Volcano's Edge - Part XIV
Sunday, July 27, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal's in a bad place, but the BDR is finally beginning ... NEW CHAPTER


River whimpered as she headed into the galley. “No time to plan,” she said, staring at the large amount of weaponry onto the table and trying to ignore the tendrils of pain seeping into her bones. “Time is gone. Passed. Now only time is to save.”

“Moonbrain?” Jayne asked gently.

She looked up at him, her dark eyes huge. “Hurting. Need to save.”

He understood. He always understood her now, and he briefly put his arm around her. Her surrogate parents, her best friend … it made her control on her ability to talk coherently a little sloppy. He squeezed tenderly before picking up his grenades strap and shrugging awkwardly into it.

Zoe looked at River then at the ex-mercenary. “Bad?”

“Yep.” Jayne didn’t need to elaborate.

“Then we go in.” Dillon picked up one of the handguns and expertly checked the ammo clip.

“They’ll be expecting us,” Zoe said, impressed by his ease.

“Yeah, but that’s the point,” Jayne growled, attempting to fix the small explosives across his chest using the only two fingers on each hand still nominally working, all the while biting back on the pain surging up his arms. “They know we’d be stupid to do it, so they won’t be ready for it.”

“That’s convoluted logic, my friend,” Dillon pointed out.

“Don’t care what kinda logic it is. Just common sense.” He fumbled, and one of the grenades fell towards the floor. There was a collective holding of breath, waiting to see if it went off. Then River’s hand was there, catching it just before it hit the deck. “Thanks, moonbrain,” he whispered as everyone let out a sigh of relief.

“You’re welcome.” She finished for him, making sure they were all the right way round, and ready to pull.

“You can’t go.” This was Simon.

“What?” The big man whirled on him. “You tellin’ me I can’t –“

“You can hardly hold a gun, let alone fire it.”

Jayne glared at him. “I’ll pull the rutting trigger with my teeth if I have to. Just dose me up enough.”

Simon was about to argue, but Zoe interrupted. “Doctor. We need him.”

“Why, you got a plan?” Hank paused in the act of strapping on a gunbelt. He hated the damn things with a vengeance, but he wasn’t about to let his Zoe walk into the jaws of hell without him.

“I think I might.”

River nodded. “Good plan.”

“Would you care to enlighten the rest of us?” Simon had given up trying to make anyone be sensible, and just picked up one of the guns himself.

“We’re going in the front door.”


Kaylee had got through the engine parts, and had started on describing some of her mother’s recipes. “… and then you add the whisky.”

That’s what it was? I always wondered. Now go on, cupcake.

Cupcake? She mentally shrugged. “Then you put the batter …”


“He’ll be expecting that too.” Simon wasn't really complaining this time, merely pointing out the obvious.

“He won’t be expecting me.” River slid her gun home.

Mei-mei –“ Now he was complaining. “You can’t possibly be suggesting you go in alone.”

“Not that way. Boob.”

“River –“

“Just trust me.” She gazed at him, and for once he could feel her in his mind, the words repeating as clear as if she’d spoken them aloud.

Finally he blinked. “Okay. Just don’t get yourself killed, or I’ll never forgive you. And neither will Mal.”

“Nor me,” Jayne agreed.

“I will try not to, for my husband, my brother and my captain. Although not necessarily in that order.” She smiled briefly, then picked up a rifle.

“Specially since I’m going with you.”

She shook her head. “No, Jayne. Not this time.” She touched the splints on his hands. “Need quicker fingers.”

“Riv -”

“No time to argue. Have to get there.” She shook her head again partly in emphasis and partly to clear the images of pain behind her eyes. “Need a shuttle, but not one they might see and recognise.”

“I’ll do it,” Alex said unexpectedly.

Zoe looked at him. “No offence, but you have no idea what you’re walking into.”

“She’s my sister.” It was all he needed to say.

River handed him a gunbelt. “Watch my back.”

He swallowed. “I will.”

She looked at him. “Can you swim?” she asked.

“Why would I …” His voice faded away as he realised she was quite serious.


“Is painful, yes?” Niska asked, watching the contortions of Mal’s face as he tried to adjust to the feeling of something inside him. The agony had died back, but he knew it was only a matter of time before it became unbearable and killed him.

Freya was crying, unable to hold it under control, trying to get to him and tearing her wrists even more. Blood was running down her hands.

“Nothing I can’t take,” Mal managed to gasp out, more for her than anything. “Had worse. Did I ever tell you about the time someone ran me through with a sword? Not the first time, but the second. Right the way through. You talk about pain? You should try someone sticking a sword through your guts, then having to pull it out yourself.” He smiled, although it was more like a grimace. “No, please. I’ll help.”

Niska ignored the banter. “Continue,” he ordered.

