Keeping On: Part 10 - Captures and Doubt
Sunday, March 29, 2009

A year after the Miranda broadcast, Mal and Zoe struggle to keep their family together and keep flying as situations begin to build on Serenity. Captures and Doubt: The crew has a run-in in deep space and something is revealed that shocks Mal and Zoe to the core.


Keeping On: Part 10 - Captures and Doubt

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.


Kaylee remained in the infirmary for two more days, until Simon was satisfied with further scans and tests that showed no internal damage. He looked after her every need, causing her to mention that if he would be half as attentive after they were married, she’d be a happy, happy woman. He even remembered to get the ring out of the little box and he smiled at the joy and excitement on her face as he slipped the engagement ring onto her finger.

The crew stopped by to visit and to congratulate the happy couple and wish Kaylee a speedy recovery. Mal’s smile seemed a bit forced to Simon, as did Zoe’s, and he supposed that it was only natural; he was marrying a member of their crew, of their family.

Jayne brought cards with him when he visited and he and Kaylee played rounds upon rounds of a game they called ‘War,’ which apparently was a card game that was popular on the Rim. Inara brought in her cortex tablet and she and Kaylee looked over various sites with wedding dresses, which made Simon grimace, much to their amusement. River would bring her drawing pad and pencils and play a game with Kaylee, with Kaylee describing something and River drawing it – no reading involved. Zoe and Mal mostly just stopped by to talk and give her reports on Serenity.

Lilah surprised everyone by visiting a few times and when Kaylee was released and relaxing out in the common area, she brought a heavy black album. She opened it and explained that it was her album of captures that she’d collected throughout her life.

“You have so many! You must be capture crazy.” Kaylee said.

“I don’t want to forget anything.” Lilah said.

“What do you mean?”

“I- it’s stupid.”

“I promise I won’t laugh.”

“My grandmother had the best memory when she was growing up. There wasn’t anything that she couldn’t recall. When she got older though, she developed Alzheimer’s and she started to forget everything. Eventually she couldn’t remember me, my parents, her other children, or even her own name.”

“You think you’ll be the same way?” Kaylee asked.

Lilah sighed.

“I don’t know. I have a pretty good memory, for the most part. But in case it happens to me too, maybe having these memories will help. I don’t want to forget anything. But enough dreariness, it’s depressing.”

Lilah settled in on the couch next to Kaylee. She’d let Kaylee pick one out and then she’d explain it to her, telling her the amusing stories and not-so-amusing stories about them.

“This is my family, back on Beaumonde. My parents' families have lived there ever since the place was terraformed.” Lilah said.

“I thought you were from Paquin.” Kaylee said, confused.

“That’s where my husband and I settled after the War. He was from Paquin and I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”

“What do your siblings do?” Kaylee asked.

Lilah laughed.

“You should ask my mother that question. She was always so irritated with us for not being as proper as she would have liked. I was always with Dad, helping in the shop with the welding or rough-housing with the boys from across the street.

“Regina is my youngest sister, and she’s nearly twenty-five now. She’s training to be a Companion, if you’ll believe it. She left for the training house when she was twelve and she’s been there ever since. Last I heard from my parents, she had a few more months to go before she could be fully registered.”

“That her?” Kaylee pointed to a capture that Lilah’s sister had sent to her a few years back. The young lady in the picture was very beautiful, immaculately groomed, and clothed in a very fine dress. She had a polite smile that Kaylee thought very similar to Lilah’s, but with less warmth than their pilot’s.


“What about the others?”

Lilah pointed to another woman who was with a man and two children.

“That’s my younger sister Kelsey and her husband Jonah. The little ones are Marina and Joel, my niece and nephew. Kelsey and Jonah married young and now they run a bed and breakfast on Beaumonde.

“The boys are my twin brothers Joshua and Alexander. Joshua is a welder like my father, and Alexander has the sole distinction of being the child who best lived up to my mother’s expectations.” Lilah rolled her eyes. “He’s a dancer – ballet, specifically. He was invited to join a company on Ariel and he’s been dancing with them since he was 16. He’s only able to come home a few times a year.” The two men were both smiling widely, arms around each other’s shoulders.

“They don’t look too much alike.”

“They’re fraternal twins. That’s when…it’s probably better if Simon explains it. I always mess it up.”

Lilah turned the page, smiling sadly when she saw the large capture of her and her deceased husband.

“Is he your husband?” Kaylee asked, innocently. “He looks so suai.”

“That’s my Wendell.” Lilah said. “He was very suai.”

