Point of No Return, Part VII
Sunday, June 12, 2005

The crew take on a new job, thanks to Jubal Early. Book gives Simon a helping hand in his investigation; Kaylee and Mal find themselves in a deadly situation; and Wash realizes they're not alone.


Disclaimer: This story is in no way meant to infringe on the rights of Joss Whedon, Universal Studios, Mutant Enemy, or 20th Century Fox. Just wanted to have a bit of fun with these characters is all. Please don’t sue me.

Thanks for reading. Feedback is always welcome. Oh, and if you’re gonna archive this, please have the courtesy to ask me first.

Rated PG-13 for violence and more than a few Chinese cuss words.

“Point of No Return, Part VII”

***** *****

Wash scratched his head and looked at his wife, registering her furrowed brow. She was as stumped as he was. Mal was no help, having long given up trying to crack the encryption code to Jubal Early’s database. Downloading it from his ship was the easy part; but they’d had the information for four weeks now without being able to even open the files. Mal was sure that they could use the data it contained to find more work.

Not that they were struggling at the moment. They’d been paid extra for the Jasper job, in light of their heroic defense of the mine from the raiders. They’d spent a couple of days on Janus relaxing, making repairs, and restocking the galley and the infirmary. On the surface, things were good.

Still, the captain was anxious for a number of reasons, not the least of which involved a certain young ex-Reaver. The loss of Inara also hit the crew hard, but Mal believed busy hands were the best cure for busy minds. Giving them something to do would help them adjust. And that went double for himself.

“I’ve tried every algorithm I know, Mal,” the pilot surrendered. “This gou cao de hundan hasn’t so much as blinked.”

The captain scowled. “Shepherd’s got a criminal mind,” Zoe offered. “Maybe he got —”

“Don’t need his help,” a voice said from the doorway. Mal spun around. River.

“Cao gou, girl,” Mal said. “Like to get hurt that way, sneakin’ up on folk like that. What are you doing on the bridge, anyway?”

“Let me do it,” River said, not waiting for Mal’s permission, but moving straight for the control panel. She leaned over Wash to reach the panel. “It’s a puzzle,” she said, her eyes flickering as they scanned the small display. “Ordinals…integers arranged and layered in a complex adjunct matrix…It becomes a simple binary sequence when crossed with the identity set, but Rimbault’s theorem does not apply. The sum of all numbers from zero to one…” The girl’s fingers flew quickly, the clickety-tak of the keys rattling in Zoe’s ears.

The panel beeped. Wash looked at the display and raised his eyebrows.

“She did it, captain. We’re in.”

“Jing tzai,” the first mate congratulated her.

“Ah, I’d have figured it out sooner or later,” Mal said. Simon didn’t lie. Girl really was a ruttin’ genius.


Book poked his head into the infirmary. The doctor sat at the small white table poring over some x-rays and notes.

“Fascinating…” Simon muttered.

“What is?” Book queried.

“Hmm? Oh, this…it’s nothing,” Simon started shuffling the papers into a folder.

“You look mighty concerned over nothing, then,” the older man pressed. “You don’t fool me, son. What is it that’s got you knotted up so?”

The doctor gave him a look, then motioned for him to close the door. “Please, don’t tell the captain or the others,” he started. “I don’t want any cause for alarm.”

“Our conversation won’t leave this room,” Book assured him.

Simon nodded and slipped him a chart. “These are results of the tests I ran on River, not long after we escaped the Academy,” he said. “Those numbers in red —”

“Extremely low levels of monoamide oxi–inhibitors,” Book finished for him. “A common occurrence,” he said slowly, “for people who’ve been brainwashed.”

Simon nodded gravely. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with Book’s knowledge of such things, but at least it made it easier to explain. “Not just that, but note the other chemical imbalances. Seratonin, norepinephrine…the levels are all…out of sync.”

The doctor handed him another set of graphs. “These were taken after our visit to Ariel, and I was able to come up with a suitable medication. The E-line on this chart is about nearly five times more what it is for a normal person, indicating an awareness far more sensitive than any I’ve ever seen.”

