Reavers Return - Part One
Monday, February 4, 2008

Events intertwine between the crews of Serenity, the Rosalyn and Gang Kou leading up to some fateful events. This is the last in the series, folks, but don’t panic. There will be another series, set a few years ahead. 18th fanfic featuring post BDM characters and a few of my own creation. Grateful thanks to BlueEyedBrigadier for the beta. Having feedback is like charging my battery, please comment. Part 1 of 4.


Author’s Note: This story takes place immediately after the previous story, Shan Yu I Bite My Thumb at You. Initially, it is set in three locations, eventually crossing over with each other; on Serenity, on board the Rosalyn, and the events taking place back on Deutschland. * * * * * * * * * * * THE ROSALYN: Stan Togashi, pilot of the Rosalyn, tried to bury the intoxicating thoughts he was having about River Tam, because sometimes there were physical consequences. Were it not for the fact that he was on watch, he would go to his newly private bunk and relieve the tension. The other women he had met in various ports and planets were now pale whispers compared to River, who was completely enthralling. Stan took his hand off the controls to brush back his long fringe. He was glad that the Rosalyn had blood ties to Serenity, as it meant that he would see her again sooner or later around the ‘Verse, just like they had on Deutschland. The ‘Verse may be big, but family ties were stronger, especially now they were setting up a homestead there. He didn’t share the same warm and fluffy view towards Captain Reynolds, since he kicked him off his ship like he was ten years old, back last September. But that first time together had been an amazing couple of days, kidnapping River and driving her out in the middle of nowhere. He hadn’t expected her to be so forward, but she seemed to know everything he wanted, even though he knew she had never slept with any man before. At one point, during that time on Newhall, they had thought someone had come to fetch them, but the mule Bane had been driving rode right past them. “It’s okay,” he had said, turning back around to find River stripped naked to the waist. “Shang yang ru-fang!” he exclaimed. River looked down at her pert nipples. “Not sheep breasts,” she replied, hiding a smirk at his exclamation. Stan stammered. “No, I meant…” River smiled cheekily. “You meant you’re lost for words.” He nodded and River shifted closer, rising to her knees. Stan touched her, almost afraid she might disappear in a puff of cloud, his fingers circling her slim waist like it was gold. He leaned down to kiss her neck and River pressed against him. She started to undo the buttons on his shirt and, once open, she pressed her bare skin against his, making him gasp. “You alright, son?” said Abe, coming into the cockpit. Stan had jumped in panic and now straightened up in his chair. “Ah, yes. Q-quiet night, isn’t it?” Stan did a quick check to his nethers to make sure he was not showing anything embarrassing. Painfully uncomfortable all of a sudden, but not embarrassing. He looked back to see that Abe had sat down in one of the other seats. “Nice and quiet, specially now our youngest crew member is asleep.” Stan snorted in response. “She certainly has a pair of lungs on her. Bit like her father when he’s riled.” Abram laughed, although he hadn’t experienced Tony’s bad graces yet. “He gave you an earful the other day,” referring to his escapades in München. “Yeh, well I kinda deserved it, not followin’ his orders an’ all.” Abe chuckled. “Was she worth it?” he asked, already knowing the answer. Stan grinned. “Oh yeh, Granpa, I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” he said, lowering his voice and glancing towards the door to Tony’s quarters. “Only don’t say nothin’ to Tony.” “I won’t,” he replied, pausing, and then came to the reason he had disturbed the boy. “You noticed any pull on the right thrusters?” Stan thought about it before answering. “Yeh, a little, but only when we’re exiting atmo. In the Black it’s fine. Why? Somethin’ wrong?” “Could be. I might have caught it early enough. You tell me if you notice anything awry, won’t you?” “Ship’s where the pilot n’ mechanic don’t talk, usually fall outta the sky,” chuckled Stan. He watched Abe leave the cockpit. He liked the old man, his daughter had been nice too, though her time on the ship had been brief. He reckoned it had been nice for Anna to have another woman to talk to. Anna reminded him of Tony’s sister in so many ways, unable to sit still for more than a minute and kind to those in need. Of course it hadn’t always been that way, when Bane first came aboard she didn’t speak for near two on months. And those scars, they had made him sick to his stomach that one human could do that to another. Her family had all closed around her like a protective shell, until she had been ready to come out. Stan had been the outsider then, never having met Bane until the perilous night Tony used all the platinum he had to buy her off Adelai Niska. When Bane had moved to Serenity he had missed her, but then there had been Corren, followed by Anna, and so the gap he had not felt hadn’t been too much. It was nice having at least one woman around the place, if not just to remind all the men that there were comforts and smells other than sweat and feet. It was at Anna and Tony’s wedding that he had danced with River for a second time, fortunately less brandy being involved that occasion. She had been so light in his arms, it was almost like another one of his dreams. He had thought he was the experienced one, and still held