Those Left Behind Ch6
Friday, June 4, 2004

Uninvited Guests


A/N: For disclaimers, see Ch1. Sorry for the delay btw chapters, but RL seems intent on quelching the plot bunnies. Thanks to Neroli for a terrific beta and to everyone else for their feedback.

Chapter 6: Uninvited Guests Chinese Glossary Ta ma duh – motherhumper Ta-ma-de hwu dan – mother humping son of a bitch Liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze – salivating son of a bitch and a monkey Guai – devil


"Everything go smoothly?" Zoe inquired as Mal joined her and Wash on the bridge.

"No problems. Monty wants to think a bit before he commits though," Mal told her. "You?"

Wash held up the bag of platinum that was sitting on the map console. "We got paid."

"Good, look's like everything is in order then. Inara?" Mal asked.

"Simon's 'friends' left instructions. We're to meet them on Station C6 at the Dancing Ship Saloon in three days," Zoe supplied.

"Gorramit," Mal cursed. "That's barely a stone's throw from the Core. That place is crawling with Alliance."

"Adds to the excitement of the matter, doesn't it?" Wash quipped. Mal just glared at him in response.

"I already talked to Kaylee. She's going to rig a video link so that Simon can stay on the ship," Zoe explained.

Mal shook his head as he walked off to his bunk. "If'n only she could do that for all of us."


"Is she asleep?" Mal asked Simon as he entered the kitchen to join the rest of the crew.

Simon just rolled his eyes. Mal's paranoia about River's abilities had only increased since he had made his decision to attempt to help her. If the man had his way, River would stay comatose until the entire scenario was over and done with, he thought to himself. "Yes, she should be unconscious till morning," he answered scornfully.

"Good," Mal replied, clearly ignoring Simon's tone. Boy was going through a lot. He could make the occasional allowance, he supposed. "Now then, anyone here that hasn't caught on to what we're planning to do?" Mal asked the rest of the crew as he continued to pace at the head of the table. Receiving no response, he continued while making sure that he made eye contact with each person seated around the table. "If anyone has second thoughts as to whether they wish to participate, we'll be docking at Station C6 tomorrow afternoon. This mission won't be smooth and I can't promise we won't be royally humped for a long while after it. Anyone wants to leave, won't be no hard feelings or judgments. Just let me or Zoe know and keep your mouth shut about the plans if ya don't mind."

Simon struggled to not laugh at the Captain's speech. After all his high handed talk about good men not having a choice, the man was trying to talk the entire crew out of helping. Suddenly, Simon had to bite his lip as he envisioned the Captain's face when he realized he had no pilot or mechanic with which to attempt his rescue. The man and his first mate might be insane, but the rest of the crew? Not so much, he thought.

"As awe-inspiring as this little pep talk is, perhaps we could get to the actual plan?" Wash suggested. Okay, well most of the crew weren't crazy, Simon amended.

"Right. Kaylee, how's the video feed coming?" Mal asked the mechanic.

"Works great Cap'n. Tested it this afternoon with Inara and Jayne," she answered with a proud smile. "Course, I may need to make a few adjustments tomorrow. The station will have a lot more interference than Serenity." The Captain raised his eyebrow at her answer clearly not pleased with the suggestion.

"Not to worry Mal. Simon has given us full descriptions of all the men he met with. If necessary, I should be able to pick out our contact," Inara assured the group.

"Course all this is worthless if they send a fella the doc ain't met before," Jayne stated.

Mal glared at the mercenary. "No need to go borrowing trouble at this juncture. Our schedule ain't set in stone," he stated before turning back to Inara. "You're clear on what to say and the like?"

Inara nodded. "Shepherd Book and I know our parts. We'll have no problems."

"Okay. Once you two know who the mark is, give the signal. Zoe and I will have our eyes on you. We'll start scouting for the man's backup and pick up his trail once ya'll are done," Mal outlined.

Book raised his hand. "And then what Captain? We do need the good graces of these men to accomplish the task."

Zoe answered before Mal could snap at the shepherd. "We're aware of that Preacher. However, it will be difficult and dangerous to go into all of our needs in a public setting."

