HEAVEN AND HELL: 34. "Not So Good Intentions"
Thursday, June 17, 2004

"The crew set course for the medical facility. The Captain wakes. Inara Serra sets out on a mission that will change her life forever."



SUMMARY: "The crew set course for the medical facility. The Captain wakes. Inara Serra sets out on a mission that will change her life forever." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Simon Tam stared at the Preacher. He had to be kidding him. "*Nar*?"


The doctor blinked, Zoe frowned and everyone else stared as if the Preacher had taken full leave of his senses. It took Simon a moment to steady his voice. "You can't be serious?"

"As a heart attack." The Preacher stated in a calm flat voice. He found their reactions interesting and more than a little amusing.

"We can't take the Captain there!" Stated Zoe firmly.

"You agreed." Was his casual reminder.

Zoe shook her head, "I said I wanted the location of the medical facility before agreein' to anythin'."

"Semantics. It is the finest neogenesis research facility in the entire 'verse."

The doctor's face clouded, torn between anger and revulsion. "And the formost centre for gene manipulation, cloning and experimental biological research on HUMAN BEINGS."

The Preacher resisted the urge to tell him that browncoats were not Human Beings. He had the distinct feeling that piece of humorous aside would not go down well. Present company might think he was being all too serious. Wash looked as if he wanted to be sick. "Biological research?"

Zoe's voice was hard and bitter. "It's where the Alliance take those they consider expendable but of some scientific value. I've heard tales, those of us that fought in the war, of organs being removed from patients while they were still alive to prolong the lives of Alliance soliders badly injured in battle. Made no difference to the *tamade hundan* that the donors were perfectly healthy browncoats." She paused at Wash's gasp of horror, her cold eyes fixed on the Preacher's face. "Bad enough they were awake, some weren't even given anything to numb the pain. All the while the Alliance recorded every cut an' every extraction."

The anger in the room was palpable.

The Shepherd seemed unmoved by their reactions. "To the victor the spoils."

Jayne's muscles bunched as if he were getting ready for a fight. Pepper Rawlings was right next to him and turned his head slightly so he could whisper something into the mercenary's ear without having to raise his voice. Wash found himself watching them and could not shift a deepening sense of unease. He wished the Captain were awake. That he could have the benefit of the man's sharp but canny observations. He might not be core bred like Simon or a genius like River but he was not a man who was easily fooled. Right now so many things felt wrong that he could not relax. They needed to reject this latest plan while there was still time. "I say we find another way."

He could see the same thought on Zoe's face. The Shepherd shook his head as if the choice were inevitable. "The Captain cannot last much longer. This facility can and *will* save his life. The choice is yours whether to take that chance or throw it away."

"You Ruttin' Alliance *hundan*!" Snarled Ty, glaring at the Preacher. His words surprised everyone. Up until this point he had been so quiet and unobtrusive that many of them forgot he was even among them but he was damned if he could sit through much more of this *goushi*. "Doc, there's gotta be somethin' else we can do *dui*?"

Simon was looking at the Preacher, unable to determine exactly what he was up to. It seemed incongruous to him that the man could quite calmly offer to save the Captain in exchange for what? An agonising death? The chance to be biological pawns in a game none of them knew the rules to? What the good gorram was going on? And how in the nine hells were they going to get out of this not only in one piece but with all their organs intact? As if intuiting what the doctor was thinking, Book moved to reassure him. "I have no intention of allowing the Captain to come to harm."

"Huh." Snorted Jayne in disbelief.

"Nor is this a vile plot to have you all captured and marched off to your very painful deaths, as amusing as that might be."

Zoe bristled, a hair's breadth from blasting the Preacher to one of his very special hells by express delivery. She was fast coming to hate him with a level of vengeance rare even for her. "You planned this!"

"Planned? No. Allowed for the possibility? Yes."

"What in the *diyu* do ya mean by that?" Demanded Jayne.

"You have a decision to make. I can tell you this. If you agree to go we can make it to the base within the next seven hours by full burn. If you do not I cannot guarantee the Captain will last much longer."

Simon's eyes narrowed. "That's emotional blackmail."

