THE HELLBOUND SERIES: 23. "Never Trust An Honest Man"
Sunday, June 10, 2007

"The crew go to pick up the agricultural equipment and Mal gets an epiphany."



SUMMARY: "The crew go to pick up the agricultural equipment and Mal gets an epiphany." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The silence in the commons room was defending. Mal stared at the Shepherd not quite believing his ears or the man responsible for what he was hearing. For the moment it was just the two of the them. Zoe being on the bridge with Wash and everyone else seemingly crowded into the infirmary to get a look at the baby. The Captain wasn't smiling. "An' you know this how?"


The Captain's eyebrows rose slightly. "An' she knows this..."

Book was nodding now. "River read Casey's mind, Captain. She said she had to wait until the woman was distracted. Not sure what that means in this context."

"So the givin' birth was the right time?"

"I believe so."

For a moment the Captain fell silent. Odd as it might seem he trusted River's abilities but this was new. An unexpected twist. "How'd she get into your mind?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. Truth to tell Captain I haven't quite got over it myself. I didn't know she could even do that."

"Me neither." Mal mumbled to himself before bringing the conversation back on track. "Speakin' of which, where is our little mind readin' genius?"

*Never more than a thought away*

The Captain jumped then felt a flush of anger at the intrusion as River stepped into the room, her bare feet making no sound. There was something of the look of a dryad about her. "You get the good gorram outta my head this minute, River Tam!"

River dipped her head in sudden contrition then slanted a look at him through the dark tangle of her hair. It needed combing something fiercesome and just added to her wild look. "You can't trust her."

"I'm more worried right now about the people waitin' for us on Barclay. Still got that agricultural machinery to pick up from the gorram warehouse. Should be there any minute."

"They aren't farmers."

"They aren't?"

River shook her head. "Miners."

The Captain look puzzled. "If'n they're miners why in the nine hells ain't we collectin' minin' equipment?"

He thought she seemed a mite amused. "Not that kind of mining."

Mal looked at Book but he didn't know what she was talking about either. As the Captain turned to face her again she tried to explain.

"All in the mind."

A thought occurred to the Shepherd and he took a step nearer. "Are you saying they're telepaths?"

She shook her head. "No, smugglers. Thieves. Villains. Cunning not stupid. Greed will let them down but we have to be careful."

Although it behoved him to ask for advice Mal needed to be clear on exactly what River was talking about. "You sayin' we shouldn't pick up that gorram equipment from Badger's warehouse?"

"*Bu qu*, have to pick it up or they'll know we suspect. They want you distracted."

"Darlin', I need a little more detail than that."

"Casey is the carrier. Once they have what they want everyone dies. No witnesses."

"Then shouldn't we not land at all?"

Her look hardened, willing the Captain to believe every word she said so that his resolve would harden also. "No. This is our best chance to outwit them, Captain. If we don't pick up the equipment we'll become targets." Her eyes flicked to Shepherd Book then back to the Captain. "All of us."

Before he could ask any more questions River turned and glided out of the room, her movements graceful but swift. Yep. Dryad. Or might that be a nymph? Did they come without water?


Mal blinked and realised the Shepherd was talking to him. "Yeah?"

"I thought someone was after the baby?"

Slowly the Captain nodded, he was sure he had a headache coming on. "Me too." Mal sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "I'm thinkin' it's time we go congratulate the new mother."

Book nodded, knowing that was not what the Captain had in mind. "We should be careful, Captain. River didn't say exactly what this thing was these men are looking for."

"We know it's a code, ain't that enough?" The Captain knew it wasn't but for once he wanted smooth. No complications.

"Yes, but what does it mean?"

"Don't ask me I'm only the Cap'n. You were the one inside her head." "Technically Captain, she was in my head." At the Captain's look he quickly clarified. "I can't reciprocate."

"Can you keep her out?"

It alarmed Book more than he could say that he didn't know the answer to that one. * * * * *

"Aw, ain't he cute?" Kaylee cooed, her face alight with joy and excitement. The happy just coming off her in bright waves of sunshine.

Simon checked Casey carefully, keeping a weathered eye to make sure she wasn't over tiring herself. Zoe came in from the bridge, a brief smile touching her solemn lips. "Just lettin' you know we'll be landin' in the warehouse district soon. Might wanna hang on to somethin' for the landin'."

"I thought the little man was on the bridge?" Said Jayne, his face settling into a scowl.

