Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mal and the crew have found a new enemy, and things go as they generally do: not smooth.


This is my first try at this, so please be gentle!

All of the characters, save one, belong to Joss. Blackie the panther belongs to Ali D--thanks for letting me borrow her (I know it's been months since I asked!). Feedback would be shiny, but please be nice! Maybe a few thoughts on a title?


Mal stumbled over the raised root of a tree in the snowy darkness of the woods, wincing at the pain it caused the bullet wound in his left thigh. Why in the sphincter of hell had he let Simon talk him into delivering medicines to St. Albans? He had hated the place since dropping Tracey’s body to his family, and hadn’t been back here since. Truth to tell, he’d never much liked the place to begin with; it was just too gorram cold. He hadn’t been thrilled with the idea of coming here; he’d been fighting a cold for nearly a week, and the atmosphere on St. Albans wasn’t much help. But he didn’t have any good reason to turn Simon down, other than his own distaste for the planet. So here he was, with a gunshot wound, limping through the woods in the opposite direction from his ship, with no idea what had just happened or why. They’d never had enemies on St. Albans before, so he couldn’t fathom who had shot him or what their reasons might be for it, and that was why he was headed away from Serenity. It didn’t make sense to bring trouble home, at least not until you knew the size and shape of it.

Pausing for a moment, Mal listened intently to the night, trying to ignore his pain. The situation was getting worse. He could hear men on his back trail, more than a few, calling to each other, drawing closer. At this rate, they were going to catch him. Soon, too, and he had no intention of being caught by them.

Blood loss was making him dizzy. He shook his head to clear it and forced himself onward. He had to keep moving. Maybe if he crossed the river…

A glance to his right convinced him that the river wasn’t the way to go. He swore under his breath in Chinese. He’d been following the riverbank, but when the hell had it become a gorram hundred-foot cliff? A second look told him that it was only half that distance, but with a bad leg, navigating even that couldn’t come to a good end. The whole gorram thing was loose, rocky soil and scrub. Step wrong, and you’d likely be meeting Book’s dear and fluffy Lord. The bottom of said cliff was lots of raging, icy-cold water, and precious little in the way of footing. With two good legs he might have managed, but it wasn’t an option now.

Pain radiated in a near steady stream from his leg, and despite the freezing cold, perspiration broke out on his forehead. He tripped over another exposed root he couldn’t see, and white-hot pain shot up his leg. Wincing, he clutched at the wound and limped too close to the edge. His leg collapsed, the unstable soil shifted, and then it crumbled, dropping him straight down into icy rapids that took his breath away.

The river was no gentler with him than he imagined his stalkers would be, carrying him along and battering him against other objects that had suffered the same misfortune. Unfortunately for him, most of those objects were inanimate, and the beating didn’t bother them nearly as much as it did Malcolm Reynolds. By the time he was deposited in the shallows, Mal was nearly senseless. He had no idea where he was, or how far he’d been dragged, and had no energy to pull himself out of the water. But giving up was not in his makeup, so he tried to reach the bank to no avail. He couldn’t get the leverage he needed, and couldn’t feel his legs at this point. The only piece of mercy was that he couldn’t hear the searchers anymore. It didn’t mean they’d stop looking, though, and not even Zoe’d miss him until it was too late.

River. She was a ruttin’ reader, wasn’t she? And she was on Serenity. Mal fought to stay conscious as he did what he’d never before done: he tried to reach River with his mind. He concentrated on her with everything he had. He was no psychic, no telepath, and had no idea if he was reaching her or not, but it was something to try, and it gave him hope. So he projected for all he was worth, until consciousness slipped away.


Zoë was in the galley, making tea while watching a card game between Jayne, Book, Wash, and Simon, when simultaneously there was a cry from River, and a roar from the black panther that lay near Mal’s chair at the head of the table. Immediately, she went rigid, not mistaking the significance of the dual vocalizations. River was a psychic, the panther an empath. River could hook into anyone’s brain, but the cat had a link to only one person. It didn’t take a genius to read between the lines, and she went cold. If it had just been River, she probably would have just blown it off, but the cat was another story. The panther had bonded with Mal back on Savannah, and had insisted on joining the crew. Mal had tried to leave her behind, the ship not being what he thought of as an optimal place for an animal, but she wouldn’t have it, and no one had been inclined to argue with a cat the size of a pony, so along she came. Mal had named her Blackie, since everyone had insisted she had to have a name. Nothing fancible; it was Blackie just to shut everyone up.

