BANDIAGARA (09) Part (04)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What do you do when there is nothing left to see? Ip sends a wave, and Simon joins the club.



Part (04) Follows ONE MAN’S TRASH (08). Precedes TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10).


What do you do when there is nothing left to see? Ip sends a wave, and Simon joins the club.

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* * *

“I’m like to kill you myself, I see you again.”

“You won’t. There is nothing left to see.”

It was a dramatic statement. Overly dramatic, really. But he had truly felt that way at the time. He’d even asked. “You lost everything in that battle. Everything you had, everything you were. How did you go on?” Malcolm Reynolds had given him an answer that was not an answer, and yet it answered everything. “You still standing there when the engine starts, you never will figure it out.”

How did he go on? He…went. He went on, and in going on, he figured it out.

He did not officially exist. He had no rank, no name. And his mission as an Operative of Parliament no longer existed. Secrets had not been his concern. Keeping them had been. The government dealt in keeping its secrets. Corporations thrived on keeping their secrets—and buying, selling, and trading on the secrets of others. River Tam had known a secret. More than one. River Tam had been his purpose.

Malcolm Reynolds uncovered the secret of Miranda—the truth that burned up River Tam’s brain—and told it to the ’Verse. Was it still a secret if the whole ’Verse knew? Did it still concern him to keep it? How many times did you get in trouble because of secrets and lies? Keeping River Tam’s secret had been his purpose. Finding her to keep her hid. He had found her…and her secret found him. There was nothing left to see. Chan ’eil càil an so a’ faicadh, in an obscure, dead language of Earth-that-was.

There were advantages. If there was nothing left to see, there were no traces. You couldn’t revoke the high security clearance of someone who wasn’t there in the first place. You couldn’t deny the existence of someone who, like the Government Academy, did not officially exist, because to deny him, you had first to acknowledge that he existed.

He studied Malcolm Reynolds, no longer for the purpose of tracking him and running him to ground. He wanted to know how to exist when everything was lost. Malcolm Reynolds seemed to have mastered the art. Reynolds knew not just how to exist when all was lost, but how to learn to live again. The Operative learned to value his independence.

When he made the decision to let the Tams go and help Reynolds refit, he set his own new course, hardly aware at the time of just what a radical course adjustment he had made. If it was no longer his prime directive to keep the secret of Miranda, then, was it not important to uncover what had happened at Miranda?

He had been an Operative of Parliament. The question now became: which faction of Parliament? He became aware, as he hadn’t before, of parties in opposition. Not political parties: the factions had little to do with overt political affiliation. As he used his unrevoked security clearances to do research, the common thread emerged. There were those whose pockets were lined with funds from an unnamed, but deep and powerful source, and those whose pockets were not so lined. Very few persons or entities had funds of that magnitude, and few had so many favors to ask of the government.

Blue Sun.

All the signs pointed that way. But the question was how to connect the signs, how to build a case. Then how to bring down the shadowy colossus that bought the politicians it needed to run the government on its behalf. And further, how to bring it down without leaving a void to be filled by opportunists infinitely worse.

The Operative did not exist. Not officially. There was nothing left to see. Chan ’eil càil an so a’ faicadh. He stayed unseen, and left the seeing to others. He placed his observers carefully. The important thing was to select the right ones. He studied them, to know what they were, where they came from, what they needed, what they wanted, what they could do when the time came to act. And then to place them in the environment that let them do so, just as he intended they do.

Malcolm Reynolds.

It was essential that Reynolds be unaware of his hand in the operation until the right moment. Reynolds was a loose cannon—but the Operative had found that that was just what he needed. Someone unpredictable—the Blue Hands couldn’t tell where the man was headed next, and that was infinitely to his advantage. Let Reynolds track his own way—there was no telling what the man would find, and the Operative could follow, correlate, and analyze what Reynolds turned up. The Operative would only intervene when necessary to keep Reynolds out of the clutches of the heavy hand of the Alliance, or the more menacing entity that controlled the purse strings. Intervene only enough to keep Reynolds acting freely, so that the Operative could observe him.

