Another Girl Another Planet Ch 16
Sunday, May 28, 2006

Leaving may be easier said than done...


16. Firestarter

There are a few issues to resolve...

“You can have your own bunk...”

“Thank you, Captain, but I think that may be another decision being taken out of my hands.” She watches the small box of all that she has left in the world, disappear down the hatchway. “Excuse me, will you?”

Mal backs off. He reckons on finding something Captain-y to do elsewhere; there’s fuel less combustible than that woman’s face.


  “Jayne...” Ilargia puts her hands on her hips. “We need to get a few things straight.”

  “I’m listenin’...” With half an ear.

  “What’s all this ‘my woman’ go se?”

   “’Course you’re my woman. I’m your man, ain’t I?” He fidgets his shaving things over. “Gonna have to get us a bigger mirror. You want somethin’ with a fancy frame?”

  Ilargia, mouth open to yell at him, stops short. She looks at the very large man standing in front of her, still looking a little singed around the edges, pistol on one hip, knife on the other, even now, putting out another toothbrush over the basin.

  It really is that straightforward. The ’verse according to Jayne. Her man.

  Jayne don’t know why she’s laughing. Seems simple enough to him.

  “Just...a few things to get used to, is all.” She pulls his head down, kisses him. “I thought you were being a macho pi gu - should have realised you were just”

  “Knew I was gonna get this wrong...”

  “You’re getting it right. Mostly. Were you going to ask me before we took off?”

  “Well, yeah, but I thought it was a kinda obvious choice.”   

He’s not subtle. But he doesn’t play games.

He will look after her, whether she wants him to, or not, best way he knows how. So there will be a later that they can fight about it in.


Crew all have things to do, final prep, except their newest recruit. She stands at the edge of the cargo door, taking one last look at the planet that has been home for the last while, and that she’s having to leave so suddenly.

 “I conjure we’d best leave soon as we’ve finished fuelling...” Mal swings a cold eye in Jayne’s direction, “Being as we burnt a deal getting here. Be needing that roll of bills you were flashin’ earlier.”

“’S’my money. I’ll go an’ pay.” Jayne grumbles.

“Face like that, you’ll probably get a discount.” Ilargia pets him on the rear as he goes past, and he grins at her. They both watch him stomp off across the tarmac, disappears behind the cargo crates of the spaceport.

“All the men in the ‘verse, and you go and pick that one.”

“Only one ever ran into a burning building for me, Captain. A mere ‘thank you’ don’t quite cut it.” She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Couple of weeks ago, my life was...ordinary. Dull. I jumped at the chance to get off planet for a while, do some travelling. Now some criminal bloody lunatic has torched my house, and I’m going to have to jump a deal more than I ever intended. Lucky that there are some compensations.”

“Quit foolin’, Gia. You don’t have to do anything you don‘t want to.”

“I’m not. Didn’t set out to go falling in love with some damn space pirate.” Sighs. “Still would have liked to make a choice that was a choice.”

He understands that. She gives him a wry grin.

“Captain...Mal,” She puts her hand on his arm. “It’s fine. Been taking care of myself a long time now. It’ll be a novel experience having someone else try.”

Mal looks at her. Getting a feel for her strength, now. Practical, cynical, with a wry outlook on the ‘verse that sits comfortable with him. Woman’s not a soldier, but she’s a fighter. He leaves her to reckon it out for herself.


Some salve to her pride that at least she is leaving with some sketchily defined purpose. She will be able to work her passage, and whatever arrangement she and Jayne come to will not be part of it. She was honest when she said to the Captain that she would have left with him if he’d asked her to, but there would always have been her home, her bolt-hole, if it had gone wrong. Now, she’s about to jump, with no safety net.

Someone peering up the ramp, waving at her.

“Ms Donovan? I’ve got a message from Juno...”

Ilargia recognises the girl, vaguely. Pulls the name out of her memory; Sascha. Nice of Juno to say good bye - she regrets not having time to say any proper farewells. Walks down the ramp with a smile.

She’s not expecting it. A strong arm round her neck, a pad of cloth over her face, stink...


Jayne jogs back from the office, lighter in the pocket, but not caring too much. He’s kept some back, enough to buy Larji something nice to wear, next time they stop anyplace. Something slinky, maybe. Or some more of them little heeled boots...

