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HANDFUL OF STARS: 8. "A Thousand Irritating Things"
Sunday, November 14, 2010

"The messenger finds he has an unexpected visitor. Monty calls for help and Zoe discovers something disturbing. Meanwhile the Captain just wants to shoot Ritchie and be done with it."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1783    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "A THOUSAND IRRITATING THINGS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "THE CAMEL'S BACK". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net

SUMMARY: "The Messenger finds he has an unexpected visitor. Monty calls for help and Zoe discovers something disturbing. Meanwhile the Captain just wants to shoot Ritchie and be done with it" 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 THOUSAND IRRITATING THINGS"

"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He could feel the headache coming on. The plate inside his head like a tuning fork every time his master called him. It made him tremble knowing that not even his deepest thoughts were his own but that was not the worst of it. The lack of privacy or free will he had become inured to. After you had died multiple times the quality of your life failed to leave an impression. Bits of his brain missing or rearranged. Each re-awakening to a new life left him that bit more handicapped but it also conferred an unexpected gift. He no longer cared. Life, death, pleasure, pain: all was as one to him. Nothing could touch him and yet. He blinked his eyes open, the foreign touch oddly gentle. If he had the sensitivity to still feel it he would have thought it gentle, apologetic almost.

*He wants to kill someone I love."

The messenger blinked. It was the closest thing to shock he could muster. "Who are you?"

*Think don't speak*

*Then identify yourself*

*You do not know me but I know you. Your pain, your torment. The nightmares of denial that paper over the cracks where a life should be*

*Are you a new programme?*

A gentle laugh reverberated through what was left of his consciousness. It sounded sad. *I will not hurt you. 'He' does not know I am here*

There was a long pause while the messenger tried to fathom what that could mean. *You are in danger here*

*No* The thought was gossamer soft, fading even as he strained to catch it before it vanished *You are*.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book mounted the stairs two at a time. Wash's words ringing in his ears. Not panic as such but disturbing nonetheless. He could only imagine what new peril the Captain had got himself into. When he hurried onto the bridge, Wash looked round with a face full of questions. "It's Monty."

Book calmed down. Well, that wasn't so bad was it? "*Shenme shi*?"

The pilot flicked a few swiches just as Inara and Simon came in behind the Shepherd to see what all the fuss was about. "Monty, can you repeat what you just said?"

The big man looked angry, exasperated and somewhat confused. For Monty Reynolds that could be a volatile mix. "We can't take off."

The Preacher leaned over the cortex screen so that Monty would be able to see him. "What do you mean? Are you saying you're out of fuel?"

Frustrated Monty bellowed back. "Gorramit Book that ain't what I'm sayin', *dong ma*? There ain't no clue why my ship won't fire, engine just sits there. It was fine when we landed. My mechanic has been all over it but can't find a fault. He wanted to take a look outside but," Monty trailed off and looked away.

Confused, Simon jumped on the hesitation. "But what?"

Slowly Monty turned back to the screen. "Seems we can't open the cargo bay door."

The words quietly spoken as if admitting as much shamed him.

"*Wo bu dong*, that doesn't make sense."

"Believe me Preacher, *wo zhidao*. I was hopin' Kaylee could take a look. See what the trouble is."

Inara had a nasty thought and glanced at Wash, lowering her voice. "Do you think they've been landlocked?"

"*Bu qu*. First thing I asked."

"Well," said Book somewhat at a loss "seems the only thing to do is take a look."

Monty was peering anxiously, tilting his head this way and that. "Where is that little mechanic of yours?"

"Um, she went with Jayne to the junk yard to get some parts to try an' fix the electrical problems on Cheverell. The job, *jide*?"

The big man sighed, his frustration readily apparent. Book tried to reassure him.

"*Fang xin*, Monty. I'll go take a look. By the time I've done so the others should be back."

Nodding his thanks, Monty cut the com. Wash looked from Book to Inara and Simon then back to the Preacher. "What do you think is goin' on?"

"Whatever it is," said Inara drily "I'm sure Mal is involved."

"Inara, I don't think the Captain would want to ground Monty's ship. After all, they're friends." Said Book.

"So are we but it doesn't stop our *shenjingbing* Captain from getting himself and us into trouble." The Preacher didn't answer. There were times when Inara and the Captain were so equally entrenched in stubborn that you could not get a fly paper between them. He figured that was why they clashed so much. They were too alike and too stiff necked to admit it.

