Playing Parts - Part XVIII
Friday, November 16, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Saffron try to swim to freedom, and Freya is beside herself with worry. NEW CHAPTER


Act VII cont - Borodin

The applause sounded long and loud, ringing through the ballroom as the actors took their bows, until Theo walked to the centre front and raised his hands.

“Friends, friends … I think I can call you that after we have spent this congenial time in each other’s company. I am gratified to hear you enjoyed our play, and hope this won’t be the last time we meet. But until then, let me wish you all a fond farewell and a safe journey home. Goodnight.” He bowed deeply and swept off the stage, followed by the rest of the actors, as the clapping broke out again.

Theo beamed at his troupe. “That was well done, everyone. Thank you.”

“Yeah, well done,” Zoe said, stepping up close behind him. “But we’ve still got two missing people here, and no way of finding them.”

“They’re leaving,” Kaylee said, peering through the scenery.

“About gorram time.” Jayne stood up. “Bose going?”

“Everyone is.”

Zoe turned to him. “Jayne, let us know when the guards have gone.”

“On it.” The big man loped off.


Mal stared up into the small room at the end of the corridor. “Seems we’ve found it.”

Water was pouring through a pipe above their heads, wide enough to take a body.

“I can’t climb up there!” Saffron insisted, her shivering becoming almost uncontrollable.

“Don’t have to. We’ll wait for the room to fill then swim out.”

“What if we can’t get through? If it turns too tightly, or gets narrow or –“

“Darlin’, we’re in line to drown one way or the other. If it’s gonna happen then I’d kinda like to go down fighting. Or swimming, in this case.”

“What about that rescue you talked about?”

Mal paused a moment. “Honestly?”

“Why not? It would make a change.”

“Then honestly, I don’t think they’re gonna get here in time. So we make our own way out.”

Saffron stared at him. “You’re insane.”

“It’s been said.”

“In which case …” She thought for a moment, then tugged on his arm. “Come on.”

“Where? Saffron, I don’t see another way out of this.”

“I know. But there might be something we can do to make it less likely we’re going to drown. Come on.” Two turns and a hundred yards back the way they’d come they came to a wall covered in clear boxes. Opening one she turned triumphantly, a roll of plastic bags in her hand. “I saw these before, but I never thought they’d come in handy.”

Mal peered at them. “So?”

She smiled, the first real and honest grin he’d seen on her face. “Don’t say I’ve stumped you.”

“I'm not feeling in the mood for games.”

In response she tore a bag off the roll, pulling the open end together and blowing into it, like she was blowing into a balloon. It inflated, and she tied a knot in it. She held it out. “See?”

His lips twitched. “You’re gonna hold this against me, ain't you? Coming up with this.”

“I hope so,” she said. “And I’ll enjoy every moment of it.”


They listened as all the various hovers and other vehicles pulled away from the house, and it fell silent.

“Frey, you want to try again?” Zoe asked.

Freya finished wiping the make-up from her cheeks and looked at her friend, lines on her face where there had been none before. “I have been.”

“But there shouldn’t be the distractions now.”

“Okay.” Freya concentrated, trying to break through the barriers now that the play had finished, pushing the text and directions away from her mind to open it up to … She stopped, her eyes going wide.

“Frey?” Kaylee asked.

Frey? Mal’s voice echoed the young mechanic’s.

Thank God. The relief in her mental voice was almost palpable. Are you okay?

Jayne chose that moment to reappear. “Guards are gone. And look what else I found out there.” He hauled a young man forward.

“Mikel!” Etta rushed forward and enveloped him in her arms.

“Where … we thought you’d been taken,” Theo said, immeasurably relieved.

“Not me. I got … it wasn't me, Theo. I …” He stopped, aware he was about to let on more than he should. “I just went for a walk.”

“Mikel, they know.” He took the younger man’s arm. “Did you get it?”

“Yes.” He glanced at Serenity’s crew, still unwilling to give away more information than was needed. “I got it.”

“Zoe.” Freya interrupted.

“You found him?”

“They’re in the basement,” Freya said, tugging on her pants.

“They?” Kaylee said in puzzlement. “But Mikel’s here.”

“Not him,” River said, sighing. “Janith.”

“That’s impossible,” Etta said. “She’s back on Cressida. Sick.”

“And not Janith.” Freya sighed. “Saffron.”

“That po fu?” Simon said before he could stop himself.

“That’s the one.” She shook her head. “That woman will be the death of Mal. Just hoping it won’t be today.”

“Basement?” Zoe prompted.

“That’s all he knows. The basement of this house.”

The first mate glanced at Jayne. “Find out where it is.”

