THE RETRIBUTION SERIES: 7. "The Devil Incarnate"
Monday, March 5, 2007

"The rescuers depart in shuttle two. Inara can't fight off the vertigo of panic that she won't see any of them again. Niska waits for his price to be paid, his own little welcome waiting in the wings."



SUMMARY: "The rescuers depart in shuttle two. Inara can't fight off the vertigo of panic that she won't see any of them again. Niska waits for his price to be paid, his own little welcome waiting in the wings." 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

* * * * *

It seemed to take forever and no time at all before the crew were splitting. Kaylee, Simon, Inara and River were staying on Serenity. The Captain, Zoe, Book and Hanimoto were getting ready to go down to the planet surface in shuttle two. Inara felt oddly nervous, on edge. She did not like this plan one bit but neither did she like the thought of the others in the hands of that supremely twisted *tamade hundan* Adelei Niska. Just wished there was another way to get them out. The Captain put his earwig in and nodded to Zoe who tested hers, then Book and lastly Hanimoto. Satisfied that if any of them got seperated or had to be evac'd out after the rescue mission at least Serenity would be able to find them again. Mal kept the plan simple, less to go wrong, yet still he felt the tug of forever on this last goodbye. Steeling himself he didn't let any of his thoughts show on his face but avoided eye contact with River just the same. That girl could read him twenty ways from Sunday but at least she was keeping quiet for once and for that he was eternally grateful.

"Okay people, this is how it is. You all know what we gotta do. Not nobody speaks into their headsets unless you're clear an' no longer planet-side, *dong ma*? An' then only real short conversations, don't stay on long enough to give the Alliance or Niska's men anythin' to trace back to Serenity." Book and Zoe left a few reassuring words behind them then got into shuttle two, the Captain hanging back a moment as his eyes met Inara's. Gorramit, so many things he had hoped one day to do and say. Felt like he was running away only he wasn't. Seemed every choice was between a rock and a hard place lately and there was a powerful need in him to find some middle path. Maybehaps it didn't exist but every time he looked on Inara Serra his heart told him he was a gorram fool not to try. He took a step towards her before he could talk himself out of it.


A puzzled look spoiled the flawless perfection of her face, the light capturing nuances in it that fascinated him with a burning passion he could not afford to feel. Yet there was only now and if he thought on it any further the moment would be lost and he would never be able to say half the things that lay unsaid in the shadows of his eyes, the secret landscape of a battered but noble heart reaching out for something he was afraid to touch. "What is it, Mal?" The Captain almost smiled. She once accused him of always thinking there was a problem and now here she was doing the same. If she only knew. Reaching out he took her by the arm and guided her away from the prying eyes of the others, carefully not meeting Kaylee's sudden spark of excited anticipation, Simon's amused look and the sorrow hiding like an uninvited thief in River's eyes. Inara was so surprised she did not struggle against him. Only when they slipped out of sight did he come to a halt, a myriad of feelings churning inside him, duty and sacrifice robbing him of the choices he would rather make. Knew he could no more turn his back on what was needful than breathe methane. "'Nara, don't know how well this'll work out an' I'm tired of dancin' around." Her heart flipped over, eyes widening then freezing on his face. "Mal, tell me what's wrong. You're beginning to scare me."

It was almost enough to make him laugh only he didn't want her to hear the sound of his heart breaking. She didn't need to know what this was costing him. "Just don't do nothin' in haste, 'Nara. Promise me?"

Oddly enough it felt as if he was asking something else but Inara didn't know what. Why couldn't he just spit out what he meant like other people did? "That seems to be more your style than mine, Captain."


