Copper for a Kiss by Lady Cleo

All Disclaimers' Apply

Alternate 'Verse: When fate takes a turn and Simon is unable to liberate River from the Academy, Jayne finds himself accidentally rescuing the crazy girl from her tormentors.

Chapter One: Ariel.

2517 Early January.

Jayne Cobb was a man to be feared. A man to be reckoned with. A man who wouldn't hesitate to backstab and a man who would always go for the better deal. Jayne Cobb was also a gorram fool. Or at least that's what he was calling himself right now.

The brightly lit boulevard bustled with patrons: men in fancy pants and women in sparkling dresses. Around him the shops displayed ridiculous prices for fancy frippery like silver slippers and useless gold antiques that wouldn't fetch a decent price on the black market. It disgusted him, watching the happy fools' waste money, but not as much as he disgusted himself right now.

A bad feeling had taken up residence within the back Jayne's mind and was tossing his stomach around. It was a nagging feeling that made him jumpy and skittish like a newborn colt. Try as he might to ignore it, it just kept on poking his brains and flipping his stomach. When that happened, Jayne knew something was gonna go wrong.

With such a feeling running around his gut he started regretting things, and Jayne Cobb hated regretting things. 'Specially regretting stupid things, like not takin' that job with Marco a year back or moving to the big leagues of the Core Planets. Both were things that had made him a richer man, things that shouldn't be regretted. Of course with this feeling floating around his gut, he got a fairly decent impression that he was going to regret both changes come tomorrow.

Pushing through the crowds Jayne worked towards the rendezvous point, watching the fancible rich gorram fools scuff at imitations of imitations. He ignored the pretty girl that batted her eyelashes at him. Rich ladies like her never stayed interested in his kind, just liked to flirt, promise things, only to run back home before anything could get started.

Not that he didn't already question what in the seven hells of Buddha he'd been thinking when he decide to start playing in the big times, working for the bigger bastards. Sure the past year had given him loads of fun, shit loads of cash, and even a brief glance into how the other half lived. But the price he was paying was a little too steep for his liking. The game was wearing him down and more than once he found himself missing the old measly seven percents, of working for hire, doing dirty deeds for dirty men on the Rim.

Jayne Cobb had prided himself on always knowing what he was getting himself into and when to get himself out, and he realized that his gut was finally getting around to telling him that coming to work the Cores had been a mistake for more than one reason.

Hunching his shoulders over, Jayne moved more into the shadows of the buildings, steering clear of the fancible shoppers. He turned a corner heading down a darker alley towards the less prettified portion of town. Towards streets that were more his style- filled with petty crooks and men for hire, people that suited him better.

Working the Outer Rim had taught him to blend in with the crowds, to remain inconspicuous so as to get the job done, be a face that few remembered unless he wanted them too. Here on the Cores he always managed to stick out, even in the blackout zones and seeder parts of town. He felt like a fish out of water, must have looked like one too. When you stuck out in places like this, with people like these, you built a reputation. And that's exactly what his time working the Cores had given him, sides' a whole shit load of money that is.

Reputations were nothing but a big gorram mess that only managed to put you in a grave faster than most liked. Too many ruttin' fools were looking to make a reputation by taking down somebody else's, it just made it ten times harder to keep his head intact on his shoulders. A reputation also meant that Jayne had been finding himself in even bigger circles then he'd ever imagined being in, or wanting to be in. And though bigger circles had given Jayne a measure of power- turned out power wasn't the aphrodisiac that he'd been told it was. Leastways, not like it was on the Rim.

On the Core Planets power stemmed only from money or the ability to control others, while on the Rim power was control over fate and a gun in your hand. Here it was dirty politics, on the Rim it was pools of blood. Jayne Cobb had no use for the Core power, his tool were weapons and knives, not dirty politics. When he had money he wanted to keep it and use it on himself. Not waste it buying more power from others when all power did was make you sleepless as night, wondering who was gonna make a name off putting you in the grave.

Despite all the difficulties, Jayne had managed the core for a year. Kept on his toes, watched his own back, and made more enemies then he'd really wanted to. Chief among them were several feds that would've liked to see him with a bullet through the head- execution style. Now Jayne was finally getting tired of it all, tired of working for the fancible qiangbao houzi de bastards that wanted to pretend like they were wealthy, law-abiding, morally upstanding elite.

Having run with the best of them, made enemies with the worst of 'em, and stashed away a fortune big enough to retire on, Jayne was more than ready to retreat back to the 'uncivilized' of the Rims. No more of this bullshit suck up to fancible pants and pretending to be what he wasn't. No more politics and no more of this ruttin' crap of having to watch his back every second of every day, and sleepin' with one eye open. It would be back to the simpler days of torturing, maiming, breaking, and dealing out good old fashioned death from the handle of a gun.

