Why it's the Earth that Was

By PaBurke

Summary: Has there ever been a cargo that hadn't caused trouble for the Serenity crew? Maybe the bobble-head dolls.

Disclaimer: Not mine- meaning the characters, universes or premises. No money made. No Copyright infringement intended.

Distribution: The Nook. Who else would welcome a CSI/Serenity cross?

Word Count: 700

"Mal," Jayne practically whined. "Crazy girl's creepifying again."

"She's not screaming," Mal did even look up from the plan he was working out.

"She has a knife."

That made Mal move. "Simon!" he yelled on his way out of the cockpit. The doctor stumbled out of the engine room, trying to straighten his very rumpled shirt. Mal smiled despite of himself; it was always nice when his crew got along Iwell/I.

Simon was familiar with the captain's tone of voice and asked, "Where is she and what did she do?"

Mal glared at Jayne. Jayne pointed to the top of the stack of crates; Earth-that-Was cargo that Serenity was smuggling past the Alliance. From his current angle, Simon could only see the top of his sister's head. He sighed. "Mei-mei?" he called.

"I'm conducting an experiment, Simon." River explained oh-so-calmly.

"She has a knife," Jayne reiterated.

Simon looked worried. He sighed and then started climbing up the crates toward the top. Jayne and Mal readied their guns and hot-foot it up the stairs to a good observation post. They could see what River was doing long before Simon climbed to the top.

She had a plate with a protein bar on it, and she was using the knife to cut the back of her hand. She watched the blood drip off her hand and onto the protein bar. She seemed entranced with each drop of blood. Whenever her self-inflicted wound healed, she would re-open it with the knife.

"Mei-mei!" Simon shrieked when he finally reached a height where he could see what his sister was doing. "Why? What?" Finally he sighed, breathed deep and asked. "Mei-mei would you please put down the knife?"

River eyed the blood-covered protein bar and decided that she had enough. She handed Simon the knife, hilt first. Simon had to re-adjust his hands so that he could accept the knife.

With the knife away from the Crazy Girl, Jayne lost interest in the proceedings. Mal stayed and watched.

"River, what are you doing?"

"I told you, Simon. I'm conducting an experiment."

"What kind of experiment requires that you cut yourself?"

"I would have used Jayne's blood, but then people would be unhappy and loud."

Mal snorted. Yeah, they would.

"So why do you need blood?" Simon rephrased his question.

"I want to identify all insects on Serenity, classify them and determine their breeding cycles. To do so, I need them to be congregated into one place."

Simon digested that fact quickly. "Okay. Why?"

"So that I know exactly how long someone's been dead on Serenity when we find the body."

"What body?" Mal demanded.

River looked his way and smiled at him like he was being silly. "It's not here yet, you boob."

Mal relaxed infinitesimally.

"What possessed you to try this experiment?" Simon asked.

River patted the crate that she was on. "Grissoms. They wrote books on how to tell."

Simon grunted in frustration. "Why didn't you just open the crates and read the books?"

River glared at Mal. "The captain made me promise not to." Using her (slowly bleeding) hand, she patted Simon on the head. "It's okay. I've got all I need to find the answers on my own. It will be fun to extrapolate the data on my own."

Simon closed his eyes, sighed and then smiled at his sister. "Now that you've completed the set-up, why don't you come down and let the bugs do their part."

River nodded and started climbing down, her smooth descent made Simon's look gangly and awkward. While she was waiting for Simon at the bottom, she added. "I'd like a control. May I have some of your blood?"

Simon fell the last few feet. He huffed. "No, River."

"How 'bout some of the capt'n's?"

"No, River," Mal yelled from his eavesdropping position.

"Jayne's?"

There was a pause as various members of the crew considered it.

"Hey!" Jayne yelled when no one came to his rescue. "Crazy Girl ain't coming near me with a knife ever again."

"That means no, River," Mal emphasized.

River pouted. "You guys are no fun. The Grissoms would have done it."

"That could be why they're dead," Mal shot back.

*