Ghosts from the Past - Part Two
Monday, April 16, 2007

Mal’s crew show off their skills and one of them it seems, has done time before. 4th fanfic featuring the usual post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Constructive criticism or comments are always welcome. Part 2 of 4.


Bane had been a little annoyed at having to go to the bar with Karl. She was right in the middle of making her batch of grenades and that, plus no adequate sleep for a few days, made her somewhat grouchy. Mal told her that it was her own fault she was not looking to her bedtimes, and to get her butt to the bar. She drank several cups of strong tea before going with Karl to The Broken Leg. It was a busy part of town and most definitely the rough end. The Broken Leg was low lit and greasy, as well as having several topless dancers which diverted most peoples’ eyes from the dark corners where the deals were being done. She looked at Karl to see if he was likely a drooler like Jayne. She saw that he gave them a practised glance like any heterosexual male, he was well aware that they had a job to do. Karl spotted a booth to sit in and Bane sat in the seat that allowed her a clear view of the door and most of the main room, whereas Karl had a view of the dark corners and the balcony. “Lot of dealin’ of substances going on in here,” she said, leaning across the table between them. “You can tell that from the two minutes it took us to get this booth?” exclaimed Karl. It was really noisy and they had to shout to be able to hear each other. Bane nodded before speaking again. “There’s three main dealers in here. Sweaty guy with the blue hat in the booth behind you, guy with the white jacket looking at the dancer with the ankle bracelet, and–“ “I get the picture,” said Karl, slightly annoyed at her boasting, and the fact that she was right. Bane sat back and continued scanning the room. It was a pretty normal dock dive as far as she could see. Karl leaned forward again. “Who’s the owner then?” he asked, testing her. Bane glanced around. “I can’t be sure he’s here – how would I know that?” “I know,” replied Karl. Bane accepted the challenge and looked around again. Apart from the dealers, there were maybe two people who could fit the profile as owner. A man playing cards with a whore on his shoulder and, on the second level in a glass-windowed office, a man sat at a console with two other men sitting opposite him. She indicated the man in the office with her head. “Him up there,” she said confidently. “Nope.” “How do you know?” she shouted. “Been here before,” he shouted back. “Take another look at the woman draped over the guy playing cards.” Bane did, and noticed several things. She was showily but comfortably dressed and, as she turned her body slightly, Bane noticed that she was armed with several guns. There was also strength, purpose and interest in her face and not the drooling acquiescence of a common street whore, which she had at first mistaken her for. “Whose the man she’s leanin’ on?” “Her head bouncer – name’s Broge. Not someone you wanna go up against in a fight.” Karl had been pleased that Bane did not always get it right. “Have you gone up against him?” she asked, picking up on his statement. Karl shrugged with one shoulder, declining to answer and Bane left the subject alone. Everyone, with possibly the except of Kaylee, had a history or a part of themselves they wished to keep quiet, as she knew from her own experience. She was not that curious to stick her nose in to other peoples’ secrets either. They chatted some more after some drinks were served, but their main purpose was to look around. The place was filled with a certain clientele and there were several deals going on, not just drugs but women, weapons and all manner of things. Soon it was nearing the time that Mal and the others would appear. The Captain had made it clear to them both that they would pretend not to know each other, but if something was going on then they needed to signal him. “I think we should go view things from the balcony. What you think?” said Karl. Bane looked up behind her to where he indicated. The space was occupied by a few people and would allow them a view of the whole place; the entrance and the crowd below. She nodded, they downed their drinks and walked up the metal staircase. As they got comfortable with their new viewing platform, Bane noticed a group of people enter. She nudged Karl and he leaned on to the railing so she could speak into his ear. “Rich pickings just entered with entourage. They look like they’re here to meet with someone.” Bane did not point or show him, but instead turned her back on the crowd and put her elbows on the railing. Karl made the mark himself after a few seconds. She was right, he was too rich for this place and he looked kind of annoyed. He was wearing a shiny