BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MAL4PREZ

Easy Tickets: Chapter 19
Friday, July 14, 2006

The Alliance makes a nuisance of itself while the crew tries to pull themselves together after a very, very hard day.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1787    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

See Chapter 1 and my blog for disclaimers and such.

Except I have to say thanks to VERA2529 and LEEH for the beta help!

Mandarin translations: put your mouse over the pinyan to get the definitions, or see the list at the end.

* * *

Mal raised his hands as a contingent of Alliance troops stomped into the cargo bay, weapons raised like they were storming a fortress. What they were so gorram cautious about escaped him. He and his crew must present a pathetic sight, barely keeping to their feet. And his ‘guests’ looked even worse; one was dead and two were bound and unconscious, though Will had been making an effort to come out of it. Mal had taken an inordinate amount of pleasure in gagging the man to keep him quiet.

The last person to come through the hatch was an officer with a bunch of fancy pins neatly arranged on his uniform. He inspected the assembled group, and his reaction was more like what Mal expected – annoyance and disgust.

“Which of you is Captain Harbatkin?” the man asked.

“Here,” Mal replied wearily. “And you are?”

“Lieutenant Brady.” He stepped toward Mal and studied his face with open repugnance. “And which are the people who allegedly took over your ship?”

“The three lyin’ down,” Mal said, motioning toward them. “Like I said over the comm, we took `em out. The rest of these folks are my crew.”

Brady’s eyes wandered over the group. “And this is everyone on board?”

“There’s a boy in the infirmary, got hurt pretty bad – ”

“He was a passenger,” Simon interrupted. “He got caught in the crossfire.”

Mal aimed what he hoped was a subtle glare at the doctor, but Simon kept his eyes on the lieutenant. His face showed nothing but innocent doctorly concern.

“Very well,” Lieutenant Brady said. He turned to dole out orders, and his underlings went about removing the three hijackers and bringing in a cargo hauler to carry away the bright blue cylinder. Then Brady turned back to Mal.

“You’re very lucky, Captain. If it were up to me, I’d have the bunch of you locked away, and your ship torn apart and sold for scrap. But I’ve been given another reason to believe your story. For the time being, you will be treated as victims of a crime. You will stay here, and your ship will be locked down and docked to my cruiser. Do not attempt to power up, or I will change my mind and go about things my own way.”

His soldiers left with their burdens, and he followed the last of them, but paused in the airlock to turn and add one more detail. “All of you should be prepared to be taken for questioning as I see fit,” he said, then his eyes settled on Mal. “I will find out what part you really played in all of this mess.”

Brady left the airlock open behind him. Mal walked across the bay and closed it, then he leaned against the control board and studied his crew.

A sorry sight – that’s what it was. They all looked back at him dully, like they didn’t know what to do. They were too damn tired to move. So was Mal. He was as drained as he could recall being in a long, long time. But he had his job to do. First thing: account for his crew. All of his crew.

He went to Kaylee. She looked at him steadily, but her face was pale and her eyes were rimmed with red. She was holding it together, but Mal knew there’d be repercussions to what she’d done. Poor girl had no idea.

“You know where Zoë and the others are?” he asked.

Kaylee shook her head, but didn’t speak.

Mal prodded a little more, speaking as gently as he could. “I think they might have been in a little transport that’s been tailin’ us. You know anythin’ about that?”

She shook her head again and answered softly. “Sorry, Cap’n.”

“Mal – ” Inara said from Kaylee’s side. Mal glanced at her and Inara met his look with a tiny shake of her head. Mal understood – she was telling him to back off, to leave the girl alone. As if Inara understood what Kaylee was in store for.

“I know,” he told Inara, then he turned to Simon. “Doc, you feelin’ all right?”

“Yes, I managed to treat myself when I was locked – ”

“Good,” Mal interrupted. “See to Kaylee. Inara’ll explain. After that, check out Inara, and the Shepherd. How’s River?”

“She’s fine,” Simon answered. “She stayed out of everything.”

