Volcano's Edge - Part VIII
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Dillon has arrived with an unexpected guest, and Kaylee finds what she was looking for, but there's trouble looming. NEW CHAPTER


“Okay, Hank. Charge it.” Kaylee looked up towards the bridge, even though she knew he couldn’t see.

“How high?”

“Keep it to the lowest setting. We don’t wanna fry any of Serenity’s electrics.”

Hank nodded and glanced at the mess of wiring at his feet, his mind running over the connections, making sure he wasn’t about to set himself on fire. No, it seemed fine. As he reached for the switch to push electricity through the hull, though, he had a sudden flash of déjà vu, of uncoupling the safeties on the discharge spikes and waiting for the lightening. Killing all those men. He could still see their faces, the surprise on them as he and Zoe hid the bodies. No, not surprise. Accusation.

“Hank?” Kaylee’s voice brought him back to the present from the painful and guilt-ridden past.

He swallowed hard. “Sorry, Kaylee. Just ... checking something over. Charging ... now.” He dropped his hand onto the switch, half expecting the hull to glow, and almost disappointed when it didn’t.

Outside, Kaylee hummed happily.

“I take it it’s working,” Zoe said, glancing at the young woman and smiling indulgently.

“It is.” She grinned in return. “Now I just need to ...” Her voice trailed as she started to slowly walk Serenity’s perimeter, her eyes glued to the tiny sensor screen.

Zoe kept pace, scanning the surroundings at every step.

Above them River stood on top of the Firefly’s neck, her feet in a pair of insulated boots, Vera cradled tenderly in her arms. She too was keeping close watch, and her head whipped round as she thought she saw movement in her peripheral vision, but it was only the flapping of an old Blue Sun poster in the sea breeze. She shuddered, remembering tins and knives, then went back to studying the landscape.

Out in the low buildings, where an advertisement cracked occasionally like a whip, two men hunkered down.

“I thought for sure she’d seen me.”

“Did you see that gun she was carrying? I’d swear it was a modified Callahan. If she had seen you it would have taken out you, me, and the side of this warehouse too.”

“And she’s wearing handguns.” He shook his head as he pulled the comlink from his pocket. “She looks like a kid playing dress-up.”

“Gorram serious playing, if you ask me.”

The comlink chirped. “Yes?”

“Three female crew members in sight, sir.”

“Describe them.”

He suppressed his usual feelings at the artificial voice. “The tall, dark-skinned woman, the girl with long dark hair, and the other one’s wearing coveralls. She’s got brown hair.”

“Show me.”

The two men looked at each other, then carefully pushed a tiny capture box across the dirt and around the corner, activating it so it sent its signal direct.

“Ah. The first mate. She and I have met. And the girl ...” His metallic voice stopped, and they waited for what seemed an age before he spoke again, making them jump. “Leave the capture so I can watch. You go to help at secondary target.”

“Yes sir. But I thought you wanted –“

“I have other plans.”

A squealing from the ship made them risk another look.

“I think they’ve found our tag.”

“Is no matter. I have no further need of it.” The link went dead and the two men exhaled.

“You know, Ferris, the more I hear that fake voice, the more it gives me the creeps.”

Ferris nodded. “I know what you mean.”

They hurried away back to their colleagues, keeping the buildings between them and the Firefly.

Zoe studied the small object in Kaylee’s hand, tool marks on it where she’d pried it off the hull. “That’s it?”

“That’s it. Looks like it belongs, don’t it?”

“If you say so.” Zoe didn't sound convinced.

“No, look. It’s designed to look like part of the external landing sheath –“

“Kaylee, I believe you. But we need to get back inside now.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure.”

“Do you think you can backtrack it?”

“What, you mean find out where the signal’s coming from to activate it?”

“Pretty much.”

“Not sure. I can try.”

“You do that.”

As she heard her friends head back towards the cargo doors, River still scanned the deserted buildings surrounding them. She couldn’t read Zoe, but the older woman had enough red-tinged anxiety for her to know she felt like they were being watched. As she felt the slight tremble that indicated the ramp raising, her eyes kept being drawn to the Blue Sun poster, snapping in the breeze amidst the long morning shadows.


Having been just talking about her brother, for a long moment Freya thought she was hallucinating, then as he walked towards them, a wide grin on his face, she realised he was real.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked angrily.

