BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GEEKUSA

Firefly: "See You, Space Cowboy"
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Episode nine of my second season of Firefly: While the crew take a sightseeing trip to the edge of the galaxy, they encounter none other than Saffron--who's on the run with a substantial bounty on her head. Alone in no man's land, Mal must decide how to handle his unwanted wife and the bounty hunters coming to collect.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1920    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Firefly: "See You, Space Cowboy"

Disclaimer: If I weren't just a poor college student and could finance the series myself, I would, but I can't. So all I can do is just play around in Joss Whedon's 'verse. Also, I don't know a lick of Chinese so I haven't bothered to put the translations because they're probably horribly wrong. If it were Japanese or Latin, well, that'd be another story...

Episode nine of my second season of Firefly: While the crew take a sightseeing trip to the edge of the galaxy, they encounter none other than Saffron--who's on the run and with a substantial bounty on her head. Alone in no man's land, Mal must decide how to handle his unwanted wife and the bounty hunters coming to collect.

------

Bellerophon, One Year Ago:

Durran Haymer surveyed the damage with an apparently calm expression on his face. Inwardly, however, he was very much seething in anger. The loss of his Lassiter was painful, but he could've consoled himself by knowing Yolanda would pay dearly for her part in it. Unfortunately Yolanda had escaped, leaving Haymer with truly nothing.

The booking office of the Fed station was a mess of unconscious bodies and broken furniture. A police A.S.R.E.V. had gone missing, but later turned up at a nearby fueling station. Though by that time ten ships had already left, and not all of them used legitimate papers to identify themselves. She was lost, and Haymer was furious.

"I-I'm sorry she got away Mr. Haymer," stammered the station's captain. "She--she said she had a condition, and was showing signs of sickness... You must understand, we--we had to check it out."

"Yes, understandable," said Haymer in as restrained a voice as he could manage.

"We'll issue a warrant, but it would help if knew--"

"She's my wife," Haymer informed the police captain. "She's missing and she's mentally unstable, Captain. I want her back. She needs help. Contact Interpol and have them search through missing persons and theft reports for the last, say, ten years. Have them sift through the data for any that matches my wife's description and the mugshot you now have available. Make this a priority, or I'll have your badge by the morning."

"Y-yes, sir," said the nervous Captain.

Haymer wasn't a fool. That purple welt growing on the side of his forehead was a throbbing reminder to the viciousness of his wife. Of course, he couldn't exactly tell the Captain that he wanted Yolanda back for theft of property that wasn't his to begin with. There were carefully kept records of certain Earth-that-was artifacts, and the Lassiter was one of them. Two locations were confirmed, but the one he owned was classified as "missing," and during the war no less. To advertise that he'd been in the possession of the third would bring forth his questionable war record into light.

Worst of all, he had no name for the man who did apparently steal the Lassiter from Yolanda. Oh yes, he wanted his dear, beloved wife back for many, many reasons. And when he had her, she would stay by him voluntarily.

*****

She stood watching the Cortex with a sour expression on her face. Of late, this stupid, low-budget, piece of trash program had become the bane of her existence. Yet in a somewhat narcissistic way, she couldn't help but watch it. Also, it was helpful for her to know just where the idiots might be searching, and if they were too close then she could up and leave.

A cutout background of a western sunset appeared on the screen, complete with a cactus of all things. That alone showed its cheese, because even the lowliest of the low could afford CGI mapping. The large yellow text, B I G S H O T, crashed into frame a moment later with the old-time sound of a cash register being rung up. From the sides slid in the two hosts in cowboy attire; a busty blonde wearing an unbuttoned vest and no bra from the left, and a dark skinned man with a mustache and white hat from the right. Both held their hands like they were guns at the ready, and had unholy white smiles on their faces.

"AMIGOS!" shouted the man, Punch, with an overabundance of cheer. "Welcome to another episode of Big Shot! The show for all you bounty hunters out there! Today we're starting with our top bounty, Judy?"

"Ah, that's right!" exclaimed the blonde, now hogging the camera space. "The Bride's bounty is up to a whopping total of P60,000,000! All of it contributed by the hundreds of husbands and wives the Bride's swindled! The top two sponsers making up the bulk of the money are Durran Haymer and the Guild! At first this started with just Mr. Haymer wanting his wife back, but soon everyone wanting retribution began to join in! The Guild got involved because it's been rumored the Bride has Companion training."

She huffed from beneath the red hood she was using to cover her face. Every episode they had to show her mugshot from Bellerophon in which she was dirtied with garbage and her hair was frizzy; it was humiliating to be known by that. Still, that meant her face was out there for all to see, so drastic measures had to be taken, such as the red hood and the growing bulge under her flowing dress.

"Because of her Companion training, it's suggested you be very careful when apprehending the Bride," warned Punch, but he still kept that ridiculously white smile on his face. "Our last tip put her on Santo, where it was confirmed a merchant had been swindled by a mistress matching her description. Apparently she stole a monthly payroll and blamed it on an imaginary individual, which the merchant didn't realize until he'd seen this show. As of now, we don't know her current whereabouts. Sorry!"

That put a triumphant smirk on her face. It was a fast swindle, and not as profitable as it might be on account of her rush, but she needed money to keep herself free. This was some bad karma going on in her life; a cruel twist of irony that her own head would be the most profitable job she'd ever come across. Like an irritating itch she couldn't reach, his words drifted back into her mind.

You got all kinds of learnin', and you made me look the fool without tryin', and yet here I am with a gun to your head. That's 'cause I got people with me; people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain't always lookin' for the advantage.

She'd been all sorts of condescending towards him at that remark, but the track recond spoke for itself; twice he and his crew'd gotten the better of her, and now she was all alone with none to turn to who wouldn't trade her in at the first whiff of the bounty. The fact that he might've been right made her all sorts of nettled. She could just imagine his smug grin if she ever told him, but then he'd have to believe her first.

"Oh, that's really good likeness," came a voice right over her shoulder. She jumped away in alarm at the head that'd been hovering there. The man remained standing like a statue, staring straight at the screen with a crumpled cigarette in his lips. She took in his poofy hair, blue suit, yellow collared shirt, and a bag of groceries cradled in his arm. To passerbys he might seem laid back and incompetent, but her training told her he was dangerous.

She tried to run, but he snared her left wrist with his free hand in a grip like forged steel. The speed and strength of his motions told her that she couldn't match him in a fight, and so she went for a different tactic. Doubling over, she sank to her knees while clutching at her protruding belly.

"O-oi! Hey!" mumbled the man nervously, immediately catching on to her scheme.

"Oooooh!" she moaned loudly, sliding away from the media kiosk and towards the busy market street. "Oh! Oh! I think--I think it's time, honey!"

"Wha-what?" stuttered the man; his cigarette coming dangerously close to falling from his slack mouth. "Hey, stop that!"

"Hey!" said a voice from the fast growing crowd. "What're you doing smoking around your pregnant wife? Don't you know better?"

"Someone call for a medic!" shouted another voice as the crowd began to get more claustrophobic. "This woman's going into labor!"

She waited after he was forced to let go of her wrist; until the crowd created a congestion in the lane of the market place. Hiding a smirk under her hooded head, she quickly jumped up to her feet and took off blindly down the dusty lane. People jumped away in bemusement, which quickly shifted to anger when the man reached into his coat to produce a semi-automatic pistol. They immediately moved to prevent him from chasing her, all the while cursing at his brutality and lack of manners.

"Wa-wait! You don't understand!" he declared irritably. "G-get out of my way!"

Getting thoroughly pissed off that his retirement was running away, he began firing off shots into the air to scare people so that he could give chase. P60,000,000 was something he wasn't going to give up easily on, if the growling in his stomach was any indication to go by.

*****

Captain Malcolm Reynolds squinted out into the bleak landscape of New Sahara from the cargo bay of Serenity. There wasn't anything to see but flat desert all the way to the horizon. Off to the right was a small town of square bricks that were no bigger than his ship. Mal didn't think he'd ever seen a sorrier planet in all the 'verse.

"People live here? Voluntarily?" asked Simon Tam, resident medic and fugitive aboard Serenity. "This isn't some penal colony?"

"Nope, quite the opposite matter of fact. No Alliance presence whatsoever," said Mal as he rolled up his sleeves against the sweltering heat.

"Hate to agree with the Doc, but anybody livin' here's gotta be worse off'n his sister," growled Jayne Cobb in his tan liveries to blend in with the desert.

"Well it's got sand," said Kaylee Tam in an attempt to be positive. "Lots and lots of...sand."

"The cat litter people must be thrilled," remarked Kyo Nagiama sarcastically, unzipping his flightsuit against the offensive heat.

"Sir, might I suggest we get this done quick as possible?" suggested Zoe Washburne with a smile at Kyo's comment.

"I'm sure I could whip up something cold for our stay," shrugged Jonah Hex. One would never guess, with his scarred countenance and albino features that, he was probably the best cook in the 'verse. "Shave ice? Ice planets? I'm sure we've got some ice cream somewhere."

"And if you keep the doors shut while you go about your business, I'm thinkin' I could rig the life-support to run on the cooler side of a hundred degrees," Kaylee told them all brightly.

"Well, don't work too hard on that," sighed Mal, who already beginning to feel the sweat build up at the back of his collar. "Ain't plannin' on stayin' long. Just need to get Serenity refueled so that we can get these supplies to that world they're terraformin' just past."

"Kinda seems like these folk could use it more," remarked Hex, almost to himself. "This world should've been classified as a blackrock."

"Won't find no arguin' from me, Hex," said Mal in complete agreement, "but this here's an honest job. Simple and low-risk."

"Low pay too," grumbled Jayne under his breath.

"Ain't like we're hurtin' for scratch, Jayne," scowled Kaylee playfully, giving him a quick nudged to the ribs with her elbow. "We just took this job to payoff the fuel costs for bein' so far out on account of our sightseein' trip."

"Don't see the need to be watchin' no planet be terraformed neither," complained the mercenary as he stormed back up the ramp and into the cargo hold.

