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"Defining Traitor" - Part Three
Sunday, July 17, 2005

Part Three of Four. As happy as Jo is to be back to Serenity, the crew's goal of discovering the truth complicates everything, especially the emotions of everyone aboard the ship.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1705    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Defining Traitor Sequel to Relativity.

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Part Three of Four

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Part One

Part Two

Part Four

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“Kaylee! Inara!” Jo’s voice rang through the hallway as she and River walked toward the engine room. “Where are those two?” Jo whispered to herself.

“In Inara’s shuttle,” River said, hands folded behind her back.

Jo looked back at River. “Well, you coulda mentioned that before,” Jo told River, the two heading toward Inara’s shuttle. Jo knocked on the door to Inara’s shuttle, Inara and Kaylee looking up from their card game. “Qing jin,” Inara called. Jo and River came into the shuttle.

Jo looked at Kaylee and Inara. “How do you guys feel about stretching your legs for a while?”

Kaylee looked confused. “What do you mean?”

“We’re going to Jo’s home!” River said with a delighted laugh, skipping across the shuttle and sitting by Kaylee.

The mechanic turned a grin toward Jo. “We are?” she asked happily.

Jo nodded softly. “Yep, good ol’ Dyton Colony. We’re just stopping there so I can pick something up. So I want you three to come with me. I figure it’ll look less conspicuous if it looks like a few pioneer girls are just out for a stroll. So what do you say?”

Kaylee laughed and went over to Jo, giving the girl a hug. “We’d love to see your home!”

Jo smiled without realizing and looked at Inara. “What about you, ‘Nara?”

Inara looked at Jo before smiling. “Of course I’ll go.”

“Good,” Jo said. “But, um, do you have anything to wear that’s more . . . anti-Companion-ish? We need to look like pioneers.”

“Um,” the Companion said quietly, thinking a moment before shaking her head.

“Don’t worry, ‘Nara, you can borrow somethin’ of mine,” chirped Kaylee, letting go of Jo.

Inara smiled at Kaylee before looking at Jo. “When will we get there?”

“Not long,” Jo answered. “A few days, if that long.”

Kaylee smiled. “This’ll be so fun!” she squealed.

Jo gave a half smile before turning and walking out. “Yeah . . . fun,” she mumbled to herself as she headed to her room.

---

Mal walked across the catwalk, his mind heavy with many different issues. He jumped in surprise when he bumped into someone, and the captain looked up.

Inara stood before Mal, wearing an outfit Mal had never seen her in. The only word that Mal could think of to explain it was plain. Khakis adorned the lower half of the Companion’s body, and a flowery top that looked like something Kaylee would wear was on the upper half of her body. A pair of Kaylee’s old combat boots were on her feet; a very cumbersome thing for a Companion to get used to. Even her hair was tied in a loose ponytail at the nape of her neck. She still wore makeup, though it was more subtly applied than usual. Inara gave a little embarrassed laugh – she hadn’t been watching where she was going either, she was too busy looking at her outfit. “Sorry, Mal.”

“Oh, um, my fault,” Mal said. “Getting into character for your trip with the girls?”

Inara nodded with a small laugh, glancing down at her outfit again. “It’s tough.”

Concern showed in Mal’s gaze as he looked at Inara. “You do know why you’re going there, don’t you?”

“Jo said she had to pick up something,” Inara told Mal, looking up at him. “Why?”

Mal sighed and moved a bit closer so he could drop his voice and still be heard by Inara. “She’s picking up a letter in this sick treasure hunt she’s been sent on, the one involving her parents. This is the next stop. This guy wants to hit her where it hurts, and I think it’s working. The letter with the coordinates to Dyton were picked up on an Alliance ship, so just . . . be on the lookout. I expect Jo to be watching for trouble, but Kaylee and River probably won’t be very wary. I’m trusting you to watch for trouble, watch out for the girls.”

A moment passed in which Inara took in this information. She nodded. “I will. I’ll make sure to watch, I promise.”

Mal gave a half-smile and patted Inara’s shoulder before they walked past each other. “Oh, and Inara,” the captain said as an afterthought, turning to look at Inara.

