"I can make this shot" Mal mumbled.
"I suggest you come up with a better idea." Zoe whispered back.
"I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't. Thank you very much."
Mal laid the hand held rocket launcher on a metal cross beam and slowly took aim. A little up, a little down. A little left, a little right. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. A technician opened the access door. The Hardnose missile streaked across the hanger underneath a farpoint crawler, through the access door, down the hall, through another door and exploded in the main hanger blast door lift field console; sparks, fire, flashes, but ultimately, nothing.
“Ruttin Tsai boo shr!” "Ta ma duh!" They cried simultaneously.
Mal was up in a flash, gun in hand, firing round after round into the distant console. Zoe was next to him in half a flash firing just a little slower. Some guards showed up and started firing; Mal and Zoe ignored the danger and continued firing at the console. The main hanger door creaked for a second then started its slow, inevitable tip and fall. The guards scrambled out of the way as the huge door crashed to the ground.
Serenity was through the opening in an instant. Mal and Zoe jumped into the ship chased by more small arms fire. As they flew out of the hanger, Kaylee released a FauxHunter beacon; "They won't be catching that baby for a while," she thought.
Wash made a quick dive just outside the door and snuggled Serenity back into the dark structural nooks and crannies of the fortress. The beacon reached speed. After what seemed like a relatively short eternity; ration chase ships exited the hanger in pursuit of the beacon. They disappeared into the distance.
Wash slowly brought the ship around and re-entered the hanger. Serenity paused for a second. "Okay, it's clear, security's gone." There was nobody left except engineers and technicians. Jayne and Mal jumped out. Serenity turned ninety degrees to the left. “Security command at three o'clock.” Wash thought. He pushed the throttle forward. The front of serenity pierced the fortified wall at ground level, completely destroying the command room. Temporary hardeners protected the ship's nose. “Up to five o'clock high.” The nose tore through the building's structure up and to the right.
Jayne ran to each of the remaining ration ships planting explosives. Mal ran into the building wreckage, gun in hand.
The monstrous conference room was a shambles. Standing between two diamond plated pillars, at the end of the long Komtek command and communications table stood Lillacutt Preston; one of the most beautiful women Mal had ever seen. Mal re-holstered his gun as he took the extraordinarily long slow walk along the side of the table, their eyes permanently locked in an emotional tsunami. He didn't look down as he picked up the small leather bag from the table. Mal gave her the best smile he had.
She blinked and whispered, “You looked better with the mustache.” Her eyes melted ever so very slightly; but Mal noticed it. He turned and walked out through the debris.
Mal and Jayne ran back into the ship chased by parts of exploding ration ships. Serenity made a swift exit. Kaylee released another beacon in the opposite direction of the first one. Wash snuggled Serenity back into the fortress's underbelly. It would be more than a month before they would be able to leave their hiding place. No worries, it was a small up front, but massive back end. Retirement level massive.
Serenity was gloomy, all the systems were shutdown, only life support and some minimal lighting, run from an old diesel generator. It was loud and stunk and could be heard all over the ship, but nobody but Kaylee was paying attention.
Jayne stood next to the dinning table all puffed up and ready to bicker. “Come on Mal, let's have a look at what all the excitement was about. I'm willing to die for stuff, but I'd sure like to see the stuff I'm willing to die for.”
Everybody was there except Kaylee and Inara, Kaylee was trying to figure out a way to silence the genny and Inara was visiting home. Mal took out the small leather bag and dropped it on the table. “Now I'm all for curiosity and such, but the contract said no looking, said it was dangerous.”
“Heaven forbid you'd wanna to do anything dangerous!” Shepherd quipped.
“Mal, let's have a look, don't you think it's smart knowing what we're dealing with here?” Zoe asked.
“There ya go again, always with the smart thing. I don't know whether you're trying to insult me again or trying to compliment me for the first time.”
Mal looked at the little bag held closed by a strand of leather. “Well, how much danger could be in a little bag like that?” Mal picked up the bag and tried to open it. He couldn't. They each had a go at it, but it was beyond their ability. “Forget it, let's celebrate a success. I'm thinking there isn't enough celebrating on this ship lately.” Everybody got busy pulling out food, drink and merriment.
Shepard brought out a large artificial strawberry cake. “I'm not sure hitting the most powerful ration around here was the best thing to do. You said there wasn't gonna be any shooting at people.”
Mal shook his head. “Didn't plan to shoot at anyone; anyway they started shooting at us first.”
“What about the Hardnose and pistols?” Zoe asked.
“We weren't shooting at anyone, we were shooting at a machine.”
Kaylee showed up. The generator was as loud as ever. “That piece of antiquity just won't obey my modern simplicity." She saw the cake and a big smile spread across her face. "But I think a little bit of strawberry cake might help a lot with comming up with a solution.” She sat down at the table and picked up the leather bag. She also couldn't undo the knot at first, but when she pulled a hairpin from her hair and fiddled with the knot; she had it open in no time at all.
