Truthsome, Part V: Freedom
Thursday, April 1, 2004

Part V: The Alliance teach Mal and Zoe a new trade. They find their freedom.


Truthsome, Part V: Freedom

Part I: Shadows (follow link)
Part II: Blood (follow link)
Part III: Confessions (follow link)
Part IV: Darkness (follow link)

Mal was different after the time in solitary, Zoe could see. She supposed she was too. She'd always been regarded as the stone cold one of the two, while Mal had taken insidious delight in the dangers they faced, meeting them all with good cheer and unswerving faith--faith that it would all work out well, faith that they'd win, faith in God... Now he never smiled and that darkly murderous expression crossed his face every time he looked at one of the Alliance guards.

When some of the other prisoners held a prayer meeting or reading, they both pointedly moved off toward the farthest corners of the prison. She hadn't seen Mal pray since the last battle at Serenity Valley, and while she'd never been as devote as he was, she'd given it up too during the eighty-seven days he'd been locked away in the dark. God had abandoned them on all fronts. He was still a believer--she knew that--but now he rejected God. It was just the two of them now.

Zoe didn't tell that part of the story aloud. Neither did Mal. It was still a thing that was just theirs--hers and Mal's alone, shared but unspoken between the two of them.

With Wash kneading her hand comfortingly, or perhaps possessively, Zoe watched her other man, Mal. He'd achieved a sufficient level of intoxication, and appeared to realize it. He nudged the bottle away with an inch still in the bottom.

“After that the Alliance started in on our 'education’,” Zoe said. Mal looked up at her and grinned. It was a vaguely frightening grin.

“Yeah. Still using their teachings.”

“I'm not following you,” Simon said, then appeared to achieve a revelation. “Oh. I understand. Alliance reeducation.”

“They were reeducating us, all right, just not like you're thinking.” Mal smiled at him. “Crime, doctor. The Feds are the ones who learned us crime.”

Zoe nodded. “All the tricks of the trade right there in that prison. Learned how to open locks, spoof security systems, bypass electronics, sneak about, take anything that wasn’t nailed down, lie with a straight face... the works. “

“Huh,” Simon was working on that. “I guess I'd always just figured you'd been... I mean, before the war, that you both had... that you had a history of that sort of thing... that... that...”

Goodness, but he could stumble his way into a trap quickly, Zoe thought. She chuckled. “Hell, no, doctor. Cap'n was a church-goin’ choir boy back the...” She chopped the sentence off abruptly. Too far. She refused to look over at Mal though she could feel his eyes burning into her. Ai ya good stumble of her own. Maybe she'd had too much to drink.

Every head at the table turned toward Mal. He stared downward at the table, ignoring them, contemplating finishing off that last inch of whiskey. He could feel the gorram preacher's interest throttle into full burn.

“Well...” Book drew out the word. “We'll be riding on back to that little comment one of these days.”

Mal gave him a black look. “Don't bet on it.”

He sat up and leaned back. “But, yeah. It was the Alliance who learned us our wicked and nefarious ways. Then gave us cause to use the learning when they finally released us.”

“It was on U Day we were released,” Zoe said. “Supposed to be some sort of good will gesture or some such. Make us love 'em. Mostly they were just tired of feeding us. The fun had worn out of hitting us, and they hadn't quite managed to work their way up to mass executions, so they let us go.”

“We could have got out sooner,” Mal said. “But we'd’a had to swear to some tamada oaths pledging our undying loyalty to the all mighty Alliance. Say in writing that we were wrong to ever have been Independents in the first place, and that we'd never take up arms against the Alliance again. Don't guess I need to say we didn't do that.”

Zoe nodded. “So they put us out with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a long list of jobs we weren't allowed to take, places we weren't allowed to go, things we weren't allowed to do.”

“Only the most piss-poor jobs allowed us. Not that anyone would hire an Independent, even if the job was on the allowed list.”

“And we had to check in every week, and register our address, if we ever got one, and on and on and on. “

“Under their gorram heel.”

“What did you do? How did you live?” Simon asked.

“Oh, we had some money,” Zoe said.

“But I thought you said...”

Mal interrupted. “I lifted the commandant's wallet on the way out.”

Laughter rippled around the table.

Glad, and more than a mite relieved, that the conversation had taken a lighter turn, Zoe said, “First thing I wanted to do was find a nice, comfortable place where we could have some real food--they'd fed us the same damn thing every day for two straight years--and a long, hot bath. But, Mal wanted to stop off at a bar and have a quiet drink first.”

