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HEAVEN AND HELL: 33. "The Road to Hell"
Monday, June 14, 2004

"Stuck between a rock and a hard place the crew reluctantly agree to the Preacher's offer. Meanwhile Inara Serra is fast running out of time. Only one option remains."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2346    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "THE ROAD TO HELL" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: RIVER/MAL. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "THE WORLD BETWEEN" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Stuck between a rock and a hard place the crew reluctantly agree to the Preacher's offer. Meanwhile Inara Serra is fast running out of time. Only one option remains." 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.

"THE ROAD TO HELL"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Tyrone Garvin had not meant to eavesdrop but he had been hoping to get a moment or two alone with the Captain since picking him up on the Dauntless then bringing him back to Serenity. Serenity. His heart ached just to savour that name. He closed his eyes briefly as if that could shut out the piercing pain in his heart. He had lost two brothers in the Valley but both he and Jeb Tanner had made it out again because of Malcolm Reynolds. Never did think he would see the man again and now every time he made his way to the infirmary it was full of a mix of the Firefly's crew and either the Sheriff or some of Pepper's men. Then there was that whole crazy dance with the girl. What was that all about? Obviously the two were close but how close? He bit back a sigh and was about to retreat once more into the background. Praying all the while that the man would survive. He needed something from Malcolm Reynolds he could get from no other man.

It was at that exact moment that the doctor looked up and locked eyes with him. *Goushi*. Now he'd done it. Simon Tam stared for a moment then casually checked a few more readings before stepping out of the infirmary to see what he wanted. He should have hurried away but suddenly Ty could not get his feet to obey him. Simon noticed he looked terrible, as if he had not slept a wink since he had come aboard. A flicker of concern settled in his eyes. "Can I help you?"

Ty opened his mouth and closed it on empty air. What could he say? That he needed forgiveness from a dying man? How the *diyu* could this fancy doctor understand that? Gorrammit he was not sure he understood the full of it himself. "I uh I uh..."

"Yes?"

"Um," His eyes flickered past Simon's face to the inside of the infirmary and Simon seemed to intuit the question he could not put into words.

"You want to know how the Captain is doing?" He asked quietly.

The man's eyes flashed quickly back to Simon's face to see if the doctor was mocking him but no, he looked sympathetic, concerned and quite professional. But not mocking. It seemed to ease his burden somewhat. He nodded. "*Qu, xiexie ni*."

"*Bu xie*. I wish I could tell you he'll make a full recovery but the Captain's lost a lot of blood. The bullet exploded inside his knee and shattered the patella." Simon paused, seeing the young man pale. "Are you sure you don't want to come inside? I'm sure Mal wouldn't mind if you sat with him a while."

"Who, who's the girl?"

Simon smiled. Ty was amazed what a difference it made to the solemn young man's face. "Her name's River, she's my sister."

Shock. Surprise. A kind of stunned expression settling on his face, the man silently searched Simon's face for any trace that it was a joke. But no, he could see the truth shining back at him. "Is she...? Are they...?"

A bigger smile now. He seemed amused. "Yes, she is and they are but not necessarily in that order."

Ty blinked. "*Shenme*?"

The doctor caught himself and laughed lightly. "*Duibuqi*, silly joke. I just thought it would lighten the mood somewhat. It's just you look so tense."

"The girl an' Mal?"

"Yes, 'River' and Mal." Simon corrected gently. He paused, glanced back into the infirmary for a moment to confirm that his sister and the Captain were still sleeping then turned back to Ty. "It's been a strange few months but they seem good for each other. I take it you know the Captain?"

He nodded. "From the war."

*Ah yes, the ubiquitous war*. It seemed to be the common denominator that bound or divided the 'verse. Why was everything always determined in history by the periods of war rather than those of peace? Why did mankind always crave ascendance through violence? It was beyond him. But then he was no soldier. The politics of hate was not his religion. It became obvious that Ty was undecided what to do so Simon decided for him. "Come on, I need a cup of tea and you look like you could do with one too."

