HEAVEN AND HELL: 42. "Pawns"
Thursday, July 15, 2004

"Jayne goes snooping. The Captain finds himself up to his neck in trouble. Inara's explanation is no explanation at all. Meanwhile River is seriously beginning to worry her brother."



SUMMARY: "Jayne goes snooping. The Captain finds himself up to his neck in trouble. Inara's explanation is no explanation at all. Meanwhile River is seriously beginning to worry her brother." 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

* * * * *

There was no man alive lighter on his feet than Jayne Cobb. When he chose to he could pretty much pass unseen with all the fluid grace of a hunter. No tracker worth his salt would do less and he was not just good at what he did. He excelled. After finishing his ablutions he waved off the offer of breakfast saying he was feeling a mite queasy still from over-indulging the night before. Pepper seemed to accept his explanation with ease but Max kept looking across the table at him. The man's preoccupation with him gave the mercenary an idea. First though he needed to scout out the area, check all the points of entry and exit and get the lay of the land fixed in his head with all the detail of a gorram blueprint. Something else was going on here he just knew it and now he had a plan forming in his mind as to how he was going to find out.

"Hey Dizzy!"

Dizzy Doyle looked round at the mercenary with a look of faint surprise. "Yeah?" Jayne grinned at him. "Think I'd like ya to show me around."

That surprised the man no doubt about it. He gave Pepper a quick look and Pepper smiled back. "Go on. Give me time to get cleaned up my own self."

Max watched them go with a thoughtful look on his face. Pepper noticed. "What's up, Max?"

"Dunno, just not sure we can trust him."

"He's a mercenary, who said anythin' about trustin' him?"

The two men looked at each other then slowly grinned.

It was one huge rutting site Jayne had to agree. Nor did he have to fake the look of awe that crept over his face when, unable to resist boasting, Dizzy had taken him up to an area nicknamed the Heights from where Jayne got his first full view of the behemoth he was up against. This was no gorram scattering of beaten men trying to regroup it was an actual rutting army. Stunned he let his mouth sag open, only turning to Dizzy when he heard the gruff man chuckle darkly. "Now d'ya think we'll fail?"

"Can't see how you ruttin' well failed the first time." He exclaimed.

Dizzy flinched slightly, now sounding a mite defensive. "Well now, they had us penned up in the Valley. Ya likely heard the outcome of that little crap shoot?" Jayne nodded. "Lost so many of our boys back then." The man's voice trailed off as if lost to memories too painful to recount though Jayne could sense a distance between the thoughts and the emotions attached to them.

"So where'd they all come from?" He asked indicating the line upon line of troops billeted on the muddy brown plain below. It was like looking down on a disturbed ants' nest only the activity was orderly, everyone seeming to know exactly what he or she was doing. Even the sounds of camps being broken up was subdued. Not no one was noisy or laughing and cracking jokes. Studious and serious more like.

The Browncoat gave him a dark serious look. Keen as the blade of a knife. "Here, there. There mostly."

He could not understand why he was being so cagey but figured pressing him for details might set off more alarm bells than he could shut off. "Ya sayin' ya got some gorram fed turncoats?" Jayne exclaimed in mock surprise.

Dizzy huffed, not amused but not nearly so suspicious as he had been a minute ago. Maybe the mercernary *was* as dumb as everyone said. "No. Wouldn't trust 'em if they were. Just drawn from all over, the Rim worlds mostly. Them as come from worlds outside of Alliance control, *dong ma*?"

"*Wo dong*. Makes sense. Just never thought there could be so ruttin' many of 'em."

"Most went into hidin' after the surrender. Didn't wanna end up in no Alliance *jianyu*."

"What about ya an' Pepper?"

"We had our moments of torture but them as got away found ways to creep back an' get some of us free."

Jayne's eyes widened, impressed. "Ya escaped? From the Alliance?"

Dizzy Doyle was openly grinning now, all reservations about the mercenary in the past. "Yep." The single word was smug then the spark in his eyes flattened some. "The weeks we was incarcerated though was the longest in my gorram life. Don't ever wanna go through torment like that again."

