"Right, now that those two are off looking," said Cpt. Reynolds, "the rest of us can do something productive."
The crew of the IAV Serenity stood in the cargo bay, looking at the not unfamiliar bustle of Antenora.
"You sure this is an alternate universe, sir?"
"I'm… relatively certain, Mr. Cobb. The Subject's word on these things is better than most."
Mr. Cobb stepped out and took a good look around. "Doesn't seem any different from the Persephone we know and love. Same crowds, same buildings, same sleaze."
"Well, maybe the world is more different than it may seem," said Cpt. Reynolds. "How about you go and look around, ask a bit, see what's the same and what isn't."
"Quite gladly, sir. I've wanted some fresh air for quite some time. Sure, this isn't like Ariel, but I suppose that will come sometime in the future." Mr. Cobb bowed. "Good day to you, captain."
"God be with you, Mr. Cobb," said Cpt. Reynolds, returning the bow.
"So, what do we do now?" asked Kaylee.
"Well," said Cpt. Reynolds, "I was thinking we should get more supplies. That formation took a toll on our electronics. You have a list of what we need, Kaylee?"
"Of course I do." Kaylee pulled a sheet of paper from inside her shirt and handed it to the captain.
"Great. Zoe, you and me are goin' shopping," said Cpt. Reynolds. "Sgt. Washburn, watch the Cortex, see what you can find from there. Kaylee, do whatever repairs you can with what we have."
Kaylee kept smiling, but gave the captain a look.
"What about me, sir?"
Truth be told, Cpt. Reynolds had forgotten about Hex. Well, she was Subject 06, but this was how she was when she wasn't "active". She didn't seem to remember what her name was, so the crew called her "Hex", what with her being both Subject 06 and doing things that, in a less advanced world, would certainly be called spells. She was normal as could be – for now.
"Hex, you can go and wander a bit," said Cpt. Reynolds. "I'm sure there's all sorts of things to enjoy. Just don't get swindled, and don't get yourself in trouble."
"Sure thing, sir," said Hex. "God be with you." She wandered off into the crowd.
"And also with you," said Cpt. Reynolds. "I knew I liked that girl for a reason." Sgt. Washburn rolled his eyes.
"Speaking of swindling people…" said Kaylee, "Inara, what are you going to be up to?"
Inara gave Kaylee a look. "I'd like to think of myself as more than just a swindler. As for what I'll be up to, I figure I'd be looking around as well, maybe gather information in my own way."
"That sounds like an excellent plan," said Cpt. Reynolds. He walked over to her and grasped her hand. "Don't get yourself into too much trouble, alright?"
"Of course she won't," said Zoe, pulling the captain away and giving him a glare. "She's perfectly capable of… doing what she does."
"Hey, I know it's sort of breaking a Commandment or two," said Cpt. Reynolds, "but you have to admit, she's incredibly good at what she does."
"Uh-huh," said Zoe. "Try not to get shot, alright, honey?"
"I'll do my best," said Inara. She bowed and headed off to do her work.
"God be-" Cpt. Reynolds was grabbed by Zoe before he could finish.
"If you say that one more time, I'm going to stab you. C'mon, Malcolm, we're going shopping," said Zoe. She dragged him off towards some shops.
Kaylee looked at Sgt. Washburn. "Was it ever that bad for you, with her?"
"She's just jealous," said Sgt. Washburn. "Of course she'd want her little ta ma de jia wei haoyu all to herself."
"Wow," said Kaylee, almost stunned. "When did you become such an asshole?"
"I picked it up while getting abandoned in a torture dungeon. You might want to try it some time. I'll be on the bridge if you need me."
Sgt. Washburn walked back into the ship, leaving Kaylee alone at the entrance to the cargo bay.
"If I could do any work with the products that I had," she said to herself, "I'd have done them already." She went and grabbed a lawn chair stored near the door, set it out, and watched the people pass by.
"Wow, is that what you guys were getting all freaked out over?" said Wash.
