BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ADVENTURE

NAUTICALGAL

The Legacy of Uncle Jack, ch. 5/11
Monday, November 13, 2006

Wash's story, from age 17 through shortly after Kaylee joins Serenity.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2345    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Frame Story: Wash says goodbye to the dinosaurs Backstory: Wash says goodbye to Tanaka

5.

“This is it,” Wash said, stopping in front of an office building with a façade of black marble and smoked glass. Mal, who was looking in a different direction, nearly ran Wash over.

“Oh,” he said, looking up at the building distractedly. “The service is when?”

Wash checked the time on a bank clock across the street. “We’ve got a little over an hour.”

“Huh. Well.” Mal scratched his head. He hated funerals – Wash had learned that much during their brief association – but seemed to feel for some reason that he ought to attend Jack’s. “Me and Kaylee are going to see about the refits the ship needs. If we get a chance, we may come back.” He wandered off, still distracted. Kaylee threw Wash and Zoe an apologetic glance before trailing away after her captain.

“It won’t bother me if he doesn’t make it,” Wash said to Zoe, as they watched Mal and Kaylee disappear down the block.

“Not sure he cares if it would bother you,” Zoe said, frowning. “Something’s up, but he hasn’t told me what, yet.”

Wash shrugged. “Maybe it’s not that important. Come on,” he grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the building. Inside, he led her across the marbled foyer to the elevators and pushed the “up” button. “I wanted to be here early for a reason.” He stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the tenth floor.

“The service –“ Zoe said.

“Is in the founder’s hall on the third floor, I know,” Wash said.

“You told Mal you wanted some private time to say goodbye,” Zoe pointed out.

“Not to Uncle Jack,” Wash said, and Zoe looked sideways at him. Who besides his uncle could he want to say goodbye to?

The bell chimed for the tenth floor. Wash pulled Zoe out of the elevator and stopped.

“Close your eyes,” he told her.

She frowned at him. “You’re not going to spin me around and then tell me to pin something to the wall, are you?” she asked. She’d seen Wash in a variety of moods, but since they’d arrived on Boros for his uncle’s memorial service, he’d swung back and forth between grief and exuberance in a way that worried her just a little. She wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Huh? No – I just want to show you something. I want you to get the full effect.”

Zoe looked around the room –Jack Tallis’s reception room, which appeared in no way unusual. The company name – Tallis Transportation – was mounted in large silver letters on the back wall behind a chest-high desk; the floor was yet more marble tile, in dark browns. There were a couple of potted plants, a fish tank, some seating, and a set of paneled oak double doors that presumably led to Jack’s office. The full effect? Of what? She was still getting over the fact that Wash had an incredibly wealthy uncle, when she’d never known him to have a penny to his name.

Well, whatever it was, he wasn’t going to show her until she closed her eyes, so she did.

Wash took her hand and led her to the double doors – she knew that because she’d assessed the layout of the room already, and he hadn’t – thank goodness -- spun her around with her eyes closed. Once they had passed through the double doors, he led her fifteen steps by a zigzag route before he stopped her and said, “Okay.”

“I can open my eyes now?”

“Yeah. Now.”

Obediently, Zoe opened her eyes – and opened them even wider when she found herself face to face with the most bizarre creature she had ever seen. Only the certain knowledge that Wash would not have led her into danger prevented her pulling her guns and shooting the beast. It certainly looked scary enough to shoot -- thirty feet long if it was an inch, and its head was easily as large as Zoe herself. Two long horns emerged from its head just behind each eye, and another jutted from the tip of its nose. A backswept plate of bony armor covered its neck.

“It’s a triceratops,” Wash said, patting the creature affectionately along its spine. “His name’s Tony.”

“Is it . . . alive?” Zoe asked, noting that the triceratops turned its head slightly to take in Wash with its beady eyes.

“No, it’s a robot. Dinosaurs were extinct ages before humans ever walked on earth-that-was. Uncle Jack had these custom-built. He loved the big lizards.”

“Sounds like he wasn’t the only one,” Zoe said, watching her husband -- did I really marry this man? -- examine a spot of wear in the mechanical creature’s hide with as much concern as if it had been a living, breathing thing.

“Yeah. I had a set of my own, once – little plastic ones. Kid’s toys.” He sounded sad.

“What happened to them?” she asked. Had his mother thrown them out? Some neighborhood bully dumped them in the local sewer?

