Per Ardua ad Astra [part 3]
Sunday, June 11, 2006

Serenity and the gang go to Sihnon to show the evidence. I know a certain disease has been practically eradicated, but it could have resurfaced - or be a new similar disease which earned the same name.



Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding... Bless with a hard heart those who surround me. Bless the women and children who firm our hands. Put our backs to the north wind. Hold fast by the river. Broadsword – Jethro Tull [Hold fast by the River!]

It was going to take some time to get to Sihnon from Dionysus. Mal insisted they tried to have a meal planet-side, even though no-one was feeling very hungry any more. He asked Kaylee to swap some tinned cake and other non-essentials for fuel and any engine parts that might possibly need replacing. He went walking through the arboreal station, not looking for anything in particular, just trying to clear his mind. He found himself in the fabric bazaar and staring at silks. “Mal?” It was Inara. He drew her over to one side and thrust his hand through his hair, “I'm sorry.” She smiled with her eyes rather than her lips, “I've brought you trouble again. I should be the one saying sorry.” “S'not you; it's the go se for brains Alliance. Again. Won't be easy for you.” “Never is.” He knew what she was referring to. The huge pile of angst, attraction, love and longing had been festering between them for far too long. He reached out a hand and stroked a tendril of her hair, “Not likely to get any easier.” A real, tentative smile hovered around her mouth, “You don't have to do much to persuade a girl to stay. And I'm coming off the injections, with Simon's help.” Everything shifted at that admission. There was suddenly an answer in Mal's eyes, “There being breath and time, my persuasion can get a lot more detailed.” “Whatever it takes. Wherever we have to go.” “Damn!” He surprised her and himself by closing the gap between them and taking a first, gentle sip from that mouth of hers, the one that had been making him ache since he first saw it. When he drew back there were fresh tears in her eyes, “Didn't think I'd let my technique slip that much!” He was joking to cover the pounding in his heart. “No lack of technique on your part. You took me by surprise.” He smiled softly, a real smile for once, “River said you'd give everything up for me and I didn't believe her.” “Try believing her next time.” “I'll remember that.”

**** A few days later, in space

Jayne was sitting at the table in the galley stripping, preparing and loading his guns. Vera was at the other end, preparing her own guns. She looked at Jayne while he was preoccupied. It had been that stillness (combined with other factors) which had made her stop for a second, third and several more looks on Beltane. Okay, Jayne was put together on lines that made her heart beat faster and certain other parts get very interested, that stuff was obvious. There was the naughty little boy smirk which had added to that initial attraction and the way he almost couldn't help himself coming on to her. The fact that he was hirsute helped a good deal as well. She'd decided to wait and see if his personality matched up to the first impressions. So, he turned out to be sneaky and sailed close to the wind and even into it, not afraid of the danger. Seemed to live on the danger. He challenged her as well, and Vera knew she needed that from time to time.

But with the focused cleaning and preparing of those guns, Vera had noticed from the start Jayne's breathing slowed right down and he went into something that looked like a meditative state, although this didn't cut him off from the outside world. The slightest noise and his head flicked up, alert. Vera didn't know yet if Jayne did it consciously or not, but he'd found one of the strangest forms of meditation she'd ever seen. And one that gave a woman with half an imagination cause to speculate how that attention to detail and focus of purpose might be applied in more lusty pursuits. He hadn't let her down on that score in the slightest; rather exceeded her expectations. The handful of times when they'd managed to take it slow and sweet, with him almost getting to that meditative state, held the promise of greater mutual pleasure down the line.

Jayne's head flicked up and he looked at her, a naughty smile around his eyes, “Thinking about sexing me up?” Vera had the grace to blush, “When you're finished. I can wait.” His lips curved into a grin, “I'll make it good and make it last as long as I can; might be a while till the next time.” “I know, Jayne.” There was the unspoken thought that it might be the very last time if the balloon went up on Sihnon, or after it. An eventful hour or two later, Vera and Jayne were lying in a blissful afterglow state. Vera traced the yin/yang tattoo on Jayne's arm, “Nice that your Ma was in your mind when you had this done.” “Ain't just her; 'M' is for Matty, that's my kid sister.” Jayne seemed content to leave it at that. “And the 'A'; is that your Dad?” Jayne's jaw tightened noticeably, “Nah, he's the dragon, kinda. 'A' is for Allison, my brother.” He really wanted the subject closed, but Vera wasn't above trying to lever things open. She spoke very softly, “Did he die, Jayne?” His jaw tightened right up, “Really, really don't want to talk about it, Vera.” “Okay, sorry.” He slung his arm around her, “Not your fault. Let's try to catch some sleep now.” Vera snuggled up and decided she could live with the mystery. Heck, there were parts of her life she'd rather not talk about if she didn't have to.


