FRIENDS AND ENEMIES: 7. "Another Needle"
Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Jayne begins to recover from his ordeal. At last there is a break in the weather. Then the crew get a very unexpected wave."


TITLE: "ANOTHER NEEDLE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Mal. Jayne. Crew. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Jayne begins to recover from his ordeal. At last there is a break in the weather. Then the crew get a very unexpected wave." 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 all manner of surprising to him that being dead wasn't more quiet-like. The darkness wasn't so bad, a comfort even. At least the pain was gone but he kind'a figured there should have been someone or some 'thing' to meet him. Tell him the rules and so forth. Only Jayne Cobb had thought - no, hoped - that it would be someone he recognised like his crazy Aunt May. Never met a more loosely wrapped soul than hers but the woman was kindness itself if a body was in pain or trouble and the best gorram cook next to his own ma. Ma. A twinge of sorrow struck him deep. The thought that he would never see her again hurt something fierce. Only, if he was dead surely he would be able to meet her come her time? Unless he hadn't gone Up but Down. The thought that this was *diyu* didn't upset him as much as the notion that it surely meant he wouldn't see his folks again, him reckoning everyone else would go on up to sit on one of them clouds or such. Go off to that Land of Milk and Honey.

Jayne wasn't exactly a religious man but his ma was and every Sunday without fail she smartened them up in their best clothes and dragged her brood off to chapel. She never shoved God down his throat but her example gave him a healthsome respect for Him and those that served Him like Shepherd Book. He didn't claim to be a cultured man but he had knowledge of life and could generally read folks well enough to pick out them he could trust from those he couldn't. Still. His lifestyle had been on the wrong side of that gorram altar cloth and that he knew for a fact. Even shamed him at times but not enough to change his ways. Jayne Cobb was a man at peace with who and what he was. Didn't hanker after a fancy education just money enough to see to his wants and needs and a little to send home. And if those fancies meant bedding a whore well that was fine too. A man had needs after all.

Just as his thoughts started wandering off the noise grew louder, now recognisable as a dull babble of competing voices that made no sense at all. It irritated the *goushi* out of him, made him want to yell at them to cut their yap and let a man rest. His thoughts ground to a halt. Rest. Wasn't that what he was doing in the Ever After? Confusion swept the irritation away then the voices stilled. Jayne tried to stretch his ears in the sudden silence and almost jumped when something touched his bare arm. Wait. Touch? He *felt* that?

"Jayne? Can you hear me?"

His heart thundered out of kilter. Breath too fleeting to free his tongue. But then the *guai* would know his name, right? He tried to speak but fear flickered in him.

Simon Tam waved the others to silence. Kaylee gripped her bottom lip between her teeth, her hand still resting on Jayne's forearm but away from the IV line. Simon leaned closer to the mercenary's face, trying to ignore the looks of hope on the rest of the crew's faces. "Jayne, it's me Simon."

The big man trembled and Shepherd Book could have sworn he was trying to open his eyes. He leaned forward and touched Simon's shoulder. "You might want to bathe his eyes."

The doctor blinked at him. "*Shenme*?"

Book waved a hand at the prone man. "I think Jayne's tryin' to open his eyes."

"Oh. Of course!"

Jayne felt something soft and wet touch his face where his eyelids were still stuck together with the remnants of dried blood. His face all bruised and puffed but no bones broken though the big man didn't know that yet, what with a world of hurt making itself felt along with full consciousness. Simon must have noticed his distress because he injected something into the IV port and within seconds the pain was dulled. Would have recoiled from all the fussing but something was behind him, bracing his back and taking his weight. Weight. His heart fluttered. Jayne realised he was lying down, on a bed of some kind. Maybehaps he wasn't dead after all? The voices around him died out again until one clear voice spoke near his ear, a well educated and modulated tone that he found familiar. "Doc?"

Was it bad that he recognised the relieved sound in Simon's voice?

"Yes, Jayne, it's me. You're in the infirmary on Serenity."

