HANDFUL OF STARS: 9. "Last Straw"
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Kaylee makes a friend. Shepherd Book goes to help Monty and the Captain comes across something he really didn't expect."


TITLE: "LAST STRAW" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "A THOUSAND IRRITATING THINGS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Kaylee makes a friend. Shepherd Book goes to help Monty and the Captain comes across something he really didn't expect." 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

* * * * *

In daylight Cheverell didn't look half as shiny as it did by night. Kaylee had loved all the flickering candles in the windows of the houses and shops, not that there were many shops and stores but what there were seemed well enough stocked. Although it wasn't a market town they did have some home grown foodstuffs - corn, wheat and most vegetables. The fruit they brought in from off world on account of a fruit fly pest or somesuch. Kaylee hadn't really taken in everything old man Ellis was saying, her mind being firmly focused on the shiny bits and pieces calling her name in the yard. Ellis watched the girl avidly, recognising the constant twitch of a kleptomaniac. Girl might be a mechanic but she had all the signs of a true hoarder. The knowing of it made his grin spread wider and wider. He practically ignored Jayne, the big man quickly dismissed as muscle. No. In this pairing the girl was the brains. Was awful pretty too if he was any judge. Kaylee smiled at him and it was like the birth of a new sun. Ellis felt his whole self warmed in that explosion of happy.

"Ya got a mighty fine yard, Mr Ellis."

His smile blossomed into a grin. His look, enchanted. "Call me Don. On'y the grandkids call me Mr."

"Don't they call ya gramps?" He shook his head. "Grandpa?" Another shake, though he didn't look too upset by it. "Huh, well that don't seem right."

"*Mei shi*."

Kaylee found the spool of wire and fingered it in passing, not wanting Ellis to attach too much significance to the brief brightening of her eyes. But he was old not blind and quickly determined what she was looking for. That she tried to hide her interest made his eyes sparkle.

"Wire's on special."

The mechanic clean forgot her plan to act all casual-like. "It is?"

"Uh huh." He named a price and Kaylee frowned. Beside her Jayne had long stopped listening. It was boring anyway and he didn't see the old man as a threat.

"It's a fair price."

"It ain't that, we just need so much of it an' we ain't got a lotta coin."

He frowned. "How much you needin'?"

Kaylee told him and his frown deepened.

"Why in the name of all that's holy an' profane you need so much?"

"We got called to come an' fix the electrics for the Sheriff. Cap'n's talkin' to him right now, tryin' to figure out what went wrong. Maybe a fuse or two blew."

To her surprise the old man threw back his head and laughed. Jayne had wandered off to the side of the yard, peering out to see if anyone was peering in. He quickly gravitated back to them, his look suspicious. Mr Ellis wiped his eyes on the tail end of his shirt. "Oh, *nu haizi*, there ain't nothin' wrong with the wirin'."

Stunned, she stared at him, her mouth open like a fly trap. "There ain't?"

"Nah." He chuckled. "Some fool blew up the ruttin' relay station. Heard tell it must'a been somethin' like a giant firecracker. Ya know, like one o' them Chinese ones they make for the holidays an' such. Probably put too much gunpowder in it."

Kaylee didn't have to turn her head to see Jayne flush. She was about to explain then thought better of it. She didn't want to show Jayne up in front of a stranger but would save it up to tease him when they got back to Serenity. With luck she could trade her silence for a couple of weeks of chores.

"Tell ya what," said old man Ellis "with you doin' a good turn for the town what d'ya say I cut the cost by fifty?"

Her eyes widened, hardly daring to believe her ears. "Ya mean half price for the wirin'?"

For a moment Ellis felt giddy trapped in all the sunshine of that megawatt smile and the look of astonished pleasure on her face. "Nope. I mean half for everythin' you're wantin' includin' the wire." He had seen her looking at switches and junction boxes too. It was old stock and even at such a big discount he would turn a tidy profit. "What d'ya say?"

Kaylee spat on the palm of her hand and held it out for him to shake, beaming from ear to ear. "Deal!"

* * * * *

The Captain waited fifteen maybe twenty minutes after Ritchie left but there was no sign of his second in command. Where the good gorram was Zoe? Taking his hand transmitter out he pressed the button.

"Zoe, you plan on joinin' me any time soon?"

Her voice came back kind of echo-y, as if she were inside a building which made no sense. "Meet you back at the ship, sir."

He frowned. That hadn't been the plan. Just as he was about to say so he stopped himself. If Zoe was changing their arrangement to meet up there had to be a good reason. Maybehaps she had found something? Something needing to be discussed in private. Pressing the tansmit button he kept his response short. "Understood."

As he was walking back to Serenity he wondered what was keeping Kaylee and Jayne. He could have put Zoe off and stayed at the relay station but truth to tell the stink from the burnt and melted wiring was something he could live without. Still. Wouldn't hurt to let Jayne know of the change in plan. Just as he was lifting his transmitter to his lips an odd scraping sound made him turn his head, If it hadn't been daylight he wouldn't have seen it still less believed it. The animal was dark, black as night, with yellow eyes and teeth long as his middle finger. It was too fast and too close for him to drop the transmitter and draw his gun before it was on him. Choking back a cry of alarm the full weight of the beast hit him just as the animal's jaws clamped around his upraised arm. Pain like a dozen knives shot through him then something odd happened. Was like a prick to the back of his neck. Not a bee sting so much as a pinch. Even as the thought formed in his head his vision clouded.

