Kaylee's Lament -- Part Twenty-Two
Sunday, August 21, 2005

Anyone up for a rousing chase scene? Cue up the banjo music . . .


Kaylee’s Lament

Part Twenty-Two

“This is really highly irregular,” Wendell said, looking around his loading bay in a daze. There were bodies, and smoke, and bullet holes, and blood . . . He hadn’t realized there would be blood. And bodies. He felt a little ill. “Sorry, Wendell, didn’t mean t’trouble you.” Kuan looked sympathetic, but happy. “Just concluded up our negotiations. Pretty successful by my estimation. So we’ll tidy up a might and be on our way.” “You wha—?” “Uh, Darryl gone t’get our last crewman, then we’ll be headed back to th’Rim, hot jets. Outa your hair for-ever.” Wendell was about to reply when he caught sight of a well-dressed man in mirrored sunglasses – and full combat gear. The suit was impeccably tailored. There was a really big knife on his belt. There was a little splash of blood on his face that ran from his lower right cheek to his left temple. Kuan noticed his reaction. “This is the company business manager. Brought him in to finish up the acquisition discussions. “Pleasure,” the man said, nodding and smiling politely. That was really a very impressive gun he was carrying. One of many. That didn’t make what he had to say any easier. “You – you have to wait,” he said, finally, when he recovered at least a bit of his senses. “You have to wait for the Alliance investigation.” “The what?” Kuan didn’t look at all pleased. Either did the business manager – clearly some corporate hot-shot with a wall full of business degrees they hired for this job. “Alliance. The Alliance has to investigate. I checked the manual. It’s very clear, after an incident like this there has to be an inquiry. Not just the usual law-enforcement investigation, but the Alliance Transport Safety Agency has to be informed, and the regional coroner of course – he’s on Agni – and the local Magistrate, have to get his office involved. And the Alliance Colonial Shipping Board, and the Alliance Interstellar—” “Wendell,” Kuan said in a low, soft, and thoroughly intimidating voice, “perhaps you can go back an’ check that manual one more time.” The business manager nodded once, as if that were the end of the matter. Wendell swallowed. Perhaps it would be wise to check the regs a little more thoroughly. It couldn’t hurt. He might even find some mitigating circumstances. Because, right now, he was looking at a lifetime’s worth of paperwork that he surely did not want to be responsible for. He nodded and went back to his office.



* Mal was running, fast, after a speeding mule down a semi-deserted corridor. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been much of a contest – the mule, while slower than a hovercar or similar fancified methods of transport, had no problem outpacing a man on foot. But that was when the mule had plenty of open space and a driver who was familiar with its capabilities. This was hardly the ideal condition for such a contest. The corridors here were wide enough, true, but they were cluttered with crates and containers and packages destined for the far flung corners of the Alliance. There were turns, and corners, and places where Morgan had to zig-zag, and at every one of them Mal gained a few crucial steps. He didn’t mind taking a couple of precautionary pot-shots, either, when he had a clear field of view. He thought he winged the man once, but he just kept going. Morgan wasn’t adverse to turning on the straightaways and firing a burst from his submachine gun, either. That forced Mal to find cover or hit the deck, which lost him a few crucial steps. It was a kind of mad, mechanized version of checkers with no clear advantage to either player. The third time Morgan had fired at him and forced him to duck, Mal didn’t get back up. While he didn’t have a clear shot at Morgan from his prone position, there was something else useful he could do. He took careful aim and with two quick shots, he punctured the two rear pneumatic tires of the vehicle. It wouldn’t stop Morgan’s advance, but it would slow him up a might. Maybe even enough for Mal to parley his lead into something significant. He scrambled back to his feet and kept running, pistol in hand, browncoat flapping behind him. Mal was so intent on following the man that he didn’t realize exactly which way they were going. The next corner they turned put them in the busy Yellow section, which housed what passed for amusement (all safe, wholesome, and Alliance approved) on the station. There were probably fifty people here, clustered around the large open mall. Morgan didn’t seem to mind. He ploughed past them as fast as he could, adding another burst from his gun to get them all to lay down. When he did that he failed to notice the Buddha statue outside of the Lucky Turtle Restaurant He clipped the side of it just right, and flipped the mule on its side. Morgan was spry enough to roll away from it and come up quickly enough on his feet, and once more Mal had to find cover. When the hammering stopped and he was able to look up, Morgan was gone. He swore vilely, and was about to call for assistance, when an old Sinic man in black silk pajamas pointed out which door Morgan had taken. “Much obliged,” Mal muttered to the old man as he passed, slapping another magazine into his pistol. He was starting to run low. It didn’t take long to track Morgan – apparently Mal had winged him, because there was a smeared trail of fresh blood to track him with. A trail that led to a stairwell and down two levels. When he got to the door he had left through, it was locked. He wasted three bullets and twenty precious seconds blasting the door and kicking it open. He could see the direction that Morgan was headed – back towards the docks. “Kaylee,” he puffed into the radio, “heads up, Morgan’s headed back to his ship!” *