that conclusion, but every so often she had been the one leading their banter until finally he had succumbed; after seeing the Marriage Dance and River performing it with his friends and their relatives. He had been unable to stop his blood singing, pounding in his head, and when she had flown back to him afterwards, he had taken her by the hand into the darkness. He thought about their brief time on Deutschland as well. They had no opportunity to be alone together, but the dreams he had experienced were so vivid and real, he kept thinking they had bedded together. The images had faded in intensity once they had left the planet, and he had been somewhat annoyed at himself that he hadn’t been able to conjure them up again in the same way. The com panel beeping interrupted his thoughts and he flipped the button. The wave was long range, from Deutschland. ~ GANG KOU: “Hey, Bane!” came Stan’s voice. “Was kinda just thinkin’ about you. How’s River?” “She’s okay,” answered Bane evenly. “Look, can you get Tony?” “It’s kind of late here. Me an’ Abe are the only ones up. Everythin’ alright?” “Kinda yes, kinda no,” said Bane with a slight smile, echoing Stan’s turn of phrase. “I still need you to wake him. I don’t have easy access to a com, and I’m in the Mayor’s office in Hannover.” “Sure,” answered Stan, getting up. Bane heard noises in the background, including her niece starting to cry. She winced, realising that it was probably not a good time, but she had no choice. Her brother’s voice was addressing Stan. “You know I get all kinds of cranky, if’n you wake me up, Stan. This better be good.” Bane smoothed her clothes and ran her fingers through her hair, feeling nervous and self conscious, wondering if Tony would be able to tell if there was anything different about her. “Hi Bane,” Anna said sleepily. She could see the windows in the office Bane was sitting in were beaming in bright sunshine onto Bane’s face. “I’m sorry to wake you. How’s the pregnancy going?” Anna’s hand went automatically to her incredibly large stomach and she patted it. “As well as the last. As you can see, I’m as big as a whale, but Tony says he loves me anyway.” Bane smiled thinly. “There’s some things I have to tell you both.” Tony’s expression grew more serious, although Bane could only imagine, as she would never see any of their expressions again. She brushed her hair behind her ear in another self conscious gesture. “What’s wrong? You ain’t gonna shave your head again are you?” Tony said. Bane allowed herself a brief genuine smile, and wished she could have seen him again, just once, before she had gone completely blind. “I found Corren,” she said, allowing them a moment or two to digest the information before continuing. “She was on board the Mothership – the Mamma - the same one I was on.” There was complete silence, so Bane drove on, wanting to get it out. “I blew up the engines and they’ve arrested all the crew - the people on board have all been freed.” “Slow down,” Tony said. “You mean that - that go se ship came to Deutschland?” “Yes,” Bane answered. She heard Tony respond eloquently in Chinese. In tracking his sister down to Niska six years ago, he had dealings with the Mamma. “How is she?” said Anna, knowing that the news was not good from her manner. There was something else that was odd about Bane, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. “She’s dead. She was unconscious when I found her an’ she never woke up.” Tony frowned and looked at his sister. She looked awfully calm and was not fidgeting at all, which was very unusual. “There’s somethin’ else you ain’t telling me.” There was a pause and then Bane sighed, her eyes welling up with tears again, as she remembered the image of her young cousin sprawled on the bed with that thrice-cursed hun dan rutting on her. “I don’t know how, but Dedham was one of the crew. She was his toy. Just like I was.” After a pause, Bane heard several things coming from the com that mainly sounded like Tony was throwing things about the room. Rosie started to cry again and then Bane heard her crying fade, as if Rosie was being taken away. Finally Tony calmed down. “Is he dead?” “No, but likely wishing he was. Karl broke his arm and shot him in the leg. He’s currently residing in the Hannover jail. The Mayor’s deputised me to help them take all the statements, both from the crew and the former prisoners, before the Alliance arrive.” “Why? Why you?” asked Anna, horrified at the information. “Well, because I’m one of the few who speak English and German, for one. But also, because Dedham said it was the Alliance who hired him onto that ship. We don’t want it swept away. We want plenty of evidence and witnesses.” “Be careful. This could stir up all sorts of unwanted attention for you and Serenity.” “Serenity’s not here, she’s headed out into the Black an’ will stay away until we wave them. It’s jus’ me, Jayne an’ Esper here.” Tony said nothing, so Bane continued. “Tony, I need you to ask David and Sarah how they want Corren’s body dealt with.” Tony felt his wife’s hand on his shoulder and nodded to his sister. “We’re due on Haven tomorrow morning. I’ll go and see them. How’d I get back in touch?” “Wave the Mayor’s office in Hannover. They’ll pass on the message.” Tony cut the com before she could tell him anything else. Maybe the news of her blindness was best left until they saw each other again. ~ SERENITY: Mal heard the heavy footsteps walking down the corridor to the cockpit, but did not turn around. There was only one other person who walked as heavily as that and he had been left behind with his wife on Deutschland. It