Underground - Prologue
Friday, June 1, 2007

All Mal wants is a little transport job. Nothing fancy, just something to pay the fuel bill. So Mal takes note when Shepherd Book says an old friend just might know of an opportunity on an out of the way moon called Trythes. Too bad Mal doesn’t know what he’s in for.


Disclaimer – They all belong to Joss, I just enjoy hanging out in their midst.

Pairings - all the traditional M/I; K/S; Z/W; Jayne/Anyone in a skirt; River’s in everyone’s minds and Book is trying to keep them all straight, plus throw in a few OC’s for good measure. In other words its all fairly cannon.

Summary – All Mal wants is a little transport job. Nothing fancy, just something to pay the fuel bill. So Mal takes note when Shepherd Book says an old friend just might know of an opportunity on an out of the way moon called Trythes. Too bad Mal doesn’t know what he’s in for.

Setting – During the series, in between Trash and Heart of Gold

This story is a hundred times better because of all the wonderful betatype advice given to me by Mal4prez. I throw many thankyous in her direction.

My story line indicates eight segments to follow, chapters 1-7 and an epilogue. I have included more about the storyline and my motivation for writing in my blog.


Underground Prologue –

‘Twinkles, they twinkle as we pass,’ River thought to herself. Scrunched up in the shadows of the bridge, she could see the stars above her head. ‘All that dirt flying past. They want dirt. Grumpy.’ Feeling the tempest approach, River crouched deeper into the shadows.

“Wash! When we gonna land on that gorramn planet? Those fur balls are starting to eat through the deck plating!”

River did not often hear Captain Mal Reynolds yell as he walked onto the bridge. This time, however, he seemed particularly annoyed. He had just come from the cargo bay, which was filled with over five hundred pure bred white rabbits. She did not think it was the rabbits per se that annoyed him though. It was the way the members of his crew treated them, especially the female members of his crew. Kaylee in particular had become quite attached to those two loppy eared ones. She cuddled them, held them, and put blankets in their cages.

‘I’ll have no rabbit hutch in the engine room!’ Mal had said to his mechanic when he discovered her moving crates and stringing wire during their second week on board.

‘Loving and caring for creatures should not be yelled at,’ River thought to herself.

“Three weeks on board and they think they own the place.” His bellows were getting louder. River fought the urge to scrunch farther into the corner. She wanted to see the stars.

Following Mal onto the bridge were both Kaylee and Zoe; neither flinched at his rantings but each slowed their pace, giving him space before they continued on through the doorway. All around them, lights from the various computers and navigational instruments flickered, casting the bridge in an eerie glow. With the radiance from the stars, there was plenty of light to see by, but also many shadows to hide in. As usual, Wash sat in the pilot’s seat, flicking switches and turning dials, doing all the right things to make Mal’s baby fly through the air. He cared about the ship, and the crew, River could tell.

“Awe, come on cap, they aren’t any trouble, they’re cute!” Kaylee held the white rabbit in her arms out towards the captain. “They really like it when you scritch them between the ears like this.” Demonstrating her rabbit scratching technique, she continued to try and hand off the rabbit to the captain, who would have absolutely none of it.

“I ain’t coddling no furball, and I don’t do scritches!” he said loudly. Causing Kaylee to recoil with the rabbit, clutching it tight to her chest, but it didn’t phase her. The rabbit snuggled down in her arms, burying its face in the crook of her elbow. Fluffy white ears twitched next to her chin, tickling her slightly as she made cooing noises at it, keeping it calm.

“Don’t mind him, cap’s just a mean old man sometimes. But it’s really just an act,” Kaylee said to the rabbit, ignoring the annoyed look from the captain, as well as the knowing smile Wash directed towards his wife.

There was a moment’s pause as River gathered herself to speak. She had to make sure she talked in the present. “They like being held. Calm and quiet. Safe like the den, surrounded by family.” Everyone turned as River leaned into the light so they could see her. “Scared, out in the open, vibrating, can’t forget the hunt, two by two hands of….” The rail thin girl began shaking as she spoke, her mind getting lost in the events of the past. No one was clear about what she was saying let alone what she was seeing. ‘They never are,’ she thought to herself. It was often a source of frustration for her that those around her could not understand. It was hard to stay in the present long enough to explain things properly. Time was just slippery, you took a step one direction and before you knew it you were somewhere else.

