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Summary: The ration bars weren't all, or even most, of what they found on that transport ship.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Firefly > Buffy-CenteredShezziFR152237,06940357153,40216 Feb 087 Oct 11No

Chapter One

A/N: This is my first attempt at writing in the Firefly 'verse, hope it's not too confusing...answers to most of the questions brought up will come in the later chapters, but if something confuses you, be sure to ask and I'll see about incorporating the explanations :) please leave reviews, let me know what you think. Oh yeah, I don't own BTVS or Firefly. love xx Shezzi (PS, but the way, yes, I do know what would really happen to the human body when exposed to hard vacuum, I have studied physics, but just go with it, it makes it work. love xx Shezzi) PPS Anything written in Italics is Chinese, and there are translations at the end of the chapter for those who want to see what the chinese would have been)

Illustration

Awesome fanart provided by LindZloo...luvya darl!

The three suited figures hung in the vacuum of space, studying the sealed door in front of them carefully.

“Vault's sealed. Okay, I'm gonna blow it, Jayne, give me the sticky.” Mal reached out towards the other man, who carefully handed over the tool, and drifted back slightly to watch as Mal applied it around the lock. He triggered it, then pushed off lightly, stopping himself with a hand to another piece of wreckage. “OK, we get the goods, we're off this wreck and back on the ship, no worries,” declared Mal. The sticky quickly melted into the metal around the lock until it had completely eaten it away, and the lock blew out, followed by a stream of atmosphere.

“Full pressure...the goods must be intact.” Zoe smiled with relief as the men pulled open the hatch, only to freeze in horror at the sight that met their eyes. Instead of three nice, neat boxes of ration cubes, there was a girl, staring at them with horror in her eyes as she tried unsuccessfully to pull air from the vacuum of space that a moment ago had been a sealed, pressurized, albeit tiny room.

“Oh God!” cried Mal, even as he seized her in his arms and pushed off, heading for the ship, knowing that she would be dead before he reached it.

“Captain, we have incoming Alliance cruiser bearing right down on us,” came Wash's tinny voice over the radio.

Fuck,” cursed Mal, even as he approached the hatch, the girl in his arms no longer struggling, the other two right behind him. “We're nearly back. The goods...they're no good, on account of the girl that was eking out a living in there, eating them and drinking the water that was stored with them...so we've probably killed her, and we have nothing to show for it. Have they hailed?”

“No, doesn't look like they're interested in us,” replied Wash, uneasily.

“No sense taking chances. Start the crybaby. Get ready to run,” he propelled himself through the hatchway, carefully shifting the girl to stop her from hitting her head. “We're in. Let's go!” the ramp and doors closed behind them, and atmosphere and gravity came back on. He stumbled slightly, although the girl was so light she didn't really upset his balance. He quickly laid her on the floor, fingers flying to unfasten his helmet and remove his gloves. Once his head and hands were free, he felt for a pulse while listening for any drawing of breath.

“Wash, we're in. Let's go,” called Zoe, before dropping to her knees beside Mal. “Captain,” she began, but he stopped her.

“She has a pulse, but she's not breathing,” Mal said, leaning down to start resuscitating jumped back when she suddenly drew a deep, shuddering breath. Mal stared at Zoe, eyes wide. “Do you understand this, my friend?”

I don't understand, sir,” she replied, eyes wide.

“Let's get her to the infirmary,” ordered Mal, lifting the girl back in his arms and running through the ship, very confused. She shouldn't have started breathing on her own, no matter what people believed about drowning victims. She shouldn't even be alive, exposure to hard vacuum was enough to destroy the human body in moments, but here she was.

“Where we headed, Captain?” asked Wash over the radio.