“My bunkmate chopped them up to spite me,” Wash said unhappily, and Zoe blinked. Bunkmate? As in, something that had happened to him as an adult, not as a child? She pressed her lips together and forced her laughter down into her throat so completely that her chest ached from the effort. It was one thing to laugh at Wash when he was being wry, or deliberately goofy; but she would not dream of laughing at something that seemed genuinely painful to him, however absurd it might seem to her.

She glanced to either side, seeking a distraction, and saw more of the outsize monsters shambling about. Wash followed her gaze, and leaped to introduce her to the rest of his Uncle’s strange menagerie. “This is Suzy. She’s a stegosaurus. ‘Saurus’ means lizard. They were egg-layers, you know. Dinosaurs. This one’s Andy, he’s an ankylosaurus. There were some huge dinos – bigger than these. Brontosauruses and the really gigantic plant eaters – but Uncle Jack liked the ones he could have in his office with him. So these are mostly the smaller ones. He does have a T. Rex, though.” Wash grabbed her hand and pulled her toward a door set into a glass wall at the back of the room. Through the glass, she could see a tastefully furnished office – and a large, 2-legged dinosaur with teeth as long as her hand, which stared at them from behind the desk.

“Oh, my,” she said. She glanced sideways at Wash, who was grinning. “Does that one have a name?”

“Rex,” Wash said, as though it should have been obvious.

“Of course.”

Wash tried the door, but it was locked. He shrugged. “Sorry, Rex,” he said to the dino. “Guess you don’t get to come to the party.”

“We’d better get back, though,” Zoe said.

Wash took her hand and started back through the room full of dinosaurs. He gave each one an affectionate pat with his free hand as he passed among them. “Bye, Andy. Bye, Suzy. Guess I won’t be seeing you all again. You keep an eye on things, hear me?”

“Wash. They’re robots,” Zoe said.

“I know,” he said. “I think I could have been a paleontologist, if I’d lived on earth-that-was. Give up the sky to dig in the dirt all the time, and look for the traces of these big guys.”

Zoe smiled, thinking of the dreams of millions of children, dashed by the discovery that they lived entirely in a terraformed ‘verse, with no history of great lizards and lost civilizations to discover. Did we lose something we can’t recover, when we left behind Atlantis and Brigadoon and Shangri-La?

**

One year earlier – 2513

The Jing Qi was a decommissioned military cargo transport from a much earlier era. Blocky and inelegant, it handled well enough in space but was buckish and stubborn in atmo, relying more on its overpowered, fuel-chewing engines to stay aloft than on any aerodynamics in its design. Fully half of the ship's mass was engines and fuel, and much of the rest of was cargo space. What little remained contained the bridge, with stations for a pilot, co-pilot, comms officer, weapons officer, and deck officers. With all those people on the bridge it would have been crowded, but Wash typically had the place pretty much to himself, unless Tanaka or the first mate came around.

They didn't, much. Being an ex-military ship, Jing Qi's sleeping quarters and messes were separate for officers and crew. The crew's quarters had four bunks apiece, with two storage lockers to a bunk, and space for sixteen crew. Tanaka didn't carry that many, of course; the two gun hands who'd been aboard when Wash came on each had a bunk to themselves, and Wash bunked with the ship’s mechanic. He and Ty got on tolerably well.

But this new roommate, Wash was less certain about.

The newest gun hand aboard Jing Qi was an undersized punk who went by the ridiculously pretentious name of ‘Notch.’

“For the notches in mah gun,” he informed Wash and Ty, displaying a battered weapon with evident pride, but less evident skill. “Kind of a name is Wash, anyway?” he asked. “That one of them joke-type nicknames, where eva-body calls you that ‘cuz you don’t never do it? Like calling some dog ‘Killer’ when it pisses itself at a kitten?”

Wash glanced apprehensively at Ty. “Sure. Like that. Why d’you think they make the new guy bunk with me?”

Notch frowned, failing to get the joke. “Wall, that’ll change,” he said in his exaggerated drawl, which Wash suspected to be a pretense at streetwise toughness. “I ain’t livin’ with no stinky roommate.”

“Sure,” Wash agreed. “I’ll start tonight. After all, I wouldn’t want to offend your ladyship’s delicate sensibilities with my manly odor.”

