Dead Man's Chest - Part XIV
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and the others finally find what they're looking for, but someone's looking for them too. NEW CHAPTER


Jayne had been right. In a little over an hour Mal parked the Mule under the towering rocks known as Huo Yan Shan, or the Mountain of Flames.

“You think they were just being poetical on account of its shape, or is there more to it?” he asked, staring up at the heights as Jayne scouted around. It did look something like a fire, he considered, if he squinted and put his head on one side. Something massive must have hit here, or there was intense seismic activity at some time in the past, maybe during terraforming, but whatever it was had pushed huge plates of base rock up into the sky, where the incessant wind had scoured the softer elements from it, leaving splinter points all along the edges.

“Probably a touch of both,” Freya said, bending down and picking up a scrap of something sharp, the hard shine catching her eye in the sun. “Obsidian,” she added, running her thumb across it, feeling the edge scraping at her skin. “It only gets created in very high temperatures.”

“Volcanic eruptions,” River supplied. “Polymerized lava,” she went on. “No crystal growth.”

“Right,” Mal said, as if he’d understood every word.

“Actually, River’s right,” Simon put in. “And because of the way it’s formed obsidian has been used to make scalpel blades of almost molecular thickness.”

“Just what I needed to know.”

Freya smiled, tossing the chip towards the doctor. “Present for you then, Simon.”

The young man let it fall to the ground before picking it up, as always wary of damaging the fingers that so often had to dig bullets out of the crew. “Thank you so much,” he said witheringly.

Mal’s lips twitched. “If you don’t want it, I'm sure Bethie’ll take it off your hands for you.”

Simon shook his head, well aware of the magpie-ish collecting tendencies of his eldest daughter. “Please, don’t encourage her.”

“I don’t think she needs any encouragement.”

“Mal.” Jayne had reappeared and was pointing towards the base of the rock formation.

“Cave?” Mal asked, looking at Freya.

“Cave,” she confirmed, walking towards the ex-mercenary and brushing Ezra’s dust off her hands.


“What’re they doing?” Aiden Lau asked, crouched behind a pile of sandstone blocks.

His brother was staring over the edge, looking through binoculars. “Looks like they’re searching for something,” Jarrett said slowly.

“Let me see.” Aiden shifted up onto his knees and grabbed the viewers. Adjusting the focus slightly, he peered through. There was Reynolds, looking like he knew what he was doing, ranging to and fro, but it was the big man, the one they rather inappropriately called Jayne, who was covering the ground better. He was a born tracker, no matter he had weaponry slung about him.

The young woman with the long dark hair turned suddenly, as seemed to be staring right at him.

His heart missed a beat, and he was sure she could see him, but after the longest ten seconds of his life her eyes slid away, although he still felt like he was under her scrutiny.

“Aiden?” Jarrett said. “They see you? Aiden?”

“Uh … no. No, they didn’t.” He slid down, his back to the rock. “You’re right. They’re looking for something.”

“You want to take them now?”

Something trickled down Aiden’s back, and he shifted uncomfortably. She was just a young woman, not much more than a girl, really, but her steady dark gaze had unsettled him. “No. Not yet. Maybe we’ll see what they’re after. It might be worth something, make up for the hassle they put us through.”

“You sure? I mean, there’s more of us, and this is a good place to leave the bodies. No-one’d ever find them.”

“I said we wait!” Aiden glared at his brother, taking out his insecurities on his sibling.

Jarrett held up his hands. “Fine. Whatever you say.” He took the binoculars back and lifted his head out of their hiding place. “Whatever you say,” he repeated quietly.


“This is it, Mal,” Jayne said, the torch beam penetrating the darkness.

“That’s what you said the last time. And the time before that. And the -”

“This is it,” Jayne repeated. “I remember.”

“Only, seems to me a few hours ago you were denying all knowledge.”

The big man seemed to come over shy for a moment, and muttered something.

“What was that?” Mal asked.

“I said I scratched my name into the wall.” He swung his flashlight and illuminated a patch of rock with thin letters inscribed. Jayne.

“Had nothing better to do?”

