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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Hardy and Davy look for an opportunity to break free of Petrie. Mal decides they need a job. The messenger tries to piece together his fragmented memory and Ritchie confides in Monty."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1998 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
STATUS: Sequel to "THE MARK OF A MAN".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Hardy and Davy look for an opportunity to
break free of Petrie. Mal decides they need a job. The
messenger tries to piece together his fragmented
memory and Ritchie confides in Monty."
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.
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
In all there were twenty five of them. Hardy thought it was overkill. Davy just smiled faintly and tried not to think how hard it would be to slip away without being noticed. Petrie had them go out in teams of five. It sucked, big time, but then they had known at the outset that escaping the grip of their terrifying boss would never be easy. At least they were outside. Before he let them loose Petrie had one more thing to say to them.
Jayne Cobb was not a happy man. Frustrated and going a little stir crazy he pumped reps and worked his weights to the point where Shepherd Book stepped in and called a halt. He had been spotting the big man but could see he was wound too tightly to be sensible. Jayne scowled up at him.
The Shepherd's voice was mild but his expression drilled into Jayne Cobb like a laser. "I was about to ask you the same question."
The mercenary sat up with a jerk, annoyed and out of sorts but he wasn't mad at the Preacher. Man was the closest thing to a friend he had. "We need to be findin' work not hidin' behind this gorram rock." He growled.
"And we will, once it's safe to do so."
Jayne snorted and took the towel Book offered him to wipe the sweat off his face and neck. "Since when've we done what's safe?"
"It's the sensible thing to do, Jayne."
"We didn't even keep the money that dumb Sheriff gave us for the job. Spent it on all that wirin' an such. Where does that get smart?"
"The job was a set up."
It was what Jayne had been thinking but he was surprised to hear Book just come out and say it. "*Wo zhidao* so why'd Mal take the job?"
"I've been thinking about that and it occurs to me that is why Ritchie contacted Monty not Mal."
The Shepherd chuckled. "The Captain's opinion of Ritchie Thomas is not very high, Jayne. I think had the Sheriff contacted Mal himself the Captain would have turned him down."
"Could'a, would'a, should'a."
"We can all be wise with hindsight, Jayne."
"Yeah, well wise or not we need coin. Not gonna get it sittin' here."
The two men spun round, amazed to see the Captain on his feet. Man looked grey in the face but all kinds of determined. Behind him Inara hovered in angry frustration, only the worry in her eyes belying her annoyance as anything but concern for his welfare. Jayne's face lit up, the scowl on his face vanishing at the prospect of finding a paying job. Not to mention the use to which he would put the coin in his pocket.
Old man Ellis stared. Nope. He wasn't seeing things, the body was gone. And not dragged neither. He might be getting old but his eyes and brain worked fine. No drag marks just a few splatters of blood now dried and crusted. The way he read it the man he reckoned was dying out on him had somehow got up and walked away. Or staggered most likely. Ellis looked up and scanned the houses on the other side of the road - no movement. Huh. Them curtains could have been steel shutters for all they revealed. Folks were jumpy and a mite paranoid. He heard some of the men were going to get together and hunt down the wolf pack. Wolf pack! One solitary wolf had attacked a man and suddenly Cheverell was a-wash with ferel roaming beasts. He shook his head softly and got back to his current mystery. Odd how finding the man gone didn't relieve him of a burden he didn't even want. Instead he had the odd notion that he was missing something and he was pretty sure it wasn't a body.
"You want to WHAT?"
The commons room was full. As soon as the Captain called the meeting everyone stopped whatever they were doing and hurried to see what had gone wrong now. No one had been expecting their courageous and moronically heroic Captain to be suggesting such a biblical piece of lunacy. But then his brain had been cut into and rearranged. Maybehaps the working parts hadn't been put back in.
