HANDFUL OF STARS: 35. "Memory Lane"
Thursday, June 23, 2011

"River tries to breach Brooks' defences. Mal and Zoe end up in deep trouble while Marcus has to break the news to Monty."


TITLE: "MEMORY LANE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara. RATING: PG-13. STATUS: Sequel to "THE WAR WITHIN". ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at

SUMMARY: "River tries to breach Brooks' defences. Mal and Zoe end up in deep trouble while Marcus has to break the news to 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Dizzy. Was that even possible when there was no up, no down, no side to side? Was he alive in the true sense or was this the deepest pit of *diyu*? Nothing he had learnt in his long and varied life prepared him for what he was now experiencing. Or, maybe, he was not experiencing this but having a nightmare? All the introspection was tiring him out and that was another oddness. A prick of memory trying to filter through what was left of his brain yet confounded by who knew what. Had he been injured, brain damaged? As confusion muddied his train of thought everything began to fade, his mind seemingly closing down without any instruction from himself. It should have alarmed him, been creepy and scary but the relief of not having to puzzle it out won over that of self preservation. Had he been able to think clearly that knowledge would have alarmed him most of all.

* * * * *

"River, you should rest *mei mei*."

Simon was worried about his sister. She had not stirred from Book's bedside for hours now, not even tempted by Kaylee's promise of a shiny treat. Simon knew Kaylee intended to share the last of her precious strawberry cache with River and if he knew it was more than likely his sister had already plucked the information out of his brain. Yet still River would not leave and it was beginning to really concern him.

"*Fang xin*, Simon." Said River, without turning her head away from the sleeping man. "Just doing the math."

Sitting in a chair just inside the door, Jayne huffed, Vera cradled comfortably in his large hands as if he was holding something precious. "She's even crazier now than she was before."

"My sister isn't *shenjingbing*, Jayne!"

River ignored them both, blocking out their voices and words while she carefully mapped unfamilar territory. She knew to be careful, cautious, wary even. Something wasn't right and the more she focussed on the sleeping man the more she was drawn to delve into the mystery. That he could not be trusted was obvious but there was something more, something deep beneath the veneer of the man called Brooks. A tiny faint wisp of an old friend dearly missed.

* * * * *

The Captain came to with a groan. He put a hand to his head - it came away bloody. "Did you hit me?"

Zoe's voice was dry and devoid of apology. "You weren't yourself, sir."

"Huh. Who the gorram was I?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*."

Mal risked opening one eye a crack. "An' you couldn't have just told me?"

"No sir, you were drawin' your gun."

He opened his other eye in surprise and immediately regretted it, the stab of pain making him hiss in a sharp intake of breath. Alarm turned to a touch of depression, not only his head hurting but his whole body not feeling right. How many times had Zoe hit him? "*Wode ma*, Zoe. What's wrong with me?"

Zoe frowned, not liking what she was hearing or seeing. She had not hit him that hard but remembered the Captain had been having headaches before they left to meet up with Nelson and his men. "Need Simon to take a look so we can find out."

For the first time since coming round the Captain became aware of their surroundings. "Where in *diyu* are we?"

"Funny you should say that."

The Captain frowned at her as best he was able without his head spiltting clean in two. "You see how I ain't laughin'? *Fasheng le shenme shir la*?"

"An Alliance *jianyu*, sir."

Mal closed his eyes with a heart felt groan. When he opened them again Zoe was watching him closely and trying to hide the fact that she was worried about him. Zoe, worried? That made his heart sink even more. It meant things were beyond bad.

"I'm thinkin' we were set up, sir."

"*Bushi*, I may not remember everythin' Zoe but Nelson ain't behind this."

Her surprise would have been comical but the Captain was feeling too ill to appreciate it. Fact was he was torn between emptying his stomach and passing out only he needed to stay conscious and figure this out. Couldn't do that if he wasn't conscious. Zoe's face was beginning to swim before his eyes. When had she moved?

