HANDFUL OF STARS: 20. "Enemy Hands"
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Jayne awakes to find himself in some kind of dungeon. Book and Zoe discover new reasons to fear Petrie. Meanwhile Ritchie and Monty go to enlist the help of Old Man Ellis only to find themselves in unexpected trouble."


TITLE: "ENEMY HANDS" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: None. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "HEROES AND HANDICAPS". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "Jayne awakes to find himself in some kind of dungeon. Book and Zoe discover new reasons to fear Petrie. Meanwhile Ritchie and Monty go to enlist the help of Old Man Ellis only to find themselves in unexpected trouble." 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

* * * * *

Jayne Cobb blinked, slightly stunned, his head slow to clear through the roaring in his ears. He rose carefully from where had woken on the cold floor, immediately noticing the loss of his weapons and the stone walls of his prison. He eyed the heavy metal door and groaned, letting his eyes close briefly as he tried to push passed the grogginess and the dull tympanic ache throbbing behind his eyes. Memory flooded back like one of those action replays you get on digital recordings. It didn't help his mood any realising they had been outsmarted.

He started to pace, anger simmering but trying to keep calm. Jayne tried to recall every last detail as they had approached the hidden entrance, the crack opening as if by magic. He remembered levelling Vera as the doorway appeared, about to discharge a spray of mechanised death just as an explosion lifted him off his feet throwing him backwards. He vaguely remembered the air boiling white with some kind of chemical dust that choked off his breath and stung his eyes. Within a second or two he lost consciousness. The next thing Jayne remembered was waking up here. The mercenary stopped pacing, it wasn't getting him anywhere and just made him feel ansty. Swallowing back the bile rising in his throat he coughed to clear his airway. Ignoring the spike of pain in his head, he wondered what the good gorram had happened to the others. Jayne hoped no one had been killed or badly injured. Then he remembered the Captain, the shape he had been in when they found him, and felt his gut wrench.

Lincoln James Petrie had lost his star victim but now it seemed he had four to replace him. Jayne Cobb didn't need to do the math to realise just how badly they were screwed.

* * * * *

Kaylee wasn't sure how to feel. Seeing her shiny doctor squirm wasn't exactly reassuring. "I can't believe ya drugged the Cap'n."

"*Bushi*, it was River actually."

Kaylee watched him like a hawk, noticed that little piece of knowledge didn't cheer the doctor up one little bit. She was also confused as to why River would do such a thing. It was a puzzle. "Why'd she do that, Simon? Ain't like the Cap'n's goin' anywhere."

The doctor ran a hand through his hair. They were sitting in the common room, Inara entering with a smile and a nod before crossing to the kitchen area to put the kettle on and rumage for her favourite tea. Misinterpreting Simon's anixious expression, she sought to reassure him. "The Captain's sleeping, Simon, *fang xin*."

"It's not how much he's sleeping but what will happen when he wakes up that worries me."

Inara gave him a sharp look. "What do you mean?"

Simon and Kaylee exchanged a glance. The doctor looked at Inara, a small sigh like a flag of defeat escaping from his lips before he answered. "River drugged the Captain."

Alarm shot through the Companion's features. "*Shenme*?"

He hurried to explain. "Just a sedative, Inara."


"River didn't explain her reasoning to me, just that the amount of sedative should keep him under for at least five hours."

After a moment of awkward silence Kaylee patted Simon's hand. "It'll be shiny, the others'll be back before then. Once the Cap'n hears that Petrie ain't around no more he won't have a reason to be mad."

Simon Tam gave her a dry look edged with disbelief. "Since when does the Captain need a reason?"

Inara finished making her tea and gestured to see if Simon or River wanted one. They shook their heads. Trying to exude a calm and confidence she didn't quite feel, Inara started to walk out of the room, pausing as she reached the doorway. "Perhaps I should sit with him."

The grateful look on Simon's face was almost comical, like a stay of execution. A genuine smile lit Inara's face then the Companion was gone. Kaylee wished she could do something to cheer Simon up. Slowly a crafty look crept over her face. "We got five hours."

Simon gave her a blank look. "*Shenme*?"

Her face beamed with mischief as she leaned in closer, her warm breath fanning his face while Kaylee's look became all manner of suggestive. "Think of what we can do, Simon." Her hands began to illustrate causing the good doctor to squeak in surprise as one hand unerringly found its' target.

"Kaylee! What if someone comes in?"

"Ain't no one here but us. 'Nara'll be with the Cap'n an' I know HE ain't gonna tell! Wash's is waitin' for word from the others before takin' the spare shuttle back down to get 'em. 'less of course they're in a hurry an' then we'll go in Serenity."

