HELLBOUND SERIES: 11. "Better and Better"
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"As the crew wait for the right time to expedite their Big Damn Rescue, their plan gets complicated by the Alliance Prison Transport ship Levington and her suspicious Captain."



SUMMARY: "As the crew wait for the right time to expedite their Big Damn Rescue, their plan gets complicated by the Alliance Prison Transport ship Levington and her suspicious Captain." 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

* * * * *

Simon could not help feeling anxious and nervous. Bad enough that the Captain had been sent to the worst Alliance penal colony in the 'verse but now the rest of the crew were planning to go in to get him out again. Yet even as he inwardly fretted about the risks they were running part of him marvelled at the crew's loyalty. It was something of a mystery to him given that the kind of people he rubbed shoulders with in the Core would no sooner put themselves at risk for another than fly. Everybody in the Core worlds tended to look after number one, always plotting and scheming to advance themselves and their careers using every means at their oh so educated disposal. Everything was cosmetic, from their polite conversation to their mannered smiles. Life in the Black was less cultured but more earthy and real. People were richer in character and far more emotionally invested in the well being of their friends and family. It had been a painful lesson to learn but one he now cherished.

Turning his head carefully he watched Kaylee sleep. Book had returned almost an hour ago and had calculated that it would not be safe to return to the prison for another four to five hours. Zoe had therefore told everyone to get what sleep they could. But Simon could not sleep, knew his sister was sitting up on the bridge even now, her mind tied in to the fate of the Captain as if afraid that if she slept the link would be broken and all would be lost. It was a foolish worry but no less real to her. Kaylee stirred in his arms and opened a sleepy eye.

"Why ain't ya sleepin', Simon?"

"*Duibuqi*, I didn't mean to wake you."

"Ya didn't."

He dropped a kiss on the end of her nose and smiled. "Then why can't you sleep?"

"Don't work like that, Simon. I asked first."

Simon sighed, his smile vanishing. "I can't help worrying, *bao bei*. I know everything has been worked out and River assured us it would be alright... but... we're going into an ALLIANCE prison, Kaylee! Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"

The mechanic sat up and stared at him, a hand reaching out to hold his in comfort and reassurance. "Ain't nothin' the Cap'n wouldn't do for any of us."

He nodded. "*Wo zhidao* but that doesn't stop it being crazy."

Her smile enveloped most of her face, the wattage lighting his world up like a miniature sun. "That's what makes us Big Damn Heroes."

"Only if it works."

The scowl on her face made him immediately sorry for dampening her mood but Kaylee was never down for long. "'Course it'll work. We got all the smarts on our side, Simon."

That amused him. "We have?"

Kaylee poked him in the stomach, her eyes merry as her hands began to roam. "You know we have, Top Three Percent!" Simon stiffled a groan, he was never going to lose that title. "We got you, an' River, an' Book is real smart - knows all manner of complicated stuff. An' the man ain't been born who can outsmart Zoe."

"And Jayne?"

"Jayne's got his own kind'a smarts."

Simon raised his eyebrows in disbelief but Kaylee ignored the implied slight.

"Then there's Wash an' 'Nara."

"Yes, I can see the whole of the Alliance doesn't stand a chance. How foolish of me to worry."

The pillow hit him in the face startling a muffled laugh out of him then Kaylee was on him, using surprise to her advantage and determined to make him take back his words.

Up on the bridge River sat huddled in the pilot's chair. She stared unseeing, body wracked with phantom pain, willing the Captain to hold on. River did not turn her head as Zoe joined her, the first mate's brow creased with concern. "This is the longest five hours of my life."

River did not speak. Did not acknowledge Zoe's presence or comment but then Zoe had not expected her to. The words were more her thinking aloud than opening a conversation and River knew that. The hours passed slowly. Wash came to look for his wife and gave up on any attempt at getting any sleep. They went to get a hot drink, promising to bring one back for River. The girl nodded, not really taking in what was said just relieved when they had gone. She was concentrating, reaching out to stablise a faltering heartbeat.

* * * * *

The Levington had all the aerodynamic finesse of a brick but her two sets of twin engines gave her stability and a workhorse speed that might have no flash but was steady and reliable. A ship like that could sail the Black forever so long as the fuel kept coming. Not much short of hitting an electro magnetic pulse would stop her.

It was three in the a.m. and her Captain wanted only to drop off her troublesome cargo and be gone.