“That’s a nice way to welcome me,” Alex said, one eyebrow raising. “Aren’t you pleased to see me?”

“No! You should be back on Osiris.” She was amazed she could be so livid with him. “Are you totally fong luh?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, I don't think you’re thinking at all!” She strode away from him into the shadows.

Alex looked at Mal. “I thought she’d be pleased to see me.”

“Guess you don’t know her as well as you imagined, son.”

“Aren’t I older than you?” He sat down on one of the pews, Dillon lowering himself carefully into the one behind, intent right now on keeping out of the family argument.

“Only a little bit. But whatever you do, don’t remind Frey of that.” He glanced towards where his wife was standing, her back to them, fists on her hips. “Not if you’re considering leaving this church with all your limbs in some kind of working order.”

“And I'm your brother-in-law,” Alex pointed out.

“Well, then, you should be more intelligent than this. Frey’s right – it ain't safe for you to be around us right now.”

“I wanted to see you.”

“Why?” Freya said, turning around. “And how come you’re with Dillon anyway?”

Alex smiled slightly. “You mentioned him once, in passing. When I got to Persephone he wasn't that difficult to find.” The smile grew. “I didn't know you moved in such high circles.”

“Not that high,” Dillon muttered.

“High enough that everyone I spoke to wanted to be thought of as your friend.”

“I need to get out more.”

Alex turned back to Freya. “Since you would never tell me where you were, I had to make do with what I could get, and when I explained who I was he said he was coming to meet you. I offered use of my ship.” He shrugged. “We parked on one of the other islands and shuttled in.”

“Didn’t hear you.”

“I imagine this church has pretty thick walls.”

Something was niggling at the back of Mal’s mind, but he ignored it for the moment. “That don’t explain why you needed to see Frey right at this particular time.”

“Can't it be brotherly concern? And the Rostovs do have some holdings out here. They need to be inspected once in a while, so maybe I thought I’d take advantage, and kill two birds with one stone.”

Freya dropped down next to Dillon, her annoyance still showing clearly. “One, I’m not a bird and you try and kill me I’ll kill you back. Two, it just isn’t safe out here. Not now.” She shook her head. “And three, you’re lying.”

Mal stiffened.

“What makes you think that?” Alex asked curiously.

“Experience.” She looked into his eyes. “I could always tell.”

“Right. Remember when I told you there were aliens living in the tree house? You wouldn’t go in there for months.”

“Well, I’ve learned a few things since then. Why are you here, Alex?”

“Maybe I just wanted to see the ‘verse. Ellen’s visiting her family with the girls, Mother is safely ensconced back home on Osiris … it’s just me, Freya.”

“And someone’s been chasing us.” Mal crossed his arms. “That’s why we’re meeting Dillon in the first place. But the point my wife is making is that you really have to leave, and go now. Otherwise they might come after you too.”

“But I have nothing to do with this.”

“Alex, my mechanic thinks we’ve been tagged. If they know you’re with us, it really won't matter if you’re the king of Londinium, you’ll still be fair game as far as they’re concerned.”

“But who would want to hurt you that badly?”

Freya half turned to look at Dillon. “Well?” she asked.

Dillon leaned forwards, his elbows on his knees. “If my informant is right, it’s not exactly a name I want to bandy about the ether.” He looked from Freya to Mal. “Someone was looking for men, and that same someone had ears out for any intel on a Firefly. For Serenity.”

“Figured that much when they took Hank and Peter Frye,” Mal commented dryly.

He didn't take offence. “I had to do a lot of digging, and I’ve called in quite a number of favours over this, but the rumour is that it’s –“

“Adelai Niska.”

Dillon sat back and stared at Serenity‘s captain. “Now how do you know that?” He shook his head. “And more to the point, if you knew already, why did you have me look into it for you?”

“I didn’t.” Mal started to pace again. He wanted to be out, doing, chasing, but being forced to this inactivity wasn’t doing his temper much good. “And I still find it hard to believe.”

“Mal, from what Freya told me before, Niska hates you. And he’s a psychopath. He’s been keeping something of a low profile for a while, but it would be too much to hope that he was dead. People like him are very hard to kill.”

“Don’t I know it.” Mal walked to the low altar, studying the embroidered cloth in the centre, idly noting a mark, a denting of the fabric where something stood, probably a cross on a circular base. “Only I thought we had.”