Intervention had been necessary on Persephone, when Reynolds’s odd sense of honor got him into trouble with the slave-owning branch of the Purse Strings. The Operative had made sure that Harrow was the magistrate and Ficker was the prosecutor. Ficker was subject to persuasion by his political supporters, and much easier to manipulate than someone without political ambitions and vulnerabilities. The Operative had blocked Ficker’s access to Reynolds’s military record, and records from the internment camp for defeated Browncoats. He also obfuscated any connection between Reynolds and the Tams. Ficker had not uncovered the thread. Ficker was limited to the paperwork fed to him by Blue Sun agents, and when he tried to reconnect with those who had sent him the indentures to request further information, strangely he was unable to reach them. That gave Reynolds’s allies a chance to catch up.

He wasn’t about to unblock the Captain’s credit account, although it would have been easy. Easy, but it would reveal his existence to the opposition. Easy, but it did not serve his purpose. If the Captain were in funds, it would allow him to rest. He wouldn’t keep moving, and the Operative wanted him to keep moving. It would be most illuminating to allow Reynolds the means of uncovering the answer himself, and it would be especially enlightening to see what he did once he knew.

And then there was Shadow. Now that was a most fascinating development, and one that the Operative had not anticipated. He had not known until Reynolds discovered it. Follow the money. Linthicum extraction on Shadow represented vast quantities of money. Whoever was running the operation had access to enough money to corrupt large numbers of politicians. Enough to buy a political faction, to pay off local and federal law enforcement, to purchase a legal department to obfuscate, to buy judges and legislators, and to hire extra-legal protection. Reynolds would not rest until he found out what was going on there. And the Operative waited with bated breath to see what he would uncover.

Reynolds was the key. How strange that so many rivers found their confluence in this one man. * * *

Dr Ip was on the bridge, sending a wave to someone on the cortex. Mal was aware that the young scientist kept in touch with his thesis advisor from graduate school, Dr Rao, and that he was collaborating with her on the grav anomaly experiment currently underway in Serenity’s cargo bay. Ip also seemed to have several other regular correspondents. The young fellow mostly saved his lengthy waves for their planetside stops, for which Mal was grateful, as ship-to-world communications were somewhat expensive, even though Ip was careful to cover costs for his waves. Most waves were also traceable, and it disquieted Mal to no end to think that the Feds might be able to track and intercept Serenity on the basis of a crewmember’s chats with friends, should it occur to them to do so. Most of Serenity’s people were very spartan in the sending of waves—half of them had no family or friends to speak of outside the ship, or none that they were not estranged from. Inara sent and received many waves, but she always used the independent cortex feed in her shuttle and communicated through Guild channels that were protected by at least one layer of encryption. Mal didn’t want to initiate any kind of frank discussion with Dr Ip as to why he wished to avoid drawing the attention of the Alliance to Serenity, and the young man didn’t abuse his waving privileges, so an uneasy balance had been attained.

Mal approached the bridge as Ip was concluding his wave. Mal didn’t wish to intrude, but it was time for him to relieve the helm. “Let me know when you find out,” said a male voice. “I will. 再见 Zàijiàn,” Ip replied, and cut the communication. Mal entered the bridge and glanced at the cortex screen to see a “communication closed” sign with an unusual symbol in it, rather than the more typical wave ID. Something about that voice—it was familiar somehow, but Mal couldn’t place it. And he sure as 地狱 dìyù didn’t recognize the symbol on the screen.

“All done with your wave, Ip?” Mal asked casually. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“Oh, no, not at all, Captain,” Ip smiled ingenuously. “I was just done.” He stood up and ceded the seat to Mal.

“Curious symbol,” Mal said conversationally, indicating the symbol that remained on the screen. “That one of your regular correspondents?”

“Yes, Captain,” Ip replied. “He’s sort of a mentor to me.”

“University professor?”

“Oh, no. He’s a Buddhist monk. A missionary.”

Mal raised his eyebrows.

“I met him some time ago, when I was traveling the Rim, before I joined Serenity. He may not be a trained scientist, but he has been most helpful to me. I can discuss all sorts of issues with him, he gives sage advice, and he asks just the right sort of questions to help me direct my inquiries—my scientific inquiries,” Ip clarified.

“He have a name?” Mal asked, gesturing at the screen, “or he just go by this unpronounceable symbol?”

Ip smiled. “He has a name. It’s Brother Khan Ale Cal an So oh fukkit.”

Had Mal just heard Ip swear? Granted the fellow’s name was a mouthful, didn’t blame him for using a symbol if his folks had hung a handle on him a mile long.

