Crew, But Not - Chapter 13
Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lord Tembriar and men board Serenity, while the crew try to hold off until they can escape.


Chapter 13

There were moments when Mal wondered about deep things, times he hid well from a crew that he thought should be unsuspecting. Deep things such as why he chose to fly in a spaceship when he hated feeling cornered. Serenity gave him the warmth of a home and the freedom of being able to traverse more than hard rock—but then why did it always seem that she was unmovable and the last corner where he could hide from those that pursued him?

It’s all right, he whispered to her as the other ship latched on. No power in the ‘Verse, and certainly no half-baked lordling, is gonna take you away from me.

Soon he heard the airlock being forced open. Hidden behind the first row of cargo on the right, Mal focused all his attention on what he could hear instead of what he could see. The slap of boots in a cautious stride echoed a little around the bay. There was a clicking of guns being shifted in the hand, and one of them was cocked. Paying close attention, he even heard the swishing of silk upon silk—apparently his lordship himself had come to see the job finished.

“Captain Reynolds!” came a sudden sound, addressing and yet also questioning. Mal was starting to dislike that ever-so-slightly uncertain quality of Lord Tembriar’s voice, but he stood his ground. Hopefully Jayne was well hidden up on the catwalk and would signal if things got dangerous.

“I know that you know that I know you’re here,” came Lord Tembriar’s voice again, and Mal rolled his eyes. Why did Core folks have to talk so twisted anyways?

“I don’t intend to shoot you on sight—I could have found you and done so already.” No, I reckon not, thought Mal. At least not without losing some of your precious men. Still, Lord Tembriar didn’t seem like one to deceive from his pathetic way of trying to do so.

“I know you won’t start a shooting match, because you know you’re outnumbered,” continued Lord Tembriar. Just talk, let Kaylee fix that damn engine. “So why don’t you come where I can see you so we can talk?”

“Don’t see a reason you’d need to talk with my actual self,” called Mal. “Anything you’ve got to say, I can assure you I’ll hear just fine with my pretty face behind these boxes.” The boots had stopped, but they now started up again for a few steps, only to stop again. Mal grinned. What with the size of this bay, it’d take a keen ear to catch exactly where the sound had come from.

“Curse you!” came the outraged cry. “I don’t intend to kill you!”

“Right, that’s why you shot at us; I can see the friendliness real clearly,” Mal drawled back.

“They were deliberately shots that would not do anything but disable you,” said Lord Tembriar.

Mal was slightly surprised it wasn’t bad aim. “You didn’t want the feds to see a big explosion,” he answered. “Well, I’m not gonna give up and let myself be blown to high heaven in a smaller way so you can take my ship and your new life.”

“I don’t want you dead,” insisted Lord Tembriar. “I just want the cargo destroyed, and for you to face a small time for trespassing and blackmail.”

“I’d prefer my chances with death,” answered Mal. How long could that engine take to restart?

“If you force me to, I will escalate this affair,” warned Lord Tembriar. Mal almost rolled his eyes, but unfortunately recognized the seriousness of the situation.

“Well, I’m not entirely unfamiliar with violence,” said Mal, cocking his own weapon. He hoped Jayne remembered the order to give warning shots until fired upon.

The boots began to tramp, and Mal began to backtrack down the row of boxes. Apparently the guards had been paying attention as Mal spoke, for Mal heard them coming in his direction. As he reached the end of the aisle, a shot zipped past his head and he didn’t have to turn around to know where it came from.

“Zoe! Jayne!” Mal shouted, ducking behind a box. He counted to three, then turned round the corner again and let off a couple shots. He saw a man fall, clutching an arm, but the others were well trained and were back after a blink of the eye.

A rain of fire came from above, and Mal quickly looked up to see Jayne emerging from his hiding place on the catwalk, a gun in each hand, unholy light in his eyes as he blasted at his enemies. A few shots rang off the silver boxes, and a few more buried themselves in the wood. Chao ma-niao had there better not be explosives in any of those.