"Reckon I hit you too hard, sir."

"Shouldn't have hit me at all. I'm the Cap'n." He mumbled painfully.

"You were about to get us all killed in a mindless rampage."

Her words surprised him so much he was able to momentaily forget how awful he felt. "Don't remember nothin' about no rampage, Zoe."

"That's becasuse it was mindless, jackass!"

The Captain blinked in shock. "Jayne?"


Mal forced himself to sit as upright as he could then took a slow careful glance around his small dark and dank cell. But to all intents and purposes there was only himself and Zoe in it. So why was he hearing the voice of Jayne Cobb? Permaybehaps Zoe had hit him too hard after all.

* * * * *

Marcus Bole was one clever sumbitch. He knew it but didn't crow about the fact, preferring to keep his light well and truly hidden under a great gorram bussell. Them as stuck their heads above the parapet wall were like to get it blown off and there were too many things he wanted to do in this 'verse to allow that to happen. Monty Reynolds stared at him over the secure cortex link. Shocked and upset in equal measure.

"Where did the Alliance come from?"

"You really expect a polite answer to that, Monty?"

The big man frowned, his impressive bulk drawn up to its' full height not to intimidate Marcus but an indication of how deeply he was trying to figure things out. "Gorramit Marcus, Mal is my friend!"

"*Wo zhidao* an' I put friends of mine in harm's way to help 'em out."

Monty frowned. "What went wrong?"

"My guess? They were watchin', waitin' for a chance to move."

Monty mulled that over. He knew all about River and Simon but Marcus didn't need to know about that little complication. Besides, the Alliance hadn't gone for Serenity but for Mal and Zoe. Why? "The cargo, what happened to it?"

"It's safe. For now." "What about Nelson?"

"They got away but on'y just."

Monty Reynolds did not like the way this was filtering through his brain pan and felt more than a mite complicit for his friends ending up in Alliance custody. After all, he had passed the job on to Mal. A safe, secure job from a reliable source. A gorram milk run. "Where they holdin' 'em?"

"Off world."

Monty just stared at him. Marcus was annoyed that he would have to spell it out for him, especially knowing the kind of reaction it would get.


* * * * *

Derrial Matthew Brooks really wished they would leave him alone but it seemed Serenity's crew were taking no chances. What did they expect him to do? He was strapped to an infirmary bed with nanotechnology running rampant throughout his body and interfering with his ability to get out of this situation. Worst of all that meddling girl was trying to make inroads through his defences, defences compromised by what Simon Tam had done to him. That he could not touch her with his senses both alarmed and worried him. He knew she was still there because he could hear her, smell the odd lotion she used in her greasy hair, the soft sussuration of her wispy dress as she moved from time to time. Her mind not so much touching his as mapping it out. How terrifying was that?

"He's awake again."

Brooks heard someone move closer then Simon's voice. "*Bu qu*, Book is comatose *mei mei*."

"*Cuode* Simon! Be careful what you say."


"He's listening and he can't be trusted."

"*Wo bu dong*. What are you afraid of? Book isn't going anywhere."

Brooks sensed Simon step away then felt the spark of something pierce his psyche, a frisson like an electrical spark that moved at the speed of light. River! *Tianna*, she knew what he was capable of. How had that happened? Had he been careless? But no, just anxious. Wary. *Look don't touch*. Brooks held his mental breath as the thought dropped into his mind knowing exactly where it had come from. Gradually the feel of her presence diminished but that did not mean he was safe. With River Tam the worst thing he could do was underestimate her. The little genius was the one person who could unravel the mystery he encompassed and that made her the most dangerous person on Serenity if not the 'verse.

* * * * *

"Where the good gorram are you?"

Jayne's voice kind'a echoed. "Next cell."

The Captain felt an odd sense of relief. "You okay?"

The mercenary's voice turned surly. "I'm in a gorram Alliance *jianyu*, what do you think?"

"Huh. Ain't improved your temperament." "*Shenme*?"

