A Chance for the Black
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ever wonder how an excited young mechanic talked her folks into letting her go off on her own?



"Don't leave without me!"

Kaylee Frye raced through the ship, bounced down the loading ramp, and took off across the repair yard. Her heart was already racing just from excitement, so she had to pull up short to catch her breath before she was even halfway to where the old Wren Class transport was grounded. Just as well, anyhow. She had to do some quick thinking.

She couldn't believe her luck. Ship's mechanic! And on a good, solid 03 Firefly, too. That would make things easier. With Daddy, anyhow. But Mama, though...

She found herself breaking into a trot, having to hold herself back, breathe regular. That captain, now. He seemed real nice, and he'd offered her the job right quick when she'd figured out the problem with his reg couple. Like that was any kind of trick! She could've done as much when she was ten. Raised to it, you could say, what with Daddy running this little repair station on this dinky little moon since she couldn't remember when. And to think, if she hadn't took up with that cute mechanic, she never would have gone on board, and if the cap -- Mal, that's what Bester'd called him -- if he hadn't come along right at that moment, why, she might have been stuck here till the whole 'verse froze up!

And she might easily have never took up with him at all. That huan mate on the Wren had caught her eye first, and it was only when Bester'd offered to show her his engine room that she'd gone with him. And that had cost him his job, she thought, giggling. At least, it would, if she could only talk her folks into letting her go.

They just had to let her go!

There sure weren't nothin' on this moon to keep her. The boys here were nothin' but dirt poor country hicks, and she knowed 'em all close as brothers. She wasn't going to marry any of them, nohow. About all there was to look forward to was helpin' her Daddy run the yard until he got too old to do it anymore. But out there...

Out there in the black...

Well, out there, who knew what could happen to a girl! She had to go. She had to!


Daddy had his whole front half buried in the Wren's thruster pod when Kaylee rounded the fuel depot and caught sight of him. She had to bite her cheek to keep from hollerin' out to him. That wouldn't do no good when he was so deep into his work, and the last thing she could afford to do now was get him annoyed at her. Worse, the skipper of the Wren was hoverin' around, watchin' him work and lookin' real impatient. Kaylee didn't much care for female ship's captains. Oh, not that they didn't have their good points, but they always seemed sort of... pushy.

"Ah! Got it," her Daddy's voice said from deep inside the engine. "Alls you need is a new igniter. Should have it in stock." He was wriggling his way back out now, and a moment later was straightening up and telling the lady captain, "Won't even cost you much. Maybe thirty creds, parts and labor?" It was a negotiation, not a price. Kaylee had seen it a hundred times. He'd be lucky if he got twenty for the job, but even so that would be a good profit. Her Daddy wasn't no dai zi.

Kaylee kicked impatiently at the hard-packed dirt. She could hardly hold herself back from going right up and interrupting. Her heart was still pounding like she was running full out. That Captain Mal, he wouldn't up and leave, would he? Now that his ship was fixed? He wouldn't be the first to play foul with her, promise her the whole 'verse to get what he wanted. She couldn't hardly understand folks who did things like that. Somebody must have hurt them real bad sometime, she thought.

At last, Daddy and the captain were shaking hands, and then she was walking off toward the barracks they kept for ships' crews to use. Not that there's been many to use 'em lately, this far off the main routes. It'd been a real long time since they'd had two boats in the yard at the same time, and that was only because the Firefly'd been nearby when her reg couple went out, and Bester'd mistook it for a bad grav boot. What a lucky chance for her!

Well, it was now or never. Kaylee practically skipped up to her father. His face bloomed into a grin when he saw her. "Didn't think to see you for some while, girl," he chuckled, wiping the grease from his hands. "Wasn't you with that mechanic feller from the Firefly?"

Kaylee nodded, blushing a little. Couldn't have no secrets in a little place like this. Another reason she had to go!

"Got news, Daddy," she said breathlessly. "Real big news!"

