The two companions : Part V

(Part 1 from 2)

Inara and Jorge emerged into the cargo bay and Kaylee and Simon exchanged furtive embraces and scuttled in dishabille to their respective stations.

Mal called to Kaylee "If you hear gunfire and I give you the word, I want you to slam the inner airlock closed. That should buy us some time if things go south."

"That’s S.O.P.(Standard Operating Procedure) Cap." she yelled over her shoulder.

"Right." he acknowledged. "How many other boats even have a 'If things go south' S.O.P.?" he muttered to

Jorge noticed Jayne nervously selecting weapons and ammo from his own extensive armory. Zoe was calmly checking the load on her sawed off Winchester “Mare’s Leg” carbine. He also observed with alarm that her belt contained several high explosive and fragmentation grenades. Even River was bouncing on the balls of her feet, nostrils flared and cocking her neck back and forth to loosen up her shoulders. Mal was absent mindedly fingering the Taurus 85 in his fast draw rig while he hefted an Independent assault rifle in his left hand. Mal’s gaze was out the open cargo bay.

Outside, a threatening crew of well muscled Orientals armed with crowbars, machetes, baseball bats and cargo hooks milled around the entrance while in back of them thugs armed with rifles, shotguns and submachine guns covered the open cargo bay door.

Jorge retrieved a well worn but well maintained Sten gun with a folding stock and a flash and noise suppressor from his rucksack. “What’s up Cap?” he asked.

“We’re Landlocked, even the outer bay door. There’s also a cortex block on our transmission. Your little trick with the cargo yesterday earned us a violation of the local longshoreman’s contract.” Mal answered.

Just then, a dapper little man stepped forward with a sheaf of high quality paper covered in dense legalese and began to spout writs of violation while an even better dressed ruggedly handsome gentleman smoking an expensive cigar walked up behind him.

Jorge sputtered "That’s Fei hua, Captain; ship's crew have always been able to move cargo inside their own ship."

The lawyer paused and smiled with an evil grin. "That is precisely the point Mr. Mayweather: you are not ship's crew." and to Mal "Don't even think of lifting the landlock either, the port master is in our pay."

"Great, we're humped." Jayne muttered. "They brought Lawyers, guns and money".

The Better dressed gentleman interrupted. "My name is Sun, and I have the honor of representing the Long shore and Cargo Hauler's Tong of New Kashmir Spaceport. Now if you will allow us to take Mr. Mayweather into our custody, we can make all of this disappear."

"Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng"<frog humping sonovabitch>"As of today, he's crew and you're not taking anybody from the 'Cutty Sark' chu fei wo si le! <unless it's over my dead body>!"

Momentarily nonplused, the Tong leader considered his cigar before addressing Mal with a grin "That too can be arranged."

Just as Mal was about to shuffle Mr. Sun and his lawyer 'off this mortal coil', various weapons on both sides were cocked and aimed and the high pitched wine of rangefinders and windage calculators powering up filled the air. Having been in this situation before, Mal just shoved his thumbs into his belt and looked down at the two men and favored them with his most disarming smile."Afore we start adjusting the landscape with assorted bullet holes you should consider that me and mine have considerable more practice at dodging and delivering high velocity steel and explosives than you and yours and that right now all three of us are standing in the path of a lot of it. So you might want to reconsider your position."

The Lawyer blanched and started to stammer. "P-Perhaps in the light of present circumstances..." before suddenly turning tail and heading for the nearest cover. Mr. Sun had a quite a bit more grit and just stared back at Mal thru the lazy coil of smoke rising from his cigar.

Into this 'Mexican standoff' a large black reproduction 1930's earth-that-was touring sedan roared, followed by several Mogadishu styled 'technical’s' (hover cars mounted with 50 cal, 20 mm auto cannon or recoilless rifles). They were loaded with a motley group of highly armed men dressed in a variety of body armor bearing the logo of crossed hand axes. The sedan screeched to a stop and out of the drivers door a young well built driver with double 45 automatics in shoulder holsters leaped to open the back door while an equally good looking hood in double-breasted pinstripes and fedora hoisted a full-drum Thompson from the front passenger side.