As if on cue, River stepped onto the catwalk above them. Mal looked up to her, and she nodded and gave him a smile and a thumbs up. “Good,” he said again. There weren’t many words making themselves available in his head. He rubbed his eyes, trying to shake off his bleariness. Rest – he needed it, and so did everyone else.

“That’s the plan for now,” he said thickly, then realized he hadn’t explained yet. “Everyone see the Doc, then get to your bunk and sleep, long as you can. I got no idea what’s gonna happen next. We need to be ready to handle whatever the Alliance is after.”

“You too, Mal,” Inara said.

“Me too what?” he asked, genuinely befuddled.

“You should see the doctor, and get some sleep.”

Mal nodded. No denying it; he was not in top form. “I will,” he replied. “After the rest of you. Now go on.”

Mal watched as Inara led Kaylee toward the infirmary. Simon walked beside them, reaching a hand toward Kaylee to help guide her. She pulled away from him. Seeing her react like that brought a hollow ache to Mal’s chest. Kaylee had been through enough; she didn’t need to be facing questions from the Alliance.

“Inara,” Mal called, and they all turned back. “You tell Simon and Book what happened, and after that, I’m the one that shot Ray.” He glanced around at all of them. “The Alliance asks any a’you, you tell the whole story, all the truth, `cept I’m the one picked up that gun and used it. You got it?”

Kaylee only stared at the deck, but Inara nodded her understanding. Simon gave Mal a perplexed look, but when Kaylee and Inara continued on their way, he turned to follow with Book close behind him.

* * *

Kaylee leaned against the counter, not contributing a word, as Inara told Simon and Book what had happened on the bridge. When she finished, there was an awkward silence.

“Kaylee?” Simon finally asked.

“I’m okay,” she replied. “Y’all are making a big deal out’a nothing, but it’s all right. I just did what needed doin’. Any a’you would’a done the same.”

Simon wasn’t sure what to do. He glanced at Inara, but she looked as helpless as he felt.

“You’re not hurt at all?” he asked Kaylee.

“No. The Shepherd and the Captain been though much worse. And Inara. You look to them first.”

Simon caught Inara’s eye again, and this time she gave him a small nod. He went to Book, checking the back of his head, but his attention was still on the two women across the room.

“You sure you’re feeling okay, sweetie?” Inara asked Kaylee softly.

“Yeah,” the mechanic answered, but she sounded unsure. She let her head tip down. “Well…” she continued, her voice distant. “It’s odd… I keep seein’ him fall down. I just keep seeing it. He looked like one of them puppets. A puppet that got all his strings cut. The way he just… fell.”

Inara moved to take Kaylee’s hand, but the girl folded her arms across her stomach, tucking her hands against her sides.

* * *

After the rest of the crew went to the infirmary, Mal took a seat on the stairs. There should be something for him to be doing. Something to check or fix or plan. Anything. But not a single thing came to him.

Maybe it was good enough to just be still and think. There was no emergency on his head now; he had time to get back to all the things he’d set aside for later. He could tie up loose ends. He just had to remember them.

His mind promptly went blank, and Mal sat on the stairs, staring on the deck, thinking about absolutely nothing.

“It happens for a reason,” River said from behind him. Mal turned around; he hadn’t heard her coming.

“Don’t try to fight it,” she added, then she came down the last few steps and sat beside him.

“I gotta fight everything,” Mal said, his voice tired. “Everywhere I look, it’s a gorram battle.” He shook his head when he remembered who he was talking to, although it was a little to late to start hiding his weaknesses from this one. She’d seen everything there was to him already, and she’d proved she could handle it. He roused himself enough to smile at her.

“Little crazy girl,” he said, his affectionate tone softening the words. “Seems you did some good things for me. Kept the bad guys busy while I was tryin’ my best to get myself killed.”

“Weren’t trying for that. Just didn’t understand.”

“That I did not. Honestly, I’m still a mite confused.” He shook his head. “Hell – I guess it’ll clear up in time, with some sleep. But I’m glad you’re all right. It’s good that someone made it through all this in one piece.”

