THE RETRIBUTION SERIES: 4. "Raising the Stakes"
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

"Kaylee, Simon and River return to Serenity but the Shepherd's news is not so good. Meanwhile Jayne finds out just how busy Niska has been."



SUMMARY: "Kaylee, Simon and River return to Serenity but the Shepherd's news is not so good. Meanwhile Jayne finds out just how busy Niska has been." 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

* * * * *

With hollow eyes the man watched, cursing from the shadows. Having disposed of the bottle and glasses he returned to see two stealthy figures rapidly enter the bathhouse by the staff door at the back. A door he had contrived to leave open so that he could come and go unseen. Now he could only remain hidden unable to make any move that was not dictated by his *laoban*. Yet doing nothing would spell his doom as surely as acting without authority. Letting the silence curse him, he could do naught but wait.

* * * * *

Twice Malcolm Reynolds almost waved Inara. She might be mad at him for contacting her but she was the one person he could guarantee would answer and right now he was almost desperate enough to do it. Only the thought that he might drag her into this mess made him stay his hand. He was pacing the cargo bay, the ramp down and open to the worsening weather. Clouds thick and heavy with rain brooded overhead making the darkening sky blacker by the minute as if matching his mood. The Captain was about to call Book to ask him what was taking so gorram long when the sound of voices made his head snap round, eyes narrowing as he peered down the ramp, gun drawn. Relieved more than words could say when Kaylee, Simon and River appeared. Their happy banter trailed off as they spotted Mal reholster his weapon and saw the grim expression on his face. Immediately Simon tensed.

"*Shenme shi*?" The Captain peered passed them. "You see Book?"

Kaylee and Simon exchanged puzzled glances. River stared hard at the Captain then her expression clouded. Seeing his sister's reaction, Simon reached for her. "*Mei mei*, what's wrong?"

"The flock's scattered and the wolf is at the door."

Simon looked equal parts puzzled and alarmed. "Wolf?"

River stared at him for a moment then blinked. "*Duibuqi*, I meant vulture."

* * * * *

Jayne was confused. Why the good gorram wasn't he dead? Blinking he took note of the fact that he was no longer swinging from his wrists, the manacles gone and something just a mite softer than the floor beneath him allowing his abused body to rest. It was dark but not quiet. Creaks and groans alerted him to the fact that he was not alone. By the sounds of it Niska had some other poor *hundan* sharing his makeshift prison.

Cautiously he sat up but though he peered hard he couldn't make out any detail. Getting to his feet the mercenary took a step forward then something hit him hard in the chest knocking him backwards onto the hard stone floor. All the air whooshed out of his lungs, the back of his head colliding painfully with the floor. For a moment he actually saw stars.

* * * * *

The Shepherd was more than anxious. Finding Zoe and Wash unconscious on the bath house floor was one thing, knowing he and his new companion could not carry them both was another. Heart pounding he tried to calm himself, kept reciting over and over in his head that at least they had got to them in time. He shook first Zoe then Wash, knowing this would be easier if he could rouse his friends but there was no reaction. Akira Hanimoto looked at him askance. Book frowned.


"They will not wake, maybe for hours."

Book did not look happy. "We can't carry them both."

"It is so, but move them we must."

"Did you not understand what I just said?"

The man's head bobbed gravely. "*Hai*, it is you who does not understand. Quick, we will carry them outside. First one, then the other. There is no other way."

The Shepherd helped Hanimoto carry Wash out through the rear door. A quick scan located some thick bushes. The samurai followed his gaze and nodded in quick agreement, not wasting words but adjusting his direction until they carefully eased the unconscious pilot into the makeshift hiding place. Book paused. "I should call the Captain."

Hanimoto shook his head. "After. No time to delay."

He did not ask the man why such haste was necessary. Had to trust that he knew what he was doing. After all, if Hanimoto had not found him and brought him here his two friends would no doubt already be in Niska's clutches with none of them any the wiser. Book resisted the urge to shudder at the thought and hurried back inside, the two of them quickly lifting Zoe off the floor. Hanimoto paused only long enough to kick the door shut behind them before nodding to Book and carrying Zoe to the bushes where they had hidden Wash. Book turned his head at the soft stream of vehement curses coming from the grim faced samurai and felt his heart sink with dread. In the minute or so they had taken to fetch Zoe, someone had snatched Wash. The thick bushes, their temporary hiding place, was now empty.

