The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 10
Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kaylee and Simon figure out what their next step is, and Mal gets his bullet wound patched up.


Part J

You know, to a certain extent, I can hardly believe it was that easy," Simon said later in the infirmary aboard Firefly. Technically, according to both ship's time and the local Bellerophon clock at the mansion it was the next day, but nobody had really gotten much sleep in the night, with the exception of Kaylee, who was still deeply in dreamland. Nobody had wanted to move her out of Inara's shuttle, especially Inara herself.

"She looks so cute, all dressed up in that fancy black evening gown, her hair done to the nines, and snoring so enthusiastically," Inara had commented, and even Simon had to agree.

"HEY!" Mal exclaimed, in response to Simon's comment, and Simon blushed, realizing how his remark might have sounded.

"Okay, yes, on one level I realize that this doesn't qualify as easy, even though as gunshots go, it won't be a terribly tough one to recover from, especially if you listen to doctors' orders," he admitted, returning to his examination of the stitching that he'd performed on the shuttle, after recovering from the stun weapon and finding a medical kit that was in somewhat better shape than the one that Kaylee taken with them to Bellerophon for him to use in an emergency. "But still - I mean, there are a lot of complications that didn't arise, that might have. Do the feds still not even realize that we were there?"

"Not sure what they realize, I admit," Mal said, covering himself up somewhat since Simon wasn't telling him that he had to keep his newest developing scar, (a bit uncomfortably close to the crotch area,) available for further study. "Inara's presence there, at least, was on official record."

"Won't somebody ask her for a statement, then?"

"No." Mal smiled with satisfaction. "She relayed a message back about how she was taking herself, and her client, to safety because of the disturbance - she wouldn't have been the only guest to panic if that had really been her motivation, and probably most of them weren't even polite enough to say so. And it would be a rare and extremely bold lawman who would dare to contact a Registered Companion for help in a matter that didn't concern her much more closely, even to ask for voluntary help."

"Really?" Simon was surprised to hear that. "I knew that Companions are entitled to considerable privilege, especially in terms of any confidences shared by their clients, but still..."

"Inara assures me that it's so, and I believe her," Mal said. "She won't likely have to admit to the Guild what she's been up to either, though she may have to pay dues on any percentage share that comes her way."

"Ah, right," Simon said, backing away and taking a seat near the door of his domain. "For that, we'll need to deliver the goods to Badger, won't we? That means we're headed back to Persephone?" He did a double-take. "No, not before collecting Jayne and Book from Whittier..."

"Yes, of course we're headed there first," Mal agreed. "More than half-way there already, actually, if I know my pilot's skill." Simon nodded. "And no, we won't be heading all the way back to Persephone. Got business as will be taking us over towards Beaumonde - some freight to take on, and an appointment that Inara needs to keep. First, we rendezvous at Dixie Market Station, deliver the engine to some of Badger's best couriers, and stock up on a few supplies while we're there. I reckon that we'll also have passengers to take from Whittier to Dixie, and entrust to the courier's care, not that I like that part overmuch."

"The Marens?" Simon said, and Mal nodded. "Inara mentioned something about that, but..."

"Ain't really our business," Mal told him gruffly. "They made their own choice to leave and go to work for the Badge, and they need to get to Persephone without the Alliance knowing where they're going."

"And we need to get the engine there for similar reasons," Simon said, seeing it. "Well, it'll be interesting to see them again." He waited for an awkward moment. "Well, I guess that's it, sir. You can stay here if you feel like it, I suppose, or..."

"Oh, no, no." Mal quickly stood up. "Got captainly things to do. Um - just as soon as I change out of this stupid gown thingee and get my own clothes back on."

"Sure, sure," Simon said. With a smile on his face and a song in his step, he left the infirmary, going fore to the cargo bay - and found River waiting for him in the corridor. Neither of them said anything, but he embraced his little sister warmly, and proceeded with an arm around her narrow shoulders, while River smiled slowly herself and wrapped a hand around to the far side of Simon's waist.

