A LION’S MOUTH (01) Part (01)
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Takes place right after the Serenity Movie. They take off, fly through the storm, the buffer panel falls off and…here’s what happens next.


(01) A LION’S MOUTH Part (01)


Takes place right after the Serenity Movie. They take off, fly through the storm, the buffer panel falls off and…here’s what happens next.

Next Part

Author Note: There is now a 'Version 2.0' of this section. Most of it is the same, but a couple of scenes were modified based on reader feedback. If you'd rather read the new version, click this link.

* * *

Jayne was in fine form, holding forth on the bridge, coffee cup in hand. He had a captive audience for his story, because River was at the helm and Zoe was supervising River’s pilotage, and neither could leave her post. It was one of his favorite anecdotes, and he had the timing down perfectly, on account of he’d told this story to just about every woman he ever picked up on his planetside searches for play. He was surprised hisownself that he hadn’t already told it to the crew of Serenity.

“You have,” River thought with vehemence. “Four times. You just don’t remember.” She rolled her eyes, but Jayne didn’t see—River was looking out towards the Black, and Jayne’s attention was focused on Zoe.

“…So I then says to him,” Jayne wound up for the punchline, “ ‘Show me where them thrusters is at, an’ I’ll show you the fast way to get to Beylix.’ ”

He looked expectantly at Zoe. “Hmm.” Zoe looked dully abstracted. She was wrapped up in her own thoughts.

Jayne wasn’t about to let his moment of glory pass unheeded. “Don’t you think that was pretty cunning?” he persisted.


“I’m talkin’ at you Zoe!”

Zoe shook herself. “Oh, yeah, Jayne. Right.” She attempted to pay a little closer attention. What had Jayne been saying?

“Well don’t you think that way was more better?”

Zoe looked unimpressed.

“The augmenting adjective is superfluous with the comparative form,” River said, not even turning from the controls.

Zoe and Jayne regarded River. As Zoe’s gaze passed over the window, she remembered something she needed to tell River.

“River, our course runs us near the Lion’s Mouth.”

“Lions? Here in the black?” Jayne asked incredulously.

“It’s an asteroid field, Jayne,” Zoe replied. “Well, more like rubble—hundreds of thousands of rocks, most of them big as Serenity. It’s the result of a terrible accident—”

“No accident,” River inserted, at the same time that Jayne asked, “What happened?”

“—a terraforming accident,” Zoe continued. “Planet Leo, ’bout twenty years ago, it was undergoing later stages of the terraforming process, when somethin’ went wrong. A massive explosion.”

Jayne was curious. “Like what happened on Shadow during the war?”

Zoe gave Jayne a dark look. “Alliance didn’t bomb Leo. And Leo wasn’t settled yet, so it wasn’t—the death of a whole planet, like Shadow. But a big part of Leo shattered, ended up strewn around in a massive belt. River, you steer clear of the Lion’s Mouth. It’s too dangerous for a novice pilot like you to venture in.”

* * *

Kaylee and Simon were in the engine room. It was Kaylee’s favorite place on Serenity, and if was possible for her to love it more, she did now, ever since Simon had taken to passing most of his spare time in the engine room with her. Although “passing time” was a pretty mild way of putting it, considering what they spent much of their time doing. Still, Cap’n had said that it was a good idea for everyone on Serenity’s crew to learn a bit more about one another’s jobs, so that in case someone was unable, for whatever reason, another crew member would at least have a notion what to do. At least, that was the excuse that Kaylee used for luring Simon into the engine room at every opportunity. He didn’t seem to object to his new role as apprentice mechanic in the least. Right now Kaylee was running through a routine checklist of engine functions. Simon was paying close attention—at least he was staring at Kaylee’s mouth with intense interest. Whether or not he had comprehended a single word that mouth had been saying was another matter. Kaylee smiled at him and decided to take another approach to Simon’s mechanical education. “You want me to show you how to keep the works runnin’?” she asked, sweetly suggestive.

* * *

The cargo bay was unusually full. On any other transport ship, this state of affairs would have been normal, but the crew of Serenity was more accustomed to a token load of a few crates, while the real cargo rested in the various nooks and hiding holes behind certain panels in the bay and throughout the ship.

Mal was busy in the cargo bay, checking each of the many crates to be sure it was securely stowed, and checking each crate’s ID code against an electronic list he held in his hand.

