Volcano's Edge - Part XII
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. With half the crew in the hands of Niska, the others need a plan. NEW CHAPTER


Mal wasn't sure whether Niska didn’t care about the scars, or if he in fact liked the effect it had on people. He suspected the latter. Maybe it was a side effect of the drug, but even after the things he’d seen, particularly during the war, he still couldn’t suppress a slight shudder of disgust.

The Alliance surgeons had done well, piecing Niska’s face back together, but that was all. There was little or no cosmetic work done to hide the suture lines, the obvious skin grafts. He looked like what he was, an experiment. No longer would he resemble a kindly old gentleman, someone’s grandfather or great uncle. Now children would run screaming from him.

But it was his voice, that was the most unearthly. It seemed to issue not from his mouth, but from a device strapped to his throat.

“Ah. You are perhaps studying the zloduch hlas balit?” He touched his neck, careful to avoid the actual metalwork. “Is intriguing, but necessary. I think of it as a gift. From your wife.” He glanced between them. “And I perhaps apologise for her state. My men were not prepared for her to overcome the drug so fast. She is …unusual.”

“You could say that.”

Freya struggled against the restraints again. “Let me go and I’ll show you just how unusual I am.”

Niska reached out, patted her on the shoulder. She shook him off. “Patience, Mrs Reynolds. All in good time.” He turned towards Kaylee. “Although perhaps that will not be long enough for them both.”


“Is he totally insane?” Dillon asked, running a hand through his dark hair.

Zoe and Hank had brought the shuttle back, and now Serenity’s first mate was holding a council of war in the common area.

“We could have followed,” Alex added. “Hidden on board.”

“Niska isn’t stupid,” Zoe said shortly.

“I still don’t see why he didn’t tell us.” Dillon dropped onto the sofa, unable to stand any longer.


“That’s a ridiculous answer.”

“He didn’t want anyone else to die,” Hank explained quietly.

“So he walks into the lion’s den …” Dillon laughed, but there was no humour in it. “You know, it’s just what I’d expect from him.”

Zoe palmed the hilt of her gun. “Just what do you mean by that?”

He held up his hand. “Nothing like … I'm not belittling him, Zoe. Just the opposite. The truth is, I’m beginning to admire him more and more. The man’s my kind of crazy.”

She lowered her hand. “I'm sure he’d appreciate you saying that.”

“I hope to be able to tell him in person.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t suppose he took a comlink with him?”

“No,” Hank said unhappily. He’d counted them all, twice, just in case.

“Again, no point. I'm sure Niska’s men searched him before they took him back,” Zoe added.

“But what about Freya? And Kaylee?” Alex asked, leaning forward. “Wasn't it supposed to be a trade?”

Whatever she was about to answer was lost as movement in the infirmary took all their attention. Jayne was waking up.


“You know what is the greatest tool I can use?” Niska leaned over Mal. “Is imagination. You know what I do. What I like. And you know what I will do to your wife after I finish with you.”

“Leave her alone.”

Niska picked up a knife, the edge gleaming wickedly in the soft light. He walked towards Freya. “How I will use this on her flesh. Perhaps even turn her over to my men before I finish.” He ran the flat of the blade across her breast. “How she will die.” He moved it up to her shoulder, turning it so the edge indented the skin above her collarbone. He pushed, feeling the skin part, and Freya gasped, her eyes widening as the pain hit. “Is so easy, yes?” Niska’s eyes glittered behind his glasses as he breathed in the scent of blood. “Perhaps I take your voice, as you took mine.” He lifted the knife to her neck as she tried to twist away. He glanced at Kaylee, swaying slightly in her restraints, her eyes glassy. “Or maybe I make you watch as I kill your friend.”

Cao ni ma!” Mal was struggling against the restraints but couldn’t loosen them.

Niska handed the knife to his torturer, receiving a cloth in return which he used to fastidiously wipe his fingers. He smiled, as much as his face let him. “Oh yes. I think now we meet the real you.”

Mal swallowed hard. “Why are they still here? You promised they’d go free.”

He waved a hand as if it was of no consequence. “I lied.” He seemed to think for a moment. “But perhaps you are right. I should stick to my word. It is, after all, reputation.” He leaned one hand on Mal’s tripod. “You can choose. I let only one go. You decide which.”