"So we'll arrange a private meeting that's convenient for us," Mal finished. "Not very Christian, but it gets the job done. Jayne, you clear on your part?"

"Yeah," the other man grunted.

"Then tell it to the group," Mal growled.

"I stay put on the ship unless Zoe tells us there's more'n one other guy," Jayne offered sullenly.

Mal nodded. "Fine then, any questions? Okay, let's get some sleep then."


Inara glanced around the saloon as the Preacher went to the bar to get them both some drinks. They had taken great pains to dress in average clothing, but she was beginning to wonder if they had gone far enough in their attempt to blend in. All around them, people from very different walks of life mingled easily in the boisterous mix of humanity in the bar. Everyone except for her and book, she thought to herself. She glanced up when she felt a hand on her elbow.

"Don't look so worried dear, people will think we're hiding something," Book told her as he handed her a glass. She raised an eyebrow at the parasol-ed drink. Book just smiled. "Has it been so long since you've been one of the average people?"

She started to settle into her character now that she wasn't alone at the table. Normally, she didn't like to talk about her past before joining the Guild. People often wondered what would make a child agree to join such a profession at the young age required to be accepted for training. Inara had always detested those who presumed to judge her or her family. "A lifetime ago it seems sometimes and others, it's as if I left yesterday."

Book nodded. "It can be difficult to determine if the path we chose is the one we should have taken."

She tilted her head as she scanned the crowd behind her companion. "There is something to learn from all the paths we travel and in the end, they ultimately take us to the same place." She raised her hand before he could answer her again. "There he is, he's talking to the bartender."

"Zoe sees him," Book stated as he saw Zoe give him a hand signal. "Now it really starts."

"Indeed, at least for us." Inara looked up pleasantly when the man she had spotted appeared at Book's elbow. He was about Simon's height, but a little lankier in build if that was possible. "Good to see you cousin. I'm glad you had time to meet with me on such short notice."

"As if I would miss seeing my favorite cousin and her new husband," the man answered as he leaned to kiss Inara's cheek. "I must say, he's not what I expected."

"Well, my ex was so much younger than I. I felt that a more traveled and experienced man would be a better fit. Like you used to say Sal, the right marriage is like the right glove," Inara explained. They had been worried that the contact would not meet with them if Simon was absent, but Mal had felt that the man should be smart enough to figure out that a wanted fugitive on a station so close to the core was asking for trouble. Unlike the stations on the outer rim, this one sported security cameras in every conceivable location.

Sal sat down between Inara and Book. His blonde hair was shoulder length and somewhat shaggy, enough so that it fell forward often to obscure his face. Inara wondered if he really liked the style or if it was convenient to prevent a good picture of his face. His clothing indicated that he was just a class below true wealth, that or his conspirators had enough money to provide him with an expensive costume. She found herself wondering at his life. To continually have to hide his identity at times, never able to be truly direct with his friends and family. If he had a wife, did she know of his involvement with this underground group?

"I understood from your message that your husband knows some individuals with a business proposition?" Sal asked.

Inara nodded. "Yes, Bruno," she tilted her head in Book's direction, "feels he could have a successful shipping company with access to the right information and employees."

"Information is the key though," Book interrupted. "It in and of itself would lead to the acquisition of the proper individuals."

Sal leaned back and looked at both. "You ask a lot without much in return."

"Cousin, it's not like you've never done something like this before," Inara soothed as she grasped his hand. "Often, the knowledge of helping others find their calling in life can be its own reward," she finished as she felt him grasp the data stick in his hand. The money contained in the account on the stick was but a small pittance compared to what Simon Tam had been able to funnel to the organization before his accounts were closed, but it was more than the average citizen of the Alliance would see in five years of honest work.

"And often, those who find their calling wish to reward those who made it possible later," Book suggested.

"The window would be short you understand. This business is very volatile and changes rapidly," Sal explained as he pocketed the data stick.

"A window is all we need," Inara replied.

"Fine, then. I'll be in touch cousin. Hopefully you won't have changed husbands again by that time," Sal warned.

Inara gave Book a flirty wink as she hugged Sal good-bye. "Oh, I think this one's a keeper."


"He's about to leave," Mal stated into his communicator.

"I see him. Did you spot anyone else?" Zoe's voice asked.

