Hun Dan - Part Two
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mal pops in to see an old friend, but gets an old enemy instead. My first fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 2 of 2.


“You know, Miss Pye. About the shiniest sight I ever saw, was you tacklin’ that guard,” Jayne had followed her to the wash area. The man seemed to have a penchant for propping himself up in doorways.

“Well I certainly look a sight now,” she said, face up to the mirror, studying. There was no way she would have passed for Core-bred if they’d been stopped. Her face had several scratches and the mud was caked in her hair. She grabbed a towel and headed for the fortunately lockable shower, not putting it past Jayne to offer to scrub her back. During the blissful twenty minutes or so she was in there, she felt the ship take off and they broke atmo shortly afterwards. After changing in her room she headed off to find the Doc in the Med bay. She came upon him and Kaylee in a tight and wandering embrace. She coughed and they sprang apart like guilty thieves.

“Sorry to but in, Doc, but I just wanted you to check out my bumps and bruises to make sure I’d not cracked or broken anything.” Simon looked surprised, as it wasn’t often someone came to see him voluntarily, they usually had to be bleeding, unconscious or incapacitated.

“Certainly,” he replied, fully composed now. “Sit down on the couch, please.”

“It’s a very comfy couch,” said Kaylee, strolling towards the door with a naughty gleam in her eyes. “Not good if you want to try different positions though,” and she disappeared leaving Simon with a red face, and Bane trying to find somewhere else to look. She was silent for a moment and then her curiosity got the better of her.

“Tell me, Doc, do the Captain’s jobs always go this smooth?” Simon actually laughed, but he carried on with his examination like a true professional.

“Put it this way. I’m usually patching up bullet holes and knife wounds, not scraped knees and bruises.” Bane was surprised, as it seemed to her that everything went like clockwork. He finished his exam. “You’re fine. Just bruises and scrapes, like you said. What’s this scarring?” he had lifted up her sleeve. “Tribal scars?” he added with excited curiosity.

“You could say that,” she answered quickly, pulling down her sleeve. “Thanks, Doc.” Bane jumped off the couch and headed towards the galley. The others were there, but only Mal hadn’t changed clothes yet. She went to the counter, and was about to start making something to eat.

“You cookin’ again?” asked Jayne eagerly.

“Jayne, she ain’t our hired cook. It’s your turn anyway,” stated Mal firmly, before she could give an answer.

“Gorram it,” he replied. “You know I ain’t very good at it.” Bane couldn’t resist offering to help, aside from the fact she wanted to eat sooner rather than later.

“I’ll help you, if you want,” she said. Jayne, of course, took her words as a sign of attraction, instead of a genuine offer of help. Mal rolled his eyes at Zoe.

“Great,” sighed Mal “You get whatever’s comin’ to you, Bane. The man won’t leave you now, sure as stink.”

“Aw, Mal, I’m jus’ tryin’ to be friendly.” Jayne towered over Bane, a predatory smirk belying his words.

“Your kind of friendly gets people bound-by-law,” said Zoe. Reynolds left the galley to get washed up and Zoe sat down at the table, despite a glare from Jayne. Bane set about showing Jayne how to make a basic meal with cooked mince and rice, and how to vary the spices according to taste. He was a surprisingly quick learner and in no time Zoe was on the com telling the others that food was ready. It was the first time she had sat with most of them at the same time. Kaylee lit some candles and lowered the main lighting. Bane had also made a few other dishes while Jayne had been in charge of the meat. It was a pleasant warm environment that reminded her very much of the ship she called home, complete with the petty bickering between Simon and Jayne. Even if only two of them were blood related, they were very much a family.

“We’re always hearin’ what the Cap’n and Zoe did during the war, Bane, what did you do?” asked Kaylee in her usual guileless and innocent manner. Bane looked at Reynolds and Zoe before talking, there were always some things you never talked about with civilians, but they were all adults and the youngest member was at the ship’s controls.

“My Ma an’ me used to have flying Eatings in the Core planets. Ariel and the like. We also specialised in blowing up munitions and transport depots. Jobs further out were mainly Alliance com stations. You hear about the Londinium weapons factory?” Mal’s eyebrows raised and he looked at Zoe.

“Word on the Cortex was that was a whole brigade of Independents, but none of us did hear which one got the credit. Place went sky high. Put back Alliance weapon production by three months.”

“No, it was just two of us. It was real sweet seein’ that place go up. Took about two months prep though.”

“You must have some big fat hairy ones,” observed Jayne with his own weird kind of respect.

“Well it wasn’t warm and fluffy,” she responded with a short smile. “But after that last battle on Hera it all went to go se and we were humped.”

“Someone fingered you to the Alliance?” asked Zoe. Bane shrugged as if it was ancient history.

“Kind of. We thought we were scoping, when in fact we were being set up and pinched. Ma was killed outright, and for a time I wished I had been too.” She could see Kaylee wanted to ask more, and Bane knew it would only be a matter of time before she would wheedle it out of her. She sighed and continued. “I was sold to one of the unlicensed brothels on Ariel, an’ then got passed further down the food chain for ‘bout four years. Until my family found me.” There was silence, even from Jayne, who now had a totally different look in his eyes, as did the others. Well, it had to come out eventually. “Turned out there was, or is, an outstanding warrant for my arrest on the Cortex. Luckily Pye wasn’t the name I went by during the War.”

“But now you have your family around you again,” said Kaylee, horrified at the story, but determined to find good in the situation. Mal decided to step in and change the subject.

“Did you ever find out who turned you in?” he asked with interest. It was well known that keeping things secret had been one of the hardest things as an Independent.

