Another Girl Another Planet Ch 12
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A little more angst, some violence and a strange sense of honour


12. Illustrated Man.

Serenity is not living up to her name. Whole ship is a tinderbox. They haven’t sat down as a crew for best part of three days, and half the ship is not talking to the other half. The sharp, ugly row that had boiled up out of nowhere had not passed, the way others had. Jayne hasn’t been out of his bunk, except to raid the kitchen at night - they know this by the mess. Space monkeys got nothing on him.

They didn’t have no right to laugh at him like that. He ain’t a monster, got a right to feel, same as other folks. An’ Larji...he could be good to her. Gorram high-and-mighty doctor, and his sneerin’. Some folks never had the money or the brains to make anythin’ of themselves. But he ain’t afraid of hard work. Why’d he want to stay on this old crate anyhow, if all they do is laugh at him, first time he tries to share anythin’...Dashes an angry hand over his mouth, and tips up the jar again. L’il Kaylee makes a fine and potent rotgut in them engines. It ain’t gonna help, he knows, but it makes him sleep...

River won’t be on the bridge with Mal, hides herself away...

“She’s a psychic, Captain. It must be like sitting in a room with a load of radios on full volume. And no way to turn them off or down. We all have to calm down.” Simon can shut himself away in plain sight. She can feel his mind, all blue steel and locks. Frightens her, because it is a mind a width from those that came with the needles and the blue hands and the monsters...

“I am perfectly calm.” lies Mal. That face won’t win him any poker games. “You get your sister out of the walls of my gorram boat.”

Mal is boiling with an obscure sense of injustice. He knows Jayne’s hurting, but they all got hurt, just got to get past it, is all. Got a whole ship to think on, not just one man’s needs. It’s not like he wants to turn the ship around, go tell Inara some such nonsense...pushes that away. (Somewhere in the smuggling nooks of Serenity, River lets out a small wail, muffles it.) Forward, same way as always, that’s what they need to do. Keep working, and it’ll pass. It’s just Jayne, after all. Just Jayne, an’ some lust come out of the Black and the booze.

Portside engine is kicking, intermittent, and Kaylee can’t seem to trace the problem. It keeps her mind off Simon, who is distracted by River’s misery as an excuse to avoid his own. Mal can always find something for them to do, means they don’t get a chance to be together. An’ Simon don’t fight it, don’t find a reason to walk away from the glass and steel and sterile hell he’s living in. Knows she’s wicked to wish things were different, because he’s got to look to River. Still weeps a few tears into Serenity. Way Mal dismissed the idea that Core and Rim could ever make it work lurks deep in her heart, cold.

Zoe is truly worried. When Mal gets stubborn like this, ain’t nothing can talk him out of it. Might as well argue with a mountain. When she and Wash started keeping company, he had put them on opposing watches, ‘til he remembered that Zoe had learnt to go without sleep some time before. She’s rattled by Jayne’s declaration, too. It ain’t like him to go and say something that downright...honest.

River hugs her knees up, rests her forehead. The abyss is looking back. She has made a false equation. Chemical imbalance, an excruciating toothache of the brain...Eyes that look past you. Bad in the Latin.


It is with a huge sense of relief that they dock at the Space Bazaar. It ain’t a planet, but there is enough room to get away from each other for an evening.

Jayne has already slammed his way out past Mal. Only the fact he ain’t carrying his gear gives any indication that he won’t just vanish. Simon stays on board - River won’t come out in case the Captain turns her off the ship. Kaylee and Zoe walk down the ramp - they are still talking to each other, at least. Mal goes by, with a cool nod.

“I’m going to check for post, and then I’ll be at Keech’s, you need me.”

That’s the Captains’ bar. A good place to look for work...or word on new crew.

One other ship in dock, twice the size of Serenity. Another transporter, but streamlined, swift, dragonfly class. Name on the nose is Straylight.

“That’s Tanaka’s ship.” Zoe and Kaylee look at each other.


Jayne don’t know where he is. Don’t care. Place got alcohol, and that’s numbin’ the ‘verse some.

