Badlands (chapter 4, finale/epilogue)
Friday, October 28, 2005

Time for some violence. Handy link to chapter 1 inside for those of you who are just joining us.


Back to chapter 1

Chapter 4, Finale/Epilogue:


Boots rang against metal in a measured rhythm. Her practiced hand slapped the cargo bay door release button, and the first dim golden haze of dawn slid down Zoe’s face as the ramp lowered. The light crossed her eyes, and they began assessing the ravine almost of their own accord.

This wouldn’t be the first fight of the day. Wash didn’t understand when Zoe told him he could help the most in the engine room. He thought she was trying to protect him, but all they were doing down here was buying time.

This time, Serenity wasn’t the battle. It was the backup that might not come.

The door hit the desert, revealing Jayne, who was slamming fist-sized bullets into a cannon of a gun.

"Gettin’ started without me?" Zoe asked.

The only response was the heavy clink of the ammunition.

Her eyes returned to the nearby cliffside. "We need a sniper position up there. At least one gun with enough-"

"Already in place," Jayne cut her off. "Two. There and there," he said, pointing to outcroppings on opposite sides of the ravine near the ship.

Zoe paused. "We’ll have to do a sweep. Make sure no one’s relaying-"

"Just got back," he replied without looking up from his weapon. "They ain’t here yet."

She measured him for a moment. "How long you been up?"

Jayne shrugged and grunted. He pounded in a few more shells before realizing that Zoe was still waiting for an answer. "Couldn’t sleep," he said, cocking the gun.

Footsteps echoed through the cargo bay, and the doctor emerged behind Zoe. "I locked River in our room," Simon said. "She was still asleep, but I wanted to be sure there wasn’t another... incident."

Zoe raised her eyebrows and cut a glance back at Jayne, who looked uncomfortable.

"What else can I do to help?" Simon asked.

His breath was forced out as Jayne shoved the massive gun he had been loading into Simon’s chest. The doctor staggered, cradling it awkwardly in both hands.

"She’s yours now," Jayne barked, avoiding his eyes. "You protect ‘er."

Simon wrestled with the weapon’s weight, then cocked his head. "Do you mean the gun?"

Jayne walked away.


"Understood," Patience said into the radio. Just as she expected, the captain and the others had holed up at the bottom of the valley. Niska could have them in coffins.

She sat tall in the saddle and addressed her men. "Listen up, boys. Our scouts have all three pinned down in a trench over the next ridge. They’ll fire back as best they can, but they got no help, no options, and next to no cover. Five hundred credits on the head of each. Now lets have some fun and make some money!"

There was a roaring cheer, and dozens of horses galloped past her into the valley.


"Now that, young man, deserves some kind of award," Malcolm Reynolds smiled at the scout at the end of his rifle. The man tentatively smiled back. An instant later, the butt of Mal’s gun sent the man to the ground. "Guess I’m fresh out."

The captain turned to the cliffside. "Shepherd, Kaylee! They bought it!"

There was a short silence, and then Kaylee’s voice came from somewhere in the rocks. "Captain?"

"Yeah!" Mal shouted back.

"No yelling. Head hurts."


An army of hooves thundered toward the bottom of the valley, spreading outward like a wave of death. There was no resistance.

The first few reached the trench and Mal’s loose rock surface gave way, sending horses and men sliding to the ground. Some rolled under their steeds. Others were trying to right themselves as the riders behind them hit the trench, tumbling into a dusty maelstrom of kicking legs.

Then the shots rang out from above them. A half-dozen men had fallen before anyone even looked up.

Shepherd Book rested the barrel of his rifle on a rock and lined up the first man to raise his gun. The shot hit the man’s right leg, and he fell to a knee. "Stay down," the shepherd pleaded into the wind. The man raised his gun again, and another bullet spat from the preacher’s rifle and went through the man’s left leg. "Stay down," Book said. The man raised his gun a third time, and with a crack and a ping, it flew out of his hand.

Helluva shot, Mal thought, and somewhere in the back of his mind a memory stirred about a conversation he’d been meaning to have with the shepherd.

"Juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan," Kaylee muttered to herself as her rifle sight bounced around the blurry brown landscape. She squinted and pulled the trigger, and a bullet ricocheted off two rocks and took off a man’s hat. The sound of her own gun flung her headlong into nausea, and she turned and retched.

"You almost hit him! Keep shooting!" Mal called from behind a rock.

Kaylee looked annoyed and lifted a hand to her temple.

"Right, no yelling," Mal said, raising his hand in apology. He turned back to the valley, and his eyes went wide. A war-era anti-tank gun had rolled into view, and the man at the controls was spinning its massive barrel toward him.

He dove away as the rock exploded.


"They’re gettin’ through," Jayne called over the transmitter as he squeezed off another shot from his sniper’s nest.

