The Four Winds, Chapter 20
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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.


A/N: We're coming down to the wire on this one. Things are going to start happening very, very fast. I hope that anyone still reading is having fun.

"All right," Mal said, looking around the bridge at what remained of his crew. Jayne looked grim; Kaylee looked scared. Wash still looked like somebody had beaten him with a stupid stick. Mal tried briefly to imagine a man who could look that dumb as somebody's dad. It seemed about as improbable to him as Zoe being somebody's mom. He wrenched himself away from things he wasn't yet ready to deal with, to the things he had no choice about dealing with. "New plan."

That drew their gaze and focused it -- Jayne, curious; Kaylee, hopeful; Wash confused.

Mal looked first at the pilot. "New course," he said. "We're going back after the cargo."

For once, the pilot moved to lay in the course change without a word. Thank Buddha for small mercies, Mal thought.

"But, Captain, what about --?" Kaylee began, and broke off, as if there were just too many questions to deal with. Which there were. For one thing, there was the matter of aiming straight at the cargo with Eusabian's scoutship and yacht shadowing them. For another, there was the matter of Serenity's own wounds, which they had been on their way to try to remedy. But Mal was too weary to explain. He just needed them to all do what he said.

"We got some backup on the way, and we need to take advantage of it," he told Kaylee. "First thing is to get rid of that cargo. We can do that, maybe some other avenues open up to us for fixing the ship." If we get paid. He didn't say that part aloud. But it was implied. Wasn't it always?

"What backup?" Jayne asked, clearly skeptical. "You make friends with Inara's rich pirate client or something?"

"Alliance battlecruiser," Mal said bluntly, and was rewarded by Jayne's bald surprise. "We're going to collect the cargo and finish the deal while they're in the area."

"Alliance is going to protect us?" Kaylee asked.

"In this instance, I think so," Mal said. "Anyway, it beats Reavers, don't it?"

Kaylee looked uncertain about that. As well she might, Mal reflected, given that he had just proposed to commit industrial espionage under the watchful eye of the well-armed law.

"Leastways Alliance just kills you," Jayne said with a shrug. "'Stead of eating you."

Mal wasn't about to say so, but he completely agreed. A good clean immolation by Alliance firepower was infinitely preferable to what the Reavers might put them through. "Jayne, get the suits ready. You and me and Wash are going to take the second shuttle down to the surface -- same thing we did the first time, in reverse. You and Wash are going to get the other shuttle and bring it back, and we're going to get rid of that cargo."

Jayne hauled himself upright from his seat on the edge of the copilot's console, and went to check the suits. "Kaylee, you'll stay with Serenity while we're out, and keep watch. Ping us if anything unusual happens."

"What'll we do if something does?" Kaylee asked.

Mal didn't really have an answer for that. "Still working on that," he admitted, hating that he couldn't say something that would reassure her. But he couldn't even reassure himself.


Despite the fact that the crew were vastly outnumbered by the colonists who had chosen not to travel in stasis, they did not seem to have prepared much of a defense against a possible revolt.

Or perhaps they had simply been unprepared for River.

The first one she encountered had a gun. One swift kick, one elegant leaping snatch in midair, and the weapon became River's. The crewman, stunned, found himself bundled into an empty stasis chamber.

The second one also had a gun. And then River had two.

The third one saw River with two guns, and froze, briefly, in surprise. Which was really the wrong thing to do.

There were three more on the bridge, all armed, but all taken unawares. Only one of them had enough presence of mind to react in any way appropriately, but River's gun was already in her hand, and Gliss's was not. Which meant that River had enough time to spin one of her confiscated weapons around, and catch the other woman a smashing blow to the temple.

She cocked her head; Book stood there, in the corner of her vision. She thought he was about to give an amazed whistle, but he remembered himself in time.

"We'll have to lock them up," she said. "Frank, too."

Book nodded.

"And then we can go find the Captain."

Book quirked an eyebrow at her, but as ever, made no comment.