He’s round the corner, and taking in the tableau before anyone can move.

Larji, hung limp in the grasp of some hard-faced san ba, and three men who don’t mean anything good.

Gun drawn, and into the mix before anyone gets a sight on him. Close quarter work, this, no space to get a decent shot off, ‘less he can get the barrel up under a chin. Two of the men are big, hard-faced stevedores. He’s got one down, when a foot lashes out, up under his wrist, and the gun goes spinning. Shock of numb fingers, and the boot continues up, takes him under the chin.

Jayne’s had the boot put in before, but never from head height. He’s still groggy, when arms round his neck, weight on his back, cloth over his nose. Smash back into the crates, but the world...

 Wei Fen puts a boot on the fallen man’s chest, regards him. Discards the gun.

“If he is so keen to come with us, we will oblige him.” Sharks have warmer eyes. Wipes his mouth, regards the blood on his thumb.

None of his men venture an opinion. They would all prefer that their boss beat a stranger to death.


Sascha picks herself up, dazed and bruised from being slammed into the crates. That monster was strong. She’d have put a bullet in him, not indulged herself. But Wei Fen likes pain, the way others like gambling. He doesn’t even look at her, just tosses a roll of bills down, and walks after his captives. She would prefer it that way; not being noticed is how she works, after all.

She picks up the notes, counts them, face avid. Enough to get off this world, start again...

An olive hand over her mouth, and one sharp instant of pain as the blade takes her.

“May Amemait devour your heart.”


“Where’n hell have you been?”

“No time. Wei Fen has Gia.” A handful of stained bills on the table. “Plugged our leak.”

“Ta ma de.” A pause. “Who?”



“There’s more. He has one of the ship’s crew, too. Gia’s man.”

“Then we may have allies. Time we ended this.”


Mal scowls out across the spaceport, worried.

“If those two are making out behind the crates...”

“Captain,” Zoe, face calm, but eyes betray tension. “Found this over the end of the ramp.”

Jayne’s gun. Mal swears. Catches River as she careers down the ramp.

“Taken them...they’re still alive. All made up of rage...” Panic in River’s voice. “Their minds have gone...soft.” Disorientation, jumbled images, make her nauseous. The city is a teeming mass of thoughts, signals getting lost in the ether...

“River.” Mal’s bruising her hands with his grip, but it steadies her, holds her in time and space. “What‘s happening?”

“Can’t find them...” Eyes wide. “Found him. Smoke and anger.” It’s one of the nastiest minds River has ever touched. Sane, but vicious. Retches miserably. “He’s not hurt her yet. Waiting for Jayne to wake up.”

“That may be the dumbest thing that man has ever done.” Mal is checking his gun.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what has happened. Or what they will have to do now.

“We gonna be enough to do this, Sir?”

“Have to be.”

“Captain.” River’s voice is quiet. “I of use.”


“This is my truth, Captain. See it.” She reaches out her hands, palms up. “I am more than a weapon, but the weapon is a part of me.”

Mal ain’t gonna discuss it. He don’t want her to do this. Little girl shouldn’t have to...

  A small hand rests on his. Delicate and strong.

  “I’m all grown up now, Captain. Pain steps closer while we argue.” She ventures a smile. “So imagine that we have argued, and that I’ve won. I am a person, actual and whole. And the person chooses.”  

So much has been done to her against her will. But that will is still strong, shines in her eyes. She picks up Jayne’s gun.

Simon sets his jaw.


“I’m not discussing the merits of not takin’ River...”

“Give me a gun, Mal.” Holds out a firm hand. “I’m not sitting this out.”

“You sure on this, Doc?” Mal’s only slightly surprised. Doc’s grown a deal in his time aboard. Every man has to make his own stand.

“I can point it in the right general direction.” Simon ventures a small smile. “You need all the firepower you can. I can aim to misbehave.”

“Long as you ain’t aimin’ at me.” Mal hands him a pistol.

Gun feels strange in his hand, but not as awkward as it should do. Checks and loads with his usual calm precision. Kaylee bites her lip.

“You shouldn’t hafta...”

“I do.” He tells her gently.

