Masks - Mark XXIV
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne and Vera get involved, and Freya faces Harrington. NEW CHAPTER



The shuttle had docked at Sub-Level 3, Section 17a, Emergency Airlock 13, at least according to the sign on the wall.

“Thirteen?” Jayne shook his head. “Unlucky.”

“Well, not for us.” Mal headed for the door, quickly looking out and glancing in both directions. The corridor was empty. He looked back at River. “Hope you know where you’re going, albatross.”

She didn’t respond, just raised an eyebrow at him and she moved smoothly past, stepping delicately over the sill.

Mal couldn’t quite suppress the smile as he followed her, Jayne and Simon at his heels.

“Shit, but it’s cold in here,” Jayne complained.

“It will get colder,” River said, waiting at the stairs.

“Great.” He didn’t like the cold. Or getting wet. Or being too hot, for that matter. Oh, he could deal with it, ignoring it for the most part, but that didn’t mean he liked it.

Simon, in the meantime, was staring upwards. “Um, how many flights, River?”

“Ten. But after that it’s mostly all on one level.”

“Ten?” He glanced down at his leg. “I don’t know if I can –”

“Aw, hell.” Jayne sighed mightily. “Here. Hold Vera.” He handed his Callaghan to Mal, and in the same movement grabbed Simon by the waist and lifted.

“What the …” Suddenly the young doctor’s view was restricted to a close-up of Jayne’s back as he was slung over the big man’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” the ex-merc said. “If anyone sees us they’ll just think I’m rescuing you.”

Simon began to struggle. “Put me down.”


“Jayne, so help me, if you don't put me down right now I –”

River ducked low enough to gaze into her brother’s eyes. “No. You won’t make it. And you have to.”

“Riv?” Jayne turned. “You seeing something?”

“Not sure.” She seemed distracted, but they knew better than to discount her warnings.

Mal, cradling Vera to his chest, attempted to take back charge. “Then we’ll be careful. Okay, I conjure we can save the niceties until later, but ‘til then, Simon – stop struggling. Jayne, you gonna be okay?”

“Shiny, Mal. ‘Cept he’s heavier than he looks.”

“This is undignified,” Simon complained. He felt a rumble through his body, and realised Jayne was chuckling.

“Looks like I do get to carry you after all,” he joked, referring to their conversation in the shuttle.

“Oh, diyu.” Simon let himself go limp.

Mal looked at River. “Ten flights?”

She nodded. “Yes, captain.”

“Come on then.” He led the way.

By the fifth floor even Mal was beginning to think maybe he wasn’t as fit as he used to be – all that easy living eating occasionally and laying with loose women must’ve sapped his strength – or maybe they just made stairs steeper than they used to. Whatever it was, by the time they got to the level they wanted, his heart was pounding in his chest and he was wishing he was the one being carried. Even Jayne looked pleased to have arrived, dropping Simon gently back onto his feet.

“Thank you,” the young man muttered, well aware he’d never have been able to get as far as the second, let alone the tenth level.

Jayne nodded and took Vera back off Mal, feeling the comfort of his favourite gun in his hands.

Mal stepped around the corner and felt his heart rate spike yet again.


Mal stared at his first mate, waiting nonchalantly for him. “Gorramit, Zoe, do you want to get yourself killed?”

She merely raised one eyebrow. “I believe I was the one with the gun on you.”

“Can I remind you I’m captain?” It was automatic, this sort of banter. Ever since they’d first met during the war. Oddly enough, she’d been holding a gun on him then, too.

“Noted, sir.”

“What’re you doing here?” he demanded.

“Waiting for you.”

“Apart from that.”

“We’ve been boarded.”

“Saw that. The Golden Dragon, hanging on like a tick on a cow in a field of hay.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Frey?”

“The Laus have her.”

“Alive?” He remembered their encounter with this man and his brothers on Ezra, quite apart from the reputation that hung about their names like the smell of putrefaction. “Is she alive?” He hadn’t felt her in his mind for too long. She didn’t answer, and his face tightened as he pushed the intense worry for his wife back down into the pit of his stomach where it could seethe. “Seems like Chester’s back to his old tricks. But what does he want with Frey?”

“It’s not her. It’s Saffron.”

Mal stared. “What?”

“Who,” River corrected quietly, but they both ignored her.

“Zoe, what are you on?”

“Saffron. She’s on board. Inara’s been … talking to her.”

“Talking? To that harpy?” For a split Mal had a mental image of Inara doing something else entirely, as if ‘talking’ was a euphemism for …

River’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “Just talking,” she said firmly.

