Episode 5: The Training Job
Monday, August 4, 2008

The crew may have found Serenity, but the real trouble will be getting it back from the Alliance.


Episode 5: The Training Job


"What do you mean it's in an Alliance hangar?" Mal growled.

"Just what I said, mate," Badger said. "Alliance has got it holed up with a slough of other wrecks. What, ain't you grateful to know?"

Mal had to bite his lip and grab his right hand to keep himself from cursing and pulling out his gun.

Personally, just the thought of Serenity made me itch with excitement. Not a prettier ship in the 'verse I could put my hands on. Hearing Badger tell us he knew where she was just made me want to take Simon back to our bunk to celebrate.

I asked, "Why didn't you just tell us that earlier?"

All of us sat at a table, Badger at the head.

Simon and River sat at the far end. River held close to Simon. Every now and then she grumbled at his constricting embrace, but he was her loving, older brother. Made my heart happy to think if we ever had some cute little ones brought into the world he would be so protective.

On the right side, Wash sat between the Operative and Jayne. He looked uncomfortable as hell. Suppose comin' back from the dead leaves a person feeling a little awkward. That and having two big, mean men watching your every move.

Badger glanced at River and smirked. Tale'd come out that he'd gotten a little kiss from River on their date. Simon pulled her a little closer.

"Couldn't waste my last card," Badger said. "What if she'd said no?"

"Then we'd all sleep a lot quieter," Simon said.

"Seems your bit of intelligence leaves out a bit of important information, though," Zoe said. "You know what base. But you don't know what hangar."

"Oh, it's a little bitty base, setup on the far side'a Persephone. 'Ardly worth calling a base. Couldn't be more than..." He looked up at the ceiling, imagining a number. "Twenty, thirty different hangers."

Mal asked the Operative, "Any chance you could use some old connections to narrow the search down?"

The Operative shook his head. "Part of the beauty of being an unknown agent. When you disappear, you sever yourself completely."

Wash piped up, "You know, might not be a bad time to let me have a crack at it. I bet I could hack into their system easy, figure out where--"

"We got some favors owed to us by Merril," Zoe said. "He still work that side of the planet? Maybe he's seen something, could give us a hint where it's at."

"Hello! I've got an idea," Wash said.

"One we ain't interested in," Zoe said.

"Ai ya! Since I got back you ain't let me fly on my own, ain't even let me take a niou fun alone."

"Never know what you might be hiding back there," Jayne said.

Wash pushed his chair back and stood up, angry as hell. "Isn't that just a little feng le backwards?"

Jayne smirked and let his hand rest on the knife in the pocket of his pants leg.

The Operative didn't move. He just watched Wash's every move. I hoped Wash didn't try anything. Between the three of them, he would be dead before he realized what a mistake he'd made. And wouldn't it be better if we could all just get along?

"In case you've forgotten," Wash said, pointing at Jayne, "HE used to be a mercenary. No telling how many times he's sold us out we don't know about because things didn't work out."

Mal shifted in his seat.

Wash pointed at the Operative. "And let's all remember HE tried to kill us. In fact, did kill a lot of folks we cared about. Including me!"

"Wash," Jayne said, unsheathing the knife enough to make its presence known. "We're just keepin' an old friend company. What are you so defensive about? Wouldn't be afraid we're going to find somethin' out, wouldja?"

"Yeah," he said. "My wife hasn't washed my clothes since she thought I died."

"Not to be afraid," Mal said. "Things'll become clear about you in time. Till then, we'll deal with the stink."

"Easy for you to say," Jayne muttered.

The full scent of pretty blew into the room as Inara entered. No telling how long she'd been standing in the doorway, listening to us. Normally, she wouldn't have much at all to do with our risky business. Even if the Captain didn't tell her to get the hell out, she often went away for some romance, intrigue, and a steady paycheck from the wealthiest and prettiest men in the 'verse.

Things were changing with our crew, though, and now that I thought about it, I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen Inara off to service a client. Didn't she need some coin?

"You're all forgetting the most important question," Inara said.

We all turned to listen to her.