From the depths of the gleaming black car a very beautiful oriental woman dressed in a red silk sheath dress slit to mid thigh and high heels emerged. She strode with a long legged, hip swinging gait directly toward them carrying nothing more than an ornately carved ivory long stemmed cigarette holder and smoking cigarillo.

"Who's the dragon lady?" Jayne asked over his sights.

"Da-shiang bao-tza shr duh lah doo-tze <The explosive diarrhea of an elephant on my head>, that’s no lady, that's my ex-wife, Madam Chang, head of the Port Security Tong!" Mr. Sun fumed as he slammed his cigar to the tarmac.

Zoe came up from behind a crate and sighted down the barrel of a LAW (light anti-roller weapon) at the new arrival.

The beautiful woman paused in mid-step. "That's a bit of overkill for just me, my dear."

Zoe calmly replied "The LAW is for the limo, Mam."

The two hoods quickly moved behind more substantial cover.

Madam Chang briefly glanced over her shoulder before nodding at Zoe. "Ah yes, you do know how to strike at a girl's weakness; I hereby promise that I will be on my best behavior."

"Perhaps there is room for negotiation here." Inara announced as she descended the stairs dressed in a low-cut, flowing golden silk gown offset with a maroon shawl tied at a bias from waist to hip. She carried a steaming pot of tea and service for three on an ornate tray. Silently she thought at River."Get yourself into something from my closet and borrow something small and concealable from Jayne." To Jorge she spoke. "Get yourself cleaned up and presentable as a Companion, while I entertain these two eminent members of the community."

"Where did the tea come from?" Mal asked as Inara passed him.

"Oh, that's the first thing I do. Why do you think they say trouble's brewing?" She shot over her shoulder.

"Oh,....What?" Mal replied, obviously caught off guard by her wit.

Inara just smiled and descended the ramp to greet the rival Tong leaders. On a quickly set up table in the shade of the overhanging cockpit and with a pleasant breeze from Serenity's atmosphere system, Inara and the Tong leaders went through the Companion's greeting ceremony.

When River arrived in a simple silk pantsuit with frog closures running from hip to neck on the left side of the tunic and her hair in a bun held by chopsticks, she was introduced as a 'companion-in-training'. Inara begged the two leaders to allow her to be in attendance so that she could observe the finer points of companion diplomacy.

Inara opened with the observation that all of this armed force was clearly not just to arrest some scab worker who had inadvertently violated union work rules and probably should only be fined. Mr. Sun replied that Mr. Mayweather was a dangerous fugitive with a price on his head and wanted for murder.

Glancing at the crowd Inara replied. "Meaning no disrespect, that description could easily apply to many individuals on both sides here." "Me too," she thought after her last visit to Boros. She saw River give her a curiously appreciative glance.

"None taken, but that is exactly why you should surrender him. Our murderers outnumber yours." Mr. Sun replied with a slight smile.

"Perhaps you have heard of the Firefly crew that fought off a shipload of Reavers a few months back. They say that after summing up the body parts there were over a hundred Reavers in the attack. You should know that this is that same crew. And while you are counting up your advantages you should also consider your own body count if you try to force this issue. I know that the Tongs will have to pay both death benefits and hospital bills. Surely the price on Mr. Mayweather's head and any favors you get from the feds or the Guild won't pay for all that." Inara replied with an equal smile as she saw the gears working behind the tong leader's countenance.

"Perhaps we should just take you. I saw the way Captain Reynolds looked at you, I am sure he would trade some fugitive for two beautiful women no matter where his personal loyalties lie." Sun countered with a slightly evil grin.

Inara just arched her eyebrow. "Before you do that, you should know that this young woman here is really a companion-in training for the guild security force." River raised her tunic just enough to reveal the butt of a small caliber target shooter's automatic fitted with a silencer tucked into the waistband as she continued to scan the crowd. "That pistol had a twelve round clip. She has already identified your best shooters and in the time it takes to tell the tale, twelve people will die and the first two will be both of you. I strongly advise you to take that option off the table."

Mr. Sun blinked in surprise but Madam Chang just smiled and nodded " My dear, I like the way you think and I'm glad I don't have to consider you a rival. What I would like Mr. Mayweather to consider is my invitation to safe haven. I realize that the charges are trumped up and that the guild leadership is on the verge of collapse. I plan to negotiate with whatever clique takes over. If they want him back for master-at-arms or even head priest, I will give him back; if not, I will help him on his way to safe obscurity." Clearly she had very good intelligence and had discerned the heart of the matter.

