Volcano's Edge - Part XVI
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The tables are turned and Mal wreaks vengeance. NEW CHAPTER


His grey silk suit was stained with sudden icy sweat, and he was trying to back up even further as Mal advanced.

“Still not afraid?” Mal asked, deceptively quiet.

“Guards!” Niska’s artificial voice was loud, abrupt, ringing around the torture room, but no-one came.

“They’re busy,” River said, watching out of the door. There was another dull thud of a grenade, and the floor shivered. “Very busy.” She smiled, feeling the satisfaction from Jayne as he blew a couple more holes in the yacht.

Freya was busy too, searching the nooks and crannies, and she pounced on her own clothes, noting her gun underneath. Quickly she tugged her pants on and pushed her feet into her boots. The shirt was more problematical, catching on the mess of her wrists, but she ignored the aching and left it open. With a suppressed groan she picked up the weaponry and tried to stop the ‘verse from spinning around inside her head.

Alex took a step towards her. “Frey?”

“I'm fine,” she assured him. She looked at her husband, still staring at Niska. “Mal, we need to go.”

“Not done here, xin gan.”

“Mal …”

“He was gonna kill you, Frey. No if’s or maybe’s, but an undeniable fact.”

“I know.” It surprised her still that, even though he was standing there bleeding from so many points, had been so close to death as to be able to shake its hand, it was the danger to her that drove him. “I know, zhang fu.”

He glanced at her. “Can’t let him get away with that.”

As his attention seemed to be split, Niska tried to dart past Mal, but the captain reached out, grabbing hold of his jacket and throwing him against the bulkhead.

“Tryin’ to leave so soon?” he asked, leaning into the old man. “And just when we were gettin’ reacquainted.”

“Please…” The artificial voice held little emotion, but it was there in his eyes, darting from one to the other. “I … I was just …” Pleading. Begging.


“Just what? Obeying orders?”

“I … cannot help what I am.”

“A murdering psychopath with friends in high places?” Mal leaned harder then paused. He could feel something hard under his hands, and a cold smile thinned his lips. “Talking of which …” He reached inside Niska’s jacket and removed the box containing the AntiPax. “River, you take care’o this.”

“Yes, Mal,” she said, slipping it somewhere inside her dress and moving back to the door.

“Now, me and Niska here are gonna have a chat.”

“Mal …” Freya was actually beginning to get annoyed with him.

“Just a little one.” He settled himself. “So, Ad … can I call you Ad? Only I feel like I know you now.” He appeared to study the scars and grafts. “Kinda like we’re old pals. And it’s only for that reason I'm giving you this one last chance to tell me something that might persuade me not to kill you.”

“What?” Alex jerked his head around so fast it hurt his neck. “You’re going to –“

Freya put her hand on his, stopping him mid-sentence.

Niska didn’t see. He was concentrating so hard on the man in front of him, trying to think of something … anything that might buy his life. “Kontrola.”


The old man licked his lips. “Control. Is about control. Not just ability to turn back Reavers, but control them. Use them.”


“Alliance. Using brainwaves.”

Mal glanced at Freya, who looked more than a little sick at the thought of anyone controlling the Reavers. They’d talked about it a lot since the attack on Corvus, but this was the first time there’d been any kind of proof. “Brainwaves.” Mal turned back. “Whose?”

“I do not know. A girl. Not a name, just a subject number. 395MT.”

“A psychic?”

“Yes.” Niska was feeling stronger, a thread of confidence building inside him. “Yes. A psychic. The Alliance are experimenting with her, seeing if control can be maintained for long periods. Is improving.”

“How long? How long’ve they been trying?”

“Several years. She is, of course, insane, but that could not be helped.” The metallic voice sounded hopeful. “I tried to get her, to get direct access for experiments with Reduced Pax, but they refused.”

“They probably didn’t want her filleted,” Mal muttered darkly.

A little spittle rolled from Niska’s mouth, and he wiped it away with a tremulous hand. “Is what I was paid to do.”

“Yeah, but a man shouldn’t enjoy his job that much.” He exhaled heavily. “So who was in charge of this project?”

“Quintana. Emil Quintana. At first. Later …” Niska shrugged as much as he could being held against the wall.

