FAITH SERIES: 13. "Providence"
Saturday, July 15, 2006

"Problems begin to develop aboard the Alliance ship. Simon can find nothing wrong with Joshua. Zoe puts the Captain on the spot trying to explain just what happened."



SUMMARY: "Problems begin to develop aboard the Alliance ship. Simon can find nothing wrong with Joshua. Zoe puts the Captain on the spot trying to explain just what happened." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The sleek craft trembled and shuddered causing a look of alarm on the navigator's face. He looked up but did not dare say anything. Every effort being made to follow the distant wake of the Firefly. Mr Turner turned a cool dispassionate eye on the Commandant. Considering the stress his ship was under the man appeared amazingly calm, that was until you looked really closely then the slight tick in his left cheek gave him away.

"Commandant Pritchard!"

The man stiffened, lips tight. Waiting like a prisoner on death row.

"What is going on?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*, the ship is under stress..."

Mr Turner did not look impressed. "Impossible! There is nothing out here and we are not travelling at anywhere near full speed. I will not accept lies to cover your incompetence."

The man paled but did not back down. "My men are working on it but so far we are unable to find anything wrong, *shifu*." The Commandant paused as if unable to get enough air into his lungs. "We need to break off our pursuit in order to run a full systems diagnostic..."

He got no further, the first spark of emotion flaring across Mr Turner's face. One slim hand raised in warning, the thin blue glove a sinister reminder of what would happen if he did not do exactly as he was told. "No. You will find the problem and fix it. Nothing else is acceptable, *dong ma*?"

A quick nod then the Commandant was barking out orders, the crew frantically running check after check but there was nothing wrong with the ship. The tremors now began to get stronger. The navigator whet his lips and leaned closer to his screen, anything to avoid eye contact with the Hands of Blue.

* * * * *

River Tam sat in the pilot's seat on Serenity and smiled. Her plan to draw them away from Carousel was working. As she checked her console River's eyes widened in alarm, noticing that the Alliance ship had given up all attempts at stealth and subtlety, the ship closing in on their position with a speed the Firefly could never match. With nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, River did the unexpected. She turned the ship around and waited to meet the other ship head on.

Malcolm Reynolds stumbled as Serenity did a sharp about turn. "*Wode ma*, what in the nine hells is that girl doin' to my gorram boat?"

Hurrying along the catwalk the Captain half ran and half stumbled on to the bridge, his mouth opening to berate River but freezing as he saw what was bearing down on them. Eyes widening, he grabbed the console to stay upright, his eyes glued to the image rapidly filling their screen. "What in the spincter of hell is that?"

* * * * *

It was weird the way the children related to each other, Joshua calming the moment he was with Charlotte Anne. Zoe could feel emotion welling up inside her. Simon looked baffled and shook his head apologetically. "I have no idea what's happening."

"They're children." Chided Kaylee in amusement as Joshua held Charlotte's hand, a look of such content on his face that it made her smile. "Haven't you ever met someone an' immediately liked 'em? Got on with 'em from the get go?"

Simon opened and closed his mouth. "Well actually, no."

Kaylee blinked in surprise. Zoe turned away to hide the smile curving her sombre lips. Simon Tam was such an innocent in so many things. And yet Zoe had no doubt that he would be an excellent father. If there was one thing Simon excelled in it was caring for others.

* * * * *

*Ruttin' diyu, are you sure this is gonna work 'cause they're closin' in on Serenity real fast*

*Where is your faith, Wash?*

*I thought that was what you were for?*

*Hen haowanr, now do as you're told and concentrate*

*Huh, an' I thought Mal was the bossy one*


*Okay, okay, I'm concentratin'. Gaoxing?*


* * * * *

People made the mistake of thinking space was big and empty. A vast sea of nothing between the stars and planets and other celestial debris. Only that was an illusion, a bit like life itself. On the quantum level there was no such thing as empty and not nothing that existed did so in isolation. Everything that was and everything that ever had been had a connection. A resonance that made things like telepathy, distant healing, dream walking and a myriad of other things touch the realm of the fantastical while still being part of reality. All you had to do was tune in to the right frequency.

