Volcano's Edge - Part XI
Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne is found but others lost, and Mal decides the game has to end. NEW CHAPTER


Mal was running, faster than he had ever done in his forty years before. Faster even than in the Valley, when it was only for his life. Now it was for someone else’s, someone much more important. But as fast as he ran, it still felt like he was crawling, the whole world slowed to a snail’s pace as he pounded through the dust.

He could hear Alex behind him, in real distress, but keeping up as well as he could, air rasping in his chest. If they didn’t slow, he was probably going to have a heart attack.

He glanced to one side, to River gliding with long paces next to him, her long dark hair flying behind her like wings, as if she was going to take off at any moment. He wondered if she’d ever looked more beautiful.

She looked at him, swerving delicately around an old oil drum without even breaking pace, and for a moment their eyes locked, and he realised she knew exactly what he was doing. Thinking about anything rather than what they might find when they got back to Serenity. Thinking about anything but - River put on a burst of speed he couldn’t hope to match and turned down an alley towards the bulk of the Firefly.

Zoe was waiting on the ramp, her gun ready, her face flushed from her own exertion. As River flew past her into the cargo bay, Mal thudded up and skidded to a stop, trying to catch his breath.

“Freya and Kaylee,” his first mate said without preamble. “They’ve taken them. Left Jayne.”

“Is he hurt?” Mal had his hand pressed into his waist as the pain of running caught up with him.

“Simon’s looking to him right now. Dillon and Hank are seeing if they can locate any tracks.” She paused. “Sir, if the pattern stays the same, Kaylee and Freya will be dropped back here. We just have to -”

“No, Zoe,” Mal interrupted. “I gotta feeling the game’s over.” He walked into his ship, his heart yammering against his ribs.

Alex had almost fallen over as he came to a halt, his hands on his knees and trying to drag air into abused lungs. “What game?” he managed to gasp.

Zoe didn’t respond, just continued scanning the area, waiting for Hank and Dillon to return.


As he reached the infirmary Mal could see Simon inside, working on Jayne as he lay on the medbed. River looked like she was glued to his side. He wanted to go into that blue room, to shake the big man awake and find out what the hell had happened, but he knew he couldn’t.

“My fault.” A little voice intruded into his thoughts and he half-turned.


She was hiding behind one of the easy chairs, only her frightened face poking out. “My fault,” she repeated.

He reached down and picked her up, settling her onto his lap as he sat down. “How is it your fault, sweetheart?”

“I wasn’t looking hard enough.”

A tear slid down her cheek and he wiped it tenderly away. “Can’t see everything.”

“But I should! That’s what I am.” She laid her head on his shoulder, letting her fear out. “And now Momma’s gone.”

“No, now look here,” Mal said, pushing her away so he could look into her eyes. “Your Momma ain’t gone. She’s in trouble, yeah, but she still loves you. And she’s coming home.”

Bethie‘s brown eyes were still filled with tears. “But -”

“No buts, short stub. And being a Reader, well, that ain’t all you are, either. That’s an extra. And if you never saw anything ever again, you’d still be you. Bethie. Something of the heart of this boat.”

She sniffed loudly. “Am I?”

“That you are.“ He had to smile a little. “And I bet you ain’t got a hankie either.”

“Course I have.” She reached into a pocket sewn inside her dress and pulled out a small square of creased linen. “Momma makes sure I have one.”

Mal took it from her and held it to her nose. “Then blow.” She did as he told her, filling the common area with a honking sound, then he wiped her carefully. Using a clean corner, he proceeded to dry her tears. “That’s better,” he said approvingly. “Now I promise you, your Momma’s gonna come home, okay?”

“Okay, Uncle Mal.”

“And I keep my promises for the most part, don’t I?”

“Yes, Uncle Mal.”

“’Cause I’m the captain.”

“Yes, Uncle Mal.”

“Good. Now, where are your brothers and sisters?” Ever since Ethan was born, Bethie had looked on all the other children as her own personal property, and this had never changed.

“In the shuttle,” she said. “I made Ethan stay to look after them.”

“And that was the right thing to do. But I want you to go get them and take ‘em all to the galley. I suspect they’re hungry, and you know where the cookie tin is.”

She gave a half giggle that turned into a hiccup. “I don’t.”

“Fibber.” He smiled a little more and put her down onto the floor. “Go on. You got a job to do.”

“Okay, Uncle Mal.” She sniffed once more, wiping the back of her hand across her nose, then scampered off into the bay, passing Alex standing in the doorway.

“Why the galley?” Freya’s twin asked.

“Want them out of the shuttle, in case we need it.” Mal spoke shortly, any trace of the smiles he‘d given Bethie wiped from his lips as if they‘d never been.

“You think we will?”

Mal stood up, not looking at the other man but staring into the infirmary, remembering another time, different bones broken. “The things I’m thinking about you don’t want to know.”

Zoe pushed past Alex, Dillon and Hank at her back. “No sign, sir, except for another of those darts. We‘re locked up tight again, though.”

“Any idea what happened?”