The mercenary wanted to ask him for details but there was no way of doing so without alienating the man completely. Best leave it for now. "Be good to pay those *tamade hundan* back for what they done."

Dizzy nodded, his expression grim. "That it will an' we shall, Jayne. Count on it."

It was night time before Jayne risked taking a closer look on his own. He had the layout fixed in his head now, had mixed and mingled a little with the others just to allay any suspicions. He wanted them to get used to him. Find his presence so commonplace it would raise no interest if he was seen walking around with or without Pepper's minders. He ate with them. Drank with them. Joined in the anti-Alliance rhetoric enough to convince them he was on-board for whatever play they had coming up. Then once it was the dead of night he slipped away from the tent he shared with Lenny Goss, Charlie and Turner Watts. It helped that Charlie snored, covering what little sound he made as he dressed and exited. Still and so quiet the whole camp was like a vast graveyard. The thought made him shiver though it was not cold. A little fresh maybe but not with no wintery edge to it and that suited him just fine.

He took a slow circuitous route to the concrete wing that had caught his eye earlier then took his time checking it for ease of access and anything that might suggest an alarm. He saw nothing but the dull functional building. It was low, squat and ugly like some gorram euphemism for the Alliance only this was supposed to be a Browncoat camp. Maybe it was. Maybe his gut instinct was a little off but Jayne did not think so. That instinct had saved his gorram life more times that he could count and he had quite the mathematical mind when he wanted to apply himself. Putting his thoughts into words now that was another thing. More difficult than it seemed. As he sidled up to the back of the block he chose his moment then overcame the lock and let himself in. Inside surprised him so much he had to stop himself swearing out loud. The initial entry corridor soon led into what amounted to a huge low ceilinged room but it was not the room that made his heart falter and his mouth go dry. It was what the gorram place had in it.

* * * * *

He awoke dizzy and feeling sick. It took moments for the throbbing pain in his leg to travel to his parched throat with a groan. Something moved against him, a soft brush of fabric against his cheek. His eyes flew open and in the dim light he had to blink a time or two just to focus. What he saw brought his memory flooding back. "Inara? What the good gorram did you do to me?"

She ignored him, intent on the syringe she was filling. His eyes dropped to what she was doing and an unreasoning fear rose in him.

"What you doin'?"

Inara turned his right hand palm up, looked for a vein by the crease of his elbow then slid the needle in deep. The prick of it reminded him of something else. When she had touched his gorram hand. "Inara, I..."

She interrupted him as the contents of the syringe slowly entered his vein. "I needed to counteract the poison."

He blinked. *Not* what he had been expecting her to say. "Poison?"

"The ring, Mal. It had a hidden reservoir."

His eyes widened. "You sayin' that ruttin' ring was poisoned?"

The Companion nodded, almost dead on her feet though she would never admit it. Especially to him. "It can be used as a defence mechanism or..." Her voice trailed off. She really did not want to finish that sentence.

The Captain's head was clearing somewhat unlike his understanding. "Or what?"

"It can be used to administer a small deadly dose to the wearer."

"What the gorram for?"

This time she looked him in the eye and did not blink. "Suicide."

His mouth opened and closed in silence. His voice was quiet when he eventually spoke. "Best you tell me what the good gorram is goin' on I'm thinkin'."

"You're in an Alliance cell."

He blinked and felt his heart sink though he was not really surprised. Had no words to express the deepening press of disappointment. True, he had always known she was an Alliance spy but to go to these extremes was more painful than he cared to admit even to himself. Some small secret part of him had always hoped she would change her mind. See the rutting Alliance for the murdering *hundan* they really were. All that money and finery came at a price. Surely she must see the price was too rutting high? "Figured as much now I'm needin' to know the why of it. What were you doin' on the Dauntless? Why come back an' why bring me here? Come to that Inara, where the ruttin' *diyu* is this gorram *jianyu*?"

