Volcano's Edge - Part XVII
Friday, August 1, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. It's time for Dillon and Alex to leave, but Mal still has some questions that are unanswered. FINAL CHAPTER ... for now.


An hour later and Alex’s ship was warmed over and ready to go, just waiting on its two most important passengers to shake it off and get back on board.

There was a curious reluctance to say goodbye, and even Dillon found himself giving in to a little procrastination.

“Is Kaylee really going to be okay?” he asked, glancing towards the lower crew quarters, where Simon was checking out his wife for the third time that day. He’d already leaned in and said his farewells, and putting his request to be godfather to that little one too.

“Simon’s good,” Mal said. “And he’s her husband. He’s not going to let anything happen to her, or that baby.”

“Good. Tell him, if he needs anything, just to wave me.”

“I will.”

Dillon looked towards the cargo bay where Freya was saying goodbye to Alex. “I’d better get going, otherwise that man’s likely to leave without me.”

“Serves you right for being too tight to hire your own ship.”

Dillon glared at him. “He was … convenient.”

“More’n that. River says he saved her life.”

“Then I really don’t want to keep him waiting.”

“I’d be beholden if you did. Just for a few minutes.”

The older man was surprised by Mal’s diffidence. “What is it?” he asked, allowing himself to be ushered to the seats in the common area. He waited until the captain had lowered himself, very carefully, into the armchair, sighing as parts of his body that he didn’t even know existed complained. “What can I do for you, Mal?”

“Niska spoke of an Emil Quintana. Simon doesn’t know anything about him, and there’s not much on the Cortex. Feel like doing a little research?”

Dillon nodded slowly. “Sure. It’s not a name I know either, but it’s unusual enough. I see what I can find out.”

“Thanks.” But still Mal didn’t seem to be finished.

“What?” The older man laughed. “It’s not like you to be so reticent.”

“We need a viral replicator.”

Dillon’s eyebrows raised. “What?”

“Niska might have been a psychopath and a sadist, but he was good for one thing. He gave us a sample of AntiPax.”

“I know. I saw it.” Light dawned. “And you want to make more.”

“We don’t know if it works on everyone, or what it’ll do to some.” He eased his back, grimacing slightly, allowing it to cover the flash of anxiety for his wife and children. “I’m just conscious of that recording of Alex’s.”

“Front line?”

“That’s the one. If they were talking about troops, I got a feeling they were trying to make a weapon, and if that’s the case –”

“They’d have to be insane,” Dillon interrupted, appalled.

“I thought we’d agreed they are.” Mal smiled a little, barely a lift to the corner of his mouth.

“But who would they use it on? I mean, you fire into a crowd, it wouldn’t just be those who laid down you’d have to deal with. You’d be in danger of turning some folks into …” He stopped, losing all the colour in his face.

“I figure you’ve just seen the same picture I have. If they could create some kinda delivery system that would keep the Pax to a specific area, you could take out any number of people. And if one, maybe two of ‘em turned into Reavers, well, that’d be another form of crowd control, wouldn’t it? Just a bit more permanent.”

“Does the Pax have a … I don’t know what to call it, but some kind of shelf life? Only effective for a few minutes or something?”

Mal shrugged, then wished he hadn’t. “I don’t know. Maybe it disperses easily, who knows? Thing is, if your men have doses of AntiPax, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. They just go in and clean up.”

Dillon sat back in his chair, his mind playing him an image of soldiers firing on a group of protestors, or maybe browncoats out in the borders, then maybe not even bothering to use the antidote. Like Mal said, a permanent solution. “You know, that just makes me feel all sorts of confident in our government.”

Mal smiled. “Welcome to my world.”

“No wonder Freya says you’re paranoid.”

“It ain't paranoia if they are out to get you.” The smile softened. “And I’ll be having words with my wife about her talking to strangers.”

“I'm not a stranger, Mal.”

“About as strange as they come, I’d say.”

Dillon was about to argue, then he shrugged. “Actually, you’re probably right.” He glanced again towards the cargo bay. “You know he’s not going home, don’t you? Alex, I mean.”