Inara stopped and turned to look at Mal. “Yes?”

“You look . . .” Mal tried to say.

“Plain?” Inara guessed with a small laugh.

“I was going to say pretty, but your thing fits, too.” After his comment, Mal turned and continued down the stairs.

Inara watched Mal go before smiling and continuing on her own way.

---

The five-year-old sniffed and held onto her mother’s legs. “Do you ‘ave to go?” she asked through tears. At five, the little girl had a mixture of accents that peppered her speech. Because her father didn't have a Dyton accent, her Dyton accent was less pronounced than most of her friends.

The girl’s mother sighed and picked the girl up, hugging the small child. “Oh, little Josie, we won’ be gone tha’ long.”

Jo sniffed again. “Really?” She was taken out of her mother’s arms by a man, Jo’s father.

Leo smiled at the girl and hugged her. “Sure, kiddo. Don’t you worry about us. You’ll have fun with your Uncle Badger, and we’ll be back to get you soon. So no tears, okay?” Jo sniffed her tears back and nodded, burying her face in Leo’s neck.

A few feet away, Josie hugged her brother goodbye. “Thanks for takin’ Josephine in, Badger,” she said.

Badger hugged his sister. “No’ a problem, Josie.”

Jo watched from her father’s arms. It was the only time she had ever, before or since, seen Badger hugging someone. Leo set Jo down, and Jo went over to her mom again. Josie and Jo hugged one another one last time. “We love you, sweetie,” Josie said, choking back tears.

“I love you, too,” Jo said, doing her best to keep from crying. Leo’s arms wrapped around the two girls, the three staying in a hug for a while before Leo and Josie stood. They both kissed Jo’s head and hugged her before they got on a ship, flying off toward war.

Jo chased the ship until she had to stop to catch her breath, watching the ship disappear into the sky. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Badger. “C’mon, kid. We gotta ge’ back to Perseph’ne.” Badger walked toward his ship, Jo trudging after her uncle and thinking about her parents. Little did Jo know that this would be the last time she would see her parents’ faces.

Jo sat bolt upright in her bed with a gasp. She was breathing heavily, cold sweat dampening her face. She put a shaking hand to her forehead as she tried to regulate her breath. Jo threw her covers off of herself and slipped her boots, which were sitting next to her bed, onto her feet. She silently opened the door to her compartment and slipped out to the common room, lying on the couch, images of her parents flashing through her mind.

---

Jo walked into the cargo bay as she pinned something to her coat: a flamingo pin. She had gotten it when she was small, but she had stopped wearing it when she moved away from Dyton. It actually felt good to put it on again. Jo looked up to see Kaylee and River talking in an excited fashion about something. Mal was leaning back against a crate with his arms crossed, talking to Inara. Mal looked over to see Jo walk up to the four and give a half-smile. Mal stood from the crate and went over to Jo, looking at her. “Are you positive you’ll all be okay?”

“Mal, I grew up here,” Jo reasoned, “so I’m aware they might shoot me.” Mal’s eyebrows went up, and Jo smirked. “I’m just joking . . . sort of,” she admitted as Serenity landed on the planet. “Don’t worry, Mal, we’ll be careful.” Jo looked over to watch the hatch open.

“Okay. Just watch your back, and make sure Kaylee and River don’t get into much trouble.” Mal nodded at the girls before heading toward the bridge.

Inara and Jo walked over to Kaylee and River as the hatch touched the planet surface. The four girls walked off the ship, looking around. Despite herself, Jo smiled. The place had hardly changed since she had last been there. She looked over to see Kaylee and River start to hurry forward, and the smile was wiped from Jo’s face. “Kaylee, River!” she called firmly. Kaylee and River stopped and looked at her. Jo pointed to her left, and the other three looked.

A man stood, his gun trained on the four. “Who are you?” he asked, Dyton Colony accent very apparent in his voice.