Notch was on his feet instantly, shaking a fist in Wash’s face. “You take that ladyship crack back! Or I sure will mash up your face something awful!”

Wash stared at Notch’s clenched fist – all bones and veins, no larger than a small apple – and then at the youth’s livid face. Hot temper, no sense of humor was his assessment, and even I could wipe the floor with this punk – except for the fact that he’s the type who’d be happy to shoot me in my sleep.

“I take it back,” Wash said mildly. “My sincerest apologies.” Next time I take a poke at you, you won’t know enough to be offended, you stupid little git.

Notch subsided, sitting back down on his bunk and casting dark glances at Wash and Ty. “I’m going to get some sleep now, so y’all keep it down. I’m a real light sleeper.” He tucked himself into his bunk, with his face to the wall.

Wash and Ty exchanged glances. This punk wouldn’t last a week – all that hot air, and no substance. The other gun hands would dump him in an alley and come back looking innocent, next landfall most likely. But while he did last, Notch was clearly going to make the two of them miserable.

**

It took Wash a few seconds to process what he was seeing, when he ducked through the hatch into the bunk he now shared with Ty, the mechanic, and Notch, the punk. Small pieces of colored plastic littered his bed; he didn’t realize what they were until he noticed his dinosaurs were missing from the shelf above his pillow.

Notch.

“You seemed a little old for toys,” the would-be gun hand said nastily, and Wash spun around. Notch was lying on his back in his own bunk, casually carving a yellow stegosaurus to pieces with a small clasp knife.

Wash grabbed Notch by the collar and threw him onto the deck. “You cheong bao ho tze punk! How dare you carve up my stuff!" He snatched the mutilated stegosaur off the floor, but was too slow to kick the knife away. Notch came up slashing in the close quarters, catching Wash in the elbow with the point of the blade. Wash yelped, falling backwards into his own bunk.

"I'll teach you to touch me!" Notch cried, scrambling to his feet while Wash tried to recover. Before he could maneuver in the small space, though, Ty ducked through the hatch.

"Hey!" The mechanic, quickly assessed the situation -- the blood, the knife, the carved-up bits of plastic. He grabbed Notch's arm and pulled it up behind the youth's back.

"Let me go!" Notch wailed.

"No. Hold him," Wash snarled, pulling himself to his feet.

Ty shook his head. "I ain't gonna hold him so you can beat him."

"I'm not gonna beat him. I'm gonna take him to Tanaka, and let Tanaka do it."

Notch smirked.

Wash put his face right up to Notch's. "Don't get too smug. Next time I'll turn you over to the real gun hands on this ship. They think murder is a form of entertainment."

If this thought was sobering to Notch, he didn't show it.

Wash gathered up the mess of hacked-up plastic from his bunk, and led the way to the officers' mess room, where Tanaka sat at the table working on his accounts. Ty, still twisting Notch's arm, followed.

Wash scattered the colored plastic across Tanaka's books. The captain looked up at him, then past him to where Ty still held the scrawny gun hand.

"What's going on?"

"The ship's rat has decided that carving up other people's things is a real good time," Wash accused.

"Also carving up pilots, apparently," Tanaka said, taking in Wash's bloody elbow. His scar twitched, and he reached up absently to rub it, his stylus still clutched between his fingers.

"I woulda done it up right if this huen dahn hadn't interfered," Notch boasted, shrugging up at Ty behind him.

Tanaka stared down at his account books, and the bits of plastic scattered across them, and sighed. He stood and walked over to Notch, reaching around the youth to take his wallet from his back pocket.

"What're you doing?" Notch demanded, struggling ineffectively against Ty's hold.

Tanaka opened Notch's battered wallet and pulled out some bills. "You owe him for the dinosaurs," he said, handing the money to Wash. To the mechanic, Tanaka said "Bring me his weapons -- all of them," and handed Ty the key to Notch's lockers.

Released, Notch rubbed at his shoulder and eyed the captain insolently.

Tanaka grabbed the boy, spun him around and threw him up against a bulkhead, where he proceeded to frisk him. He took the knife, but found nothing else. Pressing the boy's face to the wall with one heavy fist, he turned to Wash. "I'll take care of this. You go see to that arm."

Wash nodded, and left.

