14) I Am Tainted

Riddick brought River up to the bridge where Wash was sitting with Zoe the next morning, "Hey Wash," She smiled at the pilot before taking a seat in the co-pilot's seat. "Going to dig into the cortex this morning. You are to supervise me?"

Riddick laughed and shook his head as he double-checked his weapons and groaned as River's slender hand slid up his thigh and untwisted the strap holding his knife. "River," He growled her name and was rewarded with a wicked little smile. "Qīng Xiāng you know better'n to do that when we're workin'."

"Strap was twisted, and Richard goes to speak with evil," River wasn't at all intimidated by his manner. "The animal likes its mate's hands on him before he goes from her."

"Yeah," Riddick's sigh still sounded more like a growl as he jerked her up from the chair and kissed her hard on the mouth, groaning as her arms wrapped around his neck and her body rubbed against his. Reining the animal in and pulling his mouth from hers was one of the hardest things he'd done. "Gorram tā mā de work," He snarled and gave her one last kiss. "Mal's comin' up here," He said in explanation when Zoe looked at him, her face inscrutable but the gunpowder scent of her curiosity floating off her. Riddick looked down at River's pretty face, her lips slightly swollen from his kiss. "If this job does go south, gonna need some leverage on this jiān xié."

"I'll find something," River nodded, "You know I will." She touched her fingertips to his face, gliding over his cheekbones and lips and chin as if memorizing his face. "Wash will keep me company, won't you?" She turned her smile on the pilot who'd taken a moment to kiss his wife good bye.

"We also serve who sit and wait, or something like that," Wash grinned at her. "And we can worry together."

River shook her head, "Cannot insult Richard by worrying, implying that he will not return to me." She took her seat and looked up at her big man. "Biggest badass in the 'Verse," She sent a mischievous look at Wash. "But I will help you worry about Zoe if you like."

Riddick stole the chopstick from her chignon and took a deep breath of her scent as her hair came tumbling down, "Be a good little animal my River," He teased before handing her the chopstick and turning as Mal entered the room.

"You go be a bad man my Richard," River taunted him as she began to wind her hair back up.

"Always am," Riddick chuckled and regarded Mal. "Just don't get pissed at me in front a the guy. He's gonna know my name, won't take offense at anything I do. He'll be impressed you got me working for you, just don't imply I'm on your leash, he'll know it for a lie."

"I ain't ever taken kindly to bein' told my business," Mal started to bluster.

"Ain't tellin' you your business," Riddick replied reasonably. "But you call me Rick an' he's gonna take one look at me an' know I'm Richard B. Riddick. Especially if anyone gets in my face. I don' care for it an' I let 'em know right quick an' violent. That shows 'em we ain't to be trifled with. He'll know my rep which will enhance yours. Might just pay more or he'll think twice about a double cross if that's on his mind. But he'll know I don't work on a leash an' I don't work for stupid people what show weakness in front of the enemy."

Zoe had been listening to the conversation without a word and held up a hand to forestall Mal's next protest. "Sir, if Rick can act as scary as he looks, and I got no doubt he can, it might speak some as to our own unwillingness to be dealt an unfriendly hand. I don't doubt Riddick's rep is just as unlovely as Niska's in his own way. We deal with a monster, may be its good we show off we're working with one of our own."

"Would you like to see Richard's reputation?" River spoke in a strange accent, "Reputation is talk, is gossip." She looked up at Riddick and her smile was adoring. "My big bad wolf, kills the pigs and the other wolves that hunt the little lambs," She sent something to Wash's screen eliciting a curse from the pilot.

Riddick looked at the information she'd sent and chuckled, "Yeah, that'd be the monster Niska'll see walkin' in his door." He watched Mal's face as he and Zoe scanned the file River had found. "Don't doubt that Niska has his fingers in a lot of pies, includin' access to Alliance databases."

"Is all this true?" Wash had a strange scent like ginger ale to his fear and Riddick wrinkled his nose a bit.

"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –Success in Circuit lies too bright for our infirm Delight the Truth's superb surprise," Riddick chuckled.

"As Lightning to the Children eased with explanation kind the Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind-" River continued quietly.

Mal stared at the murderer and nodded slowly, "All right," The captain said slowly. "We'll try it your way, I go in first, something happens you don't like, give the word I'll move out of your way."

"Just say his name," Zoe suggested kissing her husband's cheek. "That usually gets his attention."

"Keep that in mind," Riddick looked at River. "We good?"

"Never are," River grinned back at him. "Richard and River are very bad."

