The Fish Job: Chapter 13
Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Debriefing


Chapter 1.

Back to Chapter 12.

* * * * *

“We’ve never had anyone wake up. It’s not possible.”

“Clearly, it is possible. Was enough done?”

“The subject was under considerable duress, but a full breakdown was not achieved.”

“Can you continue?”

“We had to sedate him. The delusion would completely lose continuity if an attempt was made to return him to that state now. Suspension of disbelief is vital to the process. We recommend debriefing him as soon as possible.”

* * *

A rush of wind swirled through his aching head. He tried to sink back into the quiet darkness, but the storm wouldn’t let him. Images followed in its wake, bad images. A few good ones too. He remembered Inara, remembered how she had pulled his head onto her shoulder, stroked his hair, kissed his forehead. He clung to that, tried to make all the bad memories fade away. It didn’t work.

“Reavers got her,” he whispered.

“Got who?”

Mal answered the voice in the dark automatically. “Inara.”


“She was leavin’ me.”

“Why is that?”

“I told all this already.”

“You can tell again.”

Mal sighed. “She didn’t like me. She was playin’ me.”


“I’m petty. I call her names.” Mal became aware that he was sitting on something soft. His head was tipped back on a cushion that felt good on his sore neck.

“Do you know where you are?”

Mal shook his head slowly.

“I think you do. Try harder.”

“Hell,” Mal mumbled.


The wind pushed him further up out of the deep. He couldn’t stay down, hard as he tried. Couldn’t forget the things that had been stirred up.

“You kill Zoe?” he asked.

“Did you see her die?”

“No. Don’t think so. Heard a shot though.” Mal couldn’t keep his eyes closed any longer. He lifted his head, and found himself sitting in a cushiony chair in a dimly lit office, wearing an Alliance prison suit. A man across a desk was watching him intently. Mal wasn’t bound, but he knew he wouldn’t stand up, wouldn’t try to fight. His mind didn’t belong to him. Something foreign swirled in there, something to make him awake, and maybe a few other things too. Definitely a few other things.

“You a Fed?” Mal asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“That’s what the smell is.” Mal half laughed. The Fed didn’t answer. Mal leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling, waiting for the questions to start. He waited while the quiet in the room grew, until the things in his mind became unbearable and he had to break the silence.

“How could you do that to her?” he asked.



“Why wouldn’t we?”

“She was pregnant. Kinda obvious she was pregnant.” Mal could see it as clearly as if she was standing in the room. Zoe, hands cuffed over her swollen belly, turning her face away from the barrel of a gun. “How long have I been here?” he mumbled. “She was so big. Supposed to have seven months left, that’s what Wash said.”

“She was full term?”

Mal nodded. “Guess I been here a while.”

“Do you remember being captured?”

“Barnards World. Morristown. Broke that kid’s arm. Broke his face too, but that was before. That was on New Melbourne. I didn’t mean to.” He found it easiest to just keep mumbling, letting the memories spill out of his overfull mind. “I beat up on all those kids. Stupid kids.” More memories stirred up, and his eyes opened wider. “Tian! Kaylee. He took her.” Mal tried to sit up in the chair, but ended up tilting a bit sideways.

The Fed was impassive. “Kaylee?”

Even with his eyes open Mal could see a hand spread flat; the flash of a knife. “How could you do that to ‘er?” The Fed didn’t answer, so Mal kept mumbling. “She was already so hurt.”

“We hurt her more?”

“She’s a mechanic. She needs her hands. Rotten bastard. Ben tian sheng… ” his voice trailed off as he tried to push himself upright again.

“We also threatened to kill a pregnant woman.”

Mal focused on the Fed. “You blew up my ship.”

“And we blew up your ship.” Mal noticed that the man was scribbling on a notescreen on the desk. “Do you know why we did all these things?”

“To make me talk.”

“And you did.”


“We can make you talk more.”

“I know.”

“You can save yourself and your friends the trouble. Tell me everything again.”

Mal tried to close his eyes but the rush in his head forced them open again. “What d’you wanna know?” he asked.

“How about your cargo?”


“From New Melbourne.”

“The fish?” Mal’s voice rose in disbelief. “You’re askin’ about the fish?”

