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09 August 2008 @ 12:25 pm
Washathon Fic 2/3  

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) 

"I have a grenade!" Jayne shouted.


Kaylee slid out from underneath Serenity's main engine unit, dashed over the fixed comm. unit on the wall, initiated a 'full ship' connection and said, with more than a little worry, "What’s happening?  Jayne?"


"Glare at me all you want.  I ain't lettin' you on this ship!"


It sounded like Jayne was talking to someone on the outside.  Someone who could see him.


The only place that someone could look into Serenity from the outside when she was docked was the small portal window in the cargo bay door, unless someone had the equipment to climb on top of the hull and look down through the overhead windows or the windscreen on the bridge.  Kaylee decided to start with the likeliest place – the bay.


Jayne still hadn't figured out how to use Serenity's communication system, so he often ended up talking to the whole ship, including the small speaker on the outside of the ship to the right of the bay door, instead of connecting to a specific room's comm. unit, but this was the first time she'd heard him using it to yell.  She'd heard the Captain using it to yell, but he hadn't been shouting about grenades at the time.  Jayne was, and it made her nervous.


She found the large man easily enough.  He was holding a grenade in one hand and, with the other, using the fixed comm. unit that was built into the control unit next to the bay door in the cargo hold.  From where she was stood in the doorway Kaylee could just see a pale face through the portal window.


"Is someone trying to break into Serenity?"


"Tryin'," said Jayne grimly, "but ain't gonna."


"Is there a lot of them?" she asked, moving closer.  "They won't stop Zoë and the Captain getting back home, will they?"


At that moment Zoë's familiar voice sounded through the comm. with a little static. 


"We're back."


Jayne glanced at Kaylee and, knowing that he didn't know how to use a fixed comm. unit to reply to a mobile unit (or vice versa), she initiated the connection for him. 


"We've got an unwanted visitor," he said.


"I know.  Let us in."


Kaylee took over the control unit and Serenity opened her doors.  The mule came in as soon as the gap was wide enough and Zoë ordered her to shut the doors again now, but Kaylee was too busy gawking at Wash, who had followed the mule in and was now standing just inside the entry with his bag slung over one shoulder.


"Thank you," he said, smiling.  "I was beginning to think that I'd be stood out there 'till my hair turned grey.  Or until Jayne finally launched a grenade at me."


"Close up," Zoë repeated sternly and Kaylee hastily started initiating the sequence to close the bay doors and lock Serenity up tight.


"No," snapped Mal.  "Don't close up." 


Kaylee paused and looked around.  Zoë was frowning, Jayne was fastening his grenade onto his belt and grinning, and the Captain was looking furious as he marched over to Wash.  "What the hell do you think you're doing?  I ordered you off this ship!"


"Ah," said Wash.  "Well."


Zoë leaned over Kaylee and finished the sequence to close the bay doors.


"Did I order those doors shut?" Mal shouted.  "No.  I ordered them open.  Is anyone followin' my gorram orders anymore?"


"I am," said Jayne.


Mal stared pointedly at the grenade on Jayne's belt. 


"They're closing down the docks and searching all the ships," said Zoë as she turned to face the Captain.  "The Feds are looking for stolen goods.  Might be what Basinstoke's given us is stolen, might be that this is just a smuggling job.  But this is a Core planet.  They find us with anything we ought not to have then we're humped." 


"We haven't been hailed about a search," said Kaylee.  She started fiddling with the frayed cuff on the left wrist of her overalls.  It always made her uncomfortable when folks were being angry with each other.


"Could be they're not giving us a warning."


Mal looked from Zoë back to Wash.  "Could be that you've been lied to."


"Did think of that, sir, and figured that since we're moving cargo illegally, whether the goods themselves are illegal gains or not, that we're better off hightailin' it out of here."


"Which still doesn't explain why those doors," Mal said, pointing, "are shut with that man," he continued, his finger now pointing at Wash, "on the wrong side of 'em."


"Basinstoke didn't want me opening that crate, sir, and he had armed servants on the roof watching us.  I don't think we're carrying something legal, stolen or not."


The Captain appeared to think about that for moment and then started throwing around orders.  "Zoë, get on the cortex from the bridge and check the feeds for the docks.  File a request to leave and see if they really have locked down."  Zoë nodded and walked off, moving fast.  "Jayne, help me unload that crate and let's see if we can't stash it somewhere it won't be seen by searchin' eyes.  Kaylee, engine-wise are we good to go?"