Malcolm Reynolds ignored Inara, his eyes going from face to face, watching and judging the reactions of his crew. His friends. His 'family'. Because as much as he had to do this, no - 'needed' to do this - he would be taking them into his own worst nightmare and they deserved to at least have a choice. "Ain't sayin' it's gonna be *rongyi* but I don't aim to make the same mistake I made with Niska."
Kaylee shuddered at the mention of that name. They all knew the Captain still had nightmares about the twisted *liumang* but then so did they, even if theirs were not nearly so vivid.
"Sir?" Zoe waited until the Captain turned his eyes back on her, making sure they had eye to eye contact. "We barely got you back alive an' if it wasn't for Simon you wouldn't be walkin' an' talkin'. This is a bad idea."
"Ain't runnin', Zoe. That was my mistake last time an' Niska's still out there!"
Jayne gave a little frown. "Then why ain't we goin' after Niska?"
"Because that trail's long gone cold. We know where Petrie is, or at least, where to start lookin' an' I don't know about the rest of you but I'm sick of lookin' over my gorram shoulder. Bad enough to have one *shenjingbing tamade hundan* to worry about without havin' another an' who knows how many more that *zaogao canku hundan* is like to inspire."
The Captain winced as a spike of pain made his vision blur a mite. Unfortunately he could never hide anything medical from Simon Tam. The man was like a shark scenting blood.
"You should come back to the infirmary, Mal. I can give you something for the pain."
"Time for that once this is settled."
"I'm taking it you have a plan, Captain?" Asked Book, his voice calm and even but his eyes asking a dozen more questions he didn't want to voice in front of the others. The Captain acted as if only his ears were working though the Shepherd knew differently. Very little got passed Malcolm Reynolds.
"Decided to keep it simple. We get back to Cheverell, find that *tamade hundan* an' end him."
For a minute no one spoke. Then several voices spoke at once.
"That isn't simple it's suicidal!"
"I think the Cap'n has a problem with his brain missin'."
"Bein' tortured to near death wasn't enough for you? You wanna go back for more?"
As the voices got more strident the Captain raised his hands and called for calm. Slowly the voices tailed off but he could see the disbelief and hurt in their eyes. "I know how this sounds an' I'm all aware it ain't just me that'd be takin' a risk so you all got a say whether you wanna do this or not but the bottom line is this: I'm goin' back to Cheverell an' I'm gonna end this. Would like if my crew came with me but it's your choice. Ain't gonna be no picnic."
Without realising that Simon had slowly moved behind him, Mal felt something press against the back of his legs and looked round to see the doctor pulling a chair close. Inara's hand came to rest on his shoulder. Simon's voice was soft but insistent. "Captain, you should sit down before you fall down."
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "You givin' me orders on my own boat?"
Inara tried not to hit him in exasperation. "Mal, just do it."
"I'd rather you didn't collapse and give me more work to do, Captain."
"Huh, goin' all doctor-y on me."
They were relieved when he folded into the chair, more of a controlled fall than under his own steam. Simon and Inara's eyes met over the Captain's head and Inara had a job hiding a smirk. It wasn't often they could get the stubborn man to see sense but that also meant his head was hurting him more than he was letting on and that was a worry.
"Perhaps we should re-visit this plan once you are fully recovered?"
Mal stared at Book. "Can't."
Curious, Wash spoke up. "*Weishenme bu*?"
"We know where Petrie is now, Wash. That might change. Have to strike while he ain't expectin' it."
"Because only dumb sumbitches would go back." Growled Jayne.
"Never said it was a good plan." The Captain paused as if it was an effort to keep speaking. Book's eyes narrowed and Simon longed to whisk the man back into the infirmary before he could take another breath, but this was Malcolm Reynolds and forcing him against his will would just complicate his recovery. "Its' all I got. You got any suggestions I'm all ears."
Wash raised a hand, ignoring the warning look his wife was giving him. "Um, let's not do the whole killin' thing."
"Not an option, Wash."
"We gonna take grenades?"
A smile tugged at Mal's lips. Tired as he was he could always count on Jayne to stay focussed. "Yeah, Jayne. In fact you can take as many as you want."
