Holiday Blues--Part XII--Green Day
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mal and Marcus set about to figure out what’s in the plasticell container.


“Get the scanner,” Marcus said to Murdocke. “Could be that we can solve this little mystery straight away.”

Murdocke nodded, returning after several minutes with an unwieldy piece of machinery that had obviously been cobbled together with spare parts. Kaylee looked at it skeptically.

“What?” Murdocke asked. “You don’t think it can do the job?”

Kaylee shrugged. “Prob’ly can, but it’s sorta cumbersome, ain’t it?”

Mal gave his mechanic a long-suffering look. “Can we just see if it works before we start tinkering?” he said.

“’Course,” Kaylee answered. “I was just sayin’…”

“And you can say it later,” Mal interrupted her. Turning to Marcus, he asked, “Have much need of a chemical scanner for your line of work, do you?”

“Sometimes,” Marcus replied, shrugging and inadvertently stirring the air around him. Mal stepped back away from the horrid stench still coming from the other man, but refrained from making a comment about it. Marcus continued, “Little while back we were transporting some fuel cells. Come to find out they’d been tampered with. Good stuff replaced by a cheap substitute, and we were none the wiser until we delivered it. Decided we didn’t want to get cheated again. Wasn’t our best day ever.” He paused for a beat. “’Course, it wasn’t the supplier’s best day ever either, once we got back to him.”

Mal smiled. “’Magine not,” he answered.

Murdocke was booting up the scanner, carefully adjusting the settings to try to ascertain what the green goo in the plasticell container could be. Kaylee watched him carefully, quietly whispering suggestions for improving the device. “If’n you wired this straight into that,” she said, pointing at a tangle of wires, “You could eliminate that whole mess all around.”

Murdocke opened his mouth to protest, but snapped it shut again when he realized what she was actually suggesting. “You’re right,” he said, with something akin to wonder in his tone. “I didn’t even ever consider that.”

Kaylee beamed at him proudly. “And if you took this part over here off altogether, couldn’t you wet wire this to that over there and get the same result without all the extra connections?”

Murdocke’s eyes followed her fingers eagerly as she pointed out the options he hadn’t seen before. His look was not lost on Bear. Sidling up beside him, Bear whispered in his ear, “Don’t be getting’ too attached there, little guy. She’s spoken for already.”

Murdocke scowled at the man, jerking his head away as Bear laughed. His face all manner of red, he replied, “You haven’t got the slightest idea of what she’s saying, do you?”

Bear smiled. “Don’t have to understand it,” he said cheerfully. “That’s why we keep you around. Though I have to admit, Miss Kaylee here is much more pleasant on the eye and ear than you’ll ever be.”

Kaylee grinned. “Why, thank ya’ Bear.”

Marcus sighed. “If we’re all finished playing now, can we maybe get back to the issue at hand?” Handing the plasticell container to Murdocke, he said, “What can you tell me?”

Murdocke bent over his task, and for several minutes, there was quiet in the cargo bay as he worked. Finally, he straightened his back and said, “Looks like a two-part mixture, best as I can tell from this. But what I see doesn’t exactly make sense.”

“Why not?” Marcus and Mal asked simultaneously. Marcus turned to Mal. “We gotta stop doing that. It’s creepifying.”

Mal nodded in agreement, and both men turned back to Murdocke. “Looks like it’s about 82 percent some kind of concentrated form of K-21.”

“That’s impossible,” Marcus said. “K-21 can’t be concentrated. It’s too volatile a substance. Makes everything in a ten mile radius go kaboom if you even try.”

Murdocke shook his head. “That’s what I thought too,” he said. “But look at this. I’ve checked it three times.”

He held out the scanner to Marcus, who looked at it carefully.

“May I see that?” Jim asked quietly.

Marcus looked at him quizzically. “You know anything about chemicals?’

Jim shifted a little uncomfortably. “Enough,” he said. “Had some experience with it in the war.”

“Didn’t know the Independents used chemical weapons much,” Marcus replied.

Jim looked up at him carefully. “They didn’t.”

Marcus’ eyes narrowed for a moment, but he filed that piece of information away to take up with Mal later. Seemed to him that the crew of Serenity was proving to be one surprise after another, and Marcus was not over fond of surprises. He handed the scanner to Jim wordlessly.

After a moment, Jim nodded. “I’ve seen it before. Not often, mind you, but a sort of prototype for what we’ve got here, I think. Murdocke’s right. It is a form of K-21, highly concentrated and very deadly.”

