Infectious: Chapter 12 -- Perception
Friday, January 30, 2004


Kaylee greeted them right at the door, much as Mal had suspected she would.

“Well?” she blurted out before either of them could even get inside, “Was he there? Did you see him? What happened?”

”Nice to see you too Kaylee,” Mal answered, “Yes we would like to take a few minutes, unload our things, very good of you to offer.”

Zoë, who was in much better spirits having finally seen Wash after three days searching, actually laughed.

“Okay, sorry,” Kaylee replied but didn’t sound it, “I can’t help it. We’ve been dying of suspense up here.”

“Speak for yourself,” Jayne grumbled from behind her.

“So it’s good right,” she began again, “you’re both smiling so it must be good.”

Jayne, now shouldering a large portion of the load, leaned in close so only Mal could hear him.

“It’d better be good. She’s been driving me nuts. And if she starts crying again…”

“It’s mostly good,” Mal said cutting him off.

They all settled into the common room and Mal retold the past three days events.

“So what’s the plan?” Kaylee asked eagerly.

Mal looked to Zoë who now had real concern etched on her face.

“Well, we can’t very well just show up down there and demand him back,” Mal began, “Don’t think they’d take kindly to it and we don’t know just how many friends Dennly has.”

“’Sides,” Jayne added helpfully, “they’d just want money. Probably the kind we don’t got.”

Mal nodded his agreement.

“You know,” Zoë said reflectively, “he’s out working in that yard all day and there aren’t any fences. We could probably just pick him up without them noticing if we planned it right.”

Jayne let out a snort. “Not unless you want him back missing pieces.”

They all looked at him confused.

“Didn’t notice Wash sporting any shiny new jewelry did you?” he continued unfazed.

Zoë shook her head. She’d only been checking for his face.

“Yeah,” Mal nodded starting to get the gist of Jayne’s argument, “all the field workers had ‘em around their wrists.”

“Had what?” Kaylee asked. Zoë was afraid she already knew the answer.

“Explosives. Small load, probably enough to do some damage, maybe take an arm. They probably got the perimeter marked underground, seeing as you both didn’t seen no fences,” Jayne explained. He lived for moments like this. “You see, they want you to be afraid of leaving but if you do try they don’t want to kill yah. You’re not worth nothing to them dead. You ask me, he’s lucky it’s just his arm. One place I ran across, all the men had them strapped to their…”

”I think we get the point Jayne,” Mal said quickly cutting him off, “How many of these you seen?”

”A few.” It was as specific as he was going to get.

“You think Kaylee here could take one off?”

“Without blowing it up?” Jayne asked kind of smiling much to the irritation of Kaylee.

“That would be the preferred way.”


”On what?” Kaylee asked growing more offended.

“Some I’ve seen are rigged to go if you tamper with ‘em,” Jayne said thoughtfully, “but she could probably handle it.”

Kaylee smiled at him pleased. She’d never been this involved in one of Serenity’s operations before.

“Okay then,” Mal said, “we’ll try it that way. Land Serenity as close as we dare, take the mule out to Eden Station, find where the perimeter fences are and…”

“We need to talk,” Inara said from the doorway.

“Yes we do,” Mal responded as if he’d initiated the conversation, “You’re going to have to take your shuttle off for a few days. You decide where, we’ll rendezvous with you once…”

“That can wait,” Inara cut in, “it’s about Dennly.”


Wash sat at the same table as always and quietly ate his breakfast. The place was practically deserted. In the mornings the cells unlocked at a certain hour and you had only so long to do everything you needed, like shower and eat, before you were expected at your station. About halfway through his meal, another person joined him at the table. Some one familiar.

“I have nothing to say to you,” he said without looking up.

“Wash,” Lee began as she always did, “you’re being stubborn.”

“No, I’m being held against my will.”

“If you would just take the pilot position things will get better.”

“I’m not flying for you or that man.”

“But you’d fly for the Alliance.”

Now he was mad.

Wash slammed down his utensils and looked up at her.

“That’s a lie.”

“No, it’s a matter of perception,” she said leaning back and smiling, “I was there. We were at the academy together.”

“I had no choice in that and you know it.”

She just shrugged her shoulders. Lee enjoyed getting under his skin like this.

“Is that what you told them to get them to leave me here?” he asked with all seriousness.

She stayed silent and continued to meet his gaze. It was better to have him believe they’d left him behind on purpose as apposed to how it had really happened.

Wash finally just gave a little nod of his head and looked back to his plate.

