THE REFLECTION SERIES: 9. "Balancing the Scales"
Monday, August 30, 2004

"Rafe and his hands battle the fire in a race against time. Badger learns that Simon is not as weak as he thought and Inara finds help unexpected."



SUMMARY: "Rafe and his hands battle the fire in a race against time. Badger learns that Simon is not as weak as he thought and Inara finds help unexpected." 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.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

The noise was almost deafening after the quiet, with folks weary from their day's labour and settling in to bed down for the night. The calm shattered in a way destined to put panic into the heart of every man. Fire. One of the worst enemies imaginable. Everyone turned out, eager and anxious to help put it out. No one had gone to bed yet so that was in their favour. Hal Larkin was mentally kicking himself for leaving Mal to go on up to the house alone. Peary and Brooks must have been watching and waiting, biding their time. Maybe they had overheard his conversation with Mal and realised their opportunities for mischief were about to come to an end. That last notion bothered him more than anything making him feel complicit through negligence though in truth he could not have known this would happen. Didn't help a mite not with the worry that the man in question might already be beyond the saving.

A quick line of men formed between the barn and the outside pump, leather buckets passing from hand to hand. Everyone eager to play their part, anxious faces lined with concern. Hal could not see the *laoban*, turned his head every which way but there was no sign of him. Ben and Todd were running down from the big house, Molly and Rose only a foot or so behind them. He was about to take *Shi* with him into the now raging furnace when he heard loud coughing and a commotion at the open barn. He jogged over to see what was happening, the line of men bunching forward as Rafe and Mark came out, doubled up and heaving, eyes streaming from smoke and distress. Rafe dropped to his knees, his son resting a hand on his shoulder but unable to speak.

Hal knelt next to them but Rafe shook his head. Ben pointed back inside the barn. "We... can't... get him... out!"

"What? Who?"

Rafe swallowed painfully, eyes burning not just with the smoke and fire. "Mal."

All the colour drained from his ramrod's face. "You sayin' he's in *there*?"

Both men nodded.

"*Wode ma*!" Not waiting for Rafe to give him an order Hal jumped to his feet and pulled *Shi* and some of the boys to one side and out of the queue. "Got us a situation," He said in a low terse voice. The four heads dipped closer to his. "Mal's inside, boss can't get him out. Who knows what those *wuneug de ren* have done to him. Need to go in fast and find him but it's gonna be dangerous. Ain't gonna order no one to come with me."

The men were firm and solid in their intent to go with him. Made him all kinds of proud.

"How we gonna do this?" Asked *Shi* in his deep rumbling voice.

"We soak ourselves in water, take wet cloths in with us then hunt for Mal. Soon as we find him we wrap him in the wet cloths and bring him out. No heroics, *dong ma*? He wouldn't want that an' neither do I."

They nodded then went to the pump and made sure each of them got a thorough soaking. Molly ran indoors and came back out with armfuls of clothing. Hal picked a handful and soaked them through then they were running, the line of men with buckets making a momentary gap to let them through. It was thick with smoke, the air acrid and foul. Eyes smarting they split into two teams of two with Hal going a little ahead to check down the middle while the men rapidly checked either side, going from stall to stall. The need to make sure they didn't miss him meant they couldn't go as fast as they would have liked and Hal was worried that their clothing was almost bone dry again. His own hair was just a touch away from catching light. He was about to order them to go back outside when he heard a loud creaking sound above his head. He looked up confused until he realised it was the pulley only there was something wrong.

Squinting he used precious seconds trying to make out what the good gorram he was looking at. Something heavy was slowly swinging from it like a body from a gibbet. The thought made him gasp out loud, knowing now what it was he was looking at. "*Tian Yesu*, it's Mal!"

Hal grabbed *Shi* and pointed. The big man swore as he realised they could not reach him, the ladder to the hayloft already in flames on the floor. The body blackened but still in one piece, held out of the reach of the flames by the thick rope tied around Mal's ankles. They had no idea if he was still alive, the body hanging inert, face bloody and black with smoke hiding the bruises. Just as they began to panic they heard another creak and looked up again, noticing the body swing a little, another loud creak then it shuddered where the rope holding Mal from the roof was fraying. Hal didn't even give it a second thought but called his men to form a little cluster beneath the swinging body. Frantically he sorted through the clothing and had the men stretch and hold the pieces of cloth as tightly as they could, lapping over each other to form something that would help to break Mal's fall. Another louder creak made their hearts beat even faster, each of them now fighting for air in flagging lungs and gasping only the dry burning heat that was consuming the barn and everything in it.

