Badlands (chapter 1)
Sunday, October 23, 2005

I asked my wife if my second Firefly story should be a comedy, angsty romance, character study, or epic action/adventure. She said "yes."



"Hey, wait a ruttin’ minute!" Malcolm Reynolds’ hand landed on her shoulder and spun her around.

Inara shrugged the hand away, her eyes flashing. "I think I’ve done enough waiting." An instant later the cool control was back, like the glassy surface of a lake, swallowing the stone and spreading the ripples. "Captain Reynolds, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re intentionally stalling me."

"No, I know you’re a busy young lady. Stuff to-" His eyes wandered. "Do." A swallow, and he continued. "Just wanna make sure you know the plan’s all."

"Oh, is that so?" she answered sarcastically. "What I know is that I’m supposed to meet you here tomorrow. I also know that in the meantime this ‘plan’ of yours is probably going to get you killed-" Mal looked away, exasperated, but Inara caught his gaze again, moving closer. "along with who knows who else."

Inara waited, her eyes searching, pleading, but he dodged them.

"We got mouths to feed here," Mal said to the wall. "That means we gotta work."

A little of the coolness slipped away again, and she moved close enough to be heard with a whisper. "Mal, this is insane. You know that, right?"

His eyes now braved her shoes. "It’s just business."

"Business that doesn’t concern me, I suppose," she said, her breath touching his cheek.

"No more than yours concerns me." The captain turned his back now, the last of his nerve failing, and he deeply involved himself in doing nothing.

A few seconds later, Inara’s cool voice came over his shoulder. "Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow."

"We’ll be waiting," Mal said. And he walked away without looking back.


"I think we might be in trouble," Wash said, frantically flipping switches. He checked a panel to his right, and his brow knotted. "Yeah, we’re definitely in trouble." Wash snatched up the radio, and his voice rang through the ship. "Mal, you might wanna get up here."

A few seconds later the captain appeared in the doorway to find the pilot leaning back in his chair with his arms folded. "Wash, this is not the best time to be testin’ my nerves. What exactly’s going on up here?"

"Look around, captain. What do you see?"

Mal paused. "Nothing."

"Exactly." Wash spun and pointed to the console. "No controls, no nav-com..." he flipped some useless switches. "Hell, I can’t even turn on the lights."

"What do you-"

"Oh, wait, it gets better," Wash continued, turning back to face him. "We may not know where we’re going - but someone else does."

Mal rushed forward and looked at the darkened screens as though they held an answer. "You telling me somebody’s controlling my ship?"

"As soon as we left atmo I read an outgoing signal transmission, very faint, almost didn’t even see it. Then there was a course change and everything just - I don’t know - shut down." Wash threw up his hands. "Someone must want that cargo worse than we thought."

"This better be good," came a gruff voice from behind them. They turned to find Jayne in the doorway, covered in sweat, with a massive belt of bullets wrapped like a snake around his shoulders and an oversized wooden soup ladle in one hand. "Some things just shouldn’t be interrupted."

Wash slowly turned back to the lifeless console. "No, no I will not ask."

Mal seemed unfazed. "Jayne, anything happen here when we were on the ground back there?"

"Nuthin’ of note. Some kids playing in the cargo bay, maybe." He quickly continued, seeing Mal’s expression of alarm. "Oh I remembered what you said last time about how shootin’ to wound ain’t the same as... Anyway, I just run’em off."


"Yep, I see it captain," Kaylee said, pulling away a panel and sliding into the cargo compartment on her back. "Oh, look at you," she smiled in admiration. "Ain’t you a sight."

"Can you get to it?" Mal asked from the cargo bay, peering into the darkness.

"You can barely even see it," Book said, aiming a light over Kaylee’s head.

"Yeah... yeah, captain. Wait, did they wire this straight to the..." Her voice trailed off as Kaylee edged farther into the darkness.

"Zoe, can you hear me?" Mal asked into the radio.

"Sir?" came the response.

"You say something if anybody even breathes hard up there."

Kaylee had wriggled so far in now that only her boots were visible. For a few seconds, she grunted and twisted, grappling with her unseen enemy.

Then the boots were still. "Uh oh," she said.

"Kaylee?" Mal took two steps forward. "What’s uh oh? Talk to me about uh oh."

Book looked up at Mal from his prone position with no small amount of concern. "Uh oh," Book said.

"Big uh oh?" Mal asked.

Kaylee’s fingers curled over the edge of the compartment, and she came sliding out feet first. Her face emerged looking straight at Mal with her eyes wide.

In that moment of silence, an ominous, rhythmic beeping filled the cargo bay. "Uh oh," Kaylee said.

Mal reached down and grabbed her by the shirt with one fist, pulling her behind him, as he yelled over the radio with the other. "Everybody get strapped down! We’ve got a..." He searched in vain for an alternative. "A Uh Oh."

The three of them scrambled up the stairs, the beeps getting faster behind them. At the second level the captain paused, panting, and measured their options. The door was too far.

The beeps were almost a solid tone now. They were out of time.

"This way," Book said, pointing to the shuttle. They sprinted down the catwalk and plunged through the opening, the captain turning to seal the hatch.

It was jammed.


Simon looked at his sister. "River, are you ready?" he asked, knowing he would get no answer. Slowly, he pushed the needle into her arm and pressed the plunger.

The fire shot past her shoulder and straight to her heart.

