Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Inara is close to all out panic, frantically trying to think of some way to save her friends. Shepherd Book discovers that sometimes you don't need to pray for God to hear you."



SUMMARY: "Inara is close to all out panic, frantically trying to think of some way to help. Shepherd Book discovers that sometimes you don't need to pray for God to hear you." 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

* * * * *

Above Savanna, Inara Serra stared in horrified fascination. The sight of her friends trapped with no way out was constricting the walls of her heart in ways that made her light headed and beyond anxious. But it was the arrival of the Alliance ship that stunned her most. The Senator did not speak and Inara could not bear to turn around and see the smug expression that she was sure would be plastered on his disingenuous face. Tightening her hands into fists she was oblivious to her nails cutting into the palms, her heart beating so fast and with such tension that it was a wonder she managed even this poor excuse for calm. But it was all she had. Now the Companion had to trust that Leylani knew what she was doing and that help was on the way.

* * * * *

It was with a great deal of trepidation that Charlie Harding looked out from the observation room of the old mining transport and got his first glimpse of the proto-moon but it wasn't Savanna that made the breath catch painfully in his chest. "*Wode ma*! What the good gorram is this?"

John-Joe Rae hissed through his teeth, alarm making his response sharp. "This is suicide!"

Charlie muttered something dark and unintelligable under his breath, easing their bulky vessel so that they could approach slowly yet still keep their distance. "You may be right."

"Maybe? What part of a painful horrific death do you not understand? That there is an Alliance DREADNOUGHT! We were told to watch for a private vessel, Chas, not the pride of the Alliance ruttin' fleet."

A heavy silence fell, both men staring at the huge ship. It took several moments before they spotted a smaller vessel almost lost in the gravity well of the dreadnought. Having spotted it they cut their speed further, noticing the smaller ship was in geostationary orbit of the proto-moon. Was the Companion still on board? How in the nine hells were they supposed to get her off and on to their ship without raising all manner of alarms and getting theirselves shot to itty bitty pieces? They were still far enough out to be able to make a minor course correction which would allow them to bypass both Savanna and her welcoming committee but it wasn't as easy as that. Charlie owed Lord Warwick and as terrified as he was by what faced him, he would not be forsworn. He shot his friend a sidelong look, as if reassuring himself that JJ would stand four-square beside him. "We'll tuck behind the far side."

JJ blinked. "Are ya *shenjingbing*?"

"*Bu qu* an' I'm not gonna be forsworn neither, *dong ma? Fang xin*, have an idea."

"I wish I hadn't let ya talk me into this."

His friend didn't say how much he echoed those sentiments nor how glad he was that they had rounded up what crazy friends they had left willing to join in this gamble. There were fifteen of them all told, mostly ex-Browncoats but with one or two curious exceptions. Neither Charlie or John-Joe had fought in the war but they had been up to their necks in the resistence doing their own part in fighting for freedom. This though, this was sticking their heads above the parapet wall. Could be this time some *hundan* would shoot their fool heads off. Charlie mulled over the odds and huffed. "We need help," he murmured.

"Yeah." Said JJ leaning heavily on the sarcasm. "I'm thinkin' the psychiatric kind. Ya know, the room with NO view an' men in white coats an' pointy needles?"

"Okay, *bizui*, I need to think."

"No, ya need to retreat! Don't think of it as runnin' away just a strategic withdrawal. Ain't no shame in steppin' away from superior forces."

But his friend was only half listening. Charlie's sharp eyes taking in the strange tableau before them while he mentally sifted through all his old contacts. They would need guns an' men with the wherewithall to use them. Good men, able and willing to fight. The old mining transport had no guns but it was the most solid hunk of junk in the 'verse. It could take a mighty battering without so much as nicking the paintwork, or what was left of paintwork on the rusting hull. Carefully he piloted them around the back side of Savanna, neither man taking a clean breath until the Alliance ship was blocked from view by the proto-moon. John-Joe felt a relief so profound he might need the bathroom.