Zoe stepped forward and placed her hand on Rivers shoulder. The gesture was not even acknowledged, but River stopped shaking and her breathing slowed. “Want to hide,” River said. “Like being held. Warm and safe in our metal den.” Her gaze drifted from the rabbit toward Zoe’s deep black eyes. “Safe with family.” She smiled.

“She’s been there all day,” River heard Wash tell Zoe softly, “but that’s the most she’s spoken in hours.” He gave River the kind of smile a father would give an ailing child as he spoke. The warmth in his voice brought her again back to the present.

‘Warm and safe in the twinkles,’ River thought and scrunched herself back into the shadows.

“That’s all well and good,” Mal said, “but you still ain’t told me when we’re landing on that gorram planet. I want those fluffy den-loving furballs out of my hold and onto the ground, where apparently –” Mal gestured toward River, “– they’d like to be. At least `till they all get turned into fur coats.”

It was clear to River that Mal didn’t understand why no one got his joke. He started to try again, but shut his mouth soon after opening it. Looking around and seeing the piercing looks emanating from everyone on the bridge, Mal turned tail and left, muttering a swift “fine” under his breath.


Inara, sat facing the cortex screen. She could almost make out Mal’s heavy footsteps ringing through the ship as he stomped past the crew quarters and through the dinning area. By the time he got to the shuttle landing, his steps were not as heavy. Perhaps he had relaxed a bit. Of course, he was heading for her door. Where else would he go when he was in a foul mood? Without knocking, he walked in and plopped on her couch. Inara did not turn around, hoping that if she ignored him long enough, he would go away.

He didn’t.

“I think everyone on this ship’s goin’ nuts,” he eventually said. “I just don’t get it; they’re rabbits, not babies. The way Kaylee treats ‘em you’d think she birthed ‘em herself. River’s goin’ off about metal dens and pairs of vibrating hunters, and you know I think I saw Jayne feeding ‘em carrots. You know the carrots we served at lunch. Carrots are good food, we can’t be wasting real food, on cargo.”

Inara completely ignored Mal’s rantings. “I need at least a week on Trythes,” she said, not looking away from the cortex screen. “Since you have not seen fit to land anywhere civilized in exactly twenty two days, if you want your rent money, you’ll need to guarantee a stay that long.”

“I can’t guarantee anything,” he said, his voice dripping with frustration. “What am I supposed to do – turn down a job because my resident whore can’t make her rent?”

“No,” Inara replied slowly and thoughtfully. Mal seemed unusually cranky today. “You should turn down a job, because your resident captain is too tetchy to keep from ripping into his mechanic for caring about the well-being of your cargo. You ought to give everyone shore leave. Give everyone a chance to get away from you, while you work out whatever is making you bite people’s heads off. I, for one, am quite certain that a week would be just the perfect amount of time.”

Mal stood up at her words, but Inara continued to stare at her cortex screen.

“Fine!” he muttered as he stomped out of the room.


The encounter with Inara did exactly nothing to improve Mal’s mood. He started to turn towards the cargo bay, but changed his mind. He did not want to be surrounded by rabbits again. The sooner they were off his ship the better. ‘Drivin’ everyone to madness,’ he thought as he walked.

He headed toward the dining room, only to run smack into Shepherd Book.

The preacher’s deep voice echoed in the corridor. “Oh, just the person I wanted to see.”

“What – you also wantin’ to give me a hard time about not wanting to cuddle with what should be food?”

“Son, I’m not saying anything about your choice of cargo, nor it’s intended destination. But we are going to Trythes, are we not?”

“That’s the plan, unless someone hijacks the ship in order to prevent the killing of five hundred potential fur coats. I just don’t get how rabbits can turn a good crew towards mutiny. What’s so interesting n Trythes?”