"Shiny, Captain."  She smiled, pleased that she could give a cheerful answer.


"Good girl."


Mal and Jayne started releasing the ties that held the crate to the mule's cargo trailer. 


Kaylee moved over to where Wash was standing, shifting his weight as if he wanted to move forward and help with the unloading but wasn't sure his help would be welcomed.  He turned to look at her when she placed a hand on his arm.  She liked that wasn't that much taller than her, so she could see it clearly when he smiled at her.


"I'm glad your back," she told him, and she was.  Wash was someone else who was always wearing a jumpsuit and knew what a tri-couple 34 was and, if that wasn't enough to make her like him, he was funny and kind as well.


"Don’t count your fuel cells before you've checked their charge," he said, but he put his bag down on the floor like maybe he was planning to stay.


"We've been denied permission to leave," Zoë said over the comm. system.  "Weren't told why."


Kaylee looked at the Captain, who was just finishing pushing the crate into a hiding space with help from Jayne.  "Guess what you heard might have some truth to it after all," he said, "but the Feds can search all they like and not find this cargo now."


"Um," said Wash.


Mal turned to glare at the pilot.  "I am gettin' mighty tired of you." 


"I still have a grenade," Jayne offered helpfully, "if you're really tired of him." 


"I did notice," said Mal.


"The big money on this planet comes from engineering," Wash said, before the Captain could start shouting again.  "They have high-definition scanning equipment here.  They won't need to search, just run a scan."


"Seems you know an awful lot about how things are in these parts," said Mal.


Wash shrugged.  "An old friend was in engineering here before he joined the flight school I went to.  Plus I've done a few cargo runs of an engineering equipment nature.  Actually, I've done a lot of cargo runs, more than any other kind of run, but the engineering equipment sticks in my mind because there was this one Professor who always liked to keep an eye on his gear when it was in transit and he used to-"


"Shut up," said Zoë, still speaking over the comm. system.  "Sir, I can see the Pioneer 5 docked next to us.  Three Feds just came out carrying a box and a dead body."


The Captain swore and Kaylee fought not to look as scared as she felt.


"Sir, there's a bulletin on the cortex says there's just been a laser blockade set up.  We need a decent pilot if we want to get through that and there just ain't the time to find a new one now.  Wash'll have to fly us out of here."


"I can fly," Mal pointed out.


"Yes sir, I happen to have first hand knowledge of that fact," said Zoë dryly.  "Wash, get up here."




"Have you ever flown through a laser blockade before?" Mal asked as he strapped himself in the co-pilot's seat.  He was determined to keep an eye on what Wash was doing, with the option of taking the controls away from him, even if Zoë had a low opinion of his flying skills.


"I flew through a laser obstacle course in a simulator," said Wash.  He flicked the three overhead switches that powered up the helm.


"Oh shiny," Mal said sarcastically.  He twisted his head around to look over his shoulder at Zoë, who was sitting in the fold-down seat behind him.  "You hear that?  He's flown in a simulator."


"Before yesterday I'd only ever flown through an asteroid belt in a simulator as well."


"You really want to remind me about that?"  Mal gritted his teeth and watched as Wash's commands to the flight controls were echoed on the co-pilot's navigation screen.  There was a light jolt as Serenity disengaged from her docking station and launched into the air.


"Hailing Captain Osmuri of the Marathon," said an annoyed voice from the cortex vid phone.  Mal quickly switched off the viewer so that the speaker wouldn't have a face to put with the false identity of 'Captain Osmuri'.  "Your request to leave was denied.  Please descend and power down."


"Ignore it," Mal ordered as Wash reached for the controls to the collection of screens on the pilot's side of the bridge. 


"I am," he said calmly.  "I was just turning off the computer navigation."


"Have I mentioned lately that you're insane?"


"The frequency of the lasers used in blockades is designed specifically not to show up on computer navigation systems.  To stop people getting through.  Because that is rather the point, you know, that it’s meant to be as difficult as possible."


"We're fastened in tight," Mal heard Jayne say over the comm. system, and then Kaylee saying, "You'll let me teach you how to use the comm. right, won’t you?  Soon?"


"Marathon, you have been ordered to descend and power down!"


Wash took hold of the steering controls with both hands and smiled. 