Ty let himself be led to the kitchen area of the commons room. He noticed people moving around but no real conversation going on. It felt like the dead watch, those few hours of late night and early morning when a man's senses were dullest, when the hours were longest, and the silence was deepest. It was also the time when it was most difficult to stay sharp and awake. Simon could see the man was uneasy being around so many other people and once they had their mugs of tea took him to his quarters. As soon as they were inside Ty let out a sigh and seemed to visibly relax. Simon watched him while he drank his tea waiting for the man to tell him what was on his mind. The minutes stretched in silence. Simon resisted the urge to yawn. "You can tell me if you want."

Ty shook his head. "No. Thanks. I just..."

"Yes?"

He felt frustrated. As if he was going round in gorram circles. He looked up and met Simon's questioning gaze. "I need to speak to him."

"*Duibuqi*, I don't know when he'll be in a position to talk to you. *Nin gui xing?*"

"Tyrone Garvin but my friends call me Ty. I was in the Sarge's unit for a while. Met him on Shadow before the war then fought alongside him on Hera."

Simon nodded. He had guessed as much. "He must have made quite an impression on you."

For a moment Ty froze then something in him crumpled. "Yeah, could say that." He looked down at the half drunk tea cradled in his hands. "Kept me an' Jeb alive. Lots of us were on the verge of losin' it. War was going from bad to ruttin' worse but to see him, hear him, you'd think we had the gorram Alliance *hundan* on the run." He smiled briefly then looked sad. The tea forgotten in his hands. "My brothers didn't make it."

"*Duibuqi*."

He looked at Simon for a long minute. "Should'a seen him back then. Not sayin' he was no gorram hero but he held us together, *dong ma*? Never knew a man could put so much steel in folk just with his words an' example. Made me so gorram proud to fight beside him." He broke off, throat painful and closing up with emotion. He noticed the cup in his hands, stared at it for a moment as if it were an anti-personnel mine, then blinked and recognised it as friend not foe. He took a shaky sip and was relieved when his hands steadied again.

"Is that what you wanted to talk to him about?" Asked Simon gently.

Ty shook his head. "*Bu qu*." He hung his head. "I let him down."

The tears were so swift and sudden that Simon felt his heart wrench. He quickly took the cup from Ty's trembling hands and put a hand on his shoulder to steady the man. "*Wode ma, shenme shi*?" Looking at Simon through a veil of tears Ty's control completely broke. "*Shi wo de cuo*, doc. He's lyin' there dyin' 'cause of me! All them men dead 'cause I was too ruttin' blind to see the turncoat for what he was."

Simon was dumbfounded and alarmed. "Turncoat?"

The story spilled out in scattered groups of words that stumbled out as if hanging on to each other for support. Stunned, Simon just listened as Ty told him about Alex Trent and realised that the overwhelming emotion the poor man was struggling to carry was not sorrow as he had first supposed. It was guilt.

* * * * *

"What are you going to do with me?"

The Director showed not a spark of emotion on his face. "You are hiding something."

His words genuinely surprised her. "*Bushi*, how can you say that *shifu*?"

"*Mei shi*, we know the truth. Confess and you may yet live."

Inara Serra stared at him. "I have done everything that has been asked of me."

"Yet you kept the ring."

She blinked. Tried to ignore the trickle of sweat running down her back and moistening her palms with fear. The Director leaned forward in his chair just enough to impress on her the seriousness of his intent.

"*Gei wo kankan*."

"I don't have it."

"*Shuohuangzhe*! Where is it?"

Inara felt dazed. This could not be happening. All over a *lese* ring. "He has it."

"*Shei?*"

"Malcolm Reynolds. I had to be sure the ring was his so it was put on his finger. The fit was perfect. It told us we had the right man."

The Director jumped to his feet, his face filled with a cold rage. Inara could not understand it. Could see no reason for all the fuss. Merciful Buddha, it was just a gorram ring. She watched the Director gradually get his temper back under control. The heat of it was gone. Replaced by something much more deadly. Placing his hands palms flat on the top of the table he leaned forward and trapped her in his icy blue gaze. "The ring is a Phoenix, *qu*?"

