A/N: This is my first attempt at Firefly so be gentle, this takes place after the series and after the movie. Of course I own nothing, just trying to keep the spirit of Firefly alive.
No Power in the Verse: Bad Cargo
The ship was quiet, everyone slept, some sounder than others. Their dreams invaded her mind in flashes, haunting dreams of the dinosaur king, doubts and regrets intermixed with dissatisfaction, glimpses of fiery red waves always out of reach, bar fights, battles long ago waged.
She let them wash through her, having learned that fighting them was useless and led to the swelling of her cranial nerves. She immersed herself in the privacy of others' minds that screamed for attention, pleading with them to quiet. They settled into the background, realizing that her mind was not the acknowledgement they really wanted.
She began humming softly to herself, letting the scene from Le corsaire pas de deux unfold in her mind as her feet traced the steps against the cool grating. Nothing could be heard but her soft humming and the occasional swish of her dress as she jumped and spun around the cargo bay, eyes closed.
The girl was happy, the ghost of her past being embraced in the present. She stilled halfway through, her imaginary partner spinning away from her as an intense wave of mourning swept through her.
She looked up knowingly to the glean of tears hidden in the shadows. He wept for all that she was, all that she had lost, the grace that she was meant for. She stepped back, silently walking away from him, what could she say to him, how could she explain? She was what she was, she was present, she did not mourn her ghost.
"No need to go a shoutin' cap'n, I'm right here."
"Try to hook some new passengers, but there best not be no Alliance folk. Have River read 'em, dong ma?" He reminded with a stern face, softening the reprimand with a smirk and a wink.
She waved them off to do their dirty dealings, stretching out in her chair and keeping a sharp eye on the passing crowd. Seemed not too long ago that they were there before, before the madness.
"The white star shines everyday, no matter what the atmospheric conditions are." Kaylee startled at River's voice, still not used to her ability to creep up on her.
"What does it matter if it does? Everyone still feels the storm." River smiled, pleased that Kaylee could understand her better.
"It matters, the storm will pass and people know it will, because the white star shines everyday." She played with a tendril of her hair as Kaylee finally smiled back at her.
"It is awfully nice t'day, ain't it?"
Coiling her hair around her finger and letting it drop, she inspected the brilliant skyline. Thirty-two point two degrees Celsius, atmospheric circulation at four knots, six percent visible cloud cover, prime conditions for overexposure to radiation.
"Yes, it is." She reassured her, wrapping a light scarf around Kaylee's exposed neck and shoulders. She did not wish to say anything to dampen Kaylee's tentative optimism. She had been hit hardest by the Miranda wave, and the aftermath; it pleased her to see Kaylee smiling again.
"Well, well, I see you got that b't of hero business out of yer system."
Mal's smirk slipped into a grim line, "You waved me with promise of business, that's all I'm fixin to speak on with the likes of you." A dangerous glint in his eyes dared him to press further.
Badger studied him, he wanted to push on, to see if it had broken him; but Mal's gun hand tightened his grip on his assault rifle and he felt his interest wane on the topic.
"Oi, we got business, let's have ourselves a palaver." He waved him to take a seat to sort out the particulars. Jayne took up his sentry position by the door while Zoe let out an inaudible breath of relief as she stood behind the Captain, listening to the details.
The last thing they needed was another Greenleaf incident; they had barely made it out alive the last time an unsavory man had thought to bring up the Miranda wave. Truth to be told, she had no qualms putting down the man who thought to cheapen the hardships they had endured, it was his five armed buddies that became the real difficulty.
"Simple transport job, destination is Ezra. You drop off the cargo, pick up the cargo and turn your lovely l'ttle bug back here for coin."
Mal let out a low whistle, "That's clear across verse in the Georgia system, your simple transport job will take quite some time with the most direct path being blocked by three Alliance stations."
"That's why this job doesn't come with a time stamp. Take all the time in the verse you need, but you don't get paid until the cargo comes back." Badger leaned back in his chair feigning indifference, waiting for Mal to mull it over. This was the fifth smuggler he'd approached, no one wanted to touch this cargo.
"A third now."
"Yer out of yer bloody mind."
"Well that may be true, but the coin weighing down you left jacket pocket says different. This job ain't simple and it'll take quite a bit of coin just to get there and back. This is the deal."
"How's I to know you won't just take the third."
Mal leveled him with steady eye. "I don't take coin less I'm doin the job. If I don't come back it's cause me and your cargo are lost to the verse."
Badger let out soft chuckle and tossed the coin purse to Mal.
"Where's the cargo?"
"Right here." A voice growled out from the shadows. A large fellow stepped from the shadows, black tank, black cargos, black combat boots topped off with a wicked pair of goggles. His musculature made Jayne look atrophied and the twist of his lips sent a slice of fear in everybody in the room.
"This is your man?" Mal asked with a raised brow. Badger stood up a bit nervously, edging towards the door.
"Ain't no ones man, but my own." The stranger rasped out, giving the Dyton a hard look.
"Well that's just shiny then, let's make some headway. Got any personals?"
He shifted his focus to Mal, unnerving him with his eyeless gaze.
"No." The man in black moved towards the door and headed out, leaving Badger to make his hasty departure before questions could be asked and three smugglers scratching their heads at what exactly they had agreed to.
Kaylee was beginning to feel a bit frustrated. No one was wanting to take passage on her girl. Serenity was often spoken in the same breath as the Miranda wave, and disbelief, ridicule and distrust had followed them 'round the verse. She was starting to feel down right insulted.
"They bury their heads. Would rather be in the dark. Still keen from the last campaign, do not want another."
Taking a minute to decipher the River speak, Kaylee studied the crowd.
"No one's askin' 'em to start a war. I thought…I always believed…I mean, what kind of people just don't care?" She trembled out, she had never spoken on how shaken her world had been after the Miranda wave had been met by deafening silence.
She brightened automatically, pulling herself together as strapping man with a shaved head made his way purposefully towards her.
"Hi there! I'm Kaylee, you looking for passage?"
He strode straight past her, heading up the ramp.
"Umm…excuse me, mister…?" Kaylee stammered unsure how she was supposed to prevent the man from his apparent intention to steal the ship.
"Riddick. He is Richard B. Riddick." River announced causing him to pause and turn his head in her direction. He looked at the wisp of a girl, growling as his body screamed danger.
"Do I know you girl?"
She cocked her head at him, making a face that told him he had asked a stupid question.
"You would know if you did." She turned her back to him and reassured her, "S'okay Kaylee, he belongs here, no need to fuss. He knows his path."
Mal, Jayne and Zoe hoofed up to the dock. Mal was surprised the man had beaten them there since they had run back to the ship not wanting the girls to be alone with him. He was not surprised the man had known which ship to go to and how to get there, he looked to be the kind to do his recon.
He kept one eye on him as he spoke to Kaylee.
"Any other boarders?"
"Sorry cap'n, no takers."
"Just as well, this guy would spook 'em off anyhow. Let's start her up. Jayne show him his bunk. Zoe give Wash the nav points. River with me." He ordered, not at all liking the angry grumble coming from their cargo as he stared at the girl.
Mal headed straight to the kitchen where no one would be as River trailed behind him. He turned her small frame to face him as soon as he was out of earshot.
"Baobei, please tell me I didn't just ruttin' agree to transport a killer psychopath that's going to slit our throats in our sleep?" He asked, trying in vain to keep the desperate edge out of his voice.
Riddick paused outside his door, listening to Mal's plea vibrate through the metal ship. Jayne, oblivious to what Riddick could hear, muttered his way through an excuse to leave, all sorts of creepified by the snarling smile spreading across the man's face.