Trees. Hearts. M4F. Mal heard the words in his mind, and he felt the blush race up his chest to meet the gold cross around his neck. Freya was reminding him of his very own graffiti back on Lazarus.

That … that weren't the same!

No? She smiled.

“I was nine, Mal,” Jayne protested, unaware of any other conversation.

“Yeah, well, I guess that …” Mal coughed. “Anyway, this is where you found the coin?”

“Right here.” He went down onto his heels next to a rock in the dirt on the floor.

“That’s very specific,” Simon said, heading towards the back of the cave.

“Yeah, well, since River did her … thing to help me, my memories’ve become a lot clearer. It was just lying there. Never even occurred to me there might be others. It was just … pretty. Didn’t even know it was gold.”

“Well, I can’t see any more,” the young doctor said. “And it looks like there was a cave-in back here. It’s a dead end.”


“No.” River walked out of the darkness. “A long time ago.”

“Well, it’s been a while since I was here,” Jayne said, picking up the remains of a catapult, the rubber perished and dry.

“Longer than that.”

“I take it that’s yours?” Mal shone his torch on the catapult.

“Yeah. I made it.” Jayne smiled. “Broke Old Man Atkins’ window with it, and Ma took it away from me, tossed it in the garbage. But I found it, hid it, brought it with me when my Pa went hunting. I think I had an idea of using it to get a rabbit or two myself, but …” He stood up. “Long time ago.” He took a breath. “Guess I left it here when I found the box.”

Mal looked at him in surprise. “Are you talking about that chest you gave Bethie? The box came from here?”


“And you didn’t think to mention that little nugget of information before?”

“I didn’t remember until I got hypnotised, and since then, well, nobody asked.” He followed Simon towards the rear. “Maybe we can dig our way through?”

“I doubt it,” the young doctor said, standing up from his examination.

“Besides, Ingleby didn’t,” Freya pointed out. “This place hasn’t been disturbed in years, so there has to be another way in. To … whatever’s inside.”

They walked back into the sunlight, feeling it warm their already chilled skin as they skirted the perimeter of the mountain, and it wasn’t long before Simon grunted and almost fell.

“You okay, doc?” Mal asked.

“I tripped on something.” He leaned over and brushed the sand away from a backpack. A few moments work uncovered a sleeping bag and food box. “I think this is it,” he said, looking up.

“It is,” Freya said from a little further on.

The others joined her and peered into the darkness of something obviously manmade. There was a groan from deep in the mountain, and dust sifted down.

“It doesn’t look any too safe,” Simon commented.

“Then we don’t dally.” Mal said, and he tugged a torch from his belt. “You know, I really thought I’d done with wondering around tunnels,” he added pointedly as the rest followed suit. “After Hera, I mean.”

“Funny how things just keep coming around, ain’t it?” Jayne said, heading into the gloom, the light beam bouncing in front of him.


Dan Jefferson sighed. As much as he’d tried to get to the Golden Dragon he’d been waylaid at every point. First his father, although a quick word had been enough to defer that conversation. Then a ranch hand who wanted to complain about his treatment at his place of work. He was deflected back towards the office and the official forms.

His wife wasn’t put off that easily, though.

She’d accosted him as he rounded the corner, heading towards the Port, her face pink with anger.

“No, Deirdra,” he said, holding up both hands. “No. Not now. I got work to do.”

“Are you having an affair?” she demanded to know, her fists on her hips.

“Deirdra, can we talk about this later at home? Not in the middle of the street?” He glanced around, noticing several people he was all too acquainted with pausing in their perambulations, and turning towards him.

“Now, Dan.”

He closed his eyes briefly then spoke to the deputy who was hanging back a pace, a wide grin plastered across his features. “Levi, get to the Golden Dragon. See if you can’t get some info from any of their crew, and tell ‘em I’ll be along shortly to talk to the Laus.”

“Sure thing, Dan.” Levi chuckled under his breath then took off at a loping run.

Dan turned back to his wife. “Deirdra, I know you spend your life thinking of ways to embarrass me – and I gotta say you do it real well. But this ain't the time nor the place to be asking me questions like that.”

She wasn't shifting. “All you gotta do is answer it.”

