Wish I Was Somebody Else, 11/26
Saturday, February 3, 2007

The crew are on their way . . . but time is running out.


By request, for horatiofrog: a double bill (I just posted ch. 10).

11. Have to say I was kinda wondering that myself.

On the bridge, Mal sat in the co-pilot’s chair staring at River – or rather, staring in River’s direction; it wasn’t actually River he was looking at. Zoe came onto the bridge and noted his pensive expression. “Something on your mind, sir?” Mal shifted in his seat, but his gaze remained distant. “Seem a little odd to you, the way that toothless fellow just told us what we wanted to know?”

“Now you mention it, sir, it does.”

Mal blinked, his gaze returning to the present, and looked at Zoe. “I’m thinking, if I were in his position, had some timely information somebody else wanted, I might at least ask what that information was worth to him.”

Zoe considered. “Maybe he’d already been paid to pass that information along?”

Mal nodded, his jaw set in a hard line. “Tell us what we want to hear – Wash is alive, he’s right in this spot not too far away – and by the way, you best go rushing off after him, ‘cause he might not be alive much longer.”

“Trap,” Zoe said, and Mal grunted agreement. “You think Wash is even there?”

“He’s there,” River said, and they both looked at her. She shrugged, her dark hair falling forward to shadow her face. “It’s . . . Wash was never really gone, not even when we thought he was dead,” she said. “But I didn’t know that’s what I knew until I found the archive. Now I know it. It’s easier to put a finger on. When you said Haven, I knew it was right.”

“Girl. You’re spooky,” Mal said.

“I frighten myself,” River acknowledged.

“So we can’t go charging straight on in to Haven. Alliance is likely waiting,” Mal said, returning to the business at hand. He drummed his fingers on the console, thinking. “We can’t get close enough to check the situation without them seeing us.”

“They’ll certainly have a better sensor array than we do,” Zoe said.

“So we don’t have any way to know what’s waiting.”

“The Reavers did the Alliance in this quadrant a lot of damage,” Zoe observed. “Whatever they’ve got waiting at Haven, won’t be what we saw there.”

Mal nodded. “And the trap is for us.”

Zoe frowned. “I don’t follow, sir.”

“This time, it’s us they want,” Mal explained. “At Mr. Universe’s complex, what they wanted was to stop us getting through. What we had was more important than we were. It was a defensive action. So they sat tight and waited for us to come to them. But this time, they want to take hold of Serenity and the people aboard her, kill us, or maybe throw us down a very deep hole for a very long time, punishment for what we done to ‘em.”

He thought some more, his fingers drumming. “I think they ought to be willing to come out and get us.”


Coles’ aide brought him the message from the toothless man: job done. Reynolds and crew were on their way to Haven, and in a hurry, too. Such a hurry, in fact, that they were identified leaving Beaumonde and nearly brought into custody there. Nearly.

But Coles wasn’t looking for nearly. Coles was looking to beard this devil Reynolds, once and for all. Aboard his destroyer, orbiting Haven, he waited for Reynolds to arrive.


It fell to Zoe to give Mal the bad news. “We dumped all our decoys, leaving Beaumonde.”

“Not one left? Even an unfinished one?”

“Not one, sir.”

“Well, we’ll have to make a new one.” He reached for the intercom. “Kaylee, come to the bridge.”

Kaylee appeared moments later, her wrist bandaged and a goose egg purpling at her hairline. “What’s up, Captain? We going to get Wash?”

“We are, but we can’t go straight in. Alliance is waiting on us.”

“So what’s the plan?” Kaylee asked, and Mal was grateful for her confidence, which was more than he felt.

“We’re going to make them come to us,” he said. “Here’s what I’m thinking. Remember when the catalyzer blew and left us drifting?”

“Well, yeah, Captain, I ain’t gonna forget that anytime soon,” Kaylee’s voice was pained. “You ain’t asking me to make it happen on purpose, are you?”

“Alliance was shooting at us as we left Beaumonde,” Mal said. “We didn’t take any bad damage, but they don’t know that. Suppose we had? Suppose we got off world, but had some kind of breakdown along the way. That plausible?”

“Sure,” Kaylee said. “They’d winged us, we could still get out but break down later.”

“I want you to rig me a decoy. Distress beacon. We’ll make it sound like some kind of damage we took on Beaumonde broke us down in space,” Mal said. “Alliance wants us, they’re going to have to come get us. I think they ought to be willing to do that.”

Kaylee glanced at Zoe. “Only we dumped all the decoys we got when we left Beaumonde,” she said. “I got nothing to make one with. ‘Less something you picked up from the Sanchez brothers was comms stuff?”

Zoe shook her head.

“Use Serenity’s own equipment,” Mal said.

Kaylee’s eyes widened in horror. “Cannibalize Serenity? Captain! We do that we really will be dead! How we going to land anywhere to get replacements, we rip out our own comms equipment?”

“We’ve got what’s on the shuttles. We can get on the ground somewhere with that,” Mal said.

“I don’t think we should use Serenity’s own I.D.,” Zoe said. When Mal looked at her, she said, “Too obvious. Same mistake that fellow on Beaumonde made. I think we should use one of our aliases. One of the ones their agent compromised.”

Mal grinned. “They’ll think they’re right clever,” he said. He looked at Kaylee. “Can you do it?”

Kaylee didn’t look happy, but said “Well. I can sure do it, Captain. Hate to do that to her, though.” She cast a mournful glance around Serenity’s bridge.

“I think Serenity wants Wash back, too, don’t you?” Mal said. “I think she won’t mind.”

Kaylee nodded, her mouth now grimly set. “I’ll need help,” she said.

