Playing Parts - Part XII (NEW CHAPTER)
Friday, November 9, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal finds out about the last performance. A little darker chapter.


Act VI – The Black

It took Mal a while to be able to have a word alone with Theo, and it was only when most of the crew and passengers got bored enough to start playing games that he was able to corner him.

Jayne had got out the hoop and suspended it from the ceiling while the others cleared as much of the stuff cluttering the cargo bay as possible. He tossed the ball from hand to hand. “Teams?”

There was a general kerfuffle as everyone split so it was virtually Serenity versus the Hawkins Troupe, with Jayne, Zoe, Freya, Kaylee and Hank representing the honour of the Firefly, and Toby, George, Victor, Chang and Riley representing the theatre. Simon sat on the side, his medical kit ready for any and all eventualities, while Inara had taken one look at what was about to happen and taken Noni to the kitchen to prepare half-time treats.

Ethan and Bethany stood in the doorway to the common area, watching intently, but River wanted to join in.

“Nope,” Jayne said firmly. “You ain’t gonna.”

“But I –“

“You’re pregnant, River. You can sit and watch with your bro, but you ain't gonna risk yourself none. And it ain't gonna work you looking at me like that.” Her look could have scorched metal.

“He’s right, xiao nu,” Freya said, putting her arm around the young woman’s shoulders. “And we do need someone to keep score.”

River sighed loudly. “I suppose.”

“Good girl.”

“Only we gotta win,” Jayne put in.

“I shall be scrupulously honest,” River said, lifting her nose at him and going to sit on the stairs half way up.

“Just so long as we win.”

“You are so going down,” Toby crowed, his arm slung around Chang’s shoulders.

“Yeah?” Jayne drew himself up to his full height and bulk. “Shrimp.”

Toby laughed and grabbed the ball from him, tossing it with unnerving accuracy towards the metal hoop. Only Zoe’s long arms saved it from scoring.

“Hey!” the young actor complained before being tackled to the ground by Hank.

“Not going to join in?” Mal asked, coming up behind Theo as he watched from the catwalk above.

The actor laughed. “With my bulk? I’d probably land on someone and squash them flat.”

“That’d be messy.”

They stood for a moment. “Are there any actual rules?” Theo asked eventually, seeing his troupe being out-manoeuvred so much that they were down five hoops already.

“Not that I've ever come across,” Mal admitted.

Toby leaped onto a crate and tossed the ball through the hoop, then punched his fist into the air.

“Lucky shot,” Jayne called, grabbing the ball and passing it to Hank, who ducked George and threw it to Zoe. She scored.

“I might have to come in on my crew’s side,” Mal pointed out. “After all, three of ‘em are women.”

“Who have scored more than all the men put together. Besides, if you did that then I’d be forced to come in on mine. Better we sit this one out, at least for a while, don’t you think?”


Freya and Zoe settled into their normal pattern of playing, adapting it for the other three, and they were taking the opposition apart.

“So who’s the client this time?” Mal asked, nonchalantly as Jayne lifted Kaylee into the air so she could toss the ball to score.

“A man named Tesler Bose. And we won’t need Serenity for this performance. He has a large house, and by all accounts there’s something of a large ballroom we’re using.”

“Bose. Sounds familiar.”

“Really?” Theo shrugged. “Not that I'm aware. Of course, you know a lot more people out here than I do.”

“Can’t say I've ever met him, and we ain't never been to Borodin, but there’s something about the name.”

“He’s paying well, that’s all I’m worried about.” He glanced over. “And we won’t need you to help us out, Captain. I’ve had word from Polka that she’s managed to get Troilus up and running and will meet us there.”

Mal had the distinct feeling that Theo was covering one thing with another, trying to distract him, but decided not to press it for the moment. “So I don’t have to act no more?”

Theo clapped him on the shoulder. “You did a good job. I’d take any and all of you on in an instant if I had the room.”

“Thanks, but … no. Although I might have problems persuading some of my crew not to jump ship and join you.”

“If you are referring to River and your lovely wife, they’d never leave you, no matter how much I beg.” He smiled. “That young woman looks to you like a father.”