A hoot burst from Kaylee. She clamped her hand to her mouth but couldn't stifle the laughter. “On an Alliance world? On U Day?”

Suddenly Wash got it too. “Getting my wife into trouble right away.”

Mal sputtered. “She wasn't your wife. And she didn't get in no trouble.”

Zoe laughed softly. “No, I didn't. But our first night of freedom in over two years Mal spent in jail.”

“I didn't start it,” he said sullenly. “Anyhow, after that it was beg, borrow, or steal to stay alive. We wouldn't beg and couldn't borrow. So...” He looked pointedly at Inara. “Petty theft, at first. Pick pocketing and the like. Living in the lowest backwater slums of the ‘verse, among some real choice people. Fellas like Badger looked kinda highfalutin by comparison. First big job we ever pulled was an Alliance payroll meant for the prison guards’ unit. That was shiny.”

Mal leaned back and sighed, feeling sort of contented, though he wasn't sure why. “So here we are. And I think I'm 'bout done in for the night.” He stood and headed toward the passageway to the Bridge, giving Kaylee's hair a gently tousle on the way by.

Zoe followed a moment later, positioning herself in the passageway, pleasantly wishing a good night to the others as they headed for the stairs. Mostly she aimed to head off any who might be wanting a private word with the captain. She wasn't going to allow it.

Sure enough, Shepherd Book headed her way. “Good night, preacher,” she said firmly, her feet spread wide, hands on her hips. Not many dared tackle her when she stood in that pose, armed or unarmed.

“I just thought I might...” he said, gesturing toward the Bridge.

“Not tonight,” she said in her brooks-no-argument voice. She deflected Inara the same way. The rest headed to their bunks quietly, except Jayne who snatched up the whiskey bottle and headed for the cargo bay.

Her husband passed by her, running his hand over her bottom quizzically. She smiled gently at him. “I'll be down in a few minutes, dear,” she said. He understood, she knew, she needed a few minutes with Mal.

When the ship had settled into stillness, Zoe stepped quietly onto the Bridge. Mal stood, as she expected, gazing out into the Black. It was the place of freedom for him, and for her too, for that matter. Mal didn't look around as she came to stand beside him, near but not touching.

“You know,” he said, still looking out at the stars, “I don't dwell on all that stuff we were talking about. Don't lay in the dark and worry at it or nothing like that.”

“I know.”

“It's just... uh... sometimes the damnedest thing will call it to mind, just out of the clear blue.”

Zoe nodded. “Sometimes for me it's a sound or a smell...”

He laughed with a hint of bitterness. “Oh, this was a whole lot more specific. It was them sumbitches gonna shove me in that cell with my hands still cuffed behind me.” He glanced over at her and twitched a smile. “I really hate the Feds.”

With a chuckle, Zoe said, “So I've suspected.”

He studied her face. “Sometimes I think you hate them more.”

“Sometimes I do. There was a certain eighty-seven days when I don't think a soul in the 'verse could have hated them more--including you. But then I'm with Wash and I just don't feel the need to hate ‘em quite so much. Can't explain it. He just makes me feel... shiny.”

“Yeah? Maybe I should start sleeping with Wash too. You tell him we worked that out. Best for everyone all the way around,” Mal said.

“Oh, I don't wanna go opening that whole can of worms again. Start him fretting on all this 'burning sexual tension'. For a guy with the terminal funnies, he’s sometimes lacking in a sense of humor.” They both chuckled.

After a moment, Mal asked, “You told Simon about Serenity Valley?”

“I did. Long time ago, when he first came on board.”

“How come?”

Zoe looked at Mal and grinned. “I wanted him to stop saying stupid things so you'd stop hitting him.”

Mal rolled his eyes. “Huh. Well, at least I've stopped hitting him.”

Mal and Zoe both turned back to the stars, to the unhindered, unrestricted Black. Zoe reached up and rested her hand on Mal's shoulder. He glanced over at her, slipped his arm around her waist and drew her closer. A rare moment.

“Still flyin'?” she asked.

“Still flyin',” he said.


Here was the intended end to this story, but this 'verse is addicting and a whole 'nother episode of this tale is wanting out, so... what follows is the teaser for that episode, continuing exactly where “Truthsome” leaves off...

Part I Intro:

“Still flyin,” Mal repeated with satisfaction. In unison they dropped their arms, stepping apart. The warm, fuzzy moment was over. Back to business “But we won't be for long unless we get another job, and right quick.”

“Something nice and easy, I hope,” Zoe said.

This job was supposed to be nice and easy and look how it turned out.” Mal shook his head. “Nope. I got something different in mind.”