“That’s his name,” Ip replied to Mal’s unspoken question. “Took me several tries even to say it, and I’m probably not pronouncing it right. It’s in some ancient language from Earth-that-was, some Buddhist language, I suppose. Fortunately, he lets me call him Khan Ale Cal.”

“Khan Ale Cal. Huh. I woulda swore I recognized that voice, but…”

“He told me he’s met you.”

“Really?” Mal had met a lot of people. Many of them in circumstances he wouldn’t care to revisit—the Alliance internment camp, jail cells on various worlds, contacts for some of his more unsavory business. Still, he couldn’t place the voice. “I don’t know any Khan Ale Cal. Not sure I know any Buddhist monks either.” He turned his attention to the helm, releasing the autopilot and running the standard system checks, dismissing Ip from the bridge. He did not dismiss the incident from his mind, however, but filed it away for later perusal. There was something about that voice.

* * *

Mal was bursting with pride as Simon brought Shuttle Two in for a clean, precise docking with Serenity. They’d just flown another circuit around the ship, and for the fourth time in a row, Simon had nailed it. Boy was a fast learner. Reckon that Top Three Percent brain of his was good for more than just the medical stuff. Never would do to let it show, though. He folded his arms and fixed a stern expression on his face. “Not half bad, Simon, but you forgot to power down the lateral thrusters after contact. Could damage the locking mechanism, was they to go off unexpected.” He stood up. “Right, you’re gonna take her out again, make the circuit, and dock. Only this time don’t forget the thrusters.” He headed for the hatch.

“Where are you going, Mal?” Simon asked. “Captain?”

“Back to Serenity,” Mal replied unemotionally. “You’re cleared to solo.” He shut the hatch on Simon’s dumbfounded expression.

Simon returned to the pilot’s seat and collected himself. Right. 一个深呼吸 Yī gè shēn hūxī. It wasn’t brain surgery, after all. It was less familiar, and therefore more difficult. He reminded himself that it was just a sequence of logical steps, executed in order. He opened his eyes, ignoring the gaping maw of the Black, and pressed the initiatior. He flipped the three check switches as he began the pre-flight procedure.

* * *

Mal waited calmly until the hatch hissed shut behind him. Then he turned and sprinted to the bridge, nearly knocking into Jayne in the galley.

“Where the 地狱 dìyù you goin’ in such a hurry, Mal?” Jayne grumbled after the Captain’s long-gone shadow.

He took the stairs up to the bridge three at a time. “River, activate external vid and track it on Shuttle Two, 马上 mǎshàng. Pull up a virtual duplicate of Shuttle Two controls and send it down to Inara’s shuttle. Send ’em both down to Inara’s.” He turned and bolted from the bridge.

River smiled after the Captain’s retreating form. She’d been watching the lessons in Shuttle Two this morning, and already had the vid and the virtual controls on the monitor. As she pressed the button to send to Shuttle One, she had to smile again. Simon had begged their parents for a car when he was sixteen. She remembered her mother, worried, telling him how the Ojikutus had given their son an expensive hovercar for his sixteenth birthday, and how the boy¬—an entitled, arrogant imbecile if ever River met one—had promptly smashed it into a lamp post. She remembered her father, angrily thundering that no son of his was going to be seen driving a vehicle like a common lackey, not as long as he had the money to hire a menial to do the job. River snorted to herself as she adjusted Serenity’s trim and okay’ed the course adjustment she’d pre-programmed, in response to a prompt from the ship’s nav system. If only Father could see his children now.

* * *

The pilot’s console in her shuttle suddenly came to life, and Inara had just pulled aside the curtain to ascertain why, when Mal burst in.

“You could at least knock,” she commented acidly. “I was beginning to think I had you trained—”

He slammed the hatch shut behind him and strode across the shuttle. “Sorry, Inara,” he muttered as he pushed past her and sat himself in the pilot’s seat, adjusting the vid screens and quickly running through the start-up sequence.

“What are you doing?” Her voice expressed both surprise and irritation.

He ignored her and continued his workings until he had the shuttle ready to fly, then focused his attention on the vid screens. She was having trouble reading him. Was it some sort of emergency? His hasty actions pointed that way, but he also seemed nervous…and—was that pride? She looked more closely at the vid screens, and saw that one of them showed a shuttle’s control panel, as someone went systematically through the standard pre-flight checklist. The other vid screen showed a grainy image from Serenity’s external security camera—a lousy old piece of equipment, but it was the only thing they had. As she watched, a shuttle detached itself from Serenity’s starboard side and flitted gently off into space.