"Well, ain't that grand? What is it? Not gettin' hitched, are you?" It was a running joke between them. Daddy knew how she felt about the local boys, so anytime she took up with some ship's crewman he made sure to kid her about getting married and going off with him.

But Kaylee had no time for foolery now. "No, Daddy." She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "Got me a job!"


"Job?" Daddy's brow got that funny knot in the middle. "What job?"

"On that Firefly. Mechanic. Me, ship's mechanic!" Kaylee's heart was pounding.

Daddy's mouth dropped open. "Huh! So you think to be going off with that boy, then."

Kaylee shook her head. "Nope. The captain, he fired him and hired me instead."

"Now what would he go and do something like that for?"

"'Cause of how I fixed his ship, is why." Kaylee couldn't hide her grin. "That Bester didn't even know as to pull out a bad reg couple, but I did, and she started right up."

Daddy nodded wisely. "Pretty simple, that. Still, it was good, you seein' it. You always did have a knack for this work." He gave her a hard look. "So, you really think he's serious, this captain? About takin' you on, I mean?"

"Well..." Kaylee thought back on those few jing-tsai minutes in the engine room. "Yeah, I think so."

"And you think you're going to up and go, just like that?"

Kaylee thought her heart was going to bust right out of her chest. "Oh, please, Daddy. You know how much I want to get off this rock. Please say yes, please!"

Daddy laughed, not unkindly. "Steady on, girl. What do you know about this boat, and the captain, and the rest of the crew?"

"Well..." This time Kaylee had to stop and think. "Only that she's a nice ship, nicest Firefly we've had in here for ages. She's an 03, with the extenders. She ain't new or nothin', of course, but she's got... character."

"And you been over her? Checked her out? Made certain sure she's spaceworthy?"

Kaylee kicked her toe in the dirt of the repair yard.

"And the captain? Who is he, what's his experience? Been flyin' through any wormholes, has he?"

"Oh, Daddy, you know there ain't no such thing as..."

"Tyen shiao-duh, girl! You know what I'm sayin'. What do you know about these people?"

Kaylee's face fell. "Well... not so much, I s'pose. I mean, he seems real nice, and he needs me."

Daddy was watching her close. He knew his daughter as well as he knew anybody, better even than Mama. He knew she had good instincts about people, most times. But she could get carried away, as young people were like to do. And Daddy knew that there were all kinds of folk out in the black, folk the like of which his sweet little girl had never dreamed of. He gave a little harrumph, then said, "All right, let's see what we can find out."


The yard office was no more than a shack built of old scrap, mostly the cockpit of an old colony transport, but it had room enough and it kept the rare, violent rains off their heads. Daddy led Kaylee inside and flopped into the only chair.

"Let's see what the Cortex has to tell us," he said.

First thing, he pulled up their own records. No ship got service in his yard without he took down her hull number and other particulars. "Hmm, yah. Firefly class transport, Serenity. Odd name, that is. Captain listed as one Malcolm Reynolds, mate Zoe Alleyne. Well, seems as if there's another woman on board, any road."

Kaylee's heart leapt. Another woman, he'd said. She was as good as on the crew already!

Daddy pasted the ship's hull number onto the Cortex and waited for the search. "Right. Well, she's only been in service for a few months here lately. Seems she was in a salvage yard prior, been there, um, five year or so. Looks like she got dumped there right after the war. Dunno, Kaylee, bad things happen to a ship as sits that long."

"She really don't look so bad, Daddy. I mean, it was only that reg couple brought 'em in here at all."

"Mmm, and her thrusters must be in good order or she'd'a never made it down." Daddy turned back to the Cortex. "Reynolds. Reynolds. Not much in here on the man, 'cept what's on his registration ticket. Only been a ship's captain since he bought this one, looks like. Inexperienced. Man's probably a veteran, going by the birth date. Says he comes from Shadow." Daddy frowned deep. "Or did, rather. Nobody comes from Shadow these days. Not since..."

Kaylee was silent. Everybody knew what happened to Shadow back in the war. Alliance had made a real good example of them.