* * * * *

"Captain, relax."

The angry glare Mal shot at Simon could have melted hull plating. "You tellin' me you could relax if it was River?"

Simon opened his mouth to protest but closed it on empty air. Both knew his answer. Kaylee stood twisting her hands together, the happy day ruined by fear, tears glittering in her eyes. She felt guilty now for being so happy while Jayne was probably being tortured or even killed. River put a hand on her friend's arm. "Not your fault, couldn't know." Kaylee looked at her, not trusting herself to speak without crying, her eyes searching for some kind of reassurance that everything would be alright. River shook her head. "Can't see."

The Captain's interest sharpened. "Can you maybehaps sense anythin', River? Don't care how small it is, just anythin' that might tell us a direction or somesuch. A place to start lookin'."

Her eyes held an ocean of sadness and apology. "I can't feel him."

Simon wanted to butt in, tell the Captain his sister wasn't an oracle or a dowsing rod but the words were dust in his mouth. All of them were worried and as much as Simon did not want to admit it his sister did have an uncanny gift. Instead he fretted, not just because Jayne had been taken but for what it augured for the future. It was a warning that any one of them could be snatched. The Captain wasn't ready to stand idly by.

"River, you tellin' me they ain't on world no more?"

Her eyes widened slightly, angst ridden because she could not help. "*Bu qu*."

The Captain frowned. Not angry with River just frustrated. "No? What does that mean?"

"It means I can't feel them. Can't sense Jayne or those who took him. Doesn't mean they're already off world but it doesn't mean they're not."

Mal closed his eyes, the pounding in his head getting louder. He was about to call Book when the man's voice came over the com. Any relief the Captain might have felt vanished the moment he heard what the Shepherd had to say. "Gorramit! How could some *hundan* snatch Wash from under your gorram nose?"

"Captain, we need the mule *mashang*. We can't can't wake Zoe, they gave her and Wash something. Hopefully it's just a sedative but we'll need Simon to find out for sure."

"On my way. An' Shepherd?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"We will be talkin' about this, *dong ma*?"

* * * * *

Jayne felt muzzy headed and winded but before he could recover enough to roll out of the way, a massive shape loomed over him. Hands the size of meat plates grabbed him and dragged him to his feet. The rough treatment roused enough anger in the mercenary to provoke a reaction. "*Wei*! What the good gorram ya think you're doin'?"

The hands on him paused. For a moment Jayne thought the crack on his head had taken his hearing. "Jayne?"

The mercenary blinked. Confused. The voice sounded vaguely familiar but he couldn't rightly place it. "Depends on who wants to know."

The growled words did not stop the other man from giving a rusty chuckle. The man patted Jayne's shoulder in apology. "*Duibuqi*. Thought you was one of Niska's warm up boys. Was ready to send him to *diyu*."

Dark as it was, Jayne was beginning to distinguish lighter shades among the black. He peered through narrow eyes, trying to ignore the pain in his head. The other man was not just big, he was massive. Something about that bulk was almost reassuring. "Who're ya?"

A dry humourless laugh ended on a small coughing fit. It took the man a moment or two to clear his throat, as if he was unused to speaking. Jayne didn't even want to think about what that might mean. "Monty."

Surprised, Jayne forgot all about his head. "What in the nine hells're ya doin' in this ruttin' *jianyu*?"

Monty paused before answering. "Same as you most like."

"An' what's that?"

The big man sighed heavily and moved into a lighter patch of shadow. It was not enough for Jayne to see his features plain but enough to tell by the way the man moved that he was injured. "Niska wants Mal."

Jayne snorted. "That ain't news."

"Was to me."

Moving carefully, Jayne sat on the thin mattress stuck on the slab of stone that was his bed. "How long ya been here?"

"Not sure, reckon a week. Maybe more." A half strangled laugh made Jayne wince in sympathy. Had a fair idea what Niska had done to cause that level of discomfort and difficulty.

"How'd he snatch ya?"