There’s a man, ain’t as good-lookin’ as he supposes, sharp-featured face and black hair worn a bit too long, puts an elbow down on the bar. He’s cut off his shirt-sleeves to show his muscles, which ain’t quite in Jayne’s class, but big enough.

“You’d be one of Reynold’s crew, yeah?”

Jayne focuses. Don’t like this face...knows it, but don’t know why he don’t like it. Growls,

“You got a reason for askin’?”

“Heard you lost your pilot. Wondered about the vacancy. Heard you got some mighty fine women on that ship.” Licks his lips obscenely.

Pilot. Women.


“Hey, you heard of me.” Man puffs up, don’t notice the way Jayne is flexing his fingers.

“I heard of you. From...Ms Donovan.”

“Oh.” Face darkens, and he looks at his hand - (tip of the little finger is crooked, as if it’s been reattached.) “Wondered who’d get the joy of her this year. She’s an icy little bitch, isn’t...”

Ain’t nobody gonna talk about Larji that way. ‘Specially not some hun dan can’t keep his pants buttoned. Jayne’s in the mood to hurt somebody, make somebody hurt as bad as he does.

An’ for Jayne, thinkin’ is pretty much doin’.


Sitting in Keech‘s, having a drink and tryin’ to relax. Not a common occurrence, and Mal ain’t good at relaxing, anyhow. And ‘cos life seems quiet, up comes a man to disturb it.

Hideo Tanaka, Captain of the Straylight, is old school. Edge of red and blue design beyond collar and cuffs when he extends a hand, turns his head. Favours black leather with scarlet-edged enamel plates on the shoulder and spine. He ain’t a man to cross. And when he’s smiling politely at you, it means you probably have.

“Captain Reynolds.”

“Captain Tanaka.” Mal keeps his hands in view. He’s probably faster on the draw...

“Is there a reason why your...ronin has disabled my pilot?”

Mal swears inwardly. The repercussions of Jayne’s little lost weekend just keep on comin’.

“You remember a Ms Donovan?”

“I...the little soap trader.” Comprehension flickers. Mal continues on.

“Seems your pilot upset her some, back when, and Jayne took it amiss.”

Tanaka’s worse than Zoe for the whole graven image deal.

“Ah. Then... Forgive me.”


Zoe hauls Jayne out of the bar scant moments before station security rolls up.

“What in hell got into you, Jayne?”

“Man was crowdin’ me.” Jayne’s sullen, still brewing. “Wanted the little man’s job, an’ everything went with it.”

Zoe’s sharp breath in has the quality of a curse. Jayne turns his head away, and they hurry back to the ship in silence.


“You know why I hit him, Captain. An’ we ain’t discussin’ it no more. First chance I can get a ride back, I’m goin’.”

Serenity without Jayne...well, they managed a good few years before him. Only three of them to remember it, now. No denying, jobs will be harder, even if food goes further.

Mal looks at him.

“Can’t keep you where you don’t want to be.”

Jayne has been an insubordinate, untrustworthy pain in the ass from the get go. He’s also indispensable in terms of directed havoc. If Zoe is his strong right hand, then Jayne is Mal’s left hook. Mal just ain’t sure that he and Zoe are enough to protect what they got.

“Took me on board to save your skins - ain’t like you ever wanted me here.” Scowl and a hitch of his shoulder.

So many orders given - ‘take point’, ‘covering fire‘. He’s put himself in front of those guns a deal of times. Ordered this man to kill for him, asked him to risk dying.

Mal can never find the right words in time to stop people walking away from him.


Kaylee finds him in the engine room. Standing there with his hand on the housing.

“M’not doing anything.” He’s gruff, defensive. “Just...taking a look around.”

“Sayin’ goodbye.” says Kaylee softly.

“Yeah.” His shoulders slump. “Reckon I’ll miss this old heap.” Tone says more.

“Oh, Jayne.” Knows he’ll hate it, but she hugs him. Awkward, he hugs her back.

