In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.


OK, folks, this thing is about to take a serious trip to the crack!fic exit, without stopping for traffic signals. You may blame Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka and leiasky's constant PM'ing asking me to get moving, already. Bear with me, I'm basically making it up as I go at this point.


"Gorramit. Can't we ever take some hostages that ain't so heavy?" Jayne huffed as he dragged Jasper's unconscious form into a free bunk, unceremoniously dumping him on the floor. He turned back to Zoe, who was marching Jake into the room and sitting him in a chair. "This sumbitch ain't exactly skinny."

"Just think of it like lifting weights, Jayne." Zoe just shook her head and began tying Jake to the chair.

"Nah. Liftin' weights is fun. This is all manner of annoyin', 'specially with this one givin' me all them smarmy looks." Jayne pointed an accusing finger at Jake, who was indeed smirking in the mercenary's direction. "It don't bother you none that these two was waitin' on our own ship an' lookin' for our two resident pains in the ass?"

"I'll admit, it does unsettle a mite," Zoe agreed. "But we got 'em under control now, an' Wash says there's no signals comin' off them. Can't be traced, can't call for backup. We got what we came for. All in all, we did good."

"Yeah." Jayne squinted, not entirely mollified. He was, at heart, a survivor; predator, not prey. And you didn't make it to the top of the food chain without a good sense of when to fight, when to flee, and when to just stand still and hope for the best. Jayne's sixth sense was twitching, the small buzz of something "Still, I got me a tingle in the back of my head, like somethin' ain't right."

Zoe nodded, and looked over as Jasper groaned and stirred on the floor. "Probably dandruff."

"For serious, Zoe. We may have got everything, like you said, but somethin' still ain't kosher."

"Well, if it'll help your curiosity, let's ask these gents what they might know."

Despite his reservations, Jayne grinned wickedly as he took his knife from his belt. "Shiny. Can I get me an ear?"

"They have to be able to hear our questions, Jayne."

"I know. I figure s'why the Good Lord gave 'em two."


This wasn't going well. Usually when he ordered Wash to take them out of the world, he was met with a quick "Aye, Captain!" from the bridge, followed by the whine of Serenity's engines as Kaylee worked her magic. But this time, there was no comforting acknowledgement, nor the satisfying sound of takeoff. There was complete silence for about two minutes, followed by yelling from both the bridge and the engine room. Apparently, his two visitors - despite their current situation in the passenger dorms - had managed to do some devious things to the ship during their stay, and the ship was unable to move.

Still, Mal had to admit he was impressed. As a sergeant in the War and then as captain of Serenity, he'd been privy to all manner of inspired cussing over the years. Hell, he'd been the creator of some of the more memorable items repeated up and down the Independent line on Hera. So it was with no small amount of experience and awe that he witnessed what was quite possibly the most protracted and downright inventive set of phrases ever to come out of Wash's mouth. Content to just let the pilot ramble a while, he finally felt he should interrupt when Wash began speculating - for the third time - on Jasper's possible close relationship with a garden rake and a water buffalo. "Wash? We gonna be takin' off anytime soon?"

"Not unless you're going to get out and push," Wash spat back, up to his elbows in wiring under the console, and obviously having a very bad day. "What'dya say?"

"I'm the captain, Wash. I don't push, I tell. And I'm tellin' you to get us off this rock, right now."

"Excellent plan, Captain! I'll get right on that. Right after I rewire this console to bypass the brand new kill switch I don't remember installing, check the flight controls to correct what appears to be either a computer malfunction or a missing engine on the port side, and then reload the star charts from a backup so we don't boost off this rock and suddenly find ourselves with a one-way tour of the nearest asteroid." Wash raised his eyebrows. "Do you have a suggestion on what order I should do those things, sir?"

Mal stared blankly for a moment, before nodding in a commanding fashion. "No, no. That sounds good." He coughed and adjusted his suspenders. "Carry on with the...uh...stuff. I'll just... check on Kaylee." With a quick turn to hide his confusion, He marched off the bridge, determined to hold his captain-y bearing all the way down the hall.

His attempt failed about three-quarters of the way to the galley, when the ship's grav drive lurched and shifted everything about a foot and a half to his right. Mal's regal bearing disintegrated into headlong flight as he abruptly sailed through the door and landed on the kitchen floor, a small bowl of fresh protein cubes - strawberry, he noted - landing on his head.

"Are you alright, Captain?" Book was gripping the kitchen counter, holding himself steady in case of another round of gravity gone wild. Inara stood behind him, seemingly unconcerned with the ship's uncommon movement.

"I'm sure he's, fine, Shepherd," she answered. "Mal's head is, if anything, quite hard." She smiled sweetly at the captain.

"Fine, fine." Mal picked himself up and dusted off his coat, throwing Inara an annoyed look. He considered giving her the expected retort, but figured he had other things to worry about right now. "Just gotta go kill my mechanic. Excuse me. Kaylee!" Waiting a moment to ride out any aftershocks and satisfied that the ship would no longer betray him, he resumed his march and made a beeline for the engine room. "Kaylee! Didn't we talk about gravity bein' down on this boat?" Gorram girl couldn't be trusted with the grav controls ever since the day he walked into the cargo bay and found her and River playing cards while sitting on the ceiling. Mal had been a bit spooked, but it had been worth it just to see the look of pure terror on Simon's face, and so he'd given her a pass on that one.

But this was different. They were trying to make a quick getaway, gorramit, and it so far wasn't meeting any known definition of "quick." "In case you ain't noticed, we're tryin' to avoid imminent arrest an' prison time!"

