Smiling Villain (inspired by Firefly)
Monday, September 22, 2008

Okay ... here is the piece I wrote, inspired by the Firefly 'verse but not set in it as such, although you could (if you squint, and stand on one leg) consider perhaps it is set just before the exodus from Earth-that-was ...


Okay ... here is the piece I wrote, inspired by the Firefly 'verse but not set in it as such, although you could (if you squint, and stand on one leg) consider perhaps it is set just before the exodus from Earth-that-was ...


They are gone. I can tell, even though my eyes won’t open and my ears don‘t function yet. The ship is empty, desolate, only the inmates’ cells still occupied. They’re waking up too, small moans and loud screams swallowed by the soundproof walls. I can still hear them.

The drugs are gone. The needle in my arm is dead, no liquid being pumped into my system. We must be nearly there.

They said I wouldn’t dream. That the ice-cold cocktail of eternity dripping into my veins would make it seem like a moment’s pause. They lied. I dreamed of my home, my family, but mostly of her, the last of my creations.

My eyes are sticky, crusted. I must have slept a long time, although as I force them open I only see the same pale grey walls, the identical light panel in the ceiling as was there when they made me lie down, thrust the needle into my vein and gave me the illusion of death. Feeling is returning, and I can wiggle my toes, my fingers. A smile lifts my lips. No time to lie here, enjoying the sensation. Time to be moving.

My legs are treacherous, barely able to hold my weight. I stagger to the small sink, splashing my face with water, cleaning my skin of all the months of imperfections. A heaviness in my groin indicates I should relieve myself, and I lean forward, letting the hot yellow liquid swirl into the drain as I live it again.

She had been blonde until my ministrations turned her hair red. And all the while the baby watched from the crib, an innocent spectator in the grand design. I didn’t touch that baby. Whatever monster I have become, I don’t kill children.

The white trousers and shirt are waiting for me. No shoes. Never mind. No belt either, probably in case I take it into my mind to hang myself. The smile grows a little. That has never been my problem. I dress, feeling the touch of fabric against my skin for the first time in nearly a year. Only for me it was yesterday.

The door is still closed. I can feel the others, see them inside my head, some cowering in corners, some tearing at the panels with bare, bloody fingers. I want to tell them that this isn’t the way to do things. I’m not surprised the door is locked. The computer might not be medicating me any longer, but it isn’t about to let me out.

The entry panel is easy to lever off, and a sea of multi-coloured wires slip over my fingers. This is too easy. Red and black, pulling them loose and squeezing back the plastic cover to reveal bare metal. I wrap one around the other, and the door slides silently open.

“So nice they never think to change things,” I murmur to no-one. It doesn’t matter that I never learned how to do it, that they’d dripped the information into my mind like acid … it’s all still there, waiting for me.

The corridor is empty, the floor cool beneath my bare feet. The others are still locked in their cells, but I’ll let them out. Soon.

In front of me is a large window. I remember it, seeing it as they escorted me to my cell. My last view of my home, the planet that spawned me, that created what I have become. Now, instead of glass and steel buildings plucking at the sky, there is the infinite black night beyond the ship, sprinkled with steady pinpoints of light. People who’d never been off world expect them to sparkle, like they do through atmosphere. They don’t. They are static, motionless. Uncaring.

My own reflection is staring back at me. Charming, handsome, my blue eyes seem warm and inviting under the shock of brown hair. I need a trim. I push it back from my forehead, my alter ego mimicking my every move, and I smile. He smiles too. Odd how the demon never shows on the surface.

I used to be a man. Once, a long time ago. Before the faceless bureaucrats of Earth Central decided I was just the right kind to become one of their creations. I often wondered, during the long nights when the pain was too great to sleep, just what it was they thought they’d seen in me. A petty crook who used my good looks to get what I wanted out of women, using them for sure, but never actually hurting them. At least, not physically. Until I was inducted into the Programme. Such a simple name for what they did.

The main console is flashing at me, and I activate the vidscreen, scrolling through the information displayed. That’s why the ship is empty. A reactor leak, and the escape pods scrammed automatically. It must have been a simple choice – go or be fried. So they left. All the guards, the doctors, the nurses. Climbing into those tiny cocoons of safety, they would have heard the airlocks slam closed, felt the shudder run through the ship as the clamps disengaged and the explosive bolts detonated, throwing them clear.

No room for the inmates, of course. No time to save us if there was. I wonder if the occupants of each little pod felt guilty about leaving us to die. Did they look out from the porthole to watch the ship grow smaller by the moment as their engines took them further away, waiting for it to explode in a bright nova, to fill the silence of space with the debris of a hundred human lives?

Probably not. I wouldn’t have.

The Programme had made sure of that. They turned out soldiers with no remorse, constructing killing machines with heightened awareness, strength and mental ability for a war that never came. I was their star pupil, and they paraded me like a pet whose savagery was to be admired. Without the war, though, we were obsolete. Only at that point it was discovered that the conditioning couldn’t be reversed, and the Senate discussed long and hard what to do with us. It was even suggested we be terminated, just in case we became dangerous.