The young man in question had laughing almond-shaped eyes and a cheerful look to him. His short dark hair was curly and his skin was about a shade lighter than Lilah’s. Together they had made a handsome couple. Kaylee couldn’t help but notice that Lilah looked much younger and was smiling widely.

“You both flew in the War, right?” Kaylee asked, looking at another capture of them together wearing flight suits, obviously taken during the War.

“Yeah. We were in the same squadron.”

“You guys had special names for each other, didn’t you, when you flew?”

“Yes, they’re called call signs.”

“How do you get them?”

“Well, you never give yourself one – it’s just bad form and no one takes you seriously; it’s always given, usually from a superior officer or someone in your squadron. Sometimes you start with a demeaning one, with the notion that as you work harder and prove yourself you earn a better one, though some keep the one they’re first given. We all had names by the end of the first week we were in school.”

“What were your call signs, I mean, yours and Wendell's?”

“We called Wendell ‘Prince,’ since when we first met him he seemed rather stuck-up and had some family higher up in the ranks. And he came from money, too.” She smiled at a memory Kaylee wished she could know. “We got to know him better and it turned out that he was actually one of the nicest men you could have ever met, so the name stuck.”

“He sure looks like a Prince Charming.” Kaylee said. “What was yours?”

“Mine was ‘Aries.’” Lilah said.

“Like the horoscope?” Kaylee asked.

“Sort of. Generally, in horoscopes, Arians are known for being stubborn and on occasion hot-tempered. I was real hot-head back then, before I mellowed out a bit. And in myth, back on Earth-That-Was, Aries was a god of war, and I had the best hit rate out of my squadron. The instructor gave the name to me after an exercise we were flying.”

“You? A hot-head?” Kaylee questioned dubiously.

“Oh, Kaylee, I used to be a genuine hell-raiser. You have no idea.” Lilah said.

“What happened?”

“I fell in love and got married and just…mellowed out.” Lilah said with a smile.

“Prince and Aries. The names sound so romantic together.” Kaylee exclaimed, happily. She turned the page, to see another capture of Wendell and Lilah together, during their wedding.

“You both looked so nice! And your dress! It was so pretty! You wore white, not red.” Kaylee said. “Are you a Christian, like Shepherd Book was?”

“I suppose.” Lilah said. “I believe in God and I pray, but mostly I saw the dress and in a fit of mindless, girlish shallowness, simply had to have it.”

“It’s beautiful. You looked so…”

“I looked like an actual woman?” Lilah asked with a smirk.

“Well, you’re pretty anyways, but seein’ ya all gussied up and all…” Kaylee blushed a bit.

“It was a special time. I don’t mind the occasional feminine touch, but I much prefer practicality and comfort in my clothing.” Lilah said.

“It looked like a beautiful wedding.”

“It was. Our family and friends were there. But what made it special was that our squadron was there with us. One of the other pilots was Wendell’s best man and one of my friends from Beaumonde flew all the way to stand with me.” Somehow, the memories weren’t so painful right then, as if sharing them had placed a healing sort of quality to them, rather than the usual stab of pain that she normally felt. “That was the last time our squadron was together as a whole. If you turn the-”

The proximity alert sounded just then, and Lilah said a quick “be right back,” to Kaylee before jumping out of her chair and rushing as fast as she could to the bridge. Kaylee was left alone to turn the page. Her face turned white when she did.


On the bridge, Lilah sat down quickly, looking at the screens. She pressed various buttons and turned various nobs, bringing up a visual of a heavily damaged ship, beaming a weak distress signal. Lilah recognized it as a passenger ship.

Within two minutes, Mal, Zoe, and Jayne were all on the bridge as well.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” Mal asked, looking intently out at the vast expanse of black and stars before them.

“Passenger ship, and heavily damaged by the looks of it.” Lilah answered. “They’re beaming a distress signal and it’s very weak.”

“Reavers?” Zoe asked.

“Naw. We’re near Dyton. Most likely it was slavers or pirates.” Jayne said.

“What’s the plan, Sir?” Zoe asked.

Mal looked down at Lilah.

“Hail them.”

Lilah did so, and a very weak visual of a bleeding man came on the screen.

“This is Captain Tsoling of the passenger ship The Orion Spirit. Thank you for answering.” The man’s words came through heavy gasps.

Lilah looked up at Mal, who nodded at her.

“Captain Tsoling, this is transport ship Serenity. What is your status?”

“We were hit…pirates. Damn hun dans sent a warning shot over our bow and they had some kind of a magnetic pull on their ship.”

“How many on your ship?”

“We were carrying 103, and the pirates took most of the people with them. And most of our valuables and foodstuffs. Some of us are wounded and we’re running out of medical supplies.”


