The Execution of one Jayne Cobb,
(Light Supper will be Served)
Janus moon was a decent enough settlement, as frontier living went. There were vast stretches of choking desert, but in the valleys of its two great rivers, life was green. Agriculture was a community affair, with all the homesteaders working common land together. Those who did not farm worked in one of the mills or factories. There was virtually no crime. It was a peaceful, civilized place and Malcolm Reynolds could not wait to quit it. He stood in the cargo bay of Serenity, anticipating the last straggling crew member.
Jayne strode up the ramp with a definite swagger in his step. As he approached, Mal and Simon could see not only the smile that threatened to halve his face but evidence of trauma of one kind or another all over his body. There was a tear in his pants exposing most of his thigh and his shirt hung in tatters from his waist like a gladiator's subligaculum. His neck was several shades of crimson up one side and down the other, speckled with rubescent marks and lines. There was a purple bruise on one cheekbone and a dried laceration over the other eye. Simon approached him, clinical senses at the ready, and reached a hand up to touch Jayne's face. Like the strike of a viper, Jayne clamped onto Simon's wrist, squeezing painfully. His grin was as evil as any the Devil had ever drawn on a man. "Don't you even think about fixin' these."
"Jayne, play nice with the doctor," Mal's voice had its firm, situation-defusing tone. "I thought you went out looking for pleasant company."
Jayne released Simon and turned, still smiling, to Mal. "Sure enough was. She was all manner of "pleasant" to me."
"You look like you've been mauled," Simon opined.
An unknown voice bounced into the cargo bay. "Jayne? Jayne Cobb?"
At the bottom of the ramp appeared a petite woman, bronze skinned with drowsy, leopard's eyes, dressed in plain but clean prairie-folk clothes, short black hair under a kerchief, carrying a cloth bundle. She walked confidently into the strange ship. "You ran out without your breakfast." Jayne met her halfway and gave her a kiss on the cheek, to which she responded with a firm bite to the side of his neck. Jayne growled appreciatively as he wrapped his arms around her, lifting her easily off the floor. She landed gracefully when he dropped her down. "I told you, big man like you needs his strength."
"Thanks, baby. span title=GoodbyeiZai jian./i/span" He took the bundle and gave her an echoing swat on the rear as she turned to leave.
With no more regard for the other men than she had had when she boarded, the woman left. "Tell me, Jayne, is that the vicious creature that tore you to teeny ribbons last night?" Mal asked.
"Part of it, yeah."
"She's the size of a duck. She's -what?- five foot nothing."
"I doubt she weighs more than forty kilos in her boots," Simon proffered.
"Yup. Hey, Mal, we gonna be back through here soon?"
"Depends if we get a return run on this delivery."
"Hmm, may have to make a separate trip then. I might just marry that little span title=demoniyoukai/i/span." He untied the bundle. "Ruttin' A, ham biscuits. I'll be in my bunk," and he was gone into the ship.
"There are times I think I'll never understand that man. Then I remember that I'm very grateful for that." Mal turned to the com on the ramp control panel. **beep** "Anyone who's not here better say so now."
"Is Jayne on?" Zoe asked from the bridge.
"Most of him."
"Then we're all accounted for and ready to take off, sir."
"Duly noted. Wash, if you would kindly remove your wife from your lap long enough to get my ship in the air, I'd be much obliged."
"How does he always know? It's like he's got eyes-"
"Husband, the com's still open."
"Son of a-" **beep**
The scream was loud and intense enough to jerk Simon from sleep instantly. He leapt from his bed, or attempted to, but the bed sheet ensnared his legs and he fell smartly onto his face. Extricating himself, he lunged across the hall, hurriedly sliding open the door to River's berth. She sat in the midst of rumpled covers, holding her pillows over her ears. The high-toned screaming continued unabated. 'If River's okay, who – Kaylee!' Simon sprinted through the ship and nearly collided with Mal as they both reached the engine room, hands over their ears.
Kaylee was on her knees, contorted in an odd twist to reach into the engine, desperately jerking on a part that would not budge. It was Serenity who was screaming. Kneeling next to Kaylee, Simon clamped his hands over her ears.
"WHAT IS IT?" Mal had to shout to have even a chance of being heard over the keening.
"BEARING'S STUCK!" Kaylee shouted back. "I CAN'T GET IT LOOSE."
Mal grabbed a heavy pipe from a pile of metal scrap in the corner. "MOVE, KAYLEE!"