Mal couldn’t speak, could hardly breathe. His heart had stopped in his chest, and the useless lump of muscle had somehow lodged in his throat. Even though he’d guessed it was coming, he knew he could never do it. He wanted to say Freya’s name, know she was safe, alive, no matter what happened to him. But Kaylee’s eyes haunted him, and he couldn’t condemn her to the torture he knew she’d face.

“Come, come, Mr Reynolds. Cat got your tongue?” Niska smiled, a sound that was probably meant to be a chuckle issuing from his artificial voicebox. “Is good, yes? I hurt you and I don’t even make you bleed.” He waved his hand. “Is no matter. I already decide.” He gestured to his men who released Kaylee’s bonds. The young woman fell forward, held up only by their arms. “Take her.”

“No, wait –” Mal forced the words out of a suddenly dry mouth.

“Captain?” Kaylee managed to lift her head and gaze at him, her eyes huge, her face confused.

“My men will take care of her.” He moved closer to Freya, the light fracturing off his glasses, his words having as many different meanings. “I always intended it to be your wife, Mr Reynolds.” He ran a finger down the scars that would never fade, making her shiver at his touch. “She is responsible. Made me what I am today. Perhaps I will do the same for her.” Then he was at Mal’s side, breath hot on his cheek. “But first she will watch as I finish what I began with you so long ago. And you will die screaming, knowing she is next.”

Mal watched them half drag Kaylee out of the room, his concern torn between the two women. “Where are they taking her?”

“Is no matter. Until I decide.” He gestured and a man stepped forward from the shadows, handing him a glass of whisky. “Now. Where were we?”


“Sorry, Riv,” Jayne said, his voice dry and crackly.

She quickly got some water in a cup, holding it to his lips. “No need.”

He drank deeply then lay back, his eyes fixed on hers. “Sure there is. I was stupid and got caught.”

“Too many to fight.”

“That ain't the point.”

“It is.”

“Not gonna agree with ya, moonbrain.” He glanced down at his hands. “Figure they did a number on me ‘cause I managed to cut one of ‘em.”

“Not broken. Too much.”

He turned the splints this way and that. “Don’t look like I'm gonna be firing Vera for a while.”

“Then I will.”

Jayne shifted on the medbed so he could see out into the common area, almost afraid to ask. “Bao bei, where are they?”

She didn’t answer, but her eyes filled with moisture.

“Niska has them,” Simon said quietly, hugging his arms around his body.

“How many?”

“Mal. Freya. Kaylee,” River listed, her voice barely registering.

Cao.” The big man struggled to sit up.

“You need to rest,” Simon insisted, moving forward and trying to keep him lying down.

“Fix these,” Jayne demanded, holding up his hands.

“I have.”

“No. Fix ‘em so I can fire a gun. We’re gonna go after ‘em.”

“Jayne, I –“

“Do it, doc.”

“We don’t know where they are,” Zoe said, stepping into the infirmary.

“Then we find ‘em.”

“It’s not that easy.” She moved to the medbed and explained what had happened. “So we’ve got no idea where to even start looking.”

Jayne’s face had hardened throughout the telling. “So you’re just gonna sit here on your backsides and wait for ‘em to be dropped off in little pieces?”

Simon took a step back, cursing his medical knowledge as it threw up images of post mortems, of accident victims, of people who’d been …

“Hank’s already done a sweep but there’s no sign of any ships.”

“Ya think you’d be able to just pick ‘em up?” Jayne managed to get his legs over the edge of the bed. “You gotta get out and look.”

Zoe’s back stiffened. “They could be off-planet by now.”

“Sure, they might. But we don’t know ‘til we’ve checked out every gorram island on this sou chou moon.”

“I agree with Jayne,” Dillon put in. “We have to look.”

“Only there might be a quicker way.” Jayne turned to his wife. “Moonbrain, can you see them?”

She shook her head, blinking back tears. “No. All I feel is you. Wanting to find you.” To save you, she added silently.

“Then you gotta tell yourself I'm here, and I'm alive.” He raised a hand to touch her face, his fingertips barely making contact but it warmed her through. “You gotta try and see ‘em. Find ‘em, River.”

