The Fish Job: Chapter 9
Friday, January 20, 2006

Mal’s monsters


Chapter 1.

Back to Chapter 8.

* * * * *

Mal woke up with a throbbing headache, cuffed to a chair. Ai ya, was he sick of this kind of thing happening. What he didn’t expect was Jayne, sitting across a small white table from him. Unbound.

“Hello Mal.”


Jayne leaned forward with his elbows on his table while he waited for Mal to come around completely.

“OK, Jayne, you wanna tell me why you ain’t helping me out’a this chair?”

“I ain’t got keys to the cuffs.”

“Fair ‘nough.” Mal took a long look around the room. Gray carpet, white walls. Standard Alliance cell. “You wanna tell me where we are?”

“I think you can figure that one out yourself.”

Mal let his long look settle on Jayne. “You wanna tell me how we got here?”

“Seems you made a li’l mistake. Somethin’ about a peckin’ order.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Ain’t no joke Mal.”

“What did you do?”

“Plannin’ for my future. Ten percent just ain’t gonna cut it. Specially when all we do is run around cleanin’ up botched jobs. Jobs that you screwed up cause you got a hardon for goin’ after any Alliance bonehead looks at ya sideways. Ten percent of a big damn mess is a helluva lot less than the reward I’ll be gettin’ today.”

“Did you tell them - ” Mal stopped himself. “Have you been tellin’ tales about our passengers?”

“Give it up Mal. Them two are lan dong xi. They done nothing but brought trouble on us all. Best thing to do is send ‘em back where they come from.”

“The rest of the crew - ” Mal stopped with a sinking feeling; something unpleasant was creeping around the edges of his memory. Something about the rest of the crew, the crew he had left, that was.

“It’s a good deal, Mal. It’s all about the timin’.” Jayne leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Everybody off the boat right now is clear, and the Feds won’t do nothin’ to Kaylee but send her home. The only one losin’ out on this, besides those two gorram prigs, is you. I guess the lesson you get is that you should’a spaced me when you had the chance.”

Mal missed the opportunity for regrets on that score. All he could think of was Kaylee being dragged through a dark doorway. “Kaylee…” he breathed.

“Thanks for the good times Cap’n.” Jayne got up and tapped the door behind Mal, which opened for him. Jayne walked out and two men came in, one carrying a club.

“That hundan took Kaylee.” Mal said softly. He noticed, too late, that Jayne was gone. He tried to twist back toward the door. “Jayne Cobb, I am gonna find you and I am gonna rip your -” A hard blow cut him off. * * *

“Increase the dosage. Place another electrode… here.”

* * *

Mal’s interrogator sat across a spotless white table, looking impatient. “Where is River Tam?” he asked Mal again.

If they want to know where she is, they must not have her yet, Mal thought. He sure as hell wasn’t gonna help them. He’d been through worse beatings before; Niska would put these guys to shame. “Which river is that?” he asked innocently. The questioner sighed and waved off the guard before the club could swing down on Mal again.

They had beaten his face and body, but the worst pain was growing inside his head. Climbing from his spine inward. Like a spider. A big fat spider, spinning webs that shimmered and tingled and then turned to fire. Suddenly he had to squint his eyes against the bright fluorescent light reflecting off the polished table top.

The Fed wasn’t concerned with Mal’s discomfort. “You do make things difficult for yourself. Very well.” He spoke into a comm unit. “Bring her in.”

Mal heard steps coming down a corridor behind him. Two guards dragged in a limp body and dropped her on the floor beside the table. It was Kaylee, hands cuffed behind her back, clothes torn, face bruised and bloody, eyes staring vacantly in shock.

“Look what we found, Captain Reynolds.”

A wave of horror passed through Mal. Not Kaylee. Please not Kaylee.

“We found her in a building in Morristown. Appears a few low lifes were trying to have their way with her. I don’t think we got there in time. She’s not looking so good, is she?”

