Chapter 15

Simon's heart raced with urgency as he watched Mal try to attend to Inara. The captain pressed a hand over the wound and she uttered a heart-rending cry. She needed his attention now. He made a slow move towards her.
"Hold it! I said don't move," a soldier thrust a rifle centimeters from his head. He slowly looked up, the levity of the situation written on his face.
"I'm a doctor. Please let me see to her."
"Hands up!" the soldier commanded, ignoring his statement. Simon gave in, knowing he could do no good if he was dead. He slowly raised his hands, his eyes lingering helplessly on Inara's agonized face. Another soldier with the carriage of some authority approached and took in the scene with precise military efficiency.
"Command, this is squad leader. We have the targets subdued. Get a med team down here. We've got wounded," he radioed the request into his helmet headpiece.
"Cap'n?" the radio in Mal's pocket crackled to life with Kaylee's voice. "Cap'n, can you hear me?"
"Who's that?" the squad leader jerked his attention and his rifle to Mal. Mal glared up in silence, murder in every inch of his being. "Search the ship," the squadron leader motioned to three of this team. "Get up," he hauled Mal to his feet. "All of you get up!" he ordered. Slowly, Simon, Jayne and Zoe rose as well, the remaining soldiers watching them closely with fingers on their triggers. "Who else is on the ship?" the squad leader snapped. Simon noticed Mal's hands twitch, and he marveled at the supreme effort of will it must have taken for the captain to not wrap them around the soldier's neck.
"You get her some med help first," Mal growled, flicking his eyes to Inara. The squad leader took a menacing step closer.
"Who else is on your ship?" he demanded again. Mal turned his head away, staring obstinately off into space. The standoff dragged on for a good half minute. Simon glanced down at Inara who was struggling to breathe now, the stain spreading through her dress visible as an ugly, dark splotch in the crimson lighting. Her condition was growing more dire by the second. He was about to speak up for her sake when Kaylee's protests carried to him from outside the bay.
"Ow, hey! Let me go!"
"Sir, we found her in the engine room," one of the soldiers called, thrusting Kaylee through the door. She stumbled forward and soldiers escorting her propped her back up roughly. She began to struggle, but stopped when she saw Inara on the floor.
"Inara!" she cried, almost tearing free and trying to run to the Companion's side. The soldiers corralled her again, but she thrashed and kicked fiercely. Finally one soldier slugged her across the chin with the butt of his rifle and she dropped to the floor.
"Kaylee!" Simon cried, but he was just as quickly restrained as soon as he tried to move. Kaylee slowly sat up, wiping the trickle of blood from her split lip, tears burning her cheeks. She flung a hateful look at the soldier who had hit her, but it quickly faded into dread as her eyes were drawn back to Inara. She started to crawl towards her friend, but the soldiers picked her up and pinned her arms back.
"Is that all?" the squad leader asked his men.
"Not sure, sir. Didn't get to search the whole ship."
"All right. I want two guards on each one. Command, we're escorting the prisoners to the brig. Send me a few extra men so we can do a thorough sweep of the ship," he radioed. The soldiers paired off behind each of the crew. Simon twisted uncomfortably as his hands were bound behind his back with ties. The others were similarly restrained. Then they were all marched towards the airlock just as the med team was arriving. The techs began to examine the soldiers who had fallen near the door first.

"Hey! Hey!" Mal shouted. "What about her? Your gorram medics better see to her!" He twisted back towards the bay, but the soldiers coaxed him not-so-gently through the airlock. Simon tried to turn back as well, but his escorts shoved him violently forward. The last glimpse he had of Inara was of her wan and limp face and her life bleeding out on the cargo bay floor.

Major General Kriegel's handheld Cortex unit alerted him with a beep to the incoming wave as he glided above the crowded streets of Capital City in his personal transport. He dug the unit out of his pocket and, noting it was the encrypted military channel, he accepted the call.

"Major General, Captain Cavannaugh of the cruiser Shichang," an Alliance naval officer saluted him from the small screen.

"Captain," he nodded in acknowledgement.

"Sir, I wanted to inform you that we have just captured the transport ship Serenity on the edge of Osiris space. Her crew is being transferred to the brig as we speak." Kriegel almost stopped breathing.

"You're sure, Captain?"

"Yes, sir. There was no registration number, but the serial numbers on the hull plate and engine matched those in the database."

"How many were on board?"

"Six, sir. One was seriously wounded in the firefight when we boarded. Our med bay is working on her."

