Ray of Light

My Mama Owned a Ranch

It almost didn’t seem real. She’d been traveling for nearly a year trying to find him, and now he’d be on Persephone. How hard was that going to be? Of course, if he didn’t show, she could always go looking for Brian. She didn’t expect him to still be there waiting for her, but a girl could dream, couldn’t she? Her long blond hair was pulled up into a bun behind her head and fastened with a chopstick. Out of the breast pocket of her long brown coat, she pulled a small silver flask. Celtic knots, etched into the chrome, wove their way down the sides. She twisted off the cap, took a swig, and replaced it. As the liquid entered her mouth, she was careful not to let it hit her gums. If there was one thing she had been willing to learn from her mother it was the old family recipe for uisca beatha, the potato whiskey that filled the small flat bottle; though, since it wasn’t properly brewed, it would really be considered poitín. Only by making enough for the whole ship had she been able to talk her last ward into allowing her to brew it. Warmth spread through her chest, encouraging her enough to take the first step.

She walked among the ships in the yard, trying to figure out which one would be his. The postman on JianYing had said he flew a Firefly. She didn’t think there were any of those left. They took a lot of love to keep in the sky. More than most people had patience to give. But sure enough, up ahead on her right was a Firefly parked between two ships that dwarfed the bird. A young girl sat outside with a brightly colored umbrella. She ambled up to the boat, and heaved a sigh before approaching the girl. “Where ya headed?” She’d given up trying to hide her Gaelic accent.

“Whitefall,” the girl smiled.

“How much?”

“You don’t look like you’re in a hurry to be goin’ someplace.”

“I’m not really lookin’ at the destination,” she admitted. “I’m lookin’ fer a person. Who’s the captain?”

The girl looked around and then whispered, “Malcolm Reynolds.”

“You look like yer not s’posed ta be givin’ out that information.” The girl looked slightly ashamed. “So why’d ya tell me?”

“Don’t know,” the girl shrugged. “Just somethin’ about you I guess; don’t look like the type to be an Alliance spy.”

“Well, ya got that part right; actually kinda tryin’ ta shake ’em m’self.”

“Then you came to the right ship,” she smiled. “Can’t say for sure how long Cap’n’ll let you stay on, but you play your cards right, ’n he might let you ride with us for a while.” She stood up and set her umbrella on the ground. “I’m Kaylee.” A hand smudged with dirt and grease waited for hers.

“Saoirse,” she replied, placing her hand in Kaylee’s.

“SEER-sha?”

“Aye.”

“Come on, I’ll show ya Serenity.” Kaylee nodded toward the open cargo bay door, and the two girls headed inside.

“Serenity?”

“Yep,” Kaylee affirmed. “That’s our girl, here.” Serenity. Now that was a great name for a ship. As the girls entered, Kaylee led Saoirse up to a tall, strong-looking black woman. “This is Zoë. She’s our first mate.” The woman turned and nodded “hello,” then stopped for a second as if surprised by something in Saoirse’s appearance. “Zoë this is Saoirse. She’s gonna be ridin’ with us.”

“Where’s your stop, Little One?” Zoë asked, almost pumping the girl for information.

“As far as the money I have’ll take me,” Saoirse returned. Zoë nodded a “touché” and turned to head up the metal staircase toward the kitchen. “Not much for talkin’ is she?”

“Nope,” Kaylee laughed. “She’s real nice, though; you’ll see.” Kaylee looped her arm in Saoirse’s and led her up to the bridge. “Now, normally Cap’n likes us to stay out of here. Y’know, not bug the pilot.”

“Oh, I don’t mind bein’ bothered nearly as much as Mal thinks,” A man retorted from the pilot’s chair. His moustache bobbed up and down as he gnawed away at a piece of something. Saoirse narrowed her eyes at him a bit, afraid the thing was going to jump off his face and attack her. “Hoban Washburne,” he offered. “But most people call me ‘Wash’ for short.”

“Saoirse,” she returned.

“Wash is the best pilot in the ’Verse,” Kaylee gushed.

“I don’t know about that,” he defended. “But I can hold my own.” Kaylee then pulled the girl through the doorway and down a short set of stairs.

“Now, these are our bunks.” She pointed to the ladders lining the sides near the floor. “Mine, Cap’n’s and Wash’s on this side.” Her finger waved to the left, then flipped to the opposite side of the hall. “And Zoë’s and Jayne’s on this side. Jayne and the Cap’n are out right now, but they’ll be back soon. You prob’ly won’t meet them til right ’fore we head out.”

Kaylee had been more or less right. They sat in the lounge playing with a deck of cards when they heard the cargo bay door closing. Heavy footsteps clattered up the stairs and Malcolm Reynolds peeked his head through the doorway. “Zoë says we got a passenger?”

“Ooh, yeah. Cap’n this is Saoirse. Saoirse, this is our cap’n, Mal Reynolds.” Mal looked at the girl, who dipped her head respectfully, and then her eyes met his. They nearly stopped his heart. He’d seen those eyes before; but for the life of him, he just couldn’t remember where.

“We met before?” he asked warily. He knew that name too.

“In another life,” she offered with a shrug. She was just as stunned by him as he was her. She still couldn’t believe her father was alive, that he was standing right in front of her. It was understandable that he didn’t recognize her; he hadn’t seen her in over ten years.

“Where ya headed, Saoirse?” She had to suppress a smile at the sound of his flawless pronunciation of her name.

“Far as yer willin’ ta take me. I been tryin’ ta shake the Alliance fer the past couple a years, so I gotta keep movin’.” Mal softened a little at the way she sounded ashamed.

“What would the Alliance want a little thing like you for?”

“’Cause ’a m’ma. Aoife Conner . . . terrorist bomber.”

“She was your mama?” He almost seemed impressed. “Sorry to hear that.” His eyes dropped to the floor for a second, and he gathered himself. “Well, you’re welcome on my boat ’long as you can pay your share of fuel, food, ’n the like.”

“I greatly appreciate it, Sir.” He nodded and turned to leave.

“Chow’s in twenty,” he called over his shoulder.

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