waistcoat, posher than one of Simon’s, but his gang were dressed like everyone else in the docks, in a mixture of styles, but generally blending in. He saw them doing their own scoping of the place and he positioned himself closer to Bane, so they looked like two people getting real interested in each other’s company. “They’re scoping as well. He’s sending one of his men up here.” Karl leaned in, watching the goon come up the stairs through the hair that had fallen across his face. “Any sign of Mal yet?” she whispered into his ear. Karl did another quick scan at the people below them. To the man coming up the steps it looked apparent that the hairy blond man on the balcony was nibbling on the woman’s ear or kissing her neck. Might make some interesting viewing once he had completed his boss’s instructions, he thought. Karl answered Bane’s question, watching the man come up the stairs. “No. Could be they’re not here for us.” “And we’re both too old to fall for that one,” responded Bane and Karl chuckled. She touched his arm. “Mal said that if he didn’t see this scarf round my neck when he came in, then somethin’ was up and you two were to meet in the bathroom.” She stopped talking abruptly, as the goon had decided to lean on the balcony right beside them. Karl, who was at least a foot taller than Bane, brought his body around so that she was pinned against the railing by him. The goon starred at them, smiling, before his attention reverted to looking down at the crowd again. Whatever he had been instructed to do, he did not seem that keen on doing, he kept coming back to watch them. Karl and Bane both realised that if he was watching them, then he would not see Mal and the others enter the bar. Bane threw her head back with an enticing laugh and Karl undid the knotted scarf at her neck. She stopped him teasingly, aware now that they had the goon’s complete attention. Bane removed the scarf slowly and with a teasing smile at Karl, who then took it from her. She leaned up, bringing her arms around his neck and whispered in his ear to put it in her back pocket, enough so that it Mal could see it dangling when he came in. Bane turned her head, and with a drunk lazy expression on her face, she stared at the goon next to her and smiled. He was still looking at them, so she blew him a kiss and he grinned back encouragingly, totally oblivious to what he was supposed to be doing. Karl held Bane tighter, arms reaching across her back, and brought his head down to whisper in her ear again. “Mal’s here with Zoe and Jayne.” He kept his head at her neck and she kept the goon staring at her with promises in her eyes. It was fortunate that Karl did have all that hair, because it allowed him to look down at the crowd without people noticing and seeing the expression on his face. For a fleeting moment when Bane had thrown her head back, exposing her neck and some of her chest, he forgot why they were there, and he would not be a man if he did not admit he had not been tempted to kiss that neck. But the moment passed and he was also having a lot of fun, using the skills he had forgotten or knew he had. Most of the other crews he had served on had used him as an expendable gun hand. Downstairs amongst the crowd, Zoe nudged Mal and leaned across to him. “Balcony, Cap’n,” she said. Mal looked up and his first impulse was anger. Karl and Bane were sexing it up while they were supposed to be scoping out the place. It was then he noticed the scarf hanging out of Bane’s pocket and cursed himself for always jumping to the wrong conclusions. When he did not answer her, Zoe nudged him again, wondering where his brain was at. “See Karl’s arm Cap’n?” added Zoe, who had not been fooled by their act for a moment – although she reckoned that Karl was enjoying himself more than he would let on. Mal noticed that Karl’s arm, which was across Bane’s back, was pointing to the side and to the man standing next to them. They both then watched as Karl’s hand dropped downwards, discretely pointing to somewhere below them. Jayne, having been staring at the naked dancers since entering, finally spotted Karl and Bane, but still had not caught up with what was going on. “He dint waste no time. Hell, ain’t those two supposed to be workin’?” Mal rolled his eyes and glanced quickly at Zoe before replying. “They are, Jayne,” explained Mal, exasperated. “They’ve already told us that there’s somethin’ up and we should take our guard. I’m about to go find out what. Zoe – get us a booth and take this idiot with you.” Mal walked away from them and asked a guy where the bathroom was. Karl, watching from above, took that as his cue. “Going to talk to Mal,” he whispered. Bane made sure her face was not visible by the man next to her. In the last few minutes she had felt herself getting hotter and was sure it the was dingy bar, and not