"Little tease," Riddick kissed laid his lips over hers, more gently. He spoke quietly against her mouth, barely audible to the rest in the room. "To you my soul's affections move devoutly, warmly, true," His lips brushed against hers as he spoke.

"My life has been a task of love, one long, long thought of you," River murmured back, and fused her mouth to his for a sweet hot kiss. "Now go and work, before I forget what I'm supposed to be doing with this cortex." She smiled up at him and ignored the stares of the others in the room.

Riddick growled deep in his throat and forced himself to leave her, the animal nearly howling inside him to take her back to his bunk and make her his before something happened. This job wasn't going to go smoothly he knew it.

Docking at the skyplex wasn't hard, walking down the halls was easy enough. The first hint Riddick had of something going not quite right was when a big man covered in tattoos opened the door and stayed in the doorway. "Mal," He growled the captain's name and when the taller man turned, Riddick's fist shot through the sudden opening and threw the tattooed fella backwards.

Riddick pushed past his captain and into the room, glaring down at the big man lying on the floor. A smaller man with a fussy voice was making a tsking noise, "Did I not tell you that someday this habit would not be a friend to you?" He admonished his henchman. "Come in, please all of you," He looked at the other three, his eyes moving from Riddick to Mal. "And Captain Reynolds is which?"

Mal nodded and stepped forward, patting Riddick's shoulder almost absently. Riddick growled down at the tattooed fellow who was slowly standing up again and moved to lean against the wall by the door. Something in this room or the chamber past it smelt like blood, urine and feces, pain and suffering. Someone was being tortured. Mal, not knowing any of that, spoke simply to Niska, "I'm Captain Reynolds. My first mate Zoe, this is Jayne an' the man with the quick fist an' all the knives is Rick."

"Very nice," The little man with the glasses and the odd accent nodded in pleasure. "I am Adelai Niska. You have seen Crow. He likes to stand at the door to say Boo!" He looked them over, his pleasure still evident though his eyes lingered on Riddick who still hadn't said a word beyond Mal's name. "This has not worked so well for him with your Rick."

"Rick don' like anybody gettin' in his face," Zoe's voice was flat and brooked no argument. "The man's alive."

Before anyone could say anything that queer the deal Mal's voice spoke into the silence, "We got word you might have a job for us."

Niska stood up from his desk and nodded, "Yes! Yes, an exciting job. A train has, eh, something I need. You have worked a train before?" He eyed Riddick thoughtfully.

"We did a few," Mal didn't elaborate, not that he needed to.

"Are you going to ask me what it is I need?" Niska's eyes moved from Riddick to Mal and then back again.

Mal shook his head, "As a rule, no."

"Yes," Niska smiled jovially, "Good! You have reputation! Malcolm Reynolds gets it done is the talk."

Mal nodded, "Well, I'm glad to hear that."

Niska regarded Riddick thoughtfully, "This one of your crew, he is new to your ship I think. He also has reputation." Riddick growled lightly in his throat, not moving from his spot by the door as Niska continued, "He is not the sort whose reputation matches yours."

"Got somethin' to say, say it to me," Riddick finally spoke, a growl reverberating through his voice.

"You are Rick, this is the nickname for Richard yes?" Niska clasped his hands. "One hears things about a man, a dangerous man whose name is Richard. Richard B. Riddick." When Riddick didn't speak he spread his hands, "Well, such things are the nature of rumor, no?"

"You askin' a question?" Riddick pushed his goggles up and let his silver eyes shine through the shadows of the room. "Yeah my name is Richard. Yeah my middle name begins with a B. An' yeah, I killed more'n a few folk needed killin'. Think I can't do the job? Or you think I complicate thin's unnecessarily? Just say. I can sit it out 'thout a problem."

"This is not what I am saying," Niska shook his head, "I merely...wished to be certain who it is I am dealing with. One hears things you see..." He smiled slightly. "You know what is reputation? Is people talking. Is gossip. I also have reputation. And not so pleasant I think you know. Crow?"

Crow had gotten to his feet and was standing by a door which he pulled open to reveal a man hanging by his feet from a hook in the ceiling, looking as if he'd been tortured to death. Niska nodded to Mal, "Now for you, my reputation is not from gossip. You see this man. Eh, he does not do the job. I show what I do him, and now my reputation for you is fact, is solid. You do the train job for me, then you are solid. No more gossip."

Riddick pushed off from the wall and unfolded his arms coming to stand near Jayne and Zoe behind Mal. Inhaling deeply he caught the scent of the man's blood still flowing, his heart still beating faintly. The animal was straining within him, shouting that this would happen to Mal, to Jayne and Zoe if they failed this job. Mal was fairly startled but nodded, "Right."

