Chapter 10: Serenity: Planning a Rescue


Zoë nodded to the others gathered around the table, a silent understanding shared between most of them. "We might have ourselves a job," she said, laying out her pieces of the puzzle.

"It pays beautifully," Wash said, "in a manner of speaking." He also lay out the notes and maps he had made. "Although, I still think that-." Zoë cut him off with a look.

Book lay down the items he procured. Inara was last. "I've no idea what it is, really," she said.

Mal stood there looking at the items on the table. "I see a map, a baton, a trinket, a document, some coins and…" His eyes narrowed on the wrapped parcel in front of Zoë. "Is that what you went and got at the post?" Zoë nodded. "All right. So, explain to me how this helps?" Mal said. "You think the boy-."

"Simon," Wash interrupted.

Zoë took over. "I'm believing he would have finished whatever this was had he not been detained, Sir. Think it's worth a shot."

"Either that or you're looking for a new way to get shot," Mal retorted. "What else?"

Wash moved the map to the center of the table. "This is the layout of the Academy on one of the moons by Boros." Off of Mal's look he added, "I know, I know, it's crawling with Alliance, but, that's where the facility happens to be." He tapped the map again. "We've an air shaft and approximately eight to ten floors or so to descend to before we get to where River's at."

"We can get passed the alarms here," Zoë circled the places, "here, and here. The key is to get from that seventh level back to the surface before the ventilation lasers switch on."

"This," Book said holding up a silver charm, "is something that River will know about."

Inara picked up her item. "Zoë, that box you have. Does it need this?"

Zoë took it and tried it on the oval box she had in front of her. It opened, much to everyone's surprise. Inside were some more papers. Zoë glanced at them before passing them around the table. Inara held on to them the longest. "This is insane. I don't see how-."

"It has to," Wash said. "Simon and River need-."

"And you all went about collecting these items without telling me?" Mal said, thinking maybe it was a waste of energy worryin' about Jayne all this time.

Book shook his head. "Simon's had some of these things before…the house arrest."

Mal studied the shepherd. Sure, they talked, but not really talked. He was gonna change that once they was done here.

Derrial Book knew this would happen. He was impressed with the fact that he found a way to postpone it for as long as he had. Either that or, and this he found commendable, the Captain hadn't pressed on in an aggravating fashion.

"What exactly happened on Osiris, Preacher?" Mal asked as the two of them sat at the bridge during a late shift. "Don't tell me the boy saved you, because you've only the one bruise to his many when you first got here."

Book smiled slightly. He knew the captain was observant, and yet not overbearing. Since he knew Inara trusted him – and he suspected there was more than that, but it wasn't his place to pry – then Book knew he could trust the captain. Of course, it was pure fate that led Derrial to Inara in the first place, but that was another story for another time.

"I was wandering about the Capital City, a restless night having left the Abbey not long ago. Something drew me there; can't say what exactly. Saw two men surreptitiously making their way toward the alley. This was after I saw…" Book decided it was time to admit this truth finally, "I saw Jayne Cobb and two of his friends beating Simon in the shadows.

"Now, I was torn because of the other two men that caught my eye, I knew they had to have something to do with it somehow. So, I went after them – Garcia and Stanislaus. I'd rendered one unconscious and had a…chat with Garcia. Garcia mentioned how he found Simon to entice him about River… Garcia…kindly….gave me the items he brought meant for Simon.

"I asked him why they ran instead of helping the lad. I recall not caring for the answer he gave and just about…just about did something un-Christian like. That's how Simon saved me; his need of my help and my need to help him."

Mal nodded. "Go on."

So, Book mentioned how he went about talking to the driver, Benat, and the driver's disgust over the father's role of setting up the ambush. Book mentioned how a young woman named Gael had agreed to meet him in that same area of Simon's ambush and offered to continue to help as liaison between me, on Simon's behalf, and the underground group.

"The hardest part was how those at the house were going to help in Simon's escape – between emptying out Simon's accounts to securing his belongings, the letters and such. Gael helped there, with information about a banquet and used her influence to guilt Mrs. Tam into getting a companion. Good fortune brought Ms. Inara our way."