“What else was there?”

“Just fish. Oh - rice. Make sure n’ write that down.”

“What else?”

“Spices.” Mal smiled. “Veggies.”

“Who hired you to take this cargo?”

“I already told you. Or was I dreamin’?” Mal’s eyes wandered to the window in the wall to his left. It looked familiar, but it was black outside. It hadn’t been black when he’d seen it before. “Crazy girl said she saw it too,” he mumbled.

“Crazy girl?” the Fed prompted.

“Ain’t quite right is all.” Mal settled into a memory that was less painful than the rest. “Ya know, she told me it wasn’t a dream. It was a memory; that’s what she said. ‘cause it was blue. Memories look blue sometimes.” He smiled again. “Quack, quack, quack-o. Crazy girl.” Mal laughed, then he focused on the Fed. It was familiar: the window, the desk, his comfortable chair, and the Fed.

“Was that you I was talkin’ to before?” Mal asked

“Yes it was.”

“It looked all blue last time. I didn’t recognize you till just now.”

“I’m not offended.”

“So why you askin’ me stuff again?”

“Because you didn’t tell me everything.”

This was confusing. “Oh.” Mal finally replied.

“Let’s get back to your cargo.”

Mal shrugged. “Okay, if you want to.”

“What was it?”

“Fish. Fish and rice and fish. Sauces. Tas-tee spices, Ricky said. He was right. Good spices.”


“Big Ricky. Ren-ren. Sea Delights.”

“How did you meet him?”

Mal was silent for a few seconds. “Let me ask you somethin’, Mr. Fed. Have you been murderin’ my crew over a bunch a’seafood dinners?”

“You tell me.”

Mal began to laugh softly. “I tell you this – I’m startin’ to believe in luck, and I ain’t talkin’ about the good kind.” His laugh trailed off. Mal was tired. His head fell back again and he stared at the ceiling, letting himself drift with the storm in his head.

“Who was the man you met with on Atalanta station?”

“Kam- somethin’.” Square ceiling tiles…


“That’s the one.” …with little squiggly patterns.

“What did he give you?”

“Money. For the fish. Got a bonus.” Square tiles in offset rows.

“What else did you talk to him about?”

“Offered me a job. I said no.” How boring is that?

“Why did you say no?”

“Didn’t want it.” Like every damn ceiling in the Core.

“What was the job?”

“More cargo.” Why does every ceiling have to have these tiles?

“What kind of cargo?”

“Wouldn’t tell me. I did ask.” Ain’t there no other way to do it?

“Was it illegal cargo?”

“Most like.” How do people live under these ceilings?

“You didn’t want to carry illegal cargo?”

“I’m a righteous man.” Mal smiled. Every day of their lives.

“Mm-hmm. How did you meet Ricky?”

“Had word out. Transport needed.” Don’t they ever look up?


“Fish market in Sydney.” Ought’a paint some fish on it. Ha – fish!

“No, where did you get the word about Ricky?”

Mal smiled again as he chanted: “Blowfish, spiderfish, blue fish, Jayne fish…” Mal stopped drifting like he’d hit a rock. “Jayne. Hundan.”

“You don’t get along with Jayne?”

Mal stared at the Fed again. “How much you pay him?” Mal caught the confused look that crossed the man’s face for just an instant.



“That’s… none of your concern.”

“Yeah, don’t concern me at all. You ever tell that yuben de wangbadan what happened to Kaylee ‘cause of him?”

“No, we didn’t. You’d like him to know?”

Mal managed to straighten up a bit, and aimed the most intense look he could muster at the Fed. “I’d like that. Like to tell him myself, if ya don’t mind.”

“Who else was on your ship?”

Mal deflated, leaning back again. “Shepherd. He left. They all left, or wanted to. Knew where I was goin’, didn’t wanna come along for the ride.”

“Where were you going?”

Mal laughed, this time bitterly. “Hell. Lay down in the mud and die.”

“Who told you about Ricky?”

“Got word awhile back, bartender on Pacquin, said it was a straight up transport job. Never met the guy before. I should know better.”

“Know better?”

“Than to take the job.”

“It was a bad job?”

