ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (16)
Sunday, June 16, 2013

Waiting for the other shoe to drop



Part (16)

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The series so far:

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

A/N: Okay, I'm not completely happy with how this chapter turned out, but I decided it wasn't getting any better sitting around on my hard drive, so I decided to post it.

* * *

The fact that they’d made it this far with no incident just seemed all manner of wrong to Mal. Clearly Saffron hadn’t spent five days on his boat just to harass him about his love-life and piss off every member of the crew. And yet nothing out of the ordinary happened. The engine turned, the ship flew, the crew went about their business, and the space traffic controllers directed Serenity ever closer to Bernadette, which loomed larger and larger in the bridge window. It just didn’t seem possible that they had found and disarmed all of her devices.

He was convinced that Saffron had planted something that would really screw up the ship and screw him over. Since nothing had gone wrong yet, it simply meant that the Sword of Damocles was yet dangling over his head, ready to come down on him the moment he dropped his guard.

Further searches had not revealed any more of those thin, programmable fuse filaments she’d had so many of. Still didn’t mean they’d found ’em all, but Mal’s focus had turned to software. River was still going on about “ends with a horse” at every opportunity, and Mal spent hours going through the bridge software, trying to guess where to look for the Trojan horse.

She’d installed some kind of software glitch, that would be triggered at some point and foul up the ship’s navigation, steering, or propulsion system. Or she’d planted a bug, and everything he said was somehow being recorded at some Alliance or Blue Sun listening post, to be used against him later. Or she’d installed a tracker that was now broadcasting Serenity’s location, or one that would send a signal as soon as they came within range of a Core planet, and upon landing his ship would be met by a squadron of Feds who would arrest him and escort him to prison, never to see the light of day again. Or worse, a posse of Blue Hands, who would retrieve River and take her back to that 很可怕 hěn kěpà Academy, and kill the rest of his crew with those awful rod weapons that Ip had described.

With cheersome speculations like these to comfort his waking hours, he became more and more of a nervous wreck, although (as always) he suppressed the outward signs. At night, however, he couldn’t control the anxieties, and nightmares returned with vengeful force. Even Inara couldn’t settle him back to sleep, and he began sneaking out of bed most nights around three or four in the morning so he wouldn’t disturb her rest. He generally finished the last two or three hours of the nightcycle prowling the halls of Serenity, or sitting on the bridge, doubling Zoe’s or River’s watch, and drinking more coffee than was healthy.

* * *

If he weren’t so concerned about makin’ noise, Jayne woulda been humming with anticipation as the two eggs cooked in the pan. Some nights he boiled ’em, some nights he fried ’em, some nights he poached ’em. He wished he knew how to make the Shepherd’s Haulin’ Daze Sauce, ’cause that stuff tasted real good, but he didn’t know what was in it, and he suspected it took a while to do it right. And hell, if he was bein’ honest—which he wasn’t, when he didn’t hafta be—but this was with himself, so who was he tryin’ to fool anyhow?—it was probably beyond his cookin’ skills.

Tonight he was real hungry, so he was goin’ with the fastest cookin’ he knew. Quick scrambled. Heat the pan real hot, beat up yer eggs, a little oil, dump ’em in, keep stirrin’, and they cooked in seconds. Jayne had just dumped ’em out onto his plate and turned off the cooktop when he heard the telltale skreek of the Captain’s hatch opening.

Mal and his gorram insomnia. Gorrammit, thought he’d have more time. Abandoning the dirty pan, Jayne grabbed the plate and snuck away down the opposite corridor. For a large man he was remarkably light on his feet—made him a good tracker. It was only when he was safe in the doorway of Shuttle Two that he realized he had no fork. Oh well, didn’t make no matter. Jayne set down on the deck, held the plate up, and tipped it into his open mouth. Dee-licious.

* * *

Instead of heading to the bridge first, Mal diverted to the dining room, his suspicions aroused by the unexpected smell. It wasn’t a bad smell—not like the stink comin’ out of Jayne’s bunk, which was mercifully sealed shut at the present time. Actually, smelled kinda like food. Something tasty.

As he patrolled the dining room, he noticed an unwashed pan left out on the cooktop. Gorrammit, whose turn was it for dishwashing? He made a mental note to look up the culprit and put yellin’ at ’em on his mental list of captain-y things to do. He made for the stove and grabbed the pan, intending to dump it in the sink and wash it himself.