* * * * *

Pain. A dull erratic throb sending spikes of agony along over sensitised nerve endings. Should have hurt more he supposed but spending hours screaming in agony kind of took the neat sharp edge off things. The floor was cold and welcome to his heated skin, arms pulled back by the cuffs tightly fastening his wrists together behind him. What the good gorram did they think he was gonna do? Drool all over them?

The kick to his rib cage had him involuntarily curling forward, trying to protect himself. A coarse laugh identified his tormentor as Brak's right hand man - Thomas Hicks. A man so twisted and mean that he probably resented the air it cost him to breathe. Gorram perverted sumbitch.

"Think this is the worst it gets, *hundan*?"

The Captain didn't speak. Couldn't. His silence seemed to anger the psychotic man, a second kick following the first. Oddly enough it connected kind of slow, as if the man were moving through treacle not air. The impact hardly anything at all. Now that was odd. Mal hardly noticed, on the verge of passing out his own self. The only thought in his mind a kind of relief that his stupidity hadn't drawn any of his crew into this Special Hell. Except maybe Jayne. The thought hurt because despite how foolish and petty he could be when it came to getting a lick in against the Alliance he really didn't like anyone else paying for his foolishness. Even as the thought formed it was slipping away like a mist, his mind going all manner of foggy and distant. Taking the gorram pain with it.

* * * * *

Wash left Zoe and Book talking over the details in the commons room and carefully carried the mug of not-chocholate to the bridge for River. Just as he stepped through the door he froze, eyes locking on to something even bigger than an Alliance battle cruiser. This monster was huge, depressingly so, and to his horror he noticed the behemoth alter its' trajectory. It was on an intercept course. "*Wode tian a*!"

Without turning her head River spoke, eerily calm even as Wash imagined their freedom slipping away through their fingers bound in chains of steel. "Stay calm, not looking for us."

"As comfortin' as that's supposed to be, I'm gonna go right ahead an' panic." Wash paused only long enough to put the mug on the nearest flat surface and reach for the com. Didn't give a good gorram that it was on ship-wide broadcast. "Zoe, get up here! We got trouble." The thunder of running feet told him that pretty much the whole crew was crowding in behind him. Wash slid into the pilot's chair, River moving over to the co-pilot's, her eyes glued to the screen and the impossibly large vessel blocking their view of everything. Kaylee's mouth dropped open, Simon not so much surprised as accepting their luck. Jayne was swearing non stop but Zoe had no time for any kind of distraction. "Jayne, *bizui*! Let me think."

"Huh, what's to think about? We's all gonna die, knew this was a dumb plan."

Book met his eyes and Jayne felt a slight need to make amends.

"Not sayin' it's your fault, Book, just..." He broke off, not sure what to say that his body language wasn't already screaming out.

"Jayne, we need to be calm." The big man blinked. "*Zhenjing*, you want me to *pingjing xialai*? Told ya this was a dumb ass idea."

Zoe cut him off. "Anyone who don't wanna help get off the bridge!"

"I was just sayin'..." Jayne began but was cut off. Zoe's face as hard as he had ever seen it.

"Ain't askin'." With a small nod the big man closed his mouth but stayed put. Shepherd Book leaned over Wash's shoulder, looking at the big vessel closely. "Hmm, that's a prison transport ship." Wash was surprised. "Didn't think the Alliance had anythin' that big."

"Oh, you'd be surprised what the Alliance have got." "Interestin' as this may be they're hailin' us, what the good gorram we gonna tell 'em?"

The Shepherd opened his mouth to speak but before a word could slip out River turned her head and spoke for him. "When in *shen goushi* - lie."

Everyone stared at her, more alarmed by the creepy smile on her face than the advice. Jayne snorted. "Huh, that ain't gonna work."

"Doesn't have to work."

That confused him. "It don't?"

Zoe was looking hard at River, trying to decide how lucid the girl was. "What do you have in mind?"

"When they hail we tell them the reason we're in orbit not docked on the ground is the outbreak."

That caught Wash's attention. "Outbreak?" Oh God, what had Simon put in that gorram vial?

"It has to be something medical, believable." She looked at her brother. "Something we can blame on the prisoners bringing into the colony. Slipping past the screening."

Simon's mind raced, picking up where River was going with this and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. "It would be best to pick something that isn't part of the Alliance regular innoculation programme. Something suitably obscure."

"And terrifying." River agreed.

"Ya mean gettin' caught an' imprisoned by the Alliance ain't terrifyin'?"

