Masks - Part XXIII
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. We find out what happened to Serenity, but unsurprisingly, things don't get any better. NEW CHAPTER


“Well?” Cho asked, wiping at his forehead with the back of his hand, but it wasn’t due to any rise in temperature. In fact, it had dropped several degrees, but the cold sweat on the chief engineer’s brow appeared again almost immediately.

Kaylee sat back on her haunches, the scanner still in her hand. “There’s something inside the box, but I can't get to it. If I could get it loose, maybe I could ... perhaps there’s a seam or something, but I'm scared of forcing it in case it blows, and without getting to the innards ...” She huffed out air in frustration.

“Is there something else I can get, to help? Maybe some other tools ...”

“I don’t see what. Maybe if we had time we could cut out the entire section, put it into the airlock and flush the whole gorram thing into space, but that’d take a few hours, and I don’t think we’ve got the that much.” She indicated the display, a lot closer to zero than it had been.

“Yeah.” Cho glanced over his shoulder. “So what ... we tell the Cap to evacuate where we can?”

Kaylee’s lips tightened. “You think there’s any point?”

He slumped back against the wall. “No. Not as I can figure. When that thing detonates the fuel lines will rupture, then there ain't nothing that can stop it blowing, and I ... maybe a few folk’ll survive, if they’re behind sealed bulkheads.”

“With no air, no heat? And nobody coming to the rescue?”

“Then what do we do?”

Kaylee looked up into his face, this man who reminded her so much of her father. Not that her dad would ever give up. She felt her backbone stiffen, and she straightened. “Our best.” She climbed back into the small space, her eyes drawn against her will to the timer still counting silently down, seeming to be chopping her future into bite-sized portions. Okay. Right. An hour until … boom. “Come on, Winnie,” she whispered to herself, using her father’s old nickname for her to try and bring him closer. “We’ve got work to do.”



“Got ‘em, boss.”

Chester smiled coldly at Freya as the voice of his gunner came back over the com, and he released the talk button.

“What the hell have you done?” Freya asked, her throat tight, her voice hoarse.

“Let’s just say you won’t have worry about buying an anniversary gift this year.”

“You bastard.” Freya struggled to get at him, but the General’s grip was too secure, and she felt like she only had the strength of a kitten.

“Who was that?” Harrington asked, curious.

“No-one of any account.” Chester dismissed the other vessel with a wave of his hand.

“Hmmn.” Harrington glared at him for a moment, then shrugged. “Fine.” His gaze travelled to Barkin. “Get my property on board.”

“Your …” Barkin seemed confused.

“My daughter, if you prefer.”

Barkin glanced at Saffron, then at Freya, but was obviously too scared to do anything. “Come on,” he said, urging the redhead forward.

Saffron tried to hang back, but the start of another contraction had her leaning into a moan, and he took advantage of it to hurry her through the airlock.

“Our business is concluded,” Harrington announced, turning away himself, Freya still in his grip.

Flynn took half a step forward, but hesitated. Chester shot him a look that promised dire – and possibly permanent – consequences if he moved again, then said, “General.”


“If we can do anything else for you, just wave.”

Harrington merely nodded, pushing Freya ahead of him through the airlock. It hissed closed behind him.

Chester whirled on Flynn. “You’re lucky I don’t leave you behind to blow with the rest.”

“She was my friend.”

Was. I doubt she’s feeling very friendly right now. Although once Harrington’s finished with her, I expect you could always go and pick up the pieces.”

“What about Serenity?”

Suddenly Chester was in his face. “You stick to your business, and keep your nose out of mine. Dong mah?” He stalked out, not waiting for a reply.

Alone in the bay, Flynn walked cautiously to the thick window, feeling the Interceptor disengage, but his gaze was only on the tiny Firefly spinning slowly on its axis …



“Hank!” Mal stumbled up the stairs from the pitch blackness of the corridor onto the bridge, the change of clothing still hanging open at his chest. “What the hell happened?”

“EMP.” The pilot was on his back under the control console, colours playing across him from the light show of The Halo as Serenity slowly twisted on her axis.