He wanted to talk, ask questions, but his mouth was so gorram dry and just that one word had tired him. It took more effort than he liked to admit to crack his gorram eyes open, the light after so much darkness almost blinding him, yet it was something he blessed. Everything looked so rutting fuzzy but as he blinked sluggishly faces began to come into focus. Kaylee smiled with relief, her eyes still wet from tears. Her hand gently trailing down Jayne's arm until she could grasp his hand. "You're gonna be fine, Jayne. Simon an' River found ya just in time."

They found him? How? Last thing he recalled he was drowning. Those *tamade hundan* had thrown him into the gorram sea. Didn't remember much else.

"We should let him rest." Said Simon quietly as Jayne's struggle to keep his eyes open failed.

Zoe nodded reluctantly despite wanting to ask him where the Captain was it was clear that Jayne was too out of it to respond to them. Simon confirmed that Jayne was unconscious but only sleeping this time. Wash gave his wife a hug, understanding her worry and frustration. "We''ll come back when he's rested."

Simon nodded and watched them go, Kaylee reluctantly leaving the doctor alone with his patient. River was up on the bridge and the weather was starting to break. They expected to be able to get a message through to Inara soon. In the meantime they had plotting and planning a-plenty to do and a missing Captain to find.

* * * * *

There were days when being a Captain really sucked but it was as nothing compared to being Niska's new toy. The water dripped off him, soaking his ripped clothes and making him shiver. The madman's smiling face did not give him the warm fuzzies either. Niska said something but Mal didn't grasp the words, was teetering on the brink of not knowing anything ever again. The electric shock was more violent than the last but much shorter. It kind of confused his already addled brain pan.

"You tryin' to kill me?" He slurred.

A hand he didn't feel touched his neck, checking his pulse. Niska was happy but concerned that his victim would die too soon. The doctor, a man named Hazard, made a displeased sound in the back of his throat. The smile on Niska's face vanished, his eyes glittering hard and too bright behind those damned glassed. "*Shenme shi*?"

"He won't last much longer, Mr Niska. His body is shutting down."

Niska's lips twisted with displeasure as he glanced back at Malcolm Reynolds as if it was all his fault. The man still hung in the manacles pinning him like some grotesque ornament to the wall of the room. The shiny silver chrome of the walls and floor marred with copious amounts of sticky red. "How long?"

Dr Hazard took a moment to answer. He had been long enough in the *liumang's* employ to know that upsetting his employer would end in a very unpleasant death. He tried not to look at the hanging man when he answered, having no desire to take the Captain's place. "It is hard to be precise, Mr Niska, but if he receives no medical attention he will be dead before this day is out. He has hours, maybe less."

This was worse than Niska had expected. Flinging out a hand in rage he swept several implements off the table and ignored Bran's raised eyebrow. It was the only reaction his henchman gave, content to patiently wait on his volatile and petty *laoban* until the next round of torture. Niska forced himself to calm enough for words to pass his lips. "Then tend his wounds, yes?"

As Bran stepped forward to unshackle the Captain, Niska took a step towards his doctor. The man showing admirable courage by not flinching or stepping back. "Mister Reynolds is important to me, yes? He must pay back Niska for what he took and for what he has done. Is not good if he dies now so you will keep him alive, yes?"

Dr Hazard nodded and tried to stop his heart quailing in his chest. "Yes, *shifu*."

Niska took a last step to close the distance between them. The doctor held his breath and tried to stop the images of his own death passing before his rheumy eyes. "If he dies, you die - yes? Is good incentive I think."

Panic almost stole the doctor's breath. Quickly he nodded, not wanting Niska to get impatient by waiting for his response. The crime lord nodded, gave a thin smile that did not reach his eyes and stepped back. It was almost Noon and Niska had hoped to have a few more hours tormenting Captain Reynolds but even if they had continued it was less than satisfying to torture an unconscious man. He would take a rest from his labours. Let the doctor bring Mal back from the edge of the precipice. At least until he was finally ready to push the man over it. In the meantime it was time to assuage his appetite. He had a fine wine waiting to tempt his discerning pallet.