"Oooh," Niska nearly smiled, "You do not like I kill this man." Riddick snarled at the lie and Jayne nudged him slightly. Niska regarded Riddick thoughtfully, "You do not like I kill this man?"

Riddick bared his teeth in what was nothing like a grin, "He ain't dead yet."

Niska looked startled but glanced at the man, "Ah, a miscalculation." He shrugged and looked at Mal, "You do not like that I will kill this man?"

Mal, to his credit, managed to conceal most of his horror. "Oh, no. I'm sure he was a very bad person."

Niska's gesture was dismissive but resigned, "My wife's nephew. At dinner, I'm getting earful. There is no way out of that. So, oh! The train job. Come here!" He beckoned for them to gather around what was a beautiful desk of real wood and turned on a display of train cars. "Here, in fifth car, two boxes. Alliance goods. You don't mind taking from Alliance I think. From your reputation? You get on train at Hancock, headed for Paradiso. You take boxes off, before you reach Paradiso, and deliver to Crow," He touched a spot on the display, hi-lighting it, "Here. Half money now, Crow give you other half money at rendezvous point. Anything goes wrong, then, your reputation, only gossip, and things between us, not so solid. Yes?"

Riddick was ready to kill someone and didn't really care who knew it. The idea that River had been within spitting distance of that sick twisted jiān xié. He raced up to the bridge and scared Wash half to death when he walked in without a sound. Simon had seen his face and raced after him.

River turned and offered her partner a smile as he strode soundless onto the bridge, Wash breaking the silence with a startled "Yah!"

Riddick looked at Wash, "We're all on." He looked at River and took a deep breath, no fear in her scent, nothing that would indicate he'd frightened her with any of his thoughts. "You find anything zhī yīn?"

River nodded, "Also got schematics of the train and began to formulate a plan. Wash was a great help."

"I sat here and talked to you," Wash objected. "I wish I'd known I was helping, I would have felt less, useless."

Riddick scooped River up and wrapped her in his arms, a passionate kiss pressed to her lips. "Knew you could do it," He breathed into her hair. "Gorram, I ain't never letting that old snake near you."

"He believes he is an original thinker," River murmured. "But he isn't. Just a sadistic psychopath." She chuckled and Riddick inhaled her tequila scent. "Maybe we could ship him off to the Academy."

That startled a laugh out of him and he sat down in the rear chair, "There's a thought," He looked up as Simon entered the bridge. "She's all right doc, the animal was just panickin' a bit."

"I thought that," Simon shook his head. "I've been so worried about River, but I never... Are you all right?"

"Don't want you or River near this guy Simon," Riddick looked at the doctor over River's head, absently pulling out the chopstick so her hair spilled down again. "Especially you, like it or not, you're my pack, an' I don't want Niska touching you."

River smiled up at her partner and kissed his cheek, "My láng," She slid her hands up to his face so he looked down at her, and kissed his lips gently. "Tell us what happened? I do not think the captain will go into details."

Wash chuckled, "Oh you'd be right about that." He looked up at footsteps and smiled at his wife before looking at the captain. "So I'm setting a course to where?"

"Regina," Zoe said briskly. "Need to go over the details, but we'll be startin' out in Hancock."

Wash's hands moved over the console and he looked at Riddick, "Wanna take her out?" He grinned, "Unless holdin' onto your girl is more important."

"Promised River I'd teach her to fly," Riddick grinned, "Seems like now's a good time to start."

"Ain't havin' her flyin' my boat," Mal objected though without much heat in his voice.

"She won't be flyin'," Riddick snorted and lifted River easily as he moved to the seat beside Wash. "I am, she's just gonna watch."

"Well we get a course set, c'mon into the galley alla ya," Mal took one look at his new crew member piloting with a diminutive girl in his lap and sighed as he left the bridge.

Zoe looked at Riddick and then at Simon, "So why the mad dash to get in here Rick?"

"Wanted to be sure River was all right," Riddick said as he disengaged the docking seals. "Whole skyplex smelled like rot an' death. Couldn't be sure they wouldn't try to take the ship, an' once we were on, too late to send someone back." He kissed River's head as he pulled back on the throttle easily and turned the ship away from the skyplex.

"Wash, you got a course set?" Mal hollered from the galley.

"No patience," Wash murmured, "The man has no appreciation for math."