“You tell us what you need,” Mal said. “As for you, little albatross,” he said to River, “find us a spot to set our trap. We’ll need to make sure it’s sprung before we go on.”

River nodded, calling up the star charts on her screens.


Coles was on the bridge when the distress call came in. “Small transport,” the comms officer reported. “Identifies as Basilisk, registered out of Persephone. Captain Riddle.”

“Stay on station,” the destroyer’s Captain said. “Once we’re finished here, we’ll go offer assistance if we can.”

Basilisk. Coles frowned. That name was familiar. “Wait,” he said to the destroyer’s Captain. He walked over to a console, keyed in his authorization, and called up the file on Serenity. There it was: known aliases. Basilisk was one that Van Soren had given them. Reynolds might not have realized that alias was compromised.

“What kind of trouble is she reporting?” he asked.

The comms officer checked the message. “They’re reporting . . . engine failure due to impact damage, and a hull breach.”

Coles tapped a few more keys. Serenity had been fired on, leaving Beaumonde; command there wasn’t certain whether they’d hit her or not. But if they had . . .

“I think that’s her,” he said. “Basilisk is one of Serenity’s known aliases. She was probably damaged coming out of Beaumonde.” He smiled slowly. All he had to do now was go collect his prize. “Captain,” he said. “Let’s go get that ship.”


River had found them a prime spot, in the orbit of an asteroid long since broken up by remote mining into four or five large chunks and a lot of debris. They’d set their decoy some distance away, in open space at the edge of Serenity’s sensor range, and then gone dark in the midst of the broken-up asteroid. The ship was freezing; all systems except minimal life support and long-range sensors had been powered down for hours. Mal wore three shirts under his long brown coat, and even Jayne was bundled up against the chill. Zoe, Mal noticed, was wearing both a sweater and a jacket that had been Wash’s, in spite of the fact that she had her own winter gear. You better be alive when we get to you, pilot Mal thought. Don’t you die on her again.

“Ship approaching,” River reported through clenched teeth.

“Who?” Mal demanded.

River didn’t answer until she had a clear I.D. “Alliance destroyer Polyphemus.”

Mal grinned. “Well. Let’s poke ‘em in the eye.”

River grinned back. With an upthrust hidden by the broken chunk of asteroid, she set them drifting. Once they had drifted, cold and powerless, out of range of the destroyer’s sensors, River and Kaylee called Serenity back to life, and went hard burn for Haven.


In the wake of the explosion, Balch had left his office unlocked. Wash stumbled in and collapsed into the chair, his hand still pressed to the gash above his right ear. He rested his elbow on the desk and leaned forward, taking pressure off his back, which felt as though he’d been peppered with birdshot.

His gaze fell on the broadwave screen.

It was unlocked.

Wash raised his head slightly. Then, awkwardly because he had to do it left handed, he keyed in Serenity’s broadwave code. He clung to consciousness while the machinery searched throughout the known worlds for the one ship that would answer to that code. For the long minutes that it took, Wash hardly breathed.

The broadwave screen blinked to life. But it was only a canned message: Source Located. No Response.

“No,” Wash moaned, wondering what disaster had overtaken Serenity that she wasn’t responding to comms. He closed his eyes, then opened them again and keyed in the code for Inara’s shuttle. He hit ‘send’ before remembering: Inara’s not --

But she appeared on his screen almost immediately. “Wash!” she cried. “What happened to you?”

Hallucination? Wash wondered, but gathered his wits to try to answer her. “Big . . . explosion. Boom,” he said. He heard Inara calling Zoe, frantically, to come to her shuttle. He was having trouble coming up with the words he needed. “I think . . . I’m bleeding.”

“Wash, hang in there,” Inara pleaded. “We are on our way to you. We won’t be long.”

“No,” he said. His tongue felt thick. “There’s a . . . ship . . . Alliance. . .trap.”

Inara looked over her shoulder, then moved off-screen. Zoe appeared in her place.


“Zoe.” There was something he needed to tell her; Wash struggled to remember what it was. Oh, that. “It’s a trap.”

“We know. We took care of it. Wash, listen to me,” he could hear the fear in her voice. I must look really bad. He wanted to look at Zoe, but his eyes wouldn’t focus. “Wash! We will be there very soon. You hang in there, we are coming to get you, and Simon is going to fix you right up. Wash! You hear me?”

“Bao bei,” he said. “Love you, Zoe.”

“Love you,” she said. “Oh, Wash. Don’t die. Baby, we are almost there!”

He felt himself sliding from the chair. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do to stop himself. “Working on that,” he slurred. “’Bye, Zoe.”



Saturday, February 3, 2007 7:35 AM


Don't you dare.... Wash!

Wow, chilling stuff. Love the way you've developed this.


Saturday, February 3, 2007 8:18 AM


Things are moving faster in this fic, and it would be beyond twisted if the crew had to deal with wash dying...twice. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Saturday, February 3, 2007 1:49 PM


Doing a happy dance having two fics to read in one day! Yay! My big fear now is that with Wash blacking out he didn't turn the screen off first. Gulp! I am hoping and praying that Balch doesn't use that information to give him and Serenity up to the gorram Alliance! Also, I loved seeing the Captain using his smarts to come up with a cunning plan. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 3, 2007 6:20 PM


Omg this is so goood
Please make him live for a very long time!

Saturday, February 3, 2007 7:19 PM


Well now...that would have made for one hell of an episode opening!


Still...brilliant chapter, nauticalgal! Definitely loved the tension moments of Serenity skirting past the Polyphemus and Wash's strained message to Serenity and Zoe:D



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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.