The mercenary's face lit up but no one else looked happy. Oddly enough, River stayed silent. Her eyes on the Captain but contributing nothing to the conversation. Simon stepped in to stop any further discussion. The Captain looked all in and he was worried about the head wound. "Come on, let's get you to the infirmary."
It said a lot about how bad he was feeling that the Captain didn't resist. Inara frowned and helped Simon, worried looks being exchanged behind their backs as they left. Kaylee turned to Zoe. "Cap'n don't look so good."
"He isn't, not that anyone can talk sense into him."
Slowly the crew started to drift out of the commons area. Book hung back and caught Zoe's eye. Instead of following Wash out she kissed his cheek. "I'll be along shortly, *bao bei*."
A flicker of concern showed briefly in his eyes then he noticed Book quietly waiting and gave his wife a nod. "You know where to find me."
Zoe turned from the door and pinned the Shepherd with a hard stare. "What's on your mind?"
It wasn't often that Monty Reynolds found himself speechless. He stared at Sheriff Thomas. It was like he was seeing a stranger not the spineless hapless idiot of old and it left him feeling wrong footed.
"Don't sound like you to be so reckless, Ritchie."
The man's eyes glittered, sparks in them hard as chips of diamond. Ritchie leaned forward in his chair. "That *tamade hundan* tortured an' killed my wife!" He paused and had to swallow hard, barely holding back tears of pain and loss.
Monty watched him a moment before speaking again, his voice softened a mite. "What makes you think I'll help you?"
"He's a madman, Monty. You saw what he did to Mal!"
"Yet he got away."
Ritchie shook his head and sneered. "*Ni bu dong*, he let him go."
Surprised, Monty wasn't quite sure what to make of that. "What ya talkin' about?"
"He plays games, *dong ma*? Cruel, viscious games. Hurts, torments, an' experiments on folk for his own *feng* pleasure. Man's *shenjingbing* Monty but that on'y makes him more dangerous not less."
"If he's as dangerous as you say even more reason for me an' mine to keep out of it."
"Too late. You're not goin' anywhere, he made sure of that. Didn't want ya able to go to Mal's rescue. I'm figurin' that's why he scuppered your boat."
Monty had already figured that part out himself but he wasn't going to tell Ritchie that. "Kaylee says she can fix it."
A not funny smile settled on Ritchie's face. "On'y she ain't here is she, Monty?"
The big man's face clouded. He wasn't about to let anyone, especially the likes of Ritchie Thomas, bad mouth Kaylee Frye. "She'll be back."
"That's not the point."
Monty was about ready to show Ritchie the door but he was also curious. "Then what is?"
"What do you think Petrie is gonna do when he finds out Malcolm Reynolds ain't dead?"
"Who says he'll find out?"
The Sheriff's laughter was too harsh and ugly to be humorous. Monty didn't like the way the man had changed. Who knew developing a backbone could warp a man so badly? "Lincoln James Petrie has fingers in every pie round these parts, has more money than God an' he ain't picky about how he adds to his fortune or what he has to do to keep it. He don't just buy high tech an' pretties, Monty. He buys 'people'. Folk to do his biddin'."
"You mean like you?"
The pieces were dropping fast and furious in Monty's mind and he wasn't about to let Ritchie off the hook for his part in what had happened. It gave him some small satisfaction to see the man wince.
"I didn't think I was doin' any harm, ya have to believe that."
"I don't have to believe any of this *goushi* but I'll give ya this. I got no love of Petrie an' I ever set eyes on him it'll be to end him my own self. Don't need you makin' bullets for me to fire for your own ends."
Ritchie blinked and something in him seemed to deflate. "Ya don't trust me."
"Ritchie, don't take this the wrong way but I've never trusted ya."