She nodded. "*Qu*."

"What stone?"

She blinked. Stone? "Jade."

"What colour?"

Inara was fast losing any sense of reality over this conversation. "Green."

"Imperial green jade." Said the Director, his tone flat.

She nodded. What the *diyu* was going on?

"Do you have any idea of the significance of that ring, Inara Serra?"

A shake of the head. Something in the Director seemed to calm though she sensed the anger was a long slow burn away from reigniting. She did not want to be on the receiving end if it blew.

The Director watched her for a moment then retook his seat. "The Independents have a hierachy within the rebel movement. An underground command and control cell made up of a very select band of men. The hierachy are distinguishable in their ranks by the ring they bear." He waited but when Inara remained silent he continued. "Green is the colour of the field commander."

She blinked. Malcolm Reynolds was a field commander? It was almost funny only the Director was not laughing.

"Do you know the significance of the colour?"

"*Bu qu, shifu*."

"Green for protection. It is his job to command the field but also protect the troops."

"What does any of this have to do with me, *shifu*?"

He leaned forward slightly, eyes glittering sharply like diamonds. "In allowin' both Reynolds and the ring to escape our grasp that command can pass to another. And another. And another. In short, Ms Serra, the rebellion will never die. The Phoenix will simply bide its' time until it's ready to once again rise from the ashes."

For a moment neither spoke. "*Shifu*?"

The Director nodded giving her permission to speak.

"You said rings, *shifu*?"

A slight dusting of cold humour frosted his thick ugly lips. The heavy face spoke to excess as did his ample girth. But the way he used his weight spoke of power not weakness. And for a big man he could be amazingly quick on his feet. Inara had seen him in action. He was not a man to underestimate in any fashion. "We have all but this one."

Inara frowned, remembering something. The Director siezed on it immediately.

"*Shenme*?"

"I do not know the significance, *shifu*, but I do know there is more than one ring."

The silence fell so thick it could have been cut with a knife. After a full minute the Director spoke, his words slow and measured with an odd kind of caution. "What colour was it?"

Inara replied without hesitation. "Green."

The Director actually looked ill. There could not be more than one of each colour. This he knew for a fact. It could only mean one thing.

"*Shifu, ni hao ma*?"

He stared at her for a moment before responding. "*Chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo*! We've been played for *chunren*. Malcolm Reynolds is nothing more than a patsy. Where did you see the second ring?"

She told him about the Captain's brother. How when they were interrogating them Harry had noticed the second ring on a silver chain around Davy's neck. They did not have time to sieze either Davy's ring or the one placed on Malcolm Reynolds' finger to identify him when he professed his ignorance of both the Order of the Phoenix and any involvement in it. She had simply assumed him to be lying. Her instructions had been to find out everything she could about the Phoenix. To look for and sieze any documents. Locate any information and use what she found to locate the leaders. Leaving the ring on Malcolm Reynolds' finger had, in hindsight, been a mistake. Just as leaving the one Davy wore around his neck had been another one. Inara realised she might pay for those mistakes with her life. The breath in her chest became painful as she fought to hold back a sense of inescapable doom.

"I want to know who set him up, Ms Serra. Then I want you to disable that person and bring him to me, *dong ma*? Both rings are to be recovered."

Inara wanted to argue, demand they fulfill their promise to release her to return to Sihnon but better a live operative than a dead one dreaming of home. She realised that she was being given a second chance. Only later did it occur to her to wonder whether she, like Malcolm Reynolds, had been set up.

* * * * *

Zoe was furious. Her eyes blazed, incandescent with rage. Even Wash was wary around her when she was like this and she loved him. Book on the other hand had become not simply the Great Betrayer but also the single most expendable person in the whole 'verse. Man was more than a liability he was dangerous. Simon was actually worried she would shoot the man dead before he finished explaining his plan. Oddly enough the more volatile Zoe got the calmer the Shepherd became. It occurred to Simon to wonder whether the man was attempting to commit a bizarre form of suicide.

