The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 9)
Monday, June 16, 2008

The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 9. Mal and company at last reach their objective, only to learn what a true horror they've uncovered....


Okay, gang - sorry for the late post, but some people should run railroads and some people shouldn't. It applies even better in real life than it does in this fanfic. :P Now there's a lot of Chinese in this one, so don't forget to hover your cursor and check the prologue for the rest of the blurbs! ;)

And while you're at it, check reader responses:

Angellemarcs, thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you! I was a little worried about writing Wash early in the fic, so I'm glad to know you're enjoying his role. Trying to spin the story as quickly as I can, but the more complicated things get....well, you know how it is.

Jane0904, thanks a bunch! :D

darbymonster, well, a day it'll feel good to be me. ;) Sorry to spoil your Monday by posting so dang late. And thanks for your remark on the story's current pace. Glad to know you're not looking for plot resolution (or worse yet, pairing resolution seeing that there aren't any pairings here) right away, like some people!

mal4prez, yeah, I'd say it's just you. ;) Hee hee. But things with Inara are not what they may seem. [/mysterious]

yinyang, yeah, I conjured they hadn't gotten much of their needed screen time of late - at first I thought Simon should do more than whinge about River, but since that's half his role on the show anyway.... ;)

Katesfriend, thanks a mil! I'm very gratified you've continued to read and enjoy. To you and to all hands, a million thank-yous to all for your comments about River in the last part. I was doing a fair bit of fretting over whether she was in character, but the most of you seem to think she was - so that's VERY helpful to know!!!

Thank you again, and PhyreLight, well - what would I do withoutcha? ;)

On to the discovery....

Part 8


The steel-grated steps from the ground level to the carved path, hewn perhaps three feet into the wall of the quarry, were rusted and worn but still passable and Mal aimed to prove it. The moniker of fearless leader seemed especially appropriate to his pointed advance down the creaky steps, knowing as he did that none of the others were keen to risk it. Even the narrow path - devoid of any fence, handrail, or other appurtenance designed to prevent the traveler from leaving it - put no damper on his determination, and more than once he had to pause to gauge the distance between him and the others. Robert seemed to have minimal trouble putting one foot in front of the other, but he still lagged more than ten feet off: behind him, River, though cautiously watching her step, seemed otherwise unaware of the perilous nothingness to her left. Wash, bringing up the rear, was all but hugging the wall.

Mal's exasperation was unavoidable and he forged on ahead - until before he knew it the escape passage had gulped him and his companions into its murky maw. In less than a minute the starlight outside was completely lost to view.

"You know, something doesn't add up here," Wash said, trying to cut the uncomfortable silence. "Say the train is buried back there, and this escape passage is intact after all these years – how come no one ever got out to tell the tale?"

"Ain't far from findin' out, methinks," Mal muttered, marching on.

Inside the tunnel the blackness, not to mention the cold, was all the more penetrating. Wrapping his coat around him, Mal persevered: he marched on, playing his lantern about the rugged walls and floor, eye constantly peeled for tripping hazards or rocks ready to fall. Robert was steadfast at his flank, finding River's closeness somewhat unnerving. Wash held to the rear, footfalls matching those of the other three as closely as was humanly possible.

After a little more than a mile, Mal's stride was somewhat less than full: the further they hiked, the more uneven became the tunnel floor. High were some of the ridges rising along the walls: the foursome overstepped a fair portion of stone heaps, fallen from the ceiling over the years under the forces of time and gravity. The ceiling was nonetheless in remarkably stable condition, as well it should be in a mine escape passage. The deeper they went, Mal noted, the cooler and drier the air became, making his breath visible before his face.

Over the next half mile the tunnel began to slope gradually upward. Ducking under a low outcropping, Mal paused and pointed his lantern ahead: before him the floor ended by all appearances, angling sharply up along a jumble of large stones that topped out at a small aperture.

"Almost there," River's grin was faint but excited.

"Almost where?" Wash asked worriedly.

