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Boatjack: Part One of Three

by G Thing

Author's Note: This story takes place about two or three weeks after "Our Mrs. Reynolds". The events in "Shindig" and "Safe" have already occurred, and there are references to both episodes. This is my first work of fan fiction, and I welcome feedback.

Boatjack Part I

Serenity had become Inara's servant. Yet, the ship and her crew benefited from this arrangement. Inara created reasons for Serenity to go places where opportunities frequently developed.

Inara's shuttle had returned with an unexpected guest. Serenity had been stationed on Beaumonde. Mal, Kaylee, and Zoe were present in the cargo bay to greet her. As soon as she exited the shuttle with her guest, Inara said, "This is Montague Evans - a frequent client of mine."

By then, everyone was standing and facing each other. Mal routinely enjoyed annoying Inara with his gibes about her work. "Is he of the possessive sort?" he asked. Mal believed most of Inara's clients were powerful people who desired more power.

"He is cute. You know how to pick `em," said Kaylee.

Montague appeared quite flattered and replied, "Thank you, ma'am."

Kaylee looked joyfully at Inara and said, "Look, he's even a good blusher."

Inara scowled and said, "I am not going to kiss and tell. He has a job for us."

"A job!" Mal said with sarcastic enthusiasm.

"Montague and I have a mutual friend from Xenon," said Inara. "She is an anthropologist named Jendra Drake, and she needs a ride to Trivonia."

Zoe joined into the conversation. "I think that's a colony on Bluedock, sir. During the war, I met one or two people from over there."

"Quite right," said Montague. "Drake was last at Trivonia about three years ago. She was posing as one of the locals, but she fell off a horse and broke some bones. She needed medical assistance the people there couldn't provide."

"So, she also needs our doc to get her moving the way she should," Kaylee said.

Inara answered, "No, she just has to go back to Trivonia to retrieve her records."

Montague said, "She managed to get outside the colony after she'd healed a bit, but she couldn't get to her ship. So, she used her remote to activate the ship's beacon. A university transport arrived."

"She couldn't get back after that. Why?" Zoe asked.

"While she was gone healing from her wounds, the Alliance ruled Bluedock unsafe for landing. It seems a few townspeople have gone missing at Trivonia and some other colonies," Montague answered.

Kaylee had a good idea of what was going on. "They've been snatched," she said.

"That's a problem we don't like," Mal replied. "So, how much is she offering for this ride?"

Montague answered, "One thousand platinum."

Kaylee wolf whistled at the sound of that. Then, Mal answered, "That's something."

Zoe said, "Sure is," but she visibly had far less enthusiasm. Her light fake smile gave that away.

Inara reassuringly said, "I have told her about the Tams. I just talked with her a day ago. She sympathizes with their situation."

"There are a few conditions Ms. Drake requires," Montague said. "She has four trained armed guards under her employ. Jendra wants them on Trivonia when she recovers her records."

Clearly, but quietly, Zoe became more uncomfortable. Mal and Kaylee weren't sure what to say.

Inara looked at Mal and said, "Mal, Jendra Drake is one of the most trustworthy and honorable people I have ever known. She really needs to go to Trivonia and leave safely. She wouldn't endanger herself or anybody else by trying to steal the ship or make any trouble."

Mal, Zoe, and Kaylee could tell how Inara had known beforehand that the armed guards would be a concern. "Will you take full responsibility should anything go wrong?" Mal asked Inara.

"Yes," Inara replied. "And I am telling you nothing will go wrong."

"That really is a lot of money Cap'n," Kaylee said.

Mal took a deep thoughtful breath before he said, "When can we meet her?" The opportunity was too appetizing to turn down.

After Inara and Montague had departed for Montague's estate in her shuttle, Mal and Zoe entered the bridge. Wash was already there running system checks. Mal had a task for him. "Wash, how long a trip is it from here to Bluedock? Then, tell me how long it will take if we avoid Alliance-controlled areas."

"Just give me a minute," said Wash as he began searching on the bridge computer.

While Wash was searching, Zoe said, "Sir, this is dangerous."

"Zoe, you know Inara wouldn't put Serenity in any danger," Mal said.

"Yes, but we don't know what Ms. Drake and her armed guards are thinking."