"So Charlie, what kind'a help we talkin' about?"

Charlie grinned. "The kind that always answers, fights without question an' don't know when to quit."

His friend swore fit to curdle new milk. "We already lost that war!"

"Oh yeah an' don't it still burn?"

JJ blinked, trying to sort through an argument that would sway his foolhardy friend and still leave them talking to each other. "Look, maybehaps we should wave your man? Once he knows what we're up against..."

"Can't. Won't."

"This is somethin' we can't win, Chas."

Charlie didn't even go down that path, his mind already racing ahead. Plotting and planning. "You still got contacts on Beylix?"

"Oh no ya don't. ain't draggin' me into this madness."

"Less you're feelin' a mite slow you're already in it. We gotta pool our resources if we wanna get out of this."

"Could if we lit out now." Said JJ hopefully. The steel in his normally affable friend's eyes made his heart sink.

"Ain't runnin'. I got a couple'a folk I can wave, even got their own boats last I heard."

JJ sucked his teeth, an anxious habit left over from childhood. "This is *shen goushi*, ya know that?"

His friend nodded. "An' then some."

John-Joe Rae ran a slightly shaky hand through his hair, knowing he was going to regret this. At least, he hoped to live long enough to do just that. "Alright but if my contacts don't wanna come runnin' that's it, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo tongyi* an' if ya want out best we make plans for that but whatever happens, whether we get the backup or not JJ this is somethin' I gotta do. I ain't leavin' 'til my debt is paid."

The next half hour was spent in frantic calls, scrambled and in code. Charlie gave a grim little smile, roping in old die-hards like Hiro Tanaka, Harry Renshaw, Pete Downey Thomas and the Walrus. Some of the others cried off, had settled down with families and kids and such. He couldn't blame them but part of him ached for the lack. JJ managed to get half a dozen old contacts to return to harness though almost to a man they had wanted more details than could be given over the wave. "Where ya wanna meet up, Charlie?"

Charlie didn't even have to think about it. "Give 'em these co-ordinates an' tell 'em to head for the blind side."

"*Shenme*?" JJ looked shocked. "Are ya outta your tree? There's no way anyone lookin' can fail to notice a scatter of ships congregatin' in the middle of No gorram Where."

"Then make sure they do it casual like."

A string of virulent Chinese made Charlie Harding chuckle. Grim as their predicament was likely to become it lightened his heart some to have his best friend there beside him when it happened. Another hour slid by slow and painfully before either man spoke again.

"Your 'friend' give a time frame for this dumb little rescue?"

"Nah, just as soon as could be managed."

"He gonna pitch in?"

Charlie shook his head. "Told ya, he couldn't."

"What about them on that planet?"

"Didn't give any details, JJ. Said the woman would know."

Another string of Chinese cussing spilled out of John-Joe's mouth, his powers of speech deteriorating at an alarming rate. Privately, Charlie was impressed with the breadth of his repertoire. Hadn't realised JJ knew so many gorram words. John-Joe paused long enough to glare at him. "I can't believe this whole idiot's charter rests on the word of a gorram whore..."

* * * * *

The drop was not as big a problem as Book had feared, lights coming up seconds before he hit bottom. Luckily the Shepherd kept in good shape and automatically bent his knees to absorb some of the impact as he landed, his agile mind taking in every detail. Book's eyes widened as he looked around surprised to find himself not in a tunnel or shaft but a round room. Moving cautiously he noticed the lights were movement sensitive, winking out as he moved forward, the shadows before him illuminated as he advanced.

He paused. This was new. Already his mind was collating information, comparing this with the passages he had traversed with the other members of the crew on the other side of the proto-moon. At first it puzzled him then everything clicked in his mind. The tunnel system and the domed chamber on the other side were keyed to respond to the animals. This room by contrast was tailored towards humans. Not sure whether to be relieved or concerned Book continued to look around, hoping to glean a clue as to the purpose of the place. At first it had looked empty and sterile but unlike the tunnels he had been in before the surface of the walls were like a grey metal, similar to a matt stainless steel but with some give in its' structure as if the metal surface was superfine but strong and padded. How metal could have such elasticity he did not know though he had heard of projects to develop just such a material none of them had been successful. Until now it seemed.