The body fell like a stone taking five strong men to the ground with it. Not even stopping to check if Mal was still breathing, they quickly rolled him in the clothing and picked him up. The run to the door seemed to take forever but at last they broke free of the inferno and collapsed just outside in a heaving heap. The others dragged them clear then calloused hands became surprisingly gentle as they began to unwrap their precious burden. Rafe Connor got to his feet and stumbled over to see how bad it was. Mark swallowed hard and exchanged a look with his brother. It was a look that was gradually settling in each pair of eyes as they took in not only what had happened but who was responsible. No one noticed as Rafe knelt beside Malcolm Reynolds that little Rose had wriggled through the crowd of helpers. Rafe searched for Mal's carotid pulse and held his breath. It seemed to take an age before he detected a weak pulse throbbing beneath his trembling fingers. He closed his eyes and gave a prayer of thanks then looked up and smiled slightly. "He's alive."

A ragged cheer went up, muted by the seriousness of the situation but tinged with very real relief. Mal was one of them now, one of their own. What hurt him hurt them. That relief was rapidly turning to a need for vengeance. To bring to justice the *tamade hundans* who had done this to him. The snakes that had hidden in their midst and worn the faces of friends hurt them more than strangers ever could. Added to which no man would stand by anyone who had done what Peary and Brooks had done. Rafe felt his breath catch in his throat then turned his head when a small hand touched his, the touch not startling him near as much as the words that blessed his disbelieving ear. "*Ba ba*, will he be alright?"

Rafe's eyes widened in shock, stunned then dazed as a powerful joy bubbled up inside him despite the circumstances. He blinked back tears. "Rose, you can talk!"

She smiled tentatively as if not trusting her new-found ability to be sustainable. Testing her vocal chords as if afraid they would not bear the weight of her words and would snap the moment she spoke. Afraid to break her newly opened gift. "*Qu, ba ba*."

He was openly weeping now, gathering her into his arms and hugging her to his heart. So overcome with emotion he had no words to express his joy at the unexpected miracle. "*Wo bu dong, bao bei* but I ain't complainin'. Love you so much, *xin gan*, not got words enough for the tellin' of it."

Rose hugged him back and kissed her father's cheek. They eased back and stared at one another's tear stained faces then shared a little grin before the Here and Now came crashing back in on them. "Love you too, *ba ba*."

Rafe nodded, not quite able to get any more words passed his lips. He watched his little girl turn and kneel carefully beside Mal, her face so filled with sadness it formed a crack in his gorram heart. Took a moment or two to become aware that there were now people milling around them eager to help. Ben and Mark carried a table top over from the bunkhouse to use as a makeshift stretcher. Everyone was concerned and wanting to find some way to help. Rafe quickly wiped his eyes then gave his sons a nod. Many hands helping to gently lift the injured man onto the table. Rafe Connor hoped they had got to Mal in time, the thought that all their efforts might yet prove to be in vain was not a thought he would even entertain.

* * * * *

Deep in the bowels of the heavy duty forty-four transport Badger paced slowly back and forth in front of Simon Tam. The doctor watched him closely, letting his eyes do the back and forth while he kept his head still. Mind racing with possibilities that died almost as soon as they were born. Impractical. Illogical. Unworkable. Coming up with daring and thrilling heroics was one thing, coming up with a way to survive them was another. He had not realised how much effort it took to constantly be thinking on your feet, poised and ready to react to whatever the *diyu* life or some semblance of it threw at you. It gave him a new appreciation for their missing Captain but it did not help him solve the problem of how to keep River safe. He grimaced inwardly. Safe. That was a joke. Truth was River was probably safer than the rest of them put together. She was after all a genius. Her flashes of brilliance reducing him to the level of an idiot child. Yet there was no envy, no bitter rivalry wishing to trade his imperfect gifts for hers. He was proud of her. Loved her to the height and breadth of his passion to do so.