他妈的 Tāmādē!” he exclaimed, dropping the pan with a clatter. The thing was burning hot. 这是什么 Zhè shì shénme?! Who was cookin’—what was it, eggs?—at ruttin’ four o’clock in the morning? And furthermore, where’d they get the gorram eggs? He ran his hand under cold water from the sink, hissing more with vexation than pain. Shutting off the tap, he grabbed the dishtowel that served as Serenity’s potholder, picked up the pan, washed it one-handed, dried it, and stowed it, before he stumped off cursing to the bridge to check on the flying.

* * *

After breakfast was cleared away, Ip set up on the dining room table to work on his scientific papers, as was his frequent habit. River joined him, and soon they were deep into mathematics and terraforming. Simon was washing up after breakfast, which was all to the better, as far as Mal was concerned. Doc needed to hear this, too. Mal figured this would be a good place to corner Ip, so once he was settled, Mal quit lurking in the corridor and returned to the dining room for another cup of coffee.

Forgetting about his burned hand for the moment, he reached for the coffee pot just as Simon pulled it off the stove to wash it, and the gorram thing thumped right against the burned spots on his hand. He let out a rapidly suppressed hiss of pain.

对不起 Duìbuqǐ, Captain, I didn’t realize you were—did it burn your hand?” Simon didn’t understand how it could have—the pot was no more than luke-warm. Had Mal jammed his finger? He dried his hands on the dishtowel and entered physician mode.

“Coffee pot ain’t hot enough to burn no more, Doc,” the Captain answered, making a game attempt to smile, “it’s just—”

Simon could see the pain in his eyes, and without further discussion, he reached into a nearby locker to retrieve the small medkit he stowed there.

“Show me your hand,” Simon requested authoritatively, fully in physician mode.

“Ain’t nothing, Simon,” Mal demurred, shaking his hand.

“Which means it’s something,” Simon countered. Mal wasn’t the only one who could use double negatives to his advantage.

Mal made no move to offer up his hand for inspection, and tried to glare at Simon.

“I’m a doctor, Captain. You don’t have to tough it out. Show.” He accompanied his command with the doctor-glare he reserved for his most recalcitrant patients.

Mal scowled, but complied.

“How did you get second-degree burns on your fingers?” Simon asked, eyeing the tepid coffee pot doubtfully.

“Burned it on a hot pan,” Mal answered shortly.

“When? Making breakfast?”

“’Round four am.”

“What were you doing cooking at four am?” Simon demanded.

“Didn’t say I was cookin’. Came in here, found a dirty pan left out, grabbed it to wash up, got burned.”

“What were you doing up at four am?” Simon asked, temporarily deferring the question of what had possessed Mal to wash dishes at four am. Let alone who else had been up at four am cooking.

“Listen, Doc, I didn’t come in here to play twenty questions,” Mal retorted impatiently. “Can we get to the fixin’ it up?”

The kitchen medkit was stocked with burn bandages, and Simon pulled one out and wrapped it around Mal’s hand. “This will prevent infection and fluid loss. It will also provide some pain relief.”

Mal was about to reply irritably, but the bandage was in fact so immediately effective that he changed course gave a grudging, “Thanks, Doc.”

Simon nodded and returned to his dishwashing, reaching again for the coffee pot to dump it. But his hand encountered thin air. The Captain was already pouring the tepid dregs of the coffee into his mug. The man must be desperate for caffeine, to drink that stuff. Insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression…the Captain was like a walking textbook case for PTSD. Simon wished he would let him treat him. But Mal was unlikely to feel comfortable talking it out with him. He wasn’t a trained psychiatrist, anyway—a fact that was brought home to him every time he confronted his sister’s problems. Simon knew damn well that Mal would be uncompliant if he prescribed him medications for PTSD—it was difficult enough persuading the man to put a bandage on his burn, for 天的 tiān de sake. Mal wasn’t likely to let him prescribe the anti-depressants which were commonly used in PTSD treatment regimens. But to tell the truth, Simon was also reluctant to do so—the more so since many of those anti-depressants were closely related to the G-32 paxilon hydrochlorate used to drug the population of Miranda into submission and death.

Mal took a swig of bitter coffee sludge, made a face, but swallowed it nonetheless. Returning the empty pot and his mug to the sink, he turned to the dining table and accosted Ip.

“Ip, you got relatives on Bernadette, 不是嗎 bùshìma?”