"No, Simon Tam," Said Book in a suddenly quiet but hard voice. No humour at all in his demeanour now. "That is a fact of life. You may rail against fate, you may try to blame me or anyone else who speaks unpalatable truths, but fact is fact. The Captain *is* dying. I give him a chance to live."

"Yeah, but at what cost?" Murmured Wash mournfully.

Beside him Zoe said not one word. They stood like statues, each staring at the other as if waiting for the hand of God to point them in the right direction. Finally Zoe half turned to face Simon. "Doctor, need you to take a look at the Captain." She said quietly.

His eyes widened in alarm but something in her look made him keep his mouth shut. He gave a nod. Zoe looked around at every face crammed into the commons area. "The rest of you remain here." Her eye caught Jayne's and could tell by his look that he would enforce the 'request'. Nobody was going anywhere until Zoe said so. With that silent reassurance she turned and stomped out of the room, Simon hurrying to keep up with her rapid steps feeling as if he had been conscripted into an enforced route march.

Kaylee watched them go then looked from Jayne to Wash, her large brown eyes so wide they almost swallowed up her whole face. "We can't let the Cap'n die."

No one said anything. Even Wash could not think of a positive spin to put on their current situation.

* * * * *

She had no idea where in *diyu* to start looking. The last place Malcolm or Davy Reynolds had been was on Shadow. She knew because she had followed them. Was pretty sure that if they had not been killed when their Alliance forces moved in they must have sustained pretty bad damage to their ship. In fact it was most likely that Malcolm Reynolds was dead. After all she had triggered the command code in Davy. With his conditioning there was no way he would be able to do anything but obey. Malcolm Reynolds' brother had died a long time ago but his body had been repaired and harvested to use again. Keeping the old memories intact had been a stroke of genius and helped to make him almost indistinguishable from the original. The question as to whether Davy had survived was therefore a moot point but Malcolm Reynolds would not know that and neither would those fools who had followed him. If both brothers were dead she would recover the rings and hand them over to the Director. That was always supposing the ship they were travelling in had not been blasted into subatomic particles of dust. If one or both of them, by some miracle still lived, then she was charged with bringing them back alive as well as siezing the rings. She hoped for their sakes that they were dead.

Inara wondered where to start looking. Where in the 'verse would they go? Somewhere safe obviously. As she flew her vessel back towards Shadow Inara did some deep thinking. Scraping up every little thing she could remember about Malcolm Reynolds in the time she had known him on Serenity. Her heart lurched, breath caught at the simplicity of the solution. Of course. Serenity. The Captain was obssessed by the need to stay one step ahead of the Alliance. That meant he wouldn't settle on land no matter how comfortable or safe it might appear. He would not give anyone the chance to take it away from him. Not like Shadow. Never again. If he still lived and breathed that *lese* ship was the one place he would move everything in the 'verse to get back to. Whether she was right or wrong did not matter. At least she had somewhere to start looking.

* * * * *

It seemed a shame to disturb them. River sat in a chair next to the infirmary bed on which the Captain lay. Her head on his chest, both of them unaware that anyone else was present. River's even breathing seemed to carry the Captain's quieter and less stable breath with it as if his heartbeat were piggy-backing on her own. Simon went up to the bed and began to check the Captain's vital signs. Zoe looked troubled and upset. This was not turning out the way she had hoped. To distract her dark thoughts she walked over to where Yen Mah lay, still unconsious and with seemingly no change in her condition. Zoe blinked and just stared for a moment at the liquid nutrients being trickle fed into the girl's body through the iv drip. Poor kid, just a child, yet every time they saw her she always seemed to be in danger of some kind.

A small sound behind her caused her to turn in time to see River raise her head. Awake now she blinked and looked straight at Simon, her eyes so clear and focused Zoe wondered whether she had really been asleep or just faking it. Knowing River either was possible. Simon finished checking the Captain and smiled at his sister trying to hide his worry but Zoe was not fooled. She stepped up to the bed and gave River a nod before speaking to the doctor. "I need you to wake the Captain, Simon."

He had feared she would ask something like this. Simon shook his head. "I don't think that's a good idea, Zoe."

