Masks - Part XXV
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. The bomb's ticking down and everyone's in danger. NEW CHAPTER



The Golden Dragon was a lot bigger than Serenity, and laid out totally differently. The main airlock was in a room of its own, metal cages bolted to the walls down two of the sides, nets holding various items down a third. It was also empty as Mal and River slipped inside.


“A moment, Captain.” River had her head on one side as if she was listening to the ship talking to her, which it quite possibly was.

Not that Mal could wait. “Can you feel ... them?” Freya, can you feel Freya, was what he wanted to ask.

“I'm not ...” Her eyes widened. “No!” She span on her heel and ran back towards the inner controls, but it was too late. The airlock slid closed, the faint hiss of the seal hardening very loud. She played an arpeggio across the board, but to no avail. “I'm locked out!”

The comlink in Mal’s pocket buzzed, Hank’s voice coming immediately after.

“He’s trying to disengage!”

As he pulled it loose privately Mal wondered if the pilot’s blood pressure was likely to cause him to blow a gasket, or at least have a stroke. “Stop him.”


“I don’t care! Block him in or something.”

“The Dragon’s got weapons …”

Not for the first time Mal wanted to swear, volubly and at length, over the fact that his Firefly wasn’t armed, even if sometimes he felt they’d attract more trouble than they were worth. Then it was too late – he felt the Golden Dragon tremble beneath him.

“Hank.” It was River, up so close behind him he could feel the heat of her body on his back. “Do it.”

“I don’t know …”

“I do. Trust me.”

“Trust what?” Mal turned enough so that he could see her face, her eyes huge in the overhead light.

She gazed at him. “Hank. Do it.”

“But you’re on board. What if I get this wrong?”

“You won’t.”

“Honey, you’ve got a hell of a lot of faith in me.”

“Yes. Do it.”

Tell him. The words coalesced in Mal’s brain with an incredible feeling of certainty. He felt his mouth open before he consciously decided. “Hank. Do it. Whatever it is.”



If Hank had been standing behind himself, watching, he’d probably have admired the way his alter ego had managed to get Serenity up to respectable speed from a basic standing start, surprising anyone on board Golden Dragon, who would have thought them dead in the water.

In fact, sometimes Hank actually wished he could be two people. The one who watched while the other did. The one who could while the other couldn’t. The one who was a hero, and the one who … Except there was little heroism in him, so there was no point in wishing.

Times like this, he considered, he was jealous of Wash. He’d never met the man, but he’d been told enough tales of him. Wash had flown through Reavers, Alliance, brought his family safe to land. Admittedly he’d given his life, but all in all Hank considered that a fair exchange. He’d do it for Zoe. Just not today, he added in silent prayer.

Keeping his right thumb on the switch River had rigged, he swung the yoke hard right then tightly up, and Serenity squealed in protest. Something clanged loudly, and he winced, imagining what Kaylee was going to say when she found out whatever it was that had broken, but held the Firefly to her course. Instruments were useless, so he relied on instincts, waiting until the last possible moment before … he pressed down.

The bomb bay doors swung open, and through sheer impetus – and Hank’s great skill – the contents shot free, almost as if under its own propulsion.

The ore, containing unrefined Herschelium, flew straight and true, and struck Golden Dragon’s engine housing. Those that would have gone past to strike the Empress seemed to curve in their trajectory and some fragments slipped between plates, while others seemed attracted by the power starting to flood the nacelle. However it landed, or where, suddenly there was enough, reaching a critical point at the atomic level, and a silent, violet flare lit the Black for a second, sucked back into the ship immediately as if it had never been. Except the Dragon’s engine was now dark, useless, and the visible lights were flickering.

“Good gorram,” Hank muttered, unable to formulate a better curse. “She was right.”




“Language.” River shook her head at him.

Mal tugged his gun from inside his uniform as he watched the lights dim, brighten, then fade until there was little more than a cold glow. “Xiao nu, there ain’t the words available. What did he do?”

“Stopped them leaving.” She tried the control again, and this time the airlock opened, revealing Simon leaning on the wall.

“I thought you might have decided to go without me,” the young doctor said.

“Need you,” River said, heading to the second door.

This time, though, Mal was quicker, putting his arm out to stop her. “Nope, River. You let me go first.” He didn't wait to hear her response, just opened the inner door to the main cargo bay. And ducked as a bullet whined through barely an inch from his head. “Gorramit, where’s Jayne’s grenades when I need ‘em?”

“Let me,” River murmured, whispering past him crouched low.




Chester could hear gunfire, but this time not through the com but on his ship. On board his own gorram ship! Carrying the leather satchel he’d stuffed as much of the contents of his safe into as possible, he ran down the metal staircase towards the lower shuttle.

“Boss! Boss!” One of his crew accosted him, grabbing him by the arm. “What the guay is going on?”

“Get to the bay,”

“But there’s –”

Chester shoved him so hard the man staggered back, falling to the deck. “You do what I tell you! And find out what’s wrong with the engines.”



“Bay or engine?”

Chester glared at him. “Do I look like I care?” He strode away, ducking through a doorway into the shuttle bay.

Self preservation. That, and the accumulation of money, was right at the top of his list of priorities. And if his brothers weren’t with him, well ... with enough cash he could always buy some more.

He glanced at his timepiece again. Enough time, just. Enough time to get away before the bomb went off. Weaving between the crates containing booty from his last handful of jobs, he punched the code to open up the shuttle door, and was about to enter when he heard a voice behind him.

“Going somewhere, Chester?”