"I don't think this is the right time, *bao bei*."

Something warmed her insides to melting point at the term of endearment. Simon Tam was not a openly demonstrative man with his affections, at least not anywhere even remotely public but in the throes of passion... Kaylee's smiled widened, her hands taking on a life of their own. As Simon felt his body respond, a low groan leaked out of his mouth. "Kaylee," he panted, his eyes beginning to glaze over "have you any idea what you do to me?"

The grin was as predatory as it was affectionate. "How 'bout I show ya? After all, my daddy says I have natural talent."

Whatever Simon was going to say was swallowed up by lush hungry lips and a body gyrating up against his own in ways that were beyond sinful. Simon's eyes fluttered closed along with all his higher brain functions.

* * * * *

Lincoln James Petrie sounded surprised as his fingers located something unexpected in the Shepherd's pocket. "Ah, and what is this?"

Book felt his mouth go dry, palms sweating. More terrifying than finding himself in Petrie's hands was the risk of his true identity being discovered. "*Yiwusuoyou*."

Yet the lie was like ashes on his tongue. In his hand, Lincoln James Petrie held Book's ident card. Petrie odered the scientist to bring an ident reader, *mashang*. Book could feel everything slipping away from his grasp leaving him with nothing. Knowledge was Power and the ident Petrie held was not nothing as he had claimed: it was everything.

* * * * *

"He in trouble?"

Ellis was thinking of Serenity's shiny little mechanic, his heart doing a little twist at the thought of her coming to harm and him all unknowing and unable to help. Didn't seem to him that a girl like that would work on a ship with a Captain not worth his salt which meant if Malcolm Reynolds was up to his armpits in *goushi* little Kaylee Frye had to be treading water that foul water with him. Having agreed to help, Ellis needed as much information as they could give him.

"*Wo bu zhidao*." Ritchie chipped in. "Petrie had his men grab him an' torture him then for some warped reason of his own released him. Luckily his crew found Mal an' got him back to Serenity. Next thing I know they've taken off, don't know where to."

Ellis glanced at Monty. "An' you? Why'd you stay?"

A sour look twisted Monty's lips. "Some *tamade hundan* messed up my engine. They also sealed the door to my ship, couldn't get out to check or fix the engine."

"You're out now."

Denny spoke when it looked like Monty was falling into a sulk. "Kaylee an' that Shepherd fella came over from Serenity to help. They got the door unsealed an' when she looked into the engine Kaylee said some kind'a stuff had been put in it. All stuck inside the workin's an' such. Said they had a shiny doc who could take a sample an' figure out what was used. Said he'd likely be able to make up somethin' to clean it out so we could fly."

Ellis looked from face to face. "But they didn't?"

"*Bu qu*. Next thing we know Serenity's airborn an' with not a word to any of us."

Silence fell heavy but not uncomfortable. Ellis had some thinking to do, his thoughts all pigeon holed and sorted needed a rumage to rearrange what he thought he knew with additional facts. Something wasn't adding up but he was not sure these folk could fill in the right gaps. "How'd ya know the Cap'n's back on Serenity if'n ya haven't seen him?"

"Crew wouldn't leave without him." Said Monty. Something in the lift of the big man's chin telling Ellis that it was no less than he would expect of a loyal crew.

"There's somethin' else ya should know." Added Ritchie. He paused for a moment or two before continuing, as if reluctant to say the words. "Some of Petrie's men have been hangin' around Monty's ship. Not sure what they're up to but we think they might come back so we sealed it up again. Just to be on the safe side."

Ellis's eyebrows rose. "Ya think they wanna steal the ship?"

Ritchie had to admit it was a particularly ridiculous idea especially as Petrie's men had ensured they weren't going anywhere. He shook his head. "I'm thinkin' they might be fixin' to capture some of Monty's crew."

The silence this time was almost oppressive with dark thoughts joining hands and pressing down into a deep and heavy gloom. No one said it aloud but the notion that Petrie might be looking for more folks to torture was left unsaid. No one wanted to tempt fate by voicing their suspicion out loud. Enough bad had happened already. Quietly the old man got to his feet and filled his old battered kettle once more. No one spoke. Reaching up he unhooked a pile of mugs and set them next to the range. Before he could reach for the sugar the low angry growl of his top dog froze the old man's hand. With an alacrity belying his age, Ellis dropped down right quick and picked up his shotgun, a practised flick of his wrist snapping the barrel up to click in place as he thumbed the safety off. Ritchie, Monty and the others spread out, each man taking one side of a window and being mightly careful not to show anything of a silhouette. Was getting dark outside but Ellis had lights strung up across the end of the wide porch. As they settled into place, Ellis killed the lights inside the house and the frontage of the property was thrown into well lit relief. Startled shapes backed away in search of shadows. A high pain filled yelp brought a virulent curse to Ellis's lips, anger now on the boil and an expression hardening into deadly intent.