Comfortable being the center of all attention, she went on. "Who will go on this mission to rescue our beloved Serenity?"

"Already decided," Mal said. "Stick with the usual 'we all run in, grab the ship, then run like hell' plan."

"I like his style," Badger said.

"It may be a base for mechanics to work on dead ships," Inara said. "But it's still an Alliance facility. The fewer people you send, the less chance you have of finding Serenity without someone finding out who you are. And whoever you send needs to know the lay of the land. Be able to blend in."

Mal rolled his eyes. "Who'd you have in mind?"

Inara smiled and cocked her head, set her pretty earrings tinkling. "Isn't it obvious?"

Chapter 1

The mechanic plopped into the bar seat.

"Bartender! Gimme another'a this chou ma-niao you call beer!"

The bartender finished making a drink at the other end of the bar, then came to the mechanic. The bartender grabbed a glass and towel. He swished the towel around the inside of the glass and said, "You gonna pay for the other one?"

"See this?" The mechanic pointed at the badge on his uniform, greasy from a day's work. Next to his name, DICK, the bartender saw a stitched Alliance symbol. If you hadn't noticed him for the big, bushy, unkempt beard, or the thinning hair he oiled and combed over like a shiny helmet, hoping it would hide his bald spot, you'd notice his smell. Man smelled like engine grease and garlic and sweat. "Know what that means, don'tcha?"

"Yeah," the bartender said. "Yeah, I know what that means."

"Means I got people lookin' out for me. And Lord above, looks like the Lord is lookin' out for me, too. See that luscious beauty over there?" He gestured to the corner of the room he had been holed up in for the last hour.

A girl-- no, a woman-- sat there, waiting for him. She flashed him a smile.

"Most beautiful woman I ever seen," he shouted, hoping the whole bar could hear.

Most important, so the woman could hear. Guess she WAS pretty, if I don't mind sayin'.

"Aw, wo de ma, Dick, what the tian xiao de would a girl ever see in you?"

The mechanic laughed. "Caught her checking out my mobile bike. Had her face all in the guts. Thought she was trying to steal it. Then we got to talkin'..." He laughed again, belly quivering. "You really want to know, it's the engines. They turn her on."

The bartender rolled his eyes and poured another beer.

Dick took it and came back to the corner. He sat down, swallowed a bit of his beer.

"Kaylee sure is a pretty name," he said to the woman who was, you guessed it, me.

Across the room a man, tall, thin, and dirty handsome stared at us. I'd seen him come in with the mechanic and learned quick it was Dick's assistant, Luke. I kept an eye on him, the way all undercover thieves have to, while I pretended not to notice his glare.

"Yeah," I said. I couldn't suppress a giggle. "Now, about this ship you're workin' on."

"Oh, yeah," Dick said. "Old, antique-ish, but one hell of a piece of work. Plenty bashed up, but enough's left I can tell someone made some clever refinements on her. She's a beaut."

He thought ship-talk would turn me on. He was right. Maybe, in another time, I'd have gone with the flow and found me a nice piece of man, but I had me a fine, hot-blooded doctor waiting at home.

"Maybe you could show it to me," I said. I traced my finger over his hand. "I never seen a Firefly before."

Chapter 2

Of course, convincing them to let me do the dirty work hadn't been easy. And to be truthful, without the help of a certain someone I doubt it would have been me on the mission at all.

"That'll never work," Jayne said. "She... She..."

Zoe crossed her arms. "She what? She's a girl?"

Jayne sat down, relieved. "Glad someone knows what I'm talkin' about."

"There isn't a better person for the job," the Operative said.

My heart dropped a little. Had I heard him right? Seemed wrong the man that had first crashed our ship was now doing his best to make sure I got her back.

"Listen," Jayne said. "Just 'cause we trust you more than that guy," he pointed at Wash, "don't mean we trust you much. You want that to change, you'll stop talkin' crazy."

"As Inara said, this is an Alliance facility. The fewer that go in, the less likely your identities will be discovered."

Mal came forward. "Got the part about keepin' it simple. Seems like it ought to be a one man--"

Inara and I glared at him.

