Wish I Was Somebody Else, 14/26
Friday, February 16, 2007

The badguys have a chat.


14. Something Other Than Killin' You To Think About

Balch walked back down the path from the landing pad to his office, with Toupin trailing behind him. At his desk, he did something he’d never done before: he went into his prisoner records and looked up Prisoner 8366B27.

The Professor’s face appeared on the screen. Hoban Washburne. Pilot. A few minor run ins with the law, but no actual criminal record. A few flags; wanted for questioning in some unresolved bits of mayhem. Married; the photo provided was of the wicked woman who had held Balch at the end of her gun. Her name, Balch noted uncomfortably, was Zoe. He had expected something a little . . . scarier. Killer-woman. Angry-Tiger. Dangerous Lady With The Big Scary Gun. But no; the caption just said “Zoe Alleyne Washburne.”

Well. So there was the face, the name, the brief history of the man who was going to cost him his job, and possibly more, once the Alliance found out Balch didn’t have a body to show them anymore. Balch dug a Fruity Oaty Bar out of his desk drawer and peeled its wrapper off.

At the corner of the record was a blinking alert, and Balch opened it with a touch. Zoe’s face, along with the faces of the rest of the people who’d walked off that ship and snatched the Professor, filled his screen – wanted fugitives. Balch read the posters – armed and dangerous, they said. Well, surely enough! Balch allowed.

There in the first position, top left, was the man they’d called Captain. “Malcolm Reynolds,” Balch said.

Toupin, lounging against the wall next to the door, said “Who?”

“That Browncoat fellah who just run off with the Professor,” Balch said. “His name is Malcolm Reynolds.”

“What about it?” Toupin asked.

Balch took a bite of his Oaty Bar. “Well, since Malcolm Reynolds has made my life difficult by taking the Professor off with him, I say it’s only fair that he should make it right for us, don’t you think?”

“Sure, boss.”

Balch keyed in the broadwave code for Polyphemus. When the comms officer answered, he said “I need to talk to that Coles fellah,” and was patched through.

“They took him!” Balch said, raising his voice a bit and wringing his hands.

“I’m sorry?” said Commander Coles. “Who has taken whom?”

“That fellah, the one whose body you wanted, well, Malcolm Reynolds – that criminal whose face is all over the Cortex? – he just come and snutched him right off my mine!”

Coles seemed confused. “Reynolds – what? What did you say he did?”

“Snutched him. Right off the mine! Fact, I think now it was him rigged that explosion in the first place!”

“’Snutched’ . . . you mean . . . he snatched him?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you!” Balch said, becoming even more agitated. “That gorram criminal blew up my mine and snutched that fellah you wanted right off it in the confusion!”

Coles closed his eyes momentarily and shook his head. “So Malcolm Reynolds, whom you recognized from the wanted posters on the Cortex, has taken Washburne’s body?”

“That’s what I keep saying!” Balch insisted frantically. “It was all a gorram trick! And cost me a couple dozen good workers and one of my production lines, too!”

Coles rubbed his temples, frowning. “Thank you, Foreman. You stay clear of Reynolds if you can; that man is a very devil.”

“Oh, I will try to do that sir, I assure you most assuredly that I will!” Balch said.

“Coles out,” the officer said. “No, wait –“


“Foreman, is there any chance that man – Washburne – is still alive?”

“I . . . well . . . he looked pretty bad off to me,” Balch said.

“I’m concerned that might have been another of Reynolds’s deceptions,” Coles said.

“Well, I sure wouldn’t know about that, sir. I mean, the man looked pretty dead to me.”

Coles sighed. “All right then. Coles out.” The transmission died.

Balch sat back in his chair.

Toupin grinned. “’Snutched?’”

“Yeah, ‘snutched,’” Balch said. “Past tense of ‘snatch.’ Ain’t it?” he asked innocently.

“I don’t know how you get people to believe you’re stupid, Boss,” Toupin said.

“Nothing to it,” Balch said. “Man like that one’s always willing to believe a little fat man must be an idiot. Though I might be well advised to keep closer tabs on current events in the future,” he added as an afterthought.

Toupin chuckled. “’Snutched.’”

“Don’t you have some work to do? Sorting out the dead from the living or some such?” Balch reminded him.

Toupin left, still chuckling.

Balch sat back in his chair, munching on his Oaty Bar, and hoped that the Professor’s crew were taking good care of him.


Reynolds had beaten him to Washburne. And left again, before he could be stopped.

There went Coles’s hostage. And his prey.

Polyphemus rendezvoused with her scoutship in the sky over Haven, and went in the direction they thought Reynolds had taken. There was only the barest trace of an ion exhaust trail to follow, and that had to be followed painstakingly and personally, bringing the best of Polyphemus’ equipment to bear.

But unlike Beaumonde, Coles noticed, there had been no decoys this time. Reynolds’ last decoy had been built from pieces of his own ship.

That, Coles figured, was good news. Reynolds was running out of resources, and he had nowhere to go.

“That mine is an Alliance facility, is it not?” he said to his aides, who stood at ease in his office aboard Polyphemus.


“Then the prisoners all had ident chips in their forearms,” Coles said. “Ident chips are trackable. Flag Washburne’s.”

“Sir, the ident chips are only trackable if they come within range of a domestic security monitor,” Folson pointed out. Domestic security monitors were on every streetcorner in any civilized world, but as Folson went on to point out, “Not a lot of those out here on the frontier.”

“Flag it anyway,” Coles ordered, and Folson went to a console to comply. “Do you want me to add Washburne to the fugitive bulletin on the Cortex?” he asked.



Coles sighed, thinking of the incident aboard the shuttle. Folson had his uses, but he also had his drawbacks. Coles decided his plans might have a better chance of success if he deigned, this time, to explain himself. “You’re Malcolm Reynolds, and you’ve got seven people on your ship, only one of whom isn’t plastered all over the Cortex twice an hour all day long with ‘FUGITIVE’ in block letters above and below his face. Who are you going to send to run your errands? Possibly in places with domestic security monitors?” Coles said. “Let him think that we think Washburne’s dead.”


Coles resumed pacing, and considered what more he could do.


Friday, February 16, 2007 7:20 PM


Omy Omy you werent lying when you said we would learn nothing in the next post! I was looking forward to it anyways! Keep up the good stuff

Friday, February 16, 2007 10:22 PM


Gorramit, that little fat man is smarter than he looks! Just hope Mal has a few surprises and somesuch up his sleeve that will keep Wash safe while Simon does his magic and puts our boy back together. Great story, want MORE! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 17, 2007 12:03 AM


I'm really enjoying this story. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 6:44 AM


You know, it's interesting about Balch. In the draft, Balch came to a bad end over this particular fiasco, but he was so beloved of the original readers of this fic, for the very qualities you cite, that I had to change it, and give him a clever way out.

I may have to find a way to put the good foreman in future fics.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 8:31 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER there's a con that really takes the cake! Not sure if I want to smack Balch upside the head for setting the Polyphemus on Serenity thoug...

Still...I ain't feeling too warm and fuzzy about Coles' plan to flag Wash's subdermal ID tag. Mainly cuz Coles is right: only Wash (because of his status as dead) and possibly Inara (since it's been a while since any mention of her status with the Guild has come up) can really run errands on a planet anywhere Persephone onwards:(


P.S. Brilliant work here as always, nauticalgal:D


Saturday, May 21, 2011 4:44 PM


Interesting, BEB brings up a neat point here. Why doesn't the Alliance captain think of Inara? That oversight might cost him his quarry, as Mal is not going to risk someone who has been snatched by the Alliance once already, warrant or no.


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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.