“An old friend of mine from the Southdown Abbey has taken a position as Shepherd in a smallish town, on the southern continent. Lonepine is its name. From what he’s told me, I believe it’s a mining and ranching community, far away from the hustle and bustle of a port city. Not many around to collect tariffs, if you know what I mean. It is late spring there, a perfect place and time to let folks breathe fresh air and get a bit of mud between their toes.”

“Your sayin’ if we perhaps were to take some shore leave, we might perchance run into someone with some cargo that needs transporting, real quiet like.”

“One never knows, but Wormfood has indicated to me in the past that certain folks yen for the occasional off world opportunity.”

“Wormfood?” Jayne asked as he entered the corridor. “You gotta be kidding. Hey, everybody, Shepherd’s got a friend named Wormfood.”

Jayne would have to pick this moment to go to the cargo bay. All Mal needed was another person to give him a hard time. Or maybe not; Mal stared at Jayne, who could barely control his laughter. Was there also a slight hint of giggles emanating from someone in the dining room? Jayne seemed thrilled to have the chance to tease his friend as Book seldom gave him the opportunity. He was going to get mileage out of this one for quite a while. Mal smiled thinking he was off the hook until he spotted the merc push something green into his pocket.

“Did you just stuff the lettuce leaves into your pocket?” Mal asked incredulously. “Tell me you are not liberating fresh food from the cooler.”

“Don’t know what yer talking about,” Jayne replied, obviously lying.

“Wormfood was just a nickname he picked up at the abbey,” Book explained, quickly wrestling the subject back toward his errand. “I was just saying that my friend lives in a smallish mining town on the southern continent. I thought it might be a good place to pick us up some cargo under the guise of taking some shore leave. ”

“They have whores? Shore leave’s no good if there ain’t nothin’ to spend yer coin on.”

Mal ignored that comment as he pushed past the big mercenary and the Shepherd.

“Fine” Mal muttered for the third time that hour as he stalked towards the bridge. He took exactly four steps before bellowing “Zoë!”

Mal’s voice echoed through the ship. Trying to stifle her laughter, Zoë poked her head into the corridor from the dining room. “Tell Wash that after we unload the furballs, we’re gunna hole up with a friend of the Shepherd’s. Some people on this boat apparently need fresh air and mud to be agreeable.”

Here is the link to Chapter 1


Friday, June 1, 2007 4:55 PM


Oh this is fun! Mal's foul mood is perfectly in character especially considering that he's just recovered from his second run-in with Saffron. And everyone else's voices are spot on.

I really love Kaylee with the rabbits and River's cryptic messaging that no one can understand. And for some reason, the idea that Wash has known she's been on the bridge all day and not called her out makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. He was such a good guy ... damn Joss for killing him!

Friday, June 1, 2007 6:36 PM


Very good start, looking forward to a continuation. You've got Mal down pat, and all the rest of the crew seemed pretty much spot on as well. Except, I'm not entirely sure about Wash's reaction to River. Yes, he was nice usually, but he was also always a little creeped out by her, so I'm not sure this would've been the route he'd have taken. Still, hard to argue when it's written that well. Don't make us wait too long for an update!

Friday, June 1, 2007 11:20 PM


Really enjoying this. Everybody very much in character though I have a sneaky feeling the sojourn on Trythes may not be as restful or rewarding as the Captain thinks. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, June 2, 2007 1:49 AM


Wow. Talk about well written. You got each and every character perfect, especially River, who, let's face it, is almost impossible to write well. Most people fall into the trap of making her bratty or childlike, but that's not the way she is in canon and it's nice to get a little well written insight into her.

And good start, too. Hope to read more. xxx

Saturday, June 2, 2007 3:19 AM


Great job with the dialog and keeping everyone in character. You've got a very fresh approach to the story - very lively and wonderfully done! Looking forward to more.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 8:17 AM


Good start. Looking forward to reading more.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 4:40 PM


Yep...good ole Mal. Can't go too long without getting all crotchety about something;)

And I think Wash's reaction to River's presence is totally in character. Yeah, she creeps him out, but when she's sat quietly on the bridge without making a confusing ocmment or being otherwise creepy? He's in a more familial role of caregiver;)



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