“Nope, never did find that out. My brother found me three years ago, through luck and hearsay, and legally bought me off the hun dan who was my current owner, so’s no one would come after us. Cost him more’n a year’s worth of platinum. If I’d had a choice I would have blown the ruttin’ gou cao de to hell four times over.” The room was silent. Bane got up and spooned some food into a bowl. “I’ll just take this to River, she must be hungry as well.” She left before anyone could say more, glad that it had been a short and successful job and she would be returning to her family again. Things always changed when people knew you had been someone’s whore, as she knew from personal experience. They were irreparable when they saw you had the scars to prove it too.

“Here you go River, I’ve brought you some dinner.” River swivelled in her seat, she was resting her chin on one of her knees.

“You escape the uncomfortable conversation to come and spend time with a reader?” Bane had not even thought, but laughed at her own stupidity.

“Had to come out sometime,” she defended.

“No it didn’t. It’s your way of keeping them away, so you don’t get attached.” Bane sat in one of the other chairs and played with the long plait of brown hair she had.

“You’re right, of course, but you ain’t a head doctor, either.”

“Like I don’t need one myself,” said River, and Bane looked up to see she was smiling. She took it for the joke it was and smiled back. The Captain arrived and Bane vacated the seat, discovering it was his. She wasn’t sure she understood the plastic dinosaur decorations, but was too polite to ask.

“How long before we’re back at Haven, Captain?” she asked.

“Have to meet up with Jones for a drop of some other goods, then make the drop on Regina, and then back to Persephone to pick up Inara. Should take two weeks in all.” Bane’s hopes sank, so much for telling all then bolting. She looked across at River who shrugged an ‘I told you so’.

“Right. I don’t suppose you mentioned that to my brother when you requested my expertise.” She turned to go. Reynolds ignored the comment.

“Got a few things I still need you to do,” he said. “We’ve gotta drop this cargo in the middle of nowhere an’ I ain’t exactly comfortable with the company that might be picking it up. Can you rig up some tricks that need a remote code to either detonate or stop?”

“So if it doesn’t go smooth we can blow the goods up or give them the code to open the crates?” she offered.

“I ain’t gonna detonate something that I crawled through miles of go se to collect, no. But I need you to make it look like I would.”

“Piece of pie, so to speak. I can rig up a dummy explosion in a different location.”

“Now you’re on my way of thinkin’,” Mal stretched in his chair, feeling the day catching up to his bones.

“How long have I got?” she asked.

“Well we’re takin’ the scenic route to Regina, so about five days.” Bane knew the tricks would only take her a day to create. She left the Captain and River and escaped the back way to the guest quarters, avoiding the galley.

“Wounds heal quick, but the mind takes longer,” stated Reynolds to no one in particular. River could apply his words to everyone on the ship, not just Bane. She ate her meal with one hand and effortlessly plotted their route with the other.

In her quarters Bane tried to sleep but found she couldn’t, so she set about planning the next tricks. From what Mal said the job of handing over the goods and safely receiving the money in return wasn’t going to be as easy. After several hours of working she needed to loosen the muscles, and the makeshift gym near the cargo bay was the only place to do that. Bane went quietly there and tested various apparatus until she settled on the pull-up bars. She started by lifting herself up with her arms to touch the bar with her chin. After several sets she hung upside down from them and raised herself to touch her feet. It was hard going but she felt the better for it. It cleared her mind and she cursed herself for being a gorram idiot - being afraid all the time that someone might find out and always hiding behind her family. Like River said, it was no way to live your life. After another quick shower Bane went to where Zoe had hid her explosive kit and started some constructing.

~ * ~

“Got you some tea,” said Jayne’s voice punctuating her sleep. She raised her head and found she was still in the cargo bay, and had fallen asleep at the job. She took the proffered cup. “Not sure as you don’t prefer coffee, but it’s what I was makin’ anyway.”

“Thanks, Jayne,” she said, surprised at his concern. “What time is it?”

“Some time after six. You been up all night?”

“Couldn’t sleep – or I thought I couldn’t,” she corrected. Jayne sat down, he looked a lot more serious than the day before, but it didn’t last long.

“Whatcha makin’?” He inspected the half-constructed devices in front of her, pushing a few things with his finger. It all just looked like wires and electrical mess to him.

“Cap’n wants some tricks to make sure the deal goes smoothly,” Bane said, starting to clean up the debris.

“Like as not it won’t – though I don’t know now. Might be you’re a good luck charm after all,” answered Jayne. Bane laughed, seeing his leer, apparently Jayne was not disturbed by the fact she had been someone’s whore.

“Anymore sweet-talking like that, Jayne Cobb, an’ I might be cooking you breakfast.” Bane took a sip of her tea as Jayne sniggered.

“Hell, I’d go walking in the Black without a suit, if’n it meant coming back to fresh meals ever’day.”

“Looks like the way to your heart for any girl is definitely through your stomach. Well, Cap’n says it’ll be at least two weeks afore we return to Haven, so you have my cooking talents at your disposal.”

“They’s the only talents on offer?”

“Jayne!” shouted Zoe, before Bane could think of a witty response. She was standing at the top of the stairs.

Aiya! I was just jokin’ with the lady.”

“Don’t care about that none, she can look after herself. Cap’n says we’re comin’ up on the Bird – need to saddle up.” Jayne quickly left, as Zoe came down the steps into the bay.

“Do you need me?” asked Bane. She packed away her kit into the store again.

“No. This is a drop off for some other goods we picked up before we met you on Haven.”

“Far as I know there ain’t a planet nearby ‘tween here and Regina?” she queried.

“’Taint a planet we’re meetin’ with. It’s another vessel.”

“You’re worried about it then,” stated Bane, as she could tell Zoe was more tense than usual. Zoe looked at her in surprise at her perception.

“Could be. Prefer the planet-side meetin’s, as if’n it goes wrong, you don’t find yourself gasping for air.”

“Could this one go wrong?” Zoe didn’t answer but gave her a long look. It wouldn’t hurt to be cautious, Jones hadn’t waved to ask if they were on their way, which was a little unusual. And Zoe had been in this business too long not to trust her instincts.