the fact that she was enjoying being engulfed in Karl’s comforting embrace. “I’ll make sure our friend stays occupied an’ maybe see if I can find out anything.” Karl, who had been about to object, looked into her eyes and saw the confidence of experience there. Instead he squeezed her waist with the hand that was already positioned there and whispered again. “Be careful,” he said, lips brushing her ear lobe. Karl left her and Bane faced the goon, pouting. She then changed the pout back into an encouraging smile before sidling up to him, still with her back to the crowd. She shrugged off her jacket under which she wore a dark vest. The goon viewed her tattoos with interest, tongue escaping from his lips. “Where’s your friend gone?” he said. Bane leaned forward to answer, giving him a brief but full view of her cleavage. “He decided it was more important to go get a drink than stay with me,” replied Bane. She turned sideways and sidled up some more. “Do you have a need to go get a drink?” The goon was reacting nicely, she was going to try and get some information from him, like she had done many times during the war. “Hell, no. I have to stay here anyway.” Bane reached out her hand and touched his sleeve, keeping eye contact all the time. “That’s nice for me, means we can get to know each other better. Why’d you have to stay up here if it’s not for me?” she stiffened and frowned. “You’re not waitin’ for some other girl, are you?” The goon laughed and gave her his full attention, now in full leer mode. “Na. My boss down there wants me to look out for some people.” “There’s loads of people here,” she lifted her hair to flick it back behind her shoulders. “So, you a spacer?” The goon leaned in and Bane was treated to an un-enticing whiff of bad breath, making her partially regret getting friendly. “No. Landed. Work right here in West Sheldon, but I live on the outskirts of New Dunsmuir,” he said. Bane made sure she looked suitably impressed. “You must do an important job if you live out there,” she said, eyes wide and rubbing one of her hips against his leg. ~ “Gorram it, Jayne, stop staring,” shouted Zoe. They were sitting opposite each other in a booth. Jayne could not keep his eyes away from watching Bane on the balcony. It was fascinating and horrible, like watching himself being cajoled into a trick by a dock whore – only he usually thought he was the one doing the cajoling. The guy was an ugly bastard too, but he still could not look away. “Can’t help it, Zoe. I had no idea she had those kind of skills, ‘specially since she ain’t much to look at.” Zoe was not interested in Jayne’s epiphanies and frowned. “If you don’t keep your eyes off them I’m gonna rest my Mare’s Leg somewhere you won’t find comfortable.” Jayne at first did not take any notice, but then felt a non-biological object in a place that made the sweat break out under his arms. “Alright. Alright. I get the message,” he turned back to look at Zoe, and felt the gun move away from his family jewels. “Dint she used to be a whore or Companion, or somethin’?” Zoe looked around quickly for Mal, but he was nowhere to be seen. Keeping control of Jayne was like trying to stop a kid from climbing a tree and breaking its leg, impossible without a good explanation. “She told us what she did during the war, you remember. How’d you think she gained access to all those Alliance facilities? Walking through walls? She’s very good at gainin’ information – seen her do it before.” Jayne recalled what Bane had said, but got side-tracked after she said she had been sold as a whore later on. He had paid for and used whores regularly, but he had been fairly sure none of them had been slaves, then he had not been a whole lot interested in their histories. He leaned back into the booth sullenly. ~ Karl found Mal in the men’s room. There were two others in there when he entered, so he stood at the urinal and waited for them to go. As soon as they were gone and before anyone else came in, he spoke. “There’s a high roller in here with his goons, one of which was sent up to the balcony to keep watch exactly like we was doin’. Don’t know if they are here for the same thing we are.” Mal was about to reply when someone else came in. Karl handed him something from his pocket so it looked like they were doing a deal. “What! That all you got?” said Mal angrily. “Let me take you outside, my friend, and I’ll show you what I do to people who double cross my boss.” “That’s what he said I owed! Can’t we sort something out?” Mal pushed and held Karl against the wall and the stranger jiggled swiftly and hurried from the room. They both grinned good-naturedly at each other when it was clear. “I’m goin’ back to the booth an’ wait for Mitchell. You go back to Bane an’ see if you both can find out who this high roller is. If anything goes down, you take him