Birthday - Part VI
Saturday, November 11, 2006

Serenity's crew have found the ship, but are they in time? Feedback, please.


Mal and Zoe climbed out of the airlock and walked along Serenity’s hull towards the other ship, coming towards them pretty fast.

“Sir, this is going to be tricky,” Zoe said. “If we don’t get this right –“

“It’ll be a long walk home.” Mal lifted the grappler he held. “Just keep your fingers crossed.”

“In a space suit, sir?”

Mal didn’t dignify that with an answer, just put the grappler to his shoulder and aimed carefully for the side of the other vessel, holding his breath quite unnecessarily as he steadied himself, then fired. The grappler flew straight out, hitting the skin of the other ship, the magnetic seal gripping hard.

“Nice shot, sir,” Zoe said.

“Thanks. Now hold on.” He waited for Zoe to grab hold of the grappler unit, then activated the winch mechanism. He felt his boots leave Serenity, and they moved silently through space.

“Think it’ll hold with both of us?” Zoe asked.

He looked at his first mate through the faceplates. “You ask that now?” he said.

“Would it have made any difference if I’d asked earlier, sir?”

He shook his head and looked back up at the fast approaching ship. “Hold on,” he said.

The winch stopped and their momentum carried them forward a little until their feet made contact with the outer hull, their magnetic boots sticking so they could stand up. “Come on,” Mal said quietly.

Zoe opened the airlock outer door and they slid inside, waiting for the pressure to equalise. The light turned from red to green, and Mal gently, as quietly as he could, opened the door. No-one was outside, but that didn’t mean they hadn’t noticed an unauthorised entry. Quickly they stepped out into the corridor, stripping off gloves and helmets, taking their guns from leg pouches.

Silently Mal pointed down the corridor to the left and Zoe nodded, heading that way. Mal went down to the right, checking each room as he came to it. He turned the corner, very carefully, finding himself in the galley, and at the far end a room not unlike the common area on his own boat. A man stood outside a door, heavily armed and looking like he thought with his gun, but that didn’t mean he was any the less dangerous. Luckily he was looking away from Mal, glaring through a small glass panel in the door.

“He dead yet?” Mal asked conversationally.

The man turned, about to answer, then his eyes widened in surprise at seeing someone in an EVA suit, only he didn’t have much chance to think of anything else with Mal’s gun coming down on his head like that. He crumpled to the floor as Zoe appeared at the other entrance.

Mal stepped over him and peered in through the door. “Shit.” He tried the handle but it was locked. “Zoe, see if he has a key.”

His first mate nodded, going through the unconscious man’s pockets as Mal continued to look through the door.

“Is it Simon?” she asked.

“What’s left of him,” Mal replied cryptically, earning a sharp look.

She handed him a key and he put it into the lock, the metal slipping a little in his suddenly damp fingers. The door swung smoothly, and more importantly silently, open. Mal hurried inside, Zoe waiting at the doorway, her gun ready.

“Simon!” Mal leaned over as much as his suit would allow. “Simon!” he repeated, shaking the young man by the shoulder. “Zoe, we need that Lee over here now.”

“Is he alive?”

“He’s breathing, if that’s what you mean.” Mal looked down at the doctor, his eyes staring sightlessly, his body still sitting in the chair.

“Sir, someone’s coming,” Zoe murmured.

“Well, no point in hiding now,” he said, standing up and joining her. “Better go make sure they ain’t gonna fire on my boat.”

“And Simon?”

Mal glanced back, his face carefully blank. “I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”

Apart from the man Mal had cold-cocked, they only found three others, two of whom tried to fight and were cut down, while the third ran. “Find him,” Mal ordered. “Don’t want him doing anything we can’t deal with.”

Zoe nodded and moved off.

Struggling out of his suit, Mal leaned over the main bridge console, getting a feel for the new vessel, then activated the vid. Hank appeared, looking relieved.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Shiny. Bring Serenity in.”

“What about the Feds?” Hank asked, his concern returning.

“We need Lee.”

“You found Simon and River?”

“You got that half right.”

“Activate their docking mechanism,” Hank said, letting his professionalism take over.

Mal stared at the board. “I ain’t exactly sure –“ Then something blinked at him. “Got it.”

“We’re coming in.”

Mal nodded and headed off the bridge. Movement to his left had him raising his gun, but it was only Zoe. “Find him?”

“Not yet, sir,” she admitted. “But this place is like a warren. It’ll take more people to be sure.”

“Fine. Hank’s locking on –“ A slight vibration indicated this was in progress. “Freya and Jayne’ll help.”

They headed towards the main docking bay, where the doors were already opening. Jayne was first through, Vera at the ready.

“We got them?” he asked.

Mal shook his head. “Where’s Lee?”

“Grabbing some med gear. One of ‘em hurt?” the big mercenary asked.

“There’s a man loose still, take Freya and –“

Jayne grabbed Mal’s arm. “Gorramit, Mal! What the tyen shiao duh is going on?”