“Apparently she’s pregnant, sir,” Zoe went on. “Going home to Bellerophon. But somebody kidnapped her.”

“And Frey?”

“She got in the way.”

He could feel the anger burning its way through him, meeting the absolute ice cold certainty that he would make someone pay, and bringing him to the boil. He pulled the comlink from his pocket, boosted by an ungainly additional powerpack. “Hank, are you still playing dead?”

“Deader than roadkill.”

“Is the engine online?”

“Just needs the flick of a switch.”

“Keep an eye on the Dragon. If they even look like they realise you’re still running, you hightail it back into The Halo and hide.”

“Mal –”

“This ain't no discussion, Hank.”

“But Zoe –”

“I’m fine, Hank,” Zoe said, leaning forwards slightly.

There was a pause, and everyone listening could imagine him offering up a silent prayer. They all heard him take a breath. “Okay. But I ain't going far.”

“Far enough, Hank.”

“What about Kaylee and the others?” Hank wanted to know. “Are they okay?”

Mal glanced at Zoe, wondering why he hadn’t asked himself.

“Kaylee’s trying to get the Empress’s engine back up and running, Inara’s looking after the girls in our suite,” his first mate supplied.

“That’s our Kaylee. And before you ask, the Dragon’s locked on at the fifth level, looks like the one they use to load luggage and the like.”

“I thought you said it was all on the same level?” Mal asked, looking at River.

The young psychic shrugged. “I said mostly. And Zoe had to join us.”

“Okay.” He took a breath himself. “Okay. Hank, keep this line open, just in case we need a quick rescue.”

“You? Needing a rescue?”

It was relief, Mal told himself. Just relief that his wife was, at least for the moment, unharmed. Otherwise his pilot was going to have to walk back to Persephone. “Just keep listening.”

“Dang rahn.”

Fifth. Two decks below. Mal turned to River. “Quickest route?”

“I can see,” she said.

He nodded, then shifted his gaze to Zoe. “Get to Kaylee. I know she’s probably gonna argue, but I –””

“There’s more, sir,” his first mate said, interrupting him.

“More? How the hell can there be more?”

Something like gunfire sounded a distance away in the liner, muffled by expensive carpets and carried to them by miles of corridors but for the moment he ignored it.

“Flynn’s with them.”


“With the Laus. He’s working for them.”

He closed his eyes briefly, mentally damning everything and everyone within a thousand kilometre radius. “Right. Fine. Then I’ll deal with that when I get to it. For now … Zoe, what I was gonna say before still goes. Get to Kaylee. I don’t want her left alone, even if she’s surrounded by a thousand mechanics. Try and make her hide in the shuttle, but one way or another, keep her safe.”

“Yes, sir.” She loped away.

Mal adjusted the gunbelt hidden around his hips, grateful for the comfort it gave. “Doc, you okay to move fast? ‘Cause I’m thinking we ain’t got time to dawdle.”

“I’ll keep up.”

A single nod. “Shiny. Jayne –”

The ex-merc grinned. “You want me to carry him again?”

“No. I got another job for you to do.”

“Mayhem?” the big man asked, his smile now bordering on the evil, somewhat incongruous in the medtech uniform although quite in keeping with the grenades strapped across his chest. He didn’t believe in the word ‘inconspicuous’.

“Keep ‘em occupied, take ‘em out, I don’t much care.”

“Sounds like fun.” He hefted Vera in his hands. “Ain't had anything to shoot at in a while.”

“Enjoy,” River whispered, reaching up and ghosting her lips across his.

“You too, moonbrain.” Jayne watched as his wife moved silently towards the bend in the corridor, Mal following with Simon hobbling along behind, then he ran towards the sound of gunfire.



Mal. Mal. Nothing. Try as she might Freya couldn’t touch her husband’s mind.

Harrington had pushed her down to the deck and threaded the chain of the handcuffs through a metal stanchion attached to the wall, probably wary of what she might do if left unchecked. He’d only taken as long as needed to set the autopilot before coming back to the small lounge.

“Well?” he asked, watching dispassionately as his daughter suffered through another huge contraction, only a slight flaring of his nostrils showing any emotion, and mostly that was disapproval.

Barkin wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. “Not yet.”


“It could be as much as ten hours.”

“Ten hours?” Saffron screamed.

Barkin nodded. “You’re not fully effaced. Until that happens, the baby’s not coming.”

Bun tyen-shung duh ee-dway-ro,” she ground out.