Together like this, they proceeded across the cargo bay, up to the catwalk, and shared a glance. River nodded to Simon, so he went over to the door to Inara's shuttle, and knocked three times on the airlock door. He wasn't even sure if sound would get through the airlock, but after just a few seconds a familiar voice came back. "What is it? Who is it?"

"Umm, it's Simon, and nothing really important. I don't have to talk with you now if it's not a good time, but I just wanted to..."

"Simon?! Umm, yeah - come in I guess. Please."

Simon worked the door controls to allow entry for himself, and stepped forward with his arm still around his little sister - but River twisted out of his grasp, stepping back, and solemnly shaking her head. Simon cocked his own head questioningly, and River responded with another gesture that somehow spoke volumes, in a non-verbal understanding that went all the way back to their childhood back on Osiris. 'Go ahead. You don't need me there. This is between you and Kaylee.' He wasn't quite sure which of those sentiments had really been in River's mind, and which he was reading into her movement of her head, but he did know that he had to go ahead and do this without her, so he nodded at River and headed inside.

"Oh, hey, you really are here," Kaylee said when she spotted him entering the main room of the shuttle. "Do - do you have any idea why I was in here?"

"You fell asleep as Inara reached nine hundred feet, she said," Simon told her. "Nobody wanted to disturb you - least of all me."

"Oh, okay. We - we got the engine out okay?"

"Yeah - it's still sitting in the shuttle's cargo hold, but it'll be safe enough in there," Simon assured her. "Everything inside it can stand up to vacuum and the cold if needs be. Apparently we're going to be handing it over to some couriers at Dixie Market Station."

"After all we went through?" Kaylee exclaimed, sounding a bit upset. "What if the couriers turn around and try to cut their own deal with Badger?"

"I don't know about that end of the business, really," Simon pointed out. "I think that they're working directly for Badger, not freelancers - and that he'd take a dim view of them trying to sell him goods that he's already bought and paid for. Or something like that."

"Okay," Kaylee said. "Where's Inara, anyway?"

"I'm not sure, actually. Maybe in the kitchen or something. Didn't see her after we docked."

"Then I should clear out; let her reclaim her space if she wants to." Kaylee got up, and smoothed the somewhat wrinkled dress down her body. "Guess I've got one more shindig outfit to add to my collection, at least."

"Yeah, but - well, I like the way you look in something simple and casual better, actually," Simon blurted out.

"You do, really?" Kaylee grinned back at him. "Listen, about what I said, and what we both said, back on Bellerophon..."

"We should take this a bit slow," Simon said. Kaylee's face seemed to react with two or three different reactions at the same time, including hope and disappointment. "It was a bit like a winter fling, the sort of emotions running high that can't last when you come back to the big city, or... well, do you know what I mean by that?"

"Summer love," Kaylee agreed. "Or that's what the term was back on my world. Guess the holiday schedules were different." Simon chuckled and nodded. "Okay, so - what were you thinking of for a slow restart?"

"We could do something together," Simon suggested. "At Dixie Market."

"Oooh, they're supposed to have an alien in a jar, that you pay to go in an' see!" Kaylee exclaimed. "Always wanted to take a peek."

"An alien in a jar?" Simon's face drew down in a frown. "Why, why would that be something fun to..."

"Well, it's in a dark and quiet room, and they only let a couple people in at a time," she said. "Zoe told me so. She an' Wash enjoyed it lots."

Kaylee stared in amazement as Simon's frown literally turned itself upside down. (It wasn't quite the same as an ordinary conversion from a frown to a grin, though she wasn't quite sure how. Faster than usual for one thing.) "Yes, come to think of it, I think that this alien is somebody we need to pay a visit to."

"I can't wait until we hit Dixie," Kaylee said, letting her fingers brush Simon's as they walked out towards her bunk.


(Almost a month later.)

"Gorram it," Mal muttered, stepping from the bunk hall into the dining room. Inara looked up at him, startled. "Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to disturb..."

"No, that's okay," Inara replied softly. A lot had changed between them recently, but Inara did regret the loss of that sense she'd had of being one of the ship's regular company - and of being close to Mal without petty bickering getting in the way. But she couldn't afford to... "What's wrong?"

