“Are you Captain Reynolds?”
Mal glances down at a slight young woman, a scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders that does not quite hide the blood stains on the shirt underneath.
“Depends who’s askin’.”
“I’m looking for passage off planet,” she says, still in that aggressive tone with her polished accent, and gives him a hard look out of green eyes.
Mal returns her glare with a nod. “That’s good for you, lady. But we’re not exactly headin’ for civilisation, and this boat gets a mite shaky on her old days. Ain’t no ride for a young lady like yourself is what I’m sayin’. Further into town, you’ll find more’n enough ships take you wherever you want.”
“Away from civilisation will be enough for now,” she replies curtly.
Mal sighs. “Now see here, girl, I like my passengers boring and able to pay, and you’re a mite too bloody and eager for a getaway to qualify. We like to stay out of the Empire’s way as best we can.”
She scoffs. “Do I look like an Imperial to you?”
“You look like you got trouble with them, and we don’t want that neither. Find your passage somewhere else, sweetheart, and cover those bloodstains the next time.”
Her full lips turn into a thin line. “Your ship is the only one with a medic on it.”
“You’re lookin’ just shiny to me,” Mal mutters and turns away, but the woman takes a step forward and grips his arm, glowering up at him, and he’s not quite sure but for a moment he thinks her eyes are shining with tears.
“Not me. Our pilot is with our captain. He needs a medic fast,” she says sharply. “We can pay. We’ll pay you, enough to restock any supplies we cost you too.”
“Look here, I ain’t stupid. Empire blows up a whole gorram planet, people hear about it. By the looks of you, that’s where you’re runnin’ from, and I ain’t about to get my crew tangled in your war.”
Her eyes flicker to the ship behind him, then there’s a sneer on her face. “My war, huh? Says the man in the brown coat who named his ship after a battle. Funny how easily recognisable Serenity veterans are, compared to everyone else, I mean. So don’t you dare make a show about my war, we’re fighting the war that you ran away from, and you won’t even help us?”
He sighs. “I don’t understand why you’re so dead set on hitchin’ a ride with us if you don’t care where you’re going is all.”
“Like I said, we need a medic, and your mechanic said you have a doctor on board who knows his trade.”
“Kaylee would say that, yes,” Mal replies with a shrug. “She’s got a crush on the doc ‘bout the size of this rock. She’s right, though, he’s a mighty fine surgeon. Still, you bring us trouble of that proportion, it’ll cost you.”
“I said we can pay,” she replies with a sigh and reaches into her shirt. Mal watches with a frown as she pulls out a crystal on a leather band.
“You know what that is, Captain Reynolds?”
“I damn well do,” he replies slowly. “Now where the hell would you get that from?”
“It’ll be more than enough recompensation, and you need the money, derelict ship like yours, right?”
Mal stares at the kyber crystal for a moment longer, then folds his arms in front of his chest.
“Alright, love, you got yourself a deal. Just three things real quick: there ain’t nothing about this boat deserves to be called derelict and I will shoot anyone tells me otherwise. Secondly, try and remember you ain’t givin’ orders around here, whoever you are, and whoever you’ve got so badly injured better make sure they don’t drip blood all over my ship.” He gets out the com with a heavy sigh. “Kaylee, prep Serenity for passengers, and tell the doc he’s about to get his hands dirty.”
“We’re taking them on? That’s shiny, cap!” comes his mechanic’s voice scratching through the comlink.
“Now would be good, mei-mei,” he mutters, rolls his eyes and turns back to the brunette.
“So, now that you’re my passenger, you might as well give me some kinda name for me to call ya, right? Only fair, you know mine.”
“Lyanna,” she gives back coolly and marches past him without so much as a thanks, fiddling with a small comlink.
It’s a lie.
Mal likes this girl. He hopes he won’t have to shoot her.
“I’ll call my people here,” she says without turning around, and Mal sighs and tightens his holster around his calf.
“Good. Make it quick. I don’t much fancy staying in this place for another hour.”
“Then maybe you could come and give us a hand,” definitely-not-Lyanna says flatly.
“You lot gut luggage, too?”
“No,” she hisses, throwing him a glare, “we’ve got a five foot nine man that can’t walk and you’ve wasted enough of his time with your stupid haggling. Just get that doctor.” Then her eyes catch something over his shoulder and she starts running towards a lanky young man in goggles and singed Imperial garb stumbling out of a derelict speeder.
“I hear I have a patient? I thought we weren’t taking anyone on this time.”
Mal turns to see Book and the doctor walking down the ramp.
“Yes, well. We’re going anyways and the girl offered to pay us, and I don’t suppose you lot would mind bein’ paid, would you?”
The shepherd smiles. “Kaylee has been talking about a few parts she would like to buy once we reach Dantooine.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see about that when we get there. From what the girl said we won’t be needin’ a preacher just yet, shepherd,” he says, then turns back to their three passengers and adds slowly:
“Though lookin’ at the colour of that fella's face, he might be needin’ one pretty damn soon.”
Simon hurries past them, pushing up his sleeves as he goes.
“What happened to these people?” the shepherd inquires and Mal shrugs.
“Didn’t ask, but looks to me they’re survivors of that Alliance fleet got dusted on Scarif.”
“That’s reassuring,” comes his first mate’s voice from behind him. “Taking them on means trouble, sir.”
“They didn’t pay so well, I’d not have taken them on, that’s for damn sure,” he mutters and shakes his head. “We could do with gettin’ paid though, after that job. Kaylee needs parts, and we’re nearly run out of ammo as well. Go help the doc, Zoe. Sooner we get off this place, the better. You too, preacher.”