Hori and River put Serenity into orbit around Sihnon. Simon was ministering to Inara in the med-lab. “Simon, I have to go, just give me something extra for the pain.” He looked concerned, “It's going to be a while before you're over withdrawal; at least another couple of weeks, and then you'll need time to build your strength back. You're practically as weak as a kitten right now.” He could see the dark circles under her eyes and the unnatural pallor of her skin as well. “Please, Simon; they're my sisters down there.” He sighed, “Just this once. It'll make you feel a bit spaced out; like being drunk. It's not something I'd recommend having a second time; it can be addictive, Inara.” She held her chin up and her arm out, “I'll manage.” He gave her the shot and then went about putting together an emergency first aid kit; just in case. Zoe came into the med-lab next. “What is it?” She looked at him, put her hand on her abdomen and fainted dead away on the floor. Simon checked her pulse and breathing then raised her legs whilst putting her head back. Zoe gasped in breath and went to move. “Stay there; wanna check nothing else is wrong.” “I'm fine; let me up already.” Simon smiled, “Just a quick once over and then you can stand up – slowly!” He listened to her heart and breathing, then his hand went over her abdomen. Simon's eyes went wide a few seconds later. “Well, your 'problem' is alive and kicking and about six months old, Zoe.” “I can't be pregnant! I took the medicine!” “How long before...” he paused. They both knew what he was referring to, “Did you last have sex with him?” “Day or two, but I was taking contraception.” “And after he....?” “Guess I figured I didn't need it any more and I stopped.” Simon smiled, “Well, one he left in there was a strong swimmer and caught you on the hop. Given that it was a day or two, the odds are slightly tipped in favour of that being a little girl you've got in there. If you want to be sure, I can tell you.” Zoe was still pale, “I can't have a baby! Not now!”

His smile warmed as he felt her more closely, “Be about three months yet, Zoe. Some women don't have some of the signs of pregnancy; you've hardly any bump yet. Probably implanted in an odd place. But he or she's quite a kicker. I'd like to give you an ultrasound, if you're willing. You can see him or her as well, if you like.” “Can we keep this to ourselves?” “Well, the baby's going to be growing, so the crew will notice sooner or later, but yes. It's between us, I promise.”

He closed the door fully and drew the blinds. Then he got out the ship's basic ultrasound and slowly helped Zoe onto the examining table. Most of the time it was used to locate bullets or buried pieces of shrapnel. Now for once, it would serve one of its original purposes. Simon spread the jelly on Zoe's stomach and started. “Ah! There we go... Placenta's attached to the rear wall of your womb. You might have back-ache from that later on. See, there's the head.” “Oh!” Zoe's eyes were wide. “All fingers and toes present and correct. Heart beating nicely. Six months old, give or take. I've got a pretty good idea what sex the baby is. Do you want to know?” Zoe smiled, “It's a girl!” Simon smiled back, “Spotted the lack of a certain little something?” Zoe's lips twisted with humour, “Not so little if he was like his dad, but yes. I had an inkling about it. Been buying stuff to make clothes, which is something I've never done before, trust me. Now I understand why.” “You were 'nesting'. Your body knew – maybe your subconscious mind as well – and was trying to get you prepared.” Zoe nodded, “Take it in my stride. I wanted a child with him one day; just didn't think it would happen like this.” “I can give you a vitamin and iron supplement if you like. Everything else seems to be happening just right. Good food, rest and maybe start buying one or two things for her when no-one's looking. She's a strong one, like her mother.” “I'll edit the film and photos I've got of him. Something to show her when she's old enough.” “And pace yourself, please. The baby needs attention from now on, as well as yourself.”