Her breath caught. What was this? Opening her mouth to query his mood she was startled when he leant forward and warm lips brushed hers oh so gently before stealing a kiss so tender it took her heart with it. It was brief, a tentative connection so full of unspoken yearning that her mind was a-whirl. Inara was not easily surprised, her Companion training made it second nature for her to read people. A person's body language revealing their emotions like an open book but nothing in the Guild training manual or years of honing her craft prepared her for a man like Malcolm Reynolds. Annoying, infuriating, strangely noble and definitely courageous to the point of suicidal idiocy, endearing and frustrating. In fact, the dictionary had not been created with words enough to describe the baffling contradictions that sat side by side in this one complex human being. Then he was saying something her ears didn't catch, before she could respond Mal turned and walked briskly back to join the others. Inara wanted to run after him, drag him back and demand to know what was going on. But there was no more time and as she followed in his wake the last glimpse she got was of the Captain closing the hatch on shuttle two. Shutting her out of his life.

* * * * *

The pain was all manner of confusing to him. Words rushed like a waterfall taking their meaning right past him. The wizzened face was smiling slightly, more lines folded on his face than a prune. The mere glimpse of that face sent a painful shudder through Monty's body.

"Malcolm Reynolds, he is coming. Is very exciting."

Monty wanted to spit in his face but his mouth was too swollen and he felt dizzy. Besides, the floor felt mighty fine right now. Solid and comforting in a way that the torture frame was not. Made a man almost nostalgic.

"Nothing to say, Mr Reynolds?"

Even if he had wanted to speak Monty couldn't. A slight flicker of disappointment was quickly chased away by another disingenous smile. Beside Niska his henchman Richter waited with barely concealed anticipation. He wanted to get back to torture but Niska had given his word. If he got what he wanted then Malcolm Reynolds would get what he had promised. Straightening, Niska waved a bored hand in the direction of the fallen man. "Take him away. A cell, not near the others *dong ma*?"

Richter knew better than to question his *laoban*. Gave no thought to wondering why he wanted the three men in separate cells. If he needed to know Niska would tell him. Niska pursed his lips in thought as Richter and one of the guards dragged Monty out of the room. "Time, I think to get ready." Niska looked at the men waiting for his next orders and nodded to himself. He missed Crow but these men were slowly beginning to understand what it was to serve Niska. He waved a hand towards the instruments laid out on a bloody cloth and two of the men began to wrap them up in another cloth and put them in a box. The chains and manacles were dismantled along with the frame and other pieces of Niska's beloved and twisted craft. By the time Richter came back, the room was bare. With a nod Niska left the room, the metallic stench of blood and fetid air imprinting the stale air behind them.

* * * * *

Kaylee couldn't stand it. She was bouncing and figeting fit to bust. "He did it, didn't he? Come on 'Nara, ya can tell me, Cap'n said he loved ya didn't he?"

The Companion looked dazed if Simon was any judge but as she turned to look at Kaylee he saw something coalesce in her eyes that told him now was not the time to push this.

"Kaylee, I don't think..."

"Sssh, Simon, 'Nara's gonna tell us ain't ya 'Nara?"

"Kaylee, better check on the engine *dong ma*?" Disappointment clouded the sunny aspect of the mechanic's face. "But 'Nara..."

"We work before we play." Said Simon.

Kaylee and Inara stared at the doctor. Simon flushed a little. "Since when ya been quotin' the Cap'n. Simon?"

"I wasn't... I mean, that's not..."

"Okay, I'm gonna just..." Kaylee smiled at Simon and turned her head to say something to Inara to find that her friend was no longer there. River had already gone on to the bridge to be ready for the call when it came. "Oh." Kaylee looked back at Simon and gave a little shrug. "Guess she don't wanna talk about it."

"Come on, I'll walk you to the engine room."

A flicker of mischief twinkled and danced in Kaylee's eyes. "You askin' me out, Simon Tam?"

Flustered, Simon opened his mouth to refute the assumption then caught the look in her eyes. "You are an evil woman Kaylee Frye."

Kaylee caught his hand and drew him close enough to kiss. Just as he was running out of air Kaylee eased back enough to allow Simon to breathe, but she didn't let go. "An' I'm gonna show you just how evil."

"But Kaylee we can't, the Captain could call at any time and..."