Leaping out with his guns at the ready, Mal fired a few shots and hopped across another aisle. He heard shots from his left, as well as sharp cries from some of the guards, and knew Zoe was handling herself well as always. He now hated this job, not only for the trouble, but because he couldn’t see how many guards he was up against because of the damn boxes!

He fired another couple shots down the aisle, and dodged behind a box as the other guards came around the far corner. Leaping back, he put a hand to his hip, feeling the buzz of the earwig again.

*Captain, there’s twenty guards and Kaylee’s five minutes off from having us in the air* Wash’s voice was a welcome relief as he hastily fumbled the earwig to his ear. His news, however...

“I heard you, Wash,” Mal answered back, darting down an aisle after a last wild shot. He had almost lost sense of where he was, down one of the middle aisles with guards probably all around. It was only a matter of time, and five minutes was unfortunately long. There was a chance, though, that Lord Tembriar had taken shelter as his guards spread in search of the guerrilla crew, and Mal believed in taking the wildest most likely chances.

Had he been thinking more strategically, Mal would previously have arranged the cargo in a checkered pattern, with alternating squares of cargo and floor so that there would be plenty of places to hide from bullet fire, instead of the long straight aisles that begged to be used like street alleys (with even less cover). Mal had always thought he had kept the strategy he learned in the war, but he feared at this moment that all those years of dealing with businessmen had left a stubborn mark on his psyche.

Glancing again up, he saw that Jayne had advanced down the catwalk unscathed, as the guards apparently did not know how to deal with opponents on the high ground. Mal had no idea where Zoe was, nor the rest of the guards, but he blindly guessed that wherever they were they would be making noise. He reached the end of the aisle, only to find a large barrel pressed on his nose.

“Sorry, sir,” said Zoe, removing the offending weapon swiftly.

“I’m glad you aren’t the hair trigger sort,” answered Mal, but without real humor.

“Jayne has the guards pinned down in the back,” said Zoe.

“I’m gonna find that hun-dan of our employer and see if a little hostaging can clear this up,” said Mal in a low voice.

Zoe nodded. “I thought you were him. He’s around here somewhere.”

Darting past the second to last row, Mal came back to where he started. It was dark where the oddly shaped cargo met the wall, and the sound of a gun being cocked came to Mal’s ears just before he saw the dark shadow. He dodged.

Zoe fell to the ground, clutching an arm with clenched teeth, and Mal drew his gun in automatic response to the fire. Lord Tembriar stepped forth with an aim at Mal’s head, but neither fired.

“So you can fight for yourself,” commented Mal.

Lord Tembriar’s eyes were wide open, but his hand was only twitching slightly. He shifted his aim to Mal’s chest, ruining the latter’s plan to duck and jump forward. Discomfort reigned in his face.

“You’re not calling your men,” said Mal again.

“You must really thing you’re something, coming up against me,” said Lord Tembriar, and Mal had to applaud the way he was holding himself. “You must know that I wouldn’t let those who I was helping be stronger than me.”

“So does the excess money stuff you up so much that you can’t hear with your ears?” asked Mal. “We’re not related to your former associates, not in the least.”

“Then why won’t you give up the cargo?” demanded Lord Tembriar.

“Fine, we’ll give up the cargo,” said Mal. “Don’t make a difference on the paycheck, I’m sure, and no one else is gonna buy your go-se chickens.”

Lord Tembriar took a step forward, sticking out his gun even more. “See? You can’t even play honest for a whole day.”

“I never said I was the citizen who followed every tilde of the gorram law,” explained Mal in a cool tone. “But a cryo box with life signs is hardly on the honest side of the law; I was well within honesty’s bounds in having a look-see.”

Tembriar didn’t answer, just stood with his aimed gun. Mal glanced down at Zoe. The wang ba dan lordling did have a fine aim, having shot her gun hand so that the gun had flown many feet away. If she made a move, Mal (and apparently Zoe) had no doubt that his lordship would catch her before she got the weapon back.