"Unable to picture anything larger than a battlefield in his head," River observed placidly, "Mathematics and applied astrophysics not his strong suit." She tilted her head to look at Wash's course. "You don't follow the straight paths, the space lanes," She grinned, "More economical, avoid gravitational pull of the systems until you wish to be drawn into the planet's gravity, keep from using too much fuel."

Wash shot her a grin, "Nice to have more than one person understand what I'm doing." He finished programming the course in and stood up, wrapping an arm around Zoe's waist and kissing her cheek. "C'mon co-pilot and entourage," He chuckled. "Mal's chafin' at the bit."

Riddick shook his head over the pilot's antics and looked at Simon, "Sorry to scare you." He offered. "Just..."

"I know how it feels," Simon smiled. "I'm going to go and look over the infirmary, make sure I have all I need in case the job goes wrong."

"Very good idea," River nodded her support as she rose off of Riddick's lap.

"Yeah, from what Jayne says nothin' goes smooth around Mal," Riddick muttered as he and River followed Wash down the hall to the galley.

River watched as Mal brought up the plans he'd gotten from Niska and began to lay out how they'd do the job. He and Zoe would board the train, go back to the cargo compartment and sneak in, and open up the roof. Serenity would fly over, Jayne or Riddick would drop down and they would all go out the roof with the cargo onto Serenity.

River poked at the plans and tilted her head, "This must happen on the plains, not in the mountains," she observed. "The timing will be tight, it is only a half hours journey from the beginning of the plains to Paradiso." She looked at Mal, "You will have to be in the cargo car before you get to the plains."

Mal folded his arms, "Thank you, consultant, we were kinda aware of that little snag."

"Do you know what you are stealing?" River asked with a frown, knowing the answer already.

"Didn't want to know." Mal retorted.

River pulled up a manifest on Simon's encyclopedia and began to write it down, "This is everything the cargo car will hold." She said quietly. "I hypothesize that the Pescaline D is the goal of the heist." She drew up something else, "Regina is a planet with a peculiar element that causes Bowden's malady, Pescaline D is the only treatment." She looked at Mal. "I told you that you wouldn't like the job once you got it."

Riddick stroked his hand down River's hair and looked at Jayne who nodded and began to bluster, "Ain't nothin' says that's what Niska wants us to steal," He argued. "An' we ain't had a decent payin' job in weeks. Why don't you keep your crazy theories to your crazy self."

River looked down to hide her smile at the big man's blustering and arguing. His name calling was quite brilliant, no one would ever believe she and Riddick spent several hours each night helping him with his reading and writing. Jayne acted as though he hated she and Simon with an admirable consistency.

"He ain't wrong," Mal said quietly. "We ain't asked what we're supposed to be after an' we cain't back out now. We gotta do the job."

Riddick nodded thoughtfully and looked at River, "All right River, if we do the job, what can we do to make sure it goes smooth?"

River frowned at the train and began to pull up the layout. "Smoothest way to do the job is to disconnect the cargo car. No chance of interruptions, and take everything out of the car to ensure no one knows Niska's crates are the true goal." She looked at the train and tilted her head. "This train is not the same as the one located on Regina," She shook her head and her fingers began dancing over the encyclopedia.

"How'd ya know that?" Jayne sneered.

"Regina is a mining planet. The chances of them using a train like the one represented is very unlikely. It's a train more typical of the central planets," She scowled at the plans. "The only trains running on Regina are of this type." She grabbed a pointer and began to adjust the plans Mal had laid out on the table. "We will not be able to disconnect the cargo car. Thus we will not be able to rob the entire car at our leisure." She sighed sadly. "Captain Reynold's plan is the most likely to succeed, though I would recommend that Richard go down with Jayne and act as a guard and deterrent to anyone interrupting." She put the encyclopedia back in its case and sighed. "I'm going to talk to Inara," She kissed Riddick on the cheek and left the galley.

Riddick shook his head and watched as she left, he didn't like the melancholy scent that was rising off of her. She wanted to feel useful, and not being able to help with the plan had made her feel useless. He sighed, he knew she was a genius, that she'd gotten something to hold over Niska was indication enough of that. He put his goggles down and ran a hand over his head as Mal began to drone on over his and Jayne's part.

River knocked on Inara's door and smiled when the Companion opened it, "I know it isn't our appointment, I'd hoped you wouldn't mind a visit?"

"Please come in," Inara smiled and wrapped an arm around River's shoulders. "What's bothering you sweetie?"

"I wasn't able to help in a consultant capacity with the crime," River told her sadly. "Richard cannot think of a way to force Mal to let me help so he feels badly for me. My plan was foiled by faulty trains."

