Live Without Warning
by zara hemla

"Mal insists that they won't find Peter, but he knows exactly where he'll go. What is this, Law &Order: Cosmic Cannibal Unit? How the hell would he know?"
(Shack, TV Without Pity)

Boy, shut up and be a victim of authority.
(Green Day)

Mal sits at a glass table under a blue light and itches. Her voice throws black echoes through his head, where the empty thoughts let them boom.

Why are they touching me? They are inside me, Mal. Searching inside me. Looking for something. You promised, Mal. You promised.

He wants to dig his fingers deeper, slip them around the neck of that fool of an Alliance officer, cut and run. Instead he forces himself still, quiet. Away. And her voice burns in his head like a torch. This is his fault, but he is not perfect, and he cannot fix his mistakes.

He has tried to warn the Alliance fool about the victim-turned-Reaver, but these fools never listen. Probably stronger measures will be required. He feels tired, sick of being in command and having to make so many decisions every minute. He feels the drop and smash of artificial gravity, heavier on an Alliance ship than inside of Serenity. She turns inside his head, the endless spin that space encourages. She is an itch under his fingernails, a heat between his eyes.

You promised, Mal. Alliance hands are touching me, and I cannot keep all my secrets from them, because you are not here to protect me.

The Alliance fool makes some statement that casts doubt upon Mal's intelligence. Mal wearily replies, hardly aware of what he is saying. His mind is on Serenity. He is a placemat being thrown to the floor. He is a bulkhead that sounds hollow and is being torched open. He is a control console being raped of its codes. His fingers convulse under the glass table and her voice gets louder, more accusing.

Mal makes an effort to concentrate on the Alliance fool -- after all, he does have power in this situation. The Alliance is a boil on the ass of humanity, but they have power in spite of their flaming inefficiency. The man, trying to connect with him somehow, brings up the War, the battle for Serenity Valley. Mal can hardly make an answer, caught between mild annoyance and insanity. How can Mal can even think about the war, with Serenity screaming warning?

They will find those two that you put on my skin. The man and the girl cling there -- one is afraid, and one exultant -- and they freeze slowly. If the Alliance soldiers find them, what will they do with me? Will they seize me and cut me up? Will they burn me with a blowtorch? And then what will you have, Mal Reynolds? Then what will you have?

Don't do anything as hackneyed as telling yourself to shut up, he thinks. He has a sudden vision of smashing his head against the glass table, of bristling with shards like a porcupine. The only thing that stops him is the look on the Alliance officer's face, a look that says that he's worse than the shit that they blow from the refuse tank. That look says, you're going to try something, aren't you, scum? You uncivilised bastards always try something.

Mal's too tired for another mindfuck, so he just keeps trying to sit still. The fool is now trying to pin the Reaver crime on him. Serenity's almost- hysterical voice sounds again: Couldn't you just keep a low profile like the rest of the losers? Why did you have to buy me? Why did we have to hook onto the settlers? I hate you! I hate you!

She's splintering him; he can barely hold himself together. Faintly he hears that the survivor-turned- Reaver has split his tongue. Don't these fools get it yet? Will he have to explain everything? He curses softly and tells the damned fool that there will be blood. Oh, and there will, but if Serenity doesn't shut up, it's going to be coming out of his ears.

The fool tells him to explain, and he begins, haltingly. Alliance policy forbids belief in Reavers; it doesn't fit with their idea of total domination, so many of the fools in lower command don't know what Reavery actually entails. Ignorance is bliss, Alliance higher-ups might tell any interested parties. So this officer knew of Reavers but thought they were a fairy tale, the kind of thing an Independent would tell his barbarian child after a meal of Alliance babies.

It's not exactly surprising then, when the fool orders him down to the brig. Mal doesn't mind going -- it would be quieter down there -- but Serenity's voice raises even more in pitch, and he wonders half- dizzily if everyone can now hear her awful cry.

No! NO! Help him find that fucking Reaver! I know where he is -- he's inside ME -- and if he finds him, then we can leave! We can GO!

He staggers once against the guard and then gathers all his remaining resources. In his brain, he can barely hear himself over the boom of her panic.

If I promise to get them off, will you please shut up?

Her answer comes immediately, and more quietly: Yes. The panic subsides, leaving his mind as wracked as a beach after the tsunami. Yes, Mal. Thank you.

He straightens up and eyes the official straight on. Serenity has retreated to the back corner of his mind, and now that she's quit disabling him, he can act like a captain. Finally. Sort of. He shakes his handcuffs experimentally: the things are great for choking. You'd think a space-age civilization would come up with something better than handcuffs with a long chain between. He smiles evilly. Lay on, MacDuff, you fucker.


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