Inara entered the catwalk above the bay from her shuttle. She looked over the cargo bay, and Mal. She was struck by the unusual quantity of goods and Mal’s unusual activity, so she asked as she descended towards Mal’s level, “So, this cargo is completely legal?”

Mal looked up at her and gestured with his list. “Got papers on it and everything.” He continued with his work, tightening straps and checking fittings. “Kinda shocking, ain’t it?”

“Are you turning over a new leaf?” She reached the cargo bay and stood level with Mal.

“What else am I gonna do, Inara—load up contraband while we’re docked at a Fed repair base?” The Operative had seen them through the refit at a Federal base. Mal never thought he’d see the day that Serenity was seen to by the Feds. He bent over to check a lower fitting and winced in pain. He still wasn’t really healed from Miranda. Properly speaking, the violence occurred on Mr Universe’s moon (known to Alliance chart makers as “Ferdinand Moon”), but Mal, like everyone on Serenity, still thought of the whole series of events as “Miranda.” He shook off the pain and moved on to the next crate. “But yes, I am turning over a new leaf. I actually renewed the ship’s registration—my pilot’s license—everything.”

“You’ve been flying without a license for…how long?” Inara asked.

“Oh, it was all legit when I first bought Serenity, years ago. I didn’t turn to a life of crime right outta the gate, you know. Ran small cargo jobs—legal cargo—for a good long while before I realized we were getting poorer than poor.” Inara realized with a bit of shock that although she had often wondered what Mal had been like before the war, before his life was shattered at Serenity Valley, it simply hadn’t occurred to her to imagine Mal on Serenity without the thieving. Mal was continuing, “Then the Holden Boys offered me more money than I’d ever been paid to run uncustomed goods to Boros. We ate well after that run, for the first time in months….”

His simple story gave Inara a lot of food for thought. She really had never heard much about Mal’s early days on the ship, before she first came aboard and rented the shuttle. Had he been a “legitimate businessman” then? She knew, in an abstract sort of way, that Mal had turned to smuggling and other illicit activities as a means of getting by. Times were hard. He seemed to have a talent for mayhem and she realized she had assumed that he took to violence and crime naturally. Now, hearing him speak quite casually, almost cheerfully, about the hardships of Serenity’s early years, of a crew literally starving under his command, Inara realized a re-assessment was in order. To what degree had his thieving ways been schooled into him by harsh necessity? Who was the real man underneath?

Mal had stopped speaking. He looked toward her with a hint of a smile, and noticed she was looking at him in a kinda disconcertin’ way, as if she was tryin’ to see right through his skin. “You know,” he continued, “I actually feel a bit naked—uh, you know, exposed, with not havin’ nothin’ to hide here.”

The word “naked” hung uncomfortably in the air for a moment. Then Inara smoothly broke the awkward moment. “You once told me that having cargo made us a target for every other scavenger out there.”

* * *

Serenity moved through the Black, approaching the farthest reaches of the debris field left by the shattering of Planet Leo. River dutifully piloted the ship clear of any larger chunks of rock, but the smaller particles of dust and grit would nonetheless give some punishment to the outer hull and interfere with the sensors. This was not a major shipping lane, and there was not another vessel in sight. But sight was only one of the senses. An acute observer might have noticed something, less than a shadow, a mere disturbance in space, noticeable more for what was not there than for what was. A roughly triangular shape occluded the distant stars and planets. It was moving in Serenity’s wake, pacing her.

* * *

Mal was a bit surprised. Was Inara actually quoting him? Never knew she was paying such close attention. And did she just say “us”? He knew better than to get his hopes up, so he blinked himself back to the present and said, “Yeah, well, I know how scavengers think. Being one my own self.”

“Mal, you’re far more than just a scavenger.” Inara’s eyes were shining. She moved a little closer to him and continued, “You shouldn’t think of yourself that way. You really are so much more.”

Right. She had his full attention now. She was lookin’ at him like he was some kinda— 英勇的 狗娘养的 人 yīngyǒngde gǒuniángyǎngde rén. She opened her mouth to speak again. “I’ve seen you—.” Serenity gave a sudden, violent lurch, throwing Mal into Inara’s arms. They both fell to the deck.