“Who’s flying the shuttle, Mal?”

He glanced at her over his shoulder with a nervous grin. “Simon. It’s his first solo.” He turned back to the monitors, and together they watched as Simon circled Serenity in a wide arc. Mal gripped the yoke with white knuckles as he watched the docking procedure, which went perfectly smooth. A precision landing. Neat as a pin. Slick as spit.

“—Mal. Mal. You can let go of the yoke, Mal. He’s docked. Nicely done, too.” She wrapped her arms around him from behind the chair and kissed the side of his forehead. “You’ve been teaching him to fly. Good work, Captain.”

He turned and gave her a huge, silly smile. “Thanks, Inara,” he said, and scurried out of the shuttle, bouncing like a little boy.

* * *

Simon completed the shut-down sequence, and walked over to open the hatch. His nerves were still on edge, but he also felt pride in his accomplishment. He’d done everything right—even remembering to power down the lateral thrusters. The hatch slid open, and Simon found himself confronting the Captain. Mal’s face was set in a grumpy scowl, but his cheeks were flushed and his eyes were glittering. Simon couldn’t read his expression.

“Not bad,” Mal grunted, and punched Simon in the shoulder. He turned and stalked away.

Simon opened his mouth, shut it again, and rubbed his shoulder. He’d probably have a bruise. 混蛋 Húndàn. Then his face split into a big grin. The Captain was proud of him, and he’d just been welcomed into the club.

* * *

“Give you a hand?” Zoe offered, as she entered the galley.

“Thank you, Zoe,” Inara replied, as she chopped the protein into pieces.

“What’re we makin’?” Zoe asked.

“Five-spice chicken and vegetable stir-fry,” Inara replied. Zoe looked sharply at her. “Well, minus the chicken. And minus the vegetables. It is chicken-style molded protein. And I did find one packet of vegetable-style vitamin supplements.” Inara suppressed a sigh. When she and River had purchased foodstuffs on Beylix (the first grocery shopping Inara had done in a long while, to tell the truth), Inara had been shocked at the prices of fruits and vegetables. The bulk of Serenity’s foodstores were sealed packets of shelf-stable protein, pressed together in various configurations—chicken-style, beef-style, tofu-style, fish-style—but all derived from the same basic fusarium fungus, mixed with yeast, microalgae, and other supplements to complete the nutritional profile. Spices and creative modes of preparation helped, but still, the food aboard Serenity had a monotony to it. When he could afford it, Mal authorized expenditures for the more expensive fresh and preserved foods to supplement and give variety to the staple diet of protein, but this time it had been clear that they didn’t have a budget for anything beyond the basics. Thanks to 仁慈的佛 réncí de Fó she had her private stores of spices and tea to supplement their diet.

Shopping for stores with River had been an interesting experience. Inara saw many things in the store she would have liked to add to their cart, but River loaded their pallet with bags of millet and bulk boxes of the cheapest available protein packets. Every time Inara so much as glanced at anything with a brand name, let alone anything with a resemblance to fresh food, River shook her head and re-directed them to the generic, no-name blue boxes unattractively displayed in a back corner. When the pallet was about half-full, River stopped loading it. Inara stepped in to help, adding one more box, but River returned it to the shelf, saying, “Reached budgetary limits. Only six platinum to spare.”

Inara carried a hand-basket with her own choices, and determined to add a number of items that would make the boxes of bland protein taste better. Spices, preserved aromatics, and bottled sauces joined her favorite tea, fruit preserves, and a bottle of honey in the basket. River gave her a look as she filled her basket. “The Captain won’t like it if he knew you were buying food for the whole crew.”

“Well, then, he needn’t know,” Inara replied. “I am free to spend my own money how I choose.”

River gave her an odd look.

“—Inara.” Inara snapped out of her reverie to find Zoe looking curiously at her. “Chopping’s done. What’s next?”

“Making the sauce,” she replied smoothly, wondering how long she’d been chopping on auto-pilot and marveling that all her fingers were still intact.

“What’ve we got to make sauce with, Inara? Seems to me we ain’t got much more than soy sauce—” Zoe broke off suddenly as Inara opened her locker to reveal ginger, garlic, toasted sesame oil, rice wine, and a number of other flavorful supplements, lined up next to the tea that she always kept there. Zoe stretched her eyes, but said nothing. This explained why Inara’s cook days always turned out much better food than normal.

