Sunday, February 18, 2007

Life in the Zhai. Various pairs of lovers have various conversations! Reaver developments. Mal makes a Henry 5th speech! We find out who spiked Serenity with the extra gas canister. Fighting the Reavers. Rebecca gets what she deserves after it's all over. Mal makes his final Presidential act. Closure for now (plus teaser).


PART TEN * I was nothing but a lonely boy Looking for something new. And you were nothing but a lonely girl But you were something Something like a dream come true I was a varsity tackle and a hell of a block When I played my guitar I made the canyons rock -- but -- Every Saturday night I felt the fever grow * In the middle of a steaming night Im tossing in my sleep And in the middle of a red-eyed dream I see you coming Coming on to give it to me * All revved up with nowhere to go – Meatloaf * If this is the last time I'm ever, ever gonna hold you. Let me hold you tight till the morning light. If this is the last time. Ooh we'll ever be together. Kiss me and baby give me something. Tender to remember you by. * If this is the last kiss – Meatloaf * [The first song is for Jayne and Vera; the second one is mostly for Mal & Inara]

It was almost dawn by the time all the equipment had been allocated to the correct places and Jayne and Vera got a room. There was a small double bed, a tiny bathroom with shower and a built-in wardrobe, all in shades of grey metal. The sheets were basic military white; the only colour was the vibrant hand crocheted blanket and cushion. On the wall with the wardrobe was a single shelf and a communication unit. Vera dumped her bag of basic clothing and flipped the switch, “Grayson? Any news?” “Reavers still ransacking and burning the city. Got more refugees coming in. Zhai's got more than enough room for them all. Best catch some sleep and a rest; it'll be all hands on deck once they realise what's happening and follow the trail of ships and other vehicles leaving the city.” Jayne was behind her even soon as she cut the comm, nuzzling her neck with a rather stubbly face and goatee, “We can have more 'n a quickie then, darlin'. D'ya still want me all sweaty and dirty?” Vera's innards clenched with anticipation as she turned in his arms, “Oh, yes! Then a slow wash in the shower afterwards, hmm?” Ares smelt the human pheremones flying and went out in search of that tempting white female ball of fur. * Mal and Inara had been allocated an almost identical room, complete with double bed. Inara placed her bow and arrows on the shelf and sighed slightly, “This isn't going to be easy.” Mal had a small smile on his face. He put his hand inside his vest and took something out, “I was hoping this might help a little.” In his hand was a red silk flower. Inara's heart melted, “Oh, Mal...” She took the gift. As their fingers touched, awareness blossomed between them. “I do love you.” Inara's eyes darkened, “I know; and I love you. And I'm aware there's a whole horde of Reavers out there and we might not survive even this place.” She reached out her free hand and touched his chest, “I've done waiting and I've done fighting. Love me like there's no tomorrow.” Mal dropped a brief, tender kiss on her lips, then swept her up into his arms and onto the bed. * Zoe dumped her stuff in her room, then took Sarah and sought out the Zhai's infirmary. Escalators and motorised walkways took her through various sections of the Zhai, including huge caves laid out with hydroponics and food plants growing under artificial light. After about ten minutes, she found the hospital section and located Simon. Kaylee was with him, holding the twins, waiting for him to finish checking on the patients he had brought in. Simon shook the hand of the Zhai's main doctor, “You know where I am if you need me.” The doctor nodded, “Of course. We may need trauma specialists soon.” Zoe came closer, “Where's Cliff?” Simon gestured, “In a room of his own over there. The morphine and other drugs are keeping him mostly asleep. He's stable.” Zoe went into the white and grey sterile room and there was Cliff. He was still lying on his front and dozing. “Mummy; what's that stuff on his back?” “Special medicine, sweetheart. Reaver weapons are nasty and that stuff will suck out any bad stuff and help Cliff heal.” Cliff's eyes fluttered open. He had absurdly long lashes for a man, “Hey.” He sounded somewhat drunk. Zoe bent down near his face and touched his cheek, “You get better, you hear?” “Do my best, eh. Hey, Sarah.” “Does it hurt?” “Not much, Sarah. Lotsa sleep will help me get