She floated into the warehouse. Barefeet. Long billowy dress. Dark tangled hair falling to her waist. A pixie wandering into a wolves' den.
At first, only the twelve armed men rummaging through the crates noticed the girl.
"Well, look what we have here. A little entertainment after a long hard day's work," cackled the smelliest of the obviously unbathed men.
Then, the two men and a woman who sat on the ground with their hands and feet bound turned to see the new guest. They hadn't decided what to say when the girl spoke.
"Simon will be angry with the girl for running away." The girl explained to no one as she drifted farther into the warehouse.
The odiferous and downright dirty men stopped looking through the crates to watch her.
"She will be scolded and sent to her room." Her fingers skimmed the walls and crates.
A few of the more lecherous ones began moving toward her.
"She will need company." The girl said as she twirled away from the approaching men, seemingly unaware of the presence of others.
"Oh, we got company fer ya. Lots of company." The armed men laughed as they got nearer.
"Company who will not call her names for the duration of her punishment." She looked pointedly at the group on the floor before her eyes flitted around the room again.
The tallest of the captives stiffened.
"No ruttin' way."
"Can do." The male captive in the brown coat nodded affirmatively at the girl's back.
The tall one scowled and whined, "But Mal…"
"Can do," confirmed the man called Mal in a steely tone.
The armed, smelly men circling around the crates toward the girl stilled. Their eyes bounced from the girl to the captives and back again. A few of the smarter ones inched their hands toward their weapons.
"Rule # 1." She stated.
"Don't see any rules posted here."
The men closed on the girl with new found determination.
"Will rules be posted at home?" questioned the girl, tilting her head to the side as she stared at the captives.
"As soon as we get back, I'll make a sign. Or you can make the sign with all the nice new art supplies we'll be picking up." The man called Mal assured her.
The tall one grunted and sneered.
The woman continued to wait patiently.
The girl smiled.
Two men reached out for the girl.
"Trash or recycle?" She enquired.
Grimacing with distaste, the man called Mal said, "Trash."
The stinky, dirty men grabbed at her arms only to be left with air. She, however, came up with their guns.
Before anyone could blink she calmly shot all twelve men between the eyes without glancing away from the captives.
River laid the empty guns on the floor. Took a knife from the nearest body and stepped over it to free the captives.
"Would you like the rules in color or black and white?" She asked politely as she sliced the captain's bonds.
"Anyway you like, li'l witch," said Mal as he toed the nearest body.
Zoe thanked River as soon as she was free. Then, began to gather the weapons the thieves had taken from them earlier.
"No gorram way are ya comin' near wit that knife, moonbrain." Jayne growled as he scampered on his ass away from River.
River pouted. "He must not call her names. Captain Daddy promised."
"She ain't bein' punished yet. Deal was only fer when she's bein' punished," defended Jayne.
River stuck out her tongue at him. He responded in kind.
She dropped the knife, sniffed and whirled away from Jayne's still bound form.
"Mal? Zoe?" complained Jayne. They ignored him so he picked up the knife and cut his own ropes.
"Well, we got nothin' from this job."
Mal and Zoe stood together in the middle of the warehouse glaring at the dead guys and the torn up crates.
"No, sir, we didn't."
"This isn't fair. We brought the perfectly legal cargo here on time. But did we get paid? No. These hundan killed the buyers before they could pay us. Then, they tore through the cargo so we can't even try to sell it to someone else. So we get nothin' but a fuel bill for our time and effort."
"I didn't even get to kill no one. Ya let crazy have all the fun." Now, Jayne pouted.
Mal rolled his eyes. "She could've left us to die at the hands of these fragrant flowers." He waved his hand at the carnage as he and Zoe began searching the bodies for the promised coin.
"Which, li'l witch, you should've done. This is no place for you. Your brother's gonna be right mad."
River lifted an eyebrow at him as she strolled around the room, stepping over bodies and blood pools along the way.
"Of course, maybe we won't tell him everything." Mal cringed at the sight of another bandit shot with such precision.
"I, for one, am thankful she came. Thank you, again, River." Zoe smiled at the girl. River smiled shyly back.
"Well, it is nice not to be dead." Mal grinned at River. She blushed and turned expectantly toward Jayne.
He grumbled, "I still didn't git to kill nobody."
She scowled at him before turning an innocent face to Mal. "She can make the day better than not dead if she can wear Jayne's cap for the duration of her punishment."
"No ruttin' way, feng le girl. That's mine." No way was Jayne lettin' that crazy girl where his mama's cap. No way.
"She can make the whole day much, much better than not dead." River continued to bargain with the captain.
"Jayne's mighty fond of his mama's knittin'."
"She won't hurt it. Only wants to wear it." River assured the uneasy captain.
"NO." Jayne attempted to loudly end the discussion.
"Why don't you tell us what's much, much better than not dead so we can decide if it's a fair deal," suggested Mal.
"NO!" Jayne yelled but was again ignored.
She cocked her head to the side as she thought for a second. "She can't tell you because she doesn't know for certain. However, she will show you because she trusts Captain Daddy."
River walked over to a couple of recently dead merchant types in the corner. She bent down, leaned over, lifted the eye lid of the merchants, and crooked her fingers as if to pluck the eyeball from its socket.
Jayne rolled his eyes and continued to collect any weapons he liked to add to his already large arsenal.
"She needs to borrow his eye. She will put it back. She is not big enough to lift the man."
Trying not to be disturbed by River's casual attitude toward dismemberment, Mal commanded, "Jayne, help her."
"But, Mal," whined Jayne again.
"Just do it. I think I know what she's doin' now." Mal looked carefully around the warehouse. "So, where is it, li'l witch?"
River left Jayne to drag the body after her. She wandered to the end of building where someone has papered the wall with nude women in questionable poses. She looked curiously at the posters.
"Your brother wouldn't approve of that art gallery. I don't think that's what we're lookin' for."
"It's what I'm lookin' fer. Could use some new…"
River searched the wall and accidentally shredded the pictures in the process.
Jayne dropped the body at River's feet, then, picked up a corner of woman. He said sadly, "This's just wrong."
River tore the corner into smaller pieces without turning to face Jayne. "His eye here." She pointed at the body and then at a discolored spot on the wall.
Jayne sniffed as he dropped the last remnant of woman. Hefting the body upright, he leant it toward the wall where she demanded.
"Ya'll have to do the eye thin'. Seein' as how 'm holdin' 'em steady."
River pressed into Jayne's side as she opened the man's eye with one hand and pressed a button with the other. Jayne shifted away from her body. A light appeared and searched the merchant's face.
Zoe and Mal stopped behind the pair with the dead guy.
A good three feet of wall slid away from the section in front of them, revealing the promised coin and much more.
Mal squeezed River's shoulder gently as he pushed past her to collect some recompense for his less than pleasant day.
Jayne tossed the body aside and began pulling credits from the safe.
"Deal?" chirped River.
"Jayne, maybe you should ask your mama to knit you another cap."
Jayne just scowled.