"Was it River Tam?" Kriegel demanded.

"I'm not sure. We're still verifying identities…"

"Find out, Captain. I need to know. I need her alive. Your med team better do everything they can to save her."

"Yes, sir."

"Wave me the instant you find out."

"Yes, sir." Kriegel shut off the screen. He tapped his fingers against the control column, almost forgetting to pay attention to his flight path. Serenity's crew was in custody. That news should have been worthy enough to throw a party. However, if the Tam girl was wounded and did not survive, it would nullify the whole purpose of capturing them. He needed to alert Chu-yu at once and then arrange for the crew to be transferred planetside. Opening the throttle, he shunted more power to his transport's engines, eager to get to the Fugitive Task Force's headquarters and further assess the situation. Before he reached the building, his Cortex was already beeping again. It was Captain Cavannaugh once more.

"What is it, Captain?"

"Sir, I have a list of the crew who were on board. We have confirmed their identities as Malcolm Reynolds, captain; Zoe Washburne, first mate; Inara Serra, a registered Companion; Jayne Cobb; Kaywinnit Frye, engineer; and Dr. Simon Tam. Miss Serra was the one wounded. River Tam was not on board."

"You're absolutely sure? You checked everywhere? This Firefly has a notorious history of smuggling and the girl is extremely adept at evading capture."

"A team went through the ship thoroughly, and they are going through it again as we speak. So far, we haven't found anyone else."

"Double and triple check it."

"We will, sir."

"Good. Thank you for your excellent work so far, Captain," Kriegel nodded. "If nothing else out of the ordinary turns up, transmit me your final report when you're through. I'm going to set up the transfer of the prisoners to the surface right away."

"Yes, sir. I would recommend Miss Serra gets priority. Her injuries are life-threatening. She would be better served at a facility planetside than in our med bay."

"Go ahead and transfer her to Capital City Medical Center for treatment immediately. I'll take care of the others. Thank you, again, Captain."

"Thank you, sir." The gears in Kriegel's mind hummed as he switched off the wave. If River Tam was not on Serenity, where was she? And why would the crew risk coming here without her? They would not risk it was the answer, which meant that River was almost certainly either on Osiris or somewhere nearby. If she had made it to the surface, there was only one place she would head. Reaching the roof of the massive government complex in the center of downtown, Kriegel set his transport down on the landing pad. He left the attendant to secure to his ship and hustled to the temporary office that had been assigned to him for the duration of this operation. Once at his workstation, the first thing he did was access the daily logs of the planetary Port Authority and scan for any unauthorized landings. He found what he was looking for almost right away. Two days ago an unknown vessel had managed to follow a super-bulk transport into atmo before it was noticed. The ship had been recovered a short time later, abandoned. It turned out it had been reported stolen more than two weeks ago from a dealer on Spider. Following that lead, he also discovered that the dealer had been murdered during the theft. He brought up the associated security feed video file and watched as a thin, hooded figure struggled briefly with the victim before ultimately shooting him in the head. Although the shooter's face was hidden by the hood throughout the footage, Kriegel knew very few individuals who could execute a head shot from that distance with such accuracy. One of them was River Tam. She was here. She had to be. He closed the footage and dialed the code for the Fugitive Task Force's Tactical Recovery Team using his secure command line.

"Yes, sir, Major General," the answer was prompt.

"I have new evidence that indicates River Tam is on Osiris, most likely in Capital City. This is highest priority now. Assemble a team immediately for a briefing. I will be down in a few moments."

"Right away, sir," the officer signed off with a crisp salute. Before he left his office, Kriegel shot a quick message to Chu-yu detailing the recent developments. His lips twisted in a wry smile. Even though Serenity was neutralized and it was only a matter of time before River Tam was tracked down, he was sure the representative would have some thankless comment in response to hearing she was still at large. He did not have the time or inclination to listen to it. Once the message was away, he strode with renewed vigor down to the briefing room. As he did so, he allowed a small sense of relief to start settling on his mind. Finally, after two years, this nightmare looked like it was drawing to a close.

The nine man recovery team was already assembled and waiting when he pushed through the briefing room door. The soldiers snapped to attention.

"As you were," Kriegel put them at ease. "Please take your seats." The soldiers sat down while he took the podium and started logging on to the Cortex. "Any information you receive in this briefing is classified and is only being given to you out of a necessity to ensure the success of this recovery operation. Nothing you learn here is to be repeated to anyone outside of you and your teammates and the walls of this room, not even your commanding officers. Is that clear?" Kriegel swept his eyes over the soldiers.

