Browncoats and Scabbards
As they entered the bar and took in the obvious quality of its patrons Richie looked at Methos and grinned. “Heh, its just like the cantina in Star Wars, I’m Luke Skywalker and you’re Ben Kenobi and now we need to find Han to get off this rock.” He said with a trace of a snigger. Methos rolled his eyes.
“Except that we need to get off this ‘rock’ because even after all this time you can’t keep your big mouth shut when there’s a pretty lady in the room.”
“How was I meant to know she was an Alliance agent?”
“Yeah, well this time leave the talking to me. This crew were the only ones even willing to consider transporting us and I don’t want you wrecking it, dong ma?”
“Shiny, old man. Just shiny.” Richie replied. Methos strode forward toward the bar. When he was a few steps in front, Richie muttered under his breath, “Stubborn old hundan.”
“I heard that nansheng.” Methos approached a man at the bar and held out his hand. “Captain Reynolds?” The man turned and eyed Methos warily.
“Who wants to know?”
“I’m Doctor Mathew Clifford and this is my associate Ryan Richards.” The proffered hand was still not taken, so Methos lowered it. “A mutual friend told us you might provide us with transport to Haven if we ever had Alliance trouble.”
“Well now who might that be?”
“Well I think that’s a might convenient seeing as he can’t disagree with you on that, being dead and all.”
“He’s dead?” Methos said with genuine concern, reflected in Richie’s face, “We hadn’t heard. I’m sorry. He spoke highly of you.”
“Well I know that’s a gorram lie.” Mal replied. Richie thought that Methos was getting nowhere, so he jumped into the conversation,
“It’s not a lie Captain. Shepherd Book told us that you were an honourable man. A bit pig-headed and dishonest, but generally honourable.”
“Is that so boy?” Mal said, standing up. Richie started forward, but Methos restrained him. Hoping that Reynolds didn’t speak old Earth French he spoke to Richie in that language,
“As far as this guy knows, you are a boy. He meant nothing by it.” Richie relaxed and looked at Methos. In French he answered him,
“Sorry, I can’t help it. Even after all this time being called that still bugs me.” He grinned and then spoke to Mal in English. “Yes Captain, that is definitely so. Now are you willing to help us or not?”
“What the hell language were you just talking? I didn’t recognise it and I don’t like people talking in languages I don’t understand. Makes it hard to know if they’re looking to cause trouble.” Mal said, his voice taking on a threatening edge.
“My apologies to you captain. We meant no offence.” Methos said, his tone placatory. “I was just warning my foolish young friend not to attack our only hope to leave this planet. I didn’t want you to know how desperate we are, but I realise that means nothing if you take against us and refuse us passage.” Methos eyed Captain Reynolds hopefully. Mal looked them over carefully, and he seemed to accept the explanation given. But it had not gone unnoticed that ‘Dr. Clifford’ had not said what the language was. That was something that could wait for another time though. Mal regarded them both for another moment before saying,
“Well, I don’t aim to get myself and my crew in any more bother with the Alliance than we already are. It seems to me that you two would have to have a great deal to offer if I look to taking you aboard.”
“I’m a doctor.” Methos replied.
“I already got me one of them.”
“We’re thieves.” Richie admitted, “That’s got to count for something right?”
“Not if you’re in so much hot water with the Alliance, can’t be that good at it right?”
“I’m one of the best hackers in the system and he’s the best safecracker. You hear about the job on Ariel a few months back? That was us.”
“You mean the Alliance reserve? That was you? That job would take at least six men.” Mal said with a certain amount of respect in his voice.
“Just two.” Richie said proudly. “So payment for our passage will not be a problem.”
“Unfortunately, my friend here is incapable of keeping his mouth shut, especially when there is a woman involved. Hence the Alliance problem and the need for a swift exit.” Methos added.
“How much are you willing to pay?” Mal asked, his eyes lighting up at the thought of a decent payday.
“We will pay for any and all repairs, supplies and fuel that you require from now until we disembark. On top of that we will add three thousand in cold hard cash once we reach our destination.” Methos offered.
“Which is what? Haven aint exactly named right anymore.”
“We’ll let you know when we figure that out. For now, passage anywhere but here would be good.” Richie replied.
“Fair enough.” Mal said, extending his hand this time, which Methos shook. “Follow me.”
“Your ship’s named Serenity? Interesting choice.” Richie said as they entered the ship.
“What do you know about it?” Richie started to answer, but then thought better of it. He couldn’t tell the Captain that he had been a Browncoat, had died at Serenity. Not without raising some tricky questions. For the second time since meeting the captain he cursed the fact that he was perpetually frozen at nineteen. Methos sensed his friend’s frustration and answered for him,
“His elder brother died on Serenity Captain.”
Mal looked suitably abashed, but his answer revealed nothing of any emotions he may have felt.
“A lot of good men died there.” He said coolly.
Methos looked up, taking in the surroundings, and he spotted a young woman sitting up on the gantry. There was something about her, a wisdom in her eyes, that caught his attention.
“Who’s that?” he asked. Mal glanced up.
“That there’s River, our pilot. Her brother Simon is the doc I mentioned. You can meet the rest of the crew later. River! Show our passengers to guest quarters.”
Up on the gantry, Methos could see that the girl continued to observe them and to his surprise he noticed that she was amused, as though enjoying her own private joke. He made a mental note to keep an eye on their unusual pilot before he and Richie trotted up the stairs to join her. She stood and silently led them to a twin berth cabin. She opened the door and ushered them inside, the wry smile never leaving her lips.
“What was it like?” she asked suddenly, making both Immortals start.
“What was what like?” Richie asked.
“Earth that was.” She said matter-of-factly. The two Immortals looked at each other before regarding the pilot again.
“How could we possibly know that?” Methos laughed. River tapped the side of her head.
“It’s all in there. I can see it. Swords and lightning and games and rules.” She was interrupted by the intercom.
“River, I need you up at the helm. Time to leave.” Mal’s voice commanded from the speaker.
“Oh well. Maybe later. Goodbye Richie, goodbye Methos.” With that, she skipped off down the corridor. Richie was about to follow to protest, but Methos laid a hand on his arm.
“There’s no point trying to deny it to her. She’s obviously a psychic, a reader.”
“What are we going to do? We can’t stay on board now.”
“We don’t have a choice Rich. We just have to hope that she’ll see things our way and keep quiet.” They began to stow their possessions, starting with removing their swords from their hidden sheaths and secreting them under their pillows. They were nearly finished unpacking when Methos glanced up to see Mal in the doorway.
“You two best come up to the cockpit. We got us some trouble. Alliance vessel approaching.” He said before turning and heading to the cockpit. Methos and Richie swiftly followed. As they entered, they could see the large Alliance vessel approaching and as it drew within firing range both Immortals took a step backward and looked at each other. River looked at them curiously for a moment before returning her gaze forward, but all other eyes were on the Alliance ship.
“Did you feel it?” Richie asked rhetorically, it was clear from the eldest immortal’s face he had, “Pourquoi y a-t-il d'l'un de nous sur ce bateau?”
“Je ne sais pas. Merde, je ne sais pas.” Methos replied. Mal noticed that they were speaking in that strange language again, but he let it slide, just this once. He had more important matters to attend to at the moment.
“Do you think they’re here for our heads?” Richie asked. An incoming wave lit up the monitor and a familiar face appeared.
“No gents,” Mal said as he gazed into the face of the Operative, “He’s not after you.”