Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Zoe and Book rescue Wash and Jayne. Meanwhile the Captain has a promise to keep."



SUMMARY: "Zoe and Book rescue Wash and Jayne. Meanwhile the Captain has a promise to keep." 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 was weird. He should have been frightened, shaking in his gorram boots, but he wasn't. With only one course of action open to him the Captain felt an odd kind of peace. A lifting of a burden that he had not known he was carrying. It was not that he wasn't afraid for he was, it was the simplicity of letting it all go that lent him a curious sense of calm. No more juggling options, each one more hair raising than the last. No more ducking and diving to avoid everything from Alliance Operatives, bounty hunters and feds to twisted and evil *tamade hundans* who treated people like sub-human lifeforms, only there to further the sick machinations of the Devil's most devoted disciple.

Malcolm Reynolds had always known he would never make old bones but *wode ma* he had expected to go out fighting. This though was a surrender even more profound than Serenity Valley and a hundred times more personal. But still. He was the Captain and if this was the only way to get his crew out of that madman's clutches he would do it.

The hangar appeared empty. Deserted. But Mal knew differently. There was a subtle difference in the echo, the ambience of a truly empty space as opposed to one that was simply waiting to be filled. Gut instinct told him that he would not be waiting long and he wasn't. Figures moved slowly from the periphery of his vision. The Captain didn't move. Kept his hands out to the sides and away from his body but ready to draw his weapon if need be. Niska's muscle men revealed themselves first, forming a loose ring around the Captain but making no move to disarm him. Mal felt an itch growing, the desire to shoot almost overpowering. Yet his promise held him. Other lives hung on him keeping that word. A soft shuffling sound caught his ear then Adelei Niska stepped out from behind a pile of crates, a wide disingenous smile making him seem nothing but a harmless, kindly old man. The facade just made him creepier.

"Ah, Mr Reynolds. It is good to see you are a man of your word."

"Let's get this over with Niska. I'm here, now release my crew."

"You are still armed."

"Ain't drawn my gun an' ain't gonna 'less you don't keep up your end of the bargain."

Niska stepped to within a couple of feet of the Captain. "Enough of this foolishness. My men would kill you before you could draw."

"But I'd be dead." Mal ground out slowly, his eyes locked on the wizzened old man. "You wouldn't be able to hurt me any more. Seems like a good trade to me."

"You would throw away so much for so little?" Niska paused but the Captain did not answer. "Your pilot and the mercenary have already been rescued."

"They have?"

"Yes, so you see. I keep my word also."

Mal shook his head. "What about Monty?"

"Ah yes, the other Mr Reynolds." For a couple of minutes Niska just stared at Mal as if expecting something but the Captain said nothing. The tension in the air began to thicken as if one wrong word or move would bring every calamity known to man crashing down upon their heads. The Captain was more than happy to wait him out. If Niska wanted a gorram staring contest he could rutting well have one. Anything to delay the torture was fine with him. At last Niska nodded, his eyes never leaving Mal's. "Very well. Undo your gunbelt and let it fall then step aside."

"How do I know you'll keep your word?"

"Reputation is very important to me, Mr Reynolds. It is why you are here, yes?"

A shiver went through the Captain, all the blood in his veins turning cold. "Still need to know they're safe, *dong ma*?"

"You will. Niska does not break his word. Now. Your gunbelt."

The Captain did as instructed and let it fall unfastened to the ground then stepped aside. One of Niska's men got close enough to kick the gunbelt behind him, the man behind him bending to pick it up. "Now what? No parade an' marching band? Have to say I'm a mite disappointed."

Niska gave a little nod and his men closed in, two of them grabbing the Captain's hands and tying them behind his back. "Mr Reynolds, it is time to end the story. The people need to know what happens to those who betray Adelei Niska."

* * * * *

"We have to go back!"

The Preacher's deep voice was steady and calm. "We can't go back Wash, at least not this way."

Zoe tried to reassure her *zhangfu*. "*Fang xin, bao bei*. We'll go back for the Cap'n, First we have to get you an' Jayne to Serenity."

"*Ni bu dong*, it was a trap!" Zoe frowned at him. "He won't let Mal go, Zoe. Not until he kills him for the last time."

Jayne was as furious and frustrated as Wash but oddly subdued. "Can't save him now." He said quietly.

The first mate's head whipped round and pierced him with an icy glare but it had no effect on the mercenary. "Ain't givin' up, *dong ma*?"

"He's still got Monty." Jayne added. "Think he'll let him go too?"

Shepherd Book frowned. "He didn't let you go, we rescued you."

Jayne snorted but it was not a humorous sound. "He *let* ya rescue us. Why do ya think he did that?"

"Suppose you tell us?" Said Book quietly.

"'Cause he's already got what he wants, that's why."

