Disclaimers and notes:
Obviously, it all belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the rest. I’m just playing with it.
This was my first fanfic, and was posted on fireflyfans over a year ago. (I've learned a bit about writing since then, so I'll be making improvements as I post here.) The Fish Job has a sequel which was posted last summer; I am currently working on a third part in the series which will be ready in a month or so. So... my goal here is to spread the word before I get to posting the new installment, and also it's about time I learned how to get around this LiveJournal place.
For your ease, mouse-over Chinese for English translations.
Many thanks to Guenever, BlueEyedBrigadier, and vera2529 from fireflyfans for doing beta.
All comments welcome!
The crew finds a new job and Mal finds new trouble.
“Gorram, look at that!” Jayne stared open mouthed as a burly man in a bright red vinyl apron swung a giant silver fish over a counter. “Can I get one Mal?” The fish flew through the air, missing Jayne by inches, to be caught by another aproned worker and slapped onto a cutting board. A knife flashed and the fish fell into neat fillets.
“Vera might get jealous about you bringin’ home another pet.”
“Niú shĭ, you eat ‘em, you don’t keep ‘em as pets!” Jayne thought about it. “Or could ya?”
“Not on my boat. Your bunk smells bad enough already.” Mal scanned the aisle ahead, trying to see through the tightly packed mass of shoppers. The walkway was lined with ice-filled display cases packed with every kind of sea critter one could imagine.
“Let’s get one to eat then.” Jayne pushed through a mob of arguing women to keep up with Mal.
“For the cost of that one fish we could buy enough protein to feed the crew for a week.”
“Uh-huh. With the added bonus that the protein tastes like ass.”
“Oh, the hardships we intrepid explorers face.”
“You don’t wanna get a fish, just say so. No need to be callin’ me names.”
Mal rolled his eyes with a sigh, then caught sight of something strange through a break in the crowd. He pointed at the giant blue fish; its gaping mouth was surrounded with prickly bristles like a beard. “Long lost relative?” he asked Jayne.
Jayne’s lip curled. “Ha. Very funny.”
“There is a resemblance …” Mal continued, but Jayne was already distracted by the next stall.
“Hey, how `bout one of them red buggy lookin’ things? Think they taste good?”
“We are actually here for a job.”
“Don’t mean we can’t sample the local kwa-zeen. You think they’re all green inside? Like space aliens?”
“Ain’t no such thing as space aliens.”
“How d’you know? Those things sure look weird enough.”
Mal saw the stall he was looking for: Big Ricky’s Delight of the Sea. “That’s the place up there.” He stopped for a second to hold Jayne’s attention. “Do me a favor and don’t talk for a few, OK? This could be a good contact to make – I hear this guy’s tied in to big stuff. Sure as guĭ he ain’t just manager of a fish market stall. We got us an easy job for good pay, and likely more of the same to come if we don’t screw it up. I don’t want to be scarin’ him off.”
Jayne puffed out his chest. “I don’t need to talk to be scary.”
“Ya. Don’t think you’re clear on the kind of scary I’m talkin’ about. Just keep it shut.” Mal finished with a look of warning, then continued along the aisle. Jayne wisely kept his reply to an under-his-breath mutter, then had to cut through a swarm of people gawking at a water tank to catch up to Mal again.
“Mal, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you don’t trust me much.”
“You know better?”
“Ya, OK. But I am not completely incompe… uh, I mean… I can do stuff right.”
“Let’s not start testin’ that idea today.”
They reached the stall and Mal greeted the aproned worker cheerfully. “Hi! I’m here to see Ren-ren Lu. Name’s Malcolm Reynolds, he’s expectin’ me.”
“Ahh, Captain, of course. Right this way!” The worker lifted a gate in the counter and guided Jayne and Mal through a door in the back of the stall. They passed through a shabby kitchen area full of crates and questionable odors. The second room back had a table piled with papers and Alliance credit notes. A small Chinese man with plump red cheeks rose as soon as they entered.