“Yes, some of them wounded. Please…help us.”

“I’ll contact the Captain.”

“Thank you.”

Lilah switched the frequency off.

“Somethin’ ain’t right about this, Mal.” Jayne said. “If it were pirates or slavers they wouldn’ta left survivors, let alone a ship to beam a distress call.”

“I agree. But if there are survivors, ‘specially children, we can’t just leave them.”

“You can’t trust them.” A voice said from the doorway.

The foursome looked around to see River.

“They are liars and you should not trust them. They’ll wreak havoc and harm.”

“River, are there children on that boat?” Zoe asked.

“There were.” She answered. “I can hear their screaming; they were so scared. We can’t go over there.”

“So what, we just leave the damn people there to rot or take in unsuspecting do-gooders?” Lilah questioned.

“No. We invite them over here. And we’ll be ready for them.”

“Yer feng le.” Jayne bit out at River.

“I’d rather be feng le than be like you.” River answered. Jayne had no reply.

“Wait, wait, wait. Go back to the part where we invite them over here.” Mal said.

“We offer aid, and then we neutralize the threat they pose and take whatever supplies and weapons are over there as spoils of war. They aren’t travelers. They are pirates.”

“Then they’re insane. Who would go to all the trouble of tearing a perfectly good ship to hell just to make it look like less of a threat to others?” Lilah questioned.

Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and River shared a long look.

“You really think we can pull this off, Little Albatross?” Mal asked her.

“Seal off the pathways from the cargo bay to the rest of the ship.” Her brow was furrowed and the others could tell that she was thinking very, very hard. “At least twelve over there, but we should be prepared for at least five more. They are confident in what they do; they will get complacent. Height will be our ally, and someone should hide in one of the illegal cargo areas, shoot from below to bring them down.”

“And after that, little Mastermind?” Mal asked.

“Then the blades come out and the rest will fall.” River said, with an eerie smile.

Lilah didn’t understand that last part, but the others seemed know exactly what River meant. River was speaking very clearly and quietly, as if only speaking to herself. Within minutes she had everything planned out.

“We should start getting ready. Keep Simon and Kaylee and Lilah behind the sealed doors and set the cargo bay. Keep Inara in her shuttle.” She said.

“Oh, hell no! I’m fighting!” Lilah argued, standing up. “I can sit in one of the hidden cargo spots and take them out from below if you want, but you are not keeping me out of this fight.”

“Simon will need a gun, in case things go south then.” Mal said. “Kaylee’s been learnin’, but the girl tends to get frazzled at violence.” He clapped his hands together.

“Right then. I’m gonna invite these nice and even-tempered folk over here. We’ll fly towards them slowly and then I’ll make a big deal over getting the airlock ready. That should buy us some time for you three to start getting the bay ready. I’ll let Simon and Kaylee and Inara in on the plan. Jayne?” Mal said.


“Time to treat your girls to a little dance.”

Lilah saw Jayne smile widely and he took off in the direction of his bunk.

Zoe looked at Lilah and River as Mal sat down to hail the other ship.

“We got work to do.”


“Captain, I need to talk to you and Zoe.” Kaylee said, as Mal strode in the common area where Kaylee was sitting, looking through the rest of Lilah’s captures. He’d already told Inara to stay in her shuttle until he said it was okay to leave and then left quickly, causing her to curse him after he was mostly out of earshot.

“Ain’t got time for it now, Mei mei. We’re sealing off the cargo bay; we’re gonna have company. I’ve given Simon a gun and you’re to say away from the action, dong ma? Can’t risk you gettin’ hurt after Simon done got ya well again.”

“But Mal-” Kaylee started.

“Later. I promise. Now, here’s what you and Simon need to do…” He filled her in on River’s plan, and went to join the others.


Down in the cargo bay Jayne, Lilah, Zoe, and River had stacked crates up high and off to the sides of the bay to provide for cover. Zoe took a place up on the highest catwalk that was partially hidden. Lilah settled herself into one of the hidden storage spaces that River had pointed out and she pulled her gun from her hip and released the clip to double-check that it was full. River and Jayne situated themselves behind stacks of crates on opposite sides, and Lilah’s eyes went wide as she saw River hold up an old sword and a wicked-looking axe, looking very pleased and looking almost fond of them.

Mal came down into the cargo bay, making sure that the doors behind him were sealed.

“We all set?”

“We’re ready, Sir.” Zoe called, as quietly as she could.

“Right then. Let’s try to keep it clean, shall we?”

Mal strode over and pushed the button that would seal the airlock to the other ship and then moved to swing the great door open. He stepped back, letting a group of around twenty in. Each appeared to be wounded and from their various places, the crew could tell that the wounds were unconvincingly faked – if others had been wounded for real in the way these pirates were staged, they would be dead.