out, but no killin’. When we leave, you leave. Zhu yi.” He walked out and Karl waited for a couple of minutes and then left as well. Mal returned to the noisy room and headed straight for the booth that Zoe and Jayne were sitting in, clocking the high roller on the way. The man was at the end of middle age, clean cut and had been wealthy for some time. The goons around him were all cheap common thugs. He obviously did not believe in hiring reliable staff, or maybe he liked people to be disposable. Mal glanced up at Bane before sitting down, the goon she was with seemed to be a breast man. He saw her look down over his shoulder to him and he gave her a nod. In a few beats, she wrapped one arm around the man in an embrace, and with her other hand gave two swift signals; she pointed down and then gave a thumbs up. Mal leaned over to Zoe. “She’s found out who our high roller is.” Jayne was grinning. “Talented girl, hey Mal? Maybe we should give her a shuttle and let her be our new Companion.” Mal, who had been smiling, grew serious. “Jayne, in case you ain’t noticed, I ain’t laughin’,” he said, anger rising. Jayne was unperturbed. “Come on, Mal. Think she’ll offer to start servicin’ the crew?” Jayne’s words were choked off by Mal grabbing his throat. “You don’t go near her with that kind of talk. She’s doin’ her job and she’s a sight more useful than you right now.” Jayne knew he had pushed too far and he tried to tug Mal’s hand away from his throat. His own anger boiled, mainly because he had not reacted quick enough to stop him. “It’s the same ruttin’ way you speak to ‘Nara! What’s the difference?” he shouted, and Mal could find no retort. He shoved Jayne back into his seat and sat back, Jayne was right and the idiot space monkey had given him a lightening bolt of clarity. Mal viewed Bane differently from Inara because she worked for him whereas Inara was a free agent. He felt more than a little nauseous at the thought. On the one hand, because he was now reduced to pimping out his crew and on the other, going through all the insulting things he had said to Inara about her occupation, both in private and in front of others. He had always thought of it in such a black and white way and it seemed he was the only one who did. Everyone else thought that being a whore and how you viewed it was very much grey and fluid. He sighed, wishing they were back on the ship so he could think in peace. The music was deafening and there was still no sign of Mitchell. ~ * ~ Bane was desperately praying that Karl would return soon. The goon had severe bad breath and she had been kissing him and dealing with his wandering hands for what seemed like hours, but was in fact no more than twenty minutes. She had managed to cover gagging twice by touching him in his most sensitive area when she had broken the kiss. The best she could do was try and breath through her mouth rather than her nose, as he was someone who did not believe in washing, either his clothes or his person. “What the gorram hell do you think you’re doing?” Karl pulled Bane roughly by the arm and out of the goon’s grip. “One man not good enough for you, girlie?” He had her by the shoulders and was shaking her. The goon made a hasty and frustrated exit down the stairs. Karl grabbed her by the hand and pulled her down the stairs. They strode past the high roller who was ordering Bane’s goon thrown out of the bar by his other men. Karl pulled her into a dark corner of the bar and Bane used the shielding of his body to spit out a mouthful of bad taste. “You all right?” Bane adjusted her vest and put her jacket back on. She took a few deep breaths and calmed herself. There was an almost empty glass on a shelf behind her and she swigged the mouthful of whatever it was, before spitting again. “Apart from needing to scrub myself raw and brush my teeth continuously for a week, I’ll live.” She grinned up at him, spat again and then continued. “Found out plenty though.” “You know who our high roller is?” Karl had tried to get some information from one of the bartenders, but with no success. Bane beckoned him in closer so she would not have to shout. “Found out so much I could write his biography,” she laughed at her own joke, but more so she could shake off the last twenty minutes or so. Karl looked briefly around and found an empty stool. He dragged it over and Bane sat on it, rubbing her arm where Karl had grabbed her. “Did I hurt you?” he said concerned. “Might bruise, but I know it wasn’t personal.” Karl rubbed her arm in the same place when she removed her hand. “I’m sorry.” Bane looked over his shoulder. From where she sat she could see the high roller and, when people moved, the table at which Mal and the others were. No one paid them any notice in their dark corner and it gave them a good view. Karl watched Bane compose herself, aware that