Mal felt his heart dip. Not their first encounter with an EMP, but each time it had left them fried. “Golden Dragon?”

“I told you they know we’re here.”

“Are we dead?”

“Not sure.” Something clicked and Hank scurried out. Quickly flipping back into his seat, he ran a sequence through the switches, just as Jayne, River and Simon appeared in the doorway behind them, the young doctor swearing under his breath from catching his bad leg on the railing.

“Are the kids okay?” Mal asked, his concern for his family overriding everything else for just a moment.

Simon nodded. “Bethie’s looking after them.” He almost smiled – the sight of his eldest daughter carrying David Gabriel fast asleep in the sling around her shoulders was going to warm him for years to come. “She’s in her element.”

“I see her vying for my job one day,” Mal said, then his eyes widened as the board suddenly flickered to life. He glared at Hank. “I thought you said it was an EMP.”

“It was. But Kaylee and I’ve been working on something.” Hank was still fiddling. “Redundancies.”

“What?” Then a conversation he’d had with the young mechanic came back to him.

“If I can make the essential engine parts scram as soon as they detect anything like a pulse, I can build enough redundancies to overcome anything might be affected elsewhere.” Kaylee had looked at him oddly, as if what she wanted to say would have gone so far over his head that he wouldn’t have been able to see it with a telescope, so had kept it to captain dummy-talk. “You know. With the bits I got off Leo on Jericho.”

He’d nodded, just asking her to keep any other expenditure as low as possible, preferably in the realms of absolutely nothing, and to ask him first if she wanted to do anything drastic like cutting a hole in the side of the ship.

Hank’s next words confirmed his memory. “We might need to do some repairs before we get up to anything like full burn, but we’ve got power.” He grinned grimly.

“Then how come we’re still spinning?”

“You want us to look like we’re dead, don’t you?”

“Remind me to give Kaylee a pay rise, okay?”

“Hey, I helped!”

“Why didn’t they just shoot us out of the sky?” Jayne wanted to know, ever the public relations expert.

“Too far for accuracy,” Hank supplied. “An EMP is more efficient at this kinda range.”

“Besides, I don’t doubt Chester Lau has something much more up close and personal planned for us,” Mal added.

“Chester Lau?” Jayne glanced at River, who nodded slowly.

Mal ignored the interjection, instead asking his pilot, “How about the shuttles – are they okay?”

“They’re good to go,” Hank confirmed. “They were powered down anyway, so they just need warming over.”

“Can you plot a course to keep Serenity between the shuttle and that gorram ship?”

“Well, I –”

“I can do it.”

Mal looked around to River who had pushed past her husband and now stood on the bridge. “Albatross?”

“I know the way.”

It didn’t occur to him to say she was staying behind – it hadn’t for a very long time. All he asked was, “You sure?”

“I can see it.” She tapped her temple.

“Shiny.” Mal smiled grimly and finished zipping up his dark blue uniform. “Then I think maybe we’d better make our move now, don’t you?”



Zoe knew they were coming. She could feel it, even if she wasn’t psychic like River or Freya. But she knew Mal, better maybe than almost anyone, and she was absolutely certain he was on his way.

She’d taken Inara back to their suite, waited until she heard the lock engage then started back towards the main levels, checking every corner before moving smoothly along the wall. Inara had tried to make her stay, but she knew that wasn’t possible. She had to be up and doing, helping Mal if it all possible, despite her shoulder. And the truth was, if it was the Golden Dragon who’d locked on, she was under no illusions – he needed all the help he could get.

She shivered. The temperature was continuing to fall, the expanse of the Empress’s hull giving off heat all too easily, leaching away until there would come a point where nobody could survive, and when the Alliance came along looking for them, all they’d find would be a tomb full of ghosts.

She reached the stairs, heading either down towards the engine room or up to the reception areas, and for a moment wondered if maybe she should go and look after Kaylee. No. She shook her head fractionally. From what the young woman had said about the engineers, they weren’t about to let anything happen to her. Probably the best and safest place for their mechanic right now.