Curiosity getting the better of caution, Book touched one section of the wall, letting his hand rest longer while he carefully prodded and probed hoping to find a switch or hidden panel. A soft hiss made him jump back. The spot where he had touched the metal surface was deformed to the imprint of his hand like memory foam. As he watched the imprint changed colour, turning almost transparent blue. The Shepherd blinked, it reminded him of a sensor pad. Acting on an impulse Book placed his right palm back on the wall, fitting it perfectly to the impression. As his skin connected with the surface the lights dimmed and consoles lit up all along the wall. Book's mouth fell open. "Oh my!"

As his eyes widened he found a single thought while thus connected threw data up on to the screen directly above his hand. If he pulled his hand back everything went dark again, the screens going blank and the overhead lights slowly coming back on. Trying to curb his excitement, Book put his hand back on the wall and wondered where the others were. Without so much as a flicker another screen lit up, this time a monitor. The Shepherd could hardly believe how intuitive the state of the art technology was to his thoughts. Silently he asked for a veiw of the surface and took the time to pan and scan, relieved to see Serenity was still in one piece and where they had left it. He was about to change the view when movement caught his eye and he had the interface zoom in, alarmed to see an Alliance troop transport descend and land next to Serenity. Book held his breath as rows upon rows of elite Red Division troops poured out.

"*Tianna*, I have to warn the others!"

* * * * *

Simon Tam was beside himself. "No, *mei mei*, you can't do this."

"Have to. Decision's made."

"I won't let you."

River spun and stared at him. "Simon, I know what I have to do."

"But this place is evil. If you go in there you won't come out!"

"Simon, the reason the brain died was lack of nutrients and age. I won't be inside that long. Seconds - minutes at the most."

The Captain looked uneasy, none of them happy at what they were hearing. "Rare as it is for me to agree with your brother I have to say this is all manner of creepifyin'. It ain't safe."

Their resident genius knew what they were thinking. Their vision filled with the messy splatters of brain and blood from the last occupant. The stale metallic scent befouling the air and filling them all with a deep sense of revulsion and dread.

"Surely there's another way?" Wailed Kaylee.

Jayne eased Vera into his hands, ready to fire and blow the eerie assed place to pieces. It was Zoe who cut through the rising clamour of protesting voices. "Maybe there is another way."

Silence fell, cutting through the babble like a knife. Wash looked over his wife's shoulder, his eyes widening first in disbelief then joy. "*Tianna*!"

The Captain frowned. "*Shenme shi*, Wash?"

Turning, the Captain froze as he saw what had caught his pilot's attention, a wide grin splitting across his face. "Book? How in the nine hells..."

"Cap'n!" Book's disembodied voice interrupted him from an inbuilt screen that had miraculously activated. As far as Mal could make out not no one had touched a gorram thing yet there it was.

"Are you ever a sight for sore eyes, Preacher."

"I don't know how long I can communicate on this system Cap'n before bein' detected."

The Captain's grin vanished, his look serious as he waited for Book to explain. Zoe moved alongside him. "Where are you?"

"The other side of the moon." Book paused and forced himself to concentrate on the matter at hand and not get side tracked by the wonders of this technological gift horse. "This place seems to be some kind of control room, Cap'n, but it's unlike anythin' I've seen before."

"Don't much care how amazin' it is, can you get us the good gorram outta here?"

Book gave a cautious nod. "I think so..."

The grin was back on the Captain's face. "Then what are you waitin' for?"

"Cap'n, it might be wiser to stay put for a while."

Despite the Shepherd's words of caution Zoe shook her head, pre-empting his argument. "We know about the purplebellies, Shepherd."

He looked surprised. "You do?"

Jayne nodded. "They're stompin' around overhead. Don't know how much longer we've got 'til they find us."

