We landed at Beaumonde an hour after breakfast. The correct case was filled, and Wash set us down as light as a feather. We made the exchange with Sir Warricks contact after the payment had been received and Sir Warrick confirmed everything was ok. To Mal’s satisfaction, he said that from now on, should he have the need for discrete transportation, then Serenity would be his first call. We took off and broke atmo’ not having been on the ground for more than thirty minutes.
In that thirty minutes, we had been paid thirty six thousand credits, almost eighty six and a half thousand platinum!
Mal called a crew meeting in the kitchen area.
“Ok, this is the kinda meetin’ I like to have. We just got paid, 36 thousand credits. Way I figure, the cost of this run so far in fuel an’ supplies is ‘bout 1 an’ a half to 2 thousand, so we’ve 34 thousand to share out. Zoe an’ me have agreed, Taylor’s to get a full share now, same as Jayne at ten percent. I’ve worked out everyone’s share, an’ it’s on the slips that Zoe’s handin’ out now. After the pot was split, there was a little over 3 thousand left over. You’ve two choices. I can either add that as a bonus into your pay, or it can be spent on Serenity. Kaylee’ll agree, there’re more’n a few parts that could do with bein’ replaced instead of bein’ repaired.
We’re headed for the Licoln Park Skyplex now, an’ should dock there in a few hours. You’ve until then to decide about the bonus.”
The one person who spoke, surprised us all.
“I aint one for speech-ifyin’, but t'be honest Mal, this here take is one of the best we've had. We aint doin’ to bad food wise now we got a decent cook, an’ he’s come up with some good ideas for jobs too. You can keep my bonus, an' use it for the ship. If the ship breaks, what good’s money if we’re left driftin’? Kaylee, make sure you buy somethin’ real useful and name it after me, dong ma?”
Watching Kaylee hug Jayne until he went red from embarrassment was something that I don’t think anyone in the crew ever thought they would see.
We all agreed with Jayne though. Soon, everyone had opted for their bonus to be spent on Serenity.
The next few hours were spent trying to figure out how to spend our cash. Kaylee wanderd the corridors listing things that she wanted to replace, or parts she wanted to get. Jayne, Shepherd, Mal and myself put money in a pot to buy some more gym equipment, including a suspended punch bag.
By the time we get to the Skyplex dock, everyone had a list or two.
The hustle and bustle of crowds after time in space, is always a shock to the system. The first place the crew headed for, was the Exchange post. Credits are useless the further out into the border worlds you went. My share of the take was worth just over eight thousand platinum.
We wandered around the shops, picking up the items from our lists as we went, making return trips to the ship to drop things off, and then heading back out to browse. After nearly three hours, I’d bought all the spare clothing I thought I would need, and still had almost seven thousand platinum left. Jayne surprised me further, by sending two thirds of his take home to his mother. When I asked him why he did it, he said she needed it more than he did. So there was a softer side to the hard man after all…
Sat in a bar, I watched from a balcony as the everyday lives of the people who live on the Skyplex continued below. From out of nowhere, River and Kaylee pulled up chairs next to me, and we watched the crowds. When River slid her hand into mine, it felt natural and correct. I leant over and kissed her on the cheek, and couldnt help but smile as she blushed like a strawberry. Kaylee tried and failed not to giggle at our expense.
Suddenly, River’s face dropped, and she had a look of blank dread…
“River hun, what’s wrong, I…I didn’t mean to offend you…”
“He’s come looking for Mal, he heard he was here, he wants to know who set him up, Mal or Badger…”
As I tried to figure out what she was talking about, I saw him. Jimmy Abraham. He walked into the bar, flanked by some of his crew. And to say he looked unhappy was a mild understatement. There could only be one outcome of this, and I didn’t want River to be part of it.
“Kaylee, take River back to the ship, if you see Mal or any of the others, let them know there’s gonna be trouble!”
She looked at me wide eyed and scared, but noded. River though, was harder to persuade…
“I want to stay with you, you’ll need me, you all will. I can fight too, I want to stay with you!”
“River, I don’t plan on fighting anyone. I promise, you go back with Kaylee, an' I'll be back later safe and sound.”
