HANDFUL OF STARS: 7. "The Camel's Back"
Friday, November 12, 2010

"Kaylee goes to try and find second hand parts and the Captain has to inform Sheriff Thomas that they have a little setback. Meanwhile Monty discovers that leaving Cheverell isn't as straightforward as it should be."


TITLE: "THE CAMEL'S BACK" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "GAMES PEOPLE PLAY". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Kaylee goes to try to find second hand parts and the Captain has to inform Sheriff Thomas that they have a little setback. Meanwhile Monty discovers that leaving Cheverall isn't as straightforward as it should be." 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

* * * * *

"You didn't break."

The Captain stared at River, not willing to voice how much her words disturbed him.

"Makes you special."

"Don't wanna be *tebie, dong ma*?"

Another voice answered, one he did not know but which sent cold shivers down his spine. "Not your choice, Reynolds." The voice paused, at one with the darkness crowding his mind. "Spent a long time trackin' you down."

"What the good gorram you wantin' with me?"

"Are you familiar with the works of Shan Yu?"

Mal woke in a cold sweat, the roof of his mouth dry, heart quailing in his breast. Fear chasing the breath from his body as he gulped lung fulls of air in an effort to stem the panic from taking over. It took longer than he was comfortable with for his racing heart to find a more peaceable rythym. Eyes wide and staring, a wildness to him that was truly alarming especially with him being unable to just shrug it off. He tried to convince himself it was just a gorram nightmare but knew he would not be able to go back to sleep. Swinging his legs out of bed he sat with a weary sigh and ran a shaky hand through his hair.

* * * * *

Monty couldn't understand it. What was wrong with his ship? Scowling fit to bust he stomped off to have words with his mechanic. Tommy Banks was swearing up a storm in the engine room, more steam coming out of his ears than an over heated boiler.

"What've you done to my ship?"

Exasperated, Tommy shook his head and gave his boss a hang dog look. "*Wo bu dong*. Can't find no good reason for her not firin'."

"We fueled up on landin' an' she had a full overall on Bellepheron." Monty scratched his head.

"Everythin' inside looks right as rain. Best I go look outside, make sure nothin' got sucked up when we landed."

"That even possible?"

Tommy shrugged. "Search me, Cap'n, just I can't see no problem on the inside."

With a sigh, Monty nodded and stepped out of his way. "Best you look then, you wanna take Docherty with you?"

"May as well. He's better'n a mule for heavy liftin'."

Monty chuckled. "Just don't go lettin' him hear ya say as much."

* * * * *

The messenger was bored but hiding it well. It was not wise to allow his maniacal and deeply disturbed boss to know that he was itching to either finish this or move on. Such thoughts would bring on the kind of utter agony which his strained and already tormented body would find hard to endure. He had died so many times, each death preceding an even more torturous birth. He needed no warning beyond his far too clear and vivid memory.

Lincoln James Petrie was enjoying himself. Muffled screams echoed from somewhere on the level below. Petrie grinned at the messenger, the look in his eyes seeming to taunt the man as if knowing how much his pleasure unsettled him. The sounds of a soul in physical torment choked off with a burbling sound. Petrie raised an elegant eyebrow and tilted his head as if listening, a slow smile of satisfaction oiling its' way across his face. Although his messenger had not asked a question, Petrie spoke as if he had.

"To die in such exquisite agony and despair." Petrie sighed softly, as if envying the poor benighted soul. "And yet," he paused, choosing his words with care "this one lasted but four days." A longer pause this time. "Four days!" Petrie shook his head, his eyes fastened like gimlets on the messenger's. "Even you lasted longer than that."

The room had a casual luxury that spoke more of excess than taste. With money no object it hardly mattered but to Petrie everything had a value, a price. In vaults unmeasured, the failed experiments of his warped carnal appetites stained walls of steel for a short parade of minutes before automatic sensors kicked in the self clean and decontamination of the room. Sometimes he kept small keepsakes: a finger, a toe, maybe part of a jaw or even the tongue. Such treasures had their own vault, a safe of the most twisted kind, hermetically sealed with each exhibit given it's own small tank. Special fluids preventing decomposition and a small inbuilt light so that he could illuminate his grotesques to his sick heart's content. This latest victim was hardly worth the preserving. He would allow the body to be fully dismembered and fed to his pets.

"He took the job?"

"Yes, *laoban*."

Petrie tilted his head back, eyes slitted thoughtfully as a glimmer of dark humour surfaced. "You say the mercenary blew up the relay station?"

The messenger hid any sign of impatience. He had given this report several times already. "*Qu*."

With a smile Petrie seemed to savour the information. "And Reynolds still intends to complete the job?"

"Yes, *shifu*."

"He is stubborn and also committed." Petrie looked pleased. "Good. Go to the next phase."