The Shepherd hesitated, torn. Zoe spoke quickly hoping to speed things up. "Shepherd, if you can do somethin' we'd appreciate it. Before River tries to link her brain to the operatin' system."

Alarmed, Book looked for River. "River, can you hear me?" The girl moved into camera frame. "She hears and she understands but the clock is ticking."

He nodded. "Don't do anythin' until I've seen what I can do, *dong ma*?"

River glanced back at the dome, shuddered at the sight of the blood splattered cradle and nodded. "That won't be a problem."

The Shepherd looked relieved. "*Hen hao*."

Kaylee leaned closer to the screen, curiosity over riding her fear. "Watch'a gonna do?"

Trying to sound more hopeful than he felt, Book's honesty would not let him lie to his friends. "The truth? I honestly don't know."

* * * * *

The big man stared over his pilot's shoulder. His eyes wide in disbelief. "You want us to what?"

Charlie Harding somehow managed to keep eye contact, his voice firm to indicate that this was no joke. "We can't get to the vessel because there's an Alliance dreadnought in the way."

"An' why would any self respectin' Cap'n put his ship an' crew in peril for a whore?"

This was the hard part. Maybe her name would ring a bell? "I've been told the lady's name is Inara Serra, a first tier Companion."

An incredulous look came over the big man's face. Inara Serra? Of all the tight spots a person could get themselves into he had not thought she would be in the middle of it. Which meant... "You said there was folks trapped on the planet?"

"Not so much a planet, more of a moon." The Captain nodded, his right hand scratching thoughtfully through his bushy beard and moustache. If Inara was up to her neck in trouble he knew who was down on that moon. Only one man attracted Alliance trouble with such frustrating regularity. Part of him was amused but the greater part worried for his friend. "What you wantin' me an' mine to do?"

"Think ya can create a diversion? Somethin' massive enough to move that gorram ship out of the way long enough for us to get the Companion off?"

He got a slow thoughtful nod back. Again with the absent minded grooming. "I notice you got a ship, how many men you got?"

"Fifteen on board an' half a dozen other ships like yours a-comin'."

That tweaked his interest. There weren't many ships like his in the Black and those that there were he knew. "What they gonna do?"

"We don't know where the folk on Savanna are gonna be, reckon we split the area up the better to search an' find 'em before any more Alliance turn up."

"You don't say how many of them purplebellies are on the ship an' how many went down to the surface."

Charlie shook his head apologetically. "*Wo bu zhidao*. The dreadnought was already here when we arrived, had to hide round the backside of the gorram moon."

"I got a Kingfisher, no armour platin' an' no guns but the ones me an' my men're carrryin'. What type of ship you got?"

"An old minin' transport."

The man's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "What use is a *lese* piece of junk like that?"

Charlie was shoved to one side so John-Joe could stick his grinning face up to the com screen. "If all else fails we can always ram it!"

Charlie began berating his friend but JJ's words had given the burly Captain an idea. "*Wei*, how heavy is that vessel of yours?"

"Dunno, but it's as heavy as anythin' capable of flyin' has a right to be an' then some, *weishenme*?"

"Just think your man had a good idea. Not a bright one but maybehaps good enough."

"What're ya gonna do?"

The mountain of a man laughed, a rich deep sound that brought a ghost of a smile to Charlie's anxious face. "Wouldn't miss a shindig like this for the 'verse. We'll meet ya out back with the others, hammer out a plan an' show the gorram Alliance not to mess with our people."

Charlie blinked as the screen went black. 'Our people'? He turned and stared at John-Joe. "What do ya suppose that was about?"

JJ grinned back. "Dunno but somethin' tells me the Walrus knows who's down on that gorram moon."

Charlie Harding nodded slowly, deep in thought. "He certainly seemed to know the Companion."