The name meant nothing to Mal, but maybe Simon would be able to help in that department. “Anything else you figure I should know about?”

“I know many things.” Niska was almost eager now. “Many things people have told me.” He either didn’t notice or ignored the tightening of the skin around Mal’s eyes. “Information that might be useful to you. In my business I hear many secrets, and if you let me go I can –“

“Did I say I was going to?” Serenity’s captain reached up and grabbed the voice box. “And you know, this is really starting to piss me off.”

He tugged hard, and Niska screamed, the sound changing to a bubbling as blood began to run down his neck, spurting from under the metal. Mal glanced at River as he let go, taking a step away to avoid being sprayed.

“No vocal cords left. Attached to his flesh, through the arteries, directly to his brain,” she said, not a flicker of disgust on her face.

He watched the old man slide to the floor, hands scrabbling at the device, trying to push it back, stem the flow, and only succeeding in diverting it into his lungs, drowning himself.

Suddenly Mal had had enough. He held his hand out, and Freya put the pistol in it. He aimed and fired in one smooth movement, the smell of burned gunpowder overcoming the scent of blood.

Niska fell back, a hole neatly drilled between his eyes, just above the nosepiece of his glasses.

“Is he dead?” Alex asked.

“Yes.” Mal breathed out, long and slow. “And I've a notion he ain't coming back this time.”

“Then I think we should leave.”

“Something we have to do first.”

Alex looked down at the body. “What the hell else is there?”

Mal smiled tiredly. “Putting a stop to this.”

He leaned down to pull Niska’s body away from the wall, and had to steady himself with a hand against the bulkhead.

“Mal …” Now the annoyance in Freya’s voice was on full.

He glanced at her. “If’n you’re gonna point out I'm not at my best right now, I’d rather you didn’t.”

“It depends on what you’re going to do.” She paused. “Oh. Well, no, I think maybe we can just about manage that.”

“Let me help,” Alex insisted.

“No.” Mal shook his head firmly. “You’re seeing to Kaylee.”

“I can walk,” the young mechanic put in.

“That I doubt.”

“I wanna walk out of here, Mal.” She knew using his given name would have the right effect. Besides, he would know exactly what she meant, echoing back his own words of just a few minutes previously.

“You sure?”

“I'm sure.”

“I’ll look after her,” Freya said, bending forward to help Kaylee get to her feet.

“You know you’re hurt too, and maybe you shouldn’t –“

“Mal, you finish that sentence and you’ll be sleeping on the couch for the foreseeable future.”

Mal leaned down and grabbed the dead man’s ankle. “Just so long as you don’t come crying to me when you’re needing a massage tonight.”

Alex looked from one to the other, amazed that they could be bickering right now, but he heard River sigh. “It’s what they do,” he heard her murmur.

“And I can manage Niska on my own,” Mal said firmly.

“You’re hurt. Let me help,” Alex repeated, stepping forwards.

Mal was going to say no, this was nothing to do with him, but he saw the look in his eyes. The man had grown up somewhere along the line. “Okay.”

“Thank you.” Alex nodded and took hold of Niska’s other ankle, between them dragging him towards the sound of fighting, River on point, her guns at the ready.

“Who’s winning, albatross?” Mal asked, stabbing pains radiating across his chest and ignoring the looks Freya kept throwing him as she helped Kaylee stagger forwards.

“Stalemate,” the young woman said, eyes never still, searching for any danger that they might come across. “The family have made it to the entrance, but not inside. Although Jayne still has some grenades left.”

“That man. You sure he don’t love grenades more’n you?”

River shook her head. “Vera, perhaps. Grenades, no.”

Freya made them pause at the top doorway to the yacht’s shuttle bay. “No-one’s hurt particularly, but it isn’t going to stay that way,” she said quietly.

“Then let’s make an entrance.”

She read what he planned in his mind, and nodded, leaning Kaylee against the wall so she could grab the old man’s wrist. Alex, understanding more than he would admit, took a firmer hold as River immediately caught hold of Niska’s other arm. They lifted him up to rest on the railing.

“Ready?” Alex asked.

“Oh, yeah.” Mal pushed the body over, seeing it tumble as it fell to land on the deck, pale eyes looking small as they stared blankly into the superstructure, spectacles lost somewhere on the way. “It’s done,” he called into the sudden silence. “Niska’s dead.”

