Choices - Part 11 A
Friday, February 3, 2006

The story continues... Zoe comes to the realization that nothing has happened by accident, the crew learns of Mal and Inara's kidnapping, and Inara comes face to face with her captor.


A/N Apologies for the length of time between posts. Between holidays, my brother's daughter being born, and running an event for 150+ people, life's been pretty hectic! But now I'm back, and I promise there won't be such a long break between the this and the next part(s). Hopefully you readers who have stuck with me will remember what happened in the last part after such a long break! This part of a part is close to 2500 words... more to come as soon as I get it done. Thanks for reading!

Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A 3B 4 5 6 7 8A 8B 8C 9 10

Choices - Part 11A by 2x2


Whispers. Brushing the tip of his consciousness. Tickling hisses fading in and out.

Urgency to the sound; worried him. He couldn’t, through the haze that was his mind, quite comprehend why.

He struggled through the thick, smothering blankness that surrounded him; forced himself onward, upward, through the oppressive blanket and out into the glow of consciousness.

And the voices.

“Hurry up with that yoke! This’ll be a lot easier if he’s still out,” came a voice, suddenly clear and understandable.

“I’m gettin' it,” answered another voice, punctuated by a harsh jangling of chains that pulled Mal fully back to awareness. He let his eyelids slip open very slightly, barely a crack, but enough to get an idea of his circumstances. He could see three sets of feet in three sets of boots before him, and in his mind the memory of his attack during the riot replayed in slow motion, focusing in on the shiny black boots that the man closest to him wore as the toe was driven into his gut. With a quick snap like an elastic band, Mal’s mind grasped the situation and recognized the cause of his earlier worry in an instant.

He was in trouble.


“Rahw rahw rahwr!” the Tyrannosaurus laughed evilly.

“Squawk!” moaned the Pterodactyl in exasperation. “You always do this! I want some time with Stegosaurus, just to ourselves, and this valley seems nice—”

“Rawhr! I’m the Captain of This Land and you’ll fly when I tell you to fly or I’ll toss you in the volcano!”


‘Wash! Zhòu mà, come in!’ Zoe’s voice suddenly squelched over the Comm.

“Wha—woah-hoah!” spluttered Wash, scattering his dinosaurs and palm trees in his haste to answer the urgency he sensed in his wife’s voice. “Zoe, come back. I’m here, what’s goin’ on?”

‘Wash!’ exclaimed Zoe through a burst of static. ‘Bring t-- shutt--. We n--- -imon -ere, --w! ----,’

“Say again! Zoe, I can barely make you out. Repeat, say again!” The pilot’s hands moved rapidly over the buttons and switches on Serenity’s console, accessing the moon’s beacon relay on the GeoSync in a matter of seconds.

‘The el---onic---- --ied! Mu---s ou- -it b- -- E-ee-ee Em-mm-m--- Pee-eee… -e need Si--n. –ring th- --ctor! ---rry!’

Ta ma de, what in the tian xiao de is goin’ on?” Wash muttered to himself, locating the mule’s position on the GeoSync. He grabbed the internal Comm. “Simon! We got trouble! Get to shuttle two, yī liù yān!!!” He switched back to Zoe but the signal was gone. “We’re comin’ baby, hang on!” he said, praying that his wife was all right as he dashed from the chair. He sprinted for their bunk and the revolver Zoe had given him for emergencies - Wash was pretty sure that this counted.


Simon rushed around the infirmary, stuffing anything he thought might come in useful into his bag as Kaylee watched from the door, wide-eyed with concern, her fingers worrying at the sleeve of her coveralls in twists and tugs.

Finally he shrugged helplessly, resigned to accepting that whatever he had in his bag would have to be enough. He turned to the mechanic and stilled, taking in her frightened eyes.

“Kaylee—” he said but she cut him off.

“Don’t worry ‘bout River none. I’ll look after her,” she said, forcing a smile though her eyes remained shadowed with apprehension.

“Th-uh… Thank-you,” Simon stammered, his mouth opening again as though he were on the verge of saying something else, but nothing more came. Neither of them moved for a moment until at last Kaylee shook herself.

“’Best hurry,” she said solemnly. Simon blinked and then shook his head as though to clear it. “Right! Okay,” he said, moving past Kaylee to where his sister sat, knees pulled up to her chest.

“River? Mei mei… I have to go out for a little while. Kaylee’s going to stay with you,” he said, glancing back at the mechanic as he did so. “Won’t that be fun? I’ll be back soon. You’ll have fun. Okay?”

“The whole world is on its side,” she said, staring at him earnestly. “Swimming. And now Kaylees’s shirt is ruined!”

“Ruined? Kaylee’s shirt is fine. See?” he said, pointing to the mechanic.

River looked at her in confusion for a moment before turning back to her brother. “It’s not the same,” she pleaded with him to understand.