“According to Simon, he heard Bethie yell, came out and found Jayne in the dirt, and Kaylee and Freya missing.” She stepped down to the floor.

“Pretty much what I figured.” He glanced at her. “We were played, Zoe. Someone was watching us the whole time, saw us leave. Exactly what they were waiting for. Hell, they probably even knew we found the tag, knew we’d figure a way to backtrack it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I just thought Frey’d have more sense.”

“I’ve a feeling she was trying to protect Kaylee.”

Mal nodded. “Just the kind of thing she’d do.”

“Like any of us.”

“Yeah.” He gazed into the infirmary.

“He’s kinda working on remote at the moment,” Zoe added quietly. “What with it being his wife missing.”

“I know the feeling.” He seemed to shake himself, then turned to look at her. “Stay here. Keep me appraised of any progress.”

“Where will you be, sir?”

“On the bridge. Trying to find Niska.” He climbed the stairs, two at a time, out of sight.

Hank crossed the common area to his wife. “He believes it now?”

Zoe released a slow breath. “I think he has all along. He just didn’t want to.”

“This is bad, isn’t it?”

“Well, it sure ain’t good.” She touched his hand briefly then stepped into the infirmary.

“Cat and mouse,” Alex murmured.

“What?” Dillon looked sharply at him.

“Haven’t you ever seen a cat playing with a mouse?” He glanced at the older man. “Our cook used to have a cat. An old ginger thing, so fat you’d swear it couldn’t walk, let alone catch mice. Then one day I came on it in the garden. It had cornered a mouse, and was … well, playing. It’s the only way to describe it. Pretending to let it go, then pouncing on it again. The poor thing already looked like one of its legs was broken, and there was blood all down its back.” He shook his head, seeing into the past.

“What happened?”

Alex refocused. “Sorry?”

“To the mouse.”

“I killed it. I couldn’t let the cat carry on. Afterwards, the damn thing scowled at me, ran its claws into my leg, then took off like a rocket. I never knew it could move so fast.”

“Let’s just hope Mal isn’t the mouse, then,” Dillon commented.


“How old were you? At the time.”

“Eight. And I was a real brat.”

“That bad?”

“Worse. If you think children are self-centred, I was the prime example of the ‘verse revolving around me. And I made sure everyone knew it. Especially Ele … Freya.” He swallowed. “And I haven’t got anywhere near apologising enough.”

“You will.”

“I hope you’re right.” He swallowed again. “God, I hope you’re right.”


Up on the bridge, Mal was staring at the controls, not really knowing what to do next. If the truth were told, he was waiting, knowing that it would come soon, probably just a voice, telling him what to do if he ever wanted to see the two women alive again. And there would be threats, possibly even graphic descriptions of what would happen to them if he didn’t do exactly as instructed.

Reputation. That’s what this was all about. Reputation. His versus Niska’s. Honour against corruption. Not that he considered himself very honourable any more, but Freya had saved that last little piece of it, kept it warm, made it grow. Without her he wondered where he’d be, what he’d be doing, even whether he’d be alive at all. Probably not, not in any real sense of the word. Living and breathing, maybe, but no real life. And it wasn’t just her this time. Kaylee was his sister, even if there was no blood between them. That was why he’d understood when Simon had discovered him and River were only half-siblings, why he could talk River out of the panic she’d felt. Blood didn’t matter. Family did. And they were all his family, come what may.

It wouldn’t be long. Of course, logic dictated Niska would make him stew for a few hours, maybe a day or two, just to make it as bad as possible. Although logic didn’t really come into this, and he couldn’t feel much worse than he did already, imagining what might be happening to them both, the screams and the blood … Besides, Niska wanted revenge, and that was always sweeter up close, perpetrating that directly on Mal’s body. So it wouldn’t be long.

There was a small chime announcing a wave coming in, and he sat up, relieved. He was right.


“Well?” Hank asked, standing up as Zoe stepped out of the infirmary.

“Jayne’s lucky. Apart from the drug they used, the most damage is to his hands. Looks like someone stamped on ‘em a few times.”

“Are they bad?” Dillon glanced over her shoulder.

“His left wrist is broken, and there’s dislocations of several fingers, but they’ll heal. Simon was more worried about the fact that it looked like they had to use several hits of Jutoprocaine to take him down.”

“That’s Jayne,” Hank said, almost proudly. “Strong as an ox and twice as smart.”

“He’ll be waking up soon, at least according to the doc.”

“And then?” Alex asked. “What do we do then?”

“We find them.”

“But we have no idea of where they are. They might even be off planet already.”

“Then we -” Zoe stopped as she felt a slight vibration through her boots, and looked up into Hank’s horrified eyes.

“The shuttle,” he agreed, turning and running for the bridge.

“What? What is it?” Alex called, but they ignored him.

Zoe was at her husband’s heels, at least until the top of the catwalk where she headed for the other shuttle. Maybe she could cut him off before he did something incredibly stupid …

Sliding into the pilot’s chair, she tried to bring the systems on line.

Gou niang yang de,” she muttered before dragging the comlink down. “Hank, I’m locked out.”