Pure hatred overcame the horror. Mal looked up at the Fed, and felt the cuffs bite into his wrists as he strained against them.

“Private.” The interrogator turned to the guard with the club. “Find something imaginative to do with this little lady.”

If Mal could kill with a look… “Don’t you fucking dare!” He spat out the words.

“And how do you plan on stopping us?”

The guard removed Kaylee’s cuffs. He spread her right hand palm down on the floor, then he pulled a knife from his belt.

“Excellent idea, Private. Ten fingers. It could take a while to get through them all.”

“Oh god don’t do this. Please don’t do this.”

“River Tam?”

“No. No.” Mal shook his head.

The guard slammed the blade of the knife down on the base of Kaylee’s thumb. She came out of her shock and screamed.

Mal reeled. “Stop! Oh god. I don’t know where River is.”

“So she was on your ship?”

“Yes.” Shenme.

“And her brother?”


“Where did they get on?”

“Persephone. Tiansha de emo.”

“You see, it’s all about proper motivation.”

With a sense of unreality Mal heard the whole story come out of his mouth. The Tams, the preacher, Dobson. Suiting up River and Simon in spacesuits to hide them from Harken. Ariel. Jubal Early. They left Kaylee huddled on the floor next to him the whole time, clutching her wounded hand to her chest and sobbing. Just let Kaylee go. Help her, treat her, and let her go. Please.

Where’s the rest of your crew? they asked. They brandished the knife again, and Mal heard himself telling them about Zoe and Wash, the baby coming, on this very planet. Book probably still with them. Inara on her way to safety and security. Not for long.

It seemed hours before the questions ended. They took him out of the chair and cuffed his wrists to the wall above his head. No sitting. No resting. Kaylee was left on the floor. No mercy.

He hung from his wrists, his legs wouldn’t hold him. Did he really just tell them everything? Did he really tell them about the Tams? About Zoe and Wash? “I’m so sorry,” he whispered into the darkness. Then he gasped: River was standing in front of him, clear light shining on her from nowhere. This light didn’t hurt his eyes.

“It’s OK,” she said. “We’re nearby now, I can help you.”

“How did you…?” Mal shook his head. “It don’t matter. Get out.”

River stepped closer to him. “You didn’t need to do this to yourself.” She put her hands up to his face. He pulled away at first, but the bruises didn’t hurt when she touched him. Her fingers felt cool. Soothing. “I could show you how to control it, but I’m afraid they’ll know I’m here.” She stared up at his wrists; Mal felt the cuffs let go and he collapsed to the floor. The relief was so great he couldn’t even ask her how she did that.

“Don’t be afraid.” She was crouching next to him, touching his face again.

“I told ‘em everything. They’re gonna find you. I’m sorry.”

“No, they won’t find me. They don’t know anything yet. You have to believe me.”

Mal turned his head toward the now unconscious Kaylee. “Help her. Please. Get her out.” River looked over her shoulder at Kaylee, then turned back to Mal.

“Captain. Captain, look at me. This isn’t real. Kaylee is fine. They’re playing with your mind.”

“Don’t you get it? I told ‘em everythin’ you gorram fool. s’too late.”

“It’s never too late. Trust me.” She put her hands over his eyes. The cool soothing feeling spread back through his head, eased the burning inside.

“I don’t understand,” Mal said.

“There’s no time. But we’re coming for you. You have to hold on. Jayne will help.”

“Jayne?” Mal actually laughed. “Jayne turned me in!”

River moved her hands to the side of Mal’s face and forced him to look her in the eye. “Never give up Captain. It’s important. Don’t tell them anything, and don’t stop fighting. Ever. OK?”

She held his gaze until he nodded. “I’ll try,” he said. He blinked and she was gone.

Mal crawled to Kaylee and gathered her in his arms. Then white lightening flashed in his head.

* * *

“How many milligrams has he been given? Fine, let’s see if we can finish this up. Increase the voltage on the marked contacts. Charge it up.”

