Clarity 3: Fail Safe (Repost)
Monday, November 12, 2007

Terrance Black has come for River. Before the crew can save her someone has to save them.


Mal’s head was still ringing. The bullet had cut a four inch path through his hair, above his left ear. He felt the gash on his tender scalp. It had already swollen and the blood was matting in his hair. He ducked into an alley shaking his head to clear the cobwebs. There were two shooters. They had been pushing hard for the last ten minutes. They hadn’t followed him into the alley. Mal surveyed his surrounding, looking for an advantage. The small mining town on Three Hills didn’t offer much. The town folk had ghosted on him as soon as the shooting started, locking their doors behind them. The sign hanging over the doorway at the end of the alley gave him hope, Mortician. Mal tried the door and it opened.

The gunman entered the small office. A coffin rested on a gurney, five more leaned against the wall. Using the barrel of his pistol he lifted the lid of the first coffin. It was empty. As he moved around it he noticed a small trail of blood leading to the coffin in the middle. “I got him” he spoke into his radio. “Where ya at Nester?”

“Funeral Parlor” he replied.

“I’m a coming”

“Don’t bother. Go tell Terrance I got him and I’ll meet ya back at the stable.”

He moved back around the gurney leveling his gun at the coffin against the wall. “Come on out now. No sense hiding, I seen the blood.”

What he didn’t notice was the blood dripping next to his boot.The first bullet struck him in the groin and stopped somewhere in his gut. He fell back, both hands clutching what was left of his manhood. The second struck him square in the chest. The last thing he saw was Malcolm Reynolds hanging from the bottom of the gurney.

Mal had circled the stable twice before approaching. Leaning against the wall he eased the door open. He saw a pair of boots lying just inside the door. Attached to the boots was the other gunman, faced down in a puddle of blood. “Come in Captain. My apologies for Nester and Calvin’s behavior, they were only supposed to capture you. I have shown Calvin the error of his ways as I’m sure you showed Nester. ” Mal looked towards the voice. From the shadows of the barn two figures moved into the open. “Inara” Mal said raising his gun towards the stranger. The young man, no more than nineteen, stood behind Inara, holding a gun to her head. “She’s unharmed Captain. I hope you understand the necessity of separating you. Others have underestimated your crew in the past. I will not make that mistake.” Mal didn’t speak, he watched Inara intently. “I want River Tam Captain. You crew is unharmed, for now. Give me the girl and you can go your way.” “I suppose you’d be Terrance? “ Mal said as he scanned the barn, and he began to move to his left. “I’m no one you want to play games with Captain. Let me explain. I know every move you have made, and every move you’re going to make.” Mal stopped moving. “You a reader?” “No Captain, I am not as gifted as River. I simply do the math of a situation and deduce the probable outcome. That’s how I knew where to find you. That’s how I was able to capture your crew. That is how I know you will trade River for the woman you love.” Mal noticed the surprised look on Inara’s face. “So you know what I’m gonna do next huh?” Then Mal turned and ran. “Did you deduce that?” Inara asked with a smirk on her face. “There was a 12% probability. He is troublesome. Go after him!” he commanded. Two men, hiding in the back of the barn, started towards the door. …………………………………………………………………………………………… 3 hours earlier.

“Captain, Monty just sent a wave. He’s having to skirt a few Alliance patrols, looks to be late.”

Mal, Zoe and Jayne were all sitting around the dining table. “How late?” Mal asked Kaylee.

“10 to 12 hours”

“Wonderful” He replied sarcastically.

“We could use the time to re-supply” Zoe said.

“It’s a mining town. I might be able to find a replacement filter for the number six O2 tank.” Kaylee added.

“Ok, but in and out. We don’t need to draw attention to our leg of this smuggling operation.” Mal rose from the table.

“How’s Simon doing with River?” He asked Kaylee.

“He’s still running tests.” Kaylee said sadly.

---------------------------- Mal entered the infirmary. River was strapped to the table muttering under her breath. Simon had his back to the door and had just withdrawn the needle from Rivers arm. “Doc, any news?”

Simon, hearing the voice behind him, jumped and dropped the syringe. “Whoa, you startled me. No…no change I just can’t understand what’s happened. After Miranda she was getting better, now this.

Both men stared at the young girl on the table. “Black…Blackness…coming” River muttered.

“In the past she has had moments of incoherence but this is different. It won’t subside.”

“You’ll figure it out Doc. We’re going to be here for awhile. Anything you need from town?”

“Well, Jayne did used all my gauze pads to clean his guns” ------------------------- “Aww come on Zoe I won’t be long”

“No Jayne. Captain said in and out. You’ll have to tend to your self.”

Jayne kicked the dirt as he and Zoe past by the whore house. “Hell I was planning on in and out part. Look you go ahead on to the store and place the order. Kaylee and Nara won’t be along with the mule for awhile anyway.”

Zoe stopped in the street. Jayne could tell she was wavering. “Unless there some other reason you don’t want me to be with another women?” Jayne said puffing out his chest and raising an eyebrow.