"I'm sorry River," Inara began to make some tea. "I know that its important to feel part of the crew." She shook her head. "I've only been here for eight months but it feels as if I could be here for eight years and still be excluded."

"Yes," River nodded. "Simon let slip to the captain that I was tortured and surgery done on my brain, so now Captain Reynolds believes I am damaged and I will never be allowed to become crew." She shook her head, "I didn't inform Richard because I don't wish him to kill either Simon or Captain Reynolds."

"Probably wise," Inara laughed and shook her head at River, "Sweetheart, don't worry about becoming part of the crew. Richard loves you and he knows you are quite capable of doing anything necessary in order to prove your worth. Do something that will make you happy right now." She put a cup of tea in front of her guest. "What did you do when we docked at the skyplex?"

"I hacked the system and searched for anything that would help us to keep Niska from pursuing violent alternatives should Captain Reynolds turn down the job," River replied immediately. "I also copied every file I could from his business transactions including account numbers and encrypted transfers. I routed it through six other servers and data ports so if discovered," She smirked at the impossibility, "No one would know the theft of information came from Serenity."

"And how useful is the information you stole?" Inara asked curiously.

"If I wanted I could take every platinum he has," River giggled. "And he'd never know who did it. But he does run several legitimate business enterprises and I don't wish his employees to suffer." She tilted her head thoughtfully, "I could siphon money out of one of his numbered accounts and steal that. That's money that's been laundered and its safe to use."

"How much is in there," Inara sipped her tea. When River casually named the amount tea spattered all over Inara's gown. "River!" The companion sputtered and coughed before regaining her composure. "Sweetheart, what would happen if you did that?"

"Hmmm..." River frowned and began to think. After a moment she shrugged, "He would most likely kill whoever knew about that account. About three people." She tilted her head, "I could make it look like one of them took it, seed their accounts with money and take the rest making it look as if it was spent." She began to work on her encyclopedia and smiled. "I knew one of them was creepy," Her smile spread to a grin. "He likes women who look like little girls, prefers actual little girls if he can get them, as young as fourteen. He's actually been skimming for a while."

"River I think you've found your new occupation," Inara smiled. "Drink your tea before it gets cold."

River sent her an impish grin, "Can't wait to tell Richard. Don't need to be crew. Can make money of my own. Enough to pay my fare and Simon's. Enough to..." She stopped and frowned at her screen as if something had caught her attention and nodded. "Enough to get equipment to make new ident cards for Simon and Richard and I." She tilted her head thoughtfully and looked at Inara. "Richard has a friend who's as good a husker as I am. Between the two of us I bet we could erase our names from the Alliance database."

There was a knock at the door and Riddick walked in after Inara called for whoever it was to enter. He smiled when he saw River, "Sorry the train screwed up your plan."

"Captain will end up giving the medicine back," River said quietly. "But he won't be able to see that until he gets into the town." She looked at Riddick and tugged him down beside her. "Working on another way to make money," She smiled, "Inara helped."

Riddick grinned as he caught the scent of tequila and apples along with a touch of honey and steel. "Yeah? You huskin' Niska?" He kissed her temple.

"Yes," River's grin matched his. "Don't worry I'll get caught?"

"You get caught huskin'? That'd be like Simon fumblin' a surgery," Riddick shook his head. "Or Inara trippin' on her own doorstep." He wrapped an' arm around her shoulders. "So do I get to hear about this? Or ya gonna keep me in the dark like you tried to 'bout Simon blabbin' to Mal 'bout your brain surgery?"

River blushed and he caught a whiff of sugar, "Didn't want you to lose your temper and kill Mal or hit Simon. Simon might hit you back and hurt his hands." She looked down at her data book. "Sorry I didn't tell you. Didn't want you to get thrown off the boat."

"I know River," Riddick smoothed a lock of hair back and looked at her. "Kinda figured it was somethin' like that. Anytime you ever didn't tell me somethin' it was always you tryin' to protect me." He looked at Inara, "This woman used to not tell me when the guards would watch her in the shower. Try to hide it when one of them smacked her ass." He looked down at River and smiled slightly, "I ain't gonna kill Mal 'cause he's actin' like a horse's hind end River, an' I know Simon ain't used to hidin' his worries. Just tell me so I ain't in the dark about it."

Inara chuckled suddenly, "I imagine that's a new sensation for you?" She nodded at his goggles, pushed back to his forehead.

