The Four Winds, Chapter 4
Monday, May 16, 2011

Mal and Jayne do some climbing; Zoe and Simon go for a jog.


Inara stepped off the small lev car that had carried her -- along with her small case and her bodyguards -- through Nassau Station to Jerrode Eusabian's apartments in what had been intended as housing for the station's high-level government officials. Only the best, for Jerrode.

He was there to meet her, elegantly dressed in a black silk suit with silver embroidery around the collar and cuffs. He walked forward, engulfing her small hands in his large ones, towering darkly over her like a statue of some ancient god. "Inara," he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek, and smiling.

"Jerrode! it's been so long," she said, turning her face up to his and returning his smile. "You cannot imagine how pleased I am to find civilized company this far from the center of civilization!"

"Oh, likewise," he said earnestly, leading her between the columns that set off his apartments from the surrounding public space. They walked through Jerrode's marbled entry and into a small, candlelit dining nook where a table had already been laid for two. "It has, no doubt, been a while since you have seen a civilized table as well?" he suggested, his eyes creasing in amusement.

"Yes, indeed," she agreed, and eyed the food on the table with undisguised desire. The salad looked fresh! Such luxury. Mal couldn't have stopped her coming if he'd stood in her way with an axe.

Jerrode walked to the table and plucked an apple from a cut-glass bowl filled with fruit. He handed it to Inara. "For the fairest one," he said, barely smiling.

Inara laughed, and accepted the smooth golden fruit.


Mal tried to identify where the gunfire was coming from, but the gymnasium echoed badly and all he could say for sure was that it was inside the room. He came up on one knee with his own weapon drawn, shielded by a stack of rusting machine parts, and caught Jayne's eye. The mercenary had dived the other way, and found similar shelter, but the aisle they had been standing in was now between them, and the air was full of bullets and shouting. Where the buyer had gone, even a cautious glance around his protective corner couldn't tell.

The double-doors Mal and Jayne had entered through burst open, and Mal fired a shot in that direction. Jayne grabbed the pipe they had laid out for the purpose, and moved as though to block the doors closed again, but the four men who came through were too quick. They moved with purpose and skill, coming through the doors in formation, covering each other, and Mal was forced back toward the door that he had decreed would be their safety valve. Jayne was forced back too, in the opposite direction, and Mal quickly lost sight of the big mercenary as he backed slowly away from the two soldiers -- had to be soldiers, Mal surmised, or ex-soldiers -- who were advancing slowly upon him.

He felt cold metal against his temple, and a hand reached around from behind him to snatch his pistol away. "Captain Reynolds," said a woman's voice, as a woman's hand wrenched his right arm around behind him. "Let's get you to your ship."

"My ship is already gone," Mal lied. "You think I'd let them stay around here, knowing the likes of you might try to get the jump on us?"

The woman laughed as the two soldiers who'd been forcing Mal's retreat appeared in front of him. "Nice try," she said, holstering her own pistol and running her fingers up through his hair and over the top of his head. When she reached his forehead, she grabbed a handful of hair and yanked his head back brutally. "We've brought our own manpower. Now let's go get that cargo."

Mal was about to tell her where she could put that cargo when he heard a roar from ahead -- deep, angry, and audible even over the earsplitting sounds of bullets. The two soldiers turned, but not fast enough; Jayne came from behind them in a blur, shooting one and breaking the other's jaw with the butt of his semiautomatic rifle.

The woman holding Mal jerked his head back even farther, and he heard her start to speak. But if she was planning to stop Jayne by threatening Mal, she had grossly miscalculated. The mercenary came straight on through the two soldiers without even pausing for breath, barrelling into Mal and smashing both Mal and his captor into the junk behind them. Mal felt a sharp pain in his spine, and heard the woman gasp. Jayne pulled him away from her, and Mal glanced backward to see that she had been impaled on a broken metal pipe that had gone straight through her abdomen.