"We'll be ready, *bao bei*, which is why we're goin' to the engine room."

"We are?"

Her hands seemed to be everywhere at once making Simon feel hot and flustered but it felt so good that he didn't try to stop her, even if it did mean his brain was having a problem functioning beyond the overwhelming of his senses.

"Uh huh. Ya know the engine makes me hot."

Simon had no answer for that. By the time they got to the engine room Kaylee had his vest and shirt off and Simon didn't care that her hands were smeared with grease and engine oil. The way her hands glided across his skin made his breath catch. "Oooh..."

She paused at the sexy sound flowing from his lips. "Wait 'til we get to the good part."

With an effort Simon managed to still her gifted hands, waiting until she looked him in the eye before speaking. "Have you got any more of that oil and grease?"

Opening her mouth to ask what in the nine hells he wanted that for she paused, a decidedly dirty thought settling in her brain and multiplying like rabbits. To her delighted surprise Simon grinned and Kaylee gave a husky laugh. "Well aren't ya the dark horse, Simon Tam?"

Simon bent to kiss her then broke off and began to undo the buttons on her blouse with his teeth, pausing only to add a little teasing of his own. "You have no idea!"

* * * * *

The descent was tense but uneventful. Landing far enough away from the port control and daily traffic to go pretty much unobserved. The Captain did not assume that was the case though and didn't relax even when he brought them down under the cover of some trees. For a makeshift hideaway it would do the job. Just so long as no one came too close. Quickly he killed the engines. Book raised an eyebrow.

"Have to shut off any heat signature."

The Shepherd nodded. Made sense. Zoe checked her mare's leg even though she always kept it fully loaded, it eased her mind to make sure.

"Okay, let's do this."

Zoe nodded and darted out of the shuttle, Book not more than a step behind her. Within seconds they had vanished, two silent and skilled bodies absorbed into the leafy landscape. Moving fast but carefully, picking their way. The Captain paused and looked at Hanimoto. "Someone should stay with the shuttle."

The samurai just stared at him, making no move to volunteer. Inwardly Mal sighed. Knew the man intended to stick to him like a second skin.

"Hanimoto, appreciate you comin' but this ain't your fight. Fella we're goin' up against is all kinds of bad. Likely we won't all be returnin', *dong ma*?"

The man's unlined face showed no emotion but the dark eyes were quick and sharp, missing nothing. "My ancestors would disown me if I let anything happen to you, *taisa*."

"Not nothin' gonna happen ain't supposed to happen if you do as I ask."

The man gave the Captain a grave look. "*Amaterasu* and *Onnotangu* gave their children two ears but one mouth, *tomodachi*, so that we would listen twice as much as we spoke."

"Yeah well whoever an' whatever they may be I'm doin' the speakin' means you'll do the listenin' an' I'm needin' you to stay with the shuttle. Might be we'll be wantin' a fast exit."

When Hanimoto did not immediately acquiesce the Captain stepped closer and lowered his voice. "Need you to do this for me, *dong ma*?"

So many things the samurai saw and understood in that moment. Knew the Captain was going to do something foolish and noble. He also realised that pushing the man could cause a chain of events that would be hard to rectify. Hanimoto nodded. The tree always knew when to bend before the wind and when to stand firm. "*Hai*, Malcolm-san. I wait, but not forever."

Relief eased the strain on the Captain's face. Taking a deep breath to steady himself he gave a grateful nod. "*Xie xie ni*. Don't want no radio chatter while I'm gone. If Serenity got news you'll hear it through the earpiece, just hit the button to respond. No words."

"Silent as a ghost shall I be. *Gam-bat-te*."

At the Captain's look of incomprehension, Hanimoto translated. "It means good luck."

The Captain gave another nod then waved the man into the shuttle. As soon as the hatch shut behind the samurai the Captain hurried off in the direction Niska had told him to take.

