Here Be Dragons (Part XVI)
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Life goes on for some... but not others


Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind.

Thanks to my regular readers for making it worthwhile to continue the story and special thanks to my Proof-Reader Landry.

* * *

Serenity/Granite Gorge – Underway – 2520AD

The Captain stopped working for a moment. ‘Blood?’ he asked.


‘It was actually congealed blood?’

‘For the most part yes.’

‘Fried up for breakfast?’

Steve grinned. ‘Yes but in my house usually only on Saturdays as a treat with fried eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans…’

‘And that’s considered a food where you come from? Greasy congealed blood?’

‘My people’s traditional cuisine for centuries. You know Black Pudding is really very tasty.’

Mal grimaced. ‘Sounds revolting.’

‘If you think that’s bad you should hear what they eat on Edinburgh.’

‘And you bunch of high cholesterol vampires really had the largest Empire in the History of Earth-That-Was?’

Steve laughed. ‘Yes, but we put that down to the weather not the diet.’


‘The British Isles were cold and damp so we conquered all the nice warm countries to make sure they all ended up just as miserable as we were.’ He caught the expression on the Captain’s face. ‘Hey check an encyclopaedia. America, India, South Africa, Egypt, Australia, the Caribbean… Canada was cold but we only got that because we took it off the damn French.’

Mal grinned for a second, then his expression changed to a serious one. ‘What was it like fighting against your own world? There were an awful lot of Wessex boys and girls wearing purple.’

Steve nodded. ‘And one of my brothers and my little sister were amongst them.’ He paused. ‘Don’t think I ever told you but one was at Du Khang. You might have shot at each other.’

‘He come through alright?’

Steve smiled. ‘She,’ he said, ‘and yes they both made it through unscathed. I got a letter from my mother when I was in a POW Camp after the Valley and she told me they were all okay.’

‘Enjoy the Camps much?’ Mal asked.

Steve chuckled. ‘I’ll give them their due, those Ally guards were professional and civilised. They waited until my burns were healed up nicely before they started kicking the shit out of me on a pretty much daily basis.’

Mal nodded remembering his own time in a camp after the armistice. A lot of those guards had lost friends and family to soldiers wearing brown and they were none too gentle with their charges even the ones they didn’t consider outright traitors.

‘Was it worth it?’

‘The war?’


‘I watched my friends, the best people I will ever know, die horribly. I led men and women to their deaths. I was responsible for the deaths of thousands of human beings, I got shot, burned and blown up and we still didn’t rutting win. Of course it wasn’t worth it.’

Mal looked away then faced him again. ‘Would you do it again?’

Steve looked thoughtful. ‘Illogically, yes, I think I would,’ he said eventually.


‘Because we were right and because I like being able to face myself in the mirror even if a lot of people might turn away and if I wasn’t willing to back my beliefs up with my actions I’d be a hypocritical bastard.’

‘For a smart guy you can be really dumb you know that?’

‘So the wife tells me.’

* * *

‘It’s simply lìngrén jingyì,’ Kaylee stated. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’

‘They’ve been at this pace how long?’ Simon asked.

‘Just over three quarters of an hour.’

Simon took a seat on a packing crate next to the mechanic. ‘It’s amazing to watch alright.’

River served.

Laura returned and the volley began again.

‘I honestly wouldn’t have thought the game could be played that fast,’ Jennifer said quietly. ‘This could make the entire professional Squash community redundant.’

‘One of them is going to pass out,’ Kaylee opined.

‘I doubt it. Anyway, look at the determination.’

The volleys went faster and faster. Each one knew what the other was about to do and they both moved like lightning.

‘Watch the movement though. It’s stylistically very different,’ Jennifer pointed out. ‘River moves with a fluidity and grace that’s very attractive to watch…’

‘… but Laura moves more mechanistically,’ Simon interrupted. ‘A bit faster though.’

Jennifer sighed. ‘A few more lessons on racket technique and they’ll both be better than I ever was. It took me years of practice to get that good.’

