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09 August 2008 @ 12:22 pm
Washathon Fic 1/3  

With many apologies to sarahetc for the lateness of her gift, here is my Washathon story.

Title:
Of Smuggling Jobs And Nifty Flying

Author: inkvoices

Giftee: sarahetc

Rating: PG13 (to be on the safe side)

Length: 7, 510 words

Summary: Mal has a good old fashioned smuggling job lined up, which shouldn't be anything to do with Wash, because he's fired.

Author Note: Set pre-series, after Wash has gotten rid of the moustache but before Inara has joined the crew.  You asked for Wash/Zoe or Wash/Kaylee, so I hope you don't mind that this turned into more of a pre-Wash/Zoe and Wash-Kaylee friendship (or one-sided Wash/Kaylee, if you squint).  I did my best with the techy spaceship talk.  As for your second request of Wash being recognised for having expert piloting skills and intense spaceship manoeuvresthank you, because pilot!Wash is love :o) 

 

Of Smuggling Jobs And Nifty Flying

 

Mal whistled as he grabbed the rails at each side of the short staircase with both hands and swung himself up into the bridge, the soles of his boots just missing the steps, then froze, all happy thoughts of an upcoming deal fleeing his mind at the sight in front of him.

 

One of the advantages, so he'd heard, of the Firefly class was the size and angle of the front windscreen that allowed the pilot, and anyone else on the bridge, a 'spectacular view of the Black'.  A fair few pilots preferred to rely solely on computer navigation, stating that technology was more accurate and reacted faster than the human mind.  Still, most liked to be able to see where they were going as well and some, like the pilot Mal had hired not three months ago, even argued that a good view was crucial for tricky manoeuvres.

 

Currently, though, the 'spectacular view' consisted less of the Black and more of large objects zooming towards them, and across in front of them, and at an angle to them, and hell-

 

"There are huge rocks flying at my ship!" Mal yelled, finding his voice.  "Why are there huge rocks flying at my ship?!"

 

"That would be because we’re flying through an asteroid belt," said Hoban 'Wash' Washburne and Mal dragged his eyes away from the view to stare at him. 

 

Wash sounded the calmest Mal had ever heard him, which was almost as scary as the huge rocks.  His hands were wrapped firmly around the steering controls and constantly moving, even as he spoke, making Serenity dance between the asteroids that seemed to be coming right at her from all sides.

 

"And why," said Mal, his hands still clutching the stair rails, "are we flying through a gorram asteroid belt?"

 

"Testing the capacity of a Firefly, seeing if the new grav centrium works – which I guess it must do, since no one seems to have noticed that we've not been on an even keel for a good hour now – and taking a short cut."  He slid the controls towards him and to the right, twisting Serenity away from a giant rock that passed them by far too close for Mal's comfort.  "Also, it's fun."

 

"Fun?" 

 

Mal knew his feet were planted solidly on the floor, but the view through the windscreen showed the ship to be upside down one minute, plummeting the next, and rolling all over the place, which gave him a downright queasy feeling.  Not to mention the fact that all it would take would be one rock, just one of the many almost tearing the panels off Serenity's nose or belly, and they'd all be dead.

 

"What's fun?" he heard Zoe ask, probably coming to see what he was shouting about.  He felt her pushing a little at his back to make him move out of the way, but his hands refused to let go of the stair rails, so she was forced to stand on the top step behind him and crane her head until she could look over his shoulder.  "What am I seeing?" she said in that steady voice of hers, although she still didn't sound as calm as their insane pilot.

 

"This is an asteroid belt," said Wash.  "Isn't it shiny?  Now, could everyone please be quiet whilst the pilot is concentrating."

 

"You're fired."  Mal swallowed.  "Zoë, he's fired."

 

"What, right now, sir?" she said dryly.

 

Mal managed to pull his eyes away from the windscreen for a second time, to glare at his First Mate.  "The second we make planetfall, I want this buhn dahn off my boat."

