The Return - Part 5
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Zoe takes command as Serenity's crew tries to find out what happened to their shipmates. Meanwhile, Mal, Simon, and Jayne get a first hand look at the occupants of the moon.


The Return – Part 5

“Let me do the talking,” Mal whispered into his helmet mic to Simon and Jayne. They were standing on a platform made for space craft to land on a moon base they had discovered. The platform was under the surface of the moon in a large, lighted cavern that had both air and more gravity than the surface. There were a few doors and what looked like some sort of glass window with some electronic equipment behind it. On the sides were large vents. In front of them were about a dozen people, dressed in blue uniforms with Alliance symbols on them. And all were armed.

What a fix, Mal thought, looking the people over, deciding in his mind who to shoot first if it came to that. One in the middle was a large man with a black mustache. He seemed older than the others and could be a leader. He’d die first. Now if I could only fire my pistol with these bulky space gloves on.

Wow, nice chicks here on the moon, thought Jayne, as he spied at least two beauties in the group, a tall blond on one end with a machine pistol of some type Jayne had never seen before and a brunette near the middle who had what looked like an old M-16. Women with guns, you gotta love it. Now if only they were pointed in another direction.

Now I’m going to die, thought Simon as he gulped, just when I finally got to know Kaylee a little better. That was the fairness of life, give a little, take a lot. They were Alliance, or the Earth version of the Alliance, which most likely wasn’t the same as their Alliance. At least they wouldn’t know about him and River. Now that’s silly, ha ha, of course they wouldn’t know. How could they? I’m rambling now. I should have taken a gun. Too late for that now. Or maybe they won’t shoot me because I don’t have gun?

In the brief moments it took Mal, Jayne, and Simon to have these thoughts, they were thinking too much on what they were going through and not thinking what the people in front of them were going through. Perhaps it was the lights, the sudden gravity, the shock of the whole situation, but they didn’t notice the almost stunned looks on the faces of the people who had them at gun point. The large man with the mustache motioned for the others to lower their weapons and then as they did so he stepped out of the group and spoke, in clear English, in a deep melodic voice.

“Welcome to the Moon.”


Zoe and Book dashed down the stairs of the cargo bay and headed straight for the spacesuit locker where Kaylee and Inara were chatting. Kaylee immediately spotted the stern cast to Zoe’s face and fear replaced her joyous mood of a moment ago.

“What’s happened?” she asked, hoping against hope nothing bad had happened.

Zoe said nothing and went straight to the spacesuit locker and took out the last suit. Book looked to Kaylee and Inara.

“We’ve lost contact,” he said gently.

“What?” Inara said, her face falling.

“Lost contact? What do you mean?” Kaylee got out in a strangled voice and Book explained what had occurred.

“But, it could be anything,” Kaylee began, trying to calm her fears. “A malfunction of the platform, an automatic system that operates when something is on it, anything.”

“I’m going to make sure,” Zoe said as she started putting on the suit.

“I still think that’s a bad idea,” Book said and Zoe gave him one of her looks.

“Not now, Shepherd. Need you to be in charge here.”

“I think you should be in charge here,” he replied. Zoe stopped what she was doing.

“Not when my crew has disappeared and is out of contact.”

“Shepherd’s right,” Inara said to Zoe. “We need to stay calm and think about this.”

“I’ll go,” said Kaylee and Zoe turned to her and shook her head.

“No, need you by the engines.”

“We ain’t going anywhere. Not without Simon and the Capt’n and Jayne.”

“She’s the only one trained to find out what happened to that platform or to open those airlocks,” Book stated, as he gave Zoe one of his stern and serious looks. ‘And you’re our leader now. You need to be here.”

Zoe knew he was right. She hated the idea of sending Kaylee out there alone but she knew it was the right choice. She took a breath and looked at them and stepped out of the suit and handed it to Kaylee.

“Be careful,” she said, full on serious. “Don’t walk on that platform, don’t touch anything looks funny, and don’t stop talking on the comms. Check the nearest airlock, see if you can get inside one of those buildings. Might be a control system there or another way under the surface. Then check the platform for a control system and if you can’t find anything come back. Stay off the platform. Anything happens to you…Mal and Simon have my ass.”

Kaylee just nodded, Zoe scaring her more than she intended, her comment about Simon worrying about Kaylee not even raising an eyebrow from anyone. “I’ll, you know, I'll be careful. Just let me get my tools.”

Kaylee set down the space suit and went off to the engine room as Wash’s voice came through the intercom.

“Zoe, baby? What’s happening?”

She walked over to the intercom and hit the talk button. “Sending Kaylee out to check the platform and those airlocks, see if we can get inside, find out what’s going on.”

“OK. River says there’s no life signs in the buildings, no power, nothing on thermal imaging or infrared. The underground power source is steady and directly below us. She’s trying to adjust the sensors to x-ray the underground, see if we can get an ideal of what’s below us”

“Roger that. Good idea. I’ll be back up soon as Kaylee’s EVA’d.”