Freya quickly went over the events on Wayborn, leaving out only her guilt at not having finished Niska with a bullet.

“My God ...” Alex breathed.

Dillon’s jaw had dropped, and he was staring at her. “Pax? They were experimenting with Pax and you didn’t tell me?”

“What could you have done?” She went to take his hand but he jerked back.

“You know how I feel. I’ve been trying to get something concrete on what the Alliance have been doing, the way they’ve been playing with people’s lives ... and you keep something like this from me?”

“We didn’t have any proof it was the Alliance,” Freya said. “It wasn't like Blue Sun marked any of the equipment with their logo, proclaiming ‘Here. We’re guilty. Take us in.’”

“You had this Reduced Pax.”

“And I wasn’t about to touch it.” Freya took a deep breath. “What if River or I had been exposed? What then?”

“You don’t know if it would make you into a ... a super-Reaver.”

“You want to test it to find out?”

He grabbed her arm. “Damn it, Frey, you of all people –“

“Dillon.” Mal didn't shout.

The older man lifted his head, and there was anger in his eyes. He stood up quickly. “That infection they spread, Breed nearly dying ... Hell, Mal, Freya too. Then that ship. When are you going to leave me with something I can use?” He grunted. “If I didn't know better I’d think you were trying to cover up for those hwoon dahn.”

Mal’s fingers ghosted over the butt of his gun. “You say that again and I won't care if we are in a church.”

“Stop it,” Freya demanded, on her feet now. “Both of you. You’re behaving worse than children.”

“I ain't being called an Alliance stooge by anyone,” Mal ground out.

“You know he didn’t mean it.” She pushed between them. “Now stop it. Or … or I’ll make you stand in the corner.”

They both stared at her, then the mental image overcame them, and they broke into laughter, the tension dissolving.

“I think you’ve been teaching the kids too long,” Mal said, shaking his head.

“You? Teach?” Dillon stared at her.

“Yes.” She leaned forward just an inch. “So?”

He held up his hands. “Nothing. Just can’t imagine you being a school ma’am.”

“Spectacles and a shawl,” Mal put in.

“Pince nez,” Dillon corrected.


“Those kind that don’t have arms. They just sit on the bridge of the nose.”

“Oh, yeah. Ms Gringrich had some like that.”

Freya glared at them. “Have you finished insulting me?”

“Were we?” Dillon asked.

“I think we might have been.” Mal turned on the blue eyes. “Sorry, Frey.”

“Yes, well, all right.” She exhaled through her nose. “Can we get back to the matter in hand?”

They were serious again in a moment. “Adelai Niska,” Dillon said. “But you still haven’t explained why you think it’s him. If Freya’s right, and you left him a Reaver –“

Alex broke in. “Um, that’s actually why I'm here.”

They all turned to look at him.

“You care to explain that more fully?” Mal asked, but was interrupted by the comlink in his pocket buzzing. He dragged it free. “What?”

It was Hank. “Mal, River’s in a state fit to be tied. She says Jayne’s in trouble.”

That was it. Now Mal understood the nagging at his hindbrain. Dillon and Alex had landed in a shuttle, but Jayne hadn't warned them of their approach. “She say where?”

“Nope. Just that something’s wrong.”

“Keep her there. We’ll find him.” He paused. “Better tell Simon to be ready, though,” he added. “Just in case.”


Jayne had settled in the only cover for some distance. Dusty brush surrounded him in the deep shadow of an abandoned building, but he had a good view of the doors into the church, and the surrounding area. This kind of job was easy, and he could do it in his sleep.

What he didn’t like was the fact that the sun coming up had also brought out biting insects, and more than a couple had decided to see what he tasted like. He watched one crawl up his hand, feeling its many feet moving through the hairs on his skin, before settling to feed. Glancing around, making sure no-one was likely to detect the movement, he brought his other hand down hard, then wiped the remains onto his pants leg where it joined the others who had foolishly decided he was a free meal.

Jayne sighed. He was hungry himself, and hoped they weren’t going to be that long. Maybe he could persuade Kaylee to rustle something up when they got back from the supplies Ellie Frye had insisted they take, maybe with some of that special strawberry sauce. Damn, but that was good. He’d bet half a payday there was alcohol in it.