The drop point for this current gig had been planned on Persephone; a planet the mercenary knew well enough how to get off of. Jayne figured that he could grab his pay and catch a transport out to the Rims. Finding work would be easy, what with his newfound ruttin' rep and all. He could afford to go back to playing nameless lackey again.

Jayne came to a stop outside a small tavern and pushed his way in through the crowd of idiots that hung by the door. He nodded to the barkeep and worked his way to the back room, pausing to steal a quick glance about in search of unwanted or suspicious faces. Ruttin' rep was gonna turn him into a paranoid freak. Spotting none he pushed the door open and stepped into the darkly lit room.

Partner number- hell he'd lost count long ago- was sitting at the back table with a smug and satisfied grin. Jayne snarled at the idiot, a fancible, wealthy, and educated man who had a large pretense for collecting gambling debts the size of a small moon. At least this idiot was strait forward and didn't keep a troupe of hired thugs to watch his back for him.

This partner, Willoughby, was a tall, lanky, pretty bastard, with a long nose and an accent that could make a man's ears bleed. At his side stood his only two personal lackeys, both of whom didn't warrant a description. On most occasions Jayne would have found the gorram fool surrounded by other idiots cheating him out of money. But in this case Willoughby sat at a table covered with a shit load of crap; three E.M.T. uniforms, doctoring tools, fake badges and a long list of drugs.

"Jayne, mate, good to see you could join us. Was just about to go over the plan for tonight."

There it was again, that ruttin' bad feeling that swallowed his stomach and sent it lurching into his lungs. Jayne fought back a growl and slipped into a chair across from the idiot. "Right, let's hear this ruttin' plan of yours."

Willoughby grinned, extremely proud of himself for setting up this particular heist, and pulled out a blueprint of St. Lucy's first floor. "There's a side entrance to Lucy's here," he declared pointing down at the prints. "It connects to the E.M.T. facility. I'll park the ship there, got a forged permit for that. My men Dauber and Conley here will head in and grab the meds. You Jayne, you lad will go after the big prize."

"What's that?"

"They keep a scanner for divulging into the wealthy pompous arse's who can afford cures to just about whatever ails ya. Light weight, durable, this piece of crap can scan through your brains. It's locked up most the time, but my mate Linda managed to grab the codes and when it'll be moved. Turns out tonight it's scheduled for a run - in the morgue of all places. Ain't nobody gonna be around." Willoughby grinned and Jayne wiped his hand over his mouth as he carefully studied the blue prints, storing away the exits and back paths in his mind.

"You skip down there, grab the little bit, switch it to the case that Linda's provided and return up side to meet me in the shuttle. Gotta snobby ass Lord on Persephone willing to pay sixty thousand for it."

Jayne didn't like it, it was real stupid, stealing drugs and selling them on Persephone. Didn't like it because Willoughby had too many debts, too many to be so willing to split the pot fifty-fifty. Still, the money was too good, and when the money's too good, Jayne Cobb knew that he got stupid.

River took a deep gasping breath, fighting against the restraints holding her down while struggling at the same time to keep her heart beating. Her body convulsed and she thrashed bitterly against the young man who fought to help hold her down.

"She's going into cardiac arrest, she won't survive. You must detour to St. Lucy's Hospital," the young technician called out to the pilot.

Lt. Laurence Dobson turned his head to glare at the younger man out of the corner of his eye, hands steady on the pilot's control as he guided the black shuttle over the city. "I have my orders- we're to deliver her without detouring." He swung his head around for a second, "For all you know she could be faking it."

"She's turning blue from lack of oxygen; her BP's dropped below the scale. It's a miracle she's even breathing." Realizing that his words were still having no affect, the young man tried a different approach. "You don't want to deliver a dead candidate to the Alliance. It won't look very good on your record." Dobson scowled, but nevertheless steered the small shuttle towards Lucy's as he radioed headquarters for a contingency plan.

The shuttle landed with a heavy thump and the Lt. jumped out of the pilot's chair. Moving back he threw open the shuttle doors and leapt down, watching nervously as a pair of doctors and nurses raced over with a stretcher. They unbuckled the candidate's restraints and moved the now frightfully still girl onto the stretcher. Calling out orders and medical jargon that Dobson couldn't understand, the white coated personal disappeared into the building, Dobson's ticket to power seemingly unconscious on the gurney.