“What about the other 18 percent?” Mal asked. “Murdocke said it was a two-part deal.”

Jim paled visibly, thinking about what else he had seen on the scan results. “I can’t be absolutely certain,” he began. “But if it is what I think it is, we don’t want to be having anything to do with this. Handling it, or hell, even getting involved with it at all…there’s a good chance it’ll get us all corpsified in a hurry.”

“You fair certain?” Mal asked.

Jim shook his head. “Not yet, but I think I could be, with a little help from Simon’s expertise.”

Mal nodded, and looked over at Marcus. “Guess the next stop’s the infirmary, then.”

“Whaddya’ want us to do in the meantime?” Jayne asked, looking a little uncomfortable with the thought of highly explosive material in the cargo bay.

“Absolutely nothing,” Marcus and Mal said in unison once again. Frowning briefly at each other, they walked toward the infirmary, leaving their people behind.


Simon carefully worked on peeling the bloody bandages away from Pierre’s face. “This wouldn’t have been nearly as difficult to do an hour ago, before the blood dried,” he murmured, wincing himself at the layers of damaged skin that were coming off with the bandages.

Pierre hissed low in his throat. “Was a little busy an hour ago, doctor,” he said.

“Yes, engaging in a gun fight, and then for good measure, holding my Captain at gunpoint for a good, long while,” Simon said. Shaking his head, he continued, “I wonder sometimes how it is that no matter where I am in the past few years, I always seem to be treating a bullet wound. Doesn’t speak highly of the company I keep, I suppose.”

Pierre panted lightly, gripping the side of the table with white knuckles. “Maybe we could discuss this another time, doctor,” he ground out. “Think you could find something over there to knock me out, if you’re gonna keep digging into my face like this?”

Simon nodded. “Of course,” he replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know when we began that some of the pieces of your mask had been embedded so deeply in the tissue.”

“S’all right,” Pierre said. “Do what you have to do. Only do it after the pain meds, if you can.”

Simon rummaged around for a moment, finding something that he thought might do the trick. Injecting it into Pierre’s arm, he waited for it to take effect. After a moment, Pierre’s grip on the table loosened, and his breathing evened out into a steady rhythm. Satisfied he could resume his task, Simon bent over the table and painstakingly began to remove the small bits of mask and bandage embedded in the tortured flesh of Pierre’s face.

Rounding the corner, Mal and Marcus stepped into the infirmary, and Mal could not contain his gasp. “Maybe you’d best wait outside,” Marcus said, all too aware of how horrified his first mate would be to be found so vulnerable to virtual strangers.

Mal nodded, reeling from the horrific sight he’d just seen. “You know who did this?” he asked, looking back as he stepped back out through the door.

Marcus nodded, sighing. “Yes, but I’d rather not go into it just now. I’ll tell you later.” When Mal nodded, he continued, “Think you could get Jayne and Jim to help Bear look through the rest of the containers…see just how much of this stuff we got to deal with?”

“Yep,” Mal said, “Sure thing.” He glanced once more at the scene in the infirmary, and started back to the cargo bay, thinking that Jayne and Jim were most probably going to seriously consider mutiny by the end of the day.


“So, he gonna be okay?” Marcus asked, looking down at his friend and right-hand man.

“I think so,” Simon confirmed. “The wound wasn’t that serious. Just rather painful, given his circumstance.”

Marcus nodded, observing the stiffness of the way Simon was holding himself. “There a problem I should know about, doc?”

“You mean other than the fact that you held my Captain and brother-in-law at gun point, and were threatening my baby sister?” Simon asked.

Marcus looked at him, startled. “How did you know about that already? Don’t tell me you’re a Reader too?’

“No,” Simon replied sarcastically. “I have the uncanny ability to listen to announcements when someone leaves the ship’s comm system open.”

Marcus gaped at him for a moment, his mouth hanging open in surprise. “So…it was on the entire time?”

“Pretty much,” Simon answered, his face like a stone.

Marcus cleared his throat nervously. “Well, hey now, you can’t blame me for being a mite twitchy about Readers, considering my experience with one.” Simon continued to gaze at him, unmoved by his conciliatory tone. “I meant no disrespect to your sister per se,” he went on. “Just was taken by surprise to know I was harboring a Reader on board.”

Simon sighed, the starch going out of him. “Yes, I suppose we’ve all had our share of surprises where River is concerned.”