"You're forgettin' Hanimoto. Cap'n ain't in this alone Jayne."

The big man turned bleak eyes on her, the look in them enough to make her breath catch. "Ain't ya been listenin'? As for the samurai who's to say he ain't in on this?"

"Akira Hanimoto is the father of a good friend of ours. A man who died at Serenity Valley."

"An' how'd ya know that?" Jayne spat, his face close to Zoe's even though the effort to remain on his feet was beginning to show. "All's we got is his gorram word an' right now it ain't worth squat. None of us seen him before an' ain't it funny he turns up now?"

"He came to collect his son's remains." Zoe murmured, her mind racing, wondering if Jayne could be right after all. It was not a happy thought.

"Yeah, well he ain't took 'em has he?"

Zoe blinked slowly at Jayne.

"A lot was goin' on, Jayne." Said Book diplomatically.

"That ain't it."

The Shepherd looked from face to face, saw Jayne visibly flag and lower himself awkardly to the floor. Letting gravity do what his body could not. Despite how utterly tired and hurt he felt, Jayne couldn't let it rest there. "Cap's gone an' he ain't comin' back."

No one spoke. After waiting for Zoe to gainsay him, Jayne gave a sigh when she didn't and closed his eyes, leaning his head back. Every part of him was in pain but for once he didn't care. The ache of loss in his heart numbing his body as well as his mind. This whole gig had started out as a means of improving his prospects, switching allegiance from his old employer to a new one had been simple economics at the time. Mal had made him a better offer. Had never figured he would actually come to care for Serenity's crew nor to look upon the scruffy old transport ship as home. *Diyu*, he didn't form attachments for a reason. Losing folk he'd come to regard as friends was one of them.

* * * * *

The cell was small, dark and smelly. Not enough air circulating to carry the stench of those that had died before away from the fetid impacted soil and rock. The walls were damp but even mosses and lichen were too choosy to grow there. Stale odours of the dead and the dying thickened the foul air but the cell's occupant was oblivious. The big man lay half on his side, his head to one side where the spit and blood could flow and congeal by turns as he coughed or twitched in his pained sleep.

Stealthy steps approached and barely paused at the heavy metal door. No bars for him, nothing to give even the merest glimpse of what lay beyond the squalor of his cell. The figure knew what this was. What was intended. Nimble fingers used a wire to manipulate the lock then with a protesting creak the door was opened. For long minutes after, nothing happened. Monty lay insensate. When at last the figure moved again it was more like a ghost, a movement of light and shadow than a man of flesh and blood. A low agonised groan leaked from Monty's swollen lips but otherwise he did not stir. Slowly the body was dragged from the cell, the damp of the sodden floor actually helping to lubricate his passage. The corridor floor though was less smooth and his rescuer was all too aware how much it was hurting him. But time was not their ally and Monty was not the only one needing someone to carry him.

* * * * *

Montclare was an old declining estate. Everywhere the signs of neglect shouted out at whoever took the occasion to notice. No one ever did. Seeing Malcolm Reynolds do so brought an amused twist to Niska's lips, his head tilting, reflecting the wan light across the Captain's face. "My nephew's estate." Mal nodded as if it was not news to him even though it was. He did not look at the crime lord but continued to stare out across the untended and overgrown gardens. "Not exactly a gardener is he?"

"His wife loved the gardens. Used to grow roses, yes?" Niska closed his eyes like an old man reminiscing. "Such perfume."

"What happened?"

Niska opened his eyes and looked at the Captain. "He was working for me. Skimmed money from the top to cheat me." He shook his head in mock sadness. "You saw him, yes?" His expression changed to one of smug satisfaction. "He paid back his debt."

The Captain frowned. That was not what he remembered. His view had been of a man hanging upside down from a meat hook, covered in blood and pretty much dead already. Niska watched his reaction with pleasure, savouring the Captain's unease. "Huh, I'm thinkin' you got more'n your pound of flesh."

"He gave me three days." The *liumang* explained with satisfaction. It made the Captain's skin crawl just to listen to the smug bastard.

Niska smiled with a look only a mother who was blind, deaf and dumb could love.

"He died screaming."

There was nothing much Mal could say to that even if he wanted to. All he could think was that at least the poor *hundan* was beyond Niska's reach now. It wasn't any comfort knowing he would be joining him. Niska turned to his favourite henchman.

"Tsk, I forget my manners, yes? Hans, we must show Mr Reynolds his room." The large muscle bound man gave a short nod and grinned at Mal. Hans Richter loved his job, had learnt from Crow what it meant to serve a man like Adelei Niska. The Captain was pushed forward and into the main house, dust and decay fading the colours that had once shone out from plush furnishings and polished wood. It was a surprise to find himself in a back room. It had been swept and cleaned, all the furniture removed apart from a large oak table which had been adapted presumably in his honour. Mal stared at the bolted on straps and noticed Niska watching him intently. Behind Niska a fire blazed in a huge grate. A rail ran alongside the fire and various implements hung from the rail making Mal's gut twist. This wasn't going to be pleasant.