Whoever was out there was no friend of his and whether or not Ritchie Thomas and the crew of the Kingfisher had brought their troubles down on his own grey head mattered not. He might be more grizzled than once he had been, but he was up for the fight if trouble was what they had come for.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity, Wash was getting worried. Three hours without any word from Zoe. He knew they would have to keep radio silence and that fun little fact just made him even more anxious though he knew three hours was hardly enough time for them to locate Petrie's hideout and find a way inside. If Zoe had not insisted he would have stayed with the spare shuttle on the ground but the plan had been to leave nothing to indicate Serenity's crew were back on the planet which meant as soon as Zoe and the others had been dropped off he had flown the shuttle back to Serenity. Now for the waiting and the worrying. He hated this part. Didn't matter if she and Mal were on a milk run, Wash always fretted and imagined all the colourful ways things could go wrong. Didn't matter how good a plan the Captain came up with it always did seem to hit a snag. Why couldn't things ever go smooth?

Wash fiddled with his dinosaurs, his heart not really into playing with them but finding some small comfort in the familiar. His eyes barely strayed from the pilot's console, mentally willing Zoe to call and tell him they were ready to be picked up. Wash knew he would not be able to relax until she did.

* * * * *

He found it hard to concentrate but refused to give up. The tide of memories slowed by sheer willpower to a more manageable level. Still left him dizzy but recovering bits and pieces of his life was more than addictive. He knew his very life depended on it. His name still eluded him, Petrie's tag sticking like some unwelcome blot on his soul. The messenger. Well he was not Petrie's gorram messenger any longer. A slow agonised groan spilt from his bloodied lips. His contorted face a ruined landscape of miss-matched skin that had been patched over muscle and bone to replace that which was stripped from him. He remembered it all. The sheer agony inflicting more pain upon mind and body than he could have imagined possible. The grinning leering face of his tormentor an insult he would carry to the grave.

Driven he could not rest. As more blanks slowly filled with the trickle of memories returning in a haphazzard quilt of knowledge, only one thing mattered any more. He would have his revenge. Not just for himself but for all the countless souls who had died in utter agony and despair, their lives literally ripped from them by a monster more foul and evil than any Reaver. For Lincoln James Petrie knew exactly what he was doing and revelled in inflicting as much harm and pain as he could before the salve of death put an end to his repulsive past time. Yet he had seen some returned to life, their bodies shocked back into the stumbling beat of a traumatised heart. All to buy the *youbing hundan* another few hours of entertainment.

Biting back the pain, he forced himself to his feet. As many times as he stumbled and fell he would steady himself until he could rise again. A mantra familiar to him as a much loved song only now the voice that sang it broke on a tongue too used to screaming to be comfortable with words uttered with anything other than a low growl. He knew he was damaged but a new inspiration filled his aching heart. Might never be whole again but he was determined to end this. Whether he lived or died made no never mind and as images and faces swam back into his memory happier times brought a different kind of pain. Pushing himself out of the shadows, he stumbled forward and hoped his strength would last him for one final journey.

* * * * *

His past in all its' convoluted complexity was the path to a future paid for with countless lives and now hung in the balance. His was the bigger picture but to secure that end secrecy was key. Unfortunately that key had passed to another.

Petrie wore a faintly smug look on his twisted face. "I am surprised to see you away from your place of power, 'brother'."

Book said nothing.

"So many years and you greet me with silence?"

Something glittered deep in Book's eyes but was quickly quashed. Petrie watched him, amused.

"I see you have learnt control, 'brother'."

"Do not call me that!"

Petrie smiled, his eyes mocking. "It speaks!"

Silence. Petrie was the first to break it, if only to savour his victory.

"Do they know what you are?" He mocked softly. "This little band of thieves?"

When Book failed to respond, Petrie walked slowly around him then stopped once more and faced him. "What, I wonder, are you doing with them? They are surely beneath your concern, unless..." he trailed off, eyes widening slightly as a thought occurred to him. "I see I have been remiss. You will excuse me 'brother' while I conduct more thorough interrogations of our guests."

