DUPLICITY Series: 20. "Acts of God"
Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Badger feels as if he has jumped from the frying pan into the gorram fire. The Captain is given some good news but Simon's reaction isn't what he expects."


TITLE: "ACTS OF GOD" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. RATING: G. STATUS: Sequel to "CONNECTIONS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Badger feels as if he has jumped from the frying pan into the gorram fire. The Captain is given some good news but Simon's reaction isn't what he expects." 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

* * * * *

He had no idea how she had pulled it off but grateful didn't come close to the sudden euphoria racing through his veins at his too-close brush with torture and imminent death. Somewhere along the way he had lost his very fine hat but right now that was one loss he would happily live with just to breathe fresh air again. Her voice was far too casual when she finally spoke, putting him on edge.

"What did they want, Stephen?"

Badger bit back the automatic reply forming on his lips. He owed her big time and she knew it. Throwing her help back in her face by being pissy was not a smart way to keep on living. "Some girl."

His mother paused. They had been walking from the ground car she had requisitioned. Badger didn't know this area well, it being where all the big noises liked to strut about flashing their coin. It was too big, bright and brash even for Badger's tastes. All them high class dealer's tables and bars and this was the residential district. Cost more for a drink in one of those places than he paid for a crate of the gorram stuff back home. Course, it didn't peel the skin off the back of your throat going down either but then that's how you knew it was genuine.

"What girl?"

"How should I know? Why you so interested anyway?"

She stopped in her tracks and pinned him with a stare. Badger felt the colour rise up his neck and his hands go clammy. "I spent a great deal of time and money extracting you from a situation that was about to become terminal you ungrateful *hundan*. Son of mine or not you owe me an explanation."

Truth was he did feel like a piece of *goushi* for the way he was acting but it wasn't because he was ungrateful, just had his gorram feathers ruffled and was all manner of spooked by not only what had happened to him but his mother of all people coming to his rescue. It was so surreal he was tempted to gorram pinch himself. "Yeah well *duibuqi*, didn't mean to be so crabby. Was upset, see? Didn't mean nothin' by it."

When she just stared at him, waiting, he swallowed hard. Memories of her infrequent visits tattooed inside his brain like object lessons. Painfully learnt at that.

"If you must know I think it's the girl on that gorram ship. A Firefly. The Captain does work for me sometimes - you know, fetch an' carry - nothin' too complicated. He ain't that clever so I like to keep things simple."

She did not smile. Badger was frustrated but knew better than to make it too obvious or let fly with his stupid temper again. They might be related but it was not something he could count on to protect him if he really pissed her off. How did he get in this mess? Oh yeah. The girl.

"Got an odd kind o' name, in fact she's an odd one all round you could say."

"Odd name?"

Her persistence annoyed him then the girl's name popped in his head making him feel a mite better. "River, that's it. Stupid name for a girl but what can I say? Parents probably had a thing about water."

"And her surname?"

He gave her a sharp look, what was this? The Spanish Inquisition? "Why so curious?"

"She must be important for someone to go to all the trouble of hunting you down, Stephen."

Badger blinked. "I didn't say nothin' about bein' hunted down."

"You were running, they followed. What do you call it?"

Alarm bells weren't simply ringing in his head they were great bleeding sirens blaring so loudly they almost deafened him. He took a step back from her, heart racing. "What's this? I don't hear from you for more than a year an' all of a sudden I'm the long lost son? Do me a favour an' don't look me up again any time soon, *dong ma*?"

The slap was so swift and hard it startled him. The blossom of pain etched on his cheek in a red handprint, her eyes boring angrily into his own with only a hair's breadth of control keeping her from doing him serious damage. Oh, she was mad at him alright. Funny how he forgot how to walk on gorram eggshells when he hadn't seen her in a while and now she seemed to pop up every time he turned around. It was more than creepy. It was gorram terrifying. "This girl, River, what is her last name?"

Badger didn't try to fob her off this time but wracked his brain. This was important, even he could see that though he wasn't happy sharing any information with her. Still. Couldn't be avoided now he supposed, best get it over with. "Tam, that's it. River Tam."