"Yes, sir!" they chanted.

"Good. We received confirmation a short while ago that the transport Serenity was captured while trying to approach Osiris. All of the fugitives on board have been taken into custody, except River Tam. She is your target. New information indicates that she may have reached Capital City by way of a stolen ship that made an illegal landing two days ago. Her objective is most likely her parents' residence. That will also be your objective. If you find her there, she is to be apprehended. Non-lethal force only. If she is not there, you will set up and maintain surveillance of the residence until authorized to stand down. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," the chorus of soldiers replied again.

"This is the target," Krigel brought up River's fugitive bulletin and displayed it on the room's projector. "This is several years old, so her appearance may be altered somewhat. This and other vital information will be uploaded to your links. I cannot emphasize enough that the target should be approached with extreme caution. The ideal capture scenario is to surround her with maximum firepower. Although somewhat mentally unstable, she has a genius-level intellect and has demonstrated a superior capability to improvise in tactical situations. She is also highly skilled in multiple forms of armed and unarmed combat." Kriegel noted the odd looks and furrowed brows of several of the soldiers, which was as he expected. At a glance, River was barely more than skinny little teenage girl. He had to show them exactly who they were dealing with. "Do not underestimate her, gentlemen," he warned. "This is security footage from the lot where she stole the ship." He brought up the video feed and played it on the projector. The men's expressions turned from doubt to surprise as they watched. "That man was almost three times her size and had the advantage of surprise. You saw how easily she dispatched him. Do not assume that your target is anything but lethal," he cautioned. "Are there any questions?" The room rang with silence. "All right. Dismissed!" Kriegel bellowed. The men stood and filed out, on their way to confront and hopefully capture one of the most dangerous weapons the Alliance had ever created.

River stood before the mirror on her door and brushed her hair. Her soiled cargo pants and hoodie had been exchanged for a simple plum-colored dress that was in her closet. She always liked dresses best. Maybe it was the dancer in her, but she enjoyed the simplicity and freedom of movement they allowed. She was calm this morning. The brush moved automatically through her hair rendering her in a state of semi-tranquility. The turmoil of the past several days had receded to the back of her brain, not gone, but not consuming her at the moment. She reviewed her reflection in the mirror. Disturbingly, she noted that her features had grown less recognizable. She saw more of Ariel in her, with the harsh eyes and expressionless lips, even though her alter was still and quiet. She started to worry about the very real possibility that she might become Ariel entirely. Was that the Academy's purpose, to turn her completely into a weapon? Someone who would kill without care or question?

Or maybe it's just who I always was, she thought. She stopped brushing and met the hard gaze of the girl staring back at her. Who am I?

The beeping of the security panel downstairs signaled someone arriving at the front door and interrupted her self-examination. Cautious, River opened her door just a sliver, listening as her father's shoes clicked across the foyer. There was a brief pause as he examined the security monitor before opening the door.

"What's going on here?" he asked whoever was out there, concern and confusion painting his tone.

"Mr. Tam, we're with the Fugitive Task Force. We have information that your daughter is in the city and may try to come here. Has she contacted you at all?" Waves of immediate panic surged and overwhelmed River's earlier calm. Her hands clamped onto the door knob and she did not breathe while she waited for her father to answer.

"Well, actually, yes she did," Gabriel said, but not without some hesitance.

"Do you know where she is?" demanded the voice outside the door, growing suddenly urgent.

"Um… she's… she's upstairs. She arrived almost two days ago but I..., hey, what is the meaning of this…!" her father protested. Booted feet clattered into the tiled foyer.

"Mr. Tam, we need to take your daughter into custody. She may be dangerous."

"She's not dangerous. She's traumatized. What are you doing?" River heard the unmistakable sounds of weapons being readied.

"Please, sir. Stay back for your own safety. We won't hurt her. This is for her protection."