"'Cause there ain't but half of the crew who've seen it, and I wanna be one of 'em! I think it'll be shiny!" declared Kaylee enthusiastically.

Simon wrapped an arm around his wife's waist and drew her close against his side. "I'm sure it will be, bao-bei."

"Jayne, Kaylee, go see about the fuel," ordered Mal, who desperately felt the need to get out of the hot sun of New Sahara.

The mercenary in question stopped and turned around to glare at Mal. "Me?" exclaimed Jayne angrily, and Mal wasn't sure if the man was squinting out of hatred or because of the harsh light. "Why I gotta go?"

"'Cause, Jayne, we're buyin' 'nough fuel to skip this rock on the trip back," Mal told Jayne with hands akimbo. "You really expect li'l Kaylee to handle all that on her lonesome? 'Sides, I ain't askin' you. Now get."

Jayne scowled deeply and then proceeded to make childish faces as he stripped off his jacket and shirt. "Hell, lemme slap on my workout clothes."

*****

Every joint, muscle and nerve in her legs felt like they were about to explode, and her lower back felt like the spine would sever at any moment. Rest was not an option, however, as every time she did so people began to gather and inquire about her health. A large crowd was detrimental to a wanted fugitive from a collection of bounty hunters. If that idiot had spotted her here, then who knew what other bounty hunters might be lurking about?

Pushing on with only the will to stay free spurring her, she made her way through three bendy blocks until the northern dock came up into view. Spying the Firefly-class transport resting alone on the landing pad made her sandaled feet skid to a halt. There was no way in the 'verse that could be the ship. Providence would never smile so openly upon her shoulders, and yet...it had to be a sign, right?

Patting her protruding belly reassuringly, she picked herself off the ground and started running for it. There was no plan in her head at the moment, but she was sure to come up with one. After all, her husband was such an easy mark.

*****

Jayne Cobb grunted and groaned irritably while he unloaded the fuel crates from the Mule. He didn't see the point in having to go out on that hell of a world, especially when it wasn't his idea to begin with. Course, he was sure his complaining had nothing at all to do with the decision. Mal was just unfair on the matter, and caved like always to Kaylee's demands. Speaking of the girl, he scowled at her bright smile since all she had to do was hitch the Mule to the ceiling winch.

"Well, that does it," said Kaylee cheerfully in spite of being soaked in sweat. She beamed at Jayne, heedless of his scowl as always, and wiped at her brow some. "Now we can feed Serenity, and she can take us to see the shiny new planet!"

"Yeah, there's a real humdinger," drawled Jayne sarcastically as he made his way towards the cargo door's controls. Kaylee made a quick face behind his back, but then quickly assumed her sunny smile while she checked over the fuel cells. Just as Jayne's thumb reached the master control button, something barged straight into his barrel chest; something heavy given the grunt he exhaled.

"Whoa there!" said Jayne, pushing away the cloaked figure with one hand as he reached for his piece with the other. He looked down in alarm when his hand grasped at empty air. "Wha--?"

The familiar sound of his pistol cocking made Jayne look at the figure, and sure enough his auto-revolver was pointed right at his chest.

*****

"Are you excited to see a terraformed planet, or is just Kaylee?" asked Kyo to River once he reset their course in the nav com and powered up Serenity's engines.

River stood at the very front of Serenity's flight deck on her toes with her hands pressed against the hot glass heedless to the bright sunlight. It was artificial, of course, manufactured through the terraforming process. The nearest star was much too far from New Sahara to provide this sort of heat. In truth, New Sahara should be more like an arctic tundra than desert. None of that, however, prevented River from looking like a sparkling angel.

"I'm excited," River told him as Kyo got the green light from the cargo bay's sensor. She withdrew herself from the window and walked over to Kyo. Leaning over the pilot's console, her hands cupped his cheeks, and Kyo closed his eyes against the comfortable, soothing warmth that radiated from it. "I want to see another baby being born. Energy plants convert matter from one form to another. Makes the unusable usable, but requires terawatts of energy and dedicated laborers to till the newly turned soil."

"Which is why so few planets turn out to be the pristine Eden they should, our friends at Eden-Two notwithstandin'," stated Mal, reminding them all of the not-so-myth that was Eden-Two; a perfect replica of Earth in its prime. "Alliance don't bother shellin' out more'n they need to get a world hospitable, 'less they conjure it should be a newfangled Core world."

"Well, we'll see how Orion turns out when we get there," said Kyo as he pulled back on the control yoke once the pre-flight check was complete.

"Company," declared River with a curious tilt of her head. Not more than a second later, the proximity alarm went off on Serenity.

"Who needs any of this when we got our little Albatross?" asked Mal with a fond smile, while Kyo began to check through the screens.

"Got a ship on incomin'," reported Kyo, keeping Serenity on course for the black. "Short-range fighter from the make of her. Old short-range fighter. Earth-that-was old." Kyo frowned, alternating his look between the red screen and the window of the cockpit. The trajectory and speed were familiar to him, having done it numerous times in his life. "Uh, she's comin' in on an attack vector."

*****

"Oi, Jet," said the blue-suited man with poofy hair from the glass pod of his fighter, the Swordfish. "Seems our bounty jumped aboard a ship. Firefly-class transport from the looks of her. Think I might say 'Hello.'"

"Spike," warned the deep voice on the other end of the com in exasperation. "Please don't say 'Hello' with your guns. She might've just jumped on board without their knowledge."

"That's no fun at all," said Spike with an easy smile, revving the Swordfish's mono-drive by twisting back on the control bars sticking almost horizontally from the sides of the pod.

"Spike! SPIKE!" shouted Jet over the com, but Spike merely ignored it as he powered up the laser cannon attached to the undercarriage. "Dammit, Spike, stop playing the cowboy and be smart about this! The last thing we need is another wrongful damage bill!"

"Bang," whispered Spike once he locked the crosshairs onto the Firefly's engines.

*****

Kyo twisted Serenity around into a sharp barrel roll to avoid the bright blue beam of light that would've blown her engine to bits. Mal let out a curse as his feet were swept out from under him. River merely gripped onto the pilot's console in front of Kyo for dear life.

"What the hell's goin' on!" demanded a dazed Mal from the floor.

"Kyo, are you and River foolin' 'round up there?" asked Zoe, who poked her head out from her bunk in the forward corridor.

"Short-range fighter can't have gotten this far out here without somethin' to piggyback on," said Kyo, ignoring their questions for the time being as he focused on not getting Serenity hit. "River, either get to the copilot console and tell me where that other ship is, or just tell me now! Can't search and fly at the same time! This guy's reckless, but he's good."

"What guy and why is he shootin' at us?" asked Mal, dragging himself up to his feet with the help of Zoe. River, in the meanwhile, took her seat in the copilot's chair and strapped in.

"Dunno, but I ain't exactly got the time to play twenty questions," replied Kyo, accessing his psychic abilities just enough to stay two steps ahead of their bogey. "Somethin' to do with a bounty. A big bounty!"

"River?" whispered Zoe in concern, sneaking a peak towards their young fugitive who looked anything but.

"Must be," said Mal, dusting off the bottom of his pants with a wince. "Ain't got no other fugitives on board this boat."

*****

Jayne seized the opportunity the moment Serenity started shaking about. In the split second her aim swung away from them, he reached out to grab the gun with one hand and to block the hammer from falling with a finger of the other. She tried to wrestle away, but considering his strength it was child's play to yank it back.

"Jayne, stop! You can't!" declared a worried Kaylee as the gun slipped from his grip and clanked against the ground.

"The hell I can't, Kaylee," growled Jayne who made for the fallen pistol. "You know who she is!"

"But she's pregnant!" stated a horrified Kaylee.

"She ain't pregna--AH!" exclaimed Jayne in pain from the burning sensation that spread throughout his lower back. The gorram woman slipped his knife right out of its sheath and cut him with it. She made to stab him next, but Jayne twisted around to defect the blow with his left arm, then landed a haymaker with his right fist using the momentum of the twist.

"What's going on?" asked a shaky Inara Serra, emerging from her shuttle on the upper catwalk. Serenity gave another jolt and she was forced to brace herself against the railing. In doing so she spotted Jayne kneeling on the ground, favoring his back, Kaylee going for a discarded gun, and a pregnant woman stirring groggily on the ground. She was about to repeat her question, when the hood of the pregnant woman lifted up enough to make out very familiar features; namely ginger hair and pink, pouty lips.

"'Nara, get Simon and the Cap'n down here fu kuai!" said Kaylee; her trembling hands undermining her strong words as she aimed at the stirring woman.

*****

"Another ship in deep orbit," reported River coolly, moving on to arm the minimal defenses of Serenity. "Warthog-class hauler retro-fitted for deep space travel. D-Mechs are armed and ready."

"Mal? We've got a situation in--"

"Yeah, Inara, I'm kinda aware of that bein' on the bridge and all," said Mal tetchily through the com.

"No, Mal, I mean--"

"Inara!" said Mal sharply through the com. "Really ain't got time for this!"

"Sir?" said a slightly concerned Zoe at Inara's voice.

"Zoe, get everyone strapped in," ordered Mal over his shoulder. "This might be a little hairy."

"Warthog-class," murmured Kyo thoughtfully as the clear blue sky began to melt away into the black of space. "Conventional weapon systems are generally incompatible for Warthogs. There's a nice bit of luck on our side. Fire the strobe!"

"Firing," confirmed River, depressing a square button on one of the screen to her right.

"Say 'cheese,'" smirked Kyo triumphantly.

Each of the two main supports that were under Serenity's rotating main drive opened up a hidden compartment. From those compartments--set up way back when Kyo signed on months ago--lauched two transparent cylinders--each about the size of a person--that began to drift back in space towards the fighter trailing them. The rudder of the Swordfish flipped up to decelerate and create some drag so that it could retarget the cylinders. The first one exploded under fire from machine guns on the Swordfish's wings, but the second strobe activated before it could be destroyed.

The strobe's interior was packed full of magnesium and reflexive paneling specially designed to amplify light to the maximum. When the magnesium lit up, it looked like a miniature sun had just winked on for all but three seconds. That was just enough to make Spike see a lot of white dots in his vision.

