The Trial, Part 1b
With Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Kaylee under arrest, the others contemplate their course of action
. . .
Inara brought the shuttle in for a graceful landing at the midtown shuttleport. As she prepared to leave the shuttle, she spoke to her passengers. "Ip, I understand you're leaving Serenity at this port of call. I just wanted to let you know it's been a pleasure meeting you, and I wish you all success with your research and publications." She offered him her hand, which he shook awkwardly, looking nonplussed. If she was reading him correctly, he didn't want to leave Serenity. "Simon, River, feel free to stay in the shuttle if you choose. I'm going out."
"You won't be using this shuttle for…your work?" Simon asked hesitatingly, noting her beautiful clothing.
Inara refrained from snorting with displeasure. Why, oh why, did everyone always assume she was dressed for work? This was a simple, casual dress, and not even one of her nicer ones. "No, Simon. As I've tried to tell Mal, I did not come to Persephone to see clients. I am attending to personal and Guild business. I will be gone most of the day, but will return here by evening."
"May I leave my luggage here to be picked up later?" Neumann asked.
"Certainly," she replied, and strode out of the shuttle, leaving Neumann little choice but to head out as well.
. . .
Inara returned from her doctor's appointments exhausted and spent. She wanted nothing more than to lie down, and perhaps work up the ambition to make herself a cup of tea before turning in for the night. Unfortunately, her shuttle was occupied by Simon and River, eager to talk after spending the day lying low in the shuttle with nothing to do but watch the cortex newswaves. And Neumann might be expected to pop back for his luggage at any time.
"Ohhh," Inara moaned as she sank down on her bed.
"Inara!" Simon exclaimed. "What's wrong? You look very ill."
"Simon, I'm fine, just need recovery time," she mumbled into her pillow.
"Did a client do this to you?"
Anger gave her the strength to answer. "Everybody always assumes it's a client! No. I was engaged in private Guild business."
"Rough business," River said, with a strange look at Inara.
"Just need to rest," she muttered.
"Do you want me to examine you?" Simon asked officiously, reaching for his medical bag.
"No! I've seen enough doctors today!" she shouted. Simon was shocked by her outburst. Inara sighed inwardly, reflecting that Simon and River had spent their entire day engaged in the usual thrilling "adventures in sitting," and that they were starved for human contact. She gathered the shreds of her control together, and remembered her manners. "Sorry, Simon. I don't mean to snap. I just need some rest." She closed her eyes, and all was quiet for a time.
Simon was concerned at Inara's condition and puzzled by her behavior. River wasn't puzzled, but she kept her counsel. The "adventures in sitting" had not passed any more slowly than they had on a dozen other planets Serenity visited, where the plan of action generally called for the Captain, Zoe and Jayne to take the risks and do the job, Wash and Kaylee to prep the ship, and Simon and River to…sit around doing nothing. They were quite good at it, and had developed all sorts of ways of passing the time. But this time they were in the shuttle instead of the ship, and they were denied their usual resources. Simon couldn't fiddle around in the infirmary, so he had tuned in to the local cortex news, and was treated to a boring blather about Persephone society girls preparing for the annual Advocates' Dinner Dance. River, having recently been promoted from sitter to pilot, missed having the responsibility that the job entailed, and was more than usually bored. Partway through the day she had kicked Simon off the cortex and amused herself by hacking into local police channels. Even that wasn't much fun. Apparently the criminals were taking a day off. There had been one police call to Eavesdown Docks in the morning, but nothing else all day.
The quiet was interrupted by the chime indicating that a wave had come through. Inara stirred. "River, will you just see who it is?" she said with a groan. "I don't want to talk now."
River opened the channel. "It's Ip."
"You talk to him, see what he wants," Inara said.
"你好 Nǐhǎo, Ip."
"River," he began without preamble, "the crew's in trouble. I just headed over to the port district to look for another job as a supercargo or technical advisor, and the whole place is abuzz with the news that an entire squadron of Federal Marshals descended upon Eavesdown docks this morning and arrested the crew of a slave-trading ship."
Inara tried to sit up. Simon approached the screen, paying very close attention.
"It's the crew of Serenity," Ip continued. "They've been taken down to the police station for booking."
"What about the, uh, passengers?" Simon asked.
"Well, none of them could produce their identity papers…" he began.
"Neither can I!" River exclaimed, while Simon sardonically commented, "Right, because when you're fleeing for your life, you always stop and gather your files to bring with you."
"…so they've been taken to an illegal immigrant detention center until their status can be sorted out. Is Inara back yet?"
"She just got back," River informed him.
"Maybe she can begin assessing what contacts she has that may be useful here. Look, I'm going to try to find out when the arraignment hearing is. I'll come back there soon as I can. Maybe we can figure something out."
. . .
Ip Neumann sought out a public cortex access and used his electronic card. Soon the peaceful face of Brother Chan 'eil Càil filled the screen. "So what occasions the wave, Dr. Ip? Have you made progress in fitting in with the crew of Serenity?"
"Well, yes, a bit," Ip replied. "The Captain organized a slave escape from 泥球 Ní Qiú, and I aided and abetted.
"So you are fitting right in," he said with wry amusement. "Splendid."
"Well, I heeded your advice about making myself useful," Ip responded. "So I made soup for forty."
"But that isn't why you're calling, is it?"
"No," Ip explained. "You see, the Captain made contact with an abolitionist society here on Persephone. He intended to release the people to their care, drop me off here as per contract, and go on his way. But he was met on arrival by a squadron of Federal Police who arrested him for slave trafficking. It's a spurious charge of course, but he does not have the resources to defend himself, and I think it's pretty much a given that he did not secure the slaves' release through legal means. Immigration Authority has detained all of the slaves—ex-slaves. I wanted to talk to you, because I figured, with the missionary work you do among terraforming workers, you might have some idea what to do. I mean, I assume that you've been amongst the slaves as well as indentured laborers. If he's convicted, he faces a very long prison term and tremendous fines. I think it would cost him his ship, at the very least. And his crew would be convicted of aiding and abetting. I could kiss my chance of finding out about Miranda goodbye forever."
The former Operative had to smile to himself at Ip Neumann's transparency. The young man was truly concerned about Serenity's Captain and crew, but made no attempt to conceal the guileless self-interest that also motivated his desire to help. He said, "There's more than one plan that would be destroyed if the Captain were convicted. How did you avoid arrest yourself?"
"I had already left the ship in the Companion's shuttle. The Captain's due to be arraigned in court tomorrow."
"You'll have to avoid direct association with the Captain, in the event that you've been implicated in the case. But there are many things you can do. First, you'll need a list of any contacts or associates the Captain has on Persephone, particularly among people in positions of authority or high standing. Evaluate his contacts for their ability to put in a good word for him in the legal system, or for their willingness to pay for counsel. I have a few contacts myself. I'll see what I can do."
. . .
你好 Nǐhǎo [Hello]
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