* * * * *

The lilac room was one of Inara's favourite places after the conservatory. The colours so delicate and beautifully counterpointing the darker shades without being overpowering. The class of girls before her ranged in age from 11 to 15 years old. They had already had calligraphy classes, were becoming quite adept with the complex tea ceremony, and subjects such as geopolitical boundaries and recognising the levels of status within the Alliance were happily coming within their grasps. Inara smiled benignly at her pupils, each shining face eager to please, to incur her goodwill and favour. Inara would have been happier if she thought this was simply due to her status within the Guild but it wasn't. A certain notoriety now attached itself to her name, though no one of consequence was impolite enough to voice it in her presence.

The rather fanciful and romantic view some of the girls held had to be squashed, but gently. They were after all still impressionable and this was one impression she wanted to disuade them from taking away with them. A hand shot up from the second row. Inara gave an elegant nod and smiled at the girl. Tanya rose to her feet and bobbed gracefully, showing the respect due to her teacher.

"When we become Companions, Miss Serra, will we be allowed to travel on ships and explore the universe?"

Inara inwardly sighed. "You have many years of training still ahead of you." At the downcast look on the girls' faces Inara had to resist the temptation to laugh. Ah, to be that young again! "Being a Companion is not over the moment you attain that distinctiion. It is the *beginning*. Can anyone tell me why that is?"

A hand rose from the back. Inara could not quite see the girl's face but nodded and indicated for her to speak. A beautiful brown skinned girl rose to her feet then bobbed in deference before speaking. "It's because the 'verse isn't fair, Miss."

"It is and the universe is not." Inara corrected automatically. "Also it is incorrect to put human judgements on inanimate constructs like the Universe, Raisi."

Raisi, while respectful, was not daunted by the correction. "With respect, Miss Serra, the Lord Buddha teaches that the universe is sentient."

"Sentient or not when dealing in the abstract we do not ascribe emotions or actions."

"Yes, miss."

Inara smiled, deciding to be gracious. "It was a good observation, Raisi, and does you credit. You must learn though that even though you may think whatever you will, believe whatever you wish, it is prudent to be judicious in your choice of words."

"So we have to keep our mouths shut?"

Her head snapped to the right hand side of the classroom and a girl fiddling with her tablet.

"Carmina, what have I told you about butting in?"

The girl raised soulful eyes that stopped just short of open defiance. With her dark hair and determined chin she reminded her more than a little of a certain stubborn Captain. "That I must wait my turn." Inara raised an eyebrow and waited.

"Miss Serra." The child mumbled.

"*Duibuqi*, Carmina. What did you say?"

Sinking a little deeper into her chair the girl raised her voice and spoke clearly, wanting to get the embarrassment of being corrected over and done with. "That I must wait my turn, Miss Serra."

The next hour passed without any more awkward questions. After the class was dismissed Inara went to take refreshment with the other teaching Companions, her heart beginning to lighten when she passed a window and noticed that the sun was trying to shine through. Perhaps her own period of waiting was at last coming to an end.

* * * * *

It was a couple of hours before Jayne regained consciousness, Kaylee kept hovering and looking in on him. Simon tried to reassure her but until she saw the big man's eyes open and focus on her face she could not stop worrying. Up on the bridge Wash was checking the systems through and scanning the cortex for anything that might give them a clue where Niska had the Captain. Zoe stood tight lipped and silent beside him. Nothing. No cryptic chatter on the news networks, no suspicious ship hanging around in low orbit. Zoe turned her head as Shepherd Book joined them.

"Jayne's awake."

Without a word Zoe left for the infirmary, Book and Wash exchanging a measured look.

"He lucid?"

Book raised an eyebrow. "As much as Jayne ever is."

