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Boatjack: Part Three of Three

by G Thing

Author's Note: This will seem extremely implausible if you have not read Parts I and II.

Boatjack Part III

They had landed on Trivonia in the daytime. Everyone in the ship was at the cargo bay. Serenity's crew was free to roam. Jendra had paid them in full as she promised. Professor Drake was briefing her security team for the immediate task.

Inara came close to Mal and said, "Mal, I want to go with her."

"I don't think it's a good idea."

"I got us into this."

"I don't blame you for the professor. She betrayed you."

"I have to say goodbye to her. I believe in what she's trying to do, Mal. Jendra needs some support."

Mal was still very hesitant. Simon then chimed in and said, "If anyone is alive down there, they might need a doctor." Mal could not come up with an argument against that statement. However, he could not believe any survivors would be worth saving.

Kaylee said to Simon, "I'll make sure River's okay."

"Thank you," Simon replied.

Shepard Book took the opportunity to say, "The dead should be laid to rest, and Ms. Drake could use some blessing. Her journey is going to be very perilous."

Mal nodded silently. It was obvious he could not change Inara's, Simon's, or Book's minds. He knew them long enough to know something about the ways they thought.

Then, to everyone's surprise, Jayne said, "I'll go too."

Mal and almost everyone else took a long at Jayne. It was as if each of them thought they were dreaming.

With the intention of getting Theresa's attention, Jayne said, "After the professor has done her business, the Doc, the Shepard, and Nara might be at our pickup point for a while. Reckon it would be nice to have another person there - someone who can shoot."

Mal looked at Jayne and nodded for an unusually long time. He said, "Good thinking Jayne," amazed those were the words that came from his mouth.

Theresa had been taking a long look at Jayne, too. The thought had suddenly occurred to her that she might have underestimated him. Of course, she realized he might still find some way to disappoint her.

Mal looked at Inara in her fancy Companion dress and said, "You should get something else on. Whoever is down there, they probably won't give a hoot about Companion status."

"She's right around my size Cap'n," said Kaylee.

"Good," Mal said.

"Let's go," said Kaylee to Inara. They began walking to Kaylee's cabin.

Mal then made sure everyone going off the ship would pay attention to him before he said, "Serenity will circle the place and locate Ms. Drake's ship. We'll pick you all up as soon as we find a good place to land."

"The ship is north of the town," said Jendra Drake.

Mal looked at Jendra coldly and said to her, "Seeing that you've paid us for doing the job, I'll call this affair strictly business. I'll let you go and do your thing. I won't interfere with your effort." He walked closer to her before saying, "Never show your face in my boat again. Dong ma?"

"You have my word," Jendra responded. She figured she would be as angry as Mal was had the roles been reversed.

Meanwhile, Kaylee was standing outside her cabin making sure no one intruded when she would approve how Inara looked in one of her outfits. Kaylee talked to Inara through the hatch. She said, "I promise I won't make fun of you. Did you find everything okay?"

"Yes, it's fine thank you, and I appreciate your promise."

Kaylee simply wanted something about which to talk. She said, "Your friend Professor Drake makes me think about things. I keep thinking everyone's lives could be happier. They ought to be happier than this I mean. We could have so much more fun in a happier world."

"Things are never that simple," Inara said. "I'm about to come up now."

"That's fine. No one else is lurking."

"That is good to know."

Out she came wearing Kaylee's grey jumpsuit, which was always good in a difficult situation. Kaylee smiled prompting Inara to do the same. Kaylee had an uncanny ability to make people more comfortable.

"Wow!" said Kaylee. "You look great really. You make me wonder how I look when I'm wearing that jumpsuit. You know, I like being praised on how pretty I look in something."

"Well, we will see what the others think. I doubt they would let me forget this day."

"Ahh!" Kaylee replied. "If Jayne gives you a hard time, I'll help you torture him."

"You're too kind."

As they were walking toward the cargo bay, Kaylee said, "Of course, if anyone else gives you a hard time I'll do the same to them. Jayne just was the most obvious person."

To everyone's shock, Jayne did not say anything when Inara arrived. He just took a quick glance at her and continued helping Jendra's party gather their supplies. It was obvious he wanted to continue impressing Theresa Brett. Inara's other shipmates gave her welcoming smiles. It seemed Inara had become a larger part of their world.

