The Bequest - Part VIII
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Freya figure out more of the clues, and the treasure hunt is set in motion. I love your comments - keep 'em coming!


Hank ran his hands through his hair and yawned hugely then leaned over the screen on the bridge. “Why do you think there’s something to find?” he asked, scratching his chest.

“Call it a hunch.”

Mal had woken Hank up, and once persuaded the ship wasn't on fire and Zoe wasn't giving birth, the pilot had made his way to the bridge.

“You get many of those at …” Hank glanced at the shipboard chronometer. “God, at this time of the night?”

“It’s morning, Hank.”

“Not from where my body sits.”

“Well, it’ll sit outside in the rain if you don’t take a look.”

Hank looked up at the bridge windows, and the stair rods hammering down. “Rain? Looks more like we should be building an ark.”

“Hank –“

“Does Casmir like the going good or soft?” he asked idly, interrupting his captain without thinking. Then he saw the look on Mal’s face and the thought occurred to him that might not have been too good an idea.


“The going. The ground. When he runs.”

“How the hell should I know?” Mal was rapidly coming to the end of his short temper.

“It should be in the papers. Or the form.” Hank grinned. “Might be worth a flutter if he likes it soft.”

In spite of himself Mal had to ask. “You know about horse racing? I thought cards was your game. And you said you and horses didn’t get on.”

“Only riding them. I've been known to put a little money on a filly or two.”

“You want me to tell Zoe that?”

“I meant betting.”

“Not the way I put it when I tell Zoe if you don’t get your brain in gear and check out the tab!”

Hank looked at him. “This isn’t doing your blood pressure any good.”

“Do I have to get my gun and threaten you?”

Hank grinned. “See? All you had to do was ask nicely.”

“Can you not shoot him?” Freya said, climbing up the steps behind them. “I think Zoe’s only just got him house-trained. And it‘ll be messy.” She held out a cup of coffee. “Here.”

Hank took it gratefully. “I love you,” he said sincerely.

“Hey, what about me?” Mal complained.

“I'm sure he loves you as well,” Freya laughed. “And I can’t carry two.” She looked at him. “Or do you want your poor, incapacitated wife to run backwards and forwards to the galley for you?”

He gave her one of his looks, but she just smiled. “Okay,” he finally said. “Just this once.” He walked off the bridge, saying over his shoulder, “You get onto the tab, Hank.” As he passed Freya she could hear him muttering to himself, “My own gorram ship. At what point did it stop being my own gorram ship?”

Freya smiled and crossed the bridge to sit in the other chair. “You’d better get the information he wants, Hank. Otherwise he might just throw you off.”

“I'm working on it,” Hank promised. “Just letting the coffee wake me up enough so that I don’t fry the damn thing.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

Hank swallowed another mouthful then put the mug carefully down on the side console. He triggered the screen and pushed the tab into place, playing a concerto on the keys.

“Well?” Mal asked, climbing the steps two at a time, a cup of coffee in each hand. “Got anything?”

“I’ve only just started,” Hank complained gently. “Give me a minute.”

“Should’ve got River,” Mal said quietly, handing one of the coffees to Freya. “Or done it myself.”

They waited, one patiently, the other tapping his foot.

Until Hank let out a low whistle. “You wouldn’t have found it.”

Mal was at his side in an instant. “Found what?”

“Two files. Embedded deep in the tab’s memory. If I hadn’t been looking for them I doubt I’ve ever have known they were there.”

“What are they? More messages?”

“Nope. They seem to be straightforward images.”

“Play ‘em.”

Hank nodded, pressing a button and bringing up the first one. “What the hell’s that?”

Freya leaned over Mal’s shoulder. “Looks like the plans to a house.”

“The whorehouse?” Mal suggested, glancing at her.

“Could be.” She touched the screen. “And X marks the spot?” she added, her finger resting on a small red cross on what appeared to be the ground floor.

“Maybe.” Mal touched Hank’s shoulder. “And the other?”

Another image, this time of what looked like a tree with multiple branches lying on its side.

“A mine,” Freya said softly.

“And another X,” Mal agreed, pointing to an identical cross some distance in from the entrance. “I suppose it’s safe to say it’s the one in the papers.”

“I don’t see anything on there that would indicate otherwise.”

“X?” Hank put in. “Like in treasure maps?”