Mal nodded. “I figured as much. I think this’s been something of a shock to his delicate system.”

Dillon laughed. “That’s your brother-in-law you’re talking about.”

“And he’s had something of a crash course in how things work out here. Seeing his sis like that, what happened … it was gonna take him one of two ways. Either he’d run home with his tail ‘tween his legs, or –“

“Or he’s going to get involved.”

“He’s already that. I’ve got the notion he’s going to one of those holdings he talked about, intent on doing some more digging.”

“You think it’s safe for him to do that?”

“Nope. But then nothing out here is, not right now.”

“Maybe I should persuade him to stay with Breed and me. At least we can keep an eye on him.”

“I’d take that as a kindness.”

Dillon studied him. “You’re not going to let this lie, are you?”

Mal didn’t answer for a minute, just sat, his blue eyes staring into nothing. Then he took a deep breath. “Don’t see how I can, Dillon. As much as my instinct is to take me and mine someplace far away, I ain't sure there’s anywhere far enough no more.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“You in?”

“I'm in.”

“What about Breed?”

“If it isn’t safe for you, out here, then I doubt Persephone’s any better. Besides, he’s never been a shrinking violet.” Dillon considered a moment. “Another reason I should make Alex accept my company. It might be safer in numbers.”

“So you’re going to keep digging?”

“I’ve got my shovel ready.”

“You know what we’re likely to find.”

“Deep and stinking.”

“You ready to deal with it?”

“Mal, has Freya told you anything about me at all?”

“Not much.”

Dillon grinned, taking a dozen years off his age. “Next time we meet, assuming no-one’s actively trying to kill us, we sit down with a bottle of whiskey, and I’ll tell you a few tales about your wife that’ll make your hair curl.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

Freya leaned in the doorway. “Time to go, Dillon,” she said, the look on her face announcing to both men that she knew exactly what they’d been talking about. Her next words proved it. “And you’re not going to tell anyone anything.” She disappeared again.

“Women,” Dillon said, shaking his head. “And people wonder why I'm sly.”

Mal laughed, holding his aching ribs. “Friend, you don’t know what you’re missing.”


They were in deep space and Simon was fussing. “No. You’re staying here.”

“I'm not.” Kaylee was stubborn, obstinate and … all the other words she couldn’t rightly think of, but most of all she was determined not to be in their room for a minute longer. “I need to get back to Serenity.”

“Kaylee, I'm the doctor. And you’re the patient. Remember? That means you do what I say, not the other way around.”

“And I'm your wife, and you’re my husband, and I think that gives me equal rights.”

“And you could have lost the baby.”

She stared at him, her mouth open, more shocked than she had ever been. “Are you saying that would have been my fault?”

“No, no, of course not.” Simon backpedalled frantically. “But you nearly …” He stopped, closing his eyes, trying to think of a better way to explain. “Kaylee, I’d like to keep you to stay in here so I can keep an eye on you. So I'm close by. To make sure nothing goes wrong. To make sure you keep the baby.”

Tears filled her eyes. “Do you really think I’d do anything to jeopardise this?” Her hands clasped across her still flat belly. “Now? After all we’ve been through?”

“Not on purpose, of course not. But you need to take things easy. We can handle everything for a while. You rest.”

“I've been resting. Now I want to get up.”

“Kaylee, please.”

“Why can’t I get up?” Now she was getting angry. “What is it you’re not telling me?”

“Nothing. Kaylee, I have your best interests at heart. You and the baby.”

“Then why can’t I get back to work?”

Mal, leaning on the wall by the infirmary, heard the circular argument and had to smile. When Kaylee got it into her brain about something, it was almost impossible to get it out without surgery, and Simon had no chance. Except it looked like someone had other ideas, as Freya descended the stairs and headed for the noise. He followed his wife, curious as to her intent.

Freya stepped into the room. “Out,” she said simply.

Simon looked at her. “What?”

“Out. Kaylee and I are going to talk, and you’re not going to be here.”

