Down the Rabbit Hole - Chapter Nine
Thursday, February 15, 2007

At long last --- Mal and Simon continue to evade the Feds. Not slash. This chapter is for HeWhoKicksAlot, man of extraordinary patience.


Back to Chapter Eight


The nighttime humming of insects was soothing to Simon as he stepped out onto the porch. Staccato chirps assured over and over that all was well; that the remainder of the night might pass without so crass a disruption as gunfire. Simon listened as he drew in the non-mildewed air, longing to be lulled by the fairytale but keenly understanding the folly of such hope. With a deep breath, he left the cicadas to their repetitions and moved toward the woods, gun drawn. It seemed a different path than the one he had raced down earlier, what with no shots being fired, and the moon shedding more light between the oaks and conifers. Still Simon edged his way cautiously from trunk to trunk; treading carefully so as not to trip; pausing time and again, one hand resting on rough bark, the other trigger-ready as he scanned the area visible to him. It was not so different, he told himself, from moving through a blackout zone. Just trying to stay quiet, to keep out of sight. Except this was more dark woods than dark alleys. And he was a specific target. And two men had already been killed. And of course his escape, and quite possibly the life of another man, depended upon his quick completion of this errand.

No, the boy who had desperately dared to venture into the blackout zone had had no inkling of what this bleak future would entail. And it was just as well.

He kept the glinting white of the house in his rear sight, as much for reassurance as to maintain what he hoped was a correct trajectory, and he was quietly pleased with himself when he spotted the hovercraft ahead, its manufactured hull an alien presence amidst the flora.

He’d seen hovers stashed in stranger places, courtesy of himself and his friends after they’d “borrowed” the occasional vehicle. More often than not they had escaped detection, and when they hadn’t, they had relied on their fathers to smooth things over with a fist full of platinum and a “boys will be boys” chortle. If he’d been paying any kind of attention he would have seen that hover theft had clearly been a precursor to his life as a fugitive. A simple step from joyriding teen to murderous renegade. And now he was a murderous renegade inept enough to have incapacitated the man who could get him to safety. Simon glanced back once again at the house, as if it would divulge the status of the man within. It would be all right. He’d found the hover. He would bring it back, they would hear Zoe’s plan. The crew would come and get them. Before the deadline. Before any patrols arrived to investigate the shots fired. And before Mal managed to do himself greater injury.

Simon paused behind the low, thick branches of a fir tree, his last thought a troubling one. Mal would do that, wouldn’t he? Even now he was apt to be moving around in that filthy kitchen, feeling the need to look out of a window, or barricade a door. It would be just like the pian zhi lu zi to do everything to the contrary despite the pain. And Simon had no illusions about the pain he had inflicted on the captain. It was clear from the way he held himself, spoke, even drew breath that the break of the bone, perhaps more than the entry wound itself, was excruciating.

The leg wound was another matter. It bled too much, and would continue to if Mal moved. In an emergency room he would consider that the more troublesome trauma. But out here, in a situation requiring evasion and escape, the rules changed. The captain was strong enough to function with a leg injury. It was Simon’s shot that would be their undoing. Simon’s shot that had splintered the bone and rendered Mal largely immobile. To consider movement, travel, fighting, flight…even with a man as willful as the captain, their odds were discouraging.

Simon gave his head a quick shake. None of this would matter if he didn’t get moving and bring the hover back. With one last glance about he abandoned his cover, ran to the hover, swiped the engineer’s card on the control panel, and easily triggered the ignition.

The high whistle and a louder exhaust rush than he’d heard earlier puzzled him. He looked down the length of the vehicle, wondering whether it had been damaged in the shooting, until his senses registered the true source of the sound.

A bright beam of light was stabbing through the darkness back by the house, slicing the night from side to side. With an oath, Simon yanked the hover under the sheltering fir tree, cut the engine, and fell to ground beside the vehicle as a skiff passed overhead, its searchlight bouncing off the branches above him. Please don’t use a sweep. Please don’t use a heat sweep.

He remained hidden as the air patrol passed again, and for a good while after, until he could convince himself that the muffled boom he was hearing was the rush of blood in his ears rather than the repeat approach of search ships. Even then, it was another minute before he crawled out from under the tree branches, shedding pine needles, eyes darting in every direction.

He tugged the hover out of its hiding place, smiling briefly as Kaylee’s voice played in his head, happily explaining methods the crew used to evade detection. “Sometimes, if there’s just one person and they’re not lookin’ real close, you can cuddle up to somethin’ runs on cooler propulsion, and it’ll shield ya some.” He’d have to tell her he had remembered. That would please her. Providing it had worked. Providing the searchers hadn’t found Mal.