Raised in a home as sterile of human compassion as his had been, the only affection he shared with another living being was hers. And yet he had loved his parents as had River. Never once doubting their love and devotion to him and his sister. When River went missing his eyes had been opened in the most painful way possible, his heart shattered, his hope stolen away from him in a few terse words from father to son. His father would not come for him. Never again. Nor were his parents in the least concerned about River's safety or where she was, content to swallow whatever convenient lie they were fed. In that single defining moment his store of trust had become a poison well and it had distorted his view of everything that followed.

Now here he was in the hands of a spiteful little middle man. The one time beggar who would be king. Wanting to trade in Simon's life for his sister's virtue as if anything he could threaten him with would make him give her up. Simon raised his head higher, eyes hard and defiant. Ready to die if it would deny the small time *heishoudang liumang* his pound of flesh.

"No need to make this harder than it 'as to be, *dong ma*? You give me what I want, I give you your freedom. Simple." Badger paused and took a step towards where Simon was seated. Two of Badger's men standing either side of him in case the doctor decided to make a fight of it. "Always was good at maths. Like it when things add up."

"You're wasting your time, I'll never give you my sister!"

Badger smiled disingenuously, a smarmy raggamuffin of a man puffed up with his own self importance. To Simon he was no more than a vainglorious bag of wind. And a foul wind at that. "Give 'er up?" Badger's smile widened. A flash of teeth, a glitter of something dark and treacherous in his beady eyes. "Did I say give 'er up?"

The doctor frowned but said nothing more.

"Should make myself clear. You don't have to do nothin' see? I know how close you are, peas in a pod you might say."

He leaned in close, his breath making Simon gag.

"All's I 'ave to do is keep a hold o' you, an' she'll come to me." Badger straightened and grinned. "Siblin' love, ain't it grand?" Simon flushed with anger and began to get up, two pairs of hands grabbing him and shoving him roughly back into his seat. He glared at Badger, his heart beating painfully with a building fear, knowing the man had read them accurately. River had gone but she would not have gone far. Not knowing he was trapped, confined, a prisoner. Then an odd memory touched his mind. Mal had called his sister a Reader. It was preposterous but she did have a strange ability of being able to sense things. Thoughts, events, possible outcomes. He tried to project a warning, to caution her not to do whatever hare brained but undoubtedly brilliant idea she was planning. He wanted her to go. To be safe. But where could she go and attain those things? Where else but Serenity had they ever had that luxury? And now that they no longer had the Firefly and the freedom it represented they were as lost as every other poor soul.

Badger watched the stages of anger and insolence cycle all the way through to depression and grief. "All we 'ave to do is wait." He said smugly. "An' let the lost lamb return to the fold."

"It won't happen. My sister is young not stupid."

"She's young," Badger agreed, his pleased look changing to a leer that made Simon Tam want to throw up all over him. Immediately after wringing the *tamade hundan's* neck. "Loyal wiv it. I like that. Like the fire that's in 'er too. It's 'er strength. Could say 'er weakness too."

"Well you know what they say about fire. Get too close and you're bound to get burnt."

Badger laughed and nodded at his men who smiled back. The little man smirked at Simon, savouring the moment. Watching closely to catch his reaction. "You don't understan'. See, all the while I've got you I'm fireproof."

* * * * *

It had been a very long time since Inara Serra had last been struck dumb. Long enough for her to appreciate the novelty of it now. Stunned she stared at Thomas, not for a single moment doubting his sincerity. "It is a more than generous offer..." She began slowly.

"*Fei hua*!" Responded her host with robust good humour. Beside him Michael Tollan smiled affectionately and rested a hand on Thomas's shoulder. A small thing that only served to emphasise how truly in tune with each other the two men were.

Inara blinked then shook her head, very real regret in her voice. "*Duibuqi* but I must decline. Such aid as you would offer would place you in mortal danger."

The laughter startled her. Thomas had an almost gleeful look in his eye. The challenge seeming to revitalise him more than all the drugs and alternative therapies that had only been able to delay the inevitable. "Inara, I am dying but not dead yet. Why bury me before the body has grown cold?"

He always managed to silence her with the bare honesty that was his trademark and one of the things she respected most about him. Tollan spoke while she searched for what to say, her reason having momentarily deserted her hand in hand with her common sense.

"These people on the Firefly, they are your friends?"

Inara nodded. "*Qu*."

"I cannot abide slavery." Stated Thomas as if Inara needed that fact to penetrate and decide the matter for her.