“Jayne, I will hurt you.”

Jayne chest deflated along with his ego. “Go ahead, but if you’re not back by the time the Kaylee gets here, your walking back.”

Jayne shot through the swinging doors of the whore house. Zoe continued down the street towards the store, somewhat relieved that Jayne would be out of the way. Passing a store window she noticed a yellow floral shirt draped over a mannequin. It was just like something Wash would have worn. She entered the store. She had no intention of buying it but she was drawn to it all the same. Her hand touched the fabric and her mind drifted to thoughts of Wash. The loud clicks of several guns cocking in the store snapped her back to reality. Instinctively her hand moved to her leg holster.

“Please don’t Mrs. Washburn.” The young man said behind the counter.

--------------------- Jayne was enjoying his hired companionship when the door to the room started too opened. He looked towards his guns hanging on the chair then back to the door. He relaxed when he saw a young kid standing in the doorway.

“Sorry kid. I done paid for this one.”

“I paid for her too Mr. Cobb”

Jayne looked from the young man to the whore straddling him. She was pointing a small derringer at him.

“Gorammit” Jayne said laying back “I don’t guess you’ll be letting me finish?”


“I don’t get it Inara” Kaylee said over the sound of the mule’s engine.

“What’s that?” Inara questioned.

“After I moved in to Simon’s quarters, the Captain gave you my old room. I thought for sure you two would be… well you know” she said innocently.

“Kaylee we shouldn’t be talking about this.”

“So there’s something to talk about?”

Inara tried to be stern but couldn’t with Kaylee smiling at her. “No, there’s nothing to talk about, I just…”

“So you wish there was?” Kaylee said grinning.

“I wish we would change the subject.”

“Oh come on Inara, I know you care about him. Why don’t you tell him? Simon and I wasted a lot of time. You should talk to him.” Kaylee said while she swung the mule into a wide turn and parked next to the mining post. They exited the mule and started up the steps to the mining post. “Do you miss being a Companion?”

“No, not really. It was nice being able to help the crew.” Inara trailed off.

“Do you miss the training house?”

“Sometimes, it was peaceful there. Training the girls to be proper Companions was enjoyable, but I missed Serenity.”

“You missed Serenity? I think you missed the Captain.” Kaylee said smiling as she pulled open the door to the mining post.

The two men greeted them at the door with sawed off shotguns.

“Ladies, there is someone who wants to meet with you.” One of the thugs said.

“This I didn’t miss so much” Inara said. ------------------------


The intercom crackled in the infirmary

“Doc, ya there? Doc, answer me.”

Simon keyed the mike “Captain?”

“Simon, listen you have to lock down the ship. It’s a trap. Their coming for you.”

“What…whose coming? Where are you?”

“Not now Simon. Close the bay doors. I’ll explain when I get there”

“I already closed them. The dust was blowing in…”

“Great, sit tight.”

“Kaylee?” Simon asked but several loud noises over the intercom interrupted him. “Was that gunfire?” he asked.

“Yes, Doctor that’s gunfire and you yelling in my ear ain’t doing much to improve my aim. I’m just south of town I’ll be there as quick as I can.”

“I’ll come to you”

“Now why would you go and do something….No…, No…, No, No, Simon don’t you even think about it. Simon…. Simon?”

Simon strapped himself into right hand pilot seat. Although he had never flown a ship before, he had been amazed at River’s ability and had spent several nights watching her pilot the ship. He had also tried to learn more about the operation of the ship to bring him and Kaylee closer together. Now it was time to find out how much he had learned. He flipped the overhead switches and brought the vertical lift thrusters online. Flipping on the igniters, he heard the whoosh of the engines firing. So far so good he thought and he released the land lock control.

Warning sirens wailed throughout Serenity. As soon as the land lock was released, Serenity had shot straight into the air. Three hundred, four hundred, five hundred feet and climbing, Simon tugged at the controls but the ship wouldn’t respond. He tried to adjust the thruster controls but it only made matters worse. One engine slowed and the thrust of the other started the ship into a slow barrel roll. He tried compensating by slowing the other engine, but instead of leveling, the ship stopped its roll and was drifting starboard while continuing to climb. He yanked at the controls but it still wouldn’t budge. Panic sweep over him. “Da shiang bao tza shr duh lah doo tze” He cursed.

Checking the screens he saw the blip representing him moving further away from the town. He tried the thruster controls again. His altitude slowed but the roll had come back. He didn’t want to picture what would happen if Serenity rolled onto her back. He jammed the starboard control up. The roar drowned out the sirens blare. Serenity lurched to port. As she somewhat leveled Simon pulled both slides down together. The climb became a fall.

Mal was taking cover behind a water trough. The water inside was doing it’s job, slowing the bullets so they wouldn’t come through to his side, but the water level was getting lower every second. He knew shortly he would have to move. The men trying to kill him were positioned around a small farm house just outside of town. The shooting stopped. He peered over the top and saw both shooters in the open, looking up. He took careful aim, but before he fired both men took off in the other direction. Mal spun to see what they were running from. The huge shadow engulfed him as he threw himself to the ground. Serenity cleared the water trough by just a few feet. It didn’t clear the farm house. She slammed sideways into the wooden structure, before lifting and spinning back into the sky. Mal keyed his com as he ran back towards the ship “Simon what the hell are you doing?”