* * * * *

Simon was frantic. There were times when his sweet, loving, genius of a sister drove him to distraction. "River, please *mei mei* I need to examine you!"

"No. No time, no time."

He saw the blood on her hands and tried not to over react. If he stayed calm perhaps she would. "If your pregnancy is this far advanced I need to make sure everything is alright." He paused, his words now gentle and softer. More a plea than a demand. She cocked her head but stayed where she was. "I need to make sure the baby is okay."

"She's fine but he isn't."

He blinked. Surely she wasn't talking about twins? Before he could ask she gave him a brief smile.

"Not two but one. Aren't you listening Simon?"

"Yes, yes I'm listening *mei mei* but I'm also confused."

She nodded, peering anxiously out at him from her cramped hidey hole. Neither of them looked round as Yen Mah and Kaylee came up behind Simon. It was Yen Mah who spoke, mildly surprising them all. "She wants to be with him but she can't so she does the next best thing."

Simon and Kaylee stared at her in total non comprehension just as Sheriff Bowman and Zoe crowded in behind Kaylee. Zoe's eyes narrowed, half worried and half alarmed. "What's goin' on?"

Yen Mah was still staring at the doctor. "He's trapped. Boxed in. So is she."

The Sheriff frowned. "Who's trapped?"

Yen Mah turned to look at the Sheriff, her round moon face beginning to crumple. "*Wode pengyou*."

"The Captain?" Said Zoe.

Yen Mah nodded. River closed her eyes briefly and cradled her stomach. "So dark now. No light, hope fading."

"River," Zoe pushed forward and knelt beside the opening. Making no attempt to reach in and try to pull her out. More than anything she needed the girl to focus, to speak plain. Hopefully above the thunder of her own anxious heart. "Do you know where the Captain is? What happened?"

"In a dark place now." Said Yen Mah in a hushed voice. The Sheriff put an arm around her. Kaylee barely biting back the threat of tears. Would the nightmare never end?

"He went looking but found something else."

"He went to the Dauntless," Said Zoe.

River nodded.

"What happened, River?"

She looked so sad, lost suddenly. Simon wanted to put his arms around her but Zoe warned him with a glance to let River speak. She would get out of the compartment when she was good and ready. Trying to force her would only make the girl retreat both physically and mentally and right now they could not afford that.

"A pocketful of sorrow."

The Sheriff sighed. Yen Mah tilted her face up to look at the lawman with bright solemn eyes. "She could have killed him but didn't. Not that it makes much difference."

Zoe siezed on the words. "She?"

River looked sad. "Inara."

Simon blew his cheeks out in shock. "*Wode tianna*!"

Poor Kaylee looked as if her legs would not hold her up much longer. "What was 'Nara doin' there?"

It was River who answered. Her words hitting with all the solemn impact of a death knell. "Trying to regain what was lost. Holding on to the lies that will devastate her soul." She shook her head. "Can't escape but she can surrender. If she can only remember how."

"River," Said Simon softly, his hands reaching out. His eyes imploring her. Tired and weary of body and soul River unwound herself from the tight crawlspace and poured her lithe body out into his waiting arms. That was when Kaylee saw the blood and put her hands up to her mouth with a gasp, eyes wide and frightened.

"River! You're bleeding!"

Her friend looked at her so calmly it made Kaylee catch her breath. "I tried to pull it out but it wasn't ready."

Zoe frowned, not seeing the slow horror steal across Simon's face. "Pull what out?"

"The baby."

Pieces cluttered into place in Simon's head. His arms gently wrapping round her, holding and rocking her as he whispered in her ear. Words to calm her, words of love and reassurance. But River Tam was not listening. She had tried to explain and now her mind was many miles away chasing a weakening connection knowing that if it broke it would take her heart and her whole world with it.