“Might be we can use you,” she pondered. “When we pull up and go aboard, you think you could sneak on with some tricks without being seen?” Bane nodded.

“Might be I can. Done it afore.” This trip was bringing back more memories by the hour.

~ * ~

As they approached the vessel all could see it was more than six times the size of Serenity and run by a man called Hans Jones, another opportunist like Reynolds, and well known. Bane had heard of him - he dealt in stolen Core supplies which he sold at high profit to the Rim worlds. He was trustworthy enough, but she had heard he in turn dealt with some who weren’t. The usual formalities were undertaken when Serenity docked at one of the hatches of the Silver Bird. The Silver Bird was largely becoming the size of a small space station and was no longer able to make runs planetside. They all noticed there was lots of construction underway outside the ship.

“Not surprised Jones wanted us to come to him,” muttered Reynolds, his own gut feelings starting to get itchy.

“He’s going up in the world,” said Jayne, unconcerned. They walked through Serenity’s door towards the docking hatch. From her vantage point, Bane could see a large cargo bay with lots of supplies stored there. When the engineer was masked by Serenity’s crew Bane slipped through the door and into the main cargo bay of the Bird. There were plenty of stores and crates to hide behind, the place was a mess.

“Looks like his standards are slipping. His place is usually more tidy,” said Zoe to Mal. Mal and Jayne carried a crate between them.

“Lot of new things happ’nin’,” responded the man at the com station. They were led out of the bay by someone else who had come to collect them, leaving Bane alone, or relatively.

“They in alright?” she heard, someone else had come into the bay.

“Yeh, sweet as lambs. They’re in for one hell of a shock.” Bane stomach clenched. She didn’t know if River could read people over a distance, but she wished her all her worries and concerns anyway. The two men chatted away, but revealed nothing else, except how bad the food was on the station. She had to find out more as quickly as possible, doing her best to sneak from crate to crate without being seen. She finally reached the entrance of their cargo bay and dived through silently, running to the next bit of cover.

The place had been patched and plated several times, with a new corridor here and a new cargo bay or quarters there. It would be easy to get lost, and at a corridor junction she had no way of knowing which way the others had been taken. She had to find a com port to plug into. After several dead ends and more near misses Bane found one, but likely had very little time before someone else happened along, the place was heaving with people. She found a port and plugged her device in to download the current schematics. When it was complete, she moved into a new hiding place to examine the readout.

Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiouh doh sai-jin wuh duh pi-gu,” she said, and she was very nearly sick. It was apparent that Jones was no longer in charge, or even possibly alive, but that her former owner now was. For one wild and sweaty moment, Bane was tempted to run back to Serenity, but it was clear that there would be no escape. Serenity had been lured into a trap and all Bane’s chickens were coming home to roost at once. She used her respite hiding space to rig up a few more small tricks with the items she had bought with her. She always carried the EMP grenades, but now they would need a whole lot more to get off this ship.

At least she now had some idea where they were being taken, and she went part of the way under the main walkway, there being a nice convenient, if small, space underneath. There wouldn’t be much time once she got there. She had a knife and something else to hit people with, but that was all. She passed the waste conduit, stuck some putty on, closed her eyes and heard it sizzle and tremor. She lifted it and peered in, receiving a waft of foul-smelling air in the process. As far as she could judge it went right through the ship. Bane went still as someone passed overhead, inches from her face. He spat through the grate and it landed on her forehead. She took out one of the grenades, set the timer and dropped it down the waste conduit. Hopefully it would drop a long way and keep people diverted elsewhere on the ship, while she found the others.

She lifted up the grate, got out and ran around the corner. She came to the door of the room and stuck her ear to it, hoping that the others weren’t facing the door as she placed some putty on. It would be hard enough to get back to the ship, but if she could get them out of this room, then there was a chance. The silent boom hardly made a sound from the where she was standing outside, but the door fell away considerably noisier. Through the smoke and chaos she saw the others firmly bound, but couldn’t tell if they’d been facing the door. There was no time to think, she struck out to the first one with the metal pipe and then leaped over the man’s doubled body. She sliced through Zoe’s bonds, who took the knife from her to do the others. There was lots of shouting and Bane immediately activated another EMP grenade to stop any coms going out. The crew had now joined in the fight to escape.

Bane was grabbed by the neck and punched in the stomach. She rolled with it and then bought her head up to butt the man under the chin, which caused more than a few stars to appear in front of her eyes. She bought the metal bar around to jab it into his face. The boss man, she discovered, had apparently not arrived yet.

“Let’s go,” Zoe called urgently, as they were running out of time. She was out of the door with Jayne on her heels. Reynolds didn’t move and Bane realised, with a few choice curses at him, that he’d looked at the light and was now temporarily blind. She grabbed him by the arm and ran in Zoe and Jayne’s wake. She pushed Mal through the outer door and turned to activate the trick to seal it. It fizzed, and would hold the others hopefully just long enough for them to get away. Reynolds hadn’t moved.

“Zoe!” he called, but her and Jayne were already out of hearing range. They had no weapons between them, except a knife and the metal bar. The station rocked with an explosion, making both of them catch their balance. Bane smiled, figuring that should keep them busy for a while. She led Mal down the corridor.

“You looked at the light, dint you, Cap’n?” she said in a frustrated voice.

“Yes, I looked at the gorram bomb an’ I can’t ruttin’ see,” Mal replied angrily, not liking at all being this vulnerable.

“It’s just temporary,” said Bane. “But we need to move now. There were two men in the docking room when I left it, both chatting at the com station.” She threw an EMP grenade to Zoe who’d come back to find out why they were not following. “Take this. I’ll bring the Cap’n with me as soon as I can – I know a few hiding places.”

“No, we all go together. We’re not taking off without you, Sir.” She looked around behind her.

“Do as she says, Zoe – we’ll get ourselves armed,” ordered Reynolds. “Take off. This place is a ruttin’ rabbit warren. There must be hundreds of places to hide.”