Mal fired over a crate and heard a scream as his bullet found its target. Next to him Simon was doing the same, adding to the cacophony as the smell of cordite filled the air. Then, suddenly, nobody was shooting at them anymore.

Jia yan. River’s voice in his mind.



He stood up, waited a moment to see if he fulfilled his crew’s predictions and got himself shot, then when he didn’t feel the sudden pain or see the blood he hurried forwards. “Albatross?”

River stood in the middle of the bay, head high, her guns in her hands. At her feet were two men, one holding the other in his arms. “They wish to surrender.”

Puo foo.” Aiden Lau, cradling his shoulder with one hand, blood seeping between his fingers, lay on his brother’s thighs, pain and anger warring for dominance on his face.

“You talk like that and I’m liable to forget you’re wounded,” Mal pointed out.

Aiden just glared at him.

Jarrett, on the other hand, was more talkative. “We have to leave.”

“Why?” Mal demanded.

“Because we’re gonna get blown up otherwise!”


“There’s a bomb on the liner. We’ve barely got enough time to get far enough way as it is!”

Mal glanced at River, feeling something crawl up his spine. “They telling the truth?”

She nodded slowly. “But Kaylee’s dealing with it.”

“You sure?”

She didn't answer.

Mal went down onto his heels. “How long?” he asked, grabbing Jarrett’s shirt and pulling him close.


No time, River dropped into his mind. Trust her. Aloud she said, “Chester Lau is trying to leave.”

Aiden struggled to sit up, a groan forcing between his tight lips. “He’s what?”

“He’s taking a shuttle. Stop him,” River said to Mal, ignoring the man on the floor.

“You okay to keep an eye on this pair?” He glanced around the bay, seeing a pair of booted feet sticking out behind some metal boxes. “Are you likely to get ambushed?”

“No more enemies alive on board, apart from Chester.” The odd emphasis she put on the word ‘enemies’ was barely discernible.

Mal nodded, then shot Simon a look. “Stay here. Patch this hwoon dahn up if you feel the need.”

“What about Kaylee?” The young doctor was intensely worried. “If they’re right –”

“Simon, if they’re right, it’s too late to get to her anyway. And Zoe was heading her way.”

“Mal –”

“Doc. Do your job.”

River cocked her guns, the sound loud. “I will protect you.” She gazed at Mal. “Go. Now. He may need your help.”

“Who, albatross?”




Flynn looked almost relaxed as he faced Chester Lau, one hand hanging loosely by his gunbelt, the other hidden behind his back. “Surprised to see me?”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Chester’s face suffused with anger as without thought he took two steps forward, attempting to intimidate.

“Oh, just waiting for you. I thought it was time you and I had a talk.”

Chester glanced down at his watch again. “Okay. But let’s do it in the shuttle instead of out here.”

“Why?” Flynn raised his eyebrows. “I’m quite comfortable.”

“Because otherwise we’re likely to get blown to kingdom come!”

Flynn snapped his fingers. “Of course. I’d forgotten.” He smiled coldly.

“We need to leave immediately.” Chester turned back to the shuttle entrance, but suddenly Flynn was in front of him

“Oh, I don't think so.”

“Don’t be an idiot!”

“But what about your men? Your brothers?” For all his youth, there was an age of understanding in his eyes. “Leaving them to die?”

“If you don’t let me go we all die.” Chester tried to push past the much younger man, expecting with his size and weight to do it easily, and not at all ready for the right hook that landed him on his backside on the deck.

Flynn stood over him, his gun drawn. “I turned on my friends because of you.” His finger was very close to the trigger.

“You took a job.”

“I'm resigning.”

“You can’t. You took the thirty pieces of silver. We have a contract.” Chester swallowed, finally feeling the first twinges of real fear amidst the anger. “Now let me get us out of here, and we can discuss a raise. I think you’ve earned it. But we have to leave now before the bomb detonates.” His fingertips started to inch across his waistcoat towards the small but powerful gun secreted in his jacket pocket.

“No. I don’t think so.” Flynn brought his hand out from behind his back, holding something up.

Chester managed to scrabble to his feet. “Tzao gao.”



“Ms Kaylee.” Cho leaned down and reached under the console, touching her on the leg. “Come on out from there.”

“No. Just another few minutes. If I can get this last bolt free maybe I can –”


She stopped, her hands stilling in their frantic haste. Her head dropped, fat tears sliding down her cheeks and dropping from her chin onto her chest. Closing her eyes, she shimmied out, letting him help her to her feet.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered.

He pulled her against him, holding her tight. “Hey, don’t you worry so,” the Chief Engineer said, rubbing her back. “You did all you could.” His eyes, though, were fixed on the timer.


“Zoe?” The young mechanic twisted towards the doorway, staring at her friend as if she was an apparition. “Oh, Zoe ...”

The first mate took in open console, the tall, older man holding Kaylee close to him, the red-hued numbers counting down, and her heart seemed to stop. “Ai ya ...”


Kaylee turned back to Cho, her face buried against him, the images in her mind of her children, her daughters and her son, the rest of her family, but most of all ... “Simon,” she murmured.





to be continued - and yes, another cliffhanger!


Saturday, April 10, 2010 2:34 PM


You are so mean!

Saturday, April 10, 2010 2:34 PM


Of course in a nice way. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010 3:39 PM


You. Can't. Do. That. Can you? Are you? Will you? Please don't leave the weekend on a note like that - it's been way tooo long of a month already in RL.


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“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!]

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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!]