Simon strained to make out any movement at the house, but between darkness and distance there was no telling. Mal could be sitting where Simon left him, inventing creative new curses for the Alliance and his useless medic. Or he could have already been hauled away for interrogation. Surely he would have heard any shots?

Head filled with increasingly troubling images, Simon fumbled for the card, mounted the narrow craft and kicked forward, nearly hitting the first tree he passed. He swerved wildly to his right, skimming some mountain laurels. Regaining control, he leaned low, opened the throttle, and shot through the woods, dodging most of the trunks and branches, clipping one or two with a jolt that nearly unseated him, but managing to hang on until he burst into the yard, pulling up roughly in time to avoid the porch wall.

Dismounting, he crouched behind the hover as it powered down, anticipating threats or shots. There was nothing. No light glimmered from the kitchen windows. Slowly Simon moved across the porch to the door, pushed it open against the resisting mud, and stepped inside…directly into the business end of Mal’s gun.

"Lao tien ya!" Mal’s arm dropped heavily to his side. "Ni xi wang wo she ji ni?" Simon stared for a second at the spot where the barrel had been, inches from his face. “I suppose that would be fair,” he managed, as feeling returned to his constricted chest. “Are you all right?”

“Where’s your weapon?”

Simon immediately felt a flush of shame. In his haste to return, he had tucked the pistol back into his belt and hadn’t drawn it again. Feebly, he displayed it now. Too late, he knew.

“Nice of you,” Mal said with mock-appreciation. “Give some lucky fella the chance to pick a pretty souvenir off your corpse. You should’ve been pointin’ it right at me.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Simon lashed back, still stung by his own stupidity, on edge from his flight through the woods. “I should have walked in and shot you again.”

“You should’ve walked in ready to shoot somebody,” Mal growled.

Simon stiffened, bracing for the tirade, mentally constructing his defense. No, he hadn’t entered the house armed to the teeth. But he’d made it back, and he’d brought the hover. In fact he’d raced– it was a moment before he realized Mal wasn’t speaking. Simon heard a huff of breath as the captain shifted against the wall. Sha gua, what was he thinking? “You need to sit down.”

“I’m all right.” The strain in his voice was audible. “Where’s the hover?”

“I – it’s on the porch.”

“Good work. How’d–” Mal shifted his weight again. He needed to sit down. Simon needed him to sit down. “How’d you managed to avoid the searchers?”

“I hid. Under a tree. Against the hover.”

“Really.” Mal was looking at him curiously. “How’d you know to do that?”

“Kaylee,” Simon answered distractedly. “Something Kaylee said.”

“Good. Bring it in here. Door should be big enough.”

“Let’s sit you back down before you fall.”

“I can manage.”

Simon could hear the scowl but he ignored it, grasping Mal’s right elbow. “It will hurt more when you fall then it will if you let me help you.”


Mal’s tone said he was doing Simon a favor. But for all his reluctance, he didn’t hesitate to lean heavily as he hobbled a few steps back from the door and slid once more to the floor.

On to Chapter Ten


Thursday, February 15, 2007 12:55 PM


Well now...good to know Simon has learnt something about how to avoid being detected by IR and thermographic scans. And Kaylee will be pleased he paid attention to her;D

Also, I had to give a chortle at Simon mentally flogging Mal for being too stubborn to sit still and wait for either Simon to return or obvious evidence the Alliance was gonna bust down the door with guns cocked, locked and ready to rock;)


Thursday, February 15, 2007 1:48 PM


Yay! I as wondering what you were up to...

Well done suspense! I totally didn't think Simon would make it back all right, and find Mal still there. But of course something's going to give eventually. The tension grows and grows...

Are you taking bribes to get you to write faster? ;)

Thursday, February 15, 2007 2:13 PM


At last, a new chapter! I was hoping you were going to continue this so very happy to get the next part of the story. Loved Simon actually managing to get the hover and make it back to Mal in one piece. And of course Mal wouldn't stay put, he would be too worried about the Alliance not to try to be ready just in case. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, February 15, 2007 4:06 PM


This series is an awesome bit of writing, Homespun, and better than many things I've read done by published authors. Wonderful work, wonderfully written, and perfect characterization!

Thursday, February 15, 2007 5:20 PM


A very nice little Simon solo piece. I like seeing Simon "operating." He's a smart guy who will always struggle out in the world, so I like to see him getting it right for a change. Granted, Mal can't let this go to his head...

And many thanks for the props. I hate to see a good writer get bogged down. But sometimes you have to take your time to get the details right. Patience is everything.

"Some of our jobs are a bit more interesting than others'."

Rob O.

Thursday, February 15, 2007 6:48 PM


YAY!! So happy the series is continuing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 3:41 AM


just re-reading this - and it's still great:)


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