The messenger nodded and left. Once he was alone, Petrie called up the monitor in the torture room and put the decontamination programme on pause while he drank in his fill. Looking at the ruin of the once comely face he noticed one eyeball was still intact. Zooming in closer he took a moment to admire the quality. The eye was green with hazel hightlights. Quite delightful. Pressing a button he gave a command then watched to enjoy the new acquisition. Seeing the eye surgically removed, cleaned then placed in a new tank, satisfaction settled upon him like the savouring of a fine wine. With that thought he realised he was hungry.

* * * * *

Malcolm Reynolds hated this part. The Sheriff stared at him as if he was a backbirth. Oddly enough the man was more stunned than upset by the loss of the relay station, a fact that irked the Captain for its' oddness. After all, wasn't he wanting the problem fixed? In daylight the damage looked far worse than it had by Kaylee's match. For her part Kaylee had gone with Jayne to check out the junk yard for anything they could maybehaps use to replace the network of cables, wires and junction boxes. Zoe had elected to take a look around the town then meet him back at the Sheriff's office. He had noted that she had made it a statement of fact rather than a request. Irritated as he was by Ritchie he wished now he had gone with her.

"Mal, I thought you could handle this."

Anger was just a breath away from exploding in Ritchie Thomas's face but he seemed to be blithely unaware of it.

"Never said it would be an easy thing just promised to look, *dong ma*?"

"An' blowin' up the relay station was meant to accomplish what?"

He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "Jayne wanted to make sure no one was hidin' inside ready to take us out."

It was comical watching Malcolm Reynolds squirm a mite but Ritchie was just glad he hadn't handed back the downpayment for the job and gone on his merry. Truth was the Sheriff was being paid a pretty sum to keep him on Cheverell. Why, he had no idea and didn't much care though now and again he got a prick of something that might have been the tiniest bit of conscience. Pragmatic practicality would then step in and crush any stirrings of regret. Reynolds was a big boy and could handle most anything. Except maybe, the town's electrics.

"How long will it take to fix it?"

The Captain opened and closed his mouth. Honestly, he had no idea. "Won't know 'til Kaylee gets back. Says we have to strip every bit of the old wirin' an' such outta the relay station. Pretty much start again."

"Have you found out why the lights went out in the first place?"

"Ritchie, we been here less'n a day an' I don't even know if we can fix the ruttin' electrics let alone what in the nine hells caused 'em all to fail. If'n you know somethin' could maybe help I'm listenin'."

Ritchie shook his head. "Ain't got a clue, Mal."

For a moment neither man spoke. In his head the Captain was counting the minutes until Kaylee and Jayne returned. Talking to Ritchie was like watching paint dry but without the nice result when it was all done. Man made a career out of stupid. "What else went wrong?"

The Sheriff blinked, nonplussed. "*Shenme*?"

"You said other things had been happenin', stuff you couldn't explain, *jide*?"

"Oh, that."

When Ritchie didn't continue, Mal glared at him. Swallowing quickly, Ritchie rattled off the other things that had been happening around town, all of them unaccountable and not a one of them witnessed. Mal was beginning to feel a mite suspicious.

"You realise all these things are little things, *dong ma*?"

Ritchie scratched the back of his head. "Yeah but they add up, Mal."

"An' let me guess, you let 'em?"

"I'm a Sheriff not a dog catcher."

The Captain stared at him.

"Um, didn't I mention the bloodhounds got loose?"

"No, you didn't."

Steam was almost coming out of Mals' ears. He put his hands on his hips and Ritchie tried not to notice how close to his handgun the Captain's right hand was. He knew from experience that the man was blindingly fast on the draw and always hit what he was aiming at. Right now the nearest gorram target was himself.

* * * * *

Monty was getting more and more frustrated. "What do you mean the door won't open?"

Tommy slammed his hand against the cargo bay door. "It's stuck fast, Cap'n."

"What did you do?"

"*Yiwusuoyou*. Just won't gorram budge."

Monty was getting angry now. He wanted off this *lese* ball of rock but first the engine wouldn't fire up and now they couldn't open the rutting door to see if there was an external problem. What the *tamade diyu* was going on?

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*tebie* = special *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *laoban* = boss *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shifu* = sir *shenme* = what *jide* = remember *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *lese* = crappy *tamade diyu* = fucking hell


Friday, November 12, 2010 6:03 PM


Very interesting. Wonder how long it will take Kaylee to find and fix and if Mal will b able to hold on long enough to his sanity. Nicely written and waiting for more.

Monday, November 22, 2010 11:19 AM


Nightmares, troubles, and a stupid sheriff. Poor Mal!

BTW, I'm thoroughly enjoying your Petrie. Truly demented villains aren't easy to write, but you've done a great job so far!


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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.