“I can’t.”

“Try, honey. For us all.”

She gazed at him, reading his guilt at having allowed this to happen, then nodded. She pushed at the fog, at the anxiety she had for Jayne, to see through to the layers beneath.

Simon couldn’t stand there. Not with his sister having got her husband back, while his own wife was still in the hands of a psychotic, and feeling the worst kind of heel because of the jealousy raging through him. He backed out of the infirmary, ignoring Dillon’s call to him. He needed to move, to see something that was hers, touch it, know that she really existed and wasn't just a figment of his fevered imagination.

He couldn’t go to their bunk. It was too close to Bethie’s, and he didn’t need to be psychic to feel the anguish rolling from her room. He couldn’t face his little daughter, either. He’d have to lie, to tell her that her mother would be home soon, safe and sound, and he couldn’t do that. Not when he remembered having to reattach Mal’s ear, then dealing with other injuries on too many of the crew after Wayborn.

He started up the stairs, slowly at first, then gaining speed until he staggered to a halt the engine room, leaning on the doorway to look inside, seeing her space, her engine turning gently, her hammock ready and waiting for her. Except now it seemed as if all the warmth had leached away, leaving nothing but metal and blood-coloured rust.

Taking a deep breath, smelling the perfume that hung around her all the time, he noted with a clinically detached part of his mind that the room was fairly tidy. She must have made the space monkeys behave themselves, otherwise Mal would have been shouting.

He shuddered. No, he told himself. Don’t think of Mal. Using the dermal mender on his ear … No. Think of Kaylee. Concentrate on her.

He looked down at the workbench, seeing a tiny box on a piece of fabric. The beacon. One of the beacons she’d made for him and River, to keep them safe, to carry whenever they were off ship so that no matter what happened the crew could find … find … find … It was as if his mind was stuck in a capture rut, playing the same image over and again. Then he realised why. He pushed himself away, running out of the door and almost falling down the stairs back to the infirmary.

“She took the beacon,” he panted. “Kaylee took the beacon.”

Zoe jerked her head up. “What?”

“She was showing it to me, before. God, it seems so long ago now, but just before River started saying Jayne was in trouble. She put it in her pocket.”

River’s eyes widened. “Still there,” she said, jumping to her feet and passing him on the way to the bridge.

“We don’t know the frequency,” Hank pointed out, his boots thudding up the stairs behind her.

“Cycle through them all. I’ll tell you when it’s the right one.”

“Can you do that, River?” Zoe asked, keeping pace.


Back in the infirmary Jayne stood up, his knees threatening to give way until he felt Simon put his shoulder under him, helping him stand.

“You know this is a bad idea, don’t you?” the young doctor said mildly.

“Yeah. But I'm kinda known for that, ain't I?”

“I suppose you are.” He helped him towards the door.

“What about my hands?” Jayne asked, trying to ignore the throbbing in those particular extremities.

“Let’s find them first. Then we’ll see.”


Kaylee opened her eyes, then wished she hadn’t. It wasn’t that there was too much light – in fact it was quite dim, but it hurt just to look. And the room seemed very tall. Ah. No. She was lying on the floor, with nothing but bare grey metal in front of her. Her eyelids closed of their own accord, and she lay still for what seemed like hours, just listening to the air moving in and out of her lungs.

Get up. For a moment she thought it was someone in the room with her, then she realised it was her own self. Get up. You have to help them. She wanted to shrug, say that she couldn’t move, that everything hurt, that she was just Kaylee, a mechanic on an old Firefly. Nothing more. You’re all they’ve got, her treacherous other inner voice added. And it’s your fault.

Her own fault. If nothing else, even if she could barely move, all this was her own fault. If only she hadn’t rushed out when she’d seen Jayne all scrunched up like that on the dirt, had listened to Freya, now they wouldn’t be in this mess.

A tear ran down into her hair. Now Niska had Mal and Freya, and she was … someplace else.



“Well?” Zoe was holding onto the back of the pilot’s chair, her fingers digging in so hard she was surprised the metal wasn’t bending.

Hank ran the sequence again. And again. Finally he sat back, rubbing his hands across his face before glancing at River in the seat next to him.