* * *

A bright light shone from the darkness, blinding him, scorching into his brain. Simon’s face moved in front of the light.

“How do you feel Captain?”

“Hell.” Mal squinted. “Kaylee?”

“What about her?”

“She okay?”

“I think you know the answer to that.” Simon stepped away and the light cut into Mal’s eyes again. They were in the infirmary on Serenity, Mal laying on the exam table.


Simon didn’t answer. Mal tried to lift his arms, but they were tied down.

Simon returned. He held up a thin silver wire, about five inches long. “You betrayed River and I.”

“m’sorry.” Such an inadequate thing to say.

Simon began to bend the wire into smooth bendy curves. “Don’t apologize to me, I’ll be fine. They wouldn’t harm such a very good surgeon.” Simon studied the wire intently, and made a small adjustment to its shape. “I’ll get my job back on Osiris. My old life. Honestly, it will be a relief to live amongst the sane again.” Simon put one hand on Mal’s cheek and pushed his head to the side. The tip of the wire touched the back of Mal’s head, just at the top of his spine, then it plunged in to the center of his brain.

Mal screamed as the spider in his skull grew another leg. The pain crackled like the electric current that crazy old bastard Niska had used on him. Gradually Mal became aware of what his eyes were seeing: River was standing beside him. Mal ignored her and turned his head back to Simon. The doctor had another wire.

“Why’d you do that?” Mal asked.

“River told me to.”

“No!” River said. “I just wanted to show you what they’re doing, I didn’t invent all this.”

Carefully Simon began shaping the new wire. The white light glistened on it. “It’ll only sting for a second,” he said with a smile.

“Captain.” River was clutching his shoulder. “It’s too much for you. The walls are falling. You have to get out.” She leaned over him and whispered in his ear. “Can you hear it?”

“Hear wha’?”

“Follow the noise. It’s time to wake up.”

The buzzing. The high pitched buzzing. Mal focused on the sound and it grew inside his ears. Then his head was pushed sideways and another spike slid into his brain.

* * *

Mal was standing in Serenity valley. The sky was brown, the ground was red. Bodies piled around him, everywhere. He couldn’t walk, couldn’t take a step without trodding on shattered limbs. There was Zoe, laying in the pile of bodies. Pregnant Zoe, a big stomach, and blood on her face. Mal’s hands were covered in blood. His clothes too, blood everywhere. He heard a buzzing, and looked up. Giant med ships passed over him. That’s not right, he thought. They should be silent. They were silent before.

Something sharp jabbed into the back of his head. Mal folded up and fell onto the pile.

* * *

“You’re in Hell, you know.” Book’s voice came out of the darkness.

Mal breathed unevenly, trying to find his voice, trying not to smell the smoke and decay or to think about what he was laying on. “Been here before,” he finally said.

“You put yourself in this place. You chose this path.”

“I tried to be a good man.”

“You didn’t try hard enough. You turned aside.”

“I wanted to live my life my way is all.” Mal opened his eyes and looked up. Book was standing over him, in front of a sky heavy with brown smoke.

“You think that’s a right you’re born to? Tell me son, how many of these kids would still be alive if you had laid down arms sooner? Quit the fight?” Book looked to the piles of dead. He didn’t notice the brown haired girl standing on a rock behind him.

“I didn’t know we’d lose.”

“What did you think you’d win? Billions of people live in the Alliance just fine. You think you got some right to try tearing that down just because it don’t suit you?”

“Shepherd, they ain’t good, they do stuff…”

“Grow up Captain. No government can make everyone happy. The Alliance isn’t the real problem here. You are. Insisting that it’s not good enough, always trying to make things how you want them. It was those like you caused the war, caused all this death.”

“I didn’t start the war.”

“You fought it. You fight it still. You take it to them as have no business with it.”

Mal’s hand crawled to his chest, clutching for something under his shirt. “I just want to find peace.”