“Roger,” he replied and the intercom went dead.

Zoe went back to the spacesuit locker, looked at the suit and shook her head. “Knew we shoulda had more than four of these.”

“What are we going to do if Kaylee can’t get inside?” Inara asked, worry for Mal and the others clear on her face.

“Don’t know yet,” Zoe said in a dejected tone. “Never saw this coming.”

Book put a hand on her shoulder. “Zoe, everything will be fine. Have faith. Mal has come through worse situations. For all we know they could be making friends with the survivors of Earth right now.”

“Or shooting them,” Zoe replied grimly.


The man with the moustache had said something but Mal, Jayne or Simon could barely hear through their helmets. It sounded and looked like a welcome and they had definitely lowered their weapons. And it looked like they were breathing the atmo without assistance.

“Simon,” Mal said into his helmet mic. “Atmo readings?”

Simon snapped out of his trance at the sound of Mal’s voice. “Ah, the recorder is in my hand and my hands are over my head.”

“Looks like they ain’t ready to shoot us just yet, Doc,” Jayne stated and Simon could see that for himself. The tall man with the moustache just stood there looking at them like he was waiting for something and the others were in a sort of shock, which was plain to see on their faces now. Mal lowered his hands first, then Jayne, which he rested on Vera, not in a threatening manner but in a ‘just in case’ way and Simon lowered his hands last of all. He quickly examined the atmo recorder and could see that the air was very breathable.

“It’s pure atmo, Mal, safe enough.”

“Wait a gorramn minute,” Jayne said as Mal went to remove his helmet. “These here Earthlings or Moonlings or whatever they may be might be able to breathe it but we can’t.”

“Jayne, it’s atmo,” Simon said.

“Yeah, but maybe they’re an evolved form a human or they got some device to breathe with and some way to trick the recorder.”

Mal just shook his head, looked at what he thought was the leader, held up a finger for ‘just a sec’ and turned to Jayne.

“Jayne they wanted us dead, we’d be full of holes now.” With that Mal removed his helmet and took a deep breath. Simon and Jayne soon followed suit, Jayne very suspicious as he sniffed the air.

“Sorry, about that,” Mal said to the man. “Can’t hear a darn thing in them spacesuits. You were saying?”

But the man was stunned for a second and a murmur went through the people.

“They speak English!”

“They’re just like us!”

“Where did they come from?”

The man turned to his people and then they were silent after he gave them a stern look.

“Forgive us,’ he began after he turned once more to the men of Serenity. ‘We’re in a bit of shock over seeing you.”

“Same here,” said Jayne as Mal turned and gave him one his dirty looks as Jayne forgot that Mal was to do the talking.

“Yeah,” Mal said to the man. “Seems both sides a bit surprised at the moment. Why don’t we start at the beginning and do some introductions and we’ll take it from there.”

“Of course,’ said the man as he stepped forward with his hand out to Mal. “Forgive my poor manners. I’m Commander Samuel Jackson. Welcome to Moon Base Armstrong.”

Mal shook his hand as he spoke. “Captain Malcolm Reynolds. This here’s Jayne Cobb and Doctor Simon Tam.”

“Captain…Reynolds? And what are you a captain of?”

“Spaceship I guess you been tracking for about two days now,” Mal said calmly, judging his answers carefully, not willing to give too much away to Jackson just yet till he knew the lay of the land.

“Yes, Captain, we have been tracking you since your appearance. You have generated a great deal of …curiosity… amongst our people here. And these men are your crew?”

“Yeah, Jayne’s payload specialist and Simon is our medical doctor and science adviser.”

“A medical doctor?” came a voice from the crowd and the brunette woman with the M-16 stepped forth. “A real medical doctor?”

Mal looked at Simon who seemed to be about to speak but he held his tongue. Mal sensed something wasn’t quite right. She seemed a little too desperate as she spoke these words.

“Yeah, Simon’s a real doctor. You got sick folk about?”

“Yes,” Jackson said immediately and there was no hint of a lie or deception. “You may have noticed our damaged spacecraft on the surface. We had an accident a few days ago and some of our people are hurt. Unfortunately, our only medical doctor was killed in the accident.”

“Where is your infirmary?” Simon asked and Mal just sighed and knew Simon was going to be a pain in the ass about this.

“This way,’ the woman said and a Simon was all set to follow her.

“Hold on a minute, Doc,” Mal said and Simon stopped. “I know you got your oath to help people and all but we got a million questions for these folks first before you go wandering off.”

“But Mal,….”

“No buts Simon. Stay still for the moment.” Simon just stood where he was, knowing Mal was right, realizing it wasn’t so wise to go wandering off by himself. Last time he did that he had almost been burnt alive at a stake.