He and Kaylee were walking through the streets of Antenora, looking at all the things they needed to get – electronics, engine parts, that sort of thing. At the moment, though, Wash was looking at a drawing.
"Yeah. River drew it. She said it was what the captain looked like when she looked in the mirror."
"This isn't the captain," said Wash. "Well, maybe a little. But it has so much that isn't the captain. It's like the anti-captain. It's like if we were in a universe where everything was backwards, that would be our captain."
"Maybe…" Kaylee took a second to look at the wares of a stall selling small secondhand engine parts before continuing on. "There's nothing good here! All this stuff is either overpriced or a bunch of fei wu. At least on Eavesdown there'd be at least something good and cheap."
"Well," said Wash, "Eavesdown wasn't any better, I'd say. Antenora just has less, that's all. Less people, less options, but about the same level of quality. And it's just a bit more quiet."
Kaylee and Wash walked past a pair of Alliance men who looked like they meant business. "Not the good sort of quiet," said Kaylee.
They took a right and started walking past several stores selling compression coils, wiring, circuitry, and other electronic parts.
"Let's see," said Kaylee, looking at the sales as she passed them, "can't afford, don't need, don't need, junk, can't afford, junk, junk, way overpriced-"
"Yeah, we're not in the best place to buy things, I'll give you that," said Wash. "I heard Antenora is better for dresses, food, jewelry-"
"The sort of stuff we can't afford?" said Kaylee.
"Well… yeah." They took a left, into a wider street packed with people and selling hardware. "The dogs will get us a lot more money, though. Even if the captain is walking headfirst into a trap."
"What?" said Kaylee. "He said that Brightman was good! So what if Jayne thinks he's a vampire?"
"He was just too damn nice," he said. "Nobody in the 'verse is that nice unless they're either paid to be or they're getting you in trouble. Not to mention that he managed to become a viable buyer in less than a month with Badger breathing down his neck."
"Wash, it's on the other side of the planet," she said. "You can't 'own' a planet all to yourself. Moon, sure, but not a planet."
"Hey, from what I've seen, Badger dreams big," he said. "Still doesn't make this seem like any less of a trap."
"Okay, well, I trust the captain on this one," she said. "He can handle it, I'm sure. If it's a trap, then it's a trap. Mal's gotten us out of plenty of traps before."
"But traps tend to lead to people getting kicked in the head, or shot, or other fun things before we're out of them," he said. "We could just skip the trap altogether for once. Wouldn't that be nice?" Kaylee and Wash took another left, entering another set of docks, this one with less shops and more ships.
"Well, yeah, of course it would. But I don't know if the captain likes it that way. He likes finding out who's against him by getting a gun pointed at him and seeing who has… their…"
Kaylee trailed off, distracted. As she and Wash walked down the square, she found herself unconsciously walking away from him and towards the most strange and interesting ship she had ever seen.
"Well, of course it's a trap," said Mal. "There ain't a person in the 'verse who acts like that unless they're making a buck off it."
He, Zoe, and Book were making their way through the streets of Antenora. Mal and Book were carrying a large crate covered in a tarp, while Zoe was keeping watch. Occasionally, the crate barked.
"It's just that you seemed to walk right into it, sir," said Zoe.
"I am walking right into it," said Mal. "I'm just knowing that it's going to spring somewhere along the line."
"I must say, captain," said Book, "this is an interesting way to handle a trap. Personally, I would avoid the trap in the first place."
"Well, let me put it this way," said Mal. "There is the chance, small as it is, that Brightman's being honest. If he is, we make the deal, no traps, and everyone walks away happy. Now, if there is a trap, we make the deal, find the trap later, get out of it, and then come back and look clever for getting out of it."
"But we look real stupid going into it," said Zoe.
"We don't look that stupid," said Mal. "Keep your eyes peeled, we're meeting them in a place called… that one right there."
"Odd name-" said Book.
"No, we're meeting him in that shop right there. The abandoned-looking restaurant with the sign with the moon on it."
The three of them brought the crate inside the shop and set it down. There was a disheveled, probably homeless man inside. When they entered, he looked at them, took a look under the tarp, and then walked into the back room.