‘Think Jayne’s watching for the technique over there?’ Kaylee asked pointing at the Mercenary who was watching the game from the other side of the cargo bay.

‘I’ll wager his interest is more due to the young women in short pleated skirts than any considerations of playing style,’ Jennifer remarked.

Simon twitched. He hated it when he found Jayne Cobb eyeing up his little sister.

The volley ended with Laura screaming in triumph as River missed the ball, if only by a fraction of an inch. River gave her a baleful glare then went to grab a drink of water as the sixteen year old bounced around the court in celebration.

‘I’m getting too old for this,’ River announced loudly.

‘Better invest in that retirement fund Methuselah,’ Simon joked.

River splashed some of the water on her face. ‘It’s feels like playing against myself,’ River declared, ‘if the other me was taking large amounts of amphetamines that is. We both end up in each others’ minds.’

‘But I won because I’m better,’ Laura declared haughtily.

River frowned then grinned. ‘Maybe, but while I was in there I found out you like my brother.’

Laura stopped dead with an ashen expression on her face.

‘She thinks you’re really hot,’ River continued turning to address Simon.

The girl was a highly skilled telepathic assassin who could kill or maim with little remorse, she was however also sixteen and Laura blushed fiercely and turned away. Then she dashed off to her quarters still clutching the Squash racket.

‘That was very cruel River,’ Jennifer chided.

‘You didn’t have to feel all the smugness radiating off the little brat,’ River threw back. She paused. ‘Yes, I suppose it was cruel. She’s very upset now.’

Simon sat there nonplussed. ‘What should I do?’ he asked eventually.

Kaylee grinned. He really was useless at times like this. ‘Just leave her be. In a couple of days tell her you’re flattered or something, but spoken for.’

‘Well that is unless your tastes run to young girls and you’re planning a harem,’ Jennifer contributed smiling. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to retrieve my racket and see if I can calm down Laura.’

‘I should do that,’ River said.

‘I doubt you’re the flavour of the month,’ Jennifer replied. ‘You really should apologise later though.’

River nodded. She was right. ‘I’ll grab a shower. It’s nice having excess water for once. We should get Shadow to hack chunks off comets more often,’ she remarked. ‘If only there weren’t so much extra mass we’d have to haul around all the time,’ River said sighing. ‘Not good for fuel efficiency long-term.’

‘Well I’d better go check on the engine anyway,’ Kaylee announced. ‘See you at dinner.’

Across the hold Jayne winced internally as the pretty mechanic kissed the Doc then headed off. Sounded like the new girl liked him too. There just wasn’t any dang justice in the ‘Verse.

The big mercenary headed off himself. He’d burn off some energy working out for a while. He was thinking maybe a good long while.

* * *

The back of Wash’s head hit the underside of the console hard. He would have sworn far more dramatically if he hadn’t bitten his tongue in the process. As it was he clutched the back of his head and mumbled something loudly but incoherently.

‘Sorry about that, dear,’ Zoe apologised as her husband’s head emerged from the mass of wiring underneath the console computers. He looked less than happy and the expression on his face was far removed from his usual good-natured smile.

‘In future, darling wife,’ Wash began, ‘could you please either call out or bang on the hatch or something. I know you like to practice sneaking up on me to keep those warrior woman skills sharp but smacking me on the ass when my head is stuffed in a metal box is a recipe for disaster.’

Zoe adopted a contrite look. ‘I’ll kiss it better,’ she said and leaned over and planted a gentle peck on the back of the Pilot’s head.

‘Promise not to do it again?’

Zoe nodded. She would never sneak up on Wash again… when his head was stuck in a metal box.

This probably wasn’t the ideal moment but she’d been putting this off for a while and with everyone else busy she would have a chance to be alone with Wash for a while.

‘Hang-on,’ she said. ‘I’ll close the hatch for privacy.’

Wash stood up brightening considerably. ‘Hey if you want to apologise that way…’

Zoe closed the hatch and turned back with the start of a frown on her face.