she was trying to hide it. He knew little of her history, but it was apparent that she was used to doing this kind of work, but maybe not for some time. He had not liked seeing that goon with his hands all over her…he pushed the thought out of his mind in order to carry on with the job. Four hours later the high roller left the bar with his entourage, clearly more angry than when he came in. Mal took his cue and left with Zoe and Jayne and returned to Serenity. Bane and Karl left shortly afterwards, with Karl draping his arm loosely over her shoulder. It was three am. Back at the ship, Mal and the others went up to the galley to wait for the two of them to return. After the noise of the bar it was blissfully silent and none of them really felt like talking, the evening feeling like a wasted trip, as well as a waste of money. Mal was annoyed that Mitchell had not shown up, but he was now sure it had something to do with the high roller. About thirty minutes later Karl walked in yawning. “Where’s Bane?” asked Mal, breaking the silence. “I think she went straight to the shower and may be brushing her teeth for the next five hours,” he smirked. Jayne snorted as well, but Mal remained serious. “Go get her now,” he ordered. Karl stared back and came to her defence. “She’s had some hun dan mauling her. I ain’t about to jump in on her in the shower. I’m liable to get hurt.” “I’m game,” said Jayne rising from his chair. Mal ignored him. “Zoe, go get her – I want to go to bed as soon as possible. The sooner we get the report the sooner we all can all go to bed.” Zoe got up and went downstairs. She returned shortly with Bane who was dripping wet, wrapped in a towel looking more than a little angry. Her mouth was covered in toothpaste. “You couldn’t have waited until after I had finished showering?” “In case you ain’t noticed, we’ve all been up past our usual bedtimes, an’ I don’t plan on hangin’ around another few hours while you clean up. Tell me what you found out.” Bane un-tensed herself and took a breath, still giving Mal a defiant look. “Man named Augustus Winters. Lives the good life in New Dunsmuir. Privilege and family. Has a sideline dealing in high priced stolen merchandise, but has a particular thing about rare jewels. Has a wife and six children tucked away on an estate somewhere. His goons manage the warehouses he has here in West Sheldon and that was his first time in the bar. They were there to witness a drop between some fong luh thief and some unknown spacer Captain, presumably meaning us. Got plenty on the goon as well. His name’s Arnold, he likes moonlit walks down dark alleys and I got myself a date tomorrow – but I’d rather eat my own arm.” Jayne and Karl were both opened-mouthed and even Zoe had raised an eyebrow. “Good work, Bane,” stated Mal, also impressed. “You can go back to your shower now.” “Thanks, Cap’n,” and she left the room again. “What now, Mal?” asked Karl. Mal already knew what they had to do. “We need to locate Mitchell before Winters does. More than likely he stole something of his that he’s willing to risk his presence in this dump of a docks to get it back. Means it could be dangerous an’ it’s clear he’s got the means to hire enough people to cause some hurt.” Mal got up from his chair and rubbed his hand over his eyes. “Right now we all need sleep. Everyone be back here for ten in the morning. No oversleeping.” ~ * ~ Several alarms buzzed in the morning at different times, depending on how long the sleeper needed to wake up. Bane had gone to bed at least an hour after the others, fortunately she had slept well, but not before nearly breaking her ankles tripping over all the machinery on her floor. Jayne had kindly left a note on her door saying when Mal wanted them all up in the morning. Karl kicked Jayne’s door as he passed in the morning, seeing that the others were already convened. Simon, Kaylee and River had also joined them, oblivious to the previous night’s events. Mal and Zoe had been catching them up. “Thank you for joining us, Jayne,” said Mal sarcastically, several minutes later. “Now you can stay on the ship today.” Jayne grumbled loudly but Mal continued, “I waved Badger this morning when you all were still sleepin’. Got me a picture of Mitchell,” he pulled the folded printout from his pocket and passed it around the table. “Seems he likes to hang out on Jian Li Street, specially a whorehouse there. Karl, want you to go see if he’s there, or find out when they last saw him.” Jayne uttered a cry of protest and Karl gave him a gloating grin. “What about us, Cap’n?” said Kaylee impatiently. She was beginning to hate always being the one left behind, even if it did mean she had Simon to herself. “You and Simon stay here with Jayne as well,” he replied. Simon jumped in next, catching on quickly. “What about River? Are you going to send