Bent on finding out, Mal surged forward, slung his lantern over one arm and flung himself upon the rocks. Upward he hauled, gasping and grunting audibly, hand over hand and foot upon foot higher toward the small chink in the rock. At last, his shins and forearms sored by the climb, he wriggled through the opening and spun himself about, calling for River.

With Mal pulling from above, Wash and Robert boosting from below, River's ascent was akin to Serenity in vertical take-off. Robert followed, reliant on his own strength and a tug from Mal to haul him through the opening not too far above his head: Wash continued to bring up the rear. After the few minutes that saw him to the top of the climb all four stood upright, examining their vast surroundings. The aperture had conveyed them into a gigantic cavern whose ceiling was visible in only the faintest of light from the two lanterns.

"Always wanted to try caving," Robert said loftily. He lowered his lantern to illuminate the floor: sweeping it from one side to the other, preparing to set foot, he quite suddenly and unexpectedly illuminated a charred, rotted corpse lying almost right at their feet.

River gasped and stumbled backward at the grisly sight. Mal and Robert caught her on both sides, the former not as concerned about her emotional well-being as the fact that even she hadn't expected this. Instinctively Robert grimaced at the repulsive remains he had discovered, but Mal turned his lantern away, now all the more cognisant of questions with an answer only a dead man would know. As he played it forth, the beam reflected, showed dull metal surfaces ahead: his pulse quickened as he advanced several steps and a shocked recognition came upon him.

"Wo de ma!" Wash exclaimed in a stunned whisper. "Good call, Mal."

"Weren't it just," Mal murmured.

Slowly, awestruck, the two lantern beams arced back and forth along the side of the dust-blanketed, forbidding container cars and the derelict locomotive parked inert on the level track before them. Several more bodies, all decayed and all showing severely burned bones, were evident scattered about the intervening floor. Cautiously Mal moved forth, laying human eyes upon the Lickey Banker for the first time in three decades.

"Boss, this is it," Robert announced breathlessly, hurrying toward the engine. "KF Thirty-twenty-eight, that was the head line on the train order!" He pointed his quavering lantern at the side of the engine's cab: the Chinese characters for "Confederation" and the number 3028 were dusty and faded, but stood out under the light as if they'd been bolted on instead of painted.

"Think you can get her fired up?" Mal asked.

"Gimme a minute and we'll see," Robert said, displaying an attitude that reminded Mal of Wash's enthusiasm for flight.

"You know, the fuel oil's probably rock-solid after all this time in cold and dark and underground," Wash pointed out.

"Oh, it's rock-solid all right. This sucker burns coal. Just gotta have a look-see at the boiler and see if it'll hold." Grinning, Robert marched, jumped onto the bottom rung of the gangway ladder and ascended geyserlike into the cab.

"While he's doing that, let's us see about those guns," Mal decreed. Leaving Robert to indulge in his specialty, he turned away from the engine and strode down the side of the tender with his lantern waving about the floor. Wash was fairly magnetised to the light, holding Mal's flank like a tenacious sea monster: but River lingered, a small smile rounding her face as she watched the other lantern dart about the interior of the locomotive cab. Presently Robert dropped out of sight before the firebox door and the light from his lantern was gone.

"Old Faithful," River said softly to herself. Then she turned and floated away into the dark, toward the front end of the engine.

Mal's light alternated between the floor of the cavern and the sides of the cars, identifying the first two as 40-foot boxcars of high-tensile steel. Both sides and both ends displayed the orange placards Robert had described earlier, warning of lethal explosives in the hopes of discouraging any unscrupulous interest in the train's cargo. It occurred to Mal that Corsetto had never specified the size of the guns, in length or bore – but that curiosity was constantly upstaged by the burnt skeletons lying close to the train. One, near the coupling of the third and fourth cars, still clutched an old Werner & Milburne double-barrelled shotgun held across its chest, while handguns of varying caliber could be seen lying near a couple of the others. None of the corpses had enough clothing left to identify who they could possibly have been. Mal paused a moment as he passed alongside the third car: it was easily twice as long as the first two, and its side panel was hinged at the bottom and latched at the top. The car's body was semi-cylindrical, side panels convex, top and end panels flat.