He stopped short. Book caught his hesitation. “But this isn’t what’s really bothering you.”

Simon swallowed. “These,” he handed the preacher a third set of charts, “are the results of the tests I’ve been running on Kai.”

Book studied the charts for a long time, then frowned. “My God,” he said. “They’re almost identical to River’s.”

“Almost,” Simon said, rubbing his palms together. “Not as high as River, not by a long shot, but the patterns are a near-perfect match.”

“What do you think it means?”

“The implications are astounding, and more than a little disturbing. I don’t know exactly what it is, but…I think that whoever did this to my sister has some connection with the Reavers.” Simon shivered before he continued, “I only wish I had more information. For one, if I could give Kai a more comprehensive examination, I think I could answer a few questions, but I don’t have the time or resources.”

“Not worth risking another visit to Ariel.”

“Yes, that’s also true.”

Book leaned back in his chair. “How much do you know about the Reavers?”

“Only what I’ve heard in stories. Until recently, I thought they were just urban legend. They’re nearly unheard of on the Core planets.”

“Let me do a little digging,” Book tapped his fingertips together the way his always did when he was contemplating. “Perhaps I can find a clue that can get us pointed in the right direction.”

Simon was set a little off-balance by the shepherd’s use of the word ‘us.’

“Where is our little friend, by the way?” Book looked around. “I stopped by to see how he was adjusting.”

“He’s in my room, sleeping off some tranquilizers I gave him,” the doctor sighed.

“Do you think he’ll be alright?” asked Book.

“He’s becoming restless,” Simon shook his head. “His body I can heal, but I’m afraid his mind is scarred beyond any treatment I can give.”


“Here’s the deal,” Mal declared, laying the plans on the dining table for everyone to see. “Courtesy our ol’ friend Early.”

He winked at River. Kaylee, Jayne, and Wash crowded around to have a look. Mal went on. “Trinity. Mantis-class midsize transport. For some reason or other wound up on Hecate, a little moon ‘bout a week out from our current position.”

“Hecate,” Jayne struggled to recall. “That ain’t too far from Whitefall, is it?”

“It’s uninhabitable,” Wash said. “No water, no plant life, constant lightning. Terra-forming’s impossible. Why would they want to land there?”

“They didn’t land, exactly,” Mal corrected. “Crashed. Prob’ly was on the lam and ran into some trouble. At any rate, the ship’s more or less intact.”

Kaylee lit up as she went over the ship specs. “Engine’s fei-wu, but if we can salvage those boosters, or even that drive unit…”

“They’ll turn a decent profit,” Mal concluded, “along with whatever scraps we can carry. Engine too, if it’s still good.”

“Serenity can’t land on that surface,” Wash said. “She’s to big enter that atmosphere. Those ion storms would tear the ship apart.”

“A shuttle’s small enough,” Zoe said, “But it couldn’t take much cargo.”

“Which is why we take two shuttles,” Mal said. “Me and Kaylee take one, and Zoe, you and Jayne will take two. Split the load.”

“Those storms will be kicking up a lot of radio interference,” said Book. “Once those shuttles enter the atmosphere, there’s a real chance they could lose communication with Serenity. If something were to happen…”

“It won’t,” Mal said. “We’ll be in and out. Quick as lightning.”

The captain gave his crew a confident look. They raised no more objections.

“Well, then,” he beamed at them. “To Hecate.”


Hot. And damp. Dark. It’s crowded. People and blood everywhere. Cattle, all restless and moving. They threw everYone in Here. No survivors. No light.

In the land oF the bLind…

I feel pAin that isn’t mine. Blood on my liPs…whose? Hers? I can’t make out her face anymore. They cUT her to pieces, at the knEEs FirsT, then the wrists. They saved Her heArT for LASt. Saved it for me. Her bloOd ON mY Lips…

EveryOnE’s yeLLing. FightING. I’m on tHe floor, FaCe cutAnd bLEEDIng. StOMping, moving, cRowDing yELlinG figHtiNg scREAMINgcLAawBlooDBiteREDbreAKingBoneSOHGODohgodOHgodohGODDcdDIemoKlmsXZcismvEIpSssSsssppii…zssppiiyyddrrr —


…It’s you…


That day…


Nothing left but you.


