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[35 Weeks Later]

"You wanted to see me?"

Mal glanced up at Simon as he entered the cockpit of the Serenity. The captain was pursing his lips; a habit he had whenever he was uneasy about something important. Granted, that was nearly twenty-four seven, but this particular time it wasn't his precious ship that he was concerned about. "Yeah. Question."

Simon nodded slowly.

Mal paused, then straightened up and rolled his neck coolly, toying with the course navigation controls. Images of planets zoomed in and out on the screen next to his hand. "We're dropping off some goods on Librae before we reach Gliese. Nothing major: just a short job."

"I'll prepare the medical bay for any potential casualties," the doctor murmured knowingly. "I don't mind what you do, as long as we get out safely."

Mal cleared his throat restlessly. "O'course we will."

Simon paused before turning back towards the corridor: his eyes glinted with sudden suspicion. "What's the catch?"

"Catch?" Mal repeated in a hurt voice, placing a hand over his heart and looking insulted. "Since when does anything I do hafta have a catch?"

"I've got a list," Zoë suggested from where she sat at the controls. Mal shot her a glare: she just smiled. Most of the crew had expected Zoë to grow stone-cold with grief after her husband's death, but somehow the baby that she was harboring had awakened a piece of Wash inside of her that would occasionally show itself in witty remarks and cheery moments of uncharacteristic optimism.

The doctor scowled in silent reply to the captain's attempt to avoid his question. Mal tried to shrug off his doubt. "Well, we'll be landing out in the sticks and getting off."

"Yeah, doesn't sound like something we've ever done before," Zoë added again.

"Why should that concern me?" Simon cut in over her. "Librae is fully terraformed and inhabitable, last I checked."

"It is."

"And if this job keeps to the unpopulated regions of the planet, avoiding any interaction with Alliance shouldn't be a problem… so what is the problem?"

Mal cleared his throat again. "Well."

He pressed a few buttons and pulled up an Alliance flier, with the pixelated image of a very formidable-looking man in his early thirties: bald, muscular, and wearing a small pair of black welder's goggles.

The doctor's eyes narrowed - either with suspicion or confusion, Mal couldn't tell. He decided to try and clarify. "Rumor has it there's n'escaped convict hiding out on Librae somewhere. No telling if he might be nearby where we land."

Simon looked over the blurry image carefully: his gaze could not help but fall on a small chinese symbol near the bottom. "This says he's dead."

"Yes it does," Mal admitted. He tapped the symbol with one finger and pulled up a small text box on the screen. "No body recovered." Another tap dismissed the box, and the captain shoved his hands in his pockets coolly. "F'you're in our line of business long enough, you learn to spot gaping loopholes like that. There's a lot of people out there what know how to play possum under Alliance radar."

Simon stung slightly from the remark; his education had been very thorough, and for somebody to consider him incapable of reading between the lines was a bit of an insult - especially coming from Mal, who had never been much of a reader. His eyes fell next on the reward amount. "Are you planning to hunt him down?" he suggested, trying to redeem himself. "The money looks pretty good, for a common criminal."

"Hunt him down?" Mal snorted with a shake of his head. "Like lookin' for a needle in a haystack, doctor: ain't no way we'd find 'im out there, assuming the black market rumors about'm bein' there are even true. And even if we did find him…" He knocked on the screen with his knuckle. "See that? No common criminal, as you put it, s'worth that much unless they make trouble. That there ain't reward money: it's compensation."

"So he's dangerous?"

"Looks like. Murderer, sociopath, escape artist… already put several well-known bounty hunters outta business 'fore he supposedly kicked the can. Not that I'm worried, o'course," Mal added quickly. "But we're gonna need all the help we can get keeping an eye an'a bullet out for him, just in case."

The doctor looked confused for a moment, then he paused. "You're not planning on taking Zoë offboard, are you? She's eight months along and any-"

"No, no no no," Mal assured him immediately, patting his first mate on the shoulder as she drove. "No, I want her safe, same as you. But we will need some help tryin' scout out the terrain for this sān sè jǐn de nánhái and -IF we're attacked- predicting his moves."

Simon's eyes grew wide with realization. "No," he snapped. "Absolutely not: you're not using her again-"

"Don't take that tone with me," Mal snapped. "She's been a right set better since Miranda-"

"But she's not cured," Simon laughed cynically. "She may seem completely stable on this ship, but if you take her off and put her in the middle of the wilderness with complete strangers I guarantee that something will go wrong-"

"Don't get so strung-up," Mal pushed over him. "She don't have to do a blessed thing 'cept stay onboard and keep lookout!"