"All right, course locked in for Orion," reported Kyo, moving his right hand to activate Serenity's main drive via the lever to his side. He paused in the motion, however, when River's warning flashed through his mind.

"What?" demanded Mal at the pause; his fingers digging into the apholstery of Kyo's chair.

"We--ah--we don't have enough fuel, what?" exclaimed a thoroughly confused Kyo as he stared at the readouts. "How can we not have fuel? Didn't we just spend thirty of the suckiest minutes of my life on that hellhole for the sole purpose of gatherin' fuel?"

"Just what in the di-yu de chou-e nan ji-nu is Jayne playin' at in the cargo hold!" demanded Mal angrily. With a clenched jaw and an eye full of hellraising, he turned to march straight down to the cargo bay, only to almost run over Inara.

"That's what I've been trying to tell you, you zhu tou-bu sha-zi!" snapped an irate and exasperated Inara. "There's a situation down in the cargo bay! Jayne's injured, Simon's tending to him, Zoe's watching our guest and Kaylee and Hex have only now gotten around to installing the fuel cells!"

"'Nara, that sounds like more'n one situation," said Mal with his hand raised before him; his head swimming with an overflow of information and things to process. "Go again and take it slow."

"We don't have time!" huffed Inara, snatching Mal's wrist and trying to drag him out with her. "We can't risk taking our eyes off her for a second!"

"Am I even in control of my damn ship anymore!" wondered a not so jolly Mal.

"Technically, I am," stated Kyo with forced levity, "although no one will be if we don't get fuel in her!"

"Shiny," said Mal sarcastically.

*****

"Spike? Spike, are you all right?" asked Jet over the com system while Spike tried to rub the lights from his eyes.

"They blinded me," replied Spike, unable to do much else but speak.

"Break off, I'm gonna use the Bebop's grapple to bring them in," said Jet before the com went dead.

"Break off?" asked Spike irritably to himself. "How'm I gonna do that when I can't see?"

*****

Mal jogged down the stairs that lead to the cargo bay in a foul mood. He needed to be on the bridge, not cleaning up after a mess made by Jayne. The rest of the crew were capable; they could handle whatever problem presented itself. Of course, Mal revised that theory when he spotted the woman Zoe had at gunpoint.

"Wha--where did she come from?" demanded Mal who didn't know whether to be amused or angered. Considering the situation, he decided to go with anger and pulled out his pistol. "Y'know, at this juncture, I don't rightly care. I'm willin' to bet them boys lookin' to ground us is your doin'? I oughta push you out the airlock for all the trouble you've caused me and mine."

"Sweetie," the woman he'd labeled as Yo-Saff-Bridge said affectionately, "is that anyway to greet your wife? Who comes to you pregnant and in distress! Where's your compassion?"

"You are all sorts of twisted in the brainpan, woman," chuckled a not-so-amused Mal. "Need I remind you how we parted last? With me bein' stranded naked in a desert? And d'you really expect me to believe that you'd be so careless as to actually get yourself knocked up?"

Saffron's face twisted into one of pain and she collapsed to the ground short of breath. Her hands clawed at her bulging belly as she writhed around on the metal grating of Serenity's cargo hold.

"Oh this is low," laughed Inara in clear disbelief. "Get up, you're embarassing yourself."

"Thinkin' I've conjured up a better notion," said Mal darkly, holstering his piece. "Zoe, toss her in the airlock. We ain't got time for this."

Inara gave Mal a look to see if he was joking, but everything about his posture and face read that he was dead serious. She hated Saffron just as much as any of the crew--with the exception of Hex and Kyo who hadn't met her acquaintance of yet--but killing Saffron outright? She wasn't so troublesome that they couldn't just drop her back off on New Sahara. Murder was a little extreme in Inara's opinion.

"With pleasure, sir," said Zoe with a ghost of a cold smile on her face. She took two steps towards Saffron's curled up body, but stopped when she spotted the puddle of liquid. Zoe actually found herself dumbfounded, almost dropping her piece. "Bu-ke-neng!"

Inara moved towards Zoe upon noticing her stricken expression, and she too came to a dead halt besides the dark-skinned warrior woman. A gasp escaped her lips as she stared horrifically at Saffron rolling around in a pool of fluid.

Mal stomped up to the otherside of Zoe and looked down at Saffron. His eyes practically bulged out of his head at her soaked dress. "Tha-that ain't--I mean, t-th-that can't be--she ain't..."

"Simon!" shouted Inara, immediately dashing off towards the infirmary. That jolted Mal and Zoe into action and they both knelt carefully beside the apparently actually pregnant Yo-Saff-Bridge. She didn't stop her moans of pain, and really did seem like she was having a hard time catching her breath. Mal found himself at a loss.

"Saffron," he asked with something approximating tenderness towards her. "Saffron, if you're playin' me--and t'be honest, I ain't quite sure how that might be possible now--I will end you. Once we get through this, I'll toss you straight out the airlock myself, dong-ma?"

"Oh--oh honey, I've missed your--your words of reassurance so much," said Saffron, giving Mal a strained smile. "Your--your bedside manner's just--just so sweet."

*****

"Magnetic grapple," warned River from the copilot's chair.

"I know, I know, I know," said Kyo hurriedly, thinking about what he could do with the limited fuel available until Kaylee and Jonah got the fuel cells in place. Through the magnified view of Serenity's scanners, he could see the Warthog's portside crane arm rotate around until it was aimed right at them.

"Once the grapple clears a specific distance from the launcher, the smart magnets activate and home in on the nearest source of metal," said River factually as if she were reading it straight from the manual. "Magnets are located on the tip, and some newer models can even act as a conduit for an electrical surge. That's one of them."

"Which means lettin' it overshoot us and hit the fighter behind is out of the question," muttered Kyo; he cast a final look towards the readout of Serenity's fuel. It wasn't that they couldn't go to full burn, it's just that they'd run out of fuel before they got any useful distance. Of course, the distance wouldn't be helpful if they were disabled by the grapple. Making his decision, Kyo reached up to turn on the intercom. "Kaylee, prep for full burn!"

"B-but we've only just unloaded the dead cells!" said a worried Kaylee through the com.

"Doesn't matter, I need full burn right now!" ordered Kyo with a voice of finality. "You can load in new cells if this plan works. If not, it wouldn't matter much anyway."

With that, Kyo cut the thrust from the secondary engines to conserve fuel. It was just a waiting game now, and he hoped Kaylee would be quicker than that Warthog-class hauler.

"Odds of success--"

"Never tell me the odds, lai," Kyo interrupted her tensely, never shifting his eyes away from the forward window. He could feel through their connection how much she thought this plan was insane, but at the same time he felt the affection for it. Undoubtably he knew she might've come up with a different solution, or have avoided some things entirely, but then she was the genius.

Laying a hand on Serenity's console, he asked softly of her, "Okay, baby, do this for me, please?"

In the distance, Kyo and River could see the muffled flash of the grapple being fired. On the screens, the collision warning took precedence over all else and Kyo kept a steady track of the numbers rolling down at an alarming rate.

"Got it! GO!" shouted Kaylee over the com. Without wasting a second, Kyo slapped the controls for full burn.

Serenity's main drive activated with a flourish of bright yellowish-green light. She passed just beneath the grapple, and was fast enough to avoid getting skewered when the smart magnets activated and it snapped back towards the ship. The grapple picked up speed in Serenity's wake as it followed her straight for the Bebop. Both ships narrowly avoided collision by inches, but Serenity's speed ensured she'd be out of the grapple's magnetic range, leaving only the Bebop as the target. It impaled itself on the underbelly of Bebop and automatically went through the routine of discharging a stunning jolt of electricity that was now directed through unshielded parts of the ship. The Bebop found itself dead in space and caught in New Sahara's orbit.

"Whew!" breathed Kyo in relief as the main drive ran out of fuel a safe distance from New Sahara's pull. "Kaylee get us fueled now! We're still in range of that fighter, and there's no tellin' when he'll recover from the strobe."

"Already on it!" reported Kaylee cheerfully. "Won't take but a minute!"

"River--"

"I'll spread the word," she cut him off with a proud smile. "Evacuate the cargo hold and lock it down so that we can let fly the nav sat decoys."

On her way out, she paused to give him a lingering kiss on the lips, which he wholeheartedly accepted and reciprocated. Once River was gone, Kyo patted Serenity's console again. "Don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't dance, sweethart."

*****

Mal grunted as both he and Zoe set Saffron down on the operating chair of the infirmary. Jayne grunted for a whole different reason as the Doc had to abandon the stitching for this. The big mercenary couldn't quite make it onto the other counter in his condition, and so he settled for crouching down beside it.

"She ain't ruttin' pregnant, Mal! You know better!" snapped Jayne irritably, which was magnified by the injury he'd received from her.

"Her water broke, Jayne, we saw it," said Zoe, but all the same she and Mal shared a look. Her right hand went for the pistol reverse-holstered against her left hip--which was better on the quick draw in such a confined space--while her left hand continued to assist Simon in strapping down Saffron.

Simon clipped the sensor to Saffron's index finger and turned to read the monitors that sprang to life behind. Once her legs were secured onto the table--Mal didn't want her to mule kick them when they weren't expecting it--he depressed a pedal on the controls below the chair. Saffron gave a little gasp as the chair's lower half began to split open, spreading her legs in the process. Even Mal and Zoe jumped back, more than a little alarmed at that particular feature.

"Hey now," said Jayne with a voice full of approval and anticipation as he watched the chair. "Mal, next time we hit planetside can I--"

"No," said Mal automatically, not even thinking about Jayne's question only knowing it couldn't be good. When he did think about it, his head snapped up to stare at Jayne's face. "No!" he and Simon said more forcefully.

"All clear," said Kyo over the intercom. "We're due for Orion in two days, meanwhile we've thrown off the scent of those bounty hunters."

At that news, Saffron visibly relaxed with a triumphant grin spread on her sultry lips. Zoe noticed it first and slipped her pistol slowly from the holster. When Mal caught sight of that canary-eating smile and the look of relief on her face, he rolled his eyes heavenward and let out a groan of despair.