Except someone talked. The newscasts got hold of the facts, and some faceless moron started a campaign to allow us to return to our normal lives. To let a thousand hand-picked warriors be released when they should have been put down.

As I should have been put down. Normal. As if there was such a thing. Certainly not now. They’d never bargained on the results of their work. The slow growing psychosis. The madness. The blood.

By the time they’d caught up with me, the newscasts had named me Angel Gabriel for the symbol I carved in the back of each of my victims. They said it was the representation of wings. They were wrong.

I did try to explain, at the trial, that the letting of blood through the intricate carving was purifying, both for the woman and myself, allowing all the inherent evil and lust to drip away. I always felt so good after, so light, as if the burden had been lifted from my soul for just a while. It never lasted, of course. But there was always another one, willing to listen to me, to follow because of my charm, my smile, my easy manner, ready to lie with me. At least until they realised. When it was always too late.

I bring myself back to the present and look down. The console controls the other rooms, and the list of names and crimes committed by the inmates is long. Some are familiar – McCall, Bennett, Chi Ling – men who’d been on the Programme with me. Others seem to be more mundane: murderers, thieves, conmen … but we are all on our way to the rehabilitation colony on Elysium for the rest of our natural lives.

Rehabilitation. Just the thought makes me laugh, the sound echoing through the empty corridors. They didn’t expect us to be reformed, knew we couldn‘t be. Just like the weakness of Earth Central to stop short of capital punishment, thinking it was all right instead to lock people away out of sight, out of mind.

Not for much longer, though. I can see the code, sitting waiting in my brain, and it takes but a moment to input it into the system. As the doors slide open the ship fills with the screams and shouts of release.

Something is dead. The sickly sweet scent of decay makes my nostrils tingle, and I follow the perfume towards one of the open rooms. Well, at least Chi Ling won’t be emasculating anyone else. It looks as if the autofeed stopped working some time back, and he starved to death. Pity. He’d have made a good second-in-command. Instead his vital fluids are leaking onto the floor, a viscous mix of decomposition and body parts.

I close the door again, sealing off the bloated corpse, and go back to the console. For that kind of decomp to have occurred, it must have been a while since the pods left. I bring up the autolog.

Five weeks. Five weeks since the reactor leak. That explains Chi Ling still being in his room and not the morgue. And only four and a half since the automatic repair system fixed the problem and flushed the radiation. Except that didn’t make any sense. As soon as the ship was no longer deadly, the pods should … Ah, that’s why. The automatic recall didn’t work. So the crew are probably still out there, floating in the depths of space, waiting for someone to pick them up. I can’t help grinning at that. With the limited supplies on board each pod, maybe they’re in the same situation as Chi Ling, floating through space, their corpses bloated and corrupt. Unless they decided to practice cannibalism.

Something is happening. I can feel excitement further along the corridor. Moving through the inmates coming out of their cells, I hurry to the sickbay. Half a dozen men are crowded around the door, peering inside. Odd laughter reaches me.

“What is it? Something interesting?” The men watching move out of my way so I can see.

Bennett has found the scalpels.

He is lying on the tilted examining table, his arms outstretched, like an obscene benediction. Blood drips from the opened veins along his forearms, some of the cuts so deep there is the shine of bone among the glistening flesh. Except he is laughing, tears of joy running down his face.

There is a red pool growing beneath him, which I manage to avoid as I step closer to the table. Bennett turns his head to look at me.

“See, Gabriel?” he says, his voice trembling with his laughter. He lifts his hands. “See?”

“Yes, very pretty.” I reach down and pick up one of the discarded surgical instruments. “But, I’m afraid, you won’t be any use to me.” I move behind the table and draw the blade across Bennett’s throat, feeling the skin part easily beneath my hand. Blood arcs from severed arteries, splashing across the walls and glass-fronted cabinets as the laughter now bubbles.

The shuddering is growing less, the pumping slowed to a dribble. I watch as his life ends. There is no delicacy to this, no art or skill. No passion. Just another death in a long line of them. There is a stray spatter on my wrist and I lick it from my skin, tasting the saltiness as I drop the slick scalpel to the floor. The men around the door part like the Red Sea as I leave the room, Bennett consigned to the nothingness from which he came.

There’s fighting on several of the decks, and I can tell without needing to look that Bennett isn’t the only casualty. Not that I mind. Better to weed out the weaklings now, than have to do it later when time is short.

Something is coming, and I turn to look up the corridor. A huge man is running towards me, his hands hooked into claws, wanting to rip me apart and feast on my flesh. I can feel his anger, his overwhelming desire to kill me.

“Stop.” My voice is light, conversational. Calming.

The man stumbles to a halt, his brow furrowed. He still wants to kill, to feel fresh blood spurting into his mouth, to consume his enemy, but his body won’t obey.

This is why my victims never screamed, never ran away, no matter what I did to them. At least, not until I wanted them to scream, to call for mothers, fathers who would never come, for mercy that would never be given. Along with the skills on how to use computers, how to maim and kill, they’d boosted another. My ability to make people do what I wanted. To sit in the minds of weaker souls and pervert them to my will. That’s why I was chosen to lead, to control.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The big man is fighting to clear his brain, to break the control I have over him. “Rostov. Ivan Rostov.” He is hitting his forehead with the flat of his palm as if he can dislodge me.

