Darkness stretched into nothingness. An unending black, dotted with small bursts of light. Faraway stars twinkled and blinked out while an array of planets rotated on. The eerie quietness of the night clung to Serenity like a fog.
Jayne drug his feet along as he wandered the cold, metal corridors of the ship. Exhausted and longing for sleep that wouldn't come, he avoided the bridge where River was on watch. She always saw too much, too deep. No need to have her alert the others of the inescapable feeling that something bad had happened. Something he could have helped avoid, had he been where he was needed.
A burning to wave home grew stronger as the night wore on. Lifting weights worked to occupy him for a small while, but the repetition and mindlessness of it didn't stop the images of gruesome deaths and slow tortures from flying through his mind as he tried hard to tune them out.
Jayne quietly ate his breakfast of too dry protein as he heard the rest of the crew stir. Kaylee was the first to rise and greeted Jayne with a cheery good morning as she bounced in. He grunted as usual and she grabbed a protein pack to eat on the way to the engine room. The sound of her skipping and humming faded slowly as she made her way.
Jayne heard a small sigh from the other side of the room. He looked up to see River staring at him as she sat on the couch with one hand on the small table and the other holding her chin while her elbow cozied into her knee. She looked away sadly and concentrated on the upside down, open book laying near her. She started drumming her fingers lightly on the table.
“Angel caught in a web in the night. Angel doesn't shine in the dark. Light gets squashed, but is still there. Hidden. Waiting. Kept like a jewel, but Angel is untarnished,” she said quietly.
Jayne raised an eyebrow at her in confusion. The sound of multiple boot steps came from the corridor and his gaze shifted to see Zoe and Wash walk in.
“Having trouble sleeping there Jayne?” Wash asked smiling.
“Havin trouble sleepin anywhere,” he muttered.
Zoe straightened a bit.
A slight look of concern appeared on her face, “Doc has drugs to help with that. You havin troubles after Miranda?”
“Don't want no drugs,” Jayne said grumpily, “No, its not bout Miranda.”
“Mayhaps we need to find a settlement with pretty ladies and loose skirts for our Jayne?” asked Mal as he entered as well, but with a devilish grin.
All of them looked at Jayne like they never saw him before.
“What?” he asked as he glared at no one in particular.
River tilted her head towards the Captain, “Angel was taken, snatched in the dark. Safe for now, but waiting. Wanting to hide from the bumps in the night. Pixie will find the Angel. Save her. Who will rescue the Pixie?”
“Oooookaay,” Mal said as he raised an eyebrow at her.
Simon walked in yawning and started preparing a breakfast for him and River.
“Morning,” he said as he nodded at Mal.
Mal grabbed a pack as well and turned towards the crew, “Should be touchin down soon. We can make contact with our new potential client and find out exactly what it is he wants. Hopefully it'll be a tad bit better than the last offer we had.”
“Last one was slavers Mal,” Jayne said quietly, “None a us wanna work with slavers.”
“Right on that,” Mal said as he headed to check on Kaylee, “Right on that.”
Jayne stood quietly, gently picked up his dishes, and walked to the sink. After washing them up, he headed down to his bunk to load up on a couple favorite armaments.
River turned her head sideways and mumbled, “They don't listen to the girl when they think its not important.”
“What was that River?” Simon asked as he carried two bowls to the table.
River stood and danced to the table, “Means nothing now, but everything later.”
Simon sat as he pondered her meaning.
Three Hours Later
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne sat around a small, sticky table in the corner of a bar each holding a drink. They were faced towards the saloon style doors watching for a man called 'The Herald'. He was supposed to stick out in a crowd, but so far they hadn't seen him.
“Usually clients show up a bit early. Don't keep us waiting,” Mal said as he turned his dirty glass around a few times.
A few minutes later, two men entered the saloon at the same time. One drug himself to the bar and the other wandered towards the crew. He looked unremarkable and looked like all the other dirty workmen in the bar. He sat down across from them and winked.
“Glad to see you still here,” he said. His voice cried upper crust as he continued, “I'm afraid I had to change my look a bit to fit in better. One of my client's has had a few people disappear, she is afraid someone is trying to hurt her and her extended family.”
Mal raised an eyebrow and said, “This concern us somehow?”
“No,” The Herald said, “She is looking for certain items, but I have a client in line ahead of her. If you manage the task I have for you first I will have multiple jobs for you after wards.”
“You sound like a busy man,” Zoe stated.
“Yes, unfortunately the Alliance has put certain needs on a do not fly list for the time being. We are uncertain why.”
“What kinds of things?” Mal asked.
“Simple things,” he said leaning forward a bit, “Blankets, medicine, clothing, proper work equipment for the farmers, and growing seed for starters.”
“Why'd they make that illegal?” asked Jayne.
“All I hear at the moment are rumors,” he said as his face fell a bit, “Rumors of a nearby uninhabitable planet becoming a topic of terraforming and the Alliance wanting to put a special outpost there. They will have to evict the slaver outpost first, but that would be no loss to this community.”
“Ya'd think they'd want this planet fully equipped to deal with the neighbors,” Jayne said.
“Yes, we are not sure what ulterior motive they may have.”
Zoe thought a bit, “Could be they want to drive up some prices for all concerned. Stand to make a tidy profit of it.”
“True,” The Herald said, “An angle I have not yet researched as well.”
Mal leaned back in his chair, “So what is this job you wanna send us on.”
The Herald smiled with perfectly white teeth to match his hair, “Exactly that Captain Reynolds. I'd prefer to start with the growing seed and some basic farm equipment. Its almost planting season. We have enough to start, but not enough to finish and supply everyone with food to eat and sell.”
The Herald reached into his dusty, brown jacket and pulled out a short list with the name of a contact on Persephone. He handed it to Mal and he looked over it closely.
“Thats an awful lotta coin for farm equipment,” Mal said.
“Its all top of the line and new,” he said, “Thus the cost of getting it by inspection. I hope you won't have any trouble dealing with my contact.”
“As it happens,” Mal said smiling, “We did a job for him when he needed it.”
The Herald's look of surprise made Jayne grin as he looked at the list.
“You are the ones who helped with the beef scenario?”
All three of them grinned wide, but kept silent.
“I think this is the beginning to a very profitable relationship my friends,” The Herald said.
The Herald tipped his hat at them, stood, and walked out of the bar as elegantly as one can in dusty farm clothes.