"Captain, I'm not reading another heartbeat," said Simon concernedly; his attention focused solely on what the screens.

"Oh no," gasped Saffron, still smiling like a she-devil but with a voice full of horror. Mal just glared at her and reached for his pistol. "Did I lose the baby?"

Simon finally caught on when Saffron spoke, and he too sagged his shoulders in irritated defeat. Jayne's face could only be described as a childish "I told you so" smile that he flashed at anyone who'd bother to look.

"How'd you do it?" asked a genuinely curious Mal as both he and Zoe took an easy aim at her. Saffron smiled coyly in return and worked her tapered fingers on the buttons of her burgundy maternity dress. "Meant the fake pregnancy; don't need to see how you make a real baby."

Saffron smiled sarcastically at him as she continued to undo the buttons on her dress.

"I could stand for a show," shrugged Jayne, all pain from the deep cut at his back momentarily forgotten.

"Jayne, you ain't standin' period," pointed out Mal. Yo-Saff-Bridge had finally finished her slow stripping to reveal a large harness strapped to her chest, under which was her usual liveries of blouse and short skirt. It was smooth, flesh-colored, and definetely gave the impression of a pregnant belly. They watched as Saffron slipped her hand right into the center of the harness's belly, a bit of enjoyment crossing her features at everyone's discomfort. From out of it she removed a palm-sized canteen and began to drink it slowly.

"Well, that explains why you ain't got no bags," remarked Mal, giving Simon a significant look. Simon gave a nod, and like a cobra lashing out to strike he pressed the hypodermic in his hand against Saffron's neck. She tried to move away or knock it out of his hands, but the drugs reacted almost instantaneously. Her eyes fluttered shut and her upper body slid off the operating chair; her strapped in ankles being the only things keeping her from falling.

"Doc, see to Jayne best you can," ordered Mal, finally holstering his piece. "I want my blushin' bride to stay strapped in where we can keep an eye--and a few guns--on her."

*****

"This is why I hate women," remarked Spike lazily as he smoked his crumpled cigarette in the darkened cargo hold of Bebop. The big, muscular, bald man with a strange beard and small scar over his right eye grunted distractedly while he fidgeted with an exposed panel. Jet sighed despondently after rubbing together two frayed wires produced no effect.

"I'm beginning to see your point," agreed Jet gruffly, pulling out a cigarette of his own to light up. "We're not going anywhere for a while. You're gonna have to take the Swordfish down to New Sahara and pick up some spare parts."

"Good luck finding parts for this old clunker on a dustball like New Sahara," said a new, amused voice from the shadows that startled both men into drawing their weapons. Out from the aft of the long corridor came a dark-skinned man with a blood red, armored space suit. He looked around Bebop in childish wonder, which went against the finely crafted pistol strapped to his right thigh.

"Bit late, aren't you, Early?" smirked Spike as he holstered his piece. Jet also uncocked his pistol and returned it to his holster, knowing it was pointless to wrestle with Early when their ship was dead.

"Me? No, I'm right on time," said Jubal Early with his sharklike smile while his eyes continued to roam around the ship. "And right where I need to be, maybe. The Bride gave you the slip, huh? Yeah, she's a cunning one. Strange name though, don't you think? I mean, she's not a Bride, is she? No, she's been married multiple times. Her name should be Wife. But that's not important. I really didn't expect you two of all people to track her, not that I mean anything against you, it's just that..."

Without even affecting an apologetic tone, Jubal just let the statement trail off as he walked past the miffed pair of bounty hunters. Apparently having seen all there was to see in the Bebop, Early turned around abruptly and clapped his hands.

"So, where did they go?" asked Early briskly. Spike and Jet shared a look as if to question Early's sanity.

"You're the one with a fully working ship, you tell us," demanded Jet derisively, practically snorting out the smoke like a bull.

"No, no, no," smiled Early politely, waggling his finger in front of them. "Chasing the Bride's like chasing a ghost. I need a visual confirmation because I can't trust my instruments, so where did she go? On what ship? In what direction? Tell me and I might not give your ship a gentle nudge straight into that welcoming desert."

"Well, if you put it that way," said Spike sourly. Without warning, he lashed out with a snap kick that Early caught at the ankle because he was expecting it. All three men reached for their weapons simultaneously, but it looked as if Spike might have the fastest draw. Jubal kicked up towards the inside of Spike's raised thigh to stall his draw, while he fired off his own pistol into Jet's thigh. Both Jet and Spike fell to the ground clutching at their legs and pinned under the barrel of Jubal Early's pistol.

"Firefly-class transport heading off the edge of the map," sighed Jet, wincing in both humiliation and pain, while Spike slowly withdrew his pistol and tossed it aside. "That's all we got."

"Firefly?" asked Early with a bit of apprehension on his face. His lips gave a tick as he remembered his adventure with the crew of Serenity. As much as he didn't believe in them, he had to think it was all just a big coincidence. If not, he'd start believing those ships were bad luck where he was involved.

"Gentlemen," said Jubal in both thanks and farewell as he holstered his pistol. He walked briskly towards the back of the cargo hold to pick up the helmet for his pressure suit. Just when he clicked it shut around the collar, a warning klaxon began to blare at his belt. Pressing a stud on the side of the helmet brought up a H.U.D. on the glass. Reading the glowing text told him it was a proximity alert for his ship.

"What in the--" Moving with all haste, he pushed through the airlock door and then through the outer hatch. Spike and Jet gave each other yet another look moments before the entire cargo hold became depressurized. They clawed desperately at the metal grating of the floor to anchor themselves against the vacuum.

Jubal Early made his way to the exterior of the Bebop and saw his own ship parked above it. She was a beauty of a slender thing in his opinion. Every inch of her was customized to do exactly what was required of a man in his line of work; none more so than the recall button that was needed when he'd gone up against River Tam. So if she had something to say, it had to be very important. Looking through her bubbled cockpit at the front of the ship, Early became aware that he was too late.

"Firefly-class ship, huh?" came a soft, feminine voice through the com. "Thank you kindly for that bit of information, Early. You're a sneak, but I'm sneakier. Now, why don't you sit for a spell with Spike and Jet while I go get paid? Song-bie!"

Early watched the interior of his ship darken and heard his com go dead. Sabotage. The woman slipped out of his ship in a slender, black pressure suit just as another ship coasted in. It was ratty, rusted, and looked to be falling apart at the seams--Sparrow-class, long-range shuttle poorly retrofitted for deep space operation. Cheap. Not at all like his ship, but her pilot was smart. He had to respect that.

Raising his left hand to take aim at her back, Early fired off a tracer from the pneumatic wrist launcher which drew on the air from his suit. A smile crossed his face when it tagged her just before she disappeared into the side hatch of the small, nearly triangular vessel. He was about to leap from the Bebop, when strong hands arrested his movement. Turning about he spotted Spike and Jet staring at him with puffed cheeks; Jet's hands firmly locked on his arm. They both had smiles on their faces, and Spike even went so far as to wave at him.

Oh, yes. Fireflys were cursed as far as Early was concerned.

*****

"Your Saffron, your Mrs. Reynolds, is known as the Bride in some circles," said Kyo, tossing a pad down onto the table of the passenger lounge. Jayne immediately went to snatch it up and practically choked on his drink. "She's definetely got a bounty on her."

"A P60,000,000 bounty!" whistled Jayne appreciatively. "Cap, we gotta take her in!"

"I wouldn't be doing that," said Jonah Hex, who was seated in the corner right behind Jayne. The scarred, albino cook peered over Jayne's shoulder at the pad. "That there's a composite of bounties from the looks of the intel. Different sources, different people, different objectives. It's all a misrepresentation, Captain."

"What's that mean?" frowned Jayne incomprehensively.

"Means anyone who turns Saffron in won't be gettin' the whole P60,000,000," said Mal shortly, folding his arms across his chest in thought. "It's a set up. Whoever wants her wants her bad 'nough to trick a whole host of bounty hunters into thinkin' there's a big prize at the end of this rainbow."

"Then the question remains, what're we going to do with her, sir?" asked Zoe intently. Mal's eyes focused on Saffron lying in the infirmary unconscious. With the way she was, it was almost hard for him to picture her as the incarnation of deceit that she was. In fact, she almost looked like a little angel with the light on her like that.

"Her pack had money," said Simon from the sofa next to Kaylee as he hefted it up. "A lot of it. Some clothes, rations, water, immunizations. Lipstick. No weapons, though."

"Sounds every bit like a person on the run," remarked Kyo from his spot on the cargo bay side stairs, leaning against the infirmary with his arms crossed.

"Aw hell, if she ain't worth P60,000,000 then there ain't no sense in turnin' her in," whined Jayne as he tossed the pad back onto the table. "Best we just toss her out the airlock."

"Jayne!" gasped Kaylee in horror.

"Like the Cap weren't thinkin' it himself," returned Jayne, looking towards Mal for confirmation. Mal remained silent under Kaylee's questioning eyes. He tried looking towards Inara, but found himself disconcerted by her even stare.

"She's not a killer, Captain," said Hex, reclining back against the corner. "If that were the case, she'd have killed you that first time instead of drugging you. Or when she left you stranded in Isis Canyon back on Bellerophon. She's just a con and a thief."

"Can't help but think you're sayin' that with some familiarity, Hex," remarked Mal, giving his cook an appraising look.

"Oh, she's just the reason I found myself working on Ambrosia in the first place," said Hex easily. Typically his grins--despite the jagged scar on the left side of his face from hairline to upper lip--were calming and reassuring. Mostly on account of the sparkle in his right eye. This time, however, there was no such spakle; just a dark humor. "Couple years back my captain found himself a new bride by the name of Alanna. This was off near the Triumph settlement at the time, same as you. She bed our captain, locked down a course, cut the power, and took off. Left the escape pods in tact for us to abandon ship. Our captain didn't though, he couldn't; he felt responsible for getting us in that mess, and stayed on to undo what she did."