* * * * *

It hurt. Good gorram how the pain sizzled through his hot veins like needles of fire. Wash knew he was not burning but knowing and feeling was not the same thing. Sensation had been tricked into his memory so that the echo of it reverberated through his body long after the last torture session had ended. Lying on his back was not an option so he lay on his stomach and tried to block out the creepy feeling that he was still strung up and only imagining the bench beneath him.

"Pst! Hey Wash, you awake?"

The pilot closed his eyes. "Don't matter if I was I'm awake now."

"Don't fall asleep, ya hear?"

If he wasn't hurting all over and pretty much weary beyond belief Wash would have laughed. "You think I can sleep with you bellowing across the hall every few minutes?" "Gotta get ready."

"Jayne, no one's comin' for us, *dong ma*?" "Ain't waitin'."

That struck a chord. Cautiously Wash pushed himself up on the bench, letting his knees take his weight until he was ready to turn and sit down. Easy movements almost fooled himself into forgetting how much he was hurting. "What're you gonna do?"

"You'll see. Just stay sharp little man an'..." Jayne's voice cut off abruptly.

Wash stumbled to his feet, all manner of alert now. Once he got to the cell door he eased himself to the side of the bars and tried to see what had silenced the mercenary. Jayne was not in view. Wash frowned. Where the *diyu* was that boneheaded *chunren*? Then he heard it. The distinct sound of someone moving further up the corridor. Not the steady clump of Niska's guards. This was quieter, more stealthy. Jayne eased himself up against his cell door and Wash noticed he was looking down the corridor. He was dying to ask the man what he could see but didn't dare speak. Whoever it was did not appear to be alone. Seemed there were at least two of them. The steps seemed to stop every few yards. It took Wash a moment to realise what it meant, a smile blossoming across cracked lips and making them bleed again. A thin trickle the pilot ignored.

Barely a minute later Wash found himself staring like a dazed idiot at the most beautiful sight in the gorram 'verse. As the shadow moved into view Wash blinked back tears. "Zoe! *Bao bei*, you have to get out of here. Niska..." "*Fang xin, zhangfu*. Far as we can tell this place is deserted." Jayne's voice grumbled across from the cell opposite. "No it ain't, we're here."

"Well you won't be there for long." Said a deep but welcome voice.

"Preacher, that you?"

"Yes Jayne, now stand back."

"What'ya gonna do?"

Zoe waved Wash to stand to one side and keep well back too. "Don't have time to set a charge, gonna break you out the low tech way."

Jayne scowled, trying to see more clearly in the dim light. "*Shenme*?"

The rattling crack of automatic fire was answer enough. In seconds both cell doors swung open, the locks decimated. Book went to help Jayne out while Zoe pretty much ran to catch Wash before he could fall. Embarrassed, Wash tried to laugh it off with a joke. "You always did make me go weak at the knees, Zoe. Can't tell you how happy I am to see you."

"More like weak in the head."

Her brow furrowed with worry when Wash hissed with pain, the involuntary cry sending a spike of alarm through the first mate. "*Bao bei*, where did they hurt you?"

"Just get me outta here, Zo. Me an' Jayne can trade manly scars when we're back safe on Serenity."

Carefully Zoe helped Wash out into the corridor. Wash craned his neck this way and that before giving her a quizzical look. "Where's Mal?"

"We weren't sure which tunnels you were in so we split up." Jayne nodded. "Good, we ain't seen hide nor hair of Monty. Don't know where that ruttin' *tamade hundan* has him."


"Yes, *bao bei*?"

"Um, you said this place is deserted?"

He felt his wife nod, tried not to flinch at the little spike of shooting pains the movement caused him. Bad enough that she was having to hold him upright but a thousand rampaging monsters would not make him admit it. Just having his beloved Zoe with him was heaven enough. Wash put a hand out to lean on the nearest wall, ignoring the damp musty brickwork. Zoe was forced to pause. "*Shenme shi*?"

"If this place is deserted but for us where in the nine hells is Monty?"

