The Four Winds, Chapter 23
Friday, June 17, 2011

Inara investigates matters; Mal discovers that the impossible has been done in his absence.


A/N: My job, which had been becalmed (allowing me to finally finish this thing) has gone from "not a breath of wind to ruffle the sails" to "TYPHOON! Batten down the hatches!" this week. In order to clear the decks, I will probably post the remaining three chapters of this story as quickly as I can get to them - today and this weekend, I hope. Y'all please enjoy!

The explosion registered on the Nightrunner's sensors, even though Inara had taken the small scout around to the far side of the planet. Her intent had been to hide out until Jerrode left, or until something else happened to force her from hiding, or to make it safe to emerge. While she waited, she tried to figure out what Jerrode had done to her comms; they weren't working. He'd overridden them remotely, making it impossible for her to contact Mal.

But when the explosion registered, the comms suddenly cleared. The "comms locked" message she'd been getting disappeared, and the ready screen came up.

Inara felt a sudden dread. An explosion, and then Jerrode unlocked her comms?

She couldn't stand it. She had to know.

When she came around the planet, the explosion had faded to a roiling dust cloud on the world's surface. Jerrode's yacht was nowhere to be seen. The battlecruiser was still there. Another ship, a transport nearly as old as Serenity and possibly even more disreputable-looking, waited in a nearby orbit. As Inara watched, Serenity's engines lit briefly, and Mal's ship coasted smoothly into the battlecruiser's docking bay.

"Oh, dear," Inara murmured.

Something lit up on her sensor array. Inara could not tell what the reading was; it didn't appear to be another ship. She fumbled with the unfamiliar controls, finding and bringing up the short-range sensor display, so that she could figure out what she was seeing.

She ran through the options until she found the one that matched. "Sagua. Mal Reynolds, what have you done now?"

Inara touched the controls, clumsily slewing the Nightrunner around to investigate this latest development.


Reading through the script took a while; it turned out to be several pages long. Wash, Mal decided, was never going to win any awards for acting. He really needed to put his pregnant wife out of his mind and let himself be Damien Van Soren for as long as it took to get them out of this mess. But Mal could not tell the pilot so, and he wasn't sure it would have helped, anyway. He tried to be grateful that the pilot put as much effort as he did into soldiering through the business.

Coles looked to feel approximately the same.

But finally, it was over, and Coles stood, releasing them to return to their ship.

Which, they discovered when they stepped out of the conference room and into the docking bay, appeared to have been very neatly repaired. The ramp was sloped down to the deckplates, and Kaylee was inspecting the interior bay doors, which no longer looked slightly askew.

Mal realized that he and Wash had both stopped in their tracks, staring.

"I took the liberty of having your ship repaired," Coles said. "It seems not to have been a terribly difficult job." He looked down at the datapad a crewman had handed to him. "Primarily it was a matter of re-tracking and re-sealing the bay doors, and making a few adjustments."

Mal couldn't decide how to reply to that. The repairs he had thought they might never be able to make, described as if they were really no big deal, and completed so swiftly. He was frankly stunned by the manpower, and the money, that Coles so casually gave away. Finally, he just said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Coles said.

Kaylee waved brightly at them as they walked toward the ship. Her face was tear-streaked, but she was smiling. Coles took his leave before they got there. Mal and Wash walked up the ramp, where they found Zoe and Simon waiting. Mal left Zoe and Wash to each other, and went to shake Simon's hand.

"This is a story I gotta hear," he said to Simon.

"Likewise," Simon said, gesturing broadly -- the battlecruiser, and Mal here aboard it.

Kaylee joined them. "Everything's ship-shape, Captain. Those Alliance mechanics sure do good work."

"Hmmm," Mal said, thinking he'd check for bugs and trackers later. Thoroughly.

"Kaylee said you found River," Simon prompted. "And...lost Inara. And Jayne."

"Actually, River found us," Mal corrected. He cleared his throat; the lump there made it difficult to talk. "We need to go see about that now."

Simon looked relieved.

"And, yeah. About Inara. And Jayne, too," Mal added. That was something he didn't want to think about until later. Jayne had family somewhere; they'd want to know. Did Inara have any family? Who could he ask? Her Guild? Mal always did hate writing those letters. "Wash, let's get out of here," Mal said, and the pilot reluctantly disengaged himself from his wife's embrace. They headed up the steps together, hand in hand. Simon wrapped an arm around Kaylee, and they walked away together, toward the med bay.

Mal watched them all go, and thought about Zoe's condition, and about losing Inara...his vision blackened, and his chest clenched up so he couldn't breathe.

It felt like it took a long time, before he could recover himself enough to follow.


Friday, June 17, 2011 7:20 AM


Oh good gorram, don't have a heart attack now Mal! Another thrilling installment and I loved imagining the looks on Mal and Wash's face when they found Coles had had the ship repaired. Three cheers, I am siding with him being a good guy after all. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, June 17, 2011 11:08 AM


Another great installment. Thanks. Looking forward to more from your pen, keyboard, whatever. Thanks for the typhoon warning.

Friday, June 17, 2011 11:31 AM


Very nice. I suppose good for your RL that work has picked up, more money is always good. But sucky for us, since I was expecting another story after this.

Friday, June 17, 2011 6:20 PM


Nutluck: Aw, thanks! Certainly this is planned for a sequel, but I'm conflicted about writing it, not least because this one took me, what, five years start to finish? If I started the next one, I'd want to be able to get through it faster than that!


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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.