Had Mal just launched himself on top of her in the heat of passion? Inara wondered for a moment. She closed her eyes, ready to be kissed. But Mal was already in Captain mode. He instantly picked himself up and tore up the stairs to the bridge to find out what the hell was going on. What was going on? Inara wondered vaguely. Why had Mal been so eager to get away from her, when she felt like this? Had the earth moved? Or was that just Serenity?

* * *

Mal came pounding onto the bridge to find Jayne sitting on his 屁股 pìgu amidst a collection of rolling coffee cups and plastic dinosaurs that had been thrown to the floor by the sudden lurch. Zoe was on her feet, hanging onto the back of the pilot’s seat.

“What in the 九地狱 jiǔ dìyù was that all about?” Mal demanded.

“ ’Xactly what I just said,” Jayne put in, picking himself up out of the wreckage.

River did not take her eyes off the flying. “They come out of the black, little ones that you almost don’t see. You can’t see them but they’re still there. Always there.”

“Well, that sure clears it up,” Mal said. “What—”

Mal grabbed the back of the chair as Serenity lurched again in response to River’s sudden movement of the yoke.

“Won’t stop. You think they’re gone but they’ll never stop,” she whispered. “The ones with teeth, the cat playing with the mouse, playing—” she gave a creepy little smile “—five, four, three, two, one, tag! You’re it!”

River suddenly put the ship into high gear, engaging the thrusters, and using the attitude jets to maneuver them precariously close to a cluster of rocks, most of them much smaller than the ship. River twisted them through the dangerous labyrinth of the Lion’s Mouth Asteroid Field, maneuvering Serenity like a fighter jet. Mal got his sea legs on and stood directly behind her seat. He was focused entirely on the survival of his ship. He didn’t dare interrupt—his piloting skills were in no way up to taking over the controls in such a hazardous place at such a hazardous speed, and he didn’t want to distract River into a fatal error. She was speaking just as wildly as she was flying.

“Loss and possession, death and life are one! There falls no Shadow where there shines no Sun. Blue Sun!” The last words came out as a mad howl. A fine moment for River to start one of her crazy times, Mal thought. He briefly locked eyes with Zoe. No, she hadn’t seen it coming. “If the Sun breed maggots in a dead dog—”

Jayne looked disgusted. He didn’t want no truck with maggots and dead dogs.

“—being a god kissing carrion—” River turned to Mal, to his great consternation, as they veered precariously close to a chunk of rock large enough to knock off the cargo bay. She stared into his eyes and spoke directly to him. “Have you a daughter?”

“A whabba who? No, River. Just fly the damn ship, sweetheart.”

“Let her not walk in the Sun,” River intoned, mercifully re-directing her gaze to the viewscreen and control panel. “They won’t stop. You try to get away but they won’t stop. They’ll take it back,” she whispered.

Mal and Zoe exchanged a look. Could he slip into the co-pilot seat while Zoe tackled River and hit the button to transfer the helm to the co-pilot flight desk? The view out the bridge window was sickening, as River executed barrel rolls through narrow corridors and shaved past chunks of rock large enough to shatter Serenity. “You can’t go where she can’t see you. Peek-a-boo!” River’s giggle was far more disconcerting than her Cassandra-type wailing. “Here’s something you can’t do.” She slammed a control hard over and Serenity spun on a dime, narrowly missing a jagged chunk of shiny obsidian the size of a house. “I am like a leaf on the—”

Mal saw Zoe eyeing River darkly. Delusions of Wash? How much had River picked up from watching Wash fly? “Move him into the sun,” River chanted. “Its gentle rays awoke him once.” Her talk, and her flying, grew wilder and wilder. “Let others hail the rising sun!” Mal’s only comfort, if you could call it that, was that she hadn’t hit anything yet. “Two by two…hands of blue! Two by two! Hands of Blue!” River turned to Mal suddenly and said, with perfect lucidity, “Trying to lose them.”

Mal had nearly given up making any sense of her wild spew, but this was the most comprehensible thing she had said, so Mal latched on to it. “Trying to lose who?”

“They’re following us. They won’t stop. They’ll keep coming, and coming…”

Mal slid into the co-pilot’s seat and started running a comprehensive diagnostic, starting with external scans and sensors.

* * *





英勇的 狗娘养的 人 yīngyǒngde gǒuniángyǎngde rén [heroic son of a bitch]

屁股 pìgu [butt]

九地狱 jiǔ dìyù [nine hells]

Next Part


Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:17 AM


Hmm...looks like I may have succeeded in posting my first ever fanfic.

