A brief coda (technically, a missing scene) for "Bushwhacked."
No dough, no foul.
Commander Harken unlocks the handcuffs. They came in handy after all, but I don't say so. Best not to give the Feds any ideas. They got enough bad ones to go around already.
He and his surviving man pick up the body of the dead one and carry it out of the kitchen, towards the cargo bay. I tag along, hoping to be officially sprung.
Harken hands the body over to the soldier guarding my airlock and whispers some command to him. They both leave, but he stays. We eye each other warily.
"How did you know?" he asks me.
"Pardon?" I hardly expect a thank you from an Alliance officer, even when I have the misfortune of saving one's life, but I honestly don't know what he's talking about. I want him to leave, not parley.
"I spoke to your crew. They had no idea who had attacked the derelict, not even after they'd seen the bodies. You were the one who reckoned it was Reavers. The companion said she'd asked you---"
"Inara Serra," I say. I don't like to hear people calling her just plain whore. She has a name, same as decent, unrespectable folk.
"---how you could be sure, and you hadn't answered her."
"Shepherd was pestering me for a funeral," I say.
"Perhaps we could have avoided some of this unpleasantness if you'd told her, or me, how you knew the Reavers were more than just a tall tale."
As if he would have believed Inara or given me half a chance to show off my degree in Reaverology. But I see I have no choice but to tell the tale now.
"Plenty of people hear tell of the Reavers," I say. "Most of them that listen do it for the fright, not for the facts.
"Me, I saved up five years to buy Serenity, and while I was doing that I bought a lot of old spacedogs a lot of raw whiskey. When I listened to them it wasn't for the adventure or the horror--I listened for the facts."
There's a commotion at the other end of the sterile white tube leading to Harken's sterile Alliance behemoth of a ship. He ignores it, but I watch out the corner of my eye as my missing crew march by me onto Serenity. They are, unfortunately, not carrying my missing salvage.
"You must have heard plenty of lies as well," Harken says, bringing me back to my tale.
"Sure an' I did," I say, "but a spacedog lies about shooting a man left-handed at fifty feet, with a pistol he stole from Adelai Niska his own self. He don't lie about a booby-trap on a Reaved derelict taking out his best shuttle. And if he's aiming to fright you, the frightfulest thing a man can tell about Reavers is the truth."
I pause, but the commander is still waiting for something. "Some folks dismiss the tales for never having seen such evil. But there are some as have, and believe."
Harken nods, satisfied. A hard-earned lesson, yet I fear Instructor Mal won't be paid a nickel for it.
"You and your crew are free to go," he says.
Free is certainly the word for it.