Disclaimer: Neither "Firefly" nor any of its characters belong to me, unfortunately. As everyone knows the honors go to Joss Whedon.
A/N: This story can be seen either as taking place pre-BDM, or as going AU after the final episode. However, if I write the sequel that I hope to, then it will be considered AU. Any mistakes in Chinese translation are mine alone. I would like to hugely thank the wonderful and patient Annuette for being the best beta one could hope for!
"And that my friends, is the end of your flight. Please be sure to tip your pilot on your way out." Wash's voice carried over the speakers as he set Serenity safely down. Mal spared himself a small smile as he came down the stairs with Zoe, and headed for the mule. "I think your husband needs a little time out of the pilot's chair."
"That's what I keep telling him Captain, but he insists that he would rather stay on board this round. Says he has some sleep to catch up on." Zoe said, matching her steps to Mal's.
"Now, Zoe, I wonder what might have been keeping him up nights?"
Zoe gave a knowing smile. "I'll never tell."
"Who else we got coming into town with us?" Mal asked as they reached the mule.
"Well, Inara already took her shuttle to meet the client she's got lined up so aside from Jayne, I think only the Shepherd. Speaking of..." Zoe looked up as Jayne and Book made their way down to where she and the Captain were standing, Jayne's voice carrying across the open space loudly.
"Now see, what I don't get is what use you get out of just wandering the streets. I mean it's not like you're looking for a girl or a drink or nothin', so what's the point?"
"The point is," Book replied, "learning. Learning about the people. Seeing what they do, how they live."
"Well, Shepherd," Mal said as the two joined them, "hopefully we'll get to see how they're parted from their money. This job looks promisin' and easy, and it ain't often either of those things come our way, much less in the same job. So, I would like to get going to our rendezvous before something happens and our contact changes his mind."
Kaylee watched Simon from the infirmary door. He had his back to her, looking at a drug vial in his hand. She bit down on her lower lip, hesitating, then made up her mind.
"Hey, Simon, you decide not to go into town?"
Simon turned at Kaylee's voice, smiling without realizing it. "Hey, Kaylee. River's last...episode left her a little tired and not really social, so I thought it was best if we stayed with Serenity this time around."
Kaylee closed the gap between them and leaned back against the exam table saying, "Yeah, I don't really feel all that social myself. Thought I'd just...hang around. You need any help?" She pointed at the vial in his hand. Simon looked down at the vial as if just remembering it was there.
"Oh, um, no. No, thanks. I was just doing a quick inventory while things are quiet."
"Well, if you aren't too busy, how do you feel about a game of tall card?"
"I don't know, Kaylee." Simon hesitated, "I mean I still need to finish this," he said, looking around, "and I need to check in on River..."
"Oh, come on," Kaylee took the vial from him and sat it on the table; then walking backwards took his hand in hers and pulled him toward the door, "just one game. River can play too."
Simon grinned at that. "You must have forgotten what happened the last time she played."
"I don't know. I kinda liked it when she took Jayne's cards, told him that birds should be able to fly, and threw them over the railing." Kaylee grinned back, and finished dragging him out the door.
On a dusty dirt hillock overlooking Serenity, a group of ragged men and women lay on their stomachs watching the ship. They watched as Mal and the others left the ship, riding toward town. They watched as sometime later, Wash reopened the cargo doors and sat down looking out toward the direction the others had gone across the barren, scrub-covered land. They watched as he leaned back resting on his elbows. They watched, his body language told them he was relaxed. Then quickly and quietly they moved down the hillock, coming up behind Serenity, and then around, splitting half on one side, and half on the other, coming around to meet at the front. They had Wash before he even knew they were there.
One of the men clamped a hand tight over Wash's mouth and pulled him, struggling, away from the ship. Another man motioned the others on. They found Simon, Kaylee, and River in the common area.
River saw them first. Leaping to her feet, she ran toward the ones coming up behind her brother, but the ones coming from behind Kaylee had recognized the threat in River, and two of them fired stun guns directly at her. Without slowing, River managed to turn her body and both shots missed their mark. It was the third one coming from her intended target that got her.
River hit the floor with a hard thud as Simon, yelling her name, ran towards her. Meanwhile, Kaylee looked desperately for something -anything- that she could use for a weapon. It took only seconds for the raiders to subdue both Simon and Kaylee. Then, putting restraints on their wrists, shackles on their ankles and using torn rags to gag them, they half-dragged half-carried them from the ship. One of the men similarly bound the unconscious River and flung her over his shoulder, carrying her outside.
While most of the raiders had been inside the ship, those left outside had brought their vehicle around and loaded the now bound and gagged Wash into the back. Simon and Kaylee were lifted up and dropped down, next to him and the man carrying River plopped her down letting her fall across the others' laps. As they were being loaded, some of the raiders went briefly back into Serenity giving a quick look around for anything of value they might take. Not finding anything obvious, they joined the others and drove back the way they came.