"I just heard back from Badger, about the Baty engine."

"Oh, right." It took just a moment for Inara to place that - she hadn't been thinking about it much recently, as other more immediate concerns developed on Serenity. Things like Mal finding an old war buddy dead in the Dixie Market post office, who turned out to be not-so-dead for a brief while, and bringing him home to Saint Albans - like helping Nandi's heart of gold stand against Burgess, finding out just how gifted little River was, and a very clever bounty hunter showing up to collect her. Also a few more usual appointments - and Inara working up the nerve to tell Mal that she had to leave the ship. She didn't *want* to leave the ship, but it seemed to be the only way out of... "Sorry. What did he have to say about..."

"They blew the damn thing up," Mal growled. "Along with a couple of buildings in a disreputable part of Eavesdown, the half-finished prototype copy engine, and most of their notes on how the thing worked. Badger said that he's under suspicion for arson on account of the explosion, and won't be able to do anything with the research that managed to get completed."

"Oh, brother," Inara said softly. "Umm, not meaning to sound too callous, but given that Badger is a devious criminal mastermind, do - do you have any way to check on what he's said?"

"Yeah, the thought crossed my mind that he's just trying to get out of paying me the share that he agreed to, but... I don't think so. We can't make it to Persephone anytime soon, but I have other friends and sources of info there, that Badger doesn't know about and can't lean on I hope. I've already got confirmation on Alliance news channels of the explosion and fire, though that might not be as Badger's representing them."

"Alright," Inara said. "Then, assuming for the moment that he's on the level... I'm sorry. If you feel like anything was my fault for the terms of the agreement that I helped you make with Badger..."

"No, not your fault," Mal assured her. "I was bent to hell on getting a cut of Badger's profits, and for that, I knew that he wouldn't also be giving away a lump sum. The way the business works. You go for a share of the big pot; you take on a share of the risk too. Badger's taken a big loss on the end of this caper - still assuming that he isn't trying to fool me - and we've taken a smaller one."

"I'm sorry for that," Inara repeated.

"Yeah." He took a deep breath. "On a brighter note, we're headed for Constance. Badger lined us up a bank job there, and believe it or not there might be a fence willing to take on the Lassiter. It'll be good to get the money in for that piece of diode. I've got an eye on this little hovercraft deal to replace the Mule we junked..."

"Constance?" Inara said, and sighed. "That's taking me further from where I need to be, Mal. I told you that I'm leaving."

"Yes - but I thought that there wasn't any big hurry."

"Maybe that's changed," she insisted. "I've accepted a position at a Companion training house on Paquin, and I need to get there... soon. Not quite sure how soon, but I want to hear how soon you could possibly get me there." Inara got up to leave, and Mal looked in the direction that she left, the usual blank confusion on his face.




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Falling through the Deep Slot - Part Five
Kaylee and Zoe throw a wake for Wash, and River lands them on Hera - a little too hard and in an unexpected setting.

Falling through the Deep Slot - Part Four
The crew rally to save Kaylee when she is knocked out on her spacewalk, but don't get to her before she has an out-of-verse experience.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 10
Kaylee and Simon figure out what their next step is, and Mal gets his bullet wound patched up.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 9
Mal, Simon, and Kaylee have their showdown with Allena of the Santiago, and try to get out of the Conference building with their loot.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 8
Mal, Kaylee, and Simon head off on their daring theft, counting on the fact that the Santiago crew is coming up quick behind them.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 7
Kaylee starts to work her way through the security system protecting the prototype engine, but Wash and Zoe find out that another crew is getting ready to move in on the prize!

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 6
As the scam progresses, Simon struggles to control his attraction to Kaylee, and Inara starts to come up with a plan of her own.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 5
The conference's first night proceeds, and a few dangerous lines are crossed.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 4
The conference starts, and Mal isn't as comfortable going undercover with Inara as he expected.

The Bellerophon Baty Engine Heist - Chapter 3
Mal, Inara, Kaylee, and Simon prepare for their undercover mission at a scientific conference, while Book and Jayne find a new calling as hostager/babysitters.