was strange how things changed, and not necessarily for the bad. By leaving Jayne in charge at Gang Kou, he knew their property would be in safe hands and protected to the hilt. In the meantime, he still had another reliable gun hand in case things went south on jobs. Karl took a breath before talking, having waited several hours until everyone else was in bed. “I got a favour to ask, Mal, an’ I know I don’t have the right.” Karl would not look at him directly and Mal raised an eyebrow. “After the last couple of days, I reckon you do,” he replied genially. Karl smiled, but was still serious. “Okay,” he sighed, pausing briefly. “When we drop off Bane’s order, don’t tell Monty ‘bout Bane bein’ blind.” Mal frowned in puzzlement. “Why not? He’s gotta right to know.” “Not if there ain’t nothin’ wrong with the munitions she produces he don’t. Only if there’s some fault with ‘em, an’ there ain’t bin so far.” “Monty ain’t the kinda person to hold it against her.” “I know. But, well she’s a proud woman. She’d want to tell him herself, in person. She’s made the last few batches blindfold, an’ bin specialisin’, makin’ tricks for volume rather than variety.” Mal was more than impressed in Bane’s ability to… “Hang on - what kind of specialist tricks?” he asked, diverted from his thoughts. Karl sat down in the co-pilot’s chair, which River was unable to occupy until her shoulder had healed sufficiently. “Well, the putty’s now off the menu, cuz the recipe is too exact to do blind – she’s tried. She can’t do the guns no more either. But there’s still the grenades, an’ she now makes what she calls Sesames – electronic door releases, some Scramblers – which are those things she used to scramble the security cameras on the Quaker job, and Sleepers.” “Sleepers? What in the ‘Verse are they?” Karl eyes rolled upwards as he tried to recall Bane’s exact phrasing. “A sonic burst which is enough to stun anyone within two foot of it for a couple of minutes, give or take their weight and body mass, etc. ‘Parently it’s the same technological principal as them Alliance Sonic Rifles.” Mal’s mouth opened in complete shock. “Coulda used somethin’ like that before. She made ‘em blindfold?” “A lot of it she’d forgotten about, but she made notes on in that journal of hers.” “Journal. She keeps a journal on her munitions work?” Mal did not look pleased at that prospect. Karl smiled at him reassuringly. “It’s alright. She uses that code writin’ that only she knows. No one can read it but her, though she was teachin’ Ishmael and River a bit of it.” Mal felt uneasy about Bane writing down her munitions work, even if it was in supposed code. “Let’s skip over that. When’d she find the time to do all this exactly?” “Well it was only since we picked Inara up on Persephone back in February that she was able to make the stuff blind. ‘Afore that she was drivin’ herself nuts. She then picked a few of the most popular items from her journal an’ learned how to make them again, only without seeing what she was doin’.” Mal took a deep breath and shook his head. “I’m beginnin’ to wonder if there’s anything Bane can’t do,” Mal said, looking at Karl keenly, only now seeing the strain that the man had been under, and cursing himself for not seeing it sooner. “I won’t tell Monty,” Mal added. “But I won’t lie to my cousin either. He asks outright, I’ll tell him.” Karl nodded, accepting. “So she’s still crew?” Mal glanced at Karl again, who seemed to be holding his breath, and he realised that his question answered a lot of his own about why they had kept her eyesight a secret. “Whether she could still make them munitions or not, she’s still crew,” he answered and watched the tension deflate from Karl’s shoulders. “When d’you reckon River’ll be fit for duty again?” Karl asked, changing the subject with a happy grin. “Doc says that she’d be here now, but for her own stubbornness. Reckon a couple of days though. Either that or she’ll take Simon out for molly-codlin’ her.” In Serenity’s belly, Simon had finished putting his surgery to rights after River’s latest tantrum. When she had found out that Simon had told the Captain that she was not yet fit for duty, they had enjoyed a very healthy sibling argument, which resulted in River cussing loudly and throwing things about the place. Now that Jayne was not on the ship, she seemed to be picking up more than a few of his cruder habits in lieu of that. He tried to feel anger, but in truth her behaviour made her more like the budding adult she was. Maybe the fact that he had laughed and said she was so cute, was not the best idea he had all day. “You comin’ ta bed soon, Core boy?” came Kaylee’s voice behind him. He didn’t turn right away, but a wide smile formed on his face. “I thought you were going to bed early?” he said. Kaylee’s arms snaked around his waist and upwards over his chest as she pressed herself against his back. “Well I did, but for some reason my husband dint get a clue.” Simon laughed softly and raised one of her hands to kiss. She wriggled her hips invitingly against him. “I’m getting the hint now,” he answered softly. Later in bed, while both of them were still reeling from their exertions, Simon’s thoughts went involuntarily back to the horrors he had witnessed on Deutschland with the Mothership. Kaylee felt his body tense and glanced at him, saying nothing while she watched the changes in his expression. A lot had happened in the last few days and Simon had not been forthcoming about any of it. Kaylee had other means of finding out what had happened, but still couldn’t figure out why he clammed up about it. It was horrible, true, but