Masks - Part XXVIII
Monday, April 26, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. We left Jez facing General Harrington, and he's just pulled the trigger. Also, Mal talks to the surviving Laus. NEW CHAPTER (probably only another couple to go)


Nothing happened. Harrington stared at the gun in disbelief, then pulled the trigger again. Still nothing. Again and again, until with a roar of rage he threw it at Jez. She stepped to one side, the useless weapon missing her head by no more than a couple of inches.

“Looks like you had your turn,” she said, not really surprised. She’d seen where Laura’s bullet had hit the weapon, and she’d bet her life that it wasn’t going to fire. “You know, sometimes I really don’t understand men.”

Harrington stood straight, his back solid, but a line of sweat on his top lip showed he was nervous. Perhaps even just a little bit scared. “Don’t understand?”

“Mmn. You think you can take what you want. That because you have position and power, you’re above the law. I’ve known men like you all my life. Pretending to be all noble and honourable, when inside you’re eaten up with getting what you want, when you want it. All smoke and mirrors ...” She shook her head. “Nobody’s ever said no to you before, have they?”

He sneered at her. “They don't have the right. You don’t have the right.”

“Really? I thought I already had.” She tilted her head, just a little, her gun not moving. “And you’ve failed.”

“I don't fail.”

“Wanna bet your life on that?”

Harrington swallowed. “You don't have the guts.”

“I’ve got a gun on you. What do you think?”

“If you kill me, I can promise you this – the Alliance will hunt you down. They’ll take that ship of yours and turn it into scrap, and your crew will be sent to a penal colony for life. You, on the other hand ... you’ll hang. And I hope it takes a long time for you to die, choking and –”

If he saw the bullet that ended his life leave the barrel of Jez’s gun, he might have been surprised. But in all likelihood he didn’t even notice it until his brains were decorating the wall of the Interceptor.

“My turn,” Jez muttered.

As the noise died away, Laura ran in, ready to do battle. “Jez?”

“It’s okay,” her friend said quietly. “He won't be bothering anyone again.”

Laura looked at the body of General Sean Harrington, slumped against the bulkhead, his eyes wide and staring, a hole drilled neatly between them. Her nose twitched slightly at the tinny smell of fresh blood. “It’s done, then.”

“It’s done,” Jez echoed. Still staring at the man she’d killed, she added, “Can you get Marcel in here? I’ve got something I want him to do.”


Mal studied the three men in front of him. Jarrett Lau was still supporting his brother, Aiden, while a third man – apparently the only other member of the Golden Dragon crew to survive – huddled against the bulkhead, not taking his eyes off River. Which was not particularly surprising, considering she was cradling Vera like the Callahan was a baby. Odd how sexually charged the image was, while at the same time surprisingly innocent.

He turned to Zoe. “Go get the girls ready to leave.”

“Kaylee won’t .”

“I know. But I’ve got the feeling Inara can't wait to get off that deathtrap, and she’s gonna make Val and Phoebe leave with her.”

“What about you, sir?” She glanced significantly at the Laus.

“Oh, I think I’ll be fine. My albatross here won’t let anything happen to me. Will you, xiao nu?”

River smiled faintly. “No, jia yan.”

“See?” Mal turned back to Zoe. “I’ll meet you all back at the shuttle.”

“Yes, sir.” She headed for the airlock, then chuckled. “At least it’s mostly downhill.”

“That it is, Zo. That it is.” Mal watched her leave, then faced the Laus again. “Well now, this is something, don’t you think?”

“What are you planning on doing with us?” Jarrett asked, licking his lips.

“Still thinking on that. See, I figure we’re even,” Mal said, his hands on the gunbelt he’d now buckled over the medtech uniform, his weapon still holstered, knowing his little psychic would take anyone out that tried anything. “Last time you got the coins. This time we won.”

“And our ship’s disabled!” Jarrett insisted.