“And what's that, sir?”

“Blue Sun,” Mal said. In response to her puzzled look, he explained. “Got the notion from River...”

“Oh, there's a good source.”

“...and from those Feds who arrested me. Said Blue Sun contracts with the Alliance. That makes them good as government in my book. No qualms about snatching from ‘em.”

Zoe scowled. “What are you planning to steal? Canned goods? Small appliances? Souvenir t-shirts?”

“Payroll. They store the hard currency payroll for all their factories in three whole systems in one place.”

“And where's that?”

Mal grinned. “The old prison. Where you and I spent those long and fun-filled years learning every gorram inch of the place.”

Zoe opened her mouth to object, then Mal saw her eyes take on a calculating look. Good. Doin' the math.

“How drunk are you, sir?” she asked.

Muttering a string of Chinese expressively describing her lack of imagination, Mal added, “It would be a huge score.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Yeah,” Mal chuckled. “After tonight I don’t think anyone on this boat doubts that. Come on. We could do it.”

Zoe shook her head in dismay. “You almost got nailed by the Feds tonight on a smuggling charge that would get you locked up for the next twenty years. You wanna go for life now?”

“Come on, Zoe. Think about it,” Mal said. He sat down it the co-pilot's seat, looking up at her intently, giving her his best charmingly persuasive look. “What were our best jobs? Huh? The Alliance hospital on Ariel, and the Lassiter...”

“Which we have yet to fence.”

“...and both went off without a hitch. Well, near enough. Better than most of the small jobs we've done. Look at tonight--we lost the cargo, the payment, our contact, and would be more than a little unwelcome back on that world. You know we can take this place. What do you say?” He stared at her intently.

“Well... Maybe...”

“Yes! We're gonna take the biggest corporation in the 'verse.”

Truthsome: Addendum/Interim - The others react to Mal and Zoe's story (follow link)


Thursday, April 1, 2004 12:48 PM


Wonderful, I especially liked the teaser at the end for the next part. I can't wait for Mal to give the sting in the tail right up the Alliance *pigu* when they hit Blue Sun. So shiny I had to dig out my dark glasses, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, April 1, 2004 1:24 PM


Shiney! You write such an awesome Mal, loved your history of him and Zoe...and we get to look forward to Mal and crew going up against Blue Sun. :-)

Sunday, May 9, 2004 9:27 AM


This is a comment for the whole series, which I stayed up way too late last night reading. Very well done. I liked it a lot. Interesting back-story and good job capturing the characters. Bravo!

Monday, January 30, 2006 12:54 PM


YOu have a gift for humor--I just love "“Yeah? Maybe I should start sleeping with Wash too. You tell him we worked that out. Best for everyone all the way around,” Mal said."

That you can combine it with dark drama is pretty impressive, too.

Looking forward to reading the sequel!

Thursday, September 29, 2011 9:19 AM


Mal interrupted. “I lifted the commandant's wallet on the way out.”
JUST LIKE MAL!!!!!XDXD ok, so you've offically written the best fanfic in existence, in the entire verse!! Gonna go read all your others now!!XD stealing from Blue Sun? From the prison? Oh yeah.


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Blue Sun Job--A Sequel: It Means a Thing
Post-Serenity, Mal & Zoe share a moment, or two. And then some. Story takes place in the context of the "Blue Sun Job" scenario. COMPLETE One-er.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 39: Into the Black
The conclusion of the Blue Sun Job.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 38: Shadow
Mal & Zoe's past smashes into the present. Everyone on the crew gets an earful, especially Wash.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 37: Plan B
There's a dead Shepherd on the floor, a bunch of angry live ones, and Mal, Zoe, and Simon in their midst.

Blue Sun Job, Chapter 36: One Down
Return of the "Blue Sun Job"! First of the last four chapters of this story.

Blue Sun Job, Part 35: The Worthier Part
Book's more nefarious, Mal's less crazy, and Zoe is dangerously pissed.

Blue Sun Job, Part 34: Of Many Books...
Book's nefarious. Mal's crazy. And Simon is bewildered.

Blue Sun Job, Part 33: Light and Shadow
Mal has just had his big tell-all session with Book concerning his and Zoe's history. Now landed at the Shepherd's Sanctuary, they have to deal with the fallout and with Book's mysterious past and plans.

Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations
Mal and Book talk about some Big Damned Things.

Blue Sun Job, Part 31: The Heart of the Matter
Tales & stories come out into the open--more than a little dark. But not to worry, Jayne, the philosopher, also explains women.