"He is but River is insistin' on helpin' him."

They exchanged looks. Casey lay back on the infirmary bed feeling like a popped weather balloon. "Why should it make a difference if River is helpin' Wash land?"

Zoe looked at the woman as if she were brain dead. "You've met River?"

Just then Inara paused in the doorway. "Where's Mal?"

Jayne picked his teeth with the point of his knife then waved the knife towards the door. "Went off with the Shepherd. Probably in the commons room."

Inara left to go find the Captain. Simon glared at Jayne. "Would you not do that in here?"

"Why not? Man's gotta clean his teeth."

"The infirmary is supposed to be kept sterile, Jayne."

The big man grinned and leaned towards the doctor. "Like you?"

Before Simon could say anything Kaylee smacked Jayne in the arm, her face twisted in a mile of not happy that made the big man squirm. "Stop bein' mean, Jayne. Simon's sewed ya up enough for ya to know how it is. Have to keep the germs at bay else all the fancy antibiotics in the 'verse can't save ya."

Behind them, Casey lay back with her eyes closed. Wishing they would all vanish so she could gather her strength for what would come next.

* * * * *

Inara had intended to speak to Mal about Casey. Something was definitely off with the woman but as she approached the commons room she paused, ears straining to pick up the cautious exchange between Captain and Shepherd. It wasn't like her to eavesdrop but Mal had done it to her on numerous occasions and turn around was fair play.

"This could end badly, Captain." He nodded, well aware that he was up to his ears in something he didn't rightly understand. He could have just thrown Casey off his boat and declined the job from Badger but gorramit, the woman had just given birth and she had shown kindness of a sort to him in that rutting *angzang jianyu*. Plus they needed the coin work would bring. The life they led they couldn't afford to be choosy. "Seems like a familar theme." "I'm just saying, perhaps you should think about it."

"What I'm thinkin' Shepherd is that I'm more than weary of this conversation."

Book went to say something but the Captain held up a hand. Even though he had healed well after being rescued from the penal colony, the remnants of heavy bruising still discoloured his face like a birthmark that would not fade and when Mal got tired he could not hide a limp that favoured his left side.

"It's already too late to be changin' our plans but that don't mean we can't tweak 'em, *dong ma*?"

The Shepherd sounded surprised. "You have a plan?" Weary as he was Mal allowed a little smile to cross his face. "Oh yeah."

"And that would be?" The Shepherd prompted shamelessly.

The Captain's smile broke into a grin, his heavy mood brushed to one side for a moment or two. "You'll see. Don't want anyone else pokin' around in that brainpan of yours an' givin' the game away."

"Now Captain, we don't know that Casey is a Reader too."

Inara blinked. Casey? A Reader?

"Just think happy thoughts Book. Mayhap an angel or two wouldn't go amiss."

"Do you want me to pray as well, because I do know some very good supplications."

"You wanna pray that's up to you but don't go speakin' to the Almighty on my account. What you do for anyone else ain't my business, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*, Captain. Your heathen ways are safe from me."

* * * * *

The warehouse quarter was a fair bit out from the Eavesdown Dock. Not as hectic but busy in its' own quieter way. Each warehouse with a sprawl of dusty ground between it and the next one. Badgers directions had been explicit and Wash had no trouble landing close to the correct warehouse. As the landing gear cushioned Serenity's weight, Jayne and Mal waited by the cargo bay door for her to settle then open her up. Five men built like stevedores on steroids waited out front, their dusty leather aprons looking oddly masculine and a little out of place. Not nobody seemed to bother with them any more but this group wore them as if it was a natural dress code. Code. The Captain tried to hide a little shiver and plastered a smile on his face as he walked towards them. Jayne stepped off to the Captain's left, the Captain having a right handed draw, and made it look casual while staying alert. In the shadow by the cargo bay door Zoe squinted her eyes and cradled her mare's leg, looking for trouble and hoping they wouldn't find it.

The collection of the equipment went without a hitch. Mal signed papers on a clipboard and waited for the copy, his eyes flicking over to the two big agricultural machines waiting on the tarmac. One he recognised as a form of harvester, the other looked a mite more complicated. Both had seen better days. Mal gave Jayne a nod. "Think you can ride her on?"

Jayne huffed. "Better than you."

