I don't own any of these characters. They sprang, fully formed, from the wonderful mind of Joss Whedon. Or maybe de-formed, I don't know.Author's Note:
This is set after Serenity, the movie, and yet, Wash isn't dead. Because I say so. ;)~
They were picking up five passengers on Persephone. At least, that’s what River had told them with an eerie smile. In fact, her whole demeanor reflected back to the time before Miranda. She was acting just as crazy now as she had then. Cap’n wasn’t letting her fly the ship solo, either. Wash was always at the secondary controls, ready to take over. His wheelchair only slightly limited his piloting abilities.
“Kaylee, you set up outside while Zoe, Jayne and I are away,” Mal ordered as the mule was being loaded. “Watch for these passengers River’s so sure we’ll be gettin’.”
The mule weren’t gone long before five strangers came walking up to Serenity. Four, a woman and three men, each in brown coats, surrounded a woman that had a hood pulled up over her face and a cloak that fell to her ankles. Kaylee couldn’t actually see that she was a woman but there was a grace there that just…couldn’t belong to a man. The shortest man had blue eyes that never seemed to rest on any one thing. The woman had the faintest of blue streaks in her hair and her eyes were piercing in their intensity. The last two men shared a similar rolling gate and wariness, one blonde with razor-sharp cheekbones, the other brunette with a scowl firmly in place.
“Takin’ on passengers, Ducks?” The white-blonde one asked around a cigarillo.
Kaylee smiled real friendly-like. “Sure am. Where ya headed?”
“We need to pick something up in the black,” the hooded figure said. “We’ve all our paperwork; we just can’t get the Alliance to take us out.”
Kaylee held out her hand. “If you want, we can do the job for you. You wouldn’t even have to leave dirtside.”
The hooded figure handed her a bundle of paperwork as she said, “We prefer doing things our own way. You take us out, let us do our salvage mission, then drop us on Sihnon.”
“Well, I don’t know ‘bout Sihnon,” Kaylee fretted. That was at the heart of the Core planets and while River and Simon were no longer fugitives, Mal always managed to find trouble on Alliance-friendly planets.
“We can negotiate,” Dawn promised. “But we prefer to do so with the captain of the ship.”
“And he’s right here,” a cockney accent said from behind them.
Two of her guards had already been facing outward so they knew someone was approaching them. The hooded woman didn’t even bother turning around when she said, “Badger, you don’t own a ship as fine as this one. And you know what we do to liars.”
“It’s just a might bit possible he was talking about me,” an amused voice said.
The hooded figure turned slowly and nodded. “Glad we don’t have to cut anything off, then. This time.”
“O’ course,” Badger said nervously. “So you’re wantin’ to do business with Reynolds, then?”
“I could use an honest thief,” the hooded figure said.
“I do only reputable business, nowadays,” Mal protested.
Badger winced away from him. “What Reynolds was meanin’ to say is that it’s not wise to go bandyin’ about information like that, Miss.”
Mal looked at Badger, just a little astonished.
The white-blonde man snickered nastily. “The man don’t need the likes of you to speak for him, varmint. Scram.”
And Badger, much to the bafflement of Serenity’s crew, did just that, scurrying away as if the devil was on his heels. Kaylee jumped when, from close behind her, River giggled.
“The sad little king is afraid of the big bad wolves,” she said, twirling out of the cargo hold. “It’s nice to meet you. The stars have told me so much about you.” She curtsied to them before looping her arm through Mal’s and said, “Let me introduce you to Captain Daddy.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “He’s not the ill-intentioned clergyman. And Zoe’s not the night-blooming flower. The girl-man is not a child of the partners. Have no fear of them. Even if Mal does make girls cry.”
“I do not make girls cry,” Mal said reflexively. “Often,” he relented at Kaylee’s snort. Their guests seemed to have some idea what she was rambling about but he was lost. “Albatross, why don’t you go help Wash do a system’s check while we talk to the stars’ friends?”
As River flitted away, the hooded figure said, “We’d like to hire you to take to do a salvage mission, then drop us on Sihnon.”
