Eden - Part V
Saturday, April 28, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Hank is in the clutches of an old enemy, while Mal and the rest of the crew think they know where he is ... I need to know what you think, whether this is working, so please leave feedback. It is important to me. Please?


He’d heard about Mal and the late Wash’s run-in with Niska. How he’d tortured them, then, when Zoe had bought her husband back, how he’d really gone to work on Mal. But it had always been a distant thing, a story, even when one day he’d noticed the scar still visible in places around Mal’s ear. It was only a story.

He wished it still was.

What was it about screaming? All the books he’d read had made it clear a man doesn’t scream, he bites it back, holds it inside, no matter what the bad guy does to him. How totally and utterly ridiculous that seemed now.

His scream echoed back to him as the electricity coursed through his body again. As it stopped, he slumped in the restraints.

How had they done this? How had Mal and Wash survived? They had to have been so much stronger than this, so much more of a man than he was.

He hovered on the verge of unconsciousness.

No matter what he said, what he did, he was a coward, and this just proved it. Barely damaged him, and already he couldn’t take it.

“Course you can.” A voice at the edge of his hearing. “And it ain’t about being a coward.”

Hank struggled to open his eyes, but he couldn’t see anyone. Niska was talking quietly to his man, apparently discussing what tool to try out on him next. They were taking no notice of the new person in the room. “Who …” He tried to speak but his throat wouldn’t work properly.

“This is torture, not a tea party.” A man came round into his vision.

Hank blinked hard, trying to clear the sweat and blood from the cut that kept re-opening above his eye. The newcomer was blond, an odd unfinished look to his face, and wearing a Hawaiian shirt that should have been illegal. “Not a …” Suddenly he knew who it was, and realised that he must have gone insane.

Wash patted him on the shoulder, and he didn‘t even feel it.

“You take it. Can’t do nothing less. And you don’t die, or Zoe’ll never forgive you.” Mal’s old pilot looked him up and down, then shrugged.

“Forgive … me?” Hank ground out, and the other men looked at him strangely.

“Though as you’re actually the father of my lambie-toes’ child, guess maybe she might.”

Niska held out his hand, taking something and standing in front of the pilot. He reached forward, and agony burst through his chest as his skin parted over his ribs.

“Is forgiveness you wish?” Niska asked. “But of course forgiveness only comes with penance. And with penance comes pain. Many days.”

“Breathe slowly, Hank,” Wash advised.

“How?” He was panting now, more cuts joining the first.

“How?” Niska repeated. “In this way.”

But Hank wasn‘t listening to him.

“Because there’s gonna be more to come. You can do this. Get through it.” Wash shook his head. “Just concentrate on your son. What he’s gonna look like. How he’ll only be the first. See Zoe in your mind, all beautiful and majestic, like a ship in full sail.”

Hank almost laughed but he couldn‘t even speak through the haze. “Kinda like the idea of that.”

“Hold onto it.”

Niska slid the knife a little deeper.

“How did Freya survive what Wing did to her?” Hank asked silently, tears of pain and frustration running down his cheeks.

“You just do. That’s the point of the whole thing,” Wash said, leaning on the metal tripod. “People get you through it.”

“Like you’re getting me?”

“I ain’t even here, Hank.”


“Nothing, Mal,” Jayne said, jumping up the stairs to the bridge. “Went through all the ships that coulda had him, but there’s no sign.”


“Us neither,” Kaylee said softly.

“He ain’t here, Mal.” Jayne glared out at the Skyplex. “He’s been taken off already."

“I’ve checked all the departures, and this is the only one that fits.” River tapped the screen then looked up at Mal. “The Orchid, a mid-size transport registered to the Cain Corporation. She left Wayborn immediately after Hank was taken, and her manifest says she’s bound for Boros, but …”

“Yeah, manifest and actual destination sometimes don’t tally. Done the same thing myself.” Mal studied the information. “A Caudal. Not too fast, can’t outrun us, but she’s armed.”

“Two fifty millimetre cannons,” River agreed.

“And if Hank’s on board?” Simon asked, standing with his arm around Kaylee. “Can we take them?”

