Mal was used to having a couple of the crew stumble in drunk as lords after a night on the town, hell half the time he was one of them, but tonight's group took the cake.First River and Xander had shown up…
“We are three little domesticated animals of a normally skittish temperament who are kept as much for their hair as for a source of protein who are currently,” River and Xander sang in chorus as they came in, smelling of beer and looking like they'd been in a fight.
“Did you have fun, mei mei?” Mal asked.
River giggled. “It was lots of fun, even if it was a bit salty.” Seeing Mal's confusion River explained, “Xander's nuts.”
“Well, that explains why he's lost his pants,” Mal said kindly and shooed them both aboard.
“You handled that remarkably well,” Inara said.
“From what Dawn said, they're a lot alike; enough so I don't have to hover and worry about River being taken advantage of because they're on the same level.”
“It was well done in any case,” Inara reiterated.
A short while later Jayne came in, something clutched in his hands and tears in his eyes.
“S-she paid me!” Jayne stuttered and continued onward into the ship.
Dawn opened her mouth but Mal spoke up, “No idea and we'll probably sleep better not knowing.”
Inara added her two cents, “Years ago I would have said that was a shallow point of view and if a friend was crying you should find out why, but years ago I hadn't met Jayne.”
“Does Faith know you guys are going to be staying on board, or is there somewhere you're all supposed to meet up?” Mal asked.
“She doesn't know where we're staying, but she'll show up here anyway; she can sense where we are,” Dawn replied.
“How does she do that?” Mal asked.
Dawn opened her mouth but before she could say anything Faith showed up.
“Hey Little-D,” Faith greeted her. “You should’ve come with, it was a blast! I'll tell you about it later, right now I need some sleep and Xander's penis is thataway!” Faith said, pointing at part of the ship before rushing past.
Dawn sipped her tea and waited for Inara and Mal to recover from their first exposure to Faith.
“Did she say…” Mal began.
“Yep,” Dawn interrupted.
“She can really?” Inara questioned, waving her hand in the direction Faith headed.
“No idea,” Dawn replied. “I'm pretty sure she can sense where we are and is just teasing me but you never know.”
The three finished their tea in silence.
“I say we repress all of this and deal with the bits we can't ignore in the morning,” Mal suggested cheerfully.
“What a coincidence, I was just thinking the same thing!” Dawn declared, smiling brightly.
Inara giggled. 0oOo0
Mal stepped into the ship's dining area and his mouth started watering.
The ship's small table had been covered with a large white tablecloth and was nearly buried in the kind of food you normally had to live on a farm to get: pancakes, butter, syrup, eggs, bacon, gravy, biscuits, fresh fruit, and even a couple of things he'd never seen before. The crew was eating like it was their last meal, which matched up with their new guests who ate the same way. Mal even saw a couple of folks stealing food from each other's plates. Taking a quick head count, he realized someone was missing. “Anyone seen Jayne?”
“Not since he came on board crying last night about some girl paying him,” Dawn replied.
“Oops,” Faith said, looking guilty for a moment.
“What did you do?” Dawn asked suspiciously, gazing intently at Faith while Xander took advantage of her inattention to steal a sausage patty off her plate.
“Well I ran into a guy who asked how much I charged,” Faith began and both Willow and Dawn groaned, expecting the worst, “then I got this really wicked idea that I just had to do...”
“Jayne pick up a few new scars?” Simon asked.
“Only emotional ones,” Faith promised to a chorus of groans.
“The smell of breakfast should have roused him from a coma,” Kaylee pointed out, “someone is going to have to talk to him.”
“One, two, three … not it!” River and the Scoobs quickly chorused, followed by the rest of the table before Mal realized what was going on.
Mal's mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally said, “You're all going to a very bad place I hope you know.”
“Yeah, but if we're lucky we'll do it without acquiring mental scars from knowing what Faith did to make Jayne cry,” Inara replied. 0oOo0
Hidden underground, on a planet that had been glassed, was the complex where the Blue Gloves were trained.
It was rumored that the training was so tough only one in three actually survived; it wasn't true of course, more like one in six. To hide this fact they were forced to use the banned technology of cloning to keep their numbers up.
A large part of that was due to the computerized control program that oversaw their training, it was adapted from a pre Earth-That-Was system running something called Windows, or possibly Aperture – the translation from English to Chinese then back again had confused the issue.
At any rate, it was programmed to ensure that the students learned and followed the philosophy and mindset that all agents were trained in and to ensure the use of cloning tech didn't produce any obvious mutations.
The number of surviving agents had improved a bit since the agent in charge of the program, Samuel Vinitry, had started to debug the AI so it could no longer give out conflicting orders and have those that disobeyed them terminated... quite as often.
Samuel had been an agent so long that his complex issued gloves had faded to violet, and in all that time he had yet to see an agent quite like Julie Crenshaw.
The complex was designed to turn humans into monsters; blue gloved agents would do whatever it took to accomplish their mission regardless of what it cost them. They were allowed no illusions about who they were and what they did, they were monsters one and all. But they were monsters for the sake of humanity, they fought to preserve the Core so that humanity would advance and thrive.
And yet, somehow Agent Crenshaw had graduated; the computer's suggestion that she be terminated for being a mutant with the ability to influence probability was ignored despite the reams of statistical data it offered to back up its assertion.
Agent Vinitry looked over the graduating class; 18 perfect lines of 16 year old agents standing at attention, fully decked out in matte black combat outfits with the bright blue gloves that were their trademark.
Not a single one of the 180 graduates so much as twitched while he inspected them, something that would have been obvious as the customary black trench coat would have shown any such movement.
Walking down the rows he stopped in front of Julie Crenshaw, Julie Crenshaw who only looked a year or two older than the agents surrounding her despite being 32, having been put through the program twice, her own gloves already beginning to shade into indigo.
Where all the other recruits had neutral expressions on their faces she wore a bright and happy smile. 0oOo0
Mal knocked tentatively on Jayne's door, hoping he wouldn't hear so he could join everyone else at breakfast claiming Jayne didn't answer.
“Come in!” Jayne called out.
Mal winced, “Ta ma de!” he cursed. AN: Typing by Godogma! Because I hate typing that’s why!