Something in her eyes alerted him. "*Weishenme*? It mean somethin' to you?"

The look, whatever it was, vanished. Her expression stony she seemed to be considering her response. They had reached a modest rental property. He knew because there was a smaller board slotted in the front of the sign saying 'no vacancies'. So. Rented not owned. Seemed his dear mother was covering her tracks. Some things never changed. "*Limian*."

He was about to ask her for the key but the expression on her face made him change his mind and walk up the path. When Badger tried the door he was surprised to find it unlocked. A shiver of apprehension went up his spine but he couldn't turn back, not with her behind him and who knew how many people trying to find him. He didn't dare to think that the only people who had wanted to skin him alive were the purplebellies who had captured him. She still hadn't told him what fancy trick she had pulled to get him out of that cell. Suddenly he was sure he didn't want to know the answer. He turned as she closed the door behind her with a solid click, sweat breaking out on his forehead as she calmly locked it and pocketed the key.

* * * * *

It was a long time since Simon had seen so many smiling faces. The Captain looked kind of stunned if he was any judge but there was a hopeful look in his eyes that hadn't been there in some time and the doctor took that as a good sign. Zoe felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Kaylee was beaming fit to bust as if her faith in Simon had once again been vindicated. It wasn't that people didn't have faith in him, they did, but this was an unforgiving 'verse. Shepherd Book's smile was more muted, watching and listening to the babble of excited voices as the crew quizzed Simon. Jayne was pleased something was going their way for once but was also getting impatient. If there was this shiny hospital in the grounds of Simon's parents' house then what the good gorram were they all doing yammering the day away? Wasn't like the Captain could get up and walk there. Wash seemed amused by the sour look sliding over the mercenary's face but was too happy to want to spoil things by needling the man.

Everyone was crammed into the infirmary except River. His sister had wanted to stay and talk to his mother while Simon left to give the Captain and crew the good news. Only he had yet to relax. Simon smiled with the others, made all the happy sounds a body could expect but his eyes told a story none of them had yet heard. Kaylee sidled up to him and took his hand, his eyes drifting down to meet hers. The sheer blazing light of her sunny smile causing a catch in his throat and an ache in his heart. Kaylee. How could anyone have anything but happy thoughts around her? He smiled back and was rewarded with an even brighter smile, the joy coming off the girl in waves that if harnessed could power the ship without fuel across light years.

"As fun as this all is," said Wash "Is there any reason we're all still on the ship an' not goin' to the shiny new hospital?"

Simon blinked at Wash. "Um, yes, actually there is."

"This place not up to your high standards, doc?" The Captain asked.

"*Bu qu*, not at all, it's fine. In fact it's more than fine. My father's facility is better equipped than I could have hoped for."

A tiny frowned creased Zoe's brow. "How so?"

"It has equipment so new it was in the experimental stages when I was at MedAcad."

The Captain was watching Simon like a hawk. Even flat on his back the man didn't miss much. "I'm takin' it that's a good thing, *dui*?"

Simon nodded, not smiling now. "Very".

It was as if all the happy had suddenly leaked out of the room despite Simon's positive pronouncement. Shepherd Book looked thoughtful. "You don't seem very excited."

"Oh, I am, it's just..." How could he explain this feeling as yet unformed but slowly creeping into his mind? Like an itch he couldn't scratch, a sense of something not quite right but with nothing to substantiate the feeling and unable to put his finger on what was wrong, or even if anything was wrong in the first place. In that moment he felt a bit like the Captain did when a job went not simply smooth, but *too* smooth. *Wode ma*, he hoped Malcolm Reynolds wasn't rubbing off on him. If he was he would be in more trouble than even this eclectic crew could get into and that was saying a lot.

Wash tried to help him out. "Unexpected?"

"Shiny?" Piped up Kaylee hopefully.

Zoe's eyes were narrowing as Simon failed to respond. Her words muted but clear in the now quiet room. "Or too good to be true?"

His head snapped up, eyes locking on hers as if she had just picked the words out of his head. "Why do you say that?"

"No reason, just your reaction. Seen folks look happier goin' to the gallows."