“No,” Freya said unexpectedly. “There’s no time. It’s flooding.” Everyone suddenly realised her face was pale, drawn. “We have to get to Serenity.”


The water had climbed higher, and Mal was convinced his toes had fallen off since he hadn’t been able to feel them for some time. They’d climbed up onto pipework, trying to keep out of the rising tide, but they were still freezing. Saffron was in a particularly bad way, and he’d had no choice but to cover her body with his, holding on either side, trying to share what little warmth he had with her.

She was shivering, her teeth chattering. “We’re going to die,” she stuttered out, each word like a machine gun bullet.

“Ain't dead yet, Saffron. Or Yolanda. Or maybe Lorelei.” He looked down into her face and smiled, even as his jaw was aching from the cold. “Or is it Erin?”

“Oh, great,” she murmured. “Make things worse, why don’t you?”

“So that is your real name. Frey said it was.”

She gave him as pointed a look as she could manage. “Tell her to mind her own business.”

“Oh, she did. She ain't told me anything else, though I know it pained her not to pass on what I'm sure was juicy titbits.”

“It’s very boring.”

“Knowing you, darling, I doubt that.” He grinned, then had to grab at the pipework again as his hand slipped. The water was already up to their waists, even holding on above the floor as they were. Mal glanced over his shoulder and noted that the water had reached the pipe. “Saffron, we have to move.”

“I'm too cold.”

“I ain't dragging you. So you swim. Now.” He let go and slipped into the water, it closing over his head before he was able to kick to the surface. “Come on.”

She nodded and let go, sliding next to him, holding onto the bags of air as tightly as she could. “If I die I'm coming back to haunt you,” she said, her pale face almost white.

“I’ll look forward to it.” He took some of the bags. “Ready?”


“Tough.” He swam for the pipe, feeling the pressure pushing against him. Holding onto the edge he started taking deep breaths, filling his lungs as far as he could, flushing his system with oxygen. Saffron was doing the same. “Now.” He pulled himself into the pipe, thinking just one word. Frey.


“Where are we going?” Hank asked as they ran through the gardens back towards the Firefly.

Freya didn’t answer, her feet just pounding even harder on the gravel walk.


It was pitch black, and for a moment he didn’t seem to be making any headway, then the pressure relaxed as the water level behind him reached above the pipe level. Feeling Saffron bumping into his legs he tugged himself along.

He thought the pipe was curving up slightly, but he wasn't too sure. All he did know was that his lungs were screaming in agony as he exhaled steadily, just a few bubbles escaping from his mouth at a time. Finally there was no more air to breathe out and he stopped, dragging the bags to his lips. Trying to keep a seal, he bit into the plastic, inhaling carefully at the same time. Not a lungful by any means, but at least it eased the burning in his chest for a moment, and allowed him to move forward again. He had no way of knowing if Saffron was doing the same. A few more yards and another bag. A few more and another, and another and … there were no more. All used up.

Keep going, he seemed to hear in his mind, but with the rushing in his ears he wasn't too sure. Please, keep going.

There. Up ahead. The darkness seemed to be a little lighter. The opening into the sea? Through vision tinged increasingly with red he pulled himself forward, praying there wasn’t a grille over the entrance, and that he wasn’t hallucinating in the first place. His fingers encountered an edge, and he curled his hands around it, propelling himself forwards with the last of his strength. He shot out of the pipe, dragging Saffron behind him, and kicked towards the surface.

He could see a light above him, at least that’s where he thought it was, and it seemed so close. He tried to swim towards it, but Saffron was pulling him back down, and all he wanted to do was sleep. Then someone grabbed his wrist and he got the impression of a figure swimming past him.

A sensation of speed, of things moving very quickly, and his head was suddenly out in the air.

“Breathe,” Jayne growled, squeezing him tightly. “She ain't gonna like it if I bring a corpse back on board.”

I am breathing, he wanted to say, but realised he wasn’t. He tried to take a great gasp and water rushed from his mouth and nose. He coughed, pain radiating from his chest and filling his body, more water splashing the surface.

Zoe appeared next to him, Saffron in her arms, and he wanted to make some comment, something pithy, something that everyone would always remember, but all he could do was sag back against the mercenary.

“She alive?” Jayne asked.

“She’s not breathing.” She waved up towards the shuttle, its nose light illuminating the surface of the sea.

“Neither was Mal but I think I got him going again.”

Wasn’t I?

A line snaked down from the open hatchway, and Jayne fastened it securely around Mal’s waist.

“Wait,” Zoe said. “They’re chained together.”

“Gorram it.” He grabbed Saffron and draped her chained arm around Mal’s shoulders, then undid the belt on his pants. Wrapping it around them both he managed to get it fastened, but it was a tight squeeze.