Mal felt the ship vibrating and gravity pushed him back against his seat as the jet propulsion engines accelerated into half power and Serenity flew upwards at a steep incline. 


"If the point is to make it as difficult as possible," Zoë said slowly, "and the lasers don’t show up on the computer navigation, do they show up to the naked eye?"


"Not exactly," said Wash in his scary-calm voice and Mal closed his eyes.  "You need the right angle…"


There was warm sunlight on Mal's face.  He opened his eyes again and had to squint in the bright light streaming through the front windscreen.  Faint lines crisscrossing the sky were just visible where more dust and other particles had gathered than anywhere else, as if drawn there by something the human eye just couldn't see.


His neck jerked forward and he grabbed the straps holding him in his seat with both hands as Serenity began to move through the blockade.


This, Mal decided, was worse than the asteroid belt.  As scary as it was to watch huge rocks flying towards his ship it was even harder when the danger wasn't visible and he couldn’t tell how close they passed by the laser beams that could easily slice Serenity in half.  Besides the fact that this time their pilot wasn't only crazy but practically blind.


And since they were still in atmo the gravity was normal, which meant the forces exerted on his body matched the view through the windscreen.


Mal's heart flew up into his throat as Wash executed another barrel roll, his elbow crashed into the arm of his seat when Wash swerved, and all the time they were moving up and up, shoving his stomach against his backbone.


Serenity weaved from left to right, then up at a sharp angle, twisted to the right, rolled again, flew on her side for a handful of seconds, swooped upwards…


Mal considered praying, but then refused to on principal.  God had abandoned him and everyone else in Serenity Valley, so Mal had returned the favour.  He wasn't about to go back begging just because of a bumpy ride.


Not even when he wasn't sure which way was 'up' anymore.


"Beginning to leave atmo," said Wash as the ship began to level out.  "Preparing to engage main engine." 


Mal swallowed a sigh of relief.


Serenity lurched to one side and three red lights started blinking on the control panel in front of him, matching the three red lights on Wash's side of the bridge.


"Nobody panic," Wash said, still sounding terribly calm, "but the right jet propulsion engine appears to be damaged."


Mal turned his head to watch the pilot, who swung the controls the same way as the ship had lurched – to the right – until most of Mal's weight was pressing against the right side of his chair and the rest was against the back.


"Sideways and upways."  One of Wash's hands left the steering controls to turn a thruster-speed dial and flick several switches in quick succession.  "Engaging main engine.  Main engine engaged.  Initiating shipboard gravity.  Shipboard gravity engaged."


The floor suddenly felt like the floor once more and the Black filled the front windscreen.


Wash turned on the comm. system and linked it to the entire ship.  "Kaylee?  Am I safe to go full burn on the main engine when there's damage to one of the jet engines?"


"I don't know without knowin' what the damage is," the engineer replied.


"We need to get out of here before they dismantle that blockade and come after us," said Zoë.  "Now they'll know we have something to hide."


"Kaylee?" Mal asked.


"It's likely damage to one of the jets will just mean more damage to the jet if we go full burn.  Main engine should be alright, but if we have one completely unusable jet engine we won't be able to make planetfall."


"Actually," said Wash, a little less calmly and a little more cheerfully, "you can land with one jet propulsion engine, it's just a very interesting kind of landing with-"


"Shut up," said Zoë.


"Right now we want to get off-planet," Mal pointed out.  "Wash, full burn."


And, thankfully, that order was followed.




Wash was sat on the short set of stairs leading up the bridge when Zoë exited her bunk after putting her gun away.  A gun was useless when wearing a spacesuit and a fatal danger if it accidentally fired.


He looked up when he heard her and said, "Are you going with the others to check the damage?"


Zoë nodded.  "It only takes one person really, but it's always safest to have a partner when doing an EVA, and if we're sending two we might as well send three and see if we can do some mending while we're out there."


"If it's bad," said Wash carefully, "I mean, I hope it isn't, but if it is.  I could make planetfall with only one jet propulsion engine functional." 


He'd undone the top half of his jumpsuit so that the sleeves hung down at his sides like broken wings and his hair was a scruffy mess that she was sorely tempted to finger comb.


"Yes, I know.  You're a nifty flyer."  Zoë's lips twitched upwards into a small smile of their own accord.  "But if we can't fix it ourselves we can see if there's any fuel stations with the means to do it, or barter with a space station for the parts, use of a mechanic, whatever we need.  We don't have to leave the Black."


