Slender Thread - Part IV
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Over on the derelict, Mal and the others take a look around, but find more questions than answers. NEW CHAPTER


As Kaylee searched for the part she needed, accompanied by Zoe in case of emergency, and satisfied her itch of curiousness at the same time, Hank and Mal headed for the bridge. To both men’s surprise it turned out to be small, not much larger than Serenity’s. Its surfaces might have been shiny chrome, but it had an air of lost hope, as if it had been alone for decades.

“Somehow I thought it would be more impressive,” Hank said, sitting down in the seat in front of the main console under the screen that spanned the room. His keen eye ran over the array of controls, and in a moment he found the one he wanted. The screen started to glow into life, and suddenly the stars came out. He grunted in pleasure, his claustrophobia easing a little.

“No space for a co-pilot,” Mal observed. “’Less one of these is.” He touched the back of one of the four chairs facing the wall either side.

“Can’t see that’s likely. Looks to me more like they’re for checking analyses of some kind, but don’t ask me what.”

Mal leaned forward, and realised some of the dials and read-outs reminded him of the infirmary. “Some kind of telemetry?”

“Maybe. But this ain’t like anything I’ve seen before, so for all I know this could be making sure the coffee machine’s hot enough.”

“Well, you come across that machine, you let me know. I could do with one right now.” Mal returned to his pilot’s side. “Can you find the switch for the net?”

“It might take me a while. I don’t want to go pressing things I don’t have to, just in case something nasty happens.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, like maybe the zombies hidden deep in the bowels of the ship wake up and come out to attack us.”

Inside his suit Mal raised his eyebrows. “Zombies?”

“Or maybe vampires. Hanging upside down from the conduits.”

“Hank, that’s it. No more scary movies for you. I’ve seen you on the late watch.“

“Have to have something to do,” Hank complained.

“Then take one of your books with you. Honestly, they’re bad enough, but horror vids? Banned.”

“That’s cruel.”

“You want me to talk to Zoe?”

“That’s worse.”

Mal smiled, knowing the pilot couldn’t see. “I’m gonna take a look around. Try not to blow us up.”

“I’ll do my best.”


Back on Serenity Simon found he had more patients than just one with a headache.


He looked up from where he was preparing a hypo for Freya and saw Bethie and Ethan in the doorway to the infirmary. “Hey. What’s the matter?”

“Our heads hurt,” the little boy said, his face screwed up.

“Then I’d better do something about that,” Simon said, smiling. He held out his arms. “Come on.”

The two children hurried across the floor to him and he picked them up, sitting them one at a time on the medbed.

“Daddy will make it better,” Bethie explained to Ethan.

“I’ll try.” Simon ran the back of his hand over each of their cheeks. “You don’t feel hot. When did it start?”

“When Serenity stopped.” She rubbed at her forehead. “Hurts.”

“And Mama’s worried,” Ethan put in. “About Daddy.”

“There’s nothing for her to be worried about,” Simon assured him.

“What’s outside?” Bethie asked, her legs swinging.

“Just a ship. We’re just taking a little look at it, then we’ll be heading back to pick up your Auntie River and Jayne.” Simon turned to the cupboard and took out the bottle of junior analgesic he kept especially for the children. “You take some of this and you’ll soon feel better.” He poured a measured amount into two small beakers.

Bethie shivered. “Don’t like it,” holding tight to Ethan’s hand.

“You’ve had it before,” Simon said, turning back to them.

“Not that. Outside.”

Her father was surprised. “Are you picking this up from Auntie Freya?”

Bethie shook her head. “It’s like … like a sponge,” she finally said. "Sucking everything up. Or a hole, and everything falls down it.”

“Nothing’s going to fall down, sweetheart.” He handed her one of the beakers. “Come on. Drink up. And maybe we’ll see if we can’t find your mother’s cookie tin.”

Ethan brightened at that. “Me too?”

Simon laughed. “You too.” He gave the little boy the other beaker.

“How many cookies?” Bethie asked, staring at the pale green liquid.


“Well?” Mal asked, leaning in the doorway.

Zoe turned to look at him. “I think Kaylee’s in heaven, sir,” she said, smiling through the glass at him.

“Did she find the part?”

“If the squeal she made when she leaped on something was anything to go by, I think maybe she did.”

Mal nodded. “She’s deafened me that way myself sometimes. Ain‘t heard nothing like that since we branded some yearling calves back home on the ranch.”