“You know, this isn’t my fault,” Barkin said miserably.

“I don’t care.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed hard.

Harrington shook his head. “I don’t care how long it takes, or how much pain she’s in. All I want is the child.”

“No!” Saffron tried to sit up but the contraction was only just starting to recede.

“I don’t think you have a say in the matter.”

“Why don’t you give her something? To make her more comfortable?” Freya asked, feeling Saffron’s pain like a knife in her head.

“I don’t have anything.” Barkin shot a glare at her.

“There must be a medical kit on board.”

Barkin turned on his heels to Harrington. “Well? Is there?”

For a moment it looked like the General might deny it, then he shrugged. “I suppose it’s necessary. Anything to keep her from making that noise.” He crossed to a recessed cupboard and opening it, pulling out a large box. “Here. If whatever you need isn’t in there, you’ll have to make do without.”

Barkin took it hurriedly, putting it down on the floor and opening the lid. He couldn’t help the sigh of relief at the contents.

Frey tried to get into a more comfortable position, the cuffs rattling. “You know, he won’t stop.”

“Who?” Harrington asked, barely glancing at her as Barkin prepared a hypo.

“My husband. He’ll come for me.”

The General’s lips lifted slightly. “And you think I should be worried?”


He chuckled. “You have a great deal of faith in him.”

Xavier Wing, Niska … Mal had ended them because of what they’d done, not only to her. She tried to hide the shudder the memories brought up. “He’ll find you. Kill you if you hurt me.”


“No matter what you do, where you go. And Durren Haymer isn’t going to let you get away with doing this to Saffron, either.”

“Haymer?” Harrington scoffed. “That wimp?”

“People will know.”

Harrington stared at her, contemplating. “You know, maybe you’re right.” He headed for the bridge.



Joy huddled close to her parents, eyes huge in the dim light that barely reached the walls of the main ballroom, as the pirates went around everyone collecting valuables. Two of the several dozen people congregated there were already on the floor, bleeding from gunshot wounds and moaning, and more bullets decorated the ceiling, just as an encouragement. It was working – the sacks the gunmen carried were already more than half full.

One of them stopped in front of Joy and her parents, holding out the bag. When her father was a little slow in pulling out his billfold, the thief stepped closer.

“You really wanna piss me off?” he asked, his voice low, threatening. Not that he needed it. Just the sight of him was enough to chill the blood. Dressed in a sleeveless, less than clean t-shirt, his skin was covered in tattoos, most of them either depicting images of violence or scenes lewd enough to make a working girl blush. His right arm, though, showed heavy scarring that obliterated the pictures, resembling nothing less than a cheese grater in texture. This continued up his shoulder and neck to his face, permanently caught in a scowl, even if that wasn’t his usual expression. He leaned forward, showing that – despite surprisingly good teeth – he had breath to match his appearance. “’Cause you really don’t wanna piss me off.”

Joy felt anger surging through her, fighting the fear that had taken root to a standstill. She glared up at him, ignoring his halitosis. “What makes you think you can come here, taking stuff off of good people?”

He ran his eyes up and down her body. “Girlie, there ain’t no good people I can see.”

“I’m not your girlie.”

“You could be.” He smiled, so lasciviously Joy wanted to scrub her skin clean. “Wouldn’t take but a few minutes to make you.”

Oscar Danette pulled his daughter behind him. “Leave her alone.”

“Yeah? You gonna make me?”

Danette was terrified, but nobody was going to touch his daughter. “Yes. You go anywhere near her, you’ll have to get through me first.”

“That can be arranged.”

“Ward, leave her alone,” one of the other men said, not from any sense of propriety, but merely because his colleague was wasting time.

“What if I don’t want to?” Ward countered.

“We’re here for the trinkets, nothin’ else.”

Ward laughed softly, coldly. “I figure she’s a trinket worth taking.”

Danette swallowed hard, but stood his ground. “You’re not touching her.” His voice caught.

“You wanna take a bet on that?” Ward took a single step back and dropped the bag, a single gold wedding band rolling out across the floor, ignored by everyone.

One of the other gunmen, the one who had remonstrated with Ward in the first place, pulled a comlink from his pocket, and was talking into it quietly, urgently.

“Daddy ...” Joy was crying, tears rolling down her cheeks, her mother doing the same, dragging on her husband’s arm.

Ward lifted his gun, aiming carefully, although at that distance he wasn’t going to miss. He took up the slack ...