The pained ragged sigh told Jayne more than anything that the man didn't want to talk but both of them knew he would. There was no telling how long they would be able to share this cell or how long that twisted *liumang* would keep them alive. Once thing about the Captain, when he made an enemy of someone there were no half measures. "Got offered a job. Simple fetch an' carry, or so it seemed. Was recommended even."

That perked up Jayne's interest. "Yeah? Who by."

Monty sucked in a breath, the disgust heavy as his pained words. "Fella I think you know too well. Badger."

"What in the nine hells does any of this have to do with that *qingwa cao de liumang*?"

"He set me up."

Even though Jayne hated Badger with a passion he found the revelation a mite confusing. "*Weishenme*? Does regular business with Mal, this don't make sense." "Case you hadn't noticed Jayne, Badger ain't much of a one for loyalty or honour."

"I'll kill that *meiyou muqin de xiao gou*!"

For a moment the two men lapsed into glum silence then Monty moved to sit next to Jayne, his voice lowered to barely a whisper as the bed dipped under his bulk. "We gotta get outta here."

The mercenary sneered. "*Duome hao de zhuyi a*! Why the *guai* didn't I think of that?"

Monty hissed. Angry and trying to restrain himself from grabbing Jayne round the neck and shaking him until his gorram eyes rattled. "Keep your ruttin' voice down, *baichi*!"

"Who ya callin' an idiot?"

"Look in the next mirror y'pass. Might give you a clue."

As Jayne started to bristle Monty continued, his voice dropping back into an urgent whisper.

"Mean it Jayne, we gotta get outta here *mashang* before that *tamade hundan* gets the rest of your crew."

"What ya talkin' about?"

Their heads were nearly touching now. The air so tense around them it almost crackled. "All Niska wanted was for me to give up Mal. Should'a seen him, was almost wettin' hisself with anticipation. Told me what he wanted to do to him." Monty shuddered and closed his eyes briefly. "Not nothin' in this 'verse would get me to give him up, *shenjingbing shishengzi* that he is. Have to gorram kill me first."

There was something in the way Monty said it that made Jayne wonder. "Guess it's 'cause of the war?"

Monty tilted his head and frowned in the darkness. "*Shenme*? What the good gorram does that mean?"

"Ya know, war buddies."

Monty laughed. A short truncated sound, as if the moment the humour hit the air memory killed it dead. "Didn't Mal tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"I may be at times a thief an' a liar, times bein' what they are, but one thing I don't do is give up family."

"Are ya sayin'..."

"Mal an' me're cousins."

For a moment Jayne was stunned, as the shock wore off he grunted. "Huh, don't look related."

This time Monty gave a hearty laugh. "Our fathers were brothers an' not twins neither 'fore you ask."

Jayne was about to say the thought hadn't crossed his mind when the sound of someone coming caused both men to freeze. A blaze of light made Jayne wince and Monty shield his eyes with a raised hand. The stomp of boots paused just shy of their cell door, two big muscled men staring impassively at them through the bars. One man held a thin gun. It was silver and very slender. Jayne opened his mouth to say something just as the barrel was pointed at him. A look of alarm flashed over his face a split second before the dart hit him in the neck. Monty tried to dodge the second shot but wasn't quick enough, the damage to his ribs and left side making him clumsier and slower than he would have liked. As the dart embedded itself into his throat the drug immediately hit his bloodstream. Even as the curses formed in his mind, consciousness fled before he could utter a sound.

With a grin the guard with the dart gun smirked. His companion unlocked the cell door and both men entered, ignoring Jayne's slumped body and awkwardly manouevring Monty onto the floor so they could drag him out. Neither man wasted a moment. Niska was waiting.

* * * * *

The mule ride was rough and fast with no thought given to the rutted track and no attempt made to miss holes either. Mal was going all out for speed, Simon Tam gripping his medical bag to his chest with one hand and hanging on to the bucking vehicle as if his life depended on it with the other. River had wanted to come with them but Simon had protested. For once the Captain sided with the doctor but not for the reasons Simon might think. When they got to the Shepherd and Zoe there would not be room for anyone else. Pushing his fear aside enough to function, the Captain gunned the mule for all it was worth and hoped once they got Zoe back to Serenity they would be able to find out what the good gorram had happened to Wash. He was not looking forward to telling his best friend in the 'verse that Niska's men had nabbed him.