* * * * *

The sight stole the air out of his lungs and was slow in giving it back to him. Jayne Cobb strode slowly between the rows and rows of medical tanks. Most were empty but some still had people inside. Naked and floating in some kind of clear fluid, their features recognisable through the glass walls of their high tech prison. As he walked his steps got slower, the horror mounting. Not all the bodies were whole. Not all the faces intact. Some had holes in them, others were cut and misshapen from flying shrapnel and who knew what. He remembered something he had heard from Mal and Zoe about the ending of the war. How when the surrender came the Alliance and taken many of the survivors prisoner. It was old news that they had been tortured. He was beginning to realise that the torture was not what he had been expecting. Not if this secret facility on Hera was anything to go by.

He had foolishly assumed that any Alliance facility would be buried deep on some Core rich planet in the heart of enemy territory. Somewhere easily defended and well hidden. Not here on some *lese* world where the last hurrah of the Browncoats had met a bloody end. He would never have dreamed the purplebellies would resort to siezing the bodies of the dead and using them in this way. It explained why Pepper had been so confident that they could raise another army. He had been right. Literally. They were rutting well raising one from the gorram dead.

The noise behind him was small. Hardly enough to penetrate let alone distract a man. But Jayne had a mercenary's reflexes and spun round as he dropped into a low crouch, his gun hand clearing his holster as he completed his turn. The gun pointing at the intruder. Max smiled. The smile widening slowly into a grin that was downright creepifying. "I see ya just couldn't stay away."

Jayne tried to remember to breathe as his finger caressed the trigger. "Wanna explain what this is?"

"What do you think it is?"

"Looks like a lot of dead Browncoats."

Max nodded. Jayne really hated that look on his gorram face.

"What ya doin' with 'em?"

Max made an extra special effort not to laugh. "Givin' them the chance to fight again."

"Ruttin' *diyu*. Ya mean all them men outside..."

"An' women."

Jayne paused. "They're dead people?"

The man was clearly enjoying himself. "Yep. Were. Now? Not so much."

"But how...?"

"Re-animation. The Alliance have a black projects research wing, part of the intelligence corps of Blue Sun. Course it took a lot of studying, practisin' ya could say. Didn't get no volunteers, *dong ma*, so at the end of every battle they had retrievers go out an' pick likely candidates from the dead an' the dyin'. On'y thing they insisted on was that the face had to be intact."

The mercenary had gone white with shock. He felt sick. The gun almost forgotten in his hand. "An' the ones ya tortured?" He whispered.

"Some we turned, others that we brought back - reanimated they call it - had specific tasks like Davy. The ones without such tasks would be canon fodder in another war."

Jayne blinked, clearly stunned. His heart hurting so much he had to squeeze his words passed shocked lips. "Why another gorram war? Alliance won, ain't that enough?"

Max shook his head and took a couple of steps towards Jayne then stopped again. Jayne hardly seemed to notice but neither did he lower his weapon. "*Ni bu dong*. Alliance didn't want another war years down the line when they got nice fat and *shufu* again. Didn't want their shiny worlds rockin' in a guerilla war neither. So they came up with a plan. A plan to finish any Independent dream of overthrowing the status quo. Called it Phoenix, used spies and turncoats to spread the rumour of it. Them as survived the surrender liked the notion of rising again. Didn't realise the words they adopted as their rallyin' cry came first from Alliance mouths. Settin' 'em up for a future fall that would make the Battle of Serenity look like a tea party."

The mercenary had tears in his eyes. All kinds of odd little details now making perfect sickening sense. Another realisation began to filter through his pained thoughts. The Captain. "Mal. Did ya...? When he was captured, tortured, did they...?"