As Kaylee and River pulled back to stand by Inara, Jo held her hands up and walked toward the man. “We’re ‘ere as pioneers,” Jo told the man, allowing her Dyton accent to show as well as she nodded toward the ship. “Our boa’ broke down, an’ we needed supplies.”

The man looked at Jo then at her coat, seeing the pin she had. He lowered his gun a little. “You’re from ‘ere?” he asked, nodding toward her.

Jo nodded and lowered her hands to her sides. “Was. Moved a while back. As I said, I’m with pioneers now. No need to fuss, we’re jus’ stoppin’ by.”

The man’s gun lowered fully now, though it was still held in both his hands. He trusted her because of the pin, but he was still suspicious. “’Ow long you ‘ere for?”

Jo shrugged. “Don’ righ’ly know, depen’s on ‘ow badly our ship’s damaged.” Jo frowned. “But while we’re ‘ere, I got somethin’ to ask ya.”

“Wha’sat?” the man asked, his gun now at his side.

“I ‘eard you got somethin’ to deliver to someone.”

The man looked at the three other girls then back to Jo. He motioned for her to move closer, which she did. He pressed the gun into her stomach, to which Jo didn’t flinch, though she heard Kaylee give a small gasp. The man examined the pin on Jo’s coat then looked at her. “You really from ‘ere?”

“Yeah, now you min’ gettin’ your gun out of my stomach?”

Jo felt the gun leave her stomach. “An’ yeah, there was a guy ‘ere a while ago, asked one of our people to give a girl a let’er or somethin’.”

“’E tell you wha’ ‘is name was?” Jo asked the man.

The man shook his head. “Naw. ‘E jus’ came an’ gave a guy the let’er, along with an ‘efty sum for the deed. Made me a li’l . . . suspicious, if you know wha’ I mean.”

Jo nodded, though she was disappointed that no one knew the name of the man that was behind this sick game. “Who’d ‘e give the let’er to?”

The man pointed down the street. “The guy lives in the ‘ouse at the end of the road, see? Las’ ‘ouse on the righ’.”

“Xie-xie,” Jo said with a nod, walking back over to the girls. “Come on, it’s all cleared up now,” she said in a normal accent, placing a hand on Kaylee’s shoulder, Kaylee glancing nervously at the man. “Really, Kaylee, everything’s okay. But if anyone else pulls a gun, tell me, okay?”

“Okay . . .” Kaylee said doubtfully.

River grabbed Kaylee’s wrist. “Don’t worry, we can go now,” River assured the mechanic as River pulled Kaylee off to resume their sightseeing.

Jo waved at the man, who waved back as Jo and Inara began to walk down the street. “Are people always like that here?” Inara asked Jo quietly.

“Yeah, pretty much,” replied Jo casually.

“Can’t imagine growing up here,” Inara said, looking around. She was quick to look at Jo and say, “No offense intended, of course.”

A laugh came from Jo. “None taken. But it’s not like they pull guns on each other. Well, not all the time. It happens occasionally, but they certainly wouldn’t have pulled a gun on a five-year-old.”

Inara looked at Jo. “Five? Is that when you were here?”

“That and the years before that. I was five when my parents left, so that’s when I went to Persephone to stay with Uncle Badger. I haven’t been back here since then.”

“Which one of your parents came from here, or did they both?” Inara asked.

“Mom came from Dyton. Dad was visiting, I think delivering something, I don’t rightly know. But he and Mom met, and they eventually fell in love and got married.” Jo let a smile cross her lips as she looked around the familiar place. “I lived here until I had to go with Badger. Before I left, I never thought there was anywhere outside of this planet.” Jo laughed. “And look at me now! I’m a thief that travels all over the universe.” Jo arched an eyebrow as she heard whispering and giggling behind her. She looked back in time to see Kaylee and River shut their mouths quickly. “Um, hi?” Jo told the two. Kaylee and River giggled and ran off. Jo looked at Inara. “What in the ‘verse was that about?”

Inara laughed and shook her head. “I have no idea.”