**

Wash's homeworld had four continents; he'd grown up on the northern continent in the eastern hemisphere. He'd never been to any of the other continents, until he went with Tanaka and the Jing Qi to the other northern continent, in the western hemisphere. The two continents were linked by a twisting isthmus that divided two oceans, but they were as different as night and day. The smog, while still evident, was not nearly as bad here, although the stars were still invisible because of light pollution. In addition to heavy industry, the town of Chalmer Station was known as a good place to buy a used space ship -- Tanaka had bought the Jing Qi from a dealer here, so coming served a dual purpose -- he could pay on his note, and they could run a large job shipping Bible paper offworld.

What Wash cared most about, though, was that it was far enough away from where he'd grown up that he didn't have to feel guilty about not visiting his folks. Just the thought of being called "Hobie" was enough to make him wish to be halfway across the 'verse, instead of halfway around the world.

"Bible paper?" Wash asked as he settled the Jing Qi on a concrete pad just beyond the grounds of a sprawling complex of corrugated metal buildings with concrete smokestacks. "There's something special about Bible paper?"

"Guess so," Tanaka said. "Thinner than regular paper, I guess, but the print can't show through. So I guess it takes some kind of special process to make it." He clapped Wash on the shoulder as the engines powered down. "Everybody loads."

Loading wasn't usually part of Wash's job description, so this must be a big cargo. Wash followed Tanaka through the ship to the cargo bay, where Ty and the gun hands were all waiting for the captain. Tanaka pressed the button that opened the bay doors, and the Jing Qi's elaborate hatch-and-ramp system cycled into action. When the ramp was finally on the ground, Tanaka strode down it with his first mate and disappeared into a cinderblock office building with a couple of men in khaki pants and hard hats.

Moments later, the cargo started showing up, borne by forklifts. Pallets of plastic-wrapped cartons of paper -- endless reams of it. Using borrowed pallet jacks and brute strength, the crew of the Jing Qi stacked the hold full of the stuff. Notch, Wash noticed, wasn't a whole lot of help. Brute force wasn't the kid's strong suit in any event, and he was still moving stiffly from Tanaka's thrashing, although he had no bruises that showed. Wash, with his bandaged elbow, wasn't a whole lot better off, but he was determined to make a better showing than the little brat.

With every pallet they loaded, Wash recalculated the amount of thrust it was going to take to get the ship off-world, and the amount of fuel, and how much they'd have to make on the job for it to be worthwhile.

He decided, in the end, that Bible paper must be pretty expensive stuff, based on shipping costs alone.

They had the last pallets loaded before Tanaka had reappeared, and Wash sat on a stack of paper next to Ty and wiped his sweat-matted hair back from his forehead with a grimy sleeve. The other two gun hands lounged in the shade further back in the hold.

Notch was nowhere to be seen.

"Where'd the punk go?" Wash asked.

"Slipped out, I guess," Ty said with a shrug. "Wasn't much use anyway."

But no sooner had they spoken of him than Notch appeared from behind a stack of pallets, hands shoved in his pants pockets, and sauntered over to the lounging gun hands. He said something to them, and they started to laugh.

"Beats the devil out of me," Wash said, "But the gun hands seem to like that little snot."

"They like him because he gets under your skin," Ty said. When Wash gave him a pained look, he added, "Sorry. But they do. Gun hands don't like pilots. You know that."

"Mechanics don't seem to bother them," Wash said. "Why pick on pilots? And don't give me that go seh about pilots not taking the same risks as everybody else. I was nearly kidnapped one time because I was the pilot, and I never knew anybody wanted to snatch a gun hand."

Ty shook his head. "'Cause you got all that education, maybe? Maybe they think they got to keep you from putting on airs."

One of the gun hands bestirred himself and walked to the cinderblock building where Tanaka had gone, and went inside.

Wash sighed. Far as he knew, he'd never gone out of his way to give anybody reason to dislike him, and he couldn't imagine anyone thinking he was giving himself airs of any kind. But Ty was right; gun hands hated pilots, categorically. It was just the way of the 'verse.

Notch ambled over to them, looking uncharacteristically content. "He's gone to ask for leave," the kid said, tossing his head in the direction of the cinderblock building. "Cap'n says it's okay, we're gon' go wash our throats in town a while. Y'all coming along?"

"Are you going?" Wash asked.

"My throat's as dry as anybody's," Notch said easily, with no hint of defensiveness.