“I can hear you, Cap,” Kaylee pointed out, not turning around.

“Never thought you couldn’t.” He watched the young mechanic at the far end of the room as she pulled panels open and rummaged through packets of wires. “So what’s it saying to you, little Kaylee?”

The young woman shook her head, as much as she could inside the suit. “Nothing. Not a gorram thing. Ain’t never had that happen before. Even an engine laying out in parts says something.”

“So you don’t know how it worked?”

She turned around so she could look at them. “Oh that, sure. Pretty much a normal Core, good containment … only difference is there’s a load of redundant systems. Everything’s not just duplicated, but there’s at least six of each.” Her brow wrinkled in confusion. “No need for that. Decent mechanic can work wonders with a double, so why six?”

“Kaylee, if I knew that I wouldn’t need you around, now, would I?”

She laughed. “Course you would, Cap’n.”

He smiled at her. “So, I gather you found the part you were looking for.”

Kaylee patted the bag next to her. “Found it soon as I came in. They’ve got storage full of spares.” She looked almost excited. “I could build a new engine from all the bits in there.” She stepped closer so she could look him straight in the eyes. “Cap, if there’s room, I’d like to take some more with us. Just useful stuff.”

“We don’t wanna be greedy, Kaylee.”

“Just what I can carry. Please?”

Mal gazed down into her hopeful face, and noted yet again just how young she really was. A wife, mother and the mechanical wonder who kept his ship flying, and she could still get excited about a few bits of metal. “Only what you can carry. That’s it. No-one’s making a return journey just so that you can get your space monkeys out to play.”

Xie-xie, captain!”

He chuckled at her enthusiasm. “So, any idea how old she is?”

“Not really. Most of the parts could be anything up to twenty years. I mean, they ain’t rusted ‘cause there’s no oxygen, but a lot of things ain’t changed that much on engines.”

“And the rest?”

“Wouldn’t even like to guess what they do.” She stared at the engine. “And that’s the scariest part.”

“Not talking to you?”

“Nope.” She chewed on the inside of her lip. “Cap, any chance we can download schematics? I’d dearly love to study this some more, and maybe there might be something useful I could use to help Serenity.”

“And I’d like to know what happened here,” Zoe agreed.

“I’ll see what we can do. But it’s best you not worry on that now. You got the bit you needed so it’s time we got back.”

“Has Hank disabled the net, sir?” Zoe asked.

“I’ll go pick up your husband and check. Get Kaylee back to the bay, and make sure she doesn’t pick up too much crap on the way.”

“It’s not crap!” Kaylee insisted, grabbing the bag and hugging it to herself.

“I’ll try, sir,” Zoe promised.


“Any luck?” Mal asked.

“Pretty much.” Hank was leaning over the control console. “I’m pretty sure I’ve disabled the net, but I won’t be sure ‘til we get back, not with the coms down.”

“You can’t -”

“No.” Hank sighed. “Nothing I do seems to help there. I figure it’s something to do with the material this ship is coated in. Kinda sucks up all electromagnetic waves.”


“Could be. But there’s no weapon systems I can find either.” Hank spoke quietly, but his words were perfectly clear. “And you know, I will say this. These controls? They don’t look to me like they were meant to fly this thing. Not by hand.”

“Are you suggesting this thing’s got a remote?”

“Not as such. But I can’t shake the feeling it was never really meant to go anywhere.”

“Can you download the logs?”

Hank checked over the systems again. “I think so. Kaylee’s right - there’s power, but it‘s not doing anything more than feeding the accumulators, and they‘re full. I can reroute enough so that Serenity should be able to pick up something.” He turned enough so that he could see Mal through the faceplate. “Why, you curious to know what happened to the crew?”

Mal half nodded, half shrugged. “Kinda. And it ain’t just me. Kaylee has the hots to study this ship some more, and even your wife expressed a certain curiousness. Ain’t you?”

“I can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind, no.”

“And there wasn’t that much of a crew on board, haven’t you noticed? There’s only half a dozen cabins I can see, unless there’s more elsewhere, and I’m not even sure they were all occupied.”

“Yeah, I know. And you’re right. About the only thing I could find was this …” He held up a flexible sheet showing what appeared to be a layout of the ship. “Pretty much this level is all there is for crew - everywhere else is electronics and computer systems.”

“So you got no idea what this was all for?”

“Not a clue. So maybe Kaylee can make some sense of it.”

“Take long to set up?”