 

~*~

 

By the time Wash had navigated his way out of the asteroid belt, recalibrated the engine thrust and arrived at a point when the immediate route ahead was straightforward enough to set Serenity on a slow-cruising autopilot, dinner was over.  The Captain and Kaylee had left the dining area, Jayne was just getting up from the table and Zoë was clearing away a few things at the counter, which meant it had probably been her turn to cook.

 

He was starting to get used to eating on his own, since the Captain liked to keep to the equivalent of a working 'day' onboard, complete with meal times, regardless of the fact that there was no such thing in space, and the times Wash could leave the autopilot in charge hadn't often coincided with when everyone else was eating.  He was used to being alone, because pilots so often were when doing piloty-type things, but for the same reason he'd always looked forward to company at mealtimes, so he couldn't help feeling disappointed when faced with an emptying room. 

 

Actually, he was starting to consider taking up a hobby to pass the boring times on the bridge.  Puppets or knitting maybe.

 

The table held a single, solitary bowl of what appeared to be lukewarm protein mush that someone had ever so thoughtfully left for him (and managed to protect from Jayne, who would steal any unguarded edibles left lying around).  Wash pulled out a chair, sat down and moved the bowl towards himself.

 

"So, were there any entertaining stories, humorous interludes or thought-provoking philosophical statements during dinner that I missed?" he asked the room at large.

 

"Yeah.  Real entertainin'."  There was a clunk as Jayne put his dishes on top of the counter before the mercenary turned around and marched back over the table.  He stood on the opposite side to Wash, his hands planted on the solid wood, and leaned forward, crowding Wash's space.  "Heard the one about the pilot that tried to crash us?  Ruttin’ hilarious." 

 

"I know, I know," said Wash, hazarding a smile.  "You'd think if I were trying to crash that I'd have done a better job of it, right?"

 

In the time it took him to blink Jayne had whipped a knife out of his belt, reached over and stabbed it into the tabletop in the small space between Wash and his dinner.

 

"Jayne!"

 

Both men looked at Zoë, whose hand strayed to the gun strapped to her shapely thigh before drifting away again as Jayne let go of the knife's handle.  The movement of Jayne's hand drew Wash's attention away from the First Mate's attributes and back to the knife.  He poked at its handle, but it didn't move.

 

"I was just havin' a bit of…fun," said Jayne.

 

"Pilot didn't kill us, so I don't see a need to be killing him."

 

"Fine.  Shiny."  Jayne yanked his knife out of the table, growled a little and stalked out.  Wash thought he resembled a caged animal at that moment more than ever, and, without Zoë, Wash would have been a juicy, dinnertime steak…but it was a bad idea to think of steak when trying to eat protein mix, so Wash put the image out of his mind.

 

"It was a stupid thing to do," said Zoë.  She had her back to him now, giving him an excellent view of her rear, as she carried on cleaning and clearing away the things on the counter. 

 

"What, talking to Jayne?  I can handle manly bonding." 

 

"You think it's funny," she said.  When Wash sounded that calm it was because he wasn't wasting effort on speech inflection, fully concreting on what he was doing and getting it done, whereas Zoë's calm voice had a dangerous edge, as if she was exactly the opposite, that keeping control of how she sounded helped control how she acted, so she could stop herself from doing.  "We all know there's a risk here, since it ain't the most legal of lifestyles, but aiming this ship at asteroids?  That was taking a risk for no reason, and a risk that none of us agreed to.  You crash, you kill us all."

 

"But I didn't crash," Wash protested.

 

Zoë didn't reply.  He spooned protein mix into his mouth whilst she put things away in overheard cabinets, fastening the doors so that if they hit turbulence when entering an atmosphere nothing would fall out and crack anyone on the head.  Not that being hit on the head once or twice wouldn't do Jayne some good, or the Captain either.

 

"Didn't you at least admire the nifty flying?" he asked wistfully as Zoë started to leave.

 

She still didn't say anything and Wash was left staring at the wavy green lines around the door that Kaylee had told him were going to be flowering vines when she was finished painting them.  He wondered if the cheerful mechanic would mind teaching him how not to annoy Zoë Alleyne as her next project.