“We’ve already got one job lined up,” Mal said, actually a little sorry. Unification Day was coming up and he could only imagine the number of Alliance-friendly bars on Sihnon, it bein’ a Core Planet and all.
The hooded figure shrugged. “It’s a salvage mission. No one is going to touch the ship until we get out there so there’s no hurry. You can do your job, swing by the wreckage and let us salvage, and then drop us off.”
Mal got wary. “You seem awful intent on us doin’ the flying.”
“You’ve a reputation,” the hooded figure said. “One for telling the truth at any cost and for having a code of honor. One we appreciate more than we can say. Now, we’re willing to be patient and let you do your job. We’re willing to pay you top dollar for your time, inconvenience, and lodging. What we’re not willing to do is deal with less reputable people stealing what’s ours. That’s why we came to you.”
“If you’ve got trouble with the Alliance-” Mal started, wanting to be clear before they accepted the job.
“They’re wary of us,” The hooded woman said honestly. “But they’ve no reason to hassle you for that. They know that we’re going to salvage the wreckage. They won’t stand in our way even if they won’t help.”
“If you would step in, we can conduct our business in a more private manner,” Mal said which he figured they’d take for the yes it was.
The woman and the shortest man followed the hooded figure into the cargo hold while the other two men headed quickly down the street. “They’re getting our things,” the hooded woman explained, pushing the hood back from her face to reveal big blue eyes and brown hair braided tightly to her skull. When she pulled the cloak off, she was dressed richer than any other person Mal had seen, Inara included. He wanted to hate her for it, except she had two guns resting naturally against her hips. She might be a lady of fine standin’ but she was willing to take care of her own, he could tell. “My name is Aurora Giles. This is Connor Darling and Lyrie Wyndham. Our other associates are William Gunn and Liam Summers.”
Mal nodded, glad to finally have names for them that were probably about to bring trouble down on him. Passengers always did, after all. “Welcome to Serenity. This is Jayne Cobb, Zoe Washburn and Kaylee Frye. And I’m the Captain, Malcolm Reynolds. We’ll let you quote a price as to how much you think your little salvage mission is worth and I’ll see if I agree.”
“One thousand platinum,” Aurora said sedately.
Mal’s hackles rose even as he was struck momentarily speechless. “That price for a salvage job, I’m thinkin’ there’s something illegal goin’ on.”
“We’re paying for quality,” Aurora said. “Decent food, decent lodgings. And what we’re salvaging’s going to take up a lot of space so you won’t be able to pull another job until we’ve been unloaded. And, most importantly, we can afford it.”
Mal rocked back on his heels. “I generally prefer doing business with people that have references when it comes to something like this.”
Aurora smirked and handed over a capture. The screen was black until Mal pressed the little button on the top and Book’s laughing face appeared. Mal’s jaw clenched.
“Aurora, you show Captain Reynolds this if he gives you any trouble, alright?” Book said, smiling kindly at someone just past the capture’s frame. Then he looked straight into the capture and said, “Mal, the girl’s an old friend of mine. She and hers needs what is on that transport ship. Now, I know you’re going up against an Operative. And I know that that Operative will probably come here. That’s their way. If I’m not around, if I’m dead, I want you to think of this as my last request. And even though you don’t want me to, I’m prayin’ for you, son.”
The capture reset itself and shut off. Mal handed Aurora the capture and nodded before striding out of the cargo hold.
Kaylee watched as Zoe calmly took over, saying, “When your associates get back, we’ll head out. We’ve got to make three stops before we can pick up your cargo so you’ll be spending a lot of time in the passenger dorms. Passengers aren’t allowed in the cargo hold unattended, the kitchen is open any time but there’s a sit down meal every evening, and there’s a well stocked infirmary on board in case you have need of it.”
Aurora nodded as her associates clattered into the cargo hold towing along enough luggage to fill the mule. “Thank you. If you’ll show us to our rooms?”Author's Notes:
A warning before we get to later chapters: As the story switches between Points of View, certain names will change. The Firefly Characters will know the Buffy Characters by different names.