Shepherd Book tried to reassure the pilot. "We have schematics Wash, these underground crypts have connecting tunnels. Also, there are other tunnels not part of this system. Captain thinks they might be sewage."

Wash glanced at Jayne, mind in a slow whirl of pieces dropping into place. Both men had the same thought. "It's a trap."

Zoe urged him to move and with Book and Jayne on the one side, she and the Preacher tried to set a pace that was fast enough to get them out with no more delay yet slow enough for the injured men to manage. "Don't know that Wash." "I know this whole circus was set up for one purpose an' one purpose only, to get Mal."

For a moment no one spoke, all that could be heard was the wheezing and grunting Wash could not do anything about and the faint but steady drip, drip, drip of water. As they finally came to an exit leading up to the surface and the very welcome daylight Zoe felt a stirring of hope. "Cap'n ain't stupid *zhangfu*, he knows what he's doin'."

"Not stupid? This is Mal we're talkin' about."

"An' he's still the Cap'n, Wash." Zoe warned, her voice quiet but firm. No give in it.

It took another hour to get to the shuttle, with frequent stops and more than one silent prayer or two. At the shuttle Book was not surprised to find no sign of Mal or Hanimoto. No doubt the other pair were still searching. Zoe entered the code and the locked hatch opened. Seconds later they were inside and Zoe turned her attention to seeing just how badly Wash and Jayne were injured. Jayne waved her away from him but Wash didn't have the energy. Grabbing the first aid kit kept in the shuttle for emergencies, Zoe sorted through the supplies and realised it was woefully inadequate. Shutting the lid quietly she put it aside. Wash raised his eyebrows and just looked at her. Zoe shrugged. "No point wrapping you when first thing Simon's gonna have to do is take the dressings off to treat you."

"*Bao bei*, I'm not much for the bleedin' to death." Her stern smile made Wash's heart flip. God, he'd missed her so gorram much. "You ain't gonna bleed to death 'sides, it could have been worse."

Book moved to the pilot's seat, his eyes making a slow catalogue of the controls and trying to remember as much as he could about the last time he had flown anything remotely similar. Just as he started the engine up Jayne spoke, "*Wei*! What'ya doin'?"

"Don't worry Jayne, just warmin' her up for when the Captain and Hanimoto get here."

Suddenly the world outside became a blaze of light. Wash squiinted and tried to see the cause when a loud voice bellowed through an electronic hailer demanding that they cut the engine and prepare to be boarded. Zoe cursed. "*Wode ma*, get us in the air Shepherd, *mashang*!"

Wash wanted to protest he really did but the sound of gunfire and something with more heft exploding nearby silenced him. With a lurch Book got them into the air. Wash found Jayne staring at him, as their eyes met Jayne nodded. "Yep, things're worse."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *dong ma* = understand? *laoban* = boss *bao bei* = precious/treasure *xie xie ni* = thank you *zhangfu* = husband *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *diyu* = hell *chunren* = fool/jerk *shenme* = what *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wode ma* = mother of God *wei* = hey! *mashang* = at once/quickly/immediately/on the double


*taisa* = captain *Amaterasu* = the sun Goddess *Onnotangu* = the Moon God *tomodachi* = friend *-san* = suffix: honoured, sir *gam-bat-te* = good luck *hai* = yes


Monday, March 5, 2007 5:56 PM


Oh...that ain't good! Definitely need some intervention from Serenity:(

Still...gotta give Mal props for saying goodbye to Inara in such a heartfelt way. That and goddamn Simon Tam they have some interestin' timing;D


Monday, March 5, 2007 6:59 PM


Now that was all manner of interesting ... of course, you dangle the dirty Simon carrot out in front of us and then snatch it away ... naughty AMDOBELL! But I too loved the Mal/Inara moment and can't imagine that any of this is going to end shiny and happy ... not with Niska involved anyway!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007 2:54 AM


I too loved the Mal/Inara moment

please continue


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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.