She looked at me, puts her hands on either side of my face, and drew me to her. Just when I thought she was going to kiss me, she stopped and placed her nose at the end of mine, looked me in the eye, and smiled.
“Don’t forget, you're my butterfly giver, I cant lose you now I’ve found you…”…as she said those last words, she leant that little bit closer and kissed me.
Five minutes later, I was stood by the bar, a few feet from Abraham.
“Taylor! What’re you doin’ here mei mei?”
“Same as you Jim, waitin’ to be served, waitin’ on my crew to show. “
“Oh, I aint here to drink, I’m lookin’ for someone, an’ when I find him, he’s gonna regret crossin’ me, aint that right boys!”
I looked over the crew he brought with him. All of them had holsters on their hips. At least two had backup pieces under their jackets.
In the reflection of the mirror behind the bar, I saw Mal, Jayne, Zoe and Wash walk into the bar, and head upstairs to the balcony. They gave no indication that they had seen the group stood by the bar. Abraham though, saw them.
“Well, sorry to cut this short but I’ve some business to take care of. Boys, shall we?”
I watched as they headed off up the stairs after Mal and the others. I gave it a few seconds, and followed them upstairs myself. The scene that greeted me was much as I expected.
Sat around the far side of a table, in an alcove, were the crew. Stood in a semi-circle facing them, was Abraham and his boys. Nobody had a weapon drawn yet, but everyone was keyed up for a fight. As I walked closer, I heard Abraham beginning to shout. He never could keep his temper. Suddenly, at some unseen signal, his men drew their weapons, almost getting the drop on the crew.
I decided that its time I took a hand in the events.
I drew my pistol and revolver, and stood behind Abraham and the man on his left. The first they knew I was there, was when the noise of me cocking the hammers back on both guns gave me away.
“Jimmy, if you want to walk out of this bar, I suggest you put your guns down, an' that goes for your crew, too. “
When he turned his head, the look of shock on his face was replaced in seconds by variations of confusion, realisation, then hate.
“YOU!! It was you! You go tsao de hwun dan! You’re the one who betrayed me, not Badger!”
“Way I see it old friend, you betrayed yourself. Twice now, you’ve not thought to ask who I’m crewin’ with. An’ you never did learn not to shoot your mouth off. Now. Like I said. Put your guns away, an’ you can walk outa here an’ go ‘bout your business.”
“I should drop you where you stand! And your shee niou crew too! You were my friend and you turned on me!”
“Jimmy, the only reason I aint ended you ‘fore now, is ‘cause we were friends! When you hijacked the ship, we coulda snuffed you then, in any number of ways. Now I’m gonna ask you one last time. Put your guns away. I wont offer this to you 'gain. The fact I’ve offered it three times already, is only ‘cause we were once crew mates…”
One by one, the men with Jimmy lowered their guns, then holstered them.
I un-cocked the revolver, and holstered it, but I kept the pistol levelled squarely at Jimmy’s forehead.
“Now Jimmy, we’re gonna leave, an’ if you’re stupid enough to think of followin’ us, or makin’ this into a vendetta, don’t!. Learn from this. Badger set us up, not carin’ if we were gonna be hurt or not. What’s to say he wont do the same to you an' yours? You aint been left out of pocket on this, only Badger. All you’ve done is loose face an’ be taught a valuable lesson. “
Behind the line of men in front of me, Mal and the others stood up, their guns in their holsters, but hands still on them.
They walked down the stairs, and waitied for me.
“Now Jimmy, I’m gonna put my gun away, but if you think that means that I still wont drop you where you stand if you force me, then you’re a fool. When we leave here, I suggest you give it an hour, then you head off back the way you came. Go wave Badger if you want, don’t make no difference to me.”
I stepped back, and lowered my gun. The look that Jimmy gave me, was one of complete, murderous hate. The people in the bar had all stepped aside. It could only be a matter of time before Fed’s arrived.
Outside the bar, Mal was waiting. Wash and Zoe had gone on ahead, and Jayne was stood off to one side, ready in case the worst happened.
“Are we gonna have a problem?”
“Not immediately Cap’n, but I think that I just made an enemy there…”
“Well, he can get to the back of the queue. That’s the problem with this job of ours, somewhere along the line, someone’ll take offence.”