better, eh?” Sarah kissed his cheek, “Nighty night then, Uncle Cliff.” He laughed a little, “Sorry; the medicine makes me very sleepy. Zoe; hope to see you again soon.” She looked into his eyes and said carefully and with a certain significance, “We'll go for a ride once you're better, Cliff.” His eyes twinkled back, “I'll get better real soon, then.” * Grayson and Mal put their heads together later and devised watching and eventual fighting shifts; ten hours on, eight hours off. Shifts overlapped for an hour or so and there was just about time to fit in meal breaks. Grayson sent out reconison planes and ships to gather intel. Towards the end of the first twenty four hours in the Zhai, he had his answer. Grayson convened a meeting of his troops and all able bodied people able to fight in the great hall, deep within the Zhai. He stood on a table with Mal. “Okay, everyone. Here's how it is out there. Basically, it's worse than we thought. The Reavers – old and new – didn't just attack Ariel. They've gone for all the core worlds, there are so many of them. Until recently, we all know Reavers have attacked mostly at the fringes of society. Sending squads of highly trained Hunters after them seemed to be the best way of eradicating them or at least lessening the danger of attack.” He sighed, his face grey, “As we are now all too painfully aware, eating or otherwise tangling with the Hunters has led to some kind of assimiliation of both them and their knowledge. They seem to have found a way – or mutated – into being able to Reaverise anyone.” “They're like vampires.” Vera commented, quietly. Zoe gasped, “Cliff! Oh,” Grayson heard and looked at her, “We don't know for sure, but it seems from the garbled intel we've received that the Reavers have to bite or touch you themselves to begin to effect the change. Cliff is being watched for any signs, but he's remained untouched by change up till now and that's a good sign.” * Mal stepped forward to speak and there was muted applause and a surge of welcome from the crowd, “Most of you know me from when I helped to lead the Browncoat uprising some time ago. Some of you from when I was a very reluctant President, along with my wife Inara. It looks as though the Core planets are going to hell in a handbasket and there may not be that much in the way of civilisation hereabouts to go back to. Most of you will be faced with rebuilding homes and livelihoods. But I've travelled most of the raggedy edge of the 'verse. Some of it's rough and a tad lawless, but there *are good folks out there. This Zhai is good and strong; as long as the food and water hold out, no-one can touch us. Water rationing pretty much from now on, please. So, before this is all over bar the restarting of what passes for normal around here and I take my ship and crew back into the black, I'm asking you to do your best and to hold.” * Grayson met afterwards with Mal and the crew. Jayne, as usual, said what was in everyone's mind, “Okay; spill. Why are we here apart from killin' the ruttin' Reavers?” Grayson looked at Mal, “Reavers aside; the interim government in the Core has gone to pieces since you disappeared on us. The Alliance is rudderless, the remaining Triads and other gangs have been having a field day, old scores have been settled, often violently. Those people fairly elected to representation were only just starting to get to grips with the tasks ahead. I'm about as close to head of the remaining armed forces as it gets, so my command structure is full of holes. A lot of people who were key figures in keeping things ticking over either died in the uprising or are dying now. The old, rich families have hidden themselves in various bunkers. Frankly, it's a mess.” “You can't keep looking to Inara and me to sort out your gorram mess. Might have noticed I'm not a fan of the big, faceless Alliance.” Grayson nodded, “Yes; but you were *good at being President. I...well, whole lot of us were hoping you might be persuaded to help, a least for a while.” Mal grabbed Grayson warmly and efficiently by the throat, “Was it you that made our life pods come this way?” “More to the point,” Zoe added threateningly, “Did *you spike Niska's 'cell'?” Mal's head whipped her way, “What?!!?” “Sorry sir; haven't had much leisure to tell you. *Someone added extra gas behind one of the panels; knocked several of us out and sent us in three different directions.” Mal's head turned back to Grayson, “Well?” The flicker in Grayson's eyes gave his guilt away. Mal punched him, twice and Grayson fell to the floor. “In my defence,” he