Secrets - Part XVI
Sunday, August 3, 2014

“Then do it again.” Mal was aware he’d used his sergeant’s voice from the slightly wounded expression on his old friend’s face, and made himself take a step back. “It’s like you said, Monty – in the dark there’s no knowing where that girl’s got to. Like as not she took it into her mind to go visiting, got lost and mistook the time. She could be huddled up in someone’s barn right now, fast asleep.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity heads back to Lazarus and Inara finds her sickness finally getting the better of her.]


“Didn’t nobody take a comm. with them?” Mal demanded.

“I didn’t think we needed to,” Hank admitted, his fingers flying across the controls, circumventing so many protocols that the ship was already lifting from the ground. “I mean, Philo Cobb had gone, I didn’t think –”

“Seems like not a one of us thought.” Mal was angry, but more at himself than his crew. He should have remembered, should have been less careless and made sure he had a comm. in his pocket, even if nobody else did.

Inara had been almost grey with worry as she explained. “She was feeling a little cabin fever, I think. She took some sandwiches, a flask of coffee and went out to read.”

“Didn’t she say where? Didn’t you ask?”

“Of course she did!” Inara’s eyes flashed with fire, but her hand was at her throat as if she couldn’t quite catch her breath. “She was going to walk to the springs in the foothills about three miles away. But when she didn’t come back for supper Monty and his men searched. There wasn’t any sign.”

“Where is he now?”

“Still out there. But it’s virtually dark, and if she’s hurt, can’t call out, they could pass her by within a couple of feet and not know she was there.”

“Can’t his sensors pick anything up?”

“No.” She swallowed hard. “Mal, what if –”

“Don’t. ‘Nara, just … don’t.” He knew she was thinking about the time Noni had gone missing, taken for the ‘pleasure’ of the monstrous Antony Han. “She’s just lost. That’s all. Girl can’t tell north from south, I’m guessing, and she’s probably half way to town right now. Someone’s gonna come across her, you’ll see, and then she’ll be brought back, her tail between her legs, givin’ everyone those puppy eyes.”

Inara’s gaze seemed to scorch across the Black, then she said softly, “Bring her home.”

Mal understood. “We’re on our way back, ‘Nara. We’ll be there ‘fore it’s light.”

Now he reached up and flicked the switch on the internal comm. “Kaylee. We ready to go to burn?”

His mechanic’s voice was tight. “Yes, Cap’n.”

“My ship ain’t likely to blow up or nothing?”

“Nope. Even if I have to hold her together with my teeth.”

As Serenity shook the dust of Magdelene from her heels and broke atmo, Mal nodded curtly at Hank and the Firefly surged towards Lazarus.


It was a tense few hours as Serenity burned her way through the Black, not least because Kaylee had a small fire extinguisher attached to her waist, and kept darting from one part of the engine to another.

“I don’t pay her enough,” Mal murmured as he stood in the corridor outside the bunks, looking through the common area towards his mechanic’s red-tinted domain.

“She’d do it for nothing, you know that, sir,” Zoe said, her hands on her hips.

“That don’t mean it’s right.” Mal shook his head. “She could be making a lot of cash working on something better, bigger, maybe one of those liners.”

“And what would happen when they found her inter-engine fermentation still? Or the space monkeys got loose?” Zoe chuckled, an incongruous sound given the circumstances. “She’d be bored within a week and be taking things apart.”

Mal had to smile, just a little. “You’re right, a’course. Still say I got the best end of the deal.” His eyes paused on Freya, sitting at the kitchen table and watching Kaylee closely, ready to help if asked. “In a lot of ways.”

Zoe followed his gaze, then said, “You think she ran away, sir?”

He knew she wasn’t talking about Freya. “Nope.” He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Can’t see why she would. She knew she was safe, and I don’t think she’d scare her parents like that.”

“Then she was unwilling.”

“That’s my guess.”


“No.” River stepped down from the bridge where she had been keeping Hank company. “I’ve checked and his ship hasn’t come back.”

“Anything else land?” Mal wanted to know.

“There are no records of another vessel.” She screwed up her nose. “Not everything lands at the docks, of course, but there’s no anomalous transponder pings either.”