Shepherd Book wanted to beg him to leave the others alone but it would have only intensified Petrie's interest. No. He would have to find some other, more worthy, distraction but how? Even as the idea came to him Book inwardly recoiled, hating himself. Yet that which he protected far outweighed the worth of any one man. It was what he had always told himself when a painful choice had to be made but this time there was no resounding rightness calming his mind and reassuring himself. The emptiness that echoed back to him was like the tolling of a bell. A decision that he knew would haunt him forever.

* * * * *

"H... who are you?"

Gentle hands guided him to a rock and gingerly he sat. His head was throbbing, spikes of pain highlighting damage done that might never be repaired.

"W.. where am I?"

"Found you wandering." She said, her hands busy with he knew not what. His stunned brain staring down at a hand cut to rags and now washed and bound.


"Why are you here or why am I helping you?"

He licked lips so dry even the salt was gone. "B... both."

"You're here because this is where you've been dragging your broken body. I'm here because you stopped being able to get up again."

He blinked, eyes dry but wishing for tears if only to wash the grit out of them. "Do I know you?"

She shook her head and began dressing his other hand. He was tempted to snatch it back but it felt like too much effort and a poor way to reward her for her kindness. A horrible thought suddenly assailed him.

"Who sent you?"


"Somebody must have."

She paused then bent to pick up a water bottle. His eyes fastened on it as if it was the only thing in the 'verse. Gently the bottle was raised to his lips, steady hands doing what his own could not. His eyes closed on Heaven as the cool liquid eased the incredible dryness in his throat. He was almost weak with gratitude. "Don't try to speak." She whispered.

Parchment thin eyelids fluttered open and he properly regarded her for the first time. "Do you know who I am?"

Her smile was soft, sad, as if she knew her words would hurt him. "*Qu*. You are the messenger."

He found the strength to shake his head. "*Bushi*. No more. Now I am a free man."

The smile that blossomed on her lips was unexpected, a sweet pain he would die for. But first he had a mission. One that could not be put off by the weakness of his body or the damage to his mind. Somehow he just sensed this angel of mercy would understand.

* * * * *

"You want what?"

Ritche's voice was calm, his tone level, almost conversational. He could have been asking for a cup of tea. "Dynamite."

Old Man Ellis looked ready to throw them all out on their ears in spite of having agreed to help them. "You're *shenjingbing*! When I said I'd help I didn't mean blow up the gorram town."

"We need to get to Petrie an' he's holed up in that pile of rocks that once was a gorram mountain. If we can't get him out or ourselves in then best we bring the rest of it down on top of the *hundan*."

Alarmed, Monty shot a hand out and caught hold of Ritchie as he started to get up. "You said we were goin' after the sumbitch, said nothin' about explosives."

The grin from the former Sheriff chilled Monty's blood. "He killed my wife, mutilated her gorram body. You think I care if this world stops spinnin'? He needs takin' down. You can either help me or step outta my way!"

Ritchie Thomas had reckoned without Monty's crew. The sound of several guns cocking made him turn his head, his eyes narrowing at the weapons now aimed at his head. "You gonna kill me? 'Cause that's what it'll take to stop me."

"Don't have to kill you son," growled Ellis softly "can just take out your kneecaps."

He wasn't afraid of dying. *Diyu*, death was the easy part. It was living that was screwing Ritchie into ever tighter knots. Knowing he was in danger of unravelling was not as frightening though as the realisation that these men could stop him getting his revenge. "He killed Audrey." Ritchie's voice was pained, every word an agony of remembrance. "I swore I wouldn't rest 'til he was dead."

A huge warm hand fell on his shoulder, Monty's voice rough but soothing. "Then you gotta start thinkin' straight. One thing I can tell about that man - an' I ain't even met him - is that he's no *chunren*. Also, we don't know who else he may have in that hideaway of his, some other poor soul bein' tortured to within an inch of their life. Explosives are useful, Ritchie, but if we blow the place to Kingdom Come we'll never know if the *chusheng xia-jiao de xiang huo* was inside. Wouldn't you like to make sure the *tamade hundan* is dead? Look him the gorram eye as you pull the ruttin' trigger?"

The dullness in Ritchie's eyes sharpened, a light sparking inside. "You'd let me do that?"

"*Diyu*, boy, I'd even give ya my gun! We gotta get there first though, *dong ma*? Which means as smart as he thinks he is, we gotta be smarter."

* * * * *

Perspiration trickled down her face, neck, chest. In fact she was in danger of drowning in sweat. Where was all the ruttin' heat coming from? As if in answer to the questions scrolling through her brain pan, Petrie appeared. "Must be *diyu*, she murmured to herself "to be this gorram hot."