"Last time, Mr Reynolds, we were interrupted. There will be no interruptions this time."

"You're *shenjingbing*, you know that?"

Niska leaned a little closer. "Last time I wanted two days - minimum. Now I think you owe me more."

Rough hands untied him then his shirt was ripped off and the Captain was manhandled on to the table, his wrists and ankles strapped down tight. Splayed out like some kind of sacrifice. Mal wasn't sure if it was better or worse that he was lying on his back and able to see the glee sparkling in Niska's mad eyes. "You are one twisted *tamade hundan*."

"And you Mr Reynolds." Niska paused, one hand behind him as he waited for Richter to put an instrument in it. Mal tried not to focus on the smoke rising off it. He could not see the tip properly but it reminded him of a branding iron only much smaller than the one used on cattle. "You are not quite such an extraordinary man after all."

"Huh, you tryin' to hurt my feelin's?"

Niska moved closer, amusement written in every line of his face and dark malice gloating behind glass. The touch of the instrument on his bare chest was excruciating, the smell of burning skin making the Captain gag, the slick hot slide as the heated tip trailed slowly down his right side making him jerk and cry in agony. Then the brand was removed and cold water was thrown over him. Between red hot pain and the ice cold shock of the water he could hear his skin sizzle. Mal closed his eyes only to open them moments later as a shock of electricity raced through his body, only vaguely aware that something metal was clamped to his nipples, burning right through him with a voltage so high the scream was torn from his throat before the agony could form in his mind.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity Kaylee could not stop crying. Simon wanted to reassure her but there was no time. Wash and Jayne both needed surgery. Inara's face blanched white, memories of the last time Wash had been caught by Niska made her feel sick. Last time Niska had sent Zoe back with one of the Captain's ears. She looked up as a figure blocked her view from the doorway of the infirmary. It was Shepherd Book. "I'll help Simon. Best you take Kaylee with you."

Inara wanted to protest but the words were lies on her tongue and remained unspoken. Instead she gave Book a nod and gathered Kaylee to her, each movement automatic while her mind reeled. Zoe was saying something through gritted teeth but the Companion did not hear. With surprise she blinked and realised she was in the commons room with no memory of how she had got there, Kaylee still weeping in her arms. "Ssssh, Kaylee, it's going to be alright."

"But what if Niska got the Cap'n? What if..."

The Companion loosened her hold on the mechanic and leaned back so she could see Kaylee's face. "Kaylee, this isn't helping. We'll get the Captain and Hanimoto back but we don't know if Niska has them."

More tears poured down Kaylee's face as she tried to hold back another sob. "He's still got Monty. Wash said..."

"Don't take too much notice of what Wash said, *mei mei*."

Kaylee's eyes widened in shock. Inara brushed the hair back from her face, her fingers gentle even as they trembled, her look full of compassion and understanding.

"Men under torture say all kinds of things. We don't leave anyone behind, *jide*?"

The mechanic nodded but it didn't really help. The state Wash and Jayne returned in had upset her and River had disolved into incoherent babbling. Kaylee couldn't go to River right now, was afraid of what would tumble out of the girl's mouth. Afraid that this time they wouldn't be getting their Captain back no matter what Zoe, Inara and Book tried to tell her. So she clamped her mouth shut and nodded at Inara, the misery in her eyes matching the sorrow in the Companion's heart. Not a one of them wanting to voice their deepest fears.

"We'll get them back." Inara murmured as she hugged Kaylee close, both women clinging to the other as if their lives depended on it. The words were meant as a reassurance but to Kaylee they sounded more like a prayer.

* * * * *

It was dark. Gorrammit, it was always dark. Monty lay breathing in an uneven staccato, his diaphram aching and causing him pain if he breathed too deeply. A voice he did not recognise cautioned him against trying to move or to take more than shallow breaths. Monty tried to turn his head, focus on the speaker but pain shot through his shoulder and head like red hot pokers. He closed his eyes and swore. "*Cao ni zuxian shi ba dai*!"

Hands ghosted over his body drawing minor trails of agony from weeping lips. Monty didn't move, couldn't bring himself to care neither. If this was Niska's goons robbing him of his last few possessions they were welcome to them. Next time round he aimed to end every last one of them even if doing so cost him the rest of the wheel of life. He passed out again, the hands concentrating on the worst of his wounds. Pieces of oddly coloured cloth ripped into strips to bind the many cuts that coloured his body. Then his jacket and coat were carefully put back on him. By the time Monty roused again, the mysterious figure had gone. As light returned to his one open eye Monty was convinced he was gorram hallucinating. On the grass beside him lay an ornately decorated water bottle, some meagre provisions and a knife.