Jackson nodded. “It is understandable that you have so many questions Captain Reynolds. As have we, as have we. Where shall we begin?”

Jayne stepped forward before Mal could open his mouth, the big man unable to keep silent any longer. “How about with what the gorramn hell happened on Earth?”

Jackson was about to say something but before he could another man rushed through a doorway and into the cavern running up to Jackson and then just staring at the three visitors with awe and wonder. He was older than any of the others, perhaps in his 60s, and had wild unkempt hair going bald on top and thick glasses. He spoke in a thick accent that reminded Mal of the evil bastard Niska.

“Bosha Moy! It worked! It worked! They are human! They have returned!”

And he shook Mal, then Jayne, then Simon’s hands in a row, stopping and looking at them in awe. “Welcome home, travelers! Welcome home!”


Kaylee wasn’t as nervous as Simon about spacewalks but it wasn’t her favorite thing to do in the verse. She had done several EVA’s on Serenity over the years, fixing this or that, checking for damage after some close calls, but she’d never been on a moon with no atmo and such little gravity before. Walking was hard and all the equipment she carried made her progress slow as she approached the damaged spaceship.

When Zoe seemed ready to charge off out the airlock, Kaylee knew that wasn’t right and was glad Shepherd Book was there to convince Zoe to stay on board. Leaders needed to lead, not go running around in dangerous places. The Capt’n didn’t agree with that, believing leading by example was best, and that of course always put him in the hot zone so to speak. If both him and Zoe went missing then the crew would truly be in trouble, like that time when they pulled the train job and there had been nothing but bickering when Jayne tried to take over. Thankfully Simon had knocked him out, giving him a dose much like he had given her the night before.

Thinking on Simon helped Kaylee calm her nerves. She was doing this for him and the others, but more for him she knew. She said “I’ll go” before she ever realized the words came out of her mouth. This was the last suit and if something happened to her, there was no way someone could come get her. But Shepherd was right, she was the only one qualified to examine the airlocks and the landing platform where Simon, the Capt’n and Jayne had disappeared.

She had gone to the engine room and grabbed her portable battery, some connector cables, and her EVA tool kit, which was a belt with pockets for tools such as a power drill, power screwdriver, pliers, mallet, and so on. On top of that she took a big flashlight cause if she got inside the buildings it sure would be dark. It was bulky but she needed it. The battery was bulky too, a hydrogen cell that could power up those airlock doors if she could access the control panels.

“Kaylee, comms check,” came Zoe’s voice from the bridge of Serenity and Kaylee could sense her concern. Kaylee was suppose to speak as often as possible but forgot while taking in the awe and splendor of the moon.

“Still here,” Kaylee replied. ‘Walking toward the spaceship. Looks like an explosion of some sort in the engine area. Nothing like I’ve seen before. Possibly a short range craft. Maybe using fossil fuels for propulsion or a nuclear reactor, maybe a radon accelerator. Have to go inside to make sure.”

“Negative on that, Kaylee. We’ll check it out later if we have a chance. The air lock first,” Zoe said through the static.

“Roger that, heading to the air lock now. It’s not far now.”

She could see the many footprints in the dusty moon’s surface, some leading from the spacecraft to the airlock, the others her three crewmates as they had joined the first group. After a few minutes Kaylee was at the airlock.

“Airlock reached, Serenity. Oh, gosh! Looks like the symbol of the Alliance on the door. Not exactly like it but similar. What’s going on? What’s Alliance doing here?”

“Kaylee,” came Book’s voice. “Alliance was created on Earth before the travelers left. They brought it with them to the stars.”

“Oh. I guess I knew that. Okay, looking for an airlock panel.”

Kaylee moved her gloves over the sides of the door until she found something square that gave a little when she pushed. It was covered in dust, and when she removed the dust she could see through what looked like plastic and saw some sort of control panel. After pushing a bit with no result Kaylee just took her mallet and slammed it into the plastic. On the third whack she finally cracked it and then it came apart. After a quick look Kaylee pulled out her power screw driver and removed the four screws holding the cover plate on the panel and opened up its interior. Working with the bulky gloves was awkward but she managed to find what looked like a power cable. After a quick splice she connected her hydrogen cell to the wire and the control panel came to life. A punch on the “Open” button and the airlock door slid up.

“Got it open,” Kaylee said. “Heading inside now.”

“Take it slow, Kaylee,” Zoe replied. “You get the hell back here you see anything suspicious.”

“You know me, Zoe. I ain’t much for a fight.”

“Roger that.”

Kaylee put her tools away, turned on her flashlight and took her first steps inside the moon base, her senses alive with nervous tension and fears for what happened to her crewmates, especially a certain doctor.


