Feech (feech) wrote,
Feech
feech

Firefly: Just a Little Favor for a Friend Pt. 17

Daniel

***

Haven came. "What's going--" she looked at the bandaging gun in Simon's hand. "Did he get shot? And what's he doing on the deck?"

Simon nodded. "I did it."

"Why, wasn't he comatose enough before?"

"I did that, too. I doped him again. I've been... keeping him... wait. Wait, he wasn't seizing. He was sitting up and he vocalized at least once, and wasn't seizing."

Haven scratched at her brow under her cap. "What's going on, exactly?"

"Cap'n said they ain't zombies," Kaylee offered.

"That's what I like about working this boat," the pilot said. "Everyone on the crew makes so much sense and I really get a feel for what everyone's been doi--"

Mal trod heavily through the infirmary hatch. He was hauling a case of medicines and the patient from the salvaged cryo box.

Simon accused Haven, "Didn't you shut the door?"

"No, like I said--"

Simon cut in, to Mal. "Did you count the dead ones? Did you get them?"

Mal looked bulkheadward as he ticked off in his mind how many cryo boxes there had been, minus the one live man they took out, minus the man who was already dead, plus how many they'd shot down with visual confirmation. "All. Or most, anyhow, I conjure."

"Most." Simon blinked.

"Or all, yeah." Mal looked down. "What's Cobb doing on the deck?"

"Simon shot him."

"You shot Jayne? I oughta cuff you upside the head."

Simon glared. "I can shoot him any time I want. I saved his life."

"Save another one." Mal thunked the Alliance vessel's human cargo, clad in an Alliance researcher's coat, down on the decking near where Doc crouched.

Simon blinked. "There's a bed..." he began to say, glancing at the spare med-bed, but Mal went on, pointing briefly at the unconscious young man.

"If you care to try. Begun looking a mite wrong. Noticed he was off on his breathing, after we took care of your hyperviolent criminals."

At the mention of "hyperviolent criminals", Simon rose from his crouch and arched away from the white, silent form Mal had laid on the deck. In an instant of staring, though, Doc registered the stillness of his patient and dove back in to work. "He's crashing. I need--" his hand reached automatically for a stimulant, when again he paused, telling Mal, "Have no choice, here. I do wish I knew what dose to use to bring a man around without turning him into a zombie."

"Don't they teach you that kind of stuff in medical academy?" Kaylee asked in a small, hopeful voice.

"Yes. They do." Simon injected the medication, listened to the patient's heart and stepped back as if he'd lit a fuse. "They say, 'Zombies? Stop being irrational, Tam.'"

Zoe stepped into the infirmary with River right behind her just as Simon administered the stimulant. She watched as everyone moved closer to solid objects; Mal's hand went toward his gun but then he didn't take hold of it, as if he didn't want to look worried. Simon's mistrust rubbed off on everyone in the infirmary except Zoe, who moved closer and looked down at the patient as his eyes shot open and he looked up at her. He flailed and shouted. Everyone flinched, Simon almost jumped back, and Zoe gave them all a slightly puzzled look, which included one flickered glance at Jayne's position on the floor. She frowned, and said, "He's just a kid."

The stranger's eyes cleared and he looked up at Zoe, to her mare's leg on her hip and her fine, skeptically raised eyebrow, and said, "Say. You wouldn't know anything about breaking into a combo pad, would you? Ain't a simple combo pad, but I know the combo part. Got it in my head. So if you could get in after that..."

Zoe was astonished.

"For a share in whatever it is you're doing here, I'll show you something guaranteed to be valuable, if you'll take me back to the ship you got me out of."

"He's barely awake, barely got clothes back on him and he's wanting a share in our job. What's your name, Son?" Mal asked.

"Daniel. McBride." He began to sit up, rubbing his temples. "Come with me to the ship I came from and I'll show you something."

"Just a minute. Help me here, Ducky." Mal motioned the pilot towards Cobb.

River stood at Jayne's feet and leaned way over to look toward his face. She spoke softly. "You killed him again."