"Ain't my fault, Cap'n!" Reaching the door to the engine room, Mal looked around for his mechanic and finally found her, wedged up between the bulkhead and the ceiling, holding onto a pipe with one hand and poking at a mess of wires with the other. "Someone rewired the grav drive so every fifth field pulse is pointed the wrong way."

"And that's bad?"

"Uh huh. 'Bout every five minutes or so, we're gonna get a.... oops! This one's early! Hang on!" Mal scrambled to grab the door jamb as the ship lurched again, this time to the left. Kaylee, with nothing solid to hold onto while hanging nearly in mid-air, squeaked as she was toppled off her perch and thudded to the deck. Mal was by her side as soon as the grav came back to normal. "You OK there, girl?"

"Yeah." Kaylee stood up and walked back to an open panel, shoving her screwdriver in and tweaking something in the innards of the ship. "There. But as I was sayin', we can't fly like this. Bad inertial control ain't really healthy."

"Captain dummy talk, Kaylee."

Kaylee huffed, blowing a lock of hair out of her face as she decided how to dumb things down for her captain. "Grav drives holds us down to the deck, but it also pushes us about so the acceleration doesn't kill us when we fire up the pulse drive."

"Well, that made the kind of sense that's not."

"Look. When we go real fast, the ship goes that way." Kaylee pointed towards the bridge. "but thanks to inertia, the folks inside it - that's you an' me - stay still. So if the ship the ship goes real fast an' we stay still, the back wall comes up awfully fast." She pointed to the back wall of the engine room. "From where we're standin', it looks like we all get throwed backwards into the wall."


"So the grav drive pushes forwards the same amount of the ship pushin' 'backwards', so we stay in place an' don't get hurt."

Mal blinked a few times, but realized that after a second, that all made some type of sense. "So, no full burn. Could we go nice and slow?"

"Yeah, but nothin' over two gees or we won't be able to move without the grav helpin' us. An' we start passin' out 'round five or so, plus we'll all be stuck to the wall like that carnival ride."

"That's damn slow, Kaylee. We could sure use gettin' off this rock soon."

"No way we can go faster. You ever dropped a pumpkin off a roof an' watch it splat?"

"Sure. But what's that gotta do with - "

"You ever wanted to be the pumpkin?"

"Uh...that ain't some sex thing I can't know about, is it?"

"No! But without the grav, we'd all splat."

Mal nodded uneasily, casting a wary look at the back wall, just in case it got any ideas. "OK, then. I'll tell Wash. How long to at least get us moving?"

"Hour or two, maybe. I already retuned the grav projector, so no more jumpin' about, but I still gotta strip an' degauss the condenser."

"Get to it then." Mal lightly touched her head. "You sure you're OK?"

"No biggie, just gonna have a goose egg for a bit. Maybe Simon can..." Kaylee trailed off, her eyes getting wider and a look of pure horror coming over her. "Oh, God. Oh, no, no, no...."

"Kaylee? What? Talk to me here. Is it the pumpkins?"

"Oh, Lord, I just got distracted, honest! My girl was hurtin' an' I plain forgot to go back!"

"Forgot what?"

"Simon. I....I forgot Simon."


Wash managed to look out the window as the whoosh of finely tuned engines drew his attention. Well now. Wasn't that a beauty? A brand new, top of the line Alliance scout - but with private registration, of all things - was passing no less than half a mile from his nose. Massive thrust-to-weight ratio, lasers, missiles, and probably even one of those stealth packages that made the nerds on the Cortex forums salivate. "Ruttin' lucky bastards," Wash muttered. "I'd love to be on one of those things." He sighed and returned to his tangle of wires, cursing as he caused another shower of sparks to fall on his hand.


Eventually, Wash would realize that Alliance ships with private registration weren't all that common and could really only be owned by a certain class of people; Kaylee would connect that with the fact that Simon was last seen headed in that ship's direction; and River and Mal would add that they knew Regan Tam was on planet and searching for her children. Zoe and Jayne would be unable to get information from Jake or Jasper on such short notice, but both Inara and Book would be sure they were Alliance trained. Put all those things together, and the situation became crystal clear. 30 minutes later, everyone knew exactly what had happened to their doctor.

By then, of course, it was far, far too late to do anything about it.


Sunday, September 17, 2006 7:23 AM


Yay! My constant nagging worked! I'm so glad to see another chapter of this up:)

OMG! Jayne's conversation with Zoe was so perfectly in character. And his last comment about the ears had me laughing out loud!

Kaylee and Mal's conversation was just perfectly in character too. The constant captain dummy talk that is necessary to get that man to understand the workings of his own ship is so humerous.

And some people tend to think Simon would neglect Kaylee for River. LOL! Kaylee was thinking too much about her 'girl' and forgot Simon! LOL! That's just great!

Excellent chapter and I shall continue to nag for more - and soon!

Now, about Simon . . .

Sunday, September 17, 2006 9:01 AM


and to think I thought you'd stopped right when things were heating up.
This is an excellent story, i demand more!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 12:44 PM


Oh...this was a chapter just chock full of hilarity and spot-on dialogue, MG. Definitely glad you're back in the saddle;)


P.S. Probably should thank Leiasky for getting the ball rolling, huh?

Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:38 AM


Thanks for the cliffhanger.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:38 AM


Thanks for the cliffhanger.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 6:38 AM



Cut me off.

Thanks for the cliff hanger. Now I have to wait to read the next chapter. Nice job, once again


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.