"Sounds to me you got a mighty large reason to be shovin' her out the airlock yourself," Jayne couldn't help but say.

"No, not exactly," shrugged Hex; his eye never leaving Mal's. "She stole the ship, yes, but she left us the escape pods. She didn't kill no one, sir."

"Yeah, well, she's still trouble," sighed Mal heavily. "Doc, any chance of keepin' her doped 'til we reach civilization?"

"Ah, it's possible," frowned Simon thoughtfully.

"It's a two day trip to Orion, sir," pointed out Zoe evenly, and her tone spoke volumes as to how ridiculous she thought his idea. "That's two days back to New Sahara at least, but another week 'til we hit a fuelin' station. Really intend on keepin' her doped for eleven days?"

Mal worked around his jaw as he thought over the options available. Airlock was a possibility, as was killing her outright, or dumping her back on New Sahara. Saffron was nothing but trouble for him, and the sooner she was gone the better. Of course, Zoe was always the voice of reason. Keeping Saffron doped for eleven days would be pointless, not to mention expensive. Nor he didn't want to keep her in a place like the infirmary.

"All right," said Mal shortly, tucking his thumbs into the base of his suspenders. "When she gets up move her to the spare passenger dorm. River, I want you to take watch over her. Kyo, I know you don't need much sleep, so you relieve River come night. Everyone else, go about your business. We still got a job to do."

Jayne looked disappointed at not being able to toss someone from the cargo hold, while everyone else seemed pleased with the outcome. River and Kyo, the two resident psychics, would be the best choices for watching a con like Saffron. Hell, they might even uncover her real identity, which made Mal pause to think at the foot of the stairs.

"You want me to see what I can figure out?" asked Kyo, looking over Mal and sensing the curiousity radiating from him.

Mal thought on it further and wondered what was the point? She wasn't crew, and he was looking to dump her the first chance they got. Last thing he needed was to be involved with any nonsense she might bring. He gave Kyo a curt shake of his head after reaching that decision. Inara was not far behind Mal, but she waited until he'd cleared the threshold of the cargo bay to speak with Kyo.

"I'd like to," she requested of Kyo. "I'd like to know where she trained. I'm sure the Guild would like to know as well."

"Guild might question how you came across this information," pointed out Kyo with a skeptical arch of his brow.

"I can be very discrete," Inara assured him, affecting the perfect smile to accomodate those words. "Companions are trained for a variety of conversations. Gathering information is a natural by-product of the training. Besides, I was very nearly a Head of House. We're trained to pry information from Companions who have gone rogue."

Both of Kyo's brows shot up at that revelation, and he took in Inara all over again. "I dunno if that'd be better or worse'n the treatment we got in the war."

Inara's smile shifted into a teasing, disconcerting, and somewhat menacing one. Kyo gave her a wide-berth as she made her way gracefully up the stairs. He was really starting to wonder about the Guild and those Companions. Once Inara was gone, the intercom beeped out a warning that they had a message coming through.

*****

Mal stormed his way to the kitchen of Serenity, only realizing after he'd done so that he'd taken the long way around. That was fine by him, he needed to work off some of his irritation and anger. When the call alert from the bridge came, he just about sprinted towards it if only to shut it up. Fortunately for Serenity, and whoever might be calling, Kyo was up the stairs in seconds to answer it.

"Just a simple job to cover our li'l Kaylee's sightseein' wishes," muttered Mal under his breath as he viciously rummaged through the cupboards, almost purposefully opening the wrong ones just so he could slam them.

"Not sure Hex would take kindly to you messin' up his finely tuned system, sir," remarked Zoe from the aft corridor. Mal looked up at her from under the tops of his eyes. He let out a loud gust of air through his flared nostrils and resumed making a mess. Zoe rolled her eyes at his childish display and took a seat at the edge of the table.

"We're nowhere, sir," Zoe pointed out, picking out an apple from the filled basket of fruit--a testament to their good fortune. "Corner of 'No' and 'Where' as I remember you puttin' it once. I'm not overly fond of her myself, what with her kickin' Wash... Well, with what's happened in the past, but I don't see the harm."

"The harm is in her doin' what she did that last time," clarified Mal as he finally got around to making his coffee. "Worse now that we're off the edge of the map, and as I recall things, that's where the monsters are. Can't think of much worse monsters'n one with a pretty face."

"Got plenty of them in the Core, sir," said Zoe reasonably as she began to cut wedges, noticing Mal was overfilling the pot. "We're smarter'n her, sir. Always have and always will be, more so with our two Readers. She's one, we're many. Superior numbers."

"Oh she ain't one," countered Mal with a finger wag. "She is Legion. Those bounty hunters outside of New Sahara's only the beginnin'. Longer we keep her, the greater the risk we'll run into more. That's attention we don't need; not with Simon and River on board. 'Verse's a bad place, Zoe, and those at the bottom won't look twice at the scraps handed to 'em 'til it's too late."

"We've handled bounty hunters in the past," Zoe reminded him, watching Mal carefully as drummed his fingers anxiously for the coffee to finish. "A few more wouldn't be much of a problem for eleven days. Sure this doesn't have anythin' to do with the fact she's made a fool of you twice?"

"What? No!" declared Mal, snatching at the pot distractedly out of irritation. Naturally, the overfilled pot splashed over, spilling the scalding water over Mal's hands. Zoe did her best not to smile as Mal began jumping around like an angry ape, which did nothing to alleviate his predicament since the firm grip he kept on the pot made him spill more.

*****

Simon extracted his pistol and shoulder holster from the bottom drawer of the dresser. He looked across at the other room where Saffron was still slumbering and gave a sigh. This would be the first time wearing it onboard Serenity, but then this would also be the first time a psychotic woman not related to him was sleeping in his vicinity. He slipped it on and checked the semi-automatic for a full clip.

"Plannin' on doin' some game huntin', honey?" wondered a bemused Kaylee from her spot against the open door.

"Just wanting to make sure we're safe, bao-bei," said Simon softly as he holstered the piece. Once again he took a pointed look over Kaylee's shoulder at Saffron's room.

"We'll be fine," said Kaylee brightly, plopping herself down on the corner of the bed. "River and Kyo'll keep a good eye on her."

"You know," said Simon in amusement as he watched her smile, "I would've thought you'd be more mad at her, after everything she's done to Serenity."

"Oh I'm not sayin' I wouldn't pop her over the head with a wrench if I got the chance," laughed Kaylee conversationally. "Just that she's a human, ain't she? She's not no Reaver. Don't be seein' the need to throw her out the airlock like that. Don't be seein' the need to carry 'round a piece neither, not when you've already got one of your own."

Simon blushed in embarassment, though he couldn't help the proud smile that split his face. Just in case there should be any passerbys, he shut the door to their room. Kaylee suppressed a giggle at her husband's antics as she began to unzip her coveralls.

"Now put away that gun, husband," said Kaylee, doing her best Zoe impersonation. "If I'da wanted a man what slept with a gun under his pillow, I would've shacked up with Jayne!"

"Please don't ever say that again," said Simon half-jokingly as he shuddered at the thought.

*****

Kyo clicked on the com after wiping off the camera. On the monochrome screen was a pretty face with boyish hair staring at him. For a moment he just gaped in amazement, and had to force himself to double-check the origin of the signal. There was no doubt about it, the signal was coming from their system. The message wasn't some old recording from before.

"Whisper," greeted Kyo fondly at his last steady employer prior to Serenity.

"Kyo," beamed Whisper in return. "Fancy meetin' you out here."

"I'd say the same, 'cept I'm thinkin' I know what brings you off the edge of the 'verse," smirked Kyo as he leaned closer to the camera. "Lookin' to cash in on the Bride?"

"Figures she'd be on your boat," chuckled Whisper with a shake of her head. "What're you plannin' on doin' with her?"

"Whisper, I've known you to be a smart girl," said Kyo seriously, and Whisper arched her brow at the compliment that sounded like the beginnings of an insult. "You gotta know this bounty's too good to be true."

"Well, sure I do, Kyo," grinned Whisper, likewise leaning closer towards the camera. "See, but I got me a plan to redeem on the full P60,000,000, or at least as much as I can manage. Take Saffron in to where a bounty's been offered, collect on what they got, then break her out without anyone seeing me, and start it all over again. Here're my coordinates. Why don't we meet up? 'Sides, I'm sure Captain Reynolds don't want her on his ship no more."

"Oh no, why wouldn't Mal want his blessed bride to stay on his ship," snorted Kyo as he reclined in the chair and propped up his boots on the console.

"Mal?" exclaimed Whisper in amazement. "The Captain fell for that duo-gong lian-pang, feng-mi du-su mu-niu de huang?"

"He didn't know, and she's very good," said Kyo in Mal's defense. "Anyway, we're due for Orion in two days. Rendezvous with us then and we'll pass her off. And I'm sure Jayne would love to say 'Hello.'"

"Don't know what you're talkin' about," said Whisper, who was not quite able to suppress her smile before she clicked off the com.

*****

River escorted Saffron none-too-gently to the dinner table that evening. Saffron barely remembered the girl from that first assembly where everyone found out about her marriage to Mal. She thought the girl might've been a passenger as she didn't see her on Bellerophon, but apparently things were otherwise. At first, Saffron thought she could've taken the girl easily, but there was something about her posture and look that said otherwise. So she let herself be led forcefully into an open chair at the middle of the table.

"Howdy, Alanna," greeted a somewhat familiar gravelly growl. Saffron turned her head to spy Jonah Hex placing down some salad onto the table with a smile. "Been a while, hasn't it? Heard you put some of them cooking tips I taught you to use."

"Well someone needed to show this crew how to cook," said Saffron snidely to Zoe, who she still owed for the sucker-punch. "Where is that cute blonde of yours anyway? Did he finally realize he married beneath him and run off with someone better?"

A terrible silence fell over the table, punctuated only by Kaylee's horrified gasp. Mal and Kyo immediately looked to Zoe, anticipating her flying across the table to put an end to Saffron with her bare hands. Zoe merely looked at Saffron for a long moment before she picked out a roll, and went along with her meal.