“Can we stop talkin’ ‘bout it an’ ruttin’ move!” hissed Jayne, who’d taken a bit longer to figure out that the others weren’t behind him. They all started to run. A guard came innocently round the corner and Zoe took him out with the end of her Mare’s Leg. There were more of them and for Zoe, Mal and Jayne it was all too familiar. The new owner of this station was the resurrected Adelai Niska and they’d all walked blind into his nice neat trap. They weren’t too far away from the cargo bay when the alarms started to go off. Then weapons fire was heard by them all from the other end. It was River, Bane just knew it. She took Mal’s gun from it’s holster and started to turn around, thankful it was working again. May be they wouldn’t have to split up after all. Jayne, Zoe and Bane moved forward and Bane reached out for Mal’s hand, but it wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. Gorram it, she had just turned away seconds ago.

“He’s gone, Zoe. I’m going after him.” Zoe was torn, but knew that they had to get back to the ship for any hope of getting away or making a stand.

“Go,” Zoe decided. “We’ll hold them off as long as possible. If you don’t make it back here, try an’ get to the escape pods. From memory they used to be in Sector Twelve, in the belly of the station. We’ll fly back an’ collect you, but you’ll be sitting ducks for a while.”

~ * ~

“So, Mal, you thought you cud escape me again?” wheedled Niska in his all too familiar Eastern European accent. Mal was being held between two of Niska’s burly men. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, “I’d like to know who that ninja piece of go se was. She might come in useful to me.” They had taken Mal from the corridor and bought him direct to Niska’s office.

“Sorry, Niska, I dint see a thing,” answered Mal belligerently, and was then punched and kicked by all three men that the crime boss had with him. Mal collapsed on the floor trying to catch his breath. He only had to delay this enough to allow the others to get away, hoping that Niska hadn’t had time to set up his little torture chamber again.

“Looks like I’m going to enjoy hurting you again. But first the formalities.” He spoke into the com. “Where are the others?”

“They got away, sir,” came the shaky answer. Niska didn’t sound happy and Mal allowed himself a private smile. Zoe would figure out a way to rescue him. He began to think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire on another gun hand, as things seemed to get hairier by the month these days. Niska’s lyrical voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Well, looks like your crew have decided to leave without you, Captain Reynolds. So much for loyalty.”

“It’s hard to find good people these days,” returned Reynolds sarcastically. Niska signalled for them to tie him up, none of them noticing he couldn’t see. It was temporary though and he could already make out differences between light and dark. Mal knew that he could hold out for a while under Niska’s expertise, but he hoped Zoe wouldn’t take too long about it. It was then he heard Bane’s loud voice with more than a little shake to it.

“Hello, Niska, long time no see, gôushî bùrú.” Bane had silently come into the room and held her gun on Niska. She quickly took in the positioning of the others, fear gripped her belly and her arm shook.

“What? You’re with him now?” Niska’s voice held complete puzzlement, until he came to a decision. “Tie her up too,” he stated almost nonchalantly. Without hesitation Bane shot the nearest man dead and then killed the two others standing either side of Mal, without them being able to draw their weapons. Niska looked around him – for the first time a little worried, but never letting it show. He pressed the com to talk into it.

“Won’t do no good to call anyone. Com’s out,” she said, hand raised with the gun pointing at the centre of Niska’s face. “You all right, Cap’n?”

“Will be, soon as I can get untied,” he replied. Bane backed towards him, still keeping the gun on Niska. She released the restraints and told him to stay put. Reynolds being who he was though, knelt to the body of one of the men at his feet and fumbled for his weapon. Bane picked up the guns from the two other bodies.

“Well, it’s been a long time, Deena Li, my little canvas.” Niska said sweetly, he was stalling and trying to back up further into his office. “Did that pirate who bought you get tired of looking at your scars?” Bane tried to ignore his all to familiar crooning voice as she led Mal towards the door, still keeping her gun on him.

“Shoot him and lets get out of here,” ordered Mal, who waved his gun in Niska’s general direction. “Or tell me where and I’ll do it.” Bane hesitated, overcome with so much hurt and anger churning inside her, but then she walked up to Niska.

“This is an execution, Adelai Niska an’ I won’t feel sorry.” She raised the gun and it whirred into life. Niska moved fast for an old man and threw a punch at her face. She fired as a reflex and it caught him high in the shoulder. He had been reaching for a button on his desk, but the bullet shifted his position. Bane kicked him hard, to the floor, and stood on his chest. “Nice try, you gou cao de Russian –“

“Bane!” shouted Mal, “Finish it. Let’s go – Now!” Bane gave the old man one last look of hatred and shot him in the head. Blood spattered over her boots and she wiped them on his dead body. He would damage no one else. She turned to Mal who had his hand on the door frame.

“Can you see?” she asked, clearing her throat free of the emotions that were threatening to engulf her.

“Close enough. Bring the com so we know when he’s been found.” Bane didn’t want to move. She had just shot the man who had tortured her for two years and she wanted to just curl up and die herself. Reynolds, seeing her form against the light, grabbed her arm in a fierce grip. “I gave you an order – let’s go!” he shouted. Bane snapped to the task in hand and led him out of the room and down the corridor. She looked at the device in her hand.

“I need to get this hatch off here. Zoe said we need to get to the escape pods.”

“Do it fast,” replied Mal. Bane worked the panel free and guided Reynolds into it. She went in behind him and sealed it with some putty, as it was the only thing she had. Apart from one more EMP grenade and the guns they had collected, she was out of tricks. The tunnel was big enough for them to crawl on their hands and knees. At least it was not filled with foul-smelling effluent this time, but it was hot and soon they were both pouring with sweat.