 

~*~

 

"Right, listen up."  Mal's voice rebounded off the walls of the cargo bay.  "This is a good old-fashioned smuggling job, nothin' we can't handle."

 

Jayne snorted and clipped a grenade to his belt.  This was the fifth job he'd had with this crew.  Four times Mal had predicted that a job would go smooth and four times something had gone wrong, and he figured the fifth time was probably not going to be the charm.

 

Next to him Zoë checked the safety on her gun, holstered it, and pulled herself up into the driver's seat of the mule. 

 

"We have a rich man who wants to send some family valuables to his heir, only the inheritance law here won't let folks send that kind of thing off-planet, or some such," Mal continued.  "Me an' Zoe'll talk to this man Basinstoke, collect the goods and get the first half of the payment off him.  Jayne, I need you to say here.  Keep an eye out, 'cause the people in charge of the docks here aren't always the friendliest of folks.  Don’t stand for any funny business, but don't go shooting at anyone just 'cause you feel like it.  We don't need a repeat of last time."

 

"That weren't my fault."  Jayne crouched down and pulled up his left trouser leg to tighten the holster of the small pistol fastened to his calf.  "They were shootin' at me first."

 

"An' it's safe to say they won't be shootin' at anyone again, first or otherwise, but the law 'round those parts might do that shootin' for them, they clap eyes on us again.  So.  Lose the grenade."

 

"Awww."

 

"Jayne," said Mal warningly.

 

He made a face, curling his lip, as he stood up, but he took the grenade off his belt all the same.  Three long strides took him to the metal locker where the weights were kept, which no one really used besides him, and he placed the grenade inside there for now, wrapped inside a towel and tucked securely in a corner so there was no danger of it being engaged.  And if anyone tried to board Serenity uninvited, well, there it was.

 

"We get the second half of the payment from Basinstoke's son when we make the delivery."  Mal placed one hand on the back of the mule's driver's seat and jumped up so he could stand on the wide tow bar, which connected to the cargo trailer on the back of the mule.  "Kaylee, you make sure we're good to leave soon as we get back."

 

"Aye-aye Captain!"  Kaylee, who was stood by the controls and fixed comm. unit near the bay door, gave Mal a little salute and a large smile that made the man's eyes twinkle.

 

Zoë started the mule's engine and machinery whirred as Kaylee opened the door. 

 

"And in case I didn't make it clear enough earlier," said Mal, glancing at their ex-pilot, "get the hell off my boat."

 

Wash was sat on top of an empty crate to one side of the cargo hold, with a large, sausage-shaped bag on the floor that his feet kept kicking as he swung his legs from side to side.  Jayne had never known the little man to be able to keep still. 

 

They wouldn't have to put up with the pilot's odd ways anymore though.  Mal had told Wash – well, yelled at him really – that he never wanted to see the pilot's face again and Jayne heartily agreed.  Kaylee, on the other hand, looked disappointed, but Jayne reckoned their perky little engineer would get over it soon enough, and their First Mate didn't even spare Wash a look as she drove off, so it looked like she didn't give a damn about the rutting idiot either.

                                                       

~*~

 

Basinstoke was a tall man with long, dark hair tied back in a ponytail, a clean-shaven face, and a polite smile.  He came out to meet them on the veranda of his large mansion, followed by a servant carrying a tray with three glasses of a green-coloured drink with ice cubes. 

 

Mal shook his hand whilst Zoë looked long enough at both the master and his servant to decide that neither of them were carrying weapons openly nor looked the kind to be concealing any.  Out of the corner of her eye she could see three men, in the same uniforms as the drinks-bearing servant, loading a sealed crate onto the back of the mule.  Those three didn't look to be armed either, so Zoë relaxed a little on the inside.

 

"I trust that this business venture will remain unproblematic," said Basinstoke. 

 

"We wouldn't want to inconvenience you."  Mal's polite smile looked more like a smirk. 