But I’m afraid…




I’m on all fours. I move quickly. I am a shadow. They’re dead within five minutes. All of them. All blind. I hear screaming. Maybe my own voice. I feel pain that isn’t mine. My fingers press into my eye, digging, ripping…

Now I am the king.


“You’re clear for takeoff.”

“Alright Wash,” Zoe toggled the docking safety and grasped the steering handle. “Disengaging in three, two, one…”

Shuttle Two detached from Serenity’s hull. “Be back in a hot second, dear,” she said into the comm before descending into Hecate’s turbulent atmosphere.

“What in creation is that smell?” Mal wrinkled his nose at the mingled aroma of ashes and incense. Kaylee wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, so she decided not to say anything.

“OK, Mal, let ‘er rip.”

“Right,” Mal said as Shuttle One clumsily pushed off. “Don’t you go off and leave us, now,” he grinned, and followed Zoe’s shuttle.

Kaylee felt the rumble of thunder all around her. Bright streaks flashed across the window and the tiny shuttle rocked hard. She shut her eyes tight.

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she muttered softly. “I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil…”

Mal tried to ignore her, but he felt his own palms wet with tension as he gripped the handle for dear life. The ship rocked again. He tried to steady his nerves.

Finally the clouds broke to reveal Hecate’s black sands. Mal was at first relieved, but a new wave of fear hit him as he realized the shuttle was going in way too fast.

“Reverse thrust…reverse thrust…Reverse, you stinkin’ piece of crap!” The controls weren’t responding, and the shuttle was gaining speed. “O, zhe zhen shi ge kuai le de jinzhan,” he cussed as he frantically punched every button within reach.

Kaylee shed her fear, ripped off the panel under the control deck, and crawled into the space. It didn’t take her long to suss up what was what. “Last bolt must’ve knocked the connectors loose,” she diagnosed, sounding a bit like Simon. “It’ll take a minute to fix.”

“Don’t exactly have a wealth of time, little Kaylee,” panic crept into Mal’s voice. Less than 30 seconds, and they’d surely meet a fiery end on this God-forsaken moon. So this was how he was going to die. He thought about Inara —

“Now!” Kaylee shouted. Mal yanked up on the controls as hard as he could, and the tiny shuttle turned sharply, barely missing a collision with the unforgiving surface. The mechanic returned to her chair with a sigh as the captain gave her hand a grateful squeeze.

The Trinity was just ahead of them, exactly where Jubal’s coordinates said it would be. Jayne and Zoe were already there, and Mal was glad to see they were unhurt.

“Good landing, sir?” the first mate said, reading the relief on their faces.

“Easy as lyin’,” the captain said as he hugged Kaylee with one arm. “Let’s do the thing.”


Book knocked on the doorway. The doctor looked up from his reading. “Would you like me to shut this?” the older man said, indicating the open door.

“That won’t be necessary, I think,” Simon said. “Wash is on the other side of the ship, and the others aren’t here. Besides,” he craned his neck to hear his sister and his patient playing together in the hall, “I should keep an ear out for them.”

Book nodded. Simon motioned for him to sit, and he did so. “I found out some…interesting things,” he began as he handed Simon a pad with some information. “It’s still unclear what the government’s objectives were, but it would appear that River isn’t the first person they’ve experimented on.”

“Where did you get this report?” Simon wondered aloud.

Book’s face suddenly went dark. “Couldn’t say,” he said flatly. Simon got the distinct impression that he was better off not knowing.

The shepherd softened before he continued. “There are records of testing done on dozens of subjects in years past, subjects who had many of the same symptoms as Kai.” He paused to let that sink in. “They were considered failures, and the project was put on hold.”

The doctor was trembling, but his voice was even as he read part of the report out loud. “Subjects experienced improved memory and reflexes bordering on precognition. Few of them exhibited signs of limited telepathic ability…” his voice trailed off.

