The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu -- Chapter Fifty
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nyan Nyan and Johnny enjoy a light supper. Mal and Inara get a chance to hang out and exchange views on common points of interest.


The Treasure of Lei Fong Wu

Chapter Fifty


“I think we’ll be safe here for a while,” Johnny murmured as he closed the door. The corridor was empty, and this room – from what he could tell, they were in the engineering crew’s residence quarters – had been selected at random. They needed a place to hole up, catch their breath, and plan their next move. There were two spare bunks in the tiny room, and one was occupied by the wounded man, Fong. Nyan Nyan was tending to his shoulder, putting a compress on it while Fong himself searched through his first aid kit for supplies. He handed her an antiseptic spray and some tweezers, as well as his combat dagger. She raised her eyebrow. “Wait until this starts working,” he said as he stabbed a syringe of morphine into his own leg and pushed the plunger down, “and after I pass out, dig the bullet out.” Nyan Nyan looked pale, but she nodded. “Can you handle that?” Johnny inquired. “I’ve been trained in first aid. I’ve never had to deal with anything this . . . invasive before . . .” “Shoulder wounds are usually pretty easy. Not a lot of stuff you can mess up. Just bring it out the way it came it, then get the wound dressing over it.” “Got it ready,” she acknowledged, holding up the sterile pack. “You sure you can handle it?” “I’m sure. Don’t worry so much,” she added with a brilliant smile. “Sorry. I’m just used to most of the girls I know shrieking and fainting and such. Those who aren’t . . . say, is there anything I can get you? In all the fleeing for our lives and dodging bullets, I’ve neglected my duties as host.” “I’d love something to eat,” she confessed. “It feels like I haven’t eaten in . . . a hundred years!” she said with a hysterical giggle. Johnny joined, the insane irony providing the perfect ice-breaker. “I’ve got some very mediocre rations here, but they’re filling. Real good, stick-to-the-ribs soldier stuff.” He dug into his pack and rooted around until he came out with two foil packets. “Here: Mu Shu Pork or Mongolian Beef?” She looked at the packages skeptically. “Ordinarily, I’m a vegetarian, but I find I don’t have as many scruples today. I’ll take the beef.” “Done,” he said, the idiot grin refusing to leave his face. He squeezed the bottom of the package, feeling for the capsule, then ruptured it before hurriedly setting it down. He did the same for his own. In three minutes the aroma of hot food filled the stale, cold air like a lush perfume. “That smells wonderful,” she said dreamily. “They say you don’t dream in cold sleep, but I swear I had plenty about food.” “You want to take care of Fong before you eat, or after? Might not be real appetizing,” he counseled. “Let’s go ahead and get it done. He needs it.” She checked his pulse, made sure he was well and truly in an opiate haze, then began cutting away his shirt with the knife. Spray on some antiseptic, creating a sterile field, and then with the help of Johnny’s flashlight she began the surgery. It was over a moment later when she tossed the bullet on the bedside table and pressed the field dressing over the wound. The healing agents and antibiotics on the dressing began to infiltrate the wound, and soon Fong was sleeping peacefully. “We’ll give him a blood restorative when he awakens,” Johnny said approvingly. “But he should be fine.” He handed Nyan Nyan a towel he had liberated from the head, and she daintily wiped her bloody fingers on it. “How did a . . . girl like you learn to do . . . something like that? That isn’t just first aid.” “Companion training covers a lot of areas outside of the bedroom,” the girl said, simply. “So . . . you were my ancestor’s Companion?” “I was supposed to be,” she said, taking her dinner from him and breaking off the plastic chopsticks. “I was presented to him, and we were given time and a place to consummate the gift. But instead he enlisted me in his plot to overthrow the Warlord.” “That must have been . . . difficult.” “Not really. I had been in Shan Yu’s power since he killed my parents. He used to come by the House to taunt me – like I was even aware of the politics of the time. I just knew that I went from being a pampered child in a palace to being one of thirty girls being trained in the arts of pleasure. I knew he was to blame. It was a short step for me to take, despite all their attempts to ‘reprogram’ me. I learned to hate that sick old man. The Warlord, not your ancestor. Lei Fong Wu was kind to me, but all business. I do hope he made a good Emperor.” “He did,” agreed Johnny between bites. “One of the best. He ruled for twenty-eight years, ended the war with Xiao, and helped build up the Alliance.” “That’s good to hear. He was a compassionate man, but he would have killed me and a hundred innocents on top of that to do what was right for the people of the Empire.” “So how did you do it? Betray the Tyrant?” Nyan Nyan swallowed. “Forgive me if I am hesitant. You must understand that, to me, what I did is a recent memory. And as such I still fear for my life for the betrayal. Especially from the soldiers who attacked us.” “Yeah, who the hell were they?” “That was the Warlor—the Tyrant’s personal guard. When he overthrew my grandfather, he all but disbanded the Imperial Guard as potentially traitorous, especially since every soldier had sworn a blood-oath to protect the Emperor. But Shan Yu needed a personal guard to trust. So he chose one of the most deadly