Mal's expression didn't change. "And Fortune brought you to us and us to his sister. How fortunate."

Jayne Cobb examined the stitchin' job and other bandagin'. He wouldn't say it aloud, but he was impressed. It was a fair sight better than Mal's job, and Zoë's was better than Mal's, but this weren't her doing. He hadn't meant to lash out at the kid the other night. Somethin' had been buggin' him ever since they came on board.

He knew the preacher didn't like him none, which was fine by Jayne 'cuz he didn't like him none, either. But, Jayne felt more guilt from this preacher than others and that bothered him. Not as much as how the young 'un's avoidance of him did, that's for sure.

There was a knock on the bunk door above. "Yeah!" he hollered up. If it was Mal, he'd have to face the music sooner or later, or worse, prepare to look for a different transport.

He was surprised to see the boy coming down cautiously. "I…" Jayne didn't see a need to give the boy reason for the action. But, he figured he better say something. "Sorry." There. He was done. The kid could leave now.

Simon said nothing as he began to check the bandages. "Any dizziness or…" Jayne answered the questions in the order the kid asked them. It wasn't until he took a good look at his hands that it hit Jayne…hard.

"You're a doc, aren't ya." Simon nodded. "Some fancy rock?" Again, he nodded. Jayne felt he best press on for the next question, much as he didn't wanna. "Osiris?" A pause before another nod. 'Gorramit," Jayne muttered.

Simon took a step back. "If there's any dizziness or…" He kept his head down as he began to climb the ladder.

"Hold it," Jayne said. Even to his ears the command sounded rough. "Please," he said, trying to sound polite-like. "Git back here a sec." Simon did so. "Stop." It was in the half-shadows that Jayne saw it as clear as day. Any wonder the preacher been givin' him the evil eye.

"What were you doin' in that alley at that hour?"

Simon stepped back to the ladder, one hand on the rail, but not gearing to climb it. "Besides being someone's punching bag? Not much." There was a trace of a smile as the boy tried to make it sound funny.

Jayne bared his teeth when he smiled. "That's funny." The smile vanished quickly. "I'm serious," he said solemnly. "You had no business out there, a Core kid like you."

This time Simon made to climb up, still looking down. "Was trying to find my sister," he said softly, then ascended.

"I want in," Jayne said to Mal who was on his way to the cargo bay.

"Pardon?" Mal wanted to inspect this one-person craft and make sure everything was good to go. He'd need Kaylee to examine this cryo-thing, too.

Jayne kept pace with him. "You goin' in for his sister, right? I want in."

"Who told you that?" He made it a point to have meetings where Jayne wasn't around to hear. Nothin' personal, but Mal couldn't trust him just now.

Jayne grabbed Mal's arm to stop him before going down the steps. "Look, a kid who takes beatin' like that to look for his sister… I'm in."

Mal turned, pulling his arm away. He might have been a bit shorter than his mercenary, but he could still command. "How'd you go about that beatin' job, anyhow? Was it when we was on-."

"Mal, listen," Jayne wasn't going to rehash his plans to the Captain. No one else did. "I got a job, the money was good - ruttin' good, really; but the kid – he's better."

He studied the other man, surprised by a great many things. "Who hired ya to do it?"

Jayne didn't answer, because truth be told, the guys he hooked up with were the ones given the job and arranged his entry to the planet. He didn't ask no questions, and he didn't argue when his 'fair share' was larger than what he signed on for. Of course, given what all he done… "I'm in?" he asked.

After a long silence, Mal said, "Yeah. You're in."

"There's only one way this will work out."

Zoë pushed the collection of papers Mal's way. "You're the one going in, Sir."

Malcolm Reynolds looked long and hard at his first officer and wondered at what point she completely lost her senses. "To an Alliance facility? Send me to Hell first," he said.

Book spoke up. "The false ident and credentials all fit a Caucasian male. Between the four options, you're it."

Wash shrugged his shoulders. "I need to fly the getaway ship."

"There's no way Simon can do it," Inara said. "As much as some people," she looked pointedly at Wash, "want him to do it, for his own good and all, there's too much risk."