Mal scratched at the earpiece as he replied. "Negative. It looks like he entered the saloon alone. Might be someone expecting him on a ship though."

"Do you want to take him or wait?"

"Just follow him silent-like. I'll be a ways behind you, so keep me informed."

"Fun, I always enjoy stalking," Zoe joked as she moved to follow Sal out of the bar.

"Wash, fire Serenity up as soon as Inara joins you," Mal instructed as he headed towards the door.

"Sure thing," Wash answered. "We'll be ready when you are."

Mal looked around the station's corridor after he identified the direction that Zoe was headed in. No one among the crowds of shoppers and businessmen appeared suspicious. Mal nodded at Book as the older man approached and started walking in the direction Zoe had gone ealier. "Keep a sharp eye preacher, our man could have help that didn't come to the meeting with him," he instructed.

Book's lips twitched as they walked into one of the station's open air markets. "I'm aware of that Captain. I'll keep watch if you would like to get closer to Zoe."

"Naah, I'd just cramp her style," Mal replied. "Ta ma duh, did you see him?" Book nodded and left the Captain's side. "Jayne, we need you now. Come to the main market and find Book. Have a visitor we ain't spoken to yet."

"On my way," Jayne responded.

"Walk soft you two. I ain't got time to be worried about bailing you out." Book forced himself not to laugh at Mal's warning. Most times, the Captain got into more trouble than Jayne did.


Mal caught up with Zoe outside of the docking area for private shuttles. "He went in, but hasn't started the ignition sequence yet," she replied to his questioning look.

"Spotted a friend he might be waiting on. Book and Jayne are going to offer an invite to the party. Kaylee?"

"I hear you Cap'n. Ready to tap into the security vids whenever," the mechanic offered.

"Now would be a good time then," he informed her as he followed Zoe to the air lock.

"Got it, you're clear to go." Zoe immediately began to force open the door while Mal readied his weapon. Once the airlock opened, Mal burst through with his weapon up.

"What the?!" Sal hollered as Mal pushed him back down into the pilot's chair. Zoe quickly closed the door. "Who are you people?"

"Quiet, the party's not all here. Preacher?" Mal asked.

"We've picked up the guest and are on our way to the party," Book's voice answered.

"Good. Kaylee, keep your interference going till I say when. Then get the ship outta here and off the shipping lanes," Mal ordered the mechanic via communicator.

"I don't know who you think you're dealing with," Sal started again.

"What part of shut your mouth don't you understand mister?" Mal growled. He nodded when Zoe signaled that Book was approaching. Once Book and Jayne escorted their "guest" into the shuttle, Mal thumbed his communicator again. "You're clear to take off Kaylee. Tell the flyboy not to take his time; this tin can's a tad crowded."

"Shiny cap'n. See you soon," Kaylee answered, clearly happy that the plan had gone smooth.

"Gorramit, who the hell are you people and what are you doing on my ship?" Sal demanded angrily.

Mal snorted. "This ain't a ship, it barely qualifies as a shuttle. Now you're going to get up careful like and let the lady behind the controls." Sal stayed put for a moment before giving in to Mal's demands. "That's a good boy. Go sit with your partner."

"My partner? I thought he was with you?" Sal asked.

"Ta-ma-de hwu dan," Mal and Zoe swore at the same time.


Mal was still swearing by the time Zoe had docked the small shuttle to one of Serenity's airlocks. Book and Jayne had attempted to remain invisible during the voyage as both were more than a little worried that they would become the focus for Mal's anger. Zoe simply ignored her friend while Sal sat next to the unknown man with his confusion still unanswered.

Once the airlocks of both ships locked tightly together, Jayne and Book exited the ship without delay. Mal motioned with his gun for the two guests to follow before shutting the shuttle's airlock behind them. "It was too much to ask for it to go smooth just one gorram time wasn't it?"

Zoe carefully maintained a passive face. In the past she'd learned the hard way that when Mal was in this mood he was likely to mistake any facial expression for amusement. "Don't know that it hasn't Sir."

"Know something I don't Zoe?"

Zoe shook her head. "You spotted him Sir. I trust you to be able to spot a tail. Possibly our man didn't know the feds had IDed him yet."