The doctor flushed, hating the fact that his good news had been hijacked by reservations he didn't even know he had. "*Duibuqi*, it's just after everything that's happened between me and my father..." He trailed off, not sure how to complete that sentence.

Book was helping Mal sit up, Kaylee and Jayne each stuffing a pillow behind him until he called a halt to their good intentions. He wanted to sit up not topple on to his face. Now the Captain said what the others were secretly thinking. "We in any danger, Simon?"

Startled, Simon shook his head. "Oh no, no, nothing like that."

Jayne straightened, a scowl on his face. "Then what're we waitin' for?"

With no reason to actually delay, a buzz of activity got under way. Book and Jayne got the stretcher while Simon checked the Captain over one last time much to Zoe and Kaylee's amusement, the Captain protesting but unable to do a gorram thing about it. Only when Simon was happy would he let them carry the Captain out of the infirmary, the crew following in a little procession with Wash and Zoe bringing up the rear. As they exited the ship, Zoe made sure to lock up and set the code. Wash frowned as he watched her and dropped his voice. "You okay, *bao bei*?"

Her voice was deadpan. "Shiny."

Wash felt a skittering of nerves under his skin and took a quick look around but there was no one else around but them. "You're not expectin' any trouble, are you?"

"I always expect trouble, *zhangfu*." She paused to let a smile ease past her tight lips. "It's what makes it all the sweeter when things go smooth."

Partly reassured he just had to press her, just a little bit. "An' they will go smooth, won't they?"

This time she looked at him properly and patted her mare's leg in it's holster on her right hip. "That's what this is for."

It was supposed to reassure him, he knew that. Funny how the reminder that she was armed and deadly had the exact, opposite effect.

* * * * *

His head hurt in a way that should have involved lots and lots of alcohol and really good sex. That he was pretty sure neither had happened did not reassure him. They waited for him to wake properly, the room seeming dim and unwelcoming only because the lighting was carefully muted. Now, why the *diyu* did he think that?

"What happened?"

Gillion Marshall rose from his chair and took a step back allowing the woman to take his place. Paul frowned, she looked so familiar. Yet he could not put a name to the face nor say where or how he knew her. Perhaps she just looked like someone he knew? But who? Her plain face cracked into a slow smile, changing her features more than he would have expected. A spark of recognition shot through his brain like electricity jumping over the synaptic gap.

"China Rose?"

Her smile became incandescent bringing a shine to her eyes that made him feel impossibly pleased for being the cause. "How much do you remember, Paul?"

The thick heavy fog that was his memory had so many holes in it that he feared everything useful had drained out. "Not much."

His voice was dull and regretful. She did not want that, it was counterproductive and they were up against so many time contraints that even this conversation was costing them. "Then tell me what you *do* remember."

He wanted to beg off, say he needed to sleep, anything but do what she asked yet he did not want to disappoint her. It was important that he did not fail her. Paul took a few deep breaths to steady himself, Gillion reappearing with a tall glass of cool water. Surprised by the unexpected kindness Paul nodded his thanks and took a grateful sip. Gillion glanced at China but she gave a tiny shake of the head. This was one thing they could not afford to rush.

Slowly Paul Rinkman pieced together the fragments of his memory, China Rose listening intently and careful not to fill in any of the blanks. Paul was surprised when the more he talked the more things he began to recall. Excited, he found a whole undiscovered country tripped from his lips resonating in his mind with a clarity he welcomed and embraced. By the time he had finished he had full recall. With a look of shock he stared at China and reached out for her hand. His wife obliged and let him cling to her. "Did I tell them anythin', *ai ren*?"

"*Bu qu*, dearest. It's safe to say you left them totally frustrated."

He looked a little dazed at the news and shook his head in wonder. "I didn't really think it would work."

Gillion laughed lightly, a soft covert sound as if afraid other ears would overhear him. "Then you're a dummy."

Paul snorted. "I can still kick your *pigu* ten ways from Sunday so show some respect."

Gillion was grinning now. He turned to China. "Yeah, he's back. Kind'a makes a man wish we could have kept him dumb a little longer."

