Title: Bees, Flowers and Fireflies
Author: Shylah (Writings.of.Shylah@gmail.com)
Warnings: Violence, torture, mind control, sexual situations
Pairings: None outside Firefly canon, so far.
Disclaimer: They're Joss's, not mine. No money made.
Summary: Mal meets with Serenity's new prospective employer, while Spike's captivity continues.
Abraham Legan's place was rather spacious and grandly decorated for being underground. That suited Mal just fine. A richer client was always a plus. It meant a higher pay, or a small job that wouldn't pinch them too much if it fell through.
Not that Mal was planning on having the job fall through.
He'd seen places like this in the occasional book that Kaylee'd get all keyed up about. They usually had lots of large pictures of the interiors of pretty houses, and she'd wanted to buy one more than once. Mal really couldn't see why -- all they were was pictures. And Kaylee was about as proficient as Jayne when it came to reading, in English or Chinese, and they weren't hardly any little one or two-syllable words in those books.
The rich and pretty life had always caused Kaylee to react with child-like wonder. And this was certainly rich and pretty. Electrical candles lined the hallway they were walking down behind the men sent to meet them at the rendezvous. They cast a dim glow about the hall from their places nestled in intricately patterned holders that jutted from the walls. The carpet covering the floor felt springy and soft under Mal's shoes, and the closed doors of the rooms they passed were large and much more reflective than any door ought to be. The air was warm and smelled woody -- spiced with incense. Right. That makes sense.
Mal thought sarcastically. Hide underground from the pollution only to make and breathe your very own.
He glanced at Jayne and Zoe to see how they were reacting. Jayne seemed engrossed by it all, like he wanted to reach out and touch every new piece of fancy they walked by. Zoe was keeping her eyes forward and her face blank, but Mal knew she had to be silently impressed by all of this expensive stuff kept in an area reserved for the impoverished or poorer businesses. Well, this was
a business, he supposed. But it sure as hell wasn't poor.
After what seemed like ages they finally reached what appeared to be Legan's room for negotiations, the men leading them breaking off to stand at either side of the large, open doorway and leaving them to step in on their own.
Mal hadn't thought the ceiling could get any higher. The room was built like a temple, or a church, and the air was cooler and fresher now that they had left the closer walls of the hallway. There must have been an air processor installed somewhere nearby. There was also a huge chandelier hanging in the center of the ceiling. Mal squinted at it. Something was off about the item. It wasn't that it didn't twirl like the usual chandelier, or that it was hanging from the ceiling instead of levitating...
"Shit, Mal," Jayne whispered intensely. "That thing's real!"
Mal blinked. Well I'll be damned...
It wasn't an electronic chandelier -- there were actual wax candles sitting on it. And they were lit. Kaylee was gonna have a fit when he told her about this. Not that it meant that much to Mal, but any little that made Serenity's mechanic's eyes and mood light up was always valuable in his book.
He pulled his attention away from the ceiling and took stock of the rest of the room. A few statues, a grand rug, and other fancy furnishings including a large wooden desk sitting in the middle of the room. Sitting at said desk was a well groomed, clean shaven man with brown hair, dressed in a black silk shirt.So. This must be Abraham Legan.
He looked young, especially for appearing to be one of the richer smugglers. But then, people exposed to the more polluted parts of Beaumonde didn't exactly make records with their life spans. Guy probably inherited most of this stuff when his folks died, or grew up with heavy benefits. Either way, considering what business he was in, he had to be good. You didn't get into the smuggling business rich and stay that way if you had anything less than good smarts and good instincts and good luck -- or at least an impossibly high amount of one of the three to offset the deficit.
Standing slightly behind the man and to the side was a pale, slender woman with serious eyes and brown hair that was bound back so tightly that it looked like any more pull would tear the skin of her scalp right off. Legan's bodyguard. Or wife. Either way, obviously not one to be messed with.