Jo looked around. “Hold on, we need to stop here,” Jo said, holding out a hand to stop Inara. The two were standing in front of a beaten up house, the last one on the right of the street. Jo looked at Inara. “I’m going in, but I want you to stay with Kaylee and River.” Jo pulled her auto pistol out of her coat and slipped it to Inara. “Take this, but hide it. People ‘round here don’t take kindly to strangers, especially if the strangers are carrying weapons.”

“Okay,” agreed Inara, hiding the gun in her pocket. Jo smiled a little and went inside the house, Inara going off to find River and Kaylee.

“’Ello?” Jo had slipped back into her Dyton accent as she called through the old house. Floorboards creaked as she stepped over them. “Anyone ‘ere?”

“What you wan’?!” a voice yelled from another room, a man hurrying into the main room. He squinted at Jo. “Who are you?”

“Name’s Jo,” Jo said, looking at the man. “I ‘eard you ‘ad a let’er to give me.”

The man smiled. “Ah, so you’re Jo? Hmph. I was expectin’ someone . . . older.” Jo glared at him and the man laughed, holding out his hand. “I’m Lyle.”

Jo shook Lyle’s hand. “So where’s the let’er?”

“Ah, this way,” Lyle said, leading Jo into another room.

“So any idea wha’ the let’er’s abou’?” Jo asked casually.

“The guy said i’ was abou’ a fam’ly tha’ used to live ‘ere. Laronn was their name.”

“Did you know ‘em?”

Lyle nodded. “Yeah, I did. They ‘ad a kid, an’ they wen’ to war. Way I remember, they were in with the Alliance.”

Jo’s stomach dropped. “Really?” She tried to keep her tone casual.

“Yeah,” Lyle confirmed. “The woman used ta go onta ev’ry Alliance ship tha’ landed. Ah, ‘ere’s the let’er.” Lyle gave an envelope to Jo, who slipped the letter into her coat.

“Wha’ else do you know ‘bout ‘em?” she asked, trying to assess what this guy really knew.

“They ‘ad some relatives. The guy ‘ad a few siblings, but they were never aroun’. The woman ‘ad some siblings, too. Mos’ lived aroun’ ‘ere, but one . . . Alex was ‘is name, I think. ‘E was never aroun’, even though ‘e an’ the woman were very close.”

Now she knew that none of this trip was true – no one in Dyton Colony would call him Alex, especially anyone who knew Badger or Jo’s family! “Righ' then. I'll le' myself out,” Jo said, going back out to the street. She found the other girls. “Let's get back to the ship,” she told them quietly.

As the group of girls walked back to their ship, Jo remembered something else. Her mom really had gone on ever Alliance ship that landed, but she went on every ship that landed, period! Josie's job on Dyton was to check each landing ship, make sure none were threats, much like the man that had pulled a gun on Jo and the others. Jo couldn't contain her smirk, though she had to try hard to keep from laughing.

The four were soon back on Serenity, safe and sound. Kaylee and River headed off to do something – they would only giggle when Jo asked what they were up to – while Inara went to her shuttle to get into her own clothes. Jo met up with Mal, a large grin on Jo's face. “It's a set-up,” Jo said with a laugh.

Mal looked at Jo. “How do you know that?”

“Just trust me, Mal, it’s a hoax, a complete fake,” Jo assured, taking the envelope out and opening it. She read the letter aloud to Mal. “‘Jo – Congratulations, you completed my little quest! I hope you received some rewarding information about the parents you thought you knew. I’m looking forward to meeting you.’ Then more coordinates . . .” Jo breathed out through her nose. “So it’s finally time to meet the bastard,” she whispered to herself.

“You sure you want to?” Mal asked, putting a hand on Jo’s shoulder.

Jo looked up at Mal. “You have no idea how sure I am.”