“Keep going, Cap’n, an’ keep your head down.” They crawled for what seemed like miles on a steady and occasionally steep slope downwards. It came through on the com that Niska had been found dead and a search was on, but basically the station was in chaos. From the conversations going on it seemed that he’d only just asserted his authority, so it had still been in its shaky beginnings. Reynolds was relieved as it meant that the search for them would be secondary to the power struggle of finding a new boss. “Look out!” said Bane, as too late he whacked his head on a low pipe. It stunned him more than a little and he stopped crawling, deciding to rest.

“Nice turn of phrase, Bane,” he said sarcastically. He could barely pick out her frame in the dim light of the tunnel. She caught up with him and rested too.

“Sorry. How much can you see now?”

“Near fully, but for the darkness in here. Still a bit blurry though. We’ve been crawling downhill for some time – are we really any closer?” Bane looked at the digital readout again, concluding that it would still take them some time.

“We’re taking the scenic route,” she replied and Reynolds laughed shortly. They were silent for a while, listening to the disjointed com traffic. There was lots of shouting by someone called Drawn.

“I’ve been tortured by Niska too,” Mal said suddenly. “He said he had his reputation to establish.” Bane was very still, she didn’t want to go talking about what Niska had done to her, certainly not in a tunnel while they were still in danger of being caught.

“I’m sure you did nothing to piss him off,” she replied, attempting to be light-hearted. Mal chuckled.

“Well, maybe. But that man enjoyed his work.” Bane nodded in agreement, forgetting that Reynolds couldn’t see her. She looked at him, seeing the calm face and slightly flattened nose in the half light, which belied the years of harshness he had to endure, much like herself. She still didn’t want to go into it though.

“I ain’t talkin’ about it, Cap’n. He’s finally dead, an’ I killed him. He won’t be able to do nothin’ to anyone else now.”

“Fine, have it your way. It don’t do to fester ‘bout it though.”

“We all have things that fester away inside us,” she said, hitting Mal a bit close to the bone. “’Sides, it don’t matter,” she lied. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“So you say,” he sighed, and got back on his hands and knees. “Your turn to lead, anyways. Let’s get off this ruttin’ piece of go se before someone finds us.” Bane crawled past him and led the way. They finally had to come out of the tunnel before it took them completely in the wrong direction. She worked on the access panel and they came out in someone’s quarters, fortunately the occupier not being at home. Mal blinked and managed to focus and he could finally see properly. He was back in control again and was sure angry at himself that they’d walked into the trap so easily. He looked at the digital readout that Bane was carrying. It wasn’t far now, but there were no more ducts to crawl along and it was just a matter of not being seen. The door to the quarters opened and Mal just had time to whip behind it as a man came in and saw Bane.

“Well, hello there,” said Bane quickly, and she sat on the edge of the bed, hoping that he didn’t see their dirty footprints over the cover.

“Wha-?” was all the man could say.

“Present from the Boss,” she replied, feigning to take off her top. Mal whacked him on the head with the end of his gun and he dropped to the floor, out cold. They tied him up on the bed and Bane peered carefully out of the door. “It’s clear.” They ran down corridors and stairs getting further into the belly of the ship. A few times they had near misses and once they just brazenly walked past a group of people while pretending to talk about how bad the food was on the station.

Finally they made it to the area of the pods and Mal estimated that it had taken them near five hours to reach it. He hoped Zoe was waiting for them somewhere out there, out of range of the station weapons. Bane was exhausted, but she wanted to get off the ship as much as Mal. She selected a pod and began working on the controls. Mal followed her in.

“No, not this one – I’m setting it up as a decoy, just in case.”

“I knew that,” said Mal defensively. He didn’t like the way she was sometimes two steps ahead of him, it was most annoying. One person like Zoe was just enough thank you. He opened the pod next door, strapped himself in and activated the controls. It was a small space and only made to fit two people he surmised. Bane joined him moments later, sealing the door behind her.

“It’s away an’ we need to go. I’ve set the other one on a course, so if we just drop out of the ship, they will hopefully think the other is us. Can you send a signal to Serenity?” Mal activated the pod and they felt their stomachs loop as they dropped out of the Silver Bird. Mal tapped in a com message for Serenity. Someone must have been monitoring the pods and they both jumped as the other pod was blown up by a shot from the ship. The pod had only one small window and they couldn’t see what was going on behind them.

We’re almost out of range,” said Mal tensely. He fired up the small engines and they took off. A laser shot went past them – a very near miss. They thought they had made it until another shot caught them a glancing blow. The pod was small and the blast knocked out the engines. Bane, who had not strapped herself in yet, was thrown violently against the bulkhead and knocked out. Mal tried a few things to get the engines going, but they were well and truly fried. All that was left was to hope Serenity had got their message and that the Silver Bird would not send out a recovery vessel. He un-strapped himself and crouched over Bane. There was nothing he could do for her, so he just turned her on her side and tore off part of her sleeve to tie the bleeding wound on her head.

Tian xiao de,” he whispered. The sleeve he had torn off her top revealed some very neat scars that circled her arm in artistic scrolls. He couldn’t stop himself, he pulled the sleeve back further and saw that they followed over onto her back. He rolled Bane over and lifted her top, gasping. It was horribly beautiful. Her back was scarred in the same scrolling designs and very intricate. It had taken a razor sharp knife and the continuous re-opening of old scar tissue to create this. It filled her back from neck to waist. It was obscenely pretty and he felt more than a little sick at the sight. Niska had done this over a long period – her back must have been the canvas he had referred to. Bane groaned and Mal jumped back guiltily. He pulled her top down and turned her back over again. Her hand came up to her head and she muttered some curses. “It’s alright – just a knock on the head. We’ll get the Doc to look at it when we get back.”

“Got a few drums beatin’ in my head, Cap’n.” Bane kept her eyes screwed shut with the pain.

“You don’t have to call me Captain, you know. You’re not part of my crew.” He got up off the floor and lifted her to a sitting position, propped against the wall, before sitting in the pilot’s seat again.