For a moment neither man spoke. Monty's crew remained silent. Monty wasn't slow but he liked to mull a thing over in his own time, not have someone shoving and urging him in one direction or another but the fact remained that Petrie had used Ritchie to get to him, and used him to get Mal to take a job that had been manufactured. Everything had been designed to bring Serenity's Captain to Cheverell where that evil *tamade hundan* had caught and tortured his friend. Knowing that Petrie had done the same thing to Ritchie's young wife made him less inclined to dismiss the Sheriff out of hand but that didn't mean he would let anyone else plan his actions either. Not at all. If Monty Reynolds was going to make a move it would be of his own making, on his own terms and packed to the teeth with every bit of weaponry he could get his hands on. But first. He needed information and not a narrative. Facts. Figures. When the meat was on the bones he would make up his mind and not before. In the meantime he pulled a bottle out of the bottom drawer of his cupboard and filled a couple of glasses. Looking Ritchie in the eye he pushed one glass towards him then lifted his own to his lips.
The pain, the pain. The excruciating pain. Yet oddly enough it helped him to focus, to cling to something rather than the constantly recycling horror of everything that had happened to him. How it burned, every nerve ending in his body seemed to be on fire. Blinking slowly, he was sluggish to rise. When had he slept or had he simply been comatose? Did it matter? *Diyu*, just remembering his own name was an olympic event. Memories, snapshots, phrases, faces, sounds, smells and disjointed rembrances vied for his attention but what was important and what wasn't? Were his thoughts real or fantasy?
He looked about him. He was on the outskirts of the town, the far side of the junk yard that Old Man Ellis kept going with all the passion and determination of a first time lover. Ellis. He blinked again, his footsteps stalling. Something about the Old Man. It took him a few minutes to recapture the image of Ellis leaning over him in the street, trying to help but unable to carry him. Huh. So, he had tried to help him? How about that? It had been so long since anyone had cared that the moisture on his cheeks failed to inform him that he was crying. Gorramit, he was one enormous mess and not getting any better. On the verge of collapsing yet again he didn't know where to go but he had a good idea of where it would be safe.
Hardy wasn't impressed with the team he had been assigned to. Fortunately, Davy Wainwright was with him. It would have thrown their plan into disarray had the two of them been separated. This was probably the only chance they were going to get. Petrie droned on and on about the need to recover Reynolds' body, make sure it was as intact as possible before sending them out. He didn't want to dwell on what further sick indignities Petrie would subject the body to. Fact was, if he wasn't such a gorram coward he would like to fire twenty rounds into the *tamade hundan's* head but life being what it was he was too frightened of messing up. One slip and he would be the one having the skin peeled off his face while he screamed until his throat was raw.
As their team moved out, Hardy glanced across at Davy. Conrad Hemming was their team leader, a spiteful monosyllabic thug who liked to cut on little girls. Maybe he was Petrie's love child, it certainly sickened Hardy though he was wise enough not to let on. Stevie Hall was the kind of nondescript man you never noticed even when facing him close up. The boys back at the base called him Wallpaper on account of how he blended in but Hardy preferred the nickname Camo, short for camoflage. That just left Ty Martin. Fit and impressive on the outside of his well honed body but lacking in essentials like intelligence and common sense in the brain pan. That was their team. Hardy resisted the temptation to shake his head and huff in frustration, knowing that for all their faults if it came to out and out violence his team would be hard to beat. But he was not relying on beating them physically. His plan was to outwit them, to find a way to break up the team so he and Davy could slip away. They would need to plan and time it right so as not to arouse suspicions. He wanted to be as far off planet as it was possible to get before the realisation hit home that he and Davy had deserted. What he needed was a diversion so big that no one would notice when their team came up two short.
He opened his eyes to a pair of solemn eyes staring back at him. River.
"You been awfully quiet, little one. Got nothin' to say?"
"Yeah." The Captain groaned softly as he eased himself into a sitting position. For once Simon wasn't hovering over him. Come to think of it he wasn't in the infirmary either. He frowned then wished he hadn't, the movement pulling the skin around the stitches on the back of his head. "What am I doin' here?"