"You still think this isn't a trap, sir?" said Zoe.
"Let it play out," said Mal. "If someone points a gun at us, shoot them, okay?"
A little bit later, a tall, burly man with thick eyebrows came out of the back, flanked by a pair of men with guns.
"Hello! You may call me Vladimir. You are vorking vith Brightman, are you not?" His accent was twice as thick as his eyebrows. "Ah! I recognize you from ze intel. You are Malcolm Reynolds! Zat vould mean zat you haf zhe dogs?"
"Take a look for yourself," said Mal. The man removed the tarp, revealing five Dalmatians in a crate that could comfortably hold three.
"Ah, zere zey are!" said Vladimir. "Zey… do not look so good. But zere are no cuts, no vounds… zese are problems zat you are not responsible for. Brightman vill be pleased."
"Good to hear. Do you have the payment?" said Mal.
"Ah, of course! Brightman is a man of his vord." He took two sacks of coin from his belt and gave them to Mal. "Plus, ve are giving you a bonus. Brightman's vater, he owns ze biggest fuel supply company on Persephone. A ship always needs to be fuelled, so he has arranged a delivery of three tanks of fuel, free of charge."
Mal and Zoe both raised an eyebrow. "That's very kind of him," said Zoe, "but I'd like a bit of proof that this bonus is what he says it is."
"But of course! You haf every right to be skeptical. Valter! Ze fuel!"
The homeless man they saw when they first arrived entered, dragging in a large barrel that sloshed. Vladimir opened the lid, revealing that it was full of a relatively clear liquid.
"See?" said Vladimir. It looks like fuel, it smells like fuel…" He took a ladle from the counter, scooped out some of the liquid, and lit it on fire. It burned bright white for a second before the fire went out on its own. "It even burns like fuel!" He poured the rest of the fuel back into the barrel. "Now, zis barrel, you haf to take back to your ship on your own. Ze other two, vell, Brightman is arranging ze delivery as ve speak. It should be on your ship by ze time you return."
"Good to hear," said Mal. "Now, we'll be going, if that's all right."
"Of course! I vish you luck in your travels."
Book went to pick up the barrel of fuel, and he, Mal, and Zoe left the abandoned restaurant.
"Oh yeah," said Mal. "This is definitely a trap."
Kaylee hadn't seen a ship quite like it before in her life. It was a Firefly – no doubt about that, with the engine in the back – but it didn't quite look right. For one, it was painted up like an Alliance vessel, even though the Alliance could certainly afford something better. It also had a good amount of weapons on it – turrets, missiles, that sort of thing - which made it all the more mysterious. It was certainly shiny, but it didn't quite look right. Not just because it was a Firefly dressed and armed like an Alliance warship, but… Kaylee didn't quite place what was unusual with the ship, but something was off about it.
So distracted was Kaylee with analyzing the ship, that she was only stopped from walking into the ship by someone nearby saying "Hey!"
"What…" said Kaylee. "Oh. Oh! Oh my god, I'm sorry! I just got- is this yours?"
Kaylee, not as distracted, took a better look at who stopped her. It was a woman currently seated in a chair in front of the ship. She had long black hair, relatively Oriental features, and bright eyes. She stood up, and she was tall and rather shapely. She wore a tight dark brown jumpsuit and a leather coat. "I'd call it as much. I'm not the captain, but I keep it running."
"Oh? It's so… shiny, though," said Kaylee. "Looks like everything would run perfect."
"Oh…" said the woman, "she'd surprise you. You look quite interested in her. You like ships?"
"Yeah, they're just so fascinating. They all have stories," said Kaylee. "What's hers?"
"Well," said the woman, smiling without earnestness, "she's a Firefly. Well, she was. Mark-03."
"Oh! But, uh, isn't that a Mark-04 engine on the back? Could've sworn that-"
"Yeah, it is. She can go twice as fast and twice as far, and with half of the fuel. Not to mention all of the other tricks she has up her sleeve. But it's kind of a crapshoot."