Mal and Zoe could only wave goodbye to the party when they left. Wash announced to everyone remaining, "That was the friendliest holdup I can ever remember."

Mal then told Wash, "I need you on the bridge." Wash began following Mal as he walked briskly toward the stairwell that led to the bridge. Conveniently, River was standing right there at the base. She would not take her eyes off Mal.

Mal saw that River was thinking of Simon. He did not have any idea how she knew to be standing where she was. Still, he had some understanding of what she was thinking. "I won't leave without him. Dong ma?" he said standing three feet in front of her. Mal went up the stairs around River, and she simply looked away. Wash had caught up with Mal, and he walked up with him - no more than four steps behind.

Even though Trivonia wasn't rich with technology, it was as family-like as any other colony. Everybody seemed to know everyone else. Such a warm place had become rarer and rarer before people began colonizing the outer planets. Professor Drake and her late research team were eager to visit Trivonia to see how the people interacted. This world was alien to the central planets.

Trivonia was within walking distance of Serenity's landing point. To have as much light as possible, they intentionally landed close to noon. Jendra did not wish to ask Mal for the use of Serenity's jeep. Keeping each of his four crewmembers in one piece was enough of a burden. Though each of them had their reasons for coming, their nobility genuinely surprised Jendra. She knew Captain Reynolds had found a worthy crew.

The smell became worse as they came closer to the center of town. Everything there was dead silent. By the time they found the first group of skeletons, no one was surprised. The Reavers laid the bodies as if they wanted an investigation. Simon and Book were the only people who approached them. This was far too painful for Jendra. She wanted to focus on the task at hand and pointed out Trivonia's bank to Inara.

Inara said, "That's where you worked. Were all of your records there?"

"Everything that wasn't moved to the ship's computer is there. The most important items are the journal entries taken by all three of us." Jendra paused briefly and said, "It is important that people see the last few entries. A few were made after the Reavers arrived, but we had to abandon the bank while more of them were coming."

"They rang the dinner bell," said Inara.

"They knew early into the slaughter how helpless we were. There were a few missing people, and then we were overrun before we knew what was going on."

Lang and Brett had gone on ahead and scoped the area out. Lang walked up to Jendra at that moment in Inara's and Jendra's conversation. He said to her, "We can secure the area from here to the bank."

"Good," she responded. "Take Dawson and Mitchell with you. I would like to be there in fifteen minutes."

Book and Simon had done their business and were ready to go. Everyone entered Jendra's old office in the timely manner Jendra wished. Understandably, the place was very dirty with piles of dust and cobwebs. There had always been efforts to keep spiders away from colonies, but they proved fruitless. Professor Drake had been looking forward to seeing if the most recent entries survived. She was the only person there who knew her way around.

The guards had understood the bank's layout. Before anyone else could figure out what they were supposed to do, Jendra opened the drawers where their video journals were. She turned on all three of the modules simultaneously. She skipped to the last group of entries, because they would support her story. Jendra then played videos from each of them.

All three of the final video entries were intact. As satisfied as Jendra was with this outcome, they brought back deeply disturbing memories. The videos featured interviews with several colonists who were missing loved ones. She could put names on most of the faces. Everyone was terrified. They all knew something scary was happening, but no one knew who or what perpetrated the disappearances.

Even though three videos were playing all at once, the other members of the party could hear the voices in the audio from all parts of the small bank. Simon was nearby and he asked Jendra, "Did anyone consider evacuating Trivonia?"

"That was a major item of discussion in one town meeting," she responded. "When people began disappearing, it seemed more important that we stuck together. It was believed people living in the hills were the abductors. They said leaving Trivonia would make us more vulnerable. Once we saw the people who were responsible, it was too late to do anything. As far as I know, the Reavers hunted down anyone who escaped from the colony before they left me behind and moved on."

Inara walked toward Jendra and asked, "Do you think you have everything?"

"What I have is concrete evidence of this nightmare. This doesn't prove that Reavers actually exist, and I knew it wouldn't. Most people may still have a hard time believing in Reavers, but I'm certain there are people who wouldn't ignore the situation once they have seen these."

"So, it was definitely worth the effort, right?" asked Simon.

"Gorram right it was," said Jendra with only a hint of a smile.

Professor Drake sent Theresa Brett and Mitchell out to spot her old ship and make sure the coast was clear. From Jendra's instructions, they only needed to walk two blocks north of the bank. Everyone else stayed behind to gather every supply Jendra may have needed for her quest. Dawson and Lang went upstairs for a few specified items.