The two women worked silently in concert to round out the menu.

* * *

Gorrammit, weren’t nothin’ here worth eatin’, Jayne thought as he dumped the contents of the protein packets into the pot and added water. Where the 地狱 dìyù was Doc ’Noyman’s crouton detector when you needed it? It wasn’t that Jayne actually liked eating food that smelled like crotch—well alright, maybe smelling like crotch weren’t actually all that high on his list of bad things—but what was a fella to do? There weren’t nothin’ but soy sauce in the cabinet, and Jayne was sick of soy sauce. The food Inara made yesterday didn’t taste like boring old soy sauce. She musta done something to it to make the sauce taste different. Some kind of secret Companion trick, no doubt, because there weren’t nothin’ in this here storage locker but soy sauce. Didn’t do nothing for the taste of the food, except ta make it taste like soy sauce, and it didn’t give no variety to the texture neither. Croutons woulda been good, ’cause they added some crunch, but fresh veggies woulda been better. Jayne knew he weren’t no picky eater. Couldn’t be a picky eater when you grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in industrial Boros. Not if’n ya wanted to grow up. Hell, he’d eat anything that could be subdued and brought to the table. He knew the Cap’n bought them processed protein packets because they were the cheapest, and it weren’t often that there was money to spare for luxuries like fruit. But still, sometimes he wondered why it was that them gorram protein packets from Blue Sun were the cheapest eats on the market.

* * *

“Kaylee,” Mal called, “You busy?”

“I’m always busy, this trip,” Kaylee responded. She removed her goggles and carefully set down the soldering tool. She stretched her arms high above her head, lifting her light flowered shirt and exposing a wide expanse of tummy, causing Mal to turn modestly away. She smiled at him. “Whaddya need, Cap’n?”

“Time for you to take a break, 妹妹 mèimei. Come with me.” He turned and led the way up the cargo bay stairs to Shuttle Two.

“Cap’n, I really oughtta be fixin’ up that electric generator. All’s it got is a few more connections need soldering and it’s—”

“What you need is a break. You think I ain’t seen how you fall face-first into your dinner plate every evening? I appreciate your workin’ so hard, li’l Kaylee, but you won’t do me no good if you wear yourself out and get laid up sick. So—”

“I ain’t sick, Cap’n,” Kaylee protested, thinking it was a good thing no one knew that she’d lost her lunch that day. Just a little tummy upset, really—not surprising, after all, it was Jayne’s cook day, and it was a charitable description to call the glop that he’d made “stew.” It would pass. “Just been a little tired, is all. I don’t need a—”

“Captain’s orders,” Mal said, firmly. They’d reached the hatch to Shuttle Two, and he activated the door. “For the next half hour, you’re to sit, relax, and go for a nice shuttle ride.” He led her into the shuttle, right up to the seat, and it was only as she sat down that she saw past the Captain’s form. Simon was sitting in the pilot’s seat.

“Cap’n, I can’t—”

“Sit, Kaylee. You need to get off your feet. Simon needs a passenger. 懂吗 Dǒng ma?” Mal gave them both a look that quelled any further protest, and turned away before Kaylee’s sad puppy eyes could affect him. He left the shuttle, shutting the hatch behind him.

Kaylee’s look hardened, and she stared out into the Black, huffing a bit and ignoring Simon. Simon glanced briefly at her, and said nothing. He pushed the initiator and flipped the three check switches, ran through his pre-flight and the start-up sequence. Then he lifted off softly, and the shuttle floated gently out into the Black before he banked it to make a beauty pass around Serenity.

He’d practiced several times daily since his first solo flight, and he soon found that the best way to avoid the sickening feeling he felt looking into the deep Black was to point the shuttle at something else. They were in interplanetary space, so the best option was Serenity herself, and he’d become quite adept at maneuvering around the ship.

