Secrets - Part VII
Thursday, June 6, 2013

“She came in, picked it up and …” “Started screaming.” “And projecting. I couldn’t get it, not all of it, but there was death and destruction, in a lot of detail.” She shuddered faintly. [Maya. Post-BDM. There's more to things than meets the eye, and Mal feels like he's waiting for the boot to drop.]


Mal ran into the room, gun in hand, even as River’s scream still reverberated from the rafters.

“What the tyen shao duh is going on?” he demanded, then wished he hadn’t spoken quite so fiercely. The girl Molly was on the couch, wrapped in Freya’s arms and appearing terrified, while the look on his wife’s pale face was one of pain, although he couldn’t see any signs of physical injury.

Then he saw Inara, crouched in the corner next to River, who was holding her head and moaning, rocking backwards and forwards.

“River. River.” Inara spoke softly, trying to touch the young woman, to make some kind of contact, but she kept twisting away.

“Inara.” Freya spoke. “I need to … let me.”

Inara glanced across then quickly stood up, crossing to the couch and taking Freya’s place in one swift, elegant movement.

Freya immediately went to River’s side and reached out, grabbing the young psychic’s wrists. Her knuckles went white, showing the effort she was having to make to hold River still.

“River. Xiao nu.” Freya’s voice was almost a whisper, a gasp, but Mal knew she wasn’t just saying the words. “Let me in.”

River lifted anguished eyes and they locked gazes for what seemed like an eternity.

Behind him Simon clattered into the room, and Mal had to hold him back. “No, you don’t,” he said. “Let Frey deal with this.”

“She’s my sister!”

“And it’s working. Look.”

River was indeed stopping the keening, but the concentration didn’t break.

“Any idea what set this off?” Mal went on. “Why albatross took it into her head to have an episode right now?”

“No.” Simon was staring at the two women, answering distractedly. “Bethie said River was in pain … Mal, I have to go to her.”

“Not yet.” Jayne spoke from the open French windows.

“You heard?” Mal asked.

Jayne nodded and tapped his temple. “Riv. Kinda got this connection. Diyu knows what it felt like to the others.”

River suddenly slumped as if all her strings had been cut, and her eyes closed. Freya caught her, saying, “Jayne.”

In a heartbeat he was cradling his wife, lifting her up in his strong embrace. “Infirmary?”

Freya nodded, the lines still deep on her face. “She’s only sleeping, but probably best if Simon checks her over.”

The big man nodded and strode out with his burden, Simon following as close as he could.

Mal turned to Inara and Molly. “Why don’t you take the girl back to her folks?” he suggested. “They’re probably as concerned by that noise as the rest of us. Sam’s probably had to tie ‘em down to keep ‘em in the kitchen.”

“Good idea,” Inara agreed, grateful he was trying to make a joke, even a bad one.

“But I spilled your tea,” Molly said quickly, even as she was urged to stand. “The carpet –”

“Can wait. And it’s had a lot worse. Come on. Your mother will be worried we’ve been doing something unspeakable to you.”

Molly gave a small smile and allowed herself to be taken from the room.

As the door was closing Mal turned back and went down onto his heels next to his wife. “Hey. You okay?”


“Wanna try that again and not lie to me?”

She smiled wanly. “I’ll be fine.”

“Sure you will.” He lifted her to her feet. “But who doesn’t want a hug from a roguish captain now and again?” He suited the word to the deed and wrapped her in his arms, encircling her with his love and mentally reinforcing it as much as he could.

Freya sighed and relaxed a little, his warmth soothing her troubled soul. “I’ll take what I can get,” she murmured, slightly muffled by his chest.

Eventually Mal asked gently, his breath moving the short curls behind her ears, “Any idea what that was about? Or is it just a bad day?”

“No. Well, yes, but I think something triggered it.”

He looked down into her face, lifting her chin to gaze into her eyes. “Better tell me about it.”

She nodded, letting him ease her to the couch so they could both sit, still entangled in each other. Taking a moment to marshal her wits, she said, “I think it was the pendant.”


Freya nodded. “A big red stone in a gold basket.” She indicated where it had skittered when River threw it from herself as if it had burned with all the fires of hell. “She came in, picked it up and …”

“Started screaming.”

“And projecting. I couldn’t get it, not all of it, but there was death and destruction, in a lot of detail.” She shuddered faintly.

“Shit. You think Bethie picked up on it too?”

“Probably. Almost certainly. But children are resilient.” She was trying to reassure him, he knew. “And she knows her Auntie River.”

“So do you but it hurt you.”

