“Wray? Wray Nerely?”
Wray Nerely froze in front of the display. He’d been just about to pick up a Jack Moore action figure when the person behind him spoke.
It wasn’t too late to wriggle out of this.
“No,” Wray said without turning. At times like this, he was grateful for the all the voice work he’d done. He had a host of voices to choose from. Right now he was drawing on an animated fantasy vid where he'd played an old man not quite right in the head.
“No I’m not.”
Wray let his left shoulder droop and started to limp away with a decidedly hunchback-like gait. Scrunching up his face so that his eyes were slits, and with his mouth drooped into an ugly leer, he glanced at the person behind him. It was a teenager with long, oily hair wearing a Spectrum T-shirt. In his right hand he held a brightly lit, white sphere.
The teenager backed away slowly.
When he was around the corner, in the midst of comic and T-shirt vendors and surrounded by ninjas, Wray let himself straighten up and rubbed his aching back. Why oh why had he let Bobbie talk him into attending a Con on Persephone? What a dump.
“Is this hell?” said Wash.
“I imagine to some folk it’s heaven,” said Mal.
The captain and pilot of Serenity had just entered Persephone’s convention centre and stood in the midst of hundreds of people in every manner of dress. Wash wasn’t much for vids, but even he recognized some of the characters here. Heroes, villains, monsters, and even walking spaceships. Aside from the people, the displays were dazzling: clothing, weapons, action figures, and decorative data stores of science fiction vids. There was aisle after aisle after aisle of the stuff.
With a sigh, Wash said, “Remind me again why I need to be here?”
“‘Cause we need a job,” said Mal. “And to get this job, they need to meet the pilot. So you need to to be here.”
“Okay, alright, so what kind of cargo are we taking on, anyway?” said Wash.
Mal didn’t answer at first. Wash shot him a glance.
“You’re not going to like it,” Mal said finally.
“Weapons?” suggested Wash. Mal shook his head. “Cattle? Please don’t let it be another herd of cattle. The mess they made…”
“Not cattle,” said Mal. “People.”
“What’s wrong with people? I like people. Wait. Oh no, it’s not…”
“It’s not… actors? Oh God, it is. Why did it have to be actors? Of all the gluten-free, self-absorbed, jing-tzahng mei yong-duh…”
Lost in thought, Wray strolled past vendors selling pre-autographed photos (sure, they were all authentic) when he nearly tumbled forward upon receiving a sound slap on the back.
“I’ll see you in hell you… Oh. Hi Jack. Quite an arm you’ve got there.”
“Isn’t this great?” said Jack Moore, beaming as he wrapped his arm around Wray’s shoulders. “You, me, on the road. We haven’t done this since…”
“Spectrum,” said Wray, finishing his sentence. “Yes, I know.”
“What a time,” said Jack. “Do you remember that hotel on Beaumonde? There was that maid who brought us room service…”
“Much as I like to reminisce, Jack, have you seen Bobbie? She said to meet her here, but was a bit vague as to where in here.”
“Haven’t seen her,” said Jack. “What say we split up? I’ll head over this way, you take that way.”
“That wouldn’t have anything to do with the bar being in that direction, would it?”
“Wray!” said Jack with a wink. And with that, Jack was off into the crowd. He was wearing a fez and carried a mop, items he’d picked up at one of the science fiction booths. It seemed to work. No one recognized him.
Wray put on a baseball cap, lifted his suit jacket collar, and strolled off, looking hither and thither for Bobbie.
His rant finished, Wash paused, then asked, “Where’s our contact?”
“Truly, I don’t know,” said Mal. “But he should be here somewhere. Name’s Bobbie. I’m guessing he’ll find us.”
“Well that’s just great,” said Wash. “I wonder how many guys named Bobbie are here?”
“We’ll split up,” said Mal. “I’ll start with the aisles to the left, you take the right.”
“Right,” said Wash. “I’ll just wander about and wait for someone named Bobbie to trip over me.”
Mal disappeared into the crowd. With a sigh, Wash headed to the far right and began to wander the aisles. He was almost bowled over by a slap on the back.
“What the…” began Wash. “Oh, hey Cap’n. Did you find him?”
“Cap’n,” he said and elbowed Wash. “Nice one. Find who?”
“Um, you know. Him. Bobbie,” said Wash.
“What a sense of humour,” he said. He was about to slap Wash on the back again, but Wash stepped back gingerly.
“You feelin’ okay?” said Wash. “Say, did you change clothes? And why are you carrying a mop?”
“What’re you doin’ over here?” Mal asked when he saw Wash approach him. “You find him?”
“You know. Bobbie. Did you find Bobbie?”
“Not yet. Say, good strategy changing clothes. No one’s going to recognize you dressed like some dusty old backworld Browncoat.”
Mal’s eyes narrowed. “What did you just say?”
The PA system rang out: “Would Malcolm Reynolds and Hoban Washburn please report to the Spectrum booth.”
“That’s us,” said Mal, grabbing his pilot’s arm.
“That’s who?” his pilot said.
A few aisles over, Wash said, “That’s us." When the captain didn’t move Wash grabbed him by the arm. “Come on Cap’n, let’s get this over with.”
The captain said, “Um, you do know that I was only pretending to be captain, right?”
“Often thought so,” said Wash.
“Gentlemen,” said the woman behind the booth. “There you all are. Excellent!”
The two actors and two crew members were stunned as they looked at each other.
“Bobbie,” said Wray, “what the hell is going on?”
“That’s Bobbie?” said Wash. He turned to Mal. “Bobbie’s a woman.”
“Would appear so,” said Mal.
“These fine men,” said Bobbie to Wray, “are your ride. They’re going to take you and Jack on to Beaumonde.”
“Beaumonde!” said Jack. Then he whispered to Wray, “I wonder if that maid still works there.”
Looking at Wash and Mal, Wray said, “No disrespect, but what kind of ship do you fly?”
“Serenity,” said Mal. “Firefly class. Best ship in the ‘verse.”
“Firefly class? Are you kidding me? Bobbie, what the hell? A cargo boat?”
Bobbie shrugged. “They’re cheap.”
With a sigh, Wray nodded his understanding. He should have known.
“But why am I here?” asked Wash.
“Because,” said Bobbie. She stepped out in front of Wash, gazed into his eyes and ran her hands down his arms. “I really like pilots.”
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