"Gotta move," Jayne said breathlessly, reloading his gun. He was spattered with blood, but Mal couldn't tell at a glance if any of it was Jayne's own. "Buggers are everywhere." Jayne dropped into a watchful crouch, his weapon at the ready.

Mal bent, retrieving his weapon. He glanced behind him, at the door that head been his intended retreat, but immediately discarded the notion. The woman who'd grabbed him had come that way, and she probably wasn't the only one. In fact, he decided, if it were him, he'd probably have all the ground-floor exits covered.

That left the balcony, so Mal looked up. Three armed men were there, covering their comrades below who were probably converging on Mal and Jayne. There were at least a dozen exits from the upper level -- but to get to them, he and Jayne would have to expose themselves to gunfire from the balcony and the floor. The three exits along the back wall of the balcony, where the stairs were, were probably right out, Mal figured, because they'd be the easiest to get to and likely guarded. But unless their attacker had a small army at his disposal, Mal doubted that all of the balcony exits were covered. And the least likely would be the one right above their head.

Mal holstered his pistol and reached for a a handhold in the tower of junk in front of him. Jayne looked up, guessing Mal's plan. The tower came within arm's reach of the balcony.

"When I get where they can see me, take out the three on the balcony," Mal said, and Jayne nodded.

Mal climbed. The junk beneath him swayed and shifted, and he held his breath as he reached up for each new handhold, or scraped with the toe of his boot for a foothold. When he was high enough to clear Jayne's head, one of the watchers spotted him and gave a shout. Mal heard Jayne fire, and saw the man fall.

Heedless now of his own peril, Mal scrambled up the the last few feet and leaped for the rail, hauling himself over as bullets smacked around him. He flattened out and rolled onto his stomach on the balcony, drawing his pistol as he rolled.

Jayne had taken out all three shooters on the balcony, so Mal only had to force the ones still on the lower level to keep their heads down as Jayne scrambled up the tower of junk with astonishing agility. When he reached the top, he grabbed the guardrail and gave a powerful kick, pushing the tower over with a mighty crash.

"Door," Mal said, as Jayne landed heavily next to him. The mercenary slithered sideways, flat on his stomach, and ducked as he put a bullet in the lock. He rolled onto his back and kicked the door open from his supine position.

No bullets from that direction.

"Clear," the mercenary called.

"Move," Mal ordered, and Jayne was through the door, on his feet with a weapon in each hand, running point with his head constantly turning. Mal was behind him, stalking backward, watching behind, kicking an empty ammo cartridge into the narrow space between the door and its sill to prevent pursuit from inside the gym.

"Ship?" Jayne asked. Mal was so deafened from the gunfire he could barely hear the mercenary, as though Jayne were miles away, rather than right next to him.

"Yeah," he acknowledged. A commotion erupted in the corridor from the direction Mal was facing. "Run!"

Jayne didn't really need to be told. The two men sprinted away, reloading as they went.


"Paper currency?" the dealer said mildly, when he saw the money Simon produced from an inside vest pocket. The dealer shook his head, twisting his handlebar moustache. "Paper cost you double."

"Fine," Simon said, unsure whether it was safe to haggle here -- and hoping this wasn't one of those places where it was a sign of weakness, and distinctly unsafe, not to haggle. He knew already that he must look nervous -- how could he not? -- but, maybe if he caught Zoe's eye she could give him some sort of cue. He turned his head, looking for her . . . and she was gone.

Simon's heart stopped. A hundred disastrous scenarios leaped to his mind. The whole job was a setup, whoever had sent them had known they would split up, was even now closing some trap on Mal, and Inara, and Serenity too. Or, someone had recognized him from an old fugitive bulletin, and decided the best way to cash in was to take out his bodyguard first. Or --

"Five cases, forty per, be two hundred paper," said the dealer with the handlebar moustache.

Simon, still searching with mounting panic for Zoe, barely registered the man's words. They sank in slowly, while the fellow twisted his moustache and regarded Simon through narrowed eyes.

"You awfully pale, son," the dealer said finally. "You all right?"

"Huh?" Simon forced himself to focus; to remember what the dealer had just said. Two hundred? Five cases? That was a six-month supply, and no more than Simon would have expected to pay in the Core, at a reputable pharmacy. He forgot, momentarily, that Zoe was missing.

"What about the haldanil?" he asked, wondering if he'd get equally lucky on the other drug that had given River some relief.

"Two cases, one-fifty each, three hundred," the dealer said.

Simon nodded, unable to believe his luck -- at least in finding River's medications. Under six hundred for a six-month supply of the drugs! Simon peeled off the bills and handed them to the dealer, glancing down at the labels on the cases he was given, and popping them open to inspect the contents briefly.

Something moved in the corner of his vision as he tucked the precious medications into his kit, and Simon looked up sharply. It was Zoe, he saw to his great relief, stepping from around a display of bladed weaponry -- some of which was surely illegal -- not ten meters away. She was talking to a woman who looked like her photographic negative -- tall and lean, with long blonde curls and bristling armament. As Simon watched, Zoe accepted something from the other woman, and casually slipped the item into her pocket, and the money to the seller. The two women stood together for an instant longer, admiring the weapons display, before Zoe turned and caught Simon staring at her. He flushed, knowing he must look a fool: scared city boy, desperately hunting for his bodyguard. But Zoe's bland expression never changed as she sauntered toward him. She simply walked to, and then past him, and Simon turned and fell into step with her. They were heading toward the ship now, and that thought alone calmed him.

"Did you get what you came for?" she asked "Yes." He recalled her exchange with the blonde warrior-woman and asked, "Did you?"

Zoe shot him a sidelong smile. "Of course."

"Don't you have enough knives?" he asked, glancing in her direction quickly enough to catch the slight frown that passed across her face. But she answered mildly, "Oh, you can never really have enough knives."

He saw her frown again, and heard a commotion ahead of them. At a point where the section of the station they were in joined up with the main hub, the crowds of inhabitants were scrambling in a panic. Simon heard shouting, and gunfire; he caught a glimpse of two figures passing the junction point.

"Was that Jayne?" he asked, but Zoe was already moving, one hand on the butt of her gun, and Simon hurried after her, hampered by crowds coming toward them in the narrow connecting corridor. He pushed against the tide, trying to keep Zoe in view as he struggled in her wake. She was struggling, too. Before she made it to the junction point, a knot of armed men and women jogged past in a tight formation, parting the crowd with their mass and discipline.

"Wo men wan le," he muttered, and shoved even harder against the press of the crowd.


Monday, May 16, 2011 5:06 AM


Oh good gorram, why can't things ever go smooth? So glad Mal and Jayne got out of that ambush, just holding my breath now hoping they all make it back to Serenity in one piece. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, May 16, 2011 7:08 PM


Hmm wonder what Zoe bought and for whom.

Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:27 PM


excitement, gunfire, action. and just what was Zoe doing?
I was puzzled about the cartridge between the door and the sill, and how that would stop the pursuers, but maybe I get it now.


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The Four Winds, Epilogue
The end...or maybe just another beginning.

The Four Winds, Chapter 25
The rest of the crew return home.

The Four Winds, Chapter 24
Me and Elwood, we're puttin' the band back together.

The Four Winds, Chapter 23
Inara investigates matters; Mal discovers that the impossible has been done in his absence.

The Four Winds, Chapter 22
River needs Mal to solve her problem; Mal is forced to provide information to the Alliance.

The Four Winds, Chapter 21
When Mal tries to recover the cargo, will he lose more than he stands to gain?

The Four Winds, Chapter 20
Mal makes changes to his plan; River puts her plan into action; Inara decides on a plan of her own; Wash finds something he'd lost.

The Four Winds, Chapter 19
Simon gets an alias; Mal gets a look at his client; Wash gets a shock.

The Four Winds, Chapter 18
Our Heroes - and Our Villains - try to figure a way out of the mess they're in.

The Four Winds, Chapter 17
River finds out what's really going on; Simon and Zoe fall into the wrong hands.