"What can we do?" Tollan asked, his manner brisk and practical.


The Counsellor smiled gently at her, his hand still on Thomas's shoulder. For a moment the two men wore the same look and she found it strangely affecting. "You do not think we would let you do this alone?"

"I could not possibly ask you or Thomas to come with me."

Thomas turned his head and gave Tollan a look, the two men grinned briefly at each other then Tollan helped his friend get to his feet. Thomas stamped his prosthetic legs, looked down at his naked body and chuckled drily. "Not a pretty sight but an honest one." Taking the hint, Tollan got his clothes and began to help him dress while a rather bizarre conversation flowed over his head. "I have not known you long, Inara, but long enough to know that I like what I see and I am not speaking of your matchless beauty."

Inara just stared at him, sure she had fallen into some alternate reality. If she pinched herself she would surely wake up.

"Do not deny me the opportunity of some goodly deed before my time is through."

"Thomas, you should not exert yourself."

Tollan helped Thomas into his trousers. "Why? So that I can die slowly instead of fast? Go with a whimper not a bang? I will not lie quietly while this bright stream of life passes me by. Wherever this restless current leads let me be carried on it for a while. Let me help you while I can and you in turn can give me back a spark of what was lost."

"It is *weixian*." Said Inara slowly, recognising the futility of trying to stop him doing anything he had set his mind to do. "The people we will be going up against are ruthless. In fact, I should warn you we may already be too late."

Tollan now had the shirt on and while Thomas deftly did the buttons up Tollan fastened his trousers for him and got him tidy. "Then there is no time to waste. I have more money than God and you have no time left to argue. What do you need?"

Inara thought quickly. "From what Wash could tell me they have Serenity and the crew are probably imprisoned on the slave ship. I need to find the Captain."

"What can he do and why waste valuable time looking for him?" Asked Tollan.

"*Ni bu dong*, Malcolm Reynolds is a very stubborn man and he has had many dealings with Badger. If anyone knows a way to bring that man to heel and track down Serenity it's her Captain."

Thomas watched the subdued animation on her face. "What if he doesn't want to help us?"

The Companion almost laughed at the preposterous idea but then neither Thomas nor Tollan knew Malcolm Reynolds. A faint smile flirted with her lips then vanished. "If I know the Captain he will move every one of the nine hells by force of will alone if that is what it takes to find them. And he won't take kindly to anyone laying hands on any of his crew."

Tollan raised a discreet eyebrow. That sounded a touch proud if not possessive. He found himself curious about the make up of Serenity's benighted crew. "Very well, tell us what you know about him and where you last saw him. Every and any detail that might help us piece together where he went so we can find him and get back both ship and crew."

She could not fashion words to speak, too full of the emotion of the moment to say what was in her heart. The kindness and offer of aid was such a handsome gift it moved her deeply. Thomas stomped over to her, his noisy movements sounding more in defiance of his infirmity than acquiescent. "We will find your good Captain," He said kindly but firmly as if setting the outcome in stone. "Then we will help find a way to rescue your friends. If money can buy it you shall have it and not owe a penny for the asking."

"And if what is needed cannot be bought?" She dared to ask.

Thomas threw back his head and roared with laughter. As the laughter tapered off into humorous chuckles he smiled and fixed eyes that glittered with wicked intent upon hers. "Then we shall steal it my dear."

Inara's eyebrows rose in surprise. Counsellor Tollan was not sure if his friend was teasing the Companion or speaking the honest truth but he didn't care. Seeing Thomas so determined and animated made his heart ache with a joy and pride he had not thought to feel again before the end. And for that gift alone he would ever be in Inara's debt.

* * * * *

They carried him to the bunk house, the men a quiet murmur of concern and seething anger. Rafe directed them to clear the large heavy wooden table and then many hands helped to gently transfer Mal onto it. Rafe was worried, his sons trying to reassure him that everything was going to be alright but he was not convinced. Every bit of visible skin on Mal's body seemed to be burnt to a crisp. Had he not known it was Mal he would not have recognised him. Mark spoke into his father's ear. "We need to find a doctor, pa."

Rafe nodded, his eyes not leaving the inert form. "*Qu* but that'll take best part of a day an' Mal ain't got that long."

He heard Rose hiss and silently cursed himself for being the biggest *chunren* in the 'verse.

