BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

SCREWTHEALLIANCE

The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu -- Chapter Twenty-Seven
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Kaylee buys some shoes. Mal looks up an old friend and has a bite to eat. [WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3305    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu

Chapter Twenty-Seven

River was entertaining herself by examining the number of shoes available at the shop, analyzing their sizes, prices and styles, and extrapolating based on her analysis the number, ages, and social position of the women of Lincoln City. It was an amusing exercise, and she was mystified that so many women would pay so much money for shoes that they would briefly and painfully wear. Even as brain damaged as she was, and as clinically insane as she was, River could think of no reason why she should indulge in such sadomasochistic foolishness. She had yet to try on a single pair – her combat boots were adequate. She preferred no shoes at all. But it was, she decided, a useful commentary on intergender roles in the social mating cycle. While she did this, Kaylee was trying on yet another pair of shoes she had no intention of buying. These were bright red flutes with a single strap across the instep, and a cubic zirconium flourish to draw attention to her feet. Kaylee paced back and forth in front of the six mirrors the shop set up to show off the shoes to best effect. “Closer,” Kaylee said to the mirror, and it obliged by focusing in on her feet for her. “Now how about a distance holo?” she asked, and immediately the mirror displayed a full 3D image of Kaylee as she would have looked if viewed across a room. “Hmm,” she grunted meaningfully. “They’re cute ‘n’ all, but not really me,” she said finally with a sigh. “I do look great in them, though. If you didn’t know it was me, you’d think I was glamorous!” “The holo is designed to flatter you,” River observed. “It is artificially correcting the image, increasing your height by almost an inch, increasing your bustline by two, subtracting about ten pounds and adjusting lighting and coloration to make you appear more attractive than you actually are.” “Really?” Kaylee asked, shocked. “But I look so . . . good in these!” “I thought you said they really weren’t you.” “That was before I knew they were cheating!” she said sourly. “Cao ni ma!” “I guess I shouldn’t mention the subliminals.” Kaylee looked over at her, brow wrinkled. “Subliminals?” “Yeah, the subsonic tones they use to manipulate your emotions. The more expensive the shoes, the more you think you look good in them.” She sniffed. “Air is full of pheromones, too. I think I’m getting aroused.” “Oh! Huh choo-shung tza-jiao duh tzang-huo! That really pisses me off. I’ve a notion to walk away and not buy anything at all!” she said, disgusted. “I mean, except for those pumps and those cute little silk slippers. But that’s it!” “Kaylee,” River said, her tone wavering strangely. “What? You think I should put the slippers back too? But they’re so cute!” she protested. “Kaylee, there’s a bad man out there,” she said, her face going white. “His name is Jaeger, and he just saw me.” “Sweetie, you’re young an’ cute. You gotta expect a certain amount of—” “No!” River insisted. “No! You don’t comprehend! Frustrating language – hunter – Jaeger – searching for recognition, recognizes prey – hunter bad man – sees young girl, hunts young girl, seventeen standard years old, brunette long hair five feet three inches ninety three pounds athletically built needs to please superiors highly intelligent warning extreme caution: dangerous armed or unarmed ordered to apprehend without injury already on probation for what he did on Hera may be employing disguise need this gorram bounty River Tam!” While reciting the litany of the all-points-bulletin that was his internal dialog, River had risen from her seat. She began walking backwards, towards the rear of the shop where the clerk and the shoe fabrication machinery was. Kaylee looked up, alarmed. “River! You okay, girl?” she asked nervously, then glanced at the window. She saw no one. “There ain’t no one there, honey, no one at all. Just stay calm,” she cautioned as she approached her. “NO!” River screamed. “You fail to comprehend: positive ID, calling for orders! He needs this bounty! He screwed up on Hera and all those people died but they were the wrong people, nearly twenty, and some were kids and one more screw-up and he loses the job! Don’t you understand?” River asked, finally looking at Kaylee like she recognized her. “No, can’t say as I do. Maybe we should get back to the ship,” she said soothingly. “Clerk? Sir? Can we ring out, now, please?” she called out. “NONononono,” River chanted as she backed into a display, sending the rack crashing to the floor. “He needs this bounty, Kaylee,” she insisted desperately. “The warrant says ‘dead or alive’ and he doesn’t care – he prefers dead, even though he’s been ordered—” “CLERK!” Kaylee yelled. The