‘No sex then?’ the pilot said with more than a touch of disappointment. Doing it on the bridge mixed his two favourite pastimes. He’d even gone so far as to explain the appropriateness of such an action to his wife on several occasions pointing out that the original derivations of Cockpit and Joystick really were the sexual innuendo they sounded like.

‘I’ve got something serious to talk to you about.’

‘So it’s definitely no sex then?’

‘No sex, Wash. Get over it.’

‘Okay.’ He replied despondently. From the expression on his face you’d think someone had just fed his plastic dinosaurs out of the airlock.

Zoe took a deep breath. ‘My biological clock is ticking…’

Wash grimaced. It was that conversation again.

‘… and I really do want children while I can still enjoy them. And I love you and I want your children so…’

Yup, familiar material so far thought Wash.

‘… and we’ve had children aboard for ages now and they seem to be doing alright. We’ve got one of the best Doctors in the ‘Verse to look after them and they couldn’t get a better education…’

It was true. A lot of his old arguments just weren’t valid anymore. He needed new ones.

‘… and we’ve got Jennifer who’s had three of her own and knows all about it…’

‘Doesn’t the woman need to breathe?’ the pilot wondered.

‘… and the Captain can’t really object to one more…’

‘I’ll take that bet,’ Wash thought.

‘… and there’s so much space now for a nursery…’

That was true. Plenty of unused crew quarters on Granite.

‘… and you get on so well with the children. Steve told me he thought you’d make a good father…’

That dirty gorram traitor.

‘… Claire-Marie keeps saying so too…’

No more flying lessons for her.

‘… and I love you…’

Repeating herself she’ll run out of steam soon.

‘… and so I think we should start a family.’

Wash swallowed. It was still amazing to him that a usually laconic woman could be so loquacious on certain topics. It was like a dam being opened, so a whole reservoir of built up speech could be released at once.

‘But there are so many other considerations,’ Wash began. ‘Is this really the ideal environment?’

‘Name somewhere where our child would be better loved, cared for or treated.’

‘It’s dangerous out here. The Alliance…’

‘The only Alliance ship we’ve run into out here was the one we deliberately sought out then shot the armament off and stole the cargo.’

‘What about all the Reavers?’

‘Exactly which ones are you talking about? The frozen ones floating in space that Shadow blew all to hell, the dead ones we shot to bits on Revelation or the charred radioactive ones in the big hole?’ Zoe asked rhetorically starting to get annoyed.

‘We’ve got a price on our heads.’

‘Bounty hunters versus this crew and a gorram warship? Try harder, Wash.’

‘Jubal Early snuck aboard.’

‘That was before River got a grip on herself. We don’t get sucker-punched or surprise attacked no more, we just do the surprising.’

Wash grimaced, time for the truth. ‘I don’t think I’m read,.’ he said.

Zoe sighed. ‘Well, I do,’ she said. ‘Well about as ready as you’re ever likely to be.’

‘But it’s such a commitment.’

‘You’re holding the lives of everyone aboard in your hands,’ she stated pointing to the control column. ‘You’re not a fighter but you’ll fight when you know it’s the right thing to do. You’re a better man than you think you are and a much better man than most. That’s why I married you and that’s why I want to have your children,’ Zoe said with an air of utter certainty and conviction.

Wash smiled. Things were very black and white to Zoe. Shades of grey just weren’t her forte. It made her utterly loyal, inordinately dangerous and for the most part completely unwavering. ‘But it’s such a big decision.’

Zoe decided to be reasonable. ‘I don’t expect a yes right now.’

‘Good because I need to think.’

‘Tonight would be fine. We’ll talk again after dinner.’

‘I was thinking maybe a week.’

Zoe rolled her eyes. ‘No sex until I get an answer,’ she declared. That should provide the necessary motivation.

Lost for a decent reply Wash stood there and blinked for a while.

* * *

Colony Dome – Revelation – 2520AD

They dragged Irving outside. The buildings under the Dome were already burning, some of the colonists had put up a fight but they were easily swept aside by the professional troops facing them. The limited weapons they had received were nothing compared to years of training and state-of-the-art equipment. Two of the black-clad troops had roughed the old man up then pulled him from the bunker to where he was now. Others were still down there holding the colonists at gunpoint.