"*Ni zai zuo shenme*? You say this is the only way to save the Captain but I been in enough Alliance *jianyu* to know that ain't true. Best you talk quickly Preacher, my patience may be runnin' out but I've still got plenty of ammo."

"I can get you into a top Alliance military hospital. Best trauma unit in the 'verse."

Simon's eyes narrowed suspiciously. The only thing the Preacher had kept from him was the facility's location. "Where is it and how do you propose to get us in there?"

Zoe glared at the doctor. "Don't bother answerin' Preacher 'cause we're not goin'."

The doctor's mouth opened and closed then he found his voice. "Zoe, we have to get the Captain to a medical facility and he doesn't have much time."

The pilot watched the pulse throb in the side of Zoe's neck. The tension in her making Wash all kinds of anxious. He longed to comfort his wife but knew better than interrupt now. "I know that, Simon." She snapped then fell silent, forcing herself to breathe slowly to regain a semblance of control.

Jayne and Pepper chose that moment to step into the commons area. Although Simon was itching to check up on the condition of the Sheriff then get back to the infirmary he did not dare do so until the Preacher's plan had been fully discussed. In equal parts confused and hopeful he was not sure which outcome to wish for. While he wanted the Captain to get the use of those facilities he did not want it to be at the expense of all of their lives. Just what the *diyu* was Book up to? He could see dark suspicion on Jayne's face and an unreadable look on Pepper's. As Zoe filled them in more of Pepper's men joined them. It was starting to get more than a little crowded. Jayne did not like the way things were shaping up.

"If we're gonna start makin' decisions we should *all* be here."

Lightening flashed in Zoe's eyes. "This is the Captain's ship, Jayne. Any decisions will be made by this crew, *dong ma*?"

Jayne opened his mouth to argue but a look from Pepper made him shut it again. Wash frowned. Now that was definitely an odd development. Kaylee had been talking to Deputy Crowther in the guest room, happy to see that the Sheriff was getting some colour back into his face though he was sleeping a powerful lot. She had come to get something to eat and now stared at what looked like an old fashioned Mexican standoff.

"What's wrong?"

Zoe answered without taking her eyes off the Shepherd. "Nothing's wrong, sweetie. The Preacher was just makin' promises he couldn't keep."

She looked warily at Book. "Oh? What kind'a promises?"

"The kind that get the Cap an' the rest of us in Alliance hands." Growled Jayne darkly.

The Shepherd's voice was calm, soothing. The very essence of reasonableness. It chilled Zoe to the pit of her soul. "I was telling the doctor that the Captain needs specialist medical attention and that I know how to get it for him."

"Yeah, gorram Alliance facility." Spat out the mercenary. Pepper moved closer to Jayne but said nothing, his shoulder rubbing against the big man just enough to make him go quiet. If anyone noticed no one showed it. All eyes were fastened expectently on the Preacher.

Deputy Peter Bailey looked baffled. "Isn't the Alliance the gorram enemy?"

Zoe nodded. "It is an' I have to wonder why our *meiyou muqin de xiao gou* double-crossin' Alliance spy is so anxious to get us into the kind of facility that most of their own people don't know about. How about it Preacher? What're you really up to an' why betray the Captain one minute then offer to help the next?"

The Shepherd ignored the anger and the insult. They meant nothing to him. Tone mild he explained. "This facility has the best neogenesis unit in the 'verse. We are talking cutting edge technology beyond anything most of the core planets have seen and that includes Osiris. Once the Captain's condition has been stabilised they will be able to rebuild his shattered leg. He will naturally need a period of recuperation but at the end of it, he will not only recover but be able to walk again. I would think that would be worth takin' a measure of risk to achieve."

Simon considered his words carefully. "Are you saying they can rebuild his kneecap? From scratch? Because that is what they would have to do. You've seen it, there isn't a lot left holding his leg together."