“You stubbornly cling to your idea of peace, and you drag those around you into your battle.” Book crouched down beside Mal. “You watched them die for you, and you went right on fighting. That is why you are Damned.”

Mal watched Book reach toward him, lift his own hand off his chest. “What should I do, preacher? Give up, lay down in the mud and die?”

“You’ve already done that.” Book lifted a chain from Mal’s neck, pulling a silver cross out of his bloody shirt. “There’s nowhere else for you to go.”

“Isn’t there salvation in your Bible?”

“Not for you.” Book yanked the cross, breaking the chain from Mal’s neck. Mal rolled to his side, curling in on himself.

* * *

They pried Kaylee out of his grasp. “We have something to show you,” one of them said with barely suppressed glee. They left Kaylee laying unconscious next to the white table and dragged him to an observation deck, a large dark room with tasteful comfortable furniture and big leafy plants. Scattered about the room were violet glass lamps which glowed with a high pitched electric buzz. One long wall was transparent to the black outside; they stood him up in front of it. His ship drifted out there, looking forlorn. Empty and lifeless.

A green ball of fire streaked out from under the window, striking Serenity toward the aft end of her cargo bay section. For an instant she remained unchanged except for the gaping hole in her hull. Then her center section silently erupted in gold flame. The pressure wave blew out the windows over the dining room and bridge. A second green ball struck her in the neck, shattering the crew quarters. The force of the blast pushed the bridge section forward and it spun slowly into the black, leaving an arcing trail of debris. The explosions in the aft section of the ship spread backwards through the firefly’s tail. Mal watched as his ship disintegrated and the rubble drifted gracefully apart.

He felt a soft touch on his abdomen. River wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest. “Listen, Captain. Can you hear it? You have to wake up now.” Mal tried, but the only thing in his head was the sight of the spreading debris field. That and the glowing white spider. River clung to him as his knees gave out.

* * *

Mal was cuffed to the wall again. I’m in Hell. They blew up my ship.

He didn’t want to open his eyes, to see Kaylee on the floor. Was she dead? He couldn’t remember. He pulled against the cuffs and felt them bite further into his flesh. Didn’t River get me down? How’d she do that? She just looked... Mal twisted his head up, tried to see the cuffs in the darkness. He couldn’t, but he could hear… buzzing. Something about that. I’m supposed to listen…

“Captain Reynolds.” Mal turned his head forward. He was seated in the same chair as before, facing the interrogator across the white table. The man with the club waited beside him, but Kaylee was gone. Mal wondered if maybe they hadn’t brought her in yet.

“We’ve been making every effort to recover your crew. Unfortunately, your Companion’s charter was hit by Reavers.”

“ ‘nara?”

“I guess you could say we recovered her, but not enough of her to be worth looking at. Unless you’d like to see?” The man and the guard both laughed and Mal felt something else tear inside him. He shook his head. The interrogator shrugged. “Up to you. But we did manage to find these two.”

Wash and Zoe were pushed into the cell. Wash was asking: “What did you get us into? Why did you tell them about us?”

Zoe was pregnant. How long have I been here? She was really pregnant. Glowingly beautiful, and fully pregnant. Her hands were cuffed over her swollen stomach.

“Zoe?” Mal said hoarsely.

They put a gun to her head. Wash cried out, but another voice was louder.

“Focus Captain!” River?

Mal squeezed his eyes shut. He could hear it: the buzzing. He concentrated on it, and it grew closer… He might have heard a gunshot, far away, but he didn’t open his eyes. He wouldn’t believe that, couldn’t even consider believing that.

“Good. Follow it up,” River told him, “All the way up.”

The high, electric humming… filling his head, all around him. Then shifting, now coming from only one place. Above. Behind.

* * *

A big beige circle in front of him, with black in the middle. Lights all around, not so bright. Warm soft lights. Can’t move his head. Can’t move anything. Strapped in tight. Something firm holding his neck and head still, cradled. Soft voices he can’t understand. Too fuzzy.