"Oh? Why?" asked Kaylee.
"Well, take a closer look," said the woman. "See this engine right above us?" Kaylee nodded. "Actually from a Falchion-class gunship."
"No…" said Kaylee, in awe.
"Yeah. Most of the wiring in her is actually from a few different ASREV's, as is the armor. Windows are from a Warhammer interceptor – couldn't break those if you rammed it at full speed. Atmo's a modified version of what's in a Thunderbird, and I couldn't tell you where we got these guns. Basically, she's the best of everything the Alliance has to offer in one package."
"Wow…" said Kaylee, impressed. "And it all runs together?"
"Nope!" said the woman, smiling sarcastically. "And that's why they need me. If I'm not micromanaging it, the main engine starts taking air from the secondary atmo feed and uses it as fuel, while the smaller engines start to lag when you give them commands. I don't think it'll set all the ship's air on fire after a while, but I haven't tried it."
"But couldn't you just… well, I haven't really gotten intimate with anything but a Firefly, with standard Firefly parts," said Kaylee. "You must be a pretty good mechanic, to be able to handle all those parts at once."
"Hey, if I wasn't the best, I wouldn't work on this thing. I consider her to be a challenge. Captain says to keep her running better than anything, so that's what I do. Captain says to make it look shiny and orderly, then she looks like the Alliance actually makes Firefly-class gunships."
"Why is she a Firefly, anyway?" asked Kaylee. "Lot of ships in the 'verse that would be better fighters than one."
"Captain always knew that they would outlast you with a decent mechanic. Of course, when there's barely any Firefly in her, that doesn't apply." The woman was smiling, but her eyes had more annoyance than anything else. "Yeah, the captain's not that great of a man, really. Certainly has zeal, but not much else."
"Well…" said Kaylee, "I don't suppose he'd be willing to let me have a tour?"
"Ha. I don't think he'd mind, but there are others who would. It's kinda classified, but you'd probably be shot or worse."
"Oh…" said Kaylee. "Well, that's still a great ship, though. Fantastic work."
"Thank you," said the woman. "You're a mechanic as well, right? Got to be, with how much you love ships like this one. Have a ship to take care of?"
"Yeah. Also a Firefly, but she's not as new as yours is. Lots of used parts, but nothing shiny. Plus, she's been shot up, and we haven't quite been able to fix her up."
"Oh. Neat," said the woman. She looked from the ship to Kaylee. "Hey, I'm sorta bored here. Sounds like your ship might need someone who knows what to do when a ship's been shot. Mind if I go and look at her?"
"Well," said Kaylee, "I… sure, I don't really see why not. But if the captain asks you to leave, you better listen. He's not too keen on people poking around his ship."
"I don't mind that," said the woman. "Let's get to it, then."
The streets of Antenora were a place where anyone could walk and not be noticed, assuming that nobody wanted to notice you. That made it the perfect place to make shady deals, draw away people to never be seen again, or just outright rob them. Of course, if your line of work required someone to notice you, that was possible, provided you could shout loud enough.
Nobody cared about a certain woman who walked through the streets at that moment. In any other circumstance, all eyes would be on her curves, her eyes, her beautiful red hair – and that wasn't including the high chance of her running into someone who she had met, romanced, and left penniless. Here, though, she was another face in the crowd, and she liked it that way. If she was going to be noticed here, it was going to be by her mark, and that was it.
The big man with the bigger eyebrows, however, was not someone who she wanted to be noticed by, and certainly not be pulled aside by.
"What do you think you're doing?" said the woman.
"I vas going to ask you ze same question!" said the man. "You are supposed to be elsevhere, are you not, Johanna? Zat is your name, yes?"
It wasn't, but if that's what he thought, then that's what it was. She didn't quite know what he was getting at, but if she was already at work, it just made things that much easier. "Yes, of course it is." No reason to act coy when talking with someone she wasn't planning on robbing.
"If zat is so, zhen vhy are you not with Brightman's other men? Ve vere to provide you vith a vay onboard ze ship, vere ve not?"
