Part 1: The Bounty hunter
The sights and sounds of the trading station where an assault on the senses that Simon found it hard to compensate for. Added to this was the fact that he was supposed to be looking for his wayward sister who had disappeared again.
Shepard Book had agreed to help find her while the others finished loading up Serenity for a surprisingly legal cargo run that would go someway to filling their depleted coffers and keep them flying.
The only problem was the station was big, and River was relatively small.
The unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked brought Simon back to reality with a bump.
"Doctor Simon Tam, you are bound by law to stand down." A surprisingly feminine, but no-less threatening, voice came from somewhere behind him, "Now put those highly trained hands behind your head and don't do anything stupid." Cold metal pressed against the back of his head, "'Cause this old Nitro-Express of mine will make a horrible mess of you if I so much as stroke this here trigger."
"I think we have a slight case of mistaken identity..." Simon tried to buy himself some time to think, but the unyielding gun-barrel slammed into the back of his head.
"Now what did I just say about doing something stupid?" The voice asked, sounding more than a little annoyed, "You can plead your innocence to the nice Federal Judge on Osiris." A strong hand grabbed Simon by the wrist and he felt the cold steel of a pair of handcuffs snap home.
"Simon!" River chose that moment to appear, "What's happening? Some kind of game?"
"No!" Simon's expression changed to one of terror, "RUN!"
"I wouldn't do that if I where you." The voice cocked a second hammer, "This here guns got two barrels, and although I need to take her in alive to get paid, the warrant said nothing about her having both legs intact."
Simon was span round to find himself facing the brim of a truly ancient looking Stetson hat. The hat tilted back, revelling an attractive, if grime covered, face framed by faint traces of blond hair. The long trench coat the apparent bounty hunter wore hung open to reveal a pair of automatic pistols hung from holsters under each arm. A revolver hung long on her right hip. Although the cloths looked shabby and several sizes too big for the occupant, there was no deigning that she was a very attractive young woman, not more than a few years older than River.
"Excuse me, Miss?" Simon almost fainted when Shepard Book appeared out of the shadows, "I do truly believe that you are mistaken: I know these two personally, and I give you my word before God that they have never committed a crime."
"Warrant says otherwise." Blond held the gun steady with one hand while the other pulled a pair of flexi-sheets from inside the trench coat, "Not that I'm calling you a lie, you being a preacher and all, but I'm thinking that maybe you're the one who's mistaken." The drawl in the young woman's voice reminded Simon of Jayne, and he mentally tagged her with the name. "And there was I thinking there'd be no work on a luh-suh station like this, when I spy the good doctor here, and I just know his little sister's got to be close by." Her eyes turned cold and drilled into Book, "Walk away while you still can Preacher man: this ain't your fight."
"Ok, I'll go." Book backed away, "But I still think you're making a mistake..."
Book was almost out of breath by the time he got back to Serenity, shooting through the door at a dead run. He hit the first cargo crate and felt his legs give out.
"Something wrong Preacher?" Mal asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Simon. River. Bounty hunter." Book gasped.
"Meh, tah mah duh hwoon dahn!" Mal swore, "Zoë, Jayne, with me. Rest of you, get the rest of this stored away and power up the engines: we may have to leave in a hurry." He grabbed Book and pulled him back though the airlock."
"What ever the bounty is, I'll double it." Simon sat on one end of a bed in a very down market hotel. River was perched on the other end, apparently still under the impression that this was all a game.
"So now you're saying you is Simon Tam?" Blond looked at him from across the room, shotgun across her knees as she waited for someone to pick up the other end of the phone, "Jake, it's me: I need transport to the core two of myself and two prisoners. Yes, that's right. Ship leaving bay eight, two hours? Can they handle prisoners? Much obliged." She put the phone down, "Well then, look's like you're going home."
"You can't do that!" Simon protested, straining at the handcuffs.
"Oh I can and I will." Blond stood, the huge shotgun swinging round to face River and Simon, "Time to go."
Book couldn't help be feel out of place surrounded by Mal, Zoë and Jayne: the three of them moved like a pack of wolves, eyes always searching the crowed for danger. People instinctively got out of their way, while the Sheppard was pulled along behind them.
"If this bounty hunter wants the reward, they're going to have to take them back to the Core." Mal looked around the various airlocks, "And that means a ship of some kind."
"Wouldn't they just hand the two of them over to the Feds?" Jayne asked.
"The Alliance has no interest in a place like this." Zoë shook her head; "They leave it up to the local authorities to keep the peace and watch out for fugitives."
"Over there!" Book pointed at a dark coroner, "I swear I just saw River."
"Jayne to the left, Zoë to the right. Sheppard, stay back; this could get messy." Mal drew his revolver.
"Well I'll be a fay-fay duh pee-yen!" Blond glanced round the side of a crate, "Malcolm Reynolds." She smiled, "I must have done something good in a previous life." She shrugged, bringing the shotgun to her shoulder and sighting along the barrels, "Can't think what it might have been."
"What?" Simon blinked, and then dived forward, "NO!" He knocked the young bounty hunter forward, "Mal, it's a trap: run!"
The deferring report of the shotgun drowned out all other noise as it send a pair of huge lead bullets into the thick deck plating just inches from Mal's foot. He dived to the side; firing a quick shot back the direction the attack had come from.
Zoë raised her cut-down Winchester and let of a few rounds intended to keep any hostiles ducked-down while Mal and Jayne ran forward to rescue Simon and River.
Keeping down low, Jayne rushed forward, and found himself running straight into a rifle but halfway through an up swing. He ended up lying on his back, stars exploding before his eyes.
Mal took that opportunity to dive out of cover and tackle the bounty hunter, knocking her off her feet and sending the two of them sprawling across the deck, fighting for dominance. Fists, feet, knees and elbows flew in both directions as they rolled across the floor. After a brief struggle, Mal was able to pin the bounty hunter just as her hat fell off.
"Ai ya! Hwai leh!" He looked down at her, one fist held back ready to strike, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"YOU BASTARD!" The bounty hunter punched out at his crotch with all her strength. Mal's eyes crossed over as he collapsed to the side, trying to breath.
"Try that gos se again and I'll end you!" Zoë stood over the other woman, gun raised and ready.
"Don't!" Mal spluttered, "Leave her be." He managed to get to his knees with Book's assistance, "She's my little sister."
To Be Continued...