“We gonna talk ‘till my merc shoots all your men?” asked Mal.

Lord Tembriar didn’t answer.

“You can’t shoot me, can you,” said Mal with a dark grin.

“If you make a move, I swear—”

“I’m not doubting your word there,” said Mal hastily. “But you have to wait ‘till the opportune moment; you can’t shoot me before I make a move. Your blood is blue, but it isn’t cold.”

“You won’t shoot me either,” answered Lord Tembriar defensively. “I don’t know why, but you won’t.”

Mal didn’t answer, but he was surprised at the little man’s discovery of the probably unfortunate truth.

“I’m no good to you as a murder victim,” continued his lordship with a bit of a sneer.

Mal sighed. It was good that his employers weren’t getting too smart; they’d see right through him, someday. All firing had stopped for a moment.

*Mal? Things over?* Wash’s voice bled out of the intercom system.

”No code speak!” warned Lord Tembriar hastily, taking another step forward.

“Yeah, Wash?” asked Mal.

*I got a wave, just audio. I’m gonna patch it through to you.*

“What in hell’s name is going on here!” snorted Lord Tembriar.

*Captain Reynolds?*

“Good God!” breathed out Lord Tembriar, and his gun dropped away from Mal.

“Lady Tembriar,” answered Mal, his eyebrows raised.

*high-pitched nervous giggle*

“There something you wanna say?” asked Mal.

*Oh, Captain Reynolds, I forgot something.*

“Did you now?” asked Mal. “I think I know what it is.”

*Well, you are smart, but really I have no idea how I forgot to send that bill to Lord Tembriar. Like must attract like, don’t you think? Absent minded, really.*

“Well, now that you mention it, I do remember that fact being discussed by us,” said Mal.

*Don’t worry, I’ve sent it now. Wouldn’t want to cause any problems, of course. Have a good trip?*

“It could be worse,” admitted Mal slowly.

*Don’t bother getting back on how my dear takes it when he gets your shipment! I can picture how happy he’ll be better than any message could. So long!”*

The comm cut short, and Lord Tembriar lowered his arm fully. His left hand came up and rubbed his forehead. “Good God,” he muttered, “Good God, good God, good God.”

“I’m not so sure of that fact myself,” said Mal after a breath, as he cocked his head in a less tightly-strung manner, “but I think our situation’s pretty cleared up.”

“How could she do such a thing!” demanded Lord Tembriar, shaking his hand in disbelief. “And then hire you?”

Mal frowned at the disdain in the tone, but he answered with, “I’d like my ship back, now. Not too keen on the whole wondering and analyzing business. I’d like payment, as well.”

Lord Tembriar withdrew a small pouch from his dress coat and tossed it to Mal. “Oh take it! But you’ll space that cargo before I hit planetside. This is hardly all my fault, you know—you don’t present the most trustworthy appearance.”

“I work hard on that, actually,” said Mal. His gun hand was still up, and he waved it at Lord Tembriar. “Goodbye now.”

“It is time to leave, men,” called Lord Tembriar. He walked past Mal and Zoe without another look.

“Sir?” asked the head guard, as the men, many wounded, started coming out from where Jayne had pinned them against the far wall.

“This has been more trouble than I can afford,” said Lord Tembriar. “I don’t want to see these faces ever again. But no killing.”

“Sir, do you see what they—” began the guard again.

“You’ll get a bonus, Slope!” snapped Lord Tembriar. He stood by the door, the guard in front of him. “Out, out!” he added as the guard stood slightly stunned, beckoning with his hands.

Mal stood for a moment, the anti-climax weighing a little heavily on him. Jayne came down from the balcony.

“What? No more shooting?” The big man sounded almost disappointed.

*Mal, I’m getting federal chatter on the radio—I think the forgery’s discovered*

Well, that was more like usual. Mal swore under his breath.

“Sir, we won’t escape if a ship gets close enough to spot us,” said Zoe, a kerchief now wrapped around her arm.