"Of course," she said. "I must've missed one of the deadlines."
"Yes, definitely," he said. "Ze plan vas for you to hide in ze barrels of fuel zhat ve gave him for free, have it be taken onto zheir ship, und zhen you vould do vhatever you vanted vith zhem."
"Not the way I'd usually get onto the ship…" she said.
"Hey, you paid us for our assistance. If you do not vish to go through, no problem. Brightman did not vish to scam Malcolm Reynolds, but you certainly convinced him, or so I heard."
The woman didn't have any idea who either of those people were. "In that case, I suppose I should find him, then. Mr. Reynolds, that is."
"I believe zhat his ship is at one of ze docks. It is called ze Serenity, though I may be vrong. Old Firefly vessel, not used much anymore, or so I've heard."
The name of that ship was familiar to the woman, though calling it "old" wasn't. "In that case, it seems like I have an appointment to catch."
She slipped away into the crowd before the man could respond.
This was an interesting situation. She didn't have it happen often where she ended up on a job accidentally, especially when it seems like she was the one behind the job. But she supposed that she could get some money out of it. Captain wouldn't like her running off like this without her knowing, but cash is cash, and it sounded fun. It seemed like there was a ship that needed catching.
After Inara had returned from doing her Companion duties and could make sure that Simon and River stay safe, the first thing that Jayne went and did was find a saloon. Relaxing, getting fairly drunk, maybe starting a good fight, all of those sounded good. Problem was, his favorite bar in Persephone was on the other side of the planet. On the other hand, since he hadn't been to Antenora, he hadn't been barred from any of its establishments for starting fights or getting rowdy. Jayne, not feeling picky, entered the first establishment that didn't have a bouncer.
There was a decent crowd, a bit of live music, and not a single Alliance man in sight. Just the thing Jayne was looking for. Jayne headed straight for the bar and got himself some cheap beer. However, he entered had started a new song, and when Jayne realized what song they were playing, he spat his beer right out again, because the song was one that was all too familiar.
"Our love for him now, ain't hard to explain! The hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!"
Jayne sat in silent astonishment as the band played "Hero of Canton", his own personal theme tune. The crowd didn't seem to be all too receptive on the matter. Jayne figured that they've never heard of him or of Canton before, which made the band's song choice all the more peculiar.
In fact, besides Jayne himself, only one person seemed to care. He was sitting next to Jayne at the bar, and he was listening intently. Definite nancy boy - guy had a face certainly mistakable for a girl, with long hair, high-class clothes, and a very nice hat - something not unlike a black douli. Jayne wasn't exactly sure what a guy like that would be doing in this sort of establishment.
"This is an interesting song," said the man. "You don't hear of too many men being lauded as heroes in this day and age." He rested his chin on his hand. "I don't know if I like it."
"How couldn't you?" asked Jayne. "This is quality entertainment right here!"
"Oh? What makes you say that?" said the man.
"Because," said Jayne, smiling, "it's about me."
"I... see..." said the man, looking slightly confused.
Eventually, the song was over. A few people gave it applause, but all of them combined didn't clap as voraciously as Jayne did. The bartender and the nancy boy both gave Jayne annoyed looks.
"Now," said the singer, "it isn't often that you get to find a good song about heroes nowadays. I reckon a song like that one is a bit of a rarity in the 'verse. But I've been to Canton once. It's a bad place. You'd have to be captured by Reavers before you're worse off than the mudders of Canton. I guess that's why they need a man like Jayne to idolize."
"Now, hold on a shecond!" A man who certainly had too much to drink stood up, stumbled to the stage, and took the microphone away. "Now, I know a man called Jayne. Cobb, yeah, Jayne Cobb. I met him... and he'sh an asshole! Jayne Cobb is one-" The man started saying some long and probably vulgar phrase in Chinese, but it was slurred to the point of incomprehensibility. "But I can tell you one thing for shertain. Jayne Cobb is a lying shcumbag who ish the exshact opposhite of a hero. He'sh an no-good rotten uncultured... dick."