“Happy to help,” she said with a solemn nod. “Makes me feel useful.”

He smiled at her again. He tended to forget – she was just a girl. Just a teenager trying to figure out her place in this ‘verse. “You can help a little more,” he said. “You got any idea about Zoë and Wash? And, hell, Jayne too? You know where they got to?”

River didn’t answer right away. She turned away from him, and her forehead wrinkled up as she concentrated. Then she put a hand over her eyes.

“So tired,” she said. “Bruised inside.”

“Zoë’s hurt?” Mal asked, alarm sneaking into his exhaustion.

River lifted her hand a little so she could peek out at him. “No – me.”

Of course. He felt a little ashamed that he hadn’t realized what all this must have taken out of her. “I guess hurts don’t always show on the outside, do they?” he asked gently.

She shook her head. “Worst ones never do. Invisible.”

She stared at him, and fear and concern snuck into her face. Mal hesitated, then he reached out, put a hand around the back of the girl’s head and leaned in to kiss her forehead, same as he would with Kaylee when she was upset.

“You get some rest,” he ordered. “And don’t you fret ‘bout the Alliance. I won’t let them get in here and find you, all right? I’ll take care of it. You got nothin’ to fear.”

She nodded to him with big eyes, but didn’t move to get up. Mal started to feel a little unhinged by her penetrating and sad-eyed stare.

“Go on,” he said with a soft pat on her back, and finally River stood up. She looked down at him for a few more seconds, then turned and headed toward the infirmary.

* * *

Simon was just starting to put a few stitches in the back of Book’s head when River leaned in the hatch.

“Captain’s broken,” she said simply, then, “I’m going to sleep now.”

“Broken?” Simon asked, but River was gone already, stumbling toward her bunk.

A soft voice came from across the room. “She’s right,” Kaylee said. “They done somethin’ awful to him.”

Simon met Inara’s eyes, and he saw the worry rising there. “What did they do, honey?” she asked Kaylee.

“The dark one,” Kaylee mumbled, then she corrected herself. “The one in dark. He was just leavin’ the bridge. I think he was goin’ to see… I mean goin’ to try n’ hurt you.” Kaylee’s eyes drifted toward Inara, then away. “Cap’n was all tied up. Gagged. I thought he was dead – he wasn’t hardly breathin’.”

“Do you know what happened?” Inara asked.

Kaylee shook her head. “No. And I don’t think he knew either. He was all… confused. That yāo guài did somethin’ bad to him. I know it.” Kaylee looked up at Simon, and her voice got stronger. “You take care a’ him, `kay? You take care a’ the Captain. And the Shepherd and Inara. They all got hurt so bad.”

“But Mal’s fine, honey,” Inara insisted gently, although it didn’t appear to Simon that she was surprised at what Kaylee said.

“And you needn’t worry about me,” Book said with a smile. “I’m a tough nián mài shān yáng; it takes more than one hard knock to get me down.”

“Are you sure you don’t need anything, sweetie?” Inara asked Kaylee softly.

Simon watched as Kaylee thought about it. She was pale, so pale her eyes looked bruised.

“I wanna sleep, I guess,” Kaylee said. “I just wanna go to sleep… so I don’t have to think `bout him fallin’ no more. I’m so tired, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep, no matter that the Captain says I ought to…”

Inara looked to Simon, and he nodded to her. He’d just finished Book’s stitches, so he went to prepare a hypospray with a mild smoother, just enough to induce sleep. He took it to Kaylee, pausing to allow her to stop him if she wanted. She just stood still, and watched while he injected her.

“Would you like to lay down in my shuttle?” Inara asked. “I’ll stay with you.”

Kaylee gave a distracted nod in reply, and Inara began to lead her out. Simon didn’t stop them; comfort from a friend was likely to help Kaylee more than anything a doctor would be able to do. But then he looked more closely at Inara.

“You should come back so I can check those bruises,” he told her.

“I’m not hurt, Simon,” Inara replied softly, but with a strength he couldn’t gainsay. “Just – check on Mal. Don’t let him avoid getting help.”