“You snivellin’ over me? Gorramit, girl, I ain’t worth it. Dirty space trash like me - you ain’t gonna miss me a day.”

“’Course I will.” All the might-have-beens that never were hang between them. “But I’m gonna wish you all the luck in the ‘verse.”

“Boy’s a rutting fool.” he says, rough and sudden.

“Now, don’t you start.” Pushes him gently in the chest. “You go and love Larji, an’ be happy.”

“Dunno what kind of a shot I’m gonna make at bein’ decent.”

“Best you can. All any of us can do.”


Zoe, on the bridge, feels a pair of eyes on her.

“Anyone knows the why, reckon on it being you.”

“Yeah.” She lifts her chin. “Can’t be so afraid of losing things, that you never try and have ‘em.”

“You...don’t let Mal think of hirin’ that scumbag. Won’t none of you girls be safe with him on board.” Says in a rush, and leaves.


Kaylee sits up in her hammock, wipes her eyes, sets a determined little chin. If Jayne can go grab happiness, she can walk the length of the corridor to the infirmary.

Simon puts down the set of slides with a sigh. He’s never felt it quite this much before - how cold, how bright, how quiet, the infirmary is. His tidy little domain. And suddenly, he wants to be in the engine-room. Noise and warmth and Kaylee. Turns purposefully out of the door - and gets an armful of mechanic.

“I don’t care if the Cap’n does get mad. Serenity’s plain miserable at the moment, an’ I can’t stand it.” She burrows into his shoulder. “He can put me in the lockup.”

“Needs you to keep flying.” Gathers her up. “I’ll be the one in trouble.” Cautiously tries a little humour. “It’s my professional opinion that the man is emotionally constipated.”

“He’s certainly full of shi, sometimes.”


He’s kept away from Simon. They got nothing to say to each other, an’ if he smacks some sense into the little turd, just gonna make Kaylee cry some more. Ain’t too surprised when he looks up from stowing his weights to find the crazy looking down at him, though.

“Well, you ain’t gonna miss me none.”

“Incorrect. I...” she stops, blinks. “Neon chrysanthemums. Open the door.”

“You’re still mad as moonbeams...”

River vaults the stair-rail, right over his gorram head, and he’s still ducking back when Mal comes down the stairs. Never knows what the Captain was about to say, because there is a thunderous clang on the hatch.

Mal frowning, goes to open it.

“Captain Reynolds.”

Tanaka, alone.

“Thought we were done, Tanaka.”

The man gives a bow that carries very little servility.

“I speak of what may only be an ugly rumour, but there are those who do not look kindly upon any independent trade. If you have any concern for Ms Donovan, it might be well to move her from the path of the storm.”

(Jayne looks at River.

“He tellin’ us Larji’s in trouble?”

Blue eyes meet dark.)

“What in hell...” Mal is confused, wary.

“I...feel an obligation upon me, Captain. None you would understand...but we are both honourable men, in our way.”

Gone again in a swirl of red and black.

Textbook enigmatic.

Mal closes up the door. He don’t feel good about it, any of it. Tanaka ain’t a man to blow smoke. But he’s got a ship to fuel, crew to feed, and can’t run after rumour.

“Does anybody understand what just happened?”

He’s speaking to an empty bay.

Serenity’s engines keen, a tearing violence that shakes him, knocks him to one knee.


On a small green world, an aircar is being fuelled. Two men, stamping their feet.

“Cold as witch’s tits here.”

“Warm up soon enough.” Nasty laugh, and a hand slaps a crate, which clinks. “You have the co-ordinates?”

“Loaded in. Why are we trudging out to some one-eye town?”

“Someone crossed the boss. Needs to come and have a word.” Pause. “It’s a woman.”

“Oh-hoh.” Meagre light flickers on a blade, catches the edge of a tongue.

“Wants her alive. And we don’t touch.” (Other man spits.) “Not until...after.”


Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:26 AM


<Mal can never find the right words in time to stop people walking away from him.>

Truer words have not been written. This whole tale is just leaving me breathless.


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