BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE HELLBOUND SERIES: 25. "Skin Deep"
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Things go downhill for Mal and Jayne gets an inkling of what is going on. Meanwhile Zoe is determined to get to the truth and rescue them."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1871    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "SKIN DEEP" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Canon pairings RATING: G. STATUS: SEQUEL to "ONLY THE DEPTH THAT VARIES" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://unilelu.net/Alison/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Things go downhill for Mal and Jayne gets an inkling of what is going on. Meanwhile Zoe is determined to get to the truth and rescue 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.

"SKIN DEEP"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"No one escapes from the Argent Penal Colony."

Mal was sitting on the floor, mainly on account of standing up just made him too much of a target for the sickening *wangba dan* and his cohorts. He hadn't seen Jayne in hours. Hoped to *diyu* the man was still in one piece and if so was smart enough to keep his gorram mouth shut. Didn't do to give a man like Brak ideas. When Brak didn't say anything else the Captain slanted a look at him. Even chanced a comment, low key like. "That what this is about?"

General Brak sneered at him. "By the time I've finished with you, you'll wish it was." Brak paused and watched that little nugget of information worm its' way into Malcolm Reynold's head. "You took something that didn't belong to you, Reynolds. I want it back."

The girl. He had to be talking about Casey. The Captain decided to go with Plan A and act dumb. "An' what might that be?"

Brak stepped back and gave a nod, his men moving in with fists and feet and then the unmistakable jolt of pain unending that could only come from a shock stick. Not once but again and again and again. He passed out before he lost count. Brak took his time in telling his men to stop. Waited 'til they got winded. Couldn't have his men wasting away from lack of exercise. And Malcolm Reynolds would tell him what he wanted to know one way or another.

* * * * *

Wash hated this. The job gone wrong. The pacing. The violent not-so-sane woman in the infirmary, baby crying and wailing as if someone was killing it. Shepherd Book was watching the woman, had actually argued against tying her up because she had newly given birth. Given the injuries Casey had caused with no concern for who she lashed out at, it was agreed to sedate the woman instead. Afterwards Zoe cleaned Simon's head wound and announced it wasn't as bad as it looked. Everybody knew head wounds bled a bitch. They also hurt a lot too. Now Zoe was back on the bridge. Pacing. Anger and concern thrumming through every inch of that taut tense body. A panther on the prowl could not be deadlier.

"Zoe, *bao bei*, we don't know anythin' happened to Mal an' Jayne."

She shot him a 'do I look stupid?' look. "Cap'n knew it was going to *diyu* Wash, that's why he told us to take off."

"*Wo bu dong*, why not just abort the job if that's the case an' we'd all be out of here. You know, as in the 'whole' crew?"

His wife glared at him and put her hands on her hips. Still. At least she had stopped pacing. For now. Wash would call that a win. "You recall the last time the Cap'n backed out of a job?"

Wash paled. Niska. How could he forget the hightlights? "This isn't the same, *fengmi*."

Zoe put a hand on the arm of his chair, Wash swifly covered her hand with his own. "You recall how we got the Cap'n back from Argent?"

The pilot nodded, feeling sick. The man had been beaten and tortured. He swallowed slowly, trying to lighten up a very dark and dismal atmosphere that was getting so thick it was choking him. "Do you think Niska has a brother?"

"No, Wash, I think there are more twisted an' evil men in this 'verse than either of us can count an' the Cap'n has the misfortune to run into more than his fair share of 'em."

"What're we gonna do?"

"Only thing we can do. We're gettin' 'em back."

"We don't know where they are."

"Maybe not but we know who set this up."

Wash's eyebrows rose. "Badger?"

"Badger. But first we do the obvious, search the drop sight and see if we can find any clues."

"What if they're still hangin' around?"

A look came into Zoe's eyes that Wash had rarely seen. It chilled him to the bone to see it now. "More fool them."

* * * * *

"He ain't gonna talk, *laoban*."

The General glared at Brody. "Everybody talks in the end."

Brody shook his head. "Not this one. D'ya know Reynolds wouldn't stop fightin' in that gorram bar even with Ritchie, Carmichael an' Dyer sittin' on him?"

"That just means he's even stupider than he looks and I didn't think that was possible."

"I dunno, *laoban*. Reminds me of things I heard about him when we was cleanin' up Hera. Men talked about it with awe, like he was somethin' special. The kind men follow."