"Jayne, we do this right none of us'll imprisoned." Book assured, his own thoughts now exploring the possibilities open to them.

A light on the pilot's console winked on and off. Wash looked at it then at the others. "Whatever you're thinkin' think faster, if I don't respond this could be the end for all of us."

"*Fang xin*, the prison transport isn't armed." Said Book.

"Don't have to be armed to ram us." Muttered Jayne.

Everyone looked at him making him feel uncomfortable.

"*Wei*, just sayin' is all."

"Okay, something terrifying." Simon mused. His expression lightened as a thought popped in his head, he reviewed it from all angles and let a grim little smile cross his face. "Something terrifying and *contagious* should do." Zoe frowned at how long this was taking. "You better have somethin', Simon."

"Oh yes, *duibuqi*. I also have another idea. What's scarier than knowing what ails you? It's NOT knowing."

They stared at him.

"We'll keep it simple and vague."

"Don't think vague's gonna cut it, doctor."

Book shook his head at Zoe, he sensed where Simon was going with this. "Let him finish."

"We'll tell them it's some kind of pox. Jayne, you'd be the best one to answer."

Zoe was convinced Simon must have hit his head. "Jayne?"

It was River who clarified what Simon had not. "They'll believe him, he's afraid already. Panic speaks louder than words. Adds truth to the lie."

Offended Jayne scowled darkly at her. "I ain't panickin'."

"She didn't mean in that way." Simon placated, his words coming out faster and with more certainty as the plan solidified in his mind. "We'll leave you on the bridge, the rest of us will wait outside and out of screen range. Might be a good idea if you stay too, Book."

The Shepherd nodded. Jayne looked worried. "What the *diyu* I gotta do? Don't know how to talk to no gorram purplebellies."

"Just keep doing what you're doing, Jayne. When you answer the com they'll want to know who you are and why you took so long to answer. Tell them you were dropping off supplies only to be told the facility was in lock down due to an outbreak. When they ask what kind of outbreak you just tell them some kind of pox."

Jayne did not look happy. "They ain't gonna believe that!"

"You'd be surprised what people will believe if you look terrified enough." "Huh, I ain't afraid of nothin'. 'Cept Reavers but Reavers ain't people."

"Jayne, are you afraid of getting caught and put in that *jianyu* where Mal is?"

The big man didn't even have to think about it. "Have to be stone dead not t'be, why?" Simon nodded. "That's what they'll pick up on, play it up a little, act manic - whatever - just stay on the raggedy edge far enough to convince them they don't want to go down there."

"Yeah, but they'll ask questions."

"And you'll tell them you don't know the answers. Tell them you and the ship have been quarrantined."

"What about when they ask where the rest of the crew is? What I tell 'em?"

Simon glanced slowly around the bridge. "You tell them most of the crew is down with it and all you have left is yourself and a Preacher."

That made everybody blink. Book raised his eyebrows but said nothing. Inara had been standing quietly near the door, too stunned to move or say anything until now. "How does Jayne explain having a Shepherd on his ship? No offence, Book."

"None taken."

"He doesn't. If they ask he tells them the Governor asked for one to give Last Rites to a couple of the inmates." Kaylee looked ill. "Think that'll work, Simon?"

"We'll soon find out." Said Wash, his eyes flicking down to the light blinking furiously on his console. It was enough incentive for Zoe to start ushering people off the bridge.

"Then we do this." Once everyone was off the bridge but herself, Jayne and Book, Zoe paused and gave the mercenary a look of assessment. "Think you can do this, Jayne?"

"If'n I do this'll make me a Big Gorram Hero, right?"

She didn't smile but he could see something lighten in the dark of her eyes. "That you will."

Jayne nodded and moved gruffly past her to the console. "Best get outta sight, I got me some Captain-y things to do."

Zoe almost said something but didn't, the words in Jayne's mouth sounded all kinds of wrong but if this was to work it was exactly what he was going to have to do. Book gave her a nod and watched her leave then stepped to one side so that he would not be in sight when Jayne responded to the wave. Clearing his throat Jayne didn't have to pretend to be nervous or worried. The face of the Alliance Captain glaring at him was enough to make more than his gorram palms sweat.

"This is the Alliance Prison Transport Ship Levington. Identify yourself and your reason for being in this quadrant."

"Name's Cobb, Jayne Cobb, an' I'm the Cap of this boat. Came to drop off gorram supplies."