“Don’t feel right, her all alone out there,” Zoe said as she paced the bridge behind Wash’s seat. River was glued to the scanners, making adjustments, hitting the keyboard at blinding speed as Book stood behind her, trying but not making sense of what she was doing. Inara sat in the third chair, her arms around her body, her fears on her face, fears for friends and crewmates. She had wanted to stay by the airlock in case Kaylee came back but couldn’t stand not knowing what was going on and reasoned correctly that someone could run to the airlock long before Kaylee or the others could get there.

Wash gave his wife a reassuring look. “It was the right move, baby. She’s the only one with the skills.”

“I know, just….Kaylee’s so…” and Zoe seemed at a loss for words.

“Vulnerable?” said Book and Zoe just nodded.

Inara spoke next in a quiet voice. “When she got shot that time, I was so scared she was going to die. She’s like our little sister. She never hurt a soul in her life. I said a prayer to Buddha to save her and he answered me.”

“I confess I wanted to do harm to Mr. Dobson myself,” said Book. “More harm than my blow to disarm him did.”

“He’s dead and a bullet to the head ain’t so pretty. But Early, he got off easy. If I could have got my hands on Jubal Early,” said Zoe quietly. “His death wouldn’t have been so clean and painless. Scaring Kaylee half to death, tying her up like that, hitting you Shepherd and you too Inara, beating Mal, shooting Simon, trying to take River. That man did more harm to this crew than any other. Son-of-a-bitch.”

“Mr. Early’s death wasn’t so painless, I assure you,” said Book. “Suffocating in the endless void of space is not as quiet or nice as we’d imagine.”

And as he said these words all thoughts turned to Kaylee and the others out there, in the void of space, with nothing between them and death but their thin suits and oxygen tanks. As Zoe thought on that she worried about Mal, Jayne and Simon’s supply of air.

“River, what’s the EVA time of the first team?”

“Thirty–five minutes. Tanks have approximately two hours of air.” River replied not taking her mind off her task of adjusting the sensors. Zoe didn’t need to wonder why the mind reader knew she wanted to know about the air supply time. Then Zoe had an idea.

“River, can you…sense them?”

All looked toward River as she turned to Zoe. “They are far away and underground but I feel something. I sense Simon most and he is scared but unharmed. Jayne and the Captain I am not sure about.”

“Who has them?”

“They are human, many of them, how many I don’t know. Some under us, others around us. They are worried, scared, some are angry, some are curious, about us.”

“As are we about them,” Book said after a long moment of awed silence as River’s crewmates wondered not for the first time just who she really was.

“Anything changes, keep me posted,” Zoe said to her.

“Aye, aye,’ said River as she turned back to her tasks.

“Wash, if we get close to the end time of their air supply, were going to put Serenity on that landing platform and hope for the best,” Zoe told him.

“It’s big enough for two Serenity’s. Let’s just hope we get it down and get them back.”

Book was still looking at the sensor display. “Be nice to know what it looks like down there first.”

River turned and smiled at him. “I know now.”


Mal looked at the mad man in front of him with extreme discomfort. He spoke like Niska and he even seemed to look like him a little and saying they could be distant cousins wouldn’t have surprised Mal at this point.

The man turned to Jackson who seemed quite irritated at this intrusion. “I told you, Sam. We’ve made contact. They have come to us, to save us. We are ready.”

This last was said to Mal and Mal had no idea what he was taking about. “Could someone fill me in on what in the verse is going?”

“Captain Reynolds please meet my chief science adviser, Gregori Kovalev,” Jackson said in a less than happy tone.

“The pleasure is all mine. Ochen priatna, ochen priatna,” Gregori said, as he shook a surprised Mal’s hand again, in what Simon thought was Russian, since the man’s name had an obvious Russian or at least Eastern European origin.

“Happy to make your acquaintance,’ said Mal slightly irritated at this over friendly reminder of Niska. ‘Now, about our questions?”

Jackson looked a bit uncomfortable. “If we could do this in a more pleasant atmosphere, Captain, things will go much faster. This cavern was designed for landing spacecraft, not for the first meeting between the two branches of humanity in 500 years.”

“So, you know where we come from?” Simon said in a curious tone.

“But of course,’ said Gregori, before Jackson could reply. “We’ve been trying to contact you. And here you are!”


After she got the inner airlock door opened, Kaylee made her way into the building. The corridor leading from the airlock into the building was bare and dark. Kaylee’s flashlight revealed only dust and thought that was odd since this was a sealed building. The next door wasn’t power locked and Kaylee just pushed and it opened. As she entered into the next area she saw that it wasn’t exactly a sealed building.

“Looks like something happened here Zoe,’ she said over the comms. “There’s a lot of holes, small holes in the sides of the room I’m in and the light from outside is entering. It looks like some kind of reception area. There’s space suits here and some counters and desks with computer terminals, but a lot of stuff is damaged.”