Riddick chuckled and shook his head, "That is true." He looked at River, "There ain't anyone in the 'Verse can spin me 'bout like this woman can." He let his eyes run over her, loving how she looked, there was no one more beautiful in the 'Verse than River Tam. "So do I get to hear 'bout what you're gonna do to Niska?"

"Will tell Richard everything," River grinned at him. "As an apology for not telling you about Simon's blab." He laughed and kissed her gently, settling back to listen to the whole idea.

Riddick concentrated on checking his weapons, standing well away from the hatch Kaylee was opening. His goggles would be enough to shield his eyes but the wind was fierce. Mal had listened to River enough that they were starting this well before the plains. Jayne was wearing his coat and gloves as he tightened up all his clothing so nothing caught in the wind. Simon was talking to Kaylee and telling her to call him Simon. Riddick listened as Kaylee explained how they were doing crime and sighed. He'd really been tickled with River's idea of unhitching the cargo car. He moved closer to the open doors and listened, looking up at River who was sitting on the catwalk watching he and Jayne get ready.

Kaylee smiled at Simon, "It's a train heist. See, we fly over the train car. The Captain and Zoe sneak in, we lower Jayne an' Rick onto the car, and they bundle up the booty, and we haul 'em all back up. Easy as lyin'."

Simon, not surprisingly, was not as blasé about this plan, "They've done this before?"

Kaylee's laugh was sweet, Riddick wondered if the girl ever lost her sunny nature, "Hell no. But I think it's gonna work. The Captain's a jué duì tiān cái when it comes to plans."

Simon nodded, clearly not seeing it but unwilling to say so, "Uh, well, uh... Is there anything I can... something I should be doing?"

Jayne moved up behind Simon with Riddick and snapped at the doctor, "Stayin' the hell outta everyone's way."

Kaylee frowned at the gun hand and shook her head, "There's no call to be snappy, Jayne."

"You about to jump on a movin' train?" Jayne demanded to know, "Captain ain't around. I'm in charge."

"Since when?" Kaylee obviously didn't agree with that.

Jayne wasn't done though, "And just cause Mal say's you're Medic, don't make you part of the crew." He glanced up at River where she sat on the catwalk, her eyes glued to them, "You just, play at figurin' what's wrong with that moon-brained sister of yours till we call for ya. Dǒng ma?"

"Right," Simon's voice was icy as he walked off towards the infirmary. Riddick watched as a cable was lowered and tilted his head thoughtfully.

"You shouldn't be so rude to him," Kaylee told Jayne.

"Why?" Jayne shrugged, "Cause he's all rich and fancible?"

She shook her head, "He's not rich. The Alliance crashed his accounts when he snuck out his sister."

"Well, we could all be rich if we handed her back," Jayne looked at Riddick, "Just sayin'."

Riddick shrugged and looked up at River who just smiled down at him. Kaylee was looking appalled, "You're not even thinking that."

"Mal is," Jayne shrugged again.

"That's not funny," Kaylee had definitely lost her smile. Riddick almost smirked at how Jayne was behaving, when his old friend took on an attitude he really went all out. He could see the smile on River's face even in the shadows above them.

Jayne was still talking as Kaylee hooked and locked the cable onto Jayne and then to Riddick. "He ain't stupid. Why would he bring on trouble like those two if there weren't no profit in it?" Kaylee's face did not have her usual happy expression as Jayne continued, "Captain's got a move he ain't made yet, you'll see."

Riddick finally spoke and his smile was not a pretty thing, "Nope, Cap'n ain't stupid. He knows if he makes a move in that direction I'll gut him and anyone else who thinks to profit on my woman's misery."

Jayne shrugged, "Well won't be me, I ain't smart 'nough to figure how to do it 'thout you findin' out. Know you're smarter'n me Rick, ya always have been." Kaylee didn't seem reassured but her lips curved upwards as Jayne took out a ridiculous looking hat with floppy ear covers and a chin strap, tying it on against the cold of the wind, "Time for some thrilling heroics."

Riddick rolled his eyes and tightened his gloves around his wrists before he gave River a final grin. She smiled back before rising and he knew she was headed to the cockpit so she could monitor everything going on.

Jayne pulled on his goggles as the hatch opened wider, Riddick could see the train speeding along below them, just about to enter the plains.

River entered the bridge and sat down in the seat next to Wash. The pilot for once was wearing a plain black muscle shirt, and his entire being was concentrated on steering the boat in the low atmosphere. He gave her a quick smile as she sat beside him but didn't speak, too busy navigating the hard winds above the train.