"As long as we are on this job, Ms. Drake is our boss. The professor wants security when she reaches Trivonia. Her sudden appearance down there might stir something up, and she doesn't want to get violated. The locals probably don't take kindly to folks who've been spyin' on em."

Wash said "Hey, it looks like we might get lucky, Mal."

Zoe firmly said, "Gwon nee ju jee du shu." Wash understood that she meant he was not helping.

"Wash, talk to me," said Mal. Wash seemed somewhat hesitant. He knew how his wife valued being able to trust him. Mal had known Zoe long enough to recognize that. "I promise I won't let her torture you."

Wash almost told Mal he had a hard time believing that. Instead, he did his job and said, "We could make it in 60 hours, and we'll be passing under the radar. The space is pretty remote between here and there."

Mal said, "That's terrific, Wash." Zoe shook her head in disapproval. "I could have Jayne and maybe the Shepherd keep watch on her guards," Mal said to her. He did not know for sure how competent Book would be with the guards of course. Yet, Book had already found several ways to surprise Mal.

Zoe began walking away from the bridge. "Jing tzahng mei yong duh," she said.

"Fine, we can all keep an eye on the guards. They'll have people around them 24/7," said Mal loudly and almost with forgiveness.

"She and I are gonna have fun tonight," said Wash with obvious sarcasm.

"As if there isn't enough paranoia around here. Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou doh sai-jin wuh dhu pee-goo." It seemed only colorful Mandarin metaphors could alleviate Mal's frustration.

Inara brought Professor Jendra Drake to Serenity well on schedule. Mal, Jayne, Kaylee, and Book were all present in the cargo bay to meet her.

Immediately after the shuttle door opened, they could hear Jendra say, "This takes me back. How could I forget? You were as hospitable as anyone I've met, and it seems you haven't changed much." Then Jendra saw Jayne bench-pressing with a healthy amount of sweat showing on his old t-shirt. "Of course, the venue is very different this time." Professor Drake's eyes showed Asian heritage, and she looked to be in her 40s.

Jayne stopped lifting and gave Jendra a nod of acknowledgement. "Behave yourself," Kaylee whispered to him.

Jendra was making her way down to the bottom level. She said, "I believe introductions are appropriate."

"I couldn't agree more," said Mal as he was walking toward the bottom of the stairway. "My name is Malcolm Reynolds - captain of Serenity. Welcome aboard."

He walked up to Jendra and they shook hands.

"Thank you, Captain."

"Inara can give you a tour of the ship and the crew."

"Certainly," Inara said. "This is Shepard Book."

"Pleasure to have you, ma'am," Book replied.

"Over there is Kaylee Frye, our mechanic." Kaylee gave a greeting smile. "There sitting down is Jayne Cobb. He lifts things for us." Jayne gave another one of his acknowledging nods and smiles.

"You've come across an interesting group of people. I must say this vessel is strangely compelling," Jendra said.

"Well, thank you," replied Kaylee.

Following them out of the shuttle came four battle-ready individuals. Three of them were men, and one was a woman. They were all fairly large and muscular. Professor Drake went back next to where they were so she could point them out individually. "Allow me to introduce my security team. This is Mitchell." Mitchell appeared to be Caucasian. "Over there is Dawson." Dawson had black skin. "This fellow right here is Lang." Lang had obvious Asian heritage. "And this lady right here is Brett." Brett was a Caucasian woman and looked as though she would be very good in a fight.

As soon as Jayne saw her, he approached. She impressed him. Then, Mal said to Inara, "Kaylee will now show your guards to their cabins." Of course, Jayne scowled at Mal - disappointed that he could not introduce himself to Jendra's lone female guard.

"Splendid," said Jendra.

Inara said, "There are a few other crewmembers you should meet. If you follow me, I will introduce you to our medic."

As Inara and Jendra left, Zoe made her way to the cargo bay. Mal saw her coming and said to her, "Ms. Drake is mighty polite."

"I'm glad you feel so comfortable, sir," Zoe said casually.

Kaylee introduced the four guards to the passenger dorms. Dawson, an experienced mechanic, clearly could not resist discussing Serenity's workings with Kaylee. After the other three guards were beginning to move their belongings into the dorms, Dawson said to Kaylee, "You're the mechanic on this ship, right?"

"I sure am," she said with a hint of pride. "The last I checked I was Serenity's mechanic."