"Perhaps you're not hearin' me, doctor. Wasn't askin'. I said wake the Captain."

"*Bu qu*. I must protest, this is a terrible idea."

"I'm all outta choices, you got a better one then speak now before we're all outta time as well."

It was River who spoke. "He wants to take him into darkness but the piper demands to be paid."

Simon looked worried. "River..."

"*Wo zhidao* Simon, even though he locks his thoughts behind walls of steel some leaks through. He doesn't see the right or wrong of it, the pain or dispair, the good fighting evil, only the symetry."

Simon was frowning now and Zoe felt that familar mix of loss and sadness whenever River lost coherence. The girl turned her head and stared straight at Zoe. "Not *shinjingbing*. Mind doesn't work the same but the pieces make a picture. Shepherd has to herd his flock by fair means or foul."

"We ain't his flock." Said an unexpected voice.

For a second, silence fell so absolute it was almost painful. Zoe looked down and was surprised to see the Captain staring back at her. He looked pretty fragile, was probably in pain, but it was the best gorram sight her weary eyes had seen in a good while. She resisted the urge to cry. "Good to see you awake, sir."

He grunted. Simon began to fuss over him, causing the Captain to briefly close his eyes then growl softly up at him. His throat was so dry and hoarse that he had to force himself to speak slowly in order to form the words he needed. "Enough Simon, ain't no gorram pin cushion, *dong ma*?"

Simon smiled at him, he couldn't help it. The worry and fear abated a little at this first bit of good news. He had been starting to think he would never see the man conscious again and that had frightened him. None of them would emerge unscathed if anything happened to their prickly and fearless leader.

"Not fearless," Corrected River gently, her eyes softening as she looked at Mal. The fingers of her right hand entwining in his as she gave him a tender smile. "Just determined. Relentless. *Wangu*."

"Hey! Ain't stubborn."

Zoe's lip quirked up a bit. "Think you just proved it, sir."

He opened his mouth to protest then closed it again, a small frown appearing between his brows as he noticed Zoe's grim expression. *Diyu* he was so rutting dry. Simon noticed his discomfort and soaked a small sponge with water. The Captain raised his eyebrows but let the doctor wet his lips with the cooling sponge. He wanted a drink gorrammit but something in the doctor's eyes told him now was not the time. He had neither time nor strength to argue so nodded his thanks and fixed a firm eye on his second in command. "*Shenme shi*, Zoe? You look like Reavers have taken over the gorram boat."

* * * * *

Inara could not take her eyes off the sight. As far as the eye could see debris floated. Bits she could recognise as pieces of various ships, others were ragged mishapen lumps and bits of cloth that may or may not have been human remains. She did not intend to get closer to check. The Companion swallowed hard, well and truly sickened. Had she really stooped so low that this had become acceptable? Yet some instinct told her Malcolm Reynolds was not among the dead. Instinct or hope? Once she would not have wondered why it mattered but she had lived too long, seen too much. She longed for the time she could close her eyes in sleep and no longer be haunted by blood soaked hands or the cries of the dying. She did not kill them but she was complicit in their agony. Her actions had trapped many a rebel. Brought them into the Devil's lair where they would be interrogated, tortured then either used for some kind of experimatation or disposed of. It made her shudder to think of some of the things she had been party to. Once the ends had justified the means. Now Inara Serra did not even know what the ends were any more.

Yet she began her lacklustre search for though she did not want to the alternative was her own death and torture at the very hands she had once served so diligently.

* * * * *

Deputy Andy Crowther sat next to the bed in the spare passenger bunk and thought back on the first time he had met the Sheriff. A snotty nosed boy in and out of more trouble than a man could shake his fist at. His mother worn ragged trying to keep him in check. An absent father gone off to fight in a war the boy did not understand. A war from which he had never returned. The Sheriff had not clipped him round the ear but had read him the rutting riot act instead. Recognising the pain tying the boy up in knots inside he had extended his hand and taken the angry young man under his wing. Tough love they called it. A gift he could not repay was how Andy Crowther thought of it in hindsight. Between the Sheriff's patient but uncompromising guidance and Mary Bowman's warm hearted acceptance of him the young terraway gradually calmed down, began to use his head in ways that were all kinds of surprising. A year later his mother had gone to see the Sheriff in secret to thank him and to ask one last favour. Unbeknownst to her son she had contracted an inoperable cancer. Her last wish was for the Sheriff and his wife to look after her only son.

