THE HELLBOUND SERIES: 16. "Serendipity"
Friday, May 11, 2007

"When the shuttle lifts off to return to Serenity there is a horrible shock awaiting them."



SUMMARY: "When the shuttle lifts off to return to Serenity there is a horrible shock awaiting them." 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

* * * * *

Although Simon would not say it, he was worried about the woman or - to be precise - the baby she was carrying. He was pretty sure the child was in distress which made it imperative they get back to Serenity as soon as possible. Ideally he would have liked to have been able to get to one of the specialist baby clinics on Osiris but this was no fairytale where just wishing could make it so. If living in the Black had taught him anything it was serendipity. Using whatever was to hand in new and creative ways to function for the things you didn't have but there was no equivalent for time. He just had to hope that the little they had would be enough.

The smooth thrum of the shuttle taking off beneath his feet was a comfort. River hadn't said anything when the Shepherd suggested they take off now and that had reassured him. Although he still couldn't bring himself to believe in his sister's powers neither could Simon completely ignore River's warnings. He watched Kaylee sitting glum and anxious beside the Captain, Zoe and Book in quiet conversation, and Jayne looking ansty and bored. Just as he was wondering what was taking so long the shuttle lurched suddenly, tipping on its' side and throwing everyone on top of each other. Shepherd Book braced himself over the Captain but no one was close enough to catch the woman when she tumbled off the bench seat.

"River! What the *diyu's* going on?"

Jayne got to the woman seconds before the doctor, his big capable hands surprisingly gentle as he rolled her onto her back and leaned forward to drag the fallen blanket towards them. He covered her carefully then looked at Simon. "Why ain't she wakin'? Cap woke. Why ain't she awake?"

Simon knelt the other side of the woman, peeling back the blanket enough to give her a quick exam. "We don't know what they did to her, Jayne. The Captain has been beaten, tortured."

To his surprise the big man looked grim, concerned if Simon was any judge. "She look right to you?"

The doctor put the blanket back in place and locked eyes with him. "Jayne, she's pregnant, but the only physical injuries I found were bruising on her neck and the side of her face." He did not mention that the bruising was consistent with someone having their hands around her neck.

Shepherd Book yelled while inwardly crossing himself, drawing everyone's full attention. "We've got a more immediate problem."

The first mate carefully pulled herself alongside the Shepherd and peered over the canted console as River continued her erratic flight to avoid the grapples. The other ship was beginning to match her move for move and that was one step beyond truly scary. Zoe's eyes narrowed, her mind trying to grasp what she was seeing. "*Tian Yesu*! What are Reavers doin' out here?"

River briefly glanced away from the morbidly mesmerising view to catch Zoe's eye. "Hungry."

The only good news was that the Reaver ship seemed to be ignoring Serenity. Kaylee noticed her girl was in blackout mode and silently approved, even though it made their little shuttle the more appetising alternative for lunch. She couldn't stop shaking, fear gripping her so tightly she could hardly breathe. Simon noticed and picked his way over to her, his hand startling a cry from her lips before she recognised him. "Oh, Simon! What're we gonna do?" She wailed.

"Sssh, hush, *bao bei*. We'll think of something."

Jayne scowled darkly at the doctor. "Think of somethin'? They're ruttin' Reavers not some gorram jigsaw puzzle." As he spat out the words Jayne was checking his very favourite gun making sure she was fully loaded, glad he had the foresight to bring Vera with him. Even though the doc had said everyone in the *jianyu* would be unconscious for hours he had not intended on taking any chances. Hadn't expected to be using her to fight off gorram Reavers though.

* * * * *

Inara was torn between outright panic for herself and Wash and worry for her friends on the shuttle. Neither scenario offered a morsal of comfort. Her attention narrowed on Wash when he flicked a couple of switches. "What are you doing?"

"I can't just sit here while they reel the shuttle in, Inara."

She was about to tell him all manner of reasons why drawing Reaver attention was a very bad idea when she caught something out of the corner of her eye, turning her head slightly she saw a light blinking up at them. "What's that?"

The pilot's eyes widened and his head snapped up. "An Alliance ship. They're hailin' us, or rather they're hailin' Jayne."

For a moment Inara just blinked at him. "*Shenme*?"

"Yeah, Cap'n Cobb, *jide*?"

If things were not so dire she would have laughed but right now the ludicrous had no power to humour her morbid thoughts. "Can this get any worse?"

"Actually, this is the first good news we've had in a long while an' I'll take whatever I can get."