The Lt. gulped down a quick breath and a quicker payer. "Lt. Dobson?" Dobson turned from where he stood to the fellow uniform as he approached. "Agent McGinnis," the man introduced himself in the friendliest manner permitted by the Alliance. "We were informed of your arrival and of the situation. I've got my men on full alert to ensure that the candidate is not playing mind games."

Turning around, McGinnis motioned to where the crew had disappeared. "If you would like to follow me I can escort you to security and we can watch the procedures from there." Dobson nodded briskly and together the two men started up the ramp and into the hospital.

"You took the right action here," McGinnis added. "If something had happened to her there would have been hell to pay on all our parts." They continued on and the older man once again ventured to make a comment, "Perhaps you might satisfy my curiosity, Lt. Why did they choose to move her at such a crucial point in time. It would have been a smarter course of action to keep her on Osiris."

Lt. Dobson frowned, not sure of how to take the comment. He severely doubted that the Agent was simply trying to be friendly; it was not a trait the Alliance smiled upon in their uniformed officers. Information was to be classified and hidden from public view, and other officers if necessary.

Dobson himself wasn't usually a talkative man, on any other occasion he would have kept silent, but fear loosened his tongue more then it ought to have. "The candidate had a relatively smart brother back on Osiris. It was learned some months ago that he was putting his nose where he shouldn't have, learning more then he should have. When word got out that he may have been planning an escape attempt, it was decided it would be safer to move her. This insured both the candidate's safety and the Alliance a measure of good standing in the public eye."

"A wise enough course of action when considering the circumstances," McGinnis declared with a smug and satisfied smile as he led the young man down a back hallway to the security division.

"She's attempted escape before," Dobson added. "Those endeavors only failed due to the high security in the Academy. This could be a ploy on her part, an opportunity for her to slip the guards, maybe even give her brother a chance to facilitate a stronger escape plan. The academy should have kept her locked up. Here she can sneak out and disappear into the crowds."

McGinnis paused before the doorway, staring down into the nervous young man's eyes. "Your worry is unsubstantiated; even if she does manage to escape her room, my hospital is fully prepared to return her to your care. There's no place for her to go, no one to get her out."

Lt. Dobson met the man's gaze, "Considering your demotion to this station, Agent McGinnis, I wouldn't be so sure of myself if I were you. As I understand you failed to apprehend a fugitive on Sihnon, a fugitive who not only managed to deal out great financial harm to the government, but also managed to escape your notice and capture quite easily. My charge has more then twice that man's intelligence, more then twice his cunning, and although she appears to be only a small and weak little girl she has been trained in many divisions that you yourself would find hard to believe. She is not something to be taken lightly."

McGinnis resisted the urge to set the younger man in his place. "That incident was indeed due to a fault- on my part," he emphasized the last word with a controlled smile. "I underestimated an inbred, backwater hick, a mistake I will not make again." Turning away from the younger man, McGinnis started to enter the office before pausing, "I can assure you that tonight, if my informant was speaking correctly, I will not only keep your prize safe, but catch the crook that put me here in the first place."

Jayne Cobb had finally stopped calling himself an assortment of names and decided that if his gut feelings played out he would simply have to rise above the occasion. Still it didn't stop the nervous pitching of his stomach, nor his eyes from darting around the small shuttle as it steered towards St. Lucy's.

The shuttle landed with a heavy thud. Dauber or Conley, he never could tell which was which, jumped up and threw the hatch open to expose the bright white hospital. The two lackeys jumped down to the ground and moved off quickly into the hospital.

Jayne's mind screamed at him as he stood and jumped down to the hard rooftop. This thing had backstabbing written all over it, Dauber and Conley were too eager to get their part of the job done, and Willoughby was too calm for Jayne's liking.

"You got two hours till the next shift," Willoughby called out to Jayne as he started to close the hatch. "Expect you back well before then."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Jayne growled. Slamming the hatch down he started into the looming building, shaking off the bad thoughts and feelings he picked up his pace to a jog. He wanted this job over with as quickly as possible.

River waited patiently for them to leave her alone, counting the long seconds in her mind, calculating her odds and chances. This group wasn't nearly as careful as the blue hands. They didn't see how such a small thing could be dangerous and hadn't even bothered to put her in a private room. The simple minds around her had no idea what a prized possession lay in their care, or how that prized possession was going to take advantage of every chance she got.

They did leave her, like anticipated. Convinced that she wasn't coherent enough to do anything, believing that her mental state was too weak to comprehend her surroundings, they filed out of the room to let the patient sleep. On most accounts they were correct, but even the emotionally unstable can spot a chance to escape torment. Even in the cloudy fog of thoughts she couldn't understand and emotions that weren't hers, River knew her chance was now. After all, unstable or not, she was still a prodigy child.