* * * * *

The panther moved with rapid stealth. Not intentionally but automatically. The snake and monkeys hurried to keep up, a brightly coloured butterly fluttering ahead to the curve in the corridor then flitting back before going ahead again. The panther coughed softly and when the corridor ahead split they moved down the left hand side hardly breaking stride. The corridor continued for many feet before taking a gentle downward curve. The panther slowed right down, the others following suite. As they rounded another bend they were met by a crocodile and a Giant Panda. The panther rocked her head and growled in greeting, more animals crowding in behind the Panda. Snakes slithered past the crocodile to join the anaconda, their sinuous reptilian grace undulating in coils and twists as they greeted each other.

Then they were off again, turning back to the fork in the corridor and going up the right hand one. Other animals joining them as they progressed up towards the surface. The air thick with butterflies, more than Kaylee had seen around River. More even than she could count even if they were sitting still which they weren't. The air was frenetic with their activity, the animals taking no notice below them. Feet, hooves, claws and paws consumed the ground beneath them. The plan unravelling between them until they approached the hatch the Alliance Red Division had just breached. Quiet befell the animal host, stealth now more important that speed. The animals opened and closed doors hidden and moulded into the passageways. Hiding their presence until the right moment presented itself. The snakes were many different species but all took their cue from the giant anaconda. Like courtiers around their queen they rushed to do her bidding, all the while sliding their bodies in and out of contact with her own as they fussed and accompanied her through a gap in the corridor wall, the opening sealing shut behind them and leaving not so much as crack in the wall to mark their passage.

Above them the thunder of two hundred booted feet began to make the walls, floor and ceiling shake. Nothing moved. Every corridor as silent as the grave. Above a hatch opened and men began to pour through it, dropping lightly to the floor without using the ladder. They were after speed not stealth, their numbers dividing in half to cover both directions along the passageway. In the dark behind the sealed wall the panther waited, her mind linked with that of the others. Her will and theirs in concert. The intruders not detecting their presence, all their energy and effort bent to the task set before them. They hunted human prey. As the last man dropped down through the hatch all the corridor's hidden doors opened and a writhing sea of creatures flooded the area. Commandant Bryant did not realise what was happening until he heard the screech of a howler monkey. His head snapped round in alarm just as his foot caught on something that snapped like a bear trap around his ankle. Crying out in pain he ignored the impossible sight before him and looked back to what had trapped his foot. In horror he watched as the crocodile snapped its' jaws a second time, the sickening crunch of broken bone drowned out by his screams of agony as the ancient beast snapped then ripped his foot off. As he fell, Bryant watched the crocodile raise its' head and open its' massive jaws, chugging down the body part like a party snack.

His mind filled with the red haze of pain, his men fighting to hold off the myriad creatures attacking them with a ferocity that took them by surprise, Commandant Bryant was unable to issue a single order. His thoughts drowned out by pain. The howls, cries, screams, hoots, growls and screeches numbing his shocked ears to the sounds of his men screaming and dying. Slowly, it felt so gorram slow, the blood continued to pump out of him. Wounds to his shoulder and torso not registering as he was jerked first this way then that in a tug of war that added his blood to that of the men he had led so many times into battle. Always the outcome had been weighed in their favour. After all, in the eyes of the Alliance might was right. As the last of his breath evacuated his torn and dismembered body, a fleeting thought touched his mind like an alien seed trying to find somewhere fecund to root. Maybe just maybe, might was not always right after all.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wode ma* = mother of God *shenjingbing* = crazy *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand? *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *hundan* = bastard *bizui* = shut up/be quiet *shen goushi* = deep shit *wo tongyi* = I agree *shenme* = what *tianna* = oh God! *mei mei* = little sister *hen hao* = very good *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *lese* = crappy *wei* = hey! *weishenme* = why? *shenme shi* = what's the matter?


Saturday, November 25, 2006 4:24 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER that's an ending!


Definitely loved what you did here, ABDOBELL! The merry band of riff-raff in space scenes were especially brilliant, as it really gave an idea about the kind of people the BDHs unknowingly have backing them up in this wonky adventure. And "Walrus," eh? Guess Monty crew back his beard;)



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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.