“No.” His hands ran lightly over the board, despite the gloves. “All I need to do is …” He flicked a switch. “That’s it.”

“Okay. Good work. Let’s go home.”


“They’re coming back,” Freya said, the sigh in her voice more relief that her crew was safe than the fact that the painkiller Simon had given her was working.

“That’s good,” the young doctor breathed. “That’s good.”


“Cap?” Kaylee had stopped just inside the bay.

“Come on,” Mal said. “Time we weren’t here.”

“No. Look.” She was staring down at something hidden behind one of the control modules.

Again avoiding the sharp metal points that threatened to tear his suit open, he crossed towards her until he could see what she saw. “Well. Guess maybe they didn’t all get off after all.”

“Sir?” Zoe called from the open hatchway. “What is it?” She started back to him.

“No, you stay there. It’s just a body. Crew, most like.” He studied the corpse for a moment, then leaned down so he could turn it over.

“Oh, God,” Kaylee whispered as she saw the broken skull’s jagged edges sticking through the desiccated flesh and turned away.

“Probably caught in the explosion when the hatch blew,” Mal said softly. His eye was caught by an emblem on the body’s jacket, and he smoothed the fabric out. “Cao.”

“Cap?” Kaylee turned back but he’d rolled the corpse back over.

“It’s nothing. Just painfully aware what explosive decompression can do.” He stood up. “Come on, mei-mei. Your husband’ll be thinking you’ve gotten tired of him and decided to run off with Hank and me.” He grinned. “Not that it couldn’t happen.”

“Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind,” Kaylee said, deliberately not looking down. “Mostly when he’s got his foot in his mouth.”

Mal put his hand under her arm, helping her through the tangled mess that was left of the bay. “He still do that?”

“Occasionally. He’s a lot better than he used to be, though.”

“So me and Hank ain't got a chance?”

“Sir, I’d rather you didn’t go around offering my husband to other women,” Zoe said, her voice in his ear.

“It’s okay, Zoe,” Kaylee said quickly. “Hank’s safe. Although I would like to know what he’s like in bed.”

“Hey!” the pilot said, turning back from staring at the stars. “I am here, you know.”

“And it’s time we weren’t.” Mal was firm. “Zoe, you go first with Hank, then Kaylee. I’ll be right behind you.”

His first mate tried to see him clearly through the faceplate, but he was turned away. “Sir, are we sure everything is all right?”

“It’s fine,” he assured her. “Just want to get home, is all.”

“I second that,” Hank put in. “Come on, dear,” he added. “I need someone to scratch my itches for me.”

“Work, work, work,” Zoe muttered, pushing off from the edge of the hatchway. A moment later Hank followed, then Kaylee, her bag of parts held tightly to her chest.

For a few seconds Mal stared up into the heights - or possibly depths - of the ship, then glanced back down at where the corpse lay hidden. He’d recognised the emblem all right. Difficult not to. He didn’t know what Blue Sun were up to out here, nor what the purpose of this ship was, but maybe Kaylee could figure it out. Hell, if anyone could, it would be her.

He stepped back to the opening and looked across at his ship hanging against the bright points of starlight. It looked like Hank had been right and he had disabled the net, at least from the way Serenity wasn’t orbiting anymore.

Are you coming? he heard in his mind, and he smiled.

On my way, xin gan, he thought back, and pushed off from the side of the derelict.

Behind him a jagged line of light ran across one of the panels, sparkling like embers from a fire, then disappeared.

to be continued


Sunday, January 27, 2008 2:10 AM


No relief for the spookiness I see:) I'm on edge still, wondering what you've got in store next!

Sunday, January 27, 2008 3:45 AM


I have no idea what's going to happen either but the Blue Sun logo is ominous.

Sunday, January 27, 2008 4:11 AM


Wow, way to keep up the tension and move the story along. Why do I get the horrible dread feeling that the jagged light running across one of the panels was activating some special nastiness, courtesy of our old enemies at Blue Sun? Just hope Mal makes it back to the ship in time before something really BAD happens. See? You've spooked me too! Well done, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, January 27, 2008 9:53 AM


WOnderfully visual descriptions, of the jagged bone, and the dark nature of the ship. Time for more suspense!

Sunday, January 27, 2008 9:57 AM


Just when you think things can't be any more morbid and creepifying, the Blue Sun logo comes up. Yikes!

Monday, January 28, 2008 5:03 AM


Spooky ship. Glad everyone made it off intact.


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Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“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!]

“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!]