“We still gotta go to Persephone, pick up Inara, and I guess we gotta let Badger know how things went down...at least some of it,” he added, thoughtfully. “Plus, its the closest place to pick up some passengers, hopefully make enough to get us through to the next job,” as he spoke, he laid the girl out on the bed in the infirmary and wrapped a self-warming blanket around her, trying to drive back the cold of space. He wrinkled his nose, now that he had the girl out of vacuum and could smell her, she stank. He was very much aware that she had been living in a tiny room, obviously with some kind of atmosphere generator, although he was at a loss as to what it could be, but with no other comforts. She had slept, eaten, drunk and toileted in that room since the ship went down, and she smelt like it.

“Sir, I don't think she was a willing passenger on that rutting transport,” commented Zoe, lifting the girl's hand to study the thick, vicious scars at her wrists where she had apparently been tied up. She ran her fingers over the scars, and felt a lump further down the forearm, hidden under the worn fabric of her shirt. She pushed the sleeve up, and stared, before dropping the girls arm and swearing “Gorram sons of bitches, Captain, look what they did!” She turned the arm so Mal could see the scar that covered the entire underside of the girl's forearm: a brand, burned into the skin, the Alliance seal.

The blood ran cold in Mal's veins. This girl, this child, for she was no more than that, had had a brand burned into her flesh like she was no more than one of his mother's cattle. He felt the bile rise in his throat at the thought of pressing a hot iron into human flesh, and shuddered, forcing himself to swallow. Suddenly, the girl twitched, then moved her head. Her eyes flickered, then opened, and she screamed, clapping her hands to her face.

“Gorramit! Shut off the lights!” shouted Mal, realizing what at least part of the problem was.

“What?” cried Zoe, not understanding.

“Turn off the Gorram lights!” bellowed Mal, glad that the girl hadn't tried to move, at least not yet. “She's been in the dark for I don't know how long, Zoe,” even as he started to explain, Zoe was flipping the switches on the infirmary wall, plunging the room into dim twilight. The girl stopped screaming, and pulled her legs in against her body, wrapping her arms around them and pressing her face against her thighs. “Hey, it's all right,” murmured Mal, speaking as though to a frightened animal, which he felt might be about the level of conscious thought the girl currently possessed. “We ain't aiming to hurt you, little one. You're safe,” he didn't try to touch her yet, not sure how she would respond, but motioned for Zoe to get the doper. He kept talking softly, gentle nonsense, moving slowly closer, as Zoe slipped around behind her with the hypospray. He gestured for her to wait, and kept talking softly.

He reached out and touched her gently, Zoe tensed behind her, ready, which turned out to be a good thing, because as soon as he touched her, she screamed and lashed out violently. She just missed his head, and Zoe immediately pressed the 'spray against her carotid artery, knocking her out.

“Captain, what are we gonna do with her?” she asked, worried.

“I do not know, but I tell you what, I'm glad the bastard dogs who did this is already dead, or we'd have us a serious conflict of interest. I don't want to keep her unconscious, but we need to figure something out. I don't know how we're going to get through to her, she's been living wild for some time, and obviously mishandled before that,” he spoke softly at the last, almost to himself.

“That she has, sir. Those aren't her only scars. I'm gonna clean her up, why don't you...be somewhere that's else,” she smiled, and waved him out. He nodded, and left, a thoughtful frown on his face. Zoe gently stripped the rags from the girl's thin body, running gentle fingers over the many scars that marked her. There were only a few that looked to be older than a few months, a year at most, the rest still had that slightly shiny, red look of newly healed tissue.

She grabbed some clothes and a pan of warm water and started to gently sponge the girl down, then dried her off. Once the worst of the dirt was gone, she grabbed some clean scrubs from a shelf and carefully dressed her. She brushed the girl's hair back from her face, staring at her. Despite everything her body had been put through, she was beautiful, fine featured with large eyes and perfect cheekbones.

“Wow, this is her then, huh?” asked Kaylee softly from the door. Zoe turned and smiled slightly, nervous.

“Yeah, this is her. She was living in the wreck, don't know how she still had breathable atmosphere but...apparently she did. We're trying to figure out what we should do with her, we don't really want to hand her over to anyone on account of this,” she turned the girl's arm so that Kaylee could see the brand. Kaylee's eyes grew huge in her face, and she visibly paled.

