Old Habits
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and the crew take on a job for Badger, and we all know how they go. NEW STORY


“It never ceases to amaze me the way men are put together.” Freya leaned on the fence and watched the fight in front of her.

“What do you mean?” Kaylee asked, wincing as one of the protagonists went face first into the dirt.

“Well, physically. I mean, all the important bits are on the outside.”

Mal kicked the man on the ground, ensuring he stayed down.

“You mean –”

“Yeah. Take this lot, for instance.” Freya pointed to Jayne who had just kneed a man in the groin. “Action like that, a man isn’t likely to get up again any time soon.”

“Isn’t that the point?”

“Well, yes, but not to the man getting damaged. It just seems to be something of a vulnerable design, is all.”

“Doesn’t it say in the Bible that God made man in his own image?”

“So he couldn’t have improved it a little? I mean, the way a man’s made – physically put together. I mean, there’s his most vulnerable bits, on the outside like I said, just aching to be hit, kicked, kneed – just doesn’t seem to be a good design at all.”

“Aren’t you going to join in?” Kaylee asked as Hank got grabbed from behind.

“No. No, they seem to be doing fine as they are.”

“You think?”

Hank kicked back and hit his assailant on the shin.


“It still looks like someone’s gonna get hurt,” Kaylee insisted.

“Then you go on in. I'm sure you’d be able to help out. I’ll hold your coat.”

“Um, well, maybe they do seem to have it covered.”

They watched in companionable silence while Mal punched his man deep in the belly, then slammed a double fist onto the back of his neck as he doubled over in pain. Jayne, meanwhile, had taken out one of his two, and now grabbed the other’s head over his shoulder, heaving mightily to pull him over. His opponent sprawled in the dirt, winded and dazed. Hank threw all of his strength into a right hook, and his assailant dropped like a stone. None of them were going to get up again any time soon.

“You enjoy that?” Mal asked, rubbing his jaw as he looked at Freya.

“Well, some bits went by a bit fast. Can you do it again?”

“You really are a sadist, aren’t you?” he asked, bending forward to retrieve his gun, and groaning slightly as he stood back up.

“Hey, not my fault Badger failed to mention the little matter of these guys not exactly being trustworthy when it comes to delivery.”

“No, that’s true,” Mal conceded. “And don’t think I'm not intending to have words with Badger about that very thing. But you could have helped.”

“You didn’t need it.” Freya pushed off from the fence and walked over to him, stepping over one of the men on the ground. She lifted a hand and wiped a little blood away from the corner of his mouth. “You had them cold. And I would have stepped in if it looked at all like you didn’t.” She smiled. “Besides, I’ve been poorly.”

“So you just watched.”

“Wasn’t just me. Kaylee was enjoying the spectacle too.”

“Hey, don’t drag me into this!” Kaylee protested. “I don’t know how to fight.”

“And I don’t have any problems about that, mei-mei,” Mal said, looking across at her. Then he turned back to Freya. “You, on the other hand …” His wife smiled wider and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “That doesn’t make up for it.”

“No? How about this?” She let her lips travel delicately across his, carefully avoiding the cut.

“Well, maybe,” he conceded, somewhat grudgingly.

“Okay, now what?” she asked. “At least you’ve got a cargo now.” She glanced at the boxes.

“Yeah, and an assortment of bruises.” Mal pushed his jaw back into place. “You know, that’s the last time we deal with that weasel.”

“You say that every time.”

“And I mean it every time.” He stretched an ache out of his back where someone had managed to kick him. “Jayne, get the stuff on board. Hank, fire up Serenity. I wanna get this cargo outta my hull ‘fore the week’s end.”

“Sure thing, Mal,” the pilot said, hands resting on his knees. “No problem. Soon as I can get my heart started again.” He managed to lever himself to a standing position. “Next time, Zoe can come. I volunteer to watch the boat.”


“Sorry, Mal.” Badger shook his head regretfully, but the look in his eyes was anything but regret. “Ain’t got the cash at the moment.”