The two women left. Book didn’t speak while Simon applied a bandage, and for that Simon was grateful. He had a hard enough time concentrating as it was.

He’d told Kaylee to go to the bridge. She’d been standing at the window in the infirmary, her hand against the glass, her eyes glowing warmly in a way that he’d come to take for granted. And then he’d told her to walk into an armed standoff. Whether she’d heard him or not really didn’t matter; he could have tried to stop her, but he hadn’t.

* * *

Kaylee was nearly asleep before she got into bed. Inara helped the girl remove her boots, then worked off her coveralls and socks. Inara pulled the covers over her and sat on the edge of the bed, looking down on a face that was so young and innocent. If only that innocence could survive ending a human life. Inara shook her head. It was her fault; she could have just shot Ray. She’d had her chance – she could have aimed to injure him. In the end, it would have saved his life, and spared Kaylee as well.

But Inara had thought that she understood him. She’d believed that she could reach him, control him. After all the mistakes she’d made in her life, how could she possibly believe that she could see to the core of any man? She should know by now that she wasn’t omniscient, and that every person had complications that couldn’t be seen from the outside.

A gentle knock on the hatch roused her from her thoughts. She looked up and saw Mal stepping tentatively into the shuttle.

“Saw you two comin’ up here,” he explained. “Thought I ought’a come by to check on Kaylee…” His voice trailed off when he caught sight of the girl’s sleeping form.

Inara spread another blanket over the mechanic and stood, leading Mal back to the hatch. She turned to him, and almost raised a hand to his face before she stopped herself.

“Have you had Simon look at that?” she asked.

“Book’s turn still. I’ll be headin’ down next.”

“Good. I guess you had a… hard time of it here?”

“Wasn’t fun,” he agreed, then he grinned half-heartedly. “Well, some of it was, but I don’t think it was supposed to be.”

Inara gave him a questioning look, but he shrugged it off. “How ‘bout you?”

She dropped her eyes. “I’ll be all right, Mal.”

“You bein’ truthful about that?” he asked. “`Cause I got this feelin’ – ”

“Mal, it’s over, and I’m fine,” she said firmly. “I just really need to sleep. I suggest you do the same.”

Mal gave her a long look, but at last he nodded and turned away. He looked more than fatigued, he looked crushed, and Inara thought back to what River and Kaylee had said about him. Whatever he’d been through, there was no way he was going to open up to Simon about it.

“Mal,” she called after him. “Kaylee said that he – that Will did something to you.”

He looked back at her. “She did?”

“Yes. And you were acting a little strange when I – ”

Mal turned away. “Girl’s been havin’ a hard time. She’s confused.”

Inara didn’t have the energy to argue. She watched Mal leave the shuttle, then went to sit on the divan and watch Kaylee sleep.

* * *

Mal entered the infirmary and found Simon organizing medicine and bandages on the counter.

“Book all done?” Mal asked.

“Yes, I’ll be with you in just a second.”

Mal gave the doctor time to finish whatever he was doing. He stood at the foot of the exam table, arms crossed in front of him, looking at the boy lying unconscious on it.

“I don’t normally adopt folks I shoot,” Mal said.

“I must admit, I’m a little curious,” Simon said. “Why exactly did you?”

Mal looked sidelong at Simon. “It wouldn’t a’been so good to counter a lie told to Alliance troops by a certain fugitive medic I’m harborin’.”

“I don’t suppose I can blame River for that?” the doctor asked.

“She’s a talented gal, but she can’t put words in a person’s mouth. At least, not last I checked.”

Simon sighed, glancing at his patient. “She said that he’s all right, and that he was blameless in this.”

“Blameless, sure,” Mal said, “unless you count takin’ a few shots at me.”

“Really?” Simon stopped was he was doing and looked Mal in surprise.

“I didn’t shoot the boy down for the fun of it, Simon.”

Mal’s voice was tired, not angry, but Simon looked abashed anyway. “No, I suppose not.”

Mal changed the subject. “So – everyone’s gonna be all right?”