“Brothers.” says River softly. “Family take care of each other, even if they fight...”

“Reckon you’ll take care of him.” Mal says. That wasn’t what River meant, but she doesn’t argue. “Zoe, prep the mule. Kaylee, darlin’, you gonna mind the wheel?” ‘Cos while the doc don’t look too out of place packin’, it’s just plain wrong on their little mechanic. Kaylee nods.

River raises her head. Points.

“Company’s coming.”

Small, fast craft bootleg turns into a gap barely wide enough.

“You needin’ some extra firepower, Captain?” Juno has a gun near as big as Vera.


“Had a deal of trouble, thefts, brawling...a fire, last week. Found out we had ourselves an insider.”

“Someone sold you out.”

“It has been...dealt with.” Juno looks at Tiy, but the pilot says nothing more.

“The sphinx keeps her secrets.” River sees the picture unfold in her mind. “Saw them taken, but there was only one. Can’t turn bullets into doves, had to watch.” River and Tiy stare at each other. “But the traitor will be weighed, and wanting.”

Juno and Mal are facing off over the table.

“Ain’t interested in gang warfare. Just want our people back is all.”

“Cut the head off a snake, body dies. I been waiting a while for my shot at this cao ni xiao gou, Captain. Gia is in the middle of this because of me. Bad enough he burns my business. He don’t get to burn my friends. Wei Fen is street level scum. Extortion, prostitution, gambling. There’s nothing here to tempt in off-world interest, so he gets a free hand.” Juno snorts. “’Course, that keeps him pinned here, too. He’d like to be an intergalactic criminal, but he’s just a local pain in the ass.”

“So, if we step on him, ain’t nobody gonna come after us? I’m liking this.”

“He’s no pushover. Got a building in the city, got guards and guns.”

“Oh, we got guns.” Mal’s hand touches his pistol, once, lightly. “And we ain’t a pushover, neither.”


“He got your gun-hand, too?” Juno considers. “That’s gonna be an interesting meet. Way I remember him, he ain’t the type of man’s gonna wake up sunny.”

“If Wei Fen ain’t shot him.”

River shakes her head.

“Wants him to watch. Ringside seat.”

 Temperature drops several degrees.

“Keep the front occupied, we can maybe mount an assault through the back...”

  “Land on the roof.” says Tiy, quietly.

“Are you that good?”

“Flight lieutenant Tiy Fathy, 13th Airborne.” The exotic eyes are calm.

“Screaming Phoenix.” Mal’s impressed. “I thought you were...disbanded on New Kashmir.”

Tiy gestures to her foot.

“Some of us weren’t there.”

Disbanded. The remnants of the squadron had formed into a flying wedge, and taken down the Alliance command ship. The ultimate blaze of glory.

One guilty survivor looks at another.

“Aircar will only take three at a pinch, if you‘re wanting passengers.”

Mal hesitates.


“I’ll take the ground force.” Dark glance. “Take River.”

No time for anything resembling subtlety. The plan is simple, brutally effective.


Sunday, May 28, 2006 3:26 AM


The simple equation her man=his woman, that would be how Jayne would see it.

Great installment here, I love the I've got to go back and read all the rest!

Good work!

Sunday, May 28, 2006 9:37 AM


Your take on Jayne with a girlfriend is fascinating: simple, but true. I like the fact that he is trying to make her a part of his life rather than an attachment. Shows he has concern and feelings that make him the non-trained ape type of person.

I am afraid for Larji and moreso for Jayne. I hope you don't have something horrible happen to her making Jayne go into a reavery-styled rage that he might be able to recover from. Still, I am anxiously waiting for the next chapter and foresee it to be a real nailbiter.

Sunday, May 28, 2006 6:25 PM


Loving this series, SpaceAnJL! OCs are funny creatures, but your Larji is quite the character to plop in the midst of our beloved crew;)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006 8:47 AM


SpaceAnjl, you are now part of my regular writers to look for. Damn good!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006 11:09 AM


“I’m all grown up now, Captain. Pain steps closer while we argue.” She ventures a smile. “So imagine that we have argued, and that I’ve won. I am a person, actual and whole. And the person chooses.”

What a wonderful take on River as empowered. Bravo!


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