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Blue Stripe : The Life and Times of a Firefly Class Mechanic

Monday 3 September 2007, by Webmaster

I first pressed palms with lan jao bin Mal Reynolds on a planet whose name I can’t remember, in a town I don’t remember, drinking away the last of the coin in my pocket at a dive I can barely remember. I do have some recollections of an appalling whiskey, but it was cheap and eatin’ a hole in my belly.

My last gig, before meetin’ the esteemed Cap’n Renyolds, was an engineering hand aboard an Alliance freighter. No story to how I lost that one, no reavers or anything like that, just me and the Alliance don’t mix. They’re all about wearing stupid hats and I’m all about not doing exactly whatever it was they wanted me to do.

So there’s me, Hickory Burnsides, with zero prospects and hardly two plug nickels to rub together, drowning my sorrows on some planet wedged in the chui kank of the ’verse. In walks my supposifyin’ salvation, browncoat war-hero, smuggler, and ship’s captain: Malcolm Reynolds.

"Lookin’ for a crew," he said, "need a man what’s good with an engine."

Well, define good, but sure as Shakespeare that’s me he’s talkin’ to and he don’t even know it. I raise up my hand and motion him over, do the introductions like. He tells me he’s got a first-officer and a pilot, but what he needs is someone can fix their broken ass engine.

"Firefly class," he says with a gleam of pride, "she’s old and persnickety, but I do love her."

Now I ain’t never one not to rise to the occasion, so I up and told him I knew all about Fireflies. Spun a right tall tale for the man, years of experience is what I tell him.

"Down the last of your tarantula juice, get your hot roll and let’s mosey," he actually said to me.

Ain’t never heard none of them terms before, but I’m willing to broaden my slang horizons or my name ain’t Hickory Burnsides. Then I think he said something in Chinese about my mother. On account of I figured it would at least be interesting, I followed him out of the bar.

That’s how I got aboard Serenity. Y’all said you was prospectin’ for a story about workin’ as a grease monkey? Right, well, I’ll tell you the tale of my time aboard that ship, and why everyone aboard her can gum lim pay eh lan jiao.

Serenity - Day 1

Cap’n Reynolds introduced me to the crew first. Some goofus in a floral shirt and his pan-racial girlfriend. Apparently the split-tail and Reynolds fought together at the battle of Serenity Valley, wherever that is. Reynolds said she’s a woman you can tie to, which I reckon means he trusts her.

Not my sort of folk, I s’pose, but I weren’t complainin’ on account of they weren’t no Alliance. No uniforms or stupid hats, no standin’ to attention when certain folk is around. I recall on one occasion we had to stand to attention for half a day because some shucks what looked like they was gonna clean under a sink was around. They was wearin’ blue rubber gloves and I figured them for touched but I guess in the Alliance blue kitchen gloves outranks the little hat with the banana on the front. Go figure.

Nevermind. On the subject of introducin’ that’s about all that needs said. Then Cap’n Reynolds showed me the ship.

Pua lao chee bye! The cockpit looked like a music mixer at a Christmas party, my quarters weren’t hardly big enough for me to stretch out my sticks, I’ve seen cleaner galleys on scows, and the engine room. Oh, lordy, the engine room! I’d be mighty kind to say it looked like a museum. Fact is museums clean things up now and again.

This ship’s engine appeared for all the ’verse to be made out of rust and steam pipes, had a weird propeller what turned on the inside of the ship, and I think it had mold growin’ on it. Cap’n Reynolds told me he needed it fixed pronto so they can get back in the black. I bit on my lip as opposed to tellin’ him my mind which was he better buy real estate because his junk pile would turn to dust afore it saw the other side of any atmo.

On account of my self control on the subject of strangulatin’ employers I bit on my wise mouth and told him it were all shiny.

Serenity - Day 8

Somehow this old cow poke figured out how to get this junk heap up and underway. Cap’n Reynolds may not cotton to the way I talk freely and such, but ain’t no complaints coming from him on the topic of engines.