“I know. It’s just habit.” She groaned again. Bane just wanted to sleep to stop the pounding in her head. Mal responded to a small beep on the control panel, it was Serenity. They were almost out of the go se.

* * * * * * * *

“Captain, there isn’t a dermal mender created that can wipe out those scars, even if we could get one. May be if it was just one layer of scar tissue, but this is several layers over a long period of time.” It was the first thing Bane heard as she returned to consciousness. She didn’t want to open her eyes but she felt them watering, they must have seen her back.

“I know Niska is rotting in the special hell for this,” said Mal angrily.

“He’s definitely dead this time then?” asked Simon, who was examining Mal’s eyes for any further damage.

“Oh, yes – Bane shot him in the head. He ain’t coming back from that.” She could hear Mal walking across the room and out of the door.

“He’s gone now,” said Simon, perfectly astute when it came to knowing when people were awake or not.

“You saw then,” Bane said sadly, and Simon nodded. She tried to rise, but he put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

“I’m the doctor and you’re not leaving till I say you’re well enough.” Simon looked too young to be able to carry out that threat if she decided to get up and try, but she was in no mood to test it. Her frustration at not being able to escape led to the tears starting to flow. She turned over awkwardly on the couch, but Simon walked around to face her. “Bane, I’m not a head doctor, but it doesn’t do any good to keep these things in. Does your family know?”

“Of course they do – I share a bunk with five of them and they’re certainly not blind,” she sounded angrier than she meant to be.

“And being family, they accept without question or comment,” pointed out Simon. “What about non-family members?”

“Yes, well, I’ve had my own experiences of that too,” she paused. “You know your sister asked why I wasn’t married.”

“Did she?” Simon said in surprise. Maybe he should leave the head doctoring to her, “By the look on your face you either were or nearly were.” Simon pottered around the room waiting for her to speak.

“Very good, doctor. I was engaged to someone on Whittier who I thought I loved, or somethin’ – not sure now whether it was love or wanting to escape. But he took one look at my body an’ ended it on the spot. Said he didn’t want no other man’s trash. That shiny enough for you?” Simon flushed a little but remained firm.

“There’ll always be people who’ll have problems dealing with those scars, and especially if you let them.”

“Let them? There’s not exactly any gorram way I can hide it, is there?” she replied forcefully. Simon propped himself against the counter and folded his arms.

“Why hide it? The more you do, the more others are shocked when they find out. All that does is chip away at you a little more each time it happens. I asked you the last time whether they were tribal scars and you said they were. Well, why not? The War changed things for many people and these are your battle scars.” Bane had never really looked at it from that point of view. She felt a little calmer, but it was an awful thin line.

“You say I should prance around the ship naked? I’m sure it’ll go down well with Jayne, but not sure I want everyone to lose their appetites just yet.” She didn’t want to pursue the matter further - she wanted to vent and rage, but Simon wasn’t the right person. “I’m tired Doc. You sure I can’t go an’ sleep in my bunk?” Simon left the conversation there, but said she wasn’t going anywhere until he was sure she was okay. He continued to potter around the med bay tidying things up. At least they were heading more directly for Regina now. While the Captain and Bane had been on the Bird, they had their own problems. Blasts from the station had partially damaged the ship, fortunately missing the engines. River had done some fancy flying by all accounts, although to Simon it had only made him feel queasy. He was still not used to space travel, not sure he ever would be.

~ * ~

Regina had an over abundance of trees and the climate near the drop was rainy and damp. They landed without problems. The four of them went to meet Reynolds’ contact with the goods, heavily but subtly armed to the teeth. They were all nervous and trigger itchy after their recent encounter, but it was almost disappointingly uneventful. The money was exchanged and the co-ordinates given for the goods. Mal’s contact proved to be trustworthy and grateful, and they expressed a mutual desire to deal again. They were in the ship and back in the Black before dark.

They still had a fair few days to kill before they got back to Persephone, so Bane got River to give her lessons in flying Serenity. On the Rosalyn they all had to take turns, but here there was just River and the Captain. She was always up for learning new skills and there was little else for her to do on board. The basic flying was easy, but each boat had its own idiosyncrasies and Serenity was knee-deep in them. River was a good teacher though and soon she had the basics down, so much so that River stated the next evening that she was leaving and going to get some food. She left the cockpit laughing at the string of curses Bane sent after her. But after her initial fears she relaxed comfortably into the job. She usually played music when it was her shift at the wheel on the Rosalyn, so she put on the headphones and tapped the com. Music was obviously not Serenity’s priority. There was very little in the database, but she found something nice and loud.

River took her time in returning. She was talking and eating with Kaylee while the mechanic painted her toenails.

“River! Who’s flying my gorram ship?” Mal came in and interrupted their conversation. River jumped.

“Bane is – she pilots on her ship and she picked it up real quick.”

“That’s real shiny – but remind me who is Captain?” Mal had his hands on his hips in an attempt to be authoritative, which was a little difficult with Kaylee sniggering at him.

“Why you are Captain, Captain. I don’t think much of her taste in music though,” replied River, taking another spoonful of rice. Mal grunted and went to investigate the supposed skills of the new pilot. He came across Zoe on his way, coming out of her quarters.

“River has recruited us another pilot,” he indicated the cockpit with his head.

“Really, Cap’n – an’ you let her fly your ship?” Zoe was amused.

“Dint have no choice.”

“Seems she’s got a lot of skills. Might be we could use her.”

“Yeh, we like as wouldn’t have got away from Niska if she hadn’t been around. Not sure she’d want to sign up though.” Zoe looked at him.

“You gotta ask though, Cap’n,” she stated with utter truth.