special-forces units and groomed them for the purpose. They were the 35th Tactical Assault Unit – the Snow Tigers, they were once called, for some battle or another on Xiao. They . . . helped the Tyrant with his ‘special work’ – torture. Sometimes for information. But mostly for the sake of torture.” “So how did they end up here? Alive? I mean, we saw plenty of hibernation capsules, but those were Imperial soldiers. At least they looked like it.” “Likely the Tyrant had some of them preserved in case of emergency. He was very proud of them, and committed them to only the most important battles. He had planned on increasing their number to full Battalion status, he once said.” “You spent time with him? That must have been hard.” “Anyone who spent time with him found it difficult to bear. Only a handful of his ministers were even a little immune to his whim. Lei Fong Wu was one. A few generals, maybe Minister Ming and War Minister Chong. But anyone else he could have imprisoned or executed with a nod. There were always some of the 35th lurking around. He didn’t trust anyone else to guard him.” “So how did you –?” “He liked to gloat, as I said. He often had me come by so that he could say some really horrible things about my family. He kept promising to give me to Minster Lei someday – I was conditioned for him alone – and he always made dire predictions as to just what use the Minister would make of me.” “So . . . did he?” “He never touched me. I am still pure.” The admission came with a mixture of regret and relief. “He had better self-control than I would in a similar situation, I’m afraid,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t see how anything with a Y chromosome could resist you.” She blushed daintily. “Fong Wu was very much in love with his wife. He never indulged in any infidelities against her. Even as the rest of the court did. Shan Yu was a proponent of wretched excess.” “So how did you do in ol’ Shan Yu?” “He asked me to attend him immediately after my supposed liaison with your ancestor. Fong Wu had given me a hairclip that concealed a fast-acting poison. He assured me it would only put him to sleep, not kill him. When his back was turned towards me, as I relayed the details of my . . . assignment, I took it off and pricked him on the shoulder. He was unconscious before I could exhale. I pulled him over to the bed, put him in it, and then waited. After a while I stuck my head out of the door and informed the guard that His Wisdom desired to see Minister Lei. From there he took over. I was put into a spare room until things died down, then Fong Wu had me put into hibernation to keep me safe from vengeful supporters.” “Sounds like the old coot,” grunted Johnny. “I know I’m supposed to be respectful, and all, but he was a devious son of a bitch, wasn’t he?” “He was cunning,” admitted Nyan Nyan. “He was brave, and handsome. He took his life in his hands to save his people from destruction. For it was widely known that if Yuan attacked Xiao with the Sun Tzu we would win the war – and gain the enmity of the entire ‘verse. It would not be long before all of humanity conspired against our world and our people. That’s what he told me, anyway. He may have just been playing me. You know,” she said, turning her attention to Johnny for the first time, “you favor him a great deal. The same jaw . . . the same eyes . . . the same wrinkled brow . . .” “I always thought I favored my mother,” Johnny said with a laugh. “Oh, there are differences. But there is no doubt that you are from Lei Fong Wu’s line.” “I’m glad you find that . . . favorable.” “Oh, you are handsome enough – no doubt you attracted plenty of attention from . . . where are you from? Yuan? T’ien?” “The only part of the Empire – former Empire – I’ve set foot on was Wuhan. I was born on Epiphany. A colony moon out on the Rim. Actually, a resort colony. My ancestors were exiled – sold into indenture – after a failed uprising to restore the Imperial Family. They packed up the lot of us and shipped us off to a terraforming project. It’s going to be a resort moon, a place for the rich and famous to come be rich and famous with a minimum of peons. My people, we’re the only peons. Which is sad: Epiphany is a beautiful world, lots of beaches and tropical jungles. It deserves better than the kind of useless wealthy folk who will buy into it.” “There was a revolt to restore the Empire?” “Two, actually. The one happened before I was born, and led to our exile. More recently – about ten years ago, when I was just a kid – there was another, led by a few of my distant uncles. They were better organized, and almost made it. They had Wuhan and T’ien in the bag, and a sizeable portion of Yuan itself, but then the Universal Alliance – that’s what the Anglo-Sino Alliance became – started using bio weapons against our supporters. The Imperial candidate chose to surrender, instead of subjecting our people to mass murder.” “Laudable,” agreed Nyan Nyan. “Very noble. Worthy of your line.” “I guess. After the war they exiled the entire Thousand Families to the middle of nowhere – literally, there is nothing else there – and forgot about them. My uncle, the General, organized them into a Tong. It was he who really pushed for us finding this treasure.” “Treasure?” Nyan Nyan asked. “What treasure is that?” Johnny just looked at her, her delicate features, perfect teeth, flashing eyes, her brilliant smile that lit up the room . . . and she was intelligent and brave and could hack a bullet out of a man’s shoulder and still appear dainty and girlish. “Kitten, looking at you, I’ve forgotten what other treasure we came for.”