slightly effeminate, middile-aged man who had been waiting on them erupted from the rear much quicker than he would of for such a frantic call – the crashed display had roused his ire. “What is it? What’s going on here?” he asked in a supercilious voice. “Cash me out – the two on the counter – an’ make is fast! We gotta kinda situation here . . .” “—badmanwantstohurtwantstokillhunterneedsthebountybadman—” River whimpered. “Why? Did she finally see her . . . boots in the mirror?” he asked, snidely. He didn’t like spacer scum, as he called them in his mind, polluting up his store and driving away real customers. “’Parently, you ain’t comprehendin’ the nature o’ the word ‘situation’! How much money for the shoes?” she asked, holding up a wad of Alliance bluenotes. “Tell me now or we’re outa here without ‘em!” “Fine!” he said, the sight of the money mollifying him. “Gotten better service in pirate ports,” Kaylee muttered darkly. “Riv? Calm down, now, just take it easy. Ain’t no one out there, see?” she said, pointing towards the glass. “Ain’t no one gonna come in here after you.” “What’s her problem?” the clerk asked disparagingly, nodding towards River as he checked the prices. “She ain’t what you could rightly call ‘stable’. The subliminals in your mirror an’ the pheromones in the air musta triggered a response,” Kaylee said harshly. “Or maybe it was your prices,” she added for spite. “—killedallthosefolksonHerawasagorrammistakealmostlosthisjobthisone—” “Well, she needs to calm herself and quit talking about murdering people,” he returned, just as spitefully. “She’ll scare the other customers!” “We’re the only gorram customers you got, fella, so light a fire under your ass and give me a humpin’ total afore she goes all nuclear on us!” “What? She’s . . . violent?” he asked, aghast. “Not nearly so much as me if I don’t hear a number right quick! River! Come out of it, girl! Ain’t no one gonna hurt you!” River had backed up to the wall; once her back hit it, she slid down to the floor, her eyes wide. “—itwasn’thisfaulteventhoughhepulledthetriggerthatonekidmovedand—” “Riv! Snap out of it! Focus!” Kaylee shouted. “We gotta get clear o’ here an’ I need your help!” “—nohelpsentinaloneneedthisjobbillstopaythisREDEEMShimpayshisdebts—” “Gorram it!” Kaylee swore. “Have you got that humpin’ total or—” she asked, turning around. She had taken her radio out to call for backup. “Ninetyfour, plus Steward’s tax,” the clerk said haughtily. “Now will that be cash or charge?” Before he could answer the shop’s door flew open, and a large man with a short haircut and a brightly chromed .44 Magnum in his fist burst in. The gun was pointed at Kaylee. “Drop the gorram pickup!” he bellowed. “Everyone on the gorram floor!” “—killedkidsonHerawasamistakeandJulianchewedhimouthadtopayrestitution—” River was rocking back and forth, now, and didn’t seem aware that the man was in front of her. As Kaylee dropped the radio the man swung the nose of the gun to cover the clerk, who was still waiting for Kaylee to answer – and who didn’t seem to realize that there was a pistol in his face until the big man aimed it at him. “Put away the gorram unit!” he shouted, and with one meaty paw he batted the pad out of the clerk’s hand sending it flying against the wall. “Ai ya! OhmyGod, I’m being robbed!” the clerk screamed. “Shuttup!” the man bellowed. “—Julianmadehimgototheirweepingmommiesandoffermoneyfortheirbabies—” “Shuttup! Who the hell told you about that?” he demanded, shocked and angry. “Just take it easy, mister,” Kaylee said, swallowing hard and trying to be brave. “She’s just had a spell, is all. No harm. You want money? I got money,” she said, brandishing her wad. “More than you humpin’ got! Now make her shut the hell up!” he yelled. “I – I don’t keep a lot of cash on hand,” the clerk babbled. “Most of my customers pay by credit, they’re locals and have real bank accounts, not like some of the spacer trash who wanders in with their fat feet and ugly boots—” “Hey! I don’t have fat feet!” Kaylee said, defensively. The clerk snorted. “Size tens. I’ve got hats smaller than that!” “No wonder, size o’ your brainpan!” “Honey, I’d look better in those pumps! Whatever you strap onto your hooves, you can’t change that—” “Shut the hell up!” the man with the gun bellowed again. “All of you!” “—alltheirbabiespaidthemcashstillhasdreamsonemorescrewupand . . . oh, that’s better,” River said, shaking her head a little. She seemed suddenly peaceful. “What’s better, sweetie?” Kaylee asked, thinking that maybe she could get her gun out without him noticing. “The Prince is coming,” she said, letting out a big sigh. “He’ll put it right.” “Honey, there isn’t a Prince on this whole planet, just the queen in this room getting robbed. Now be a good little thing and let the man do his business, okay?” the clerk babbled. “Hump it! This is what is going to happen! I’m gonna take the—” Suddenly the door flew open with a bang, and Johnny was there, his electric blue bat in hand. River giggled. “Hellooo, Salisbury!” she said, and started laughing hysterically.