Mal took a deep breath, visualising his hands around the little man‘s throat. “You employed us to get this stuff here. Which we did. All without coming into contact with any Alliance patrols, seeing as we’re so close to the Core. As requested. Only your so-called delivery boys – who I was assured personally by you were to be trusted – tried to kill me and mine and make off with what wasn’t rightfully theirs.” He leaned forward. “So the way I see it, you got a choice. You pay us the rest of the money, or we find someone else to buy it, and keep the resulting coin.”

A look of panic crossed Badger’s face so fast Mal wasn’t sure he hadn’t imagined it, but there was certainly something in his voice as he spoke quickly. “Now, now, that ain’t the attitude to have. I only meant I ain’t got the cash yet. I’m waiting on liquidising some of my assets, so to speak, only it’s takin’ a bit longer than anticipated.” He leaned back in his chair. “’Sides, that wasn’t my fault, them turning on you. Probably just didn’t like the look of your face.”

“Badger –“

“And my client’s gonna be pleased you managed to get ‘is stuff through,” the little man interrupted before Mal could really get into his into stride. “He’s just a bit late getting here. Run into a little trouble, his man said.”

“Just who are we dealing with here, Badger?” Mal hooked his thumbs into his gunbelt.

“That’s kinda … confidential.” Badger put his elbows on his desk. “It ain’t that I don’t trust ya, it’s just … he don’t exactly have a thing about people what fought in the war. Especially if they wore brown.”

“Alliance?” Mal held back on the cursing just aching to spill past his lips. “You’ve got us working for a Fed now?”

“No, no.” Badger waved his hands. “Not … really. He’s retired. Just wanting to sit out on ‘is porch and watch the scenery go by. If he had a porch,” he added cryptically. “And I make sure he keeps supplied with what he needs to do it.”

“Look, just wave him. Tell him we’ll be making the delivery in person and collect -”

“He won’t do that, Mal.” The little man looked almost unhappy. “He won’t deal with you. Doubt he’d do more’n take a coupla pot shots at you. The twerp really ‘ates independents.”

“Then we’re at something of an impasse.”

“Just sit tight. I can get the money to ya in a few days. All you need to do is make the delivery.”

“How long, Badger?”

“Week. Maybe two. No more.”

“Two weeks?” Mal had to hold very tightly onto his temper, feeling Jayne and Zoe tense behind him. At this rate there were going to be entrails. “That ain’t good enough. I’m thinking my first idea was the best. And if you’re lucky I might cut you in on any profits -”

“No!” Badger’s voice raised voice called his men into the office, but he waved them back. “No, look, don’t be doing anything stupid like that. A week. I can get something to ya in a week.”

“Now you know I’m not gonna just give you the goods without payment on account of your trustworthy face, and I really don’t want to be sitting here with possibly hot property that long.” Mal shook his head. “There’d be nothing to stop the Alliance taking an unhealthy interest in my boat.”

“Then …” Badger seemed to think for a moment. “How about another job? You could go, do that, then be back in time to get paid.” He tried a smile. “Make it worth your while.”

“Another job.” He glanced at Zoe. “What kind of job?”

“Simple lift. Man I know of ‘as a safe, and inside that safe is something someone wants. The man is ‘olding a party this weekend, and I managed to finagle a coupla tickets.”

“Do you recall the last time you arranged a meet at a party?” Mal asked, feeling again the phantom twinge in his side. “You took most of my crew hostage. And I got stabbed.”

“That weren’t my fault. If you ‘adn’t been so free with your fists, it woulda gone smooth as caramel.”

“Be that as it may, I’m not sure -”

“Be easy. In, out, and nobody any the wiser.”

Mal looked at the little man, his gaze steady. “Well, I suppose I could get out my best suit and -”

Badger held up his hand. “No offence, Mal, but you ain’t the type’s gonna be let in. This is a high class do. Freya, now that might work. But you? Nah.”