A big beautiful intricate high tech jade earring fell to the table top. It was a clip on earring, with unusual tendrils emanating from it. Everyone froze in its extreme beauty, with eyes wide open, unable to move, entranced.
Suddenly everyone except Shepard and River made a move for the earring, but Kaylee had it first and it was on her ear. A flexible tendril moved into her ear channel, others pushed against her head behind her ear. Her wide eyes opened wider. She was closest to the door and ran out towards her room. Everyone but Shepard and River ran after her. Shepard just shook his head.
As Shepard approached Kaylee's bunk room, everyone but River was there, pounding on the locked door and yelling.
“Hey, hey! Everyone relax. Everybody! Hey! Nee mun doh bee-jway.” Shepard yelled. “What are you gonna do, break the door down and beat her up?”
Mal turned to Shepard. “If there's a beating being needed, then it will be served." He turned to Jayne. "Jayne, get the torch.”
As Jayne applied the torch to Kaylee's door, Shepard continued, “Let me talk to her first, I can talk her down. I don't want any fancy footwork by a bunch of stormtroopers. Someone might get hurt.” Everyone completely ignored him. Shepard pulled Mal's gun from his holster and raises it above his head. "I SAID STOP IT!" They continued to ignore him.
Shepard took careful aim into the distance and found the perfect spot; he fired a round into the hull. Hull breach alarms went off drowning out the generator.
Mal turns and caught Shepard with a direct punch to the chin. He went down like a companion with a paycheck.
"Kaylee, Jayne, plug the leak. Wash, Zoe go to the pit and a see if you can help life support. Everyone else go to your bunks and seal the door for now." Mal commanded.
They all ran down the corridor leaving Shepard in a heap on the floor.
As the sound of footsteps disappeared Mal yelled, "And shut off that alarm." Shepard's eyes opened. He sat up and finished cutting the last of Kaylee's door restraints. He slowly pushed it open.
Kaylee was curled up on her bed rocking back and forth real slow. “Kaylee?” Shepard moved to the bed and sat down. “Hey girl, what's up?” She ignored him.
The alarm stopped and the annoying drone of the generator reappeared.
“Kaylee?” he shook her. “Kaylee, what is it honey, what's going on?”
"It's wonderful, it feels so good, everything's so easy to understand.” Kaylee looked at Shepard. “I can hear things.”
“What kind of things?”
“Everything, Shepherd, I can hear everything. Bird's chirping, my folks arguing over what to have for breakfast, angels singing. I can hear what you were saying outside the door. I can hear ration executives making plans to get their precious back. I can hear Mal right now, telling the others to finish plugging the hole. I can hear his footsteps walking this way. Everything makes so much sense now.”
Shepard moved quickly, precisely and forcefully. He grabbed Kaylee's arms, and flipped her on her stomach and placed his knee in her back. He tore a sheet and tied her hands and feet. “Haven't done anything like that in a while.” He pulled the earring off Kaylee's ear.
“Nooooooooo! Ni ta ma de. Tianxia suoyoude ren dou gai si!” Kaylee screamed. She started sobbing softly.
Shepard walked to the table, held up the earring and inspected it carefully. He brought it towards his ear. He hesitated, then closer to the ear, then hesitated again. Finally, he put the earring on the table and picked up a big stone statue. He raised it above the earring ready to crush it.
“I wouldn't do that my peaceful friend. I'd have to shoot you in the arm and I'm not too sure doc ud be able to reattach it with the gear he's got here.” Shepard looked at Mal hard. “I'll do it reverend. You know I'm good to my word” Shepard put the statue down. “Now use some of those strips to tie up you feet." Shepard complied. “Now tie another around a wrist and a bedpost.” Mal picked up the earring. He almost had it in his ear when he heard the pisssst of an injector. The drug worked quickly; Mal stumbled onto the bed.
Gaffers tape made quick work of Mal's hands and legs. Simon picked up the earring and gazed at it in awe. Before he could put it in his ear he was tackled from behind.
When Simon opened his eyes, he found himself in handcuffs, gaffer's tape around his ankles and looking at Jayne's grinning face. “Curse you!” Spittle splayed from Simon's lips.
“Sorry doc, no harm, no foil. Ya know, a man's gotta do what he does." Jayne snickered. Jayne turned to the earring. His face changed from extreme glee to overwhelming horror. River stood next to the earring with the statue in her hand. "Si san ba." Jayne cursed. He pulled his gun and brought it up towards River's head, but before it got there, River smashed the statue on the earring. It turned to powder, chunks and bleeding micro-neutrino circuitry.
They all looked at River and screamed semi-unison.
River just smiled her inscrutable smile and walked away.
Jayne looked at Mal, Mal fumed back. Jayne looked away quickly. "Mal! I was only gonna scare her. I wasn't gonna shoot her. Honest Mal. It was that ruttin' earring, Mal, . . you believe me, right?"
Wash and Zoe looked through the door and started laughing. Zoe nudged Wash, “Come on baby, I know there's a joke here somewhere. Please share.”