“I’m Captain Reynolds. Sorry for the big delay, but we we’ve been getting things ready to make this as smooth as possible. So, I’ll just show you to the infirmary where our Doc can patch ya’ll up.” He smiled winningly and shook the “Captain’s” hand. He turned his back and the lights went dark a second later. In the dark, Mal ducked behind a stack of crates. The lights came back on and the pirates had pulled out their weapons, looking around wildly at the seemingly empty bay.

“This ain’t right, Tsoling!” One of the men said. A shot rang out and he fell to the ground, screaming in pain, holding his knee tightly before he was shot again and lay dead.

“What the-”

Another shot rang out and one of the others, a very muscular woman carrying a shotgun fell dead, with a shot right through her heart.

“Get back to the ship! This is a set-”

The doors behind them had already been closed, overridden by Kaylee, who had limped to the engine room, Simon helping her.

Mal fired a shot and took out another of the men, while Jayne fired two and two more men went down.

Then Lilah could only stare in shock as she watched River dart out, blades in hand. She danced around, swinging the blades with a silent and almost poetic grace. When one tried to shoot her she grabbed his arm, spun him around so that he shot one of his fellow pirates, and moved her axe to nick his jugular. A kick here, a slash there, a twist round. One by one, the remaining pirates fell to the ground, dead. A few had broken necks and others were bleeding from long, deep slashes.

She stood there, in the middle of the bodies, breathing heavily. Her eyes looked blank and her body was tensed up. Mal came out from behind one of the crates and for a moment Lilah was sure that River was going to attack him. Then River exhaled deeply and her blades fell to the floor with a clatter.

Zoe was coming down from the catwalk and Jayne stepped out from where he was hidden. Lilah pulled herself out of her hiding place and went to join the others.

“That was some fightin’ you did there, River.” Mal said, looking for all the world like a proud father. “That wasn’t a bad plan. You may be fit for crime yet.” He said, smiling.

River beamed up at him.

“But just so you know, River, seeing you take on those pirates like that done took about ten years off my life.” He said. “So let’s avoid most of this in the future, eh?”

“Captain is very healthy,” River said dismissively.

“Went a bit too fast for my tastes,” Jayne commented. “Woulda liked to have shot ‘em some more. Kinda felt like a run-in with pirates shoulda been harder than that.”

“Speed ensured that Simon would not be busy fixing us tonight.” River said.

Lilah stared at the pack of them.

“Wha- what was that? What just happened?” She turned to River. “How did you…you’re just a little girl! That was-” Words failed her.

“We’ll explain later.” Mal said. “But for right now, I want you and Jayne to go over to that ship and bring back any bits of pretty that you can find. Zoe and I will take care of dumping the bodies.”

“Right. We’ll go and do that, then.” Lilah said, still in a state of shock.


She and Jayne opened up the airlock, guns at the ready, in case there were more pirates on the other ship. Moving over into the other ship, they began a search for anything useful.


Mal, Zoe, and River made short work of dumping the bodies, much like Jayne had done after the Lilac job. River started to clean up the blood that had splattered onto some of the crates and Mal and Zoe went to check on Simon and Kaylee.

“Captain, Zoe?” Kaylee asked, sitting once more with Lilah’s album of captures. Simon was sitting with her, very quiet.

“What did you need, Mei mei?” Mal asked kindly.

“You two need to look at these.” Kaylee told them, her voice strained. She held out the album.

“What?” Zoe asked, as Mal took it.

“Just do it.” Simon said.

Zoe stood next to Mal as he opened up the album and started looking at the captures.

“Okay. I’m seeing Lilah, what looks like Lilah’s family…”

“Just keep going.” Kaylee told him.

“Lilah’s wedding…” Zoe said.

“Turn again.”


Zoe had backed away suddenly from the album, as if she’d seen a ghost. Mal stared incredulously down at the page of captures.

In the captures, sometimes dressed in the flight suit of an Independent fighter pilot; other times with the same group of five people looking young, carefree, and cheerful; and in yet more captures, standing up with Lilah’s husband during the wedding ceremony, was Wash.


I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!



Sunday, March 29, 2009 9:54 PM


I agree with blkhero69 - Mal didn't even get a flesh wound? But thank you so much for not having Lilah grab the album from Kaylee before she could see the captures. Now we need to know how Lilah knew Wash.

Monday, March 30, 2009 7:36 AM


WOW!!.. didnt see that coming..
Wash... This is getting Guuuud..
Great stuff!!


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