Serenity’s captain took a deep breath, holding it as long as he could. Eventually he exhaled. “We can sort something out.”

“Good.” Badger clapped his hands, feeling back in control of the conversation. “The party’s on Claymore. Know where that is?”

Mal looked at Zoe, who said, “It’s a small private moon about three days travel from here. If I recall correctly it’s a luxury spa. Very exclusive, very discreet.”

“That it is. The party’s for potential investors, but Freya should be able to blend.” Badger looked her up and down. “You know, you might be able to snick in, too. They like women.” He reached into the drawer of his desk, very carefully, more than aware Jayne still had his hand on his gun, and pulled out two gold-edged, deeply engraved cards. “The safe’s a Methuselah, in the private sitting room.”

“What are we taking?” Mal asked.

“A carved wooden box. Got a picture of an angel on it, apparently. But don’t bother trying to open it. Got some fancy lock on it too. Just get it and bring it back to me.” He leaned forward. “Course, if there’s any other pretties inside the safe, I might just be willing to take ’em off your ‘ands for ya.”

“We’ll bear that in mind.” He flicked the two invitations from Badger’s fingers. “Usual rates?”


“And are you actually gonna be able to pay us when we get back? ‘Cause if this is a wild goose chase, or you try and gyp us, I’m promising right now that I’ll find some way to nail your hide to the wall.”

“Now, that ain’t nice. Considering I’m doing you a favour. Sides, by the time you get back Kendrick will’ve arrived and -”

“What?” Mal’s head lifted and he took a half pace forward.

“I just said my client’ll ’ave arrived by then and –“

“No. You said his name.”

Badger considered. “Don’t think I did.”


“No, now, look, I know I didn’t. So either you’re getting psychic in your old age or –“

“Anton Kendrick?” Zoe said, her whole body tensing. “Is that the client?”

“I didn’t say that!” Badger was getting about as panicked as he ever did. “And you ain't to, neither.”

Mal’s trigger finger itched. Not to kill. No, not that. Just maybe maim a little, just so the little weasel’d tell the truth for once. He wished Freya were with him: maybe she could just pick it out of his brain. Painfully. “Badger, I ain't gonna ask again. Is your client Anton Kendrick?”

Badger’s eyes flitted to the door, then either side, as if he expected someone to come bursting in any second, guns blazing. Finally he said quietly, “Yeah. But I didn’t tell you.”

“Who?” Jayne’s brow was furrowed.

“Is he here?” Mal asked, ignoring the ex-mercenary. “On Persephone?”

“No.” Badger still looked unhappy. “He’s coming in soon, though. In a week’s time. He’ll expect his goods to be here.”

“I want to do the delivery myself.”

“No. Told you, he ain’t keen on people what still wear brown.”

“Badger -”

“You can threaten me all you like. And I’d just like to remind you where you’re standing. This is my gaffe, my place. You don’t get to tell me what to do.” The panic had gone, replaced by a growing anger. “I’ve given you a job. You’d better get out and do it.” He stood up, adjusting the front of his jacket. “You remember who you’re working for, ‘cause it ain’t the other way around.”

Mal took a breath, forcing a more genial look to his face. “You’re right. We’re just the hired help around here.” He turned on his heel and walked out. “One week, Badger.”

Zoe and Jayne followed, the latter almost consumed with curiosity. “Who’s this Kendrick?” he asked as they pushed through the crowds back towards Serenity.

“Someone the captain knew once,” Zoe said, seeing Mal wasn't about to answer.

“I figured that much. He do something to you I don’t know about?”

“Not to me.”

“Zoe, that ain’t –“

“It’s as much as you’re gonna get.”

“We’ve got a job to do,” Mal finally said. “And I’d be grateful if you’d not mention Kendrick to anyone.”

“I don’t even know who the hell he is!” Jayne grumbled.

“Better it stays that way.”


“A Methuselah?” Kaylee looked aghast. “You sure you heard right? The safe is a Methuselah?”