her to a whorehouse too?” he said angrily. Zoe disliked it when Simon got all righteous. They were all crew and Mal was the Captain, if he wanted to make use River’s skills then he had a right to. It was not up to big brothers to get in the way. “No. Bane’s gonna go down to the warehouse an’ meet with Arnold, and River is going to listen in and find out what he or any others ain’t telling us.” River was always pleased when Mal was confident in her abilities and knew he did not ask her to take part in jobs lightly. She could feel that Bane was not so pleased. Although it had been unpleasant gathering the intel last night, it had been necessary for them to find out what was going on. She was not so sure having to put up with Arnold again was also as necessary. Bane did not say anything though and Mal went on to say that he and Zoe would be going back to the Broken Leg to see if Mitchell would still turn up. After breakfast they all went to do their jobs or get ready to. Bane was not due to be meeting Arnold until later, but she knew where he worked, so she and River would go to the warehouse earlier. She was the last one out of the galley and before she went down to her bunk River appeared from the cockpit. “Put pants and boots on and you’ll need a warm jacket,” instructed Bane. River was wearing one of her usual little dresses and Bane knew she would be eaten alive in that outfit. River got all this, but had something she wanted Bane to know, about Mal. “He doesn’t expect you to rut with him, you know.” Bane’s eyebrows raised, as it had been on her mind and she had forgotten River’s skills. Rutting with people during wartime for intel was one thing, but just doing it for some platinum was not how she wanted to live now. “I don’t think I could if he did.” “Just keep him occupied while I read them,” said River confidently. River felt lucid and committed, as well as excited, and Bane forgot that she was so young. It had the effect of making Bane feel better about going down to the docks. “Okay. Meet down in the cargo bay in ten minutes an’ we’ll go. Do you have some pants?” “I can borrow one of Kaylee’s jump suits,” replied River cheerily and she went down the stairs. Bane went to put on a change of clothes herself. She had a pair of pants with about twenty buckles and hoped that it would keep Arnold occupied long enough for River to get the information on Mitchell. ~ * ~ The warehouse where Arnold worked was not busy early in the morning, which was unusual as all the other warehouses they had passed were a hive of activity. Bane looked across at River who was walking alongside her with a small smile on her face. Before leaving the ship Bane had got some grease from the cargo door mechanism and smeared a bit on River’s face and arms. She now looked like any other dockside working woman, if a little young. She went up to the main door and, realising it was not locked, stepped inside. River was alert, reaching out with her mind for all those present. “There’s about ten people in here,” she whispered to Bane. Bane unzipped her jacket, looked at her chest briefly and rolled up her sleeves. “Hey – Whatcha doin’ in here?” shouted a man coming out from a small office. He was large and bald but River felt no threat from him. “I’m lookin’ for Arnold,” said Bane confidently. The man stopped and looked her over suspiciously with a glance at River. “You his wife?” “Hell, no,” replied Bane laughing. “I ain’t the marryin’ kind. So, is he here or not?” The bald guy considered and then spoke into the com he carried, shouting for Arnold to come to the main office. Bane draped her arm over River’s shoulders and they waited. Arnold took his time arriving, not knowing the reason the foreman was calling him to the office, and presuming the worst. He was a little confused when he did arrive, then his memory came back to him of the night before, and he grinned. Bane spoke before he could. “Couldn’t wait until our date tonight, but then I got stuck with my sister. You busy?” Arnold looked at the foreman who shrugged noncommittally. They had all been asked to arrive at the factory early, but so far the boss had not turned up to tell them why. The foreman, although he looked mean as hell, tossed Arnold a com. “Thanks, Nester,” he said gratefully, and then stopped, wondering about River. “Seein’ as you ain’t busy,” said Bane to Nester, “You mind watchin’ my sister? She’ll be real good. Her name’s Alice.” River pulled a pack of cards from her pocket. “Betcha I can beatcha at poker,” she challenged lyrically, already having established that he had a daughter about her own age and would be a pushover. Nester gave his permission for Arnold to disappear. “You hear me on the com, you drop everything and come runnin’. Boss don’t pay us to be sexin’ it up on the job an’ he’ll be here soon.” “I’ll be quick,” replied