Turning to head up, Zoe came face to face with a huge glass window, running at least the height of five levels and as wide as the staircase. She’d been borne in space, but even she felt a slight nagging sensation of vertigo looking out at the stars, noting the irregular fragments making up this section of The Halo moving slowly in the pull of their individual pieces. No wonder hardly anybody ever used the stairs, preferring to take the easy option with the express elevators.

Then something caught her eye. A smoothness that shouldn’t really be there amongst the rough and tumble of rocks. Something moving, rotating. And not just that, but a little something else moving away from the larger something.

She smiled and changed direction, heading down towards the emergency airlocks.



Jayne peered through the small bridge window of shuttle one as they detached from Serenity, catching sight of the Empress on every pass. “Still say it looks like a whorehouse I went to on Chandrey. ‘Cept I think the whorehouse was prettier.”

“I don’t care. Put the uniform on.”

“Aw, Mal …” Jayne’s heart wasn’t really into complaining, but he did it for form’s sake. “You know how I hate dressing up in these gorram things.” He pulled the neck of his medical technician’s outfit into place. “Why are we wearing this gos se again?”

“Because if any of the crew see you like you usually are, they’re gonna shoot first and dump your body without bothering to ask questions.” Mal touched the metal of his gun strapped to his leg inside the dark blue pants.

“We’re trying to help ‘em!”

“They don’t know that. All they know is they’re stranded and there’s someone on board already who shouldn’t be. This way at least we’ll have a chance of finding the girls.”

“And if that bit of crap sees us?” Jayne nodded towards the Golden Dragon.

“Hank’s putting out as much interference as he can, and The Halo’s helping,” River said, gently moving the shuttle away from the larger ship, using the impetus to push them clear. “Just pray they don’t look out of a window.”

Oh, no worries on that front, Mal thought to himself. He touched the gold cross hanging on its chain around his neck, his thoughts on the day Freya put it there. No worries at all.



Chester Lau stood in the doorway to the Purser’s Office, watching one of his men lace the front of the safe with tiny threads of explosive. He could have stayed back on the Golden Dragon, but experience had proved that he wasn’t a stupid man, and only stupid men would trust anyone, least of all a crew of murdering bastards. He half-smiled. Just the reason he’d hired them. And experience had also shown that he should trust his brothers about as much.

Oh, it wasn’t Jarrett who was the problem, although he was all too often led into bad ways. No, it was Aiden. Something would probably have to be done about him before long. Something permanent. And painful.

He glanced at his watch. “Wilson, if you don’t hurry …”

“All done, boss,” the man at the safe said, getting off his knees.

“We wouldn’t have to blow it at all if Neimeyer hadn’t shot the Purser.” Just because the man had spoken up in complaint, and now they didn’t have the combination or the right eye retinal scan, considering where he had been shot.

Wilson, who had never much liked the unfortunate Neimeyer, had to swallow the grin at just what was going to happen to him when Chester got around to it. “Well, we’re ready now.”

Chester stepped back into the corridor, leaning against the wall out of the way of any concussion as Wilson went the other side. “Do it.”

Wilson took a breath, closed his eyes, and touched the switch. The explosion almost knocked them off their feet, even protected as they were, and the sound deafened them temporarily.

Chester glared at the other man, who had the nerve to shrug.

“Sorry, boss,” Wilson said. “But it’s a Bloch and Pelham. Nothing smaller would’ve done.”

“If you’ve blown what was inside into pieces …”

Wilson dodged into the office, waving the smoke away from his face. “I know my job, boss.”

Indeed he seemed to. As Chester stepped warily inside, he could see the door to the safe standing proud, the precise laying of the explosives having popped it free. Wilson leaned down and heaved it away, grunting with the effort.

Chester bent forward a little, finally satisfied when his gaze fell on the large number of jewellery cases inside. “Pack them up and take them back to the Dragon.”

“Sure, boss.”



Mal didn’t even blink as River manoeuvred the small ship snugly around a fragment of Halo, almost taking the paint off the hull.