"--one person job," he said. "Just ain't sure that person ought to be Kaylee." He looked at me with a rare sympathy. "Your place is with engines. Not rolling in the dirt avoiding gunfire."

"As you say," the Operative said. "Her place is with engines. If you want someone to infiltrate this facility, you'll need someone that can blend in with mechanics. Someone that can speak their language and manipulate them so deeply they won't question for a second who she is and why she's there."

If he hadn't tried to kill me those months ago I'd have hugged him. As it was, I couldn't suppress a big smile.


Dick flicked a switch. The lights in the shop flashed on. I held my hand over my eyes, blinded by the sudden glare. As my sight adjusted, I gulped in awe.

Alliance cruisers resemble skyscrapers somehow pushing their big weight into flight. The truth ain't that far off. Engines sacrifice efficiency for slick looks, drop off speed and thrust so their officers can fly through the galaxy spreading their blend of meanness in style.

I expected their mechanic shops to look the same. I never thought I'd see a hangar that looked so much like home I could kiss the grease I stood on. Even the Alliance ships had been stripped down, each one in some state of repair, so they lost a healthy amount of their menace.

"Now, you understand this is a bit unorthodox," Dick said. "We don't usually accept shop-hands so fast."

Luke came in, grunted as he passed us. "You said it." He went straight to a ship across from us, a sleek little Alliance patroller run off a go-se Gurtsler engine, and picked up the job he had left. From the guts spilled on the floor, he was lookin' to install a G-line into the catalyzer.

I laughed.

Luke dropped the wrench and looked at me.

"Something wrong?"

"You try connecting the G-line to the catalyzer and you won't need me to tell you. It don't even go there."

He just looked at me, taking me in. "How do you know so much about ships?"

Dumb girl, I thought. Dumb dumb dumb. Just give away the whole game, why don't you? If I wanted to keep my image of a shop-hand desperate to one day become a mechanic, I had to pretend I knew a lot less about ships and stop insulting his shoddy work.

"Oh," I said. I turned to Dick, put my hand on his chest and got all teary. "My daddy ran a shop. 'Fore he died... Left me all alone in this world."

Luke grabbed Dick's arm and pulled him aside. Luke whispered to him so loud I know he meant me to hear, "Sir, you sure we can trust her?"

Dick pulled his arm out of Luke's grasp. He smiled at me, then went back to Luke. "Listen, Luke. You ain't been here too long yourself, not long enough to know a man gets lonely in this shop. This is the prettiest girl that's come my way in a long time. You come between me and her, may as well go ahead and pack YOUR bags."

Luke grunted, shook his head, and left.

Dick came back to me. I hoped I looked sad enough.

"There, there, Kaylee." He rubbed my head. "That's what the Alliance is here for. Gives a family to those that have none."

He lifted my chin up and looked into my eyes. He licked his lips, looked at my lips, looked back into my eyes.

Oh, God. I think he meant to kiss me.


"It won't work," Jayne had said. "She just doesn't have what it takes." He sighed at my hurt look. "Kaylee, I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"Well, what would it take?" I asked. "Can't bring no guns. Can't bring no grenades. Girl's got to have her wits in there, and I got plenty of'em."

"You're right," Badger told Jayne. "She don't 'ave what it takes." He grinned. "But we can give her what she needs."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Yeah," Mal said. "Enlighten us."

"Of course," Badger said.

He left the room. A full minute passed by, us wondering if he'd ditched us. Then he returned with a big metal crate in hand. He dropped it onto the table.

It was a crate from our last job.

In Badger's other hand, he held a crowbar.

"Of course," Inara said. "She needs lipstick. Badger, don't ruin the Captain's box of goods. I can get her some of my own."

"You and I both know this ain't just lipstick," Badger said, gesturing with the crowbar. "Yer going to thank old Badger once you get some of this."

Inara almost leaped off the wall to stop him. "Badger, there's something else we can figure out."

"They got a right to know what kind of product they're carrying, darlin'."

"Mal, stop him, he--"

"Let him work," Mal said. "Open it."