“Oh God...who would do something like that?” she shook her head and looked at the girl's face instead. “She's so pretty,” she reached out to touch her, but Zoe caught her hand half way.

“She's also pretty feral, honey. Don't get all touchy-feely, I wouldn't want her to wake up and take exception,” Mal walked through the door at that point, smiling slightly at the two of them.

“We're nearly at Persephone, Wash is waving Inara now. I want you,” he looked at Kaylee, “to find us some paying passengers. We,” he glanced at Zoe, “are going to go and let Badger know that the goods were no good, and see if he has any other work for us. I'm gonna move her, we'll put her one of the rooms with some food, access to a bathroom, and increase the lighting by degrees until she's used to it, and we'll see about getting her used to us. We don't want the passengers knowing about her, and we don't want anyone hurt. We lock the door, and try talking to her when we can, and keep her quiet, even if it means we have to keep her drugged for now. That work for you?”

“As long as we aren't just going to dump her somewhere, I'm okay with it, at least for now. We'll see where it takes us, maybe we can find her a safe place somewhere,” said Zoe, nodding. Something about dumping this little girl somewhere just didn't sit right at all, and Zoe wasn't entirely sure why.

~ ~ ~ @@ ~ ~ ~

Mal, Zoe and Jayne stood in Badger's 'office', glaring at the odious little man. “The goods were damaged, Badger. There was nothing to bring, or you would have it. We all knew going in that there was a possibility that they'd been destroyed, and they had! It's not our fault,” Mal glared at Badger, who regarded him with annoyance.

“True enough, but I've only got your word for that,” replied Badger, eyeing him. “Any idea what it was that damaged it?” he asked, watching them closely.

“None whatsoever. The compartment had lost pressure, must have just gone bad,” Mal replied, calmly. “So, you got anything else for us?”

“Might do...there's some goods I could use transported,” Badger replied slowly. “But how do I know that they won't get 'damaged' in transit?” Mal just glared at him.

“We have always done good business with you, Badger. It wasn't our fault that the goods were useless, and you got no right to hold it against us,” snapped Mal, angry. He was confused, not about Badger's reaction, that was to be expected, but by his own feelings towards the girl. Part of it was just the opportunity to put one over the Alliance, by keeping something they obviously considered their property, but there was more to it than that. He felt as protective of her as he did of Kaylee, who was as close to him as a sister or possibly a daughter. It confused and bothered him, but at the same time felt right, and that bothered him even more. He pulled himself forcefully away from that line of thought, making himself concentrate on Badger.

“Well, then, this stuff needs to be delivered to Whitefall,” said Badger, smiling pleasantly.

“And?” replied Mal, blandly.

“Didn't Patience shoot you the last time you were on Whitefall?” asked Badger, eyeing him closely.

“Ain't no problem betwixt us,” replied Mal calmly. “Twas all in the name of business, and we'll do fair trade,” Badger eyed him, then nodded.

“Pick up the cargo from Jamieson, at the Xiao Ye Boatyard,” he told them. They nodded and silently took their leave. They all knew how it worked, no reason to go over the mechanics of the deal. Don't ask what the cargo is, get a fair price, split as per usual, dropping Badger's share off wherever he ordered.

~ ~ ~ @@ ~ ~ ~

Having picked up the cargo, they headed back to Serenity. As Mal approached, he saw Kaylee standing on the ramp with a young man, wearing dark glasses and a fancy suit. “Captain, this is Simon,” she introduced them. Mal nodded, and Simon smiled stiffly.

“Captain Renolds,” he greeted him formally, turning and entering the ship.

“That all we got?” Mal asked Kaylee, who nodded. “How's the girl?” he asked, softly.