"Exactly." Book paused, speaking to the doctor in Simon but not wanting to jerk Zoe off either. He needed to appeal to her desire to help the Captain if this was going to work. Her loyalty was not in question, her distrust of him was. "A poor choice of words. They don't rebuild so much as regrow."

"Regrow?" Asked Wash in a stunned voice. Was that even possible?

Book nodded. "Yes."

Wash looked dazed and baffled. Zoe suspicious. Kaylee was not sure what to think. She looked at Simon. "Can they do that?"

He nodded cautiously. "If what he's saying is true it should be possible." The doctor stared at Book, thoughts ticking like a countdown in his head. He just hoped everything would not go *boom* when it reached zero. "You're talking about regrowing a patient's own tissues to rebuild the damaged area. How can you do that when the kneecap is gone? I couldn't find any of it and believe me I looked."

"Simon," Said Book almost gently. "He has another kneecap."

A thought occurred to Wash. A queasy one but a thought no less. "Um, here's a thought. What about Davy?"

All heads turned to stare at the pilot making him self conscious but after everything that had happened already he figured he could deal with it.

"His brother. His body's still on the prison transport. Why don't we use one of his?"

Simon shook his head. "Don't you remember how Mal's body rejected Davy's blood?" He looked at the Preacher again, his mind exploring the possibility being dangled before him. *But the body won't reject its' own tissue any more than its' own blood*. It was very tempting to simply accept the Shepherd's offer. After all everything he said was true. Some advanced Alliance medical facilities *did* have the technology but would they use it to save a rebel browncoat? Would they use their precious and nefarious resources to save a man they would rather see dead? It did not seem likely and yet he could not help recalling how the production of Book's identity card had miraculously changed the Alliance decision to help save the Preacher when his life was in jeopardy. The change had been as swift as it had been unexpected. And that was all kinds of disturbing.

The Preacher watched Simon think it through but was still waiting for Zoe to decide. With the Captain out of commission her decision was the only one that really mattered. She looked like she wanted to wrap her hands around his neck and squeeze real hard but she also wanted to save her Captain and friend. After a struggle with conflicting emotions she gave a tight nod. "*Qu*, we'll do this but only if you tell us where we're goin' an' what we can expect when we get there. We don't want any more surprises, *dong ma*?"

He nodded slowly, not letting them see his relief. After all. None of them were any use to him dead. "*Wo dong*."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*goushi* = crap/dogshit *diyu* = hell *qu* = yes (lit. go) *xiexie ni* = thank you *bu xie* = you're welcome *shenme* what *duibuqi* = sorry *dong ma* = understand *nin gui xing* = may I ask your name? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *hundan* = bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *bushi* = not so *shi wo de cuo* = I'm wrong/my fault *shifu* = sir *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *gei wo kankan* = show it to me *shouhuangzhe* = liar *lese* = crap *chunren* = fool/jerk *ni hao ma* = how are you? *chusheng xai-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *ni zai zuo shenme* = what are you doing? *jianyu* = prison *wo dong* = I understand *meiyou muqin de xiao gou* = motherless fucker *shei* = who

COMMENTS

Monday, June 14, 2004 1:05 PM

MALSDOXY


Oh I hope the Preacher turns out to be someone we cab like again...on the edge of my seat, as ever, Ali...So shiny !

Monday, June 14, 2004 8:57 PM

ARTSHIPS


Doesn't sound like Book has the slightest concern for the rest of the crew. But is his concern for Serenity's captain or River's husband? Only you multiply possibilities as a story completes, when other authors would be eliminating them.

Monday, June 14, 2004 10:05 PM

GUILDSISTER


Run, Zoe, run! Turn the ship around and blast the other direction! Cap'n's not gonna like *that place* [shudders of anticipation]

Tuesday, June 15, 2004 12:06 AM

KISPEXI2


Just when I think I've got a handle on where this is going it veers off some place that's else! Feeling a bit confused again, but attribute this to my own dimness.

What the hell is Book up to? Well, at least it seems Mal can be rebuilt. (Whilst they're at it, could they make a clone for me? Pretty please?) So that made me a bit optimistic.

Then I read the chapter title again...


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