“Got me here, didn’t it?” Mal looked at the Fed again, then rolled his eyes. “Dumb ass.”

“Who is crazy girl?”

“You know – ” Mal stopped abrupty as another memory forced its way to the top of his mind, like someone had put it there. Cool hands, holding his aching head, brown eyes boring into his. Don’t tell them anything, and don’t stop fighting. Ever.

“Crazy girl,” Mal said slowly. “Girl in my dreams. Tellin’ me what to do.”

“Who is she?”

Mal hesitated. “Ren-ren runs a fish stall. Tastee fish.” He grinned. “You should try it.”

“Maybe later. Who else do you sell goods to here on Oeneus?”

“Never sold nothin’ here.”

“Sergeant, you fought in the war.”

“I did.”

“Do you have war associates here?”

“Not a one.”

“The kid with the broken face, the one on New Melbourne. Why’d you do that?”

The question caught Mal by surprise. He had to consider it for a few seconds. “Cause I’m crazy.”

“Were you upset about the deal?”

“Huh? No deal. Kid just bothered me. Not his fault. I got issues.”

“Tell me about the business arrangement you have with the weapons shop.”

“I got an arrangement with them?”

“Of course. To ship their weapons. Tell me about it.”

Mal thought about it. “I don’t recall an arrangement. You sure?”

The Fed gave Mal a hard look, perhaps waiting for him to mumble on, but Mal was thinking now. It was slow going, trudging through the storm that kept blowing behind his eyes, but there was thought happening. He struggled to connect the thought to his mouth.

“You don’t know, do you?” Mal finally asked.

“About what?”

“I told you. I told you people everythin’, but you don’t know. Maybe I didn’t tell you.” Mal saw the lines at the corners of the Fed’s mouth tighten. He’d just said something the man didn’t like hearing.

“What is it you think you never told?”

“What’d you guys do to Kaylee? You tell me that.”

The man looked at the screen on his desk. “We hurt her.”

“How?” Mal insisted.

“Were you not paying attention he first time we hurt her? Shall we continue?”

Mal’s thoughts scattered as a remembered voice blew through his head: Ten fingers. It could take a while to get through them all.

“You wouldn’t,” Mal said.

“Try me. What don’t I know about? The weapons?”

Mal shook his head. “No weapons. You searched my ship, you know that.”

“Maybe. How about crazy girl? Who is that?”

Mal struggled to form an answer. He knew he’d had an important thought, but now he’d lost it.

The Fed looked at his notes again. “We have Zoe,” he said. “And her baby. Shall I bring them in and do what we did to Kaylee?”

Mal felt a familiar rush of horror. His head dropped forward; he couldn’t breath right. He heard a high pitched whine come out of his throat.

“Answer me, Sergeant,” the Fed insisted. “Who’s crazy girl?”

When Mal looked up, River was standing behind the Fed, holding a finger to her lips. Mal stared at her. Did this make any kind of sense? River standing in this office? Gui, she was showing up everywhere else lately. The Fed followed Mal’s shocked stare, then turned back. “What do you see?” he asked. “Tell me what you see!” River shook her head at Mal.

Mal looked from River to the Fed. Then River was gone, but Mal remembered something else now. This isn’t real. Kaylee is fine. They are playing with your mind.

Mal’s eyes narrowed. “You never told me what you did to Kaylee.”

“I thought I didn’t need to. I can show you -”

“You don’t know,’ Mal interrupted the man. “You don’t know what you did to her ‘cause it never happened.”

The Fed cleared his throat. “You’re hallucinating. You’ve lost your mind.”

“Could be.” Mal tilted his head to the side. Another memory came back, much blurrier than the others. “But it ain’t my fault. There were drugs. From the IV. And somethin’ in my head.” He remembered what Simon had shown him. “Wires. Silver bendy wires.” His voice got stronger. “I was in some kinda machine. You were lookin’ at my brain.”

“You can’t possibly remember that,” the man said in disbelief just before a door slammed open.

“Not another word Lieutenant!” a hard voice ordered from the doorway and the Fed questioning Mal snapped his mouth shut.

Suddenly Mal couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “Didn’t get me, ha!” he told his interrogator.