the people had been rescued and were now being looked after by the Deutschlanders. “Don’t keep it in Simon, I know you’re hurtin’ ‘bout what you saw on that ship.” Simon opened his eyes and looked across at her face, still shining with sweat from their love making. He didn’t want to spoil the moment and so shook his head and closed his eyes again. Kaylee thought that maybe their bed was not the place to talk of such things, but wanted Simon to un-bottle his cork. She slipped out of bed and pulled on a robe. “Come an’ sit with me here. I want you to tell me about it.” Simon could tell from the tone of her voice that he wouldn’t be able to wriggle out of this. He sighed heavily and joined Kaylee in their small seating area after pulling on some pants. He looked at his hands and began to talk slowly. “I’ll never forget that smell, Kaylee, not as long as I live. It was like they had bottled fear and it oozed from the air processors to keep the women in check.” Simon swallowed uncomfortably. “When I got there they were still unchaining them. Can you believe there was so many of them that some were still crying out to be released?” Kaylee’s eyes filled with tears, but she dared not break Simon’s flow of talk. “Some of them were younger than River; children about to give birth to more children.” What he had seen went against everything he had learned or done as a doctor. “How can something like this go on and no one know about it?” They were questions that he didn’t expect to be answered by his wife, but someone should answer them, and be answerable for them. “As I attended one woman, she said she’d been in the room for four years and had given birth to three babies, and soon a fourth - like it was some horrific factory line.” Simon swallowed the bile that rose again, as it had on that day. He gave Kaylee a look of anguish. “Three babies that she’d carried for nine months, laboured to bring into the world and then have them wrenched from her and sold on the Black Market. They cut the chain from her wrist as I examined her and she looked me in the eye, then at my bag, and asked me if I’d anything in there to put an end to her misery.” Kaylee’s tears ran freely down her cheeks and she dabbed at her nose with her sleeve. Simon looked over at his wife and his own face felt hot with emotion. “Each year I spend in this ‘verse, Kaylee, I see something worse than the time before. I can’t understand how we’ve not evolved enough as humans to treat people with common decency.” “Not everyone’s like that,” protested Kaylee in a quiet voice. “No, that’s true. But if places like the Mothership are allowed to exist, then someone’s to blame.” “Bane ‘n Hans’ll find out. They’ll get the people who did this.” “I’m not so sure.” Simon looked at the wall, decorated with flowers and leaves by Kaylee. He reached out and touched it, following the line of one of the twining branches, heaving a great sigh. He looked back at his wife, and wondered how they could ever think about bringing a child into a ‘Verse like this. It was not something he could even contemplate at the moment. In her room River was also crying, feeling her brother’s anguish as he told Kaylee about what he had witnessed. River felt and knew everything now, including the parts that he could not bring himself to tell Kaylee. Simon was naïve. She didn’t mean that description in a cruel way, just a realistic way. Simon’s job was to save people, to heal them. Even working in an Emergency Room, he had witnessed bad injuries and people dying. What he had not experienced, until the Core world had expelled them, was the callous disregard for life that the Alliance had. It was not just the Alliance, it was the whole ‘Verse. People lived and people died, but what he found difficult to comprehend was how they were treated along the way. River turned over as she felt Simon and Kaylee return to bed, comforting each other. They had each other in order to do that, to heal. She wished she could do that with Stan – it could be a while until she saw him again. She was still thinking on Stan several hours later, wondering and hoping they would bump into each other again while Serenity was in the Black. She was glad of the freedom again, the unknown, but there was also something else nagging at her. It was still intangible, but it would work itself out eventually. The only thing she was sure about was that it involved Stan, which gave her hope that she would see him again soon, and it was that hope that blotted out any negative thoughts she had that went along with it. ~ THE ROSALYN: The next morning, the mood on the Rosalyn was sombre as Tony and Anna broke the news about Corren’s death to everyone, before the Eatings started. The rest of the crew would have to manage the day on their own while Tony and Anna travelled out to David Pye’s farm. Tony had wanted Anna to stay behind, especially since it was a long mule ride and she was seven months pregnant. Unfortunately Anna had refused and had insisted she came along too. “Anna,” asked Stan, when the others had gone down to start the Eatings and Tony had gone to prepare the mule. “What is it?” a little distracted with their impending trip out to David’s farm. “Do you reckon Bane was tellin’ the truth, ‘bout River bein’ alright?” “She wouldn’t lie about that, Stan.” Stan shrugged uncomfortably, still worried. “Guess not, but she weren’t specific neither.” Anna took pity on him and pressed his shoulder with reassurance. “Let me tell you something about River. She’s fully capable of taking care of herself.” “But she’s so young,” he protested. Anna gave a soft laugh. “And a skilled