“Everything will be all right, mei mei,” Simon said softly, brushing a lock of hair from her face tenderly. He rose reluctantly, not wanting to leave River but he knew that Zoe and the others needed him as quickly as possible. “I’ll be back soon,” he whispered, cupping his sister’s face in his palm.

“Simon,” Kaylee urged and he looked up at her suddenly and nodded as he met her eyes. He had to go. He picked up his overstuffed medkit and turned to leave, stopping as he reached the stairs. “You’re sure you’ll be alright with River—”

“Simon! Go!” she said, growing exasperated. With one last look, the doctor nodded and dashed up the steps, running for shuttle two.

“He wants to be friendly,” said River tearfully and Kaylee stared at her, brow creasing in worried confusion.



The first thing Inara became aware of was the coppery taste of it in her mouth.

Her tongue, thick and heavy, swept over bruised lips that were cut and caked with blood. She winced, triggering a symphony of pain throughout her face, culminating in a deep, throbbing pressure behind her nose and between her eyes.

Her lashes trembled against her cheek as she struggled to open her lids, finally parting them with heroic effort.

Everything was sideways.

No, she thought, struggling to make sense of what she was seeing. She was… lying down. On the floor. On what floor? Where was she?

She put a hand beneath her and started to rise to a sitting position, gasping as white-hot pain ripped through her ribs, stealing her breath with its intensity. Squeezing her eyes shut, she drew in slow, shallow breaths, her hand going to her side, just below her breasts, where the pain was greatest.

After what seemed like hours, the agony eased slightly and she forced her eyes open again.

With infinite care she pushed herself up, head swimming, panting with the pain and exertion. Cold fear washed over her as she glanced down and saw the entire front of Kaylee’s borrowed shirt stained a deep crimson and she began to shiver, sharp needles of pain knifing through her lungs with every shuddering breath she drew.

Calm, calm, calm. Be calm, she told herself, trying to reign in her fear. She closed her eyes and forced her breathing to slow, finding her center as she’d been taught to do, following the patterns in the garden of her mind that led to stillness and harmony. Peace. Control. Calm.

Letting out a slow, controlled breath, she opened her eyes, blinking as she took in her surroundings, intent on gathering as much information as she could, as quickly as possible. Her memory of how she’d come to be here was spotty. She remembered flickering images of earth rushing by, and the jouncing motion of the horse she’d been slung over, but other than that, and the memory of a lot of pain, she had nothing to indicate where she might be.

The room was square, with one door on the wall facing her, and three small windows opposite, large enough to put her hand through but little else, and too far up to reach in any account. The walls were of some hardened, rough, clay-like substance that looked very solid. The floor was of the same stuff, worn to a smoother surface by years of erosion, and extremely hard. There was little furniture in the room, only an old wooden chair and a short end table sat in the corner across from the door. Other than that, the space was empty.

She looked up to the windows again, sunlight streaming through the three square openings, cutting beams of golden light through the dimness of the room. If that was east, it looked to be about 11:00 – 11:30 moon time, in which case she hadn’t been gone long, no more than an hour, maybe two. If it was west on the other hand, she may have been gone for as long as four or five hours. That was of course assuming that this was the same day she’d been taken, but the fact that Kaylee’s shirt was still sticky and red, not dry and brown was indication that it was.

Would an hour have been long enough for Mal to start looking for her?

She doubted it. Five hours might not even have been time enough for him to have returned to Serenity to discover she had never arrived. But once he did, she knew he’d be going crazy with worry and wouldn’t rest until he found her. That didn’t mean she could sit back and wait for him to come, however.

She needed to get herself out of here.

But, first things first, she needed to see if she could stand. With that in mind, she rolled until she was on all fours, encouraged when the motion caused her barely any more pain than there already was in her side from just sitting. The pressure in her head pounded more forcefully however, and she could feel the pulse of her blood all the way into her torn, throbbing lips. She didn’t want to think about the damage her teeth had done to them when she’d hit the console face-first. She’d have time enough for that once she was out of here and could actually take a look at herself. Until then she had to concentrate on doing what she could to get away from whomever it was that had kidnapped her.

She drew in a deep breath in preparation to stand, cutting it short as the now familiar sharp pain accompanied it, and put first one and then the other foot beneath her and pushed herself upward, swaying slightly as a wave of dizziness washed over her.

But she was standing.

The exertion caused her to pant heavily and she pressed her hand to her side again as every breath caused another stab of pain, unable to prevent a piteous moan from escaping her lips. She squeezed her eyes shut again, concentrating on keeping her inhalations only as deep as she could draw them without pain.

The sound of the latch being lifted and the door opening suddenly startled her eyes wide, and she gasped, taking an involuntary stagger backwards as she saw the man who stood in the doorway.