"Now hold on a moment. I did not give you permission to…" River shut the door silently, cutting off her father's protests, and locked the latch. They were here for her. She immediately grabbed her holster, strapping it to her thigh beneath her dress. She took one of the two spare clips and tucked it beneath the straps as well. At the same time, her mind was furiously evaluating her escape options. Five, she analyzed quickly. Five pairs of boots had clomped into the foyer. They would probably be armed with sonic rifles or something else non-lethal. She could shoot through them, especially if she surprised them on the stairs. However, it was likely there were several more who would stay on the lower level to provide cover, and she would not have enough time to take them all out before one got off an accurate shot. She looked to the window next. It was too far down to jump without risking injury, but above, the roof beams extended out a little beyond the edge of the soffit, maybe just enough to get a handhold. She shoved her bed aside from the wall, flung the sash open, and kicked the screen out. Behind her, the knob of the bedroom door rattled. Something heavy slammed into it. It was not going to hold up for long. Running to her dresser next to the doorway, she grabbed the corner and shoved hard near the top. The heavy wooden piece of furniture tilted precariously and tumbled, slamming into the floor and blocking the door just as the latch gave way.

"River Tam! Federal agents! Open this door immediately! We won't hurt you!" someone shouted from outside. She scoffed at that remark, pressing against the wall where the dresser had recently stood. Then, taking a deep breath, she sprinted towards the window. With a precisely-timed leap, her booted foot hit the sill and she thrust herself into the air. Her fingers just barely caught the edge of the beam overhanging the window. She clung to it for a second to make sure she had a solid grip, the lawn a good three meter drop below. Behind her, she heard the dresser rattle against the pounding of the soldiers trying to get in. Shutting it out, she started kicking her legs back and forth, setting up a swinging motion, although her fingers quickly started to ache from supporting the weight of her body on their small perch.

"Target is out the window! She's on the roof!" The cry snapped River's attention to the ground where she saw a soldier, decked in full tactical armor, running around the corner from the front of the house. Summoning her strength, she swung forward with all her might. Like a gymnast on the uneven bars, she kicked her legs high and flipped up over the edge of the beam just as the soldier's sonic rifle erupted. The blast missed her by millimeters, and she landed safely on her feet on the roof. Sparing only half a second to catch her breath, she ran to the front of the house and bounded down to the small overhang above the second floor bay window and then onto the roof of the porch. She dropped to the ground from there, rolling and springing up into a shooter's crouch with her gun drawn. She took down the soldier who had spotted her first with one shot, and dropped another one who came barreling towards her from the front door. That sent the rest diving for cover. That was all the time she needed. She took off at full speed through the yard and down the street, not daring to look back.

Kriegel leaned over the com screen, scowling and effectively looming over the man visible in it. "Mr. Tam, why did you feel that it was appropriate to go two days without contacting the task force to alert them your daughter had come home?" Gabriel Tam shifted his eyes uncomfortably beneath the major general's glare.

"I'm sorry. She was very upset. She insisted I didn't. I was afraid she might leave again."

"I can appreciate that you were trying to help her, but you still should have notified us immediately. Now she's gone again, two of my men are wounded, and we have no current leads on her whereabouts. Do you have any ideas where she would go?" Gabriel's cheeks drooped and his head lowered like a beaten dog.

"No," the man's response was quiet, defeated.

"Well, let's hope we can find her before she does any more harm to herself and others."

"Has there been any progress in finding my son?" Gabriel's head went up, a distant hope in his eyes. "He might be able to help."

"No. I'm sorry," Kriegel lied with a shake of his head. "We'll let you know as soon as we hear anything more about him." Gabriel nodded in understanding, but his head was down again. "Please, go see to your wife for now," Kriegel urged more gently, "and if River makes contact with you, you will notify us right away this time." Gabriel nodded his assent. "Thank you, Mr. Tam," Kriegel said and disconnected the wave. Standing up, he took a few deep breaths to steady his anger. Although he could understand Gabriel Tam's motivations, he was still furious at River's father. Because of him, River had escaped once again. He almost regretted getting the man involved, except for the fact that aside from this misstep, his plan had worked out just exactly as he had hoped. It had brought River to Osiris, and drawn out Serenity as well. And now that they had Reynolds and his crew in custody, the only loose end to tie up was her. At least one thing Gabriel had said made sense, though. It was time to have a conversation with Simon Tam.

Turning from the screen, he strode out of the control room and into the main hallway of the brig. Abydos Base was one of the largest and most secure facilities on Osiris, ideal for housing the most dangerous threats to the Alliance. Despite their acumen at slipping away from authorities in the past, Kriegel was certain that this was one place the crew of Serenity would not be leaving except to face their fate at trial. Stopping before the door to the cell blocks, he motioned for the guard open it. The heavy steel portal slid aside on its tracks and he marched down a narrow, harshly-lit hall lined with identical doors. A lone guard was posted at one. The soldier saluted smartly as he approached, and Kriegel returned the gesture while using his key card to open the lock. He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. Inside was just a bare concrete space, the single arc light overhead providing far too much brilliance for the small area it illuminated. Only a stark metal table and two chairs furnished it. Sitting at one of those chairs, arms and legs shackled together, was River's brother. Without haste, Kreigel settled in the chair across from the doctor and folded his hands together on the table.