Mal glared at him until he let go. “Simon’s here. Haven’t found River. Okay?”

Jayne backed down a little. “Okay.” He glanced behind him as Freya joined them. “Look for moonbrain too, while we’re about it,” he added, jogging off.

Freya looked at Mal before following.

“You have need of my services?” Lee asked, stepping through the door with Hank to his back.

“We do.” Mal looked at his pilot. “Get to the bridge, keep the Feds off us. And it looks like the shuttle’s gone. See if you can find out where.”

“On it, Mal,” Hank said, hurrying towards the stairs.

“This way,” Mal ordered, leading the other man back towards the room.

“No wonder you have a resident doctor on board,” Lee said in passing. “You certainly do seem to need one.”

“Just once, just once I’d like to have a month … hell, not even that, maybe just a week … without something going wrong,” Mal muttered.

“I doubt that’s likely, captain,” Lee said.

“I conjure you’re right in that.” ---

“Simon! Simon!”

The voice was insistent, and just wouldn’t do away. He wanted to tell his mother that he had another ten minutes yet before it was time to get up and go to school, or at least five. He was warm and comfortable, laying here under the covers, his head tucked down in the slightly airless cocoon he’d made.

Only it wasn't warm. Or comfortable. And his head was screaming with pain.

“What’ve they used on him?”

“What haven’t they?”

“Can you bring him round?”

“Might be better if we don’t until he’s back on board. He’ll be disoriented at the very least. Maybe even psychotic.”

“They might have sent him crazy?”

“Captain, these drugs are designed to do just that. Hold someone at the point of insanity so they tell you exactly what you want to hear.”

“You think he did?”

I didn’t tell anyone anything, he wanted to say. They didn’t break me. Didn’t make me give you all up. Leave me alone, he needed to yell at them.

“Lee, we can’t find River. That means they’ve taken her someplace else, and he might know where. Bring him around.”

“If you insist. I have something that should at least begin to counteract the –“

“Just do it.”

An insect stung his arm, leaving a cold trail of poison seeping through his veins. He wanted to bat it away, squash it, but he couldn’t move.

“What’s that on his forehead?”

“Needle marks. To be effective the drugs are injected directly into the brain.”

Tah muh duh."

Leave me alone. You can’t do anything to help me, he wanted to say. Let me die in peace.

“Is he dying?”

“Captain, we all die. That’s what it means to be human.”

“I can’t be having philosophy at a time like this. So either you answer my perfectly simple and straightforward question, or I shoot you now.”


“No what?”

“No, he’s not going to die right away.”

“Shut up!” he screamed, but it came out as a whisper.


He opened his eyes and a face swam in front of him. “Go away,” he said weakly. “I'm trying to die here.”

“No you ain’t,” the face said, showing an alarming number of teeth. “They send you crazy?”

“Where’s River?” he asked, trying to focus.

“Well, that was kinda the question we were about to ask.”

Simon stared at the face, then passed out.

Mal looked at Lee. “I guess you’d better get him back to Serenity.”

“I think I should.” ---

“Vessel Artemis. You have an unauthorised lock-on. Do you need assistance?” It sounded like the Fed from earlier.

Hank sat down quickly in the pilot’s chair, activating the com. “Thank you, but no. We’ve offered our assistance to this ship, and they have locked onto us in order for our engineer to repair their equipment.”

“Vessel Artemis. Acknowledged.” The com went dead.

“They coming after us?” Mal asked behind him.

“Nope.” He glanced over his shoulder. “So we get them?”

“Simon’s in our infirmary, Lee’s with him.”

“How’s Kaylee?”

“Fretting.” Mal looked out into the sky. “You got anywhere with that shuttle destination?”

“Still – damn.” Hank sounded about as despondent as he ever had.


“I’ve been trying to track it, but there’s something wrong with the system. I think someone got to it before I could.”

Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng. I’ll bet it was that bastard that’s hiding from us,” Mal said bitterly. “Let’s just hope one of those other hundans’re still alive enough to question.” He hurried off the bridge.

Hank got to his feet, following, a little slower than his captain as he tried to adjust the gunbelt around his hips. He hated the damn thing, but Mal wasn’t going to let him anywhere near a job without one. And he wanted to be a part of the crew so much, and not just to impress Zoe.

He finally felt it more comfortable, and looked up. “What the –“

It hit him in the chest, making him stagger a little. He saw Freya whip out from a side door, using her speed to crash the other man into the wall, the gun flying from his fingers. Hank looked down, feeling gingerly.

“Hank?” Freya called. “He hit you?”

He lifted his hands away, and realised that blood was hot, sticky and very, very red. “I think he did.” His legs suddenly no longer belonged to him and he sank to the floor, leaning against the bulkhead.

“Mal!” Freya yelled, lifting her gun and hitting the man she held on the side of the head, knocking him unconscious. She dropped him unceremoniously to the floor then ran to Hank.

Mal turned the corner, his gun out. “Heard shots. What …tzao gao.”

“Get Lee.”

