Just A Few Small Gorram Details
by G Thing

They were coming for a job; it was all they came for -- their raison d'etre. Mal, Jayne, and River had few thoughts about how complicated their meeting with Badger might turn out to be. Their attention as they were walking along the city streets was elsewhere.

"Hey, what time is the Shepard due back?" Jayne asked Mal.

"His friend is lettin' him stay at his hotel room for the night. We can expect him back sometime within the next couple of days."

"God, it's beyond me what Shepards take so much time doing."

"Book doesn't know," said River. Mal and Jayne both gave inquisitive looks to her. "His friend has something planned for him."

"That makes sense," said Mal. "Holmes wants to recruit Book for setting up some mission somewhere. Book told me that's the kind of thing he does."

"Book keeps findin' some reason to take a leave of absence," Jayne added.

With those words, Mal could only think of Inara, because she frequently did the same. Mal had been silently thinking of her since he had returned to Serenity to find her gone without any word. Of course, as they walked, Mal would never acknowledge it to his two companions. He was quite certain, however, that River was fully aware of it.

As usual, Mal led the way to Badger's office or his den -- as he liked to call it. The pathway looked like the same place they were used to seeing. The office was hidden to the public behind unattractive narrow halls. The faces of the guards were recognizable -- having seen them in more than one place. But something was missing.

Mal tried to put his finger on it up to when he entered Badger's actual office. There he was, suspiciously just sitting at his big desk waiting for Mal. His guards were surrounding them -- one hundred percent ready for action. It was as though all of Badger's attention was focused on this one job, and that was unusual to say the least.

"'ello, Cap'n," said Badger in a deceptively greeting tone. "'ow long has it been, six months or so?"

Mal and Jayne could see and hear lightning and thunder around Badger like in an ancient horror film. They believed at that moment that he would take advantage of them. River, however, saw something completely different; she saw genuine fear in Badger. Something about Serenity frightened him; he wanted to get all their business done so they could leave his office without incident.

While River was reading Badger, he took a puzzled look at her and said, "Don' I know yah?"

"I doubt it," said River. "I quit dating petty thieves long ago." Interestingly, River's brief exchange with Badger made Mal and Jayne more comfortable; Badger was no longer a step ahead of them.

"Ah, well," said Badger. "I say le's ge' on dah business"

"No complaints here," Mal said.

Badger reached over to the front of his desk and turned on his holo- imager. An image of the city and northern outskirts lit up. "A' six o'clock tomorrow evening, a Constellation class cargo ship named Leo will arrive at this ridge twenty miles from 'ere." The imager highlighted the spot. "Her crew has smuggled fif'een tons worth of diamonds from mines on Ariel. You folks get to take dah goods to dis area east ah Dubland." A second page turned up on the imager with a spot east of Dubland clearly highlighted.

River chimed in and said, "That's three hundred fifty miles south of here, Captain."

Badger then said, "There'll be freighter waiting for yah -- Chin-wah class called the Kai-shek. Leo's Cap'n Earl will give you the instructions for the drop-off." Badger turned the imager off and pulled out his RAM disc. "All information I have for yah is here. The passwor' for enterin' Leo is 'dead weight'." Badger placed the disc at the front of his desk next to the imager.

"So," Jayne said as though he was having difficulty understanding. The password being "dead weight" clued him in however. "We're not stealin' nothin'. We're just smugglin'."

"Penny for the big fellah," Badger said with a dry sarcastic smile.

Mal jokingly said, "Gee, Badger, you managed to put together a structured operation for a change. When did that start?"

Badger suddenly looked quite serious. "About dah same time that last job you did for me went souf, because some ah your ol' enemies dropped by." Mal and Jayne could feel the room becoming smaller, and Badger's guards looked more trigger-happy.

At that moment, Mal's communicator in his coat began beeping. "Damn!" Mal said. He never liked being interrupted while gathering information about a job. "I'm in a meeting. What's so important?" he said through his communicator.

A familiar woman's voice was at the other end. "Oh! Excuse me, Mal. This is Inara."