Mal looked at the rest gathered around the table, glad his engineer was busy with the doctor again. "Are we sayin' that because of his health, because he be looking considerably better lately and those tremors-."

Jayne held up something. "This came off the Cortex. Bounty's out on the boy's head. Daddy dear's paying plenty of platinum for him." He looked at the fellow co-conspirators. "Why don't I go?"

A chorus of 'Nos' rang out, each voice having a different reason, he was sure.

Book said, "No offense, but you don't look like a government inspector. Soldier, definitely," he added, "but not an official."

Malcolm Reynolds stared at the person before him, loathing the uniform, the colors, the coldness and the causes it represented. He had half a mind to take the eagle-decorated baton and hit the person over the head with it. Of course, the problem with that would be the headache afterwards.

The other half of Mal's mind said 'yes' to the plan, henceforth the result of him staring at himself in the mirror.

Mal didn't like it, didn't agree with it, yet saw, as the others did, no way around it. On the one hand, he agreed with Wash, in that the boy should be allowed to do it. Hell, if that was what was needed to bring the boy back to life completely, Mal would have dressed him in the uniform in a heartbeat. But the preacher had to point out the boy's poor physical condition and how it wouldn't match the role he had to play. Despite everyone's best efforts, especially Kaylee's, the boy barely gained a pound.

So, Mal read over the script again, his face pitiless, emotionless and as cold as could be. It was quite a feat, given Mal felt the plenty angry at the Alliance. But, two out of three weren't bad. Setting the script down, he said it as best he could. There was a knock on the shuttle door, disrupting the recitation.

"Hey, Simon," he said as the doctor stepped in. The young man found a crate to sit on as he took in Mal's appearance.

"You're going through with it?" he said, not quite a question, but not quite a statement either.

Mal gave a curt nod. "Yep. Do I look the part? Or should I find some of Inara's makeup just in case?" That got the smile he wanted. "Look, I've already got the suit tailored for me, so…."

Simon smiled again. "I wish I could spare you the walk through that... place. It's more my environment, I suppose, so…"

"It was but a tangent of your world," Mal corrected. "Look, I've leadership experience and you've got the healing kind. You – you're a kind kid. Me, I'm a mean old man."

Simon shook his head. "You're more the opposite. I should be the one risking-."

"No," Mal said sternly. "You're done riskin'. We're bringing River home. I promise." He paused, figurin' it was best to ask Simon directly about his comment after the Whitefall job. "Why'd you say what you said then," he asked, "'bout you being surprised of my being back?"

Simon picked at a canvas cover before answering. "The family I left behind… I've this feeling I'm not going to see them again. Lucinda….she was my Mrs. Peggotty. Park was my Mr. Micawber. Benat…maybe Creekle." He paused. "I just…sometimes, I think I'm imagining all of this, that the drugs have distorted me for life, you know? What I want to be real isn't, and what is, I'd rather it not be. Then there are times I don't know which is which."

Mal nodded sagely. "Believe me when I say that this family will be reunited. Dong ma? Now, is there anything I should know before going in?" He held up the silver trinket. "Anything I should say about this, for instance?"

Simon smiled, taking the charm from him. "This was for an exam I smuggled home for River to take when she was little. She was so bored with what was given her already and wanted something fun to do." He paused again, fingers running over the edges of the charm. "I snuck that test in under a made-up name, distracted the teacher while it was being graded… She had a perfect score. Teacher thought it was impressive to see a second score like that, seeing as how I was assumed to get perfect scores by default, but…anyway, Ms. Yori gave me the charm off her necklace and I in turn gave it to River."

Mal smiled, too. This had to be done and his crew was going to do it, including Jayne. "Well, this is a pretty well thought up plan, I'll tell you that."

Simon shook his head. "I can't take credit for any of that," he said returning the charm. "Here I am, supposedly top three percent of my class and I couldn't even figure out the puzzle pieces before me."

"So, it took some team-work," Mal said. "We can do this." He looked at the charm again. "What should I say when I give your sister this?"

Simon thought about it for a moment and said, "Butterflies' Ballet." He smiled, "She'll know the meaning of it. It was our little secret."

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