Wash looked away, gazing at a point somewhere down the corridor behind her.  "Serenity's damaged," he said softly.


"But you didn't crash."


"I forget.  That it's not a simulator and there's real people flying with me."  The words came faster and faster, almost falling over one another as he pushed them out.  "I love the Black and flying and being out here, but then I found out that enjoying that wasn't enough, 'cause if what or who I was flying wasn't enjoyment-inducing then everything lost its shine, and there were so many boring runs that I had to remind myself that the fun parts were fun.  I never crashed in a simulator or damaged a ship, not since my very first year of flight school, and never an actual ship.  Oh, ships were damaged, but not because of something I did, and I forget that I could.  Do damage and kill people and-"


"Wash," said Zoe.  "Shut up."


She gave in and ran her fingers through his hair.  Once.  It was slightly damp, which meant he probably had been sweating with nerves at least a little bit when flying through the blockade, and it was coarser than she'd thought it would be.


Wash's eyes leapt back to her face.


"You didn't crash and we're still flyin'.  And even if you did crash some day, so long as the people you're carrying are alright then what difference does it make?  You take the risks you have to take."


"So," he said with a grin.  "You admired the nifty flying then?"


Zoë rolled her eyes, turned and walked away, although she couldn't resist smiling again, but only when he wouldn't be able to see her expression.




Part Three
Fanartist in trainingkath_ballantyne on August 9th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
I love Janye not being able to use the comm. unit. And his "I've got a grenade' made me laugh, so him.

I love Zoe's calm way of talking the Captain around and her reaction to him saying he can fly.

He flicked the three overhead switches that powered up the helm.
eeeee the three magic switches. clickclickclick

I adore the descriptions of Wash's flying.

And Zoe running her hand through his hair, so gorgeous.

inkvoices: F:wash pilotinkvoices on August 11th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Those three switches have to be done. Wash says so.


I wanted to give them quirks, so Jayne has trouble with technology that's to do with talking to people, since he does after all write letters to his mother, and Zoe has that dry sense of humour. Since my giftee wanted Wash having amazing piloting skills (because he does!) I wanted to spend some time on that, describing it and making it a biggish part, although I was concerned that it might be boring and run-on to read, so I'm glad you liked that. :o)
sarahetc on August 9th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
Love the dialogue driven plot and all the fast action.

"Did I order those doors shut?" Mal shouted. "No. I ordered them open. Is anyone followin' my gorram orders anymore?"

"I am," said Jayne.

Mal stared pointedly at the grenade on Jayne's belt.


"Um," said Wash.

Mal turned to glare at the pilot. "I am gettin' mighty tired of you."

"I still have a grenade," Jayne offered helpfully, "if you're really tired of him."

You write GREAT banter.

Serenity weaved from left to right, then up at a sharp angle, twisted to the right, rolled again, flew on her side for a handful of seconds, swooped upwards…

Love this and how you've got them working and moving in three dimensions.

"Actually," said Wash, a little less calmly and a little more cheerfully, "you can land with one jet propulsion engine, it's just a very interesting kind of landing with-"

"Shut up," said Zoë.

"Right now we want to get off-planet," Mal pointed out. "Wash, full burn."

So much love. They keep telling one another to shut up and I love it. Love all the flying and blockcade.

I'd be interested to hear more of what you've got set up here near the end, with Wash forgetting that sometimes the ships and the people are real. But I will proceed directly to the next chapter to find out.
inkvoices: F:wash pilotinkvoices on August 11th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you like the dialogue and the banter and the action. It's what I like about the show, so I kept trying to get it in there. I'm pleased the 3D movement comes across, because I wasn't sure if it worked, and, hell, i'm just really pleased you're liking it, because it is for you, after all! *grins*

Wash talks. Zoe shuts him up. Ain't it just a perfect relationship? ;o)

I wasn't quite sure what to do with Wash's confession, especially since in the show characters never really reveals that much about themselves all in one go (although that's probably as much a Joss thing as anything else lol). Mostly I just wanted to hint that Wash can admit Zoe was right and confess his faults to her and be okay with that, so that it wasn't just a 'talk-shut up' series of interactions between them.

The implications for the elusive Wash backstory, however... ;o)
sarahetc on August 14th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
It comes across really well, but still maintains that sort of tightly controlled way of seeing things. Wash gets a bit confessional, but it's still IC.