Gone to Coventry
Saturday, July 3, 2004

When an engine malfunction forces Serenity to conduct repairs on Coventry, a colony twin of Dyton, Mal and company get involved with a young man's bid for freedom in his very own Firefly transport. Can Mal save Simon Bisley and his grounded ship from a very hostile takeover bid?


The cool glass neck of well chilled beer between fingers and thumb, the crate had been well deserved. Mal never expected a bonus from his customers, especially ones as dirt poor as the colonists on Dyton, but this run had been a pleasant exception. Eight crates stacked in the hold and a private special reserve under his bunk rigged with a device designed to give Jayne’s thieving fingers pause. Mal sat back down upon his stool and when prompted by Wash to continue, fell back into the distant look that clouded his eyes when he talked of times long past. “In your worst nightmares you couldn’t dream of such a thing, Wash. They just kept on coming, wave after wave of them. I called for back up, but it seemed as if they had left me there to suffer. The waves of sound pounded my ears ‘till I thought my eardrums would burst. The flashes of light blinded me, as I staggered from one end to the other, trying to serve out what they had coming – but I was running low on supplies, precious low. I don’t know how I got out alive. It was a hell, a hell I have no intention on revisiting.” “My God,” whispered Wash in a voice heavy with a wondering sympathy, “it must have been… really, really bad.” Mal took a swig of beer and shook his head sadly. “Last time I ever worked in a bar. The rest of the staff off sick with some stomach bug they picked up from the hyena sandwiches and yours truly left to serve five dozen customers on a Saturday night. And the music policy was awful, absolutely gorram awful.” “And this was the same sort of beer they served?” “It was the one thing going for the place. They had the best brew on the colony. Glad to see it’s still popular this end of the ’verse.” Wash nodded and took a deep swig. It was then Serenity took it upon herself to kick a deep jagged shock that threw Kaylee from her hammock and made the length and breadth of the ship tremble, tumbling table and chair and pounding upon the bridge. Wash cursed in colourful Chinese as the beer spilled and stained his shorts. Mal was neatly tipped from his stool but found his footing and led a quick-footed dance at full tilt towards the communication panel. He fell heavily into the chair and grabbed at the mike. “Kaylee… answer!” The ship trailed a tail of glitter, a beautiful sparkling river that flowed lazily behind it, curving off into the deep black. River and Jayne looked out one of the rare portholes as the ship banked. “It sure is pretty. It means we’re all going to die, but it is pretty,” River said in a voice made serene by certainty. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Kaylee’ll have her fixed up in four shakes of ma hand – we’ll be on our way despite all your creeping.” “Debris from the super-coolant central shaft; we’ll burn up in eight hours unless we can find a replacement.” “Shiny,” muttered Jayne through teeth clenched tight.

Kaylee considered abandoning her by-now trademark jumpsuit. If she had not been firmly convinced that it possessed properties pertaining uncanny luckiness then the heat would surely have forced her to have. She mopped her brow with an oily cloth and a mouth parched with heat, exhaustion and fear told the Captain in no uncertain terms how things stood. “It’s touch and go whether or not we make Coventry, Captain. Unless the engine gets coolant in the next four hours, she’ll explode.” “She’ll have to make it there, Kaylee, we don’t have any choice. We have to land her, power her down and flush her with coolant.” “I’ve been to Coventry, Captain… it’s a back-water. Only seven ship-yards and I doubt any of them are gonna take a transport borderline a nuke-critical… but as you say, we don’t have any choice.” Book intoned his words as if the obvious were a revelation. Coventry was a place you stayed away from – not violent as a rule, but lacking in trade and deadly dull. “Anyone for a beer?” asked Jayne. Practically wilting in the stifling heat, Simon berated on terms both medical and psychological. “Jayne, we’re about to be vaporised in a thermo-nuclear explosion and in the remote eventuality that we avoid that horror, alcohol is very dangerous in cases of dehydration, which we all are on the verge of suffering from. How can you think of your tiny inebriated brain, right now?” “They’re chilled.” There was the sound of a bottle cap popping off and the surging rise of a gas-neck full of cool beer. “Wash!” Zoe snapped. “Hey, c’mon, he said they were chilled!”

