Gwen stood back from the soldered metal, pushing the mask away from her face and taking a deep breath. It wasn't much, but it was more than she'd had at the start of the day. Sometime this decade, she might just have enough parts for a ship.
"Hello?" came a voice from behind her.
Gwen turned to be confronted by a woman in the most spectacular silk dress, all blues and purples. She blinked. "Lady, are you lost?"
"What? No, no, I'm not." She laughed, a delicate, cultured sort of sound.
Gwen frowned even more; there was nobody like this who came out this far.
"I look out of place, don't I?" the woman continued. "Well, maybe you can help me with that. It's Guinevere, isn't it?"
"Gwen will do just fine, thanks."
"All right, if you like. Gwen, I'm looking for an engineer. They tell me you're the best on this moon."
Gwen glanced down at her handiwork and laughed. "I think what 'they' mean is that I'm the only engineer on this moon."
"Be that as it may," the woman said imperiously, then caught herself. "Sorry. Old habits. I'm looking to hire an engineer - don't worry, I can pay, cash in hand if you like. I've got a ship, and I can fly it, but I need someone down in the engineering room."
Gwen laughed incredulously. "Did someone put you up to this?"
The woman shook her head. "Not in the slightest. I'm grounded just over that ridge there - will you come and have a look, please?"
Gwen stared at her, looked down at her pile of scrap metal, and figured she didn't exactly have much to lose other than an afternoon. She waved a hand. "Lead the way."
The woman grinned suddenly. "Great, that's great. Come see my ship."
She set off, making impressive time hampered by her skirts, and Gwen made after her. "You haven't told me your name."
"I'm the la--" She broke off. "My name's Morgana."
"It's not much," Morgana said apologetically, "but she's spaceworthy."
"Oh no, she's gorgeous," Gwen said hastily, staring around the engine room. She peered at the carbonators, running her hands along the casing of the engine and feeling all that power lying dormant inside.
"So, you'll come on board?" Morgana asked. Her face was so open and eager and excited that Gwen found herself saying yes before she knew what she was doing.
It's not like she had much to leave behind, after all. Morgana might turn out to be a thief or a rogue or a fugitive, but Gwen reckoned she could handle that. Her heart held no love nor loyalty for the Alliance, not now, not after her father.
Two hours later, and all of Gwen's meagre possessions were stowed in the crew quarters.
"Ship like this ought to have a proper crew," she said to Morgana out on the upper deck, "not just you and me, out in the black."
"Well, this is all I've got," Morgana said shortly. "We'll have to do." Something hard and closed passed over her face, then she brightened again. "If you're hungry, I've got some fresh vegetables."
"Oh," said Gwen reverentially. "Well now, I might just be able to manage that."
It turned out that Morgana hadn't the first idea what to do in a kitchen, but Gwen wasn't fussy. They ate most of the food raw, sweet tomatoes and the sharp crunch of peppers tasting heavenly in Gwen's mouth.
When they'd finished eating, Gwen washed up -- she had a feeling that may not fall into Morgana's remit of skills either.
"What made you ask me, really?" she asked eventually.
"Because you hate the Alliance as much as I do," said Morgana. "There's -- something that I have to do, and I thought that maybe you could help me with that."
"And what's that?"
"There's an institution, a school. A place where they take kids and turn them into soldiers, weapons. It's horrifying, it's all Alliance-sanctioned, and I'm going to put a stop to it."
Gwen's eyes widened, and Morgana began to tell her a story. It was a story about children, and torture, and things that shocked Gwen even for the Alliance. Morgana's hand tapped against the table as she spoke, erratic, and her voice was pained.
Gwen insisted on a visual check of the outer hull of the ship before departure. Mostly, she just wanted to get close to it -- she always understood machines better when she had seen each part of them. She traced out the lines of the metal plates, learning the rivets and curves of the vessel that was going to carry the two of them through the stars. She reached the side of the ship and froze, astounded.
"Wuh de ma," Gwen breathed as she reached out to the faded lettering on the outside of the ship, only just legible. "This is -- I don't believe it. This ship's meant to be long gone."
"Serenity," Morgana read from the insignia, looking bemused.
"This is Malcolm Reynolds's old ship," said Gwen. "He was a friend of my father's -- more than that, he was a good man. You don't get too many of those any more. I remember meeting him and his crew when I was a little girl. Where did you find her?"
"A woman gave her to me. Said it was too sad for her to fly any more." Morgana frowned. "I never did get her name."
"She'll keep us safe and true, no doubt about it," said Gwen.
She touched the symbol again, remembering her childhood, populated as it was by travellers and passers-by, all needing parts from her father's shop. She'd talked to Serenity's mechanic for hours, marvelling at her stories and the way she talked about engines as though they were people, which is how Gwen had always felt about them too.
She glanced at Morgana briefly then nodded to herself. Now she knew she'd made the right decision.
After an hour or so, Gwen gave up on the idea of sleep. She padded along Serenity's corridors, feeling the hum of the ship's motion through the decking against her bare feet. She made her way towards the bridge and paused. She could hear sound from Morgana's quarters, a noise that sounded like sobbing.
Her instincts were torn between wanting to leave her with her privacy and the urge to comfort, and in the end she gave in to the latter, letting herself down the ladder and into Morgana's room.
The room was dark and Morgana seemed asleep, but she was tossing violently as she slept, Gwen reached out to shake her shoulder, hoping to wake her gently.
No such luck. Morgana flew bolt upright, shrieking, her eyes wide. She looked around wildly, as though she had no idea where she was. Gwen put her hand back on Morgana's shoulder.
"Hey, you're safe, you're safe, everything's fine."
"I'm sorry," Morgana muttered. "I get these -- nightmares." She grimaced. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine in a minute."
Gwen unfolded a stool propped against the wall. "Then I'll wait here until you do."
Morgana smiled a little wanly. Gwen was certain that she wasn't even close to having the whole story, but the hum of the engine was soothing, their ship was flying, and for now that was enough.