“Captain Reynolds, an honor to welcome you!” He trotted to Mal, then stopped with his hands clasped before him and bowed.
“Ren-ren, the honor is all mine.” Mal returned the bow. “This is my, um, ‘mute’ cabin boy, Jayne Cobb.”
Jayne frowned at Mal, then rebelliously turned to Ricky to display his speaking prowess. “Nĭ hăo, Mister Lu.”
“Please, call me Ricky.” The man inclined his head at Jayne, then gestured toward the chairs around the table.
“So, Captain, you are able to take cargo to Oeneus?” Ricky asked after they were all seated.
“Not a problem.”
“I warn you: cargo is not illegal, but Alliance not happy about it.”
“And I do hate it when I make the Alliance unhappy.” Mal leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach with a grin.
Ricky snickered and shook a finger at Mal. “I hear this about you, Captain Reynolds. But, understand, things change here in past year. My products sell good on many developing worlds, like Oeneus. Fish based proteins, seaweed, veggies, rice. Sauces and tasty spices. Very desirable. Prices not so low as Blue Sun, but taste is much better, and just as easy for transport and storage. Business take off. I begin to attract attention of Core corporations - they do not like me moving into market.”
“They startin’ to come down on ya?”
“No law say I cannot sell - but Alliance need no law to have own way.”
“Ain’t that the sad truth,” Mal muttered.
“Especially where much money involved. I am careful. They do not know where to find me, how to shut me down. But they will want to know. I never see Alliance cruisers around Oeneus, but only matter of time. You will need to be careful also.”
“I was born careful Ricky.”
“That is why I hire you. The cargo is at docks on south end of Sydney, berth 7. I give half payment now.” Ricky pulled a stained envelope from under a pile of papers. “The rest paid when you unload at Atalanta station in Oeneus orbit. My associate will meet you.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“If this work okay, Captain, could be much more jobs to come. The market grows, I am always looking for transport.”
“It’s a pleasure doin’ business with you, Ricky, and I wouldn’t mind doin’ more.” Ricky nodded with a satisfied smile and slid the envelope across the table.
“Uh, Cap’n?” Jayne asked as Mal took the envelope and stood up.
“Yes, Jayne,” Mal replied with an impatient sigh.
“Ya think we can get some of this fancy Chinee food stuff? All that protein’s been killin’ me,” Jayne patted his belly with a grimace.
“Of course!” Ricky said. “I throw in meals for your crew to try. Free samples.” Ricky opened his arms expansively. “You get good food, I make new customer. Everybody happy!”
* * *
“I’m so glad you stayed on board,” Wash said as he snuggled into his favorite place: the long curve of Zoë’s neck that fit his cheek so perfectly.
“It’s a cinch job. And Mal owes me a little time off.” Zoë flipped the sheet aside and wrapped her arms around her naked husband.
“Oh, you asked him then, did you?” This spot also allowed him to nip at her collarbone.
“Well... he told me I could take a break. But only because I hinted… strongly. Stop it!” She broke a low laugh, which was as close to a giggle as Zoë ever got. She rolled away from his persistent nibbling, but Wash pursued her, making use of a certain area on the back of her neck which he always found responsive to a stubbly chin.
“So you told him,” he said awkwardly as his chin worked, “that your husband was in dire need of love slave time.”
Zoë hunched her goose-fleshed shoulders. “Love slave? Are you referrin' to me or you?”
“That’s something we’ll have to discuss.” Wash’s teeth got busy with her ear as he wrapped a leg around both of hers, pinning her down as best he could before his hands went in for the killing blow: the bottom of her rib cage.
“You’ll force me to retaliate!” she managed to warn between gasps. “All right, enough!” Zoë flipped around and found herself on top of him in a convenient position.
“How ‘bout we discuss it?” she asked.