“Sounds like trouble,” Jayne muttered as Wendell stumbled back to his office. “Ain’t gonna like an Alliance investigation. Ain’t once seen nothin’ good come from the likes o’ that.” “Don’t be stupid,” Zoe said, turning around. “We ain’t gonna linger for that. Go in, sweep the ship, then let Inara and River out. I’m gonna police the battlefield and think of a way outa this bureaucratic nightmare. Can’t leave ‘till the navigation lock is lifted no how, which means we might have to resort to a hostage situation.” She sighed, kicking a stray bit of rubble with her boot. “Problem is, just ain’t not good, legitimate bureaucratic way outa this.” “Well, tell the Doc, this whole gorram plan was his idea,” Jayne said, disgustedly. “Couldn’t do just an honest bit o’ thievery, now, could he? Gotta go with the complicated dress-up games.” At this point, Zoe was inclined to agree. Then a thought occurred. “Jayne, that ain’t a bad idea. Go do your job. I got a call to make.” Jayne grunted and loped off while Zoe dug out her radio. “Inara?” she asked, and waited for the Companion to pick up. She might just salvage this whole caper yet.




Wendell was staring at the regulation in front of him. It left little room for discretion. An event like a gunfight in a loading dock – not to mention a dozen-odd dead bodies – was report-worthy no matter how you tried to look at it. There just wasn’t any alternative. And this would put a painful spin on his career. After a spotless record for all these years. He would be known from one end of the Alliance to the other for this. And not in a good way. He could just cheat. Pretend it never happened. But then there were the bodies, and that would take some explaining no matter what. No, it didn’t look like he had any choice. He ordered the Nav block that would keep the Firefly from launching, and was about to summon the Feds from their orbiting station around Varuna when he got a wave. He didn’t quite recognize the address – some ship somewhere in the Black, from the code – but anything to put this off was welcome. He connected. He wished he hadn’t. On the screen was the quite irate face of Dr. Randolf Worthington. His heart sank. The good doctor was in his medical gear, but not in his infirmary. He was in some kind of shuttle. “Wendorf, where the hell is my gorram equipment?” he asked in a slow but deadly voice. Wendell suddenly thought that maybe speaking with Kuan’s business manager might not be so bad. “I— We— That is –” he stammered. “It was supposed to ship today. You assured me when I spoke to you a week ago that it would ship today. I based all of my plans and schedules on it shipping today. So make me a happy man, Wendorf. Did it ship today?” “We’ve had difficulties, Doctor,” he squeaked. “It’s become a tad entangled. Some minor paperwork issues, is all, and—” “I don’t care if the crew went crazy and shot the place all to pieces, I want that equipment shipped.” He seemed to struggle with raw rage, and Wendell cringed. “You are going to figure out what you are going to do with this problem that you have caused. And it is no longer a matter of my ire – and whatever repercussions might roll downhill from General Edmonton.” Wendell swallowed hard at hearing the name. “No, it’s more complicated, now. See, there’s been a fire on a terraformer’s transport. I’m en route now, and it will take me about two days to get there. It will take me about two days to get back with whatever wounded need it the most. And when I get back, Wendorf, I had better have proper equipment in my infirmary because a whole lot of people are going to die if it isn’t. There are drugs in that shipment that will save lives if it’s here. Do I make myself perfectly clear?” “Uh, yes Doctor, I’ll take care of it, Doctor, I—” “Worthington OUT!” the doctor bellowed, cutting the transmission. Oh, go se. Wendell’s mind automatically sought to work the new information into the situation, find the appropriate form. People’s lives were at stake. The appropriate form. The appropriate form. People’s lives. The appropriate form. People’s lives. The appropriate form. No . . . The golden form. The answer to his every problem. He called it up on the screen, the form he had been trained in, but had never actually had to use. It was the GE-122-M Form. The Medical Emergency Humanitarian Authorization form. It superceded nearly every other form, document, protocol, regime, and procedure in the Alliance. It could open doors and part waters wherever it went. It was the bureaucratic equivalent of a doomsday weapon. Merely fill it out, give it his retinal scan for authorization, and then refer every other piece of documentation in this whole insane mess to it. It had automatic dominance. It was the ultimate trump card. Wendell couldn’t help himself. The strain was too much. He let out a little whoop of joy and thrust his fist into the air, shouting, “YES!”