“Nothing,” she admitted, drawing her feet up onto the chair and hugging her knees to her chest.

“Try it again,” Jayne urged, leaning on the doorway.

“We've been trying!” Hank span in his seat, forcing Zoe to step back. “What the diyu do you think we’ve been doing?”

“Making daisy chains for all I know.”

“Well, for your information, I’ve been running the frequencies Kaylee’s likely to have used, trying to make her beacon give me something. Anything. Only it’s dead.”

“Is it us?” Dillon asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.” He sighed heavily.

“Wait.” Simon held up a hand then ran out off the bridge, hurrying through the galley towards the engine room. He was back in less than a minute, holding something out in his hand. “Try it again, Hank.”

Zoe stared down at the beacon, half-wrapped in a scrap of fabric. “Do it.”

The pilot turned back to the console, his fingers dancing over the keys. He glanced at River. “Anything?”

She wasn’t looking at him, just staring at the beacon. “Stop,” she ordered. “Back.”

“Okay.” Hank did as he was told, much slower, taking it back down the frequency one notch at a time until –


A minute glint of light that might have been a reflection caught their eye, pulsating on top of the tiny box still in Simon’s palm.

“That’s it?” Alex stepped forward. “The right frequency?”

Hank nodded, hands flying to lock it in before he lost it again. “That’s it.”

“Anything anywhere else?” Zoe was leaning over his shoulder again.

“I …” He stopped, biting his lip.


“I thought, just for a sec, there was something. But it’s gone again.”

“The other beacon?”

“If it was it was just a single blip.”

“Is Kaylee likely to have used a different frequency for it?” Dillon asked.

“I don’t see why.” Hank stared at his screen.

“Was it enough?” Zoe put her hand on her gun.

“No. Not even a little bit of enough,” Hank replied unhappily.

Fan shou yin,” Jayne muttered, and nobody was about to disagree.


Niska was chatty, watching his torturer work on Mal, enjoying the way he was trying hard not to scream, only grunting with the pain as the probe slid through his skin.

“I was tempted. Take your crew one by one, hurt them, perhaps to the point of death, then give them back. It would be painful for you, yes? Not knowing which would be next. Or where. Or when it would be a body you found, instead of living person.” He leaned in closer, and Mal could just discern the faint sweetness of decay. “I am a patient man, Mr Reynolds. But where you are concerned, I wanted to see you here, like this. Afraid.”

The torturer removed the metal and Mal could breathe again. “Of course I'm afraid,” he admitted. “Anyone who says he isn’t is a fool. Or not human.”

“Is not the case. Once you have been a Reaver there is nothing left to fear.”

“How about meeting me in a dark alley one cold, lonely night?” Mal asked, spitting onto the floor, a little blood mixed with it where he’d bitten his cheek.

“You will not live long enough to fulfil that promise, Mr Reynolds. Neither will your wife.”

Mal glanced involuntarily at Freya, but she hadn’t moved, her eyes closed, her head hanging down. He knew she’d had to close herself off from him, pull back as far as she could, else the pain would bring madness on her too. But that lack of her made him feel lost. Not lost, xin gan, he heard unexpectedly in his mind. I'm here.

I’m hurting you. He swallowed, tasting more blood.

Not you.

Frey – He bit back a scream as something slid between his ribs, and Freya moaned.

to be continued


Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:20 AM


Ummmmm...WOW! Loved your description of Niska and the box at his throat. I could so see that. Also the ending...oh, the ending...must say this....DAMN!

So good. A definite ten, wishing for an eleven because it's just WOW!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:30 PM



Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:51 PM


How about TRIPLE YIKES! And as always in these situations, faster would defintely be better!

Thursday, July 24, 2008 2:08 AM


Hope Kaylee gets to be a hero. Faster would be better.

Thursday, July 24, 2008 12:08 PM


Holy Crap! That Niska just gets more and more twisted and evil. Brilliant writing and you have really captured the essence of Niska so clearly that I can see him in my mind's eye, the sick *hundan*. Poor Frey, poor Mal, poor Kaylee - in fact poor crew. And where in the nine hells did Niska put Kaylee? Ali D
You can't take he sky from me


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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!]

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"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!]

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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!]