* * *
As soon as Mal and Jayne got back to the main aisle of the market, Mal pulled out a comm: “Wash, take the ship to the south side docks, berth 7.” The comm replied with only static. “Wash?”
It was a few long seconds before the reply came through. “Yes. Captain.”
“Tell Zoë we got cargo waitin’ to be loaded.”
“Cargo. Ri-” Wash’s reply was cut short.
“South docks, berth 7,” Mal repeated impatiently. “Me and Jayne’ll meet you there.”
There was another delay. “Got it, Captain. Sir.”
Mal scowled. “Wash, this is business. You and Zoë put your clothes on and get goin’.”
* * *
Simon pushed against the metal bar that lay across his shoulders, clenching his teeth at the pain in his leg. The gunshot wound wasn’t healed enough for him to handle a lot of weight, but he was impatient to start building his strength back. It wasn’t a good idea to live on this ship without the ability to run, dive away from shotgun blasts, and on occasion jump off of high catwalks.
Book helped lower the bar to the deck after Simon finished his set. “Nice work, doctor. You recovery is moving right along,” Book said.
“Zoë did a good job.” Simon ran a hand over his thigh.
“She does have some experience, no matter what she said about it. Spot me?”
Simon moved behind the bench as Book sat down. Out of habit, Simon glanced over his shoulder to the catwalk where River had been sitting. She was gone.
“River?” he called out.
“Relax, son. She went with Kaylee.”
“Don’t worry so much, you’ve got a lot of help keeping an eye on that girl.”
“It takes a lot of eyes.”
“That’s not far from what she said about you, as I understand it.” Book stretched out on the bench.
“She would say that.” Simon smiled fondly. “It’s good to see her spending time with Kaylee.”
“Yes, it is. There’s a teenage girl in there who has a lot to learn about growing up. Things they didn’t teach you in med school or me in the Abbey.” Book took a deep breath and started his set, leaving Simon to ponder the mysteries of feminine teenage knowledge.
* * *
“Inara gave it to me,” Kaylee said. “It's nice, huh?”
River and Kaylee were parked on the bed in Kaylee’s cabin, a dark brown box decorated with intricate pearl inlay was open between them.
“No, you’re doin' it wrong,” Kaylee continued. “She showed me how - hand it over, I’ll do it for you.” Kaylee snatched one her new toys from River’s hand.
“Never done this,” River whined. “Don’t know how it’s supposed to work!”
“It takes lots of practice. I’m not so good as Inara, but she told me I just need to try it more.”
“Have to try on me?”
“What, you think Jayne would let me do it to him?” River dropped her moping and laughed at the idea. “Now look up,” Kaylee ordered, demonstrating. River copied her, rolling her eyeballs up as far as possible, also dropping her mouth open in the effort. Very carefully, Kaylee drew a heavy black line under River’s lower lashes.
“It tickles my eyeball!”
“Eyeballs can’t be ticklish.”
“Let me get the top too. Close your eyes. Don’t squint! There, OK. Now… the lashes.” Kaylee set down the pencil and unscrewed the lid from a black tube. “After I put this on, you can’t blink for a bit or it’ll get all over.”
“There’s a lot of rules involved in this,” River said skeptically.
“It’s how its done. Inara said so. You wanna shoot bad guys, you ask Cap’n and Zoë. You wanna fix a bullet hole, there’s Simon. I know all about engine parts, and Wash does the flyin’. But when it comes to lookin’ pretty, Inara’s the expert. Gotta do it her way.”
“I don’t need to get clients,” River complained, but she tilted her face up, lashes at the ready.
“Don’cha want a boyfriend?”
“Shia!” River replied, then she continued dryly. “And my options are…?”
Kaylee held her breath as she finished up, then leaned back to check her work. “Good point. Let’s do the other eye!”
* * *
Inara put on her warmest smile. “Really, Captain… Jacobs? I’ve done quite a lot of touring on the rim already. I was hoping to find a ship taking a more direct course into the Core.”