Over canned beans in the galley the crew talked about where we was going. Sounds to me like we are picking up a shipment of magical little girls on Maidenhead III, one of the core worlds, to take them to some such and such space station out near gorram undiscovered space. I hear for to tell that some of them little girls is karate experts, others can read minds, some of them hunt reavers and space vampires and what have you, and all manner of other such beyond my ken.

Our siao lan pilot is always on the outs with the split tail, but listenin’ to their arguments it’s apparent to every man but them that they’re eager to grapple. Ain’t no concern of mine, got no worries ’cept to keep this piece of history space worthy.

Serenity - Day 19

Well, I reckon I might as well write this down on account of the long haul we’re in for headin’ out to the peripheries and boundaries and what have you of known space. Turns out our esteemed Cap’n Mal Reynolds got himself a moral streak despite all the swaggerin’. He seems them girls from Maidenhead III and figures out they ain’t on no fun field trip. They got hoods and shackles and Blue Sun wants him to sign all kinds of papers afore he takes ’em.

So instead of takin’ a juicy load of magical girls worth a gorram fortune, he refuses the contract and signs on to haul oats out to some do-nothing colony called Rustwater Creek. 600 tons of oats is a fair bit of oats, but ain’t no money in oats.

I expect to be paid this month in canned beans and stern looks from the Cap’n.

Rustwater Creek - Day 26

Y’all is in for a surprise: Rustwater Creek, population 86, don’t have no money to pay us for the oats. Some robber baron or some such took all their money and their cattle and horses and whatnot are starving because they built their colony on a planet with just about no grass. Way to be, plow chasers. How about next time you go to a planet with no grass you bring a truck instead of a horse?

So everybody here is real unhappy and Cap’n Reynolds is contemplatin’ do some damn fool thing like just up and giving them the oats and then going after the robber baron.

Mighty noble of him and all, what with the good and the evil and the stands against authority, but this crewman ain’t lookin’ forward to gettin’ a free round of bad beer at the bar in town as payment for riskin’ his hide fightin’ some rich sumbitch with a private army. My suggestion during palaver, which was duly ignored seeing as how Cap’n Reynolds and his pu bor bin got all moralizing on me, was to sell the gorram oats to the gorram robber baron.

Instead he wants to fly to the robber baron’s ranch and scare all his horses, get shot at by a bunch of meatheads, and then swoop in and teach him some sort of lesson or something. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Serenity - Day 27

We done shot up the robber baron’s posse and blew up his ranch by having me overload the engines. Course once we left atmo the damn boilers blew so now I got me a whole mess of work, third-degree burns on my arm, and ain’t no money coming for our big oat delivery. Cap’n Reynolds got the townspeople to give us a bunch of pairs of boots to trade on Mill Holler, a nearby planet. I just gotta get these engines workin’ again.

Far as I can tell, if Mill Holler got paved roads I intend on stayin’ put right there. I’d rather be saluting some boner wearin’ kitchen gloves or work for some chao ah beng than any more of this bull pucky.

Once we got to Mill Holler, Cap’n Reynolds sold the boots and my cut is a whoppin’ 50 credits. Just enough to put my bones up in a real bed for a few days and get some real food - and by that I mean whiskey - in my guts. I ain’t given the man no letter of resignation, I’ll let him figure out the job situation by his lonesome. In fact, I put some clod head from the bar onto the idea of workin’ as his engineer, some core world runaway name of Bester. Seems like he got more rock salt than sense in his head, so he should be a good fit for Serenity and her crew. May they have all sorta great adventures together.

Me, if I never see another corroded fuel coupling or another spinny thing that I don’t even know the word for sticking out of an engine, well, that would be the arrangement I’m seekin’ out. No more horses or oats, no more whiny colonists, thank you very much. If worse comes to pass, I’ll sign back up for the Alliance. I’m sure they always need somebody what’ll stand and salute when someone walks by to clean under the sink.