Wash was trying very hard to focus on the Nightrunner, and on the yacht, but he was failing. I was referring to the woman's unborn child. The words echoed in his head as he pulled on the spacesuit. It would be time to go soon. In the back of his mind, he wondered whether Mal was going to wait to put them in orbit and go fetch the torpedo until Coles and his battlecruiser arrived. But in the front of his mind the words echoed: unborn child. Baby. Zoe was pregnant. Zoe was going to have a baby. His baby. Their baby. He sealed up the suit, and flopped back down into the pilot's chair, his eyes flicking over the readouts without really seeing them. When had this happened? Why hadn't she told him? Had she been planning to tell him? When? How long had she thought she could keep it from him? Had she done this on purpose? Just taken matters into her own hands? He'd thought they had an agreement -- anyway, he thought they'd agreed to wait until they could agree on this. Wasn't that what they had agreed to? Would Zoe break faith with him like that?

Wash was so distracted, he might not have noticed if Coles's battlecruiser had come right up on Serenity's tail. So of course he didn't notice when Kaylee came up to the bridge to fetch him, and of course he startled when she said, quizzically, "You found This Cat."

Wash blinked at her, and then followed her gaze downward, to where the ginger cat was curled very comfortably in his lap. He had, in fact, been stroking her, although he had not felt her fur through the suit's gloves. Distracted now from his concerns about Zoe, he spared a thought for the integrity of the suit should This Cat extend her claws. Also, he was distracted enough to offer a response to Kaylee. He came up with the very intelligent-sounding, "Huh."

He and Kaylee stared at This Cat, who looked back at them, unperturbed, until she decided that grooming her paws was more interesting than they were.

"Captain's ready for you, soon's we make orbit," Kaylee said.

"Huh," Wash replied, wondering where his entire vocabulary had got to.

His monitors pinged, and Wash spared them a glance.

"Looks like our backup has arrived," Kaylee said, with forced brightness.

"Huh," Wash said again. His gaze flicked from the approaching but still-distant battlecruisers to Eusabian's two ships. Serenity had better sensors; it would be a little while yet before the other two would pick up the battlecruiser. Wash touched the controls and then took hold of the yoke. They were still at the edge of the system where Mal had stashed their cargo; now it was time to head directly to their target, and make orbit.

Out of the corner of his eye, Wash watched the approach of the battlecruiser. Zoe was on that battlecruiser. Zoe, and their unborn child.

Wash gripped the yoke, and tried to force himself to focus.

*** Inara decided that her best course of action was to stick as close as possible to Jerrode, and watch for her chance. If anything was going to change, after all, Jerrode would be right in the thick of it, and if she hoped to get access to places that the crew would not think she should go, it would be on Jerrode's arm that she would do it.

So she was with Jerrode, laughing gaily, with a hand on his arm, when a crewman came to tell him that an Alliance battlecruiser was approaching. And she was accepting another glass of wine when Jerrode was notified that the Nightrunner had docked with the yacht, as ordered. And she was standing next to him, giving him her best disappointed moue when he disengaged his arm from hers, and said that he needed to meet with the crewmen from the scout shuttle -- about, he said, the best way to assist Mal, in spite of the fact that Mal clearly did not want his assistance.

If that were true, Inara thought, pouting at him, that's a meeting I ought to attend. But of course it was a lie, so she made only a token protest.

And as soon as the door to the yacht's conference room slid closed, she made for the unattended shuttle.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011 10:59 AM


Ooh, love how this is progressing. I am hoping that Inara stays safe, that Jerrode I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw him. As for Wash, I think he and Zoe will make one beautiful baby. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:22 AM


Ok first this line made me laugh.

The second one also had a gun. And then River had two.

Second... uh, how did cat get back on board? Wasn't cat with river?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:40 AM


River was hallucinating wildly at that time, if you recall. This Cat was on the ship all along.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 1:54 PM


Oh yes, nauticalgal, still having fun reading this. Thanks so much for writing.

"A good clean immolation by Alliance firepower was infinitely preferable to what the Reavers might put them through." Like this and Jayne's line right before.

Hooray for River taking action. I like how Book contributes to the story without saying a word...completely how I see a post-BDM Book acting.

Wash's vocabulary--very funny!

And Inara takes action--about time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 6:07 PM


Thanks, y'all. Most of all I want it to be fun to read. Just like the show was fun to watch!


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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.