“Book has a concussion, but it’s minor. He needed a few stitches, and with some rest he should be all right.”

“Kaylee and Inara?”

“I gave Kaylee something to help her sleep. She was… she was acting like it was all right, but I think she’s in shock. She’s just... she’s not a killer.”

“Funny what livin’ in the Black will make a person do,” Mal said.

“Not all that funny,” Simon said softly. “She wanted to sleep and I couldn’t… It’s not the best solution but I couldn’t say no to her. I don’t know how else to help. The shock is emotional. Other than keeping her hydrated and rested, I don’t know how…”

Mal studied Simon’s face; the doctor had never been one to show doubt in any matter tied to his profession, but his frustration and helplessness were clear. Mal understood; he felt the same way. He had an idea of how Kaylee must be feeling, but it’d been so long since his soul had been as innocent as hers that he wasn’t sure he could be of any help. Killing and death were a part of Mal now; he couldn’t imagine life without them.

“Inara?” he asked.

“She’s all right.”

“And how `bout yourself?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Broken ribs can take some time to heal.”

“I’ve done what I can. I’ll just have to take it easy.”

Mal nodded. “You do that.”

“Okay, I’m ready,” Simon said, looking up from the collection of small syringes he’d just prepared, and Mal went to stand next to him.

“You’re lucky nothing is broken,” Simon said, looking at the right side of Mal’s face where he’d been hit with the butt of his own gun. “These injections will speed the healing of the bruises.”

“Thanks,” Mal said with a tired grin. “I do hate lookin’ ugly.”

* * *

River lay curled up in her bed, drifting on the edge of sleep. She heard Book come to his bunk, but he left after only a few minutes. Going to talk to Mal. Make Mal accept help.

That was good. The Captain needed help, but River couldn’t do it anymore. Too many dividers in too many minds, and busting through them left bruises that were slow to heal. She couldn’t take any more.

For a while, she thought she might have to go back to Simon, get him to mix up something in a needle like the medicine he’d given Kaylee, but just as she decided to get up, she finally slipped over the fuzzy line into sleep.

* * *

Simon was quiet while he treated Mal, and surprised at the lack of complaints; the Captain had never been a pliant patient. But, right now, he looked to have other things on his mind, and he stood still with nothing more than few small winces.

Simon set down the tiny syringe he’d just finished with and picked up another. “I heard you had some problems.”

“Who told you that?”

“Kaylee. She said she found you bound, gagged, and unconscious on the bridge, and that you seemed to not know what had happened.”

Mal looked away from Simon, his face pensive. “Bound and gagged?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t recall that.”

“Do you think you might have memory loss?”

Mal didn’t blink at the question, as if he were expecting it. That was a more telling answer than what he said. “Wouldn’t be a shock if I did,” Mal said, then he smiled grimly. “I got my bell rung somethin’ fierce.”

“Can you tell me what you remember? Of events on bridge?”

Mal looked away, obviously uncomfortable with the discussion. But he didn’t refuse to talk about it, as Simon half expected he would. “Well, I, uh… I guess I was a mite loopy right after you woke me up to fly the ship.” He looked back at Simon. “You saw that for yourself.”

“Yes. You’re fortunate you didn’t get yourself killed.”

Mal smiled. “I had some help from your sister. And from you.”

Simon didn’t answer for a moment. He was finished, but he inspected the left side of Mal’s face, trying to keep the Captain there so he’d keep talking.

“What’s the part you don’t remember?” Simon asked.

Mal’s smile broadened to a grin. “If I knew that, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“I mean, what happened right before and after the time you don’t remember?”

The grin went away as Mal thought about it, and then he took an impatient breath. “I just had a few fuzzy minutes on the bridge. You done yet?”

“Almost. But it would help if we worked out what happened. With the amount of strain you’ve been under, and the things that happened to you on Oeneus – ”

“Look, Simon, I got my head beat and you shot me with drugs, end of story. I got other things to do then humor you while you play shrink.”