"Malcolm Reynolds." Legan greeted with a nod, indicating a few cushioned seats situated before his desk. "Go ahead and have a seat."
Mal moved forward and sat himself on the chair nearest to Legan, making himself comfortable. Jayne followed quickly behind, plopping himself down on the soft pillowed seat. Zoe followed suit, and Mal could see that she had just finished her own sweep of the place and was satisfied that there was no current danger.
"I'm very cautious about who I choose to carry my goods." Legan said. "And since your reputation has been rising exponentially among the inner circles, I thought I'd give you a try. You're very good, from what I've heard."
Mal smiled. He was getting good vibes off of this man, complimentary manner notwithstanding. "Well thanks for tryin' us. Always good gettin' new folks of the less unsavory type askin' for us to do a job." He paused, before quickly amending: "Not that you are in any way unsavory...sir."
Legan raised his eyebrows, his hand reaching down to open a drawer in the desk. He fiddled with a few things in there for a moment, and then the surface of the desk lit up with the glow of a computer screen. Legan began to press his fingers across it.
"Do you need to know what I want you to deliver?"
"No, sir." Mal said with a shake of his head. "Don't ask about the whats, whys or wherefores. We just take the cargo where it's needed."
"Hm." Legan kept his eyes on the text that was now scrolling across his desk. "You've had a few run-ins with the Alliance." Now there was something like disapproval in the man's voice.
Mal felt himself go on the defensive at that, but carefully kept his voice and expression light. "Well, yeah -- I mean, who hasn't?"
Legan glanced up at him briefly, his eyes and tone solemn. "Me." The man pressed a single button on the screen and it turned off before folding his hands and resting his arms over the desktop. "The only thing you need to know about this cargo is that it really needs to get to the places I want it to go. Without
Alliance interference. And, judging by your penchant for arousing their suspicion, I'm becoming uncertain as to whether or not you're the carrier I want."
Jayne was shifting like he had an itch, his growing displeasure to the situation obvious. Mal felt his jaw clench at the man's quick change of opinion. "I would have thought you'd have looked over our entire record before askin' us to meet with you."
"I wanted to meet you in person." Legan said with a shrug. "Judge your character for myself."
"Try us out." Mal finished. "Yeah, see, that's all fine and good if you're gonna actually give us the job. But otherwise, you've just had me and my crew come over a week out of our way to visit you. That's over a week of expended resources and not a job in sight."
Legan waved his hand dismissively. "I'll fully reimburse you for your loss, and give you a little extra for wasted time."
Mal felt his anger deflate. "Oh." He glanced at Zoe and Jayne briefly. "Well, then...apologies. Got no problem with that."
"Besides," Legan began, reaching into his desk and taking out a transmitter. "I never said that I wouldn't give you the job. I just said I was becoming uncertain about it." He turned the transmitter on and spoke into it. "Tyler?"
There was a crackle before a man's voice answered. "Yeah, sir?"
"Bring our guests some food and drink, please."
"Be right there."
Legan turned the transmitter off and gazed at them with a small smile, shifting back into a more comfortable position in his seat. "Let's talk about your past dealings with Adelei Niska, and the fiasco of the train job."
Watching a vampire fight, especially one who had spent the last few months being intensely trained in the more graceful of the martial arts, was quite a riveting scene. Watching two
vampires fight, -- especially two with extreme power, -- and fight with each other,
no less, using this specific training, well... It was nothing short of extraordinary.
Eileen Mather could feel her face breaking into a smile at the feeling of power blossoming and making her insides quiver with excitement. With the close tutelage of Ramsden and the other head doctors, she had learned much over the past year, and lost most of her fear of the vampire subjects. Once she realized how completely they could be controlled, she found herself loving every interaction with them.