"He was never dead to begin with," reminded Simon.

River shuffled back as Ducky and Mal helped hoist Jayne back into his med-bed. "I brought you some supplies. To help," she told her brother.

Simon looked. "I'm not using any needles from that ship," he said, frustrated. "Put them in sharps."

Mal crouched and fixed Daniel McBride with a penetrating gaze. "Now tell me-- I'm the captain on this ship-- how'd you come to be on that boat?"

McBride was flat on his back again. He had his fingers spread over his eyes but lifted his hand. "Got me out of prison," he muttered willingly.

"Hah-- I knew it. Prisoners."

"Well, yah and no," McBride rolled his eyes to look at Captain Reynolds. "I wa'n't their prisoner. They bought me out of prison. I think they was... using me for experiments."

"You and the others?"

"Sure. I think."

"What is this combo lock you wanted to show us?"

"What kind of experiments?" Simon asked, but Daniel McBride answered Mal.

"It's a safe." The patient sat up again and rubbed at the back of his head. "I saw 'em when they were bringing me on. I was in bonds but I saw 'em take money out-- cash money. They bought me. Was but one man knew the combo and if he got out and off, cash's gone."

Mal nodded. "But if not-- well, there's enough else to go back for, anyhow, that's sure, and you can help us carry it. And we'll look at this lock. Any idea if it's trapped? As long as you don't pull signaling the Alliance once we're back on that ship."

"What'd I do that for? Don't know if it's trapped, but I can tell you, exactly, how the head man got in."

"Good enough for me," said Zoe.

Simon looked consternated.

"Come on. Hup--" Mal lifted Daniel by a wrist. "Zoe, here."

Daniel persisted. "Is it worth a share? To get the information?"

"Look, if you're straight with me, it's worth a share."

Zoe nodded agreement with Mal's words. "I'm Zoe."

"'n I'm Danny. Like I said." The boy grinned, showing rotten teeth.

"Alright. Come along. And if you get that share, use it to do something about your teeth." Mal and Zoe and Danny left without conversation with the rest.

Ducky raised one eyebrow at Simon, who responded by focusing entirely on Jayne. She then departed for the bridge to monitor the sky, and Simon turned to the mechanic who was still perched worriedly on a stool. "Kaylee. Now."

Kaylee assumed her most pathetic expression as Simon worked on her lower neck and upper shoulder where the man from the infirmary vessel had scraped her. Simon took his time, giving her an encouraging pat occasionally and listening for signs of stress from the now steadily breathing Cobb or sounds of disaster from the bridge.

"I'm going to go fly the ship," said River.

Simon paused for an instant while Kaylee looked for one moment in alarm at River. Then he said, "If by that you mean that we, as the crew of Serenity, are not going anywhere, and especially not without our captain and his First Mate, and most particularly not when they are rummaging around on a dangerous piece of property with a seriously unknown quantity, and that you are also not planning on unseating Haven and taking off in the presence of Alliance authorities in the sky who might or might not be much more dangerous were we to show ourselves, and who would under many circumstances attack a flying vessel such as our own, and instead you mean that you are going to tiptoe out the cargo bay door and mount the bridge and take over the controls of one of the potentially trapped trash vessels in this vicinity NO YOU ARE NOT."

Several minutes passed.

"Then I'm going to draw bunnies."

"Make a pink--" Kaylee began. She stopped and turned toward the sound of Mal reentering the infimary with Daniel McBride, who was, as before, unconscious. Zoe stepped in quietly behind them.

Simon almost shouted. "Now what?"

Mal thunked the patient to the deck more carefully this time. "Got some cash. Kid was right. I conjure the fella in charge of operating capital was killed and that's the one who owned the watch Zoe found."

"But the-- why is he unconscious?"

"Went mad on us. Had to whack him in the head."

Simon paused with mouth open for awhile before anything came out. "Why didn't you just... shoot him?"

