"Captain Reynolds…" Badger smirked from behind his desk.
Mal didn't know how someone could smirk their words, but Badger could. All of the short man's energy seemed to be devoted to exuding nonchalance and cool, But Mal could see he was more than a little rattled. His bodyguards looked a little more alert than they had been last time they had spoken face to face and they definitely had more guns than usual. Which was saying something in and of itself.
"I had some very interesting visitors a while back, smelled like feds, wanted to know some things about a certain ship with a certain crew… Took quite an effort on the part of the boys and me to convince them to leave, just wouldn't take no for an answer," He glanced significantly at a faded bloodstain on one of the walls. "Silly wankers. You started fighting that big war of yours again or sumfink?"
Mal, Jayne and River stood before his desk, Mal had on his very best don't-mess-with-me face, but inside his mind was whirring. The operative must have known about him too, sent a team to see what he knew and get rid of him so he couldn't hide us. After Miranda no one must have followed up. Deciding to keep Badger in the dark (It was funnier that way, knowing Badger would be living on the edge of his seat, wondering if more feds would come gunning for him) Mal replied.
"That issue's been taken care of, I came here under the impression you had work for us to be doing, but if all you want to do is chat, I'm afraid we're on the clock." He shot back.
"I don't understand you at all; the hardened ex-rebel turned outlaw with a crew made up of…" Badger jerked his head at River "Sweet young things like that? And I thought she was just your passenger anyway, why'd you go giving her a gun and stick her in head first with a bunch of unsavoury and disreputable men such as ourselves? A girl could get herself all kinds of messed up." Badger said with mock concern, grinning in a mildly lecherous fashion at River.
"Who is and who isn't on my crew ain't your concern, we'll be leaving now." Mal said as he turned on his heel and started towards the space between the cargo containers that lead to the main thoroughfare on the Eavesdown docks.
Badger let out an exaggerated sigh "Wait, there's a job. I was just trying to be friendly is all, haven't seen my ol' pal the captain in a while and all that. But since you're being this way I'll get to my point; I have some cargo needs a ship, booze."
Mal turned back and frowned at Badger. "Booze? T'aint illegal to transport that between worlds, unless its hot, but what kinda fancy hooch is worth stealing?"
Badger grinned, knowing he'd got the captain's interest. "Yes, not illegal to transport it, as a matter of fact it's legally bought this stuff is. Got papers for ya 'n all. It's where you're bringing it is the fun part."
"And that would be…?" Asked Mal.
"New Oceania" Smirked Badger.
Again with the smirking! What I wouldn't give to be able to give that smug piece of go se a good kick in the ass! Thought Mal. River gave him a sharp look, she must have sensed his desire and wanted him to keep his mind on business.
"Ah." Said Mal, "That sounds like a pickle, who the hell on that rock wants booze anyhow? They brought in them prohibition laws under a landslide referendum, if I'm rememberin' right."
River suddenly spoke; "New Oceania state Law, Intoxicating Liquors act C.E. 2510, Article 1: 'No person shall keep, sell, brew or otherwise manufacture any beverages with an alcohol content exceeding one and one-half per cent per volume. Article 1.2: Any person(s) attempting to manufacture or import into the jurisdiction beverages with an alcohol content exceeding the amount stated above shall be subject to a fine not exceeding 5000 platinum credits and shall be detained at the magistrate's pleasure for a term not less than eight months."
Badger and his goons looked at River in mild astonishment. "Well Yeah… that." Said Badger, still eyeing River suspiciously. "They don't take kindly to people trying to have a good time, nor those who endeavour to provide them with the means to do so." He put on a deeper voice, imitating a preacher, "The drink is a scourge, which blackens the hearts of men and drives them towards Satan" He smiled at his own joke and motioned at Mal and his crewmembers. "I am hiring you lot to get the sauce for my client's party onto that rock, he's offering a very good price for it. I like a good drink or six myself, but this fellow must really be trying to impress his mates to risk all that time in jail just for the chance to get smashed."
Details were hashed out, the percentages of the profits that Serenity's crew would take were argued over and River nearly gave of Badger's goons a concussion when he tried to look down her top. When everyone calmed down and the numerous guns were lowered and de-cocked, Badger stood up to shake hands with Mal, "Pleasure to be doing business with you once again, captain." He said, with less of a smirk in his voice than before.
"You too, until we get back then." Mal said curtly. Concluding their business.
The trio walked out onto the bustling docks and headed for Serenity's berth. They easily cut a path through the crowd; River through the impressive amount of weaponry visible on her person, Mal through his calm yet dangerous look and the gun on his hip, and Jayne mostly through sheer size.
"What in the díyú were you thinking in there?" Mal asked River, his tone was serious but she could tell he was amused by what she had done to the curious guard. "I bring you on jobs to prevent exactly that sort of unpleasantness!"
"Wanted to see the secrets, weren't his to know." River said in a singsong voice, Jayne snorted in laughter. "Hell, I dunno if he'll be able to see anything straight for a while!" The big man had been close to ending the life of the man who had been creeping on River, now that she was no longer prone to confusing the hell out him and waving knives around he had grown fond of the crew's "little psycho" as he had named her. Her interest in guns, martial arts and all manner of pointy things, exploding things and sharp things had made the pair rather good friends now that River's brain was no longer in million pieces. Jayne considered her his crewmate and comrade-in-arms, and nobody creeped on Jayne Cobb's crew when he could help it.
As they walked up the ramp into Serenity's cargo bay Mal ordered Jayne and River to round up the rest of the crew for a meeting in the galley to give them the news about Badger's job.
Jayne set off towards Inara's shuttle to give her the order and although she tried to keep out of the crew's minds as much as she could, River caught a small flash of hope from Jayne's mind; hope that Inara would be bathing or in some manner of undress when Jayne opened the door. Her mouth curled in a small smile at his double standard when it came to who got to see whose naked body. Still smiling slightly, she stood stock still in the cargo bay and closed her eyes.
Her mind expanded, and she could suddenly feel each member of the crew and their position on the ship. Her abilities were stretched trying to see that far but she could feel the warm, friendly mind of Kaylee in the engine room. A sadness edged with steel in the region of the crew quarters was Zoe and a small tear started to well up in River's eye as Zoe's loss became a part of her too, but was bitten back by the same mental fortitude that allowed Zoe to accept it as well as live with it. Simon was pottering around in the infirmary, he was happy, Kaylee probably had something to do with that, River grinned as she got a small flavour of the love those two had for each other.
She set off to wrangle them for her captain.