That frequency was now acting upon the solid, state of the art construction of the Alliance ship, her structure trembling as if caught between the solid and semi solid state. Not quite melting and not quite breaking up. Micro fractures appearing in the superstructure, the bulkheads bending in ways that warped the rods of the eyes tricking the mind into an Escher-like madness as disbelieving crew tried to make sense of what was happening. Mr Turner urged them to increase speed. If they were going to break up he wanted to take the Firefly, her crew and River Tam with them. But they never got that far.

As the sleek vessel came within visual range, the navigator's mouth dropped open in surprise. Instead of running the Firefy turned to face them. The two Hands of Blue exchanged a cold smile of victory. The increasing thrum beneath their feet ignored as they prepared to savour the recapture of their most troublesome project.

In the ether two disparate thought forms merged the resonance that bound the ship into its' solid state, perfecting the purity of that vibration like a tuning fork until it lost all stability and physical cohesion. One minute Commandant Pritchard was closing in on the Firefly, the next snaps and pops punctuated the breaking apart of the ship. Tiny holes peppering the hull as chunks broke off and drifted away. Within seconds the ship disintegrated around them, the cold vacuum of space freezing the men and women on board before they could go all fetal and bloated. Death was a harsh mistress, ripping even their screams from them.

On the bridge of Serenity Malcolm Reynolds stood in shock. River clapped her hands, her face alight with pleasure. The Captain, not so much. He turned and stared at her, his comprehension bruised by witnessing the impossible. "What the good gorram just happened?"

River smiled up at him. "Safe now. Protecting angels aren't just for show."

The Captain blinked. "This mean you really can kill with your brain?"

* * * * *

By mutual consent neither the Captain nor River mentioned what had happened to the Alliance vessel to any of the crew. Mal was not sure any of them would have believed him if he told them anyway. A little white lie to cover the abrupt sharp turn and folk seemed satisfied enough. The Captain still didn't know what had happened but decided it was one mystery that was best left unsolved though the memory of what he had seen would haunt him for the rest of his gorram life. Mal instructed River to adjust their course and make best speed for Carousel. All of a sudden he had an overwhelming urge to feel solid ground beneath his feet.

They were six hours from Carousel and Kaylee was up on the bridge speaking to her folks on the cortex link. The Captain went to the commons room to make up a strong pot of coffee. He needed something to jolt him in the Here and Now and Kaylee's inter-engine mix was off the menu right now. Needed a clear head for when they landed. Plenty of time to get liquored up once the vows had been exchanged and such in front of a preacher. Damn shame they didn't have Shepherd Book no more, that would have been shiny. He sighed and tried not to think about his missing friends, knew this would be ten times harder for Zoe. Her and Wash had married in a chapel on top of a rutting hill in a gale. Not that even the weather could put a dent in the wall to wall happy that shone from the pair of them. He didn't believe in crew relations as such but seemed his crew knew better than to listen to him on occasion. Now Kaylee and Simon were about to add to that list and he was thinking on doing the same with Inara. Mal shook his head in bemusement then took a deep sip from his mug, the dark warmth stealing through his body and setting the unsettled feeling in his gut into some semblance of calm. Or mayhap it was just relief they had any gorram coffee left.

He felt her presence more than heard it. Still the Captain did not turn round, just kept sipping and waiting. She would speak when she was ready.

"What was it?"

The Captain turned and feigned ignorance. "What was what?"

Zoe crossed her arms and stared at him, little Joshua standing right next to her with his head tilted and looking at him expectently. Well weren't they a pair? "Come on sir, don't play dumb with me. We all felt it."

"We were just a mite off course, no big deal *dong ma*?"

Her eyebrows rose in disbelief. Zoe kept her voice deadpan. "We turned through 180 degrees, sir. Don't call that a minor course change." "You spoke to River?"

"*Qu*, couldn't get a lick of sense out of her."

"An' you think I can?" Zoe's demeanour softened just a mite.

"I think you know. What I can't figure is why you ain't tellin'."

"Zoe, you ever think there's some things you're just not meant to know?"

Her stony expression was answer enough. "Shouldn't have to ask an' you know it."

The Captain huffed then took a seat, waving a hand to indicate she should do likewise. Zoe hesitated, not sure whether Joshua should be present for this conversation. "*Fang xin*, Zoe, don't fuss. If the boy understands we can get him to decipher the mystery for us."