Mal had six rounds left. Two more in the hold-out pistol in his pocket. That was it. That should be enough. He crept down the darkened corridor that led to the next cluster of docking airlocks. It was the low-rent section of the station, dark and nasty and smelling faintly of urine. No freight lifts, no crew lounges, just basic sanitation and air. Of course this is where Morgan would tie up. The blood trail was growing, showing that a life-or-death chase through a space station was not necessarily the best first aid for a gunshot flesh wound. And Mal could hear the wheezing of the huh choo-shang tza-jiao duh tzang-huo up ahead. Best he could do is try sneaking up on him, make him think he got away, bag him before he could get on the ship. Slowly he crept forward. He watched his shadow, made sure it wasn’t visible – nine times out of ten when you gave yourself away in stealth, it was because you weren’t securing your shadow as well as your body. One of those useful little tips he picked up in the War. Another was to press the advantage. He could hear the lock cycling. It would be open in less than a minute. He made the last dodge to the last crate, the best place to stage an ambush. He was ready to get a shot on the heaving chest of Morgan when his radio sputtered to life. “Cap? This is Kaylee, wonderin’ what’s taken you so long?” Morgan whirled, and before Kaylee said her own name he had fired the submachine gun in Mal’s direction. Mal ducked. He got off one round, unaimed, before he did so, but it wasn’t even close. Before he could pop up again and take off that bastard’s gorram head, the lock had opened, he had stepped in, and the inner door had closed. Mal ran forward and pounded on the door, but he could already hear the engines of the Arachne’s Revenge starting to whine through the bulkhead. Morgan’s empty gun was laying on the deck – that was something. Kaylee had a gun, she said. He hoped she had the sense to use it. There wasn’t much else he could do – no way his pistol could put a hole through even that rusty hull. He banged on the hatch with his pistol butt, more out of frustration than anything else, while he thumbed his radio. “Kaylee! I missed him! Kaylee, get ready! He’s coming! Hear me?” There was no answer.