“Hello, Precious,” said Whelt, smiling, his eyes hard. “You got time for me now?”


Zoe scanned the sky impatiently, urging Wash to hurry the hell up. Her man wasn’t stupid. Whether her message came through to him clear or not, he’d know enough to find their location and come. She just hoped he’d understood about Simon. If the doctor didn’t arrive soon, the woman from the whorehouse wasn’t going to make it. There was no guarantee she would make it even if Simon got here now, Zoe knew, but at least she had a chance. And Zoe needed her to live.

“Come on, baby,” she whispered and a look of satisfaction flickered over her face as she saw shuttle two appear over the rooftops, headed their way. “Good man.”

“Here they come,” she said, turning to Jayne. The mercenary nodded, not taking his eyes off their surroundings, guns drawn and ready in both hands. After the riot in front of the burnt out brothel and this attack on the mule, he wasn’t taking any chances.

Zoe knelt beside the unconscious madam and checked her pulse again. It was still there, but weak, and growing weaker every moment. There was a gusting swirl of dust and wind and she shielded the woman from it as, with a roar from its engines, the shuttle landed in the street beside them. She looked up as the door opened to see Book, Simon and Wash hurry out.

“Zoe!” shouted Wash as he saw her, his heart filling with relief to see that she appeared all right.

“Simon, quickly!” she called to the doctor rather than answering, glad her mister had figured out her message, but knowing that getting the woman help was the most important thing at the moment.

Simon rushed to her side and knelt, caught off guard when he didn’t recognize the unconscious woman. “Who--?” he started.

“Woman from the brothel,” Zoe answered. “Inara was bringing her and three others back to Serenity. Got ambushed on the way.”

Book, armed with an automatic rifle, made his way to Jayne’s side. The mercenary acknowledged the older man with a nod. “Thought you might need another gunhand,” the Shepherd said.

“’t’ain’t unwelcome,” Jayne agreed grimly.

“Zoe, you okay?” asked Wash as he urged his wife to her feet, taking in the scratches and bruises forming on her face and arms. “What the dì yù happened? Where’s Mal?” he said, looking around the street.

“Got snatched,” said Zoe dejectedly.

“Hu-wha--?” gasped Wash.

“Snatched?” echoed Book.

“Crowd turned on us, things started getting’ ugly. Next thing, Mal’s hit in the head with a bottle and all hell’s breakin’ loose,” spat Jayne angrily.

“Captain went down, couldn’t get to him,” Zoe continued in a voice that clearly said she felt she was to blame.

“It was organized,” Jayne went on, knowing there’d been nothing either of them could’ve done. “At least ten or twelve men. Came for us right off, ‘fore we could draw iron. Kept us all separated like.”

“By the time we were able to get clear, fire a few rounds into the sky, Captain was gone. We looked but… coulda taken him any direction; no way of knowin’.”

“Started lookin’ an’ came upon this,” said the mercenary. “Mule got ambushed. Horsemen. Herded ‘em out of town an’ then hit ‘em with a E.M.P. The three girls is dead, one in the mule – neck broken; two more over there, both shot dead. Ain’t no sign of ‘Nara. Figure she done got snatched-like too.”

“Why?” exclaimed Wash.

“Set up. Whole thing was a set up to get ‘Nara an’ the Captain. Whoever’s behind it, they don’t want no one knowing about it,” Zoe nodded at the woman on the ground. “She’s the only one knows anything,” she said. “An’ we ain’t gonna have much to go on if she don’t make it.”

Simon stood, having made assessment of the woman’s injuries, knowing he couldn’t do anything for her here. “We need to get her to the ship.”

* * * * *

Translations: Zhòu mà = Damn it Ta ma de = Fuck tian xiao de = name of all that’s sacred yī liù yān = in a flash / quickly mei mei = little sister / sister dì yù = hell

Go to Part 11B


Friday, February 3, 2006 1:44 PM


Oooh, so happy to see an update at last. I hope the madam makes it so she can tell the others all about that low life piece of scum, Whelt. All kinds of worried about Inara and Mal. Hope our BDMs can get to Inara before Whelt can do unseemly things to her body. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 4, 2006 5:55 AM


poor inara, with the pain...sigh. Like Anon said, we'd better get some wrath!

so happy to see an update!

Saturday, February 4, 2006 7:05 AM


Glad to see a new chapter at last. Very enjoyable too!! Hope it's not too long til the next installment.

Sunday, February 5, 2006 1:36 AM


I haven't read the others, so now have to go back and catch up. Great chapter, can't wait to see what happens next.

Sunday, February 5, 2006 7:58 PM


YAY! You're back! I can't wait for more updates, great chapter!

Sunday, February 12, 2006 6:26 AM


it's the cabby, i tell you!!! the cabby!!! okay, maybe i should stop with the cabby obssesion...



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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.