This was the first time Mal had allowed Simon to fly anyone other than himself unsupervised. He didn’t know who to expect when Mal said he was bringing him his first passenger, but he was relieved it wasn’t River or Zoe or even Inara, whose piloting skills would have made him nervous, and he was especially glad his passenger was not Jayne. That didn’t leave many choices, so Kaylee’s arrival shouldn’t have surprised him as much as it did. Still, they had barely spoken since their blow-up at the dump, except when necessary for work purposes, and he felt awkward as he tried to come up with something appropriate to say. What was the proper greeting for one’s estranged girlfriend towards whom one was feeling repentant and to whom one wished to apologize, yet to whom one felt it was undignified to grovel and who one felt shared the fault, perhaps equally with oneself? There were altogether too many ‘ones’ in that sentence for Simon to wrap his head around, and he shook himself.

“Did you see that?!” Kaylee suddenly exclaimed, and Simon looked sharply at her.

“See what?”

“There’s some sorta thing attached to the hull what shouldn’t be there,” she said. “A ways back from the starboard navsat.” Simon gave her a blank look so she elaborated. “See the blue box thing with the phased array stickin’ up outta it? That’s the navsat. Back behind it, there’s a round thing…back towards the burner.”

He spotted what she was talking about, and nodded.

“Right behind it, or sorta next to it now—thanks, that’s a better view,” she said as Simon carefully pulsed the attitude jets to adjust the shuttle’s position. “That disk with the big whip antenna—that don’t belong there.” She considered for a moment. “D’ya think Ip left one of his spectrum scanners outside from that time near Shadow?” She didn’t have to explain any further. They both remembered how Ip’s scientific investigation had ended abruptly when first a stealth ship, and then Reavers, had chased Serenity. “I woulda left everything hanging and run inside.” She and Simon shared a look, remembering the tense work in the engine room while they labored with desperate energy to prepare Serenity for hard burn, hoping they could ready her before one or the other disaster struck. Blushes suffused their faces as they both came to the same point in the memory—

Serenity was safe. “We did it, Simon!”

“Kaylee, you’re 聪明 cōngming.” He was so happy to know they would not die as part of a Reaver banquet.

He dropped his tools and embraced Kaylee, giving her a life-affirming kiss. The wrench slipped out of her hand unnoticed as she worked her fingers under his shirt. Their kiss deepened and, not content with the barrier their clothing put between them, they reached for closer contact. Their hands strayed rapidly over each other’s bodies. Simon pulled Kaylee’s shirt over her head, barely breaking the kiss as he did so, while her hands made short work of the buttons on his shirt. Several of them went flying while Simon unhooked Kaylee’s bra with a practiced hand. Her hand flew to his buckle, while his reached for her zipper…

“That was some hot sex we had in the engine room that time, weren’t it Simon?”

“Yeah,” he said, his voice husky with the recollection. He glanced at her. Was that all he could think of to say? Yeah? How had he come to be so inarticulate?

She loved it when he looked at her with those bedroom eyes. That look was better than a thousand words. It was lustful and loving, shy and inviting, and just so sexy. “You’re really good.”

His eyes widened.

“At the flyin’, I mean.” Tears welled up in her eyes, threatening to spill over. “You done learned this—” she gestured vaguely at the pilot’s console “—just this last week or so, all ’cause I taunted you ’bout not knowin’ how ta drive. I’m so sorry, Simon. I was bein’ mean.”

“Yeah, well I was being a 混蛋 húndàn,” Simon admitted. “I lost my temper, and swore at you. I’m sorry, Kaylee. My only excuse is that I was hot and tired. I—I really need to fly the ship!” He veered away from a collision course with Serenity’s dining room skylight. He focused his attention on the flying again.

“Sorry for distractin’ ya, Simon.”

“Kaylee, I love it when you distract me—when I’m not flying a shuttle I just learned how to turn on a few days ago. Can I take a raincheck?”

* * *

As the shuttle docked, Mal stood close enough to the hatch to intervene if things hadn’t gone smooth, but far enough away to melt away into the background if all had gone according to plan. The hatch slid open, and Simon and Kaylee emerged from the shuttle hand in hand, exactly as he’d intended. They turned into one another’s arms and began kissing one another with passionate zeal. Alright, he didn’t need to see no more to understand just how successful his plan to reconcile them had been. He busied himself with assembling the air compressor parts he’d brought along as a cover job. “We have to tell the Captain,” Kaylee said to Simon, and Mal mentally jumped out of his skin as his imagination leapt to announcements of engagements or the expectation of a bundle of joy. He hadn’t intended for the reconciliation to go quite so far, so fast. His attempts to blend into the background were unsuccessful as both Simon and Kaylee spotted him immediately and hastened toward him, still holding hands. “Captain,” Simon began, as Kaylee said, “Cap’n, there’s something you need ta know.”