The prisoners had been hoodwinked and dragged, or bodily carried without a great regard to their comfort, through what felt like miles of corridor, through several sections, until they all were sequestered in small rooms . . . somewhere. The men of the 35th were smart enough not to put all of them in the same space, nor give any of them a chance to escape through inattentiveness. Several times prisoners who entertained such thoughts received a well-placed rifle-butt for their troubles. One such treatment and attempts to impede their progress had quickly subsided. Mal and Inara had been locked into such a small room, their bound hands fastened over their heads to valves and conduits they could not see. The whole region had the heavy oil smell of an industrial section – from what they could smell through the bags over their heads. Apart from that, they had no clear idea where they were. “So,” Mal began, once the hatch-like door was closed and they were alone. “How are you enjoying the tour thus far?” “I’ve been on worse,” Inara admitted, trying to keep the note of panic out of her voice. “Ever get to see the Museum of Administrative History on Sihnon? Ten thousand square feet devoted to the all-time greatest bureaucrats in history. This is better.” “I imagine,” Mal nodded. “You able to breathe all right?” “So far.” “Good. Just to ease your mind, I’m workin’ on a brilliant fool-proof notion to escape, turn the tables on our captors, and complete our mission.” “I feel so much better,” Inara said, dryly. “Thought you might. Truth is, I find myself perplexed at the prospect of torture at the hands o’ the likes o’ them. Ain’t really what I came here for.” “What did you come here for?” Inara asked. “Treasure. Loot. Money. And lots of it.” “I see. And the thrilling adventure?” “Oh, that’s just frosting. Been in much worse scrapes than this.” “I’d imagine that’s true. How’d they turn out?” “Some better than others,” Mal admitted. “Lost an ear, once.” “So I recall. I also recall you had a rescue party that came for you. Any chance we could order one?” “As long as Zoe is alive, you can count on one,” Mal assured. “Unless she’s dead, then we have Jayne to contend with. I ain’t confident of his abilities as a rescuer, sad to say. Remind me t’bring it up at his next performance evaluation.” “I have to agree about that.” They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. “So how’s that plan coming?” Inara said after she could bear it no longer. “Pieces are fallin’ into place all the time,” Mal said confidently. “And the torture?” She tried not to sound worried. “I conjure that we’ll have to sit here a while, so we can get good an’ scared. Then we get visited by a tough-talkin’ fella who’s gonna make all sorts o’ dire threats as to our ultimate health an’ well-bein’. He’s gonna hint at all the nasty things he’ll do, an’ he’s gonna threaten to rape and mutilate you. Maybe me, too. Could go either way,” he admitted. “Then he’s gonna let us stew for a sight more, come back in, an’ threaten us some more, probably smack us around a bit, see if we talk. If we do, he’ll come back later, say ‘we know more than you think’, and ‘the other guys already talked an’ we want this for confirmation’ or somesuch an’ give us one more chance. If we don’t, pretty much the same thing’ll happen. Then he’ll threaten you t’get me to talk, threaten me t’get you to talk, an’ then he’ll bring in a bunch of scary-ass lookin’ tools to shake us. That’ll take a few hours to get through before the real torture begins.” “Good to know. Just for the record, I thought it was very brave of you to defend me with that silly sword.” “Just for the record, I felt pretty silly defendin’ you with it. Not much for the whole D’Artagnan thing.” “You . . . have read Dumas?” “Comic book,” Mal demurred. “Anyway, you’re welcome. I ain’t countin’ that toward your worthy deed, though. I think it’s implicit that a worthy deed be successful, on some level.” “Well, we are alive,” she pointed out. “Ain’t good enough. Not up to my standards. I’m sure I’ll get another chance at it, though.” “You do realize that when I gave you that thing, it wasn’t with any ulterior motive. It was just a useful prop for the planet we were on.” “Custom is custom. Big believer in custom. Hell, I went to war over custom.” Another long pause ensued. “Mal?” “Yes, Ambassador?” “Mal, about . . . about what you said. In that bedroom.” “That Serenity needed more solid gold knick-knacks? I stand firmly behind that position.” “No. The question you asked. About . . . about what it would take to buy out my contract.” “Oh. That. I told you, I was just curious.” “You do realize that it’s more complicated than that, don’t you?” “Didn’t that capon Atherton want to do that, on Persephone? He couldn’t have been worth more than what was in that room.” “I didn’t take his proposal,” she reminded him. “I was always curious as to why not. I mean, apart from him bein’ a royal cho ji bai, that is. Money not good enough?” “It isn’t about the money. Not really. There are . . . job satisfaction issues, as well.” “Oh. He have . . . shortcummin’s?” She could hear the snicker in his voice. “Oh no. Not like that. He was about as well endowed as