|Star Trek: Banshee Squadron episode|
|"Absalom West and the Worst of Woes"|
- Against West's advice, Max Vasser takes on a simple bounty-hunting job, but uncovers instead an ancient legacy of cold-blooded murder and manipulation. Faced with a shocking foe, she finds her most basic moral convictions called into question, and now she must choose between risking her life and losing her very soul!
Absalom West and Maxine Vasser are out of money and there is little work to be found on Serenity. Max suggests a bounty hunting gig. West refuses but does not elaborate. Max accuses him of being a lazy bum, and West is inwardly hurt that she has lost faith in him.
The Hunting of the Snark
Max beams down to hunt the man called Snark, and follows him into a nightclub where the famous child prodigy Danno Chimeron is playing. Another criminal called the Boojum gets to the Snark first and kills him. The Snark's dying words to Max are a plea to help the Boojum. He gives her a strange glowing marble.
A Little Information Is a Dangerous Thing
Max beams back to the SS Rocinanté to report her failure. The bounty is lost, but she is now determined to find out why the Snark wanted to help the Boojum and what the marble is. West pleads with her to drop it but she ignores his advice. She beams back down to get information from the mysterious ruggedly handsome El Taco manager guy Rick. He advises her to just drop the whole thing, but she ignores his advice. Meanwhile, West has discovered that the marble absorbs all forms of energy. He pleads with Max again to drop her investigation, but she refuses, saying if West won't back her up she'll go alone. West and Max part.
The Worst of Woes
Max angrily leaves the Rocinanté for good. She tracks the Boojum to an old warehouse and confronts him there, but learns the shocking truth that the Boojum is really 12-year-old Danno Chimeron. Danno tries to kill Max. She shoots him with her phaser accidentally set on 'kill', but Danno's body is nowhere to be found. She tracks him to a place outside the city. They have a showdown, and Max shoots Danno with the strange energy-absorbing marble the Snark gave her. Robbed of his special energy, the child is revealed to be a thousand-year-old being.
- Max felt her heart begin to beat faster. How did you stop an immortal like the Boojum — one who was dedicated to evil, who was beyond salvage? Throw him in prison for all the rest of eternity? Deport him to another part of the galaxy where he'd be someone else's problem? No... Max had no illusions about how their encounter would end. There was only one way to stop an immortal like the Boojum once and for all. But could she bring herself to do it? To kill a child...? Would that be a deed for which she would ever be able to forgive herself? Which was the lesser or greater evil — killing Danno Chimeron, or letting him live? Would she be able to live with herself if she killed a child? Would she be able to live with herself if she let his unspeakable evil remain free? Max felt a tightening pressure in her chest as her conscience wrestled with the terrible moral impasse. She wasn't used to this sort of ethical ambiguity. As a Starfleet fighter pilot during wartime, her course had always been clearly defined in her mission orders — find the bad guys and shoot 'em down. It had been simple, requiring no independent thought on her part, and she had been very, very good at it. But now for the first time, the big decision was fully in her hands. The fate of a thousand-year-old boy rested squarely on her shoulders. Her conscience — her soul — would have to bear the consequences of whatever she decided.
- "What is the worst of woes that wait on age?" he quoted in a breathless whisper. "What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow? To view each loved one blotted from life's page, and be alone on earth, as I am now." Danno Chimeron, the Boojum, turned his head a tiny fraction to look in Max's eyes. "Do you understand?" he whispered. He was without breath, yet his tone was urgent. In his last moments, he desperately needed someone to whom he could bequeath the one great gem of wisdom that he had learned during his long life. "Do you... underst...?" His filmy eyes drifted closed and his last breath hissed from his lips. Max looked skyward and saw a fast-moving pinpoint of light. She thought of West and the Rocinanté. She understood.
- This story was inspired by a Cowboy Bebop episode.
- Originally, West and Max were not supposed to become estranged and break up by the end of the story, but that was the direction the story insisted on going, and who am I to argue with the Muse?
- This story is among my favorites, and the illustrations are among my favorites.