Kaylee lay back out of the way, knocking Simon back and under her, as the pipe swung past her close enough for her to feel it cut the air. It clanged off the engine. At Mal's third determined swing, the component shifted by a fraction and the vessel was quiet again, save for the panting of her captain, mechanic and medic. Simon took his hands away from Kaylee's ears. She pushed herself up and helped Simon to his feet, bashfully brushing off some grit that had gotten from her pajamas onto his bare chest. "Sorry 'bout that."
"HOLD- hold still, Kaylee." Simon took Kaylee's face gently in his hands and brushed the hair back from her forehead. A red line of blood was rolling from her hairline down her temple and cheekbone.
"Did I hit you, little Kaylee?" Mal asked with genuine concern as he tossed the pipe back onto the heap.
"Naw, Cap'n. I was asleep in my sling when that bearing jammed and my girltook to hollering. Scared me so bad I flipped right out and straight to the floor, bam-o. Must've landed on somethin'." Reflexively, she went to dab the wound with her fingertips, but Simon intercepted her greasy hand.
"It's not as bad as it looks. Facial lacs tend to bleed a lot. Can you come to the infirmary?"
"If we can power down the engine, sure."
Mal crouched down to look into the engine housing, as though he could actually identify the problem on his own. "What was it happened?"
"It was that gorram transfer case."
"I was under the impression you replaced that this morning."
"That is the replacement," she said, rather grimly. "Weren't but rebuilds to be had. Figured it had to be a sight better than ours. Guess I figured wrong."
Crossing to the com panel, Mal paused before pushing the button. "I ain't askin' you for silk purses, Kaylee. I know you did the most you could with what you had." **beep** "Wash?"
"We have any course correction in the near future?"
"Umm…nope. Course is straight, if not also narrow."
"Good. We're shutting down the engine so Kaylee can work out a transfer case problem."
"Is that what that noise was?"
"Shouldn't take more than an hour or three to put our slightly less span title=shoddyiliezhi/i/span old one back on, and then we can limp-kick 'er to Cypress."
"That's fine. Go get that hole in your head fixed first."
"Aye aye, sir," Kaylee saluted exaggeratedly.
Simon turned on the pure white lights of the infirmary, glaring and harsh at that time of night, as Kaylee hopped onto the examination table. He gently cleaned away the trail of blood that had wormed its way down her face. The laceration itself received an antibiotic salve and a small dermal weave. Kaylee sat still throughout, wearing a look of placid contentment as Simon's soft and careful hands worked to heal her.
"There," he pronounced.
"You sure? Maybe you should kiss it better, ya know, just to be on the safe side?" If Kaylee had known how her smiles and the light in her eyes could melt Simon, she would never stop smiling.
Perhaps she did know. "Well, far be it from me to ignore sage folk wisdom in favor of highly-specialized medical science." He leaned in slowly, eyes almost closed, and breezed his lips against Kaylee's skin. Quick as a whip, Kaylee tilted her face up and caught Simon's lips in a warm kiss. Simon's mind was startled, but his body was not. He returned her kiss and tentatively probed her mouth with his tongue as her lips opened to him. Her arms moved around his neck and his wrapped around her.
"Ai-ya!" Kaylee gasped as she recoiled from Simon.
"What, what's wrong?" his mind whirled with possibilities and repercussions. She wasn't looking at him, though.
"Spot on my arm is real sore." Sure enough, there was a livid bump on the back of her upper arm. Inwardly relieved that for once he had not ruined their moment, Simon angled the overhead light and leaned in to study the offending nodule.
"It looks like you've got a little infection, maybe around a sliver or something. Sit tight," Simon grabbed his tweezers from a nearby tray. In mere seconds, he had hold of the foreign body and removed it deftly, though Kaylee did make a slight hiss. "Sorry." He held it up to the light and Kaylee peered at it too.
"Could be a metal filing. I'm all the time gettin' stuck with them."
"Probably." Simon dropped it into the rubbish bin, then cleaned and covered the bump, which was already quieting down properly. "All done. Is there anything else you need me to look at?"
Kaylee's sweet eyes smiled. "Not just now. Fit as a fiddle. Well, actually, the last two mornings I've felt a little sick, but I figured that was from the jerky Wash bought."