"Diyu. That's all we need, another gorram nosy fed to worry about." Mal leaned against the wall and rubbed his face. He was beginning to look forward to getting back to honest crime; this conspiracy and rescue bit was too gorram complicated for his tastes. "Well can't be helped. Got him now. Want you and Jayne to take the John Doe down to the cargo bay – make sure he doesn't catch site of our fugitives. Jayne can scare him some, maybe it'll be as easy as the last time to find out what's going on."

"How much can Jayne scare him?"

Mal rolled his eyes as he opened the hatch. "I want him conscious and coherent in case we need other methods, beyond that, use your best judgment."


Sal was seated comfortably at the kitchen table by the time Mal and Zoe exited the ship. Book and Wash stood on opposite sides of the room, but all three were completely silent. Sal's eyes immediately lit with anger when Mal entered with Simon at his side. "Liou coe shuai du biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze," he growled.

"Now, now, is that any way to talk to an old friend," Mal reprimanded as he pulled a chair out from the table and turned it around. Sitting down with his arms resting on the chair back, he continued. "I understand you're a little upset at our methods, but we needed a longer and more private discussion than we could arrange. I assure you, no one here means ya any harm."

"You people are insane. Any deal we had is off, this is not how we do business," Sal stated as he angrily brushed his hair out of his face.

Mal nodded to Book who left the room. Turning back to blonde man, he shook his head. "That's disappointing and a little short sighted. However, I'm a reasonable man so I'll let you listen before you make up your mind. Doc?" Mal prompted.

Simon cleared his throat and sat down at the table as well. "Sal, you have no idea how grateful I am for what you and your organization did for me. While you did profit from it, I hope that you were involved for reasons other than money because I, or rather, we need your help again."

"Look, I don’t give a good gorram about you or your money. This ain't how I operate and thanks to you I'll be lucky to end up like your sister instead of dead," Sal retorted as he leaned closer to Simon.

Mal reached over and pulled the thinner man back into his seat roughly. "We know it ain't how you operate but it couldn't be helped. Ya see, there have been some complications since you parted ways with his sister. We think we've come up with a way to resolve them, but we need info."

Book entered the room leading River. The girl had not been having a very good day and one only need to look at her to see the effects the past few months. Her skin clung to her bones and the mismatch of clothes donated by the crew hung on her thin frame. Despite Simon's best efforts, River continued to be violent enough to renew the bruises on her arms almost daily. The fact that her violence was directed only at herself was somewhat of a mixed blessing. It only weighed on the fortunate side when one considered the fact that the fits were generally short lived.

Mal looked at Sal, evaluating the effect of the girl's appearance on the other man. Before he could continue the discussion though, River spoke up. "You should be thankful, they saved you too. If you weren't here, you'd be in the black and your familiars would meet the blue."

Sal swallowed, visibly disturbed by her words. "We didn't promise she'd be the same when you got her back Doc. Ain't no refunds just cause the merchandise is broken."

Simon stood abruptly. Leaning into Sal's space, he declared, "She's not merchandise you guai."

"He's right, she's just a kid. So are the others," Mal added.

Sal's eyes widened. "You're crazy. You can't possibly mean to. ."

"Crazy, why's everyone call us that?" Wash asked.

"We're serious son. Believe it," Book told the man.

Sal shook his head as he pushed back from the table. Wash stopped him from standing. "You idiots don't know what you're getting yourselves into. This ain't something you can do with a few guns and some luck. We're talking a corporate government facility. Security so state of the art that its specs don’t exist on any system you can hope to hack. You are so far out of your league!"

Mal looked back at River before meeting the man's eyes. "I think we know a bit as to what we might be walking into. And we don't plan to do it with only a few guns. Hopefully, you understand that the reason you're here is so we don't have to rely on luck. Now, I don't appreciate a stranger telling me what league I'm in when they ain't even heard the plan, so I suggest you get comfortable with the idea of helping us real fast."

"He'd be happy you helped. Too late, but better than never," River spoke from where she stood in the doorway.

The color drained from the lanky blonde's face as River's words registered while all the defiance in his body language evaporated. Mal thought that the boy would fall down if he had been standing.