*

The man whirled the moment he heard the door open, and suddenly there was a really, really big pistol pointed at Johnny. Being adverse to this, he batted it out of line with a back-handed flick of his wrist, which sent the tip of his bat against the barrel of the gun to great effect, and pushed the man off-balance with the heel of his right hand. Stepping around, he could see River in a ball against the back wall and Kaylee standing defensively in front of her, one hand digging in her sweater pocket. They were not hurt. He returned his attention to the cop or whoever it was with the humpin’ hand cannon, who was bringing it quickly back in line. Couldn’t let that happen. Taking a two-handed grip on the Blue Bomber, Johnny twisted from the waist, putting his shoulder into it, and lashed out at the pistol as it came back in line – high and outside, but well within his range. He took a stance and let fly just as it came into the strike zone. While the clerk screamed and Kaylee struggled and River cackled, Johnny was in that place of serene calm he found whenever he played ball or was in hand-to-hand combat. Things worked in slow-motion, the sounds of screams faded from his consciousness, and he was aware of every sinew of his body as it twisted to do his mind’s bidding. The bat hit the rising hand that held the gun, hit it just south of the sweet spot, but sufficiently hard enough so everyone in the room could hear bones crunching and his wrist snapping. The Magnum flew across the room and through the door that led into the industrial part of the shop, where it hit the back wall and discharged harmlessly into the ceiling. A double. At least. The cop in front of him screamed as he cradled his broken wrist, and his left hand came up in a rigid claw, moving right for Johnny’s face. He raised his right elbow to deflect the blow, shifted his grip, then bunted the man’s face away with the body of the bat. Another crunch of bone told him that his jaw had shattered. All resistance from the cop – or whatever – promptly ceased. Time resumed normal speed. The clerk’s shriek was ending. River’s maniacal laugh was still going – and Kaylee finally had her firearm out. “OhmyGod!” the clerk said, superciliously. “You’re a gorram he-ro! You foiled a robbery! That’s so shiny!” “Wave security,” Johnny ordered the clerk with authority. The man ran off to the back, prattling on about telling his boss about the excitement. With him out of the way, Johnny stooped and rifled through the man’s jacket, finding a wallet with Ident cards and other important stuff. He stashed it into his rucksack. “Put the gun away, Kaylee,” he said, calmly. Kaylee, who had just gotten up the nerve to pull it, put it back with relief. “We need to evacuate. He called for back-up,” he warned, finding the man’s radio and pocketing that as well. He checked his pulse – he wasn’t dead – and he stood. “Grab your stuff, we need to go – now! Keep River between us and let’s walk slowly up the street a block, then get ourselves lost. If we go back to the ship, now, they might find us.” He thought a moment, then stripped off his jacket and hat. “You got it,” Kaylee said, relieved at someone other than she taking command. “River! Put this on!” he commanded, setting the cap on her head and settling the jacket over her shoulders. “It’ll obscure your face a bit from any pickups along the way. We go north towards town for two blocks. Kaylee, you peel off at that first block, go a block east, wait for us. We’ll take the second right and circle back to pick you up. Don’t use the radio yet, we don’t want to do anything to get traced. And we don’t go back to the ship right away. We find a hole and crawl into it, then wait for help. And we walk, understand? Leisurely. We’re just out having fun. Anything else and we’ll be in a detention center filling out reports.” “Hehehehehe, this is fun!” River said, finally calming down. Kaylee grabbed her radio and pulled her to her feet and through the door. On the way out River saw an opportunity, and ground her heel into the outstretched knuckles of the unconscious attacker’s left – non-injured – hand. “Babykiller!” she spat. “Serves you right!” and she let herself get dragged out the door.