you.” “Hey! That ain’t fair to a fella! ‘Sides, when have you had the chance to see—” “Bellarophon, the Lassiter, Saffron. You, buck naked in the middle of the desert. Me saving the day. Good times.” “Oh, yeah. Well, just for the record, that weren’t a fair opportunity to take the . . . measure of a man,” he protested. “Oh no?” “It was cold out in that desert! Draughty!” Mal insisted. “I’m sure a woman of your experience an’ position would know you can’t tell the size o’ the prize by lookin’ at the box!” “I see.” He could hear the amusement in her voice. “Anyway, so what was so unsatisfyin’ about the prospect of a long-term contract? Just for curiosity’s sake.” She sighed. “It’s a long story,” she said. “I seem to have a free calendar. Until the torture commences, my slate is open. And I figure we ain’t spent enough quality time together, just chattin’.” “Fine, then. When a woman trains to be a Companion, it is usually with the intent of serving a multitude of clients. It’s a career. Serving one client forever wouldn’t be something a Companion would do. That’s . . .” “Marriage?” Mal offered. “Stop it, Mal!” she said heatedly. “That’s more . . . concubinage. Not Companionship.” “So you would never consider settlin’ down with just one pecker.” It was a statement, not a question. “I . . . That’s not why I became a Companion, Mal.” “Then why did you? The Home Economics courses all full at your elementary school?” “Because I have a true calling. A vocation. I have something I can give to society.” “Well, from where I’m standin’ – hangin’, actually – what you got to give to society ain’t any different than what any woman’s got, an’ you ain’t ‘zactly givin’ it away, either.” “What I have to give . . . it’s different from what most women have. You can scoff and sneer if you want – and you will, because you’re a rude bastard that way – but the truth is I help people, Mal. I help them learn to form good relationships. Sexual relationships, usually. I’m not ashamed of that. I know of . . . several people who could stand some remedial help in their sex lives. You can tell when a man or woman hasn’t had a union in a timely fashion.” “You implyin’ somethin’, Ambassador?” Mal said evenly. “I’m saying that there are millions of people who don’t have the skills to properly enjoy one of the most basic aspects of human life. What I provide is a valuable service.” “For them. What do you get out of it? Besides a hefty wad o’ cash?” She gave an exasperated grunt. “Yes, I charge a fee. I have bills to pay. My landlord can be a real whiney bitch when the rent is late. And mysterious feminine allure costs money.” “Not somethin’ you’d have to worry with, if you only had one client. I’m sure room an’ board are usually part o’ that deal. And . . . sundries. But you ain’t said what you get out of it.” “I get to make a difference. I get to help people, and make an honest living doing it. I get to use my natural talents and the skills I’ve spent a lifetime acquiring and perfecting to bring love and satisfaction to the socially retarded and pathologically lonely. I enjoy it, Mal – is that so hard to understand? Don’t you enjoy what you do?” “Oftentimes,” Mal admitted. “About now ain’t the right time t’ask.” “Well, you found out what you were good at, back in the war: destruction and mayhem. Blowing stuff up. Killing people. Lying to authority. Stealing things. You use your natural talents and your painfully acquired skills. You have your tools of the trade: your ship and your guns. I have mine. So what the hell is your problem with what I do? Is it because it’s sinful to the narrow-minded backwoods sect you were brought up in – and which you abandoned? Because killing is a sin in Christianity, too, you know. Almost as bad as in Buddhism. Jesus had no particular issue with whores. Some folk say he married one. Why should you?” “Thought you weren’t a whore,” Mal said sullenly. “I am in your eyes!” she said bitterly. “I just don’t see what’s so wrong about lovin’ someone enough to consider gettin’ nuptialized, is all. Don’t feel its right for a woman to demean herself by rentin’ out what she should give for the sake o’ love.” “Oh, you’ve been in love with every woman you’ve tumbled?” she accused. “Well . . . no!” he admitted. “But . . . but there was one, wasn’t there? No, don’t tell me – it would ruin the mystery and destroy the entertaining speculation. But I can tell. There was some woman in your past that you loved, bedded, and then something went wrong. She either didn’t love you back, or she died, or she left you for another man. Or maybe another woman – it happens. But for whatever reason, she wounded you so badly that you’ve put the whole male-female dynamic on some gorram pedestal that no mere human woman is going to be able to reach.” “You don’t know me,” he said coldly. “Hell if I don’t, Mr. Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Sir,” Inara declared passionately. “Ni juede wo hen ben ma? Because I’m not. I can read you like a book. A comic book. You think you’re being all cold and heartless, but I can see the wounds like they were scars on your face. Some woman did you wrong. Poor baby. But you couldn’t get over it, your feelings were so hurt. You ran away instead, and shut yourself in some gorram emotional Tower of Isolation, demeaning just about any potential romantic experience and feeling all noble because of your stoic resolution. But you aren’t noble, Mal, you’re pathetic. You refuse to heal. You . . . you glory in your chastity, because it means you can’t get hurt again. You refuse to let love back into your heart even when . . . even if it’s a possibility!” “That ain’t true! My supposed intimacy issues didn’t stop me from tumbling Nandi, now did it? And she was a whore!” “She wasn’t just a whore, Mal. She was a businesswoman. And a leader of a community. And a rebel. You respected that, and you had a moment of weakness. She was enough of an equal in your eyes for you to condescend to drop trou – and maybe a few inhibitions – for a single night. One single night in the years I’ve known you. And I’m guessing the fact that she was a close friend of mine played a role in that decision, too.” “Actually, I don’t believe you came up,” he spat. “I find that hard to believe,” Inara growled. “But it doesn’t matter. You knew who she was, what she meant to me. And you did it anyway.” “Why not? You said you were fine with it, if I recall proper! You ‘bout stood outside the door an’ shouted advice!” “I did nothing of the sort!” “Why would it bother you if you did, I wonder?” Mal asked. “Could it be you ain’t quite resolved your own feelin’s on the subject?” “My feelings are perfectly fine, thank you very much. I have no problem with you bedding Nandi. Hell, you needed some play worse than any man alive. You call Simon uptight, but the truth is you hadn’t got your . . . engine serviced in so long I’m surprised it still worked!” Inara’s voice was becoming shrill under her bag. “Nandi didn’t have no complaints!” “If she did, she would have been too polite to give them. Trained professional, remember? We study for a whole year about how to lie to men and make them think they’re oh so much better than they actually are.” “I think I would have noticed if she was unsatisfied,” he said, condescendingly. “Ha! I doubt it. You’re so emotionally constipated that I’m shocked she made the effort. It had to be the liquor and the stress. It takes a little sensitivity to recognize something like that.” “I got bucketfuls o’ sensitivity!” Mal said savagely. “Not for me, you don’t,” she accused. “The only reason you haven’t called me a whore yet is because I brought it up first and you haven’t found a way to work it back into conversation!” “Why would your feelings get hurt about that?” he inquired bitterly. “You can say all you want about bein’ a Companion, but when it comes down to it, the ‘service’ you provide ain’t much different than what Nandi’s girls did. You just cost more,” he taunted. “No, I charge more. Because I’m worth more, if you want to be crude about it.” “Yeah? How are you worth more than a whore? Or a decent married woman, for that matter? Y’all got the same basic parts. I dare say a man in a position to sample all three in one sittin’ wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in a dark room!” “Oh, so this is about my unmarried status? Why do I need a husband? To provide for me? I do for myself! To care for me? My interpersonal relations are outstanding, thank you! For children? You know how many men have begged me to bear their children? For status? It’s only on the pissant Rimworld moons where there are more cows than people where I’m not counted as having a high status. Stupid, pathetic colony worlds where the measure of a woman is how hard she works, how many brats she bears and her handiness with a butter churn. I have more respect for myself than that, Mal. I don’t need any man’s ring to legitimize me as a person.” “I’m just sayin’ that married life ain’t so bad, I hear tell. ‘Cept for Saffron, that wasn’t such a good match.” “Then why to you attack Wash and Zoe’s relationship every chance you get?” “That’s different. Not to put too fine a point on it, I think Zoe married beneath her. Wash is a good guy, and a fair pilot, and I’m glad he makes her happy, but I ain’t fond of havin’ her distracted from work all the time. I think she coulda done better.” “No, you’re just jealous that she’s getting it regularly and you aren’t. But you can’t say that, so you attack Wash in all those lovely passive-aggressive ways. You do the same thing with Simon and Kaylee.” “That’s different too! Ain’t no need for her to get her heart all wrapped up in somethin’ that’s bound to be temporary!” “Shouldn’t she be the one to make that decision, Mr. freedom-loving rebel?” “I’m just lookin’ out for her. An’ for the record, I don’t think he’s good enough for her, neither!” “No, he’s plenty good. Young, handsome, intelligent, a professional, and you know very well he would treat her like a goddess, once he got over his issues. No, you discourage it because it leaves you out of the picture. You wouldn’t be the most important man in her life right now. She’d have a loyalty to something that wasn’t you or the ship . . . and you couldn’t stand it!” “That’s fei hua! I want her to be happy – just don’t want her to get hurt because of him!” “She isn’t a child, Mal. She’s a woman, and she