Zoe dragged the last body into the airlock. That would do for now. They could hose it out when they landed, and go through the bodies’ possession when they were safely back in the Black. She didn’t relish that part, of course, but all sense of squeamishness had been burned out of her long ago, during the War. She hated to admit it, but she was good at stacking bodies. She almost didn’t notice when Wendell came up, a big grin on his face. She wasn’t real sure how to interpret it, but he had a clipboard under his arm. “Good news, Captain! I just received word from – I just found out— I—” “Deep breaths, Wendell. Slow down a might. What is it?” “You can go,” he said, simply. “What?” “You can go. I’ve cleared it. But you can go only if you promise me that you will head for Heracles Station at full burn. Only stop to refuel. I’ve already flagged your transponder coed in the system – no Alliance vessel is to stop you under any circumstances, not until you deliver your cargo, at least.” “You . . . you sure?” “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll take care of the details!” He noticed the bodies for the first time. “Uh, what are you doing?” “Just tidyin’ up a might. Thought you’d prefer it if you ain’t got a big pile o’ bodies t’deal with.” “Well . . . well that’s mighty, uh, thank you.” “Welcome. I gotta sign somethin’?” “Huh? Oh, yes, yes, just a final few formalities. If I could get your chop here . . . here. . . here. . . over here. . . right here at the bottom . . . here. . . here. . . and . . . here. And here’s your fee,” he added, handing over a fat envelope thick with new-minted Alliance banknotes. “In cash. As per contract. You can count it, if you like.” “No need, you look an honest sort,” she said, chuckling. “’sides, it ain’t right . . . well, know where you work, now, don’t I?” She gestured to the gun at her hip. Wendell wasn’t quite as amused as she was. “Uh, I suppose you do.” “Well, Wendell, does that end our business here?” “The moment you signed that receipt,” the clerk agreed wholeheartedly. “Good!” she said, peeling off a one hundred credit note from the envelope and stuffing it into his pocket. “Hey, now, none of that. I am honest. I don’t take bribes!” “I know, Wendell. That ain’t a bribe. You done completed your business with us, and honorably, too. That there is a tip,” she said, winking with the eye that was surrounded by scars. “For your inconvenience.” He looked down at it. A hundred credits, that was a good weekend on Varuna, if he spent wisely. And it wasn’t technically a bribe. He let it pass and shook her hand. “Hot jets, Captain. When will you be leaving?” “Just as soon as my crew shows up. Minutes, not hours.”




Mal waited. And waited. And waited. He had his ear pressed up against the lock, waiting for the sound of a shot. It didn’t come. Nor did he hear faint screams. No, only the engine whine and muffled voices. Soon the whine overtook the voices, and with a hiss and a thump, the Arachne’s Revenge cast off into the Black. With Kaylee inside. He swore mightily, but he was already running. If they could catch her in time . . . *



Kaylee waited for her Moment. She was ready. The pistol was loaded and the safety was off. The door that had held her was now missing three hinges, thanks to her trusty wrench, rendering the bolt completely inoperative. Her sabotage was done, her shopping bags were slung on her back, and Jayne’s hat was even back on her head. Couldn’t leave that behind. So when she heard the lock open and shouts in a horrible, lisping voice, she knew her Moment had arrived. She pushed the cabin door open and crept quietly into the central chamber. The two spacers were at the controls of the ship, running an emergency pre-flight, and the oily-haired back of Milo Morgan was turned toward her as he swore at his crew to hurry in badly lisping Mandarin. She knew what to do. She had seen Jayne do it, Mal and Zoe do it, even Inara upon occasion. She crept up behind him and placed the gun at the base of Milo’s neck. “Don’t move, tah mah de,” she said in a low and threatening voice. “Or I swear by this ugly hat I’ll put a bullet in what’s left of your brain.” “Oh, thit!” Morgan said, freezing utterly. “Forgo’ ‘bou’ you!” “After kissing me goodbye so sweetly?” Kaylee said sarcastically. “I do believe that you had improper intentions regardin’ my virtue, Captain Morgan!” “Where you ge’ a gun?” he muttered. “One o’ thethe idioths?” “No, from the idiot I’m pointin’ it at.” “Oh. The li’l black automathic.” “Yep. Not real bright for a criminal, are you.” “No,” he said tiredly. “I’m prethy thupid.” “At least we agree on somethin’!” “Yeah, I pu’ tha’ gun up there month ago. Needed tho thake it in tho the gunthmith. Y’thee, the gorram firin’ pin ith broke.” Kaylee pulled the trigger. There was a click, but no satisfying roar, no explosion of blood and brains all over the cockpit. Morgan produced another small concealable silver mini-auto and pushed it to her temple. “No’ like thith one, with workth juth fine,” he assured. Kaylee’s heart dropped as he took the broken gun from her fingers. “Now,” he said, evilly, “lookth like I go’ away with one athet, ‘leatht.” He looked her up and down. “Ge’ you cleaned up, and you’ll be a fine pieth o’ tail for me an’ th’boyth – ‘till I thell your ath off.” “My what?” she asked. “Don’ play no gorram gameth with me, girl!” he bellowed. “Your ath! I’m gonna thell your ath off!” “Athov?” she asked, confused. “Who the hell is that?” “Your ath! The thing you thit on! The thing tha’ I’m gonna—” “Boss, got trouble,” one of the spacers at the board said. “’Lliance trouble. Varuna Station just launched a transport headed here, somethin’ ‘bout a disturbance. We gonna hang ‘round and wait?” “No, no, launth! Launth! Get uth ou’ o’ here now!” “What about her?” Morgan swung his fist with the gun in it, catching Kaylee in the temple. She fell limp as a ragdoll to the deck. “We’ll ge’ tho her lather. Righ’ now, you burn ho’ je’th to th’Black!”