There’d been a time when Simon might have pushed, but he’d learned that the Captain didn’t take kindly to it. He decided to let the matter go. For now. He stepped back, and Mal immediately walked toward the hatch.

“Mal – ”

Mal turned, and his voice was sharp. “I told you, Simon, I don’t want to deal with it right now.”

Simon held out a small tube. “Ointment. Twice a day.”

* * *

Book was sitting outside the infirmary. “Where you off to, Captain?” he asked.

Mal stopped mid-stride, and realized that he had no answer. There had to be something that needed doing, but again he couldn’t think of a thing.

“I guess… I guess I ought’a stay here,” he said. “In case the good lieutenant comes back.” Mal rubbed his eyes as something else occurred to him. “Lăotiān yĕ – I still got no idea where Zoë and them got to.”

Book’s voice was firm when he replied. “You’re not like to find out by sitting around here. I’ve got it taken care of. Go to sleep.”

“But I…”

“Captain, the Alliance will be back, with all their questions that need answers. Are you capable of handling that as you are right now?”

Mal stood with his head bowed. He didn’t look up, but he shook his head. Truth was, he wasn’t up to a gorram thing at the moment.

“Get some sleep,” Book ordered quietly. “I’ll send for you as soon as anything happens. I haven’t had such a trying time as you have; I’ll be fine taking my rest right here.”

Mal finally looked up at Book, and felt a wave of the gratitude for the offer. “I’m feelin’ near dead on my feet. Thank you, Shepherd.”

“It’s not a problem, Mal. It’s never a problem.”

Mal started toward the stairs, but a dull boom stopped him. He turned back toward the cargo bay – Lieutenant Brady was back with his retinue. Mal should have expected another downturn in the situation. Wouldn’t be right if things were easy.

“I got it, Shepherd,” he said, and he went to the bay with his shoulders slumped.

* * *

Brady got right to what he was after without even an antagonistic and condescending how-do-you-do. “I understand that you have a Companion on board,” he said.

Despite his exhaustion, Mal was a little startled by the question. He hadn’t expected things to go in that direction. “She ain’t part of my crew,” he replied, “just hires out a shuttle.”

“I didn’t ask if she was part of your crew. I don’t care one way or another. I need her here. Now.”

“Look, she ain’t had any part in this,” Mal said. “I don’t understand why – ”

“Captain,” Brady said impatiently, “bring her here.”

Mal frowned at the line of blank-faced armed soldiers behind the Lieutenant, then he stiffly turned toward the comm and called up to the shuttle.

“Inara, you’re needed in the cargo bay. The Lieutenant wants a word. ”

Her reply was smooth and unruffled. I’ll be right down.

Brady clearly wasn’t interested in chatting, and Mal lacked the energy to try. They waited silently until Inara’s soft footsteps came down the stairs. Mal didn’t look up at her, just stared at the deck.

“Yes, Captain?” she asked.

Brady replied before Mal could speak. “You will come with us.”

Inara turned to the soldier. “Lieutenant Brady, was it?”

“Correct.”

“Am I under arrest?”

“I’m not under orders to arrest you, but I will if necessary.”

Mal knew Inara was glancing at him, but he couldn’t meet her eye.

“Will I be staying long?” she asked.

“I’m not at liberty to disclose that information.”

“Will I need a change of clothes? Toiletries, perhaps? A nightgown?”

Brady looked taken aback, like he hadn’t considered that complication. He glanced at the troops behind him, then lifted his chin, as if the discussion of Inara’s needs was beneath his dignity. “You may bring one small bag, but it will be thoroughly searched,” he said stiffly.

Inara nodded and returned to her shuttle. While they waited, a question occurred to Mal.

“Lieutenant,” he said. “I have reason to believe the rest of my crew was tryin’ to get to the ship and help –”

“And again you assume I care,” the man answered coldly.

“I’d just like to know if they’re all right. They were in a small cartel transport, near where you found us.”

Brady held Mal’s eye for a few seconds before he replied. “They are under arrest for theft of Cartel property, as well as a number of very serious traffic violations. I’m not sure it would be wise to claim them as part of your crew.”