"I’m aware of that," Zoe said. Her carbine took a man out of his saddle. "There’s too many. Fall back to the ship."

Two more were already on top of her. She fired her last round into one. The other leapt off of his horse onto her, and her carbine’s handguard slammed off of his skull. As she tried to reload, a lasso fell over her and tightened around her chest.

Jayne was scrambling toward the ship when he saw Zoe pulled off her feet by one of the riders. He lined up the rope in the crosshairs. "Steady." The shot exploded in the dirt, and the rider turned toward him, still dragging Zoe.

"Ruttin’ Blaser," he said. Jayne threw down the rifle, pulled out Vera, and shot the horse.

Behind them, a man slipped into the cargo bay.


The man inched along, revolver drawn. There was no one here... but maybe up those stairs. Credits sang in his head.

A figure emerged and blocked his path, a small man with a big gun. He grinned at the small man.

"Lets see what this thing does," Simon said, and he was not grinning. The other man’s eyes fell to the gun.

Simon pulled the trigger. There was an explosion, and the doctor’s back hit the metal floor. There was no longer a man trying to get to the stairs.


"Got any more ammo?" Zoe asked.

"Ain’t gonna last long," Jayne answered, handing her a clip.

They stood back to back outside the cargo bay and faced an approaching dust cloud.

"Bao bei, now would be a good time," she called into her transmitter.


She was in the ceiling again.

River knew Simon didn’t like that. It didn’t matter. They had to know. She had to show them.

The world spun, and now she was on her feet. They liked that better. Right-side up.

She drifted past meaningless doors and into the engine room. There was someone here, but he didn’t see her. He was already full of mixed-up wires; full of arguments and sparks and misunderstandings.

She moved across the room to the metal box of tangles. It complained when she opened it, and Wash heard. He was looking at her now, even more mixed-up.

"Jayne knew," River said. "He thought of her, and he knew. He just didn’t know."

"Oh, well when you put it like that-" Wash began.

River’s hand darted into the tangle. "Blue wire. Not the right. The other side." Her fingers found something inside, and her eyes closed in rapture. "That’s right. Right there," she breathed.

She opened her eyes and saw Wash’s mouth hanging open.

River gave him a sharp chastising look and her hand shifted, making a connection. "Secondary crossover," she said, as though giving an answer in class. "That’s how it works."

The engine spun to life.


Another rock exploded, and a shower of pebbles rained down on Mal as he threw himself to his stomach.

"Sonuvabitch!" he bit into the dust. "This is quickly losin’ its charm." Where was that luh suh shepherd? Last the captain saw, he was headed to the top of the ridge waving something. He didn’t show up soon, they’d need him for last rites.

As the captain found his feet, he saw the barrel swinging his way again. A crack echoed through the valley, and the man at the controls slumped over.

"Woo!" Kaylee yelled. "Ow." She put a hand to her temple.

Mal smiled at her. "Hey you got one."

There was a spray of blood, and she fell.

"Kaylee!" the captain screamed, sprinting toward her.

He reached her cover and took her into his arms. The bullet had come through her back and out her collarbone. A clock started ticking in his mind.

"Oh, it’s not too bad, little Kaylee," he smiled. "Doc’ll get you fixed up in no time."

She smiled weakly. "Head... doesn’t hurt anymore."

A bullet hit the rock near his shoulder. Someone had snuck around behind them.


Patience squeezed off a second shot, just missing his ear, then ducked into a recess in the cliffside again. The girl was down, which meant there were only two left. A quick look down told her that her men were regrouping and were headed up the cliff. She’d make him squirm a little first.

"It’s over, Reynolds," she said, reloading behind her rocky cover. "You put up a hell of a fight. Lay down your weapons and maybe I’ll let your crew go."

"No you wouldn’t." The voice was impossibly close.

She spun into the open and was face-to-face with the captain. His expression was stone as he marched toward her, revolver extended. She raised her gun, but he fired first. The bullet tore through her shoulder, and the gun fell from her useless hand.

She dropped to her knees, holding her wounded arm, and squinted up at him. The brilliant morning sun winked from behind his head. His glinting revolver lowered to her face.

A hand landed on Mal’s shoulder. "Captain, look up," Book said.

"I got no more time for your games, shepherd," he replied, never taking his eyes off the pain-filled face of Patience. Nothing up there to see. No black to escape to. No backup coming. Just fire raining down.

He cocked the gun.

"Captain!" The preacher turned him around. "Look at the sky. Tell me what you see."

The whistling whir of Serenity’s engines filled the valley. Malcolm Reynolds drank in the crystal blue like he was seeing it for the first time.

"What do I see?" he said slowly, his eyes shining. "A whole lotta heaven."

The ship roared overhead and then set down on the summit. Moments later Jayne appeared beside them. "Gorram it! How come I gotta miss the best fight? Can I at least kill her?" he asked, nodding toward Patience.

