The captain and Jayne opened up the small chest they had liberated from a derelict transport and looked inside. "Not very much," stated River from across the cargo bay.
"Hell," said Jayne in disgust, standing up. "That ain't hardly anything."
"It's enough," said the captain, closing the chest.
"Enough?!" Jayne was getting angry. "Mal, I swear, you don't find us better coin soon, I'm off."
"'Off'?" Mal repeated, rising to meet Jayne's eyes. "What exactly do you mean by 'off'?"
Mal already knew what Jayne meant. So did River. She could read the two of them all too clearly. Jayne was going to leave and sign on with another crew in hopes of finding better prospects. Mal was watching another member of his crew, another piece of his family, drift away.
After Jayne left, Mal started taking River with him everywhere. She was the only real fighter he had left. Her constant involvement in the captain's sordid dealings angered Simon and eventually led to their leaving.
As Serenity began its descent, Will looked out upon the world before him. He saw another, larger transport ship leaving atmo. "Do they seem to be in a hurry to you?" Will asked, eyeing the ship warily.
"They lost a shuttle," answered River.
Peering at the ship, Will could see a gap on the side of the ship that looked like a place where a shuttle might dock. "You've got a good eye," he said as he started to leave.
"You have no idea."
As the loading ramp opened, a foul stench reached Will's nostrils. Scanning the area, Will decided that of all the things he could think to call the place he found himself in, Haven was not one of them. It was smelly, dry, and Will could see large pools of something brown.
Kaylee, Simon, and River walked up behind Will. Simon was better dressed than when he and Will had first met. He seemed very out of place, wearing a suit in a mud-hole like the one they were in. Kaylee was wearing her coveralls to her waist. She had on a flowery shirt and didn't seem bothered by the smell that surrounded them.
"What is that smell?" Will asked.
"I think it's mud," replied Simon.
"I don't understand," said Kaylee. "I thought we were going to Haven."
Will, having never been to Haven, was a little confused. "If this isn't Haven, then where are we?"
"Canton," answered River simply, walking past them. She was wearing an odd combination of a blue dress, a black leather jacket, and large, black combat boots.
"And why are we in Canton?" River didn't answer. She just kept walking, forcing the others to follow her.
A small boy ran through the town in which he lived. He entered the large bar and inn in which Canton's leaders were discussing the upcoming battle. The boy ran up to the table that had been placed in the center of the room. "Someone's coming," he told the men at the table.
Everyone turned to look at the little boy. He had been serving as an advance scout. "Is it the mercenaries?" asked one of the men.
The boy shook his head. "There are only four of them, and only one of them is armed."
After several minutes of silent walking, the four travelers arrived at Canton. The town was quiet, almost empty. The four stopped at the town's entrance. "Wait here," ordered Will as he stepped forward.
When he reached the middle of the town, he felt the barrel of a pistol ram into the back of his head. "Turn around." Will did as he was commanded. The man holding the gun was large and was wearing a brown t-shirt with the words Blue Sun on it. It looked as though the shirt had been cut and was stitched back together. "Who are you?"
"William Tennant," Will answered.
"What are you doing here?"
"Don't play with me, kid."
"Jayne," River interrupted. "He's with us."
When Jayne laid eyes on River, a multitude of feelings washed over him: surprise, fear, relief, hope. Simon and Kaylee were standing behind River. They were both happy to see Jayne, though only Kaylee showed it. Jayne looked back at Will and lowered his weapon. "Come on," he said, gesturing to a nearby building. "Let's get inside."
Everyone sat around one of the few tables in the bar that wasn't covered in guns and each of them were handed a drink. Will was parched. He took a swig and nearly spat it out. "What is this stuff?" he asked.
"Mudder's Milk," answered River, drinking some herself.
Simon got up instantly and tried to take it away from her. "Mei-mei, you're too young to be drinking that."
"Oh, let her have some fun," Kaylee said, pulling Simon back into his chair.
"So," said Jayne, "what're you four doin' all the way out here?"
"You'll have to ask her," Will replied, pointing at River while trying once again to consume his drink.
"We're here to help you," River said. "Both of you."
"Both?" asked Jayne.
River didn't answer. Jayne, Simon, and Kaylee explained to Will what had happened the last two times Jayne had come to Canton. Afterward, Jayne told everyone why he had come to Canton a third time.
"I liked bein' a hero," he started, "but something about before didn't feel right. I came back and found the town in serious trouble. People was starving because they couldn't even afford food. So I decided to do something about it. I broke into the magistrate's estate, stole his money, took off in a shuttle, and dropped the cash on the town, just like before. But this time," he finished with a grin, "I did it on purpose."
"So why is it you need help?" asked Will.
"The magistrate hired a bunch of mercs to come get the money back."
"Well, we'll do what we can."
Jayne got up. "We think they'll be here tomorrow." Jayne walked toward a flight of stairs on the other side of the bar.
"We should probably get some sleep," said Kaylee. "Come on, Simon." Will watched as they walked after Jayne. Will wasn't tired, so he ordered another drink.
Serenity landed in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town. When the cargo bay doors opened, a group of mercenaries were waiting outside. They walked up the loading ramp. Waiting for them was the crew of Serenity, with Will's father front and center.
Will was standing in the doorway of one of the shuttles, watching the two groups begin to argue. A few minutes into the argument, one of the mercenaries pulled out a gun and shot the captain square in the chest. In a matter of seconds, every member of Serenity's crew had fallen.
Will turned to run, but found River standing behind him, holding his rifle. She handed it to him and he turned back to the scene below him. None of the mercenaries had seen him. They were all busy rummaging through the cargo bay, looking for anything valuable.
Will took aim at the man who had shot his father and pulled the trigger. Then he aimed at another mercenary, then another, then another. By the time they realized what was happening, there was only one mercenary left alive. Rather than fight, the coward turned and fled. He didn't get far before Will sent a bullet through his brain.
River put her hand on Will's shoulder. He turned, tears streaming down his face. River put her arms around him and whispered comforting words in his ear.