“I’m sorry miss.” The man on the screen did truly look sorry. “We got some business needin’ takin’ care of. But I’d be happy to get you as far as Persephone, we’ll be able to stop there in just a few weeks -”
Inara cut him off, “Thank you Captain, I’ll just look around a bit more.”
She keyed off the transmission, surprised at her own lack of courtesy. Mal had been right, there was nothing on New Melbourne but fish and slimy pirates who probably smelled as bad as their cargo holds. She shook her head, more aware of her condescending attitude than she would have been a year ago, then scanned the rest of the docking list.
Nothing else seemed promising, so she rose from the cortex station in her shuttle and moved to the sofa, picking up a cup of tea that had long gone cold. It was time to get off this ship. Past time. But now that she’d made up her mind, it seemed the fates had decided to keep her where she was.
Her gaze settled on the second teacup on the table. Some tea had spilled around it when Serenity'd entered atmo, but she hadn’t bothered to wipe it up yet. She sighed. Mal had never touched it; he still wasn’t one for ceremony.
He ignored the tea she poured for him. “We should have a few days layover time, give you a chance to look for a lift. But New Melbourne is a ways out. You sure you want to get off here?”
“I haven’t had much in the way of decent clientele lately. There’s really no reason for me to stay any longer.”
“Well, could be you’ll find a well-heeled explorer out here amongst the mongrels of the rim, looking for someone to keep him perky on the way back to the civilized worlds.”
“I should be so lucky.” Inara sipped her tea to cover her annoyance.
Mal was less skilled at hiding his. “Since this is the place for it, make sure you stock up on sushi and lobster tail. Maybe a little blowfish for an aphrodisiac.”
“My clients don’t need aphrodisiacs.” She raised a brow at him, and Mal looked away.
“Right - all they need is a fat credit account.”
“A little class and decent manners don’t hurt.”
“`Cause knowing which fork to use is soooo sexy.”
“It’s not all about sex.”
“Right, it’s about making people feel special, like you care about them. That is, `till the clock runs out. Ding! Will that be cash or credit account?”
“That’s not how it is. Why can’t you understand? A Companion truly provides support, compassion. I care for my clients.”
“Sure. And it takes years of schoolin’ to learn to show all this fine carin’.”
The ship lurched. Inara held her cup out to steady it, but tea from Mal’s untouched cup sloshed over the rim onto the table. “And that would be Wash entering atmo,” he said. “Guess I got my own business to take care of.” He stood up.
“Mal, I don’t want to fight with you. I know we haven’t always… seen eye to eye, but I see no reason why we can’t part on good terms -”
“The best of terms. You’re all paid up, I’ll even get your security deposit to you in full.”
“I appreciate that but -” Inara didn’t finish. She sipped her tea instead.
“Just make sure you find a ride here, or you’ll be owin’ me more rent.” Mal turned and left.
Inara shook the memory out of her head, then rose and took both tea cups to the shuttle’s head to empty them in the sink. She brought back a towel to wipe up the spilled tea before she returned to the cortex station, keying up the docking list again.
* * *
Mal and Jayne left the market, climbing a long series of stairs which led from the docks up to the center of town. Trams passed by on either side of them, followed by suggestive harrumphs from Jayne, but Mal preferred the walk. No reason to get there quick; may as well take the time to see the place, breathe the salty air.
The buildings around them grew more wholesome as they climbed. There was no upper class here in New Melbourne, but the market for decent food on the rim was giving rise to a bit of a middle class. Mal shook his head sadly - it was sure to draw some eyes eventually, since the Alliance was all about making money. Like Ricky said, any healthy market was going to get messed with.