A fierce anger rose in the General. "That man is nothing, you hear me? The Independents LOST, WE won."

Brody paled. "*Wo zhidao, laoban*, not sayin' nothin' different. Just - ya know - I don't think we can break him."

The anger cleared from Brak's face, a cunning look oiling its' way across his features. "Sooner or later everybody breaks and whether he gives me what I want or not I'm going to enjoy being the one to break him."

Recognising when a conversation was over, Brody turned and walked out. Pulling a dirty old cloth from his pocket the moment he was clear of the doorway to wipe the blood off his knuckles.

* * * * *

Jayne might not be as quick as some but he wasn't no dummy either. A couple of things were puzzling him and now that he was thinking about it he could feel an itch starting that he needed to scratch. He stood and looked up from his unique prison. Brak hadn't been kidding. It was a hole. Literally. And deep. He reckoned the sides were at least twenty feet deep, the walls hard impacted earth. Jayne reckoned that if he tried to dig handholds into the soil the wall would crumble and bury him before he could scramble out. It was a surprise to see no hatch over the top, the dark brooding sky visible to haunt and tempt him with the fact that freedom was so close but out of his grasp. The thought made him take a closer look at his prison, his critcal eye noticing what he had missed first time round. The mercenary slowly grinned. Looked like itty bitty pieces of the gorram puzzle were starting to fit together after all.

* * * * *

It was annoying and frustrating. Simon felt tired, wrung out from too much thinking, trying to puzzle out exactly what Casey thought she would accomplish by attacking the crew. It didn't make sense but then not much about the woman and her predicament did. He dipped his head, hands clutching the counter in the infirmary, eyes gravitating back towards the insensate woman. Kaylee sat on the other side of the room cradling the baby, singing quietly as she rocked him. Simon was grateful she was there and relieved that Casey had not managed to hit Kaylee though right now his head was arguing with him, bright flashes of pain reminding him that he could well have a concussion. With a sigh he joined Kaylee, his heart missing a beat when her face lit up with pleasure. It still surprised him that he could bring her so much happiness just by being near her. He smiled. "You're a natural."

"*Shenme*?"

"With the baby."

Kaylee flushed happily. "Oh, ain't nothin'. Baby was missin' human contact is all."

Simon glanced back at where the child's mother lay in drug enforced sleep. "I notice you didn't say he was missing his mother."

An odd look came into her eyes. "I know Casey ain't done nothin' to deserve our favour but the baby can't help who his mama is."

"I wasn't criticising, Kaylee, I just don't understand why she attacked me."

"Threat. Knows you suspect. Fears your questing mind will find answers it took years to bury."

Simon and Kaylee looked round to see River unfurling from where she was crouched on the floor at the other side of the infirmary. Neither of them had noticed her. Simon's instinct was to go to her but Kaylee gave a little shake of the head. "What d'ya mean, sweetie?"

The girl paused alongside the infirmary bed and watched the REM movement of Casey's eyes, restless beneath her lids. "Had to wait 'til the drug took her over the edge, even then it was hard to find." River tilted her head as she continued to consider the sleeping woman. "Camoflage. Almost missed it."

Intrigued, Simon moved to stand next to his sister. "What did you find?"

"Hard life, bitter soul. Only knows betrayal. Had to look out for number one even when the maths didn't add up."

Simon resisted the urge to sigh. "River."

"It's why she attacked. Distraction. Avoidance. If the chance had come she would have run."

"Uh uh," Kaylee shook her head "wouldn't leave the baby."

River looked sad, her expression remote. "No maternal instinct. Just a means to an end."

Her friend's words sent a chill through Kaylee. Simon had to ask but wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer. "What end?"

"She never had anything of her own. Stole, begged, borrowed, never hers. Had to fight to keep whatever she took, hid in shadows, out of sight, out of mind. And those that pretended to care were the worst."

Kaylee looked upset. "What're ya sayin', River?"

"They were the worst because they gave her hope then laughed when they took it away again."

"We didn't do that, *mei mei*."

"She didn't know that Simon, wouldn't have believed it if she had. Makes her angry, mad, and vengeful. Has a plan now. Live poor, die rich. Last one standing."

Before Simon could ask what she meant the door opened and Shepherd Book walked in. "Simon, can you watch Casey? Zoe's having a meeting in the commons room and she wants Kaylee and River to be there. *Fang xin*, we'll update you afterwards. Just don't want our guest left unguarded."