“Yeah. But you’d’ve killed us.” Mal’s icy blue stare seemed to make the younger Lau slide back a little.

Aiden struggled to sit up, wincing in pain despite the bandages he now sported, evidence of Simon’s ministrations. “You haven’t heard the last of this.”

“No?” Mal raised just one eyebrow. “You were planning on blowing up the Empress. Murdering a whole bunch of people. What do you think’s gonna happen to you if I turn you over to the captain? Hell, you might not even make trial, not if the passengers on board get to hear about it. You’d probably be joining Chester in being scattered all over.”

Jarrett looked at his brother. “Aiden …”

“He’s bluffing.”

“Why would I do that? It’d take a load off my shoulders.” Mal’s lips lifted humourlessly. “And I wouldn’t be having to look over ‘em for the rest of my natural, either.” He paused. “You know what, how ‘bout we find out?” He took a step towards the door.

“No!” Jarrett said quickly. All three men had paled, obviously picturing exactly what a few hundred irate passengers could do to them. There’d probably be less of them left than Chester. “So what do you suggest?” he asked.

“Honestly, if’n I were you, I’d make like I was an innocent bystander.” Mal stroked his cheek with the back of his fingers. “Tell ‘em you came to give assistance to an obviously stricken ship, and just got in the way. Blame the Interceptor for everything. Nobody’s gonna really remember what exactly happened when.”

“They won’t believe it.”

“Anybody see you? Able to remember you?”

“Well, no, not –”

“Jarrett, don’t you dare,” Aiden threatened.

Bizui,” his younger sibling said, surprising them all. “I’ve had enough of you and your plans. You’ve been getting us into trouble my whole life, and I'm sick of it. You just lie there and let me deal with it.”

Aiden was so shocked he couldn’t answer, and after a moment his jaw slammed shut, hard enough that Mal could believe he’d probably cracked at least a tooth or two. “That’s better,” the captain of Serenity said.

“So you’re not going to kill us,” Jarrett wanted to clarify.

“As much as it pains me, no. If you were shooting at me or mine, then yeah, I’d have no problem. But I ain't a murderer, so I'm giving you an out. Your ship ain't going anywhere, most of your crew’s dead … but if you want I can let my young friend loose, like she’s itching to do.”

Jarrett glanced up at River, who was stroking Vera’s barrel, and an idle thought crossed his mind that he could take her, and the man standing in front of them …

“And no,” Mal went on. “You can’t.” River had dropped Jarrett’s thoughts into his brain. “She may look like she’s gonna blow away in the first puff of breeze, but she’s a holy terror when riled. And she’s getting that way.” He pointed. “See, you can tell by that vein, throbbing away in her forehead.” The look in her eyes was almost enough to make him laugh out loud, but he held it back. “Okay. So … what’s it going to be?”

Aiden found his voice. “Jarrett, you ain't gonna talk for me, and I say –”

Jarrett pushed his brother back, almost inadvertently pressing on the wound in his shoulder and making him cry out.

“And just so’s you can make the right decision,” Mal added, “you’d best remember Chester’s dead.” He emphasised the last word.

“You murdered him,” Aiden managed to grind out.

“Nope. That was someone else. Poetic justice, you might say.”

“Dead …” Jarrett echoed. “No longer in charge …”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Aiden demanded, ignoring the pain as best he could.

Mal chuckled dryly. “I think what he’s figured out is that now your big bro’s gone, the pair of you are in charge. Of everything, including the Lau money.” He watched the series of expressions cross the now eldest Lau’s face, from anger to confusion melting quickly to understanding.

“You mean ...”

“Sure. A’course, you’ll have to hand back what you took from the passengers, or at least make it look like the bad guys dropped it, but I conjure there’s enough in your accounts to live like a king for a long time to come.”

“Our accounts …”

Jarrett nodded. “You got a deal.”

Aiden automatically went to argue, but a glance from his brother had him subsiding, only muttering Chinese curses under his breath.