“And if I do? You ain’t gonna believe me. So what’s the point?”

“Just tell me!” Her voice was raising higher and higher.

His temper finally snapped and he grabbed her arms, shaking her slightly. “No. I am not having an affair. I’ve never had an affair. As far as I'm concerned I never will have an affair. And it ain't because I’ve never been propositioned, ‘cause I have. There are some women out there, Deirdra, who seem to think I’m a pretty nice guy, but for some unknown reason I’ve always said no. Actually, you know, it ain't unknown. I love you. Right now I don’t exactly like you too much, but I love you. Now I got a job to do.” He almost lifted her up and moved her out of his path. “I’ll be sending someone for my things.”

“Wha …” She couldn’t get the words out. “What are you talking about? Your things?”

“If you don’t trust me, then you can’t want me around. So it’s up to you.” He looked around at the people still standing listening. “And I hope you got your money’s worth, ‘cause that’s it.” He strode off, leaving her staring at him.

“Daniel James Jefferson, you get your ass back here right now!” Deirdra screamed, but he took no notice, rounding the corner without even looking back.

As he neared the Golden Dragon, he could see Levi was talking to Terry, and the red-headed man was gesticulating towards the Clipper.

“Dan.” The deputy looked at the approaching man. “I was about to knock when Terry here came out of the Dragon.”

The Sheriff raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Terry grinned. “I just finished putting their engine back together again.” At the look on Dan’s face he added, “That was right, wasn’t it? I mean, they paid the fine, so I didn’t think you’d be wanting them hanging around.”

“No, that’s true.” Dan exhaled heavily. “So they can leave when they want?”

“Any time. ‘Though I’m thinking it won’t be quite yet. Seems all three of the brothers Lau are on the ground at the moment.”


Levi was nodding. “That’s the case, Dan. I grabbed a word with one of the crew they left behind. The three of ‘em are gone.”

Dan held onto his rapidly disappearing temper somewhat precariously. “You know where?”

“They didn’t say. Except Aiden and Jarrett went first, and Chester followed on their hover mule, madder’n a wet bear.”


“Why? What’s up? Dan? Dan!” Levi took a step forward as they watched the other man turn and stride away, speeding up to a run towards the Firefly squatting a short distance away.


“I think there’s something ahead,” the big man said. “Let me take a look.”

“No, that’s -” Mal began, but Jayne had already loped ahead into the darkness, his shadow at his side. He rolled his eyes. “You think anyone’s ever gonna obey orders?” he asked, turning to Freya.

“They do,” she assured him. “Just … not that one.”

“I am captain, though, ain’t I? I mean, this isn’t one of those narcotic illusions ‘cause I’m lying on a table somewhere being operated on, is it?”

“It’s possible.” She ran her hand down his backside. “But unlikely.”

“Uh … maybe you’re right.”

Simon studiously didn’t look at either of them, just took a normal, healthy interest in the props holding up the roof.

“S’okay,” Jayne called. “And you’re gonna wanna take a look at this.”

In only a moment they’d joined the big man and his wife, staring with wide eyes.

Run-tse duh fwo-tzoo,” Simon breathed.

“Have to say, doc, I think I agree with you.”

The torches barely reached the far side of the cavern, but it wasn’t what grabbed their attention. That honour belonged to the ship sitting in the centre, about twice the size of one of Serenity’s shuttles. She was shaped like a flattened cigar, her engine housing visible at the rear in a cylinder, thick with dust. Her name, if she’d ever had one, had been burned or scraped off, but there was the pitted impression of a flag, showing stripes and stars.

“Damn,” Mal murmured. “I think she’s an original.” He walked towards the craft.

“Original?” Simon’s voice seemed to get lost in the silence, but everyone heard him.

“The Arc ships had shuttles, so they could transfer personnel, make repairs, that kinda thing,” Mal explained, running his hands down the metal and feeling a multitude of scars. “Ms Gingrich showed us the official documentaries back when I was at school, and some of the not quite so official as well.”

“So we have her to thank for you being an Independent?” Freya asked, humour in her tone.