River gave a tortured half smile. "Boom."

With a deafening roar, the floor lurched and flung the doctor across the room, slamming him headfirst into a wall of glass, sharp metal, and colored liquid.


Kaylee had just turned to face the hatch, which the captain was struggling to close, when the blast slammed it into his face. Mal staggered backward and crumpled.

The door was sealed.


"Dya feel that?" Jayne asked from his backside.

"Feel what?" Wash replied as Zoe helped him to his feet. "Oh, you mean the gigantic explosion?"

Jayne rolled his eyes.

Zoe grabbed the handset. "Captain. Sir, can you hear us?" Nothing. She leaned forward and peered into space. "We’re venting. We’ve got a hull breach."

There was a short silence.

"Well nobody try to help me up or nothin’," Jayne said.

"Wait, listen," Wash said, putting a finger to his mouth.

First there was only creaking metal; then a tinny hint of a girl’s voice.

Zoe grabbed the earpiece that was dangling beside the pilot’s chair.

"’s not working," Kaylee said.

"Kaylee, it’s Zoe."

"Zoe! Ai ya women wanle!"

"Calm down," Zoe said. "I gotcha loud and clear. Everything shiny?"

"Not so much," she answered in a shaking voice. "Book’s here. But captain’s busted up pretty bad, and I think we’re kinda stuck in the shuttle."

Zoe paused. "Sit tight for now."

"Kinda have to," Kaylee said.

Wash had made his way to the pilot’s chair. "Hey. Hey. Hey! Ladies and gentlemen, we have control and-" His hand flew to another console. "-and we’re gonna crash."

"Crash? Into what?" asked Jayne.

"Well, the nav-com’s still down so I can’t be too specific..." Wash shrugged and pointed straight ahead. The ship had begun to veer violently in the pull of gravity, and an arc of white terrain plunged into view. "That."

Zoe peered over his shoulder. "What are our options?"

"We’re limping here. I can’t even get the main engines back," Wash shook his head. "Pretty much crash or crash."

"Looks like they got us where they want us." Zoe put a finger to her earpiece. "Kaylee, you still there?"


"Kaylee’s... otherwise occupied at the moment," Book replied, glancing down at the girl who was cradling her captain’s head. "But we’re listening."

Wash’s voice came over the earpiece. "Listen, you’re going to have to launch. We’re about to hit atmo. When we do, that seal won’t hold."

Book’s hand went to his cross. "Understood. You’ll contact us when you reach the ground."

"Lao-tyen boo, I hope so," Wash answered.

"It was a statement, young man, not a question," the shepherd said.

Kaylee looked up. "Captain asked how I was," she smiled through tears.

"What did you tell him?"

"Shiny." The tears fell freely again. "A-OK."

Book laid a hand on her head. Then he sat down at the shuttle’s controls and tried to remember a part of his life he had worked hard to forget.


Malcolm Reynolds had been in his share of bar fights – fights of every kind - but this feeling was a rare breed. He raised his head with a great effort and found that he was strapped into a chair in a darkened shuttle. Book and Kaylee were slumped forward in front of him, still strapped into their own chairs.

Then he remembered. Serenity was off course. There was an explosion.

"Kaylee?" No answer. "Shepherd?" The controls sparked and someone moaned.

Mal freed himself and then the other two. Some nasty bumps, but they were still breathing. He found the door and pulled them outside, one on each arm.

The darkness gave way to a blinding sun and a rocky desert. Mal squinted as his eyes adjusted. A long path of black led to the spot where the shuttle came to rest. "Where in the gorram ‘verse?"

There was the click of a trigger being cocked behind his head, and Mal froze. "Whitefall," he sighed.

"Now there’s a man who knows how to make an entrance," came the voice from behind him along with a chorus of more guns being cocked.

Mal turned to see the wrong end of a half-dozen rifles, which was not nearly as disheartening as the woman who was holding a revolver in his face. "Always a pleasure, Patience."

Her eyes scanned him up and down. "God, you look like hell," she said.


Chapter 2


Sunday, October 23, 2005 9:17 AM


very nice!

Sunday, October 23, 2005 9:37 AM


star light, star bright, first star i see tonight...please bring me another installment of badlands!!! *crosses fingers for luck* please?!?


Sunday, October 23, 2005 9:46 AM


fantastic start. can't wait to see that's to come.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 12:10 PM


Oh Wow, EXCELLENT! Loved every bitty bit of this but poor Mal, to come face to face with Patience. Some people have the worst luck. Got to figure Inara is going to bend his ear something fierce if Patience leaves him in one piece at the end of this. Hope all our shiny heroes are okay, poor Simon is going to need some doctoring his own self I'm thinking. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:29 PM


I wish, oh do I wish! Sounds just like an episode.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 2:06 PM


We wish already! We wish!!

This was great. You wrote everyone very well.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 4:14 PM


I second that. Bring it on! By the sound of it, you have it all adventure, romance humor... you can't fail.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 6:05 PM


I'm thrilled you guys are enjoying it! I'll knock out chapter 2 asap.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 7:12 PM


Give us more!!!!!!!
And errr.. wooden soup ladel?

Monday, October 24, 2005 2:17 AM


yes, please more.

Friday, October 28, 2005 4:10 PM


Wow, I can't believe I missed this the first time around!This really pulls you right into the story!! Great stuff!

Well, off to chapter 2...

- Soul


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