River handed him a folded wet cloth. He gave her an uncertain look then realised it was for his head. Gingerly he placed it over the site of his operation, a swift intake of breath then a sigh of relief.
"When did you get so wise?"
Her smile was balm of another kind, the sort that lightened the heart. "See, hear, watch. Know things but sometimes it all gets tangled up."
They were in the commons area on what Kaylee referred to as the 'comfy seats'. "Okay, albatross, we're alone an' I can tell you got things on your mind so best spit 'em out."
"Wants you back."
Her words made his heart miss a beat. "You talkin' 'bout Petrie?"
River nodded. "You got away."
"He let me go!"
"Only because he wanted to torture you and watch. Didn't know Simon would fix your head. The ruse worked, he thinks you died but now he remembers something."
The Captain was almost afraid to ask. River's eyes were big, round as saucers and luminous. Kind'a creepifyin' if he thought about it. "You gonna tell me or am I gonna die of old age waitin'?"
"Remembered Niska stopped your heart. That he shocked it to bring you back."
A horrible thought occurred to him and once it was in his brainpan he couldn't get it out of his mind. River nodded, knowing what he was thinking and fearing.
"Thinks if he can recover the body he can bring you back and start again."
Malcolm Reynolds felt sick. Wasn't bad enough the things the *hundan* had already done to him, Petrie seemingly wanted to expand his evil repertoire. Well, wasn't that gorram shiny. "Ain't gonna let him do that, little one, even if I have to end this on my own."
"You won't be alone."
"You see anythin' else there, albatross?"
She half closed her eyes then opened them wide again. "For all his wealth he's the one in hiding."
"He keeps his place of power secret, hidden."
"He on Cheverell?"
"Never left but you have to leave to find him."
"River, I got no time for twenty questions, *dong ma*? Need you to speak plain."
"Like caves, you have to find the walls of stone. The opening's hidden, the lair deep inside with shining walls."
That got him thinking, trying to dredge up every last detail he could think of regarding Cheverell. Simon joined them and seemed pleased to find the Captain awake.
*Ni jeude zenme yang le*?"
"You have had major surgery, Mal, it isn't anything to joke about."
"I look like I'm laughin'?"
Simon cocked his head to one side. "To be honest it's hard to tell."
"Huh, everyone's a gorram comedian."
"Seriously, Mal, you need time to recuperate. Let your body recover. You can't go letting yourself get jostled around."
"Don't intend on doin' any jostlin'. In fact, I ain't the one gonna be jostled."
Simon really wished the Captain would learn to listen to him but then if that happened he definitely would not be talking to Malcolm Reynolds. "Just, take it easy if you can otherwise you could find yourself blacking out."
The Captain paled a mite which made Simon feel a little better. If he could get the man to worry more about his injured state he might not end up having to do save him from another near death experience. While the practice was always useful he was getting weary of it always being the same patient. Animals learnt from their mistakes so why couldn't his stubborn Captain do the same? Simon turned to find River grinning at him.
"*Fang xin*, Simon. I know how to find the crack."
Crack? "What crack?"
Before River could answer Jayne, Zoe and Book came into the commons room. Jayne looked like he was planning a war all by himself, Book was carrying a sniper rifle and Zoe had her hand resting comfortably on her mare's leg. It was almost like they were trying to tell him something.
"We're headin' back to Cheverell, sir. Wash says we should be there in a couple of hours."
That was when it slotted into place. They were going with him. River leaned in close and smiled.
"Told you. Won't be alone."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wo zhidao* = I know *wo tongyi* = I agree *rongyi* = easy
*liumang* = bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster *shenjingbing* = crazy *zaogao* = terrible
*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *canku* = cruel *hundan* = bastard *shei* = who
*weishenme bu* = why not? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *ni bu dong* = you don't understand
*dong ma* = understand? *feng* = mad/insane *goushi* = crap/dog shit *diyu* = hell
*ni jeude zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *geng hao* = better/even better
*fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart)
Monday, January 10, 2011 11:46 AM
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