By a miracle of design Serenity limped into orbit with Coventry. Kaylee had somehow found a reserve nestling in the shuttles and jury-rigged a transfer tube. Mal was all praise, though he still wouldn’t break into his private special reserve for her, no matter how she begged. “Still, it’s a temporary solution at best. We need the parts and the coolant… who’ll let us land I don’t know.” “Just keep that lucky jumpsuit on a little longer Kaylee, we’re gonna get that help, by hook or by crook.” The communications screen beeped and Mal summoned all of his reserve to let the seconds pass and his voice to compose before he hit the answer button. “Coventry colony calling Firefly class transport, please come in.” “Firefly transport Serenity here, looking for landing permission, sir.” The man on the screen was thin of face and had one of the more cultured Brit-accents that were so typical of the system. He looked an inherently suspicious man; the type Mal suspected the customs services bred in secret cloning vats. “State your business,” he droned. “It’s just a common trading run, sir, all the way from Cricklecreek.” The man frowned and looked off screen at a reading. “Little slow for a trading run, aren’t you?” “We’re just running a diagnostic, sir. We weren’t quite smooth enough in our last orbit pattern.” Frowning, the customs officer reluctantly keyed them in for an approach to the capital; a dismal affair of three hundred thousand stranded souls. “Firefly transport logged into route seven to Sheffield, please remain in queue.” Mal nodded his thanks to the customs officer and switched off the communications screen. He turned to his crew. “Now comes the tricky part. Wash… I need you sharp for this one.” “Aw,” said Wash handing his beer over to Mal with a great show of reluctance. “Thank you, Wash.” Mal looked his crew over and fingered them for jobs. In any normal situation landing on a planet like Coventry would be a simple task, but they needed engine repairs to keep the core stable fast, and he needed them on their toes rather than lounging around where they’d be slow to respond. Best to keep them at work, keep their minds off that humming pile of gorram crit-mass, he figured. “Kaylee, I need you in the engine room for the obvious. Book – do that prayer thing you do so well. If you could prepare the mule, it’d be much appreciated, Zoe. River, go and do some… I don’t know… knitting, cooking… something quiet and productive in your bunk room.” They turned to leave as ordered, aware of what was at stake. Simon glanced out of the cockpit window and then excused himself. “I guess I should be in the med-room, in case things turn bad.” He didn’t reach the door; Mal hooked a strong arm through his and held him back. “Unless you’ve got a cure for vaporisation I wouldn’t bother, Doctor. I need you here on the bridge.” “Sure… I guess… if you… um, what do you need me for?” “Simon - drink this beer and look casual. Chat with Jayne.” Mal handed the bottle over to Simon but didn’t find a taker. “I don’t want it.” “Simon, I’m ordering you to drink this beer.” “I’m not a casual drinker, Captain. Besides, Wash has left some drool on the rim…” “I do not drool!” interjected Wash. Ignoring him, Simon continued his stern refusal. “And talk to Jayne? What kind of order is that? I’m afraid I didn’t major in his favoured subjects, loose-women and guns.” “I got a PHD, Purdy, Hard and… um… Decent-in-bed.” Mal smiled. “Jayne, that’s the wittiest thing I’ve heard you say since you put down that waiter on Cricklecreek. Of course, your repartee then involved a heavier use of fists than was strictly common for the witty comeback, but it had a certain grace.” “Cheers, cap’n,” said Jayne, saluting with his beer. The Captain manoeuvred Simon over to a crate and sat him down on it, making sure that he’d be in view of the communications camera. He placed Wash’s beer on the sideboard and said to Jayne, “Watch the good doctor; I’ll be back in a minute.” An uncomfortable silence later, in which Jayne enjoyed by staring in a strange fashion seemingly without purpose at the doctor, and Mal returned. “Here’s your beer,” he said handing Simon a distinctive bottle. “Hell, that’s from your special reserve!” Jayne observed with a start. “Yup, Bluebird, the finest there is. Want one, Jayne?” “Do Heckler & Koch’s Technic-Five’s come with explosive bullets? Hell! Yeah!” “I still don’t understand,” said Wash. He looked at the ale with mistrust. He only enjoyed beer when he was already drunk, a condition that he found snuck upon him at times of relaxing with Kaylee. He feared drinking with Jayne, the fellow seemed to consider it a gateway to boorish behaviour and the flailing of mighty fists. Understanding ain’t the first part of obeying, doctor. I want things to look serene, cool and gorram lovable on this bridge. I want us to chill. I want this to be ‘Happy Hour’ in space. When our repair yard friend pops up on that view screen he’s not going to see several traumatised goons riding a stampeding engine core, he’s going to see a bunch of shiny people with things well in hand in a shiny ship. Now, I want you to chill.” “I could unbutton my shirt, Captain. That’s a whole world of casual cool, right there in your pilot seat,” said Wash. “No, I think the temperature’s hot enough in here already, Wash. Ready to open a channel with the repair yards, yet?” “There’s five repair yards in Sheffield, I’ll patch you through to the first.”