“I needed to keep my mind open to help River break the connection. I think … I hope Bethie’s walls went straight up.” Freya took a deep breath, letting it seep slowly from her nostrils. “But it wasn’t … it was pretty disconcerting having all that forced into your brain, even second hand.”

“That bad?”

“Like the end of the war.”

“Now I wonder why you’d say that?” Mal mused, squeezing her a little tighter. “But why would our crazy lunatic assassin have that kind of reaction?”


“Do what now?”

“Or clairscience. Some people used to call it remote viewing.”

“Okay, I understood most of those words, but I’m still in the dark here. And why’d you just smile?”

“Because most of the experiments I’ve read about take place in the pitch black.”

“Experiments. Okay, I’ll bite. What kind of experiments, and what the hell is psycho … whatever.”

“Psychometry. Basically it’s using an object to tell the past, or the future, or to find the owner.”

“Well, the Lecombs ain’t been gruesomely murdered, far as I know, and I’m guessing finding them ain’t an issue. What else is it like to be?”

Freya shrugged, moving slightly against his chest. “I don’t know, Mal. It might be the past – we don’t know what happened to the stone, for instance. It could have a bloody history.”

“But you don’t think it’s that.” He knew his wife, seeing as he was intimately familiar with all her moods.

She sighed a quiet laugh. “No. I think this is something to do with the future. The flavour of River’s projections …” She shook her head.

“Something specific?”


“About our future?”

“I don’t know.” She was frustrated, that was obvious.

“Do you think River might, once she wakes up?” he asked, stroking her back with his fingertips, knowing the action on her tattoo always calmed her.

“Somehow I doubt it. What happened to her was like … emotional overload. She may not remember it at all.”

“Then we destroy it. Get Kaylee to hit it with one of her big hammers. Or stick it in her furnace.”

“That won’t work.”

“Why not? If it doesn’t exist then that future can’t be written on it.”

She stirred uneasily. “Mal …”


“When you said written on it …” She bit her lip.

“You seeing something?”

“More of a feeling. Information. Names? Or locations?” She wasn’t really talking to him right now. “Danger? To us? No. Not … others. To others?” She refocused. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “There’s something, but I can’t get a hold of it.”

“Then Hank can do some research on the gorram thing, find out if it’s dripping red like you say, or if there’s something else about it.”

Freya sighed again. “You’re going to ask River anyway, aren’t you?”

He looked into her hazel eyes. “To keep you safe, yeah.” His mouth tightened. “This is a new thing for River, ain’t it? This psycho-thing.”

This time she didn’t correct him, fully aware he knew the word and was just being Mal. “I don’t know. We may not have seen it, that’s all. Simon might know.”

“On this scale, then.”

“Oh, yes. I think we’d have noticed otherwise.”

“’Cause if she’s started picking up on the emotional afterlife of things, there’s a lot of Jayne’s guns are gonna have to be buried somewhere deep.”

Freya had to laugh. “Oh, I think I’ll let you tell him that.”

“I’m captain. And I think it’s time I learned about delegation.” He grinned then let go of her. “Where’d that stone go?”


Mal had sent Freya back to the ship to wait for River to wake up while he went to talk to Bethie first, then Molly. He kidded himself it was in order of least importance, but the truth was he just wanted to make sure the kids were safe. Ethan was troubled, picking up on the feelings if not the actual thoughts themselves.

“Hurt,” he said softly, wrapped in his father’s arms.

“I know, big feller. And I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

Mal sat down slowly on the floor of the nursery, still keeping hold of his son but suddenly with all the other children clustered around him, Jesse on his knee, Bethie standing behind him with her arms around his neck. “I’m sure your Auntie River’s sorry too.”

“Not her fault, either,” Bethie said in his ear. She was trembling faintly. “It was the hwoon dahn who owned it.”

Mal twisted his head enough to look her in the eye. “I’ll let you off this time, short stub, but you use words like that again and I’ll be telling your Ma.”

She leaned her face against his cheek. “Sorry, Uncle Mal.”

“Can’t say I disagree with you, though.”

Bethie almost purred, then said, “Can I hold it?”


“I might –”

“No, you won’t. If what your Auntie Frey felt was even half what your Auntie River went through, forget it.”

“I can help. I want to.”

“I know. And I’m grateful. And I can see a time in the future where maybe I’ll be looking to you to do just that. But you’ll be fully grown with kids of your own before I do.”

She giggled.

He’d spent another ten minutes with them, and by the time he left they all seemed calmer, with Bethie about to read one of her favourite stories to them, all about dinosaurs and pirates. Ethan, though, watched his father leave, a troubled look on his young face.