"Dr. Tam, I am Major General Daniel Kriegel. I am in charge of you and your sister's case for the Fugitive Task Force, and I have to say you've given us quite a run these past two years. Causing more than a bit of a stir."

"What do you want?" the doctor asked with a tone of dismissive contempt. Kriegel regarded him coolly.

"I want information on your sister. River was not on the ship with you, and we know she went to your parents, but she escaped again." A dash of hope flitted through the doctor's expression. "I need to know where she might go from there."

"I don't know," Simon's answer had a final ring to it and he leaned back in his chair, looking away.

"You and your sister grew up in Capital City. Certainly you have friends, acquaintances, someone she might seek out for help?" The doctor met Kriegel's eyes again with disdain.

"She was locked in that ren jian di yu for nearly three years. Any friends she might have had I'm sure she lost touch with."

"What about your friends?"

"I've lost touch with them as well," the doctor bit sarcastically.

"I mean…"

"I know what you mean. River was never close to anyone I knew." Kriegel leaned back, evaluating the young man.

"So, you have no idea where your sister might have gone? Your father seems to think you might." Simon's expression turned bitter and he regarded Kriegel for a few seconds, although it was clear he still had no intention of cooperating.

"My father doesn't even know who River is anymore," he finally said. "Now, if you're going to charge me and keep me locked up like this," he jangled his shackles, "I want to see a lawyer."

"I'm sure you do," Kriegel responded, rising. He flashed a fake smile at the doctor and left the room. "Return him to his cell," he told the guard outside, "and bring in Captain Reynolds next."

Matthias sat in the dirt, strumming an improvised chord progression while the usual mix of colorful characters on the Eavesdown Docks passed him by. At his side, Anna slept fitfully, wrapped beneath an extra layer of clothes and using one of their duffels for a pillow. The little platinum they had left after leaving Serenity had not been enough to buy them passage farther than Persephone. Matthias had resorted to panhandling and playing on the street to collect what money he could. So far their earnings were few. Anna, without her treatments, was in sore shape. Every waking moment was agony for her. She could not walk, or even stand without his help. He did not know how much longer she could endure it.

Two platinum clattered into his open guitar case as he played on.

"Duo xie," he looked up to thank the generous donor.

"You play very beautifully, Dr. Harder," the man standing there intoned with gravitas. Matthias' fingers seized on the fretboard, his mind thrown into an instant panic. "Do not be frightened," the man assured him right away. "I am not here to hurt you." He knelt down, reaching into a satchel slung at his side. He pulled out a hypodermic gun.

"What are you doing?" Matthias asked, still too afraid to move.

"I'm giving your wife her medicine." He removed a vial from the satchel as well and loaded it into the gun. Then he moved towards Anna. Matthias scooted protectively in front of his wife, his hands on the neck of his guitar, ready to use it as a weapon if necessary.

"It's Pescaline, Doctor," the man assured, handing him the vial to see. Tentatively, Matthias reached for the glass bottle. Indeed it was Pescaline, he read on the label. Still confused and wary, but also somewhat grateful, he moved aside and let the man grasp Anna's arm. He pressed the injector against her skin. Anna twitched and groaned and the drug was administered. Her eyes fluttered open and focused with difficulty on the stranger. As awareness flooded through her, though, she started to struggle and tried to pull away from him. Matthias grabbed her hands to calm her.

It's okay, he soothed directly to her mind. He gave you Pescaline. Anna ceased struggling, as she had little enough strength with which to keep it up, but she continued regarding the man with apprehension.

Who is he? he heard her question in his head.

"Who are you?" Matthias turned and asked the man aloud. "What do you want with us?"

"Serenity was captured just a few hours ago over the skies of Osiris. You don't know this because it has not been made public yet," the man said.

"So how do you know, then?" demanded Matthias. The man's warm smile held secrets.

"I have my contacts." It was not really an answer, but Matthias did not need one to know that what he said was true, or at least he believed it was.