Inara stepped back. She put her hands behind her back, but I thought I saw them shake.

Badger shoved the crowbar under the crate top, pushed, and popped it off.

Inside were several cases of lipstick, crafted by the once cosmetic mogul Klein, a man now on the run from the Alliance. He also had played a part in losing Serenity. Still, I felt sorry that he had to take heat from the Alliance so we could make our getaway. Wasn't his decision for his lover to hire us for a job only to betray us, revealing all along we were a diversion so Klein could be rescued.

Badger lifted a tube of lipstick out of the crate and waved me over.

"A touch of this on your lips, lass, and you'll put anyone to sleep."

"But it's... it's just lipstick," I said.

"It ain't," Mal said. "Fei-fei de pi-yan." He glanced at Inara. "We've seen it before. On Saffron. Mind explaining how we ended up with a sleep-inducing lipstick as part of the job you put us on, Inara?"

Inara frowned, more uncomfortable than I had ever seen her.

Badger doubled over with laughter. "Didn't you wonder why it was so valuable? 'ere." He handed me another tube, this one a darker shade. "The darker the shade, the deadlier. Political assassins were 'is biggest customers. Light kind I gave you'll just knock some poor bloke out."

"But if she wears lipstick," Simon said, "that means she's going to kiss someone. And there will be no kissing!"

Jayne snorted. "He this averse to kissin' in the bunk?"

Simon exhaled and walked out of the room. "I have no control over the women in my life."

If he could see the situation I would later put myself in, Simon would have stopped me then. But some sacrifices had to be made to save Serenity.


"Oh, God," I said.

The mechanic licked his lips, exhaled a heavy breath.

"I can't wait," I said. "I've never seen one so... BIG. Just give it to me."

The mechanic wrapped his hand around it. So plump, red, and juicy.

I opened my mouth and let him push it inside. It was so big it pushed at the edges of my cheeks, but I got strawberries so rarely I took the end and shoved the rest in, stalk and all.

"Another?" Dick asked. "It's the last one."

I nodded so fast he laughed.

I ate it and fell back onto his long and surprisingly soft bunk.

He already lay on the bunk, his weight pressing against the mattress.

"Never seen someone so pretty," Dick said.

He looked eager. And why wouldn't he with me sittin' in front of him? For all he knew, I was a willing woman that didn't just want a job, I wanted him.

"Aw, you're just sayin' that," I said.

"It's true." He said it with such sincerity I forgot my pretense.

I blushed, lowered my head. "Don't hear that too often where I come from, is all."

"Hard to believe you ain't got your whole piece of home after you."

"Just one piece... but he don't understand."

"Wants to hold you back," Dick offered.

"He's proud of me," I said. "But he don't want me to grow. He's happy with his little mechanic. Wants everyone in their place. Hell, he ain't moved much beyond his own past. Even named his own ship after the biggest day of his life." I sighed. "This is my one chance to prove I can be the hero, too."

I glanced at my bag on the floor. The left pocket held the lipstick. If I meant to finish the job, I had to find out where Serenity was and how to get her out without getting caught. Only way to do that was put my boss to sleep so I could access their records. This sweet old man wasn't my first pick to kiss, but if it meant having my baby back, I'd just pucker up and suck it up.

I sighed. "You're sweet to listen to me. Ought to give you a reward..."

I reached for my bag, but the faint rumble of Dick snoring reached my ears. He'd fallen asleep on his own.

Chapter 4

I went for the main terminal. My fingers itched to plug into it and find out which hangar had my baby.

I went in--

I snapped back around the corner. Someone was already in the room.

Luke. Half stuck underneath the console.

With wires spread across the floor, disconnected and reconnected to different ports, a flashing image on the terminal showing each and every hangar on the base, including red spots that I figured must mean the alarm sensors protecting the Alliance's precious wrecked ships from thieves like me.

A ship set off those sensors, a grav chain would latch onto the ship. Couldn't lift it five feet off the ground.

Of course. It all added up.

I stepped into the room.

"Makes sense, you know," I told Luke.