Thanks to mal4prez, bytemite, and others who offered advice in formatting and posting.

I tried to follow their good advice, looks like with partial success.

Comments and constructive criticism warmly welcomed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:54 AM


wow! very well written, great cliff habger, and just enough details to tantalize. more, please?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 9:31 AM


Welcome, nice to read your first fanfiction story ebfiddler, hopefully it will be the first of many. Very nice start and have to say most disturbing how the Hands of Blue now seem to have stealth technology. Gulp!
Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 3:27 PM


Yeah, this is good. :) And wow, that's the first time my browser has ever showed the chinese translations right. Interesting.

I particularly like the first part with Jayne telling his story, and River's ranting at the end.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 5:53 PM


Gotta say...some mighty awesome intro work here, ebfiddler, especially the apparent arrival of a Hands of Blue stealth ship on Serenity's rear end. Lots of juicy tension :D

Still, I have to note I personally felt Inara, mainly in how her mental monologue didn't flow quite right in how she begins to clue in that Mal wasn't born a rogue or didn't fall into such behaviour easily. For me, it's too sudden and shallow if Inara's truly believed Mal was a loveable rogue from Day 1. Though really? Inara's known Mal for something like 2 or more years, and has been involved in enough of his capers that this "revelation" made Inara seem rather ditzy or spacey if she's coming to realize Mal probably gave up his morals in some areas to keep the crew fed and sheltered. Still, just an opinion :D

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 7:16 PM


Very cool and a nice start, though loner chapters would be nice. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:34 PM


I like this, Hands of Blue always interest me.

solid start

Friday, May 13, 2011 2:56 PM


Thank you all for the feedback. Much appreciated.

Myownknight--I see you’re a new author, too. (running off to read River’s Diary)

Ali D and Platonist—Blue Hands are a part of my long-term story arc. We’ll be seeing more of them.

Bytemite—Glad you liked River’s ranting. A great compliment, since my earlier draft of this read “River: (wild ranting).” And glad you liked the Jayne scene. When I started, I didn’t know if I could even write Jayne, but it turns out he’s great fun to write dialog for.

Nutluck—longer chapters? How long is good? This posting is about 2400 words. The whole Lion’s Mouth story is about 10,000. I decided to divide it into 4 parts. Maybe I should reconsider. Any thoughts about how long a chapter should be? This is where I really don’t know what I’m doing. I haven’t written in chapters, just scenes, so the chapter divisions are very much after-the-fact.

BlueEyedBrigadier—Thanks much! This is exactly the kind of feedback I’m looking for. And yeah, I kinda agree about the Inara monologue. I wrote this story originally in script form, with lots of dialog and very little else, and when I decided later to go back and re-write in standard prose, I added all the thoughts, etc., and this bit didn’t come off so well. I think the point I wanted to make in the scene is that Inara is feeling a strong physical attraction and at the same time she is emotionally conflicted. Recent events at Miranda have thrown her off-balance. Still, I think that despite knowing each other for 2+ years, Mal and Inara are both so good at hiding their real selves behind masks (tough guy thief and Companion) that they have a LOT of opening up to do before either can truly know the other. This was meant to be Inara taking a small step towards understanding why Mal is the way he is. (as Mal just took a small step in actually talking about his past.) Sorry I made her come off as ditzy or spacey—not my intent.
Now, if only I could get that kind of feedback before posting the stories! ;-) Beta, anyone?

And, yeah, there’ll be more…working tonight on revising part 2.

Friday, May 13, 2011 8:05 PM


pretty shiny!


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ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (20)
“Vaccinations?” Jayne asked, with a stupid expression. “Fer chickens?”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (19)
“Inara, I ain’t willing for you to bribe—” “Who said anything about bribes?” “What other form of persuasion you plannin’ on using? I’m not sure I like this plan.” “Mal, I can be very persuasive,” Inara replied. After a short beat, she added, with a touch of asperity, “Fully clothed.”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (18)
Extreme measures as more things go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (17)
In which things begin to go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (16)
Waiting for the other shoe to drop

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (15)
Serenity enters the Core, Mal and Inara sleep together, and Simon and Ip come up with a plan.

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (14)
In which we find out more about Miranda

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (13)
Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (12)
Mal tells Inara a folktale from Shadow

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (11)
Inara and Zoe have a little palaver