After a second came Zoe’s reply. “River said it’s most likely from small meteorites hitting the buildings. Maybe that’s why they abandoned the surface. “

“Wait a sec. There’s some signs on some of the desks and terminals. One says Shield Generator.”

“Just a minute,” came Zoe’s answer. “Here’s River.”

“Hi, Kaylee. How you doing?” River asked in a pleasant tone and Kaylee smiled despite her circumstances. Zoe was all military and serious on the comms. River sounded like she was making a wave call.

“I’m good River. How’s everyone there?

“Oh, you know, serious and worried.”

“Me, too. Worried that is.”

“Simon will be fine, don’t worry.”

“I can’t help it.”

“All will be well. Zoe’s giving me one of her looks now. I was able to adjust the sensors and got some x-ray images of the base under us. If you continue to the second building from where you are I think you might fine a way underground.”

“Oh, that sounds good. But what is a shield generator?”

“Most likely they had some kind of shield protecting the base from meteorites. Perhaps it was damaged or they stopped using it after they moved underground.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. No atmo to burn up the meteorites. Certainly lots of small holes here. Okay. I’m making my way to the third building now. I think I’ll go through here and then the passage ways to the next building and see if I get some more info.”

Zoe came back on the line. “Watch your air supply, Kaylee. Keep your mind on the mission not on exploring.”

“Roger that, Zoe. On the mission.”

Kaylee made her way to the back of the room toward another door, having to step around lots of discarded things on the floor. She noticed footprints in the dust and they were obviously made with space boots. As she opened the door it was jammed half way. She pushed and it moved and then she squeezed through into another passage. As she turned her light to see what was blocking the door, Kaylee dropped her flashlight, gasped and let out a small cry as she saw sitting on the floor propped up against the door a dead person in a spacesuit.

*********************************************************************** “What do you have?” Zoe asked River as she moved to her side.

“We have the base underground. Some of it anyway,” said Book, peering intently at the screens.

They could see the images of corridors and spaces of what could be rooms, in a grid like pattern, some larger rooms and solid objects that looked like machinery of some kind, and small images, some moving, that could be people. There was only one level and there appeared to be only two ways from the surface, the way Mal, Jayne and Simon went and a shaft of some sort from the second building from where Kaylee was. They couldn’t quite make out what was happening under the landing platform but some shapes there could be people also.

“Try infrared and thermal,” Zoe commanded.

“Tried, won’t work, too deep underground,’ River replied.

“How deep?” asked Inara as she crowded in for a look.

“About 25 meters, more than fifty feet.”

“That’s deep,” said Book.

Zoe got back to talking to Kaylee and then handed over the conversation to River. The teen was a little less formal and Zoe didn’t like her tone but she had to remind herself that none of them were military like her and the Captain. Well, with the exception of Book, perhaps. After her brief conversation to remind Kaylee of the mission came Kaylee’s strangled cry from the void.

“Kaylee,” Zoe said as calmly as she could, her heart racing, worrying on what was happening to the little mechanic. There was no answer. “Kaylee!”

Then came a small sob, “Oh, God!!”

“Kaylee, focus, calm down, and tell me what happened?’

“Okay, okay, just need to breathe.”


“Okay, I’m okay. There’s a ….dead person…here…in a space suit.”

All on the bridge looked at each other in concern. “It’s not one of our guys,’ Kaylee said quickly and the tension visible relaxed. “Different kind of spacesuit, silver color. A man I think. His helmet’s smashed in, he’s frozen solid by the looks. And something, oh God, blood, all over his face.”

“Kaylee, this is Shepherd Book. Can you tell how he died?”

“Oh God, please don’t ask me to touch him!”

“No, Kaylee,’ Book continued. “Do you think it was an accident or …something else?”

Kaylee was silent for a long time. “Kaylee?”

“Something else,” came in a small voice.

“How do you know?” Zoe asked with concern.

“Cause he ain’t the only one.”

************************************************************************ Mal, Jayne , and Simon allowed themselves to be led out of the hanger area through a door and down a wide corridor. Jayne kept Vera close at hand and Mal retained his pistol and no one even questioned why they were armed or attempted to take away their weapons. Jackson and Gregori led the entourage and as they walked past more doors and rooms many people were standing and looking, smiling and in awe of the three men in spacesuits. They were of mixed races, Caucasians and Orientals dominating, with a few of African, Indian, and Arabic descent. Simon saw many signs in Chinese and English, all with the Alliance symbol. There was Operations, Supply, Weapons, Storage, Medical, and one reading Quarantine. They stopped at this one.

Mal looked at Jackson. “No rutting way am I going in there.”

“Captain, you and your men may have diseases that our people have no immunity to. We are isolated here. Any out break could cause the devastation of the last remnants of humanity.”

“You ain’t the last,’ Jayne said.

“Of course not,” said Gregori. ‘There’s you.”