They dropped him in front of a trio of other men in civilian clothes and both saluted, their crisp salutes returned with a whole-hearted wave.

‘Why are you doing this?’ Irving asked through broken teeth. ‘We were no threat to you.’

‘You are merely a bit-part actor in this affair we assure you. We are merely following in the footsteps of others and I’m afraid your paths crossed,’ one of the men replied. ‘We feel no enmity towards you.’

‘You asked about the girl,’ Irving wheezed. ‘We know nothing more than we told you.’

‘That may be true but it is very important we know that for sure,’ another said. ‘Marcus, if you would.’

A younger man, barely more than a boy reached down, seized the Elder and looked straight into his eyes.

After half a minute the boy released his grip. ‘We know where they’re headed,’ he said. ‘We can leave now. Both the prototype and the previous hunter were with them. She is indeed their prisoner not a collaborator.’ He paused. ‘They really did tell us everything by the way.’

‘They did? How refreshingly honest of them,’ one of the others declared.

‘And it’s really very reassuring to know that the conditioning held,’ the other commented. ‘Very well. Recall the troops and we’ll be on our way.’

Irving found it hard to breath. He assumed that a few ribs hand been broken. He continued to watch as they walked away but had neither the strength to pursue nor the breath to shout after them.

All he could do was pray, and watch and listen as the two men headed back to the airlock flanking a young boy.

‘We are very impressed with you, Marcus,’ one said in a paternal tone of voice. ‘You’re a credit to the academy.’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ the boy responded smiling at the two men. For some reason they were both wearing blue gloves.

Irving was still lying there half an hour later wondering what God’s plan was in all this when the ships in orbit far above began to rain fire on the colony.



Sunday, August 15, 2004 11:28 PM


Ah, some lovely turns of irony in this--the colony getting blitzed in the end in particular.

Enjoyed the commentary on the traditional British diet (yuck!) and the British Empire. More that I should have, maybe ;-)

Lots of good character stuff in this chapter--liked it.

Monday, August 16, 2004 1:12 AM


Loved the dialogue between Steve and Mal. A very fine addition to a great story. *Xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, August 16, 2004 8:31 AM


The good points have been mentioned, so I'll complain about Revelation. You did this before, when the Alliance freighter was freed of it's weaponry and later succumbed to Reavers. Sometimes there's just too much reality in your stories. :-)

Wonder what the Reavers' enemies will think of the Blue Hands crowd? Can we mix them together and see?

Monday, August 16, 2004 1:36 PM


Nice juxtaposition of everyday life and the machinations of the 'verse closing in on the wolf pack....Just wondering where your fertile brain is taking's been a hell of a ride so far..Thank you, Hotpoint

Friday, August 27, 2004 8:18 AM


Guildsister - I just loved the idea that if the crew had never come along the Revelation Colonists would have been killed by Reavers but conversely the same thing meant they were killed by the Alliance. It had a certain dark poetry ;-p


Artships - I did it the second time because that made it unexpected... and I'm despicable :-D

MalsDoxy - Eventually the 'Verse will catch up to you

Anonymous - Always happy to be told I "rock" thanks very much


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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XX)
The Independents lift for a return to the Valley

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIX)
As they train for the Campaign to liberate Hera the soldiers of the Independent military continue to go about their daily lives.

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVIII)
Mal faces a worse fate than he ever imagined, Serenity has an image change and Cally adjusts to life back on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVII)
After the initial Independent blitzkreig the Second War of Independence continues with the Alliance still reeling and the Browncoats starting to consolidate their position

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVI)
Scylla and Charybdis show the Alliance Navy what real warships are made of

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XV)
After the skirmishing the Battle of Toulouse begins

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIV)
Mal Reynolds takes his "Valley Wolves" into action as the fighting on Toulouse escalates

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIII)
The Independent Navy takes the fight to the Core while Mal Reynolds takes his new troops into action on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XII)
Unification Day 2522 goes not as expected

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XI)
Reunions and opening gambits