His head exploded. There was no other way of describing it. One moment he was about to end Danette, the next blood, bone and grey matter was decorating the floor behind him. He fell backwards, almost in slow motion, the force of his impact on the expensive, rare wood parquet flooring throwing up splashes of bodily fluids.

Everyone stared in disbelief. Everyone, that is, except for the other gunmen who turned towards the newcomer, but too late. Always and forever too late. The gun spoke again, filling the ballroom with sound, and the pirates went down, holes the size of fists in their chests.

Jayne, big, broad and very imposing even in the medtech’s uniform, stood in the doorway, Vera smoking in his hands. “Anyone else wanna try?” he demanded, his teeth showing in a feral grin.



Chester Lau smiled as he headed back towards the Empress’s main ballroom. He’d deposited the jewellery from the Purser’s office in his personal safe in his bunk on the Golden Dragon, along with the fee he’d obtained from the General for handing over Madam Reynolds, or Saffron, or whatever the hell she decided to call herself. The safe only he knew the combination to. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his crew – he didn't trust anyone, least of all his brothers. As head of the family after his father died in a mysterious shuttle explosion (mysterious to everyone else, anyway) he had total control over the finances, and he intended to keep it that way.

He checked his watch. Less than half an hour until the bomb went off, and with any luck taking any evidence of his activities with it. Plenty of time, though, to collect the booty from the collection going on the ballroom. Chicken feed, of course, compared to the accounts he had squirreled away, but he had never been one to turn down free cash.

People were milling about the corridors, having got over the first flash of fear, and now wondering what was going on, and it was harder going to get along. He’d barely made it to the right level when the comlink in his pocket trilled. Several passengers stopped to stare at him, and he ducked into an open doorway before taking it out. “What?”

“Chester, we’ve got a problem.” It was Packham, one of those supposed to be gathering baubles.


“It’s Ward. He’s up to his old tricks.”

“And you expect me to do what?”

“Stop him?”

“He’s got less than fifteen minutes before the Dragon leaves, with or without him,” Chester said, his irritation clear.

“I know that, but –” Boom. “Shit.” Boom. Then again. Boom. Followed by a clatter as the comlink fell to the floor.

“Packham? Packham?”

“Anyone else wanna try?” Not Packham, and fainter, as if a distance from the hand link. A deep voice, coming from a big man.

The dots connected. Reynolds’ mercenary. Which probably meant ... He hurried out into the corridor and almost ran back towards the Golden Dragon.



People were milling about, trying to find out what was going on, and the stewards were having little or no luck in getting them to go back to their rooms. River, by virtue of being female and young, was able to slip between them, but Mal wasn’t so lucky.

“What’s going on?” An elderly man with a head entirely devoid of hair stopped him by the simple expedient of hooking his arm with his stick. “Tell me, what’s going on?”

It was the uniform. Mal knew that. That and his natural air of authority. So far he’d been accosted by half a dozen passengers, all asking the same question. He gave the same answer. “I’m trying to find out sir. As soon as I know, so will you.”

The man sniffed at him, probably at his accent, but let him go.

Simon limped up behind. “How much farther?” he asked, panting slightly.

“You could have gone with Zoe,” Mal pointed out, following River again.

“And missed all the fun of seeing you get shot again?”

Mal didn't take offence. He understood the young doctor was only being snarky because he knew his own wife was all right, albeit elbow deep in the guts of the liner. At least she was in her element.

Down to the next level, they both heard in their minds as River disappeared around a corner. Then we’re there.

Mal quickened his pace, shrugging off another questioner. “And you hang back when we do get on board,” he warned over his shoulder. “Not sure I could explain another bullet hole in you to Kaylee.”

He reached the stairs, taking them two at a time, knowing they were close, and just that knowing meaning he was catching up with River. At the next open doorway he ducked through, seeing the young psychic only a few paces in front. Then he almost ran into her as she stopped.

“Here,” she whispered, ducking through a door. He followed, ending up in a small room, an open airlock in front of him. “Quickly,” she added, slipping inside.

to be continued


Thursday, April 1, 2010 12:55 PM


Yes, the big damm rescue has started but you do leave us in a lurch at the end of each chapter. I can't wait for the next one.

Friday, April 2, 2010 4:10 PM


Mal and Simon at the end....I loved the conversation between them. Great stuff and Happy Birthday!!(Soon) :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010 2:17 AM


Good ole' Jayne. Always perfect timing for well placed bullets...

Saturday, April 3, 2010 3:01 PM


Birthday? Birthday soon?

Hmm... Ideas. :)


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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!]