"Kaylee, what do you make of a man says he comes from a world as nobody comes from?"

Kaylee felt a knot in her throat, tried to swallow it. "Daddy... please..."

Daddy leaned back, looking hard into her eyes. He said nothing for a long time, and Kaylee thought sure he was trying to decide how to tell her no. At last he spoke.

"It's this way, Kaylee. You're all grown now, mostly. You've had all the schoolin' you can get around these parts. You can make up your own mind, and I got no right to force you, one way or t'other. Best I can do for you is tell you how things look to me, and you can make what you will of that. Thing is, though, you ain't seen much of this 'verse beyond this here moon... that's my fault too, I suppose. There's lots of bad out there in the black. Some good too, I don't deny, but maybe not so much as the bad. I can't say as I'm sure you're ready for that.

"Still... maybe a taste of the big wide world is just what you need right now. So, I'll go down to the Firefly with you and we'll look her over together, talk to this man Reynolds. And if I don't see nothing that's like to kill you quick, I'll give you my green to go."

"Oh, Daddy!" Kaylee wrapped him in her arms and hugged him like to crush his ribs.

"Steady, little girl, steady. I said I'd give you leave. But Mama, now that's another thing altogether."


Whenever she thought back on that day, Kaylee had a real hard time with those next few minutes. Daddy'd walked with her to the fuel station where they'd found Mama working the sums after topping off the Wren's tanks. That part she remembered good, 'cause she'd been looking around at all the familiar sights and thinking how she might never see them again for a long time. After that, though, the memories got squishy, always flittering away when she tried to conjure them.

It was the hurt that made them hard to ken. Mama's tears when Daddy told her, and some of the things that were said, those were things Kaylee didn't ever like to think on. Mama had called her some names that weren't so nice. Kaylee had been near frantic, thinking that any moment that Firefly could boost out and leave her stuck forever on this mudball. And she'd said -- oh, her mind just veered away from those things she'd said back to Mama. She'd learned something that day, all right, and it wasn't a thing she'd ever wanted to know. She'd learned that it was only the people you really loved that you could ever really hurt.

The longer it'd gone on, the more frantic Kaylee'd gotten with worry that the Firefly would just rise up behind them and zoom off, taking her dreams with it. Couldn't Mama see how important this was?

In the end neither Kaylee nor Mama could find no more words to say, and they both stood there, not meeting each other's eyes and with shaking shoulders and weeping tears enough to settle all the dust on that whole moon, or near enough.

To Kaylee's surprise, it was Daddy who'd taken them both in hand and eased things. "You and I both knowed this day would come, sooner or later, now didn't we Mama?" he'd said. "One way or t'other, our little girl was bound to leave this place. Now maybe we'd hoped for something a little better for her, maybe a place at one of them fancy colleges in the core. But how could that ever happen when we couldn't give her no better schoolin' than what that Miss Primson could provide, and we couldn't afford more than the basic Cortex link?"

Mama had blinked the wet from her eyes and given Kaylee a look like to break her heart. Her words were almost a whisper. "She's so young, Papa. She can't go out there all by herself."

"It ain't quite like that, though, is it?" Papa had said. "There's the captain and mate and pilot to look after her, any Firefly's got that much crew at least. Maybe a cook, too -- this boat have a cook, Kaylee?"

Kaylee had just shrugged.

"Well if there ain't, don't you let them rope you into doin' the cooking too, you hear? Your job's mechanic, and that's work plenty for anybody."

"Papa!" Mama had given him a look like he'd just chopped off her hand. "Oh, Papa... Kaylee!" And then she'd broken down again, but this time it seemed different, like she'd finally given up, had accepted that there was no way to hang on to her baby daughter forever, like any mama wants to.

And so it was that, no more than a half hour after she'd run down that loading ramp, Kaylee and her Daddy had walked back up it, where the captain of the Firefly stood waiting and looking impatient.