"What? How . . " Sal asked. Mal raised his eyebrows at this development. Sounded like things were starting to go their way.


Mal left Book and Simon to listen to Sal's knowledge of the Blue Sun facility where River had been held. During their chat, he'd had an idea about how to handle their mysterious guest. With the excuse of taking River to the dorm, he managed to take her to the sickbay without Simon's knowledge. River started to fight him once he opened the door to the sterile exam room, but he quickly embraced her with a firm grip to prevent her from hurting either one of them.

"Easy now girl, not going to be doing anything to you. Just need your advice on a truth serum," Mal soothed.

River quieted and relaxed in his arms. "Truth serum is misnomer. Various chemicals simply make a person more loquacious."

Mal released his hold on her as he led River into the infirmary. "Well now, that's not exactly what I wanted to hear."

"There are chemicals that can allow me to tell if the subject speaks the truth however," she added with a smile.

"That's more like it. What are they and where?"


Mal and River arrived in the cargo bay in time to see Jayne throw the mystery man against a stack of metal crates. "Easy Jayne, I said scare not throttle," Mal called out.

"He ain't getting talkative," Jayne explained.

"Well it generally helps not to knock the sense out of 'im if you hope to change that," Mal informed him a tad angrily. He glanced at Zoe to determine why things were going differently than they'd talked on.

Zoe shrugged. "The less direct methods weren't working sir."

"Man insulted my interrogation techniques," Jayne added.

Mal rolled his eyes. "I wonder why." He knelt down beside the recovering man. He was possibly shorter than Wash and balding enough that his hair color was questionable. Otherwise his appearance was one of a person accustomed using his muscle against others. Mal yanked on one of his bound arms to pull him into a sitting position. "Did you at least get a name?"

Zoe shook his head. "None that his mother would have given him anyway."

Mal sighed. He'd hoped to only use the medicine and River as a threat, but now it looked like they'd really see what the girl could do with her mind. "Look you, we're gonna find out your business one way or another. Lot easier for all concerned if you just tell us."

The little man coughed and spat on the floor. "You're a fool. When I'm not heard from -"

"When you're not heard from, they'll go looking for the man you were following," Zoe supplied. "No one will be looking for us and I doubt they'll think to check for you in any slave pens on the Rim."

"It alright to give this to him with a concussion?" Mal asked River.

River nodded. "Only a fifteen percent chance of adverse reaction with head trauma. Three percent chance of allergic anaphylaxis under ideal conditions."

Mal smiled at the small man. "Guess that means only an eighteen percent chance of you dying before we find out what we want to know," he said before grabbing the man's head so he could inject the chemicals into his neck.

"Do you want me to take River to her room?" Zoe asked as Mal stood.

"No, we might need her here," he answered.

Zoe looked at him questioningly. "Sir?"

"Jayne, go make sure Simon doesn't start looking for his sis." Turning to the teen, Mal asked gently, "River, how's this gonna work?"

River shrugged as she began to dance around the bay distractedly. "Don't know. Depends how conditioned he's been, how willing he is to keep secrets. The false will shine as brightly as the truth; only a discerning eye spots the pyrite."

Zoe walked over to Mal. "You're letting her conduct the interrogation?"

Mal shook his head. "No, she said she'd be able to tell if he lied."

Zoe's face crinkled with displeasure. "And you approve of letting her do it?"

Mal shot a frustrated glare at Zoe. "No, it ain't on my top ten ways to find things out. However, we have a rather large wrinkle in an otherwise not too shabby plan. There's only so long we can keep this hundan without anyone getting wise. If you have any suggestions as to how to do it faster and be certain of what we hear, I'm all ears."

Zoe face tightened into her normal expression as she stepped back, but Mal could tell she thought that his idea was a bad one. Mal shook his head. He'd love to protect River from all the bad in the 'verse; unfortunately, they'd recently been learning on a daily basis that the girl had had her own classes on the evils of mankind. Truth was, Mal wasn't sure if he'd ever know if her nightmares were worse than his. If nothing else, River had been dealt a crueler hand by the Shepherd's gorram God in that she'd had her innocence stripped far earlier than he or Zoe.

Mal turned back to the reason for his disagreement with his second in command. "River, is it time yet?"