Mal looked at Freya opening Hank’s blood-soaked shirt and ran back the way he’d come, passing Zoe and Jayne.

“Someone shooting?” Jayne asked, then found himself pushed out of the way by Serenity’s first mate.

“Hank?” she said, joining Freya.

“Hey,” the pilot managed to say, forcing a smile.

“Don’t talk,” Freya said, putting pressure on the wound. Hank groaned.

“Why the hell weren't you wearing the armour I got you?” Zoe demanded.

“You got him armour?” Jayne asked, leaning on the door, resting one foot on the man who’d shot Hank.

“He’s a pilot, Jayne. Not a gunfighter.”

“Looks like he might be something else besides,” the big man pointed out, watching Zoe carefully, noting the concern on her face, more concern than she’d ever shown over him getting hurt.

“Why don’t you just help us get him back to Serenity?” Zoe said, turning a hard look on him.

“Because ya didn’t ask.” Jayne slung Vera across his back and moved forward, getting his big hands under Hank’s arms and lifting him up. Zoe took his legs.

“Frey?” she asked.

The other woman shook her head. “I’ll deal with this one,” she said.

“There’s another, deck below. Mal hit him. He’s outside the room where they were holding Simon.”

“I’ll find him. Go.”

Zoe nodded and they moved off down the corridor, Hank groaning slightly. ---

Mal ran into the infirmary. “Lee, we got another patient coming for you,” he said without preamble. “Hank’s gotten himself a little shot.”

Lee looked up from Simon, who appeared to be conscious. “Help me get this young man onto the other bed.”

Mal nodded, and between them they lifted Simon to his feet, moving him carefully across to the counter. “You okay?” he asked, looking into the young doctor’s pale, sweaty face.

“I'm alive,” Simon managed to say, sitting on the counter. “Not sure if I can say I'm okay.”

“He came round a few minutes ago,” Lee explained. “He’s still groggy.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Simon said. He looked up at Mal. “Did I hear you right? Hank’s been shot?”

“Got in the way of a bullet.”

“Then I’d better –“

“No,” Mal said, gently but firmly putting his hand in the young man’s chest and pushing him back. “You’re in no fit state.”

“I can deal with this,” Lee said, picking up his medbag again. He grinned. “No rest for the wicked,” he added. “At least, not on this boat.”

Mal led the way out of the infirmary, and Simon sat back, his head against the cool wall. There was so much fog in his mind, so much confusion … all he could remember was … He sat forward, his eyes wide. ---

Mal stopped, staring into the other ship. Jayne and Zoe were carrying Hank. “That a good idea?” he asked. “Should you be moving him?”

“Weren’t my idea, Mal,” Jayne put in quickly.

“I don’t think the bullet hit anything vital,” Zoe said, lifting Hank carefully through the bay door.

“Yeah, it did,” Hank groaned. “Me.”

Lee, behind Mal, smiled. He took a step forward, then his head snapped back. The sound of a gunshot echoed through the bay. Mal whirled, his gun clearing its holster and firing almost without conscious thought, and the man on the catwalk fell soundlessly to the cargo bay floor. Only it wasn’t soundlessly when he hit like a bag of wet bones.

“Mal,” Jayne said quietly, still holding Hank.

Mal turned back and looked at the big man, then down. Lee lay on the deck, not moving. Not breathing. Gone from being a walking, talking human being to a corpse in less than a split, his head leaking blood and matter onto the metal. An idle thought crossed his mind that it wasn't the first time. Mal looked across at the other body.

“It was the man I hit,” he said, his voice almost wondering. “Must have come to, found his way on board and was waiting for us.”

“Sir, Hank needs a doctor,” Zoe said insistently.

Mal shook himself. “It’ll have to be Simon.”

“Is he in any fit state to do anything?” Jayne asked, feeling his muscles beginning to ache from holding Hank up for so long.

“Damn well better.” He led the way towards the infirmary.

to be continued


Saturday, November 11, 2006 2:37 AM


Oh tzao gao ... could it get any worse for our BDHs? Wait, don't answer that!

This was a great rescue, although I am more than worried that River's gone with Mitchell ... YIKES!

And poor Simon, something tells me things are going to get so much worse, before they get even slightly better.

Hurry, hurry, hurry with the next part, please!

Saturday, November 11, 2006 8:20 AM


Oh good gorram, bad things keep happening and even though they got Simon back what a cost! First poor Hank gets shot then Lee is killed. Really rotten to kill Lee off when he was helping our heroes out like that. I hope they can find River soon too and maybe let that awful Mitchell Lon chew on vacuum, evil man that he is. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, November 11, 2006 12:05 PM


Sweet Yesu! That was just nucking futs! I am surprised that Zoe ain't freaking out more, since she and Hank are finally growing closer though...

And I really hope Simon can hold on to something resembling sanity to fix Hank before he breaks down. Cuz I assume his sudden "SHIT!" moment in the infirmary means he's realized how much information he passed on while strung out on psychotrophics:(



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[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!]