The whack on his arm made him wince. China had a mean right hook even in play. "*Wei*, you know I didn't mean it."

"We don't have much time together so let's not waste it."

"Do you have to go back, *fengmi*?"

She gave her husband a nod. "*Qu*. We can't afford to arouse any suspicions."

"It's too dangerous."

China patted his hand. "And necessary, you know that."


Straightening, China Rose got to her feet. "No buts, we've already discussed this. If I don't return we won't be able to help when the time comes."

"Perhaps it won't come to that."

She raised her eyebrows at his sudden bout of wishful thinking. Paul flushed. China shook her head. "Paul, we got as many out as we could but they still want the one who showed the most promise."

"*Wo zhidao* an' that's what scares me."

"We can't let that happen, *dong ma*?

Even though Paul wasn't happy about it he couldn't disagree. No one knew better than he did what those children had been put through and while there was breath still in his body he wouldn't stop trying to protect them. China had got him out and from there on it had been a roller coaster of hide and seek with the authorities and so many shady organisations that knowing who to trust had stopped being an issue. They simply didn't trust anyone outside of the charmed circle. "Don't go alone."

"I'll be fine."

Paul frowned. "Take Gillion with you."

"If he pokes his head outside of this door I'll shoot it off." She growled. "And that goes double for you, *zhangfu*. After all the trouble we went through to pull this off I'm not ready for a messy divorce."

"Then be careful, *qizi*." He urged softly.

"Count on it."

Seconds later his wife was gone and Gillion locked, bolted and barred the door. For a long time Paul stared at the door then slowly shook himself out of the depression settling over him. He had pulled it off, was out and alive. The game was still on and one thing he had learnt about China was that everybody tended to either overlook or underestimate her. It was her ace in the hole. Paul knew he would neither rest nor relax until she came back through that door. Without a word Gillon got up to put the kettle on then came back and put a hand on Paul's shoulder. He left it there until Paul nodded to let him know he was going to be alright.

* * * * *

Mal had to admit to being mighty impressed with Gabriel's hospital even if he was a mite wary of the man himself. After everything Simon and River had told him about their parents and in particular Gabriel's refusal to help his son he was not inclined to be too charitable to him now. Except. The man truly seemed to be happy to see his children and maybe the time apart had enabled him to see how wrong he had been and how much his family meant to him. Regan on the other hand he liked instantly. There was just something quite spontaneous and ingenuous about her that told him this was the true heart of that little family.

Once the introductions were completed everything happened pretty fast. A pair of nurses hurrying to help Simon get the Captain on to a hospital bed where a whole bank of impressive machinery had been set up along with imagers. Simon was in his quietly efficient element. Hovering, the rest of Serenity's crew were not sure what to do. Zoe wanted to stay put, see what was happening to her Captain, but Mrs Tam offered them a tour of the facilities and with River beaming her approval it seemed churlish to refuse.

* * * * *

It was crazy but she had promised him that if he got the information she needed he would never have to see her again. He would be free. Able to come and go as he saw fit only he wasn't fit. Would never be so again. He pulled the thin shiny vest closer. The light tan shirt underneath was also thin but he had to at least look vaguely respectable and in these parts young gentlemen wore vests. He didn't think many had joints at odd angles though but then that was what happened when bones got routinely broken and were left to set without medical attention.

The cruelty had not been casual. Her actions had been calculated, just like the agony she visited upon him. Daniel James Hunt took as deep a breath as damaged lungs would allow. He knew he was a mess but that *pofu* had nagged, threatened and cajoled him into doing this one last thing for her. He sneered, the ugly pull on his badly stiched face making a grotesque mockery of what had once been the aspect of a handsome man. Sihnon. How he hated the place. All cultured fabrication and false bon homie. Every face a mask, every smile a lie to cover still greater deceits. And here he was, just another to add to the deepening pile of *goushi*. Daniel paused. So tired he could sleep standing up only he knew his legs wouldn't hold him that long. The nerves in his legs would jump making him shake with the effort to control himself but it was a constant battle and unable to lie to himself he knew it was one he would never win. Now he was at the address, watching as closely as he dared. She had shown him a faded flimsy but he had not been allowed to take it with him. If he got caught no help would come. There would be no last minute rescue and no extraction. To her he was totally expendable, a resource that was at the end of its' useful life but Daniel was not quite as pathetic as she deemed. He still had one surprise up his sleeve. One he had paid for in blood and misery to keep hidden from her.