Riddick looked at Jayne and the bigger man nodded, "Here we go." With the silent count they'd used during the war, they dropped out of the moving ship and onto the train, Jayne grunting with the impact of the landing. Tilting his head to listen Riddick nodded and bent to the panel, ready to slide in and guard the minute Mal pulled it down.

The captain's face was all business when he appeared in the opening of the train's ceiling, Riddick nodded and swung down, Jayne following him and looked at Zoe.

The first mate nodded towards the crates with the Alliance insignia and Riddick frowned thoughtfully before Mal unhooked the cable from his back. Zoe handed Riddick the cards they'd used to access the cargo car and the murderer silently moved towards the door. Behind him he was vividly aware of Mal and Jayne attaching the cargo to the cable and lift tray they'd rode down.

Riddick looked down at the threshold and noted the smoke trap Zoe'd set when they entered. The click of a gun sounded from the other side of the door and he shook his head.

Mal spoke into the com, alerting the crew, "Fifteen seconds."

River tensed in her seat and began to work on the cortex, her fingers flying over the fairly ancient equipment. She was vaguely aware of Wash giving her a puzzled look but he didn't say anything being too intent on his own job.

Riddick waited until the door opened and the smoke trap went off before he yanked the fed forward and did his best to impale the man's liver on his boot. The door slid shut behind the purple belly but unfortunately his gun went off. He heard Jayne yell behind him and felt the burn of another bullet in the flesh of his shoulder.

Zoe cursed as Riddick knocked the fed out, "Gorram!"

Jayne hollered into his com, "Go! Go now!" He leaned forward and caught Riddick by his uninjured arm, hauling the shorter man onto the tray along with the cargo as Kaylee started lifting them up. Riddick reached down to try and haul Zoe and the Captain up, only to have Jayne stop him, "They ain't wanted like you Rick, they've got passes for Paradiso, hafta get 'em there after."

Riddick frowned as he saw Zoe and Mal leave the cargo car and shook his head, "I don't like it."

Jayne shrugged his agreement, and collapsed onto the deck as Kaylee hauled them and the cargo up into Serenity.

"Where are the others?" Kaylee was looking around as if she expected Mal and Zoe to pop out of a crate or Jayne's voluminous pockets.

"They shot my gorram leg," Jayne nearly howled and Riddick restrained an amused smile. River was on the bridge, her entire being concentrated on a way out for Mal and Zoe. They'd be in good hands.

Kaylee wasn't quite panicked but she wasn't totally calm either, "Jayne, are they still on the train? Are they gonna be okay?"

Riddick took a deep breath and knew to the minute River realized he was wounded, her scent spiked with cinnamon so quickly he could smell it from the cargo bay. "A purple belly came in and when I dealing him his gun went off a coupla times. Zoe an' Mal are still on the train. I'm sure River an' Wash are workin' on something to get them out."

River looked at Wash, "Need the frequency of Cap'n Mal's earwig please." She smiled in pleasure as he punched it up. "Cap'n Reynolds? Zoe? Have information for you on Paradiso."

"Make it quick we're 'bout ten minutes from town," Zoe's voice came back.

"Joey Bloggs is dead," River said quickly. "Killed himself. Alter the story to hoping for his job, pretend to be married. Be aware of the Bowden's Malady but act as if you had no choice. Uncle giving you this last chance to get your life straightened out, not as benevolent as a wedding journey." River's words were rapid fire, "Sherriff not stupid, your story of newlyweds is not plausible due to Captain's age. Act as if you aren't thrilled to be there and possibly you'll be believed. Working on a plan for extraction, be ready."

"Got it," Zoe replied. "I'll make sure Mal is informed. And River? Nice job."

River sat back and grinned at Wash, "She can be useful even if Mal and everyone but Richard thinks she is chī xiàn."

"Never said you were crazy," Wash objected mildly. "Figured you had PTSD some, but I'd say that's half the folks on this ship."

"Including you?" River tilted her head.

"Yeah," Wash nodded, "Flew in the war. Ended up in a POW camp." He shrugged. "C'mon, let's hear what went wrong this time." He picked a spot and landed, deliberately not at the rendezvous.

River shrugged, "Purple belly with bad timing." She frowned, "Richard is wounded, as is Jayne, but both will be all right. Jayne will make a fuss." She looked at Wash, "Don't worry, Richard won't let him get carried away."

Riddick leaned against the wall and let River fuss over him. His woman had given him a look that said she expected better of her Furyan and proceeded to work on the wound herself. Simon had given her an uncertain glance but after watching her for a moment had turned his attention to Jayne. The big gun hand was kicking up a fuss as if he'd been shot mortally and it was hilarious to watch for someone who knew exactly how much pain Jayne could deal with.