“Wait, ain’t they gonna shoot us if we don’t dump the cargo?” asked Jayne.

“We’ll have to space it, quick,” said Mal. He thumped Jayne on the shoulder. “You and Zoe start unbuckling the cargo. Wash, get us ready to get out of here! Kaylee?”


Simon and River sat, listening for further gunfire. It had been loud out there, and Book had stood by the door, his head cocked as he interpreted what was going on. It had been loud for a while, and River had clung whimpering to Simon as the rapid bulletfire carried on right outside their door. Then it stopped, and they heard the crew’s voices below. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

“They’re gone,” came a familiar voice through the door.

Book unlocked and opened up.

“We don’t have much time, so anyone who wants to survive had best get down in that bay and unstrap those boxes,” said Mal hastily.

“I understand,” said Book, following the captain out of the shuttle.

Simon did not entirely, but felt the urgency and so followed. As they headed down the stairs, there was a hum and a rumble as the engine restarted.

“Good girl, Kaylee,” Simon heard the captain murmur as they all quickly descended the steps.

“We don’t have time to secure the other property,” reported Zoe, coming to meet them.

“Here, let me take care of that,” said Simon, stepping forward as he saw the makeshift bloody rag.

“Ain’t got time, doctor,” answered Zoe. “I’ll appreciate some care once I know I’m gonna live long enough to enjoy it.”

“That’s right,” said Mal. “Just loosen the straps. We’ll have to space the whole bay.”

“Yes sir,” said Zoe with a little sigh.

Kaylee came running down from the engine room. “We okay, Cap’n?”

“We need to cut loose these straps,” said Mal. “Get to work!”

Falling in line, they all began hastily moving through the cargo bay. Simon was the slowest, Jayne the fastest, but all they cared about was finishing before Wash broke the bad news.

*I’m getting readings of a ship leaving planet-side, probably federal*

“Let’s get with it, people!” called Mal, as if they needed encouragement.

Unbuckling, cutting, trying to avoid being tangled or crushed, each section of the cargo bay was set free to the motions and demands of outside forces.

*Almost definitely federal, and coming for us*

“Done!” called Mal.

“Done!” called Kaylee.

“Just a damn minute,” swore Zoe under her breath. Simon undid his last strap and rushed over to hold a strap steady as Zoe slashed with her left arm. “Done!” Zoe called, nodding her gratitude to him.

“Done!” called Jayne.

“Wash, I want us gone in fifteen seconds,” called Mal as they all moved towards the common area. The last person came in, and Simon made sure River was among them, and then the door was shut. “Open the airlock, Wash,” called Mal into the intercom.

There was a clunk, and then they saw through the window as the cargo tumbled and thudded out the door, leaving an empty bay.

*We are out of here, and just in time* was Wash’s final report before the engine roared as they blasted away.

Mal breathed out slowly as the door closed and pressure returned to his cargo bay.

“Aw, your cryo box got spaced,” said Kaylee to Simon as she peered through the window.

“I didn’t have a use for it anyway,” said Simon, shrugging.

“Yeah, but you coulda got a good price for it,” said Kaylee.

“I like being alive better,” said Simon.

Kaylee gave a relieved smile. “Yeah, I believe that.”

“And we live to fight another day,” said Mal.

“As little as that seemed likely,” added Zoe.

“Come in here and let me deal with that arm,” said Simon, opening the infirmary door.

Zoe grimaced and followed him in, but not before turning to Mal and saying, “Sir, never again.”

“Hmm?” asked Mal.

“No more folks with clout,” said Zoe simply.

“Yeah, least normal criminals don’t go callin’ the feds; they kill ya with their own guys,” said Jayne.

Mal had nothing to respond to that with, so he went up to check with Wash.

“You, um, don’t need any help with that, do you?” asked Kaylee, lingering uncomfortably around the infirmary door while Simon cut open Zoe’s sleeve to attend to the bullet wound.