"Then I'll pass," Wash replied, not caring that the insult might be transparent enough for even the slightly dimwitted Notch to catch.

But Notch only shrugged, with a faint, smug smile. "Suit yourself."

The gun hand returned from the cinderblock building, giving them a thumbs-up sign as he came. "Cap'n says we're leaving in the morning," he said. "Got liberty tonight."

Notch grinned, and joined the gun hand as they slipped behind the pallets of Bible paper to climb onto the Jing Qi's mule for the ride into town.

Ty stood and stretched. "Wait for me," he called.

"What, you're going?" Wash asked, feeling slightly betrayed.

"My throat's as dry as anybody's," Ty said. "Besides, I wouldn't want the gun hands thinking I'm some kind of friend to pilots." He grinned as he caught a light punch from Wash on his bicep. "You need to stay sober anyway -- fly the ship," he admonished as he joined the gun hands on the mule. The gun hands heard that last jab and laughed as they drove off the ramp -- one driving, Ty and Notch and the other riding on the flatbed trailer, sitting on some kind of cushion. No, not a cushion, Wash noted as they pulled away toward town. A stuffed duffel. Stuffed with what? Wash wondered. Well, maybe Notch just decided he needed his ease for riding into town -- or back out again, once he was stinking drunk.

Wash headed for the bridge, where he keyed in the weight of the load and figured whether they had enough fuel. If they didn't, he'd be the one heading back into town in the morning to get what they needed, since the whole crew would be hung over and Tanaka and the first mate wouldn't want that chore. But it looked like they had enough, with a little extra, so once he'd figured a few possible courses, Wash gave in to boredom and headed for his bunk.

He ducked through the hatch, and stood speechless with disbelief.

Now he knew what Notch had been up to while the rest of them were breaking their backs loading Bible paper.

His mattress and pillow were in shreds.

Worse, both of his footlockers stood open -- the way the doors were bent and mangled, they'd been broken open. And they were empty. Everything he owned was gone.

Wash turned and headed for the cargo bay, feet thudding on the deckplates. It was dark now; Tanaka and the first mate were just returning from their meeting with the folks at the plant, shuffling slowly through the pools of light from the pole lights that ringed the landing pad. From the smell of it, there had been wine with dinner. But Wash didn't pause to figure strategy. He was too angry.

"I want him off the ship," he growled, teeth clenched.

Tanaka stopped. Blinked. "Who?"

"That lio coh jwei ji neong hur ho deh yung duh buhn jah j'wohn punk you stuck me with for a bunkmate. He goes, or I do."

Tanaka frowned, gave his head a little shake, and focussed his narrowed eyes on Wash. "What now?"

"My bunk is shredded, and he cleaned out my lockers. Everything's gone. I had three hundred bucks in there! Plus all of my clothes -- everything!" Wash suddenly made the connection between his missing things and the duffel that Notch had been sitting on when he left for town, and swore. No wonder the punk had been so sanguine. He'd been pulling a nasty con!

Tanaka looked at the first mate, who excused himself with a sympathetic look at his boss. When the mate had gone, Tanaka stepped forward and put a hand on Wash's shoulder. He started to speak, but stopped. Finally he reached for his wallet, and pulled out a wad of cash.

"There's about two hundred there -- all I've got on me," Tanaka said, holding out the money to Wash. "I'll make good on the rest, too."

"What about the punk?" Wash demanded, scorning the money.

Tanaka sighed heavily, and walked over to sit on one of the pallets of Bible paper. Wash followed, standing belligerently right in front of the captain. "I thought he might be better off here," Tanaka said.

"He'd be better off in reform school," Wash suggested bitterly.

"He was in reform school," Tanaka said heavily. "I was afraid his mates there would kill him. He is, as you have learned, a constant irritation to anyone he's near. But I brought him here, and put him with you. I thought maybe you and Ty would be a good influence for him."

"Good influence? What am I, his father?"

"No," Tanaka said, staring mournfully down at the deckplates. "No. I'm his father. And it feels about as honorable as you made it sound a moment ago."

Wash regretted the vile insult, but not enough to take it back. "Well, I guess I can see how this is going to go," he said. "You won't turn him out, because he's your kid. You don't have anywhere else to put him, because if you put him with the gun hands, they really will kill him --"

"Wash," Tanaka said. His scar began to twitch.

"--and the only other bunks are officer's digs. And that won't fly, no matter who you put there."