A flicker of hope lit the pilot's face. Nightmares of being in Niska's hands made him even more anxious than Kaylee but if Jayne could throw some light on where Niska's new hideout was they needed to know. Preferrably before he killed their Captain for real. Malcolm Reynolds was stubborn not immortal. Book excused himself and made his way back to the infirmary. As he stepped into the room he was alarmed to hear the sound of a raised voice though it wasn't the first mate but Jayne doing the yelling.

The big man looked awful but a lot better than when Simon and Kaylee first brought him back to Serenity. Even covered in more stitches than his grandmother's quilt Shepherd Book could see that whatever was agitating the big man nothing short of being knocked unconscious would calm him down. Simon seemed torn between wanting to hear what Jayne had to say and his medical instinct to sedate the man.

"Told ya, we gotta go now! Cap'n ain't got time for this."

Zoe wasn't arguing. "An' we will soon as you tell us where Niska's got him."

A look of distress came over the mercenary's face. Kaylee put her hand over her mouth, her eyes big and fearful. Simon edged closer. "Jayne, you need to calm down."

Face flushed Jayne shook his head and took a gulp of breath. "*Ni bu dong*."

"Then explain it to us." Zoe demanded, her voice not raised but hard as steel.

Jayne seemed to deflate a little and sagged back into his pillow. "Already killed me."

They looked at each other, uncertain that they had heard him right. Zoe frowned. "What do you mean killed you?"

Jayne gave Simon a thoughtful look. "Wondered what that weird little mark was on Mal's chest. Never talked about it but I seen it one time when he was doin' up his shirt after the doc checked up on him after Niska. Now I know."

"Know?" Kaylee looked puzzled. "What do you know, Jayne?"

"I know 'cause I got the same mark on me."

"What mark?"

Simon didn't want Kaylee to keep asking but Jayne seemed relieved as if her prompt gave him the courage to show them. Hands shaking he undid his shirt front. Shepherd Book looked at his chest in horror. "*Wode ma*! Is that what I think it is?"

Simon nodded. "It's the same device Niska used on the Captain to stop his heart. From what I could gather his heart was shocked back to life afterwards. I can only assume Niska did the same to Jayne."

"No assume about it, doc." Jayne growled looking tired, as if the fire in him had petered out along with the last of his strength. "Gorram *heishoudang liumang* was gloatin' about it. Got a whole new range of torture devices for the Cap. We don't get him out soon ain't gonna be nothin' to rescue but scraps of meat."

The gasp from Kaylee brought a little of flicker of guilt to Jayne's face but he wouldn't take it back. The truth was the truth and they were wasting time. Time Mal didn't have. Zoe didn't like what she was hearing, even worse was what she was thinking. Before she could question the big man further, Wash's voice came over the com. He sounded excited and somewhat strained.

"Zoe? You'd better come to the bridge *mashang*. We got a wave."

Her heart gave a painful lurch. "Niska?"

"No. You aren't gonna believe this *bao bei*, it's Saffron!"

* * * * *

No one saw her. Heard her. Noticed her comings and goings. There were advantages to being a mouse. Could get into and out of places others couldn't and right now there was a haystack with her name on it. With all the worry about Jayne and the delays caused by the weather only River was keeping track of how swiftly the sands were sifting, time running out too quickly. She knew the others would catch on soon but if she waited on them the delay in getting the rest done would be too fine a cut and they would only get the one chance. So she worked quietly, efficiently. Sitting on the floor of Serenity's armoury River Tam carefully worked the caps off the bullets and tipped the gunpowder into the large homemade shell. They didn't have anything as useful as nitro glycerine or as malleable as plastic explosives and while grenades were good they weren't distructive enough.

River didn't just want to create an explosion, she wanted to completely destroy Niska's little hidey hole. Ship, mine shaft, tunnel, skyplex, it made no difference to her. The man was vermin and it was time to put him down. Seconds ticked and tocked inside her head as her busy agile fingers completed putting the third bomb together. One more to go and she would have enough. Calmly she hurried as much as she dared knowing she needed to be ready when the others got the call. Any minute now. Adrenaline coursed through waiting muscles, pinsharp brain working out all the angles, every step of the plan etched into her mind while part of her tried to hang on to the tenative connection with her fading Captain. After so long with not even fleeting contact with his mind her relief at the sudden contact was marred by his suffering. Pain lanced behind her eyes like a red hot poker and River clutched her head and rocked forward in agony. A second later it had passed. With hands that trembled River picked up the last of the spare ammo and carefully resumed her task.