Actually, that was a thought. Maybe he could persuade Simon to test it, see what the magic ingredient was. After all, they were brothers-in-law now, and the doc shouldn’t be averse to a little skulduggery once in a while. He grinned. Then p’raps they could sell it, make a little profit. Nothing wrong with extra coin now and again.

He scanned the area again. No sign of Dillon arriving so far. Freya had said it was maybe going to be an hour or two, and her and Mal had only just gone inside, so he should just make himself comfortable. Well, as comfortable as he could in a bush that looked as if it was used as a toilet by every mangy dog in town.

Ah, and here came one of them now. A skinny, long-legged thing that probably hadn’t known its own father, or its grandfather for that matter. It sniffed the bush thoroughly, ignoring Jayne, then prepared to lift its leg.

“You do that and you ain’t gonna have to worry about having pups,” Jayne said quietly, poking it with his handgun.

The dog yelped and ran away, tail between his legs.

Jayne grinned, wiping the muzzle of Boo on his pants. He half expected to hear River in his mind, telling him off for threatening a harmless creature, but there was nothing. She must be busy helping Kaylee find that tag.

He shifted slightly, then froze. Something was moving. Carefully turning his head he scanned the empty space. Only it wasn’t so empty. Two men, walking across the dirt towards the church, neither of whom he recognised. They didn’t seem to be armed, but nowadays modern weaponry could be concealed in the palm of the hand, or easily up a sleeve. They weren’t skulking, or even trying to hide, but something about them prickled his unease.

His fingers began to creep towards the comlink in his pocket to warn Mal, but he stopped. The breeze had dropped, and in the sudden stillness of the air even a whisper would be audible for some distance.

The two men had reached the church doors, but they didn’t try and go inside. Instead they stood still, and from their stance he could tell they were listening.

Suppressing a growl, he pondered his next move. He didn’t want to attract any attention, so he couldn’t just shoot them, not if they were only being nosey. He remembered when he was young, and how the men who helped the local Shepherd were into everyone’s business. Maybe it was the same here, and they were just curious as to the identity of the people in their church.

Except it wasn’t a chance he was able to take. He stood upright, and began to cross the hundred yards or so towards them. He opened his mouth to call, to say he was lost, maybe, ask if they could help, but a sixth sense made him jerk his head back, and he felt the passage of something skim by his neck, hitting the wall behind him. Without thinking he drew his gun, but they were on him, three men, determined to take him down. One slammed a pistol hard onto his wrist, and Boo flew off into the dust.

“Gorram it!” he growled, realising it had been a trap all along, swinging his fist into the nearest face as the two men who had been listening at the church doors ran to help their colleagues. He heard teeth slam together, maybe even break, and he smiled grimly. Now, if only he could get to ... Something stung his neck, a bit like one of the insects he’d killed, but this made him start to go numb immediately. Fighting the sudden desire to lay down and sleep, he dragged Binky from her sheath and lunged, feeling the point break flesh.

Cao!” someone swore, and he felt his feet knocked out from under him.

“He should be down!” another man said.

He tried to open his eyes, look at the men attacking him. With a supreme effort of will he dragged his body up until he was on his hands and knees, but barely felt the second sting, this time directly at the base of his brain. At the same moment someone stomped on his hand, the pain shooting up his arm but meeting the cold nothingness going the other way.

As he registered his body hitting the dirt, he was vaguely aware of more strikes to his fingers, but the black opened up and welcomed him home. He didn’t even know he was being dragged off as a shuttle came in to land.

to be continued


Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:28 AM


Oh no, Niska has Jayne. Come on, post the next chapter fast.

Sunday, July 13, 2008 6:54 AM


This arc keeps getting bigger and bigger. You've definitely been setting this storyline up for awhile. Faster would be better.

Sunday, July 13, 2008 7:50 AM


Crap! Damn that church's thick walls meaning Mal and Frey heard nothing. As for Alex I don't like him and don't trust him. Just hope he isn't on Niska's payroll as well. Can't wait for the next part, just hope they get to Jayne before Niska can start torturing the *diyu* out of him. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, July 13, 2008 1:25 PM


Gulp! Poor Jayne! Loved the conversation between Dillon and Mal in the church though. More soon please! :D

Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:32 PM


never mess with freya i say. ;)

Monday, July 14, 2008 11:42 AM


Save Jayne! Very good. Love your world!


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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]