“So someone on the ground.” Mal crossed his arms, his biceps straining the dark plum linen of his shirt. “And you’re sure there’s nothing on the Cortex about girls going missing?”

“I’ve gone through the news feeds.”

“Can you feel her?” Zoe asked. “Molly?”

River shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I don’t really know her. Freya might be more … sensitive to her.”

“You, albatross?” Mal gave her a slight smile. “Not sure?”

“I don’t know everything.”

“Mal.” Hank called from the bridge. “We’ll be landing in less than an hour.”

“Set her down easy,” Mal said.


Inara opened the ancient porcelain box on her dressing table and took out a smaller plastic container. Her hands were trembling violently as she twisted off the lid, and the movement dislodged half a dozen pills which rolled onto the floor.

Gos se.”

She hadn’t slept, that was the problem. Twenty-something hours without sleep would make anyone’s hands shake. That and the amount of tea she’d been drinking. Mrs Boden had insisted, bowl after bowl, just the way Inara had shown her. If anyone could overdose on tea, she’d probably done that hours ago. But she couldn’t say no, not when she knew it was about the only thing keeping the older woman together.

Mr Boden, of course, was still out looking with Monty’s men even though it was impossible to see a hand in front of a face. There should have been a moon, but cloud cover meant that not even starlight had penetrated to the ground.

Reaching down she gathered up the pills, then had to grab at the table to prevent herself from falling as everything seemed to recede from her. Pushing herself up, she managed to put two of the tablets into her mouth and swallowed with difficulty, the bitter taste more than anything bringing her back from the edge of unconsciousness.

She took a raggedy breath, just as the sound of a ship she recognised broke through the buzzing in her ears.


“Mal, I’m sorry.” Monty looked as if he’d folded in on himself, standing by the mantelpiece in the yellow drawing room. Late flowers pretended to be a fire, but nobody was warmed.

“It isn’t your fault,” Sam said, standing by the window and staring out into the darkness.

Mal settled his gunbelt around his hips, but nothing was going to make him more comfortable. He glanced at Zoe and Hank before asking, “You’ve been searching?”

“Still are. My men are all out there, but in the dark …” He pointed at the thermos flask and small lunch box on the table. “Found that about the limit a girl could walk before sitting down to a picnic.” He shook the flask and they could all hear liquid sloshing about inside. “There’s about a cupful left, but all the sandwiches are gone.”

“Where, exactly?” He motioned to Hank who put his computer pad on the table, a terrain map already loaded.

Monty hovered over it, stabbing a finger down. “Here.” He looked up. “As close as I can figure she hiked out into the foothills then sat down to eat.”

Something in Monty’s manner made grabbed Mal’s attention. “What? What ain’t you tellin’ me?”

Monty took a breath. “Roscoe found some scat. Fresh. Looks like a big cat’s taken up residence close by.”

“Wait a minute,” Hank said, all colour leaving his face. “Are you saying you think this cat … that it took Molly?”

“Not saying anything at the moment.” Mal’s eyes narrowed slightly as he studied the map again. “But go get the shuttle prepped. From the lay of this land we ain’t gonna get Serenity close, and if … when we find Molly we’ll need to get her out of there as quick as we can.”

Hank nodded, glad to be doing something. “Yes, Mal.” He headed out of the door, almost colliding with Inara on her way in. “Oh, hey. Sorry.”

She didn’t respond, just passed him into the room. “Where have you been?” she demanded.

“We came as fast as we could,” Mal said, seeing the paleness of her complexion. “You okay?”

“I’m worried about Molly!”

“We’ll find her, ‘Nara.”

She glared at him then went to the side table to straighten an already perfect display of capture frames, ostensibly to ignore him.

“Inara …” Sam’s quiet voice made her drop her head.

“What about us?” Monty rumbled.

Mal indicated the pad Hank had left behind. “I want you to head towards town. Check some of those houses and homesteads on the way.”

“Mal, we already did that –”

“Then do it again.” Mal was aware he’d used his sergeant’s voice from the slightly wounded expression on his old friend’s face, and made himself take a step back. “It’s like you said, Monty – in the dark there’s no knowing where that girl’s got to. Like as not she took it into her mind to go visiting, got lost and mistook the time. She could be huddled up in someone’s barn right now, fast asleep.”