"Mr. Frye," Mal Reynolds said, answering Daddy's handshake firmly and looking him square in the eye. "Talented girl you got here. How'd she come to know so much about engines?"

Daddy didn't smile. "Born with a wrench in her hand. But if you'll excuse my being blunt, there's a few things I need to get square with you."

"Fair enough. There's things we both need to know. I expect you want to see whether this boat can hold air long enough to get from here to Paquin. Like to walk about with me?"

"Conjure I would."

"Start outside or in?"

"Engine room. Always start with the power plant."

"Right. 'Spect you know your way around a Firefly."

"I do," Daddy said. They worked their way back and up. Daddy sniffed a bit when he saw the grimy state of the engine compartment, but what he said was, "Well, at least it ain't a Capissen 38. Too many of these boats got fitted out with that piece of gos se."

"So I've heard," was all the captain had to say.

Daddy shut down the engine and had a good look at the place where Kaylee had done her repair. He made no comment, though he gave Kaylee a quick glance and wink. After that he prowled around awhile, opening equipment boxes to check wiring and pulling up deck gratings to see if there was anything leaking from the hydraulics. He picked a hefty drive spanner out of a tool box and started whanging it against the piping that ran along the compartment walls. Malcolm Reynolds raised an eyebrow.

"Checking for corrosion in the cryo lines," Kaylee explained. "We seen a lot of those give way on these Fireflys, but not usually the 03's."

The captain gave a grunt. "Good to know."

So it went, from stern to bow, with Daddy checking all the weak places he knew of, places where a Firefly was like to break down. Each time Kaylee explained to Captain Reynolds what he was doing and why. It wasn't too long before a grin got started on the captain's face, and slowly got broader.

About the only places Daddy didn't check were the passenger cabins and the heads. Kaylee figured he didn't think those were exactly critical. On the bridge, Daddy ran every diagnostic check the computers knew of, and even spun up the thrusters as high as they could go sitting on the ground. Then he sealed up the main lock and raised the air pressure till their ears popped, and left it that way for ten minutes while the diagnostics finished up. And he started asking questions, not about the boat, but about the crew.

"To be plain, Mr. Reynolds," he said, "I have my reservations about a skipper who's got so little experience. That is, if I can trust what's said about you on your ticket."

"You can. It's true I ain't been a ship's captain for long. Might have some other experience with command that stands me well, though."

"Tell me about that."

"Just as soon not."

That brought Daddy up short. "That a fact?"

"Let's just say it's not a time I choose to think on overmuch."

"Well then, what of the rest of your crew? How many, what experience?"

Reynolds listed the mate, Zoe -- "Been with me for years, seems like the other half of me sometimes" -- and pilot, one Hoban Washburne. "He's a fine flyer. Formal pilot training, plenty of experience. He went to town for supplies, him and Zoe. Probably be back 'fore nightfall if you care to meet 'em. And, of course, there's Bester. Was, I should say. Thought he was some kind of expert, once."

"Man's reputation is a funny thing. Most often it's worse than the man himself, but sometimes it works the other way."

"And sometimes, what you see is just what you get."

Daddy gave the captain a hard look. "Sometimes," he agreed. He checked that the pressure was holding, nodded, then vented it down to unity and cracked the main doors. "No cook, then?"

"No. We each one see to our own meals."

Daddy shot Kaylee a knowing scowl. "Let's have a look over the outside."


They walked around the ship. Daddy checked the landing gear, peered into the thrusters, frowned over the VTOL rig and buffer panels. Kaylee was practically hopping from one foot to the other.

"Just what is it you haul on this boat, Mr. Reynolds?" The question sounded innocent enough, but Kaylee knew that voice. She held her breath.

"Whatever's needful, Mr. Frye. You know how it is with an independent transport. You pick up a cargo that's cheap in one port, but you think's worth a good sight more elsewhere. Then you go there and try to find a buyer. Then you do it all over again."

"Mmm. Hah. Independent, that's the thing." Daddy ran his hand along the hull. He glanced at the captain. "Don't suppose you pay much attention to such law as you run across out here on the rim."