* * * * *

Dr Hazard would have preferred the shackles be removed completely but showing such consideration towards Niska's victim would have aroused undue suspicion and he could not afford that. Instead he nodded curt thanks to Bran and knelt on the chrome deck to tend his patient. The man looked terrible and as he checked him over the doctor's concern grew. Hazard remembered the one before him, the hulk of a man Niska had called Jayne. The *laoban* had been particularly gleeful in causing as much pain as possible, ordering Bran to be more and more creative while watching intently as if making mental notes. As the crime lord had happily explained to the doctor, Jayne Cobb was a practice run for what he would do to Malcolm Reynolds. Even now he felt sick just thinking about what he had witnessed. And when Jayne's heart had finally stopped he felt the sympathetic ache of his own at the way the body was carelessly tossed to one side before being hauled away for disposal. Hazard never knew what they did with the poor man's remains.

Now, here he was being ordered to patch up another victim of the crime lord's vile abuse, not to restore him to health but in order to allow Niska to draw out the agony of death over many days. Hazard didn't want to think about what he did but at times like this he hated himself even more than he hated Niska. He had taken an oath to 'do no harm' yet here he was using his skills as a healer to prolong the suffering of another. And yet he could not bring himself not to tend the man. Bran watched him like a hawk and the doctor knew he was making sure that he didn't do anything more than clean the man up a little and tend the worse of the wounds so the Captain wouldn't die. He was not allowed to stitch the many gashes that bled so freely nor to administer any kind of pain relief. So he bathed and clensed the wounds and hooked up an IV to replace some of the fluids that had been lost. It was pitifully little but all he was allowed to do. The doctor looked up at Niska's henchman.

"I need to hook him up to the monitors."

For a moment he thought Bran would refuse and make him leave the Captain on the floor but after a few moments he nodded. Between them they got Mal on to a gurney and wheeled him over to the other side of the room where a heart monitor and crash cart were situated. The medical supplies were quite sophisticated but Hazard was only allowed to use basic medicines and the monitoring equipment. It made him burn with indignation but he had learned long ago to allow none of his thoughts to show on his face. Once he had Mal hooked up Bran fastened straps across the Captain's chest and legs, locking the cuffs of the manacles to either side of the gurney's metal frame. Hazard just stared at Bran and wondered what in the nine hells he thought a man in Captain Reynolds condition could do. But then Niska didn't pay his men to think only to obey.

* * * * *

They waited until dark, the wind still gusting but no longer so fierce and cold. It had stopped snowing hours ago with some of the drifts already beginning to melt. The icy edge to the air had abated giving some hope that the worst was over. Wash wriggled closer to Zoe. "Tell me again why we're trustin' her?"

"Because she knows where the Cap'n is." Zoe hissed back. They had been over this again and again and her patience was wearing thin.

Simon had wanted to stay behind and continue to monitor Jayne's progress but the first mate had insisted he come too. Saffron had said the Captain would probably be needing his services more than Jayne and that had short circuited any further protests. Over Saffron's head Zoe and the Shepherd exchanged a look. River had sided with Saffron which was all manner of disturbing but with so much at stake and time being critical no one wanted to delay the rescue when a life hung so precariously in the balance. Simon had been surprised when Wash had insisted on going with them then noticed the look of pride on Zoe's face. After their last run in with Niska he should not have been surprised but this crew kept forcing him to change his assumptions. Only Kaylee stayed on Serenity with Jayne, Simon having shown her how to monitor his life signs and when to adminster pain relief through the IV.

