"Snakes," giggled River Tam as her brother approached her with a syringe of today's med cocktail.
"What was that, mei-mei?"
"Boa constrictor imperator," answered River with a smile, sitting up and pointing towards the crew cabins.
Simon let go of his sister's arm and swallowed hard. He didn't like snakes, even the mention of them made him feel nervous.
"There..there ain - aren't any snakes on Serenity, River. We're far far away from any possible snakes."
"Well, yes, he's a kind of a snake, but the human kind and I'll make sure that he never hurts my beautiful little sister,"
Simon approached River once more and gently pushed on her shoulder.
"Now you just lie back and let me give you your medication before the crew comes tramping in here to get inocced. Why the Captain wants to be setting down on a plague-ridden moon like Mazon is beyond me but I'm going to make certain they don't bring back more than the cargo."
"This is your Captain speaking. We hit dirt in 30 minutes. Jayne..report to the infirmary for innoculation. The rest of you stay to your cabins when we land. We shouldn't be but a few tics on this swampball and then back out into the black before you can blink."
Mal left the bridge, leaving Wash and Zoe staring at the horizon they were rapidly approaching.
"Honey, remind me again why we're setting down on such a piece of go se moon? Naught here but swamps and mosquitos as big as your head"
"You're not seeing the big picture, dear. There are also near as many types of trees on this moon as there were back on Earth-that-Was. Trees that produce all sorts of interesting products; some legal, some not so much."
"I take it our cargo ain't chewing gum."
"You know, you're so cute when you play the reluctant smuggler." Zoe kissed her husband on the forehead and headed out towards the infirmary.
Wash called out after her, "Don't let the comically-huge bugs bite!"
"All right now. Marcie, Velma, you two be good girls while Daddy's out on his job. I'd take you along but I don't think Mal'd like it so much." Jayne stroked the long. sleek bodies sitting before him.
A pounding rang out from the door to Jayne's cabin.
"Gorramit, Jayne! Did you not hear me call you to the infirmary 15 minutes ago. I ain't playing around! We're landed and I want to get this cargo and get off this creepy-crawly infested place as soon as ruttin' possible."
"Yeah, yeah..don't get your girl-panties in a bunch, Mal. Just gotta get a few more guns ready."
"No, Jayne, you do not. I don't expect there to be any cause for a fire fight on this job and I certainly don't want you to bring along anything that might give the Johnsons a reason to start one, dong ma?
"Aw hell, you never let me have any fun,"
There was a bang and the sound of the cabin door opening and suddenly there was Mal, all fuming and ready to lecture on how dead crew members weren't much fun.
Then the captain spied "Marcie" and "Velma" lying on Jayne's bed.
"What in the Nine Hells are those doing on my boat?!" screamed Mal at the top of his lungs
"They're my pets. This one here's Marcie and the big girl is Velma. Picked them up back on Sun Yi station. Don't eat much, leastways they haven't yet. Is there a problem, Mal?"
Mal spluttered and looked like he was chewing on the words as they came to his mind before uttering them in a falsely calm voice.
"Is there a problem?! There are two 10 foot long reptiles on my ship, and Mr. Man-Eating Pets wants to know if there is a problem. Yes, Jayne, there's a problem and it's called 'What happens when Velma decides to go off her diet and eat one of the ruttin' crew!' I want them off Serenity and I want them off her now. They can help Mazon control her drug runner population."
Jayne slung both of the 10+ foot long snakes and reluctantly climb the ladder. He supposed it was at least a kindness to his girls that they were going to be released on such a juicy moon. Mal climbed out of the bunk straightaway after Jayne to make certain the snakes didn't get hid away in any of the smuggling holes to try to bypass his orders. Behind him Mal could hear the sound of bare feet running along the corridor.
"Come back here, River! I just have to incoc Jayne before the job and then we can get back to checkers. Please just go back to the cabin."
As Mal looked over his shoulder, River rounded the corner and pointed to Jayne, "Ooh, pretties!' Simon followed quickly on her heels. "See, Simon? Snakes!"
"Yes - I - uh..," was all that Simon was able to get out. Mal had never seen someone go so pale and pass out so quickly before.
Wash and Kaylee appeared in the door to the bridge, "You bellowed?" said Wash, and then taking in Jayne's accesories, "Holy Mother of God! Mal, why is Jayne wearing snakes?"
Meanwhile, totally oblivious to the slithering set, Kaylee ran to the fallen doctor and was trying to rouse him.
"The snakes are leaving right about now. Jayne? I said get those things off my boat! Wash could you and Kaylee see to it that the Doctor makes it back to his cabin and has a bit of a lie down? It seems he is not as brave as he first appears."
Jayne stomped off to the cargo bay to deposit Marcie and Velma in their new home, passing a slightly startled Zoe on the stairway. Meanwhile Wash and Kaylee managed to each grab an arm and frogmarch the groggy Simon back to his cabin.
After everyone had cleared out aside from Mal, River still stood in the middle of the hallway, giggling at the whole scene. "I put a garter snake on his pillow once. He screamed like a little girl."
Mal blinked at River, "You, little one, are enjoying this way too much" He moved off towards the cargo bay, leaving River to skip away down toward the other end of the corridor.
In the cargo bay, Mal met up with Zoe who was watching Jayne's tearful farewell to his short-term pets.
"What was that all about, Captain?"
"Snakes. Gorram snakes on my gorram boat!."
"Well, at least it weren't more cows, Sir."