* * * * *

Kaylee was pacing. Couldn't keep still to save her life, wringing her hands and trying not to think of the last time they had run into Adelei Niska. At the top of the ramp River stared out into the night, her eyes distant and vacant. Inara had returned less than an hour ago and was as worried as the rest of them but determined not to allow her anxiety to get the better of her. They needed to stay positive and be ready to act the moment the Captain returned.


The mechanic flashed a patently false smile at her friend. Inara brushed a stray lock of hair from Kaylee's face and smiled at her. "Why don't you go and get Serenity warmed up, *mei mei*? We may need to leave in a hurry."

"But not without Wash, *dui*?"

Inara could have lied but she wouldn't. Kaylee was a dear friend and in truth she didn't know yet how bad this was though she had a feeling it would get a whole lot worse before it got better. "*Wo bu zhidao* but let's be ready anyway, *dong ma*?"

The girl nodded then hurried off to the engine room. Inara resisted the urge to sigh, wishing there was something she could do to occupy her mind. River turned and looked her in the eye. "No time, they're coming."

Heart quickening, Inara stepped alongside River and gazed down the ramp. She was about to ask River how far away they were when she heard the mule approaching. Without waiting for the vehicle to drive up the ramp River turned and ran across the cargo bay and up the metal staircase. Inara bit her lip at the sight of Zoe half sprawled across Mal's lap, the Shepherd sitting next to the Captain and cradling her head as Mal drove up the ramp. Simon sat on the back with a man the Companion had never seen before but she had no time to wonder who he was. As soon as they got the mule into the cargo bay Simon jumped off the back and hit the button to close the doors.

Inara looked at Simon. "What happened?"

The doctor's face was pinched with worry. He waited a second as the Captain and Book carefully took Zoe's weight between them and hurried to the infirmary. "The brief examination I gave her indicates some kind of tranquiliser was used."

Inara fell in beside Simon as they followed Mal and Book. "Then she'll recover?"

"*Qu*." The very abrupt response made her falter. "And Wash?"

They paused just outside the infirmary, Inara watching almost detached as Book and the Captain gently got Zoe settled on a bed. Immediately the Captain pulled the overhead light in place and switched it on, the Shepherd putting a hand to Zoe's carotid pulse. Simon brushed passed Inara and took over. Only when he had done every test he could think of and checked his findings twice did he give the Captain the all clear.

"This drug," Mal asked worriedly, "it won't have no side effects?"

"*Bu qu*. In a few hours time it will have worked its' way through the bloodstream."

Before Mal could ask another question his head snapped up as Serenity began to lift off. Frowning he hit the nearest com. "River? What in the nine hells're you doin'?"

"Not safe, net closing in."

The Captain cursed beneath his breath, Simon shooting him a look of disapproval but Mal was taking no notice. Only then did he notice that Inara was back. For a moment a flood of relief so pure it almost made him dizzy took his breath away. He gave her a quick nod then he was moving, quick steps breaking into a run as Mal made for the bridge of the ship. River didn't look round, all her attention on the ship's controls and something on the ground.

"What's happenin', River?"

River had them rising quickly now, the ground beneath becoming an indistinct blur. Turning she gave the Captain a grin. "Escaped the net." Her smile vanished, sombre eyes locked seriously on to his own anxious ones. Mal was sure even his heart had stopped in the wait for whatever River had to say. "They'll try again. Different tactics, same objective."

"You mean they're gonna snatch another member of my crew?" River shook her head, eyes sad, but couldn't bring herself to tell him. "Just be ready."

The Captain blinked then frowned, only moving when a light hand touched his forearm. With a jolt he realised it was Inara. How come he hadn't heard her? "'Nara, good to see you're back."

"Is there anything we can do?"

"As opposed to what? Sittin' an' waitin' 'til Niska runs outta torture victims an' comes lookin' for us?"

At the look on her face Mal hurried to limit the damage of his unthinking comment. When he was stressed he tended to blurt out what he was thinking instead of being sensible of the words tripping out of his fool mouth.