"You know, I've worked on a few Firefly class ships in my time. Their engines are primitive compared to Alliance ships. Have you made any upgrades?"

"No, we never seem to have the money."

"Oh, that's too bad. Mechanics are at their best when they make improvements."

Kaylee smiled and said, "It would be gorram nice."

As they were walking toward the infirmary, Jendra said to Inara, "From your messages, I recall there being two fugitives on this ship."

"Yes, Simon and River Tam."

"I remember when the university wanted to recruit River."

They saw Simon in the infirmary taking final inventory of the medical supplies before liftoff. Serenity's crew stocked up on supplies every chance they got.

"This is Dr. Simon Tam," Inara said.

"It's nice to meet you, ma'am."

"Dr. Tam," Jendra said. "Inara never mentioned the ship's surgeon was so young."

"Being in the top 3% of one's class at Osiris Medical School brings more jobs to younger surgeons," said Simon with a trace of pride.

"Well, that's excellent."

"My sister was recruited to go to school at Xenon Colonial. Maybe, you remember her. Her name is River."

"Yes, I remember when the faculty was discussing that. We really weren't sure what we were supposed to think of her. She seemed so gifted in a remarkable amount of ways."

"Yeah, she's made me look pretty ridiculous on numerous occasions. At the same time, I wanted her to succeed and be happy. Of course, I would never let her know that."

Jendra went with her arrogant or envious voice when she said to Simon, "That little brat. She's just a show-off."

Simon and Inara both laughed for a second. "That she is," said Simon. He then turned serious and said, "Did Inara tell you about what happened to her at the academy?"

"Yes, she did. I sympathize with your situation, Simon. There are plenty of professors involved in the underground."

"Really? You know a few things about the underground."

Jendra nodded and said, "The Alliance is stepping beyond the law by experimenting with people. They are hiding behind legal tyen shiao duh, and people like your sister are punished for committing no crime."

There was an uncomfortable pause for a few seconds before Simon politely asked, "Would you like to meet River?"

"Very much."

"She has her good times and her bad times. I should warn you. She was in her room last I checked." Simon led them out of the infirmary.

They walked into the passenger dorm area. Simon knocked on River's door and said, "River, we have a visitor who would like to meet you."

They heard River answer, "It's not a door if no one can open it."

Simon looked somewhat uncomfortable. He did not wish for Jendra to see his sister in a tantrum. He said to River, "Okay, River, I am opening the door. I promise no one will hurt you."

The door opened. Jendra saw River and walked up to her. River only smiled a friendly smile from the bed she was sitting on. Jendra said, "River, I don't think we ever met in person, but I remember when Xenon Colonial recruited you. I understand that you've been through a lot of hardship."

Everyone outside stepped into the room. They were walking in the direction of the bed. River stood up and began walking toward Jendra. Then she stopped and everyone else could tell she was afraid.

"Is something wrong?" asked Jendra.

River showed signs of anxiety. The others were in the middle of the room. She circled them and left into the hallway at a quick pace.

Inara, Jendra, and Simon stuck close together and followed her to see where she was going. River appeared to be heading up toward the mess hall. "It's nothing you've done," said Simon to Jendra. "She gets like that quite often."

"Wow! Has she made any friends here?"

"She is making a few. She seems to enjoy being on this ship."

Unknown to Inara and Simon, River looked at Jendra and saw another victimized woman. Jendra, on the other hand, suspected that was the case. However, she could never believe River could simply look at her and see the horror Jendra secretly knew.

Suppertime on Serenity came on its usual schedule. Zoe and Wash were late. Jendra was already at the mess hall with Brett. Kaylee, Jayne, Inara, River and Simon were there as well.

"Where've you two been?" Kaylee asked the straggling married couple.

Wash answered, "If Companions don't have to kiss and tell ... oh, go seh. I've already said too much." No one actually believed him as Zoe remained silent.

Inara wished to initiate more friendly conversation. "Oh, Jendra. I almost forgot. This is Wash and Zoe. They are Serenity's lone married couple."

"She must be one capable woman to snag a man so ...," Jendra saw Wash glug down a pitcher of some drink she could not recognize. "...manly."

Zoe saw that Jendra shared some of Simon's dislike for the food. Kaylee also noticed this right away.