They lay crouched at the ragged top of some rocks, another mine several hundred yards below them. Wash noticed most of the shafts had caved in or partly filled up with snow. It did look as if this mine though had been in better condition than the one Book had checked out. In the distance they could hear waves crashing though they could not see the shoreline. Saffron crawled up alongside Zoe and pointed ahead. "Just over this ridge there's a ship. He's got it half hidden by rocks. That's where he's holdin' Mal."

"An' you would know this how?"

Saffron ignored Zoe's question. "Now's not the time for suspicions, sweetie."

Anger flashed in the first mate's eyes but Wash put a hand on her forearm not wanting his wife to get sidetracked and shoot the little *pofu* before they got to the Captain. While it would be some satisfaction to see the scheming woman meet a just end it would alert Niska's men and there would go the element of surprise. "We don't have time for this, Zoe."

For a moment the spark of something dark and deadly flickered in her eyes then Zoe was her calm stoic self once more, only the tightening around her eyes and jaw a reminder that she had not finished with Saffron. Zoe gave a signal and they fanned out, carefully creeping over the top and beginning to work their way down to where the ship was hidden. Saffron had warned that there would be lookouts but River had already dispatched two of them before they realised. Zoe gave the girl a grim nod as she rejoined them, wiping Jayne's knife clean in the snow.

"Better than bullets." She grinned.

Simon hated this. Hated that his little sister was such an accomplished assassin. But River was alive, free and still part of his life and he couldn't bring himself to regret that. How crazy was it that these were plus points? It didn't take long to dispatch the last of the guards. Once Zoe was satisfied no more were lurking in the shadows she was about to split the crew into their tasks when Saffron spoke up.

"We need to blow it up."

Shepherd Book was watching her closely. "After we get the Captain out."

"Of course but we need to set the charges before we go in."

Wash looked uncomfortable. "That means someone could set them off while we're still inside."

The woman smiled disingenuously at them. "Then you're just gonna have to trust me." "Not in a million years." Zoe ground out between gritted teeth.

Before an argument could erupt, River eased her slim frame between Zoe and Saffron. "*Fang xin*, I'll be with her."

Saffron frowned. "You will?"

"*Dui*." River hefted the hessian bag on her shoulder by way of illustration. "Got a few bombs of my own."

"River?" Simon's look of alarm would have been funny if things hadn't been so tense. "Where did you get bombs?"

Her grin was unsettling. "Made them."

Impatient, Zoe hissed at them. "*Bi zui*! I don't care who did what or who makes the biggest explosion, we don't have time for this. River, keep close to Saffron an' if looks like she's gonna double cross us take her out."

"I'm hurt." Saffron pouted. "Anyone would think you didn't trust me."

Wash gave her a false smile. "That would be because we don't."

Shepherd Book shook his head. Sometimes it was like working with recalcitrant children. "Come on, if we're goin' we need to go now."

Zoe nodded then they were moving. Saffron and River creeping round the outside of the ship and placing their bombs and charges. Wash checked the door and waited for Zoe's nod. On a count of three they entered the ship at a run, guns ready and Simon bringing up the rear with a gun in one hand and a beefed up medical bag in the other.

The whole operation was over in minutes. There was a heart stopping moment when Adelei Niska came out into the corridor with a chicken leg in one hand to see what all the noise was about. The look of shock on his face was frozen in time as Zoe and Book caught him in a cross fire. For a moment Wash thought the slippery *tamade hundan* had managed to get away with just a flesh wound but as Book followed him back into the room where he had been eating his repast dozens more bullets ripped into the *liumang's*s fleeing body. Zoe didn't follow, knowing the Shepherd would make sure Niska didn't get away this time. As they neared the torture room Bran came running out with a machine gun in his hands. Automatic fire ripped through the air and Zoe, Wash and Simon flattened themselves to the sides of the ship. Zoe peeled herself away from the side just enough to line up a head shot when Bran caught the movement and spun to spray mechanised death in her direction. Just as he turned the man staggered to a halt, his eyes widening with surprise then pain.

