"Hey! Open up!"
Jayne Cobb stood outside Serenity's closed cargo bay, a backpack hanging on his back, a duffel bag slung over his left shoulder, a large revolver strapped to his right thigh, and what looked like a mini-rocket launcher under his right arm.
The leader of his new gang, Reynolds, popped open the hatch in the ramp and took a good look right and left before closing the hatch again as he disappeared back inside. A moment later, Jayne heard a muffled, "Okay, Zoë, open 'er up!" and the ramp itself creaked and lowered on its hydraulic arms. Seemed like he was going to get the royal treatment. And about time, too. Things sure were looking up from when he'd gotten out of bed that morning.
Well, it wasn't exactly a welcoming committee offering tea and dumplings, what with the fact that that woman Zoë – first mate, if Jayne remembered correctly – was training a nice little piece on him and looking all serious and downright tasty.
The captain, Reynolds, spoke to him first. "Drop your bags there and put your weapons down on the ground. All of 'em. Nothin' personal, you understand."
Jayne knew the drill. He'd changed gangs lots of times. Sometimes because he'd been double-crossed and killed enough of them to make it not a gang anymore, sometimes because he'd double-crossed them. Stitch Hessian came to mind on that score. And sometimes, like this time, because the pickings were better than he could get by sticking with Marco. Maybe he could finally start moving up in the world, make some real money, maybe even get a tumble with that one that hadn't flinched a bit as she'd moved down the ramp about a foot behind the captain, covering him without him even having to tell her what to do, like they'd done it a million times before. Looked like she might be a hellcat in the sack.
It took a couple of minutes to pull everything out of all their hidey-holes – small pistols from his waistband and throwing daggers from his boots and a cattle prod from under his left armpit. Oh, and Binky from his back waistband, still in her hand-tooled leather sheath to protect the blade. He laid them all tenderly on the ground in front of his feet, lining them up like they were on display in a market fair.
"Is that everything?" asked the captain in a dubious tone of voice.
"Yeah, that's it," Jayne replied, not sure if they thought it was enough or too little.
When he bent over to collect his stuff again, the captain stopped him with a sharp, "Wait a minute. We're not done yet. Move about ten feet over thisaways and strip."
Jayne's annoyance started to show through on his face, but then he reconsidered. I wouldn't trust me either, he thought, and walked to his right the required distance while keeping his eye on the pretty lady with the scary rifle trained at his chest.
He took off his hat, tipped the inside towards the captain, and dropped it. Next, he slipped off his jacket and held it up to show them both sides, then dropped it to the ground. Then, his tee shirt. He kicked off his boots and tossed them to Reynolds so they could be inspected, and then he began to undo his belt.
His eyes caught a movement in the interior of the ship, and a languid grin split his face as two women neared the cargo bay opening. Figuring if they had come to see the show he might as well give them one, Jayne peeled down his pants and underwear and stepped out of them, turning them upside down and inside out, opening up the cargo pockets to show there was nothing in them, and took his sweet time about it too.
By the way she was dressed, the core world beauty was a Companion. Jayne had never had any truck with Companions. Looked like she might be a little too high falutin' for his tastes anyway, nose in the air and all. But the little one, well, she was just about the cutest morsel Jayne had seen in a long time, plump in all the right places and rosy as a peach. And she was taking a good, long look at him, too. Since she was wearing greasy overalls, Jayne figured she was the mechanic. He wondered for a moment how she was at handling men's engines.
Reynolds was saying something to him. He pulled his attention away from the tempting mechanic with an effort and said, "Come ag'in?"
"I said turn around," the captain repeated, "and keep your eyes where they belong."
So it's gonna be like that, Jayne thought as he turned around slowly, arms in the air. Hands off the goods. Well, they'd all see about that. At least these here girls could see for themselves what was on offer. Maybe it would help them make up their own minds.
Reynolds, satisfied that Jayne wasn't hiding any other weapons, tossed him back his boots and gestured to the ground. "Put 'em back on," he said, "but leave your things. I'm gonna look through your stuff and check it out. You can go with Zoë here and get somethin' to eat. Then we're goin' to take a little trip and pick up the merchandise. You might as well start earnin' your keep right away."
Jayne stooped down and picked up his clothes, pulling them back on. That Zoë woman lowered her weapon but didn't look to be lowering her guard anytime soon. Smart lady. And the other two, the Companion and the grease monkey, came down the ramp looking all friendly-like. The little one spoke first.
"Hi, I'm Kaylee," she said, bright as a button, "and this here's Inara."
Jayne, barely looking at the Companion, muttered, "Ma'am," noticing the flicker of – what? – disappointment? Oh, so she liked to be the main attraction. Well, she was going to have to get used to being disappointed, then, because Jayne was focusing all his attention on the Kaylee girl. Cute. Nice name too. Something from an outer border planet. Not soundin' all snooty.
Jayne hitched his pants up by the belt to set them comfortable again and smiled a very dazzling feral grin, the one that usually had all the women lining up for a go, and said, "Well, Miss Kaylee, it's a pleasure ta meetcha. I think somebody said somethin' about some food. Can you show me where?"
Kaylee rewarded him with a blush and a sweet smile and turned to lead him into the Firefly, leaving the Companion – oh, yeah, name of 'Nara – to fend for herself. Jayne figured the captain had her covered anyway, the way he was looking at her, so it wasn't any of his affair.
As they neared the ramp, Jayne could hear the captain behind him speaking to Zoë saying, "I believe that man is goin' to be trouble," followed by her calm response of, "Can't argue with that, sir."