“Um … so?” one of the black-clad men said.

Mal couldn’t help it. He laughed, making his chest hurt like hell. Eventually he was able to respond. “Well, seems to me like you got a coupla choices. You can keep on fighting, and some of you are gonna die. Maybe all of you. But say you win. You kill us, which is by no means a foregone conclusion since we’re behind you as well. You ain't gonna get paid. Niska’s dead, as you can see by his soon to be mouldering corpse there. He ain't gonna be getting up and dancing. The other option is that you let us leave. Then nobody else gets hurt, you can ransack this place and steal anything that ain’t nailed down. Take the whole damn thing for all I care. I just want me and mine home.” He took a shallow breath. “I'm gonna give you to the count of ten to decide, then I'm gonna let my man down there loose with all the grenades he’s got. It’s up to you.” He started to count. “One, two, three –“

“Is he serious?” Dillon asked Zoe, then saw River up on the walkway, nodding slowly.

“He is,” the first mate said anyway. “There’s been enough blood letting for one day.”

A muffled conversation indicated the men in black were also talking, and just as Mal got to nine one of them called out.

“Okay. We’re none of us so enamoured of our boss that we’re willing to die in his honour.”

Mal smiled. “Good. Now you boys just back up, let us out. We ain't gonna take your guns from you, but then neither are we stupid enough to give you ours. So we’re just gonna do this nice and easy.” He stepped forward and would have fallen but for Freya at his, taking his weight. “I can walk,” he protested, but not that loudly.

“Humour her,” Alex said, Kaylee propped up in his arms. “I’m beginning to realise it’s easier in the end.”

“Do I have a choice?”

Freya, concerned at the blood starting to ooze more freely from the wounds on his chest, held tighter. “None whatsoever.”

“Fine. Just so long as I know.”

She helped him down the stairs, Alex and Kaylee next, River behind them, her guns in her hands, still ready for anything that might happen, and knowing it wasn’t going to. Not now.

“Sir?” Zoe stood up warily as he approached them.

“Time to go,” he said, his face almost white.

“Infirmary,” Simon ordered, desperately wanting to carry his wife himself, but knowing they had to get away from this yacht first. “All of you.”

“You know, this time, I don’t think I'm gonna argue.”


Hank had Serenity away from the Denari in the blink of an eye, landing back by Alex’s ship so they could make any repairs needed before heading back into the black. Simon checked Kaylee over first, very thoroughly, against her protests that she was fine and so was the baby. It was only when she’d threatened to divorce him and run away with their pilot that he’d been persuaded to reluctantly deal with the others, starting with Mal. Actually, the gun Freya pulled on him in frustration might well have had something to do with it

So he’d patched and stitched everyone up, insisting Mal stay in the infirmary so he could take as many scans of his internal organs as he could. Finally the captain declared he’d had enough of being a prize specimen and walked, albeit unsteadily, out of the cool room.

The young doctor had followed him. “I don’t know what that Quicksilver liquid did,” he tried to explain. “I have no idea the kind of long-term damage it may have inflicted.”

“Well, if I fall down dead anytime soon, you have my permission to do an autopsy,” Mal said, heading for his bunk.

Simon turned to Freya, who was watching from the common area. “Can’t you talk any sense into him?”

“I haven’t been able to so far, and we’ve been married a while.”

“I mean –“

“I know.” She put her hand on his arm, her wrists bandaged. “I’ll keep an eye on him, Simon. If anything … feels wrong, you’ll be the first to know.”


“Don’t you believe me?”

“I know you.” He turned and headed back into his domain, muttering under his breath.

Freya smiled and strolled into the cargo bay, not surprised to find Dillon already there, sitting on Jayne’s weights bench with the man himself, enjoying a cigar. “I thought I could smell something like old socks,” she sighed.

“They’re not that bad.” Dillon took a lungful of smoke, then exhaled it in a cloud to hang bluely in the air.

“Just be glad we’re still on the ground and can have the doors open. Otherwise there’s a lot of people on this boat who’d be throwing up.”

Dillon laughed. “How are the repairs going?”