They reached the top landing to find a wide courtyard lined with the cleanest windows they’d seen yet. Signs outside shops advertised higher end goods: fabrics, fancy furniture, liquor that wasn’t like to make one blind, and weaponry. Mal turned back to that last one with narrowed eyes; he recognized the small symbol on the corner of the sign outside the weapons shop. Hadn’t seen it in a while, but it wasn’t something he'd forget. Neither would the woman who’d watched him pull a small metal shard out of the remains of her daughter’s leg - a shard that had that same symbol on it.
“Hang on a sec,” Mal muttered. He headed toward the shop without bothering to check on whether Jayne had heard him.
The shop featured all manner of guns and ammo in tightly locked displays, but that wasn’t what Mal was thinking on. He walked slowly about the empty shop.
“Can I help you?” A young man - more of a kid, really - came in from a back room and stood behind the counter eyeing Mal with suspicion. He was blond and clean cut, looking spiffy in a well tailored suit and a dark gray cap with a shiny black rim. Looked a lot like an Alliance uniform, come to think of it.
“I was wonderin’ what you have in the way of seekers.”
“Seekers?” The kid clearly recognized what Mal was asking for, but gave him a doubtful up and down look. “Are you representing anyone…?”
“Ya, I know some people who’re interested. Got a lot of interest, you might say.”
The worker still looked dubious. “You have the means?”
Mal pulled out the envelope Ricky'd given him; the bills he flashed served to change the kid’s manner. “Ahh, sorry, sir. But you must guess at the types we have coming in here.” He motioned Mal over to the counter and set out a flat gray box. “Here’s the most popular model, developed during the war.” He opened the box. “Motion activated, moves fast and quiet. The explosive is small, but it will at minimum disable anyone unfortunate enough to be walking in front of its nose.”
“Unfortunate,” Mal repeated with a tight nod as he looked at the small silver cylinders in the box. “Can’t these be steered aside with the proper tech?” he asked, though he knew the answer full well.
“Well, yes, but only if you hear ‘em comin’, which ain’t easy.”
Mal gave him a long look. This idiot must have been just sproutin’ pubes when the war was fought, sure as hell he'd never seen what these things could do.
“You know that for a fact, do ya?” Mal asked.
“Sure. But I gotta tell you - we’ll be getting a newer model in a few weeks.” The boy leaned toward Mal like he was cutting him in on a secret, and settled into full smooth salesman mode. “Higher grade seekers that can’t be steered aside by anything non-biological. Targets bio-rhythms. What’s more, comes with transmitters you can plant on all your own people, so they won’t be targeted. It’s pricey, but you set up your own side with those transmitters and let loose a pack of high grade seekers… you got your battle won right there. Just gotta buy a lot of extras, you know, `cause there’s always a few that pick up the wrong targets.”
The kid was just flashing a white toothed grin when Mal’s fist smashed into his face. He went down behind the counter, and Mal was up and over it just as quick, grabbing a seeker on his way.
“You ever seen one of these do its job?” he asked. The kid looked up, his eyes focusing on Mal’s thumb on the activation switch. “Think it’ll disable you if it gets you in the ankle? Ever wonder just how much of your leg it’ll take? I can tell you all about it.”
“Mal!” Mal looked over his shoulder at Jayne’s voice. “You in here?”
Mal turned back to the terrified young man. Green húndàn'd probably never been hit in the face before, and here he was selling seekers to the unwashed masses. Mal swore, but his anger drained out of him. What he had here was another job that wouldn’t go smooth, and this time he had no one to blame but himself. He also had a kid with a bloody face looking up at him like he was the biggest bad in the ‘verse.
Mal sighed; it was too late to argue about that. He tucked the seeker in his shirt pocket and impassively punched the kid again to knock him out. Might buy enough time to load the cargo and get the hell off world.
|Niú shĭ:||  cow shit|
|nĭ hăo:||  hello|
The Fish Job: Chapter 2/19
BTW, I'm new to LJ. If you have suggestions as to format - coloring and page setup kinds of things - to make it easier to look at, please let me know!