"Wash." Tanaka rubbed at his face.

"So the bottom line is, if I stay, I get to babysit your brat regardless of how obnoxious he gets. That right?"

"If you wanted to put things in the worst possible light, I suppose," Tanaka said wearily.

"Oh? All right. Why don't you tell me what the best possible light would be?" Wash demanded.

"If you would just be patient--" Tanaka began, but was interrupted by the rumble of an approaching vehicle. The mule, it turned out, as the vehicle bounced into the well-lit area surrounding the ship. Tanaka looked surprised by this, and Wash was momentarily taken back by it -- but then he realized that they hadn't really gone to town to drink. They'd gone to pawn his things, and now they were back to rub his nose in their fine joke. He sought out Ty's round-cheeked face as the mule pulled into the cargo bay, and found it; the mechanic's expression was stony, and when he caught Wash's gaze, he looked away.

Notch slipped off the trailer -- it was empty, except for the three men riding; the duffel was gone -- and swaggered up to Wash. "How's it going, Hobie?" he asked. The gun hands howled and hooted. Notch grinned.

Wash punched him.

Notch staggered backward, clutching his nose. Blood leaked between his fingers.

"Hey!" Tanaka came off the pallet of Bible paper and caught Wash around the chest with one thick arm before the pilot could land a second punch. "Belay! Stand down!"

"I'm gonna thrash the little thief until he can't stand," Wash threatened.

"No, you're not," Tanaka said, holding him back. He shoved Wash backward and pressed him up against a stack of paper, one arm across Wash's throat. "Listen!" Tanaka leaned in, talking low right in Wash's ear. "Do you know why I had to bring him here? Because everybody thrashes the kid. You know what happens when you get yourself concussed enough times? Permanent brain damage, that's what. He's already got some; he doesn't need any more. I know he's a right little bastard, believe me, I know it, but he's my son, and if he just gets a chance to grow up a little bit, maybe he'll turn around. Maybe not, but I can't quit hoping that. Don't you see?"

Wash pressed his lips together in a tight, thin line, and nodded. "Yeah. I see." He shoved Tanaka off him, and stepped away. "Well, maybe he can fly the ship for you, then. Good luck."

He turned and walked past the trailer, past the gun hands who sat sniggering, past Ty, who slipped off the trailer and fell into step beside him. "I didn't know until we got to town," Ty said. "I tried to stop them. I'm sorry."

"You're next, you know," Wash said. "After I'm gone."

Ty stopped, standing at the top of the ramp, and watched with the rest of the crew as Wash walked away through the lamplight, and into the darkness beyond.

**

Cheong Bao Ho Tze: Monkey raping Huen dahn: jerk Lio Coh Jwei Ji Neong Hur Ho Deh Yung Duh Buhn Jah J'wohn: Stupid son of a drooling whore and monkey

COMMENTS

Monday, November 13, 2006 5:37 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...I would totally have given my best shot to kicking that little pile of fei hua's pigu from Londinium to Miranda were I in Wash's place. Wait...I am in that position in RL! Yep...concussions will be the light end of things:<

Still...loved how you had Wash say goodbye to Jack's animatronic dinos. Bet Zoe was really wondering what kind of man she married during that scene;)

BEB


POST YOUR COMMENTS

You must log in to post comments.

YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

The Four Winds, Epilogue
The end...or maybe just another beginning.

The Four Winds, Chapter 25
The rest of the crew return home.

The Four Winds, Chapter 24
Me and Elwood, we're puttin' the band back together.

The Four Winds, Chapter 23
Inara investigates matters; Mal discovers that the impossible has been done in his absence.

The Four Winds, Chapter 22
River needs Mal to solve her problem; Mal is forced to provide information to the Alliance.

The Four Winds, Chapter 21
When Mal tries to recover the cargo, will he lose more than he stands to gain?

The Four Winds, Chapter 20
Mal makes changes to his plan; River puts her plan into action; Inara decides on a plan of her own; Wash finds something he'd lost.

The Four Winds, Chapter 19
Simon gets an alias; Mal gets a look at his client; Wash gets a shock.

The Four Winds, Chapter 18
Our Heroes - and Our Villains - try to figure a way out of the mess they're in.

The Four Winds, Chapter 17
River finds out what's really going on; Simon and Zoe fall into the wrong hands.