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Conversations of Past or Future

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i.

There's a man who moves things. Gunn finds that things often need moving, more often than not in fact and the services of this man tend to come reasonably priced and with the added bonus of reliability. You ask the man to move a thing and that thing is moved, on time and out of sight.

Back in the day, when things got moved it was done quietly, mostly at night, by car, truck or whatever kind of vehicle best got the job done. These days, things are moved with or without due care given to secrecy - the Shamans can always work their mojo later, or Finance can pay the right people, Legal can threaten the right people, or Angel can, well, still threaten the right people but in different and more meaningful ways. It still tends to happen at night, mostly, but the number of locations that things are moved to has dramatically increased and with it, the variety and number of vehicles suited to the task.

This man, for example, he moves things a few hundred years into the future. Gunn's not sure on the physics of the whole thing but according to Fred, this doesn't actually involve the man moving back in time himself. It all goes through the White Room, somehow the thing, the product, item, merchandise, or occasionally person, ends up in a white room around 800 years in the future where this man collects it and ships it.

The Alliance are close buddies with the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart but as far as Gunn can tell from the records in the Contracts department, their relationship doesn't actually begin for at least another 300 years. He'd mention it to Fred but he's not sure he wants to attempt getting his head around the answer she'd throw at him.

"Sir?" A familiar voice asks. Gunn turns around in the expanse of whiteness and shakes the hand of the man before him.

"Captain," He nods, "How's the crew?"

"A mite testy at not being allowed in this here place but they'll survive. Yours?"

"Same as ever." Gunny replies with a grin and pushes the palette trolley's handled into Captain Reynolds' waiting hands. "Just the one for you today, nothing too heavy."

Mal pulls it a foot or so, there's a flicker and Gunn is left holding the handle of an empty trolley.

ii.

"You don't look too hot." Gunn tells Mal as he appears.

"Had somethin' of a tussle, fracas you might say. It's Alliance Day out my way."

"That some new version of Independence Day or somethin'?" Gunn asks and watches Mal's face cloud.

"The Independents lost." Gunn doesn't push it. "No palettes today?"

Gunn shakes his head and proffers the small glass bottle he's had in his pocket for hours. Their hands brush, skin to skin, for an instant before the flicker swallows Mal and his shipment.

iii.

"So you were an Independent?" Gunn asks, months later and after countless exchanges of shallow niceties between them.

"Browncoats." Mal replies.

"Uhuh. And now you transport for the Alliance?"

"Anything as pays," Mal says but without much conviction.

"I know how that is."

"You know how it is to earn a wage from them as you've spent your whole life fightin'?"

Gunn half-laughs, half-sneers, "I look like I was born in suits to you? Working for an evil law firm was not exactly the career path I had in mind but they offered us a deal and we took it. Hook, line, and sinker."

The men look down to avoid seeing in each other's eyes what they know to be true of their own lives.

iv.

"You ever ask what's in these things?" Another day, another load.

"I know what's in them."

"Best I didn't ask?"

"You can ask, Captain, I just can't tell you."

Mal nods, he's not sure he wants to know anyway even if it does mean another lecture from Kaylee that they ought not to carry what they don't know the contents of.

"It's not flammable or...explosive, if that helps?"

Mal laughs a little, "Good to know you're not asking me to carry cargo that may well blow a hole in the side of my boat."

"Would I?" Gunn smiles.

v.

"You ever think about using this thing to leave your old life and start afresh?" Mal asks, a glint in his eye.

"Not unless I could take my people with me."

"No, I guess not when you put it like that." Mal tucks his thumbs into his breaches, rocking back on his heels and smiles, "But you've thought about visiting."

Gunn nods, "All the time."