Throwing back the blankets she carefully pulled the wires from her body with a shudder, had to get the pricks and metal veins out. Next she went for the eyes, with a quick tweak she configured them to read the thumps of her cellmate and crept to the gates.

One picket- somewhere in the back of her disoriented and panicked mind she realized that this was entirely too easy. River waited, watched as her sentinel followed pretty young butterflies with his weapon. And spotted a shadow to cover her tracks in the form of a lumbering old giant; grey, round, and big. She slipped out the gates like a dancer and walked before her mountain, using the shadows of the horizon to keep her watcher unaware.

The mountain moved on down the white strip and the girl slipped around a corner, watching the natives of the white ways work around her. Crouching in a shadow she listened quietly to the coursing river in her head as it spoke to the girl, 'Eyes in the walls, needles that prick here too. Need the shade of a tree to hide beneath, else the sun will burn the girl red and the hands will return. Fly to the south little one, where rain will fall and cover the tracks.'

River nodded her head in agreement with the voice, her limbs shaking as she moved out of one shadow to another behind a large container resting on a gurney. 'Use death to trick them, die and you will find the rain.' Trembling she reached up and opened the container, quickly slipping into it she let the darkness swallow her whole.

The world beneath her moved.

If hospitals gave Jayne the creeps, morgues were the things of nightmares to him. Death was not something that he was comfortable with. Dealing it out, yes, but not stiff bodies that remained behind. His mother had always told him about the unnatural causes of death that left spirits around. While Jayne was not a very superstitious man, he had been around long to see things that occasionally sent chills down his spine.

He moved deeper into the room, reminding himself that he had a job to do while doing his best to ignore the bodies covered in blue sheets. He paused at an open body cooler, peering into the empty grey space, sighing when no gruesome or moldy body greeted his eyes.

Hurrying past, Jayne quickly moved towards his finally destination. He found the scanner easily enough; the promised empty container sitting beside it. Gulping down the nervous twitch in his throat he moved the two cases onto an empty gurney and opened them both. With the ease and care of a man holding his first born child he started to carefully transfer the wires and scanner into the second box, rearranging the contents so that they would fit together without damaging his big pay off. Sixty thousand flashed through his head and a smile crept across his cheeks despite his grim surroundings.

There's nothing like the sound of approaching wheels and voices to wipe off a smile. Cursing under his breath Jayne slammed both cases shut and glanced around for something to hide behind. His eyes fell to the body coolers first, he cursed again. There was no way in ruttin' hell he was gonna climb into one of those.

A second later he found his answer in a supply closet and slipped into the small dank and dark room, pressing his ear close to the door. The wheels stopped squeaking and he caught the sound of quiet voices, the shuffling sounds of bodies moving around. Moments, seconds ticked by and more talking filtered through the door, then silence, dead quiet.

Slowly and cautiously Jayne poked his head out the door and found the morgue empty again. A new body lay on one of the examination tables, but he ignored it and went straight back to work.

"Copper for a kiss."

The mercenary jumped; spinning around on his heels he did a double take and fell back against the gurney, staring at the wide eyed dead girl now sitting up on the examination table. "Qing wa cao de liu mang," Jayne cursed. His heart thumping a mile a minute he clutched for a weapon of some sort but found none. Using the gurney for support he tired to steady himself, attempting to shake off the heart pounding shock. "Ain't you supposed to be dead?"

River smiled at him, a very loopy sorta crazy smile, and climbed down from the table. "Took flight from the blue." She explained wobbling on her unsteady legs for a second.

Jayne glared down at her slightly smaller form. "What in ruttin' hell are you talkin' 'bout?"

She rolled her eyes at him. "Fluttered from the fleet," River explained as she spun around. Glancing about her for a second more she finally let her eyes settle back on the confused man as a smile took over her face. "Fell into freedom, found the rain," she whispered and took a shaky step towards him.

Jayne jumped back again, knocking into the gurney as he attempted to retreat further away from her. "Ain't no rain here. Don't understand a gorram word you're saying girl, and don't want to neither. You just go back to being dead." He didn't dare take his eyes off her as there was something behind those large round orbs that give him the distinct impression that hers was a slightly unstable mind.

River jumped suddenly and Jayne did the same in response, pressing his back further against the gurney as she spun on her toes to stare at the double doors. He watched wearily as she took several steps back, her voice dropping to a panicked whisper, "They're coming."

"What? Who," Jayne demanded. His gaze followed hers to the doors as his stomach sank, heart jumping erratically as he watched her continue backing up towards him.

"Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. They're coming for their prize." River turned her almost panicked stricken eyes on him. "They'll stab for it and toss away the greed. You mustn't feed them." She reached out, grabbing a hold of his larger hand and pulling him towards the supply room. "You mustn't let them eat you."

Jayne pulled his hand roughly away from her, watching as she dropped down to the floor in a crouch, shaking her head and covering her ears. "You're feng le, girl. What the hell are you talkin' about," he demanded angrily. When she didn't answer Jayne turned away, deciding it would be best to finish the job and get the hell away from her as fast as he could. Locking up the scanner in its new case he tossed the empty one under the gurney and started for the door.

The morgue doors suddenly flew open and Jayne jumped back a step in controlled shock as Dauber and Conley entered. "Wo de ma," he muttered under his breath. "What the hell are you two doing here? This ain't part of the gorram plan," Jayne demanded, his gaze switching between the two. There was something very fishy about this, and he didn't think he was gonna like the outcome if he trusted either of these idiots.

"Been a change in plans," Dauber declared. His gaze flashed over the small girl crouched by the gurney. "Who's the little bit? Find yourself an extra prize, did you? Willoughby ain't gonna like that."

"Willoughby was forced to move the shuttle to other end of the complex. Drugs are already stashed, just waiting for the grand finale to board," Conley added. Crossing his hands over his chest he watched Jayne carefully, waiting for the mercenary's response. "He wants you to hand over the goods to us and then we split up."

"Lies." Looking up at the two strangers, River shook her head and glared before turning her glances to Jayne. "Don't feed them. To follow is to be led to the butcher."

Jayne glanced down at River, before turning back to the two lackeys. "I'm holding onto this credit. Give me the new pick up spot and than we can spilt up, but I ain't letting this baby outta my sight."

"No need to be touchy." Dauber smiled, spreading out his hands as though to soothe the mercenary's anger. "Won't split if you don't want to, we'll just take the back entrance instead." Dauber turned his gaze to the girl and smiled, "You can bring her along if you like. She might be fun to have around on that long flight to Persephone."

"Leave her be and let's get." Jayne ordered and motioned for the two idiots to lead, watched as the pair pushed out the doors. He didn't spare a second glance at the girl as he started to follow after them. But he paused just before the doors as a thought suddenly snuck up on him.

Jayne turned back around to find her staring at him. "Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum." He whispered, recalling her previous statement. She was undoubtedly unbalanced, and probably on the run from something. But something, something about her intrigued him, frightened him a little too, but definitely had his mind turning circles.

A little voice in the back of his head told him that he could use her.

Not in the way Dauber had implied, Jayne Cobb was no rapist, his ma had taught him better then that… if a lady didn't want your attention then keep your paws off and find one who did. Sides' he might talk big, but he was defiantly not such a morally corrupt bastard that he'd take advantage of a girl in her obvious mental condition.

Still, there was something about her that spoke of money to his gut.

What the hell, he could ditch her later if his feelings turned out to be wrong.

Jayne stormed back over and reached down to grab a hold of her hand, pulling her roughly to her feet, "Come on, girl, we're gettin' outta here."

"This way." Dauber called out quietly opening a pair of dark doors that led down an equally dark hallway. At the end a pair of glass doors waited, leading to some courtyard or what not. "Glad to see you brought the little bit." He grinned, letting Jayne lead the girl through the doors first.

"This ain't right." Jayne whispered. He couldn't recall there being any landing pads back this way, he'd studied the charts well and knew that besides a fluffy little courtyard there was only a drop down to the streets below.

"No…" River whispered, pulling on Jayne hand's she tried to get him to stop. "No, I can't go back, I don't wanna go back. "

"What the hell?" Jayne demanded angrily, "Then you should've kept on playin' dead girl." Pushing open the doors he pulled her out in the courtyard and froze.

"Federal Marshals. Don't move."

"Ta ma de." Jayne declared as he suddenly found the courtyard swarming with grey, a gun pressed into his back, someone yanking the merchandise from his hand, another taking the girl.

"Jayne Cobb and River Tam, by the authority of the Union of Allied Planets, you are hereby bound by law." Agent McGinnis continued down the steps with an almost gleeful smile. "So we meet again Cobb, but this time it looks like I've gained the upper hand… Take them to Processing."

'Oh hell no.' Jayne elbowed the idiot trying to cuff him in the stomach and spun around, sending another guard crashing down to the ground. He made a move to take the third when the blast of a stun gun sent him flying backwards. He landed with a groan, hitting the ground with a hard thumb, the breath knocked from his body.

Lt Dobson watched anxiously as the doors of the security division opened and Agent McGinnis strolled proudly into the room. Behind him the troupe of uniforms led a thief, two informants and a genius experiment of the Alliance. At the sight of the thin pale girl Dobson sighed with relief and watched carefully as his charge was led over to a bench with the three men before following after McGinnis.