"He's in on our job, now. Couldn't. Wouldn't be right, Doc. We're accustomed to tantrums on this boat. Here. Make sure he comes around slow. Zoe, put this cash in our own safe and we'll divide it up even with the other stuff we got."

"I'm-- I'm sorry, I must have overdosed the patient on the stimulant. It's not that I want you to shoot people," Simon told his captain as Mal disappeared from the infirmary. "I mean it's good that he--" he stared at the again out-cold Daniel McBride. This time there was no disconcerting loss of color. Doc gave him a mild sedative but forwent the painkiller in case discomfort might slow the boy down if he woke up and got out of hand.

"You want help to get him on the spare bed?" Kaylee offered.

"Yeah. Yes. Be careful."

"Captain in here?" Ducky poked her head in.

"You just missed him."

Zoe turned to Ducky. "Alliance birds gone?"

"They seem to be. We may be good to go. Better get while the getting's good."

"A trip or two, to finish the job," Zoe told her. "We brought some cargo, but Cap'n had one hand full with the kid."

"I'll tell the captain. We'll put everything in its place when we're in the sky."

Zoe nodded and headed out, River at her heels.

Finishing took more than two trips while Haven watched the monitors. She had brought Serenity up to full operating power; when Mal told her all in, she broke atmo and set off at a good clip towards the pick-up point where they were to meet Dr. Driscoll.

Mal directed organization of the cargo bay. "With this shiny hovercart we picked up we can take some of the old cargo to where it's supposed to go-- a lot's been put off since Jayne has been out of action."

Once Serenity was safely into space, Haven joined the crew, minus Kaylee and Simon who were seeing to Cobb's needs. Mal turned to her. "Obscure the Alliance insignia on the take from the infirmary vessel?"

"Yes!" The pilot pumped an arm in enthusiasm. "Aye, aye, Cap'n."

"Personal rebellion in full swing, I notice."

"Bet on it. Whee!"

This work was in progress when Daniel McBride walked in haltingly.

"Danny. Ready to work?" Captain Reynolds lifted a crate onto Ducky's pile.

"When did I get hit on the head?"

"Bit ago. You remember?"

Danny's accent had a drawl and a lilt. "Naw, I guessed. I have a wound on my head and it goes right with being hit hard."

"That'd be at my hand," the captain told him. "On the Alliance ship you took me and Zoe back to for a safe break. Want to work with us? Feel ready?"

"Alright, like as anything to be good luck, going with you."

"You gotta agree for us: all your tantrums, if you're gonna have 'em, are to take place when one of us can knock you cold."

"I can't decide," said Ducky as Danny snapped a salute, "if this is nothing like flying for the Alliance, or exactly like it."

"Hey, Danny," Zoe called from her work, "what'd you do, anyway, that got you sent to the prison the Alliance bought you out of?"

"I didn't do anything illegal that time," Daniel McBride frowned. "But for my record, what do yethink? Stole some things. Not of the caliber you've got going, though."

River dropped what she was doing and went over to Danny. "Do you know I'm River?"

"River. Ah, good old River Rose." Danny sang slowly:

River rose, flooded old garden
Rose flew up
Floated away
Rose away my River Rose
flows away my River
my Rose
Rose up river
floods old graveyard
Roses marked my dear one's stone.
Roses now where there's no marker
Petals flowed and roses gone.


"I think you remembered it wrong," said River, trilling her r's in a match with Danny's. "Roses growed and stone is gone." `

"Aw, well, I was drunk the last time I heard it, Lass."

Simon entered the cargo bay, eyed the scene and came up beside Mal. He hesitated a moment, watching River sighing and humming to herself as she did a gentle dance step. "My sister seems to like our escaped convict."

"And that's good enough for me, for now." Mal raised his voice. "McBride! Less ballad, more cargo, Lad."

Simon's voice held an accusing tone. "You trust him?"

"I trust him about as far as I can throw him, Doc."

"So that's from, say, where's he's standing to about..."

Mal measured with his eye and hand. "Corner by the bay door, and if my conjuration's right he should hit aways up with some force and kind of crumple down the wall."
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