That both amused and intrigued her. Pulling up a chair Zoe watched as Joshua ignored the chair she pulled out for him and went to climb on the Captain's lap. Pretending to be all kinds of put upon, Mal pushed his chair back back from the table and helped him get settled. A big smile on Joshua's face as the Captain frowned at him. "Not a word, *dong ma*?"

Joshua mimicked pulling a zip across his mouth and both the Captain and Zoe laughed. It would be hours later before it occurred to either of them that no one had showed him how to do that.

"I'm listenin', sir."

Mal took a moment, trying to choose his words with care. He caught the look on Joshua's face and if it hadn't sounded too damn *shenjingbing* even to his own self would have sworn the kid was dying to see him get out of this one. "Um, now this is gonna sound all kinds of unlikely, Zoe."

His first mate did not bat an eye, just stared and waited. He swallowed hard while trying to pretend he wasn't. Not nobody in the 'verse could out-wait him like Zoe.

"We had the Alliance tailin' us."

Alarm spread over her face quickly followed by a look of confusion. "Had?"

"Uh huh, as is past tense."

"What happened sir an' how come I wasn't told about this?"

The Captain rubbed a hand across the back of his neck, surprised when Joshua took his other hand and gave it a squeeze. It was ridiculous how much better it made him feel, not that he was going soft nor nothing. "Well now, I didn't know my own self 'til I went up on the bridge just as that big curve made the boat yaw. Might have noticed that." Zoe nodded but listened tight lipped. "When I got there I saw this ship, all big black and sleek. Never seen such a mean lookin' craft, was headin' straight at us."

"What happened?"

"Not rightly sure but little albatross was sittin' there as calm as day, not a hint of worry on her face. I asked her what the *diyu* it was an' before I could grasp what in the nine hells was goin' on the ruttin' thing disintegrated."

Zoe blinked, glad she was sitting down. Joshua was smiling, looking up at Mal's stunned expression then turning his head to smirk at his mother. There was something faintly disturbing about having a son brighter than her or her Captain. At times she was convinced Malcolm Reynolds had been dropped on his head at birth. Now she worried that it might be catching. "You mean blew up, *dui*?"

The Captain shook his head and looked all manner of weary. "I know what I mean, Zo, an' that ain't it. Don't know what to say but there weren't no explosion, nothin' to explain the way the whole ruttin' thing just fell apart before my gorram eyes. Was like it had been smited down by the Hand of God, if'n I still believed in Him."

His first mate just stared at him. Zoe could feel a headache coming on. Oh yeah, this was good. She would have to go and talk to River but not right now. Wasn't sure she could take that much wall to wall craziness in one sitting. "Did you go an' hit your head?"


"Did you go an' hit your head, SIR?"

Mal huffed. "I'm kind'a offended you imagine I made it up, Zoe. Thought you knew me better than that."

"Sorry sir, occupational hazzard."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

A little smile tweaked up the corners of her mouth as she stood up. "It means miracles ain't never been our luck, sir."

"You callin' this a miracle?"

"Don't know what to call it unless you're seein' things sir."

Mal's voice went up an octave. "Zoe I ain't seein' things!" "I can always ask Simon to take a look at you. Get a professional opinion."

The Captain was going red in the face now, a fact that totally impressed Joshua. "For the last time, I AIN'T SEEIN' THINGS!"

The ruckass drew Jayne, who only clearly heard the last sentence - bellowed as it was at the top of Mal's lungs. Joshua was trying hard not to laugh. Oh he loved his Uncle Mal something fierce, never was so much entertainment on hand so often and him not needing to spend a credit for the privilege. Only thing missing was popcorn.

* * * * *

The listening post was silent. Delroy Parker was not sure what to make of it. One minute the ship was there, the next it was gone. Hadn't left the area or been blocked by a heavenly body, was just gone. Vanished. Disappeared. He looked at Walt and raised his eyebrows. "Hey Walt, is that supposed to happen?"

Walt shrugged, all manner of uncomfortable. He was used to the Alliance telling him when to jump, his only question being how high. Didn't pay to speculate or ask questions. "Maybe it's some new black ops project? Ya know like them mind bendin' games o' theirs."