Inara was about to ask what he meant but Wash held up a hand. Inara's mouth snapped closed and she watched with baited breath as the pilot opened a com line to the shuttle. "Zoe can you hear me? It's Wash. An Alliance ship has just come on the scene and is hailin' us. They wanna speak to Cap'n Cobb, think it's time for Jayne to save the day."

'Save the day' and Jayne were two notions Inara was not used to hearing in the same sentence. Jayne's voice floated back at them like bits of rusty steel. "What in the nine hells am I gonna say?"

In the background they could hear the steady calm voice of the Preacher. "Improvise."

Inara Serra didn't want to point out over the com that the mercenary would have to look the word up before he could reply.

"*Diyu*," Muttered the big man casting a sideways glance at his fallen Captain then at the little sea of anxious faces all looking to him to pull a rabbit out of his gorram ass. Taking a steadying breath he moved towards the com. For a moment, Simon Tam thought they had made the biggest mistake of their soon-to-be-extinguished lives.

Jayne toggled the com once Zoe had set it to broadcast to the Alliance ship. "Cap'n Cobb here, what in the sphincter of hell took ya so long?"

Simon closed his eyes, Zoe looked like she wanted to strangle Jayne. River tilted her head thoughtfully and waited. Shepherd Book let the ghost of a smile settle on his lips. For a second or two there was dead silence then the airwaves crackled.

"Captain Cobb? What are you doing in a shuttle? You were ordered to stay aboard your ship and observe strict quarantine..."

Jayne butted in angrily before the man could go any further. "Unless you're slow witted as well as slow to act I'm guessin' ya ain't noticed that gorram Reaver ship."

There was a pause. "There are no such thing as Reavers."

"Yeah, tell that to those bone suckin' *tamade hundan*. Had to jump ship to try to escape 'em. Thought I could hide the shuttle round the ship's backside. Make 'em think there weren't nobody for 'em to chew on, *dong ma*?"

River straightened and looked the mercenary in the eye. "Still don't believe you but at least he's listening."

"Long as they start payin' attention to the Reavers I don't care." Said Zoe.

Just when it looked as if the Alliance ship had not taken their bait they watched the ponderous great cruiser turn and adjust its' trajectory, the ugly vessel speeding up intending to get between Serenity and her shuttle and block the Reaver ship. Shepherd Book stared at the tableau unfolding before them, his mind too numb to pray as he metaphorically held his breath. The first salvo of shots stitched a glancing pattern along the side of the Reaver ship. Simon's mouth dropped open. The Reaver ship seemed to be ignoring the larger Alliance vessel, trying to race the Alliance ship to the shuttle. Simon shook his head, baffled.

"They're not changing course. Why aren't they changing course?"

River touched his hand gently. "Wait."

He managed to tear his eyes away from the viewscreen. "What for?"

A large concussive blast rocked the shuttle, the clang of grapplers pinging off the body echoing too loud for comfort. Jayne crowed. "They missed!"

"No, the blast nudged us out of the way. Couldn't get a lock."

That was when Zoe noticed that though the Alliance ship had moved to intercept the Reavers, its' first salvo had not been aimed at the nightmares made flesh but at them. She frowned, all manner of annoyed until she saw what happened next. The fixed mentality of the Reavers had now been turned around, the shuttle and Serenity all but forgotten as the vessel turned and aimed directly for the Alliance ship.

"*Wode ma*, they're going to ram them!"

River nodded at her brother, her eyes wide but not in focus. "Too mad now to care, just want to smash them to pieces then pick their bones clean."

A moan from the bench diverted their attention. Simon immediately checked on the Captain, he was beginning to stir. Jayne frowned. The woman had yet to show any signs of regaining consciousness.

"Don't try to move, Captain."

"Uhhh, w.. where am I?"

Kaylee wriggled alongside Simon and grabbed the Captain's hand, her face alight with all kinds of relieved happy. "Cap'n, you're on the shuttle."

He blinked, sluggish but still. He was moving. Awake. "I am?"

Zoe stood just behind the doctor, one eye on the action outside, the other on her Captain and friend. "Yes, sir. We got you out of the *jianyu*."

A look of worry crossed the Captain's face, his head beginning to turn in a restless need to check. Find his bearings and make sure everyone who should be accounted for was.

"*Fang xin*, sir. We got her out."

The Captain blinked, sighed. So weary he could hardly form the words. "*Xie xie*."