Inara gracefully suspended the discussion and promised to convey the invitation to Mr. Mayweather. When she and River joined Jorge as he emerged from the shower and was toweling off, Inara grabbed River to turn her away but River just rolled her eyes. "I've seen him naked enough in your mind, especially when you're alone and you fantasize about him and Mal on that deserted beach..." Inara turned white as a sheet and clapped a palm over River's mouth. Jorge roared in laughter and Inara turned scarlet and thought various death threats against both of them until she considered the absurd nature of the situation and began to laugh herself.

"Ok River, What about Madam Chang's offer?" after Inara finished relaying the Invitation.

"Well, she does plan to keep him safe but she also wants him for something called a toy boy."

Jorge laughed again, "That's Boy-Toy River, and given her looks, that would not be such a bad fate; however I do value my freedom."

Inara again queried "River, did you read them deeply enough to find out what they really want?"

"What they really want, oddly enough, is each other. Mr. Sun is still desperately in love with her. The problem is Madam Chang's weakness for good looking men and her flamboyant taste. Mr. Sun doesn't mind the infidelity so much and he would secretly like to watch but he is deathly afraid of being labeled a cuckold and seen as weak in the eyes of his men. In fact, his number two is hoping that shooting does break out and that he will be able to 'off' his boss in the confusion. Madam Chang really loves Sun and his tough, hardboiled ways but she has her eyes on higher goals than being the wife of a smalltime Tong boss on a backwater planet."

Jorge looked at Inara, smiled, and said "Ok, here's my plan."

When Inara gracefully descended the ramp to the truce table, she opened with "Mr. Mayweather thanks you for your generous offer of hospitality but respectfully declines due to a prior commitment. He does however have some interesting counteroffers. The Mayweather Clan still runs a substantial portion of the commercial haulage and passenger lines in the 'Verse' and he thinks New Kashmir would be an excellent transshipment point. He feels that the clan would be glad to build new warehouses and in return for safe handling, security and a minimum of pilferage could offer substantial 'rebates' to the Tongs."

"In fact, I think rebuilt New Kashmir would make an excellent vacation spot in this postwar economic boom." Jorge interjected as he strode down the ramp dressed in sandals and a flowing caftan with his smile, skin and dreadlocks gleaming in the sunlight. When an errant breeze caught the thin material of the caftan and pushed it against his body it was clear there was nothing between his skin and the fabric, displaying his beautiful and powerful physique. Inara also caught the sent of powerful peheromes. Clearly, he had his 'sex game' ‘on'.

Inara thought "The Good looking black Hun-dan <bastard> sure does know how to make an entrance." Observing the light of avarice in Sun's eyes and the lust in Madam's she thought "Ok, bait swallowed." She addressed the two leaders. "Yes, this is a lovely place and all it needs are some trendy people to start visiting in order to make it happen. I am sure that the Tongs and their new wealth will find the means to get in on the backing of new resorts and casinos and will be able to provide peace and security to go along with the trade."

"And who is more fashionable or higher status than Companions?" Jorge continued in his most seductive manner "Inara and I still have many friends and former students who would accept our recommendation of New Kashmir in general and the two of you in particular if you are willing and able to contract for their services. In fact, The Mayweather Clan could probably provide transportation and defray some of the initial costs in order to build up the tourist trade."

Inara could see that the visions of high society and social notoriety that would come with being the hosts of the crème de la crème had Madame practically drooling and the possibility of wealth and power had Mr. Sun in its thrall. She thought "All right, hook set: Showtime." She asked aloud; pouring on the charm. "Have you ever been with a Companion Couple?" Knowing full well that nobody within thirty parsecs could even command that type of expense or prestige. "If you would like, we could evaluate you as suitable clients in my shuttle."

Mr. Sun blinked. "Do you mean,.. Like, Now?"

"Why yes, Mr. Sun, I do mean Now." Inara rose and offered her hand.

Jorge beamed and offered his arm. "Madam?"

As the foursome walked past them and up the stairs, a dumbfounded Mal and Jayne just stared.

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