Cap'n Mal didn't flinch. "Where there's law enough to notice, I keep on the right side of it. Maybe not far this side, sometimes."

"Well. A rogue, but an honest rogue, then. But that won't impress the Alliance none."

"I got no beef with th'lliance. Long as they go their way and let me go mine, it's shiny."

"'Cept, the Feds don't always let folk like us go our own way. Ain't that what the war was about?"


Daddy wheeled on Mal. Kaylee held her breath.

"Don't suppose you were in the war, then, eh? Never heard of no battle on Hera, place called Serenity Valley?" Daddy was looking at the captain intently. "Serenity, like you named your boat?"

Mal was silent for a heartbeat, two, three. "Heard of it." The captain had a funny look on his face. "Don't seem to make much of a difference now, though."

Daddy looked deep into Captain Reynolds' eyes for a moment. Then he nodded.

"Kaylee, you best run and get your gear together. Only what you really need, now. No room to spare on a spaceship."


The house was just off the edge of the repair yard, hardly far enough out to be clear of the thruster blast, especially from one of the bigger ships. Kaylee covered the ground in world record time. The door slammed back as she ran in and down the hall to her room.

What to take? Nothin' but what's most needful. She dug out her duffel and started throwing in clothes, mostly coveralls and underthings. Wouldn't be no call for pretties on board the ship. Not that she had much in the way of pretties anyway. It only took a few seconds to pack up what clothes she wanted. Then she stopped and took a breath, and cast her eyes around the room. What else?

Tools. Daddy always told her, have your own tools and know 'em like your own two hands. Kaylee's tools were at the yard. She could pick them up on the way back. What else? She glanced at her table. There were some of her old toys there, a few precious things from her childhood days. Not much good to her now. Still, she looked them over, and finally settled on her stuffed bear and a set of jacks. They went into the duffel.

She paused at the door, turned and looked back. Nothing left here, nothing but... Kaylee ran back in and unhooked her hammock, bundled it up and crammed it into the sack. No tellin' how the bunks on that ship would be, and anyhow there might be a good place to sling it close to the engine, where she could keep an eye on things. Was that all? Yes. This time she left her room and didn't look back.

But when she got to the door of the house, Mama was there. She'd stopped crying, but she looked like she was just about to bust out again any moment.

"Kaylee," she said.

Kaylee dropped her duffel and fell into Mama's arms. She'd never, ever been hugged so long nor hard. But just when it seemed Mama'd never let her go, she did. For a moment she held her at arm's length and gazed at her. Finally she sniffed and wiped her face real quick.

"Now then, Miss Kaywinnet Lee Frye. You take real good care of that spaceship."

"I will, Mama."

"And you make sure you eat good and stay away from the rough bars and get your innocs before you hit planetside and stay out of trouble and be a good girl and do what your captain says..."

"I will, Mama. Promise."

Suddenly Mama's face went all crinkly and she was crying again. "You send us a wave every week so we knows you're all right."

This time, all Kaylee did was kiss her. "Got to go now, Mama. They're waitin'."

"All right." Mama pressed a little packet into her hand. "First hodgeberries come in."

"Thanks, Mama." Kaylee's eyes danced against her mother's, then she caught up the duffel and ran for the field.

When she got back to the Firefly with her sack and toolbox, Daddy was still there talking to the Cap'n. Just as she came up to the cargo ramp, Bester appeared, looking pretty blue. He was toting his duffel and heading down the ramp. Kaylee gave him a crestfallen look. "Sorry," she said as he passed her.

For a moment he paused and glared at her. Then he shrugged and grinned. "Aw, hell, that's okay. Plenty of ships out there that need a genius mechanic." He strolled off, whistling tunelessly.

Kaylee climbed on up into the cargo hold. Daddy was talking real soft and earnest, but Kaylee couldn't make out much. She could guess well enough, though. He'd be lecturing him on how he expected him to take extra good care of his little girl, and letting him know just what would happen if he didn't. Captain Reynolds was showing a real serious face, but Kaylee could see he was having trouble to keep from laughing.