fighter, and a mind reader to boot. Anything coming on her, she’d see it most like.” Stan took a few moments to digest this new information. “A mind reader?” he said. Anna frowned in puzzlement, figuring Stan already knew. “Yes, psychic. She reads people’s thoughts as easily as us talking.” Stan took a step back from her, his mind reeling. “How d’you know?” “Bane told me. I thought you knew. Are you alright?” Stan brushed his hair out of his eyes. “I’m fine,” he said, a low even tone to his voice. Anna heard Tony’s shout and left the old bunkroom, knowing Stan was saying one thing, but feeling another. There were other, more pressing matters on her mind though. Stan closed the door to his bunk and leaned against it, mind racing. If River was a mind reader, she knew every thought in his head, clean and dirty, but mostly dirty. He felt hot with embarrassment and shame. All those dreams he had about what he wanted do to her, she knew - that was why she seemed so quick all the time. Why hadn’t she told him? ~ “Tony!” shouted David Pye, leaning his rake against the fence. “It’s bin an age since you’ve come to Haven. And you’ve brought Anna. Sarah!” he called to the house. Tony felt Anna’s hand find his and he gave it a squeeze before going around to her side of the mule and helping her out. “Dada,” said Rosie, holding out her arms. They had to strap her in, otherwise she would have climbed all over the place. Now that she was walking, it was a real challenge to keep an eye on her nowadays, specially once the next one was born. He picked her up now and carried her towards the house. Sarah, David’s wife, had come out onto the porch. Tony didn’t want to be the bringer of death news and was now glad Anna was with him for support. David and his family knew that their daughter, Corren, was no longer with the Rosalyn, having run off while they had been at Three Hills. Tony braced himself and went towards them with Anna walking beside him. “We were gonna pop over to see you, so you’ve saved us a trip,” said David. Sarah placed a steaming cup of tea on the table in front of him, which she swiftly managed to move before Rosie reached out to grab it. “Sorry,” said Sarah. “Is she at the grabbing phase?” “And the walking, and the picking up bad words phase,” finished Anna. “Somethin’ wrong, Tony?” said David, seeing the pained awkward expression on his cousin’s face. Anna glanced in sympathy at her husband and then looked at Sarah. “We found out what happened to Corren,” she said. “Oh God!” exclaimed Sarah, her hand touching her mouth. “She’s dead, isn’t she? Or you wouldn’t be here!” David stood up and put his arm around her shoulders, turning to Anna and Tony. “Tell us.” “We got word from Bane. Corren was taken by a slave ship, probably on Three Hills – we don’t know when. The ship landed on Deutschland to take on more slaves, but was disabled. Bane found her on board, unconscious, and she later died.” Sarah started to cry and David brought her into the comfort of his shoulder. “I’m sorry, David. We don’t have too many details. Bane only waved us last night – she says that she’ll do whatever you wish with regard to Corren’s burial.” David looked at his wife, his face serious, and then back at Tony. “I want a Pye funeral – in the old ways. I don’t want her buried with the memory of all that horror. I owe it to my family to remember her the way she was.” Tony nodded solemnly. “I can contact Lo and we can pick him up on the way to Deutschland. If you’re happy to do that.” David looked around his home, trying to prevent the tears from flowing himself, but failing. He sniffed and returned his gaze to Tony and Anna. “We’ll be at your ship in an hour with the family.” Tony nodded. “Good,” he said, firmly. Sarah left the room still sobbing and Anna followed her. When they had gone, David spoke again. “I want to know how my daughter died, Tony. No whitewash, straight facts.” Tony gulped uneasily. “I know barely more than you at the moment, ‘cept that Bane was with her when she died.” He tried to piece his words together to tell the man about Dedham and finally chickened out. David took a step forward, almost menacing, but Tony could see the man was full of guilt for accepting his daughter was just a wild runaway, as he had. “Tell me what you do know.” “Have you heard the name Dedham?” he asked. David frowned and shook his head, making Tony grimace. “Dedham’s Alliance. It was him who shot my mother at the end of the War and sold Bane into prostitution and slavery. At Bane’s trial it all came out an’ he was arrested and sent to prison. At least that’s what we thought. Turned out he’s one of the crew on that slave ship and Corren was his plaything – prob’ly on account of her resemblance to Bane.” David Pye had gone pale. “So this is all your sister’s doing?” Tony stroked his daughter’s arm. Rosie was too quiet and he wished Anna had taken her with him, as he was worried she might be understanding some of what was being said. “Dedham holds grudges, and he’s got a massive one against my sister. But none of this was Bane’s doing. She’s the one who disabled the ship, found Corren and saved the people of Deutschland from being taken too.” David hung his head a little. “I’m sorry, Tony. It was wrong of me to say that.” “Knowing Bane she will feel guilty,” Tony continued. “Why?” “You said you wanted to know it all. The reason Bane probably risked her life to ground that ship was ‘cause she recognised it.” Tony avoided his cousin’s penetrating gaze. “She was a slave on that ship herself, for at least two years. She knew first-hand what those Deutschlanders would be subject