"You gave me more troubles then expected, Cobb." McGinnis began directing his speech down at Jayne with an impossibly smug grin. "Fortunately for me, I'm not the only one who wants to see you charged." The agent turned his glances to the two other men, both sulking on the other side of the girl.

Jayne smirked up at the man maliciously, "You still sore bout that little job I did back on Sihnon. Hell, that weren't nothing to me. Must've hurt you real bad though, the way you're stinging and all." McGinnis frowned, his left eye twitching as he glared down at the mercenary.

"Sir, we're receiving an incoming wave for you over the cortex. It's high priority, sir." A young uniform called out from the control station. McGinnis frowned, but nonetheless turned and headed over to the younger man.

"What we gonna do, Jayne?" Dauber questioned quietly, "Willoughby ain't gonna wait long."

"Shut the hell up, I'm tryin' to figure me a way outta this." The mercenary glowered, his eyes darting about the room, counting guards, doors, weapons. Hell this situation would never do.

"They took Christmas away." River's soft voice startled him out of his thoughts and Jayne turned to the small girl at his side, "Came downstairs for shiny presents. They took the tree, stockings, nothing left but coal." Her gazed turned towards the two lackeys on her left side, a twisted smile creeping across her lips. "Don't look in the closet either, it's greedy. It's not in the spirit of the holiday."

For the first time that day thing's suddenly started clicking in Jayne's head as he tired to make sense of her words. His gut feelings cleared into conscious thoughts; McGinnis's know how, his grin at the two idiots, his words… her words. Why the low down dirty deceivers… "Ruttin' hell."

"Get up." McGinnis ordered as he stormed back over and reached down to pull Jayne to his feet. Two guards stepped forward to pull Dauber and Conley up as River stood of her own accord. "Take them to the holding container until they can be retrieved, the girl too."

"She's my responsibility; I'll take her from here." Dobson interjected stepping forward towards his charge.

McGinnis turned back to the younger man with a grim smile, "Wrong, your superiors will be arriving shortly to handle the situation; you may consider yourself relieved of your duty." The look on Dobson's face was priceless, half outright fear and half shock. "Take them."

Pushing Jayne forward one of the three guards poked and prodded him into walking, shoving him down a dark hall and through a doorway. Jayne frowned, working the angles in his mind, though he couldn't trust Dauber or Conley he could rely on the fact that if he attempted an escape, they would assist. He waited, counting his steps as he was pushed into the white container felt the guard move closer, and acted.

Rolling his shoulder back Jayne slammed his elbow into the man's face and spun around. He knocked the other guard into the wall with his foot and kneed the third in the groin before throwing himself back against the first, slamming the man back into the wall.

Dauber and Conley jumped into the action, handling the other two guards as Jayne tossed the first guard down to the ground. Quickly head butting him he rolled off, slipping his hands under his feet before straddling the dazed guard, hands pinching around the man's neck. They rolled fighting for the upper hand.

Rolling them back over Jayne slammed the man's head against the ground, dazing the guard beneath him before pulling the shocked man to his feet. Pressing the uniform against the wall Jayne delivered another quick series of punches, angled his hands and snapped the man's neck. The body crumpled to the floor and Jayne looked up, watching as Dauber knocked his guard unconsciousness, and Conley dropped the body of the third down to the floor. River stood just in the doorway; her eyes squeezed shut, her body trembling with fear.

Glancing about Jayne spotted the cuff keys on the guard's belt and pulled them off. Quickly undoing the cuffs on his hands he moved forward and picked up the nearest weapon. He ignored Dauber and Conley, walking over to River. Slipping behind her he quickly undid the cuffs, gently pushing her out the doorway into the hallway. Next the mercenary turned back to where Dauber and Conley waited for him to release them.

"Heard 'em Penal colonies are real fun…" He grinned stepping out of the doorway and slamming the container door shut with a long and loud laugh. "Hope they treat you boys real well."

Jayne turned back around and reached out, grabbing the girl by the elbow he started to lead her down the hall, back out the way they'd come in.

"No…" River shrieked, pulling him in the opposite direction. "Too many, they'll bring the sun and wash away the rain."

"What the hell? I ain't going that way, don't know where it leads. There's only six of 'em. I can handle the feds." Jayne turned his gaze back to the door with an eager glint in his eyes. "Bout time McGinnis and I settled the score and all."

River shook her head, slowly backing up against the wall, fear suddenly creeping across her face, "It doesn't matter, they're here. The sun's come out to play."