The men on the tarmac chuckled darkly. The Captain ignored them but narrowed his eyes at the mercenary. Jayne thought it was a bad time for the Captain to get pissy, after all he hadn't even wanted to take the *lese* job. Left to his choice he would'a shot Badger and found work elsewhere. 'Course the fact was there wasn't any decent jobs for folks like them any more, not with fugees on board. It annoyed him that they were dragging him down but what irked more was the growing acceptance of them as crew. Made a man more than a mite testy, like he was going soft. Jayne was a gorram mercenary, he didn't do soft.


Not bothering to look at the Captain the mercenary quickened his step and swung himself up into the harvester, the Captain hauling himself into the other vehicle. Within minutes they had the two huge machines stowed, the cargo bay pretty near full. Locking up Jayne caught the Captain's eye and noticed the irritation was gone but was replaced with something else that gave him an uncomfortableness. "Cap'n, we good?"

Startled, the Captain nodded. "Yeah Jayne, we're good." That unnerved him more than anything because the man looked worried, unsettled. Before Jayne could call him on it the Captain crossed the bay and put a hand on Jayne's shoulder. The Captain never touched, not unless it was to give Kaylee a hug or shake some sense into Wash. Man had all his attention now and then some. Zoe didn't even spare them a glance but hurried up the metal stairs to check on Wash ready for take off. The Captain leaned in just close enough so his voice would only carry to one set of very sharp ears though to all intents and purposes they were the only ones now in the cargo bay.

"Need you sharp, Jayne."

The big man took in every detail of the Captain's body language. All manner of alert and feeding off his tension. "*Shenme shi*?"

Mal was glad Jayne was whispering. "I'm thinkin' we got trouble awaitin' us on Barclay."

"Then don't go there."

The Captain did not so much as blink. "Can't do that. Asked Inara to find out all she could about the place, both official an' unofficial."

The way the Captain said unofficial got Jayne's blood quickening. Seeing the look in Jayne's eyes Mal shook his head. Just a tiny head shake but enough. Now the big man was beyond intrigued. "Ya gonna tell me what's goin' on, Mal?"

He was tempted to keep it from the mercenary but it felt wrong. Jayne needed to have enough information to act quickly, maybehaps without having his Captain give the order first. "Yeah. Think Casey's a Reader."

"Ya mean like River?"

"Yeah but sneakier. Even now I don't think she's told us the half of it."

"So this job, think it's a set-up?"

"I know it is."

Jayne blinked at Mal. While he often made comments about the Captain not being smart or quick enough he never actually meant it. The Captain was plenty smart and more than most, it was just his plans had a habit of going wrong. Always bumps in the road of life and with them on the raggedy edge too. "Then why we doin' it?"

"'Cause least this way we know a little of what's intended, that gives us some leeway to work with. Changin' things just alerts them as are settin' us up that we're wise to 'em. Don't want to be givin' anyone that advantage."

"Don't take this wrong Mal but ain't the woman a victim? After all it's her gorram baby they want, ain't no profit in her bein' against us."

The Captain gave him a long sober look. "You'd think that, wouldn't you?" He said softly.

For some odd reason Jayne felt as if something fragile had just died and they were walking on its' grave. The thought was gone the next instant, his mind already trying to see all the ways this could go wrong. "What's the plan?"

Mal told him. Jayne's eyes widened as if the Captain had finally lost the last bit of sense in his head. Then a slow feral grin spread across his face, Mal nodding back at him, pleased the big man got it. "We play this as dumb as they want us to be, *dong ma*?"

"You want dumb Mal ya got it, but can I skin 'em when we're through?"

The Captain patted his shoulder before turning to walk away. "Whatever you want, Jayne, whatever you want."

It was a long time before Jayne Cobb could wipe the smirk of satisfaction off his face.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *angzang* = filthy *jianyu* = prison *dong ma* = understand *wo dong* = I understand *lese* = crappy *shenme shi* = what's the matter?


Sunday, June 10, 2007 4:40 AM


"For some odd reason Jayne felt as if something fragile had just died and they were walking on its' grave." For some reason, that line just grabbed me. Very interested to see where this is going!

Sunday, June 10, 2007 5:12 AM


Never did trust Casey. And I too loved the line about something fragile!

Sunday, June 10, 2007 10:29 AM


Definitely could see Jayne, much as he purports himself to be a hard ass, thinking that having to assume Casey wasn't a victim and her pregnancy was one giant ruse to set a trap being something like a fragile being that had died and now had people walking over its grave. Definitely can't wait to see what Mal's plan is;)



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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.