“Could be,” Mal said. “Only why two?”

“Divided up?” Freya suggested.

“Perhaps.” Mal stood up and paced the floor a little.

“So are we going treasure hunting?” Hank asked, looking from one to the other.

“Seems we might,” Freya said, watching her husband as he thought.


“Zoe, I want you, Jayne and River to go the whorehouse, see if there’s anything at the spot marked.” Mal tapped the screen. “Hank and I will go to the mine.”

It was morning, and everyone was gathered in the dining area.

Hank looked unhappy. “Um, Mal …”

“I’d rather Hank came with me,” Zoe said firmly. “If that’s okay with you, sir.”

“What? Why?”

“Call it a pregnant woman’s whim.”

Mal stared at her, but she wasn't going to enlighten him. Finally he threw his hands into the air. “Fine. Whatever. Take Hank. Jayne can come with me.”

“What about me?” Freya asked. “Can’t I do something?”

“Look after Ethan and Bethany and our six little visitors,” Mal said.

“That wasn't quite what I had in mind.”

“I know. But you ain't well enough yet to ride the mule, and I don’t think walking to the whorehouse is gonna do you much good either. Don’t you agree, doc?”

Simon nodded. “You need to rest as much as possible. Pushing yourself, willing it to get better quicker, even with your abilities, is only going to make it a longer job. Besides, it looks like I'm staying too.” There was a hint of reproach on his face.

“Do you want to be a part of this?” Mal asked, surprised.

“I think I've made it perfectly clear we’re all in this,” Simon pointed out. “And although it’s fun sitting counting swabs all day, I would prefer a little fresh air.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed slightly at the sarcasm in his voice, but he said, “Fine. Run with Zoe.”

Simon smiled. “Thanks.”

“So you’re leaving me with this boatload of females?” Freya wanted clarified.

“Should feel right at home. ‘N’ Kaylee’ll be here.”

“Aw, Cap’n –“ Kaylee complained.

“Can’t have all my crew gallivanting out and about. Someone able-bodied has to stay and mind the ship.”

“I’ll be crabby when you get home,” Freya warned.

“But at least you ain't gonna fall down a mineshaft and undo all the doc’s good work.” Mal stood up. “Okay, people. Sooner we check this out, the quicker we’ll know there ain't anything there.” He headed for the door. “Be in the bay in ten minutes.”

“Is everything all right?” Honoria asked, hovering in the corridor.

Mal smiled at her. “Shiny. Might be even better when we get back.”

“Oh. Good.” She nodded. “That’s nice.”

Mal patted her a little awkwardly on the shoulder and opened the door to his bunk. “You best be getting back to looking after your sisters,” he advised, climbing down the ladder. “Make sure they don’t stray.”

“They won’t.”

Jayne watched as Honoria went back down the stairs, then hurried to get his guns. After the previous incident, he wasn’t going to put himself in the way of trouble again. Not if it meant making his girl unhappy. River smiled as she drifted after him.

“Thanks,” Hank breathed as Freya, Simon and Kaylee walked the other way towards the lower crew quarters. “Not sure I could stand going down a mine.”

“You’re going to have to tell Mal you’re claustrophobic one day,” Zoe pointed out.

“Yeah, but not when everyone else is listening.”

“You still think they’d make fun of you?”

“I don’t want to be put in the position of finding out.” He grinned suddenly. “’Sides, I get to spend some time with my favourite woman.”

“And Simon and River.”

“Maybe we can persuade them to walk on ahead.”


River was first in the cargo bay, having done nothing more than put on a pair of boots. She didn’t really want to wear them, feeling much more at home in bare feet, but it was a compromise she could live with. And Mal had been very clear on the matter.

“You don’t put ‘em on, you don’t go. Ain't having you walking on something bad and having to get your brother to stitch you up.”

She didn’t mind him looking out for her. It felt warm. Like her father should have been.

Movement outside made her look up.

“Miss?” It was the stable boy from yesterday, the one who had led Casmir out.

She smiled at him. “Hello,” she said.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I said I’d come and tell you.”

She crossed the bay floor, her dress floating around her. “Tell me what?”

“You have to come and register. Mr York, the steward, should’ve said before you left, but I think it slipped his mind.”

“And you volunteered? That’s sweet.”