Kaylee said, "We have some nice oranges and strawberries in our cargo."

"That would be most kind."

Anyone paying attention could tell Simon was relieved when he got up and said, "Here, I'll get them."

Jendra sighed and said, "I think I've been away from Trivonia for too long. I used to be able to rough it pretty well."

Kaylee was not so sure what to make of Jendra's words. However, she wanted to continue the conversation. "Roughing it has its rewards," she said.

"It certainly does," said Jendra. It makes life more interesting, and I'm proud to say I've roughed it."

Kaylee still seemed a little uncomfortable. Therefore, Jendra changed the subject, "Dawson has told me about that lone compression coil you have. I'm telling you that you ought to get a spare."

"I keep saying the same thing to the cap'n. Could you please speak your mind to him?"

Simon returned only to find Kaylee and Jendra getting along pretty well.

Zoe glanced over to Jayne and saw how close he was sitting to Ms. Brett.

Jayne did everything he could to come off as a gentleman. "So, what's your name?" he asked her.

She answered, "Theresa Brett, how are you?"

"Perfectly content," Jayne slowly answered. "My name is Jayne Cobb."

Theresa could see how much effort Jayne was putting into this conversation. "Nice to meet you, Jayne. That's an unusual name."

"Yes, I have learned as I have matured to accept my name's abnormality with pride - as much pride as I would have if I were a woman."

Theresa decided to have fun with this. "Would you like to be better acquainted with the parts of my anatomy that dignify my womanhood?" she said at a quick pace. Theresa had practiced saying that phrase.

Jayne took a three second pause to think this over before saying, "Yes, very much."

Zoe thought the exchange was both humorous and pathetic. She returned her attention to Kaylee and Jendra.

Kaylee said, "You know, there's something I'm rather embarrassed to ask in front of the doctor, but I gotta know." Naturally, Simon began paying better attention. "Whenever someone's having a big fancy ball, sometimes they categorize the food there as standards. What kind of food are they talking about?"

Simon and Jendra were silent and looking at each other with the hope that the other would respond. Neither did. Kaylee recognized this and said, "I only heard about standards on Persephone once. So, I wasn't actually supposed to know about them. That's good. That's very good."

Book arrived at the mess hall at that moment. Zoe had discovered on her own that her shipmates were enjoying the new company. Serenity had not been able to take passengers since Simon and River found their way in. Book could see how uncomfortable Zoe was. He himself had become suspicious of the guests. He had no doubt now that Zoe was in the same boat.

Jendra retired to her passenger cabin after dinner. She had glanced through a couple of her books before River came to her door and knocked.

Jendra opened her door and said, "River, oh my god, are you okay?"

"Spacey," was River's response.

Professor Drake was uncertain what she could do to accommodate her unexpected guest. "Why don't you come in for a while? I didn't mean to scare you earlier," she said.

Indeed, River came in, and Jendra was lost for words while River stood silent. Then, Jendra's rain stick came into her field of vision. "Have you ever seen one of these?" she asked. "Locals believe it summons rain for crops."

Suddenly, River said, "They left you behind."

Jendra said, "What?" with a feeling of familiarity.

"They wanted you to carry the torch, but you blew it out."

Jendra actually began whimpering. "There were others. They mutilated themselves. They saw everything I saw."

"Children without parents."

"I wanted to help the children. I thought they still had innocence in them."

"Monkey see, monkey do."

"Yes, they saw the adults killing each other. They didn't know that killing people was wrong anymore. So, I called for help. After I was rescued no one believed me."

"The doctors thought the moon sang to you."

Jendra began pulling herself together. She said, "Okay, River, listen to me very carefully. No one else can know about this while I'm here."

River looked confused and was about to ask why before Jendra said, "They will turn around. I can't complete my mission if they do."

River asked, "What if you ..."

"I will try. It is the only way I can go on. Right now, I have nothing else to live for. Do you understand? I have nothing back home."

River nodded.

Jendra firmly told River, "This does not leave this room."

River nodded some more. Some sense of trust had been established. Jendra watched River walk up the ladder away from her cabin confident that her secret was safe. After that excitement, Jendra turned in. With the exception of their encounter, Professor Drake's first day on Serenity was without much excitement. The second day, however, was waiting for her.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to G Thing

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