*

*

*

It was growing dusky as Mal walked up the Processional, browncoat flapping in the chill breeze and sword banging ungainly on his left hip. Stupid thing. He saw others wearing them, of course, most looking like extras from bad comic operas. He sneered at them good naturedly. Dandies had their place in society, he knew – wasn’t real sure what it was, but he’d yet to see a world without them, no matter how new and primitive, so they must have some essential function. But he had little respect for them. Ordinarily he would have been loath to leave his ship on a brand new world. But with Zoe and Jayne back from shopping he felt confident enough to leave Serenity. He was half-hoping to run into Kaylee and River, who were overdue from their own shopping trip, so he could chase them home. Probably got stranded in an ice cream parlor, he reasoned. Anything worse than that and they would have radioed. He was on an errand, himself, one he hadn’t expected to run. Since there was still at least six hours before the General’s ship landed, he had perused the local directory on the cortex, just to get the feel of Lincoln, when he came across a name from his past: Nathaniel Kane. Ol’ Nate had been, once upon a time, a supply sergeant in the Independent military, which made him one of the most hated and feared men during the war. Hated because every equipment shortfall for the six platoons he was responsible for was blamed on him. Feared because if he didn’t like you, you weren’t likely to be issued the good stuff until everyone else had gotten to it first. He was a genius in supply, logistics, and procurement. He could improvise and trade like a master merchant – which was what he now was. According to the directory, Nate had set up shop here as an agent at the Mercantile Exchange, buying and selling coffee, cocoa, sugar, tobacco and cotton for various off-world concerns. A good living, and one that made him a contact especially helpful to cultivate. His office was set up far down the Processional, near the upscale city center. Mal walked it, unwilling to take a cab and enjoying the chance to stretch his legs. He stepped gingerly past a congregation of security officers and ambulances on the east side of the street – probably some old biddy with a heart condition fainted in the shoe store – and continued on his way. Nate’s office was supposed to be on the west side of the street. After a brisk walk, he found it on the third floor of a bird-poop-smeared gray stonework building that looked five hundred years old. Quaint. The office door was open, so Mal wandered right on in. And there was Nate, dressed in a local type business suit of dark blue wool, a battered sword hanging from a rack on the wall. He was behind a wooden desk going through papers. He didn’t even bother to look up when Mal came in. “Closed today, sir, sorry. Just finishing up before I return home for supper,” he said. He affected the local accent, with little trace of the homespun Rim accent he went to war with. “Great!” Mal said, grinning. “What’re we havin’?” With a look of shock and surprise, the older man looked up, recognizing the voice. “Oh sweet Buddha’s sweaty jockstrap, unless I’m seein’ a ghost that’s Master Sergeant Mal Reynolds!” “Captain, now, actually,” Mal corrected with a grin. “But I’m still Mal Reynolds – kept my maiden name. Bought me a spaceship after the war. Only way I could get a promotion.” “I thought you were dead!” Nate said, still shaking his head with disbelief. He shook Mal’s hand enthusiastically. “Last I heard you an’ your unit were set to hold Serenity Valley on Hera!” “Which we did,” agreed Mal. “But everyone in Serenity Valley died!” insisted Nate. “Unless . . . you deserted,” he added, nervously. Plenty did, of course. Hard to judge a man, now, for that. “Nah, I stayed ‘till the bitter. Kept myself alive. Kept Zoe alive, too. She’s my first mate, now.” “Y’all got married?” he asked, surprised. “She did. I didn’t. Married my pilot,” he explained. “Very happy, too. No kids yet, but they’re considerin’ the matter. So what happened to you after the war?” Mal asked, taking a seat. He got up a second later, cursing, and removed his sword, which had gotten caught in the chaid. Nate snickered. “Useless gorram things,” he agreed, grinning. “Give me a bayonet any day. But all the rich folk wear ‘em, so I gotta wear one, too.” “What, you rich?” “After a fashion. I got off of Hera just as the purplebellies were coming in with that relief fleet. I was on board a blockade runner, the Werewolf, and we were to meet up with a commerce raider in deep space and regroup when the news came. We surrendered to the first Alliance patrol boat we could find. I spent six weeks in a POW ship, then got cut loose on Persephone. Made my way here. Been here for five, six years, now. Good business opportunities, and with my . . . connections off-world I’ve been able to put together some good deals.” He looked at Mal appraisingly. “So I take it you didn’t win the lottery somewhere, did you?” “No, not hardly. Like I mentioned, bought me a ship at scrap prices – Firefly class. Been doin’ odd jobs out on the Rim for the last couple o’ years.” Nate shook his head, chuckling. “Never thought I’d see you settle down to an honest trade,” he said. “You were always one of my best procurement agents.” “What, you mean how me an’ my people stole everyone blind to feed your coffers?” “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean!” “Well,” Mal said, letting his affinity for Nate overcome his