Book pointed at a different paragraph. “Each of these subjects became mentally unstable. Nearly half of them committed suicide. There’s no official record as to what became of the others.”

“So you’re insinuating that the ones who were left went mad, moved to the outer Rim and became…”

“It’s a possibility. There’s no concrete evidence, but it’s a possibility.”

The young man was quiet for a moment, then looked up. “What do you think they were doing to do with her?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you think she didn’t…end up like them?”

“I don’t know that either.” Book sat back. “Although…you said your sister was something of a prodigy as a young child.”

Simon didn’t know what to do. He wanted to know the truth. Were the Reavers really the product of a failed government experiment? And were they trying to turn his River into one of them?

“Simon! They’re coming!” River suddenly yelled from the hallway. The two men rushed from the room to see Kai running in circles, his brown eye blazing with fury and confusion. River was running off toward the bridge. Simon started to follow, but Kai pushed him back, blocking the passage.

The shepherd tried to soothe the creature. “Calm down, son,” he coaxed as he took a step toward him. Kai made a guttural sound and the preacher back off. His eye was menacing and wild, darting from Book to Simon. The doctor recognized the look; he’d seen it once before.

In his sister’s eyes.

“They’re coming!” River burst onto the bridge. A startled Wash scattered his toy dinosaurs onto the floor.

“What the ruttin’ hell?” Wash started. “What are you talking about? The others just left a few minutes ago. Why would they —”

“Not them!” River said. She pointed at a monitor. “Them!”

Wash looked. “There’s no…”

The proximity alarm sounded. A large blip showed up on the screen, and it was moving toward their position. Fast. Wash looked at the girl with astonishment. He typed some commands into the computer, and the scanners came back with a disturbing picture.

“Tian xiao de,” Wash said in horror. “Reavers!”


Sunday, June 12, 2005 10:56 AM


Interesting parrallel forming between the Reaver and River. A bit worried about Simon confiding so much in Book while everyone else but them and River are off the boat. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, June 12, 2005 3:16 PM


interasting curiuos where you plan to take this.

Monday, September 26, 2005 5:42 AM


Brilliant. Just brilliant.

I'm assuming that was Kai going feral ... You did that so very well. Just this side of revolting.

And wham! with the ending.

Gosh, this is writing of the superior sort.


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Heart & Soul, Part II
Book is visited by a mysterious man from his past and gets in a fight. Meanwhile Inara, ever calm, ever graceful, finds herself on the raggedy edge.

Heart & Soul, Part I
Mal's trying to adjust. Inara's trying to adjust. Book's journey takes him in an unexpected direction. And someone ends up dead.

Play It Again, Tam
The doctor reveals a hidden talent that touches Mal in a way he didn't think possible. A one-shot.

Point of No Return X, The Conclusion
Serenity is disabled, left without communication, and cornered by the Reaver ship. The only way out is for a member of the crew to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Point of No Return, Part IX
He's lost everything and everyone he's ever loved. Now he's faced with a choice: resist the urge for blood and rebuild his life, or descend deeper into that black madness, beyond the point of no return...

Point of No Return, Part VIII
A bad situation becomes desperate. Kai relives his troubled past, and Wash takes a dangerous risk. Plus: Mal and Monty's great escape.

Point of No Return, Part VII
The crew take on a new job, thanks to Jubal Early. Book gives Simon a helping hand in his investigation; Kaylee and Mal find themselves in a deadly situation; and Wash realizes they're not alone.

Point of No Return, Part VI
The day that Inara has been dreading for weeks finally arrives. Simon can't understand the connection between his sister and the Reaver, and the controversy continues over Serenity's newest crew member. Plus: River gives Mal a startling prediction.

Point of No Return, Part V
Jayne's plan backfires big-time; Kaylee is rescued by an unlikely hero with a troubled past; Book and Wash have words; and Mal considers a change of heart.

Point of No Return, Part IV
Simon tries to figure out River's relationship with his newest patient; Mal has a hard time trying to figure Inara out; and a simple job goes south in a hurry.