to.” There was silence, except the noise David made when he sat down suddenly. “I always thought those Motherships were just stories,” he said, whispering now. “Like we all thought Reavers were once stories,” added Tony. ~ GANG KOU: Hans held Bane’s hand as she got off the mule. She had on her sunglasses, though it made no difference, but it made her feel more protected somehow from the task ahead. Her feet had barely touched earth, before Bane was slammed into the mule again. Someone was hugging her. “Thank you. Bless you,” the woman kept repeating in German. Hans was already trying to separate them. “Come now, Inga. This isn’t appropriate behaviour.” “It’s alright,” said Bane, patting the woman on the back. As she could not see her, she was not sure she had ever met her. Apparently she was not the only one and suddenly Bane found herself surrounded and jostled, which did concern her. She felt behind her for the comforting solidness of the mule and backed against it. “Stand back,” ordered Hans. “Please ladies. Stand back.” He took Bane by the hand and one of the ladies made a saucy comment. Hans spluttered, angrily offended, and Bane explained. “It’s alright, Hans. I’m sorry ladies, you have to stand back ‘cause I can’t see.” They fell into an embarrassed silence, but parted to allow Hans to take her into the Mayor’s office, located next to the hurriedly extended medical centre. Hannover was not his normal jurisdiction, but his father was still recovering from injuries received on the day the slavers had arrived. Hans opened the door to his father’s office, letting Bane pass before closing it behind them. “I’m sorry about that. Look, Bane, you don’t need to do this. We could just wait until the Alliance get here.” Hans’ face showed his concern. Part of him wished he could speak enough English to do the interviews himself and not put Bane through it – especially since he found out she had been a prisoner on that ship as well. Bane was more concerned with other things. “Actually I do need to do this. If Dedham said the Alliance hired him to work on that ship, then we don’t want ‘em to cover it up. We want as many people to know as possible, so they can’t.” Bane smiled after a few moments. “If you’re nodding in agreement, then you’ll have to do it louder.” She heard Hans chuckle. “How’d all those women know about me?” She heard his feet shuffle on the floor. “My mother’s never been able to keep her tongue from wagging. She told them you grounded the ship single-handed – and slit someone’s throat.” Bane swallowed, remembering her panic at the time. It all sounded very simple when put like that. Well at least she had a short version to tell her brother when she saw, no, spoke to him. “What d’you reckon the Alliance’ll do with all those who were prisoners?” she asked. Hans itched his cheek thoughtfully. He had various sleepless nights on the matter, until he had spoken to his mother, of all people. She had come up with the best solution and he had then discussed it with the Mayor’s Councils. “It’s not up to them,” he answered firmly. “They’re now free citizens and I want you to tell them all that, if they wish, they can live here. Those who want to return home can do so, whether by Alliance means or we’ll ensure they arrive safely.” Bane was surprised. “That’s a very generous and costly thing to do.” Hans’ expression showed the disregard he had for Alliance ways. The Deutschlanders would do anything they could to prevent the Alliance getting their way. It was as intrinsic to them as juggling geese. “The Mayor’s Council of both settlements have agreed. We don’t want anyone leaving against their will, they’ve been through enough. If they apply for citizenship, the Feds can’t touch them either.” “An’ bein’ Mayor, you can rush through the applications,” finished Bane, impressed. “We best get started then,” she continued optimistically. ~ Bane felt around the edge of the bed before finding the chair to sit on. Before taking her into the wards, Hans had introduced her to Ava, a young deputy who worked at Hannover. Although she could speak little English, she would take care of recording all the statements. “Who are you?” came a voice, full of fear. Bane tried to look in the direction of the sound, unsure whether she was sufficiently skilled in pulling it off. “My name is Bane. I’ve been deputized by the Deutschland authorities to take your statement.” “You ain’t Alliance?” the girl answered, and she sounded no more than sixteen. “No. Was wanted by ‘em once, but it was all a big misunderstandin’.” Bane received no answer. She asked Ava if she was recording and she confirmed that she already was. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Mary Francis. From Lilac,” she said, with less hostility to her voice. Bane found the girl’s hand, touching it gently before she felt Mary’s hand grasp hers. “How’d you come to be on that ship?” It was nightfall before Bane stopped questioning people, and only then because she kept hearing Ava yawning beside her. She guessed it could all be continued tomorrow just as easily. She held on to Ava’s elbow and walked through the makeshift ward towards the outdoors. A woman screamed and they both turned at the sound. “One of the women has gone into labour,” explained Ava. Having been speaking German and English all day, Bane found herself becoming almost fluent. Ava as well, had managed to pick up a few words of English. “Which one?” Bane asked. “That first one you interviewed, Mary Francis.” She was only fifteen, and she had been put straight into The Farm on her arrival, under a year ago. Bane felt the tears form in