has a woman’s needs. Including sexual needs. With all that that encompasses. And you are getting in the way every chance you get. You say you don’t want her hurt, but you’re hurting her by doing what you’re doing. Admit it!” “Feng tsong fung kuan de je . . .” “Am I? Or am I just telling the truth?” “What do you know about the truth? Your whole existence is a lie. At least I’m honest about the dishonest stuff I do. You? You make a man feel great . . . for a night. For a week-end. And then you leave him to face the cold world alone on Monday, with a receipt and the expectation that all women are gonna make him feel the same. So he skips over the possibility of a real relationship because you’ve ruined him, sold him a bill o’ goods, gotten his hopes up that the nurse or the waitress or the secretary that really could make him happy if he settled down will perform like a gorram Companion . . . an’ if she don’t, then he passes it up. Because of a lie.” “It’s not a lie! My clients know full well what they are getting, and I give them no illusions otherwise. And they are all completely satisfied. Most go on to form quite happy relationships, thank you very much. Despite my ‘ruining’ them with my exotic skills and outstanding performance.” “You keep tellin’ yourself that, then. ‘Cause the reality is, you ain’t got much more’n what other women got, you just market better. You obfuscate it under a bale of silks and satins and pretty words and incense. Most women, they look for love, not a credit account.” “Or a ‘good provider’? A ‘stable income’? A ‘man with prospects’? That’s the dishonest part, Mal, not what I do. The average woman doesn’t seek out a husband on the basis of her feeling for him – it happens, I know, but it’s rare – they go by suitability, compatibility, and whether or not the ignorant slob has money enough to keep them. When I bed a client, he can be free to be himself, enjoy himself, without having to worry that I’m judging him on his income! A common woman doesn’t do that for a man.” “Oh, you make a man feel like a king, but it’s a lie. You let them substitute what you do for the comfort of a real wife. An’ apart from payin’ your rent and buyin’ new pretties, you ain’t got much t’show for it your ownself!” “How about that ‘job satisfaction’ issue we touched on before?” she asked. “You tellin’ me you really like . . . y’know . . .” “Gorram it, Mal, you want to be crude about it? Then let’s be crude. I take a man’s money and spread my legs. End of story. You can call me a whore – that doesn’t change who I am. It says more about you than it does about me. You reject every other aspect of my being a Companion and choose to focus on the sex. Fine. “You want to know why they hire me? Because I’m great, you know that? I’m outstanding! I’m a great lay! I’m the one that my clients think of when they screw those wives you’re so concerned about! I’m a sexy, attractive, alluring woman and I haven’t found one single client in my entire career who was worth sacrificing all of that for! I like sex, Mal. Hell, I LOVE sex. I love to get it good and hard, or soft and tender. I like a slow steady build-up of existential ecstasy, or I like a good hard poke over the arm of a couch. I love everything about sex, Mal. Love it. And I’m not ashamed about it. That’s what really bothers you: you call me a whore and expect me to blush because of the sex. But I like the sex. If I was with only one man, I’d probably kill him with all the sex – because there would not only be a lot of it, it would also be good! Great!” “Don’t that just sound a little conceited?” “It’s a fact! I’m a se mi mi de ren! I’m a sex goddess! I could double my rates and get it. I’m that humpin’ good! And you just can’t stand that I like what I do. A woman’s down on her luck and has no other options? Needs to feed her kids? Or take care of her sick parents? She can be a whore, in your eyes, because she has no choice. Hell, it’s almost noble. But for a woman to be intelligent, well-educated and proud, well, if she ‘sells her body’ then she’s a gorram slut, unworthy of your precious respect!” “I just think it’d be nice if she could get off her fat assets and admit to havin’ a sincere emotional connection to . . . somebody! You say I’m ‘emotionally constipated’ – maybe I am. I seen a lot more grief in this life than a body ever should, an’ maybe I don’t open up ‘cause I don’t see much point to th’exercise. Fine. Condemn me for that as you may, I am still emotionally honest! I ain’t gonna fool myself into thinkin’ I can make my heart whole by satin’ my lust. Love is a dangerous thing, ‘Nara. You ply your pecker too freely, sooner or later it’s gonna lead against where your heart’s yearnin’.” “Oh, that’s such utter go se!” “The hell it is! That’s just a piss-poor excuse for not living the life you were given. Are you that gorram emotionally fragile? Are you?” They were interrupted by the door to their improvised cell slamming open, and hard-sounding bootsteps clanking across the deck. “Oh, thank God!” Mal said with an exasperated sigh through his bag. “Can we please get on with the torture, now? Please?” he moaned.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005 11:27 AM