The young man blushed. He can’t have been more than nineteen or twenty, with short cropped blond hair that almost disappeared in the grey morning light. “I was coming this way anyway …” he dissembled.

“So I need to register to race?”

“Unless you’re already down as a jockey.”

Jayne stomped down the stairs, looking as intimidating as possible. “No, she ain’t,” he said. “And I still ain’t happy about this.”

“I am, Jayne,” River answered, turning her face to him. “I want to do this.”

He grumbled under his breath, then said, “Better make sure you win, then.”

“Only it has to be before noon,” the boy said, interrupting them. “After that it ain't legal and you won’t be allowed to.”

“Noon?” River’s brow furrowed. “How long does it take?”

“’Bout an hour. Lots of forms.”

“Do I need ID?” Which could be a problem, she thought but didn’t say.

“Nah. Ain't that formal, but they want to know all sortsa stuff. Parents names, place of birth, that kinda thing.” The young man grinned. “Takes longer if you ain't so good at forming your letters.”

That won't be a problem, she thought. And I can have fun making things up. “Did you fill them in?”

He grinned wider. “I get to ride occasionally, if there’s no-one else.”

“Would you have ridden Casmir?”

“Nope. Horse like him, even if he ain't won, his parentage would’ve had the better of any jockeys around.”

“I'm sorry,” River said, feeling the disappointment flowing from him.

“No problem. Might get a ride anyway.” He glanced over his shoulder. “But the point is, you gotta come with me or you won’t be able to either.”

“What’s that?” Mal asked, heading down the stairs. “You off somewhere?”

River looked up at him. “I have to register for the race. Now, it seems.”

Mal shrugged. “If you’re still sure you want to ride –“

“I am.”

“Then you’d better go do that.” He looked at the stable boy. “You just make sure she gets back here okay.”

“Yes sir.”

Jayne rumbled. “Mal, I don’t think she should go alone.”

“You think she can’t look after herself?”

He’s jealous, Mal heard in his mind.

That right, albatross? he thought back. Any reason to be?

Only because I want to get my own back.

You can explain that later.

“I never said that,” Jayne was going on. “But you said yourself this ain't a town for womenfolk. Too much likelihood of molestation.”

Mal’s eyebrows went up. “And what do you think would happen if River got molested?” he asked.

“I’ll go with River,” Kaylee said brightly, not wanting to even consider what her sister-in-law could do to any would-be attackers.

“Didn’t I just say I wanted you to stay on board?” Mal asked. “’Cause I'm sure my mouth was moving at the time.”

“It’s okay,” Freya said. “I can look after things. And I’m perfectly capable of using the com if anything bad looks like happening. You know, like aliens land or something.”

“Ain't no such thing,” Kaylee said softly. “Cows.”

“You sure?” Mal looked at Freya, ignoring his mechanic.


Mal sighed. “Okay. Looks like Kaylee’s going with River. Anyone else want to change? Got a deep and abiding urge to annoy me further?”

There was a general shaking of heads.

“It doesn’t look like it, sir,” Zoe confirmed, her lips twitching just a little.

“Good.” He adjusted the gunbelt around his hips. “Keep in com contact, and don’t do anything foolish.” He straightened his shoulders and was suddenly the captain again. “Let’s go.”

to be continued


Wednesday, June 20, 2007 5:29 AM


I love Mal and Freya trying to puzzle out the mystery like gorram detectives but I really hate the timing of River having to go and register for the race. Call me suspicious but coincidences seldom are just that and the thought of Kaylee going with River makes me jumpy. Kaylee is too easily distracted and too trusting to be much of a one for spotting trouble before it hits and I am not sure she isn't being set up. Can't wait for the next part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 9:04 AM


This tale is just a pleasure to read! Love the banter of the crew in this one!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 4:29 PM


I love how you're developing the mystery here. I can't tell if the mystery is the horse race, the mine or the video. Love to have to guess as to where you're going to go with this. Great job as always, and always a delight to read your writing

Sunday, June 24, 2007 9:42 AM


Hmm...I took the stable hand's arrival as an attempt to see River, rather than the opening part to an attempted trap. Could be an unintentional merging of agendas, I suppose;)

And I definitely agree with Suvie in that Mal's line of "Anyone else want to change? Got a deep and abiding urge to annoy me further?" was just spot-on hilarious for Mal;D



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