"This one's gotta be a gun," Mal observed, illuminating the cloud of breath before his face.

"Want to try and snag a peek inside?" Wash suggested.

"Wouldn't hurt. It's a dry cold in here – shouldn't oughta be a problem to get a gander inside these things."

"Yeah, but what the hell happened here?" Wash wondered, motioning about. "And how'd it happen so fast that these fu xiu shi ti never even got this far?"

"Got a hunch it'll explain more than the corpses." Mal's pace had slowed to a near stop and his light was pointed ahead. Only on the fringes of its beam did he and Wash see the solution to the entire mystery. Closer they stepped, carefully circumventing another charred body, until they stood by the coupling to the fourth car, its entire body blown apart and nothing left of its frame but the undercarriage and a few twisted rods. Neither man noticed the surrounding debris field until the impact of Wash's foot on a metal plate undiscerned by the light.

"This must have been one of the ammo cars," Mal observed.

"So those explosive placards weren't lying," Wash deduced.

"Not about this one anyway," Mal said. "Armour-piercing bullet, fired in the wrong direction….but why was there shootin' to begin with?"

"You got me, Mal," Wash shrugged. "I can only think of one train job of ours where any shooting took place. So happens it's the same train job I can't seem to get my mind off of for some reason." His voice trailed off as he saw Mal's eyes narrow, staring so hard at the fifth car that when Wash looked toward it he could have sworn that Mal's stare had caused its end panel to cave. Pacing slowly toward it, Mal kept an eye on the floor and the debris at his feet until he reached the coupling and heaved himself up onto the frame of the fourth car. He investigated the fifth car's front end a little more closely: the fire-blackened end panel had collapsed inward but not very far, coming to rest against whatever was inside the car – something very large and cylindrical, judging by the warped shape of the panel. The side and top panels had also suffered: they were themselves intact, but the blast had separated them from each other by ten feet at the seams. Mal picked his way across the frame, making room for Wash to climb up and find some purchase beside him.

"Gimme a hand," Mal said, motioning at the caved end panel. Each man braced one foot against the fourth car and the other foot against the fifth, clinging to the separated but still sturdy side panels for support as they reached in to grab hold of the end panel. Aluminum and lightweight, it was reluctant at first, but under their combined strength it soon consented to be pulled out of the car and fall flat on the frame of the fourth. Mal and Wash jumped quickly aside to avoid the impact before Mal aimed his lantern into the car, stepping slowly onto the now-levelled panel and beholding a nerve-shattering sight.

Together, goggle-eyed, the two men stared into the barrel of a gun so huge that both of them could perhaps crawl into it without holding their breath.

"Ren ci de Shang di, jie min dao ni de xuan!" Wash whispered, his voice almost catching.

"Don't get your hopes up, Wash. Some of us people ain't interested." Mal paused, his eyebrows almost meeting halfway as he studied the bore of the gun's massive, thick barrel. Reaching upward, he braced his shoulder against the edge of the gun's muzzle, extended his arm across its width, and felt his jaw slacken as he estimated the diameter.

"Shen sheng ta ma de gui," he murmured in shock. "These gorram guns got a bore of eight hundred millimeters! Ain't no ground force in the 'verse could hold up against warheads that big!"

"My God!" Wash breathed, disbelieving of his ears. "Could the trains even have handled them for long under fire?"

"Whether this train can handle 'em right now is what concerns me," Mal said. "No wonder Ray wants 'em so bad."

He took no more than a couple of long, purposeful strides across the horizontal end panel before jumping off, landing cleanly on the floor of the mine, and marching back toward the engine. Wash was a little more cautious, nervous as he was to know about the other eight gigantic cannons on board – squatting at the edge of the panel, he carefully slid himself to the floor, hurrying up behind Mal's blessed light.

Mal was upon the engine in half a minute, ears flexing from the sounds of metallic pinging and banging echoing from the dark. When he reached the locomotive he came upon Robert, ear to the side of the firebox, tapping an adjustable wrench against the small metal bumps protruding from the sheet.

"How about it?" Mal asked.

