The Four Winds, Chapter 22
Thursday, June 16, 2011

River needs Mal to solve her problem; Mal is forced to provide information to the Alliance.


It was Coles on the comm, of course. Looking grim. Of course.

"It seems that the transaction cannot be completed, after all," he said.

"No," Mal admitted heavily. "No, I don't suppose so." Inara... Mal shoved the thought aside.

Wash was back in the pilot's chair, but he had done no more than to sit hunched over the console, his elbows on the edge and his head buried in his hands. Now, though, the sensors pinged, and he glanced sideways at them. "'Nother ship," he said. "Coming up fast."

Mal frowned at the readout. He'd been hoping to see Eusabian's yacht, by some miracle spared, but this was some sort of transport. Old transport. None of Eusabian's, certainly. Now what? On the screen, Coles appeared to be frowning at his own displays.

"They're hailing," Wash said, sounding mildly dazed.

"Bring it up on the other screen," Mal ordered, and the pilot complied.

River's face appeared, and Mal blinked. He barely recovered himself in time to not say her name aloud, with Coles still listening in.

"Well," he drawled, covering. "If it ain't my little albatross."

"Hello, Captain," River said. "I need your help."

Mal laughed out loud. As if he were in any kind of position to be of any use to anyone! And how in blazes had River got herself a ship, anyway?

"Captain, this ship is full of colonists. Or anyway, people who thought they were going to be colonists. But they were betrayed -- the crew were bringing them to Nassau Point to be sold as slaves. I took care of that. But, now I don't know what to do with them all."

On the other screen, Coles perked up. "Colonists?" he said.

Mal had momentarily forgotten Coles was still listening. "Seems to be what she said, yes," he replied, perplexed by Coles's sudden hungry expression. Was Coles going to take up slaving now, since industrial espionage hadn't worked out for him? And could Mal stop him? Or River, who at least had an intact ship to fly. Could River stop him?

"Captain," Coles said, his voice tight, his eyes gleaming. "I want you to come aboard my ship. Right away. You and Damien. We need to talk."

Mal opened his mouth to refuse, but closed it again. Refusal would be a pointless gesture, and anyway, he was curious now. "Wa--uh--Damien," he said, nudging Wash in the shoulder when the pilot didn't react right away, "let's go take tea with the Admiral, shall we?"

"Uh," Wash said, "Yeah. Sure. Tea with the Admiral. Right."

Mal looked back to River. "Sit tight," he said.

"Sitting tight, aye," she replied smartly, and Mal was surprised to have to stifle a smile.

Wash's hands played over the console, and Serenity moved toward the maw that was the battlecruiser's docking bay.


Coles greeted them by their pseudonyms as they came down Serenity's battered cargo ramp onto the deck of the battlecruiser's docking bay. Mal's ship, his ship, his home and workplace and the haven the housed his soul, was swallowed up in this great monstrosity, this monument to excess -- excessive size; excessive greed; excessive force; excessive whatever-you-could-name. Now they had his ship. And he couldn't leave. They'd torn the plastic from the inside of the damaged bay doors and shoved them back just wide enough to walk through, down the ramp that would not fully extend, jumping down the last six inches so their shoes rang on the deckplates. They were, in effect, prisoners here.

Coles politely did not notice Serenity's disheveled condition. "Please," the Admiral said, and gestured them across the bay, into a small room with a conference table. On a sidebar, three trays of hors d'oeuvres and two urns waited, with cups and plates.

Mal looked at the food, and found he had no appetite. He looked at the chairs, and discovered he was too antsy to sit. He wondered where to begin, or whether to wait on Coles to speak, and before he could decide, was pre-empted by his pilot.

"Where is my wife?" Wash demanded unceremoniously, gripping the padded back of one of the chairs and leaning toward Coles.

Coles raised a conciliating hand. "She is unharmed," he said, "and I do not intend to keep her here. But we must deal with some other matters first, and quickly. Happy reunions can hold a bit."

"Maybe for you they can," Wash said.

Mal laid a hand on the pilot's arm. "Damien," he said, hoping the reminder would be enough; wondering if he'd have to physically restrain the pilot. Or lay him out, even. Mal's fist clenched. Wash gave him a belligerent look, but Mal held his gaze unwavering, and after a beat the pilot dropped his gaze. He'd wait. Not happily, and likely not for long, but he'd wait.

"We can speak freely here, but we need to be brief," Coles said. "The item you were delivering for me was a seed -- a prototype for the next generation of terraforming."

Not a weapon? Mal absorbed this information. A terraforming seed; something that would kick-start the process of making a planet habitable.

"In a few years' time, if that seed works the way it's supposed to, much of that planet you dropped it on should be suitable for human life and settlement," Coles said. "Parts of it sooner than that."

Mal thought of the hungry look on Coles's face when River had said she had a ship full of colonists. Coles could no longer sell the tech intact, but he could sure sell the results.

"You want to make a deal with those people on the ship," he said.

"I do. I want you to broker it. They'll have the fees they were going to pay for wherever they thought they were going. Talk them into staying here. Route the fees to me, through the same agent as before," Coles said. "Less your percentage, of course. And I will deal with the slaver's crew, naturally. You need only place them in my custody."

Mal considered. Likely the money involved would be less than Coles had aimed to get from this deal -- meaning less for Mal, too -- but it was more than nothing. Not enough to set them up for the next few years, but maybe enough to repair the ship. Maybe. And right now that was Mal's most urgent need.

"All right, I'll do it," Mal agreed.

"When you get back to your ship, your crewmembers will be aboard. It's being done now. But right now we need to have a different conversation, and it needs to be this one," Coles handed Wash and Mal each a flimsy page. Mal looked down at his. It was a script. A script of the two of them -- Wash and Mal -- providing information to Coles about conditions on Nassau Point. Piracy and slave-trading. Conditions that had nothing to do with Serenity, or the terraforming seed, or puppies. All of which suited Mal just fine.

Coles took a small cylindrical device out of his pocket and clicked it. He nodded at Mal and Wash. They nodded back, and sat down to have their scripted conversation.


Thursday, June 16, 2011 10:11 AM


Very cool but WAY to short. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011 1:11 PM


Enjoying your current installment and waiting for the next! Thank you for writing this adventure.

Friday, June 17, 2011 7:14 AM


I really like the way Coles found a way for Mal and Wash to work with him and yet give them a way out too. Seemingly. I just hope he is on the level with them. Also, I love the bit with River comming Mal to help. Our little albatross is a gift indeed. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, June 17, 2011 10:54 AM


I think Coles finds Mal useful :-)


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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.