“If I could just talk to `em – ”

“Captain, if you attempt to leave your ship or use your comm, I will have my engineers disable whatever power source you have on this.. “ he looked around the bay, “…thing and move you all into locked cells. Is that qīng chu?”

Mal didn’t answer, just stared at the deck until Inara returned.

“Captain?” she asked.

He replied without raising his eyes. “Yeah?”

“Don’t leave Kaylee alone. I promised I’d stay with her, but…”

He looked up. “She’ll be taken care of.”

“Thank you.”

Inara held his eye for a second longer than she needed to, looking hard like she was memorizing his face. Mal stared back, realizing that he'd never even found out how she got that bruise.

Then the moment was broken; she turned and handed her bag to one of the guards and let herself be led from the ship.

* * *

After they left, this time closing the door behind them, Mal returned to the back of the bay. Book was standing just out of sight through the hatch.

“I couldn’t do anything,” Mal said dully.

“No, you couldn’t.”

“Why the hell they’d take her? What are they gonna do?”

“She’s a Companion, Mal. That protects her better than any of us could. Now – go get some sleep.”

“I gotta watch over Kaylee.”

“We’ll take care of that,” Simon said, stepping out from the infirmary. “Go.”

Mal nodded stupidly. He was barely aware of what he passed on his way up through the ship, and wasn’t sure how he managed to climb down the ladder to his bunk and find his way to his bed, but he was out as soon as his head hit the pillow.

* * *

Translations:

yāo guài: monster nián mài shān yáng: old goat lăotiān yĕ: god qīng chu: clear

* * *

On to Chapter 20.

COMMENTS

Friday, July 14, 2006 6:59 AM

MAL4PREZ


Hi all! I have a bug and thinking slow today… Thanks for all the lovely thoughts re Kaylee and Inara!

About Inara: I actually didn’t like her character much after the first few viewings of the series, I found her a bit dull. it was fanfic that made me think more about her. And watching the series now, we have those few moments when she stops being a Companion and the real person comes out (after she gets doped from kissing Mal, for example) and I’ve started to see a lot of potential in her. I’m glad you agree!!

Still thinking slow… but I’ll try to get 20 up asap. Almost done with the difficult to write parts, and I can get you to the killer ending! At least, I think it’s pretty cool…

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:27 AM

LEIASKY


Ohh, lots of emotional and physical injury in this chapter. You did good with it. I do like Kaylee's being torn up over having killed someone, and now it appears Simon may be the one to comfort her now that Inara has been taken onto the Alliance ship? Oh, I do hope so - though he's got some broken ribs and bruises of his own, that has to be pretty painful.

Not quite understanding why that Alliance man is such a bastard, but, I suppose they all are. Definitely interested in reading what they want with Inara.

And Mal of all of them needs to get some rest. Simon should have given him a smoother to knock him out too:)

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:55 AM

AMDOBELL


This was brilliant, I utterly love this series and really have a strong dislike of that officious snotty little Alliance man Brady. Spiteful and petty is how he comes across, I just wish Jayne could introduce him to Binky. I am worried about Zoe, Wash and Jayne being in Alliance custody and now concerned as to what in the nine hells they want with Inara. Why can't anything ever go smooth? I look forward to the next chapter with baited breath, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:57 AM

LEIGHKOHL


Excellent chapter! I really liked how you portrayed Kaylee's reaction to killing a person, her withdrawl from the whole situation and the reassurances that she is fine are definitely an in character response. I am extremely curious as to why the Alliance officer has taken Inara away, I wonder what he's up to! And I agree with Leiasky's assesment of the taht particular situation, it leaves Simon to fill the spot of the comforting friend...hopefully! I really want to know what's happening with Zoe, Jayne, and Wash! Maybe another great Wash interogation scene?! And Mal needs to help himself out and get some rest! Can't wait for your next post!

Friday, July 14, 2006 8:12 AM

HECKLER


Another great chapter in a great overall series. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Friday, July 14, 2006 8:35 AM

RIVERISMYGODDESS


Naturally, I am worried about the effects this will have on Kaylee.