That finally seemed to quell the doctor, and he relaxed a little. "…oh."

"We do this thing proper-like, all she gotta worry about is if somebody new comes onto her radar. She can do that, right?" Mal edged knowingly.

Simon gave a slow hesitant nod. "…I think so."

- - -

Jayne loaded his beloved firearms into the mule: anybody who didn't know him well enough (of which there were none on Serenity) wouldn't be able to tell that he became agitated as River walked by; the only signs were his slightly jerky movements and shifting eyes. She seemed very much aware of his sulky mood and paused to smile at him. "The cake is a lie."

Jayne paled slightly, and glanced about fearfully in the hopes that somebody nearby might care to translate, or at least drag River away from him. Nobody seemed to have noticed her: Jayne swallowed hard. "…what cake?"

"River, honey," Zoë called from the doorway to the cockpit up above them, grinning in amusement. "Stop scaring Jayne."

Simon's sister let out a cheery giggle. "No. Too much fun."

Kaylee tapped the button to open the cargo bay doors and shoved her hands in her pockets, rolling back and forth on the balls of her feet while she watched Mal rig up an R.E.M. net blaster for the remaining crew, just in case the convict happened to show up. "Y'all be careful out there," she urged.

Simon stepped up alongside her. "How long will the exchange take?" he inquired tersely.

"Not long," Mal grunted as he pushed the rig in place with one final click. He placed the weapon on a nearby crate and patted it fondly. "Shouldn't take more'na half-hour."

"That's assuming that all goes well," Zoë added from the stairway. "Which would be a first."

"It won't."

All eyes turned to where River stood in the middle of the open hatchway, staring out into the open terrain. Her eyes scanned the dusty wilderness, seeming blind to the bushes and small prickly trees that dotted the rocky hills. "I hate desert," she murmured. "It's too dry. Too empty. Empty for twenty-two years."

Simon frowned uncomfortably. Ever since Miranda, his sister only usually spoke cryptically around strangers that she needed to process… or to scare Jayne every now and then. If she would be unable to explain her current statements later, it was a bad sign. A very bad sign.

"Just like looking for a needle in a haystack," River continued without turning around.

Mal paused for only a moment, leaning casually against the hovercraft. "That it is, darlin'. Is there a needle out there?"

Simon started to relax slightly, remembering the captain's earlier use of the expression; this conversation was starting to take a turn for the better now.

River shrugged. "Don't go into any caves. This isn't the planet but you can never be too careful."

So much for that idea.

Mal hesitated. "…okay," he stammered after a moment. "Uh… Shiny. Jayne, let's git."

Everyone watched from the cockpit as Jayne and the captain zoomed away across the shrubby terrain on the mule, heading towards the mountains.

"We'll be back afore you know it," Mal's voice assured them coolly through the intercom speakers. "L'il River got the lay of the land?"

Everyone glanced at Simon's sister inquisitively. She nodded. "I think so," she murmured.

Simon pursed his lips, then turned back to the radio. "Just keep on your current course: we'll let you know if she senses anything."

"Those rocks could prob'ry hide a criminal," Jayne could be heard saying. "Lotta twists n' turns."

"Just keep your darlin' Vera ready to play," Mal replied.
A convict without a haven. A ship without a pilot. Seven souls without a shepherd. Come aboard the good ship Serenity for a story of criminal minds, close calls, and one man's journey as he learns piece by piece what it really means to be a human being.

Completely canon to both sagas. No OCs, and no romance except what you yourself choose to perceive. Knowledge of Riddick is not necessary, though perhaps recommended.

- - -

Part 1 of my fan fiction that merges the brilliant 'verses of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" and David Twohy's "Pitch Black." Any resemblance to other fanfics that combine the two franchises are purely accidental, because I didn't find any of them until long after I finished constructing this story on my own. I guess great minds must think alike!

These events take place after the end(s) of "Serenity" and "The Chronicles of Riddick," but there are no Necromongers, Elementals, Hellhounds, or other mamby-pamby alien things in this particular 'Verse.

Feedback of any kind is much appreciated, even if you want to be a hater. However, if you do decide to do so, please give me specifics so that I can actually improve my work!

Prologue: [link]

Part 2: [link]
Melina-the-Thief Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I have to pause right here and say that I legitimately went :la: at "the cake is a lie" from River. I love Portal so much. ;)
Artandlight Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2011
Very nice my friend.
wearetheminority Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2011
Very well written and paced. Love me my Firefly. Best show in the 'verse. Hope to see more soon.
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