Molly, unfortunately, couldn’t give him any more information on the pendant.

“I don’t know it, sir,” she said, looking at it as if it might bite her.

Mal slipped it back into his pocket. “But it must have belonged to Mrs Lecomb?”

Molly shrugged. “I know all her things, and it’s not one of her usual pieces. Perhaps it was new.”

“Maybe.” But there was no point in pursuing it. Instead he looked at Mrs Boden. “I hate to ask, but when will we eat?”

She put down the knife she’d been pretending to cut vegetables with. “An hour?”

“Sounds good. I’d be grateful, though, if you’d feed the kids first up in the nursery.”

Mrs Boden nodded. “Of course, sir.”

Still feeling like there was something he should know but hadn’t yet been told, Mal headed for Serenity.

Outside the air felt clean, clear, and he stood still, taking deep breaths to try and get his head straight. There was still warmth in the speeding sun, but he knew there’d be a chill by nightfall. That was one of the things Frey always complained about, how every planet they landed on was in the middle of a different season. She didn’t like it, although he found it pleasantly surprising. Lazarus was heading down towards winter, with still a few weeks of autumn left, but the smells and feel of the place always reminded him of Shadow.

It was something of a shock to realise he’d now spent more than half his life away, no matter there wasn’t anything to go back to. He’d left home barely twenty, to fight a war he thought was righteous (still did, except in the middle of the night when the dreams came to plague him), his Ma waving him goodbye. If he regretted anything, that was one of the biggest, that his mother hadn’t ever had the chance to see the man he’d grown into, the family he’d somehow managed to acquire, and all ‘cause of that day in the shipyard, and seeing that old Firefly sitting out on the edge. Pretty much like himself, he always thought. Broken, dirty, but still with some love left in her.

He smiled at his fanciful imaginings, wondering what Zoe would say if he told her that. It had taken her a long time to warm to their new home, and he was never going to forget the look on her face that first day when he showed her his purchase. Only he’d seen the possibilities beyond the grime and the grease and the whatever that lay in the middle of the cargo bay floor, to the hope and the freedom and promise of peace. He grunted a laugh. Not that things had been particularly peaceful since.

Still, this wasn’t getting anything done, and he strode across the grounds towards his ship. As he approached he couldn’t help thinking about Freya had said, and wondered why he sometimes felt like a character in a play on the Cortex, not knowing what was about to happen, but sure the third act was going to bring something bad.

Movement some distance away had his reaching for his gun, but it wasn’t Philo Cobb or any of his mob of cutthroats, desperadoes and other assorted bounty hunters. This seemed to be an ancient six-wheeled transport, bulky and dull with rust, so unless it was some kind of Trojan Horse it wasn’t likely to be dangerous.

Kaylee ambled down the ramp. “Looks like it’s those parts, cap’n.” She smiled, her hands thrust into the pockets on her coverall. “I recognise the Moose from the yard.”


The smile widened to a grin. “S’what that thing’s called. It’s kinda cobbled together from a lot of other vehicles, and sold out here on the rim. This one looks like it mighta been one of the first, though.”

“Surely looks older than Serenity.” He added, knowing it would amuse her, “A’course, it ain’t so well looked after.”

Kaylee preened. “Well, me and my girl got an understanding.” She stood straighter as the Moose pulled up next to the ship, then asked, “River is going to be okay, isn’t she?”

“You know how these things go,” Mal said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Just a bad day.”

“Only she was fine earlier.”

He smiled for her, then pushed her gently towards where a grizzled older man was climbing down from the Moose’s cab. “Go on. Best take delivery, afore he decides to sell ‘em somewhere else.”

Xie xie, cap’n!” She hurried away, holding out her hand to shake in a friendly fashion.

He watched her talking for a few moments, marvelling at how easily she got on with folks, then headed into the dark interior of the cargo bay.

Hank was waiting for him, fidgeting from one foot to the other. “Mal, we gotta talk.”

“I was going to see how River is. Can’t it wait?”

“No.” Hank ran a hand through his untidy hair, making it stand on end. “No, I don’t think it will. I think I found out what the Bodens are hiding. And it doesn’t look good.”

to be continued


Friday, June 7, 2013 3:22 AM


really creepy.

Loving this, Mal taking the time to care for his family before anything else, always the priorities.

I cant wait to find out whats going on here.

Friday, June 7, 2013 1:43 PM


So glad to see you're writing here again and have another amazing story - you've been missed. Looking forward to more.


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[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]