Two vampires, dressed in their usual form-fitting uniforms, were circling and throwing blows and kicks like lightning, engaged in deadly combat in the training room. The walls were thick and concrete, and so could stand any disturbance heaped upon them by the fighters. She was standing on the far side of the room, with no walls or shield-protected glass to keep her safe from the two demons in the center. Nothing but the commands they had been given, the conditioning strengthened over months of hard work, was keeping these creatures from causing her damage. Even unintentional harm was impossible, as the fighters kept every move restrained so that even the results of their blows -- like sending their opponent flying across the room -- would never be a danger.
Berkant Ramsden was standing on the other side of the room, watching the fight with equal interest. She knew he as well as her had no fear of harm coming to them.
She watched as a dark haired male vampire gave a powerful thrust against his opponent, who countered by grabbing his wrist and using the momentum given to him by the blow to throw the other over his head. The first vampire turned his fall into a graceful roll, jumping back to his feet before once again engaging in the fight.
Neither vampire had gone into their demon face. It was still too early for either handler to order their respecting fighter to do so. Which was well enough, for Mather found she rather liked staring at the human face of the vampire she was currently commanding.
Spike. Or William, as most of the staff had taken to calling him after learning his real name. Ramsden was the only one who commonly addressed or referred to him using the former.
When she had first seen him, Mather had not expected that William would be so special, despite Ramsden's suspicions. An ensouled vampire. One of only two ever recorded. They had never discovered what had happened to the other, but knew that he was related to William.
The platinum blond hair that the vampire had once sported had since grown out and been trimmed away, leaving him with a head of slightly curled golden brown hair. It made him look even more human, to have his natural hair grown out. His stark paleness did not seem so enhanced, and it brought out his sharp cheekbones.
The vampire that Ramsden was overseeing was getting backed into a wall from a vicious, unrelenting assault of blows by William. These two were their top vampires, but both Ramsden and she knew that William was by far the better fighter and the strongest of any in the facility. The dark haired vampire was desperately parrying the blows, and finally kicked out to get the other away from him and stop the aggressive attack. William jumped back to avoid the blow, his blue eyes unblinking and his brow drawn down as his opponent gave an deep, throaty growl.
As they had gotten further and further along in their training, most of the vampires had begun to revert to slightly animalistic states. They spoke rarely or not at all, although they were not forbidden to talk. The growling and snarling, even while in their human guises, had grew more frequent as expressions of anger. William was the only one who seemed to refuse to do so unless in his demon face.
"Speaking of which...
Mather watched as the vampire commanded by Ramsden shifted faces as soon as ordered. She felt a bit of pride and pleasure roil within her at this -- usually an opponent only ordered their vampire to slip into their demon face if they knew they would lose, otherwise. Never mind that William was obviously the strongest vampire they had. The exhilaration and control of being able to command such a powerful -- not to mention extremely attractive -- creature and to have it carry out orders to success was one of the best feelings she had ever experienced. Even if they were just training and testing to ready them for the real work.
Grinning, Mather did not give William the command to change face. He could do well enough without it, and she wanted to be able to admire his handsome face. As the demon-faced vampire dug his bare feet into the floor and launched himself at William, she glanced up at Ramsden, and was startled to find him speaking to a strange man who'd entered the room unnoticed.
Her curiosity and confusion immediately drew up. The newcomer wore a dark blue uniform of a high-ranking individual, and his eyes held the almond shape of one of Chinese descent. His manner exuded a practically tangible feeling of calm and discipline as he leaned over to speak something quietly into Ramsden's ear.
Mather took a long, slow inhale of breath when she realized that this must be an operative. Ramsden had alerted her weeks ago to the possibility of one coming. If the leaders in the Parliament had decided to send an operative in to this section of the facility, that meant that they were preparing for the next step of the program.
Her mood now subdued somewhat, Mather diverted her attention back to the fight, watching the vampires continue their volley of fluid feints and staggering blows and quick blocks. Not for the first time, she found herself comparing the way they moved to a dance. A dance to bright lights and cold tiled floor and grey-blue blurs of clothing. A dance that existed only because it had been commanded to.