Three months later the gentle shining light that was Melissa Crowther was extinguished forever and her son was officially taken under the Sheriff's wing. Then two years after that Andy was riding shotgun for the Sheriff on some of his less dangerous assignments. He grew to worship the man though such words would never pass his lips. The truth of it however shone in his eyes and he came to look on the Sheriff's sons as the siblings he had never had. And every year, regular as gorram clockwork, they went with him to the grave where his mother had been buried and with quiet respect laid their flowers alongside his own. If that made him a mite overprotective of the man now slowly beginning to come round it was no one's business but his own. Andy lay a warm hand on the Sheriff's gnarled one and was gratified to see the eyelids flutter open. It took a moment for the Sheriff to focus on his Deputy's anxious face.

"*Wode ma*, what the *diyu* happened, son?"

"You were poisoned."

"*Shenme*? What do you mean poisoned?"

"Doc says it was accidental."

Sheriff Bowman frowned at the seeming improbability. "How so?"

"Seems when you squeezed the Captain's hand that ruttin' ring of his injected some kind of poison into you."

Shock. There was no other word for the look on his face. "The boy's ring did this to me?"

Only the Sheriff could look on Serenity's Captain as a boy. The Deputy nodded then frowned his own self. "Don't ask me to explain it, Sheriff."

He thought about that. Tried to sit up but was still too woozy to manage it.

Andy patted his shoulder gently. "Best stay down until you get your space legs."

The Sheriff snorted. "I had my space legs before you were born, *haizi*." Andy smiled. The Sheriff began to frown again as he mulled over what his Deputy had said. "If'n I got gorram poisoned then how come I ain't dead?"

"Seems the doctor had an antidote."

That surprised him. "Oh? How come?"

"Not sure, *shifu*, but last I heard they were more concerned with some Alliance medical centre."

Memory flooded back. This time he enlisted his Deputy's help to sit up despite the young man's protests that it was too soon. "I want to know everythin', son, an' don't go leavin' nothin' out. Why the talk of an Alliance facility? Apart from feelin' a mite weak I feel fine. Not gonna run no ruttin' marathon, *dong ma*, but I don't think I need more doctorin'."

Deputy Crowther chose his words with care, not wanting to hurt a man to whom he owed so much. "The doctor's not worried about you, he expects you to make a full recovery. He thinks the Captain is like to die without proper medical facilities."

Sheriff Bowman swore and gripped his Deputy's shoulder hard, using the leverage to swing his legs off the bed preparatory to standing. Alarmed, Andy Crowther tried to disuade him when the Sheriff shot him a look so stubborn the breath in his lungs froze. "Help me or leave me be, Andy. Ain't gonna let the gorram Alliance get their hands on that boy any more than I'd let 'em touch you."

"But the doctor said..."

He snorted. "Don't care what that fancy doc says my instinct is screamin' an' shoutin'. Help me up, son. I gotta stop this nonsense before this whole circus blows up in our gorram faces."

The Deputy was thoroughly confused now. "But the doctor is worried, *shifu*, an' we both know this crew would do anythin' to look out for each other. So why the worry?"

The Sheriff grunted as he heaved himself awkwardly to his feet, swaying a moment until he got his balance, one hand on the Deputy's shoulder as he fought off a wave of nausea. "I ain't gifted medically but I seen my share of terminal damage son. Seen all kinds of blood loss made good, wounds patched up an' bodies put back together that not even a mother would recognise."

"But he's dyin'..." Said the Deputy gently as if fearing the Sheriff was deluding himself.

"Says who?"

"The doctor an' that Preacher."

The Sheriff swore. "If that back-stabbin' Shepherd is involved we'd best hurry. I got a bad feelin' about this son."

Deputy Crowther knew better than to argue when the Sheriff had the bit between his teeth.