* * * * *

"Why you doin' this?"

She sighed, the strenth of her personality slipping just enough to impress on him her age. Of course, neither of them were getting any younger but he always forgot. His over riding memory of her often denying the evidence of a more discerning eye. Badger felt a prick of something. Couldn't be conscience because he barely had one to speak of and wasn't likely to be any emotional tie and yet, he didn't like to see that facade slipping. Terrifying though the mask could be. "Oi, somethin' wrong with you?"

The mask slid back, whole, complete and impenetrable. A steely gaze locked on his. "Stephen, while I cannot commend your stupidity, which all who have met you know to be legendary, this is not all your fault."

He blinked. "*Shenme*? I don't know what you're talkin' about an' why bring me here? You ashamed o' me or somethin'?"

Badger knew he had hit the nail on the head when a barely perceptible flinch flickered over her face. "*Qu*, actually I am."

The bald words stunned him. Shocked into silence he could only stare at her. It was what he had always expected but still. Hearing it said so calmly and without a trace of emotion he felt something hollow out inside him. A space where nothing could live or dwell or fill up that corner of him ever again. Before he could think of something suitably bitter and spiteful to come back with she continued speaking. Out of habit he listened.

"And my shame is part of my burden, Stephen." She sighed. Badger frowned, not understanding. His mother stepped away from the door and motioned him into another room. Badger glanced around, it was a small open plan kitchen with a table and chairs. In a corner was a small sofa and a couple of easy chairs. She took one of the easy chairs and indicated Badger should take the other. Warily he followed her lead and only when he was seated as well did she explain. "What I am going to tell you is neither easy nor pleasant. I am not proud of myself especially in regards to how I have treated you."

What was this? Did he look like a gorram father confessor? Yet Badger couldn't help but be drawn to a look of such sincerity on her face that every word was accepted and hoarded against the day when she would have nothing but contempt for him again.

"As you must have realised long ago your birth was never planned." Badger snorted at the massive understatement but she ignored the interruption. "The man who fathered you would have ended my career had he known of the pregnancy and I was too young and foolish to seek a termination. Instead I hid the signs for as long as I was able then took a commission, one that would take me out of my normal circle and give me the distant and privacy I would need to carry you to full term. *Weishenme? Wo bu zhidao*. It was instinct, Stephen. That and the fact that I had never in my whole selfish life had anything or anyone that was totally and completely mine."

"So I was a possession?" Badger whispered, his voice so quiet only she could hear him.

A sad smile dusted lips that to him had always seemed so austere. An unforgiving boundary where love never showed its' face. They were strangers with a common bond. "At first, yes. *Duibuqi*, Stephen, for as many mistakes as you have made in your life - and do not think there will not be more - I have made infinitely more. But I like to think that letting you live was not one of them."

For a long time he just stared at her, completely flumoxed and not knowing quite how to respond. So she was saying he was a mistake but she didn't regret it? What in the nine hells did that mean? "Why all this now? I suddenly grow wings?"

A genuine smile sprang startled upon her aging face, for a moment lightening the years of intrigue and a life of subtle manipulation behind the halls of power. Recent events had shown her a mirror that leant a less flattering image of herself and she could not bear for her life to end with the one forbidden issue of her body not knowing the truth.

"You must understand that my position did not allow for the creation or nurturing of a family. Had your existence been known you would have been eliminated." Badger blanched, mentally and physically recoiling from her words. "*Shenme*?"

"The only way to shield you was to send you away so I chose the one place they would never think to look. And I was careful, so very careful, to keep any kind of contact to a bare minimum. The people who took you in and raised you were good people, Stephen, and I believe they cared for you as best they could."