Biting his lip, Robert shook his head with due promptness. "Sorry, boss, ain't happenin'. The mud ring is too corroded and most of the staybolts are busted from the cold air."

Small wonder, Mal thought irately to himself, that Robert and Kaylee had bonded so quickly even if friendship was the limit. "Boy, you speak engineer pretty damn good," he said sourly. "Now you wanna translate it into captainish?"

"Compromised integrity," River cut in as she materialised from the darkness, staring blankly up the side of the engine. "Constructed in-house, KF-class four-eight-four dual-purpose locomotive. Operating boiler pressure two hundred fifteen PSI with indigenous steel manufacture dating back to twenty-four forty-eight. Standing water containment and prolonged exposure to cold air weakened the infrastructure. Internal pressure of one hundred fifty PSI would be sufficient to separate the boiler from the frame – and they'd be waiting for us to join them."

"That sound suitably crazy to anyone else?" Mal grumbled.

"'Fraid not, boss," Robert sighed. "Love to know where she picked all that up, but she's dead on the money. No way the boiler can take the heat after all this down time."

"That's where your engine comes in, then," Mal said.

"Any idea how, on account of that cave-in?" Robert breached the prevailing question.

"Well, when all else fails, we can always knock Jayne's head against it," Wash quipped.

"I'm workin' on it," Mal said tersely. "But first things first. We got ourselves a trainload o' hurtfulness here and I want to be sure we can move it afore someone starts sufferin' from it." This to Robert, whose absent stare had drifted past him and Wash and down the length of the train, in fearful awe that the guns of Yamenmiao were no longer a rumour.

"One time I moved an old tank car been sittin' out in the open almost this long." Robert shook free of his apprehension and then shrugged. "Don't see why we can't, but best stay safe."

"Can't stay ahead forever."

He turned to shoot a barbed glare at River, who was staring straight at him, the beginnings of a smile playing across her visage. She didn't even glance at Mal or Wash as she continued: "There'll be a day when that hurt will overtake, and you won't be able to control it by yourself. But you won't be – "

"All right, that's it," Robert cut her off. "Boss, she's gonna give me the screamin' woo-hoos but good, we stay down here for long. Where do you want me to start?"

"C'mon." Mal obliged with a sharp cock of his head and again merged into the dark: in the lingering glow from the lanterns, Wash didn't miss the odd little droop of River's face. He'd experienced his share of difficulty in guessing a woman's mood by her expression, but he could have sworn it was disappointment that dropped the corners of River's mouth. Almost as if she'd been trying to impress the company with her linguistic oddities and done little more than turn him away.

"You know, there's much better places to freak people out than a crypt like this," Wash offered. "Have you ever considered a pine forest on a cloudy night, complete with hoot-owls and the like?"

"He doesn't fear the darkness," River shook her head. "He can stare into the black indefinitely and never go blind. It's the darkness inside him. It scares him like no black forest ever can." She wandered off, silhouetted by the glow of the lanterns as she slowly padded after the two men ahead: but by the time she set foot it was impossible for Wash to tell which one she was talking about.

"Wheels look to be in good shape," Mal observed, flashing his lantern across the wheel assemblies of each car. "Be helpful if you could give 'em a good once-over afore we leave."

"It's the brakes I'm worried about," Robert answered as he critically eyed the piping on the second car's underside. "Even if they're all workin', that three-and-a-half-percent grade is gonna be bloody murder. Let's just hope we ain't gotta waste time replacin' a brake shoe."

"I'd rather we avoid wastin' time, period."

"Any idea what caused this?" Robert asked, indicating the skeletons as he and Mal passed the lengthy third car.

Mal's response was simply to stop dead in his tracks and illuminate the blown body of the fourth car. Stopping alongside him, Robert caught his breath at the shocking sight and swept his trembling lantern about the debris field. Further ahead, several more cadavers could be seen for only a brief flash in the gloom – Wash tried to ignore them, half fearing that they would rise up and walk. Fully in focus on the exploded car, none of them noticed River drift past at the fringes of the lights.

"Ah," Robert said tightly as Mal showed him the answer.