Monty turned his head slowly and squinted up at what was definitely a sun. A cool breeze blew through his hair, bits of grass and crumbs of soil caught in his beard and irritated his chin whiskers. He felt like *goushi* but was definitely alive. The how and the why were a mystery to him. He wanted to drink some of the water but his hands were as numb as the rest of him. Wondering if this was a new kind of torture, Monty rolled his head back and closed his eyes against the glare of the sun. If this was a gorram dream he would wait until they came back with beer.

* * * * *

Simon finished cleaning up and stitching a truculent Jayne, his face creased in confusion. Zoe was over the other side of the infirmary where Wash was recovering. The patchwork of stitches on his face, arms and chest were like someone had tried to embroider a badly drawn picture across his body. His back was the part that hurt most, the trails of cuts from the whip had cut quite deep but Simon had only found six lashes. They were spread out and little indents into the flesh had puzzled the doctor until Wash explained that the strands of the whip had metal balls inset along them. Zoe swore but Simon said nothing, just made sure Wash was as comfortable as possible then went back to treating Jayne.

Shepherd Book was watching the doctor closely. "Something wrong, Simon?"

The doctor shook his head then paused, his eyes meeting Jayne Cobb's before looking up at the Preacher. "Um no, I mean yes."

That didn't please Jayne at all. "*Shenme*? Why the good gorram ya keepin' a thing like that from me?"

"*Rongyi* Jayne, I'm not keeping anything from you. Just trying to understand."

"Understand what?"

Simon looked across to the other side of the infirmary where Zoe was holding Wash's hand. They were both sitting up, their foreheads touching, voices low and intimate. Simon glanced at Book then turned to Jayne. "Your injuries while numerous are hardly life threatening."

"Huh? That why you looked so disappointed?"

He hurried to explain. "*Duibuqi*, that came out wrong. What I meant was, given Niska's penchant for torture you and Wash got off lightly."

"You want that I should show you how lightly we got off?" Jayne growled, offended.

Book put a hand on Jayne's arm. It was a light touch but enough to silence the mercenary. "It's okay Jayne, I don't think Simon is trying to insult you."

"No, I'm simply trying to understand the injuries you have. All of them are undoubtedly painful Jayne but none of them are designed to end your life."

"What ya saying, doc?"

"I think," said Simon slowly, "this was intended to look worse than it is."

Book and Simon looked at each other, understanding dawning. The Shepherd glanced at Jayne who was now sitting up shirtless on the infirmary bed, his body peppered with weaves and stitches. The mercenary caught on quick. "Ya mean this was meant for Mal to see?"

The doctor nodded. "That would be my guess, yes."

For a moment no one spoke then Wash's voice cut through their reverie. "That explains somethin' that puzzled me at the time."

Zoe brushed the hair from his eyes, her look tender but concerned. "What that's, *bao bei*?"

"I was only lashed five or six times. It drew plenty of blood but that's it. Hurt like a gorram *pofu* at the time too."

Simon looked thoughtful. "You said Niska also had Monty?"

"Yeah, though he was there longer than us. About a week before Niska nabbed us." Jayne paused, frowning, his look as worried as they had ever seen it. "He looked pretty bad, not sure how long he's gonna last."

"I don't get it." Said Book. "Why would Niska go lightly on you and Wash but be harsher on Monty? Monty has never done anything to him."

"Didn't have to." Jayne said sourly.


"Reckon it's 'cause they's related."

Simon looked baffled. Jayne was making even less sense than normal. "What are you talking about?"

"Mal. Him an' Monty're cousins."

Wash looked at Zoe in surprise. "They are?"

Zoe nodded. "*Qu*."

Wash stared at his gorgeous but deadly wife for a moment. "Why didn't you say anythin'?"

The first mate shrugged. "Nothin' to say. Didn't see it as any kind of a big deal."

Shepherd Book did not look too happy, his expression solemn and thoughtful. "Except it was a big deal to Niska."

The friends looked at each other, a glum silence descending over them.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *wode ma* = mother of God *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand? *zhangfu* = husband *bao bei* = precious/treasure *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *shenjingbing* = crazy *mei mei* = little sister *jide* = remember *cao ni zuxian shi ba dai* = fuck 18 generations of your ancestors *shenme* = what *rongyi* = easy *duibuqi* = sorry *goushi* = crap/dog shit *pofu* = bitch *qu* = yes (lit. go) *hundan* = bastard


Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:40 PM


Oh...cao! This is the complete and utter opposite of good and right! Mal must be rescued! ASAP:(

Still...great work as always, AMDOBELL:D


Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:11 AM


Nicely done. Using Monty to get to Mal because they're related. Looking forward to the next chapter.


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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.