natural caution, “I’d say I’m still in . . . procurement. Fireflys, they got all sorts of queer corners and overlooked crannies and such. Stuff might find its way in there, sometimes. Sometimes it ain’t my stuff to begin with,” he admitted. “And I still do . . . what I used to; just work for my ownself instead of the Independents is all. Kinda like . . . a procurement scheme. With guns.” Nate laughed wickedly. “Just your style, Mal. Say, you up for a bite an’ a drink? Skipped lunch today to get an order out timely. My wife – yeah, got a wife, Lanny, pretty local girl, an’ we got us a little boy. Probably have a li’l girl come spring. But my wife ain’t expecting me, so I’m sure I can sneak off for a pint.” “Sounds promising,” agreed Mal. “I heard of a place . . . the Blue Boar? Supposed to be good.” “Oh, it is, finest in the world. Pricey. But my treat. Mal Reynolds! Of all the folk who might come through my door, and it had to be you . . .” “Had to be,” agreed Mal. The trip to the club was a short one, a matter of three small blocks. Along the way Nate filled Mal in on his local business, which consisted of plowing every penny he didn’t need to feed his family into real estate in the Bottom. He expected the Enclouding to fade far sooner than most, and wanted to be well-positioned to take advantage of it. Knowing Nate, it was a safe bet and a sure investment. The Blue Boar was a well-appointed establishment, all dark wood paneling and subdued lighting. It was just starting to get busy, as local businesses closed for the night, but Nate was well known here, and it wasn’t long before the two old war buddies were seated at a heavy wooden table, drinking each other’s health with robust local beer and devouring grilled mutton and onion sandwiches on thick, crusty bread. “Don’t eat like this on ship,” Mal said, swallowing appreciatively. “Damn sight better’n protein.” “I eat here at least three times a week,” agreed Nate. “They do a mean lunch, too.” He paused. “I noticed . . . you didn’t say a blessing before you ate.” “Nope,” admitted Mal. “Gave up prayer for Lent.” “Now ain’t that somethin’! You were always the prayin’est man to wear a browncoat,” Nate mentioned, shaking his head. “Always on your knees about somethin’. Always askin’ for the Lord to grant victory, or tend to the wounded and dying, or even throw us some beans. What happened?” Mal answered slowly. There weren’t many men he’d answer that to at all, but Nate . . . Nate was a little different. He’d been there. Nate had been known to get on his knees himself when it came down to it. “Got so I quit gettin’ answered. In Serenity Valley . . . well, just ain’t proper words for it, I s’pose. That place was a meat grinder. I was runnin’ the show mostly, on account o’ every new lieutenant Command would toss us would get his ass shot off two days after they got there, sure that they could do it better’n the men who’d been doin’ it. Bloody business. An’ I prayed, right up ‘till the end. I prayed for us all. I prayed gorram water uphill. But when I saw those purplebelly boats an’ got the word to lay down arms . . . I knew it was over. “Then we had to hang around another two weeks, no supplies, no medics, no evac, no news. Just us an’ a field full o’ corpses. Every day for a week I prayed in my heart for deliverance from that festering hell. After the first week, I stopped. Just survived. Saw more’n half of those what survived the shootin’ die of disease or starvation. You see that kinda hell in a lifetime . . . well, it’s like to make you reconsider your position on the Almighty.” “Ai ya. We knew it was rough, the fighting, I mean. Didn’t know about that last bit. Hell, I ain’t judgin’ you, mind. Lost a boatload o’ faith myself. Handin’ over my rifle to some gutless purplebelly, and strippin’ the stripes off of my sleeve – well, you put an army together like I did, seein’ it get thrown away, it’s like seein’ your own kids get killed. I was there when they stuffed all that material I had put together for my people, all those guns and tents and boots, all of it, I was there when they put it in an airlock and blew it into the Black. Broke my gorram heart,” he admitted. Then he sighed. “Water under. Gotta look ahead.” “Yeah,” Mal admitted. “That’s what they say.” “So what brings you to this far flung corner o’ the ‘verse?” Nate asked, finishing his beer and waving to the barmaid for another round. “Always lookin’ for trade,” Mal said, cautiously. “Been workin’ my way ‘round the Rim. Always lookin’ to buy a little – and, maybe, sell a little. Specially to customers that are . . . discrete. And discriminating.” “Ah,” Nate nodded, understanding immediately. “Discrete” was the code word during the War for any loot which might be looked upon unfavorably by ranking officers. All soldiers were expected to loot, of course – in the Independent Faction, “foraging” was often the only way to keep going as they pushed through unfriendly territory. But there were defined limits of what could be considered legitimate forage, and what was clearly theft-for-profit. The latter category was carefully monitored during the early stages of the war, and considerably less-so as things became dire for the Browncoats. But throughout, if you happened to “liberate” something small and valuable that might raise an eyebrow in the wrong quarters, you could bring it to Nate, ask for some “discrete” help liquidating it, and he could usually find a buyer – often among the officer corps. “Discriminating” was another code word, indicating that