her own eyes as she remembered Corren, who had been nineteen. It was too young to experience such trauma, and she knew personally what all of them had been through. “Take me to her bed and then you can go.” Ava started to protest, but Bane forestalled her. “Do it. I’ll see you in the morning, an’ I’ll make sure the nurses find me somewhere to sleep.” Ava did as she instructed and led Bane to Mary’s bedside, before reporting back to the Mayor with all the recordings. Bane took off her sunglasses and put them in her pocket, before feeling about for Mary’s hand. The nurses were trying to calm her, but they didn’t speak English, so Bane tried. “Mary, listen to me. You have to settle down. There’s nothin’ to be afraid of.” “I don’t want it! It’s gonna be evil!” she screamed. “You don’t have to keep the child, Mary. That’s what I told you earlier. These people will do whatever you wish. You don’t want the child, they’ll arrange to have it adopted. You want the child an’ they’ll help you take care of it.” Bane could hear Mary breathing heavily, but more evenly. Mary looked over to the woman who had interviewed her earlier. She seemed very calm and had been nice. “Why you lookin’ at me funny?” Bane sniffed at the odd question, given that the woman was in the midst of labour. “I ain’t lookin’ at you at all. I’m blind.” “Blind!” Mary exclaimed, and then screamed in pain as another contraction assaulted her. Bane tightened her grip on Mary’s hand until it subsided. Mary took deep breaths, before asking her next question. “How long you bin blind?” One of the nurses told Mary not to push, she was nowhere near ready, only she said it in German. Bane realized that she might have to write some phrases down for them, so that they could communicate with their patients, especially the ones due to give birth in the next few months. “The nurses say that you must not push yet, keep panting.” Mary gritted her teeth. “Okay, but you ain’t answered my question. How long you bin blind?” “Not long. Five days ago, same day you were rescued.” Mary closed her mouth in shock briefly, until another contraction came and she screamed again. Bane winced, her hearing was considerably more acute now. Mary fought the pain by trying to distract herself. She was strong and she could survive, she determinedly thought. There was something about Bane’s face that was familiar and then she remembered. “The girl in the bed next to me on that ship looked a bit like you.” Mary watched the woman’s face turn pale with shock and she forgot about her own pain. “Was her name Corren?” Bane asked, her mouth dry. “Yes, that was her name - Corren Pye. I knew her.” Mary thought quickly, her mother not having raised no dunce. “You’re Bane Pye! Her cousin. She told me about you.” Bane didn’t want to hear about her cousin, but then it did seem to be taking Mary’s mind off the labour. Another contraction came and this time Mary made a loud groan instead of a scream. She recovered quickly, panting, but wanting to know more. “You really blow up all them Alliance places durin’ the War?” “Y-Yes.” Bane blinked away the hot feeling that her eyes were getting as she thought about Corren. One of the nurses told her to carry on keeping her diverted. Bane was no longer sure she wanted to, the memories of Corren’s death and the fact that Dedham was still alive. “Is what she said true?” Mary asked. “That depends on whether she was spinning a yarn or not,” answered Bane, “A lot of us Pyes are known for our yarn spinnin’. “No, I don’t mean about that – she was good at that. I mean what she said about babies.” “What did she tell you?” Mary did not answer immediately as another contraction assaulted her. “That for your people, children are a sacred bottle-thingy.” Bane tilted her head in puzzlement and then gave a short laugh. “A sacred vessel through which you pass all your knowledge, love and understandin’?” “Yeh, that’s it,” Mary slumped back on the pillows, already exhausted. Corren Pye had come into The Farm a few months after her. Despite the terrifying situation, she had made them all feel better with her stories, making them forget for a few precious hours, that they were chained to the beds waiting on their bellies to grow. They could almost survive, or hoped they could. That was until that Dedham creature had seen her and kept taking her away to do things to her, not caring that she carried a child. Corren had barely spoken a word after that. Mary knew he had broken her, she had seen him do it with other girls. Mary groaned again, gripping Bane’s hand, wanting and needing to push. “Tell me a story – of the times when the Pyes were on Earth-That-Was. She never finished that one.” Across the room Esper watched Bane a little longer before leaving again. Jayne had driven into Hannover to pick up Bane and take her home, especially after what must have been a very traumatic day. It was clear that Bane was busy though, so she did not disturb her. Just standing here in the hospital gave her the chills. In any other time or place this makeshift maternity wing would be filled with happiness and joy for the forthcoming births. Instead, it was filled with fear and loathing. Her hand went to her own stomach; four months pregnant and she could already feel the mound, though it was not yet too apparent through her clothing. Esper turned quickly and went outside to where Jayne was keeping the mule running. “Bane’s alright then?” he asked. “Yes. She’s helping one of the young girls give birth. I think she’ll be fine.” Jayne looked at his wife keenly, even in the dark he could see she was pale. “You alright, Esper?” Esper got