"Kaylee’s down," the captain said.

Jayne silently made his way over and scooped her up. "Looks bad. She... she gonna be alright?"

"She needs the doctor," Book replied.

Jayne gave an earnest nod and went straight to the ship, Book and Mal close behind.

"You get back here, Malcolm Reynolds!" Patience yelled as the cargo bay doors began to close.

"I always do," he said. "See you soon, Patience."

Serenity roared into the air as horses spilled onto the top of the cliff.


"Fei hua! You’re makin’ it up," Kaylee laughed, followed by a flash of pain. The infirmary had seen better days, but at least one bed was still horizontal.

"No, really," Simon replied. "I shot one of Jayne’s guns."

"And he didn’t shoot you right back?"

"He gave it to me," the doctor laughed. "Of course, I had no idea what was going to happen when I pulled the trigger. If I had known..." His grin faded, and he looked down. "But the really funny thing is that the whole time, all we needed" - his eyes went back to hers again - "was you."

She smiled a new kind of smile. "It ain’t so tough findin’ your way around the engine room. Just gotta know left from right."

The moment hung in the air.

"Maybe someday soon I’ll show ya around," Kaylee said. "Easy as a..."

Her voice died away, and the doctor turned and followed her gaze over his shoulder. Jayne was leaning against the doorframe, listening with his arms crossed.

The mercenary shook his head and walked away. "Luckiest sumbitch in the verse."


Mal marched through the ship’s hallways, Wash and Zoe at his heels. "I can’t believe we lost the ruttin’ cargo," the captain fumed.

"We’re lucky we didn’t lose the ruttin’ us," Wash said. "I don’t know if you noticed, what with the bullets and explosions, but-"

"Circumstances," Mal shot back, advancing toward the bridge. "And what’re we s’posed to tell the buyer? That we got sidetracked by a rescue mission? Makes us look like gorram amateurs."

"You’re right, sir," Zoe said. "Professionals would have spaced the captain and delivered the goods."

Mal turned to give her a rare smirk, and he almost collided with Inara.

"Hey," Mal said. She didn’t give an inch.

Wash and Zoe rushed past and continued to the bridge.

"Well, Captain Reynolds?" Inara said. "I’ve been waiting."

The captain raised an eyebrow. "For what, exactly?"

"There’s no need for games," she said, taking a step forward and peering into his face. "You were going to tell me something. I think maybe something that we both need to hear."

"Oh," he said into those dark eyes. "That’s a lot of... something."

A few seconds were lost, sinking into each other; into ghosts and valleys and reflections of amber sparks. He suddenly caught a glimpse of that new sky again.

She leaned closer, her breath on his cheek.

"It’s just..." he said, and the movement stopped. "It’s kind of a bad time for 'something.' There’s this-"

"Business?" she said.

"If we don’t sort this out..." he started.

Her gaze fell. The glassy surface returned, swallowing the stone and spreading the ripples.

"We’ll have that talk later," Mal said. "Soon, I promise." Then he was gone, marching away.

Inara turned back to her shuttle.

"I’ll be waiting."





Friday, October 28, 2005 9:12 AM


MAL!!!! *smacks captain's forehead*


Friday, October 28, 2005 10:48 AM


Zoe's comment about spacing the Captain and saving the cargo was priceless. This was lovely with lots of nice touches and the action was good too. Can't wait for the next part. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 28, 2005 12:53 PM


-->"Woo!" Kaylee yelled. "Ow."

Oh, priceless. (You shot Kaylee, you bastard!) I'm glad there wasn't too many injuries, all our heroes are safe, and River's bringing back of Jayne's dream, bringing back the pilot episode was just brilliant.

Thank you.

Friday, October 28, 2005 3:52 PM


Thanks Jacqui - and everyone who read/reads the story. Yeah, the Kaylee hangover was my favorite thread of this chapter. Lotta fun.

I'll definitely write another story at some point. But later. And shorter.

God I'm tired.

Friday, October 28, 2005 4:28 PM


This was very enjoyable!! You've got the characters down well. I hope to see more in the future!!

- Soul

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 8:17 AM


Very nice :)

There's a whole lotta fanfic love going around just now, ain't there? ;)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:13 AM


OH ARGH!!! WHY MUST UP BUILD THE ANGST! He was going to tell inara, and he chickens out AHH! ::smaks our captain reynolds in the butt with a sword like inara did:: "it takes one pound of prusure to brake skin but it only takes one moment of cowardice and hesitation to brake a heart captain!" .... ok now that i got that out heh i loved it you are very good at getting the characters voices! Good Job! Write more please with a cherry on top!

Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:15 PM


Well, here I am way late at night, wasting time. But boy am I glad I did. This was delightful -- great voices, particularly Zoe and Wash.


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