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Steel Blues -- Stowaway

Sometimes you get a character in your head and they just won't go home! When that happens to me they have a way of worming their way into other things I write in ways that generally work out. Moebius Squared was my first SG-1 book, and the first one with the "new" team, and Vala just wouldn't leave! Now, I love Vala, and Moebius Squared wasn't really her book. She was a supporting player and while she has a couple of good moments, she wasn't at all the star. Not good enough for Vala, so she hung around right into Steel Blues. When the plot called for a jewel thief I couldn't imagine The Countess as played by anyone but Claudia Black, and so I just gave in and let her unfold. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as we did! So a piece of the action for those who've been waiting for Steel Blues and for my fellow Vala fans....



"He wouldn't really do it," Mitch said. He looked at the woman sitting on the floor against the bulkhead, her hair falling out of its loose bun, the heat pulling the shape out of her finger waves. She looked utterly unrepentant, though he thought she was probably trying to look pathetic. "We don't really throw people out of planes, ma'am."

"Make me walk the plank?" She lifted her head with a hint of a challenge in her eyes.

"Don't tempt me," Jerry said. He glanced forward at the cockpit where Lewis and Alma talked in low voices, consulting over the controls and the no doubt disturbing instrument readings. "You do realize that you may actually kill us all."

"Surely…"

"Surely I'm being dramatic?" Jerry demanded. "Do you have any idea what will happen if we run out of fuel over the desert? Do you know what happens when a plane runs out of fuel in mid air?"

A tiny wrinkle began between her brows and she looked at Mitch.

"We're not going to crash. Probably," Mitch amended. "If we get to that point, Lewis will set us down."

"Well, then…" she began.

"Only there's no field, you see," Mitch said. "Just Arizona desert. If we have to put down fifty or sixty miles short of Flagstaff, it's going to be an awfully long walk." And one Jerry couldn't make, but that went without saying. A guy with a wooden leg tramping through fifty miles of desert with inadequate supplies and the temperature in the 90s was a recipe for disaster. No, he'd have to take either Lewis or Alma and go for help, leaving the other one with the bogus countess, Jerry and the plane. And he was looking forward to that like a root canal. Not to mention that it would pretty much mean they'd lose the race.

She cast around. "Isn't there anything you could throw overboard?"

"You?" Jerry asked.

Mitch shook his head. "There's the emergency supplies, but those are the things we'll need if we have to land. I'm not about to start chucking the water out the hatch."

Her eyes glittered. "You like to play it safe?"

"I do," Mitch said. "There's no point in taking a bet you'll probably lose."

The countess tossed her disheveled head. "And I thought you were the ace."

"I'm the ace who's still alive," Mitch said, more sharply than he intended.

"You really don't get it," Jerry said. "The weight is calculated very, very carefully for an air race. We have exactly enough fuel to get us where we're going as quickly as possible. If we add a couple of hundred pounds…"

"Hardly that, darling."

"Well, better than a hundred and fifty," Jerry snapped. "If we go down, you're going down too."

"I didn't think I was going to have to stay on the plane," she said, drawing her knees up, her voice ripe with exasperation. "I waited outside the hangar until you and Mrs. Segura left. I thought you'd go have breakfast since you'd been there all night! Silly me!" She threw up her hands. "How was I to know you'd be back in ten minutes? So I had to stay in the luggage compartment. Then you," she looked daggers at Mitch, "fastened the latch! What was I supposed to do then? Bang and yell for you to let me out?"

"In which case you'd have been caught red-handed in LA with the stolen necklace which you did actually steal," Mitch said. "But what if we hadn't found you until we got to Flagstaff?"

"I thought once you did you'd surely get off the plane," she said. "Then I'd crawl out the inside hatch and be on my way."

"With the necklace," Jerry said. "As soon as we get to Flagstaff, we're calling the police."

"Oh, come on now!"

"You stole the necklace from Henry, you're a professional thief, and you tried to make your escape on our plane. Tell me one reason we shouldn't call the police." Jerry glared right back.

"But I'll go to jail!"

"I expect so," Jerry said.

She turned dark, pleading eyes to Mitch. "Surely you can't go along with this! Darling, if only you knew…" She blinked furiously. "I admit that my life has been checkered, but if you had any idea the terrible things that have caused me to end up this way…" Her voice choked and she looked skyward. "I wasn't born like this. And if my husband hadn't been killed in the war…"

"I'm sorry to hear that," Mitch said.

"It was terrible," she said. "We had only been married a few weeks before he left for the front. And then there I was, amid the chaos of the Russian Revolution, amid unspeakable violence…"

"What city were you in?" Mitch asked.

"Minsk," she said. "Minsk. It was horrible. The things that happened…"

"So he was in the Russian army?"

A momentary flicker of something crossed her face. "Yes, of course. Being Russian."

"Ah," Mitch said. "Not Polish or Hungarian."

She gave him a grand smile. "Why would you think that, darling? I told you I was Russian. White Russian."

"A White Russian countess from Minsk," Mitch agreed. "And after the war you went to…"

"Poland," she said quickly. "During the Second Polish Republic."