"Inara, what's going on?"

"Geoffrey asked me to accompany him to a dinner party tomorrow night. He will be among close friends and there will be much friendly conversation and hospitality. I told him I couldn't refuse. So, I won't be back until the next afternoon."

"Yeah, that's fine. It doesn't look like we'll be back until late that morning anyway. Still, you could have picked a better time to tell me," said Mal in a critical tone.

"Well, Mal, I simply signaled your communicator like I usually do. I had no idea you were at a meeting, and you had plenty of time to tell me -- even with a waiver. Should I check with Serenity first from now on to make sure it is a good time to reach you?"

Mal sighed and said, "No, I'll waive yah from now on. You have a good time at that party." Mal silently faced the fact that he was angry with Inara for leaving without telling him; so angry that he had no wish to accommodate her at that time.

"Thank you, I plan to. Over and out." Inara disconnected without hesitation.

"What the guai you playin' waistin' my time talkin' dah yah lady!" was what Badger silently wished to convey with his subtle expressions as Inara's communication interrupted his meeting.

Among other things, River noticed one of Badger's assistants sitting in the adjacent locker room. He was recording Inara's communication in the transaction log. River then said, "Badger, you're not even in on the real details of this operation are you? Someone else is in charge, and you're just answering for him."

Badger looked a little like someone had outwitted him in a chess game. "You know yah right," he said. "A professional smuggler named Nolan is dah pencil pushah. I'll be gettin' a healfy reward from 'em for the booty."

Jayne said, "So, are there anymore small gorram details you neglected to mention when we made this appointment?"

Badger looked sinister and said, "I'm telling yah now, mate. I wasn't gonna le' yah leave without knowin' all I know."

River had read him to near perfection. "What you know is go se."

Badger gave a light sigh. "Look Deary, yah young," he said in a serious tone. "It's abou' time yah learned abou' those deals where yah don' ask questions. Yah do exac'ly wha' they tell yah. Now, does anyone else wish dah get snippy, or are we gonna talk abou' yah payment?"

The looks from the visitors said, "You have no complaints from us."

"Very well then. Dah rewa'd is free hundred pla'num, an' yah crew will receive seven pahcent."

Mal turned to River wanting to know what seven percent of three hundred was. "That's twenty-one platinum," River responded.

Jayne suddenly looked downright furious. "We're middle men," he said in a hostile voice -- not that Badger cared. "You're payin' us like we're middle men."

"I think he just summed up everything we're feeling, Badger," said River as though she were a teacher or parent wanting some extra effort from a student.

The three visitors were very disappointed. After all, Badger had been one of Serenity's highest-paying clients. Now, they were going to be a part of a major job, but be paid about as much they would if this were a smaller job.

Mal had done the figuring in his head. "Badger, what the guai do you want us for?" Mal asked as if he were demanding a concrete and specific answer. "Do you remember when we shipped that herd of cows off this rock? From the way you tell it, this is a much bigger job. Look how little you're payin' us." Despite everything Mal said, he had no intention of turning down Badger's deal; they came for a job after all. This would be better than leaving empty handed, and Badger knew it.

Badger became defensive and said, "I don' like de idea ah someone tracin' yah dah me. Too many people know yah names an' faces already. If you mus' know, hirin' yah was Nolan's idea not mine. He an' I agree, howevah, dat we don' wan' dis to go souf, because someone at some major port along dah way reco'nizes yah ship." Badger could see that his guests still were not very happy. So, he decided, at that moment, to be perfectly frank with them. "That 'tough guy, no nonsense' act yah smugglers have used may have won yah a good share ah fights, but it's gotten ol' in dese pa'ts. Soonah ah latah, it'll catch up wi' all yah."

Mal came closer to Badger's desk and leaned over it; it didn't matter that Badger's guards would never let Mal hurt him. At last, the captain knew what was missing in Badger's lair -- the trust Badger once had in him and his crew. In a domineering tone, he said to Badger, "Reckon, we shall see."


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