“The point is,” said Jackson. "Our people have already been briefly exposed to you and we would like to run some tests.”

Mal turned to Simon. ‘Doc, explain it before I lose my temper.”

“Our civilization has all the same medical problems of Earth and its people. Nothing more, nothing less. We are human after all. We all get chicken pox, the common cold, measles, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and on and on, so no, we have nothing you don’t have.” Which wasn’t exactly true as Simon remembered the several new problems that had cropped up when some planets and moons had been terra-formed. But those weren’t contagious illnesses.

Jackson turned to Gregori, who shrugged. “We must establish some trust, Sam. If he says so I believe him.”

“My apologies, Captain. Please follow us,” Jackson said as he led them off once again.

As they walked Simon got close to Mal. “We need to contact Serenity,” he whispered.

“Not yet. As far as they know, we’re the only three on board, got it?” He turned back to Jayne who had been listening and Jayne nodded also.

Finally, they reached what looked like a conference room, with a large table, soft chairs, some computer terminals, and a screen at one end. As they were about to sit down, Simon stopped.

“What about the injured people?” He said to Mal and Jackson at the same time. Mal looked to Jackson and then to Simon.

“Guess no stopping you, is there?”

“You know me too well, Mal.”

“Okay. Do your job.”

With that Simon turned and the very anxious brunette led him off toward the medical wing of the base. Mal turned back to Jackson and Gregori, who seemed ready to burst with excitement as someone came in and placed a laptop computer terminal in front of him. Two armed men closed the doors of the room and remained inside as Jackson, Gregori, Mal, and Jayne faced each other across the table.

Mal opened the discussion. “I know we’re all guest here and you got lots of questions and so do we, so let’s take this slow. We ask one, you ask one and so on.”

“Forgive me, Captain,” said Gregori in a hurt tone, which grated on Mal as the man reminded him too much of Niska. “But you are reacting very suspicious. What have we done to earn this mistrust?”

Jayne just snorted. “What have you done?!?” Mal looked at him and Jayne shut up.

“We don’t know what you have done. But my ship was 42 light years away a day and half ago and we ain’t got a faster than light drive so how’d we end up here? My science advisor tells me it’s something called a wormhole which just popped up in front of my ship and sucked us clear cross the galaxy in less than four minutes. He says that until that happened wormholes were nothing but a theory and that no one had ever seen one, no one that survived to tell the tale that is. Now we get to Earth and it’s nothing but a wreck and no doubt caused by those that once lived there and maybe even you up here. We get here to find some answers and we get taken down here and to me it smells an awful lot like a trap. So, yeah, you could say we’re awfully suspicious.”

Gregori was busy hitting the keyboard on his computer. “Do you know the exact time?”

“What?” Mal couldn’t believe this guy and Jackson was no friend of his judging by his impatient reactions.


“A moment, please, Sam,” Gregori said gently as he turned back to Mal. “The wormhole, da? How long did you travel through it?”

“I guess about four minutes, less I think Simon said.”

“Good, good, this is very good,” Gregori replied absently as he typed some more.

“What in hell is he so happy about?” Jayne remarked in a disgusted tone.

“What?’ the scientist said as he looked up and Mal could almost see Jackson about to roll his eyes. “Oh, forgive me. You see, I was the one who created the wormhole.”


Kaylee’s flashlight panned the room and then her heart was in her throat as she spotted more bodies in spacesuits, all dead. Around them on the floor were bullet casings and on the walls what looked like laser burn marks. One body had a hole right through from a laser, another had many holes in the chest, probably from bullets, and a third had a knife sticking out of the chest area. They all wore silver suits but on the upper arms there were little flag markings, one with the Alliance and the other three with a red, white and blue striped flag.

“There’s three more bodies. And looks like there was a fight. They got laser burns and bullet holes and one’s got a knife sticking out of him.”

She was talking fast and her breathing was still too fast. Zoe’s voice came to Kaylee from a far away place as she surveyed the dead. “Kaylee, relax. Be calm.”

She slowed her mind and her breathing and soon felt better. “I’m good now. Thanks.”

“Tell me what else you see. Any weapons?”

“Nope, nothing here except the knife.”

“Any idea who they are?”

“One Alliance, others with some patches I never seen before.”

“Describe it.”

“Red, white, and blue strips, one each, horizontal, white on top, blue in the middle, red on the bottom.”

“Just a minute, we’re checking the encyclopedia.”

“I ain’t going anywhere,” said Kaylee. As she was waiting she scanned some more and to her left was the corridor leading to the connecting passageway. It was partially blocked with equipment and seemed like a barricade of some sort. The footsteps in the dust continued that way.

“Kaylee, we found it,” Zoe’s voice came through the helmet. “It’s the flag of the Earth nation called Russia.”


