Spirit Level
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kaylee gets a birthday present and Mal finds himself and his crew stranded and left tangling with a somewhat unconventional Alliance captain.


Chapter One

Those little adjustments of his - by the flick of a switch and the easing of a stick - kept the band of gold curving across the horizon for as long as possible, until the ship bucked forward and a sudden blaze of light chased away the dark midnight blue to reveal the azure sea, the dusted yellow-green of land and the white wisps of cloud below. Wash gave a little sigh and skimmed Serenity into the atmosphere, whereupon the frame of the ship began to vibrate, rattling the cheap plastic dinosaurs upon his console into a little waltz.     Kaylee put her hands upon the back of his chair. “You always make such a purdy planet-fall,” she said.     “Well that’s a lie,” countered Wash. “But thanks sweet thing.”     “Look at her down there, she looks so fragile. Like bone china.”     “Bone china, huh? That’s a relief. It means I don’t have to worry about the – ah – torsion and kickback that’s threatening to send this thing into a spin and bring us all to a crunchy demise. Bone china. We’ll just punch a hole through there and come out the other side in a jet of hot, molten tea. ”     “Never been a landing when you haven’t – oh, look at that mountain. She’s so beautiful.” And Kaylee sighed as their gradual descent slipped them over a great mountain that peaked through the thickening cloud layer. It drifted serenely past and out of sight - a snow capped island in a milky white sea.

    A finger tapped her on the shoulder. She turned. Mal. He pointed a laconic hand out the window and gently span her back round with the other.“She may look beautiful but she’s reaver dressed in - I mean as - Shindig Belle. Her people are damaged goods. Too dumb to produce anything but retarded children, too insane to make a tourist industry out of this shiny bauble. They run around in the mud. And when they can’t run anymore they crawl about in it. And when they can’t crawl it’s because the sun’s dried the mud all up, and then their slack, ever-breathing mouths drool on the dirt to make more.”     "Your exaggerating, right? I mean... really?" "I surely ain't. An' after I swore never to set foot on this back-birth rock, too. But they need someone to ship their two-headed hogs off planet." "Their bacon tastes like cheese," cut in Wash. Kaylee made a face. "Sounds like the special hell. But it looks so pretty! And kind of familiar too. What did you say the name of this dump was?" "Spirit Level." "Spirit Level?" Kaylee lurched towards Mal, grabbed him by the shoulders. "Spirit Level?" "Welcome home my little backwater belle." "Happy birthday," added Wash. "Come the eighteenth," corrected Mal. "Figured you'd like to visit your family, see the old homestead and maybe spend some time catching up on the farmyard gossip. You've worked hellish hard lately, girl. Consider it a little paid vacation. Well, half-pay." "Cap'n... I don't know what to... you're so... nice!" "Nice nothing, I've got business here. Vacation trips are, as ever, not at home to Serenity Tours." Wash punched some keys, winced at a sudden judder and relaxed the ship into a gentler approach. "When you're done mixing metaphors, reckon me and Zoe can do some wandering ourselves? I mean, we will be down there for a while, right?" "A few days at least, maybe a week." Mal rubbed his jaw, the thought of being anchored down for longer than a night or two made him tense. "I'll need you to run Serenity over, Wash, see if you can sort out that bucking problem we've got." "I can do that, Cap'n," said Kaylee, gazing out the window, biting her thumb. "Kaylee," said Mal, "c'mon now, it's your birthday. This is a present." "Land her by the farm. The mule can be in town in half an hour, providing Jane don't try and feed any more chickens through the engines. It's not a big job, I'll have it in hand in a few hours." "You have fun. Wash can handle it." "I can?" yelped Wash. Kaylee shook her head "Nu-uh. This is my job. Folk see me back home, they gonna see I'm a real grease-monkey, a mechanic. I get back, they see me idling while Wash here gums up the works and jams the feeds, I'm gonna die of shame." "Listen to her Mal, girl talks sense," said Wash. Mal drummed his fingers, stared moodily at the two of them. He hated - what was the word Inara had laboured to teach him - acquiesce? He raised his hand, extended a finger, jabbed her in the belly. "These are my orders. I order you to kick back, relax. You may work on Serenity, but I see you turning down a dance, or a see a bottle of 'shine stand neglected, I am liable to get wrathful. This is your birthday. You do what you need to smooth her out, but at your own pace. No orders from the barking mean old Captain. You ignore me, girl. Have fun, and make sure she's ship-shape for take off in four days."

Zoe's voice now. "Love you honey. You got a gift. Any other mechanic out there would take four days just to adjust the seat on this baby. I don't know how you keep her flying with just a little tweak here and there." "Did I hear the bestowing of gifts, Zoe? Is that her present? Flattery?" asked Mal with arched eyebrows. "Is that what you've got parcelled up for her? Because, you know, I recall paying coin for something else." "Mal! Don't spoil the surprise!" and then Zoe kissed Kaylee on the cheek. "You'll have to wait for the magic day, baby. So Mal, you be needing me to cover your back for this business meet?" "Nothing Jayne can't handle. Just farm types. Go on, you go relax some with Wash too. But not so much as to devalue Kaylee's present. You know, go sight-seeing but awhiles punch yourself hard in the face too." "Seems about fair," laughed Zoe. "You're in such a good mood today, Captain. I'm feeling almost loyal."

A loud retching noise and they all turned to see Wash, theatrically coughing up his lungs. "Excuse me," he said, glaring. "But if I could have some space on the flight deck, and a little less emotional distraction. We're in the final landing stages, so haul ass back there and do the thing with the belts and the chairs and the fixed grins." The deck cleared. Serenity was coming in to land, twitching and bucking her stubborn-mule frame in the turbulence.


Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:49 PM


Vey poetical - I could almost imagine flying with Wash from your description. Nice to see a gen fic, and looking forward to where you're going with it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010 4:33 PM


yeah! You've got good imagery here, I could see the whole thing. Ha, teasing Kaylee about her homeworld. :)


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Spirit Level
Kaylee gets a birthday present and Mal finds himself and his crew stranded and left tangling with a somewhat unconventional Alliance captain.

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