“Shiny.” Mal wondered just how long it would take before Jarrett Lau was the main man, telling his older brother what to do, reining him in, and how long Aiden would let him. When it all went to hell … well, that would be an interesting day. “We’ll leave you to break the news of the unfortunate death of your brother to the Empress’s captain.” He turned on his heel, feeling rather than hearing River at his back.

“Wait,” Jarrett called. “Like you said, we’re dead in the water. What about the Dragon?”

Mal grinned. “That weren't part of the deal. Better hope the Empress’s engineers are in a helpful frame of mind.”


“Okay, we gotta reroute the main couplings ‘round the damaged sections, then there’s a short someplace along the manifold, so one of us will have to ...” Kaylee stopped, aware the other engineers were all smiling at her. “Gorramit,” she muttered, going red. “Sorry. I didn't mean to stick my nose into ... it’s just ... it’s an engine, you know? And when an engine is broke I just gotta ... fix ... it ...” Her voice faded away.

Cho put his hand on her arm, squeezing gently. “We know, Ms Kaylee. We know. We all feel the same.”

Kaylee managed a rueful grin. “Sorry,” she murmured again.

“Okay.” Cho clapped his hands together. “As Ms Kaylee here said, first we reroute the couplings, then we break out the suits to find that short ...”


“You’ve taken your time,” Inara said accusingly, standing in the middle of the shuttle, her hands on her hips.

Mal, under the influence of not having been shot, knifed, stabbed or had any other violence perpetrated directly on him, just grinned at her. “Well, the Empress’s captain … uh … insisted I have a word. To thank me for all my hard work.”

“Your …” Her eyes were as wide as he’d ever seen them, and he realised it felt good to be goading her again.

The truth of the matter was that, as Mal and River made their way back towards the shuttle, three members of the liner’s crew, armed and looking as nervous as hell, had confronted them and demanded they follow. River, with admirable restraint, smiled sweetly at them and slung Vera around to her back, looking for all the ‘verse like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and giving the impression – despite the Callahan still at the ready – that she was merely out for a day’s stroll with her current beau.

“Of course,” she said, slipping her arm through Mal’s, and quite incidentally stopping him from drawing his own weapon. “Lead the way.”

Captain Harjinder Singh, his pristine white turban fairly bristling with indignation, stood in the centre of the ballroom, surrounded by members of his crew and a large number of passengers. “Explain yourself!” he demanded, his beard vibrating. “What the hell are you doing shooting up my ship?”

“Oddly enough, it wasn’t me, sir.” Mal stood calmly, respectfully, taking a leaf out of Freya’s book and radiating understanding as hard as he could. “Those that did that ain't likely to be bothering you again.” He glanced towards what appeared to be bodies lying under white tablecloths, now red in various places. “In fact, I see some of ‘em not bothering you right here.”

“Yes, well …” Singh narrowed his eyes. “Are you a medtech?” he asked, looking at the uniform.

“Technically, no. ‘Though I did help pull a bullet out of a feller’s leg just a while back. But my name’s Malcolm Reynolds. I captain a Firefly, Serenity, and we just came to help.”

“Help?” Singh’s anger was slightly blunted, but he looked very confused. “Help?”

“See, some of my family are on board, taking a trip. For instance, you got my mechanic down in your engine room right now, trying to put things right, so I don’t think –”

“Oh, are you Uncle Mal?” a young girl interrupted, stepping out from behind a large man and neatly avoiding his protective arms.

He paused, taking her in, her exuberance and red hair scarcely dimmed by the events of the evening. “Mal Reynolds, yes.”

“Oh, that’s great!” she gushed. “Val and Phoebe have told me so much about you – they think you’re wonderful.”

“Do they, now.” He couldn’t help the slight smile. “Always did think that pair had something of a crush on me.”

“And I can see why. You’re suai.”

The man with her, probably her father, said in exasperation, “Joy!”