There had to be a punchline of sorts after all that facinating discussion, and I wasn't disappointed :)

Excellent as it always, always is!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 1:00 PM


Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing the knock-down, drag-out fight that Mal and Inara have needed to have for a long time. Now that things are out in the open, maybe they can figure out how to be friends, at the very least.

Also, the interaction with Johnny and Nyan Nayn was too cute!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 2:01 PM




Thursday, December 22, 2005 1:40 AM


You have an extraordinary gift, my friend. I read the whole thing perched on the edge of my chair like I was watching an actual fight. ;P

Thursday, December 22, 2005 5:22 AM


*whistles* she ripped into him, eh? More than Mal ripped into her. Think Inara won a lot points there in the Mal-'Nara tally I have in my head for this story.

torture? that's sadistic of me...

Thursday, December 22, 2005 5:37 AM


Great as always, have you considered making a mailing list for those of us who are always awaiting the next chapter?

Friday, December 23, 2005 2:13 PM


“Bellarophon, the Lassiter, Saffron. You, buck naked in the middle of the desert. Me saving the day. Good times.”

very VERY good times *happy memories*

“Oh, thank God! Can we please get on with the torture, now? Please?”

heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! <- again with the one-word giggle fit


Sunday, April 2, 2006 4:53 PM


That was tres good. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, either laughing or holding my breath!


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Unfinished Business -- Chapter Thirty-One
The battle begins, Rachel changes plans, and River meets the politest baboon she's ever met.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Thirty
The Uprising Begins

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Nine
A whole lotta folks get ready to do a whole lotta stuff.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Eight
The Confession of Dr. Rendell.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Seven
River remembers her birthday and meets a monkey . . . sort of.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Six
Inara Serra's Temptaion: The Lady, or the Tiger?

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty Five
Inspector Simon and Dr. Romano have a little chat, and Fate gives him a gift

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Four
The excitement of piracy, the agony of waiting, and the anticipation of a completely stupid stunt!

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty-Three
Serenity arrives on the Suri Madron.

Unfinished Business -- Chapter Twenty Two
Simon gets tested, Zoe gets quizzed, and Kaylee gets . . . satisfied. For the moment.