She shrugged. “As the only currently able-bodied crew Hank and Zoe seem to be doing okay. Simon won’t move far from Kaylee’s side while Alex is helping – or hindering – where he can, as he seems to need something to do. Unlike some of you,” she added pointedly. “But it shouldn’t be too much longer, then you should be able to get back to Breed.”

“Are you coming?”

“Nope.” She leaned against a crate. “Somehow I don’t think Persephone is going to be very good for us at the moment.”

“Why? The Alliance don’t know you were involved in Niska’s death.”

“As far as we know.”

Jayne looked at her, his ice-blue eyes hooded. “Ya really think they might?”

“It’s possible. I don’t think they’d come after us for it – not with the enemies that man had – but Mal isn’t likely to put us in any danger. At least, not until we’ve healed.”

“Are you okay?” Dillon asked, glancing up at the weaves in her hairline. “I mean, you were hurt too.”

She waved his concern away, as well as the cigar smoke. “I'm fine. Simon fixed me up, and I’ll heal.”

“That wasn't quite what I meant.”

“I know.” She smiled. “It was a little too close for comfort this time. If it happens again I'm going to shoot first and ask questions … well, never, actually.”

Jayne guffawed. “That’s my girl.” He unfocused. “River needs me,” he added, getting to his feet and carefully grinding out the cigar on the sole of his boot. “Save this for later.” He strode up the stairs, three at a time.

“Is he really that devoted?” Dillon asked, watching the big man enter the shuttle and close the door.

“He is.”

“Then she’s very lucky.”

“I think we all were.” She sat down next to him, taking Jayne’s place, and whisked the cigar from his fingers. She took a puff, blowing a perfect smoke ring.

“Mal know you indulge?” Dillon asked, trying to stop the laughter bubbling up in his chest.

“I don’t,” she insisted, handing it back. “Especially when it tastes like old socks too.”

“Old socks,” he repeated. “You have no taste.”

“And if I have any more of that, it’ll be permanent.” She lifted a hand and delicately removed a fragment of tobacco leaf from her teeth just as Hank and Zoe headed up the open ramp.

“What is that smell?” Zoe asked, sniffing delicately.

Hank did the same, only less delicately. He grinned. “Peltas?”

Dillon was impressed. “You know your cigars.”

“There’s something recognisable about them.”

“Socks?” Zoe suggested.

Freya turned triumphantly to Dillon. “See?”

He tutted and stood up. “I know when I'm not wanted,” he said. “I shall go and finish this outside.”

“Don’t be too long,” Zoe advised. “We’re ready to go.”

“What about Niska’s ship?”

“Alex said it was gone when he and Simon went back to salvage his shuttle,” Freya put in. “He also said there’s a few more bodies than just Niska’s littering the sand.”

“They fight over it?” Hank asked, surprised.

“They’re bad guys,” Dillon explained. “That’s what they do.”

to be concluded


Thursday, July 31, 2008 2:18 AM


Glad that he's really dead this time, and loved your description of the bad guys - it was a fitting end for all. Poor Simon - he spent so much of this arc completely frustrated and thwarted. You've opened a whole new case of worms here with the Alliance plans, and it will be very interesting where you go with it. But first some fluff, right?

Thursday, July 31, 2008 4:51 AM


oh yes! this is the kinda grits i like - and you know it:)
but also - there was a lot of finishing up to do in this chapter
and i think you did it well.

I'll be interested though to see the consequences/effects on Mal (and crew)
(if any) from his actions. Good work shipmate!

Thursday, July 31, 2008 4:53 AM


AH-MAZING!! Very very nice! I have enjoyed reading your stories and I can't wait for more!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008 5:00 AM


Nice job. Mal was a stand up man, he killed him fairly quick. Bit worried though about him. Hope all is well.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 6:49 AM


Whew! Glad that sick old man is finally gone. Good riddance!

And there is that can of worms you threw in. I'm sure we'll be hearing about it soon enough, but we do need a bit of a wrap up and fluff to calm both us and the crew.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 9:33 AM


Fabulous! I can actually feel my heartrate approaching something near to normal now that all our people are back on Serenity where they belong. So very relieved that Niska is finally dead - just hope the bad guys don't clone him. Would be nice to see the children make an appearance now that their mummy's and daddy are safe once again. Loved this and superb dialogue too! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, August 3, 2008 9:32 AM


Satisfying! Great job!


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!]