"Yeah. One stray bullet is all it takes. Car blows, the shock caves the entrance and makes for an easy cover. Only thing got me curious now is who was doin' the shootin' and why."

"Couldn't have been Fed spies, could they?" Wash wondered.

"Railroad would've had a lot more storytellin' to do if that…." Mal trailed off, his lantern flashing about, quite aware of Wash and Robert's presences but missing the one that concerned him most. "Where the hell is River?"

"You didn't ask me to babysit her," Wash shrugged.

"Ai ya huai le," Mal snapped. If Wash had the merest brush of trouble reading emotion in a woman's face, the fury in Mal's visage was self-evident, carrying over as it did into the near stampede he commenced toward the hind end of the train. "River!" he hollered, lantern sweeping back and forth, trying futilely to locate her.

"Over here," River's voice wafted from nothingness. At least she had the sense, Mal thought irritably, to stop and wait for them to catch up: presently the lantern beam flashed off the buckles of her left boot, and as they reached her she wore the same look she'd had upon revealing herself in the shuttle.

"You're gonna get us lost yet, little girl," Mal warned.

"Not lost," River riposted. "Not in the grey."

"Only grey here's gonna be my hair if you keep sneakin' off," Mal rebuked her. "Now let's - "

"It's here with us," River interrupted. "In the mountain. The mountain thought it was blood red and black. But it didn't know it was grey. Shadows can't exist without light and now they sit by the fire to tell the tale." She trailed off as her pace quickened and her small, booted feet glided effortlessly along the worn crossties. "The dead are leading the way," she finished flatly.

"The dead are...." A heavy gulp ended Wash's query. Wide-eyed he looked around, half expecting to see the burned cadavers stiffly marching alongside them - or worse yet, a hooded figure with a scythe clutched in a skeletal hand, advancing on them with paralytic slowness. He sucked in a deep breath and glued his eyes to the swinging beam of Mal's lantern: best he try not to expect anything, or even to think at all.

The three men followed River, River following God only knew what, but with undeniable conviction as plain in her pace as the nonexistent daylight. Deeper she led the way into the bowels of the mine: Mal's peripherals caught the entrances to a handful of side tunnels either half-buried or caved in entirely - but not once did River leave the side of the train. Loose rock and shale covered the floor in increasing mass, but they mattered naught to River: she kicked the debris almost obliviously out of her path, focused intently on nothing. The dulled reflectors on the side of the train became progressively duller as they went deeper into the mine, and still River forged ahead.

It had just entered Mal's head to turn back for reinforcements when River's pace slowed. He couldn't see her face, but her lithe frame was rigid, her steps quieted. Something had caught her focus, and even as Mal was raising his lantern to search for it her small voice chopped sharply through the quiet.

"Sun comes tumbling from the west," she murmured. "Marks the spot of dead man's chest."

They had traversed the length of another sixteen cars – the last of which were a pair of long, cylindrical tank cars and what looked like a small, well-armoured passenger car. Its sides were galvanised steel, heavily riveted, with a few small space-grade windows lining the side. A sliding door in its side, accessible by an iron stirrup bolted to the car's underside, hung ajar at the far end, warped in a fashion similar to the fifth car's end panel – only it had been damaged from inside.

"The guard van," Robert murmured.

He had just, it dawned on Mal, uttered the key word, guard. As if yanked by the same invisible forces that had drawn River to the tail end of the train, Mal lurched forward, reaching the open door in a period of time that could pass for the launch of an anti-tank rocket. He threatened to bend the grab irons as he leaped onto the stirrup and hauled himself through the open door into the guard van. Not a word was spoken as Wash climbed in next, River just behind and Robert holding his breath as he entered the van, half expecting to find another corpse or three interred within.

But the van was deserted – no sign of life or death. The sides were lined with a wooden desk, a small gas cookstove and bunk beds for seven persons, quarters decidedly cramped. At the back of the car was a small, dark computer terminal – a combination defect detector and rear-end air-pressure regulator, judging by the English and Chinese labels above its small screens.

