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Destiny: The Director's Cut - 3
Friday, October 14, 2005

Repost of chapter 3. In the time before they reach Shadow, Destiny's newest passenger muses on her new life, the crew prepares for arrival, and through it all, someone is watching...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1318    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

Calm Before the Storm

En-Route to Shadow Inara Serra stepped out of her shuttle and onto the catwalk, noticing not for the first time the subtle differences between her former home and her new one. Sure, Destiny was a Firefly-class transport, and sure the layout was the same as Serenity, but there were the differences. It was clean, for one thing, cleaner than Mal had ever bothered keeping Serenity. Not that it had ever bothered her before, but now, holding a metal railing that wasn’t covered in dust and staring out into a cargo bay that reeked of cleaning solvent, she fought the impulse to run out of the cargo bay doors, grab a handful of dirt and spread it around the ship, if only to give it that lived-in look. Make it look like home. Of course, going outside while they were in the black wouldn’t be the best course of action, but anything to make the ship seem anything less than immaculate would be an improvement in her mind. Serenity isn’t home anymore. This is home now. She shook her head and tried to smile. She hadn’t explained to Captain Kurdian exactly why she left Serenity, and she didn’t plan on it. It was a part of her life that she needed to put behind her, even if her heart told her that she had made the wrong choice. Well, what had following her heart got her? She fell in love with a broken man who so obviously had feelings for her, but all her training told her stay away. So she never told him how she felt. When Saffron sabotaged the ship and Inara had found Mal unconscious in his bunk, she had kissed him, throwing aside everything for the man she loved. Then why, after she woke up from the “Goodnight Kiss” that Saffron had left on Mal’s lips, why did she deny kissing him? In the end, it had been her fault. Mal slept with Nandi. That single incident had torn Inara apart more than she would ever admit. She had pushed him into the arms of someone else, and the worst part was that she wasn’t even mad at Mal, or even Nandi for it. She was mad at herself. So she left Serenity, left her family. Saying goodbye was a heart wrenching experience. Kaylee cried, asking why she had to go. Wash, for once, had no jokes to say, instead clinging to his wife. Simon comforted Kaylee, and Jayne…well, big Jayne hadn’t really said anything before he slipped back to his bunk. Book hugged her and wished her well, saying that he would throw a prayer her way every now and then. She thanked him for that. Mal never even showed up to say goodbye. Zoe apologized, but didn’t offer any explanation for his absence. That hurt her, but she knew that she probably deserved it. River, sweet River was the last to say goodbye. “He can’t say what he means, because the plumbing’s all broke. Heart’s no good when it has no reason to beat.” Then she smiled and twirled off into a dance. Inara had walked down the cargo ramp into the swirling dusty air of the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone. All her things had been moved earlier into her new shuttle on another Firefly-class transport. She had returned to Serenity only to say her goodbyes. Shepherd Book gave her a basket of fruit from his latest trip to the Abbey, and she carried that now. As she walked away, she glanced back to get a final look at the ship that had been her home for so long and saw Mal watching her out of the windows on the Bridge. She turned away, shifting the basket to get a free arm to wave, but when she looked back, he was gone. Now, so far away from the ship that had once been her home and from the family that she had forged there, she asked herself, not for the first time, if she had made the right decision. * * * Harvey Briesch finished tying down the last of the cargo and wiped a sleeve across his sweaty brow. He grabbed the cloth off of his belt and rubbed it across the boxes, trying to keep them dust free. Just like it was supposed to be. Clean as a whistle. Anything to keep his mind off the fact that they were headed into Reaver territory. Actually, Tark had told him that the Reavers had been chased out of that area years before, and the Captain had brushed off his concerns, saying that Shadow had recovered well in the years since the Reaver massacre. Still, the prospect of visiting a world that had once been swarming with those flesh-eating freaks did not settle well with him. Not one bit. He heard a commotion behind him and turned to see the Captain stumbling through the hatch with Gretta following him from the infirmary, holding a long needle and yelling angrily. “I’m telling you that you’re going to need this to help with the pain,” she argued, trying to grab his good arm. “And I’m telling you that I don’t need it,” Etris shot back, yanking his arm away only to fall heavily against the bulkhead onto his bad arm. He yelped in pain, momentarily distracted, and Gretta used that opportunity to jab the needle into his other arm. He yelped and tried to run, but it was too late. Etris growled at the Doctor while Gretta smiled, victorious. Despite himself, Harvey found himself chuckling at his Captain’s misfortune. He was surprised when his laughter was joined from somewhere above his head. He turned and looked up to see the Companion standing on the catwalk, a soft smile on her beautiful face. Etris must have noticed as well. “So Miss Serra thinks that my pain is funny?” he asked her, a grin forming on his face, despite his obvious effort to stay mad at Gretta. Inara nodded, her movements so precise, and yet at the same time so graceful. “I apologize Captain,” she said, walking - no, more like floating – along the catwalk towards the stairs. “It’s just that I once knew a man who had a tendency to be…” She paused, apparently looking for the right word “…strong-willed, as