Lee was still smiling. She figured he’d come around in another week tops. He’d better. Dennly wasn’t a man to be toyed with and Lee was having a hard enough time convincing him to be patient with Wash.

She was about to leave when he addressed her.

“I’ve been thinking.”

“Yes,” Lee said hopefully as she sat back down. Maybe he had finally seen reason.

“It was really lucky that the only person on Serenity to catch that bug was me.”

She didn’t like where this was headed, but said nothing.

“Really lucky,” he said looking up at her. “You here were in need of a pilot and the first pilot who crosses your path gets sick and you’re the only ones with the cure.”

He took a few more bites, still not looking up at her. She just sat stone still.

“A cure which costs more then most could afford. Way more then anyone living this far out could.”

She was absolutely glaring at him now.

“So I have to figure that it couldn’t be an accident, could it? It just seems too perfect.”

“Could be fate,” she said coldly.

“Could be,” he said with a kind of laugh, “but you see, I believe a man makes his own fate.”

Without another word he got up and left. Lee sat there for a few minutes more. It was becoming clear that Wash was turning into a liability.


Inara had stated the facts plainly.

Dennly was connected in a big way. His brother was a vice admiral with the Alliance. The operation on Eden Station was a sponsored one and the laborers there prisoners. Going in and busting Wash out would be a mistake. A big mistake. Likely all they’d do is end up working there themselves.

Their options were growing thin. The general feeling amongst them was doubt.

“Well, Wash didn’t do anything wrong,” Kaylee nearly pleaded, “Couldn’t we just go and tell someone?”

Normally Kaylee’s naivety about these types of things would have amused them, Jayne in particular, but now it just seemed wrong to have to let her hopes down.

“That’s not how it works out here,” Zoë told her.

“No one would care,” Jayne added.

“That might not be true,” Inara said after some thought, “Some of the outer planets chancellors have been appealing for stricter laws regarding kidnapping. We could address the local chancellor’s office.”

“And why would they help us?” Mal asked her, “Why would they bother? We’re nothing to those people.”

“But Dennly doesn’t know that,” Zoë began, “If he’s got family high up in the Alliance, then I’m guessing he’s trying to keep the kidnapping part of his operation quiet.”

“What are you saying?” Mal said turning to her.

“We bluff.”

“Bluff?” Mal asked, “How? We waltz back in there and tell Dennly we’re going to start making noise if they don’t hand over our pilot? We talked about this already, can’t be done.”

“Not like that, but if we go about it the right way…”

“Zoë,” Mal began, “They know we don’t have any connections to no official folks. They’ll never believe that.”

“Maybe we don’t,” Zoë continued, indicating herself and Mal. He smiled at her catching her meaning.

“But you do,” Mal finished turning towards Inara.

They were all now staring at Inara expectantly.

“Can I have a word alone with you Mal?” she asked, her face carefully masking her feelings.

Mal agreed and the moved into the adjoining corridor just out of earshot.

“Mal, hear me out,” she began, which was never good, especially when Inara was concerned, “I like Wash and I want to help, but I can’t do this. I can’t go lying and threatening officials. If this doesn’t go well I could lose my license. I’ve never interfered in your business and you’ve never interfered with mine and with that said we’ve also never helped each other with our businesses. It would be crossing a line I’m not comfortable with.”

“You done?”


“Good then. Here’s what we’ll need you to do…”

”Mal,” she interrupted, “you’re not listening to me.”

“I’m listening, I’m just not buying it. Now you need to hear me out. This is our only shot. You said so yourself, we try busting him out of there and we’ll all end up in jail or worse. We could go down there, said we’ve been doing some thinking and didn’t feel right about the situation, you explain that if things didn’t go well for us you’d be forced to call in some favors and have the whole operation looked at.”

“But Mal that might not work. What if they call us on it? They might not believe that I have that kind of authority or influence.”

“We’ll make them believe it.”

Inara looked down and shook her head.

“I can’t do this Mal. The whole reason you have me onboard is for cover. If I start helping out on these little escapades then that cover is blown. I’d be of no use to you then.”

“And under any other circumstance I wouldn’t ask you to be involved, but we’re not talking about bootlegging here Inara, we’re talking about a man’s life.”

Inara met Mal’s eyes for a moment and for a moment wavered.

“It’s your decision. If you want to go in back in there and tell them you won’t help, go ahead. I’m not doing that for you.”

Inara shook her head again and almost smiled.

“You owe me,” she said as she headed back towards the common room.

“Name the price.”



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