The Christmas Run - concluded
Monday, January 7, 2008

“So, this the Cathouse?” Jayne Cobb dumped the flight case down and peered around with a lack of enthusiasm that was uncharacteristic. “Aint nuthin fancy, huh.”
The interior of the shuttle had been opened out to provided a reception area – the connected shuttles provided rooms. It was cramped – Jayne practically had to kneel, Simon and Kaylee were stooping - and it was bare. Someone had tried to encourage a little rustic atmosphere and there was sawdust on the floor and straw but the faery lights winking colour around the walls had a static look nonetheless – they weren’t just up for Christmas.
“Still…” Jayne, gathered himself. “Aint like to complain with the lights off anyhow. So…” He rubbed his hands expectantly.
Simon Tam sighed deeply. “Can you – for once, for a minute – just keep your mind on the job?”
“That’s exactly where it’s at Doc’”, Jayne grinned wolfishly as a young woman emerged from a hatch, “hello there sweetmeat.”
The woman smiled neutrally.
Kaylee, had been hanging back a little, stepped up. “Looks like we got us a patient Doc’… y’ready?”
Simon put on his glasses. “Yes – absolutely. Jayne would you open the case? Thank you. Ok, now – I am NOT a gynaecologist…” Kaylee threw Cobb a warning look. “But”, he held up a medi-kit “I can do standard checks, test for pregnancy and provide a general medical.” Kaylee and Jayne were pulling packs from the flight case. “We also have antibiotics and contraceptives. I will sign a certificate of general sexual health. I am a registered Doctor.”
“Just not in the core”, he added.
Erren had pressed a button on the reception desk more women began to arrive, whilst behind Simon Katee-Li and Amora entered through the main door.
“We will all feel reassured, I’m certain”, Erren said politely, “and so will our clients.”
Jayne coughed. “And payment?”
Erren nodded and a woman ducked into a hatchway, emerging moments later with first one and then another rough looking crate. Jayne growled and a low torrent of Chinese followed.
Kaylee however had, quick as a squirrel, darted forward and lifted the lid on the crate – peering in.
“Oh,” she said. And “Wow.” And eventually “… Shiny.”


River Tam was still laughing as she skipped onto a walkway and danced into the upper balcony floor of the Serenity Loading Bay. Making her way down She noted Zoe checking the seals on the freight hatches and airlocks, she could smell the scent of the men just departed, could feel some of the thoughts and emotions – such a thing would be unwelcome, if she hadn’t become so used to it.

Zoe had finished her checks. “We’re sealed and running free Sir”, she duly noted. “Pirates are floating out – Nav-com won’t fixed for some tidy time.”
“Thank you Zoe.” Mal said simply, before turning to River who was now stood against one of the airlock doors. “See, River – work, play - we don't mess the two on”-
She cut him off, her words rushing out. “They all say that – when you’re small – no time for play, they say that. Adults. And then you grow up and they say – only children play games. So nobody gets to play. But everyone plays. Everyone – all the time, everyone playing silly games… like the men that were here… playing Pirates. Everyone – just games.”
Mal coloured. “So, you’re saying we’re all just children?”
Shepherd Face caught that. “All God’s children.”
River shook her head, her expression intense. “There are no children here.”


“No children at all?” Simon was tired sounding, the job though almost done had been long. Still, he felt something he hadn’t in a long time. Job satisfaction. Or he had at least – now he was just… “I’m curious”, he admitted.
Erren was pouring herself a shot of something from a dark bottle. “That was always the rule.” She gulped it down. “No children – no wives, no families. When this place was still waitin’ on the green light to go, to go work.”
Simon started packing test kits away – he didn’t want to interrupt.
“Then – the place started – well, it grew, y’know. We were already here – or some of us – semi-legal perks of the job, a gift from the Alliance to the work force. And then, nature will take her course. So, rules – and enforcing of the rules.” She poured another shot.
“Some things got a little slack – there are couples and such here – families…. But no children.”
Tam stretched himself and drew a breath. “But the contraceptives here – your supplies had long gone…”
Erren smiled – it wasn’t a good smile. “That’s true – yes indeed.. If you hadn’t intercepted our wave…”
“That was an accident – a satellite bounce back.”
“Lucky for us. Still, yes – it’s been a while.”
Simon was standing edgily now, with his hands behind his back. “What are you telling me exactly?”
Erren was looking off into the middle distance but she was listening. “This place could’ve been cleared a long time ago – but the Alliance decided not to… we had our Doctor, we had supplies – it was… charitable, they said, of a big corporation to show an interest in the likes of us.”
One of Simon’s knuckles cracked suddenly – he was clasping his hands together more tightly than he had realised. He shifted uncomfortably. “A Corporation?”
Erren nodded slowly. “That’s correct Doctor. And you know Corporations, Firms like that – they come at a price. Still, we aint never had to feed, wash, clothe or inoculate any infants.”
Simon did not know what to say. Erren put her glass down suddenly – and with some force. “Are we done here Doctor?” she asked.


“Oh Shepherd y’gonna LOVE this!” Kaylee had enthused as she dragged the man into the galley. Solomon’s eyes took in the two crates sat on the kitchen table. “Well, well – what do we have here?”
“What do we don’t!” she exclaimed, lifting a lid.
Shepherd Face’s eyes went wide. “Oh girl,” he let out a deep pleasured sigh. “I’ll tell the Captain we got ourselves a Christmas after all… how did they – where did you…?”
“Hydroponics” Kaylee said it with italics. “It’s the secret they’ve been keeping – they got a hydroponic farm – and it works!” She pulled a peach from out the crate. “Oh boy does it work.”
A stunned Shepherd barely caught the fruit she threw to him.
“Get me to a stove woman”, he croaked finally.


The galley was a clamouring pit of Christmas mayhem, crockery, cutlery, – laughter, the tussle of wrapping paper and the delighted sounds of pleasure brought on by an unexpected gift. It was a warm and - finally - festive din. Almost. Jayne was glaring at the Captain – his eyes ablaze.

“Yoooou what now?!!” He barked.
“I just – I forgot – plain and simple.” Groaned the red handed Captain. “Well, we’ve been busy – these last few… times, age. Stop pouting Kaylee – gorram it! – I’ll make it up to you, we’ll do something… nice – another day.”
Kaylee was in fact glaring, not pouting. “Won’t be Christmas anymore then.”

Simon smiled at her from his glasses – the job was behind him now, he could puzzle through his feelings about it later. Not right now. Positive mental health - He was smiling to himself now. Leaning up against his shoulder, his sister was smiling too.
The Shepherd leaned forward from his seat and extended a cracker.
“Kaylee,” he said confidentially, “the verse is wide – got more’n 365 worlds with people standing on ‘em.” He paused significantly. “Y’know what that means?”
“We should get more jobs?” Jayne answered swift, “more money?”
Solomon was still smiling. “It means – EVERY day is CHRISTMAS day someplace.”
Kaylee twinkled. “Ah, gee Shep’ – that’s so cute…” She took the end of the cracker.
“It’s go-se”, she continued, “but cute.” She tugged and the cracker gave a satisfying bang. “Merry Christmas!” Kaylee finished.
“Merry Christmas to you too”, replied the Shepherd.
Predictably, it was Jayne who beat them in the race to grab the joke and the tiny plastic toy. But Kaylee got to wear the hat.

The End.


Monday, January 7, 2008 2:21 PM


“hello there sweetmeat.”
Best. Jayne. Line. Ever.

Aww, cute ending. Regardless the captain is a lecherous hump for forgetting.

Stars galore! *********


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