you appear to be.” Harvey heard another laugh and turned to see Tark rumbling down the stairs from the crew quarters. “You mean stubborn,” he said. Etris turned and glared at him. “You’re one to talk, Spooky.” Tark shrugged and laughed louder. Harvey shook his head. What a crew. * * * Etris tried to be angry, tried to yell like he wanted to, but the combination of the high spirits of his crew, the laughter of his newest passenger Inara, and whatever was in that needle that Gretta had jabbed into him calmed him down a lot. He really didn’t mind everyone having a laugh at his expense, since God knows he had enjoyed more than one about everyone else. Except Inara, actually. Inara Serra. Now there was one mysterious woman. Not a month earlier he had picked her up on Persephone, as well as a good deal of income from the rent she was paying on his shuttle. She didn’t say why she left her former ship, another Firefly called Serenity (now that name brought back some memories), and he didn’t pry into her private business. In fact, her comment about him reminding her of someone else was the first time she had even made mention of her life before Destiny. He looked up at her now and tried to grin; the drugs were easing the pain, but he knew that they would knock him out before too long. She grinned back. Such a perfect smile. The laughter quieted and the cargo bay began to empty, everyone going their separate ways, except for Gretta and Tark, who seemed to be in a hurry; the way they raced up the stairs, rubbing against each other in a way that Etris had seen many times before. He knew what they were going to do. He thought of Inara again, of her profession. He tried to put the thought out of his mind, but it persisted. He respected her for being the strong person she so obviously was, but he still couldn’t get past the fact that she was still, basically a whore. He mentally kicked himself for even thinking a thought like that. She had a job, and a respected one at that. It didn’t matter the specifics of the job as long as it was done well. Done well…hmm… “Captain, are you alright?” Inara’s voice snapped him out of his lusty thoughts and he kicked himself again. Must be the drugs, he thought. If Rian finds out I’m thinkin’ thoughts like this, she’ll have me castrated! “I’m fine, thanks,” he said out loud. He climbed the steps and stood next to her, leaning on the railing for support. “So, do you have anything set up for Shadow?” he asked. She nodded. “Shadow is not a world I usually visit, but the Governor there is listed highly in the Client Registries. I have spoken with him and arranged a stay.” She paused. “How long will we be planetside?” “A few days, longer if you need it.” She laughed, her beautiful laugh echoing in the large room. “My dear Captain, I do not think that I will need that much time, but the offer is appreciated.” Etris turned painfully. “Well then, Miss Serra, I will be off to bed. If you need me, ask someone else, because thanks to Gretta, I don’t think I’ll be answering any questions for a while.” She chuckled. He grinned back and slowly made his way up the stairs. He needed to get to bed before he collapsed, and again, thanks to Gretta, he didn’t think he was going to make it. * * * On Board Serenity The insistent shrilling of the message indicator brought Wash away from his plastic dinosaurs and their conquest of the nav console. He turned to the side and activated the screen, selecting the correct icon and pulling up the link to the Cortex. He checked the latest Wave, hoping it was someone with a job for them; alas, it was only for little Kaylee. “Who’s it for?” Wash turned to see Mal striding onto the Bridge, his expression dour, just as it had been ever since Inara… “It’s for Kaylee,” Wash said quickly. Mal leaned over the pilot and stared at the screen. “Looks like it’s live,” he commented. “Best not keep whoever it is waiting.” He paused, as if considering something. Then, almost as an afterthought: “Who is it from?” Wash checked, and shrugged. “It’s coded for voiceprint, probably only Kaylee’s.” Mal huffed. The look in his eyes turned to almost a sadness, but they became emotionless again almost as quickly. Wash knew who it was from, and probably so did Mal; Inara was the only person who Waved Kaylee with a voice lock. Probably because she didn’t want to face Mal. Wash couldn’t blame her. The pilot grabbed the intercom mike and keyed up the Engine Room, desperate to get away from Mal’s darkening look. “Kaylee, you’ve got a Wave.” The chipper response came back fast. “Really? For me? Patch it through to my bunk, ‘k?” “Sure thing,” Wash replied. He hung up the mike and spun the chair back around to face Mal again; but the Captain was nowhere to be seen. Wash shrugged again. Nobody on the boat really liked dealing with Mal lately. He punched in the commands for the Wave transfer, and then turned back to his dinosaurs. “So boys, where were we?” * * * En-route to Shadow The Exitor was a stealth ship, built for speed and secrecy, but not much else. The living quarters were sparse, and the gravity plating sometimes had a mind of it’s own, but the craft’s three inhabitants didn’t mind. Human comforts were unnecessary. As long as the ship got them to their destination fast, and faster than their quarry, everything else was simply of no consequence. Two men sat at the controls, their blue-gloved hands clasped patiently in front of them. Neither one of them moved any more than was absolutely necessary. The third passenger stepped out of the shadows behind them. “How long until Shadow?” Blue Hand One turned slowly. “Three hours,” he stated. “Be patient. We’re still hours ahead of Destiny.” The third figure nodded, smiling. “And then we use them to bait Reynolds.” She had been taught to control her emotions, but this was one instance where she felt a smile was necessary. Where others had failed before, including that useless fed and the bounty hunter, she would succeed. Even Malcolm Reynolds would not be able to stop her. River Tam, she thought, we’re coming for you…

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