Marcus looked at him curiously. “Was it hard to get her outta there?”

“More than you can imagine,” Simon said wearily, the memory alone sapping him of strength. “Spent all the money I had, gave up every advantage in my world, and still, when it came right down to it, I only got her out because I was lucky. Plenty of folks tried to spring someone they loved, and just couldn’t.” His voice sounded strangely hollow to Marcus’ ears.

“I’m sorry, doc, for what happened earlier,” Marcus said softly. “And sorry I doubted your sister.”

Simon smiled. “I’d advise you to be more worried about River’s reaction than mine. Has it occurred to you that you threatened the life of a government-trained assassin’s husband, and she heard every word of it?”

Marcus turned pale for a moment. “Think I should sleep with my boots on?” he asked.

“Might not be a bad idea,” Simon replied smoothly.

Marcus sighed, thinking that he would have to go up to the bridge to make things right with River sooner rather than later. He couldn’t just at the moment think of a more uncomfortable conversation to have to have.

Simon, seeing the parade of emotions on Marcus’ face, took a small amount of pity on the man. “Did you just come to check on Pierre, or did you want something to help you clean the stench off?”

Marcus looked at him, surprised for a moment that he’d managed to forget his current lack of personal hygiene. “Uh, no,” he said. “I think a really hot shower and some harsh soap should do the trick. As for the clothes, easier to buy new stuff than clean this up. Though I will be having to do something about my gorram duster.”

Simon smiled. “Ah, the problems of leadership.”

Marcus gave him a withering glance. “I did have something I needed you to do.” Pulling the plasticell cylinder from his pocket, he said, “Jim seemed to think that maybe you could shed some light on what’s in this green gooey concoction.”

Simon reached out gingerly to touch it, glad for the gloves he was wearing. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said, putting the cylinder on the countertop behind him.

“You do that,” Marcus said. “We need answers before we get to Shiva, and we ain’t all that far away.”

“I understand,” Simon said, turning his attention to the cylinder immediately. “I’ll let you know as soon as I find something out.”

“Good,” Marcus replied, heading to his bunk for that much-needed shower.


Mal stood on the bridge of the Hit or Miss, looking over River’s shoulder at the display she’d pulled up. “Looks like our shadow’s back,” he said grimly. “Any new warrants out for the crew of this boat, or bulletins about the Hit or Miss specifically?”

River shook her head, her large brown eyes filled with equal parts concentration and worry. “Nothing yet,” she answered.

Mal’s brow knitted in confusion. “Makes no kind of sense. We fought with at least six Feds on Boros, and nothing is coming up about it?”

“I know, ai ren,” she replied. “But I’ve checked repeatedly since we got into the air. There’s just no mention of it at all, as far as I can find.”

Mal rolled his head from side to side, stretching the muscles of his neck. “I’ll feel a whole lot better when we can figure what the di yu we’re into,” he said softly. “Weren’t looking for trouble on this one.”

“But it always does seem to find us, doesn’t it?” River said softly, unconsciously mirroring words he’d spoken once to Jayne.

Mal looked at her tenderly. “That it does, bao bei. That it does.”


To be continued


Thursday, December 20, 2007 5:08 AM


Explosives, fertilizer, Could be someone wants to blow something up in a realy big way and blame a boat load of fugitives for the fireworks.
Edge of my seat time. More soon please.

Thursday, December 20, 2007 5:33 AM


really enjoyed this! finally catching up on most of the BSR stories now... and a pleasure it is!:)

Thursday, December 20, 2007 1:06 PM


I really loved Simon's conversation with Marcus, was only right to make him feel uncomfortable about his behaviour and now he's got to work up the courage to apologise to River. It's going to be a mighty interesting moment when Mal finds out that the injuries behind the mask were caused by Niska. As for the tail that's been following them I'd be tempted to jettison the K-21 mixture into the path of those *hundan* and see how they like going ka-boom! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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'Til Death Parts Us--Part VI
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. For Marcus and Elizabeth, the moment has arrived, and Mal gives the ceremony his best shot.

'Til Death Parts Us--Part V
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'Til Death Parts Us--Part IV
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'Til Death Parts Us--Part III
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Note: Thanks, ebfiddler, for suggesting that we include a small reminder note about the timeline of this story. At this point in this version of the ‘verse, we are about 10 to 11 years past the BDM, for those who keep track of such things. My, how time flies when you’re having fun! :)

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