As she walked up, Daddy turned on her. "And you, young lady. You better behave yourself, hear? Else I'll come after you and tan your little behind."

"Oh Daddy, you ain't done that for years."

"Well, I can always start again." And then she was in a bear hug, and he was patting her back and she was thumping his, and she was burying her face in his chest and smelling the engine grease on his coveralls, and he was stroking her hair. And when that was over, he looked right at her and told her, "Keep an eye on the actuators for that port thruster, look a bit dodgy. And you make sure you pick up a spare catalyzer first chance you get. You know it'll be running hot now you pulled out the reg couple. I'd give you one now if we had one, but we don't and there ain't no way to get one in for a week yet and..."

"I know, Daddy. I'll see to it right off."

"That's my girl." Daddy gave her arms one last squeeze, glared at Mr. Reynolds again, then tromped down the ramp. Kaylee stood by her captain and watched her father walk off across the dusty yard.

"Well, Miss Kaylee," said Mal Reynolds, "Is this ship green to fly?"

"Sure is, Cap'n."

"Well then. Here comes the mule with the rest of our crew. Think you're ready to do this?"

Kaylee Frye looked out across the repair yard that had been the only home she could remember. For a moment there was a deep, thick hurt in her heart. Then she turned away, turned to look in toward the cargo hold and the rest of her new home.

"Yes, Cap'n. I'm ready." She patted the edge of the airlock door. "And so's my girl."


Thursday, July 20, 2006 3:02 PM


aww, that was real sweet! Very nice.

Thursday, July 20, 2006 11:45 PM


I loved this, would really have loved to have known exactly what Kaylee's papa said to the Captain while she was off getting her things from home. Very well written and felt like canon. Excellent! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, July 21, 2006 7:01 AM


Especially impressive on the dialogue and hence the whole feel of the thing.

Friday, July 21, 2006 11:35 AM


Gotta love Kaylee-joining-the-crew fics!

Smashing job, DonCoat! Would it be too much to ask for a sequel, where Kaylee starts interacting with Zoe and Wash?


Thursday, August 3, 2006 5:49 AM


My FAVORITE part of the series has a backstory!!

I'm in HEAVEN!

Well-written - you captured them so perfectly. Two thumbs up!

Thursday, August 3, 2006 3:51 PM


You know, I'd always wondered what was said between Kaylee and her folks as Mal told Bester "I really don't." Now I know! Thanks for this.

Friday, August 4, 2006 12:43 PM


If you wanted tears, you got'em! Kaylee's on her way!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006 7:57 AM



Thursday, August 17, 2006 5:32 PM


oh my goodness. this is the best Kaylee fic. ever.
You have her voice spot on. And for a man I've never 'met' I fell in love with Kaylee's Pa. And Mal! Freshly hurt from Hera, he was so perfect! And the catalyzer (hurt my heart) damn ironies.
I could go on for ages. You wrote one amazing story.


Sunday, August 20, 2006 7:41 AM


Great story: well written and very true to our BDHs characters.
I particularly loved that her Father was more concerned about checking out the ship to make sure Serenity is space-worthy. For one thing, he probably knew you could tell a lot about a man by the ship he flies!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006 8:32 AM


Gosh, Don - this feels like a missing scene. Very, very good. The voices are spot on.
Yikes. Another author I need to keep track of! (grinning)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:15 PM


This is the first piece of the fanfic I've read. It's encouraging to see such good dialgue and characterization.

I agree with Mavourneen. This is like a newly found, deleted scene. Very shiny indeed.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 11:43 AM


Oh my goodness.
I'm sorry I missed this before.

It's great stuff.

I like to read fanfics much like the ones I write- pretty short, and this is a bit longer than I usually read, but that's a problem with me, not your work.


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A Chance for the Black
Ever wonder how an excited young mechanic talked her folks into letting her go off on her own?