“Ivan.” I smile at him. “I want you to help.”

“Help?” He speaks like a child, trying to understand.

“Help me. And there’ll be plenty of opportunity for you to practice your peculiar talents.” The man’s eyebrows draw together, and I can almost hear his brain ticking. “Don’t worry. You just do what I say.”

“Where’s the doctors?”

“They’re not here, Ivan. Just us.”

“Don’t understand,” the hulk of a man says. “Why‘re we awake?”

“Because we’re nearly there.”


I am about to explain, to remind him of our destination, but there is noise approaching. Heels kicking, being dragged.

“Gabriel! Gabriel!” A man I vaguely remember as being called Howell is in the forefront of a group of men, something writhing and fighting in their midst.

“Howell. What have we here?”

“We found her, Gabriel! In one of the cells.” Howell turns, grabs hold of red hair to drag the guard into view.

“Well, well.” I look down at her, her uniform stained, dirty.

“Please,” she whimpers. “Please.”

I go down onto my heels next to her, stroking the hair from her face. “Let me guess. You didn’t make it to an escape pod in time, and you had to hide.”

She nods, taking hold of my apparent kindness as a lifeline. “Yes.”

“And you used the autofeed line to stay alive?”


Tears have rolled down her cheeks, and I use my thumb to wipe them away. “Never mind.”

Howell is almost hopping from foot to foot. “Gabriel?” he asks. “Please?”

I look up at him and he is holding out a scalpel. The other men with him have looks of hopeful anticipation on their faces, Rostov amongst them.

I smile. “It has been a while.”

“Please, Gabriel.”

I look back down at the guard, my palm cupping her cheek. She swallows back a sob.

“Sh, sh,” I say softly, and she gives a tentative smile, seeing the possibility of survival held before her. Until I let her see the real me, the demon hidden inside the smile. The pupils of her wide grey eyes contract as she realises. She tries to get up, to run, somewhere, anywhere, but I am there, in her mind, controlling the desire to fly.

Howell hands me the scalpel, his fingers trembling, and I cut the guard’s top from her body. I begin my work.

It’s almost as if it isn’t me, as if I too am a spectator, watching as the scalpel slits the flesh, not too deep, just enough to allow bright beads of blood to adorn her skin. Too much and the composition will be lost. Too little and there is no point. I am an artist. My fingers might be slightly stiff from lack of use, but they remember the skill, the symmetry of design. I do not have to see her eyes to know the pain is there, her body wanting to move away from it, my mind not letting her. It takes time, each stroke like an artist’s brush, layering in agony rather than paint.

At last it is complete. Not wings, as the newscasts always said. But a mirror, showing man the waywardness of his intentions.

Now I can allow her to whimper, to beg for mercy, to plead for her life. I am done with her, and as I stand I feel healed, light, freed from the demons for a little while. The men around are still watching, the sound of their breathing washing over me.

“Gabriel?” Howell asks, his voice catching.

I drop the scalpel to the deck. “I am finished.”

Howell looks expectant. “Then …”

“Do with her what you will.”

Howell grins, and the mob drags the girl back towards one of the rooms. For a long time I can hear screaming, crying, as they vent their rage and desires on her dying body. Until there is blessed silence once more.

Rostov comes out of the cell, his clothes bloodied, flesh under his fingernails. I catch a glimpse of my own reflection and see I am not much better. My white clothes are soiled, and I would like to shower and change, sloughing off the remnants of her destruction. But that will have to wait.

“Gabriel.” Rostov’s voice is softer. “Want more.”

“I know.” l tap the screen in front of me. “The computer’s orders were to wake us up when we got to our final destination. Make us ready for transport to our new home.” I smile. “And there it is.”

On the screen, hanging in the black sky like a blue and green marble, smudged with great grey mountain ranges and dipped top and bottom in polar ice, is Elysium.

“Such a pretty name. Pity that it’s going to be remembered with such pain.”

Rostov howls, his head thrown back, tendons snap-tight in his throat, all his want and need in that unearthly sound.

If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me. Don John, Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare


Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:45 AM


WOW! Gave me chills just reading it. Very good. A perfect and much deserved ten.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 2:05 AM


Fully creepy and chilling and horrifying, and an interesting alernative to Pax if you wanted to create Reavers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 3:50 AM


Gah...that was so creepy but so beautifully written....what mark did you get?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:29 AM


Oh my god, that was creepy! *shudders*

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:48 AM


So creepy that I'm having trouble stopping shivering.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 11:06 AM


I was glued from beginning to end! Very creepy and disquieting all at once! I had to reread the part about Gabriel not hurting his victims, at least not physically... 'Until the Programme', I musta had a brainfart, got it now. Sounds like a precursor to the Blue Sun Corp. oooo-hooo!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 3:25 PM


Gotta say this was very well-written, but very disturbing as well. I think I need a bath now!


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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!]