Inara took this opportunity to ask Book, "Shepard, is there a way to return the Reavers to society? Is there a place for having faith?"

"Despite what I said earlier on Serenity, I admit I have my own doubts. After committing so many horrors, I doubt many of them could bear having faith."

Inara looked like she was about to ask him why he felt this way.

Book then said to her, "Even if they returned to our society, the Reavers would see what they've done as unforgivable. They have committed their horrors with obvious pride. Justice would be served if they were to suffer as punishment for their actions."

Outside the passenger dorms on Serenity, Kaylee heard River scream. This happened two seconds before several gunshots could be heard from the bank. Everyone there knew to stay hidden until told otherwise. That meant staying out of sight from the front windows. Inara immediately began transmitting an S.O.S. to Serenity asking for instructions. At the very least, Inara knew her shipmates were working to spot the hostile.

The shots came and then they could hear nothing else. Lang came downstairs. Fortunately, the stairwell was not visible from outside. He crawled to Jendra and whispered, "We tried to find them through one of the upstairs side windows once we heard the shots. I don't know where the shots came from, but both Mitchell and Brett have been hit."

Jayne was close enough to hear what he was saying. "Shee-niou," he whispered.

They listened quietly, and heard another gunshot. Then, they heard a woman's voice whimpering, "No. Please, please let me go. No!" Those present who had spoken much with Theresa could recognize her voice without a doubt. Jayne did not wish to believe what he knew he was hearing. Jendra was clearly trying to think rationally while she knew one of her guards was about to be raped.

Jendra said to Lang, "Get Dawson. Move slowly in flanking positions. Don't be heroes. This is strictly reconnaissance. Serenity can provide backup. Report back here within ten minutes. Dong ma?"

"Dong ma."

Dawson came downstairs, and out they went. Everyone in the bank knew it was important to stay calm. They had to believe the reconnaissance would be successful, and Serenity could come to their rescue. At this point, Jayne and Book took positions near the front door and the front window. They were waiting for some signal from their allies.

Dawson and Lang did not travel a block north before more shots came. Both were hit multiple times and very quickly. Book and Jayne could see both guards go down.

In sheer terror, Simon whined, "Oh, my God!"

Jayne could not believe how afraid he really was, but he knew how to act tough and be an example for others in a crisis. He whispered, "Nice going, Doc," with sincerity.

"Survival of the fittest," said Book so faintly only Jayne could hear him. "If this is only one Reaver, he is a very good shot and extremely good at setting up ambushes."

"He must be close. He may know our position," said Jayne. Jayne turned toward everyone and said, "If anyone walks out of here, the Reaver could spot em."

"Juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan," said Book. Jayne heard him and looked rather puzzled. Book then said to Jayne, "For the Reaver, I mean. He's been waiting for this for years."

"Gorram right," said Jayne. "I just ... uh, don't know Mandarin so good."

Inside the bank from that moment on, time stood still. Seconds lasted eons for the party members. They could not hear anything from outside, but they knew the Reaver was there waiting for one of them to come out. Inara continued signaling Serenity for assistance, but she did not know what Serenity could do to help them. After all, they were only pretending she had weapons mounted on her.

It sounded as though Serenity was circling the area. They thought they could hear her engines above them. Otherwise, there was silence that lasted for six minutes. As soon as it seemed they could bare the silence no longer, they heard a loud crash followed by several smaller sounds of wood and glass breaking. Suddenly, time went from frighteningly slow to desperately fast. No one knew what to do.

"That sounds like a building collapsing," said Book still standing at the front door.

Simon and Inara panicked and both began sprinting out toward the street. Book saw them right away and shouted, "No, they want us to come out! They'll kill you!" Jayne wasn't sure what he was supposed to think, but he followed Book's lead and blocked the door.

"The building will fall on our heads!" said Inara. She was no longer holding her communicator. Inara had left it on the floor. Jendra heard Wash's voice, grabbed the communicator, and jogged toward the others.

She said, "Serenity's talking to us."

With all of them close together, they could all hear Wash say, "Landing party, this is Serenity. Hold your position. We have spotted and pinned the hostile. Repeat, hold your position."

Jendra answered, "We read you loud and clear Serenity. We are staying put."