“That’s what Badger said,” Zoe confirmed. “Is that a problem?”

The young mechanic shook her head. “A problem?” She laughed. “No, no problem.” She got up from the dining table and started to pace.

The adult members of the crew watched her curiously.

“I’m taking it this ain’t gonna be as easy as Badger made it sound,” Mal said. He’d managed to calm down somewhat, and had pushed all thoughts of Kendrick back behind one of the locked doors in his mind. Freya had asked him what was wrong, but he’d just smiled and kissed her cheek, hoping she‘d trust him enough not to peek.

“Easy. Easy.” Kaylee stopped and looked at him. “Cap, the words ‘easy’ and ‘Methuselah’ don’t usually go in the same sentence.”

“That bad?”

“Worse. The Methuselah’s brand new. Only a few of ‘em have made it outside the Core so far, from what I‘ve read. It’s got a multi-combination code key, as well as a bio-metric recognition system that shuts everything down with titanium bolts if you make even one mistake. That’s apart from the high voltage that would surge through anyone trying to get in, and … Cap, this just ain’t possible.”

“Then we take the whole thing with us.”

“It’s built in. There’s no way, short of dynamiting the place, to get it out.”

“Dynamite?” Jayne sat up.

“Not during a party,” River said firmly. “Can I go?”

“Not sure any of us are going if Kaylee’s right.” Mal sat back in his chair. “It’s really that bad?”

“Well, I can probably disable the voltage, rig something to run through the codes, but … “

“It’s the other thing? The bio-whatsit?”

“Bio-metric. It reads and recognises the person inputting the code, and without the telemetry behind it, I …” She sighed and flopped back into her seat. “I think we should go see Magpie.”

The look on Mal’s face would have been comical if not for … actually, no, it was comical. “No, now, wait there a minute, little Kaylee. You know how she feels about me.”

“You’re happy enough dealing with Patience,” the young mechanic pointed out.

“Yeah, but she only tries to shoot me. Not … that.”

“Is there something I need to know about?” Freya asked, looking from one to the other up and down the table.

“No, no, nothing.” Mal held up his hand. “Absolutely and irretrievably nothing.”

“Then why –“

“She tries to seduce him,” Kaylee explained, then looked at her husband as he snorted coffee up his nose. “You okay, honey?”

“She does what?” Freya leaned forward, needing clarification.

“Every time. It’s real sad.”

“Sad? How?”

“To see the Cap’n back away from her.” She giggled. “Ain't never seen the man so afraid of anything.”

“Kaylee, I'm sitting right here!” Mal was equally affronted and appalled.

“Is this why you’ve never taken me to meet her?” Freya asked, turning dark and unreadable eyes on him.

“Now, Frey, it ain’t like that.”

“Then why don’t you tell me what it is like, and I’ll decide whether you’re going to spend the next few nights on the couch or not.”

Mal knew full well it wasn’t just Magpie behind this threat, even as he knew the threat itself wasn’t empty.

Jayne rumbled a laugh until River elbowed him in the side, but he didn’t stop the grin.

“It’s okay,” Kaylee put in quickly. “The Magpie never gets nowhere. Cap runs too fast.”


to be continued


Sunday, May 25, 2008 7:34 AM


OH OH! Mal's in trouble. Great work here. Looking for more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008 8:56 AM


What a mix of the funny and the fearful you have here. Poor Mal doesn't stand a chance with the women in his life in this chapter. Very interesting start to this story - looking forward to more.

Monday, May 26, 2008 12:09 AM


I really don't know why Mal doesn't just shoot Badger dead. Not just setting him up with what may turn out to be his worst enemy but on top of that NOT paying for the job then having the cheek to thrust a near impossible job on him to do before he pays for EITHER job? Not even I thought Mal and the crew that stupid to let Badger screw them not once but twice in the same paragraph. I have a really bad feeling about this. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 30, 2008 5:51 PM


Badger's just like a bad penny. He just keeps on turning up! Good job.


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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]