"I am Captain Elijah Curtis." The man looked down at something then narrowed his eyes as he looked back at Jayne. "Your ship is a Firefly transport, records show her Captain to be a Malcolm Reynolds."

Jayne barked a laugh. "Huh, that *shenjingbing baichi*? He WAS the Cap, that was 'til the Alliance nabbed him for fightin' an such. Ain't his ship no more."

Captain Curtis eyed the mercenary with suspicion. "Where's your crew?"

"I'm the on'y one left standin'." Jayne scowled. "Gorram *jianyu* got some kind'a plague. Let me send down a shuttle with supplies with no ruttin' warnin'. By the time he came back my pilot was took sick. Dropped one by one. Hope ya got a doc aboard."

Worry now vied with suspicion. Worry won out. Curtis was recalling his own inability to get any response from the penal colony since his arrival half an hour ago. "What kind of plague?"

"Dunno, ain't no doc. Some kind'a pox. The prison Governor quarrantined my ruttin' boat. Ain't happy neither."

"But you have been given shots? An anti-dote, *dui*?"

Jayne threw back his head and laughed. It came out ugly and was enough to further unsettle the Alliance Captain. "Anti-dote? Ya think they know what the good gorram it is? They got folks droppin' like flies. So bad had to bring a Preacher in."

Captain Curtis stared at Jayne for a moment or two, almost swallowing the story wholesale. But still. A Preacher? Just as he was about to query Jayne's account of things Shepherd Book stepped into view, his calm compassionate manner robbing Curtis of words. "Perhaps I can be of service, Captain?"

"No offence but who are you?"

"My name is Shepherd Book. I was called to perform Last Rites on a number of the poor souls on Argent." Book allowed deep sadness to shadow the depths of his eyes. "I fear I will be called upon to perform the same services on this ship. If you have any medical expertise that could assist us...?"

Any suspicion Curtis had that he was being played vanished. He had heard of whole communities being wiped out by all manner of plagues and places like Argent attracted the most unsavoury characters from every corner of the known 'verse. It wasn't any wonder that sooner or later someone would bring something deadly and highly contagious into the closed community of the prison complex. He felt sick, wondering now if anyone was left alive down on that doomed and God-forsaken penal colony. A strong determination grew in him not to add his own crew to that fate. "*Duibuqi*, we are just transporting prisoners. I will however report this to Alliance Headquarters and get a medical clean up crew en route. It will unfortunately take a couple of days before they can get here. In the meantime I must insist your quarrantine still stands, *dong ma*?"

Book nodded, his expression grave. "*Wo dong* and thank you."

Jayne piled on the shock. "Ya mean I just gotta stay here an' die while I wait for someone to get their thumb out their gorram ass?"

"Captain!" Book admonished, then lowered his voice into a more agreeable tone. "Getting excited will simply speed the progress of the virus. Both of us are compromised now, we need to stay calm until help can get here."

Captain Curtis paled slightly. Gave his condolences and cut the link. Jayne whooped like a little boy as the big prison transport fired up and left as fast as it was able. The others poured on to the bridge and began congratulating Jayne on his performance, the big man grinning at having pulled the wool over the eyes of the enemy. Zoe was the only one not sparing him a smile, her eyes still crowded with worry.

"Okay everyone, now that those *tamade hundan* have been set packin' let's go get our other Big Damn Hero back."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*duibuqi* = sorry *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo zhidao* = I know *hundan* = bastard *wode tian a* = dear God in Heaven! *bizui* = shut up/be quiet *zhenjing* = calm (emotionally) *pingjing xialai* = calm down *wei* = hey! *shen goushi* = deep shit (lit. very crap/a lot of dogshit) *diyu* = hell *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *jianyu* = prison *dui* = correct *dong ma* = understand? *wo dong* = I understand *baichi* = idiot *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shenjingbing* = crazy


Thursday, April 5, 2007 8:09 AM


Clever crew! I like the dodge with the disease.....but they'd better get down there post-haste! Don't want that stuff wearing off before the rescue.....

And that crew better coddle Mal something fierce when he gets's heartbreaking to read about him being put through such horrors.

Thursday, April 5, 2007 9:12 AM


Kind of interesting thinking of Jayne as a DBH, but it works. I love the anxiety you build up for this chapter.

Monday, April 9, 2007 9:24 PM


Gotta agree with Zoe...hearing Jayne channel Mal is just all kinds of creepy. Still...our favourite merc got the job done and done well;)



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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.