“Thanks,” Mal said with a tired grin. “I do hate lookin’ ugly.”
-HAHAHA Great line.

Now I have read the entirety of your works, and that has placed you among my top three writers on this site. IF there is anything I can do to expediate the posting of more of this or other stories (ie, sending you beer or cookies or both) don't hesitate to let me know. :)

Friday, July 14, 2006 3:55 PM

GOODDUCK


That was such fun to read! This was perfect:

Simon was just starting to put a few stitches in the back of Book’s head when River leaned in the hatch.

“Captain’s broken,” she said simply, then, “I’m going to sleep now.”

I am wondering whether what the Alliance wants has something to do with Inara's abrupt departure from the Skuld compound. Am wondering too if Beyla was trying to expose the Verdandes in some way and if something still will come of that. Thanks for this!

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:51 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...I am really worried about Mal and Kaylee here....Mal's sanity has been kinda sketchy since the war, and Kaylee's sudden introduction to killing people is not gonna mean rainbows and puppies for her psyche either:(

Just hope the rest of the crew on Serenity can recuperate somewhat before engaging in a BDR for Zoe, Wash, Jayne and Inara...cuz I just get the feeling it's gonna come down to a "War Stories"-like shootout to get to the crew being held in custody:S

And I am starting to wonder if Inara's removal from Serenity is related to a Guild matter exacerbated by whatever happened on board the Skuld skyplex...

Still...amazing work here, mal4prez! Definitely revved up for Ch. 20:D

BEB

Sunday, July 16, 2006 12:45 PM

ELOISA


And after an inordinate break... sorry I didn't say anything the past few times; to be perfectly honest, I was being frustrated at the quantity it's acceptable to post in the average fanfic chapter. I wanted to read chapters 14-19 in one massive rush, in effect, as the end of this chapter felt like the first natural break in ages in the story.

For the first time, in chapters 12-14, I felt mildly moved to criticise something you were doing - namely, the time splitting between the end of 12, the end of 14 (ten minutes later) and the end of 13 (five to ten minutes after the end of 14). I know the impact was strongest this way - the readers as well as Inara having cause to fear for Mal's life - but it still jars, just a bit.

As for the action over the past few chapters - taking them all in one lump - brilliant. I was completely shocked when Kaylee shot Ray and, like BEB and other commentators, I'm worried for her state of mind. Ray's touches of humanity and his complex motivations made him, as a character - to the extent that I'm sorry he's dead. Why oh why didn't she shoot Will instead? My plot-guring sense wonders exactly how badly he's going to screw up any rescue attempt / fallout for the BDHs... as well as worrying about whether River's going to be able to handle Mal's transition back to a full or partial memory of what happened while she was blanking his mind (he needs to for the Inara situation to work out, surely), and whether the Fish Job situation is going to come back and bite the crew on the collective bottom as they try to retrieve Zoe et al. Given that they've pulled off one impossible rescue in the past little while, the Alliance may be doubly intent on stopping them making another.

Apologies for random incoherence. Last night's brain-splurt transformed into over 2k written today, so I'm a mite drained. Just wanted to remind you how good this is. :)

Monday, July 17, 2006 7:43 PM

NOSADSEVEN


*sighs contentedly*

I really, really enjoyed this chapter.

Mal's knowing something's amiss within himself, but still having this hopeful denial that all he needs is some sleep to fix it - not really wanting to face it just yet - hits just the right balance of tough-but-vulnerable that I love so much about him. I also love Inara's introspection and Simon's covering for Jase, and of course, at the start, the whole sorry lot of them waiting to greet the Alliance. And Brady's characterization is delightfully pure authoritarian bureaucrat, with his, "And again you assume I care."

Oh, and I meant to mention previously... Your OCs are such interesting characters that every time you've killed one off, I miss them. But I miss Ray especially. I loved his complexity and his interaction with the crew, and I had really hoped things could somehow work out for him (though I certainly had no expectation that they would). Nice job.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.


Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
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