 

Zoë let him do the talking and concentrated on keeping an eye on everyone in the immediate and surrounding areas, particularly the servant, who hadn't left and was standing behind and to one side of Basinstoke.

 

"I'm sure."  Basinstoke took two drinks off the tray, handed one to Mal, and sipped at the other.  "Do you expect any difficulties to arise?"

 

"Should be fine," said Mal, shifting his weight onto his back foot, which told Zoë that he was itching to leave.  "You have the payment we discussed on hand, I take it?"

 

Zoë stiffened abruptly as the mobile comm. unit clipped to her belt, so that it rested in the small of her back out of the way, vibrated.  She glanced at Mal as she reached back to get it, checking that Mal was handling the deal and she could divert her attention to the call, and, when Mal nodded, she moved back down the veranda steps, into the cobbled courtyard, so that she was out of Basinstoke's hearing whilst keeping the man in her range of sight.

 

She lifted the unit to her ear and slid across the large button at the side to receive the communication. 

 

"Please don't disconnect," said a voice that she instantly recognised as Wash.

 

Zoë wondered how the hell she could be listening to their ex-pilot on a comm. unit whose frequency was a closed correspondence loop linked to Serenity, and, in her pause of surprise, allowed Wash to keep talking.  Not that he'd ever needed any kind of encouragement to do that.

 

"I'm watching one of the news screens in the market area, and there's a bulletin about something stolen from a bank that the Feds here are going all out to get back, and I said to myself, 'Wash, wouldn't it be a terrible coincidence, and yet remarkably like Mal's luck, if that stolen item of seemingly great importance to the Alliance was the so-called 'family valuables' that Mal is about to attempt to smuggle out of here?'"

 

"You were fired," said Zoë.  She could have said 'that's ridiculous' or 'how are you on this line?' but the fact that an ex-pilot shouldn't be on the line seemed more important than the fact that he was on it, or even that he was talking nonsense.

 

"Also," Wash continued, not giving her time to say anything else, "they're closing down the docks to make sure they don't lose whatever it is.  Nothing's going to get off-planet and they're searching every ship."

 

Mal caught Zoë's eyes and frowned.  'Not urgent,' she mouthed, hoping that she wasn't lying and, since she hadn't received any communications from Kaylee or Jayne, fairly sure that she wasn't.  The lines on his face smoothed out and he went back to watching Basinstoke's face intently.

 

"Zoë?  Call me paranoid if you like, but you might want to take a look at that cargo before you agree to take it." 

 

Zoë breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth.  "And how, exactly, am I supposed to know if it's this stolen item of yours when I don't even know what that item is?"  She spoke quietly and tried to move her mouth as little as possible, just in case any of the servants, or Basinstoke himself, overheard or could lip-read.

 

"Well, this planet makes its big money from engineering," said Wash.  "The biggest Alliance setup here, besides the official holdings and courts, is the Federal Building of Design and Engineering.  Actually," he said, warming to his topic, "Corrison Mathers – the first person ever to pilot a Caymen with only one propulsion in operation – is part of their engineering team, and he-"

 

"Wash."

 

"Right.  Well, anyway, the items of most value, monetary and otherwise, would be design plans, proofs, models, things like that.  The Feds wouldn't want anyone else getting hold of their most recent gear and anyone who did could make a fortune, or build it themselves and use it to their own advantage."

 

'Instead of the Alliance using it to their advantage,' thought Zoë tiredly. 

 

The three servants had finished loading the mule and had gone back inside the main building, which left Basinstoke and the servant on the veranda.  She moved towards the crate and pretended to check how secure the straps were that tied it to the cargo trailer whilst trying to figure out how it opened.

 

"I would appreciate it if you left that sealed," Basinstoke said, and she looked over her shoulder to see him walking across the cobbles towards her, with Mal following close behind.  "It contains priceless family heirlooms that have been packed specifically to my instructions."

 

"The First Mate was just checkin' it wasn't going to fall off the trailer," said Mal.  "Wouldn't want that to happen, would we?"