“I believe Jayne calls it thrilling heroics?” Simon responded over the alarms. “But I think it’s more like, crashing your ship.”

“You crash my ship you better not live through it.” Mal yelled as he watched Serenity dip back down on the outskirts of town before rising not quite high enough to clear the church steeple. The cross on top of the church flew high into the air. Mal watched it twist and turn before sticking into the ground in the center of town. Just behind it sat the stable where he left Inara. “I bet you didn’t see this coming” Mal said as he reloaded his gun. “Simon, keep flying in low but don’t crash.”

“I can’t guarantee the last part Captain. I can’t move the steering controls”

“Then how are you flying?” Mal asked.

“Thruster control?”

“Thruster…aw hell you didn’t release the manual steering lock. Right side at the base you’ll see a hook, disengage it.”

“I see it”

Mal watched as Serenity’s engines tilted forward. She lurched into the sky only to drop again. Up and down she went until she disappeared behind a near by hill. Mal placed his hand on his head and closed his eyes. “Don’t crash. Don’t Crash, Don’t Crash” He looked up when he heard the roar of the engine again and saw Serenity still looking like she could crash any second, but once again buzzing the town. Mal headed towards the stable. ------------------ Intangibles. A quality that affects performance but is not readily observable, therefore unpredictable. This crew seems to have it in spades. I had a good plan. I’ve used my bond with River to take her out of the equation. I disabled most of the crew. I took care not to kill them so the bond with River wouldn’t be broken. And then her brother learns to fly. No doubt the Captain is on the way back here right now. My hired help has either died or ran off. I believe its time for a tactical withdrawal.

Terrance Black paused next to the trussed up bodies of the crew. He contemplated whether he could escape before River recovered, if he killed them now. He drew his gun and aimed it at Zoe. The bullet struck his gun right above the trigger guard, taking off the tip of his finger. He spun in a fluid movement, grabbing a concealed dagger and throwing it in the direction of the shot. The blade buried into Mal’s bicep and his pistol fell to the ground. Both men charged at each other. Mal was on the losing end of the attack as a flurry of punches and kicks assaulted his body. He landed in a lump next to the stall where his crew was tied up and gagged. Terrance moved behind Mal. “I have to tell you Captain. I received the same combat training as River. We were at the Academy together”

Inara looked at Mal with concern. Her look changed to shock as Mal smiled and winked at her. Pulling the blade from his arm he placed it in her hand. Slowly he rose and turned to face Terrance. “I put your chances at surviving this fight at 4%, at best”

“I’m thinking there a mite better than that” Mal responded as his now liberated crew moved beside him.

“Ok Captain” Terrance laughed “I’ll give you a 12% chance now.”

As the crew began to spread out beside Mal there was a loud crash. Serenity crashed through the front of the stable. Debris flew everywhere, and the ship shot back into the air. As the dust settled Mal and the crew saw only wreckage where Terrance had been standing. Jayne grabbed a pitch fork and moved towards the pile. “He’s over here”

Jayne raised the pitch fork over his head ready to deliver the killing blow to the half buried young man.

“Hold Jayne” Mal said.

“We ain’t killing him?”

“I don’t reckon he had anymore choice in this than River did.”

Terrance Black looked up at Mal. “Intangibles” he said before he past out.

Serenity lurched back in front of the gapping hole that was once a stable.

“My ship” Mal said desperately.

Most of the stable roof was attached and burning on the left wing. The right side engine cowling was glowing red and a mysterious liquid was pouring from under the right shuttle bay. She bucked and rattled as she floated in front of them. Then she leveled out. The landing gear began to drop and the ship tilted forward just enough for Mal to see River at the helm and Simon looking all manner of green standing beside her.

……………… I have to say I am amazed by the crew of Serenity. Not only did they spare my life, they gave it back to me. It seems while Dr. Tam was trying to free his sister he came across information about those of us who attended the Academy. I thought my family had died, that’s what they had told me, but I was abducted, when I was 8. My parents were approached about my attending the Academy but they turned them down. Not because they had great fore site into the workings of the system, but because we had a family farm and they needed bodies to work it. Now I’m back. Our reunion was tearful. Saying goodbye to the crew I set out to destroy was as well. Now I am trying to make a difference here. With my skill I believe our farm will be profitable within the next quarter. We should purchase the surrounding land by next fall and be ready to ship produce off planet by the following year. Now what where those calculations for the seed we need to pick up. These headaches keep coming back, making it hard to think. I’m usually sharp it can only mean one thing. My Fail Safe has been activated.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008 6:24 AM


This was great. EVer thought about expanding it?

Thursday, January 13, 2011 6:03 PM


I liked it a lot, but way to short.


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