the item in question was not something that would interest your usual non-com or junior officer, but might actually interest more refined – and wealthier – buyers. This took longer, of course, but Nate seemed to have connections everywhere. And while the prices weren’t great, as a browncoat sleeping in the field every night you were happy to get what you could – hell, you’d probably be dead the next day, and your buddies would have something cashy to send to your folks. “And just what is this property of yours you’re speakin’ of?” “Me?” Mal asked, innocently. “Oh, it’s not for me. A friend of mine, however, has recently acquired property that has a rich and highly sought after character. My poor friend has fallen on hard times, and he – or she – needs to liquidate a few assets, this property among them.” “Historical, huh?” Nate asked, intrigued. “Yeah. Earth-That-Was historical.” Nate whistled appreciatively. “Brother Malcolm, I may know a few folk itchin’ to acquire property such as that. Not here, of course, but off-world. And they have considerable funds, depending on the piece. Man I know has a hankerin’ for rare stamps and coins. Another appreciates the smooth lines of vintage motorcycles. I know many such folk, and dependin’ on just what your . . . friend has to offer, I might be able to arrange such a deal. For a small commission, of course.” “Of course!” Mal agreed. “Man’s gotta eat.” “Exactly. Now, care to whisper what this piece o’ pretty might consist of? It would help me mightily in the selection of a potential buyer.” Mal leaned just a hair closer, waited for an abatement in the surrounding conversation, and in a whispered voice he said “Lassiter.” Nate’s eyes grew a shade wider. “I take it you ain’t talkin’ ‘bout the classic aircar of that name,” he said, cautiously. “Nope,” agreed Mal. “I’m speakin’ of a side arm.” “Mal, you been a bad boy,” he chided. “I mean your ‘friend’ has. ‘Procurement scheme with guns’, indeed! That’s a helluva expensive side arm,” Nate nodded. “Go for one, two million easy, open market. What’s your bold friend want for it?” Mal toyed with his beer. “What can he get for it?” “I’ll have to make some waves,” admitted Nate. “Very discrete waves. Only . . . two, maybe three in existence – that narrows the field of potential buyers considerable.” “Yeah, ain’t my usual trade,” agreed Mal. “But my friend is anxious to be rid of this particular asset.” “He can vouch for the authenticity?” “He can. Or she.” “Leave me your wave combination. I’ll be in touch . . . presently. Take a couple o’ weeks, you know, to find a buyer.” “Take your time,” assured Mal. “Rather have it done discreetly and well than attract undue attention.” “I can imagine. Interpol’s probably searchin’ everywhere for that thing.” “You can appreciate my friend’s sense of immediacy an’ discretion, then.” “Indeed.” Nate took a swallow of his new beer, and looked up. Something behind Mal attracted his attention. “Oh, my God, I think I just forgot I’m married,” he said, with a long sigh. Mal glanced over his shoulder. Inara Serra, in her green and gold silk gown and blue velvet cloak, had just entered, and attracted the attention of every Y chromosome in the joint. Mal turned back around with a shrug. “The whore? Not worth it.” “How you know she’s a whore? She’s beautiful!” “Still a whore. Beauty’s just stock-in-trade.” “She can’t be a whore – I know of most of the local girls. Don’t ask, before I was married. Some even have accounts. But this one . . . she’s a lady of refinement. if she’s a whore, I’ll . . . I’ll refund half my commission.” “Wait, let me double check,” Mal said, holding up his hand. He turned around and gave Inara another appraising look. She didn’t return it, being in the middle of a fight over who would have the honor of taking her cloak. Then he turned back around. “Okay. Deal. She’s a whore, you halve your commission. She ain’t, I double it. I say she’s a whore – high class, very expensive – maybe even a Certified Companion. But a whore is a whore, and that’s what she is.” “Done,” Nate said, grinning, as he wiped his mouth and smoothed back his hair with one hand. “Easy money. I’m guessing she’s here to buy property, look for a husband. Boy, you never did know how to wager,” he smirked as he got up, slapping Mal on the shoulder. Mal turned back to his beer, shoulders hunched, trying not to attract Inara’s attention. The deal would be off, he knew, if Nate suspected some collusion. He tensed slightly as someone entered his field of vision. Tall man. Beefy, with the close-cropped hair and the arrogant attitude of professional security. He was wearing something more mundane than the flamboyant local fashion, and wasn’t wearing a sword. He was wearing a shoulder holster under his blazer. He had a paper in his hand. “You been here a while?” the man asked him through one side of his mouth. “A bit,” conceded Mal. “The beer’s good.” “Yeah, I hear. You seen her?” he asked, thrusting the paper under his nose. It was a picture of River Tam, three different angles, though it wasn’t labeled at all. Mal took it and studied it. “Pretty,” he shrugged as he handed it back. “Your girlfriend?” “She’s wanted for questioning,” the man grunted. “You see her, you call security.” “What’s she do?” Mal asked lightly, finishing his beer. “Suspicion of conspiracy to aid and abet the commission of jaywalking,” the man sneered. “You just keep your eyes open for her.” “Oh, that I will,” Mal assured. “Girl like that – well, wouldn’t want to let her out of my sight.”