* “You let them get away?” asked River, incredulously. “I didn’t ‘let’ them do anythin’!” Mal shouted back. “Weren’t nothin’ I could do! Don’t just stand there an’ yell, help me get this thing on board!” He was driving the tore-up mule back in, having relayed the news about Kaylee to Wash and the rest of the crew. The jets were already warmed up, and everything else was ready to launch. River, still in her geisha outfit, moved the leg of one of the bodies out of the way and closed the inner lock. A moment later the outer lock closed, and Mal picked up the radio. “Launch, Wash! Get a track on them, find that gorram ship, don’t let them outa your gorram sight!” “Gorram puppy dogs!” River exclaimed in disgusted exasperation. “Stay outa my way, girl!” Mal bellowed. “I ain’t ‘bout to give up on her yet!” He threw himself up the stairs and headed into the cockpit. Halfway up there was a lurch as the gravity drive reasserted itself. By the time he had made it to Wash’s side, they were already away – but much slower than he thought they should be going. “Wash?” he asked, gesturing to the viewport. “Any reason we goin’ so gorram slow?” “About ten tons of it, Captain! That cargo is weighing us down. Plus we only got one shuttle, which is making her list a little. I can compensate, but that little Mothbat is a lot lighter than us. We can keep up for a while, but eventually they are going to outpace us.” “Not what I want to hear, pilot,” Mal said warningly. “I ain’t makin’ this up, Captain!” “Do the best you can. We gotta come up with a Plan B.” “We used up Plan B,” Zoe pointed out. “We got a Planc C?” he asked. “Not really,” Zoe admitted. “Okay, we’ll improvise. Can you figure out where they’re heading?” “That ain’t a problem. They leak radiation like a snail leaks whatever that disgusting slime is that they leak. And they’re listing too – at least two, three degrees.” “Just stay on ‘em. Gotta think about this a might.” “You think she’s still alive?” Zoe asked, in a low voice. “I refuse to entertain any other possibility, hear me?” Mal said insistently. “Just wanted to hear you say it.” Jayne showed up about then, his combat gear and glasses gone and his tie untied. “What’s this about Kaylee?” “Morgan got away with her. We’re trackin’ the wang bao dahn now. We ain’t gonna let him get away.” “We can do that?” Jayne asked. “Said so, didn’t I?” Jayne wrinkled his brow. “She still alive?” “I heard her voice not fifteen minutes ago. I’m assuming that means he ain’t got around to endin’ her yet.” Jayne stared blankly. “They kill her, can I get her room?” Mal, Zoe and Wash all looked at him pointedly. “Just sayin’,” he mumbled. The issue of whether Kaylee was alive or not was decided a moment later, when a wave came in. It was Morgan. And he had Kaylee with him. *