“No, look, I -”

Mal took the young man’s arm. “Simon, you should know by now, when my wife says something, she means it.” He put a little pressure on. “Come on. We need to leave them alone.”

Simon still resisted, but felt his arm begin to bruise. “I’ll be in the galley,” he said reluctantly, then turned and strode out, hurrying up the stairs.

“You gonna play nice?” Mal asked Freya.

She smiled a little for him, pulling the chair to the bed and sitting down. “Kaylee and me are going to talk about being sensible.”

He looked at Kaylee, at the sudden expression of apprehension on her face, and closed the door, successfully hiding his grin. He wandered back to the common area.

“Sir?” Zoe stood up from the yellow chair where she and Mal had been discussing plans before being interrupted by an arguing mechanic and her doctor.

“Leave ‘em be. Freya’s gonna make that little girl see sense.”

“She’s not so little anymore, sir.”

“Nope. Our kids are growing up, Zoe.”

“That they are.”

“And hadn’t you better get back to your own?”

“They’re okay. Hank’s teaching Ben how to tie his shoelaces. They could be a while.”

“Don’t you want to go and heckle?”

“No. I’m quite happy here, thanks, sir.”

He tried to straighten up, but the aches and pains of his own wounds decided he was better off hunched over like an old man. “Well, I’m going up to the bridge for a spell.”

“Sir, don’t you think you should rest, at least for a -”

“Going up to the bridge, Zo,” he said gently. “Anyone wants me, they know where to find me.”

“Yes sir.” She couldn’t leave it, though. “But Kaylee … the baby … she’s going to be all right, isn’t she?”

“Simon’s a good doctor.” His foot was on the bottom step.

“That wasn’t what I asked.”

He turned enough so he could look into her face. “She’s still pregnant, Zoe. That’s the main thing.”

She gazed at him, trying to read the truth from his eyes. At last she nodded. “Yes, sir. It is.”

He climbed the stairs, trying to keep the hobbling to a minimum, encouraging himself with the thought of Niska’s face right before he put a bullet in the middle of it. That wasn’t murder, he knew. That was putting down a rabid animal, and he’d do it again a thousand times over, and be glad of it, if he could ensure that Kaylee would carry to term and Freya still walked the ‘verse. He still wondered, though, why he hadn’t let the bastard drown in his own blood, why he’d put him out of his misery, and knew it was a question he was never going to be able to answer. Freya said it was because he was a decent man, but that he couldn’t believe. It would probably keep him awake at night for a while to come.

At the top of the stairs he had to stop, catch his breath, remembering that while Simon was a damn good doctor, he wasn’t a miracle worker, and it was going to take a while to get back to full strength. If only he didn’t feel so gorram tired.

Glancing into the engine room, at Serenity’s spinning heart, his once more went out to the young woman downstairs, and he had to swallow the lump that had inadvertently wedged itself in his throat, offering up a prayer that in seven months or so there’d be another little Tam to annoy him. Continuing through to the galley, he saw Simon at the counter, pouring hot water into a mug. The young man looked up at his approach.

“Tea,” he said in explanation, holding up a small plastic bag. “Kaylee’s mother’s.”

Mal leaned on the back of one of the chairs. “You figure it worked once, it might again?”

Simon nodded slowly. “I know if anything happens, another baby would never replace …” He stopped and closed his eyes, trying to hold back the emotions he’d been feeling since Kaylee had been taken. “But if it does happen, I need to know I can help.”

“I know, doc,” Mal said softly. “And you’re right. One baby don’t replace another, but you still love them. And she’s gonna love you even more for it.” He managed a grin. “I know what that stuff tastes like.”

“Anything for Kaylee.” He picked up the mug and sniffed it, sighing heavily. “I’m going to sit with my daughters.”

“Good idea.” Mal headed for the other doorway, then paused. “Simon, I know you ain’t gonna want to be thinking about this right now, but we have to. I'm hoping Dillon’s gonna be able to come up trumps for us, but that ain't for sure. That list you gave me for the machine, the one that replicates vaccines. You got a preference for which hospital we knock off?”