attempted, “I told the two police working for me to do just enough to get you to come back to Ariel on your own as soon as possible. We hoped that once you were back in the saddle, so to speak, you might want to hang around for a while.” “But I was gorram coming to Ariel anyway, complete with a wanted crime boss. You could simply have asked nicely.” “We were desperate. We'd just heard that the Reavers were coming.” Jayne stepped closer, “Now that's just plain disturbin'!” Mal leaned over Grayson threateningly, “I'll help you with the ruttin' Reavers here at the Zhai 'cause I gorram hate 'em. After that, I'm out of here. Try anything – and I mean *anything – to get me and my crew back again to dance to your tune by fair means or foul and I'll shove your head so far up your jacksie you'll never see daylight again!” Jayne was right behind Mal, “An' I'll ruttin' help him!” * Vera was standing with Jayne on one of the lookouts a few days later. These were small 'balconies' high up in the Zhai with letterbox shaped openings about one foot wide by ten foot long. The only thing getting in or out were birds or butterflies. “Ares is still missing.” Jayne grinned, “He's been sited in various places. He's huntin' Fluffy!” “I think she's coming into season; there'll be no holding him back! And 'Fluffy' seemed pretty keen too.” “Gaggin' for it, darlin'!” Vera shrugged and smiled, “He's a male dog and she's a bitch.” “Like the owner!” Vera laughed, “Nice one, if a bit harsh. But with dogs it's basically biology and making puppies.” “Can you imagine the puppies they'll make?” “I'm wondering about them actually getting it on, given the difference in their sizes.” Jayne shrugged, “They'll manage. And it'll be one in the eye for that stuck up ice princess who has the brass neck to deny all knowledge of gettin' jiggy with me.” “Woman's an idiot. Even if it was a moment of secret madness, I wouldn't deny knowing a previous lover.” “You're as diff'rent from her as chalk is to cheese. Sure, you have the ice princess thing sometimes, but I could tell right from the start it was only a thin layer hiding a cauldron of passion for me underneath.” Vera smiled and nudged him, “Reavers are finally on their way.” In the distance was something which looked like a dark cloud moving across the plain. Jayne started loading the huge grenade launcher, “Keep 'em babies comin' till we run out, darlin'.” Vera sat on the stone floor and began opening boxes of spare grenades, “You got it, darling wan nao.” * The Reavers came on in waves. The fighting folk in the Zhai answered with grenades and missile launchers at first, once the Reaver army was in range. After a day or two, the plain was awash with blood and bodies. It was grim, relentless work. Reports came in from Osiris, Sihnon and Londinium of similar battles. On Sihnon the old Companion house was being used as a fortress very successfully. When the Reavers finally made the base of the cliff – and there were many less of them by that time – the last grenades were launched, then the sharp shooters took over. Someone had the bright idea to use the steel crane over the vertiginous drop as a platform for boiling oil and similar substances. The Reavers quickly learned to avoid that area, but it led them closer to the sharpshooters' positions in the Zhai. After several days of relentless onslaught and fighting, Vera and Jayne had a visitor to 'their' balcony. It was Hank, one of the regulars in the Zhai. * Hank was the only man in the Zhai who was substantially bigger than Jayne. Six foot eight in his stockinged feet, midnight dark with African genes and heavily muscled. He was a mechanic, but he had a pretty good aim and was handy for helping move stuff. “Can I stay with you guys? Rebecca D'Lacey is being annoying and I'm trying to escape her.” Vera nodded, looking at him, “What's she doing?” Hank rubbed his thick neck as he set up his rifles, “Wafting to and fro near my position, wearing what I suspect is her coat and heels and not much else. Gets a guy fair distracted, that does.” Jayne grinned, “She wants you, Hank. Did that to me fifteen years back. Would you go there?” Hank grinned right back, “Like a rat up a drainpipe. I've always had a thing for blondes and she's *exactly my kind of woman!” Jayne imparted insider knowledge, “She's really lookin' for a big, dirty, sweaty guy to take that expensive body of hers and pleasure her senseless. I had a moment or two with her, but she was wed then and I didn't tend to go with other men's wives or women. She kinda made me. She's free