"*Duibuqi* Rose, didn't mean that just he looks so poorly *dong ma*?" He paused to crouch down to eye level with his daughter and put his hands on her shoulders, looking her straight in the eye. "We gotta do everythin' we can to help him, *dui*?"

She nodded, upset but trusting.

"*Hao*, then best you go run as fast as those legs can carry you. Go fetch Molly and Todd, and if Chung-li has a mind see if he can come and take a look at Mal. He's got more learnin' between them ears than most of us put together."

Rose nodded. "*Qu, ba ba*, I'll run like the wind."

"Don't need ya to run like the wind, *bao bei*, just as quick as ya can without stumblin'. Don't want ya fallin' in the dark an' needin' doctorin' your own self."

That made her smile, then he hugged her close and kissed her before letting her go. Mark caught his father's look and followed Rose out. With Peary and Brooks still on the lose he was taking no chances. Not nobody would be going anywhere alone until they were caught.

* * * * *

He really should not have spat in Badger's face but it was too tempting and he was so crazy mad he did not care any more. His ribs hurt so much he was sure Badger's henchmen had broken a couple. Breathing hurt and made him wheeze with pain. His bottom lip was cut and he would have a shiny bruise on the left side of his jaw but apart from that he was still in one piece. Kind of a wonder given the way he had run off at the mouth. The trouble was, given the chance he would do it again. Anything to deflect attention away from his sister. Last thing he wanted was for Badger to decide to do a systematic level by level search of the forty-four. Given the size of the transport it would take weeks to search every nook and cranny but then not even someone as slight as River could get into every one of them.

Badger had his men shake Simon until his weary eyes fluttered open. The little kingpin leaned towards him and Simon automatically held his breath. "Ya really don't know when to keep that fancy mouth o' yours shut, do ya?"

Simon did not respond.

"Think you're better like that ruttin' Cap'n o' yours." He paused, his voice becoming thoughtful. "You're a doctor if I recall?"

Warily, Simon nodded. Badger reached out and took one of Simon's hands in his. He went to pull it away but the guards made certain he knew that option was not open to him. He watched in a kind of solemn fascination like a man seeing an oncoming train he was unable to avoid. Badger examined his hand intently, turning it over a time or two before speaking.

"Good hands. Surgeon?"

Simon nodded but kept silent. Badger's eyes narrowed then he seemed to stiffen a little as if Simon had offended him.

"Surgeons need good hands."

The doctor was beginning to wonder where the conversation was going when something in Badger's face changed, hardened. Badger put Simon's hand on the table and held it there then looked at his henchmen.

"Even surgeons need to be taught a lesson now an' then, *dong ma*?"

Before Simon realised what was about to happen the guard on his right leaned over him and cracked the back of his gun over the knuckles of Simon's right hand. He howled in surprise and pain, convinced he had heard bones break.

"Should know when to keep your mouth shut, Simon."

He gritted his teeth, eyes blazing defiantly as tears blurred his sight. Seeing his response Badger nodded to the other guard and watched in grim satisfaction as the guard grabbed Simons' left hand and did the same. Simon had never known pain like it. His last thought before he blacked out was whether he would have any bones left unbroken by the time he woke up.

* * * * *

Pain. The one true constant in the 'verse. Yet a perverted side of him welcomed it. The pain at least confirmed he was still alive though he could be forgiven for changing his mind a time or two as he rode out wave after wave of agony. Something cool seeped through the burnt broken edges of his face. He cried out unable to stop himself, nausea rocking him on a sea that had no horizon. A world where the vertical hold was missing and everything in it was out of focus.

Chung-li was surprisingly gentle for such a big man. Hands the size of dinner plates carefully tended Mal's wounds. Carefully cutting the clothes off him after bathing him in tepid water with the barest sprinkling of salt in it. Even when he was soundless Mal cried, the tears seeping through a blackened landscape. Hal Larkin was so furious he could not hold still, only when he was sure everything was being done that could be done did he ask Rafe for permission to take some of the boys on a hunting expedition. Rafe knew what he would be hunting for and knew they would be best served to wait for daylight but if he gainsayed it the men were like to take matters in their own hands the moment he fell asleep. Better to have them go with his blessing, at least then they would likely listen to him if and when the time came for some kind of control to kick back in.