Simon followed the brunette lady down the corridor they had come through earlier, looking for the sign that said Medical. She was taller than him, with long raven dark hair and beautiful looks. She could be a model on any Core planet Simon thought and then kicked himself for looking at another woman when all his heart was for a little lady on a ship called Serenity.

“My name is Simon Tam,” he said to her, trying to break the ice with these people who may very well send him back to his home.

‘I know, I was in the hanger, remember? My name is Tanya Kovalev.”

Her English was flawless but Simon knew that name was Russian. “Gregori’s daughter?”

“Yes. Ah, here we are.”

They went through the doors marked Medical and then down another corridor. In the distance Simon could hear people talking and what sounded like crying. In an instant his mind was all focused on medicine.

“Tell me what happened.”

“We were trying to get to Earth and the ship malfunction. We returned but couldn’t land properly. The engine exploded and six people were killed, including our chief engineer and doctor as he tried to save some of them from the fire. Five others are injured and three are very bad. We had to carry them here through the buildings above. When the ship crashed it disabled our power for a few hours so we were unable to come the way you came.”

“What kind of injuries?”

“Burns, broken bones, I’m not sure. I’m an astro-engineer, not a doctor. Ah, here we are, the infirmary.”

It was bigger than Serenity’s, a spacious place and contained ten beds. Five were occupied and around them were many people, some crying, others obviously medical staff, male and female. The five occupants in the beds were quiet, most likely sedated, and wrapped in various bandages and gauze. Suddenly, everything went quiet as Simon and Tanya were noticed.

“He’s a doctor,” Tanya said and everyone just stared as she walked up to one bed where a man lay unconscious, left leg in a cast, burn marks on his body, tubes coming out of him.

“This is my husband, Joseph, a spacecraft pilot” she said to Simon in a worried tone, trying to control her emotions. “Please take care of him. I have important work to do.”

And she stood for a minute, looking at the unconscious man and then without another word turned and left Simon alone. He suddenly felt very helpless as everyone just stared at this stranger. Finally, an elderly woman approached him, wearing a medical uniform, and she took his helmet from his hands.

“Doctor, let’s get you out of this spacesuit and ready for surgery.”


“You ‘made’ the wormhole?” Mal said in surprise, staring at this Niska re-run like he was some mad scientist from one of those old animation vids Mal had watched as a child on Shadow.

“Yes, of course. That’s what my daughter and I do. We are astro-scientists.”

“Why?” Jayne asked, liking these people less and less the more he learned. An accident of space he could accept, but these people dragging him here, well, that was cause for a fight.

“As you saw, our world is devastated. We have been trying to make a bridge with the quadrant of space where the travelers went so many centuries ago. We have been unsuccessful in creating a faster than light space drive, so the only logical way to reach you was a wormhole.”

Mal was confused. “Why did you want to make contact with us?”

Jackson answered this one. “Because we have no where else to go. Earth is finished for the foreseeable future, many decades, perhaps centuries before the radiation dies.”

“Some people are alive down there,” Jayne said. “Did you all abandon them?”

“No,” Jackson said. “We were here when the war started. Our supplies are running low so we repaired that spaceship and were attempting to return to Earth, get re-supplied in the south, maybe find some survivors.”

“Repair that spaceship?” Mal questioned.

“Ah, this is difficult to explain,” said Gregori. “That spaceship was part of an attack force that tried to unsuccessfully assault this base during the war.”

“Which brings me back to our first question?’ Jayne said in exasperation. ‘What in the hell happened on Earth?”

Jackson and Gregori nervously looked at each other before Gregori answered. “You are not wrong, Captain Reynolds. I’m ashamed to say it was my country men of Russia who started this war, just over two years ago now. The Sino-American Alliance has dominated the world for five hundred years, but not all were happy with this domination. The population was at bursting point even when your ancestors went to the stars. We were too many, the resources in steady decline. Russia is, was, the largest country and the Chinese and Indians and many others have a jealous eye for it for a long time. Clashes have occurred in the past but never nuclear war. We believe the Russians suspected an attack so launched a preemptive strike. When that happened the Alliance responded. You have seen the results. All except the southern lands were total devastated. The ashes from the fires filled the skies for a year. The crops failed, starvation came to the few survivors, all contact with Earth was lost as all radio and navigation and other communications failed or were destroyed. Our last re-supply was over two years ago. Thankfully we had so much in storage. Now it is almost gone. And our numbers are much less. Some were killed in the attack on the base. Some went mad and killed themselves. Others just gave up hope and wasted away. Your appearance has been like a message from God.”

Mal’s head swam with the details, but the gist of it got through. “So, one guy had all the land and wouldn’t share it and everyone fought for it and died.”

Jackson nodded slowly. “Simply put, yes, but it goes much deeper than that. You would have to read our history of the last 500 years to truly understand.”

“Commander, I hate to break this to you all, but war ain’t a stranger in our neck of the verse either. We’ve had our wars, last one just seven years ago, and I saw my share of fighting in it.”