“Captain’s in trouble,” River said, almost dreamily. “Hurt…” “Where, River?” Zoë demanded sharply. She regretted her tone, but made no apology for it. Her bond with Mal, while different from her bond with Wash, was just as close. They’d been through too much together for it to be otherwise. This was her captain, her best friend, and time, knowing Mal, was very likely of the essence here.

“Follow the river,” the girl said in a singsong voice. “Follow me…”

“Mule or Serenity?”

“Serenity…” She cocked her head at the first mate. “He’s…calling me…”

Any other time, that would have been all manner of intriguing, and in fact, one part of Zoe’s mind filed the comment away for later, but what it meant to her now was that whatever the trouble, it was bad enough that Mal was trying desperate measures. Zoë turned to tell her husband to get them in the air, but he was already sprinting for the bridge, yelling for Kaylee to heat up the engines. Zoë caught River’s arm and hustled her along to the bridge as well. The girl might spout gibberish half the time, but she was their best chance of finding Mal.

A black blur shot past them. It startled her, but she didn’t jump. That it was Blackie, she already knew. The cat was on the bridge when she and River arrived, tail lashing, pacing just behind the copilot’s seat, growling deep in her throat. Zoë threw her a wary look, but didn’t interfere with the panther. Blackie had learned to tolerate the rest of the crew, but her loyalty was to Mal alone, and Zoë wasn’t about to do anything to make the cat think she was getting in the way of that.

Serenity lifted off, and Wash spoke tensely. “Which way, River?”

The girl glided forward, seeming almost to drift. “North. Follow me…”

Zoë exchanged a speaking glance with her husband, but neither one said a word. Girl might be going moon-brained again, but what other leads did they have?


Thursday, May 3, 2007 8:56 AM


Sorry about the double post! All the separations I had put into my word program had vanished, so I went back and added them in! Oops!

Thursday, May 3, 2007 9:25 AM


Loved the first bit, avalonsmommy. Found it descriptive and interesting, specially all his musings. Didn't get the whole panther thing - but that's probably my issue, not yours!! I'm a newbie at this as well, so I know how important feedback is.

Thursday, May 3, 2007 9:26 AM


Sorry - title!! Too early for a title suggestion, need to read more please.

Thursday, May 3, 2007 9:28 AM


The panther came from Amdobell's "The Pursuit Series"--I asked her if I could borrow her for this!

Thursday, May 3, 2007 12:08 PM


Intriguing start, avalonsmommy. You have a nice feel for description, which I always appreciate! I also like your Mal voice, it sounds true. Could definitely see him struggling through the trees, weighing his options while cursing Simon. My only suggestion is to maybe slow it down a little bit, for instance, intersperse the card game with your Mal scenes. Interested in where you are taking this, I like your writing.

Thursday, May 3, 2007 11:18 PM


Thanks, homespun! I'll try to slow it down. I don't really know where this is going yet, just writing whatever comes to mind!

Monday, May 7, 2007 6:42 AM


Definitrely a great opening gambit for what I expect will become quite the rousing tale;D

Do got to ask though...since I don't recall reading the final part(s) of "The Pursuit Series" (or if I did, I have forgotten), I guess this means you got it from the horse's mouth that Blackie got off Savannah with the BDHs. Right?


P.S. Agree with homespun re: speed of events occurring. Tease things out a bit to make us really want more;)


Monday, May 7, 2007 4:14 PM


Actually, according to Ali D's story, the panther did NOT leave Savannah, but I'm writing as if something intervened and they did bring the panther along. In her story, the panther was an empath--maybe she made living in Mal's head hell until he went back for her!


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Mal and the crew have a new enemy, and things go as they generally do: not smooth.

Mal and the crew have a new enemy, and things go as they generally do: not smooth.

Mal and the crew have found a new enemy, and things go as they generally do: not smooth.