"Husband's dead," said Zoe mechanically. "Reaver's took him some months back."

Saffron realized her gaff just before Zoe spoke, and her mouth moved reflexively. "I--"

"Don't you dare!" warned Zoe, slamming one hand down on the table while pointing a spoon threateningly at Saffron with the other. There was an icy venom in her voice as such no one had ever heard before. Even Jayne felt some shiver as he watched Zoe. "My husband doesn't need condolences from one that don't mean it!"

Saffron was properly chastisized and lowered her head in compliance. She began to twist the napkin between her hands in her discomfort. A simple mistake like that should've never happened. It was so obvious even a first year Companion-in-training would've spotted it. Though she knew Hex's food to be some of the grandest in the 'verse, she felt no appetite for it at that moment.

"Two day's time we'll hit Orion," said Mal into the uncomfortable silence. "We'll be rendezvousing with an old friend of ours, a bounty hunter by the name of Whisper."

Inara's brow raised in amusement and Kaylee shot Jayne a beaming smile. Jayne swallowed hard and kept his eyes studiously fixed on Mal's face.

"Whisper? Wha-why we gotta meet with that--that--with her for?" wondered a stuttering, wrong-footed Jayne. Simon sat back in his chair with his arm draped around Kaylee's shoulders, thoroughly amused at Jayne's discomfort. It was a nice turn of events for a change.

"Well, Jayne," said Mal with a mischevious twinkle in his eye, "I know you and Whisper don't get along best as some, so how's about you stay away from the cargo bay when we conduct business?"

Kaylee's jaw dropped in silent amusement and Simon barely managed to suppress his snort of laughter. Even Zoe, with her head lowered and focused on her plate, gave a little quirk of a smile at her teasing Captain. Inara had to hide her face from Jayne, but Mal could clearly see the bright smile on her face. Their eyes met for a moment and Mal's smiled changed into a competely different one.

"Ah--well--uh--" stammered Jayne, who tried to recover by digging at his plate. "Sure, Mal, if that's--uh--if that's what you want. Yeah, I ain't ever wanted to see her again anyway. Just a ruttin' loud mouth that looks like a boy."

"Jayne is a girl's name," River reminded him, and Simon had to bury his face against Kaylee's neck to hide his laughter. Jayne scowled scathingly at her, but all he could do in retribution was to take a slice of roast off her plate and place it on his.

*****

"Been awful quiet tonight," remarked Mal once dinner was over. Everyone had left except for Mal, Saffron and Kyo--who would be taking watch for the night.

"Well, what's there to say, sweetie?" asked Saffron derisively, keeping her eyes studiously focused on the wall opposite her. "Seems you've made up your mind about turning me over to Durran."

"Haymer?" asked an intrigued Mal. "You reckon he's the man what stirred up the hornet's nest?"

"Considering I didn't have this bounty on my head until you left me in the trash, I'd have to say yes," said Saffron sarcastically, finally rolling her eyes to gaze at Mal. Mal could see the beginning of tears form in Saffron's eyes, and he felt the urge to roll his. She wasn't going to get him twice on the same ploy. "He'll kill me, you know? Not in the traditional, physical sense like you might, but worse. Durran's a bio-weapons expert, remember? He's got all sorts of things to play around with my head. Make me believe or feel anything he wants. Turn me into the perfect bride he thought I was."

"Seems like the Alliance's got a knack for that sorta treatment," said Mal lightly, but his eyes drifted over Saffron's head to Kyo.

"You don't have to turn me over, you know," said Saffron. Not begging--Saffron never begged--but a request dipped in the sweetest honey, complete with a bat of her eyes. "I won't make any trouble for you, not out here. I need your help to get this bounty off my neck, Mal."

"Help?" coughed Mal incredulously. "Woman you are--I mean after all you've... Why should I?"

"Because Durran might be after the Lassiter, and if he applies his loving caress to me I just might tell him all about Malcolm Reynolds," answered Saffron, twisting so that she sat sideways on the chair, with one elbow on the back and the other on the table. She crossed her ivory legs and let them rub together suggestively, all the while dangling her foot. She even went so far as to give Mal an eyefull of her chest when she rested her chin on her hand. "Speaking of the Lassiter..."

"It's gone," said Mal shortly, but he couldn't help the quirk of a smile that twitched his lips when Saffron's face fell for a moment. "We fenced it 'bout a month or so back."

"Well, then you won't mind letting me in on my cut," recovered Saffron with her smile back in place.

"Your cut now?" asked Mal, reclining a bit in his chair. "You forfeited you cut when you left me naked in the middle of the desert!"

Kyo gave a snort from the lounge and both heads turned towards him. He raised his hands up apologetically and resumed cleaning his Peacemaker. Under his breath he muttered, "Not like it's an uncommon occurrence for you to be doin', Mal."

"Another war buddy? Are you starting a collection?" teased Saffron in a friendly manner.

Mal shook his head at Saffron, but leaned forward conspiratorally all the same. "What's your game this time, Saffron? What's your angle?"

"No angle, Mal, I promise," said Saffron, unable to keep the laughter out of her voice. "I need help, protection, until I can think of a way out of this. You wanted to help me before."

"That was when I thought you were a naive, simple innocent," remarked Mal, leaning back against his chair again. "You, Saffron, are anythin' but. I ain't aimin' to be a human shield 'gainst the armies of enemies you've made. You're not a passenger, nor are you crew, so there ain't nothin' writ that says I gotta bend over back for you."

"But I'm your wife, bao-bei," whispered Saffron seductively with a roll of her exposed shoulders. "That has to count for something, and think of the good I'd be. I've got all sorts of assets you might like; I know how to handle a piece; I'm good with my tongue; I've got all sorts of contacts."

"Whoa, now!" said Mal hurriedly, leaping out of his chair like it was on fire as he stared at Saffron's wandering foot. "You--you--you just don't give up, do you?" he demanded in exasperation. Saffron let her head tilt to the right and arched her brow elegantly in reply.

Mal leaned against her again so that their noses were almost touching, this time with a face of grave severity. "Here's how it is, Saffron: No. Each member of my crew I can trust 'cause I know just where they stand, but you? Hell, I ain't even sure you know where you stand. You came to us lookin' for help? Fine, I can see that from your predicament. But it ain't ever even occurred to you to just ask, did it? No, you still gotta work your wiles on me."

He swore he could practically see walls close off in Saffron's eyes, and he knew he hit a sore spot from the jerkiness of her motion when she leaned back. Gave him a sense of satisfaction that dancing with Inara was paying off dividends with others.

"You would've said no," was all Saffron could say.

"But at least you would've been honest," said Mal before he walked away.

*****

They didn't arrive fast enough at Orion for Mal. Between Saffron locking herself in her little "cell," and Jayne being jumpy and extra surly on account of Whisper joining them soon, Mal had grown tired of their little family vacation. So it was with a face full of hope that he jumped up the stairs to the flight deck.

"Tell me she's here," Mal practically begged to Kyo and River. "Tell me we're there. Tell me somethin' good, please."

"We're not alone," said River ominously, and Mal felt his shoulders sag as Kyo chuckled silently in his seat.

"What's that?" asked Jayne uncomfortably over Mal's shoulder. "Wha--we got aliens or somethin' out there?"

"Or somethin'," agreed Kyo, checking the screens and opening the com. "Sparrow-class. Geez, I didn't think those things could make it all the way out here."

"Are you insultin' my ship? I didn't do that with yours!" demanded Whisper through a wave.

"You called my Wolfhound all sorts of unbecomin' names!" retorted an affronted Kyo. "Who taught you to fly, anyhow? Or you got a partner over there?"

Jayne's jaw clenched at the possibility of Whisper working with a partner. Thankfully everyone was standing or sitting with their backs toward him, so no one could see his tense anticipation. River knew it all the same though.

"No, no partner," laughed Whisper. "Learned off the Cortex. Downloaded the manual and, uh, pieced together all I could from what I remembered you doing. I mean, if you could do it..."

"Ha. Ha," said Kyo drolly. "Sparrow-class isn't compatible with Serenity. If either of us had a sleeve we'd be fine. Gonna have to take the shuttle."

"All right, then," was Whisper's reply. "I'll hold position 'til you get here."

"See you soon," promised Kyo before clicking off the com. "I'll get shuttle two--"

"I'll do it!" offered Jayne quickly, surprising Mal at his sudden volume.

"Rather have River on this," said Mal slowly, looking over the mercenary carefully. Part of him was joking, but only a small part. "River'll know if Saffron plans an escape, and she can handle her better'n you could."

"She's not," said River; her eyes unfocused as she stared at the black. "She's lost. She doesn't know what to do or where to go. Not yet, anyway."

"Well I know where she's goin'," said Mal with a sigh. He looked over at Jayne again, rethinking everything all over again after River's words. "All right, get shuttle two prepped. I'll be along with my...wife. You two keep an eye out for me. Don't want anythin' shootin' up my backside. That'd be all manner of uncomfortable."

"Mal," said Kyo, getting up to his feet and following him out the flight deck. "Really thinkin' you should be takin' me or River on this little venture."

"Don't be seein' the need myself," answered Mal without stopping, passing by Hex in the mess hall. Zoe was in the cargo bay with Inara, but that left Mal wondering where Kaylee and Simon could be. Kaylee wasn't in the engine room from what he saw. "We disabled the other bounty huntin' ship, launched the ghosts, we're clean; we're clear! Ain't got nothin' to worry 'bout 'cept my wife stabbin' us in the back."

Showcasing the twisted sense of humor the 'verse seemed to have in store for Serenity and her crew, Serenity rocked violently under a sudden impact. Kyo found himself thrown against Mal, who found himself knocked against the wall of the stairs. Mal avoided Kyo's pointed glare as they made their way back towards the flight deck.

"RIVER!" shouted Mal, announcing himself well before his feet hit the forward corridor.

"She said we weren't alone," muttered Kyo under his breath.

"Mal? Kyo? We got a problem," hissed Whisper, who had hailed them the moment of the attack.