---

Mal and Jo assembled the crew in the dining room for a meeting. They figured it was time to let the crew in on this whole situation. Yes, most of the crew already had ideas, it was true, but they were still in the dark about many of the surrounding circumstances. As the crew sat around the dining hall, Mal took a seat so he could let Jo do the explaining. Jo stood at the head of the table and crossed her arms, starting with, “I think it’s time you guys know the real story behind all these stops we’ve been making. When I was back on Persephone, I got a letter from some anonymous person. Basically, the letter said my parents were traitors, and this person had proof. Then it had coordinates. I believed that the coordinates would take us right to the person, but I was wrong. Instead, this person sent me on a twisted treasure hunt. Our last stop, as you know, was Dyton Colony, my old home. There, I became convinced this was all a fake, that this guy had paid off people to give me false information. But in the last letter, the one from Dyton, it said that was the last stop, and more coordinates were given . . . So we’re going.”

“We’re what?” Simon asked, brow furrowing.

“We’re going to meet this guy,” Jo repeated with a nod.

“But why are we going to meet him if you know he’s lying?” Kaylee asked, looking at Jo.

Jo sighed and put her hands on the table, leaning on them. She looked at Kaylee. “It’s not that simple, Kaylee,” she explained. “I need to know why this guy went through so much trouble to cook up a hoax this elaborate. This guy wanted me to believe this lie, and I want to get to the bottom of his motives. I can’t back down from this now, not when I’ve come so far.”

“Wait just a minute, little girl” cut in Jayne, earning a glare from Jo. “It could be a set-up, you could be dragging us all into a trap.”

“Bi zui, Jayne,” Mal said sharply, looking over at Jayne. The mercenary looked at the captain. “This isn’t your decision.” Jayne was quiet, though he didn’t look too happy about it.

“Thank you, Mal,” Jo said. “Although Jayne has a point, and I hope to never have to say that again.” Jayne looked smug. “This could be a trap, and I’m well aware of that . . . That’s why I’m going alone.”

“Like hell you are!” Mal was quick to say as he stood.

“Mal – ” Jo tried to explain.

“You are not going alone. I’m going with you, and Zoe and Jayne are coming, too.” Jayne looked pissed again.

“Over my dead body!” Jo said, stepping around the table so she and Mal were face-to-face. “I’m not putting you guys in danger like that!”

“And what about yourself, are you okay with putting yourself in danger?” Mal snapped back.

“Oh, right, I’ve never been in danger before! It would be so unfamiliar!” Jo remarked sarcastically.

“Jo.” Jo and Mal both looked across the table to where River was sitting, legs crossed. River was staring at Jo. “Let them help. It’s okay.”

Jo looked at River then looked at Mal with a sigh. “You’re lucky River’s on your side,” she mumbled before turning to the rest of the crew. “Okay, so us four will go, but the rest of you are to stay here, under any and all circumstances. Got it?” The crewmembers nodded. “Good,” Jo said.

The gathering broke up, and everyone went their separate ways. Jo and River headed off together, Inara following and making a detour toward her own shuttle. Kaylee and Simon walked off with each other, Kaylee grasping Simon’s hand. Wash and Zoe walked toward the bridge, Book going off alone. Mal headed toward his bunk, but he stopped when he heard someone say, “Mal.” Mal turned to see Jayne, Jayne walking up to Mal. “What is the deal?” Jayne asked, lowering his voice so only Mal could hear.

“The deal about what?” Mal asked with a slight frown.

“About you and Jo. You act like she’s your . . . daughter or somethin’. Why are you so protective of that kid?” Jayne demanded.

Mal's mouth hung open slightly, stunned at Jayne’s observation. What was with Jayne and these occasional flashes of actual intelligent thought? Mal had never thought of it like that, and he probably still wouldn't have if Jayne hadn't phrased it that way. Maybe he was afraid to admit the possibility to himself, frightened of what that responsibility might mean if he truly accepted it. Mal fought alongside Leo and Josie in the war, he was close to them, but thinking of their daughter as his responsibility? Was that even thinkable? Huh. Yeah, maybe it was. Maybe it was even true. It actually made more sense than some other ways of thinking. “Jayne, I just don’t want her walking into something like that by herself. Like you said, she’s only a kid.”

“A kid that seems to know what the hell she’s doin’, so why don’t we just let her do it?”