"Gorram it, let's get us moving," Jayne snapped as Simon moved to work on his leg some more, looking at Wash who was standing near the doorway.

"Now, I'm not," Simon was endeavoring to work on Jayne as he tried to move and talk, "I'm not finished." He admonished the big man.

For someone acting like he was in agony Jayne wasn't paying much attention to his doctor, intent upon yelling at Wash. "Why are you parked here? This ain't the gou tsao de rendezvous spot."

"It is now," Wash was very firm considering he had a huge angry gun hand shouting at him.

"That's cause people are waitin', they ain't partial to waitin'," Jayne snarled back.

Riddick found himself liking the pilot more and more, the man didn't back down though Riddick knew he was nervous about Jayne being off Mal's leash so to speak. Wash was holding strong though his sarcastic speech was as evident as ever, "Let 'em read a magazine. We don't make the sale until Mal and Zoe are back on the boat."

Jayne was a little more serious and Riddick got the idea that not all of this was an act, Jayne really didn't want Crow and company to come onto Serenity and for good reason, "These are stone killers, little man. They ain't cuddly like me."

Wash shook his head, "I'm not flying anywhere without my wife."

Kaylee was clearly trying to be supportive but it didn't quite come through her nerves, "She'll be okay. She's with the Captain."

Jayne began to stand up, "There, you see? Everybody wins." Riddick just waited while River smoothed a bandage over his shoulder and kissed his bicep. Jayne was going to make a big fuss, Riddick could tell just from the tequila scent of River's amusement over the big man's thoughts. Sure enough, Jayne tried to put his leg down and nearly screamed in pain. "Doc, I need a pop to quiet this pain some." Riddick watched as Book simply leaned in the doorway watching the hullabaloo.

Simon nodded at Jayne and opened a drawer taking out a syringe, "All right, but what about the authorities? I mean, we're sitting here with stolen Alliance goods. Won't they be looking for us?"

Wash shook his head, "They buzz this canyon, we'll hear them long before they ever see us. I figure we're good for—"

River wrapped her hand around Riddick's wrist and stared up at him, "Won't stop. Won't ever stop. They'll just keep coming until they get back what you took. Two by two, hands of blue. Two by two, hands of blue." She shuddered and leaned against her mate.

Jayne snarled at the girl, "How's about you shut that crazy mouth? Is that a fun game?" He looked at the rest of them, "Now I'm in ruttin' charge here, and I'm tellin' you how it works. We don't get the goods to Niska on time, he'll make meat pies outa the lot of us. And I ain't walkin' into that."

Book frowned thoughtfully and regarded Jayne as Simon injected him with a different shot than the one he'd first selected. "Is this Adelai Niska you're talking about?"

Jayne looked at Riddick who was ignoring his wound to wrap his arms around River, but at the sound of the Shepherd's voice looked up with a question, "Now how would a Shepherd know a name like that?" The Furyan asked thoughtfully.

"As I've heard it, he made a deal with the Captain," Book paused deliberately, "If the Captain's not there to finish it, if Niska finds out he's being held, and may speak as to who hired him," The dark man shook his head. "I think we're better off being a little late."

Author's Note: So? Enough changes to satisfy? Too much? I'm a little worried that this is sounding as if it's not very different from the regular season. Obviously some episodes will be changed more than others but I don't want to disappoint all of you. How are ya'll liking this so far? The Train Job was difficult for me to write because so much of the action happens away from the ship. I could put Riddick on the train with Jayne but I couldn't put him in Paradiso or anywhere else except Niska's skyplex. For obvious reasons I didn't want River or Riddick in Paradiso, wanted fugitives showing up at a Sherrif's station would make for an awfully short story unless everyone there died of sudden shiv wounds.

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Chinese Translations:

tā mā de - fucking

jiān xié - treacherous villain

láng - wolf

zhī yīn - soul mate

jué duì tiān cái - absolute genius

Dǒng ma? - understand?/got it?

chī xiàn - crazy

Qīng Xiāng - Sweet Scent

Script Translations:

gou tsao de - dog humping

Quote Sources:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –Success in Circuit lies too bright for our infirm Delight the Truth's superb surprise - Tell All the Truth - Emily Dickinson

As Lightning to the Children eased with explanation kind the Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind- Tell All the Truth - Emily Dickinson

To you my soul's affections move devoutly, warmly, true - Thomas Moore

My life has been a task of love, one long, long thought of you - Thomas Moore