* * * * *

Londinium was the capital city of New Earth. As shiny as the technology the Core Planets had filled it with. Part of Londinium had purposely been built to resemble one of the lost cities of Earth-that-was but the rest was like some technological industrial centre with shabby outlying districts where the real people lived. Inside that fabricated ring of wealth and shining steel a metal heartbeat ordered the days and nights of every living thing caught within its' radius. Nothing and nobody moved or breathed on New Earth without the express permission and knowledge of their Alliance masters. And right in the very centre was the floating dome. A huge top security medical research facility that hung above the infrastructure of the city like some glowing malignant melanoma fashioned as a shining pearl. Visitors marvelled at it. Strangers gawped, seeing only a vast and garish display of wealth and privilege. Only those with an inkling of its' real purpose saw it for what it was. And the knowing produced nightmares that never slept. It's secrets hidden in plain sight.

Wash was not sure what Zoe wanted him to do. While she had agreed to let Book get help for the Captain, said Captain had been arguing vehemently against it. River looked both sad and worried. Only her plea for him to calm down had silenced the Captain enough for the doctor to get a word in edgeways.

"Mal, I can't do any more for you."

"Simon, not havin' this converstion - *dong ma*?"

His refusal made the doctor stiffen and become more formal. "If we don't have this conversation Captain," Said Simon bluntly, putting him on notice. "You are going to lose that leg. And if that happens there's a good chance you will not recover."

The Captain blinked, trying to hide how laboured his breathing had become. Silent and white faced, River held his hand and hung on to him. "You sayin' I'm gonna die, doc?"

Simon swallowed. This was *not* how he had intended to break the news to the Captain. "*Qu*."

A pained silence fell. Since Zoe had made her decision and told everyone that the Captain was now awake the others had filtered through to the now crowded infirmary while Wash had gone to lay in a course for New Earth. Pepper and his men crowded the catwalk, the Deputies strung out into the hallway and just inside the infirmary door. Serenity's crew standing around the Captain's bed with a range of solemn emotions on their faces. Jayne could feel his throat tightening. Wished he could lash out at something but all he could do was listen. Was one of the hardest gorram things he had ever had to do.

The Captain's voice sounded steady, matter of fact. "How long I got?"

"I can't be sure. A couple of days at the most."

Mal took a hard look at the Preacher. "Seems you're determined to get me to your masters."

"I'm just trying to help, Captain."

River frowned but said nothing. The Preacher had closed his mind off so completely she could not tell what he was thinking. It made her wary and uncomfortable but he did not seem to be actually lying. The Captain glanced at Zoe's tightly compressed lips, the expressions on everyone's faces telling their own tales of misery and distrust. Not one of them looked happy. "Ain't gonna die in no gorram Alliance torture house."

"It's a medical facility," Said the Preacher patiently as if he had been expecting this reaction.

"Know what you said." Snapped the Captain. He took a breath, trying to get enough air into his lungs. Getting all upset and quarrelsome was not helping. River tried to soothe him with her thoughts but her own worry was making it hard. He squeezed her hand before continuing. "If I'm gonna die I'd rather do it here on Serenity *dong ma*?"

Zoe blinked back tears. She was *not* going to cry, gorrammit. "Book says he can get you inside, get you operated on. They can save the leg, rebuild the tissue and so on. You'll recover, be able to walk again."

His voice was subdued as he answered her. Knowing how much those words must be costing. How tough it had been for her to tell Wash to lay in a course he opposed. It was obvious to him that she intended to convince him it was the only option by the time they reached New Earth. "That what he says?"

She nodded. Kaylee took Zoe's hand but her throat had closed up robbing her of any words of comfort.

"Captain," Said Simon slowly. "I wouldn't even be suggesting this if I thought there was any other way."

Mal nodded. "*Wo zhidao*, Simon." It was the one thing he could be sure of. Getting anywhere near the Alliance was anathema to Simon Tam. Boy had burnt all his bridges getting his sister out of their clutches. Coming here had to be the closest thing to a death wish for him and River as he could get. That told him more than anything else just how dire the doctor considered the situation was. He swallowed carefully, not wanting to make this any harder on his crew. Especially River. "If I do this Simon you gotta promise me somethin'."