“Because that’s not how this crew acts. Someone's on this ship, they're never alone. We're a crew, and we act together. I think you should get that through your skull.” Mal stared at Jayne for a moment longer before turning and heading off toward his room again. Jayne gave an annoyed sigh before turning and walking toward his own bunk.

---

Simon and Kaylee sat on the couch in the common area. Simon had his feet crossed up on the little table in front of the couch, and Kaylee was curled up beside Simon, hugging Simon’s arm. Kaylee sighed as her head rested on the doctor’s shoulder. Simon looked over at Kaylee. “You okay?” he asked, lightly taking Kaylee’s hand.

Kaylee smiled softly, squeezing Simon’s hand. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just a little . . . confused.”

“About what?” asked Simon.

“Well, why would anyone want to tell Jo her parents were bad if they really weren’t? How could anyone be that mean?”

A faint sigh came from Simon. “I don’t know, Kaylee,” he admitted, shaking his head lightly.

Kaylee shifted so she could look up at Simon. Simon looked at Kaylee then looked down, resting his head on Kaylee's head. Kaylee often wished that she could have at least known Simon's parents. Although Simon had told Kaylee stories about his parents, he always focused on the fact that they didn’t think River was in any trouble while at the Academy. Kaylee still wanted to know them, and she wished that Simon would share more about his childhood, about the parents who had raised him, not who those parents were now. Simon was so sweet, and his parents had to have contributed to that. Kaylee looked away again, and she and Simon remained silent. Life was tough, and they both knew it.

---

After dinner that night, Book and Inara lingered in the dining room to finish their tea. Jayne stayed as well, munching on an apple. They talked a little about random subjects before Jayne brought up bluntly, “I still don’t think we should be lettin’ that kid make the decisions about this trip.”

Inara and Book looked at Jayne, both slightly surprised at him bringing the subject up. Book was the first to reply. “Well, she did pay us to accompany her. And Jo needs to get the truth to restore her peace of mind. After all, if she doesn’t have faith in her parents, she can’t have faith in anything less solid, things like hope, loyalty . . . even God.”

Jayne scoffed. “But she already knows this guy’s lyin’ to her! She’s just plain kuang zhe de for humorin’ the guy. It’s a trap, I know it.”

Inara sighed at Jayne’s ignorance. “Jayne, let me put it this way: Could you sleep at night if someone said your parents were traitors?”

“Yeah,” Jayne replied, wondering where Inara was going with this.

“Okay, maybe that was a bad example,” Inara admitted. “Let’s try again. Jo has to find out who her parents were before she decides who she is. If she were to find out her parents were liars or traitors or both, she would probably get it in her mind that, because they passed their genes to her, she was bound to be just as bad as they were. Wouldn’t you think the same if you found out your parents were bad people.”

“No.” Once again, Jayne wondered what Inara was getting at with the question.

Inara gave a frustrated groan, putting her hand to her forehead. Inara decided it was time to give up – she couldn’t help it if Jayne had the emotional range of a spoon.

At the moment when Inara was feeling most frustrated at Jayne, Zoe walked into the dining room. She arched an eyebrow at Inara. Zoe took a seat at the table, grabbing an apple from the middle of the table. “Are you okay?” Zoe asked Inara as the first mate started cutting her apple into wedges.

“Can you please tell Jayne why Jo wants to go meet this guy? He won’t believe the explanations Book and I are giving,” Inara said in an exasperated manner, looking at Zoe.

Zoe looked over at Jayne. “There are a lot of reasons why this is what Jo needs to do, but the reason she's so determined to do it is because it's the only thing left that Jo's able to do for her parents – clear their names, ensure their honor remains intact. Wouldn’t you want to do at least that for your parents?”

“Why?” Jayne asked, perplexed.

“We’re going, Jayne, deal with it,” Zoe explained coolly before biting into an apple wedge.

Jayne mumbled as he got up from the table, heading off away from the group, “It’s still kuang zhe de.”

----------

Chinese translations

Qing jin. ~ “Come in.”

Xie-xie. ~ “Thank you.”

Bi zui ~ “Shut up.”

kuang zhe de ~ “nuts”

Chinese translations from Browncoats.com.

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