River and Simon, he thought with a sinking heart. He sensed his wife thinking the same thing. "But what does that have to do with us?" he asked, still at a loss to figure out what the man's intentions were. Although he could sense some things, such as the truth about Serenity, Matthias found that the stranger was disturbingly adept at keeping his mind relatively blank. He had never met anyone so good at doing that. The man settled into a crouch, eyes down on the dirt for a moment.

"I owe a debt, Dr. Harder. A debt I believe you and your wife can help me repay." He met both of their gazes evenly. "In the process, you may also be able to restore your honor." Matthias considered the proposal suspiciously. It did not make sense. The man obviously knew who and what they were, yet he was not at all interested in the reward for their capture. His frustratingly murky thoughts also made it difficult to tell if he could be trusted. However, had had clearly tracked them down with a purpose, and aided them when he did not have to.

"If you want our help, you have to let me read you," Matthias finally decided. He looked the man firmly in the eye, waiting for his response.

"Have faith, Doctor. There are things in here," the man tapped his temple, "that you would not want to know. But time is short. Come with me and I will explain everything."

Captain Reynolds, shackled and chained like Dr. Tam, sat in the interrogation room now with Kriegel standing before him. The two shared a mutually acrimonious silence, the captain staring up at Kriegel with venom and Kriegel contemptuously ignoring him while he reviewed the captain's file.

"Captain Reynolds," Kriegel bypassed the courtesy of an introduction. "I think you're an intelligent enough man to know why you are here, so I'll skip the explanation."

"Where's Inara? And the rest of my crew?" Reynolds demanded.

"I'll ask the questions," Kriegel tossed the dossier on the table and sat down behind it. "You understand the seriousness of the charges against you?"

"I surely do."

"Treason, conspiracy, acts of terrorism, aiding and abetting known fugitives," Kriegel listed off. "More than one of those is a capital crime." He was pleased to see a very faint trace of fear beneath the man's obstinate exterior as he spoke. "We know all about you and your crusade against the Alliance, Captain. We know you were responsible for the Miranda broadwave. We know you were in contact with Matthias Harder. And we know you intended on using River Tam and Dr. Harder help you continue your little personal war against this government."

"Then you don't know me very well. I don't use other people 'gainst their will."

"No, you just manipulate them to justify the ends you see as right." Reynolds raked Kriegel with razors in his glare, but Kriegel ignored it and went on. "So what I need to know from you is what Dr. Harder told you, and who else you might have revealed that information to." The captain's face twisted into a half-smile of bitter contempt.

"You're barkin' up the wrong tree. I ain't got no associates or no master plan. I laid down my arms like everyone else seven years ago."

"You expect me to believe that? Given your record since the end of the war? You'll gain nothing by pretending it's not true. The Independents are done for, Captain. They lost."

"Everyone seems to think I don't know that," Reynolds snapped. "You think I took that girl in 'cause I was lookin' for revenge? 'Cause I wanted to put myself through that shitstorm again? You're a ruttin' idiot! I just want to go my way, live my life without the Alliance interferin' none, and keep me and mine safe. I took her in 'cause it was the right thing to do. Only grudge I got against the Alliance is with qu qu bai lei like you who think it's shiny to muck around in a little girl's head to satisfy your paranoid wet dreams! So you tell me, which one of us is still fightin' the war?" The man's fury was almost palpable, and the two locked eyes in a silent battle of wills. Kriegel gave in first, looking down at his dossier.

"Well, if you won't cooperate with this investigation willingly, I suppose I'll have to resort to other methods." He rose.

"Go hump yourself. You can torture me all you like. Ain't gonna do you no good," Reynolds brushed off the threat.

"I didn't say I was going to torture you," Kriegel pronounced ominously. "Miss Serra is at Capital City Medical Center. She is alive, but her condition is still very tenuous. If any… complications arose, she might not make it. Or perhaps Miss Frye might be more compliant with the right kind of encouragement." Kriegel watched the devastating horror of his implications wash over the man. He figured the words had not been created yet that could express the hatred he saw in Malcolm Reynolds' eyes. The captain's jaw trembled, his hands balled into fists so tight the nails drew blood. The churning rage was so blind that he was not even aware he was trying to get up.

"You…!" Reynolds strained against his shackles, unable to speak more than that one strangled word.

"In the meantime, Captain, why don't you go back to your cell and think about your attitude towards this investigation," Kriegel's advice was cold and pitiless. "In any case, you ought to prepare yourself, because once this is over, I promise you the gallows is the only place you'll be headed."

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