Wish I Was Somebody Else, 13/26
Friday, February 9, 2007

A ship arrives on Haven; Balch assumes it was sent by Coles.


13. You’re Just in Time

“Ship coming in,” Toupin said, pointing skyward.

Balch looked up. Sure enough, a freighter was coming right down onto his landing pad. His first thought was that don’t look like an Alliance ship. But he wasn’t expecting any other ships. Who knew that Alliance fellow hadn’t sent some deputized third-party just to do this one small job? After all, the destroyer had left, and who knew where or how far they’d gone?

“Close it up,” he said, and Toupin dropped the lid on the coffin. “All right, let’s get him up there.” He and Toupin wrestled the casket onto a gurney – well, Toupin handled his end easily enough; it was Balch who struggled – and rolled it up the fenced path to the landing pad.

The ship’s cargo ramp dropped open, and a motley half-dozen people stepped out. Balch scanned them, and settled on one – medium tall, dark hair, impeccably dressed – as the probable Alliance representative.

He laid a hand on the casket. “I got your man right here. You want me to open it up?”

“Yes,” replied a different man – lanky fellow in a calf-length brown coat. Balch ran his eyes over the coat, and thought Can’t be. War’s long done. Still, the brown coat made him even more nervous.

He lifted the lid on the casket, and stepped back. The group of them gathered around and looked into it, and Balch observed that their expressions were mighty grim. Except one – a pretty young thing in greasy coveralls who looked about to cry, until she startled.

“Cap’n,” she said – to the man in the brown coat, Balch noted, “Somethin’s movin’ –“ She reached down abruptly and pulled something out of the casket. The Professor’s cat.

Balch grunted. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he said, when they looked at him. “Cat was his. Didn’t realize it had got in there with him.”

“It was?” said the girl.

“Yeah. Just some stray he adopted, fed it out of his rations.” Balch chuckled. “He called it ‘This Cat.’ Guess it’ll likely starve, now.”

“Not if we take it with us,” the girl said, looking at her brown-coated Captain, who sighed unhappily but didn’t tell her ‘no.’

“All right,” said the Captain. “Load him up.”

“What?” Balch said. “Now! Just – just a minute, here. This ain’t the way it’s supposed to go! You all are just here to make sure I done the job, and then we got facilities right here, got us an incinerator –“ he broke off, as he found himself staring down the barrel of a wicked-looking sawed-off gun. At the other end was an equally wicked-looking woman.

“We’re taking him,” she said.

Balch swallowed. The captain and another man – a very large, heavily armed man – closed the casket lid and picked it up.

These people are not Alliance, Balch decided. They were something else; something dangerous. He couldn’t imagine what they thought they wanted with Washb-- the Professor; surely they had no right. And also, if they took him, what was Balch going to say when the Alliance really did come?

“Now, listen!” Balch said, knowing he was risking a faceful of hot lead. “I don’t know what business you think you got with the Professor here, but you’re wrong. This man was a gentle soul, he took in stray cats and passed out if he stood in the sun too long, and I can’t imagine what right you think you got to go carrying him off with a lot of ruffians like you!”

The Captain came two steps back down the ramp. “The – what did you call him?”

Balch looked at the Captain, which was easier than looking at the wicked woman or her wicked gun. “I called him Professor.”

The heavily-armed man who’d helped carry the casket grunted, and straightened. “’Professor?’ Why’d you call him a stupid sissy name like that for?”

They were all looking at Balch now as though he were a lunatic. Well, all but the wicked woman with the gun, whom he was trying to ignore. Balch wasn’t a lunatic, and it rankled him to have these outlaws standing on his landing pad, brazenly making off with one of his most valuable workers, and treating him like a fool, so he offered them an explanation in his own defense – and in case they had somehow mistaken the identity of the man in the casket, thinking him one of their own when he weren’t. “I asked him first day he come here if he had any skills, since he couldn’t work out in the sun, and he said he was good with math. I figure he got nabbed off some Core world or something, maybe was a teacher.” The explanation wasn’t gaining him any ground, he saw. The Firefly’s Captain was . . . well, he was near to laughing.

“Professor,” the Captain said. “How about that?”

“Good with math?” That was the big, heavily armed man.

“And he was, too,” Balch said defensively. “My production’s up fifteen percent since I started letting him run my numbers, and profit’s up, too. I didn’t want to lose him in the first place, and I sure as hell ain’t losing him now to the likes of you! I’m telling you, I don’t know who you think this here fellow is, but you have got the wrong man.”

“No. Not this time,” the wicked woman said. She lowered her gun, and Balch looked at her. The expression on her face struck terror into his heart, more even than her gun barrel had. “You’re right,” she said. “He was a gentle soul. And good with numbers. And he was also a damn good pilot, and a damn good husband to me.”

She turned and stalked away up the ramp, as Balch stood flat-footed and watched her go. Watched them all go, too confounded to signal the guard towers, or to say another word.


In Serenity’s cargo hold, Kaylee stood sniffling into This Cat’s fur, while Jayne opened up the casket again.

“Make sure it’s him this time,” Mal said to Simon, who nodded and knelt next to the casket with his medical kit. Zoe stood at the foot of the casket, her expression bleak and terrible.

“Just an hour sooner,” Kaylee sobbed. “Just an hour, he woulda still been alive.”

“Kaylee,” Mal snapped. Inara came and wrapped her in an embrace.

“It ain’t right,” Kaylee said, in spite of Mal’s warning. “It just ain’t right. Not for Zoe, not for Wash, not for none of us.”

“He looks pretty messed up, don’t he?” Jayne observed.

Zoe shuddered, and walked out of the cargo bay.

“You all need to be more respectin’ of Zoe right now,” Mal scolded.

Simon finished gathering his samples, and they trailed after him to the med bay. Zoe was already there, waiting.

Simon fed his samples into his machines. “It’ll take a few minutes to confirm,” he said. Inara sat with tearful Kaylee on the couch outside the med bay, while everyone else except River stood in uncomfortable silence, waiting to find out what they already knew.


Friday, February 9, 2007 1:50 PM


Only he isn't dead, he can't be, because I will never forgive you if you really kill Wash now! Not that I think you did, I think Balch was trying to trick the Alliance goons into believing he was a corpse so they would go and he could then revive him with an antidote or whatever. I loved Zoe stunning Balch into silence as our heroes left, now fingers crossed that all goes well from here on. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 9, 2007 6:59 PM


I just hope the "living death" drug that Balch used on Wash is something that will show up on Simon's tests. Cuz I can't imagine the kind of "Holy hell!" moments that will occur when Wash's body processes the drug completely;D


Saturday, February 10, 2007 10:09 AM


Ah, but you see . . . in the next chapter you will learn *nothing whatsoever* about Wash's fate. Not a word.

Saturday, February 10, 2007 10:45 AM


o you are evil in the best of ways possible!!! I love this series!!


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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.