The torturer lifted the glove from the box, sliding his hand carefully inside. There were sensors affixed to each of the tips of the fingers, and flexible metal strips ran down every surface. It looked like something a knight in armour might wear, but this was no honourable man, and the age of chivalry was long gone from this room.

He flicked a switch on the device inside the box, and a holographic image of a man’s torso appeared in mid-air. The skin was almost transparent, as was the skeletal structure, but this merely put the internal organs into high relief, all bright reds and blues. The picture jumped, then stabilised, filling the room with a slight hum. Glancing once at Niska, and receiving a nod in return, he reached forward …

“Wait, wait,” Mal said, trying hard to breathe, at the same time as attempting in vain not to visualise the silver skin coating his insides. “You never did answer my question.”

“Did you ask one?”

“How come they turned you back? Alliance. How come they used their AntiPax on you?”

Niska’s eyes narrowed. “You know of this?”

Mal would’ve shrugged if he could have moved. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“No, Mr Reynolds. They do not. And I am curious as to how you found out.”

“Heard it around.”

“You will tell me,” Niska said with certainty. “And I will tell them. In recompense. The Alliance saved me because I am useful. So very useful.”

“No. I’m sure it was easier than that. They wanted a guinea pig and you were around.”

“Perhaps a test, yes. But I was saved. My life spared.”

“All hail the great Alliance.”

“Just so. And they put me back together again.” He skimmed his fingers across the skin graft on his cheek.

“Regular Humpty Dumpty.” Mal could see the torturer beginning to get restless, moving slightly from side to side on the balls of his feet. “Pity they didn’t unscramble your brain.”

Niska sighed, like the breath of a dying man. “You want to know?”

“Let’s just say it’d scratch the itch of my curiosity.”

“I was Reaver. Knew their rage. Understood it. But they brought me back with the AntiPax. Yet I still remember.“ The old man smiled as much as he was able. “There is beauty in that, no? A … symmetry.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a slim lacquered box. “I carry it with me, as a reminder.” He opened the lid, showing a single hypo and an ampoule of bright red liquid, the colour of fresh blood.

“That’s it?”

“AntiPax. I can walk amongst people and know I have gift of life.” He closed the lid and slid it back into his jacket.

“Yet you like killing folks.”

“Is point. I will never use it to help anyone.” Niska glanced at his man. “But I digress. And you have appointment.” He nodded. “You know what is called? This liquid?”

Mal swallowed. “Quicksilver. Always thought it wasn’t exactly appropriate.”

Niska laughed, the sound grating from his voice box. “No. And I intend it to be slow. Very slow. Very painful.” He leaned forward, his face barely inches from Mal’s. “Are you ready?”

“Well, I got other things I got planned to do today -” Suddenly he couldn’t breathe, his lungs gripped in a vice as pain filled his chest.

Freya choked back a scream. She’d seen the torturer reach into the hologram and wrap his gloved hand around the image of Mal’s heart, and squeeze.

“Yes,” Niska said. “The real you. Soon.”


Alex looked out of the window of the small shuttle at the tiny phosphorescent creatures being pushed out of the way as they moved through the water. “I thought nothing could live in these oceans,” he said quietly.

“Life is tenacious,” River replied, then shrugged. “I’m not always right.”

“Only mostly?”

“Of course.” She checked the co-ordinates. “We’re here.”

Alex cut the engines and felt the shuttle begin to sink to the bottom. After a few moments there was a shudder through the small craft. “Okay,” he said, making the word a heavy sigh.

River crossed to the door. “Are you ready?”

“No,” he admitted. “But it’s my sister.”

She smiled briefly. “The nature of the water means we will float to the surface quickly. Just remember to exhale on the way up.”

“I’ll try.”

“I’m sorry about your shuttle.”

He shrugged. “Like I said, it’s my sister. No contest, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Then it’s time.” Using the over-ride command, she opened the door, allowing a spurt of water to enter around the seal, quickly filling the shuttle ankle deep.

Alex was surprised to realise it wasn’t really cold, but all thoughts of the water’s temperature evaporated as he saw River taking deep lungfuls of air, flushing her system with as much oxygen as possible. Swallowing hard, he did the same.


“I’ve not been sick.” Kaylee lay on the floor, still in the same position, but had interrupted herself.


“I ain‘t thrown up.” She slowly reached a hand down and touched her belly. “Hadn’t thought about it, but …” Her heart started to beat faster. “What if something’s wrong with the baby?”

You’re pregnant?

“Of course I am.” She narrowed her eyes. “How come you don’t know that?”

Don’t get your panties in a bundle, sweetpea. I’m just taking a while to catch up.

An impression of a bright, Hawaiian shirt and blond hair swam through her mind. “Wash?”