Startled, Luke banged his head against the top of the terminal. He rolled out and rubbed his head. "Ain't you supposed to be in bed?"

"Ain't you supposed to be a mechanic?"

He studied me, wondering how much I knew.

"I'm just reconfiguring the grav chains. Dick asked me to."

"Sure he asked you to recalibrate them so they ain't got enough pull to stop a fly from breakin' atmo, too, didn't he?"

Luke cocked his head. "You ain't who you say, either."

"I ain't the one caught with his pants down. Gimme one good reason why I shouldn't tell Dick about you."

"Gimme one good reason I shouldn't tell him about YOU," he countered.

"I got nothin' to hide. But you left your tracks all behind you. How'd you even get this job? Pretty clear engines ain't your jiang lie dian. You don't even know your way around a crappy little Gurtsler."

Luke held up the wrench like it was a gun. "Listen. I've scouted this place for the last month. I mapped out where every ship is, know when every guard shift changes, and I just figured out how to redirect their grav alarm. You think some little girl is going to stop me now, you got something coming to you."

"Like what?"

He paused, realized he had a chance to make an offer. "20% of whatever I sell the ships for."

"Not good enough." I smirked and looked him up and down. Gorrammit but he was a fine man. "You got something else I need."

"Something else...? Oh." He laughed. "Really. Never would have thought. Shoulda known, though. Dick said you liked engines." He unbuttoned the top of his shirt.

"Yeah," I said. "Got my eye on a particular one. You show me where I can find a Firefly, you got yourself a partner."

Chapter 5

Two huge doors blocked the entrance into the hangar. Luke punched in a code to the pad next to the doors. Seconds later, the doors groaned open an inch, just wide enough to let us inside.

There she was, just lying in the middle of the hangar like she'd been waiting for me all this time.

"Oh, Serenity, ain't you a pretty sight."

Alliance or not, they'd done a good job putting her back together. The hive, just a month ago blown apart, now bulged from the rear of the ship, ready to light up and keep us flyin'.

Specs from the terminal told me Dick had used old blueprints from original Firefly transports, but he'd also told me he adored the refinements we'd made to the ship over time. A quick glance at the exterior confirmed he'd kept whatever hadn't been torn apart in the crash.

"Luke, can't tell you thanks enough for--

A gun cocked. I turned towards Luke and met the barrel of his pistol aimed at me.

"Can't let you go, darlin'," Luke said. "All the work I put into this, got no intention of sharing."

My jaw dropped. "You got all these other ships. I just want Serenity."

"Got a name already picked out, huh?"

"We had a deal, Luke."

"Had being the operative word. I don't care about that piece of go se. I just know I ain't letting you walk out of here with anything."

Betrayal was one thing. I'd have let him go without a grudge. But the man that calls Serenity a piece of go se has got something coming to him. I don't even let Simon get away with that.

"Morning comes," Luke said, "they'll wonder where all the ships disappeared to. Wonder who took 'em."

"You... you're gonna kill me?"

"What do you think I am, some monster? No. But I am gonna tie you up. Turn around now. You tell 'em whatever you want. By the time they find you, I'll be long gone."

I just stood there, trying to figure a way out of this mess.

They'd told me I couldn't do it.

Luke waved the gun. "Do it. Now."

I turned around and shook my head. "That's the way it's gonna be... Stupid. I'm so stupid."

He took a thin rope from his pocket and tied my hands behind me.

"Ain't your fault, girl. Some of us just ain't cut out to be thieves."

"That's not what I mean," I said. I craned my neck around to look at him, fluttered my lashes with my best pathetic puppy look. "Didn't even get one kiss from you."

The gun wavered.

I turned around to face him. "Didn't you wonder why I was so eager to be your partner?"

He held the gun steady... Then laughed. He lowered it.

"Women. Something about bad boys."

I shook my head. "It's the engines. They turn me on."

Luke laughed. "All right."

He put his hand in my hair, brought my head forward, and kissed me. He opened his mouth, but I just pressed my lips harder onto his.

