Birthday - Part V
Thursday, November 9, 2006

Do they really have the key to unlock River Tam's madness? And please leave feedback - my muse is hungry!


“Freya?” Lee stood in the doorway to shuttle two.

“Just getting things ready,” Freya said, strapping down some of the boxes. “Don’t quite know what we’ll have to do when we catch up with them.”

“I’ve just examined the baby. Bethany.”

She stopped, turning slowly to look over at him. “And?”

“She’s fine.” Lee watched her relax a little.

“How fine?”

“Everything I can check for is normal. She’s a perfectly healthy little girl.”

Her face broke into a smile. “Thank God.”

“No, thank your Dr Tam. I checked the records, as you suggested. You know he’s been medicating her? Kaylee, I mean.”

The smile faded a little. “No. What kind of medication?”

“Immuno-boosters. Infection suppressants.” Lee shrugged. “He was careful, nothing that could harm the baby, but enough that he improved her chances.”

“Did Kaylee know?”

“Yes, I did.” Kaylee stood in the doorway to the shuttle, leaning on the frame.

Mei-mei!” Freya said, shocked. She moved past Lee to support her, bringing her inside to sit down. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I told you not to climb stairs,” Lee reproved.

Kaylee looked up at him, her face somewhat pale. “I figured who it was, asked you to check Bethany.” She smiled at Freya. “The menfolk, well, it wouldn’t occur to them. And Zoe and Inara, they’ve been talking to me, so that left you.”

“I just thought …” She stopped and sat down next to the younger woman. “I wanted to know she was okay.”

“I know.” Kaylee took her hand, squeezing gently. “And I know why you ain’t been to see us, visit a while. I'm sorry, Frey. I wish you were still waiting on the birth of your own baby, and I can only guess at how hard it’s been for you.”

“Kaylee, mei-mei, it isn’t your fault.”

“No. It ain't anyone’s.”

“Am I missing something here?” Lee asked, looking from one to the other.

“I … I had a miscarriage,” Freya said, the words catching in her throat. “A couple of months ago.”

“There was an accident,” Kaylee explained. "Wasn’t no-one’s fault, but seeing Bethany …” She looked back at Freya. “But you can’t hate her that much – you wanted to know she was okay.”

“Kaylee, I don’t hate her at all!” Freya insisted, then saw the sweet smile on the mechanic’s lips and had to laugh herself. “You … already know that.”

“Of course I do.” She leaned into the older woman. “And Bethany’s fine. Not just from what Mr Lee here checked over, but I knew anyway. River told me. Told us.”


“Before she and Simon got took. Told us Bethany was healthy and happy.” Kaylee’s smile was now sad. “Never occurred to me to ask her.”

“Me neither.” Freya looked around. “Where is she, by the way?”

“Her Uncle Jayne’s looking after her,” Kaylee said, the smile widening into a grin. “Gotta get used to it,” she added. “He’s gonna be doing a lot of it when Simon gets back.”

“About that,” Freya began. “You knew he was medicating you?”

Kaylee nodded. “Told me it was vitamins, minerals. And I guess some of it probably was. But I can do research on the Cortex much as the next person. Much as I know you did.” Freya blushed a little. “I knew what could happen, so I didn’t ask, didn’t want to know too much.” She smiled. “And everything’s shiny.”

“Kaylee,” Freya said, shaking her head and smiling herself, “I don’t know how you do it. Seeing the good side in most things.”

“Not everything,” Kaylee amended. “There ain't nothing good in Simon and River being taken.”

“We’ll get them back,” Freya said.

“I know. Mal promised.”

“And he doesn’t break his promises.” They shared a knowing look.

“By the way, am I gonna get this post-birth depression thing?” Kaylee asked Lee.

“Not everyone gets it,” he assured her, a slight smile on his impassive face.

“Pity. Could just do with throwing something at the wall about now.”

“I’ll duck.” He leaned forward, putting his hands under her arms. “We’d better get you back to your room.”

“Prob’ly a good idea,” she agreed. “Jayne’s probably ready for some post-birth depression of his own about now.” ---

River couldn’t move. Nothing responded when she tried to lift a hand, open an eyelid, even just twitch. She couldn’t even feel. Her brain was all there was, floating naked in a sea of black nothingness. She reached out, trying to find someone else, anyone, just to prove that she was still alive. But it was like pushing at a wall of cottonwool, with the dim sparks of other consciousness just out of reach beyond it.

Something loomed on the horizon, or where the horizon would be if there was actually anything there. It was a bright light, heading towards her, a pinpoint that became a sun as it enveloped her, burning away her skin, her flesh, until she was but a collection of dust blown away on the wind.

“Is it connected?”

“Directly into her visual cortex. She can’t help see it.”

“And this is going to work?”

“My brother knew more about breaking people with drugs, getting them chemically dependent and then taking them away. He knew something about programming those people afterwards, making them do what he wanted. But when it came to pain, he was an amateur. This girl is psychic. An assassin. She might look like she’ll blow away in the first strong wind, but she’s been honed by the Alliance. You think they’d spend all that time and effort on someone who’d just give up at the first hint of hurt?”

“I guess not.”

“I've studied the psyche for a long time. Had more than my fair share of failures, I’ll admit, but I've refined my own techniques. And she will go back. Back to what she was, maybe further. And she’ll do what I say.”

“So you’re just going to sell her to the highest bidder?”

“Once she’s proved herself, taken the target out, we can do what we want. Maybe just hire her out.”

“She’s dangerous, you know that.”

“After this, only to those we choose.”