Serenity shot through space, her engines glowing rather more than usual. Kaylee would have stroked her beloved engine, whispered reassuring words to it while she took its temperature and vented selective bursts of reserve coolant into her veins, but she knew the metal was scalding to the touch and as much as she wanted to be fussed over by the doctor she knew that engine burns were never a pretty ailment. She slipped on her heavy duty gloves and worked with a slow caution. Zoe found the mule in pretty fine working order. She set to cleaning it instead, scrubbing away the accumulated dust and dirt of a hundred cargo runs. She worked in quiet contentment, confident that the ship was in good hands between her Captain, her husband and her good friend Kaylee. As she ran the scouring cloth over the front of the machine she noted each dent left by the occupational hazards – namely bullets. Her eyes tagged each one with a likely incident and her mind ran to fond recollection.

Book prayed, but he found it hard to commit himself wholly to the task. The slow, mundane nature of the disaster unnerved him. He believed himself to react best when the others were at breaking point. He suppressed his fear by guiding the others and urging them on with the phrases that came so easily to his lips. If he didn’t have such a love of his life there on the ship and the strongest affection he had known in many years, he would have felt like a damned hypocrite. In the presence of such calm collection amongst his flock he felt lost, and feared the danger all the more. Such were the thoughts that raced through his mind as he turned the pages and mouthed the prayers.

River danced. She danced as if the floor beneath her, warm to the bare soles of her feet, burned with an intensity that shocked her to a cavorting flight every time she hit the floor. Music came from a little transistor next to her bed and jangling guitars and yearning vocals of Morrimarr swept her body into a swirling, giddy and happy trance. She lost herself in music, a place of retreat, a comfort and reassurance devoid of the cold sterility of that past.

Inara knelt in the entrance hatch to her shuttle, regulating shots of coolant through a supply line snaking its way down to the engine room. She worked clumsily, but with a firm desire to prove the Captain wrong. Her fingers could pluck the most affecting composition from a harp; she felt her hands could easily by forced into the brutal art of engine maintenance. Her elaborate cursing would no doubt be a source of much amusement to Mal if he could hear it from the bridge, but still she worked with hands numb from labour. “I’m sorry Captain, but you’re going to have to find another yard. Rules are rules and the ‘Health and Safety’ 251 decree is no laughing matter in this case. You’re lucky Firefly class transports have reaction-limiters, otherwise it’d be the threat of a shattered city rather than a city block – and if you came begging for a landing permit with that kind of danger, I’d have the police tagged on you so fast I’d…” “Yeah, thanks,” snapped Mal, throwing the switch and sending the sickeningly reasonable face to oblivion. “Just leaves us one,” said Wash, with fear in his voice and sweat breaking on his forehead. The mike buzzed and Mal grabbed at it, clicked it on and closed his eyes. “Kaylee…” “Captain, I can buy you another half hour at most… but you’d better be heading on down… I don’t really know how much longer I can hold her.” “Thanks, Kaylee. Don’t worry, girl, we’re doing fine.” “When you said ‘fine’, did you really mean…. ‘Shit’?” asked Simon, slightly groggily. Jayne stretched out on a bean bag, his heavy combat boots weighted on Simon’s knees. “Told you the ‘stay relaxed’ plan wouldn’t work – who would have thought they could read so much into our engine burn? Them Coventry people sure have a brain. Still, least way’s I get some of that special reserve.” “Jayne, aren’t you in the least bit frightened? We’re all going to die?” snapped Wash. “Not this comfortable, I ain’t,” replied Jayne, smiling with a confidence found in a nine credit bottle. “Last try, last hope,” whispered Mal grimly punching in the communications code.

To be continued...


Sunday, July 4, 2004 2:13 AM


I really enjoyed this, can't wait to see what happens next. I particularly liked the little insight into Book being all adrift without the crew panicking and looking to him to be the calm voice of reassurance and faith. Now he's the one needs calming. Shiny. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, January 15, 2005 7:25 PM


Where is the next? Damn good lines in here, especially in the cockpit.

Keep flyin'


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Spirit Level
Kaylee gets a birthday present and Mal finds himself and his crew stranded and left tangling with a somewhat unconventional Alliance captain.

Gone to Coventry
When an engine malfunction forces Serenity to conduct repairs on Coventry, a colony twin of Dyton, Mal and company get involved with a young man's bid for freedom in his very own Firefly transport. Can Mal save Simon Bisley and his grounded ship from a very hostile takeover bid?

'He's In Fashion' - Part One
When a new device of Wash's damages Serenity, Mal is forced to land at an obscure ship yard for some replacement parts. There he meets the man who sold him Serenity, and gets sucked into the murky world of gambling, big guns, thuggery and fashion.