Simon, on the other hand, closed his eyes tight. He knew his sister was talented, and would trust her with his life – at least on a good day – but this was asking too much. He might not hate space like he used to, but the way the view outside the small bridge window was shifting and changing just made his stomach roll.

Jayne, sitting opposite and cradling Vera, chuckled. “You gonna throw, doc?” he asked. “Only if you are, let me know. I’ll get outta the way.”

The young man opened his eyes and glared. “And there I was thinking I could make life uncomfortable for you too.”

“Hell, you do that enough.”

Simon knew when he was being teased. Their relationship might never be brotherly, but they’d come to an understanding a long time ago, even liking each other – although they’d both have to be tortured to within an inch of their lives to admit it. “I do try.” He eased his leg.

“Is it hurting?”

“Aching.” Simon smiled slightly. “And I’ll have to make a note in my diary – you’re actually being solicitous.”

“If you’re waiting for me to ask what you mean, you’ll be old and grey ‘fore that happens.”

“Heaven forfend.”

Jayne grinned. “Maybe you shoulda brought one of those sticks with you.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Only I ain’t gonna carry you if fall behind.”

“I’ll keep up.”

“You think we might need your services?” Jayne nodded down to the medical supplies in the small backpack at Simon’s side.

“I hope not. But on previous experience …” He didn’t need to finish the sentence.

“Nope. Guess I know what you mean.” The big man glanced significantly towards where Mal stood behind River.

Simon followed his gaze, inadvertently catching sight of a huge lump of rock apparently about to collide with the small shuttle. His eyes slammed shut again, but he still heard Jayne laugh quietly.

Up on the tiny bridge Mal vaguely listened to the conversation going on behind him, understanding the need for men about to go into battle to ease the tension with humour. Because that’s what they were going to do, there was no doubt. If any of them came away from this without blood on their hands, he’d be surprised. Just as long as it was the right blood he wasn't going to worry.

“It will be,” River said quietly.

“You listenin?”

“Peeking,” River admitted, her eyes on the view outside, her hands sure on the yoke. “To keep us safe.”

He laid his fingers on her shoulder, squeezing just once. “Thanks, xiao nu.” He couldn’t see, not with her concentration so intently focused beyond the shuttle, but he knew she was smiling.

Jia yan.” She adjusted their vector slightly, and the Empress came rushing towards them.

This time even Mal, space-hardened as he was, felt his hand constrict, turning a phantom yoke away from certain destruction.

“Ouch,” she murmured.

“Sorry, albatross.”

“And I won’t crash us.” Indeed, she was already lining up the shuttle with a dimple on the side of the larger liner.

“I got your word on that, do I?”

“And if I do, you won’t be able to tell me off.”

“I’ll haunt you.”

“Promise?” There was a slight grating of metal as they docked with an emergency airlock.

“We’re gonna be a long way from where we need to go,” Mal commented.

“Only way the Dragon isn’t going to know we’re here.”

“I know. Just saying.” He adjusted the uniform around his neck. “We got a seal?”


“Then it’s time.”

to be continued


Wednesday, March 24, 2010 6:36 AM


YAY! Time for the Big Damn Rescue!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 12:21 PM


Big Damm Rescue here we come!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 4:34 PM


Your timing is perfect! Just the right mix of back and forth between good guys and bad guys and tension and humor. Just enough of a glimpse before going to the next crisis. Looking forward to more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 5:09 AM


This is getting very good. I am definitely ready for the rescue as well as just some happiness all around. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010 2:52 PM


Science stuff ahoy! In the section with Serenity, an EMP has hit them. Which means gravity screening and the artificial gravity has been taken out. Serenity could be spinning at a rate such that the normal to the centripetal force as comparable to g. More g means your pinned, low g means your floating, a bit, and things are spinning around you.

More later, I need to go do my taxes, but that's something I wanted to comment on.

I wonder about the spinning ship in Bushwhacked...

Saturday, March 27, 2010 3:03 PM


I'm in a sciencey mood today. The description of the Empress cooling makes me want to try calculating heat loss through Newtonian Cooling.


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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!]