"It could well have been. I'll run some blood work to be sure." Simon drew a hypodermic from its assigned drawer. "Personally," he continued, to distract Kaylee, "I couldn't bring myself to eat something that was nailed to the side of a barn for a month."
Kaylee smiled her funny tight-lipped smile, "You Core folk, so highfalutin with your fancy refrigerated meat."
"What can I say, I've lead the life of Riley." The laughter faded and the silence was warm in the air as Simon slotted the vial of Kaylee's blood into the scanner. "Are you going right back to working on the engine?"
"Gotta. Can't have us floatin' around all night."
"Guess not. Would you like me to bring you some coffee?"
Simon almost blushed under Kaylee's bright smile, "Thank you, Simon, that'd be real sweet."
Half asleep and less than half dressed, Jayne lumbered onto the bridge. "What's all the span title=dog-humpingigo tsao de /i/span ruckus?"
"Aw, did the mean ol' engine wake Diddums from his sweepy-time?" Wash teased.
"Which ear did I punch you in last time? I'm trying to keep 'em even." Jayne shook his fist affably in the pilot's direction as he flopped into the co-pilot's chair.
"C'mon in, Jayne. Make yourself at home. Can I get you a beverage, perhaps a canape?"
"span title="Shut up"iBi zuii//span," he yawned and casually scratched himself. "Where we headed anyway?"
Wash consulted the navigational display, "Hilmar settlement on Cypress moon. Ever been?"
"Cypress? Naw. Been to Crete, that's about spitting distance."
"That may be farther for some than for others," Wash crossed his arms over his puffed-up chest.
"That was a technical victory, Little Man."
"I still won."
"It was wind-assisted."
"We were in the cargo bay."
"Which reminds me," Mal said as he entered the bridge, "henceforward all contests involving the projection of bodily fluids are to take place *outside* the ship."
"You're just sore cuz you lost."
"Wha- I didn- you- I'd've had it, if not for all those salty crackers I'd just eaten. Besides, Wash only won on a technicality."
"I still won," the smiling pilot laced his fingers behind his head and propped his feet up on the console. "It's good to be the king."
Serenity began her approach to the landing zone of Hilmar settlement. At each berth, people milled around, some moving cargo, some leaning on crates, talking or negotiating. A fair-sized cloud of dust rose around the ship as it descended the last few meters to the ground, but the people nearest by took no notice, other than to squint a little, and went about their way. The cargo ramp lowered and the crew began moving the assembled cartons down to the street. Much to their relief, the buyer had sent a large truck, which waited for them, its cranky engine backfiring occasionally. Mal gave the driver's hand a hearty shake and proceeded to try to charm his way into another job as Jayne, Zoe and the company men hefted the load onto the bed of the truck.
"Fortune smiles on us yet again, my loyal crew," he announced as he returned to the back of the truck, where the work was just concluded.
"And the first time was when?" Zoe asked with a smirk.
"See, its this kind of demoralizing pessimism that sucks the heart and soul right out of folk."
"And to think, if I applied myself, I could probably inspire mass suicide."
"Moving right past your sadistic spreading of gloom and doom, we got the return run. The planets hereabouts have a reciprocal set-up -- raw goods from one go to the other to get made into stuff and things, then shipped back."
"How long before the 'stuff and things' get here?"
"Couple hours, during which time I need to go to their office and sign off on some official rigamarole. Jayne, got a sidearm?" Jayne just gave him a 'stupid question' glare.
"You're with me. Zoe," he tossed her a large coin from the payment, "man told me there's a green market just down the strip. What say we get crazy and loose and have some vegetables at supper tonight, maybe some bread?"
"You sure know how to party, Captain," Zoe said dryly, but drolly smiled. She turned back into the ship to retrieve Wash. One benefit of marriage, she had found, was that you always had someone to drag along shopping with you.
Mal turned and began walking to the less dusty parts of town, where loading platforms gave way to stores and offices. Jayne fell in behind him, keeping a weather eye on the unconcerned citizens of the respectable-sized settlement. On reaching the correct building, the two men entered through the big front door and went directly to the upstairs offices.
Unseen by the men as they crossed the lobby, a signboard scrolled through the news of the planets of that sector. After the prices of commodities and reports of travel conditions, warrants began to flash across the screen, one with a sketch of a familiar face. "Wanted on Janus: Jayne Cobb. Charge: Willful Murder. Convicted in absentia, sentenced to death. Do not approach. Contact Sheriff Gibson of Tiberinus."