He broke free, laughed. "Damn, girl, you are one aggressive... aggressive..." His eyes unfocused. He stumbled to the left. "Oh, kao, what'd you..."

The gun fell out of his hand and slid out of his reach. He dropped, unconscious.

I reached for the gun--

Realized my hands were still tied. "Gorramit," I said. "Now who's going to untie me?"


Mal put his hand on the side of the ship. He closed his eyes, savored the touch of the ship like the touch of an old lover. "It happened just like you say?"

"Yep," I told the Captain. "Left him propped up at the console, big ole bruise on his head. Alliance codebook in his pocket, still hacked into the system and all. Poor boy, somethin' just fell off a shelf and hit him in the head before he could go through with his dastardly plan." I grinned. "But not before his accomplice could sneak off with a couple of ships, includin' a little Firefly."

"That's good," he murmured. "Guess you did all right. Didn't need us after all."

I meant what I had told Dick. Sometimes, seemed the Captain wanted me to just be the mechanic. But I saw now, it wasn't because he didn't want me to be a hero. To him, weren't no big damn heroes. Just those considered the closest thing he had to family looking out for each other in the best way they know how.

"Well, there was this close shave with a security guard. Almost didn't make it out with Serenity. Have to admit, wouldn't have ever happened with a big strappin' Cap'n like you there."

Mal smiled, happy I'd said so, even though I think he knew deep down I was just saying it to make him happy.

I left him to be alone with Serenity. I wanted to be with her, too, but there would be time for that later. For now, I had a man waiting for me, a man that had better be good and excited to see this big damn hero back in one piece, mission accomplished.

Standing outside the Tams' room - well, really just River's now Simon was bunkin' with me - was Badger.

He paced in front of the door. He seemed about to knock, then dropped his hand and paced some more. He saw me coming and pretended to study some bit of the wall.

"Hey, Badger."

"See you got back in one piece," he said. "Well, about time for me to go. My people won't give you no problems when you head out."

He passed me, an expression of such deep regret on his face I couldn't let it go unmentioned.

"Why'd you help us?" I asked.

He stopped. "Owed you a favor."

"Wouldn't have nothing to do with why you were standing outside this door, would it?"

He smirked. "Don't know what you're talkin' 'bout."

"It's ok," I told him. "Won't see you for a while." If we were lucky, I thought. "Think you made a good enough impression helpin' us."

Badger's worried face relaxed. "Don't care about no impression."

"You're talkin' to a girl, you know," I said. "Don't worry. I think she knows ya like her."

Badger chuckled, shook his head, and left.

Simon threw open the door before I could finish the first knock. He grabbed me, pulled me inside.

River sat at a table, combing through a book. Noticed she'd kept all the pages in that one.

"Is he gone?"

"He's gone," I told her.

Simon pushed me onto the bed and knelt in front of me. "Let me look at you."

"I'm ok," I said. "Wasn't even one bullet fired."

"I don't care about any bullets." Simon brushed my hair off of my neck, checked the skin.

"Simon, what are you--"

"Just tell me. Was there any kissing?"

I smiled. The poor guy worried all this time over me. He didn't like to show his feelings, still hadn't told me he loved me, but moments like this made me feel we were on our way to at least liking each other a whole lot more than ever.

"Well," I said. "There was this one cute guy..."

To be continued in: R&R


Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:28 AM


I really like the format in which you are writing, and the dialogue is convincing. I'd love to read more of these! :)


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Episode 6: R&R
Simon goes on vacation only to find more trouble than he left behind.

Episode 5: The Training Job
The crew may have found Serenity, but the real trouble will be getting it back from the Alliance.

Episode 4: First Kiss
A date with River brings more trouble than Badger asked for.

Episode 3: First Date
The other side of Episode 2:

To rescue Mal from the Alliance, Zoe must remember a lesson from the man she loved.

Episode 2: But Wash... Ain't you dead?
Trying to work together long enough to escape the Alliance, Mal and the Operative are stunned by the appearance of someone they both thought dead.

Episode 1: Crash!
After a botched heist that causes Serenity to crash (again), the crew looks to an unexpected source for help, and finds a few surprises in store.