THE LAST FIREFLY
CLAUDE L. PARISH
The mountain of loose metal and spaceship parts was eclipsed only by the compacted cubes of metal and spaceship parts. The daylight only lasted nine standard hours on Vega. Like the sun that provided it was in a hurry to reveal it and, once revealed, leave it behind in vain pursuit of something lovely on this small orb.
Shells recognizable as ship hulls were laid out by size and salvage worthiness. No respect was given to color, grace or history. Vega was, after all, the Junk Planet.
There were the few that could be repaired, given time and concern. The most reliable was the Firefly Class transport/cargo ship. Little more than a cruiser, it inspired loyalty in those acquainted with the intricacies and inbuilt redundancies of the bug-like ship. It could pass by a fleet unnoticed, being unarmed. It could also be felled by one loose bolt, as had happened more than once.
It was a target for some with evil ends. Sometimes those without evil ends but not so honorable intent would utilize the versatile ship.
But, they all ended up here.
The Junk Planet.
At least the ones that had quit flying. Rumors abounded of the mythical Firefly darting through the system in the outer rings, leaving a storied wake.
Joshua had taken charge of the scrap yard just over ten standard years before. He made a decent living at his job. He knew a lot about what went where. And most importantly, he hated junk. Hated it with a passion some people reserve for an enemy sporting team.
But, he was his own boss and junk was a going business.
What couldn't be salvaged was scrapped. Metal recycling was as natural as breathing for some folk. Joshua just sat back and watched the commerce.
"Hey, boss! We got a big 'un!!" The foreman, Alex Huang sounded excited. He usually didn't, so Joshua hurried out of his office to see what was on fire.
With no fire in evidence, he looked skyward at the delivery ship set on hover above the central receiving docks.
"Yep. Big 'un, all right." Josh said with his customary hayseed drawl which masked his intellect.
The transport was part of a larger convoy, delivering goods to the outer planets. Other, smaller ships brought food, clothing and medical supplies. This one ferried junk that was cast off of civilization for some last opportunity to be of use. In this case, the biggest chunk of cargo was an almost intact junked ship.
"Is that a Firefly?" Alex asked.
"Yup.." Joshua drawled again, this time smiling. "That's a Firefly." He watched as the ship was lowered to the ground. Nothing else mattered. It was clear to Alex that his boss was off in his own world.
"You a fan?" he asked, knowing his boss was enjoying his stay on Firefly World.
"Not particularly," he said with a growing look of new love on his face. "Been lookin' for this one, though."
"Is it special or somethin'?" The foreman struggled to understand.
"SHE" Josh corrected. "And, oh yeah. She's special or somethin'"
As the dust settled around the Firefly, Josh place his right hand on the hull of the ship and closed his eyes. Walking along, still touching the ship, he smiled as Alex had never seen the boss man smile before.
"She's special, Young Al," he said, lowering his hand and opening his eyes to see a ship that needed a lot of work. "She belonged to my grandpa."
Josh grinned with his mouth closed. He didn't know it, but when he did that he looked exactly like his grandfather.
"Maybe you heard of him. Malcolm Reynolds?" Josh turned to actually address Alex this time." Hero of Serenity Valley?Alliance burned up planets chasing him down."
"Old government. Gone now." He looked back at the grounded ship and the right corner of his lips turned slightly upward. "Everybody's independent now. Grandpa helped put 'em down permanent."
"Hey," Alex said, as if he was ignoring the history lesson."You gonna restore it?"
"HER!" he said, a little irritated." You bet your last credit, she's getting restored. Won't take much, either."
"That name on the side, there," Alex nodded toward the faded Sino-English name, faded but readable, but once lovingly painted in crimson gold and white. "You gonna keep it?"
"That was a name for blood, death and sorrow," he said, raising his hand to block the name with his left hand." I got no connection to Serenity Valley. Not like he did."
" Got a name all picked out. She gets a lady's name. She'll be beautiful again inside of a month."
Josh turned to face Alex again, this time he put his left hand on the younger man's right shoulder, leading him away from the old lady. "When I'm done, I'm gone."
Alex stopped and jerked his shoulder from Josh's lead. "But, this place is yours! You just gonna leave and let it go to waste?"
"Look around you, young Alex," he said in an ironic tone. "There's nothin' here but waste."
"Besides," he continued, "you can have it, ya like it so much."
"Are you serious?This place is mine?"" Alex was a jovial young man and real happiness was hard for him to hide. He jumped about three feet in the air, which, given the gravity of Vega, wasn't always a good idea. When he hit the ground again, his future former boss was smiling as well.
"I made some good coin here," he gazed around for a speck of loveliness, finding only one."No reason you can't do just as well. All I ask is a safe harbor when I need one."
"Absolutely!" Alex didn't know what else to say, but that never stopped him before."What are you gonna name HER?"
The kid was learning. Josh looked up at the paint stain that still said 'Serenity'.
"I'm naming her for my grandma, " he looked back at Alex and said wistfully, " The finest lady there ever was."