* * *





Chan ’eil càil an so a’ faicadh [There is nothing left to see (Scottish Gaelic)]

再见 Zàijiàn [Goodbye]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

一个深呼吸 Yī gè shēn hūxī [Take a deep breath]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

马上 mǎshàng [right away]

混蛋 Húndàn [Bastard]

仁慈的佛 réncí de Fó [merciful Buddha]

地狱 dìyù [hell]

妹妹 mèimei [little sister]

懂吗 Dǒng ma? [Understand?]

聪明 cōngming [brilliant]

混蛋 húndàn [asshole]

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011 7:12 AM


Adorable Simon Kaylee-ness!

Also, Mal being proud but playing it cool.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 7:16 AM


Oh, and Inara cheating on making a tasty dinner, and Jayne's musing on why Blue Sun was always the cheapest food source.

Also the Operative, because it's always interesting to find out what he's up to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 7:39 AM


For me the highlight was the contrast between Inara's and Jayne's cooking. It had me laughing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 10:12 AM


Very cool, loved the flying lessons and stuff. Now where's the next one? :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 6:20 PM


Ebfiddler another excellent story…….

So, I really liked the intro of the Operative here in this. I feel that the man is still battling though, with his inner self and sense of loyalty. Not that he feels anything for the ruling government, but still don’t know if he is totally onboard with the Captain and his plight with the Alliance. Or maybe he‘s aligning himself with someone else?

Also, the mysterious instrument connected to Serenity leads to all sorts of possibilities and angles….. But can’t think of anything good. And Mal recognizing the voice from Id’s cortex wave contact? Someone he knows…certain, who it is, still a mystery?

Inara and Zoe’s time spent together was nice, And Simon and Kaylee’s make-up session was sweet. Glad that the doc is finally getting comfortable with the shuttle controls. Mal will made a great criminal outta him yet. May even be able to teach him to shoot some folk :)

Great story again, enjoyed it….BPZ

Thursday, November 10, 2011 8:48 AM


Great chapter, it's all about character growth isn't it?

Love how proud Mal was for teaching Simon, and how he wanted Inara to know he'd done a good deed:)

Friday, November 11, 2011 6:52 AM


Thanks, everyone, for the feedback. I love hearing what parts of it you liked, and why. (Also like to know if you don't like, and why.) Glad to know that the food preparation scenes were a hit. You all have my beta reader to thank for that, as she suggested adding something about food, and I wrote the scenes in the post-beta re-write to follow up on that suggestion. I wanted to have Inara and Zoe interact a bit more, and yes, m52--the contrast between Inara's food prep and Jayne's was deliberately done--so glad I made you laugh! (I was snickering myself as I wrote Jayne's "dump and boil" cooking style.) And yeah--why would they eat such dreck? On the other hand, I saw a plastic-wrapped potato in the grocery store the other day--twice as expensive as a regular potato (which it was), simply because it came plastic-wrapped with instructions on how to microwave it and make a "baked potato"--so you never know what kind of stuff they'll have people thinking about what they can and cannot cook and eat 500 years from now. Glad folks liked the flying lessons, and how Mal went about expressing his approval. And did no one suspect me of simply using it as a vehicle to get Simon and Kaylee to make up? ;-) We'll find out more about the mysterious instrument stuck on Serenity's hull in the next chapter, but you'll have to be patient to find out more about the Operative and whether or not Mal will discover who Ip has been talking to. And yes, Platonist, this one's all about character growth. :-)


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ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (20)
“Vaccinations?” Jayne asked, with a stupid expression. “Fer chickens?”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (19)
“Inara, I ain’t willing for you to bribe—” “Who said anything about bribes?” “What other form of persuasion you plannin’ on using? I’m not sure I like this plan.” “Mal, I can be very persuasive,” Inara replied. After a short beat, she added, with a touch of asperity, “Fully clothed.”

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (18)
Extreme measures as more things go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (17)
In which things begin to go wrong

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (16)
Waiting for the other shoe to drop

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (15)
Serenity enters the Core, Mal and Inara sleep together, and Simon and Ip come up with a plan.

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (14)
In which we find out more about Miranda

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (13)
Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (12)
Mal tells Inara a folktale from Shadow

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (11)
Inara and Zoe have a little palaver