"Tee wuh duh pee-goo! A Series Three Firefly! I didn't think these were still in the air!"
Kaylee turned to glare at the man staring up at Serenity. Before she could snap at him, he grinned at her and waved toward the ship. "I've been wanting to fly one of these since they came out! Is the pilot position still open?"
She stared at the man with wild hair for a moment before giving herself a little shake. "I'm sorry?"
"The job!" The man bounced up and down and waved towards the open cargo bay of Serenity. "Is it still available? Or should I take Billy and try for another contract?"
Kaylee blinked. "Billy?"
The man nodded rapidly. He didn't stop nodding until he slapped his forehead and held it in place. "My dog, Billy."
"I allow no animals on board my ship," a male voice stated from behind the two.
"Captain!" Kaylee said with a grin before furrowing her eyebrows. "We don't?"
"Well, none that ain't cargo," Mal explained. "Now, what's this about?"
Kaylee waved a hand towards the stranger. "We have another applicant for pilot, Captain."
"You have a name?" Mal asked with a raised eyebrow.
"James, Captain, sir!" the man replied with a sloppy salute. Pulling a bobble-head bulldog out of his pocket, he held it in the palm of his head. Gently stroking the wobbly head, he continued, "This is Billy."
Mal raised both eyebrows this time. "That's your dog?"
"Yes, he keeps me company when the black tries to seep into my brain pan," James said with a broad grin.
A girl wearing a flowing, flowered dress skipped down the ramp of Serenity on bare feet. Staring into the eyes of the stranger for a few moments, she turned to Mal. "He's hired."
"River!" Mal exclaimed. "We know nothing about him! We don't even know his last name."
"He can understand and follow my orders, maybe even yours. He's a jing tsai pilot," River pointed out before doing a little pirouette. "And, his name is James HM Murdock." Turning to James, she grinned. "I like what HM stands for."
"Thanks!" James grinned back.
"Well, if mei-mei here says you're hired, I guess your hired." Mal sighed and pinched his nose. "Kaylee here will get you situated and show you where everything is."
"Right-o Captain!" The new pilot grinned as he grabbed his rolling suitcase and followed Kaylee onto the ship.
"The new pilot," Zoe stated as she leaned against the dining table in the mess.
Mal looked confused. "What about him?"
"I don't like him."
"I seem to remember you didn't like our last pilot either," Mal grinned. "You ended up wedding him. Is history about to be repeated?"
Zoe glared with her arms crossed.
"Too soon?" Mal gulped.
"Too soon," Zoe replied before turning away so he couldn't see her small grin.
"Are we level?" Murdock asked.
River cocked her head for a moment before replying. "Shift it a bit more blue."
Murdock sighed as he tweaked his hold on the ship's yoke. "I'm always a bit off on the cold section of the spectrum."
A few moments later, Murdock turned to his bobble-head bulldog. "But, if I do that, Billy, we could overload the RCS thruster. Kaylee probably wouldn't like that."
River nodded. "Yes, but she's been meaning to overhaul that. I liked Billy's idea."
"What idea?" Simon asked as he entered the cockpit.
"Billy wants us to try a maneuver out," River stated. Murdock hummed to himself, moving the yoke up and down enough to make Serenity ungulate slightly.
"The dog doll is telling you maneuvers to try," Simon said slowly, staring at the two pilots.
"Yes," River said with a wide grin. "They sound interesting."
"Why are the gorram gravity compensators going wild?!" Mal's voice echoed over the ship's intercom.
"Huh," Murdock said as he leveled the ship back out.
Staring out a window, River pointed out, "Now, your axis is a bit too plaid."
"I was going for that," Murdock replied as Mal stomped onto the bridge.
"What are you two doing?" the Captain yelled as he stood with hands on his hips.
"Flying the ship," River pointed out as she and Murdock looked innocent.
Simon held a hand out. "Well, mei-mei, it's time for a check-up."
"Enjoy the prodding!" Murdock called out as they left, ignoring River sticking her tongue out at him as she left.
Sitting in the co-pilot seat River had vacated, Mal stared over at his new pilot. "How are you settling?"
Murdock flipped a few switches back and forth and shrugged. "It's a nice berth."
"No-one is giving you too much trouble?" Mal prodded.
"Well..." Murdock trailed off as he thought about it. "No."
Mal narrowed his eyes and looked thoughtful. "You sure about that statement?"
"Yes, I am," Murdock said with a wide grin as a timer on his console went off.
"What's that for?" Mal asked as the alarm went off.
"Nothing much," Murdock said with a shrug. "Can I send a wave, or should I wait for my break, since it's personal?"
Feeling magnanimous, Mal nodded. "As long as you can keep flying, I don't mind. This time…"
Pulling out a sliver of silver material, he inserted it into a port on his console. A few moments later, a handsome man appeared on the monitor.
"Face!" Murdock said with a broad grin and a wave.
Grinning back, the man replied. "Murdock! I didn't know you got out! What are you up to?"
"Their guest retention program wasn't the greatest," Murdock replied with a shrug. "I'm just doing my check-in so you can update my location."
"That's what buddies are for," Face replied. "So, what are you flying now?"
"A Series Three Firefly!" Murdock said excitedly as he bounced in his chair. "I've had that on my list for years!"
"Your 'to fly' list, and not the other, right?" Face asked, sounding concerned.
Mal interrupted the conversation. "I'm sorry, I'm Captain of this boat. What other list?"
Murdock grinned widely. "Nothing. Nothing. Don't worry about it." Turning back to his wave, he continued to talk to Face. "Anyway. I need to wrap this up. I'm here if you need me."
Face nodded distractedly as he received the information. "Got it." A few moments later, his head snapped up and he stared at Murdock with wide eyes. "What the hell are you doing on Serenity?"
Murdock looked confused as Mal sprung from his seat.
"What do you know about my ship?" Mal demanded.
Face ignored the man as he got up from his chair yelling, "Hannibal!"