Mal and Simon looked up at Serenity, where the cargo bay was crammed with bales.
“Frankly, it’s a good thing the little ones aren’t along on this trip. Those bales are outgassing quite a bit. Better be extra careful to keep the bridge well ventilated.” the doctor advised.
“You and Davie gonna stay here with the clinic while we take this stuff to Freehold?”
“Yes, we have a tricky heart replacement scheduled and we’ll do a few Caesarian sections as time allows. And that woman with the triplet pregnancy needs observation. David is fascinated by that case.”
“He’ll get his midwife cert soon and won’t need you overseen’. ”
“Well, I don’t mind if he takes over all the ob-gyn work. I enjoy the family practice, especially the paediatrics, but ob-gyn just is not for me.”
“You and Davie should be lookin’ to adopt soon. You’d make good fathers.”
“Would you mind having babies on Serenity again? Hope and Babygirl were sweethearts, but Derry was more than a handful. You might have to take up singing lullabies again.”
“Nuh-uh. Lullabies is a daddy’s responsibility. You two daddies should be makin’ enough lullabies for any kid. Not a captainy responsibility no way.”
Zoe and Hope arrived just then.
“Got all the paperwork covered, sir. River should be along any moment.”
“She was saying’ bye to her sweetie,” Hope giggled.
“Mmm. The poor boy was goin’ into shock. Not appropriate for young eyes, so Hope is stickin’ beside Mama for a bit.”
Hope, usually as calm as her mother, had another giggle-fit.
“Okay, Hope. When River gets back, go to the bridge with her and make sure you understand the steps she’s taking to get us off this world. And this will be on the exam.”
“What exam?” asked Simon.
“River is coachin’ Hope for pilot licensin’. She can’t write the exam until she turns sixteen, but she can get in lots of practicum trainin’. So far the gorram Alliance ain’t fussed about shipside younguns apprenticin’ long as the papers aren’t signed by blood family.”
“Best to keep her on the bridge as much as possible. The smell from the cargo would be pretty powerful stuff for a growing girl. River too. Could interfere with her meds. ”
River came on board soon after and cleared Serenity for departure. Hope stayed with her, reciting each step needed for clearance. When the red tape was done, River turned the controls over to Hope.
“Take us out of this world, mei mei. I’m going to nap, that Silverhold boy had some skills …. and stamina.”
“River!” came Zoe’s voice over the intercom.
“Yes, mama bear,” the girls chanted in unison.
Overlooking the cargo bay, Zoe and Mal contemplated the bales of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, each stamped “Silverhold Platinum. Product of Silverhold. Fair Traded. Organic”.
“Sure smells green in here,” complained Zoe.
“There speaks the shipborn. Smells like summer on Shadow to me, all green and with that nice resiny tang. Sides, ain’t it nice to have a full hold of perfectly legal, easy to handle, pre-sold cargo? Nuthin’ to worry about from the feds. All the taxes paid up. All the clearances …cleared.”
“How w’rin bu lai, whai w’rin bu jwo .”
“N’aah. It’ll be shiny, you’ll see.”
Kaylee came out on the catwalk from the common area. “She’s purrin’ like a sweet ol’ pussycat, Cap’n. And wow, don’t that cargo smell like good times ahead.”
“Bao bei, try not to go samplin’ too much. It’s mighty temptin’ but we have to set an example for the younguns.”
“Who ain’t with us this trip. C’mon, 情人. Get the stick outta yer pi gu. You take a drink in front of the kidlets, doncha?”
“Hope is with us. And Simon is still mightily protective of his mei mei.”
“And don’t it just drive her crazy.”
“I’m gonna wear this shirt forever,” Jayne crowed, charging up to the catwalk from the cargo bay floor. “I swear buckin’ those bales inta the hold smeared so much resin inta it that I won’t hafta come down for a week.”
The four gazed lovingly over the packed hold.
Dinner that evening was, as River put it, “food-based”. Having grown up on a Core world, she had never totally accepted the protein bar diet of spacers. “Algae,” she declared,” is meant to be eaten by sea creatures. Humans should eat the sea creatures. Preferably with a crispy panko coating and a nice red sorghum wine.”
Silverhold had allowed them to stock the pantry with fresh foods, so the dinner Kaylee made was snow peas and purple carrots, roast chicken with a nut based dressing, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, and an apple pie for dessert. Hope’s shipside hydroponic garden supplied fresh radishes and her Persephone garden had produced beetroot which Kaylee had pickled.
“How did just six of us manage to demolish a four kilo chicken?” Zoe wondered. As first mate, she was in charge of keeping Serenity provisioned. “I would have expected to have some leftovers for River to make a chicken pie for tomorrow’s lunch.”
“Everybody was just feeling hungry. Not to fret.” smiled Kaylee. She leaned into her husband’s shoulder. Mal’s arm pulled her close.
Zoe was a little surprised. Mal and Kaylee were affectionate most times, but cuddling at the dinner table was unusual and had been even when they were first together. Of course, then, Mal was busy pretending that they were not lovers, especially just after Kaylee had chosen him over Simon and things were a bit tense. She smiled, remembering how Wash had lampooned their attempts at secrecy during their own private times.