“Trying to clear it.”

“Can you track the other shuttle?”

“Yeah. Least he’s not disabled that. Looks like he’s headed towards one of the other islands.”

“Keep an eye on it. And hurry with …” Suddenly she slammed her fist down onto the console.

“Honey? You okay?” Hank sounded concerned.

“Shiny. Just get me into the air.”

“Still trying.”

She knew what had happened. Didn’t even need Hank to hack into the captain’s waves. ‘Come alone’, the message would have said. ‘Or they will die.’ Probably with descriptions. Maybe it had even offered an exchange, Freya and Kaylee for Mal. And he’d walk willingly into the fiery pits of hell for either of them, but not if it meant putting the rest of the crew at risk. So he went alone.

Absently she reached up with a still throbbing hand to touch her shirt just above her left breast, where his flesh had once rested. She wondered what part of him they’d be bringing home this time.

“Got it!” Hank said triumphantly, even as the lights on the console flickered back on. “And the shuttle’s landed. Furthest island in this group.”

“Then it’s already too late,” she breathed. She took a breath. “Hank, I know she won’t want to be away from Jayne, but get River –“

“I'm already here.” It was the young psychic’s voice.

Zoe couldn’t help her lips twitching. She could imagine her standing at Hank’s shoulder, and him having his hand on his heart, trying to calm its frantic beating. “Look after Serenity. Hank and I will go pick up the other shuttle.”

“Wait. What about the captain?” Hank interjected.

Zoe fired the engines. “Niska has him.”


Voices. Calling him. Saying his name. The blackness below, beckoning to him to fall back, to let it take him, cushion him. The light ahead, dragging him forward.

He remembered taking the shuttle, locking everything else out, and flying to the co-ordinates he was given. Just a rock sitting in the ocean. Somehow a handful of trees had managed to survive, and it was almost pretty, but he wasn’t there to admire the view. As he climbed out, all he could think was that he was closer to her now. Then … nothing.

He could hear his heart beating, the breath in his lungs. Then pain. Pain in his neck, centring on the left side. Metal at his back. Under his hands. Cold against his fingertips.

And always the voices. Shouting now. Swearing. Begging.

He forced his eyes open.


“Frey?” He tried to lift his head, but it was too heavy. Someone had tied a weight to it that was dragging it down, and it was all he could to stop from sliding in the restraints.

“Oh, Mal. Why did you come?”

“Don’t be crazy. You think …” He tried to clear his throat. “You think I’d leave you here?” He strained and finally his chin came up, and he was able to look at her. “Frey …”

“It’s all right. There was … an altercation.” Dried blood ran down her face from her scalp, more in her hair, and he could see a darkening bruise across her ribs. Across her ribs.

Realisation struck. She was only in her underwear, tied to a metal tripod like the one he was attached to.

“Kaylee?” he asked, licking dry lips.

“Over there.” She nodded.

His eyes followed, and he could see his mechanic hanging on a third frame, her top clothes missing. She was almost unconscious, although her lips were moving slightly. “Is she …”

“I think it’s that drug they used. She’s having some kind of reaction.” Freya struggled against the restraints but only managed to tear the skin on her wrists. “She won’t answer me.”

Mal tried. “Kaylee? Come on, xiao mei-mei, you don’t wanna be sleeping this time of the day. Got too much work to do.”

She lifted her head and smiled, but almost immediately her chin fell back to her chest.

“Oh, mei-mei,” he muttered.

“Ah, always the solicitous captain. Willing to give himself up so others might live. I see you have not changed.” It wasn’t a human voice, but harsh, metallic. Artificial.

Mal tried to turn his head against the pain in his neck so he could see, his heart pounding as he recognised the phrasing, if not the voice itself. “Where are you?”

“So anxious to die? And I expect two days, minimum. I have new toys, just for you. Very special.” The voice got closer, and finally the old man came into view. “Mr Reynolds. And now the circle is, how you say, complete.” Niska smiled, at least as much as the ruin of his face would allow.

to be continued


Sunday, July 20, 2008 2:27 PM


Holy *cao*. Even though I knew Mal would just have to go I knew Niska wouldn't release Frey and Kaylee because keeping them would hurt Mal more than just having the Captain himself. That is one truly twisted and evil *tamade hundan*. I hope when his end does come it is suitably bloody and very very painful. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, July 20, 2008 3:13 PM


Not a very pretty picture you are painting here. Please send help soon!

Monday, July 21, 2008 1:45 AM


I've got shivers running up and down my spine...not good that Niska not only has Mal but also Freya and Kaylee.

Please release all the crew soon and me from this torture.

Monday, July 21, 2008 10:35 AM


Not nice. Poor Mal needs to save his women. Very good, but do think Niska is in sore need of a good paddling...with a large machine gun, preferably Vera.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 4:32 PM



Thursday, July 24, 2008 1:01 AM


Smashing! So glad to be able to catch up at last!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 7:53 AM


Exciting, horrifying, wonderful, heading for the next chapter.



You must log in to post comments.



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!]