The beams of the two lanterns darted about, taking in the disorganised, abandoned state of the guard van's interior. Robert clenched his teeth, trying to force himself not to expect a ghostly face to materialise in one of the windows, complete without eyelids or lips. He scraped his feet loudly across the van's floor to distend the unnerving silence as he studied the dust-covered and rumpled sheets on the lower bunk beds. Pulled from beneath the bottom ones were several crates, their lids still open. Assorted ammunition clips and grenades still nestled inside the crates but there was no sign of the firearms they were intended for. Breathing shallowly and slowly, Mal began to put the pieces together as he picked up and studied a small remote detonator lying on the desk.

"Who-all was s'posed to berth back here?" he asked.

"More'n the conductor, by the look of it," Robert said, waving his lantern at the extra bunks.

Mal nodded, his eyes still smouldering. "Guards," he concluded.

"Well, that explains the shooting, if not who they were shooting at," Wash said.

"Whoever it was, Smokey Joe and his fireman didn't live to find out," Robert said in a low voice. "Both of 'em are still sittin' brain-blown in the cab."

"But they left a trail." River had idly nudged aside the chair behind the desk and her fingers were now brushing upon the small pile of paper on the desktop. Her fingertips drew a faint pattern in the dust on the top sheet before they reached its edge, picking the entire sheaf up, and drawing the undivided attention of her three companions.

"The paper trail," she said, looking up. Robert was already moving up next to her, shining his lantern at the sheaf in her hand.

The top sheet was headed JANUS, NAPOLI & WESTERN RAILROAD CO. TRAIN MOVEMENT AND DELAY REPORT, increasing his pulse as he blew the dust away and read the barely legible ink at the bottom of the sheet.

Even though the next page of the report no doubt revealed in first-hand detail the last minutes of the train's run, there was one more detail of it that had to be ascertained first. Taking the sheaf from River, Robert tucked his light beneath his arm and skimmed the list of contents beneath the heading: in a moment he had found what he was looking for and was flipping the intervening pages aside. Now his lantern shined upon the answer, or at least the first half of it – the manifest list, a full list of all twenty-three cars starting at the guard van and reading down to the locomotive.

"Yes," Robert said, grinning. "Guard van, two empty idlers, then alternating ammo cars and gun cars down to the the head end. Then the small-arms car and one car fulla coin on the head pin!"

"So the coin part was true," Mal said. "Does it say what happened in here?"

"Should oughta." Flipping back to the second page, Robert squinted: his eyes were already beginning to ache from trying to read the faded handwriting. The date, time, train information, crew names and track authority were all in keeping with common knowledge. He read further, noting that the conductor's remarks were sparse until the start time of a delay at Red Rock Junction: at last there lay the answer, the solution to the mystery of the Lickey Banker. The conductor had filled up the entire comment section, even the car-count columns.

"Twenty-three-twelve, Red Rock Junction," Robert read aloud. "Stopped by flag....quarry siding. Reported washout....this part's pretty faded....mile ahead. Pulled by switch, stopped again. I think this says there was some kinda weird noises on the outside of the van. Sergeant Bolton set out to investigate….both doors jammed shut. Sealed from the outside."

"Fusion tape," Wash said. "Favoured weapon of certain psycho redheads who shall remain nameless." Mal scowled at him, loath to be reminded at a time like this.

"Twenty-three something-five, train backed....something or other....siding," Robert read on. He blinked, trying to ease the soreness behind his eyeballs. "Lost....with head....not sure what this part says, something about the guards trying to break out of the van now. Don't want....risk....yet. Risk what, I wonder?"

"Keep reading," Mal ordered quietly.

"All's I can read here is 'Red Rock'. Guess this is the part where they backed off into the mine. Guards....try small....get us out of here. Looks like this part was at twenty-three forty-four, train....inside mine; gunshots heard at head end. Damn, boss, this part's underlined. Sergeant Bolton almost certain of a robbery now. Got to stop them hitting the wrong car!"

His eyes had widened and distorted as he read the last few lines. Now he turned them up from the report, staring at Mal, Mal returning the stare, but which of them was more shell-shocked it would have been difficult to say.