It was sound that returned first though light came a close second. Even in the muted candlelight Chung-li insisted on it was too bright for Mal. Chung-li seemed to have a sixth sense where the injured man was concerned and wetting a clean cloth he folded it and laid it gently over Mal's eyelids. A soft breath of relief sighed out of Mal's scorched mouth. Rafe bit down on his bottom lip and refrained from laying a comforting hand on the man's shoulder knowing it would like as not only register as pain. Chung-li worked patiently, a compress of gently stewed plants that had then been cooled being applied liberally to the worst of the burns. Rafe frowned but said nothing, his eyes raking over the tormented body. Mal's hands, face and neck were the worst affected areas but even under his clothing the skin and flesh were scorched, more red than black but as sore and tender as *diyu*.

Chung-li left and returned ten minutes later with a clear greasy looking balm which he applied to the skin. It was cool and took away the worst of the residual heat. Chung-li bent down low and whispered in Chinese in Mal's ear. Rafe couldn't hear what he said but was sure he had seen some flicker of recognition. Then Chung-li asked Rafe to help him get Mal into a semi-recumbent position. Rafe winced at the obvious pain movement cost Mal but did as requested then watched close-mouthed as Chung-li gently and patiently soaked the end of a clean cloth in fresh water and held it to Mal's charcoal lips. Mal managed to open his mouth enough for Chung-li to gently lay the end of the cloth in his mouth then carefully squeeze drops of water onto his parched tongue. Rafe closed his eyes, *wode ma* it was painful to watch but Mal was alive and that was something he could not regret for an instant.

Rafe sat up with Chung-li, Molly coming to ply him with cups of tea and sandwiches through the tail end of the night. As the first rays of morning woke him he was surprised to open his eyes and see Rose sitting slumped in the chair next to him, her little head laying on her folded arms on the edge of the bed. Rafe smiled and straightened stiffly in his seat suddenly freezing in place. He could not believe it. Staring back at him were a pair of eyes bright with amusement. Good gorram. Malcolm Reynolds was awake! Chung-li was smiling, his round face beaming as if he had been waiting for this moment. Rafe had been sure it would be weeks if not months before the man regained consciousness. Another good reason why he had never gone into medicine. The first being his squeamishness at the sight of blood.

Mal opened his mouth as if to speak but Chung-li shook his head then explained that his vocal chords had been burnt and it would take time for them to heal. Trying to talk before he was able would simply make things worse and delay his recovery. Mal could not even sign to them because his hands were bandaged. As if reading his mind Chung-li smiled softly, bobbed a little bow, and explained. "You nearly die but too *wangu*. Merciful Buddha save you, not sure if he wait for refund."

It took a moment for it to sink in that Chung-li was joking. Though Mal could not laugh his eyes showed a brief flash of amusement then he just looked plain worn out. Rafe wanted to tell him about Rose but Mal was already flagging, seconds later he had fallen fast asleep. He looked down at his youngest daughter and laid a hand upon her touseled head, affection and love balancing the worry in his heart with the gratitude he felt for the precious gifts he had been given. A phrase from the bible echoed over and over inside his head: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Thank God this time He had given.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*laoban* = boss *shi* = ten *wode ma* = mother of God *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wuneug de ren* = trash (as in 'despicable person') *dong ma* = understand *tian Yesu* = sweet Jesus *ba ba* = daddy *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *bao bei* = precious/treasure *xin gan* = sweetheart *diyu* = hell *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *wangu* = stubborn *heishoudang liumang* = gangster asshole/bastard *fei hua* = garbage talk/nonsense *duibuqi* = sorry *weixian* = dangerous *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *chunren* = fool/jerk *dui* = correct *hao* = good


Tuesday, August 31, 2004 8:50 AM


I'm a bit at a loss for words... a literally painful chapter to get through. My gawd, you're mean to the characters! I actually found myself wishing they'd just put poor Mal out of his misery.

Strong writing, certainly, but... * [shudder]*, dang... I most sincerely hope there's something--anything--hopeful or positive in store for these poor folks *soon*.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 3:37 AM


I think this is the best one yet, Ali. Love the way the pace is quickening as the story advances. And somehow the visuals are much sharper and clearer.

Badger - ew! Such a nasty little man. And brave, brave Simon standing up to him.

And yet another touching, inspiring scene between Tollan and Thomas.



You must log in to post comments.



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.