Here Be Dragons (Part XVII)
Thursday, August 26, 2004

Life beyond the rim goes on


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

‘Captain always said everyone on the boat has to work,’ Kaylee declared.

Across the table Jennifer still looked less than impressed. ‘So that’s the reason why my son has been so dirty lately. And that was really one-hundred percent vital for the running of the ship?’

‘Not so much necessary as efficient. Kaylee cleared it with me,’ Mal stated defending his mechanic.

‘And you derived authority over my Son how?’ Jennifer asked, directing a seething glare at the Captain.

Mal blinked. ‘I talked to Steve about it,’ he said plaintively.

Jennifer’s head snapped around just in time to see her husband drawing his fingers across his throat in a desperate attempt to forestall the conversation. ‘I should have known you had a hand in this Steven Hicks.’

‘Well it’s not like he minded and it does save Kaylee a lot of time and trouble.’

‘Running power lines from Granite to Serenity does mean we can shut down the reactor for servicing and still have artificial gravity and light over there,’ the mechanic said.

Jennifer turned back to Kaylee. ‘So when exactly did it occur to you that you could just tie a line to my son and send him scurrying through the vents, crawlspaces and pipes to lay cables like a robot or a trained monkey.’

‘I got the idea when I kept finding him in there anyway. He moves like greased lightning through those vents. I just tie one end of the cable to him and tell him where to go.’

‘It’s not like we made him a chimney sweep or anything,’ Steve pointed out.

‘No it’s far more horizontal than that,’ Wash interjected before being silenced again.

‘Actually the rate he’s growing he won’t be able to do it much longer so we should really use him to lay some string now we can use to pull through cables we might need in the future,’ Kaylee said. ‘He’s very handy.’

‘He had to have some purpose in life,’ Cally called out loudly. ‘He’s a dead waste usually.’

‘Cally stop listening at doorways and go clean your room,’ her mother called back. The girl had taken one of the free crew berths on Granite as her own quarters quite some time ago as had Claire-Marie soon afterwards.

Jennifer crossed her arms. ‘Why exactly wasn’t I told about this earlier?’ she asked.

‘Well you might have said no and it made more sense to get it done first just in case,’ Steven replied deadpan fighting the hint of a smile that was barely visible on his face. ‘I’m in trouble now aren’t I?’

The expression on his wife’s face was answer enough.

* * *

Simon picked himself up. His muscles were going to ache tomorrow but he was damned if he was going to finish without getting at least one good hit in.

‘Balance Doc. Balance,’ Zoe declared offering a hand to help him up. ‘You’re quick enough and you can hit pretty hard but your technique still ain’t all there.’

Jayne was sitting on his weight bench laughing. He quickly stopped when Zoe asked if he wanted to be knocked on his ass too. He knew for a fact he was stronger, and likely better overall but she had plenty of tricks and a whole big gorram heap of practical experience. She might just kick his ass and that would just make the Doc feel better about losing to a girl too.

Zoe turned back to Simon. ‘I know the Cap always tells you to throw a punch like you really mean it but it’s sometimes better to trade off some power for balance in case you miss and have to avoid the counterpunch, or the leg sweep I just used.’ She moved over to the Doctor and kicked his legs further apart ‘That’s a better stance. Now if I try to sweep you again I’ve got to put a lot more power into it which will put me off balance.’

Simon nodded. ‘Makes sense, basic physics really,’ he thought.

‘Stay on your toes a bit more,’ Zoe continued. ‘It’ll take a bit of power out of your punch but you’ll avoid getting hit a darn sight easier.’

Zoe looked around. ‘Preacher can I borrow you for a second?’

‘I’m an old man. I don’t heal up like I used to,’ Book replied.

Zoe threw him a look. ‘I’ve seen you pull some moves Shepherd, I need someone who was trained properly to spar with so I can show the Doc here what I mean.’

Book opened his mouth like he was planning to deny knowing much about it but he knew that wasn’t going to hold water. They’d all seen him demonstrate some very un-clergy-like skills including more than a touch of hand-to-hand combat experience. They might be careful to avoid asking his story, his business was his own, but they couldn’t help noticing his somewhat esoteric skills.

The Shepherd limbered up and dropped into a classic hand-to-hand stance that differed slightly from Zoe’s own but was clearly well ingrained. ‘Remember I’m an old man and the bruises don’t heal quite so quickly anymore,’ he said.

‘Don’t worry I’m going to make a mistake and I want you to drop me,’ Zoe replied. ‘If you could pull the punch a bit it would be appreciated.’

Book nodded. ‘Ready when you are.’