River was on cleanup and put the chicken bones into the stockpot, simmering on the back of the stove, with the carrot tops and pea trimmings. She decided the radish leaves would be too sharp for the stock and put them into a small container to add to a salad tomorrow. There was a nice big lettuce, some sheep milk cheese and a head of fennel in the fridge too for the salad. The chicken liver weighed nearly 300 grams and she put it in a refrigerator bowl covered in olive oil, purchased during a trip to Ariel and used sparingly as a condiment. Cooked with onions tomorrow as a pate, it would make lunch a treat.
River didn’t stop to wonder why she was planning meals so far in advance, even on a full stomach. Although she was a good cook, and a better baker, usually she just opened what was available and made it work. She could taste the ingredients and how they would blend in her mind.
In spite of Mal’s misgivings, Kaylee had gleaned a fair bit of weed that had fallen out of the baled cannabis. After dinner, they moved to the common area and she rolled it into joints and lit up. River and Hope were back on the bridge, so Mal was happy to share with his crew.
“Wow. That Silverhold Platinum kicks harder than our Shadow crop. No wonder they can afford to ship it out by the bale instead of processed into hashish or oil.”
“A lot of this will be goin’ to pharma plants. Prolly Blue Sun, they have a pharma plant on Verbena.” Zoe said.
“Yeah. Simon was looking’ to get some discount meds from them, but Riv kicked up an almighty fuss.”
“Perse seems happy enough with the deals he cuts with them.”
“Your brother likes any deal that gives him cashy money.”
“So do we, sir.”
“True that,” Mal laughed. And laughed and laughed till tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Kaylee, still cuddled up with her husband on the chesterfield, wiped the tears from his face with her thumb and then held his head in place while she kissed him thoroughly. Mal pulled her down on top of him and responded enthusiastically.
Zoe passed the joint back to Jayne, raising her eyebrow at the Captain’s uninhibited behaviour. Jayne leered back. “Not feelin’ it, Zo?”
“Feelin’ good. Relaxed. But don’t get any ideas.”
“Wouldn’t dare, Zo. Yer one of the very few things that scares me. You, Reavers and caponifying.”
“Getting’ shoved out an airlock?”
“Okay that too.”
“Marriage and kids?”
“Hey, I don’t mind that idea. Kinda like the idea of training’ up my boys in shootin’ and tracking’ and knifeplay.”
“How about girl-kids?”
“Huh. That would take some thinkin’. Better train them up too, make sure no hundan tries to take advantage.”
Zoe was flipping through the Cortex, looking for a vid to watch while she chatted with Jayne. She pulled up some recently viewed songs and was amused to see that they were ancient songvids, from Earth-that-was.
The Cortex held all the information that had ever been put online since the late twentieth century, although the Alliance, and before them the Chinese and Western governments, had blocked some material as dangerous to public morale. Even more had been blocked by private corporations for their own unknown reasons, but as time went on, underground hackers and random weaknesses in censorship programs had made much of that material available again.
Zoe wondered who on the ship had been looking at 21st century pop lovesongs from a rebel province of China called Taiwan. She brought up the vid and listened with one ear while she looked for a storyvid.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Mal pull Kaylee to her feet and holding her close while they danced. Mal enjoyed dancing and Kaylee had learned to follow his lead, although she was not a natural like him. Zoe was amused to hear his pleasant baritone attempting to sing along with the lyrics, although the language was so archaic as to be almost impossible to follow.
Jayne was watching the songvid flash pictures of pretty young girls on the big common area cortex screen. Pretty young women, 500 years dead on a planet half a galaxy away and now totally destroyed.
As the songvid ended, Jayne muttered,” I’ll be in my bunk.”
Zoe found a storyvid, a comedy that she had meant to take Hope to see last year and decided that it was mindless enough for her to follow the plot even in her relaxed state. She lay down on the chesterfield and allowed her normal state of tense watchfulness to drop into boneless torpor, only moving for another toke on the Platinum joint.
In the Captain’s bunk, naked Kaylee was perched on Mal’s cock, while he sang a silly song to her breasts.
“I’m gonna kiss ya little titties,
I’m gonna kiss ya little titties
I’m gonna kiss ya little titties.
Cause I like kissin tits.”
Kaylee giggled, “Where do I know that song from? I’ve heard it somewhere.”
“Hey it’s a classic from hundreds of years ago. The Cat’s Song from Red Dwarf! But I added my own words.”
Kaylee wiggled and Mal gasped. “Hold still, mei mei, Nara’s book sez we can do this for hours if we don’t move.”
“Hmmm- that could be nice. But this is nicer….”
“Oh girl, you will be the death of me…”
“Mal, we have GOT to go to Silverhold more often.”
Hard to find a video that might last 500 years. The only 500 year old song I can think of is “Greensleeves”. And today’s fun fact, you can sing the words to Jabberwocky to that tune, written by King Henry VIII.