He nodded. Jayne was tempted to close his eyes but did not dare. Couldn't afford to take his eyes off this rutting *wangba dan*. "They tried to turn him. Never seen a more *wangu tamade hundan*. Was like somethin' was shieldin' him but it made no difference. They found Davy within hours of his dyin', face pretty much in one piece. Put the rest of him back together then set about reprogrammin' his mind. Makin' him loyal to the Alliance though on the surface he was Independent through an' through. Called them like Davy 'sleeper spies'. Wouldn't surface an' show their colours until they were triggered then everythin' that happened before would be a blur with no affect on the orders programmed into them. Even them that remembered fragments of who they had been wouldn't be able to resist, just be locked in the horror of it as they betrayed everythin' they had once believed in. Once held dear. Usin' Davy was a stroke of gorram genius, just the tag needed to draw Reynolds in. Give the whole gorram operation a veneer of legitamacy you could say. An' them as weren't in on the plot were drawn along by it."

Jayne's throat was closing up with emotion. He blinked back tears and determined not to let another one fall until every last one of the *chusheng xai-jiao xiang huo* were dead. Idly, part of his brain wondered why Max was not worried about being filled with lead. He found out why seconds later when the room began to fill around him. His eyes widened in alarm. He looked this way and that and slowly realised Max had been content to tell him everything to stall for time. Keep him here until the others arrived. It was over. He had rutting failed. Let Mal down. Yet still he did not lower his gun. If the worst came to the worst he would put the barrel in his mouth and pull the gorram trigger. No *tamade hundan* was cutting his brain open and reprogramming him. Not now, not never. He watched helplessly as Pepper Rawlings moved through the figures silently pouring into the facility and stood beside Max. He was smiling with such self assurance that it was all Jayne could do not to launch himself at him and rip the smile from his face.

"Like I told ya Jayne," He said in a mild satisfied voice. "You're one of us now."

Jayne tried to back up but there was nowhere to go. "No, no I ain't."

Max laughed lightly but there was no humour in it. "Ya ain't goin' nowhere, not never again. Not unless it's where we want ya to go."

"Oh no?" Yelled Jayne, his grip on his own building fear slipping. "Well one thing I can do is take ya with me, you *goushi buru*!"

Raising the gun he fired. Point blank range. Only the gun clicked on empty. Slowly Max put his right hand in his pocket then raised it in front of him so that Jayne could see the bullets in it as he opened his hand. "You're a light sleeper Jayne but we don't sleep at all. Don't need it. Don't need food nor drink though we can consume a little for appearances sake. Was child's play to empty your gorram gun while ya slept."

The man looked stunned and more than a little lost. His world seemingly crumbling all around him. "It was under my pillow..."

"Not all the time." Said Max softly. Obviously referring to the moment he had sneaked the gun out to empty it then carefully replaced it under the mercenary's head. Jayne then remembered his hangover. He hadn't been rutting well drunk. He'd been drugged. Max nodded, voice still soft as the others slowly closed in on the hapless mercenary. "Like stealin' candy from a baby."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand *wo dong* = I understand *jianyu* = prison *hundan* = bastard *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *diyu* = hell *mei mei* = little sister *lese* = crappy *wode pengyou* = my friend *wode tianna* = my God in Heaven *shufu* = comfortable *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wangba dan* = bastard *wangu* = stubborn *chusheng xai-jiao xiang hua* = animal fucking bastard *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit


Thursday, July 15, 2004 12:16 PM



Thursday, July 15, 2004 4:26 PM



Ummm... I meant that in the _good_ way.

Zombie Browncoat armies for the Alliance... You've got this storyline pretty far out in the ether at this point, but, dang pulling me on out there with you! I'm totally engrossed and eager for the next part.

Never been much worried about Jayne, myownself, but you've got me worried about Jayne. Neato.

Thursday, July 15, 2004 9:27 PM



I'm on such rollercoaster here!! Please hurry up, the suspense is killing me!

Friday, July 16, 2004 3:23 AM


Zombies that move, expending energy, without refueling? Unbelievable. But a shiny story nonetheless!

Friday, July 16, 2004 9:04 AM


artships, I didn't say the Zombies didn't refuel just that they didn't need to eat and drink. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, July 17, 2004 4:27 AM


Oh, my! That was all kinds of creepifying.

I love the way you right Jayne. And right now I'm very worried about him.

And River. I hope that line didn't mean what I thought it meant ....


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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.