Agent McGinnis looked up as the two suited gentlemen walked into his office and missed the wide eyed look of fear that Dobson gave. "Gentlemen, that was prompt, we're almost finished here. The candidate will be out in a minute. Let me get the paperwork together for you." McGinnis snapped his fingers at one of the guards, and the boy quickly brought over a clipboard. "Not that it matters much; she was just spewing gibberish to the three men brought in with her."

The blue gloved men exchanged glances with each other. The one closet to McGinnis unfolded his clasped hands and titled his head, calmly speaking, "She was captured with other men?"

"Well, yes. As luck would have it she happened to be with a fugitive that I apprehended."

"And she spoke to these other prisoners?" McGinnis nodded in response to the question. "And you spoke to the girl?"

"Well, ya." McGinnis set down the clipboard, starting to feel nervous as the two blue gloved men reacted to his words. "I had to process her; there was no interrogation if that's what you mean. I didn't do your job for you." He smiled nervously and watched as the second man stepped up to the first's side.

"Did your men also speak to her?" The second blue hand questioned, pulling out an item from his inner pocket he hit a button and two thin blue tubes popped out of both ends.

The long loud screams of several men broke through the walls of the hospital, and Jayne jumped, glancing around the long corridor as if looking for the source. "What the hell is that?"

"Two by two…" River whispered slowly backing away from the noise, "two by two hands of blue." Her voice cracked as she spoke and turning away the smaller girl started off in the opposite direction at a run. "Two by two, hands of blue."

Jayne turned back to the pair of doors, the screams finally dying down, "Ah hell no…" He whispered, before turning and chasing after the retreating girl.

"Lt. Dobson." Dobson looked up from staring down at the mass of bodies that littered the office room. "You have failed in your commission to deliver the girl. If she is not retrieved tonight, the fault will lay entirely upon your shoulders."

Dobson gulped down a breath. He'd been trained for these procedures; given the immunization to the blue rods. But still the two men had a terrifying capability to bring upon him a ceaseless amount of pain.

"Come with us."

River pushed open the heavy iron door and hurried down the hall, checking briefly to ensure that the mercenary followed behind her.

"Where the hell you going? Ain't no exit this way."

Dauber and Conley looked up at the sound of the door opening.

"Listen girl, I got no intention of running around like a rat in maze, now let's go back." River ignored the mercenary and continued on. Jayne paused in the doorway reluctantly watching her continue on, debating why he was following her in the first place.

Screaming in the distance put a halt to any further thoughts and Jayne raced after the smaller girl. He suddenly got the impression that his bad feelings hadn't been because of the impending arrest.

Jayne followed River down a series of white steps, listening to her mumble repeatedly, "Almost here, almost there." Her feet hit solid ground and she picked up her pace, finally skidding to a halt in front of a blue door, "There-"

Jayne glanced over her once then at the door, stepping forward he tired the handle and found the door locked. "Figured," he muttered under his breath, "Stand back." Holding the gun up he aimed at the door handle, felt the blast leave the gun and knew that nothing had happened, "Xi niu high-tech alliance crap." Stepping forward he flipped the gun, slamming the butt of the sonic rifle against the handle. His heart pounding in his ears he delivered three more bruising hits to the handle, then suddenly jumped back as it clicked down and pushed open.

An older janitor stood in the doorway, peering at the two of them with a pinch of open curiosity and a pinch of anger. "What the hell you two making all that racket for?" Glaring at them for a second longer the janitor turned away and started off in the opposite direction.

Willoughby twitched nervously in his chair, his fingers tapping anxiously across the pilot's console. Dauber and Conley were late getting back. That could mean one of two things; either McGinnis had backstabbed them, or Jayne hadn't bought the bait. Either way he wasn't gonna sit here much longer.

As if on cue the hatch pulled open and a young woman was lifted into the shuttle, "Who the hell are you?" Willoughby demanded, watching as the girl glanced about nervously then retreated to a corner of the shuttle and crouched down wrapping her arms around her knees. Jayne clambered up into the shuttle after her, his glare falling to his partner as the man jumped up from his chair, barely able to keep the surprise from his face. "Jayne, mate, where are Dauber and Conley? And who's the girl?"

"They got pinched, and it don't matter who she is, she's comin' with us." Jayne answered angrily as he closed and secured the hatch. "Lets get outta here, fore them feds, or whatever the hell they were, come long and make us start screamin'."

"What they hell you talkin about?" Willoughby demanded, stepping forward to confront the mercenary, "You just left Dauber and Conley to the feds, why the hell didn't you get them out instead of dragging this little girl with you, who, by the way, ain't going anywhere with us."