They watched his eyes close then Zoe was stepping back to where River sat at the controls, the Shepherd moving to stand behind her. Simon stayed with his patients, going from one to the other, anxiously trying to keep them as stable as possible. Jayne took up the co-pilot's seat, his sharp eyes noting that with all the activity heating up outside they would never get a better chance than this. He turned to speak to River but she was already anticipating, her hands sure as she brought the shuttle away from the combatants and towards Serenity.

The Alliance ship was pounding away with rail guns and the kind of mass drivers long believed outlawed, but then the Alliance made the laws that ruled most every known world crammed into its' hegemony. They could tear up and re-write the gorram book as many times as they liked. The Reaver ship lurched heavily, fire breaking out along one side but not stopping it. It was near incandescent by now, the core containment pretty much shot to pieces. Shepherd Book wondered who was controlling it then realised no one had to. Locked on a collision course the Reavers had only one objective in mind. To take the Alliance ship with it. Casting a worried look at Zoe, he turned to River. "River, we're too close."

"*Wo zhidao*. Have to get back to Serenity first."

"There may not be time..."

She shot the Preacher an irritated look then got back to work, all her focus on getting back to the Firefly as quickly as possible. Kaylee swallowed heavily, her palms sweating as if she could already feel the heat of eternal damnation breathing down her neck. Minutes later they were docking, the shuttle only just locked in place as River flung open the hatch and ran for the bridge. Kaylee hurried to the engine room, determined to squeeze every last drop of power out of her to escape, almost mowing down Inara as the Companion came in the other direction. Inara had only just managed to dodge River and now Kaylee was running like her life depended on it as well. "Kaylee, slow down, what's happening?"

Huffing, Kaylee didn't dare stop but shouted over her shoulder as she ran. "Reavers!"

"I know. I meant what happened at the prison?"

But Kaylee was already out of sight. Shepherd Book backed out of the shuttle and Inara went to him, realising as she got closer that he was carrying one end of a stretcher. Her heart constricted. Mal! A violent shudder rocked the ship. Book almost lost his footing but Inara's hand was there, her face drawn and pale. For just a split second their eyes met. "We have to get them to the infirmary, *mashang*."

Inara nodded and got out of the way, her eyes widening when the rest of the stretcher emerged to reveal a heavily pregnant woman lying unconscious on it. She did not recognise the woman but felt a rush of tenderness towards the Captain for this act of compassion. His insane principals of nobility rising again and again no matter the peril. A tiny smile quirked her lips then vanished. She would not smile again until she knew the impossible man was alright. Never in her life had she met anyone capable of attracting trouble with such alarming regularity as Serenity's Captain. The man seemed to be the embodiment of the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times". Right now all Inara longed for was the calm after the storm. A time of quiet and stability in which to recover and lick their wounds. But the Black was a fickle mistress and there was no telling what madness would happen next.

Book and Simon moved passed Inara, Jayne coming up behind them and pausing to speak to the Companion. "Need another stretcher."

"How bad is he?"

Jayne snorted. "If they made ships hard as that *shenjingbing hundan's* head not even a gorram warhead would pierce it."

Then Inrara was passed Jayne, through the shuttle door and kneeling beside the Captain. He looked awful. A little gasp of distress gave away her concern, hands automatically flying to hold his, eyes fastened on his face with concern. By the time the woman had been ensconced in the infirmary and Book returned with the stretcher and Jayne, Inara had silently vowed that as soon as Malcolm Reynolds had recovered she was going to tear him off a strip for bringing this madness down on their heads. Only Mal would religiously go into an Alliance friendly bar every U-Day to bait his enemies. She sighed, leaned down and lightly rested her forehead against his. "What am I going to do with you, Malcolm Reynolds?" She whispered.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *bao bei* = precious/treasure *jianyu* = prison *shenme* = what *jide* = remember *hundan* = bastard *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *dong ma* = understand? *xie xie* = thanks *wode ma* = mother of God *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *wo zhidao* = I know *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately/right now *shenjingbing* = crazy


Friday, May 11, 2007 12:13 PM


Holy crap....this was freakin' awesome, AMDOBELL! Between the tension-filled brilliance of the scenes in the shuttle and the final moment with Inara mentally promising she will both do everything she can to get Mal healthy and tear him a new one once he was back on his feet...I was in awe:D


Friday, May 11, 2007 3:18 PM


You have such a way with the angst! Lots of twists and turns in this one.


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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.

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Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

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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.