Huh. Gorramit. It had got dark mighty quick. Then there was nothing.

* * * * *

Simon was getting frustrated with his sister. "River, come away from the door!"

She replied without looking back. "Can't, have to keep watch."

"I'm sure Shepherd Book knows what he's doing."

That did cause her to look back, just long enough to shoot him a look of derision. "Mustn't be caught napping."

"River, nothing is going to happen, *dong ma*?"

The Doctor now stood just behind her. Torn between stepping off the ramp so he could turn and look her in the eye and staying just inside the ship. After all, it would only take one unsavoury soul to recognise their faces for the full might of the Alliance to come down on them. That wouldn't just be bad for him and River but for the whole crew.

"You can't promise that. Nobody can."

"River, what do you think is going to happen?"

"Too many variables."

Simon started to feel jumpy. "Did you see something?" He whispered.

"Not with the eyes. Can feel it." She tapped her head with a finger. "Creeping. Stealthy. Telling lies."

"I think it's time for your medication."

Frustrated she almost looked round at him but the creeping sensation in her skull was getting louder. "*Ni bu dong*. Can't let what happened to Monty happen to us."

"*Shenme*? What are you talking about?"

"Sssh, have to listen!"

He paused and tried to hear whatever his sister was listening to. "I don't hear anything. Maybe we should just close the cargo bay door and wait until Book returns."

"*Bu qu*. If the door is shut they'll lock us in."


She turned briefly so he could see her face. The look in her eyes chilling him with worry. "Bad men. Don't care who gets hurt as long as they get paid." "Are you saying mercenaries are responsible for what's wrong with Monty's ship?"

"Not mercenaries, worse."

Her brother blinked, trying to fathom what could be worse than mercenaries.

"Mercenaries just want the money."

"Do you know who they are?" He whispered.

"No, too cloudy."

Simon did not point out that it was a bright sunny day. Stepping back up the ramp he activated the ship's com. "Wash, can you keep your eyes peeled?"

"*Shenme shi*?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but River says there are bad men skulking around and we have to be careful."

"Do you want me to call the Cap'n?"

"*Qu*, and see if you can get hold of Kaylee and Jayne too. I know they're intending to get started on the rewire as soon as they finish at the junk yard but I don't think anyone should be out and about until we know what's going on."

"*Dang ran*."

* * * * *

The banging on the outside was like an echo from the inside. Monty couldn't understand it. When the racket stopped he glared through the small glass viewing window at the Preacher on the other side of the door. Mouthing his words because even his booming voice wouldn't carry through thick steel he asked what the rutting hell Book was doing.

Instead of replying in kind, Book lifted the welding equipment. Alarmed, Monty took a half step back. What the *diyu*? On the other side of the door Book used his free hand to push the goggles down over his eyes then lit the torch. It might take a few minutes but he should be able to cut through the metal rods bolted to the outside of the door. Who would think to do such a thing was beyond him but more baffling by far was why.

* * * * *

"Why didn't you tell him?"

Zoe reholstered her weapon. "Tell him what? That you're a lyin', weak, poor excuse for a human bein'?"

"No. About comin' to my house."

When Zoe didn't answer he raised his eyebrows.

"You think he wouldn't approve?"

"Don't try to read my mind, Ritchie. We both know you ain't equipped."

"Mal didn't tell you to come, did he?"

"I'm more interested in why you lied to me."

Ritchie took a slow swallow and tried to keep back the panic. "Don't know what you're talkin' about."

"She didn't go to Lilac, did she?"

"What in the nine hells you sayin' that for?"

"Blood on the stair, Ritchie. Bottom step."

He paled, unable to find a word to say that wouldn't damn him further. Gorramit, Zoe had always been sharp. He should have cleaned the step, how the good gorram had he missed that?

"*Fasheng shenme shi le*? Did she fall or was she pushed?"

For a split second he thought of telling her the truth but he couldn't. He had made a deal and there was too much riding on his silence. Let her think whatever she wanted, for once he wasn't saying anything.

Zoe was a mite surprised he didn't crumble. Time was one look from her and he would babble any gorram thing she wanted to know. Somehow between then and now he had grown a backbone. Or maybehaps it was fear. Either way she needed to speak to the Captain. "We'll talk about this later."

He shook his head and walked over to the front door, opening it for her. Not out of manners but because he wanted her gone. "Not your business."

Zoe didn't say anything until she was at the door. Pausing she gave him a steely eyed look that made him quail inside. "Best pray it ain't."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*mei shi* = it doesn't matter *nu haizi* = girl *dong ma* = understand? *shenme* = what *ni bu dong* = you don't understand *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *shei* = who *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *dang ran* = of course *diyu* = hell *fasheng shenme shi le* = what happened?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3:34 PM


I like Ellis. Can we keep him? As for the doom feeling with Mal and Zoe, I got a bad feeling about this. :) As always, i am definitely looking forward to more. Good stuff!

Friday, November 19, 2010 3:06 AM


Ritchie is heading for big trouble, and tangling the crew up with it. I agree with Angelle though - Ellis is fun, although he's still making money. Looking forward to the next chapter!

Monday, November 22, 2010 11:42 AM


Kaylee's the ult, isn't she? And such a sweetie!

So, there have been doings at Ritchie's house, hmmm? I'm very curious to know more. You have more, don't you?


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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.