“What, Pa?” She shrugged off the admonition. “He is. Prettiest thing I've seen on this whole trip.”

“That’s … real nice of you to say that,” Mal said somewhat haltingly, feeling out of his depth in the face of such a barrage, and was rewarded with a wide smile.

Captain Singh looked doubtfully between the two. “You know this man, Miss Danette?”

“Of him, sure.” She grinned at him. “The Reilly twins are his nieces, and Inara Serra, you know, the ex-Companion? Well she’s … well, not sure what she is, but Kaylee Frye is –”

Singh put his hand up to forestall any further explanations. “I think I can gather the rest. But even if his compatriots are on board, that’s no guarantee he isn’t responsible for all of this … this mayhem.”

Joy looked shocked. “Captain Singh. I know he came to help us. Gorramit, it was probably his man mountain killed those men that were gonna …” She stopped, her cheeks paling for a moment. “Saved me,” she added quietly.

“Man mountain?” Mal asked, his imagination filling in the gaps. “Let me guess. Taller’n me, short hair, goatee … likes to wear grenades?”

Joy nodded fiercely. “He killed ‘em.” She nodded towards the bodies shrouded on the floor. “Saved us all.”

“Yeah, that’d be Jayne.”

“Jayne?” Singh echoed.

“Don’t ask.”

Life which has been granted by God.

Everyone turned to look at River.

“What’s that, honey?” Mal asked, wondering if the action had perhaps loosened her hold on reality, and visually making sure her hands weren't anywhere near Vera.

“Captain Singh’s first name. Harjinder. It means life which has been granted by God.”

Singh stared. “How did she know …”

“She probably saw it somewhere, on our way through,” Mal bluffed. “And for the rest … I'm always surprised what my … what she knows.” And no reading folks minds, albatross, he added mentally. Not when we’re tryin’ to make friends.

Hs mind is so clean. So clear. Like my Jayne.

He raised his eyebrow at her, but didn’t deign to comment.

“Well, it appears as if it is not just God who has granted me my life this time, but you also,” Singh said, his speech becoming more formal. “Thank you.”

“Happy to help.” Mal looked around the room. “Only I’ve got a ship to be getting back to myself.”

“Of course. But what about your mechanic?”

“Kaylee? It’d probably take another explosion to drag her away from your engine. You’d better keep her ‘til she’s done.”

“It seems I am even more in your debt.”

“Nope. Just doing what any good-minded folk would do.” He tried one of his trademark lazy smiles. “A’course, I’d be grateful if you made sure none of your crew shot at us on the way back.”

“Done.” Singh nodded to one of his men, who stood to attention in readiness.


Singh’s mouth opened, then closed, and finally he made up his mind. “How did you know?” he asked. “That we needed help? There’s no Cortex, we haven’t even been able to get a beacon sent … how did you know?”

Mal smiled slightly. “Well, my mechanic don’t like to be out of touch with her family for long, and she’s a wonder with electronics …” He left it hanging, not exactly lying, but certainly evading the question with aplomb.

Singh took it at face value. “Of course. Then I’m just glad that you were in the vicinity.”

“My pleasure.” His lips twitched. “’Though you might wanna go take a look at your airlock on level five. Seemed to me there might be some other visitors.”

“More pirates?” Singh’s anger started to mount up again. “We’ll see about them.”

Mal and River backed up, heading for the door and the walk to the shuttle, but not before Joy Danette smiled at him, and waved her fingers.

He resisted the temptation to wave back, only muttering as they started up the corridor, their escort leading the way, “How come I’m so attractive to young women?”

“She left her guide dog at home,” River replied, then skipped ahead before he could come up with a decent answer.

And now, with Inara glaring at him, the Reilly twins looking relieved, and Zoe with that slight smirk on her face, he just smiled.

His first mate asked, a chuckle in her tone, “Do you want me to drive, sir?”