"Whatever the trouble is I'm not going to find out standing here."

The pilot began to get out of his seat. Book froze.

"Where are you going?"

"With you. If there's a problem I may be able to help."

"Wash, don't take this the wrong way but if there's a genuine problem we may need to get out of here in a hurry."

Eyes widening, Wash felt his heart miss a beat. He couldn't help thinking that Zoe was out there somewhere on Cheverell. There was no way he was going anywhere without her. "You think this was deliberate?"

"I'm not sayin' that. In fact I'm not thinkin' it either."

"Liar."

Every head turned to the doorway. River's head appeared a moment before her body did.

"You suspect but don't want to say. It doesn't matter. We have to wait for Jayne anyway."

Simon stared at her. "What does this have to do with Jayne?"

River began to turn away but paused to call back over her shoulder before disappearing. "We'll need cutting gear."

* * * * *

Ritchie Thomas was glad to leave Serenity's Captain to it. When he had first taken up post as Cheverell's Sheriff he had been given a Deputy. That hadn't lasted long. The man was even more irritating that Malcolm Reynolds which was saying something and yet he liked Mal, he really did. Just that gorram niggling conscience making him a touch fractious. The Deputy had put in for a transfer off world within the first week and to tell the truth Ritchie had been relieved. Man had a habit of making him feel incompetent but he was the Sheriff and that had to account for something. Thus distracted, Ritchie didn't notice he had a visitor until he opened the door to his little town house and stepped inside.

"What in the nine hells are you doin' in my house? I could arrest ya for breakin' an' enterin'."

Unruffled, Zoe merely raised an eyebrow. "Door was unlocked."

Ritchie took a couple of deep breaths. It wouldn't do to let Serenity's formidable first mate see him come unravelled. The woman had been frightening enough during the War. Somehow she seemed even more terrifying now that it was over. "Is there a reason you're in my house?"

She watched him like a hawk, her composure more than a mite unsettling. "I came to visit."

That surprised him so much he almost laughed outright. But Zoe was armed and she wasn't smiling. "Zoe, you an' me have never been close."

"Didn't say I came to see you."

Her words stopped the breath in his body for a beat or two. When he remembered how to breathe he found himself praying she wasn't implying what he thought she was. "*Wo bu dong*."

Zoe's other eyebrow joined the first. "You're married now, *jide*? I wanted to meet the happy bride."

Flushing Ritchie sat before his legs failed him. Gorramit, how was he going to get himself out of this mess?

"Ritchie, you okay?"

It took a couple of goes to get the air in his lungs deep enough to form words, his mind stumbling as he fought for a suitable tale to tell. "She's visitin' her moma."

"Here on Cheverell?"

He shook his head, relieved. Sounded like she was buying it. "Nah, Lilac."

"Sorry to have missed her. When's she due back?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. When the electricity's back up an' runnin' I'd guess."

"She left you over a cut in power?"

Without thinking he jumped to his feet, hands fisted at his sides. "She didn't leave me, *dong ma*? Don't you say that, don't you DARE say that!"

Zoe stared at him for a moment or two, her expression a mask he could not read. Not that he ever could. Putting a little edge of command in her voice she told him to sit. Ritchie sat. For a long minute or two Zoe said nothing. Ritchie remembered some of the many things about her that made him want to run a mile. Her stone cold stare and her patience being just two of them. Woman could out wait eternity and he didn't have that long.

"Just go." He said softly. "*Qing*."

"Ritchie, what's wrong an' don't give me no *goushi* about bein' upset to find me in your house. You looked spooked when you came in an' 'less I'm readin' you wrong, terrified of somethin' other than me."

She waited as he knew she would but Ritchie Thomas, the man who could talk anyone living and breathing to a standstill and not say anything of value, had nothing to say.

"Or," suggested Zoe slowly "is it someone?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *dong ma* = understand? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *wo zhidao* = I know *bu qu* = no (no go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *jide* = remember *shenjingbing* = crazy *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *qing* = please *goushi* = crap/dog shit

COMMENTS

Monday, November 15, 2010 10:19 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


so... who's this someone? I'm looking forward to the next chapter. Good mystery and i am definitely enjoying this little tale. thanks soo much for keeping me entertained. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010 11:30 AM

NEESIERIE


And the plot thickens. You do promise to finish this story, don't you? I'm too enthralled to stop reading now, so you've got to promise an end. Alright?


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