Jayne defiantly stared down at the slightly smaller man, "Get this piece of go se off the ground, now. For I decide to leave you behind with 'em."

"Not until you get rid of the little bit." Willoughby answered back determinately glaring up at Jayne. "We both know you can't fly a shuttle and ain't going nowhere without me, and I ain't makin this bucket move until she's gone."

"He's scared-" River suddenly whispered from where she crouched in the corner of the shuttle. Both men spun around to stare at her in response. River laughed shakily, tilting her head she examined Willoughby, her large eyes flashing as she spoke, "The man who follows him is a dupe led to the extermination. He dialed the numbers for greed in the closet. Sent forth the duet that led the rain to face itself and nearly evaporated it away. Not much money, but worth it to know that the man who thinks he's better fell down to the grey."

"What the hell?" Willoughby demanded taking a step back, his eyes flashing white as he started down at the small girl. "What's that supposed to mean?"

For the second time that day things clicked in his head, almost as though guided by some external force. "I got a fairly clear understandin' of it." Jayne whispered, his gaze flickering between the two of them. "Means you sold me out."

"Jayne, you ain't gonna believe some obviously whacked girl over me?" Willoughby questioned, fighting down the nervous edge in his voice. "Ain't got no reason to sell you out, and you ain't got no reason to trust some little bit's crazy mumblings."

Jayne laughed gruffly, "Course I don't." He stepped forward with a sadistic grin, "She's just a little girl after all, what could she know?"

Willoughby laughed shakily and turned back around to the console. "Right then, kick her off and let's finish this."

"Sure- whatever you say, partner." Jayne lifted up the high tech alliance sonic rifle and slammed the butt of it against the other man's head, sending Willoughby crashing forward. "See that time I told ya bout not bein' able to fly, well, seems I meant one of 'em bigger ships. I can handle this baby just fine, backstabbing qing wa cao de liu mang." Jayne grinned at the unconscious man and reached down grabbing a hold of his ankles he pulled the body back over to the hatch.

Jayne pushed open the hatch and none too gently proceeded to boot his former partner out the door, watching with satisfaction as the body hit the ground with a loud thumb. "See ya in the next ruttin' life." Closing the hatch back, Jayne slipped over to the pilot's chair and quickly powered up the engines.

"Right little girl," Jayne called out over his shoulder. "Bought time me and you got away from these damn troublesome Core planets."

"A most upsetting turn of events."

Dobson shifted nervously from beside his two superiors.

"The hospital will have to be purged of any whom she spoke to." Agent two added to the first's comment and then turned to the nearly shaking Lt. "The candidate could not have killed the guards; she has never shown a predilection for violence in all her pervious attempts to escape."

Dobson swallowed nervously, "As McGinnis stated there was a third person, a fugitive, Jayne Cobb I believe was the name."

Agent one nodded. "It can be expected that the candidate will attach to this male as she is not stable enough to operate on her own." He turned back to Dobson, "Use this information to begin your investigation into the candidate's whereabouts. In the event that you locate the candidate prior to the completion of our investigation then you shall be reinstated to full rank and spared from termination. Report to headquarters on Sihnon to receive a full mission briefing and further orders." Dobson nodded and turned, quickly leaving the two men behind.

Agent one turned back to his counter part with an expressionless face. "This is an unforeseen turn of situations. If the candidate has found a stabilizing force in her counterpart, it will be most difficult to obtain her."

"A candidate has never yet bonded to any uncontrolled specimen." Agent two replied stoically. "The possibility is improbable. The probability that a being with the correct mental and physical aspects should be present in the same location is unfeasible."

"Candidates have been known to sense specimens from extended distances; it is probable that she located him shortly after breaking orbit. It would provide ample time to regulate her body temperature and induce simulated cardiac arrest." Agent one turned his head away, his emotionless face staring off into the darkness of their surroundings. "If that is the case then she has exceeded her predecessors in mental capacity and control."

"I concur; all measures must be taken to ensure the candidate is returned along with her chosen specimen. Tests will be necessary to ensure that he is of proper mental, physical and emotional stability before the controlling device can be inserted."

Agent one nodded curtly to his partner and the two turned away from the bodies that littered the security office, they walked silently and briskly down the hall, disappearing into the corridors of the hospital.

Note: The timeline used is based off of Edgar Governo's Firefly Timeline.

Chinese translations.

"qing wa cao de liu mang" means "frog humping son of a bit"

"tian xiao de" means "name of all that's scared"

"wo de ma" means "mother of god"

"Xi niu" means "Cow sucking" or "Piss soaked" depends on who you ask.

"Ta ma de." Means "Fuck me blind."