 

Zoë looked past them both to the servant on the veranda, but he was no longer there.  She scanned the windows methodically, watching for movement, then reached the roof, where she could see five men in the same uniform as Basinstoke's other servants, partially covered by body armour, holding what looked like Ninjatis – high quality, long range weapons.  She hadn't seen them earlier, but then she hadn't looked at the roof since her initial assessment of the building.

 

She cursed herself silently.

 

If they made a fuss about leaving, with or without the cargo, then the odds didn't look good.  Her mind raced through alternative options, then decided that leaving now, and with the cargo, without any fuss at all, was the safest thing to do.

 

"Sir," she said, getting into the mule's driver's seat, "time to go."

 

The comm. unit, still in her hand, crackled with static as Mal pulled himself up onto the tow bar behind her, due to the close proximity of his own unit.  Zoë raised it back to her ear only to hear Wash still talking about something or other.

 

"Shut up," she told him, "and get back to Serenity.  Now."

 

"Yes Ma'am," Wash said, and she could picture him grinning and giving her a mock salute.

 

The corners of Zoë's mouth twitched in amusement as she clipped the unit back onto her belt.

 

~*~

  

 
Part Two

Part Three
 
 
 
Fanartist in trainingkath_ballantyne on August 9th, 2008 12:18 pm (UTC)
*waves*
Hi, I headed on over here after Weasley Fest reveals because you wrote me the most amazing Harry/Charlie fic that managed to include so many things I love.

And then I find you write Firefly fic too.
I may have squeed *ahhem*

But yeah, I love this. You've captured their voices so well. It's a hard thing to replicate, their odd way of talking and using words but it's something that you can tell right away if it doesn't sound right but you got these guys spot on.

I love the little nods to canon.
Wash mentioning puppets FTW!

I loved Jayne playing with his knife and psyching out Wash.
I loved Zoe and the way she assessed the scene.
And her telling Wash to shut up all the time was great.
inkvoices: F:all BDHsinkvoices on August 11th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Hello, hello, hello!

Wow. You liked my fic so much you followed me home? Just wow. *spaced out happy smile*

I agree, Firefly dialogue is difficult, so Im pleased you think I managed it for this. I sit there reading it out wondering how close it sounds to the tv lol.
I like adding canon detaisl to things, and Wash did shadow puppets, I do believe *grins*

Wash talks. Zoe shuts him up. Ain't it just the perfect relationship? ;o)
sarahetc on August 9th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
Joy!
Oh, it's finally here! I'm so happy! Yay!

"Testing the capacity of a Firefly, seeing if the new grav centrium works – which I guess it must do, since no one seems to have noticed that we've not been on an even keel for a good hour now – and taking a short cut." He slid the controls towards him and to the right, twisting Serenity away from a giant rock that passed them by far too close for Mal's comfort. "Also, it's fun."

Oh, love.

"I know, I know," said Wash, hazarding a smile. "You'd think if I were trying to crash that I'd have done a better job of it, right?"

Ha!

When Wash sounded that calm it was because he wasn't wasting effort on speech inflection, fully concreting on what he was doing and getting it done, whereas Zoë's calm voice had a dangerous edge, as if she was exactly the opposite, that keeping control of how she sounded helped control how she acted, so she could stop herself from doing.

Well said!

And if anyone tried to board Serenity uninvited, well, there it was.

I love sentences like this. I'm all, "Ooh, introducing a gun in act one!"

Exciting start! Off to the next chapter.
inkvoices: F:wash washtowninkvoices on August 11th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Joy!
*sigh* I'm really sorry it took so long in coming. I hope it met your expectations enough to make up for some of the delay.

Heh, I'm pleased that you think the Wash bits sound like Wash :o) I enjoy trying to compare parts of Zoe and Wash, since they supposedly fit together, and Jayne...well, Jayne just wanted a grenade. *grins*
sarahetc on August 14th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
Re: Joy!
It totally makes up. I love this!