Unknown to the party, the Reaver was hiding near the old blacksmith shop, which was two blocks north of the bank on the same side of the street. He was waiting to ambush anyone leaving the bank, and that was an ideal place for it. Wash had him spotted and came up with a daring but effective maneuver.

"Wash, you have to tell us when we have to open this door. Dong ma?" Mal said through his communicator. He and Zoe were standing at the bottom level of the cargo bay each with firearms in both hands.

Wash Replied, "Roger, Mal. The words will come."

The Reaver knew Serenity was in the air. However, his prey was too appetizing for him to retreat from his advantageous position. He had already begun feeding on the body of Theresa Brett - a pleasure he had not experienced for years.

He became the last surviving former citizen of Trivonia when he killed and ate his last companion and competitor.

Serenity's apparent intentions were too risky for the Reaver to believe. She was making a strafing run toward his position. The problem was the Reaver was hiding in an alley. While it was wide for an alley, it was narrow for a Firefly. This seemed like suicide. There would be no margin for error if Serenity went through with it. He thought this was a ruse to make him run. The Reaver refused to risk running into an area where he would be more vulnerable. After all, he knew the people in the bank were armed.

"All hands, prepare for impact," said Wash through the intercom.

The Reaver could not believe what he was seeing. Serenity was flying a mere three feet above the ground in the middle of the alley. While he still had the chance, the Reaver ran away from behind the building to its far side. Serenity could never make that turn. It could never follow the Reaver.

Wash glared at the Reaver as he ran with a giddy smile. He said, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal." Wash then moved the ship closer to left side of the alley. With all the precision his flight experience gave him, Wash made Serenity sideswipe the blacksmith shop. That was all it took for the building to collapse. Everything inside the ship vibrated while Wash used all his power to keep her under control. To his amazement, Serenity still flew, and she did not hit something else head on. Wash then took the ship above the buildings and turned her around toward the wreckage. At that point, he began signaling the party with the awareness that they had heard a very loud crash.

Serenity was hovering over the street with her backside pointed at the wreckage. "Mal, open the door and you'll see it," said Wash. The cargo bay door opened. Zoe and Mal were only concerned with the Reaver.

If indeed he was still alive, Mal and Zoe knew that Reavers loved to hide and to catch people as soon as they felt safe. Due to all the dust coming from the collapsed building, they were wearing respirators and safety glasses. The cargo bay door was open, and Serenity hovered in the air as Mal and Zoe surveyed the wreckage. After about thirty seconds of waiting, they could see movement. They did not hesitate to open fire using as much ammunition as they felt they could afford. During the next ten minutes, there were two more occasions where they opened fire.

The dust began to clear afterward. It was then that Zoe finally saw the Reaver and pointed him out to Mal. He was not moving, but this was no place to take any chances. "Set her down," said Mal through the intercom.

Once Serenity was on the ground, Mal could walk out toward the wreckage with the Reaver right in front of him. Mal pointed his revolver at the Reaver's head and fired twice. Then he turned around and walked away. As far as Mal was concerned, he did not shoot any human being. At least for that time they were safe.

"The hostile has been killed. It is safe to come out." Wash said to the party.

It took a half hour for the surviving members of the party to gather Jendra's supplies and begin heading to her ship. Jendra would now go on her journey alone. She could never conceive of asking Inara or any of her shipmates to come with her. The mission was far too dangerous. Each member of Serenity's crew had his or her own individual struggle. Jendra did not wish to intrude them with hers.

Serenity followed the party as soon as they began drifting out of sight. Even though none would show up, it was very possible more Reavers might be waiting to ambush them. Mal, Zoe and Wash were alone together on the bridge.

"I just can't believe how the Reavers got so out of control," Zoe said. "They're going all over the place."

Wash answered, "I reckon things get out of control when there is no government, no law."

Mal was silent. Zoe and Wash understood why. The same thought had occurred to each of them at some point after Jendra announced her intentions. They knew the Reavers' situation would never have become so uncontrollable had the Independents made peace with the Alliance years before.

None of them would ever say it of course.

Author's Notes: Once again, I welcome feedback. If you are just dying to call me evil for putting Inara in Kaylee's mechanic clothes or making Jayne show some signs of nobility, please be considerate (whiny pouty face).

For a while, my working title was "A Reaver Runs through It". I also first conceived of Jendra as a mad scientist trying to determine how the Reavers brainwash people. I am glad I dropped both ideas. They would have been silly.

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

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