“That gonna hold?” Zoe asked, shaking her head to clear her water-logged curls out of her eyes.

“Don’t have time to worry.” He waved into the light.

Mal felt something tug at his waist, and wondered briefly why he appeared to be flying. That and the fact that he had a dead weight hanging from his chest. Then hands reached out and grabbed him.

“Got them!”

It was a voice he seemed to recognise, and he found himself lying on a floor. The weight on his chest eased suddenly.


“Help me undress them. But be careful. Don’t move them more than you need to.”

Move? Who wants to move?

“Simon, she ain't breathing.”

“I know.”

Simon? He tried to speak, but nothing would come out past his numb lips.

“Lie still, Mal, and don’t talk.”

He felt his sodden pants being peeled from his legs, and he almost cried out as air hit his already freezing skin. Then something was laid across him.

“Not too much. It has to be slow warming otherwise there could be damage.”

“What about Saffron?”

“I'm working on it.”

“Doc? She breathing yet?”

“No. You’d both better get out of those wet clothes before I have two more hypothermia patients to deal with.”

Is that what I have? Oh, well, good. Thought I was dying. He tried to turn his head.

“Ssh, lie still.”

This time the voice was much more familiar, much more soothing. Something touched his face and he tried to brush it away.

No, Mal, he heard in his mind. Leave it. It will help.

The same as the voice that had spoken, he found he believed it implicitly, and relaxed, feeling a warm zephyr on his cheeks.

Breathe deeply.

Okay, he thought back.

“How’s he doing?” Jayne asked, running himself down with a towel.

“He’ll be okay,” Freya said. She moved the blanket further up Mal’s torso. “This warmed oxygen will do the trick.”

“You just saying that, or is it true?”

“He’ll be fine.” With a hand that barely shook, she brushed her husband’s wet hair from his forehead.

Jayne looked down at where Simon was still working on Saffron. “Her?”

“I don’t know. She took in a lot more water than -”

Saffron vomited up an immense amount of liquid, staining the floor beneath her, and Jayne took an involuntary step backwards.

Simon nodded, turning her onto her side and lifting her knee into the recovery position, feeling her shivering beneath his touch.

“She’s still cold,” the big man pointed out.

“No, that’s good. Shivering is the body’s natural method of keeping warm. Without it I’d be a lot more worried.” Simon grabbed a foil blanket and covered the naked woman with it. “I still need to get them both back to Serenity as fast as possible, though.”

Zoe stepped to the small bridge. “River, lay in a course for -”

“Already done.” She glanced up. “Hank has taken off and we’re docking … now.”

There was a slight thud and the shuttle shuddered as it was drawn into the clamps.

Frey, Mal thought as strongly as he could. Tell Hank to get us out into the black.

She looked into his blue eyes and nodded. “Zoe, Mal wants us away from here.”

“What about the actors?”

River moved into sight. “Cressida’s getting ready to leave Borodin. I don’t think Theo wants to hang around any longer than he needs to.”

Zoe nodded. “I don’t exactly blame him.”

“Tell them to rendezvous with us in that asteroid belt,” Freya put in.

“Mal said?”

“Mal said.” Freya finally smiled a little. “I think he wants to have words with Theo.”

to be continued

A.N.: Just a quick note to say that the plot device of using plastic bags to carry air is one of my own devising, and I wouldn’t suggest you try this at home! Always assuming you had to get out of a flooded basement through a pipe …


Saturday, November 17, 2007 3:28 AM


Excellent chapter! Made my lungs ache! :D

Saturday, November 17, 2007 4:09 AM


Now that is what I call thrilling heroics! I won't want to go swimming again for a long time after this. Great description of hypothermia too. Now we get to hear Saffron's side of the plot and hopefully what was in the safe. Somebody's going to be a little ticked off pretty soon!

Saturday, November 17, 2007 5:07 AM


Wow, I was on the edge of my seat reading this chapter! So happy for Saffron to be making an appearance again in your series, and I'm so curious as to how much about her Freya knows. I do hope Mal never finds out, though...

BTW, exhaled air does have enough oxygen to be rebreathed for a certain amount of time, so the plastic bags are a clever plot device. Of course, standard air has a higher percentage of 02, so if you want to cut our heroes a break, maybe they whipped and filled the bags with air before heading out?

Saturday, November 17, 2007 4:36 PM


Excellent chapter. I was on the edge of my gorram seat. I think most people have an inate fear of drowning and it had a feeling of claustrophia as well. So happy Frey could get through to Mal and he was able to respond in her mind enough for her to know he was going to be alright. Can't wait for the confrontation with Theo. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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