COMMENTS

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 10:56 AM

ARTSHIPS


I love how you workout the implications of simple things - Like a shoe store with future technology. And you follow it up with good stories, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 11:21 AM

BALLAD


Ok, see, I made reading your new chapter my reward for finishing my World War II paper. I blame YOU for me rushing through my paper and tunring in a crappy, crappy paper. Lol! I'm just kidding, but believe you me, I LOVE this story.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 12:19 PM

BENDY


Y'know, I think Mal likes Inara "like that".



Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:16 PM

RELFEXIVE


Groovy. Bounty hunters beware!

And that's a bet I wouldn't take.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:18 PM

AMDOBELL


Very fine though I was getting mighty frustrated with Kaylee ignorning all River's warnings especially as they were very clear and easily understood this time. Gorrammit, thankfully the Prince turned up just in the nick of time! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 7:36 PM

SOMEDEEPMYSTERY


I'm with River on the shoes. My feet long for freedom! LOL I'm still reading and enjoying, I'm all cought up again now so snap snap :p

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 4:32 AM

JSAATS


First, let me apologize for not posting sooner. StW, You have an amazing feel for the characters! Both Kaylee's Lament and this story here, well, shiney doesn't begin to describe them! I especially like the MacKlintocks and the other char... or maybe cast would be more proper. You say that you have a bucket load more of these yarns of yours, and I say the more you write, the more I'll read! Clear Skies!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 5:21 AM

BELLONA


"hellooo salisbury!" *falls off chair in hysterics*

anyway, good to see kaylee an' her boobs is safe-ish. lovin' it!!!

b


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