into the mule beside him. “I’m fine. Jus’ realizin’ how lucky I am to have you.” Jayne kissed her softly, and then they drove off home. * * * * * SERENITY: “Are we gonna get a job from Badger?” Mal pressed a few buttons before answering his First Mate. “Maybe. But after we rendezvous with Monty for Bane’s munitions. I’m not too keen on getting us mixed into too many criminal deals when we don’t know how big the ripples’ll be from that slave ship. We’ll just drop off the Deutschlanders goods with him an’ then go for Monty.” “Them ripples could be big, Sir,” warned Zoe. Mal sighed, also knowing that it could mean they might never be able to return to Deutschland as well. “Hans’ll make sure there’s no mention of us. Gang Kou is anonymous in this.” Mal gave a half smile at Zoe’s perception at what was on his mind. “I’m just glad he’s on our side.” Zoe smiled at this too. “Are you sure Badger will take delivery?” “Sure as I am that he’s a psychotic low-life. He loves this stuff cuz he can sell it for a huge profit. I’d be surprised if he hadn’t started trading off world.” As Mal said the words, the thoughts came to him. “We might even be able to get in on that action.” “If you don’t piss him off, Sir.” “Well there’s always that,” he chuckled. “I would give it up as a lost cause then, Mal,” came Inara’s voice behind them. Mal turned and gave her one of his grins that she called his mischievous grin. And the one most likely to get her body heated up. Zoe took her leave discretely, not to give Mal and Inara their time alone, but because she could hear Marcus screaming the place down. He was starting to crawl, but there weren’t a lot of places he could safely go without supervision and he was pretty much driving all of them crazy. Inara waited until Zoe had left, looked to see if the coast was clear, and then sat on Mal’s lap. Mal relaxed in the chair, his hands cradling her waist, content with life and the ‘Verse. He had noticed that Inara was not quite in the same zone as him though. “Somethin’ troublin’ you?” he asked. Inara hid her shock at his accuracy and then chided herself for it. Mal was always perceptive about certain things, it’s what had kept him alive when all those around him had died. “I’m worried about Ishmael.” “And wondering if you did the right thing in leaving him with Hans and Lukas?” “Yes,” Inara answered softly. Mal stroked her face tenderly. “You know it was the best thing. If we’re out here a while an’ the Alliance find us, and recognise you, they’d be able to take him away. If he’s on Deutschland, they won’t know he’s there, even if they shake him by the hand.” Inara gave a resigned sigh. If the Alliance boarded Serenity and found her then she would be arrested for kidnapping. Then it was quite possible that she may never see Ishmael again, but at least he would be free from the Core until he grew up. She was glad that Mal saw it the same way though. “I just needed to hear someone else say it,” she said, a smile forming. She kissed Mal softly and then extended the kiss until they both knew it was only leading one way. Inara pushed her worries to the back of her mind, but Mal could feel the tension and pulled away a little. “You’re the one who needs to stay away from Alliance trouble and I’ve just the place to hide you.” Inara was intrigued. “Where?” “Bane’s workshop.” Inara raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never been in there. Would you care to give me a tour?” Mal ran his finger lightly from the Inara’s ear, down her neck and over her clothes between her breasts. Inara arched involuntarily and Mal stood up, making sure that Inara didn’t fall to the floor. They made their way to the secret room. “It’s a bit poky,” said Inara, having crawled in first. It smelled like the engine room, not that she went there a lot, but Kaylee was frequently giving off eau de engine, so she knew the scent. Mal stood up after his crawl through the hatch. In this case, poky was all kinds of enticing, especially when he leaned Inara over the worktop. “It’s lead lined and don’t show up on standard Alliance sweeps.” He continued to touch Inara. “Course when the time comes you may have to share with Simon and River.” Inara’s eyes widened as she kept eye contact with Mal. “Won’t that be a bit cramped?” “Darlin’, you have no idea,” he said and put a stop to their chatter for a moment. When he was sure Inara was breathless enough – as was he, he drew apart to ask her something. “So that marryin’ question I asked you last year. You worked yourself up to an answer yet?” Inara’s mouth dropped open in surprise. She looked into Mal’s face, full of passion, wisdom and pure wild insanity. Wasn’t that what she wanted, why she had sought him out again? Mal let Inara mull it over as he continued to kiss her neck. He didn’t mind when she answered him, as long as she answered. ~ River woke with a start. The uneasy feeling was still there. It was not the same as before when they were boarded by the Alliance who were specifically hunting for her. It had something to do with Serenity and the Rosalyn, like they were close by, but on the other side of a huge gorge and she was on the mountain opposite. Something wasn’t right.


Monday, February 4, 2008 2:34 AM


you juggle a complex narrative and a heap load of interesting characters very nicely!:)


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Homecoming -Part One
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First Kill
A ficlet to keep you going between the end of Series 1 and the beginning of Series 2. An Operative’s first hit. Read and be chilled. Feedback would be much appreciated.