“I don’t think anyone on Shadow supported Unification. I guess she did her work well.” Mal smiled for a moment at her, then followed the curve of the ship downwards. “I conjure this is one of ‘em. With the flag ‘n’ all.”

He could see fragments of landing struts that bore testament to the violence of the crash, but it was Jayne who said what they were thinking.

“It ain’t going nowhere,” Jayne said quietly, pointing towards where she was cushioned on the cavern floor. “Her belly’s ripped out.”

“How did they get in?” Simon asked, joining his sister and looking up in the darkness above them.

“They came down, couldn’t get out. Nowhere to go,” River said, running her hand across the old flag then snatching them back as if burned. She stared at her fingertips.

“You okay?” Mal asked.

“Just …” She shook herself, and he put his arm around her shoulder, squeezing gently. She flashed him a grateful smile as she went on, “Blazing through the atmo, and the rocks closed in again after them. They should have been crushed, but …”


“Not for long.”

Jayne growled, leaning down sharply and picking up a gold coin. He held it up, letting it glint in the light. “Shiny,” he said, thrusting it into his pants pocket.

Freya had gone around the other side. “I think that might be the other end of the tunnel from the cave Jayne found the coin in,” she said, staring at a jumble of rocks coming from the wall at a steep angle.

“So how did it get out there?” Simon asked. “If the cave is blocked.”

River stared. “Not then. Later. Someone tried to run, to get away. Madness …”

“That bad?” Mal looked at her sympathetically.

She nodded.

Her husband, in the meantime, had been studying the ground, and kept leaning forward, picking things up and stuffing them into his pants.

“Jayne, are you planning on actually walking around with what you got down there?” Mal asked, adding quickly, “The coins, I mean.”

“Didn’t think you’d be interested in anything else I might have,” Jayne leered. He adjusted the front of his pants.

“Stop doing that.”

“It’s uncomfortable.”

“You should’ve left some.”

“And have someone pinch ‘em?”

“Who, Jayne?”

“Well, you know …”

Mal shook his head, trying to stop the sigh that threatened to overwhelm him. “Here,” he said, picking up an empty gunny sack from a small stash of items against the wall. “At least put ‘em in there. Be slightly less disconcerting than watching you doing … that.”

With a slightly suspicious look, Jayne took the canvas bag and started to decant the coins into it. Mal turned away in a vain effort to try and get the image of his gunhand rummaging around inside his pants out of his mind. Unfortunately he saw Freya trying to hide a smile, and River wasn't much better. Simon was grinning widely. Okay. Better get this whole thing back under control. He settled his shoulders. “Well, now that situation is dealt with … I think it’s time we took a look inside,” Mal said, turning to gaze at the ship once more. “See if this treasure of Simon’s really is there."

to be continued


Wednesday, February 18, 2009 4:23 AM


First comment! Now this looks like one plan that could have gone smooth, Jayne's pants aside, except for the junior lurking Laus and the unstable tunnelry, that is... It almost sounded as if the sheriff took a bit of Mal's marital advice. Hope he alerts the BDH's in time. Can they get ahold of just a little bit of the hoard? Please? Even if Science (or the Alliance) does get most of it. Just no Indiana Jones collapsible finish.... I'm on the edge of my proverbial seat. Thanks for writing!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:25 AM


Well, now, this sounds like a plan and a half with maybe a good chance of an actual success without too much gun fire...that is if Jayne and Mal can handle that...LOL!! I also hope the BDHs get a littl bit of the treasure at least for improvements and a bit of merry making.....good as always...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 1:00 PM


I'm puzzled why our little Reader isn't picking up any hint of the danger lurking. Even when she turned her head and looked in the direction the Laus were observing them from not a flicker. Lucky the sheriff is more switched on and it struck me as typical that just when he has a reason to hurry the world and his literal wife keep delaying him. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 5:03 PM


Great job! Loving where this is going and love the fact that Jayne can still gross Mal out. Loved Mal's joke about hoping it was all a narcotic hallucination. Looking forward to when they're all rich.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 7:25 PM


Jayne is always, well, Jayne. I'm loving this story so far...but waiting for the inevitable problems courtesy of the Lau's and the tunnels.


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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!]