Mal, Inara, River, Simon, Jayne and Vera went down to Sihnon while the others stayed in orbit. Mal was frowning a little. For once Zoe had elected to stay put on Serenity which was slightly out of character. Well, he had Jayne and Vera's gun hands as well as his own plus Inara and River's psychic abilities to hand. It would do. He noticed Inara was paler than usual; she'd been like that since coming off the injections and going through withdrawal, but there was something else. Mal speculated and was pretty sure from the way she looked dreamily out of the shuttle windows that Simon had given her something stronger to help with the pain. He hurt for her. Mal knew it had to be endured, but he wished he could ease her passage through this and out the other side. They landed near the Training house as agreed and Inara went first. She suddenly pulled herself up to her full height and became regal in attitude. It was an act, but a necessary one to cover temporarily the true reason for them being there. Mal noticed her hands trembling, even so. They followed her to the Superior's office.

Once they were there, Inara greeted the Superior and Mal gently laid a copy of the incriminating vidpod on the table. “You need to see this, Ma'am.” They all stood back a little – apart from Inara who was seated at the Superior's desk. Jayne and Vera were hovering near the door, listening for footsteps outside. They watched Cliff's evidence a second time. “You have come off the injections.” That was directed at Inara and it wasn't a question. “Yes.” “You know that doing that means that you can no longer be a Companion?” Inara nodded. Mal put two and two together and leaned over the desk, hand on pistol, “You knew about this? This drugging and mind manipulation?” The Supervisor's eyes looked old and cynical, “Yes. I knew. The Supervisor of the male Companion house knows as well. It was made very clear to us that Companions must stay young and fresh as long as possible.” Mal's eyes narrowed, “Why, you huh choo-shung tza-jiao duh tzang-huo!!” He snatched back the vidpod and drew his gun in what seemed to be half a second. Jayne and Vera cocked their weapons. The Supervisor was as cool as a cucumber, “I'll have to ask your party to leave now. You will not be allowed to land on Sihnon again.” Simon threw a glass vial on the floor, which shattered, “As a doctor, I'm going to have to quarantine this place. You've got an outbreak of smallpox!” Jayne looked terrified and muttered, “Smallpox? I don't want to get sick!” Vera touched his arm, “Remember the shots Simon gave you two days ago?” He visibly relaxed. The Supervisor pulled a hairpin from her hair and stabbed herself, “Best of luck with that!” She slumped over. Simon rushed to her side, “She's dead. Quick acting poison, I'd guess.” Inara nodded, “Fast acting venom; kills in seconds. Companions sometimes use it as a last defence if the client gets very abusive or threatening.” Mal nodded at Simon, “Round everyone up who's here. Start the inoculations. Show the evidence to girls who are old enough to take it. This is going to be messy and hard work.” Inara stood close to him. Mal looked at her, “Anyone under sixteen won't be on the injections yet.” “Okay; inoculate them first and send them home or anywhere else but here.”


Monday, June 12, 2006 12:07 AM


I had a feeling Zoe would be pregnant. Glad that things are getting a move on now that they are on Sihnon though it seemed almost slapstick the way the House Mother stuck a pin in herself to commit suicide once the game was up. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, June 12, 2006 7:12 PM


Lovely stuff here, Vera...but I am just getting the feeling that things are moving a tad too fast. Don't even think I know the exact evil thing that has been done to the Companions cuz of things moving from A to B a might too fast:(

I think there's tons of potential here, but I think things are getting left out that need to be left in;)


Monday, June 12, 2006 8:48 PM


Dear BEB,

What 'things' might you mean? Can you unpack that a bit. Simon's use of the substance analyser on Dionysus flagged up a time-perception altering drug and an anti-ageing type formula. I'm not a medical expert <G> and both of these substances have yet to be discovered/synthesised in the real world.

What sort of things would you like to be left in? If you give me some ideas, I'll see if the resident muses want to run with them <G>.


Saturday, June 24, 2006 7:49 PM



I think the problem I having is this that I have never been a minimalist in how I personally read or write things. Due to this reason, your really great work seems a might....rushed and things too quickly addressed and tossed aside. have addressed the substance issue and explained the consequences of both taking the drug and coming off of it. However, as I write this (haven't finished up to ch. 5 yet due to the site being all bibbledy), the psych aspsect of Inara learning she is years older than anyone thought previously and how the crew (especially Mal) really reacts to it. could have already addressed this in later parts, so I will happily admit to changes in my opinion as they come when I read the next few bits.

I guess I am just a bit..thrown by how ya motor through the action and reflective moments. Not asking for pages of dialogue and description to make thing completely clear (cuz that would totally mess with your writing style), but maybe you could allow for a moment or two of reflection on how Cliff's revelations will have an effect on everyone who learns the secret to come later on;)


P.S. Still love this chapter and can't wait to read the rest:D


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