Zoe attacked. Book blocked the combination with a speed that belied his age and then when Zoe lunged forward to deliver a powerful blow he sidestepped slightly and delivered a punch that had her hitting the floor. She was still falling when he moved so he could kick her hard and put her out of the fight completely. Needless to say he didn’t actually do so and helped her up instead.

‘Object lessons,’ Zoe said loudly. ‘Never underestimate an opponent. An old man or a skinny young girl can still kick your ass if they’ve been trained properly.’

‘And never overreach or unbalance yourself trying to finish the fight quickly,’ Book announced. ‘If it doesn’t work you’re in trouble. Remember the winner is the one that makes the second to last mistake so your job is to make sure your errors aren’t ones that will put you out of the running for good.’

Simon nodded. ‘Anything else?’ he asked.

‘If you get the chance, sucker-punch, shoot the son of a bitch or club him on the head from behind,’ Jayne commented loudly. ‘Only rutting idiots fight fair.’

Zoe nodded sagely. ‘For once the man speaks the truth. Even if you win a fight like this you’ll likely end up hurt or tired and that’ll make for a bad start to the next one.’

Jayne smiled.

‘Don’t go thinking too highly of yourself, Jayne,’ Zoe declared. ‘Even a broken clock is right twice a day.’ She paused looking at the change in the mercenary’s expression. ‘Okay looks like somebody better explain that one to him,’ she said eventually.

* * *

‘I’m not talking to you,’ stated the voice from behind the door.

River shrugged and concentrated.

‘And stay the hell out of my head,’ Laura called out from inside her room. She was sitting on the floor with her back to the door preventing anyone, or specifically River, from entering.

‘You know I can’t have you jamming me Laura. It endangers the crew so stop it,’ River replied sternly. ‘I’ll shock you if I have to.’

‘Go ahead.’

‘I’m not bluffing.’

‘I know you’re not bluffing I just don’t care.’

River gritted her teeth. ‘I’m really sorry for telling my brother you like him.’

‘Cào nî zûxiān shí bâ dai bitch.’

‘He was flattered you know.’

‘Go away.’

River sat down and leaned against the other side of the closed door herself. ‘I know you have a problem with this kind of emotional situation because I do too. Fact is if it wasn’t for the drugs we’d both be climbing the walls 24/7.’

‘I used to be okay. You ruined my life,’ Laura declared and started to cry. River could feel her pain right through both the door and the younger girl’s mental block. ‘You should have killed me. It would have been less cruel.’

‘You’re as much a victim as I was. The Academy ruined your life, not us.’

‘I didn’t have a life before the Academy. They were my family,’ River shook her head sadly. ‘You were just a tool to them.’

‘They looked after me.’

‘You were a prisoner in a gilded cage.’

Laura snorted. ‘And now I’m in a rusty one. Big improvement, thanks very much I’m so grateful.’

‘We don’t mean you any harm.’

‘Yes that would explain all the electric shocks.’

River took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to go over this ground again. ‘Are we bad people?’

Laura frowned. ‘No, just misguided,’ she admitted eventually.

‘Well that’s a start anyway,’ River responded. ‘Thinking we’re misguided is a big step up from thinking we’re malevolent.’

‘Just because you do the wrong thing because you think it’s the right one doesn’t make it any less wrong,’ Laura stated. ‘In any case you knew it was wrong to tell my private thoughts to other people but you still did it.’

‘Just because you generally do the right thing doesn’t mean you can’t be a bitch sometimes,’ River stated chuckling to herself. ‘I’ve always had a nasty streak. You can ask my brother,’ River paused. ‘I was just being petty and vindictive so I’ll apologise again.’

Laura laughed derisively. ‘Just words,’ she said.

‘I’ll give you until tonight to get over it. After that I’m going to get the Captain’s permission to either drug you or zap you until you stop jamming me.’ River got up and walked away still unable to read the other girl properly. She hoped she wasn’t going to have to take drastic action.

* * *

‘Not at the dinner table please, Mr. Cobb.’ Claire-Marie chastised as she watched the big mercenary spit on his grindstone. ‘It’s really unhygienic and I’m about to lay the table for dinner.’

Jayne looked up and gave the young girl a baleful glare, which she countered with a look of her own. He considered growling but the girl wouldn’t be likely to take that very seriously either. Things were in a sorry state when he couldn’t intimidate a kid Jayne decided.

‘Can’t you sharpen your knife somewhere else?’

‘Waiting for dinner,’ Jayne stated.

Claire-Marie frowned. ‘Couldn’t you read a book or something?’ she asked. ‘Anyway how much sharper can it get?’

‘Helps me to think,’ Jayne replied. ‘And I’m not one for reading.’