Jayne was about to get up and teach this drunk a lesson, but the nancy boy beat him to it.
"Your words are slander and your mind is deluded," said the nancy boy. "Stop saying your lies at once."
"Oh yeah?" said the drunk. "Or what?"
"I doubt you'd like to feel the consequences," said the nancy boy.
"Oh yeah? Prove it! Come at me, pretty boy!" said the drunk, putting his fists into something vaguely resembling a boxer's stance.
The nancy boy set his hat down on the bar, got up, walked through the crowd, and got on-stage. The drunk took a swing. The nancy boy grabbed his wrist, took a calm step forward, and then effortlessly flipped him over. The drunk hit the stage hard and was out for the count. Jayne and the crowd were stunned into silence.
"Now," said the nancy boy, "I know that knocking a man out is a good way to start a fight in a bar such as this one. I know they can be entertaining, but I'm not in the mood for a fight. If you want to have one, be my guest, but I will not be taking part in it."
He walked back to his seat, picked up his hat, put it on, and headed out. Jayne followed him.
"Hey, why did you do that?" asked Jayne.
"Oh?" The nancy boy stopped. "He said things that simply weren't true, and I wasn't going to stand for it."
"But, I mean, maybe they were a little true, but still, you don't see people do that very often, defendin' another man's name like that."
"What do you mean, 'another man's name'? He spoke untruths about my name, and I showed him that that was unacceptable."
"No, I think - wait, your name?" Jayne was considering punching this guy out at some point, but after seeing the drunk, he wasn't sure if he should.
"Yes, my- oh, wait a second. You said they were singing about you, right? The man they call Jayne?"
"Well, yeah!" said Jayne, proudly. "Ain't nobody the people of Canton love more than Jayne Cobb."
"So, you're... oh my. Good lord, you have the goatee and everything," said the nancy boy.
"Well, who are you, then, punching people out for insulting..." Jayne was starting to put two and two together, and he was getting even more confused.
"Now, I really must be going," said the nancy boy. "Talking to you has certainly been... enlightening, to say the leasts. So long, Jayne Cobb." He said Jayne's name like it sounded weird for him to call him that. The nancy boy walked off, while Jayne stood there still trying to make sense of the matter.
"...who the hell was that?"
River never stopped drawing. When Inara came to check on her and Simon after she arrived, River had finished her fifth drawing and was working on her sixth. She was on one of the catwalks on the cargo bay, surrounded by some of her drawings.
Once Inara got close enough to River, she stopped drawing, picked up a bloodstained shard of mirror, turned it so that she could see Inara in it, and stared intently at it.
"Crocus sativus," said River. "A familiar face. Doesn't make sense. If everyone else is different, why is she someone so familiar."
Inara looked at Simon. He just shrugged. "She's seeing the reflections of different people in the mirror. They seem to reflect traits of personality instead. I'm still not sure about the whole thing."
He picked up a picture and gave it to Inara. "This one's a self-portrait."
Inara looked at it intently. "I can certainly see the resemblance. More on an emotional level than a physical one. Pain... sadness... I know several artists that would sell their souls to be able to convey emotion like this."
"Well, take a look at this one, then," said Simon. He picked up another drawing. "She made this one after taking a few glances hours ago."
He handed Inara the drawing, this one in black ink as opposed to red. It was only a little bit worse than the other drawing. It was a woman, light-haired and distinctly Caucasian.
"Who is this supposed to be?" asked Inara.
"I think it's supposed to be Zoe," said Simon. "That one kind of scares me. She's smiling, but she looks like she's just waiting to kill you."
Inara analyzed the picture's expression. "I see what you mean. I don't think this looks much like Zoe at all."
"It's not supposed to," said River. "It's the reflection in the broken mirror. Black is white and white is black."
"Right, yes," said Simon. He picked up a third drawing, this one of a young black man. "This one is Wash, isn't it?" River nodded and went back to drawing. "It seems for Wash and Zoe, their ethnicities are flipped around. Really, when you get around to all the differences, it's pretty interesting. Look at this one.