“No, not at all,” said Simon, looking up for a moment from where he was cleaning the entrance site of the bullet with antibiotics.

“I’ll just go then,” said Kaylee, and quickly left the increasingly bloody sight.

Zoe grunted a little as Simon probed the wound.

“It’d be best if you lay back and relaxed,” he advised, holding a clean cloth to the wound with one hand while reaching over to the counter with the other for a piece of equipment.

“I’ve had plenty of experience with bullet wounds, doctor, and I don’t need you to tell me how to deal with them,” said Zoe firmly.

“Right,” said Simon, giving her a shot of painkiller as he prepared for an extraction. “But I’m not going to let you flinch at the wrong time and make this more damaging. You should lie back at least.”

Zoe rather grudgingly complied, but Simon was simply glad that she did. Mal had refused to let Simon see to his own arm shot after the last job, the “graze” as he put it, and had come back later for an antibiotic for the small infection that had ensued. Simon preferred to prevent rather than treat when it came down to it.

“What happened?” asked Simon, partly out of curiosity and partly to keep Zoe’s attention on something unrelated.

“There was shooting,” said Zoe, her jaw unclenching as the painkiller began to work. “Some chasing, some standoff. Lady Tembriar called in, cut it all short, if unintentionally.”

“That was lucky,” said Simon quietly. The bullet had gone deeply into the muscle, but thankfully was nowhere near the artery. He knew that the painkiller was not complete, but thankfully Zoe was apparently willing herself to stay still. Her face was the military face, one he had seen before, and appreciated. Soldiers made both the worst and the best patients, experiencing great pain with stony endurance while refusing to seek treatment when necessary.

“Sometimes our luck holds,” answered Zoe, closing her eyes for a moment. Simon had found the bullet and was preparing to pull it out. “But we should never have been in that situation.”

“This wasn’t normal, then?” asked Simon, as he removed the bullet as gently as possible. Zoe barely registered it, and Simon quickly pressed the bandage to slow the flow of blood that followed the removal.

Zoe half-snorted, and Simon found her negative answer somewhat reassuring. “This will heal well if you don’t stress it,” he said, beginning to wrap gauze around the arm. “I’ll give you an antibiotic shot as well, and there shouldn’t be any infection if you keep it clean.”

“Thank you, doctor,” said Zoe cleanly, sitting up.

“Why else am I here?” commented Simon, with much more seriousness than such a statement usually contained.

Zoe left, and Simon cleaned up the area with the sense of satisfaction, however small, that came from doing that which he loved. River came in as soon as Zoe was gone, and watched as he put the bloody rags away, her general quiet contemplation back as the tension was gone.


Monday, December 24, 2007 3:35 PM


Lots of action in this one, and glad Lady Tembrier came through. Your voices are very true to character!


You must log in to post comments.



Crew, But Not - Epilogue
FINALLY! The final chapter, as the crew gets back to normal and Simon reflects a little on the adventure.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 13
Lord Tembriar and men board Serenity, while the crew try to hold off until they can escape.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 12
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne come back to the ship while Book gets Wash and Kaylee, but they haven't escaped yet.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 11
Mal needs to escape, and the rest of the crew find themselves in sticky situation of their own, while River and Simon follow Book's plan.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 10
The job is turning out to be troublesome. What's up with Lord Tembriar, and what will the crew do about the incoming feds?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 9
Arriving on Greenleaf, Mal and co. go to finish the job, and Simon and River are left on the ship again.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 8
Things are both better and worse for the crew. Simon starts to wonder about River, worry about his duties on the ship, and what was in that cryo box anyway?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 7
Simon and River find something odd with the cargo, and Simon and Inara match their skills in a game of chess.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 6
Finally, a new chapter! The cargo comes aboard, and Simon starts creating patient profiles.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 5
Simon and River struggle to find their place in Serenity's crew. Mal and his team finally meet the client, while Wash and Kaylee spend some time with the new crewmembers and Book.