“Not a peep out of her that I've heard, Cap'n” replied Kaylee, shrugging. He nodded and turned back to help Zoe and Jayne bring the large crate on board and stow it in an out of the way corner of the hold, away from the passengers goods.

~ ~ ~ @@ ~ ~ ~

“Simon's a doctor,” said Kaylee, her voice admiring. At those words, Zoe's eyes flew to Mal's, questioning. He shook his head slightly, imperceptible to anyone but her. They weren't going to tell him about the girl, at least not yet.

~ ~ ~ @@ ~ ~ ~

Mal kicked the cover off the doctor's crate, his expression furious, fading into one of bemused surprise at the sight that met his eyes. “Huh,” was all he said, as he almost took a step back. The girl was curled on her side, completely naked. Simon struggled in Jayne's arms, trying to get to her.

“I have to check her vitals!” he cried, desperate.

“Oh, is that what they call it?” asked Mal, walking towards him, disgust clear on his face.

“She's not supposed to wake up for another week. The shock...” Mal interrupted, scathing disgust evident in his voice.

“The shock of what? Waking up, or finding out she's been sold to some border-world baron?” demanded Mal, furious and disgusted. “Oh, I'm sorry, was this one for you? Is it true love?” He turned back to look at the girl in the crate, just as she sat up with a scream. She screamed again, propelling herself over the edge of the crate, onto the floor, where she cowered, crying out, softer now, her fear evident. Simon pulled free of Jayne and ran to her, crouching in front of, her reaching out gently and calling her name, assuring her it was all right.

Mal listened, partially, but most of his attention was captured by his view of the girl's right thigh, where a large tattoo rested. Unlike the unseemly, burnt brand they had found on the girl from the wreck, the Alliance seal had been carefully tattooed onto this girl's skin, it almost looked graceful. Glancing at Zoe, he saw she had seen the same thing.

“What the hell is this?” demanded Mal, his voice cold.

“This is my sister,” replied Simon, his pain evident.

~ ~ ~ @@ ~ ~ ~

Mal crouched outside of the door to the passenger cell, listening quietly. He could hear the girl moving around, knew that if he was in the cockpit he would have seen her on the vid, having carefully installed the capture himself, so that he could see how she was doing. He had locked the feed under his own personal code, not wanting Jayne to be able to access it. “Hey, little one,” he spoke softly, heard her stop moving, before approaching the door. “How you feeling?” there was a thud against the inside of the door, and the girl began to wail. Mal sighed, not sure what to do.

Simon heard the screaming, and ran, thinking it was River. It was certainly a girl, and she was very, very afraid. He found the captain crouching outside of a door on the crew level, talking softly. He slowed, frowning, and listened. “It's okay, no one here is going to hurt you. Them that did this, they're dead, they ain't coming for you, and them that might think you're dead too. You'll be okay, we'll take care of you, at least until you can take care of yourself, ain't no one gonna hurt you that way again,” the cries didn't stop, although they were broken with terrified sobs.

“What's going on?” he demanded, concerned.

“Lost,” said a soft voice behind him, and he whirled to face River. “Lost in the dark...don't stop moving, people notice you if you stay too long...two by two, hands of blue...” she screamed softly, then continued, even as Simon wrapped his arms around her, trying to calm her. “All alone...lost in the dark...burning and pain and...arrrrrgh!” she screamed, and collapsed, clinging to her brother. “Cutting...always cutting...want to control what can't be controlled, force to obey what won't obey...SIMON!” Simon pulled a syringe out of his pocket and injected it into River's carotid artery, and she immediately passed out, collapsing against him.

A/N: The bits that have been left out occured the same as the Pilot, I just didn't feel the need to write them all...and the ending comes after they've been to Whitefall and got rid of the fed. Reviews are better than food! love xx Shezzi

Translations:
Tamade - Fuck
Ni dong bu dong jhi, wo de tongdang? - Do you understand this, my friend?
Wo bu dong - I don't understand/I don't know
hundan gao - bastard dogs
Xiao Ye - Little Leaf
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