The young doctor considered for a moment. Then said, “Parth. They’ve a fair size hospital, considering the population, but they don’t have much of an Alliance presence.”

“Okay, Simon. And since you’re the criminal mastermind, see if you can come up with a plan. Preferably one where I don’t get shot. Or stabbed. Or tortured in any way.”

“I will. Just … not right now.” He sniffed his tea, the perfume clearing his sinuses quite effectively.

“No. Later is fine. But I want that machine in our infirmary so you can get to work on those antidotes.”

Simon exhaled slowly. “You know they might not work. We only have Niska’s word for it that what we have is the one that worked. Without extensive tests we might just be pinning our hopes on something that -”

“This ain’t over,” Mal interrupted. “No matter we want to go back to our lives and be happy bunnies out here in the black, it ain’t gonna happen. Not yet. Maybe I’m picking up being psychic - hell, might be catching, since we got so many on board - but I can feel something coming. Whether Niska was right or not, whether he was just pulling my chain so’s to torture me more, I don’t know. But I ain’t gonna take the chance. We get that machine first, then we decide what we’re gonna do. ‘Cause I don’t think we’re gonna be able to sit this one out.”

“I don’t like it, but I’m afraid you’re right.”

Mal attempted to lighten the mood. “You know, little Kaylee swears blind it was Wash with her. Keeping her going.”

Simon finally smiled a little. “She was hallucinating. It’s one of the side effects of Jutoprocaine.”

“She’s pretty insistent.”

“She needed someone to rely on, and she just picked him. It could have been any of us.”

“Right.” Mal sniffed, the aroma of the tea reaching him as Simon prepared to leave the galley. “So … if hallucinations are common, does this mean all that was a dream?”

“No, Mal. And you’ve got more scars to prove it.”

“Then maybe this is the hallucination, and I’m still on Niska’s table, taking my last breath.”

Simon turned to look at him. “Mal, if you really want a philosophical discussion on the nature of reality I’m sure River would be happy to oblige. Only you might only understand one in ten words she says.”

“That many?”

The young doctor was surprised by the rare gentle expression on his captain’s face. “I’m sorry, Mal. I didn’t mean … it’s just these last few days have been pretty nerve-wracking.”

“I think I’ll be agreeing with you, doc.” Mal smiled. “Go on. Your kids are waiting. All three of them.”

“That, captain, is one order I’m happy to obey.” Simon strode out, mug in hand.

Mal grinned and continued up into the crew quarter corridor. No matter that he knew something bad was coming, and real soon, at least there was the prospect of some happiness around.

Mal. Freya’s voice in his mind.

Xin gan?


You sure?

Kaylee is. She understands now that she needs to be careful.

You talked about Alice?

Yes. And Kaylee wants her mother, even just for a while.

Phoros it is. He climbed the steps to the bridge, and wasn’t surprised to feel his Firefly bank slightly under his feet until the artificial dampeners caught up. “River.”

The young woman didn’t look at him from the pilot’s seat, just continued to put Serenity onto her new heading. “Captain.”

“You peekin‘ again?” He stepped to her shoulder.

“Yes.” Now she glanced up at him. “We all need a mother’s love. To remember.”

“We ain’t likely to forget.”

“To remember that miracles happen.”

He lowered himself carefully into the other seat. “I guess they do.” He watched his stars settle again, letting his thoughts roam out into the black. “We all gonna survive this?” he asked eventually.

“I don’t know,” River admitted. “And you can’t catch being psychic.”

The corner of his mouth lifted. “Not sure I’d want to. But I ain’t wrong, am I?”


She sounded so despondent he had the almost overwhelming urge to take her into his arms and comfort her. “Go on,” he said. “Go be with your family. I’ll watch up here for a while.”

“I’m flying -”

“And I’m captain. Just for once, you do what you’re told, dong mah?”