Ip looked up from his work. “Yes, Captain. My parents, Bubby, Zaide, and Aunt Waltraud live in Shinjuku. Various cousins, too. My sister Keiko lives in Macao, as well as Uncle Yoshi, and most of my mother’s relatives live in the southern hemisphere, in Manhattan.”

“Listen, Ip, Doc. Got a notion. I’m thinkin’ it might be okay for you two to meet up with your friend Hari after all.” Ip began to thank him and chip in his two credits’ worth as well, but Mal had more to say and wouldn’t brook interruption. “Just Hari. No extra Blue Sun pals. But it’s gotta look like a social meetin’. Nice and private.”


“Somewhere inconspicuous. Maybe your parents’ place, Ip.”


“Any reason to think your folks’ place might be bugged?”

“Bugged?” Ip squawked, his train of thought derailed by the Captain’s unexpected question. “Why would anyone bug my parents’ apartment?” He seemed to grapple with it for a moment before getting back on his own track. “But, Captain—”

“Your folks can be discreet, Ip? Won’t tell nobody what you all are talkin’ about? Don’t want nobody who shouldn’t hear, listening to you all jabbering on about Reavers and such,” Mal continued.


“But what already, Ip?” Mal asked, rounding on him.

“But nobody invites guests to their homes on Bernadette, Captain,” Ip objected.

“Why not?” Mal asked reasonably. “Bernadettiens ain’t a very hospitable bunch, then?”

“No, it’s not that. My parents love to entertain. I’m sure they’d like to have all of you as guests, but what I meant—”

“House too messy? Don’t want to take the trouble to clean up for visitors?”

“No, it’s just—”

“You just don’t think Simon would make a very good guest,” Mal surmised, mostly just to yank Simon’s chain a bit more.

The Doctor’s reaction was predictable. “嘿 Hēi!” he objected.

“I know our Doc don’t have the best manners. Kinda off-putting, he is.”

喂 Wèi! I’m standing right here.”

“With his superior airs, always actin’ like he knows more ’n other people,” Mal continued.

“I don’t act like I know more than other people!” Simon protested, but then honesty compelled him to add, “Well, except when, in fact, I do. I am a physician, you know.”

“Exactly,” Mal agreed, pointing at the Doctor as if Simon had just proven his point. “Like that. Always actin’ superior, using a five-credit word when an everyday one would do just fine. Words like—” Mal searched a moment for an example.

“Adscititious,” suggested River.

“Like that,” Mal nodded. “Words that don’t add no extra meaning to the conversation.”

“Precisely,” agreed River with a grin.

“You’re saying I use excessive verbiage, Captain?” Simon inquired.

“Instead of using plain speech, he’s always goin’ for the word that’s more obscure—”

“Abstruse. Caliginous. Recondite.”

“—talkin’ circles around the rest of us—”


“—makin’ all of us look like cavemen—”


“—instead of native speakers of the language.”

“Expatiation in the autochthonous manner.”

Simon objected strongly. “嘿 Hēi, I don’t—”

“Who was it said there was a ‘noxious effluvium exuding from Jayne’s bunk’?” Mal quoted obnoxiously.

Simon could only growl and seethe. He couldn’t deny that he’d used those exact words.

“I won’t deny it was one helluva bad smell, but I just don’t see the need for all the excessive syllabification.”

“Now who’s using too many syllables?” Simon countered, enumerating the nine syllables on his fingers. “‘Excessive syllabification,’ Captain? Really?”

“Too many words,” River enunciated carefully.

“Superfluous,” Mal added with a smirk.

Dumping the dishtowel on the counter, Simon declared, “I’m going to sequester myself in the infirmary and cogitate on the ramifications of this aberrant and excessive use of overexuberant syllabification,” and retreated to his own domain, where he would be safe from attacks on his vocabulary, and where he could counter-attack if necessary with the threat of imminent vaccination.

His amusement at Simon’s expense still remaining on his face, Mal turned back to Ip. “Seriously, Ip, is there a good reason why you don’t want the meeting between Simon and your Reaver friend to take place at your parents’ apartment?”

“Captain, it’s simply that Bernadettiens don’t entertain visitors at home. Most Bernadettiens live in tiny apartments, and when we have guests, we meet them at a restaurant or hotel or some other public place.”

“But this ain’t the kind of meeting should take place in public. Draw too much attention that way, I’m thinking.”