Arnold. River gave Bane a quick reassuring smile before they set about their tasks. “Not too quick, Arnie, baby,” Bane said suggestively in response. Arnold grabbed her by the hand and took her out the door. She masked her distaste as she noticed he was still dressed in the same clothes as the night before. He led her to the alleyway down the side of the factory. Bane thought she would try and keep him talking as long as possible. “So, you have a wife?” Arnold blinked and Bane explained. “Nester thought that was why I turned up to see you.” He sighed with relief. “My wife ain’t nowhere near as game as you,” he said, pushing her against the wall and grinding his hips into her. “Lucky for me you have all this time on your hands,” she said. “Came to say I couldn’t make our date this evenin’.” Arnold’s hands were already squeezing her breasts like he was testing the ripeness of fruit. “Well, we can make up for it now,” and he kissed her. It was not as easy to play along this time as the night before because she had not known what to expect. She almost sighed with relief as she viewed a very smart transport pull up to the main door and she pulled away from him. “Looks like your boss’ll have something to say about that.” Arnold looked around and then shrugged. “Hell, he won’t notice me gone,” and he started to undo the buckles. “Now what in the ruttin’ hell is with these pants?” Bane swallowed the bile that had risen in her throat and smiled sweetly. “Dint imagine we’d be in this much of a hurry,” and kissed him again, sucking in a deep breath beforehand. River was letting Nester and the others win a few hands, though she would still win the occasional one. They were a talkative bunch but none of them knew anything. She was more worried about Bane outside, who she could feel was getting nervous and agitated, something she had never felt from her before. From Bane she usually felt kindness and humour and that survival instinct that even River herself fed on. River folded her hand of cards, she was used to having to listen to a million things at once, and then she felt relief from Bane - the boss had arrived. To the men around her she was full of amusing jokes, but as soon as the boss arrived they forgot her presence completely. She hung back in the office and opened her mind to the boss man. “I don’t pay you ruttin’ bastards to sit around.” “Sorry, boss,” said Nester. He disliked Winters intently, mainly because although he was the foreman, he was still treated like scum. “We’ve had no luck trackin’ down Mitchell.” “Well fortunately, I have,” said Winters gleefully, and then his anger returned. “Who’s the girl?” he pointed to River who had edged out of the office, having got the information Mal needed as soon as he walked in. Now Bane needed her. Nester swore, remembering Arnold. Well, it was his risk, his problem. “She’s Arnold’s – um ...” he trailed off, unable to find the words to explain her presence quickly. “Just get him in here, Nester.” Winters was not fooled, he knew enough about Arnold and, given his behaviour last night, he would be fired today. That was the last straw. Nester shouted into the com and River moved out of the door in a flash. “You better go in, Arnold, don’t wanna get fired,” Bane said, after she heard Nester’s voice on the com. To emphasise the point, Bane pushed him away just a little. Arnold was beyond caring about anything, except getting this whore’s pants off. He pushed Bane back against the building roughly and she stop being scared and got angry – he so was not worth it. “Hey! Give it a rest,” and she tried to pry his hands of her pants. Arnold was momentarily put off by her change in personality and then his own changed. He whipped the back of his hand across her cheek. Bane punched him back in the face and Arnold put his hand to her throat and squeezed. She struggled, trying to knee him in the groin, but he pulled his body out of reach. “Not so evasive now, are we?” he snarled. Bane stopped fighting him and his grip loosened a little. She looked him seriously in the eye, which he held for a few moments and then went back to finish undoing the last of the troublesome buckles on her pants. “Let my sister go,” said River appearing behind them. “Wait your turn, girlie, an’ I’ll let you have a go next,” muttered Arnold. As Bane tried to talk Arnold’s hand tightened on her throat again. “No, it’s my turn now,” said River quietly, and she swung the metal pipe she had been holding behind her back. Arnold dropped to the ground, out cold. Bane fell to her knees coughing and clutching her throat, trying to breath normally again. River dropped the pipe and ran to her. When Bane tried to speak, River spoke for her. “It’s okay, you gave me enough time. Let’s go – they are coming to look for him.” Bane got up, still coughing, but ran with River down the alley and