“Nope. On account of your bad shoulder I think you’d better rest it. ‘Sides, we got ourselves a chauffeur.”

River had slipped on board unnoticed behind him, and was already prepping the shuttle.

“Of course.”

Mal looked at Val and Phoebe. “You two okay? Not hurt at all?”

“No. We’re fine,” Val said quickly. “Uncle Mal … Flynn … he …”

He sat down next to them on the long bench. “I know. And I think maybe you should know he kinda redeemed himself. Took out the really bad guy all on his own. So maybe you might want to think of cutting him a little slack. Seeing as Simon’s working on him right now.”

“Simon?” Val’s face went pale, her hands clutching at Phoebe’s. “You mean he’s …”

“I hadn’t actually told her,” Zoe said on a sigh. “I was going to break the news gently.”

“I thought I was being gentle.”

“Sorry, sir. My mistake.” She didn’t sound at all apologetic, though.

“Hell, he’s alive. That’s pretty much all that can be said for most of us.”

“Yes, sir.”

The shuttle disengaged with a slight jerk, and they sat quietly for a few moments.

Mal finally cleared his throat. “I meant to ask. Did you have a good time?”

“Yes sir. Until the pirate part.”

“Well, can’t have everything.”

“Captain, I think you need to see this,” River called from the small bridge, her voice worried.

He stood up, striding the few feet to where she sat at the controls. “What?”


His forehead lowered. “What’re they doing?” he asked, seeing Cherokee get under power, the Interceptor still attached. “They can’t fly like that. It’ll tear them ...” He pulled down the com. “Noah, what the hell are you doing?”

“It’s okay, Mal,” came back the pilot’s voice. “Watch.”

Cherokee was moving, take the other ship with it, getting faster, then, just as Mal was sure he was about to see something structural rip off, Noah released the Interceptor from the soft seal he’d maintained. In a manoeuvre reminiscent of Hank and his disabling of the Golden Dragon, Mal watched as Cherokee lifted her nose and pulled away, allowing the other vessel to continue under its own impetus on into The Halo.

It disappeared among the asteroids, then Mal heard voices faintly over the com.

“Ready?” Noah, but not talking to them.

“You think it’s far enough?” Jez, this time.

“Much further and I can’t guarantee the signal will get through.”

“Then do it.” Her voice came through as an order.

Out in The Halo, in the same direction that the Interceptor had taken, there was a glare of white light that expanded rapidly into a huge ball of energy before winking out.

“Was that ...” Inara, standing behind Mal, her hand on his shoulder, couldn’t finish.

“Think so,” Mal agreed. “Can’t say I'm sorry. From what I heard tell, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

Zoe glanced at him. For all the flippancy in the remark, she could tell he was grimly satisfied, knowing that, in a small way, all those men who’d died at Serenity Valley had been avenged. Just a little.

to be continued


Monday, April 26, 2010 2:50 PM


Best line was the one about the guide dog. Very funny especially coming from River.

And I am glad you didn't kill Flynn and I enjoyed Mal asking if the girls enjoyed their stay.

Last line was beautiful too.

Monday, April 26, 2010 2:50 PM


Nice wrap up of the bad guys and nice seeing Mal and River together as an assault team. Loved your story line in this and glad you persevered to the end.

Monday, April 26, 2010 11:57 PM


What a great thing to wake up to! More Jane goodness. now I have to run off to work...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9:15 AM


All is as it should be, and right with the world.

Thursday, April 29, 2010 1:49 AM


I cant believe there is a lau still breathing atmo instead of vacume, but, Im not Mal.. :) Wonderful chapter and 'verse. Cant get enough Maya.

Yes Please.. May we have another??

Thursday, April 29, 2010 3:05 PM


Wonderful story.

Monday, August 30, 2010 9:44 AM


I liked the way you wrapped this part up and loved the guide dog line from River, though Mal is pretty *shuai*. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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[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!]