Mal sighed. “Something I haven’t encouraged, let me tell you.”

“I don’t think you’ve much choice in the matter.”

“No, you’re right in that. Guess you have the same problem with your crew.”

“That I do, Captain. But I don’t mind. It’s nice to have family around you.”

“Mmn.” Mal grinned as Freya swerved around Riley and jumped up high enough to score. “Although I am curious on one point.”


“How come you led me to believe this tour was someone else’s idea?”

Theo looked at him. “Did I?”

“You did.”

“I don’t quite know how I could have … Captain, we have feelers out all the time, seeing whether any work might be in the offing. As you yourself must do.”

“That is the case. But Patience said you contacted her. Offered your services.”

“Oh, I see. And you think I have some ulterior motive for being out this far from the Core.”

“It crossed my mind.”

“Do you usually take this much interest in your passengers?”

“You ain't strictly passengers any more, though, are you? Not what I’d call passengers, anyway. Getting us involved, becoming friends.” He gestured down towards the game below. “’Cause that’s what those folks have become.”

Kaylee squealed as George propelled her to the ground, then gallantly lifted her back to her feet.

“I know. I'm sorry, that wasn't fair.” Theo paused for a moment. “Captain … Mal … times are hard. For everyone. And I no longer feel comfortable too close to the central planets. I have enemies. Yes, don’t look so surprised. Even actors make them, and I have had a long career.” He sighed. “I didn’t want to come this far out either, but these are the places I can work. I'm sorry if I led you to believe otherwise, but like you I’ll do anything to keep my family together.”

Mal smiled slightly. “Pretty speech, and I might just believe you more if you weren't an actor with a long career.”

Theo grinned. “That is something I can’t really do much about.”

“Your career or the fact that I'm not sure I believe you?”


A chuckle wound its way up Mal’s throat. “Nope. Guess you can’t.” He looked down at the game again. “Well, I'm gonna get comfy and make sure my wife doesn’t break anything.”

“I think I can see better from up here.”

“Suit yourself.” Mal headed down the stairs but paused halfway. “Bose …” He muttered. “Tesler Bose …” Something about that name sure sounded familiar, only it wasn't recent. Further back, even before he bought … He turned and looked up at Theo. “Tesler Bose,” he said louder.

“He’s very wealthy,” Theo said, a little taken aback as he saw the look on the captain’s face.

“He’s gorram Alliance.” Mal’s voice had dropped a level, and now dripped ice.

“Is he?” Theo tried to dissemble. “He’s paying. That’s all I care about.”

“He’s Alliance and he was responsible for …” Mal couldn’t breathe.

Freya, about to grab the ball from Victor, stopped and looked up. Kaylee cannoned into her, started to apologise, then realised something else was wrong. The game stuttered to a halt.

“He’s a private citizen,” Theo said, clasping his hands over his belly. “As far as I know he hasn’t had anything to do with the Government for years.”

“Ten. Ten years since Tesler Bose was in charge of the rehab camps.” Mal ground out the words.

“Bose?” Zoe moved forward to stand next to Freya.

“Captain, I can assure you –“

“No wonder you didn’t want to tell me.” He advanced up the stairs. “I’d never’ve come near this job if I’d known.”

“It’s one performance. Just one.” Theo actually took a step backwards.

“How can a man who’s admitted supporting the Independent cause even consider working for that man?”

“I need the money.”

“No-one needs cash that badly.”

“I do.” Theo had had enough. “And you like everyone you work for? Trust them? Believe that they’re good deep down? I doubt it, Captain. I think you take work as it finds you, and you don’t look too deeply into whose hand you’re shaking to make the deal.”

“I’d never work for Bose. He made life hell for good folk, kept us hungry, cold, let the guards …” He stopped and glanced down at Freya and Zoe.

“Captain … Mal …” Theo reached out to put a hand on the other man’s arm but dropped it half way.

Mal didn’t look at him. “Hank, there a moon or planet we can put these people off on so their ship can pick ‘em up?”

“Uh … not really. Nothing between here and Borodin ‘cept a couple of asteroids and a black rock.”



