Steven Brust jumps into the universe and characters of Joss Whedon's Firefly series. The story is set in that mysterious period between Firefly and Serenity and it tries to explore a bit the feelings and motivations of the characters.
He always smiled when Serenity first kissed atmo.
That was the moment that separated pilots; a sloppy entry cost fuel, a perfect entry saved fuel, and the difference could be the difference between a healthy profit and a disastrous loss. When you kissed atmo, it was all touch; suddenly the number of variables increased by an order of magnitude: the shape of the ship, the tilt of her nose, the attitude adjusters, speed, direction, the density and exact composition of the upper atmosphere–all of it.
Mal never noticed, of course; none of them noticed. They'd only notice if he did it badly; then he would, no doubt, get all sorts of looks and remarks. And it would cut into his profits as it would the rest of the crew's.
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