back to the ship. They reached Serenity as Mal and Zoe were setting out for the bar. “River’s found out what happened to Mitchell,” said Bane, out of breath. There was already redness on her cheek from where she had been hit. Mal walked over and inspected her face, also noticing red marks on her neck. “Are you okay?” he asked, temporarily forgetting all about Mitchell. River stepped in, feeling Mal’s concern and guilt that he had put Bane in such a position. “He got a little rough, but nothing happened. I hit him.” Mal turned to her, surprised. “Is he still alive?” he said. River gave him an innocent smile. “Of course, Captain. He’ll have a bit of a headache when he wakes up though.” Mal was relieved on both counts, that Bane was unmolested and River had not killed anyone. Zoe brought them all back to the point. “So where is Mitchell?” she said. “Got himself arrested,” replied River somewhat cheerily. “Not for stealing the Amber Star from Winters, but for assaulting one of the bouncers in Jian Li Street. Got himself six months in the West Sheldon jail. Winters plans to get someone in there to baby sit him until his release, so he can get his diamond back.” All of them were staring at her, astonished. River was unperturbed and looked back at them. “Well isn’t that what you pay me for? To fly the ship and read people?” Mal laughed and put his arm around her shoulders. “Yes, it is, Albatross. Thank you. Now you go inside with Bane an’ Zoe and me’ll go fetch Karl.” ~ * ~ When Mal and Zoe met up with Karl in Jian Li Street he confirmed River’s story by saying that Mitchell had been arrested three nights ago, after retaliating against a bouncer who had thrown him out of the Lotus Flower whorehouse. As they walked back to the ship together, Mal was trying to figure out what to do next. They now knew that Mitchell had stolen a diamond from Winters and this was probably the merchandise that Badger wanted. They could not wait six months to wait for Mitchell to be released either. “Looks like we’ll have to arrange a jail break,” he said to them both. Zoe was not comfortable with that idea at all. “Why not just wave Badger and say that the idiot got himself arrested. We come back and finish the job in six months.” “As soon as Mitchell is released he will belong to Winters. No, we need to get him out and back to Persephone.” “Is there no other way, sir?” asked Zoe but Mal shook his head. He had decided his course and, as usual, was full of enthusiasm for the plan forming in his head. They reached the ship which was bathed in the sun from the afternoon light. Mal insisted that everyone gather in the galley so that he could run through the basic plan that he had conjured up on their walk back. “I plan to get myself arrested tonight,” he said, after explaining to all of them what had become of Mitchell. “It’s too dangerous, Sir,” said Zoe. “What if you can’t get out?” Mal had already thought of that. “We have two technical geniuses on board. I’m sure they can come up with something between them,” he smiled at Kaylee and Bane. Kaylee nodded enthusiastically, but Bane was not so keen. “Won’t be easy without a plan of the prison,” she said. “It could have all sorts of security.” “I’ll work it out when I get in there,” assured Mal recklessly. “You come at visitin’ time and I’ll tell all.” “West Sheldon jail doesn’t have visiting time,” put in River, knowing this from reading Winters. She was worried that Mal was being so careless. Mal felt slightly deflated by this information, but not totally. “No matter. I’ll work something out.” “There’s no need, Mal,” said Karl. “I know the layout. I spent two years in there. I should be the one who gets arrested.” His statement was greeted by shocked silence. Even River had not picked that up from Karl. It was then she realised that Karl’s past was completely hidden from her. All she knew of him was his present feelings since coming on board Serenity. She had just not noticed it before because she was always dealing with everyone else’s thoughts, feelings and emotions.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007 9:36 AM


Oh ho...things have just gotten rather interesting, I must admit. Lots of revelations and epiphanies popping up;)

Gotta say I really liked how you handled River here. Lots of character exploration and "hero" moments, combined with examples of River not be omnipotent and/or omnipresent;)



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Homecoming -Part One
It’s three years and four months since River Tam left her brother and the crew of Serenity. 1st fanfic of the second series, featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 1 of 2.

First Kill
A ficlet to keep you going between the end of Series 1 and the beginning of Series 2. An Operative’s first hit. Read and be chilled. Feedback would be much appreciated.