He's not completely sure what to make of this girl who's taken up residence in the passenger quarters. At first, he thinks she just wants to go back to the Core, but they leave Sihnon and she's still on board when they're heading further out on the Rim.
The rest of the crew seems to like her - Kaylee treats the tiny blonde like a sister, teaching her about Serenity's inner workings and giggling over boys or somesuch - but something about her bothers Mal. He can't pinpoint what it is, but she seems familiar, like he's met her before.
And then he overhears her while she's on the cortex one day. "No, Logan, I won't come back. I need to be away for a while longer."
"Don't call me baobei," she says fiercely. "That was Lily's name."
A sigh on the other end of the cortex. "Come home soon, please."
"I'll come back when I'm ready."
The overheard conversation makes everything click into place. She's Veronica Mars, and it all makes sense now. Logan - that'd be Logan Echolls, son of one of the wealthiest (and cruelest) Alliance commanders, and Veronica is his... whatever. The stories about Lily Kane's murder and the Echolls' involvement all come back to him, and suddenly, Miss Mars' reticence about leaving the ship is both a good bit more sensible and more troublesome. Mal ain't so sure he shouldn't put her off at the next port. She could be more trouble than she's worth.
They're preparing to land on Sihnon, Captain Reynolds tells her. "Could be a might bumpy, best strap in."
"Will you be strapping in, Captain?" Veronica asks with an arched eyebrow.
He doesn't answer her, just walks off like he has things to do (she knows he doesn't - his crew's too good to leave things untended).
"He wants you to strap in." The pilot's sing-song voice can be heard before she appears. River Tam is an odd bird, but she reminds Veronica a little of Lily - a free spirit with a twinkle of mischief behind her eyes. Only difference is River Tam knows that life can be hard out in the Black. "Wants you to stay for a while, but he doesn't even know it yet. You'll strap in." The girl smiles and darts up the ladder to the control room.
They're mere minutes from landing, and Veronica knows that she should wave Logan before they hit atmo, let him know that they're coming into the port on Sihnon, so he can be there when she arrives.
She hesitates, and the captain's voice comes over the intercom: "All outside communications going down for landing. I'll tell you when they're back up."
Her decision made for her, Veronica makes her way to the common area and straps herself in.