“Yeh,” he sighed, “I gotta ask.” He left her on the gangway and headed to the cockpit. Their most recent experiences only confirmed that they needed at least another hand. It meant more overheads, but it would be safer. He needed people like themselves, ready to act reliably if the plan went awry and one of these days it really would. The hard part was finding someone trustworthy. He walked into the cockpit and stood watching Bane, rocking her head to the music coming through the headphones. It was a peaceful and comforting sight and it shocked Mal to discover he felt quite lonely all of a sudden. The crew were his family but he still felt the distance of being in charge.

As he stood there his mind turned to Inara. He could never admit to himself how much he was attracted to her. Her presence on Serenity was like a drug and he kept finding himself at her shuttle. They would argue and she would keep threatening to leave, but since Miranda he had not physically done anything about it. He worried that his attraction to her was due to his own sense of rebellion, she stood for everything he hated about the Alliance. He also knew that part of his attraction to Inara was because it would be impossible for him to act on it, and not come out losing a good chunk of himself in the process. Maybe he was tired of trying to attain the impossible and being miserable. The woman in front of him though could be so safe and easy to get to know better, but he was never one to do things all safe and shiny. She was the same as him and Zoe, and Jayne; a tough, resilient and scarred fighter and all mushy underneath – well, maybe not Jayne. He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder and she near jumped out of the chair.

“Gorram!... Cap’n – I mean Mal – I jumped near outta my skin!” Mal tried to look his most serious and Captainy.

“Since when did I say you could drive my ship?” he said sternly. Bane looked sheepish.

“Ah, well. I asked River to give me some lessons – we all take turns on the Rosalyn – and then she left and I was waiting for her to come back. I couldn’t leave the controls to fetch her, she hasn’t shown me autopilot yet.” Mal laughed.

“No matter. Seems you got the hang of her though.” He sat down in the chair next to her.

“She’s a mite different than the Rosalyn, but very like the cruiser we had during the war. River says we should reach Persephone in two days.”

“Good. I plan to send out the word about the Silver Bird, so’s others can avoid it.” Bane said nothing and turned back to the controls. He paused, not sure if he should say what he had on his mind. “Niska called you Deena, so I did some hunting and I found an outstanding warrant on the Cortex for a Deena Court. You look very young in the blurry picture, but you and your mother had a thoroughly impressive resume. The Alliance must really have hung the hun dan who sold you on rather than handing you over.” Bane was looking at him warily, but he carried on. “I could use you on Serenity, Bane. How would it be with your brother if’n you transferred here?” Apart from Niska, it had been a long time since she had heard anyone refer to her by her alias. It conjured up all sorts of memories and very few good ones; Mara and Deena Court, alias Rosa and Bane Pye, wanted for crimes against the Alliance during the Unification War. They had cost the Alliance millions in platinum by blowing up munitions factories and transport depots. They were also down for the murder of all the Alliance soldiers caught in the explosions. That was the vindictiveness of the Alliance, they couldn’t put it down as casualties of war, like all the other battles. Because she had got away they called it murder. Mal was waiting expectantly for her reply.

“He’d leave it up to me,” replied Bane, turning back to concentrate on the controls.

“You would get a share like everyone else, your own bunk – surely that must be tempting?” Mal added. It got a laugh out of her at least.

“It is, as you say, tempting, Mal. You don’t lead a dull life, I’ll give you that,” Bane admitted.

“But?” he added.

“But, I’m not sure I wanna leave my family on the Rosalyn.”

“Well, think on it an’ let me know ‘afore we land on Haven.”

“I will. Thanks for the offer.”

“Go get some eatin’s and I’ll take over.” He comfortably reached for the controls located in front of him. Bane didn’t argue and left quickly, thoroughly surprised by the job offer and more than a little confused.

* * * * * *

“Did you have nice sex, ‘Nara?” asked Kaylee, as they hugged each other in welcome.

“Did you, Kaylee?” was her quick answer. Kaylee looked at Simon and leaned over to whisper in Inara’s ear. Whatever it was she said, Inara’s face remained as calm as water, but there was a glint of humour in her eye. Simon coughed uncomfortably and River rolled her eyes. They stood chatting in the bay when Mal’s voice came over the com.

“Gotta get going, people – need a pilot to fly outta here. Or do I need to hire a new one?”

“Is that supposed to be his cross voice?” commented Inara, amused.

“Na, that’s his happy with the world voice,” finished Kaylee.

“Job went well then.”

“Job went mostly well,” Kaylee corrected her and giggled.

Later on in the galley Inara met Bane and, although it was not instant dislike, there was coolness. Inara felt that Bane had certainly made herself part of the ship in the short two weeks she had been absent, but would never admit she was jealous. Jayne was positively drooling and Mal, well, Mal was mighty friendly. Inara was angry at herself that she didn’t like how friendly he was being. She understood why when the after dinner story was the tale of their escape from Niska’s new space station.

“This food is exquisite – the best thing I’ve tasted in a long while. Did you pick up fresh rations on the way back?” she asked Zoe, thinking she had cooked it.

“We’ve been eatin’ like kings since Bane came aboard,” Jayne’s voice held high praise.

“You would think it’s good. You lot have been eatin’ too much protein zao gao,” defended Bane. “But I’m glad it’s to your liking.” Bane had been watching Inara eat and saw she was being truthful about the food. She had also seen how Mal’s eyes watched Inara’s every move, real subtle, like he didn’t want to be noticed doing it. There was definitely some history between those two, but she couldn’t gage what kind of history. Inara was a stunning woman who had obviously been taught to make the most of her assets from young age. She also seemed the most aloof of the crew, to everyone apart from Kaylee. Bane had found that with many Companions she had met and had impersonated some as well, during the war.

“So you gonna take Mal up on his offer?” Jayne asked her suddenly, bringing Bane out of her thoughts. Inara went very still and stared at Mal, who grinned and stared right back, refusing to enlighten her curiosity.

“Yes, stay Bane,” pleaded Kaylee. “We never had a job go so smooth before,” she added, with a side glance at her Captain. Bane had hoped that Mal would keep the job offer to himself until she had made her decision. He obviously played to win though, and looked very pleased with himself as well.