"She's unconscious."

Book nodded. "Let's keep her that way, *hao*?"

* * * * *

General Brak was furious. Not only was the Captain not talking he was hardly staying conscious either. A tiny part of his back brain berated him for being too enthusiastic with the punishment side of crime. He wanted to know where Serenity was. Needed to retrieve Casey before she could find another sucker to latch on to. Malcolm Reynolds lay on the floor, his face a mass of bloated contusions, left arm at an odd angle beneath his body where Brody had twisted it as he applied the shock stick to the back of Mal's neck. The Captain's body had jarred so violently with uncontrolled muscle spasms that it took no effort at all for the bone to snap. Brak hadn't been intending to actually break every bone in the man's body but given his lack of progress it was beginning to hold a malevolent kind of appeal. Might also teach the *wangu hundan* a lesson.

He nodded to Brody. Bending down to grab the Captain by the collar he shook him but there was no response. Annoyed, Brody aimed a vicious kick at Mal's ribs. The dull crack was satisfying to Brody's ear but the downed man did not rouse. Brody tapped his shock stick against his leg and got ready to fire a shock up the Captain's spine but Brak waved him aside. Reynolds was no good to him dead or so badly traumatised that anything they got out of him would be worse than useless. Instead he clicked his fingers impatiently and indicated for Brody to make a call.

* * * * *

Zoe hated this. After scouring Barclay with a fine tooth comb they had come away with nothing. No sign even that Mal or Jayne had landed on this God-foresaken piece of rock. How hard could it be to find two huge pieces of agricultural equipment? Yet like Jayne and the Captain they appeared to have vanished, with not so much as a tell tale track to follow. Zoe had no idea where the drop site had been as the men waiting on the Captain had insisted on taking Mal and Jayne to their boss for the payoff. She wanted to kick herself for not convincing the Captain stayed put. Let the big boss come to them and collect his rutting machinery at the same time. Only it didn't play out like that. Mal was the Captain, she was his first officer, second in command, and following her Captain's orders was too much second nature for her to usurp that authority without some sign of agreement from him. It wasn't simply blind obedience but trust. Absolute and unequivocal. Now her blindness had left her without her Captain and friend and with no easy way of finding him or Jayne.

"We're goin' back to 'sephone?" Kaylee cried in surprise.

Everyone was round the big oak table in the commons area except Simon and Casey. Although the woman was sedated Zoe didn't trust her to remain under. Woman was far too tricky to chance it. So Simon watched over her with a smoother in one hand, the other an inch from the com.

"That's where Badger is."

Shepherd Book watched, listened and considered all angles. He didn't like this any more than Zoe but he also didn't want to do anything in haste that they would regret at leisure. "If Badger is behind this he'll be expecting us to come looking for him."

The first mate's expression mimicked granite. "He won't be expectin' this."

Inara Serra finished pouring tea for everyone, the stark contrast between the civility of taking tea and fighting to get their friends back bringing a lump to Kaylee's throat. The mechanic tried not to cry, after all the Captain was with Jayne and everyone knew the mercenary was always armed to the teeth. Somehow the thought was not as reassuring as she had hoped, too many memories of the Captain and various members of the crew coming back injured and covered in blood for her peace of mind. Wash squeezed his wife's hand in silent support, no words of comfort able to ease the sinking feeling in his heart that this might be one rescue with no happy ending.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*wangba dan*/*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *diyu* = hell *fengmi* = honey *bao bei* = precious/treasure *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *laoban* = boss *wo zhidao* = I know *shenme* = what *mei mei* = little sister *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *hao* = good/okay *wangu* = stubborn *hundan* = bastard

COMMENTS

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 1:59 PM

SLUMMING


You and I seem to be on a torture Mal kick just lately, huh? Things are looking bleak for our fearless leader, but I'm delighted Zoe's up to form! Intriguing chapter, as always!

Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:40 AM

JANE0904


I'll try not to torture Mal for a while!

I'm intrigued as to where this is going with Casey. And, of course, want the bad guys skinned and hung up to dry.

Sunday, June 24, 2007 6:27 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Yep...definitely wanna know what the hell is in Casey's past that has forced things to come to this point. Cuz even Saffron didn't bring this much go se down on the crew's heads last time they met!

BEB


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