Mal shook his head. “They’d knock us outta the sky before we could even get close.”

“Then what do we do?” Kaylee asked.

“We follow.” He looked down at River. “Can you plot us a course where we know where they are but it don’t look like we’re dogging ‘em?”

“Yes, captain.”

“Mal, I’m not so sure about this,” Freya said, leaning against the bulkhead, her arms crossed in front of her.

“Not sure about what?” Mal looked at her. “You got some better idea of where he is?”

She shook her head. “I can’t feel him, if that’s what you mean. I just … I don’t think he’s on board that ship.”

“But you don’t have any better ideas.” Mal gazed at her. He trusted her hunches, her instincts, more than she did some of the time, but right now … ”I don’t think we got a choice. If we stay any longer we’re gonna lose ‘em, and if Hank is on board …” He looked back at River. “You got any feelings on the matter, albatross?”

She shook her head regretfully. “I can’t feel him either.”

Zoe closed her eyes.

“Then do it. Get us off this heap of metal.”

“Already gone.” She turned back to the console and her hands flew across the controls.


As he jerked in the restraints, his mind went back over his life. Not a good sign, he considered.

“That’s only when you’re drowning,” Wash said.

“Doesn’t it count when you’re drowning in pain?” Hank thought as something bit into his side, twisting and turning as it burrowed under his skin. He tried not to faint.

“Hold on.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” The burrowing went deeper, and he was sure it was going to come out the other side.

“Hold on, fly boy.”

Hank’s mind skittered away from what was being done to him, and brought up images of his past. A birthday party, when his parents gave him his first toy spaceship. Meeting Risa, the way she laughed at his terrible jokes, then how they danced all night at the harvest social. Their wedding. She looked so beautiful, and he was so proud of her.

First day at flight school, falling in love with the books and the blueprints, then going home to make love to his wife after she’d sat through an hour of him waxing on about it. He tried not to look at the picture of her lying on their bed, her eyes staring sightlessly into the ceiling, the way he’d gone numb when he realised he would never hold her again. Being in the Alliance army, waiting for someone to kill him, before realising he didn’t want to die.

Working passage on the Gerontius, then the Diamede, finally stepping on board Serenity. His people. His crew. Mal and Freya, Kaylee and Simon, River, Jayne, Inara … and Zoe. His beautiful Zoe. Who he’d wanted from the first moment he’d seen her, wanted to take into his arms and make live again, wanted to …

Suddenly he couldn’t breathe.

“Hold on.”


“Mal, I think I know where they’re holding Hank.”

Mal turned to stare at Freya. “Kinda behind the times, ain't you?” He jerked his head to indicate the black outside the window. “That’s where we’re headed.”

“No. I think we’re headed wrong.” She held out a Cortex pad. “We have to get back to Wayborn.”

He sighed. “Frey, honey, we already searched there. This is our best –“

“Look at this.”

He turned away, back to the course River had set so they would be less easily detectable. “Better make it –“ he began to say, but Freya interrupted.

“Mal, look at it!” This time her voice was the one she’d used as a lieutenant, and she emphasised it with her mind.

He turned to glare at her. “Don’t you ever do that to me,” he ground out.

“Mal.” Her tone softened to pleading. “Please.”

He took the pad reluctantly. “So what am I looking at?”

“These are the original blueprints for the Wayborn Skyplex.”

He glanced down. “So?”

“Look at the name at the bottom.”

He scrolled down. “Niska Corpor –“ His head jerked up. “Niska?”

“It must have been one of the first he built commercially. Added to, supplemented, but it’s one of his.”

Mal unconsciously felt his left ear. “Look, as much as I hate the man –“

“I've been comparing these with the ground plans of what’s there now. Seeing what’s different.”

“Not sure that helps.” He tried a small smile at her, knowing she wanted to assist in any way she could. “Like you said, a lot’s been added –“

“No. Not added. What should be there – and isn’t.” She reached over and pressed one of the buttons, and two plans superimposed over each other. She highlighted an area. “There’s a whole section missing.”

Mal stared. She was right. A whole series of rooms as the very centre of the Skyplex were just not there. “You think it’s a hideout?”