Zoe and Wash fired together, the big man's body jerking as the rounds hit him, the machine gun slipping from nerveless fingers. Simon covered them with his gun but didn't fire off a shot, already seeing the glazed look before death turned out the lights. Bran was dead before his body hit the deck. As the man fell a small diminutive figure skidded to halt behind him with both hands in the air. He was shaking from head to toe. "Don't shoot, I'm a doctor!"

For a moment everyone just stared at each other then Simon paused as he was about to pass the fallen man, noticing what looked suspiciously like a scapel sticking out of the dead man's back. As he looked up he realised what must have happened and gave a grim little smile. "Yours?"

Dr Hazard nodded nervously back. Zoe shot a look at Simon then down at the body and realised why Niska's henchman had frozen just when he was about to fill Zoe with a torrent of firepower.

"We're lookin' for somebody."

The little doctor finally found his voice. Nobody commented on how badly it cracked. "T...this way."

Shepherd Book joined them and the last few feet to Niska's torture room were covered in grim silence. When they flung open the door Simon caught his breath. Even though he knew what Niska had been up to it was still a shock to see the aftermath of the man's depravity. The room looked like a slaughterhouse, blood everywhere. On the walls, the floor and even sprayed on the ceiling. He felt sick. Then he felt an arm grab him and Zoe was propelling him off to one side where the Captain was laying on a gurney, strapped down and hooked to monitors. Book and Wash immediately began undoing the straps. Dr Hazard explained that he had tried to do what he could for the Captain but Niska wouldn't let him give more than rudimentary care.

"That include strapping a man bleedin' to death down?" Zoe glared at him.

"I think," said Book "we need to get the Captain out of here sooner rather than later."

Without another word Simon unclipped the top section of the metal gurney which then became a stretcher, the frame and wheels being left in situ. Dr Hazard tried to help and for a moment Simon froze then realised the poor man was as badly upset by what had happened as they were. With a nod of truce Simon let the man help and soon Wash and Book joined them, Zoe keeping watch to make sure Niska had not left any other nasty surprises.

As soon as they exited the ship, River yelled at them to get over the ridge and get their heads down. Zoe did not have a chance to see where Saffron was. No one could clearly remember much of that frantic scramble but as they cleared the top of the rocks and slid down the other side the first of the explosions rent the air until the ground beneath their feet began to shake. Shepherd Book rose out of his crouch and indicated to the others to do the same. If they stayed the already unstable mountainside was likely to start breaking up. Riddled as it was with mine shafts and tunnels it would not take much for the explosions to finish what years of neglect of the mine had started. They reached Serenity just as River caught up with them, Simon's relief at seeing her safe tempered by the need to get his patient to the infirmary before the man died on them. It would be just like the Captain to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

The cargo bay door opened to a worried mechanic staring back at them. Zoe didn't have time for niceties. The way the ground kept shaking they needed to get off this unstable ball of rock. "Wash, get us the *diyu* outta here!"

Wash ran and took the metal stairs two at a time, only just registering the sound of the cargo bay doors closing and Simon's voice instructing willing hands in the race to the infirmary. As Serenity lifted off no one noticed a small ship take off in their wake only changing course when the Firefly mid-bulk transport entered atmo.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *guai* = Devil/ghost *shenme* = what? *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *heishoudan liumang*/*liumang* = gangster/asshole/bastard/criminal *laoban* = boss *shifu* = sir *duibuqi* = sorry *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *wode ma* = mother of God *bao bei* = precious/treasure *dui* = correct *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *bi zui* = be quiet/shut up *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *pofu* = bitch


Sunday, March 30, 2008 3:26 AM


Excellent chapter. Loved Jayne's internal monologue at the beginning particularly!

Sunday, March 30, 2008 9:51 PM


Lots of good bits - I too liked Jayne's introspection, as well as River making her bombs. I do feel that perhaps the fight on board the ship was over too quick (particularly after the excellent tension building)at least they have the captain back, although the small ship taking off sounds more than a little ominous.


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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.