now, I believe.” Hank sidled closer, “Tell me, is she stacked?” His hands indicated what he meant. Jayne shrugged, “Not much of a rack when I knew her, but by the way that coat is draped over her, I'd say she's got friendly with silicone since.” Hank's grin got wider, “Don't mind falsies, plus the rest of her looks like a wet dream on legs. I'll do it!” Vera rolled her eyes and then looked at them, “Guys...” Hank tried to look apologetic, “Sorry, Vera. Guy talk.” Vera smiled, she was used to being 'one of the boys', “I know; but can we concentrate on the Reavers now?” * It was four days later before the battle against the tidal wave of Reavers was finally over on Ariel. Mal got Grayson to send out recon again and double check all the Reavers were dead. The cities on Ariel were in a mess, but the coast was eventually clear. Grayson got the chefs in the Zhai to lay on the best spread that was possible and sent people down to the cellars for beer and wine. Everyone could finally take a breather. * Ares had been sniffing all over the base for that tempting female. He'd scented her and even seen her from afar a couple of times. He wandered down to the hanger, following a very hopeful trail. There, at last, was the little minx. She was scrambling up a big step ladder and on top of one of the ships. Ares followed her, making eager growling noises. They sniffed and licked, then he delicately sank his teeth into her shoulder and she eagerly offered herself. Ares got to it without any further ado. The sounds of canine ecstasy soon drew a crowd, including Hank. No-one had managed to have much in the way of diversion or entertainment lately, and this was, at the moment, compelling viewing until something better happened. “Felicity! Where are you?” Rebecca was also hunting her dog. She walked into the hanger just as Ares and Felicity were going down for the third or fourth time. Rebecca gasped, “You big, bad brute! She's a pedigree!” Ares and Felicity weren't exactly listening. Jayne and Vera stood at the back of the crowd. “Go for it, lad!” Jayne urged. Rebecca turned on him, recognising his voice, “How dare you let that...that *animal rape my sweet little Felicity!” “It's not rape, woman! She's lovin' every minute of it. She's a girl, he's a boy, they're makin' puppies!” “It's disgusting!” Hank saw his moment and an even better opportunity for diversion. He was currently hot, sweaty and dirty and had been like that for several days due to water rationing. He stepped forward. “Would it be disgusting if *you were doing it?” Rebecca angrily drew herself up to her full height, “I have never been so...” Her words ended on a shriek as Hank pounced, lifting her easily and slinging Rebecca over his shoulder. “Come on, Becky. Let's see how you like it, huh?” Rebecca pummelled his back and kicked with her heels, “Put me down, you brute!” Hank headed towards Rebecca's ship, snagging a set of moveable steps easily with a free hand, “You've been tempting me with your luscious body for days, and now you're going to get *exactly what you deserve!” * The crowd began to clap rythmically and enthusiastically. They were on Hank's side, wanting to see Rebecca D'Lacey brought down a peg or two. Hank carried Rebecca easily inside her own craft and closed the door. The crowd began to drift away, show over. Plus the smell of hot food was drifting up from the mess hall. Jayne walked over to look up at Ares and Felicity, who were still at it, “Gonna give you a bit of privacy now, lad. See ya later, huh?” “Hope they don't get stuck,” Vera commented. “I ain't throwing cold water over a guy gettin' laid. They'll figure it out, sooner or later.” * Zoe finally had breathing space to go back to the infirmary. Sarah was playing happily with Sam and Lee and Kaylee had insisted Zoe go alone, a knowing twinkle in her brown eyes. Zoe hoped Kaylee wouldn't blab about the carefully arranged liaison. Cliff was sitting up in bed and gave Zoe a big, beautiful smile, “Hey, Zoe.” Zoe smiled right back, “How's the back?” Cliff gestured, “Have a look.” Zoe walked over and had a look. Cliff's back was uncovered and there were three white, slightly lumpy, diagonal scars where the deep wounds had been. “You've healed quickly.” “You can thank Simon largely for that, eh. He got the right stuff on the lacerations very quickly.” “No stiffness in the back muscles?” “Nothing that won't be cured by some regular and extensive TLC with you, whaiāipo.” “Hori used that word about Jasmine.” “It means 'beloved'.” The remaining ice around Zoe's heart melted, “Here, or my