"*Wei*, not supposed to talk about 'em, *dong ma*? You want your tongue ripped out an' fed to Reavers?" Walt tried to hide his amusement. "Not supposed to talk about them neither."

"Gorramit Walt, everybody knows what happened on Miranda."

His friend leaned forward. "Yeah, but them as talks disappear." Walt made a poof gesture like some magician from Earth-That-Was. Gave Delroy a creepy feeling. "Just like that gorram ship."

For a moment they stared at their instruments, at a bit of a loss as to what to do. It was their job to track and plot and report back to the Alliance. The pursuit ship had been tracking a Firefly. Walt looked at Delroy. "Ya reckon that old Firefly shot it down?"

Delroy scoffed. "Na, Fireflies ain't got no weapons. They're mid-bulk transports. Crew's most likely wettin' their gorram pants waitin' to die. Whatever happened that ain't it."

"What do we do? We should report this."

"An' do what? Admit we lost one of their top ships off our radar? Don't know about ya Walt but I'm too young to die an' you're just too damn ornery."

Walt was about to protest then thought of all the gorram tests the Alliance would put them through trying to find out whether they were lying. Naturally finding no evidence of a lie they would keep at it, getting more and more adventuresome with their torture devices and what not. Walt swallowed hard, hating how his gorram palms were starting to sweat. "Ya know I was thinkin' o' maybe retirin' next year."

When Delroy did not respond, Walt turned to look at him. All manner of serious now. "Wanna retire early?"

"Hell, yeah!"

* * * * *

If Simon Tam thought the excitement and anticipation on Serenity was manic it was nothing compared to what awaited them when the ship landed on Carousel. Eyes widening he could not keep the shock from his face or out his voice. "*Tianna*, there has to be over a hundred people out there!" Kaylee was grinning, laughing and weeping all at the same time. Bouncing on her toes and trying to speak, hug Simon and run to her folks all at the same time. Behind them Mal was smiling, so gorram happy for them and enjoying the look on his doctor's face. Inara linked her arm in his and was happy to soak up the atmosphere. Zoe smirked and slapped Simon on the shoulder. "C'mon Simon, you're holdin' everyone up."

Taking the hint, Kaylee reached back and grabbed Simon's hand, little Charlotte Anne in the basket Inara had bought them especially. Stumbling and blinking at all the hands reaching out to grab, shake and hug him the poor man didn't know who was who, what was what or how to react. Jayne Cobb had no such trouble, he ploughed through the waiting throng and headed straight for Mrs Frye, ignoring everybody else. A whole passel of kids wrapping themselves around his legs and swinging on his shirt tails while calling out his name with glee. With a grin Jayne gave the woman a bear hug then pulled back, only one thing on his mind. "Now woman, tell me ya been cookin' up a storm or I may just die of disappointment before I pass out from manly hunger."

Laughing, she kissed Jayne's cheek and gave him a fond look. "I think I can rustle up some eats for ya Jayne, but if you finish them busicuits before I hand 'em round the pigs'll have your dinner an' supper too."

"Now that ain't hardly fair threatenin' a starvin' man!"

Giving him a push Mrs Frye stepped away from Jayne and managed to get to her daughter, her eyes widening as she saw the precious bundle in the basket Kaylee was carrying. Tears starting in her eyes, Mrs Frye reached for Kaylee and stared at the baby. "Oh my, ain't he the cutest thing to come outta the 'verse?"

As stunned and shell shocked as Simon was he could only agree.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *shifu* = sir *dong ma* = understand? *wode ma* = mother of God *diyu* = hell *hen haowanr* = very amusing *gaoxing* = happy *qu* = yes (lit. go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart *shenjingbing* = crazy *dui* = correct *shenme* = what *wei* = hey! *tianna* = oh God!


Sunday, July 16, 2006 12:51 AM


Excellent work, I continue to enjoy this series with each posting. I especially love the fact that Zoe flat out didn't believe Mal. Honestly, with that kinda story, who would? I also enjoyed the alliance radar guy's reactions. Not sure I'd want to be in there shoes either.

Keep up the good work,

Sunday, July 16, 2006 8:10 AM


Oh...I get the feeling there's more nutty goings-on to come from our newly angelic duo;)

And ya gotta love Simon's reaction to so many people showing up to greet him and Kaylee and Charlotte Anne:D



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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.