“On Bernadette, inviting someone into your home for a private meeting would be even more conspicuous,” Ip informed him. “Surest way to draw attention, because it’s so unusual.” The Captain still looked skeptical, so he added, “People discuss confidential business and personal matters at restaurants all the time, Captain. Most restaurants have secluded booths or private rooms for that purpose. All that’s necessary is to choose the restaurant wisely.”

“Alright then,” Mal agreed. “But don’t let on to your Reaver friend that this is anything more than a social occasion. Tell him there’s a friend he oughtta meet and leave it at that.”

“Oh, I see,” Ip replied, finally tuned in to the plan. “No names, right? I’ll tell him that I want him to meet a friend of mine. Someone he’ll find very interesting—a nice guy, a scientist, who has traveled all over the ’Verse—”

Mal nodded and cut it short, now that he knew Ip understood what he was asking of him. “How’s about you come to the bridge now, make the wave, and set up the meet?”

* * *

“The bot controller is in place, the boss says. Did you hear if the agent installed the RF device?”

“I understand that she did.” Anatoly didn’t really know, but that had never stopped him from making assertions. “When we bring them down in Secure Port—”

When I bring them down, Boromiro corrected silently, for he knew he would be doing most, if not all, of the flying. Anatoly couldn’t land a tethered weather balloon in a wide-open field without mishap, let alone a spaceship in a secure berth. Didn’t practice enough with the flight simulator.

“—we’ll use the remote, pop the airlock, and board.”

“You mean, the Hands will board.”

Anatoly paused, wind knocked out of his sails for a moment, as reality hit him. The Blue Hands operatives would board; he and Boromiro were only technical support staff. “We’ll observe the boarding,” he corrected, “but I’ll be the one who pops the lock.”

Boromiro nodded at Anatoly like a trained puppy, all agreeable on the surface. Meanwhile, he snagged the radio-frequency remote and secreted it in a drawer, so that when the moment came, only he would know where it was. “Do you think they’ll let us watch? Or will they cut the channel and hustle us away, like last time?”

* * *

“Well, Captain, I’m having trouble discovering any evidence of malware,” Ip told him, after spending a considerable time both at the console on the bridge and on the Captain’s personal cortex screen in his quarters. Mal had finally decided that he was more worried about what Saffron had done, than what Ip might do, and asked Ip to look for the Trojan horse.

He’d nonetheless spent the last several hours observing him at work, because he still didn’t completely trust Ip. Man had spilled a lot of confidential info about Miranda, clearly looking for something in return—but the question was, why? Ip was very keen to know what Mal knew about Miranda, but Mal wasn’t completely convinced that Ip’s agenda was limited to the pure and innocent quest for scientific knowledge. And until he knew for sure what the man was after, he’d rather maintain his habitual barrier of suspicion.

Truth was, he was bored out of his skull watching Ip work. Ip systematically checked through directories of software, in some cases opening the files, in some cases, reviewing the code. Mal watched carefully and in some cases provided usernames, passwords, and access codes, but damned if he really knew what Ip was looking for.

For the most part Ip simply skimmed through the lists of files without comment, but occasionally he raised his eyebrows or hmm’d, and Mal was on him like a chicken on a junebug, asking what he’d found. In most cases the answer was something quite mundane. “This program has been updated six times in the last six months,” was Ip’s comment about the cortex long-distance wave communication software.

Mal shrugged his shoulders. Communications and navigation were updated frequently, and in the case of navigation, regular updates were required by law, to maintain flight currency. Not that Mal hadn’t skimped before. There were times when he’d gone months and months without a nav update, especially when the budget was stretched thin. If it was a choice between being able to afford food to eat or receiving notification that ‘all atmospheric craft on Londinium will require a special permit to fly in the Capitol Zone on Monday, July 14, on account of the opening of a special session of Parliament,’ he’d choose eating. If he’d been inspected during the period of lapse, he could have lost his license, but since that was another thing that he’d let lapse during the hardest and thinnest stretch, it didn’t bother him much at the time. But now was different. He’d made a point of renewing his ship’s registration and license five months ago on Persephone, when they were repairing and refitting right under the nose of the Operative and the Feds after the battle with the Reavers. And he’d made gorram well sure his navigational software was current before making this trip to the Core. Alls he’d need was to have this whole operation bunged up on account of some low-level traffic stop turning into a citation for lapses in software currency, leading to examining his license, pulling his file, discovering his past, finding some outstanding warrant he wasn’t aware of, resulting in his imprisonment and the ruination of all aboard.