“We looked.”

“And she coulda wandered in after you’d gone.” He put his hand on Monty’s shoulder. “Come on. It’s gonna be faster if we split up.”

“Yeah, well, guess maybe you’re right.” Monty stroked his beard, his wounded feelings soothed a little. “I’d better go call my guys back in, make sure we divide up the area properly.”

“You do that.”

Monty walked to the door then paused with his fingers wrapped around the handle. “And when you decide you wanna tell me what’s going on, you let me know, dong mah?” He fixed Mal with a stern look then walked out.

“What aren’t you telling him?” Sam asked curiously. “Or aren’t you going to tell me either?”

“Yes, Mal,” Inara said, beginning to pace. “Why did you lie to him?”

“Do you know where Molly is?”

Mal shook his head, then shrugged. “Not exactly. It’s more a case of we kinda know where she ain’t.”

“I don’t understand.” Sam glanced at Inara but she looked equally confused.

Zoe spoke. “River was worrying herself to a shadow just before we got back here, because she couldn’t tell where Molly was.”

“Her nor Freya neither,” Mal added.

“So to give her something to do Jayne suggested she look where Molly wasn’t.”

“I don’t understand,” Inara said, passing a hand across her forehead and feeling beads of perspiration.

“I think I do,” Sam said slowly. “Take out the negative and you’re left with a positive.”

“A possible,” Mal corrected. He pointed at the terrain map. “But one girl in an area like this … we need any advantage we can get.”

“So you are going to get her.”

“Sam, I ain’t even sure she’s still alive.”

“I have faith.”

“Not sure I do, ‘cept where Frey’s concerned.” He picked up the pad and stowed it in the pocket of his long brown coat. “Speaking of Frey, she’s in the kitchen with Simon, seeing if the Bodens need a smoother or the like. Tell her I’ve gone back to Serenity, to join us there. We’ll be heading out in ten.”

“Will do.”

Mal strode out. Zoe looked at Inara, went to say something, then thought better of it and followed her captain.

“They have to find her,” Inara said, pacing and rolling her hands as if she was cold.

“They will. Wo mei, I know they will.” He stepped to her side. “Inara, are you all right?”

She flashed him a smile she didn’t feel. “I’m fine. Shiny.” She continued to pace, but stopped when he took her arm. “Honestly.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not.”

“And I’m not stupid.”

She pulled her arm free. “I. Am. Fine.”

“Inara –”

The promising argument was derailed by Freya popping her head around the door and looking around the room. “Where are they?” she asked.

Sam took a breath. “Mal’s gone back to Serenity. He said he’ll meet you there.”

“Great.” Freya looked more closely at Inara. “Are you okay?”

Inara rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

“Because you’ve been wearing a hole in your beloved Galloway carpet,” Sam said.

“And because you look like you’re about to pass out,” Freya added.

“I’m just … tired.” She waved slightly trembling hands at them. “Where’s Simon?”

Freya’s eyes narrowed slightly, and it was only her inner resolve not to read her friends that stopped her peeking into her mind. “Trying to persuade Mrs Boden to lie down. Inara …”

The ex-Companion drew herself up. “Perhaps I should go and help.” She made to pass Sam but staggered.

Freya darted forward, reaching her a moment after Sam had put his arms out to pull her against him.

“Inara, darling …” Sam stroked her cheek, feeling it icy cold.

“I’m fine.” Inara was starting to get annoyed at having to keep on saying it. “I’m …” A buzzing was starting in her ears. “I just need to …”


Freya’s voice seemed to come from a long way off, but she was already collapsing into the warm, welcoming darkness.

Sam lowered her to the floor, panic on his olive features as he cradled her.

Simon, Freya projected firmly. Now.

to be continued


Monday, August 4, 2014 8:01 AM


All the drama coming due at once. As usual the tension is super promising.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 6:55 PM


Where's Molly? And why oh why does Inara have to be so secretive about her condition keeping it secret even from Sam? Great to have another chapter, Jane0904. I am hoping and praying they find Molly soon. Ali D :)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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