Evening Odds

Author's Note: This is my first Firefly fic, so I thought I'd start off with a little one-shot. This takes place shortly (as in hours) after the end of "Objects In Space".

Kaylee stepped out of the hatch and kept her eyes fixed firmly on her magnetic boots as they carried her the few steps over to the ladder that had been fixed between the two ships. Don't look out at the stars. It was mighty odd; she never had any problems aboard Serenity, but as soon as she got outside her tonight, she felt the distance. The size of the black… or no, "size" was a much too small word for something that big. There was nothing to hold on to, just the feeling that if she slipped and fell, she would keep falling for years, centuries, eons without ever hitting ground. She clung a little tighter to the ladder as she climbed up to the bounty hunter's ship.

Small, sleek, compact... this lean mean little boat wasn't Serenity, not in any sense of the word. It was probably some technician's ultimate image of beauty, but Kaylee couldn't help but think it would be as cold inside as the space outside. She went through the airlock which closed as smooth as you'd like behind her, but even after it pressurized she kept her helmet on; for some reason she didn't want to breathe the air in here.

The whole ship looked like it was molded out of one single piece of shiny plastic; no crawlspaces, no leaking pipes, nothing welded, nothing riveted, nothing that could ever rust or even look dirty. The small cabin was just large enough for one person, every single control in easy reach of the helm. She'd never seen a boat quite like this before. Most like it was a one of a kind, built to spec for a specific purpose; a lot of the buttons seemed to have something to do with tracking, trailing or firing. Normally she'd be happy to try and figure out what they all did, but not this far out and this close to Serenity.

There weren't much in the way of personal objects either, even in the small sleeping quarters in back of the cabin. A few odd books she'd never heard of, a couple of letters and suchlike. For a little while she gave in to her curiosity, going through his personal belongings
(You ever been raped?)
and then she stopped and sat down at the controls, taking deep gasps of sterile air from her tank, closing her eyes and trying to stop her hands from shaking.

(1 hour earlier...

"Kaylee, you sure you wanna do this? " Mal had looked concerned when she offered to scavenge.

"You know we always need spare parts, Cap'n. We can't hardly tow that thing halfway 'cross the system without raising suspicion, but it would be a shame to just let it go to waste. And you wouldn't know a flux condenser from an ashtray. Besides", she added with a grimace, "it ain't like he's gonna need it anymore or nothin'..."

Mal knew that look and frowned. "Now hold on here. Don't tell me you're sorry for him? I gave him as civil a chance as he would have given any of us and far as I'm concerned, we're even. I'd even wager I gave him a better chance, seeing as how I didn't just kill him outright."

"Oh come on, Cap'n, you know what the odds are for getting picked up in space?"

"Two to the power of two hundred and sixty-seven thousand seven hundred and nine to one against," River offered. They both stared at her for a few seconds, confused, before Mal continued.

"I don't rightly care what his odds are, Kaylee. I ain't losin' any sleep over the idea of him chokin' out there, and bearin' in mind how he treated you, I see no reason why you should either."

"I know, Cap'n. And believe me, if I never see him again it's a million years too soon." She sighed. "It's just so... so big out there.")

Back on the bounty hunter's ship, Kaylee had things under control again. She tapped her trusty monkey wrench on the dashboard, tracing the little tag "Nyarlathotech Industries – A Blue Sun Company"; funny how compared to all this glistening high-tech, the wrench looked almost exactly like something you could have chopped out of flint back on Earth-that-was. Not so funny how she could fix Serenity with it, but aboard a boat like this one she'd hardly know where to start. There was something comforting about things you could fix with a wrench, a hammer and an arc welder. You could always patch things up somehow, even out here... She looked out into the darkness, once again struck by how far away everything was. Tried to imagine being all alone out there... after today, that didn't take a lot of imagining.

There's nobody can help you. Say it.

It was the oddest thing. He had threatened to rape her, kill Simon, kidnap River... and he'd meant every word of it. She'd been so scared, so utterly powerless. The mere idea of him turning up again sent chills down her spine. Why wouldn't she want to get even?

As the thoughts spun around in her head, Kaylee absently opened some of the panels on the dashboard, finding some buttons she had no idea what they did but also a device she recognized. A homing beacon, connected to the navigation system and with a radio link connecting it to the owner's space suit. A pretty simple remote control device. She couldn't tell what the range of it was; it was probably just designed to make it easier to dock at space stations. Push a button and if the ship is within a mile or so it switches to autopilot and homes in on you to meet you at the airlock. Most like, it was useless way out here in the black, especially since it was turned off.

Kaylee swiveled around in the chair, once again looking into the bounty hunter's functional and empty quarters. This boat wasn't going anywhere, and an empty ship told her nothing to help her make sense of what had happened today. She switched on her radio.

"Cap'n?"

"Talk to me, Kaylee."

"Nothin' worth salvaging 'cept maybe a gun or two."

She heard Mal curse at the other end. "Nothing? No parts, no fuel, nothing?"

Kaylee ran her hand over the smooth, clinical controls before answering. This ship was designed for killing in cold blood.
I got no problem with the notion of you not killing nobody, Kaylee.
"There's about 50 years of technology between this and Serenity, Cap'n. If I had a dry-dock and five days to go through it, mayhap I could find some bits we could use..."

A pause. "Right then. We'll scuttle it."

"Actually, Cap'n... I ain't too sure about this fancy fusion drive he's using, plus it's armed. Could go supernova if we blow it up."

An even longer pause. "Fine, Kaylee. Just bring along whatever ain't bolted down and we'll get outta here. Leave it for someone else."

Kaylee did just that, rounding up the few weapons and tools that were neatly tucked away in their assigned spaces. There weren't many, just one for each purpose. Before leaving the ship, she looked out at the stars again and wondered how far he'd gotten by now. She just couldn't understand how someone like that worked, someone who could see another person's death as just a means to an end.

We're very much alone out here.

There's nobody can help you. Say it.

She opened the last panel again and hit the switch next to the beacon. A small red light came on, blinking in even intervals. Then she got back into the airlock and left the bounty hunter's ship.

Back in Serenity's engine room after checking on Simon, Kaylee brought up the other ship on the monitor as Serenity's engines clattered to life and they sped away. She tried to tell if the autopilot had kicked in, if it was moving in any direction, but couldn't be sure; everything else – stars, planets – was so far away and there were no points of reference. She watched as it grew smaller and smaller behind them and then shut off the screen and went to join the others. For a few seconds, she paused on the gangway of the cargo hold looking down at her crewmates. She had to smile at the ridiculous idea that a gang this odd could ever get even with anyone.