“The navigational software has a large amount of inactive code,” Ip told him. “I’m no expert in navigation software, although I had to work with little bits of it, for some of the orbiters and landers I designed in the past, to take terraforming data.” Mal nodded. “This whole section of code—” he indicated a vast swathe of what was pure gibberish to Mal “—has been active recently, and has been updated frequently, according to the update and usage logs. I don’t know for sure what its purpose is, but my best guess is that it relates to some kind of automated communications system.”

“Most like,” Mal agreed. “The nav software has whole portions we don’t use, but the fleet ships that make regular runs on regular routes rely on ’em. Lot of those ships pre-program their trajectories and let flight bots control the whole route. Pilot don’t do no more than okay the route and take action to override if something unexpected comes up.”

He’d learned that from Wash. It was the main reason why a talented pilot of Wash’s caliber had ever agreed to fly his ship: because the better-paid jobs with a regular freight or cruise line were boring. Wash had signed on with him primarily because he wanted to fly—really and actually fly—as opposed to sit there and oversee the autopilot. Wash jumped at the job because he wanted excitement. And because—as Wash explained repeatedly, insistently, in great detail, and without any encouragement—he thought Zoe was hot.

The ’03 Firefly was such an old boat that a lot of the modern flight bots didn’t work very well anyhow. And furthermore, Kaylee—with Wash’s input—had jury-rigged so many of Serenity’s systems to keep her flying that he doubted the interplanetary flight bot would function properly anyhow, even if they wanted it to. Probably fly Serenity right straight into the gorram White Sun instead of Shinjuku Spaceport.

It was true that they sometimes relied on Serenity’s rudimentary autopilot. They depended on the admittedly lousy proximity detectors to alert them in case of emergency, but for the most part the autopilot was only engaged during routine interplanetary space flight, when for some reason the pilot on watch needed a break.

“There’s also been recent access to your personal files, Captain.”

Damn Saffron, Mal thought. Wait. “Coulda been me.”

“I suppose it could,” Ip replied. “The user had the proper access codes.”

“Anything suspicious?”

Ip shrugged. “Just the recent updates to communications and navigation,” Ip answered “and then there’s this.” He pointed to the log file.

“What’s that do?” Mal asked. It was all so much gobbledegook to him.

“It’s an automatic communication ping. Like your transponder, but on a different frequency. It seems to be a regular part of the software, but it was enabled recently.”

“What’s the source?” Mal asked. He didn’t recollect installing or turning on such a thing.

“It says auto-update from NavWare,” Ip reported, after investigating the origin of the update.

Mal nodded. That was the company that made the nav software. Was it legitimate, then? Or some kind of tracker? Wait. “I don’t pay for auto-update service.”

“Oh.” Ip tapped at the keyboard, then told him, “Your last manual update was last Monday, NavWare Version…2545.7.20071231.” Mal nodded. That was the day they left Beaumonde. “But there have been two auto-updates since. Version 32 on Wednesday, and Version 33 was installed on Thursday.”

Mal thought for a moment. He was sure he hadn’t updated the nav software more than once—each installation cost him. “Can we uninstall the new ones? And keep the first, the manual installation?”

“No,” Ip answered. “But I can manually turn off the ping.”

Mal nodded, and Ip tapped and clicked. “I could download a new version from the cortex, and install it over the earlier ones.”

Mal shook his head. Update would cost him, and according to Ip, he was current—more than current. “Anything else?”

“Not that I can tell,” Ip replied.

A new thought struck Mal. “What about software from Blue Sun?”

“Well…” Ip replied slowly, “umm, actually, almost all of this software is from Blue Sun.”

Mal raised his eyebrows.

“Not directly, not labeled as such. But, for example, the software related to helm control is made by Sun Microdot, which is a daughter company of Blue Sun Software Division. And the software that operates the life-support systems is manufactured by Sun Systems.”

‘Vista Sun, New Worlds, Chow Interplanetary, Wing Beaumont, Bartihalon, Sun Microdot, Allmine, Huli Network…Ring M, Durai, Doembrown and Sinkall—all divisions of Blue Sun.’ The words of the three Purplebellies they’d shared drinks with at the bar on Beylix came to mind. “Sun Systems another Blue Sun company, then?”