"Not that I would say that, just that some folks would. Folks not me."

Inara bit her tongue and did not respond with the cutting comment that tempted her. Things were already beginning to spiral out of control, they didn't need to add heated tempers to the building tinderbox of emotions. They needed to stay calm. Before she could say anything Shepherd Book joined them on the bridge, his deep calming voice offering a different kind of distraction.

"Captain, there is a man waiting to speak to you."

"A man?"

The Captain turned to glare at the cortex link. Book shook his head. "No, Captain, I should have explained. He is waiting for you in the hold."

The Captain's confusion began to coalesce into a whole 'verse of not happy. "This ain't a time to be takin' on passengers, *dong ma*?"

"He isn't a passenger, Mal. In fact, man says he knows you. Gave his name as Akira Hanimoto."

To the Shepherd's consternation all the colour drained from the Captain's face. Alarmed, Inara stepped close to him. "Mal? Who is this man?"

"A ghost."

Inara looked over the Captain's shoulder and locked eyes with Shepherd Book. Book shook his head. River's voice cut calmly through the stunned silence. "Not a ghost or apparition. Flesh and blood. Help unlooked for in a dark place. Repaying a debt."

With an effort the Captain shook himself out of the dull shock that had gripped him. "What you sayin'?"

"You didn't imagine him."

The Shepherd wanted to ask Mal where he had seen Hanimoto before and why he would think the man was not real. Ghosts didn't lift bodies, at least not any of the ones who haunted his dreams. The Captain seemed hesitant, unsure what to do if the Shepherd was any judge. "Captain, perhaps you should talk to him?" Book urged quietly. His voice pitched to be calm and reasonable, not telling the Captain what to do but making the choice seem as the only natural one to be taking. With a nod the Captain began to move to the doorway.

"Think you might be right." He mumbled.

Inara gazed after him for a minute, her attention shaken as the ship lurched beneath her feet. Book hurried passed her and stared out of the window then down at the controls. Inara caught his eye. "What was that?"

"Someone's firing at us."

River nodded and indicated towards the ground. "*Fang xin*, glancing shot. Out of range now."

Inara gave her a long look. "Is that what you were looking at?"

The girl nodded, pleased that someone was paying attention. "Field canon. Relic from the war but still working."

Book and Inara exchanged a troubled look. Each thinking what they didn't want to put into words: what the good gorram would happen next?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*laoban* = boss *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *mei mei* = little sister *duibuqi* = sorry *hundan* = bastard *shenme* = what *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *mashang* = on the double/immediately/quickly/at once *dong ma* = understand? *wei* = hey! *diyu* = hell *jianyu* = prison *weishenme* = why? *liumang* = bastard/asshole/gangster/criminal *guai* = devil/ghost *qingwa cao de liumang* = frog humping sumbitch *baichi* = idiot *meiyou muqin de xiao gou* = motherless fucker *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *duome hao de zhuyi a* = what a good idea *dui* = correct *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenjingbing shishengzi* = crazy bastard (bastard in this context is affectionate) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know


*Hai* = yes


Thursday, February 8, 2007 1:39 PM


So River flying Serenity at the end of the BDM ain't the first time she's been behind the stick, eh? Well...glad to know she got the remaining crew and Hanimoto away safely:(

Still...not looking forward to Niska's next attempt to capture someone. Cuz I get the feeling both sides are gonna try some dirty pool;)


Thursday, February 8, 2007 4:40 PM


So who is Niska going to go after next?

And unexpected help there to repay a debt? Hmm.

Nicely done. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Saturday, August 3, 2013 9:02 AM


WTH? how did I miss this, I thought I had read ALL of your very shiny fics but I missed this one, loving it so far, AliD...finally someone to say 'Thank you' to Mal

Monday, August 5, 2013 12:22 AM


I imagine River flying Serenity on rare occasions as needed, not asking just doing it, Blueeyedbrigadier. You are right to be worrying about Niska so hold on to your very shiny hat! Yes, Leisasky, it is rare for someone to repay a debt to Mal, a nice change methinks. I did laugh Malsdoxy at you actually 'missing' one of my stories but glad you managed to catch up and are enjoying it. Thanks everyone for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.