"Problem? No, this seems like a shiny situation to me," said Mal sarcastically as Kyo jumped into the pilot's seat. "Seems to be just 'bout average in our lives."

"Ah, unregistered ship is firin' on us," reported Kyo as he examined the screens. "Custom ship from the looks of it. No compatible hits comin' up on the Cortex."

"Wouldn't be your sister, would it?" Mal frowned, thinking back on their run in with the Queen Esmeraldas.

"No, I think I would've said so," remarked Kyo somewhat tetchily. "Not a design I've seen before."

Mal peered at the screen that Kyo gestured towards and felt himself go stiff. The rounded, vertical ship brought all sorts of bad memories to the surface. His first instinct was to look at his little Albatross seated in the copilot's seat, only to find her staring right back.

"Early," said Mal in a voice full of restrained anger. He was starting to think it was too much of a kindness to just throw his body off Serenity after he'd heard what he threatened to do to Kaylee. Mal thought removing Early's helmet first would've been a better plan. "Kyo, keep us steady and ignore any hails he might send. Whisper, you got any weapons on that ship of yours?"

"I got a bitty cannon that's practically a party favor 'gainst that monster," answered Whisper as both ships moved to avoid another missile. "Bright side seems to be he's not aimin' directly at us. Probably doesn't know which one of us has the Bride."

"Well, we'll use that to our advantage," said Mal thoughtfully, even if he had no idea how that'd be so. "He can't chase the both of us, right? I mean, he's not that good is he?"

"Physically impossible to be two places at the same time," said River clinically.

"So we split up, and while he chases us Whisper can start firin' on him!" declared Mal, pleased to have come up with a plan on such short notice.

"Good plan, Mal," agreed Kyo with a polite, steady nod of his head. "Except, what're we gonna do if he chases Whisper? Ask him politely to stop and come after us?"

Mal glared at Kyo for a moment, but before he could say anything, Whisper chimed in, "That's not a bad idea, actually. We tell him the Bride's on your ship, he's sure to give chase."

"Yeah, because he really won't think we're lyin' to him," said Mal shortly. "River, you got yourself a plan?"

"No," said River with a slight smile, "but she does."

Mal and Kyo stared out the window in disbelief.

"Not again," groaned Mal.

*****

"If you two don't stop knocking my aim off, I will pull over right now and take you back to your gutted ship," threatened Jubal Early, turning around in his chair to glare at Jet and Spike crammed onto the small platform just below the pilot's chair. Both bounty hunters blinked innocently at Early, looking like squished sardines the way their shoulders were bent in; their pressure suits not helping the situation any. Spike even went so far as to blow a puff of smoke into Jubal's face.

Early shut his eyes when the offensive smell began to assault his nostrils, and when he opened them he also reached around to snatch the cigarette out of Spike's mouth. "You know what irony is, Spike? Irony would be me killing you with this cigarette you so love."

"How would that be possible?" asked Spike; his face contorted into a perturbed, yet hilarious, frown.

"I don't really know, but I aim to find out if you keep asking," was Early's short reply. "Seems rude to not answer your question, after all."

"How did we end up like this?" said a truly confused Spike to Jet, while removing yet another cigarette from the inside of his suit despite Early's warning.

Jet gave a very weary sigh as he shifted to alleviate the pressure off his injured leg. "Early needed parts from your Swordfish to get his ship running. You wouldn't let him, so the pair of you ended up in a rematch that almost took a whole day to get through. I finally came up with the compromise of Early getting the parts if he split the bounty with us."

"Oh," said Spike disinterestedly despite asking in the first place.

"Yeah, and what a bad idea that was," grumbled Jubal tetchily from his seat. "I swear, this job and that Tam girl makes the arsonist dwarf seem like a ninety-five pound bag of candy. You know, maybe you've got something about that woman theory."

"See," said Spike to Jet monotonously as he lit up the cigarette.

"Aw, hun, and I'm all sorts of sugary sweet," crooned a husky voice through Early's ship.

"Oh no, this is not happening again," said a severely disconcerted Early under his breath. "Woman, you best show yourself 'cause I'm not in the jolly mood to be dealing with this."

"Then I'll make it real easy for you," said the voice with a bit of a giggling lilt. "I'm headed straight for you."

"What?" said Jubal blankly.

Spike and Jet turned at each other simultaneously before they scrambled for the latch to the lower deck where the escape hatch was located.

*****

"What's she doin'? Why ain't she turnin'? Don't tell me that gorram woman's gonna crash my ruttin' shuttle!" demanded an increasingly agitated Mal. Angrily, he reached up and snatched the microphone from the com. "Saffron? Saffron, you best turn that ship 'round, dong-ma? That ain't the direction you wanna be headin'." In an undertone, he added to Whisper, "See if you can't blow up Early's ship 'fore they collide."

"On it," said Whisper before clicking off their wave.

"What's her plan, she's gotta have a plan," murmured Mal to himself like mantra, keeping the back of his right hand pressed thoughtfully against his lips. "She always has a plan. Altruistic ain't a word to be describin' her. River?"

"The cornered mouse will attack a cat," said River sagely.

"Mei-mei, Mal is right," said Inara, as all the crew save Kaylee and Simon crammed into the flight deck. Mal again wondered just where in the hell they've been through all this. "Saffron isn't the sort of person that would sacrifice herself like this."

"Thinkin' she might be partnered with the bounty hunters, sir?" asked Zoe sharply.

"But that just don't make no sense, Zoe, not 'less she robbd us blind," frowned Mal, who immediately looked towards Jayne after he'd spoken those words.

"I'll go check on the safe!" said the mercenary.

"I'll go check on Jayne checking the safe," assured Zoe, following Jayne down the corridor.

Everyone watched through the window as the shuttle kept getting closer and closer towards Early's ship. Early tried disabling the shuttle with laser fire, as it was too close for missiles to be non-lethal. Saffron was a very good pilot, however, and dodged most of the shots easily. Unfortunately, their acrobatics kept Whisper from getting a clear shot on Early's ship. Seeing the futility of this situation, Early tried to pull away, but Saffron stayed on him.

Kyo leaned forward as the terraforming crew's transport began to slide into view. They were hailing everyone, trying to figure out what was going on. He was about accept the transmission, but stopped at River's request through their link. Seeking out a reason, he gave her a quick look only to see that impish smile on her face.

"Mal? Baby?" came Saffron's voice through the com, and Kyo began to back his hand off the console.

"Saffron, you even think 'bout crashin' my shuttle into--"

"I'm sorry, Mal," said Saffron, cutting Mal's remonstration. "I know I don't have a--a place with you anymore, or with your crew. If--if I don't have a place with you, then I know I don't have a place anywhere in this 'verse. I won't even have a chance to make one with that bounty and Durran looking for me."

"Now that ain't so," interupted a frowning Mal. Saffron's voice was all articulate and pleading and earnest, just like it had been that first time. And just like then, it was working on a very reluctant him. "Just turn 'round and we can discuss things."

"Oh Mal," Saffron gave a watery laugh. "Don't ever change. I know you're saying that more out of concern for your shuttle, and I'm sorry that I'm using it for this. I suppose some things will never change, but you've got your Lassiter funds to buy a new one."

Mal was about to comment on that when Zoe charged back up the ramp. "Money's still here, sir. Only things missin', 'sides from our shuttle, are one of our pressure suits and her belongings."

"Pressure..." trailed off Mal blankly.

"Bye, sweetie," said Saffron moments before shuttle two crashed right into each other at full speed. There was no violent explosion, but both hulls were smashed into pieces. Bits of the ships spiraled around violently in the black, and Inara found herself turning away. A moment of silence passed over the flight deck while Whisper's vessel coasted through the wreckage.

"Mal, uh, I think you should know that there was a transmission sent from the shuttle to Whisper's ship," said Kyo, turning his chair to stare up at Mal.

Mal took a deep, controlling breath as he made a sour face towards the black. "Saffron?" he asked into the microphone. "Quit playin', woman, I know you're there. You're gonna owe me a new shuttle. Don't make me go over there to collect."

"Malcolm Reynolds, you just don't know when to quit! That's what I've always liked about you," came Saffron's voice over the com and all non-psychics rolled their eyes in complete exasperation. "Don't you know I'm dead? You can't collect on a dead woman."

"I ain't playin' here!" demanded Mal angrily. "You owe a shuttle! I'm gonna figure out someway to collect!"

"Look on the bright side, sweetie," said Saffron teasingly over the com. "At least me being dead means we're no longer married."

"Being hailed by Whisper again," said Kyo, flicking it on the screen.

"Looks like I've got some additions to my crew," smiled Whisper wryly on the screen. "Guess we won't need to rendezvous now. Sorry about your shuttle, Mal."

"Yeah, looks like we'll have to play catch up some other time," said Mal, leaning towards the camera. "Tell Saffron, or whatever name she's gonna go by now, that I expect payment for that new shuttle!"

"Will do, Mal," promised Whisper with a smile. "Give my regards to--well--everyone."

"I will," smirked Mal knowingly, closing off the transmission.

"Mal?" said Saffron, and Mal now knew it was through the suit's com. "See you, space cowboy."

The transmission went dead, and reluctantly Mal hung up his microphone. In all honesty, he didn't know what to think or feel as Whisper's ship flew away in the distance, taking Saffron with her. Part of him was betrayed that she'd done this plan using his own shuttle and not consulting him, but another part wanted to wish her the best.

"So, are we there yet?" came Kaylee's excited, yet hesitant voice from the forward corridor. Everyone turned around to look at her and Simon right behind her. Both looked particularly uncomfortable under the stone-faced scrutiny.

"You--ah--you missed a button, Kaylee," said Kyo helpfully from the pilot's chair.

*****

Whisper sighed as she turned around from the main console to look at the people assembled behind her. Jet Black was stretched out on the floor of the cramped cockpit, gently massaging his injured leg. Spike Spiegel leaned against the opposite bulkhead while he smoked nonchalantly. Lastly, her eyes rested on the Bride, who was teasing her ginger hair and inspecting it.