Mal felt rough hands grabbing his arms and he was pulled out of the chair. “Nice try. Almost got me!” Mal said, and he doubled over with laughter. The hands held him up and started dragging him toward the door.

“We do have you, Sergeant Reynolds.” Mal looked up at a tall Alliance officer standing in front of the flustered interrogater. “Make no mistake about that,” the officer said in a hard voice. Mal found that funny.

He was still laughing when they pushed him onto a cot in a small bright room and left him laying there, with the drugs and the memories swirling in his head.

He snickered ten minutes later when two Alliance soldiers entered.

He tittered when one of them drew a gun.

* * * * *

tian: god ben tian sheng…: stupid inbred… hundan: bastard yuben de wangbadan: stupid SOB gui: hell

* * * * *

On to Chapter 14.


Thursday, January 26, 2006 3:59 AM


I know, it’s a terrible cliff to leave y’all on, but no chapter 14 till tomorrow. I hope your fingers don’t get sore from hanging on! (insert evil cackling here) (you may of noticed, I cackle a lot)

PreachersSon you made my day – I drove a lurker out of hiding, WOOT-WOOT!!!

Of course, much love to the rest of you too!


Thursday, January 26, 2006 4:47 AM


Excellent again! I'm really looking forward to the next chapter.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 4:47 AM


Excellent again! I'm really looking forward to the next chapter.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 4:47 AM



Thursday, January 26, 2006 5:04 AM


Hyterical manic crazy giggles, wheeeee!!

I loved it. Tense and tight and perfectly crafted to make one really feel Mal's confusion and dopey-mellow belligerence, while still giving the reader enough to further the plot. Love love love.

You really have a hand with original characters! I liked the little interrogator flunky, too! He had a sprinkling of personality!

Now: cliff-hanger pain. Eeeeeeeeeeeevil.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 5:48 AM


*Dum-dum-dum* Dramatic sound effects.
I love cliff-hangers, as if I don't already bite my nails enough, this will leave me tense!

I love it though, it's wonderful, words fail me it's that brilliant!

Thursday, January 26, 2006 8:12 AM


I love how River is managing to get through to Mal enough to let him know it isn't real but can't help thinking it was a mistake for the Captain to let on that he realised it wasn't working. Am all kinds of afraid for him now. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 26, 2006 8:20 AM


Woke up to early... now Ive gotta wait alllll day... *insert heavy sigh*... excellent piece of writing.... and gorram you for the cliff youve left me hanging on.

Thursday, January 26, 2006 8:48 AM


Crazy girl's working well in this story.
Hope tomorrow comes quickly.


Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:49 PM


I thing I have traumatized my dog from screaming so loud at the end!! You are an evil, malicious, genius!!! PLease for God sake post it quick!! I don't know if I can wait till tomorrow!!

Friday, January 27, 2006 2:50 AM


That's so not fair!

This was a great chapter, with Mal finally getting River's message.

Please are his crew going to arrive in time?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 7:44 AM


I loved that Mal got the giggles and was laughing at everything, and still holding out too. He is one tough sonofabitch.


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Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 25
Zoë nodded. “I’ll bet there’s a little committee of suits back there trying to figure out how best to lie.”&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to tell some horrible truth,” Inara replied softly.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

“Or how to make the most effective use of medical waste incendiaries to get rid of our bodies,” Wash chimed in.

Back Stories III, Chapter 24
Mal returns to a few familiar places.

Back Stories III: Chapter 23
The BDH’s find themselves enmeshed in too damned many OCs. But hey, they’re necessary. Plottiness and all.

Back Stories III, Chapter 22
Inara tells the story of why she left the Core. Well, half of it anyway.

Back Stories III, Chapter 21
The battle with the Reavers continues, and Mal makes a choice. All decisions have consequences.

Back Stories III, Chapter 20
Finally a little Mal POV, but it doesn't last long.

Back Stories III, Chapter 19
The trials and tribulations of an older, wiser River Tam.

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 18
The aftermath of an unexpected encounter. Except—not all of the crew are accounted for…

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 17
A lovely day in the mountains: friendly locals and fresh air under a clear blue sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Back Stories Book III, Chapter 16.
Zoë tells of her soiree with terrorists on Oeneus.