His eyes fall closed. Buzzing – coming from above him. Behind him. No, under him. Mal’s stomach lurches.

His eyes open again and he understands better. He’s laying on his back. The black is the ceiling; it’s a round room, beige walls, very clean. An IV stand next to him. He recognizes that, seen that plenty of times. The buzzing comes from the rack which holds his head in place: the barely audible electric hum of a generator.

There’s something floating above his forehead. He rolls his eyes up. A pink globe. See-thru. Colored lines all around, words, squiggles. The pink globe – it’s wrinkly. Irregular. Has two blue spots in the middle. And silver lines from the bottom/back of the globe, from a place where something pokes out. The lines snake through to the two blue areas in the middle. Two hands pinch the air on either side, and move slowly around. The pink thing rotates with the hands. A third hand points into the globe, traces along one of the silver lines, and voices mumble things with lots of big words he can’t comprehend.

Mal blinks and his mouth falls open – he should know what the pink thing is. Familiar shape. Areas of green and red slowly blossom in the globe. The hands let go and the pink thing snaps back to where it started. He hears loud voices to his right.

“He’s awake!”

“That’s impossible.”

Faces enter Mal’s field of view. They’re all talking at once, he can’t understand. Then he feels a sting in his neck and it all goes away.

* * * * *

lan dong xi: trash hundan: bastard shenme: I’m sorry tiansha de emo: goddamn monsters

* * * * *

On to Chapter 10.


Friday, January 20, 2006 8:53 AM


Hang in there, you confused ones! Exposition coming up…

And never fear, I love my captain, and I’ll make it up to him. I promise!

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:17 AM


A-HA! Things are starting to become clearer, for us and for Mal.

Must... have... more... Fish Job... soon!

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:23 AM


Damn it... I was so close to being the first one to comment.

Keep going... Type faster

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:25 AM


I'm telling ya, the kids are going hungry, I'm ignoring everything for the Fish Job. Do you realize how brilliant this is? Your pacing, your imagery, your monsters, your description of how we think in a dream state- everything is perfect. And just when he/we can't take any more, a cool drop of River brings a little relief, a little hope, in a very believable manner.

Is there any hope for me to get my life back any time soon?

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:29 AM


Ah - I feel so spoiled - this is so much fun!

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:40 AM


Yay! First reviewer! This is very exciting, I like the way it is slowly evolving! Also loved the different levels of Mal's hell, it's clever!

Friday, January 20, 2006 9:41 AM


Or not, silly Internet Explorer! Still, two reviews for the price of one! Woo hoo!

Friday, January 20, 2006 10:00 AM


Wow, this is so rutting intense. So well written the torture session is excruciating to read because it puts me right in Mal's hell with him but unable to help. Thank God for River, the only one able to penetrate the insanity of what he is suffering and provide a glimmer of hope. I hope our shiny crew take those wicked *tamade hundan* and rip them limb from limb. Yeah, they should die screaming... Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, January 20, 2006 10:01 AM


Very nice. Need more exposition, quickly!

Friday, January 20, 2006 11:51 AM


Damn :O Now that was good...........

Best chapter yet, Alttile confusing but i think i understand.


Friday, January 20, 2006 3:09 PM


I can't say anything that hasn't already been said, but this is amazing, you're doing an awesome job!

Saturday, January 21, 2006 12:00 AM


OH MY FRIG'n FUZZY WUZZIES! This was great please write more i too shal blame you for my lack of productivity today... oh yeah and my lack of sleep!THANK YOU! thankyouthankyouthankyou!

Saturday, January 21, 2006 3:15 AM


Wow. Mal finally focussed on the buzzing wakes up and gets more needles, not fair. Kill the bad guys next chapter please?

Thursday, February 9, 2006 6:16 AM


River is wonderful here! Poor Mal!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:52 AM


Not rightly sure what to say about this chapter, besides wow. Nice work. :)


You must log in to post comments.



Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.