"Ah," he said. "Poland. Logical place for a Russian countess."

"Absolutely." She gave him a brilliant smile. "Poland was absolutely full of Poles."

"Not Hungarian Jews," Mitch said.

She blinked. "Why would there be?"

"No reason," Mitch said. "So then you did what?"

"I stayed with a tragic relation in Prague," she said. "Tragic. He was dying of gout."

Mitch felt his mouth twitching, and she saw it with a prim look, Jerry looking back and forth between them as though he were watching a tennis match.

"Mitch, what the hell?" he said. "When were you in Eastern Europe?"

"Right after the war," Mitch said, his eyes on the countess instead. "I spent some time in Budapest as a military attaché. Right before the White Terror. Strangely enough, I recognize a Hungarian accent."

"How very nice," she said. "If I meet any Hungarians I'll be sure to tell them."

"So how did you become a jewel thief?" Jerry asked, as though he found this weirdly fascinating.

"Do tell us," Mitch said. "I'm sure it's a fascinating story." He sat down, leaning back in the seat. "This is after Prague?"

"My second husband was a master criminal," she said, crossing her ankles in their pretty strappy shoes. "I met him in London and I had no idea, of course. I thought he was a perfect gentleman. I had no idea that he was using all those house parties as a way to rob people! I thought he just went to Monte Carlo for his health! I had no idea that we were there so that he could burgle a maharajah!"

"Ah," Mitch said. "I take it you distracted the poor guy with your feminine wiles while your husband robbed him blind?"

"Something like that." She rewarded Mitch with another smile. "I left him, of course, but the damage was done! I was hopelessly morally corrupted! It's the old story, I'm afraid. An innocent girl led down the primrose path, not realizing what she has become until it's too late." Her eyelashes fluttered closed. "I still pray that a good man may save me from this life."

"You're a pathological liar," Jerry said flatly. "Or you're nuts."

"And being a good man I should trust that you're really reforming and not turn you over to the police," Mitch said.

"Exactly!" The countess beamed. "I knew you'd catch on."

"Humm," Mitch said. "I suppose that does bear thinking about."

"We are calling the police when we get to Flagstaff," Jerry said. "Mitch."

"But you've got the necklace," she said. "You can give it back to Kershaw when you see him. It's an ugly old thing anyway. And there's no harm done. You just give it back and we're all square."

"Except for the part about you being a felon," Jerry pointed out.

"Darling," she said. "Must you use that word?"

"How about thief?" Mitch said.

"So déclassé."

"Cat burglar? Second story woman?" Mitch grinned. "There's always a dame?"

"Clearly you and I read the same magazines," the countess purred.

"A match made in heaven," Jerry snapped. "She steals a necklace, stows away, and may yet crash the plane, and you're playing some scene out of Black Mask!!"

"With extra plum dumplings," Mitch said, not looking away from her. She did twitch, just a little. "I'll tell you what. If you behave until we get to Flagstaff, and if we have to put down early you're helpful and useful, then maybe we won't call the police."

"Darling, I knew you'd be my champion!" she said. "I'll be such a good little girl. You'll hardly know I'm here."

"Oh God," Jerry groaned.

"But if we crash the plane, you'll probably die," Mitch said, getting to his feet. "So I'm just going to mosey on up to the cockpit now and see how the fuel consumption is playing out." He looked back at the countess. "By the way, do you have a name?"

"It's Anastasia," she said brightly. "Like the lost princess."

"Of course it is," Mitch said.


I'd love to hear what you guys think!

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
janetlin
Jan. 14th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, she's lovely!
jo_graham
Jan. 16th, 2013 10:20 am (UTC)
I'm glad you like her. Stasi is so much fun! I can't wait for the book to come out April 1. (Right now we're working on the next book, Silver Bullet, which has still more Stasi.)
lc59
Jan. 14th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
hahahahahahaha...am I only one that heard not only Vala, but Cam AND Daniel too?
jo_graham
Jan. 16th, 2013 10:21 am (UTC)
Shhhh! I'm sure there was no such thing! :D I'm sure that Mitchell Sorley and Dr. Jerry Ballard bear no resemblance to anyone! ;)
lc59
Jan. 16th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
oh...right I see;)
*AHEM*...yes of course...I'm sure I'm only hearing those voices because I write fanfic with them so I automatically hear their voices in my head...I try to not do that when I'm actually reading completely original books.
jo_graham
Jan. 17th, 2013 11:54 am (UTC)
Heh.

Several years ago when I saw Continuum, I was just so sad for Sam. And for Cam, left alone in the past. So I wrote a fanfic Continuum AU in which Sam finds AU John Sheppard who has never been to Atlantis, gets him to retrieve the time traveling puddle jumper from Moebius, and all four of them go back in time to stop Baal. Only at the end of the story all four of them are stuck in the 20s, rather than just Cam.

Melissa loved the story and wanted to write a sequel about their adventures on Earth in the 20s, and I said she should go for it. And about two chapters in it became clear this would be a really fun original book! The characters diverged from their origins fairly quickly and the story became about a demon, not a Goa'uld. It was absolutely a blast! And now it's turning into an original series that's so much fun.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )