Monday, May 30, 2011

Some members of the crew see some action…while others see some enforced inaction. Inara spends a good part of the day on her back. It isn’t what you think.



Follows (01) A LION’S MOUTH. Precedes (03) SPARKS FLY.

Some members of the crew see some action…while others see some enforced inaction. Inara spends a good part of the day on her back. It isn’t what you think.

I'd like to thank my sister for beta-reading Adventures in Sitting.

Previous Part | Next Part

* * *

Simon and Kaylee walked up the ramp to find the cargo bay nearly empty. Zoe and Jayne unloaded the two very last crates. Mal checked his list.

“You two have a good walkabout?” he asked.

“Yes, it was…delicious.” Mal regarded Simon with a quizzical look at his choice of adjective.

“Just shiny, captain!” Kaylee smiled.

River entered the cargo bay, mooning about with an abstracted look, and Mal took advantage of the presence of one and all to announce, “Well, I’m off to line up our next job.” Jayne, strapping on his usual sidearms, was ready to accompany Mal. “Kaylee, see to our food and supplies. Make her ready to receive our next cargo. Fuel up and get her ready to fly. Doc, I’m counting on you and River to help out and guard the ship.” To River he added, “And take care of your brother. Zoe!” he called.

“Coming, sir,” Zoe replied, without her usual briskness.

Mal gave Zoe a sharp look. Had she been tired out by moving all the crates? He’d thought the physical work woulda been helpful, keep her mind from dwelling on loss. He didn’t mention it. Instead he asked, “Did Inara say when she’d be back?”

“Not precisely, sir. She said she had several appointments lined up.”

Zoe headed out to the mule where Jayne already sat. The Captain followed, trying unsuccessfully to look like it was a matter of indifference to him whether or not Inara had appointments. Zoe had to admit, she hadn’t expected Inara to return so readily to the practice of her profession. She felt for her friend—she knew he had hopes although he tried to hide it—but she maintained her silence.

* * *

In a sleek, modern high-rise in the fashionable part of New Dunsmuir, Inara lay on her back in a softly lit room. Sweat glistened on her forehead. Her naked body pressed into the firm but yielding couch, and a soft moan escaped her lips. “More,” he said. She felt her hips grind into the couch, and moaned again. “Give me a little more,” he said. Again she felt the pressure, and again she moaned. “More, please,” he said. The pressure increased until she felt she couldn’t bear it, and she gave a great groan. The pressure immediately let up. “Okay, done,” said Dr. Sakurai, removing the paddle probe from Inara’s abdominal area and replacing the drape. “You really shouldn’t have stopped taking the medicine.”

Inara relaxed against the rubbery surface of the exam table, watching the numbers and images dance on the display next to the doctor, although she didn’t have the medical expertise to interpret their meaning. “I left my House rather…abruptly. I didn’t even think to pack an overnight bag. I didn’t know I’d be away for this long.”

“It’s a good thing you were able to refill your prescription on Persephone. Regular treatment is necessary to prevent your condition from deteriorating.”

“I understand.”

“I anticipated this when I received your wave, and I checked with Dr Schneider. Fortunately, she has an opening and can work you in for amelioration therapy in one hour.”

Inara nodded. It was going to be a rough day.

* * *

Not all of the City of New Dunsmuir was sleek and modern. In a far less shiny neighborhood, Saffron walked down a narrow street lined with run-down four-story walk-ups that had seen better days, skirting piles of uncollected refuse. She was still dressed in her nice clothes, which looked a bit out of place, but she walked with the confident air of a monarch returning from a triumphant campaign. Passing an overflowing dumpster and nonchalantly kicking aside a scavenging feline, she stopped at an unremarkable green door, and knocked. After a short pause, during which sounds of clattering metal could be heard, the door opened a crack and a man gazed suspiciously out. Though no longer a youth, he was most definitely not old, and he was handsome in a feral sort of way. His primary asset was his bodily strength, not his brainpan, as Saffron knew very well. He made his living as an enforcer for certain extra-legal business operations based in the Muirhouse section of New Dunsmuir. Yolanda Haymer’s social set would have been astonished at her accent as she addressed Fergus.

这是什么 Zhè shì shénme?!” he communicated with his look as much as his words.

“Hi sweetie. It’s your wife.”

“Where the 地狱 dìyù you been, Becky? You bailed out on me, you—” he began angrily.

“I got pinched, Fergus,” she broke in. “I was so worried about you and the lads…”

“The lads got banged to rights. I managed to get away. How’d you—?”

“Past history, Fergus. I’m in a tight spot, and I need your help.”

Huh? he thought. She didn’t look like to be in a tight spot, nice clothes and all. Less’n she meant that bodice…

“Please, let me in,” she said, wiggling her hips in a sexy, suggestive way.

* * *

The interior of Fergus’s house was just as crappy as the exterior. He’d swept aside a collection of beer cans in order to open the door, but the place was littered with discarded undershirts, empty tins, and rancid containers of take-out food. Fergus and Saffron—er, “Becky”—sat on the messed up bed, with considerably fewer clothes on, talking.

“…and then he just snatched the booty for hisself. Left me stranded in the desert and took off. He even stole all my clothes!”

Fergus was already angry, but the thought of this 混蛋 húndàn seeing his Becky naked had him livid. “That 混蛋 húndàn saw you naked?!”

She nodded. “Then he had the gall to call the feds, tell them I was the one stole the laser pistol. I spent months on that penal moon afore I could get away.”

Oh, he was so pissed off. Pissing pissed off. He’d make the 混蛋 húndàn pay, if’n he ever met the 狗娘养的 gǒuniángyǎngde .

“I gotta lay low, there’s a bulletin out on me. They wanna put me back in prison. But I know how to bang up the 混蛋 húndàn who put me there. It’s just your line of work, luve.” Fergus seemed a little reluctant, but she knew how to sweeten the pot. “There’s money in it, too—a big bounty.” He sat up straight. She had his complete attention now. “That 混蛋 húndàn’s got a ship, and on the ship, he’s got—.” She held up her shiny new cortex device with the warrant for Simon Tam on display. Fergus wasn’t so swift at the reading, but she knew he understood the numeric figures well enough. “Fugitive—Reward” and a figure followed by an absurd number of zeroes was emblazoned clearly across the bottom of the picture. She looked to see that the numbers had registered, then spoke. “This is big time.”

“I love you, 宝贝 bǎobèi ,” Fergus said in a low, husky voice. “Welcome home.”

* * *

Mal, flanked by Zoe and Jayne, approached a shiny modern office building in the business district. It looked to be a cut above the surrounding businesses and was labeled with a tasteful sign that read “Holden Bros. Interplanetary Shipping” in Chinese and English. The reception area inside exceeded even the shiny promise of the exterior. It was bright and clean, almost luxurious. In the sunny center atrium, a sparkling fountain splashed and played in the middle of a garden of paradise, complete with fruit trees. Giant framed captures adorned the walls, each one featuring a “beauty shot” of one model or other of sleek, modern spacecraft. Mal loved his ship with a fierce devotion, but even he knew that Serenity would look like the faded belle of yesteryear next to all those shiny captures. Mal and his crew were decidedly the most scruffy-looking things in the whole building. Across the atrium, a receptionist sat behind a broad mahogany counter. She was dressed in neat and fashionable business attire, and clearly had not been constrained to attend to her toilette within the limited means afforded aboard an aging Firefly. She spared a quick, disparaging glance at the three of them, then discovered some urgent business requiring her immediate attention to her desktop sourcebox.

对不起 Duìbuqǐ …” Mal began, trying to engage her.

She continued her task without acknowledging his presence. Completing it, she asked, “May I help you?” pointedly omitting the “sir.”

“I’m here to see Buck Holden.”

Mister Holden is not available,” she replied, and returned to her sourcebox.

“I have an appointment,” Mal stated, more assertively. “Captain Reynolds.”

The receptionist eyed Mal skeptically, but set about checking the appointment roster. After a moment she asked, “Malcolm Reynolds?” and Mal nodded. She stood and motioned for them to follow her. “ 这种方式来 Zhèzhǒngfāngshì lái …” she said, reluctantly adding the courtesy, “…Captain.”

* * *

Simon and Kaylee loaded foodstuffs into the lockers and bins of Serenity’s galley. The dining area of Serenity always looked lived-in, and at the moment it was cluttered with packages and boxes of choice comestibles, as Simon preferred to think of the various freeze-dried protein packets. The first time Simon had referred to them that way in front of the rest of Serenity’s crew, it was Jayne who surprised him by approving the term, saying, “Makes ’em eat better, if’n you think on ’em that way.” They methodically sorted and stowed the packages. At last they finished the task, and Simon turned to Kaylee, meaning to take her in his arms and kiss her. She surprised him by wiggling out of range.

“Hold it right there, mister. Can’t do that now. Cap’n left me in charge of the ship.”

“Well, we’ve loaded in the food and supplies.”

“Right, and now I’ve got to make her ready to receive cargo, and run a diagnostic in the engine room, make sure she’s ready to fly. You just put the infirmary in order, then sit tight. I’ll need your help when the Cap’n starts bringin’ on the cargo. Now I got work to be done.”

* * *

Simon and River stood in the infirmary, which, in contrast to most of the rest of Serenity, was perfectly clean and tidy.

“Everything’s already in order,” River said, hoisting her trim body up with dancer’s grace and sitting on the second infirmary bed. She began swinging her legs.

“It always is,” Simon replied. “I don’t leave a cluttered workspace. You never know when you’re going to need it.” He sighed and sat down next to River. “Here we go again. The others are off for some thrilling action, gunplay, hair’s-breadth escapes, while we have another exciting adventure in sitting.”

* * *

The waiting area was clean, bright, and beautiful, but after nearly two hours there, Mal found the beauty wore a bit thin. Jayne had begun pacing like a caged animal, circling the room and sniffing in the corners as if hoping for a three-course dinner to appear. Zoe had withdrawn into herself, sitting uncomfortably on a designer chair, with an unfocused look on her face. Mal sat in his chair, not exactly relaxed, but trying not to betray any edginess—leastaways, not in the undignified way Jayne was doing. He eyed the clock again and watched Jayne for entertainment. On his seventh circuit, Jayne paused in his pacing again to examine with disgust a refreshment table in the far corner. It was stocked with healthy vitamin drinks, bland multigrain crackers, and other foods of the kind that were marketed to dieting middle-aged women.

“Ain’t even nothin’ to eat here but this 废物 fèiwù. Least they could do is give us somethin’ a person could eat, leave us sittin’ here on our 屁股 pìgu all this time.”

Zoe looked up, and Mal noted with some amusement that she was actually eating some of the crackers.

“They’re just keepin’ us waiting to show how important they are, Jayne. It’s part of their game. Holden Boys run a ‘respectable’ shop.” Mal glanced over at Zoe, sharing an untold tale with a flick of his eyes. “Must be feeling pretty important today.”

Finally, the door opened and Mr Holden’s secretary entered. “Mr Holden is ready to see you, sir.”

* * *

The secretary ushered Mal, Zoe, and Jayne into Mr Holden’s office. Holden stood behind his desk, flanked by a rather muscular and imposing-looking man whom he introduced as his executive assistant, Geordie. Geordie had altogether too much physical presence for a man with an office job, and was clearly Holden’s enforcer as well as his aide. The office was spacious, bright, and clean, with bookshelves, a sitting area, sideboard with refreshments, and a large number of potted plants, as well as the obligatory desk and chairs. Holden shook hands with Mal and Zoe, and somewhat more reluctantly acknowledged Jayne. He motioned for them to be seated. Mal sat, while Zoe and Jayne remained standing behind him. Holden sat, with Geordie standing at his side. Holden’s manner was blustery, even a bit pushy. He seemed to be enjoying throwing his weight around.

“Glad to see you arrived on schedule this time, Captain Reynolds,” Holden said, making no apology for keeping them waiting.

“We aim to provide reliable transport service, Mr Holden,” Mal replied. Ordinarily he would call Holden by his nickname, Buck, but something was off, and he kept to a more formal, distant manner, following Holden’s unspoken cues.

“Reliable is the key element, Captain. I have cargo that needs to arrive intact, in a timely manner. I want no delays at customs, no run-ins with tariff collectors, no encounters with the law…” He looked pointedly at Mal. Did he somehow hear about their recent encounter with the law near the Lion’s Mouth?

“We fly clean and quick…” Mal began.

“And within the law?” Holden shared a significant look with Geordie. Geordie smirked a bit. Geordie knew the type. This crew was just another group of petty smugglers angling for a legal cargo this time to clean up their reps.

“…In fact, I’ve just renewed all Serenity’s licenses and registrations,” Mal continued. “Just got a clean inspection. We got nothin’ to hide. I’m lookin’ for legal cargo—” He realized he’d made a bad choice of words.

All our dealings are in legal cargo,” Holden snapped. Though he wouldn’t show it on his face, Mal was privately amused. Sure, Holden always dealt in legal cargo. What he didn’t say was that although the cargo itself might be legal, Holden oftentimes looked to ship it illegally. Hell, it was Buck Holden himself who corrupted Mal off his straight-arrow path, initiating him into the smuggling trade with his first run of uncustomed goods. Now Holden was well up on his high horse. “Holden Brothers is an honest operation, a leader in the Beaumonde merchant community, a pillar of—”

“Then what’re you doin’ talkin’ to us?” Jayne cut in.

Mal shot Jayne the Look, shutting him up. He turned back to Holden and looked him dead in the eye. “I’ll spare you the touching details. But let’s just say I’ve decided it’s time to straighten up and fly right.”

Holden eyed Mal for a moment, then turned to Geordie. “Go look for a 蹩脚 biéjiǎo job to assign this 低级 dījí crew,” he said, sotto voce. “Check the assignment files under the heading ‘Border Moon Operations.’ Take your time.” Geordie chuckled in appreciation of his boss’s humor. He’d kept these people waiting for hours already. Let them cool their heels a bit longer.

Mal didn’t hear what passed between Holden and his enforcer, but he had a notion. He watched Geordie out of the office and then spoke. “Let me remind you that I’m here at your invitation.”

Holden’s manner had abruptly changed. He motioned for Mal to stand and silently directed them all to the potted plant sector of his spacious office. Some of the pots contained fruit trees, and Jayne hungrily eyed—and fingered—a perfectly ripe peach hanging from one of the branches. Holden spoke quietly and quickly.

“They can’t overhear us in this part of the office. Fact is, Mal, I need a favor.”

“A favor?! You make me wait for two hours, abuse me in front of your staff, and now you’re asking me for a favor?”

“Had to, Mal. There’s a mole. Someone on my staff has been sending confidential information on our most sensitive shipments. One way or another, they get intercepted, confiscated, impounded, or just…lost somewhere out in the black. I can’t trust the office staff. I can’t even trust Geordie. Only one I still trust is my brother Jack.” He looked hopefully at Mal. “The shipment I’d like you to carry is high priority and extremely sensitive…”

“Why me? Didn’t you try Wang, Renshaw?…Monty could do this.”

“Last three attempts to deliver ended in disaster. Wang got pinched. Monty had to abandon the goods on Paquin and just barely got away with his life. Renshaw sailed out into the black eight weeks ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.”

“What’s the difficulty with this cargo?” Mal asked bluntly.

“Mal, I don’t know how much you’re aware of the movements of the established players in interplanetary shipping…” Mal really wasn’t interested in a lecture on corporations, politics, and the economics of interplanetary shipping, but as Holden continued, he began to pay attention in spite of himself. “…Blue Sun Corporation is moving more and more into the actual shipping of the goods they produce, and lord knows they produce just about everything, from terraforming equipment to fruity oaty bars. They’re angling for an exclusive concession on this planet from the government. If they get it, they’ll squeeze all the independent shippers out of business.

“Ain’t a monopoly illegal?” Zoe asked.

“Never liked that game,” grumbled Jayne.

“They have dozens, even hundreds, of subdivisions. They make it look like they’re all competing with each other, but there’s one faceless conglomerate pulling all the strings. Blue Sun has all kinds roots and branches—they’re everywhere, you can’t even tell it’s them. It’s the little ones you don’t see that have the teeth.” Buck Holden was sounding an awful lot like River, minus the crazy-eyed stare, Mal thought. “They come out of the black and bite you when you’re least expecting it.”

“You’re really making me want this job,” Mal stated with undisguised sarcasm.

Holden continued as if he hadn’t heard. “You’re really my last hope, Mal.”

“Sounds like you’re asking me to fight a fight I can’t win.”

“Yeah, well, you’re known for that.”

“Hmmf.” Mal was amused in spite of himself.

“We’ve packed it in a shipment of terraforming equipment for cover—perfectly legal, tariff pre-paid, I’ll give you the papers. Only my receiving agent on 尘球 Chén Qiú will know which crate contains the real cargo. You’ll pick up the crates from my ‘safe’ warehouse—here’s the location,” he said, slipping a code card into Mal’s hand.

“Can you trust your agent not to be on the take with Blue Sun?” Mal asked.

“It’s my brother Jack,” Buck Holden answered.

Mal knew then that this job was Buck Holden’s highest priority, and that he had Buck’s complete trust. He stood very well with Holden Boys at present. That was why Buck was willing to shower him with money while asking him to take on this very dangerous job. “This won’t be easy, Buck.”

“I don’t expect it will. Here’s your advance, untraceable platinum. Jack will pay you the rest upon delivery. Plus the legitimate buyer will pay you direct for the terraforming gear, market price. Fly soft, keep under the radar. I’m counting on you, Mal.” He shook Mal’s hand and led the way back towards the executive side of the room. “Now, it’s time to throw you out.”

Mal gave him a puzzled look, but Holden quickly explained in a whisper, “Put on a show for the mole.” He touched a comm link and raised his voice, resuming his former overbearing manner. “Don’t ever make me an offer like that you 低级 dījí scum! I wouldn’t trust you with a cargo of junkyard scrap on that bucket of bolts you fly! Geordie!” Geordie appeared at the office door. “Show these people the door!”

* * *

Geordie and two other well-dressed enforcers pushed Zoe, Jayne, and Mal out the front door of the Holden Brothers building. Jayne brushed off their hands like the contact was contaminating, while Zoe held her balance. Mal sprawled in the dust. Jayne looked down at him scornfully. Never thought the Captain was such a weakling. Mal met his look, and stared right back. “Just givin’ them a good show, Jayne.”

* * *

The cargo was bulky, and it took several trips back and forth on the mule to get most of it loaded. Serenity’s cargo bay was now about two-thirds filled with large crates as high as a person, set in rows with aisles between them. While Mal, Zoe, and Jayne headed off on the mule for the last load, Simon and Kaylee worked their way through the cargo, strapping down the crates and securing them to grommets in the deck. As Kaylee emerged from one of the aisles, where Simon was still busy securing a crate, she saw a muscular man dressed like a cop ascend the ramp, accompanied by three big bruising fellas, also in cop gear. The muscular cop spoke. “This your ship?”

“I’m duty officer. May I help you?”

“We received a tip, there may be something unlegal on board this here…uh…ship.”

He wasn’t very well-spoken for a cop, Kaylee thought vaguely, but she had no choice but to answer to the law. “I don’t think—” she began. She was confused. Mal told her it was legal cargo. On the other hand, they’d so often had illegal cargo, that maybe there was something to hide. “Captain said it was all…I think the Captain’s got papers on it. He should be back in a few minutes with the last consignment.”

The cop guy gave her a suspicious look. “Mind if we take a look around?”

Kaylee nodded her consent, ’cause he wasn’t really asking. The bruisers were already fanning out, starting a search pattern among the crates in the cargo bay, weapons at the ready.

Finished bending and tugging straps into place, Simon straightened up to find he was looking right into the barrel of a gun. He heard the ominous sound of the safety clicking off. “Son of a bi—”

* * *





这是什么 Zhè shì shénme [What the hell, lit. What is this]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

混蛋 húndàn [bastard]

狗娘养的 gǒuniángyǎngde [son of a bitch]

对不起 Duìbuqǐ [Excuse me]

这种方式来 Zhèzhǒngfāngshì lái [Come this way]

废物 fèiwù [garbage]

屁股 pìgu [asses]

蹩脚 biéjiǎo [crappy]

低级 dījí [low-brow]

尘球 Chén Qiú [name of a world invented for purposes of this story, lit. ball of dust]

低级 dījí [low-life]

Previous Part | Next Part


Monday, May 30, 2011 11:21 AM


The next installment. Didn't try to put in links this time, since they didn't work. If anybody knows how to put them in, I'd appreciate some instructions. Enjoy.

Monday, May 30, 2011 3:12 PM


Oh my gosh, you've done your research! Love! Yes, Blue Sun has been creeping in on the independent shipment types, according to the RPG handbook. Well done.

Especially interesting how you're having Inara hide what's going on with her (creates drama with Mal AND keeps her characterization squeaky clean!), and the ending is just the right kind of cliff-hanger!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 5:36 AM


Good pacing, solid character interactions and insights, reminds me of the episodes, love the Jayne and Mal interplay.

I'm glad you're addressing Inara's condition; it's hard to ignore at this point, unfortunately its become canon:(

looking for more

Thursday, June 2, 2011 7:31 AM


Thank you for the feedback!

Byte: Actually, I don't have the RPG handbook. I worked that out myself ;-) Blue Sun has a big role in my story arc, so yeah, I did some thinking about what they're up to. Glad you like it.

Platonist: Modelled on the structure of the episodes. Thanks! :-)
And yeah, :-( about Inara's condition, but it seems to be part of the canon, so I've taken it into consideration in constructing my stories.


You must log in to post comments.



ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (20)
“Vaccinations?” Jayne asked, with a stupid expression. “Fer chickens?”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (19)
“Inara, I ain’t willing for you to bribe—” “Who said anything about bribes?” “What other form of persuasion you plannin’ on using? I’m not sure I like this plan.” “Mal, I can be very persuasive,” Inara replied. After a short beat, she added, with a touch of asperity, “Fully clothed.”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (18)
Extreme measures as more things go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (17)
In which things begin to go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (16)
Waiting for the other shoe to drop

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (15)
Serenity enters the Core, Mal and Inara sleep together, and Simon and Ip come up with a plan.

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (14)
In which we find out more about Miranda

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (13)
Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (12)
Mal tells Inara a folktale from Shadow

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (11)
Inara and Zoe have a little palaver