His face twisted, bitter, pained and resentful. "They used me. Turned me into a beggar in the gorram streets, made me walk in the filth like it was part of who I was. Vowed I would raise myself up out of that rathole, make a name for myself. Become respectable, see?"

It was obvious he was upset and his mother felt a pang, the odd desire to go to him, to offer comfort but it wasn't her way and he wouldn't have accepted it from her anyway.

"They called me Stephen," he spat, the hurt in his eyes unguarded now as he remembered. "So I chose another name, see? Somethin' not connected with them - or you. Clawed my way up 'cause whatever else folk might think I ain't *ben dan, dong ma*?" He looked choked up.

Badger had always thought the couple who had raised him had given him that name and in the cold unfeeling squallor which they called home and he thought of as a prison he never once thought of them as parents or guardians and they had never lied to him only saying that his mother had been unable to raise him herself and had given him into their care. Care. That was a rutting laugh. The only thing they cared about was whatever sum had changed hands and whatever he could steal or earn for them. Long after he had grown old enough and bold enough to think for himself he had fled and when the sickness came to Dyton Colony it had taken that unpleasant piece of his past to the grave with it. He didn't miss them and wouldn't shed a tear. Slowly the area had been clensed, people gravitating back to the old country and helping in the rebuilding and starting over again. Turning the dirt and filfth into a more respectable neighbourhood with people holding down simple but honest jobs while as always the pickpockets flourished and a honeyed tongue could buy almost anything. And from time to time Badger had returned, looked up old friends and made new ones but kept his business life private. It seemed his mother had pretty much done the same.

"Why tell me this now?"

"This trouble you've got yourself into Stephen involves some very powerful people."

"You don't have to tell me that!"

She glared at him and he shut his trap. "I have done some detective work of my own and it seems they are after something very specific."

"Knew I should'a killed Malcolm Reynolds when I had the chance."

His mother shook her head. "*Bu qu*, don't let your dislike of the Captain distract you."

His look sharpened. Badger leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees.

"It would appear that the Alliance are after two fugitives, a brother and a sister."

"Yeah, Reynolds had 'em on his ship. How dumb is that?"

"Actually it is one of the few things I like about him."

Badger blinked, stunned. "You know Malcolm Reynolds?"

Her smile was almost teasing, a look he could not ever remember seeing on her face before. "*Bu qu*, we have never met."

"But you said..."

"Stephen." He fell silent immediately. "I have come to know him through another let us say and unfortunately your actions towards that Captain and crew have brought you to the notice of people who will stop at nothing to cover their tracks."

He was frowning now, remembering what had happened to the district around Dyton Colony and how so many of his far flung friends and contacts were ending up dead. "This ain't just Alliance is it?"

She shook her head. "It never was."

"But purplebellies was huntin' me down."

"*Wo zhidao*. Think of hunting dogs and you have the idea."

"So if the Alliance ain't the task masters then..."

Their eyes met and his face paled. His mother nodded slowly, her voice dropping as if even naming the company out loud was bad luck. Could bring certain doom down upon their heads like some vicious and instant Act of God. Only it would have to be a very perverted and twisted God. "Blue Sun." She paused. "And Stephen, I have discovered that a Parliamentary Operative is involved."

There was bad, worse and devastating. This was in another more dire league entirely.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*hundan* = bastard *goushi* = crap/dog shit *duibuqi* = sorry *limian* = inside *dong ma* = understand? *weishenme* = why? *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dui* = correct *wode ma* = mother of God *bao bei* = precious/treasure *zhangfu* = husband *diyu* = hell *ai ren* = sweetheart *pigu* = bottom *wei* = hey! *fengmi* = honey *qu* = yes (lit. go) *wo zhidao* = I know *qizi* = wife *pofu* = bitch *shenme* = what? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *ben dan* = stupid (lit. stupid egg)


Sunday, July 13, 2008 1:15 PM


Alliance, BlueSun, and Parliamentary Operatives, oh my! Very well done!

Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:31 PM


nobody expects the spanish inquisition!:)

Monday, July 14, 2008 8:02 AM


Wonderful! On the edge of my seat!!


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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.