"I'm hopin' I didn't make a mistake in takin' y'all onboard," said Whisper flatly. "I know for one thing we ain't got the room for all of us."

"The Bebop's got room," remarked Jet in his gruff voice. "She's not working though."

"Well, we'll see if Silhouette's parts are compatible," said Whisper, folding her arms and crossing her legs as she looked squarely on the Bride. "Am I gonna have trouble with you, darlin'?"

Saffron thought it over for a moment. With the witnesses of the terraforming crew, along with the testimony of Whisper, Spike and Jet, that should be enough to convince everyone that the Bride was officially dead in a scuffle with Jubal Early. She'd be free again--honestly and truly free--to make a new start.

That's 'cause I got people with me; people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain't always lookin' for the advantage.

She smiled at Mal's words, thinking it wouldn't hurt to try. Besides, if she ever found herself in a similar situation like this, at least she'll have people to cajole into helping.

"No trouble from me," promised Saffron with a sly smile.

"Uh huh," said a thoroughly unconvinced Whisper. "Got a name you wanna be called? Or is 'Bride' fine with you?"

"Faye," answered Saffron without a moment's hesitation. "Faye Valentine. Do you think my hair would look better purple?"

*****

Everyone was crammed into the flight deck of Serenity so that they could stare out the window. Well, truthfully Kaylee'd dragged a reluctant Simon, while River stood alongside them. Everyone else didn't dare leave the flight deck for fear of Kaylee's wrath, but no one paid particularly close attention to the events outside.

"It's so shiny," beamed Kaylee with her mouth agape. Orion was a relatively small, icy, gaseous world in the early stages of terraforming. The majority of the terraforming crew stayed aboard the very large, bullet shaped transport. Only a handful actually ventured down to the planet in shuttles to check on the terraforming plants. The early stages, however, were the most visually impressive to see. On a planet like Orion, that made the view spectacular.

"Like Christmas," whispered River; her eyes sparkling just as bright as Kaylee's. From over the console, Kyo saw the world flash with a multitude of colors. Some were from the stations in operation, others were the storm clouds and gas pockets reacting to the change. It was a kaleidoscope of never before seen colors. They were witnessing the atmosphere being created, and soon after fresh water and vegetation if possible.

"Book were here, he'd probably say somethin' Biblical," murmured Jayne from the doorway.

"Probably," agreed Mal with a nod, just over the pilot's chair.

"Was it worth it?" whispered Inara into Mal's ear.

Mal turned his head slightly so that he could see her out the corner of his eye. "To see the two of 'em smile like that? Reckon so."

Inara smiled at his answer and laid a hand on the crook of his folded arm. They remained on the flight deck until it was time for Hex to serve dinner. Jayne took the opportunity to bolt down to his bunk. Why was anyone's question, except for River who bent over to give him some advice. Kaylee was tugged away by Mal, looking to fix a lecture on the Tams for their bedroom antics in the middle of a crisis. Zoe went to help Hex set the table, but Inara lingered behind.

"I got what you asked," said Kyo without turning his chair to see her.

"And?" asked Inara apprehensively.

Kyo gave a sigh and pushed himself out the chair. "Wasn't easy, y'know?" he mock-complained, coming around to stand next to her. Seeing Jayne disappear down his bunk, and River standing in the flight corridor to block any prying eyes, Kyo bent over to whisper the important facts he'd gleaned from Saffron's thickly webbed mind.

Inara's eyes widened in spite of her Companion training. She couldn't even raise her hand to stiffle the gasp of amazement that escaped her lips. There was no hiding the palor of her skin either.

"Are you sure?" demanded a breathless, frowning Inara.

"Positive."

"But--I-I've never heard of her, of that name, of anything," mused Inara; her mind spiraling out of control at the revelation dropped in her lap. "Not even a story about an exile like that, and those stories travel like wind with gossips."

"Well, I dunno what to tell you, Inara," shrugged Kyo tightly. "Just that...I might not know much 'bout the Guild and such, but I know nothin' good ever comes from a cover-up, and the more powerful the organization, the worse it usually is. Tread carefully, Inara, if you choose to report this to the Guild."

"I-I will," promised Inara distractedly. Kyo gave a curt nod before walking down the stairs to escort River to dinner.

That left Inara standing all alone, like the most exquisite statue, against the dawning of a new world. The irony was lost on Inara, as hers seemed to be falling around hers.

------

Author's Notes, Justifications, and...well...Excuses:

Obviously, huge anime references abound here, specifically to Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. Spike, Jet, and the Bebop, along with Saffron's new identity, Big Shot and the title (sheesh...) all come from Cowboy Bebop. The P60,000,000 figure comes from Trigun, along with concepts of New Sahara, Mei City, and her red hood. I used "P" because I have no idea what symbol would be used for platnium or credits. But I had to give my homages, since they're some similarities between the series.

Also, the line River says "The cornered mouse will attack a cat" comes from one of latter episodes of Trigun, and is followed by "That's because the mouse is seeking death in order to escape the pain," which fits with the scenario.

Personally though, I tend to think of Cowboy Bebop following along the lines of film-noir than western. Julia being the dangerous, mysterious woman. Spike's flashbacks. The style, the music, the shadows. It's all about film-noir. But then there are some western elements like...uh...Andy...*cough*

I'm sure it's not possible for Spike and Jet to survive like that in the cargo bay, but it's an homage to the episode "Heavy Metal Queen" where Spike floats around in asteroid without a helmet for his suit. All he does is plug his ears and hold his breath.

Anyway, I think Saffron and Faye are just near perfect mirrors of each other, and it amuses me to make one into the other.

"Never tell me the odds" is a Star Wars line.

The line Mal says to Zoe after the meeting, about being off the edge of the map and here be monsters, is not just from Pirates of the Caribbeans, but also that maps during the days of early explorers really did have monsters drawn at the edges of the map because they didn't know what were beyond. Also, the line Mal says to Zoe about Saffron not being one but Legion is a Biblical reference.

Mal shouting out "RIVER" near the end is a reference to the outtakes...where they'd shout out Summer's name after a blooper.

So, this went through major rewrites. Originally it was supposed to be Whisper capturing Saffron early on while being chased by Spike and Jet, but then that got things too confusing. It felt like I practically needed to write a whole new episode to explain everything in this one. Jubal Early was not in the original idea, simply because I was on the fence to whether he lived or died. In the end, I settled for him being alive since his ship actually flies off after River floats down. And we were supposed to have more Jayne/Whisper interaction. I suppose that might never come around.

The idea of Saffron being "pregnant" to hold all her possessions was inspired by what Jayne said, amazingly enough. In "The Message" where Jayne talks about Tracey having gold inside him...yeah...I thought it'd be cool if that might actually be the case. Which I think is much more humorous than my first idea of Saffron hiding in the fuel crates, ala "Trash," and popping up in surprise ala "Our Mrs. Reynolds."

Saffron and Jubal were hard to write for, and it didn't help that I put them in difficult and different situations. For one thing, Early is rushed on this job since he's got direct competition, so he shows off little of his nigh-psychic abilities. For another thing, Saffron is desperate and on the run, so she's got no grand scheme. Regardless, I tried to keep them true to character as much as possible.

Now, Kaylee and Simon sexing it up during the end is a gigantic cop-out, and I'll admit to that. But seeing as how I put Saffron and Jubal in the same story, there's no way I was going to make things more complicated by having the Jubal/Kaylee dynamic come into play right then. Saffron took precedence over Early in this story, and if Early survived...who knows? Maybe Kaylee'll have her shot to get even one day. 'Sides, Kaylee's hot and I'm comfortable enough in my heterosexuality to say Simon's a pretty man, so why can't they have sex so great they can't tell if a battle's going on?

Whisper's plan to collect on the bounty is from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Same scheme Blondie and Tuco do in the beginning of the film.

Jayne's rushing to his bunk at the end because he's disconcerted/jealous of Whisper now having crew. River is giving him advice on the matter because she noticed it the first time around.

Writing this almost makes me want to do a spin off with Whisper, Jet, Spike and Saffron as the new crew of Bebop.

COMMENTS

Thursday, March 30, 2006 5:17 PM

LEIASKY


Excellent, excellent installment.

Kaylee missing a button made me laugh outloud. No reason to defend yourself for insinuating the two were sexin' it up for a change.

Always happy to see a new story from you. Keep 'me coming!

Thursday, March 30, 2006 5:35 PM

CANTONHEROINE


There are always too many beautiful little touches in these stories to comment on all of them, but for some reason, this one stood out to me:
"I'll go check on the safe!" said the mercenary.
"I'll go check on Jayne checking the safe," assured Zoe, following Jayne down the corridor.
Such a perfect in-character moment.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 6:54 PM

ANONYMOUS


Oh...one has to love cross overs, especially when it's the crew of the Bebop;) And Trigun! Where's Vash to mess up River and Kyo's abilities?

Shiny bit of fic you have here, Geek. Can't wait for the next episode.

BEB

Thursday, March 30, 2006 9:31 PM

CHOO1701


Really nice.

and zoe's comment was spot on :)

SO we have a new crew wandering around the 'verse....and a possible spin - off :D

Really liking your series!!
NOW JUST TELL US WHAT KYO SAID TO INARA!!!!!

Friday, March 31, 2006 6:17 AM

GUYWHOWANTSAFIREFLYOFHISOWN


and so I wait with baited(i guess thats how it's spelled) breath for the next installment



p.s. I agree with choo1701

Friday, March 31, 2006 8:24 AM

ANA


Whoo-pee! A perfect start to my weekend. As always, I'll be back with feedback when I finish the thing.

Friday, March 31, 2006 12:28 PM

ANONYMOUS


Okay, so what did Kyo tell 'Nara??? Really liking this series!

Friday, March 31, 2006 4:44 PM

ANONYMOUS


Oh oh oh...I'm in geek heaven. Two of my favorite shows, all wrapped together so nicely. Saffron as Faye....perfect. Now I really want to know what Kyo found...is Saffron stranded from the past like Faye? Is Blue Sun or the Alliance to blame? Was she some kind of pre-companion decades ago? More more more.....

naiad


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