“I haven’t made my decision yet, Kaylee.” Bane glanced at Zoe, who as usual looked non-committal.

“Make life a mite more interestin’ if you do,” said Jayne. He reached over and took another two rolls, smelling their freshness before cutting them open.

“You’re just thinking of your eatins, Jayne,” stated Kaylee.

“Well, o’course I am,” he replied, as if it made total and perfect sense.

~ * ~

They approached Haven a couple of days later and Bane knew she could no longer put off talking to the Captain about her decision. He was in his quarters, so she banged on the door and waited for his answer. When it came, she climbed down the ladder and saw that he was at his desk. In the dim light she could see his quarters were untidy but functional, kind of reminding her of her workshop back on the Rosalyn.

“Made your choosin’ then?” he sat back in the chair and folded his arms. Bane saw there was nothing else to sit on apart from his bed, so she remained standing. She discovered that Mal’s job offer had been a surprisingly hard thing to decide on, in fact it had prevented her from having a decent sleep for the last couple of nights.

“Yes, I have,” she took a breath, “I’ve decided to return home to the Rosalyn.” Mal made no reaction except to smile broadly.

“I can feel a ‘but’ in there somewhere – what is it?” he asked.

“I don’t feel ready to leave my family yet. But that’s not to say I won’t ever be. I’ll fully admit that through the shootin’, crawlin’ through go se and almost being blown out of the Black, I’ve never felt more alive. It’s been a parcel of years since I could say that.” Bane knew it wouldn’t always be like that here, but living on Serenity would not be dull. “What I’m trying to say is, well – ask me again sometime, if’n you’re inclined, and the answer may be different.”

“Might not have a need for extra crew then,” answered Mal reasonably. Bane shrugged.

“That’s a risk I’ll have to take.”

“Won’t say that Jayne mightn’t try an’ chain you to the ship to make you stay.” Bane laughed, and would have been quite happy to stay and talk, but Mal made no effort to offer her a place to sit.

“Right then,” she made a move to go. “It’s been a pleasure, Mal. Hope to see you around some.” Mal stood up and held out his hand.

“See you around the Black.” She shook his hand and climbed back up the ladder. Bane returned to her quarters and gathered both her bags together to take them to the cargo bay.

They broke atmo to Haven shortly after and Bane made sure she had said her farewells to everyone. As the cargo door was lowered, she saw her brother waiting for her with her cousins, looking quite anxious until they noticed her. She smiled, her heart filled with the love and joy associated with homecoming. There was nothing like being missed, even if she did have to go back to sharing a bunk with five smelly men. Bane, Mal and Zoe walked down the ramp together. She hugged her brother and then let him go so he could shake Mal’s hand.

“She’s in one piece, jus’ like I promised,” said Mal. He handed over Tony’s share of the profits. It was a hefty bag. “Tried to pinch her from you too, but she wanted to stay with family.” Tony’s eyebrows raised and he looked at his sister. She looked happy, and something else he could not put his finger on.

“It was temptin’ – but I reckon you needed me more,” she defended, and then walked over to hug her cousins. Maloranty, being as big as a bear, lifted her off the ground in welcome.

“We heard about Niska,” Tony said, when it was just him and Mal and they were out of earshot. Mal walked away from the others a bit and Tony followed.

“What did you hear?” asked Mal. The strange light speed of gossip never failed to surprise him.

“That he’s finally dead and you shot him. Thank you, by the way. I wish I’d been there to see it.”

“It wasn’t me, Tony, it was Bane. She shot him in the gorram head.” Tony’s mouth opened in shock.

Ni ta ma de. I thought she looked different, more at peace. Hardest thing I ever did was walkin’ away from him. You know –“

“I know what he did, an’ would have killed him my own self if she hadn’t.” Mal interrupted him, clearly seeing that it was hard for Tony to explain what Niska had done to his sister. Tony looked relieved as well.

“No more secrets then?”

“We all have secrets – keeps us from getting’ dead.” Mal replied. He looked around and held out his hand to Tony who took it warmly.

“Wave me if you have any other jobs. Although, if you wanna try pinchin’ my best cook again, I’m not sure I’ll be so ready to contract her out again.” Mal laughed. It was hard finding reliable contacts in this ‘Verse and worth holding on to the good ones you did find.

“Fly safe, Tony,” he said, and they parted. Bane waited for Tony to catch up with her and they watched Serenity’s crew re-board. Bane waved when she saw Mal turn around and he waved back.

* * * * * * * *

Author's Note: Reformatted in February 2019.

Author’s Note: Edited in March 2008 (Always looking to improve!).

Please feel free to comment, even if this was posted ages ago. Thanks go to BlueEyedBrigadier, ScrewtheAlliance and SpaceANJL for their helpful comments when I was writing this.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007 4:56 PM


Well now...gotta say that was an interesting conclusion to things, hermitsrest. Felt kinda rushed and jumbled, especxially with Niska popping up and then getting offed in the span of only a few paragraphs. And that's not including a rather obvious difference between how Niska speaks in the BDS and how he speaks here.

Still...I see promise and can't wait to see what else you come up with;)


Friday, April 13, 2007 2:20 PM


The absolute most important part of writing a good story is just that: a good story. In terms of plot and characterization, "Hun Dan" is excellent, as good a story as some of the best fics by writers like Amdobel, screwthealliance, and valeriebean. I really liked it and found myself captivated by Bane's story and interested in what she was going through. You also did a good job of balancing exciting action and exploring your characters' thoughts and feelings.

Your construction and organization is a bit muddled at times, and sometimes awkward, but these are easy things to fix. A good beta can help you fix these things. Also, I find that just getting away from what I've written for a few days lets me see it with new eyes. That makes re-writing go a lot easier. Keep writing, and good luck. This is an excellent start for a first fic.


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