The sun faded and her dust coalesced into form, first marrow, then bones, veins, tendons, ligaments, tissue, flesh, skin … eyes last of all. Eyes that saw, that she wanted to rip from their sockets, dash screaming onto the ground and stamp into mush, but still saw

It’s the Pax. The G-32 paxilon hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors –“

Image after image, picture laid on picture of decayed human beings, some still with flesh attached to their bones, others almost complete …

They stopped going to work, stopped breeding … talking … eating … There’s thirty million people here, and they all just let themselves die.

People, so many people, all calling out with no voices …

I have to be quick. About a tenth of one percent of the population had the opposite reaction to the Pax. Their aggressor response increased beyond madness. They’ve become – They’ve killed most of us – not just killed, they’ve done – things.”

Tearing, cutting, raping, consuming …

Over and over. The face of the woman, the doctor, her words burning into her brain, then the Reaver, taking her down, doing things, eating her while she still lived …

The bodies, the faces, all dead, a world full of death, of life that should be dead, mutilating, slashing, hurting …

The Reaver, taking the doctor down, pulling the skin from her body, tearing her clothes …

So many stones, lying down to sleep, never getting up, just waiting to die …

The Reaver, taking the doctor down, killing her … turning to the girl who stood and watched, her feet bare, her long black hair hanging around her face, reaching for her …

River Tam screamed. ---

Osiris hung in the sky like a big blue jewel, something Inara might wear around her neck. As it got closer they could make out continents, ice caps, some huge weather systems.

“Mal, there’s a lot of traffic out there.”

“What kind?”

Hank breathed out noisily, examining the screen again. “Lot of private craft, some federal. There’s a cruiser far side, too.”

“Don’t want to run afoul of that,” Mal muttered. “Can you pick out the one we want?”

“Not without the code. It’d be guesswork.”

“We saw their shuttle, but not the main craft.” He hit the back of Hank’s chair with his fist. “Tah muh duh hwoon dan.”

“Don’t give up quite so easily, captain,” Smith said from the doorway.

“Ain't giving up,” Mal said, turning to face him. “We have to board every one of those ships, we will.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Smith stepped forward and held out a wafer. “The transponder code. Will that work?”

Hank’s face lit up, grabbing the thin strip of multiplas. “Work a treat!” he said grinning.

Smith looked around him as Hank fed the details into their onboard. “I'm not surprised you don’t let people up here, captain,” he said. “I am surprised that you don’t fall apart.”

“She’s a good boat,” Mal said, crossing his arms in his usual defensive position. “Better yet, she’s my boat, so I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to your own self.”

“Of course.” Smith smiled. “She’s probably the most important thing in your life, isn’t she?”

“Not quite,” Mal said.

“Got it!” Hank said. “A small Baden-class. Not too far.”

“Are they moving?”

“No. Hanging still.”

“Okay, get as close as –“

The console in front of Hank beeped, and he checked. “Wuh de mah,” he breathed. “Mal, we got a Federal patrol boat asking what we’re doing here.”

Smith stepped back. “I can’t be seen to be here.”

“Can you make something up?” Mal asked, ignoring the older man.

“I can try.” Hank took a deep breath and activated the vid. “This is Firefly Serenity. How can we help you?”

A man in a peaked cap appeared, looking as if he had never smiled in his life. “Where’s your captain?”

“He’s kinda busy right now, but I'm the pilot. Won’t I do?”

“You do not have permission to be in orbit around Osiris. What is the purpose of your visit?”

“We … uh … we’re not planning to land. But we developed a bit of engine trouble a ways out, and we needed to fix it. Fact, that’s where the Cap is now, trying to coddle it long enough so we can park to mend said engine. Kinda thought we might lay here for a while ‘til we do. Wouldn’t want to be too far from civilisation if that piece of luh suh does decide to die on us. Too many pirates out there, know what I mean?” He grinned.

“Firefly Serenity, hold your position.” The screen went dark.

“Probably deciding whether to blow us out of the sky right away, or wait until later,” Hank murmured. “Solve all our problems in one fell swoop.”

“That’s the kind of problem solving I don’t exactly want to be a part of,” Mal said, equally quietly.

The vid shimmered back to life. “Firefly Serenity, you have permission to orbit Osiris for ten hours. If you require longer, contact us.” And he was gone.

Mal exhaled. “Good work.”

“Thanks.” Hank flashed him a quick grin. “But they’ll be keeping an eye on us – won’t be able to launch the shuttle.”

“Yeah.” Mal rubbed his hand through his hair. “Still, that ain't gonna be too much of a problem.” He reached up to the comlink, pressing the button. “Zoe? Prep the suits.”

to be continued


Friday, November 10, 2006 4:31 AM


Love it!

I'm really glad that Kaylee went to Freya and didn't let her sulk and stew in her own grief. And I love Simon being able to head off any problems with Bethany. And that the baby is well! Thank God!

Of course, I'm petrified about this rescue attempt, something tells me someone's not going to make it ... and when are Zoe and Hank gonna get together? I'm rooting for him.

Friday, November 10, 2006 11:13 AM


Oh *tianna*, poor River! I hope our gallant heroes can rescue her in time and that Simon had something suitably painful and insidious to give them nightmares for the rest of their evil lives. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, November 10, 2006 10:50 PM


Oh crap...they're gonna space walk? That's just asking for Murphy Law' to be invoked:(

And I really wanna comprehend Lon's logic about using Dr. Caron's message about Miranda to reverse what gains River has had in stabilizing her sanity...but I can't. They expect that seeing the message a few times is gonna drive River nuts again? She saw the imagery and consequences innumerable times between Mathias' accidental exposure of the seceret to river and the BDHs' first viewing of the Miranda WAVE... a few more times is gonna reset the whole mess?



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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

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

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

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