She looked like she was about to argue, but she must have read his mind. “Shr ah.” She stood up, smoothing her dress. “Parth is four days from Phoros at the moment,” she added. “I’ve set the co-ordinates for when we’re ready.”

“Still waiting on Dillon.”

“Ah.” She glanced down at the small screen that showed a message was waiting for him.

He sighed. “You need to work on that control, albatross. And stop reading my mail.” He shook his head, and smiled. “I take it he ain't been successful.”

“No. Nothing available, for love nor money.”

“That sounds like one of my wife’s sayings.”

“It is,” she agreed. “So I knew we needed to go to Parth.”

“Control, River?”

She shook her head. “No. No control at the moment. I need to feel everything, see everything, to keep my family safe.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “All of it.”

“That safe for you?” He looked up into her pale, serious face. “Leaving yourself open like that?”

River shrugged. “Safe or not, I have to. Freya is doing the same, and no matter what I tell Bethany, she is too. Even Ethan.”

He stirred uneasily. “I ain’t keen on using the kids like some kinda early warning device.”

“You can’t stop them.”

“Maybe I can.” He leaned forward, unable to suppress a groan as the wounds in his belly pulled.

“Let me.” She moved his hands out of the way, her fingers flying across the board, her long dark hair hanging down like a curtain around her face. “Lazarus is close. I have adjusted our route for after Phoros.”

“You gonna be okay with that?”

She stood straight, her eyes revealed again. “I want Caleb to be safe.” Her gaze seemed to burn into his soul. “And you don’t need to be worrying about them while we’re fighting.”

“Won’t stop me. But there will be fighting?”


He sat back, staring out at the stars. “The others ain’t gonna be pleased.”

“They’ll understand.”

“S’pose I’d better wave Inara.”

“Better not. No telling who’s listening.”

He couldn’t help it. He chuckled. “And I thought I was the one being paranoid.”

“It’s not paranoia if they are out to get you.” As the laughter died in his throat she turned and swept silently out.

“No,” he murmured to himself, feeling his body ache. “I guess it ain’t.”

--- -- -

“If they decide to use that stuff against us, it could be our only form of protection."

“But Mal, if we’re right, and Reavers are all potential psychics, what would it do to people like River and Frey?”

“I don’t know, Simon. If it ever gets to the stage of us finding out, Frey’s made me promise to shoot her. So you gotta see if you can manufacture some kind of serum for them, dong mah? Otherwise we’re gonna have to pray they never do.” Mal and Simon, EDEN

A.N. And thus ends this part of the arc, to be continued in PROSPERO'S LEGACY. But I promise, first there will be fluff.


Friday, August 1, 2008 2:59 AM


Wow! goose bumps. I got goose bumps and it really was Wash.. not just an effect of the drug.

Friday, August 1, 2008 5:27 AM


Standing to applaud....One of your best. Well developed characters and a great twist and turns. Loved it.

Friday, August 1, 2008 6:56 AM


Brava! Very well done and right now I have shivers running up and down my spine.

Friday, August 1, 2008 8:53 AM


Nice summation of their status and what's to come. But there is a direct correlation between the fluffiness of your fluff and the depths of your angst, just in case you never noticed, cuz we have!

I hope Kaylee gets a little confirmation that it was Wash, and not her imagination.

Friday, August 1, 2008 12:50 PM


This really is going to bring together all the threats they've ever faced. Arc on, Jeanne--I mean Jane!


Saturday, August 2, 2008 5:34 AM


Absolutely brilliant, and I loved the way you portrayed everyone especially Mal and River. Feel very sad though that something really bad is building up and needs to be sorted out while our heroes are still in the early stages of healing. Hope you let them rest up and get battle ready before pitching them right into the middle of another Armageddon. Brilliant storytelling as always and much appreciated. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, August 3, 2008 9:42 AM


Excellent arc, Jane. And aptly named as well!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 8:46 AM


“They’re okay. Hank’s teaching Ben how to tie his shoelaces. They could be a while.”

“Don’t you want to go and heckle?”

I love the way you weave the humor in with the angst. Wonderful.


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

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

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“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!]