River stopped her twirling next to Zoe and squatted down to look at the man. Cocking her head she replied, "He's opening up, worried you'll sell him or let Jayne have his way."

Mal heard Zoe struggle to swallow her laughter at River's observation. That was definitely an image he could have done without his ownself. "Okay then. How 'bout a name mister?"

The small man turned his jowly face towards Mal as if he were drunk. Blinking hard, he replied with a slight slur. "Thomas Pollard."

Mal grinned down at the man. "Good now we're getting somewhere. What were you doing on Station C6?"

A couple of minutes ticked by while Mal and Zoe waited for Pollard to answer. The man's face continually moved as if he was inwardly debating on what to say. Finally, when Mal was about to give up and move on to other methods, Pollard spoke again. "Paid to follow a man, report on what he does."

"Untrue!" River yelled as she threw a stray bolt from somewhere at the still prone man.

Mal motioned to Zoe that she should attempt to deal with River's antics before the girl managed to do some serious damage. The bolt hadn't hit Pollard's head, but he wasn't for sure that it didn't go where she was aiming it. "My friend disagrees. Care to rethink your answer?"

Pollard frowned. "That was it, that's what I was there for. When he left, I was to inform them."

"Them who?" Mal asked.

Pollard rubbed his balding head with one hand as he supported himself with the other. "I don't know for sure. They work for Blue Sun, wanted to know where Tzernaky went and who he saw. Told me after arriving at C6 that they wanted to know his registration numbers and when he left the station."

Mal looked to River. She shrugged. "It's what he thinks he knows," she told him. Mal rolled his eyes. He wondered what River thought that statement meant.

Mal turned back to their unwilling guest. "Why's Blue Sun interested in this fellow? He doesn't strike me as the corporate espionage type."

Pollard pushed himself so he was leaning more against the crates and pulled his knees up. Resting his elbows on his knees, he started to rub his head with both hands. "Don't know, they just paid me."

River shook her head, but Zoe stopped her when she pulled her arm back to throw another projectile. "Wrong answer Tom, I gotta say, I'm get a tad tired of your lying."

"Don't know, just did what I was told," Pollard argued.

Mal walked over and pulled the man up. "Look, all you gotta do is tell me why they wanted this guy followed. If it's reasonable enough and doesn't have anything to do with me, then I'll apologize profusely and set you off wherever you want. Hell, you can even take Tzernaky with you in cuffs for all I care. He welched on our deal and I ain't too happy about it," Mal lied smoothly.

Pollard tried to struggle, but gave up the attempt quickly. "Okay okay, just let me go." Mal complied making sure the smaller man could actually stand on his own. Pollard was starting to look a little pale.

Once he was standing, Pollard continued. "Told me to follow this guy, that he'd had contact with someone who'd stolen a piece of property from them. Since he was still at large, the company assumed they'd try to contact him again to fence another piece. Paid me to follow Tzernaky while promising a bonus if I could spot a fellow by the name of Simon Tam. I'm sure you've heard of him, his picture's been plastered on the cortex for over six months now I think."

Mal turned to River to make sure she didn't say anything. He didn't think that this hired hand knew anything about her, that or he wasn't coherent enough to recognize the other Tam who also had a warrant out on herself. River was still intent on Pollard though. Maybe the medicine was wearing off and it was harder for her to tell if he was speaking the truth or not?

River suddenly looked Mal in the eyes. "Better get Simon down here. Tom's had an adverse reaction," she stated in a detached voice.

*** TBC in Chapter 7: Questions


Friday, June 4, 2004 9:17 AM


Oooh, good myth!
Love it how River is the one able to make things go smooth (or not). Can't wait for the next part, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, June 4, 2004 11:27 AM


I do like seeing them in nefarious, and sort of wicked, action. Nice.

Sunday, June 6, 2004 9:57 PM


Brava! Jebbypal! And so the plot thickens, I love how this story is developing! You knock my socks off with how well you write Mal. His voice comes across clearly. Damn, girl you are good! The pace is very good, and all characters ring true.


Wednesday, June 9, 2004 4:49 PM


Shiny, very much loving this story Jebbypal and it just keeps getting better!! :-)

Love the creepy River in this chapter.


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