"Marion Carabella." The name wrung with contempt as it dripped from Mal's tongue.

"Wh – you mean Josiah Carabella's old man?" Robert said incredulously.

"The preacher read about him, 'twas said a Fed killed him and covered it up, right at the same time the train disappeared. No wonder his er zi biao zi kid knows this train's for real – he was the one set out to rob it!"

"It's all true, then," Wash said, his voice quivering with nerve. "The guns, the small arms, the coin – the only part that ain't true is the train never leaving the yard!"

"Seems that's the case," Mal said. "All right, let's get the hell outta here. Got us a train to move and less than a night to do it in!"

Continue to Part 10....

Well, the BDHs have found what they're looking for - I'm kinda hopin' to do the same for feedback in the meanwhile! ;)


Monday, June 16, 2008 5:03 PM


WOW! A great story at work here and I am definitely impressed with Robert. He's won my heart. :))

Greatness and ready for more next Monday!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 2:37 AM


"what would I do withoutcha?"

You'd have the world's worst fanfic on your hands you pi qi huai de old man! :p

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 6:33 AM


I love the description of the train, sitting in the darkness, bodies lying around it. I get a real feeling of claustrophobia! And River is still being cryptic - so much so, I almost expect her to start talking in rhyme. Looking forward with great interest to the next part, and how they intend getting out of the mountain ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 4:18 PM


Love the Riverspeak - did you include her just to give out the train specs? You've got a great handle on her character and to show how hurt she was by Robert's fear was very easy to see. Am really enjoying how you keep true to the elements of the 'verse, like Saffron and fusion tape. Loved the comment about Mal's grey hair. Now how are they going to get out of this mess?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 1:02 PM


Wow, you really did a great job describing their descent into the old mountain tunnel to finally find the train. Describing how the shoot out had set off the ammunition and blocked the tunnel killing the men was well accomplished and I could easily imagine River getting too spooky under those circumstances for comfort but she was right on the money! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 7:22 AM


OK, I have actually tried to leave feedback a few times and had this damned thing seize up... the graveyard underground train is very cool. In a creepy way, of course. :) And you made me visit appurtenance. Good word LOL!

Saturday, July 5, 2008 7:40 PM


Figured I should probably leave feedback, even if it's late, because I really love River's dialogue in this chapter. The way you revealed everything was also something I could see being part of an episode of Firefly on TV.


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Solar Winds and Silver Skies
"You're going to shoot a Mountie? They'll hunt you to the ends of the 'verse!"

Where They Don't Follow (Prologue)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 2, Prologue. Roughly six months after 'The Guns of Yamenmiao', Inara says her final farewells before Serenity returns to Roma on a new job. This time, Mal's treasure quest must run the gamut of a not-quite-right scientist, a nameless, ruthless privateer, and a deeper penetration of the Alliance than Mal has ever attempted before.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Epilogue)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Epilogue. Kaylee and Serenity are once again flying. Mal and Inara are once again at odds.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 16)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 16. The crew reaches the end of the line, only to find out that the confrontations - and the mystery of the ghost train - are by no means finished.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 15)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 15. The stakes are no less than Inara's life when Mal commences the last fiery showdown.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 14)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 14. Mal has a trainload of destruction behind him and a passel of violent criminals ahead, holding Inara hostage. With no backup, how can he emerge victorious without destroying himself and his crew?

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 13)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 13. Mal's cover is altogether blown, and he must figure out how to keep the mission from going south - but he has only one dangerous way to get the word out.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 12)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 12. Tensions mount on the Yamenmiao expedition, coming to a head when Mal enters exactly the dire strait he feared the worst.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 11)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 11. The crew finds that their venture to recover the train is not without its unspoken fear of grievous injuries or death - but River finds herself concerned by something altogether different.

The Guns of Yamenmiao (Pt. 10)
The Old That Is Strong - Book 1, Part 10. The train has been found, the plan has been made, and Mal and the crew are all set to head out and put it into action - before an unexpected hitch forces them to act far faster than hoped.