"You are closer to the truth than you can possibly imagine."

Zoe followed Petrie's progress, her expression as hard as granite. "You're *youbing*, you know that?"

To her irritation he chuckled, humour warping the already twisted planes of his face. "Do you know where you are?"

"Why don't you tell me?"

A grin made a jagged crevasse in his face, his misaligned teeth making him look like something prehistoric though not even Wash would want to preserve this monster. "I will do better than that, I will SHOW you."

As hot as she was, Zoe felt a cold finger of ice slide down her spine and remembered something her mama used to say back in the day: 'be careful what you wish for'. Two big surly men came in behind Petrie, obviously the hired muscle. While Petrie watched, the men unstrapped Zoe from the table but even though she had been trying to bunch up her muscles ready to fight they had anticipated her and roughly slapped a manacle and bar contraption on her wrists. Instead of manacles and chains, this was a manacle for each wrist with a short thick bar of steel between the two. Attached to that was a fixing point for more chains and something that looked like a tiny power socket. Zoe swallowed back dark thoughts bordering on panic. Good gorram, looked like the manacles could be plugged into a power source and used to pass an electric current into the poor soul hooked up to it. She wondered briefly whether this kind of contraption had been used on Mal and Wash when Niska had them then tried to shut that imagery out of her head. A jerk on the manacles had her stumbling forward, almost thankful to leave such thoughts behind.

Half dragged, half pushed, Zoe was taken along a bewildering twist of corridors which seemed to be going only in one direction: down. And was it her imagination or was it getting hotter? Maybehaps there was just less air circulating? Whatever the reason she was feeling more uncomfortable with every step. Then at last they came to a pair of big heavy doors. One of Petrie's men swung them open so Zoe could be dragged inside. If she had thought it hot before it was as nothing compared to the heat that now beset her. Petrie laughed. Eyes shut against the waves of heat, Zoe cracked them open just enough to see him in the ruddy tinged light. She blinked and shook the sweat out of her eyes, her hair plastered to her head, her breathing becoming laboured. Zoe wasn't sure whether it was fear or the heat combined with less fresh air but it made her feel light headed even as the sound of her heart seemed to trip hammer in her chest.

"Now, you will see!"

Petrie gestured to his men and Zoe was dragged towards a heat source she could not see only feel. She gasped involuntarily as the heat seemed to triple then quadruple, imagining her skin boiling and her clothes catching fire. Zoe's eyelids were so hot now she did not want to open her eyes but as she was pulled to a rough halt Petrie grabbed her chin and shook her. Automatically her eyes flew open and she glared at him.

"You must look or you will not see." He said softly, his voice almost a sick caress.

She wanted to refuse but already she was being manhandled to the far side of a large rough hewn cavern. Vaguely she noticed items of torture hanging from the rock walls like obscene works of art. Before her was a low wall of rock and as she was pulled right up to it red flashes billowed up and heated her face. Zoe's eyes widened in sudden realisation just as Petrie grapped her hair and forced her to lean over the wall and look down. "*Wode ma*!"

Lincoln James Petrie really was the Devil and she was looking right down into the fiery pit of Hell.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*bushi* = not so *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *bao bei* = precious/treasure *shenme* = what *weishenme* = why *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *goushi* = crap/dog shit *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *diyu* = hell *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *youbing* = sick *hundan* = bastard *meiren* = nobody *qu* = yes (lit. go) *shenjingbing* = crazy *chunren* = fool/jerk *chusheng xia-jiao de xiang huo* = animal fucking bastard *dong ma* = understand? *wode ma* = mother of God


Tuesday, February 8, 2011 11:33 AM


'Lincoln James Petrie really was the Devil and she was looking right down into the fiery pit of Hell.' Great line!!

I loved the comments on Wash and his dinos... even though he didn't feel like playing with them.

This keeps getting good. One of the best you've written... keep it coming please.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 1:22 PM


Simon Tam gave her a dry look edged with disbelief. "Since when does the Captain need a reason?"


The plot with the messenger is very interesting, also Ritchie, Ellis and Monty. Much concern for both crews.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 2:56 AM


Thank you for the shiny comments - always appreciated. A few twists and turns to come so hang on to your hats! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 6:16 AM


I trust Petrie will die slowly, but knowing our crew they'll kill him quick. Or maybe the messenger will have the chance. Great stuff, Ali. Great stuff.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 3:03 PM


Thanks Jane0904. Petrie is some piece of work and no mistake. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


You must log in to post comments.



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.