Ip nodded. “The communications software is from Alliance Bell, but it’s made to their specifications by Sun Screens Cortex Communications, another division of Blue Sun. And the navigation software itself—”

“That’s government software. Download it direct from the Space Traffic Control cortex site.”

“Yes, but they don’t write it. They contract it out, and the writing is done by Astra Azul, which is—”

“Another gorram Blue Sun company?” ‘Little ones in the corner that you almost don’t see. But they’re the ones that reach in and do it. They’re the ones with teeth.’ River’s words from long ago echoed in Mal’s mind. Buck Holden had also told him—Blue Sun was everywhere, and their reach extended into everything. ‘They come out of the black and bite you when you’re least expecting it.’ “Bite you in the 屁股 pìgu.”

They still did not really know which systems or software Saffron had fouled up.

* * *





很可怕 hěn kěpà [godawful]

他妈的 Tāmādē [Damn it]

这是什么 Zhè shì shénme?! [What the hell?! (lit. What is this?)]

对不起 Duìbuqǐ [I’m sorry]

不是嗎 bùshìma [isn’t that so]

Bubby [Grandma (Yiddish)]

Zaide [Grandpa (Yiddish)]

嘿 Hēi [Hey]

喂 Wèi [Hello! Hey!]

屁股 pìgu [butt]

Previous Part | Next Part


Sunday, June 16, 2013 4:40 PM


And the ten ton spiked shoe dropped for Mal... so to speak.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 5:37 PM


And does it ever! Coming real soon...

Monday, June 17, 2013 4:16 AM


Uh oh, Mal is so close to stumbling on a clue the tension is mounting. How I wish River could give a coherent and timely warning once in a while. Would be so cool if they could turn the tables on Saffron and the Hands of Blue. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, June 17, 2013 5:32 AM


Yeah, they're close. River knows things, but she's not omniscient. Thanks for comments, Ali.

Monday, June 17, 2013 5:35 AM


> Since nothing had gone wrong yet, it simply meant that the Sword of Damocles was yet dangling over his head, ready to come down on him the moment he dropped his guard.

What was it Mal said to Simon? "It's not paranoia..."

> “Show me your hand,” Simon requested authoritatively, fully in physician mode.

>“Ain’t nothing, Simon,” Mal demurred, shaking his hand.

"shaking his HEAD"?

Unless he's flapping the hand like people do sometimes after they've been burned, not that it helps.

Speaking of, I can just imagine a be-mustached Wash "explaining" to Mal about Zoe, wildly gesticulating about the curves and the backside, and Mal watching in bemused horror wondering just what is this bizarre creature he's allowed on the bridge. Yes Mal, this is the guy you hired to make sure you don't die a fiery death, so no you can't put him out the airlock to preserve your precious ears and sanity.

Monday, June 17, 2013 5:48 AM


>“Ain’t nothing, Simon,” Mal demurred, shaking his hand.
Ah, yes. That's not clear, is it? He's trying to shake the pain out of his own hand. Completely ineffective, but people do that. Maybe I need to fix that.

And yes, Mal worries so much he would come across as paranoid, except those things really DO happen to him. Rather frequently. ;-)

I think that after he hired Wash (on Tanaka's enthusiastic reccomendation, etc.), Mal began to have second thoughts, but what could he do? The guy was a brilliant pilot, and he was lucky to have him. Even if watching him hitting on Zoe rubbed the wrong way. But then again, I don't think it occurred to Mal that Zoe couldn't handle things herself. (And she did. Just not at all in the way Mal had anticipated.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 8:27 PM


I got the hand shake for the pain. I do that in RL all the time for minor aches and stuff.


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ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (20)
“Vaccinations?” Jayne asked, with a stupid expression. “Fer chickens?”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (19)
“Inara, I ain’t willing for you to bribe—” “Who said anything about bribes?” “What other form of persuasion you plannin’ on using? I’m not sure I like this plan.” “Mal, I can be very persuasive,” Inara replied. After a short beat, she added, with a touch of asperity, “Fully clothed.”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (18)
Extreme measures as more things go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (17)
In which things begin to go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (16)
Waiting for the other shoe to drop

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (15)
Serenity enters the Core, Mal and Inara sleep together, and Simon and Ip come up with a plan.

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (14)
In which we find out more about Miranda

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (13)
Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (12)
Mal tells Inara a folktale from Shadow

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (11)
Inara and Zoe have a little palaver