“I think there may be one on every skyplex he ever built.” She leaned against the console, her back aching. “It’s not uncommon, Mal. A crook using a legitimate business to hide his illegal activities.” She eased her spine. “Only maybe this time he actually had somewhere to put stuff.”

He noticed but didn’t comment. “Like prisoners.”


Mal gazed out of the window, thinking hard. “What if you’re wrong and River’s right? That Hank’s on the ship we’re dogging? We go back and there’s nothing there but storage, we’ll lose them. Probably for good.”

“Then let me take the shuttle. We’re still in range, just. I’ll go back and check. If I'm right, you can hightail it to join me.”

“And if you’re wrong?”

“Then I get the chance to go shopping while I wait for you to get Hank then come pick me up.”

Mal considered. “Not sure I like this, Frey.”

“Do we have a choice?” Their eyes locked, and lot more passed between them than just looks.

“You ain't going alone. No matter you don’t say, I can see you’re still in pain.” She went to deny it, but he held up his hand. “I can see, ai ren. You’re gonna take someone with you.”

River looked up hopefully. “Captain –“

“No, albatross. Need you to fly my boat. And I get the feeling Jayne might be handy boarding that ship.” He looked at his wife. “Take Zoe.”

“Mal, she’s pregnant!”

“As you kept telling me when you were carrying Ethan, that don’t mean you’re broken.”

“She won’t want to –“

“I’ll go,” the woman herself said from the doorway. She stepped onto the bridge. “I gotta be somewhere. May as well be with you since I can’t split myself down the middle.” She looked at Mal. “If he’s on board that ship, you bring him home to me, Mal. Dong mah?”

“Wouldn’t think of doing anything less, Zoe,” Mal promised, more shaken by her use of his first name than anything. “Better go. We’re almost at the limit of the shuttle now.”


Niska’s man was removing the device from Hank’s chest when Donaldson hurried into the room. He paused at the sight of the pilot, his hair plastered to his scalp with sweat. His head was turned away, but his lips were mumbling.

“Is … is this really necessary?” Donaldson asked.

Niska shrugged. “I have to entertain myself until you bring more.”

“But this …” He come round to the front of the column. “For fun?”

“Not for fun. I learn things. Many things when I take a man to the limit of his endurance.”

“But what can he tell you?”

Niska smiled. “Is not information I want. Only time.”

Donaldson shook his head, not understanding and not really wanting to. “Well, I came to tell you, we’re about to have visitors.”


As Donaldson explained, Niska’s eyes gleamed.

to be continued


Sunday, April 29, 2007 3:10 AM


Like you bringing Wash back, if only in Hank's head.

Worried for Freya and Zoe. I feel like they are walking into a trap.

Sunday, April 29, 2007 5:32 AM


Really hate to see Hank in pain, but love the idea of Wash seeing him through it. I really hope the next blood spilled is not attached to BDH's, though.

Sunday, April 29, 2007 2:01 PM


Excellent chapter! Can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, April 29, 2007 2:36 PM


Oh most definitely walking into a trap. Although I really hope Freya doesn't get hurt again, because if she does, Mal will lock her on Serenity for the rest of her days.

I too liked Wash coming back. I'm not a huge fan of "ghost" Wash, but I think his presence here was very appropriate.

Monday, April 30, 2007 6:29 PM


I too loved the presence of Ghost!Wash, but mainly for the reason that it's Hank's take on Wash (having never met the man). The line about the "unfinished" quality of Wash's features, and his kinda brusque manner strike me as definitely something Hank or another person who only knows about Wash through others' stories would dream up.

Can't wait to see how the arrival of Freya and Zoe pans out. Get the feeling it's gonna be puppies and rainbows for all:(


Wednesday, May 9, 2007 9:54 AM


I really hated the idea of the crew splitting up. If I had been Mal I would have gone with Freya's isntinct on this one, especially as he now knows the Skyplex is yet another illegal place of Niska's. Very surprised River can't sense anything at all though, that is all manner of disturbing. And I loved Wash reappearing if only in Hank's mind to give him strength to hang on like Mal did for Wash the first time round. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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“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!]