Nobody here by that name. No sirree. Just us inner demons trying to keep you going.

“Does that mean I’m dying?”

No. No, no and no. Don’t you go thinking like that, Kaylee. There’s plenty more years to come for you and the doc, let alone all the kids you’re gonna have.

“What would you know? You ain’t even real.”

Real enough, pumpkin. Come on. You were telling me about those chocolate chip cookies. How come the chocolate don’t run out?

Outside the door the men looked at each other, listening to the one-sided conversation.

“Do you think she’s crazy?”

“I’m beginning to wonder. How much did you give her?”

“Same as usual.”

“Well, it don’t matter much. He said we can have her when he’s ready, and it won’t matter if she’s insane then.”


It felt like he was having a heart attack. The pain had spread across his chest and down his arms, and he knew the Quicksilver was stopping the muscles functioning. He also knew that all it would take was a harder squeeze on the glove and his heart would collapse.

“Enough.” The agony in Mal’s chest lessened, and Niska moved closer. “Life and death, Mr Reynolds.” The light reflected off his spectacles, making it impossible to see the eyes beneath. “Which will you beg for? To be spared, or to die?”

“I haven’t … haven’t made up my mind yet,” Mal managed to grind out. “Ain’t there a third choice?”

“Perhaps.” Niska glanced at Freya, her body slick with cold sweat. “I have a second Quicksilver. Perhaps I use it on your wife, play a symphony in both your bodies. Will you beg to die so she may live?”

The answer was immediate, no hesitation. “Yes.”

One of the old man’s eyebrows raised just a millimetre, the scar above it stopping further movement. “You love her so much.”

“Walked in here for her, didn’t I?”

“Such devotion.”

“Something I doubt you’re capable of feeling.” Mal gathered himself. “You know, I’ve a notion your wife took one look at you now and ran screaming for the hills. Am I right?” He turned his head so he could look around the room as best he could. “Or is she watching from some place? Is that it? Does she get her jollys watching you tear the guts out of people? She getting hot just knowing what you do?”

In response Niska clicked his fingers, and the torturer adjusted a dial on the box. Suddenly Mal’s heart was racing, the beats so close together as to be indistinguishable, and he knew any second it was going to rupture, exploding from his chest in a messy fountain. Niska gestured once more and the frantic pace slowed.

“Days, Mr Reynolds. Days. And not just this. I think you will beg to die when I finally remove your fingers.” He smiled. “Yes?”


“Zoe …” Hank was almost wriggling in his seat.

“Not yet.”

“But we -”

“You heard her, little man,” Jayne growled like a bear from the back of the bridge. “Not ‘til River says.”

For a few moments Hank didn’t say anything else, but he finally broke the silence. “You sure the kids are safe?”

“They’re on Alex’s ship. If anything happens …”


Zoe nodded.

“She’d be good to ‘em.”

“Hank, I’m intending to see Ben again.”

“Yeah. Me too.” He looked up into her eyes. “But just in case … I …”

“I know.”

“’Cept I can’t just sit here and -”

“Yes you can,” Zoe said quietly, putting her hand on his shoulder. “Soon, honey. Real soon.”

Dillon checked his ammo clip once more.


River’s head broke surface, followed swiftly by Alex, spluttering a little at the brackish taste of the water. He was surprised to find it was fully dark, with a sprinkling of stars overhead cut off by the looming bulk of the Denari class yacht.

The young woman waited for him to catch his breath, then pointed to a set of rungs fixed into the bulkhead in front of them. He nodded, and they started to ascend towards a doorway set flush into the wall, just visible in the gloom.


Jayne’s head went up. “They’re in.”

Zoe squeezed Hank’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

He didn’t need a second telling to fire up Serenity’s engines and lift her up into the night sky.

to be continued


Sunday, July 27, 2008 3:27 PM


You're squeezing not only Mal's heart but mine too.

Sunday, July 27, 2008 5:23 PM


Hurry up with the heroic rescue, pleeese. Your torture device is getting too accurate to take - and you have a very feindish imagination by the way. Great job - just want the characters around for a long time to come.

Monday, July 28, 2008 12:16 PM


Gorramit I am crying here, poor Mal. What a terribly perverted and twisted *tamade hundan* Niska is. Just when I thought he couldn't be more evil you show us this depth of cruelty that is almost beyond words. Please let our heroes hurry and be victorious. I want Jayne to rip that SOB into tiny little shreds. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, July 28, 2008 7:28 PM


(hope this loads!) great chapter - piling on the pressure ohhh yes.:)

Sunday, August 3, 2008 9:11 AM


Heart in throat....having a little trouble breathing, what with the torture and all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 8:22 AM


It's Wash again!! He's helping his mei mei!! Thank goodness.

I'm heading to the next chapter.



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