Simon handed Inara yet another drawing, this one of a woman. "She's very pretty," said Inara. "Is this supposed to be Kaylee?"
"Actually," said Simon, "that's Jayne."
"Really?" said Inara, her eyebrows raising. "Well, I suppose it is a girl's name..."
"It's sort of unfortunate that they took the drawing of the captain," said Simon. "That's someone who looks nothing like he does in reality."
The smile that Inara had when she walked in faded. "Hard to tell sometimes, with all the faces he puts on."
"Well, I believe he's never dressed himself up like an Alliance official and worn a big metal cross on his chest, has he?" said Simon.
"Well... he certainly hasn't, that much I can say," said Inara. "Who is she-"
Inara was cut off by the sound of the ship's airlock opening.
As Simon pulled River somewhere less obvious, Inara remained to see who it was.
"And this is the cargo bay. About as spacious as anyone could hope for." That was Kaylee. Inara wasn't aware that she had even left.
"Well, my ship doesn't really have much of a cargo bay anymore. Mostly we hold weapons in there." That was from someone altogether different. She was taller than Kaylee and dressed in dark clothes.
"Oh, well, that's... interesting," said Kaylee. She looked up and saw Inara. "Hey!"
"Hey," said Inara. "I see you brought a friend."
"Oh, she's just a mechanic. She's just here to help fix the issue we've been having with the engine."
Kaylee's friend looked at Inara and furrowed her brow slightly. "Haven't we met?"
"I do not believe so," said Inara. "We don't have many guests on Serenity. Mostly just passengers."
Kaylee's friend nodded. "Serenity? That's the ship's name?"
"Well, yeah," said Kaylee. "I didn't pick it, Captain did."
"Alright!" Speak of the devil. Mal walked up the ramp, and Zoe, Book, and Wash weren't far behind. Book and Wash were carrying a large barrel that they set down quickly. "We should have two brand new fuel canisters in here somewhere. Gift from Brightman. Nobody touches any of these tanks until we know what's in them." Mal started walking up the stairs, but stopped and backtracked when he passed by an unfamiliar face. "And who are you?"
"Oh, I'm just helping fix the ship up. Your mechanic thought it needed a bit of help. Frankly, with how she looks, I don't blame her."
"Hey," said Mal. "You ain't much older than Kaylee yourself. Don't go acting so hypocritical."
Kaylee's friend raised an eyebrow. "Kaylee?"
"Kaylee." River had appeared on the catwalks above everyone else. "Kaylee Frye. Kaywinnet Lee Fry."
Most of the people in the cargo bay looked up as River went back to drawing. Nobody looked nearly quite the same as Kaylee's guest, though. She was almost stunned with confusion.
"How do you know my name?" she asked.
"But... that's my name," said Kaylee, also getting confused.
"Wait, your name's Kaylee?" asked Mal. The stranger nodded. "Did you know this?" he asked Kaylee. The one he knew best, not the stranger.
"No, sir. Never got her name until now."
"Mal!" Jayne was making his way hastily up the entry ramp. "I just ran into the strangest man. Looked like a girl, but he had my name! Mine! Another Jayne Cobb! He even beat up a man for besmirchin' my good name!"
"Wait..." said the stranger. "He didn't happen to have a hat on, did he? Black, pointy, something like that?"
"Yeah, he did!" said Jayne. " Finest hat I've seen, besides my own. Wait, who are you?"
"That's something we're figuring out," said Mal. "Something about her ain't adding up."
"Wait..." said the stranger who was getting more and more mysterious. "Mal? Like, Malcolm? As in, Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds?"
"Yes," said Mal. He felt his hand start to hover over his holster, just in case.
"And this is the Serenity..." said the stranger. "Oh no." She laughed. "I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. Tzao gao..."
And with almost a flourish, River finished her latest drawing and threw it into the air. It fluttered down from the catwalks like a leaf on the wind. Mal caught it.
"Wo bu shin wo dah yan jing..."
He looked from the stranger to the drawing and back again.
They were a perfect match.