“A war? Between who?” Gregori asked. ‘Is it the aliens?”

Jayne and Mal both couldn’t help but laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation. “Ain’t nobody seen no aliens in our part of the verse,” Jayne said with a chuckle.

“No aliens. War between humans, even in space,” Gregori said in disappointment.

“Yeah, quite similar to what you all had here. Alliance against those that don’t like it,” Mal explained.

“The Alliance still exists?” Jackson asked.

Jayne snorted. “Yeah, they still there, in charge, telling folks what to do.”

“I take it you have no love for the Alliance, Mr. Cobb,” Jackson asked a bit sternly.

Mal stepped in before Jayne shot off his mouth anymore than he already had and let too much out of the bag. “We’re what you call an independent transport ship. Alliance is government and government always gets in the way of business.”

Jackson softened a bit. ‘I see. But the war, Captain, who won the war?”

“Alliance,” Mal said quietly as he couldn’t help but feel some small measure of hatred for these men who worn that patch on their uniforms. “But a lot of good people died before the end.”

Gregori and Jackson looked aghast. “But, your home world, it is safe? There is no nuclear destruction?”

“Oh, there were some moons and planets got bombed a bit, and some got a few scars still, but nothing like here. We didn’t use nuclear weapons.”

“Moons? Planets? But when the travelers left there was but one habitable planet in that system?”

Jayne laughed. “Thank God there ain’t. We got dozens of worlds and hundreds of moons, most with people on them.”

“But that’s fantastic!” Gregori exclaimed in awe and shock. “Dozens of worlds. Hundreds of moons. “

“And the people?” Jackson asked in excitement. “How many people?”

“Don’t rightly know,” Mal began. “Suppose about, I guess maybe three or four billion.”

“Billions?’ Gregori said, unbelieving. “But the travelers were so few.”

“Guess we all had big families,” Jayne said, getting impatient with all this talk. “Listen, you been asking a lot of questions and we’re a bit behind but we got one more question, most important of all and you all best have a good answer. Can you send us back home?”

Gregori smiled. “I am working on the calculations for a new wormhole as we speak.”

“Well, that’s great,’ said Mal as he stood up. “We’ll just go back to our ship and get ready to leave.”

Jackson nodded to the two men by the door and they opened the doors and five more armed people came in before Jayne or Mal could draw a weapon.

“This ain’t right. We been friendly like,” Jayne said as Vera and his knife were taken away. Mal’s pistol was seized and then he gave Jackson his look he reserved for people who he wanted to see suffer pain before they died.

“I thought we were going to be good neighbors here.”

Jackson stood and Mal could now see his early goodwill was mostly an act. Now he was all hard and cold and military, a look Mal knew well. “Captain, I’m afraid the concerns of the people on this base out weigh any neighborly intentions I would have offered in a more civilized situation. I’m afraid I’m forced to commandeer your ship.”

********************************************* Russian Translations

Bosha Moy – Oh my God! Ochen Priatna – It’s nice to meet you. Da - yes


Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:51 AM


Amazing how the Aliiance always moves to commendeer....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:14 PM


I could SO see this coming. Now I am all manner of worried about Kaylee and yet again in a storyline River doesn't get a hint of trouble to warn anybody. I am also wondering just how many people are in that base. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 7:02 PM


The plot is definitely gripping. There isn't much that keeps me interested fic wise nowadays but this series is definitely one of them. I'm just dying to know the history you've created for this story.

Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:14 AM


Your story keeps getting better and better.


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River's Run - Part 19
Things come to a head on Londinium as the plan to win Mal's freedom begins to unravel.

River's Run - Part 18
Mal’s heading for a hangman’s noose. Will a rescue party come in the nick of time?

River's Run - Part 17
As the crew rests and heals, Shin and his confederates take a step closer to power, and Mal faces a new, deadly dilemma.

River's Run - Part 16
As Simon patches up the crew, Mal and his lawyer make plans, and Badger and his cousin have some unexpected visitors.

River's Run - Part 15
Mal finds a new friend on Londinium, his crew makes contact with River and Zoe, and events come to head on Whitefall.

River's Run - Part 14
Battle rages through Serenity as the crew tangles with an Alliance boarding party.

River's Run - Part 13
Shock and a sense of tragedy fill Serenity as the crew struggles to deal with Derek's betrayal. Meanwhile, the Operative comes a step closer to finding Serenity.

River's Run - Part 12
Mal strikes back at the Alliance, a little trip to the bank doesn't go as planned, and the Operative reaches out to River and Derek.

River's Run - Part 11
The Operative makes a plan to trap Serenity, escape plans are made, and those long separated are together once again.

River's Run - Part 10
Inara makes a date with Paulo Chase, Mal gets back his first love, and Shin plans the next move in the galactic chess match.