The tendons in Mal’s neck tautened. “Fine. Then we get them to that planet, drop them and leave.”

“Mal, this ain’t –“ the pilot began.

“Play time’s over.” Mal glared at Theo just once, then stalked away.

“What’s going on?” Jayne asked, looking at River who sat hugging herself.

“Not rightly sure,” Kaylee admitted. “Frey? Zoe?”

“Wait,” the first mate said. She glanced at Freya. “You going to …”

“Yeah.” She hurried through the door into the common area.

“Theo, what is it?” Riley asked, glancing at his fellow actors. “What was he talking about?”

Zoe got in first. “Tesler Bose was a Government official. He was supposed to make sure the Independents in the camps were treated fairly after the war ended.”

“I gather he didn’t,” Simon put in, standing up.

“No. Some places were worse than others, but he let corruption take hold. It was said it started with him, that he lined his pockets and made his money sliding funds away from where it was meant to go. Which meant us.”

“Us?” Toby was bemused. “I don’t …”

“We were Browncoats,” Zoe explained. “Mal, Freya and me. Ended up in the same rehab camp on Santo.”


Zoe nodded. “And when we complained we were … well, there was ways of making sure you didn’t complain again.”

“I doubt Mal would’ve stood for that,” Hank put in.

“He didn’t. Ended up in solitary more than once. We all did. But we got to know the name of the man who made it worse.”

“Bose,” Simon said.

“Tesler Bose. Not exactly a name you’re likely to forget.”

“We didn’t know,” Toby insisted. “Had no idea. It’s just a job.” He looked up at the catwalk. “Isn’t that ri-“

But Theo had gone.


Freya found Mal on the bridge, staring out at the stars, his arms folded across his chest.

“Hey,” she said softly, standing close behind him, not touching him quite, just letting him feel her warmth.



“Never thought I’d meet the man who …”

“I thought you weren't going to. From what you just said you were going to drop the actors from a great height and fly away.”

He turned to look at her. “Are you making excuses for him? For Theo? After what happened to you on Santo?”

She shook her head, taking a deep breath. “No. But we didn’t make any secret of the fact that we were Independents. I'm not surprised Theo didn’t say anything.”

“Figured we’d get to know ‘em before we found out,” Mal suggested.

“It worked.”

“I don’t know, Frey.”

Now she stepped closer, putting her hands on his crossed arms, feeling the muscles tense beneath her fingers. “I like them. I know you do too. And the war’s long done.”

“But Bose –“

“Is just a job. Theo’s right. You’ve worked for people we’d never have around the dinner table before, and I'm pretty sure we will again. Badger, for instance. Niska.”

“I didn’t exactly finish that job.”

“Only because you found out what it was you’d stolen.” She smiled a little. “And I was so proud when Zoe told me that. What you did.”

Mal lifted a hand to his ear. “Yeah, well, there are ways I think the outcome could’ve been improved.”

“So could I. Mal, you know what it’s like to need every coin to keep flying.”

“You think I should, what? Kiss and make up?”

“Not so much on the kissing part, but maybe you should listen to him.”

“To who?”

“Theo. He’s waiting outside the bridge.”

Mal looked over at the door. She was right. Theo was lurking in the corridor. He took a deep breath and exhaled it heavily. “So you think –“

“Won’t hurt.”

He gazed into her eyes, then nodded slowly. “Okay. I’ll listen.”

to be continued


Saturday, November 10, 2007 2:37 AM


Wow, never expected this kind of plot twist to develop, but I really never see many of your plot twists coming anyways. This has been a delightful and entertaining story and there's still more twists to come!

Sunday, November 11, 2007 7:39 AM


Sorry I missed this one yesterday. Excellent progression! Off to read the next chapter now! :D

Sunday, November 11, 2007 9:35 AM


I don't like Theo, especially with the little snippet Patience deliberately let slip to Mal earlier. I don't think he was just sparing Mal, Zoe and Frey's feelings by not naming the person he was going to work for. There is something else going on and I just hope our crew stay good and sharp and keep their guns loaded. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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