‘Daddy says that a person who doesn’t read has no advantage over someone who can’t read.’

Jayne sighed. ‘If I don’t spit again will you leave me alone?’

‘Deal,’ the girl replied and went back to laying the table.

The big mercenary went back to his grindstone slowly moving the fighting knife in concentric circles over the stone making it just a tiny bit sharper every turn. It was already wielding an almost razor-like edge but if he ever had to open up a man with it he wanted to be able to get the job done quickly and cleanly.

This was as close to meditation as Jayne Cobb ever got, the only thing that came near was when he lost himself in exercise or was stripping his rifles or pistols, but the former of those tasks required effort of will to force out the last few reps and the latter needed more concentration.

He was still sitting there in exactly the same position wearing the same expression as the rest of the crew gradually drifted in over the next few minutes. They ignored him as always. What were the chances he’d have anything to say worth listening to anyway?

It was only when laden plates of food began to arrive on the table that Jayne put away the knife and grindstone. He considered starting a conversation but they didn’t really take him seriously enough to bother. Who the hell would be interested in hearing Jayne Cobb’s thoughts on the meaning of life?

When the bread appeared he made sure to watch River like a hawk.

* * *

Zoe flinched and her husband pulled away his arm. She smiled slightly. ‘The Doc got in a few good licks.’

‘And I thought I was the only one who got to do that. Lick you I mean,’ Wash replied. ‘Is there anywhere it doesn’t hurt?’

‘I’ll let you know.’

‘You realise that you really shouldn’t be doing stuff like that,’ he pointed out. ‘Getting smacked about can’t be good for the baby.’

Zoe smiled. ‘I’m not pregnant yet, Wash.’

‘Yeah but given my innate navigational skills I doubt the boys will take too long to get the job done. You should be careful.’

Zoe chortled. ‘According to Simon it’ll take a few weeks before the FS Drugs are flushed from my system. He also says I’ve got to go back in three weeks because he wants to give me a few shots.’

‘Well if the Fertility Suppression stuff’s still working I suppose you aren’t in the mood to fool around.’

‘Don’t be stupid just watch the bruises.’

Wash looked thoughtful. ‘You know I think I’ll miss recreational sex.’

‘Supposedly my sex drive will go up quite a bit.’

The pilot put on a horrified expression. ‘That’ll kill me.’ he said.

‘Just as long as you get the job done first that’s all that matters.’

The pilot cringed. ‘I thought it was only the female Praying Mantis that thought that way.’

Zoe bared her teeth. ‘You would make a tasty post-coital snack.’

‘I knew it. I married a Reaver.’

She considered him dispassionately. ‘Maybe just a taste,’ she said and leaned towards him.

‘No hickeys where they show,’ Wash implored as his warrior woman wife moved in for the kill.

* * *

River walked into Serenity’s common area to find Laura and the Captain. The other telepath was still jamming but River could still sense emotions to an extent.

Laura was very happy. The captain was mortified.

‘What’s going on?’

‘We’re even,’ Laura stated and headed for the cargo bay. As she walked past River she stopped telepathically jamming her. ‘By the way I told Reynolds here about that fantasy you used to entertain about you him and the shuttle crash on the desolate moon.’

River’s jaw dropped. Wode tìan no.

Just before leaving the area Laura sent a thought to her. Tell anyone my private feelings again and I’ll tell Jayne about the other fantasies.

The Captain stood there totally speechless. The two considered each other for a while. Eventually River broke the awkward silence ‘Umm you would look good in ripped shorts,’ she said.

Mal swallowed. ‘Thanks. How about we never talk about this again…ever,’ he offered.

River nodded gratefully.

There was another long silence.

‘I should get going on Captain type stuff.’

‘Yes Captain stuff is very important,’ River agreed.

As Mal turned to leave he saw her expression change suddenly. ‘Māde’ she swore loudly.

‘It’s Okay River...’

She shook her head. ‘No not that something else. That gorram girl’s been jamming me for days.’


‘So we’re being followed they’re gaining…’

Mal was already moving before she finished the sentence, he slammed his hand onto the intercom ‘All hands on deck’ he hollered.

‘…and I only just found out.’ River finished.



Thursday, August 26, 2004 1:28 PM


'They...they...THEY??!?! They who???! Blue Sun, Reavers, Blue Sun's reavers?'re killing us, Hotpoint, truly. Looking fervently for the next chapter.

Friday, August 27, 2004 1:02 AM


Very much enjoying this. I just knew that Laura would be trouble now I'm wondering if whoever is following them is connected to her. Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, August 27, 2004 8:09 AM


That anon was me--didn't notice I was logged off.


You must log in to post comments.



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