The doctor was immediately suspicious. The Captain would not look at River. Did not dare in case his resolve shattered. "What promise?"

"This may still be some kind of trap." The Preacher opened his mouth to protest but a glare from the Captain made him shut it again. "Ain't gonna put everyone's neck in no gorram noose. If this is the way it has to be then makes sense to minimalise the risk. If I go down I go with the Preacher, no one else *dong ma*? Rest of you need to retreat a safe distance, some place you can hit atmo an' get deep in the Black if things go wrong I'm thinkin'. Before those *wangba dans* can catch up with you."

Everyone started talking at once. The Captain let them vie to be heard, closed his eyes a moment to get himself under control. Head spinning, sweating profusely and feeling more and more dizzy and light headed as time went on. He was not sure how much longer he could stay conscious. River was crying quietly, not sure what to advise him. She knew Simon believed this was Mal's only chance. Sensed that the Preacher believed everything he said but that did not necessarily make it true. If he was being honest with them why was his mind shielded? Why was he so careful to keep her out? Something did not add up and that worried her.

Zoe pursed her lips and gave an ear piercing whistle. An immediate silence fell cutting off the sounds of their dischord like a guillotine through butter. The Captain forced himself to open his eyes and concentrate as best he could. Owed his crew that much at least. "Sir, this is a bad decision."

"Thought you wanted me to take the doc's advice?"

"I do, sir, I just don't like you goin' down alone. We should go down with you."

"Not this time. If things are as critical as the doc believes numbers ain't gonna improve my odds, Zoe, you know that."

And she did. What she couldn't say out loud was that she did not trust the Captain with only the Preacher to watch his back. A man who had been so creative in his betrayal was hardly the person she would have chosen to protect her friend. "At least let me or Jayne go with you."

He gave a slight shake of his head. "No, mind's made up unless you gotta better idea?"

*Keep flying* thought Jayne, but he dared not say it. Everyone was so gorram tense. After a moment Zoe shook her head. "*Bu qu*."

"That's what I thought." He closed his eyes again, so faint and dizzy, the pain beginning to make inroads into his ability to think straight. When he opened his eyes again Simon was hovering over him with deep concern.

"I at least should go with you."

Mal grit his teeth. "Not gonna happen, doc. Just give me somethin' for the pain but not enough to knock me out. Sooner we do this the sooner it'll be over."

Simon could not speak. He looked from the Captain to his sister. Saw River's worried look, her eyes shiny with unshed tears, and knew she had not told the Captain about the baby. It broke his heart to think of what would happen to her if this didn't work but he owed it to her to do all in his power to keep the man she loved alive. For her, for the baby, and for a crew that had come to believe this stubborn but noble man could do most anything in the 'verse he set his mind to. It was something of an epiphany to realise he agreed with them.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*Nar* = where? *tamade hundan* = fucking bastards *hundan* = bastard *dui* = correct *goushi* = crap/dogshit *diyu* = hell *lese* = crap *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo zhidao* = I know *shinjingbing* = crazy *dong ma* = understand *wangu* = stubborn *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wode ma* = mother of God *shenme* = what *haizi* = child *shifu* = sir *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wangba dans* = bastards


Thursday, June 17, 2004 3:10 AM


Darn me, but that was good. Again.

"Malcolm Reynolds' brother had died a long time ago but his body had been repaired and harvested to use again." - morbid and creepifyin' - and a damn clever twist.

Lovely ending. Brought a tear to the eye!

Thursday, June 17, 2004 1:02 PM


New gal here.

Just wanted to say that Heaven and Hell is the best fiction I've read in a very long time (from any fandom). I look forward to every new chapter.

Thank you for once again making my day!

Friday, June 18, 2004 3:23 PM


Another great chapter Ali...i feel for our gallant captain...noble to the end...

ATTN: mtngirl- you should read all of AMDOBELLs favs are No Dominionn, The Forgotten Realm and The NIne Hells Series

Saturday, June 19, 2004 7:47 AM


Wonderful! Wrenching us about with conflicted feelings... great.

Surprised the captain relented--didn't figure he was gonna get a vote in the matter.

Always so happy when I check in and see another chapter up and waiting to be savored!


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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.