room? Sarah's playing with Kaylee's boys.” Cliff's grin widened, “If you shut the door and close the blinds, we could try for both, eh?” * It took several days to pile up and burn the bodies on the plain, then everyone started to pack up and leave. Despite Grayson asking, Mal refused to stay on. He was seriously pissed with Grayson and was itching to get back to the black. After hearing an edited version of Jayne and Vera's escapades, he directed some of the people who were now particularly destitute towards Euridice. Ares and Felicity finally ground to a halt and Ares came waddling back to Vera and Jayne. He had 'smug' written all over his canine features. Felicity went back into her mistress' ship, jumping up the steps. Rebecca and Hank hadn't been seen since they disappeared into the ship several days back. Vera finally had the leisure, whilst they were packing Serenity up, to tell Jayne about their apparent closer connection by marriage, but Jayne was in the dark on the subject. * “Pa's brother was in the Navy, then he went prospecting and generally bumming about afterwards. Pa hasn't seen him in years. Never had notice that he'd wed,” Jayne shrugged, “He favoured my great-grandpa and the one after whom I'm named; bit of a tumbleweed.” “Oh well, it was worth a thought. I'll tell Jenneth about it when I next send a Wave to her.” “Mal said she's coming here – to Ariel – with that Lawless chap. Seems they're making a go of it, long term.” Vera smiled, “That's nice for them.” Jayne weighed the next words in his mind, “Ya weren't bothered by seein' Becky, were you?” Vera shook her head, “No. I could tell from the tension around your shoulders that you weren't entirely comfortable, seeing her again. I'd guess those three days in her bed – or wherever – weren't completely to your taste.” Jayne snorted, “Na. Bit of a wildcat, all scratchin' and bitin'. Can't put my hand on my heart and say there was *no pleasure, but it wasn't much.” Vera nodded and shifted another box, “Okay. Thought it was something like that.” Jayne looked at her perfectly calm and poised demeanour, slightly stunned. Then a slow smile crept over his face, “Gorram. I *adore you, woman!” She turned, matching his grin, “Oh, Jayne!” She placed the box on the pile and came over, kissing him briefly, “You know I adore you right back, huh?” His mouth twitched, “I'm gettin' there!” * Serenity landed very briefly in Parliament Square. The city lay largely in burnt ruins around the ship. In the square were two people; Todd Lawless and Jenneth. After hugs and pleasantries had been exchanged, Mal got down to business. “Todd; you seem like a decent sort and you did right by me twice over. I checked the legislation whilst under seige in the Zhai. I'm appointing you and Jenneth here as interim joint presidents until Inara and I return.” Todd smiled, getting the drift, “You're having” “Say about fifty years or so. I bequeath you all our powers and responsibilities. There's a lot to rebuild, you won't be short of projects. *Not rebuilding the palace would go down well. Try for something simpler, more egalitarian.” “We'll do our best, Mal.” “Watch Grayson; he turned out to be sneaky.” “Consider him demoted.” “Good luck, both of you.” Mal walked on to Serenity with the others and up to the galley. “Holiday?” All the others looked at him and nodded, “Holiday.” “Vera; yours and Jayne's place on Avalon...?” “No room in the villa for all of you, but you could pop Serenity on one of the bluffs or high up the beach.” Mal nodded, “Okay; wagons roll!” * A lanky, scruffy, very dirty young person wearing little more than rags knocked on the door of the Cobb ranch. Ma Cobb opened the door. “Hi,” the apparition said, in a croaky voice, “I'm Bethan Cobb's grandchild.” * THE END [for now]


Sunday, February 18, 2007 7:49 AM


Author's note.

Yes, there will be another story. About the new Cobb junior, for a start. Probably some Reaver mopping up.

Suggestions welcome, especially about Zhang. There's more to him than what I've written and I can't see what it is yet.

I've got a coda to the next story <G> set about 22 years in the future and some vague ideas, but a big theme would be really nice.


Sunday, February 18, 2007 11:07 AM


I liked the way this wrapped and am glad Mal warned Todd and Jenneth about Grayson, the slimey snake. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 4:52 PM


Whoo hoo that was some sweet action you presented here, Vera! Definitely was a rollicking read from start to finish;D



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