“You jutht keep your dithtanth, Firefly!” he shouted into the pickup. He had his arm around Kaylee’s neck, a gun in his hand. She looked no worse for wear, save a nasty bruise on the side of her head under Jayne’s hat. “We gonna parlay!” “What do you want, Morgan?” Mal asked evenly. “Ith tha’ any way tho thalk tho your own brother?” he sneered with a hideous cackle. “Say your words,” Mal insisted. “Here’th how ith gonna be,” he began. “I know you’re gonna follow uth. Can’ hardly thtop you. No’ ‘till you ge’ your whore back here.” “That’s five,” whispered Jayne. “Your point, Morgan?” “You ain’ gonna catch me ‘leth I wanna ge’ caugh’. Tho thith ith whath gonna happen: we gonna ge’ ou’ o’ eathy range o’ ‘Lianth innerfearanth. Then I’m gonna toth thith girly outh the airlock. If y’all behave, I’ll put her inna thuit firtht. Not gonna thay thee won’ be . . . muthed a li’l, bu’ . . .” “You harm her,” Mal said, his voice as deadly as he had ever spoken, “You better set course for the Border, lube up your hindquarters and throw yourself to the mercy of the Reavers, ‘cause that’s gonna be the only place you will even be remotely safe. You hear me? ‘Cause I swear by the steel of my ship that I will hound you ‘round Perdition’s flame, if I must, and you will not pass quietly.” He disconnected. “Anyone o’ you gotta problem with that?” he asked, looking fiercely around, and especially looking at Jayne. “No, Cap’n,” the mercenary said. “I guess we gotta track that bastard down.” “I’m glad we see eye to eye on that,” Mal said. “I mean, th’ bastard’s got my gorram hat.” He looked around at all the faces suddenly pointed in his direction. “You don’t just steal a man’s hat like that,” he explained. “Not and get away with it.”


Sunday, August 21, 2005 9:08 AM


Shoot, just one more today . . .

Sunday, August 21, 2005 9:26 AM


i finish one and then there is a whole 'nother waiting for me!
um-- would jayne really care about the room? i thought he proved himself a little higher than that.
ohmygoodness! a floral bonnet ode! yippeee!! great as always!

Sunday, August 21, 2005 10:01 AM


Perhaps I wasn't clear enough -- my apologies.

Jayne was as whole-heartedly in favor of the pursuit as anyone. But he does have an image to uphold, and overtly revealing his inner feelings -- even when the rest of the group agreed -- would be, in my opinion, a violation of his self-preservation/badass personae. Hence, instead of saying, 'yes, yes, let us go forth and rescue her!' he can say the same thing about his hat, maintain his image, and keep his psyche happey. Them emotions, they's powerful confounded.

Besides, it was funny.


Sunday, August 21, 2005 10:02 AM



Sunday, August 21, 2005 10:03 AM


Oh, and the room thing -- Jayne's a tactless pragmatist. He may be loyal -- now -- but that doesn't change his inner nature.


Sunday, August 21, 2005 12:33 PM



Has anyone mentioned that you just plain rock?

Sunday, August 21, 2005 1:30 PM


Never steal a man's horse, woman, or silly hat. It just ain't right.

You're like an athlete, a gold-medal winning update athlete.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 6:52 PM


Absolutely amazing! This has got to be one of the best fanfics out there.

You have a gift for dialogue ... these ARE the characters we know and love, and every word out of their mouths rings true.

Impatient for more!

(although my bladder thanks you for the break)

Monday, August 22, 2005 9:15 AM


gosh i love this story

Monday, August 22, 2005 2:09 PM


Kaylee's Lament has become my daily entertainment. It gives me a break from compulsively checking my email every two minutes.<p>
I'm sorry to see Kaylee (again) in a compromising position. This bastard Milo had better get it as good as Early.<p>
At least her being in danger makes sense. She's one of, if not THE, most vulnerable characters. Imagine if someone threatened to rape Zoe. Poor Kaylee.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 12:13 PM


Oh how I wish Kaylee had just cracked that *tamade hundan* on the back of his gorram head then it wouldn't have mattered that the gun didn't work. I so would not like to be in his shoes right now, Mal is going to dance across his bones with the kind of vengeance Reavers only dream of. Yay, let's go get Kaylee! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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Simon gets tested, Zoe gets quizzed, and Kaylee gets . . . satisfied. For the moment.