was getting into your pants?’
‘Well, I could tell he was very interested. But I think he’s a top.’
‘Maybe I can change his mind.’ Simon pulled David’s legs apart and stroked his cock with his own. ‘Or you can bottom for him and I watch.’
‘You’re the boss, daddy.’
‘Yes I am, baby boy. And I’ll come along tomorrow just because a daddy takes care of his boy.’

Simon and David barely made it back to the ship the next day before their scheduled takeoff. They missed supper and spent a quiet hour in the commons cuddled together, watching Mal read with the children until he shepherded his little ones off to bed.

When Mal returned, Simon gave him five hundred platinum. ‘We made a good sale today out of  the herbal medicines we picked up on Dyton Colony. I apologize for the Alliance scrip.’
‘We allys need some trackable scrip to make us look respectable. No worries. ‘ He rubbed Simon’s shoulder.  ‘Thanks. This is turning out a profitable voyage. The linen cloth and shirts went to a dry goods wholesale outfit and they want more if we can supply it. Your buyer like to be a future contact?’


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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