The Captain sighed and tried to ride out a sudden wave of nausea. "*Mei shi*. Got any weapons on you?"

"I ain't even got clothes, Mal!"

The Captain stared at Zoe then looked down at himself. He and Zoe were still dressed but their weapons were gone. "What happened to your clothes?" Zoe asked.

Jayne muttered darkly but they couldn't make out the words. Knowing Jayne he was no doubt cussing up a storm.

"Jayne, it works best if you open your gorram mouth when you speak."

There was a sullen silence. The Captain tried again.


"*Shenme*? You wanna insult me again?"

The Captain sighed, he really wanted to just lie down and rest but knew he couldn't afford to do that. They had to find a way out of their predicament preferrably before whatever the Alliance had planned for them came to pass. Easier said than done when they were on the wrong side of an Alliance prison cell. "How come you lost your clothes?"

"Didn't lose 'em, Mal, they took 'em! When they took my guns I tried to fight 'em off but there were too many of the *tamade hundan*. When I woke up my guns an' knives were gone along with my ruttin' clothes."

The big man sounded depressed and not just because he had lost Vera.

"How bad you hurt, Jayne?"

The man's voice came back a mite subdued as if confessing his hurts was a sign of weakness or some such. "Think they busted a few ribs."

The Captain knew that tone. Wasn't fooled by it either. "What else?"

There was a lengthy pause before Jayne responded. "Can't use my right hand, Mal."

The Captain bit back an angry retort and exchanged a worried look with Zoe. That was Jayne's gun hand. No wonder the big man was in such a foul mood. "Can you walk?"

A very unfunny laugh came back through the wall between their cells. Muffled but carrying a heavy trace of deep sarcasm. "I'm in a cell, Mal. Where in the nine hells am I gonna go?"

"Just answer the gorram question! We need to take stock, *dong ma*? Instead of thinkin' about what we don't got we need to concentrate on what we do."

There was a brief pause. "I can walk, can shit too - just in case you wanted a 'full' report."

Mal sighed and leaned his head back against the damp wall of their prison. Hissing and jerking upright again as it set a sharp pain off in his head. He rubbed a weary hand over his face, the headache making it hard to think.

"Sir, maybe you should just rest a while." Said Zoe.

He tried to bite back a sharp reply. It wasn't Zoe's fault but the pain was making him want to lash out. Didn't much care who at. "Or what? Case you haven't noticed Zoe the only things in this cell are us an' we need to be findin' a way out of here not takin' a gorram nap." As if realising he was snapping at the wrong person, the Captain's tone softened, the only apology she was going to get. "Besides, ain't nothin' in this mud hole to lie on."

"There's the floor, sir."

For a moment he just stared at her but Zoe didn't budge an inch. Didn't crack a smile either. His shoulders slumped, too dizzy and weary to argue. Any movement made him feel sick and throwing up over Zoe was a bad idea. Didn't want to get struck again yet he wasn't sure lying down was a good option either.

"If you don't mind my sayin', sir, you don't look so good."

Mal bit back the rising bile in his throat, his eyes kind of ghosting over. "What gave me away?"

When she didn't say anything he forced himself to look at her through the haze that was blurring his vision. Didn't want to frighten her with how bad he felt, he was worried enough for the both of them.

"I'm sittin' Zo, happy now?"

"Ecstatic, sir."

The Captain did not respond but closed his eyes. He fancied he heard muffled laughter from Jayne's cell but that could just be his gorram imagination having fun at his expense. Zoe ran a critical eye over her Captain and friend, he really did not look so good, his skin having taken on a sickly grey pallor. Zoe was pretty sure she had not hit him that hard but with all the headaches Mal had been having lately it was possible she had just made his condition that much worse. She frowned thinking about those headaches. Headaches the Captain had gone to Simon about. Headaches their Top Three Per Cent doctor had done nothing about. Her mood darkened, angry that Simon had left the Captain in pain. If they got out of this she would be having words with him about that.

As Mal began to drift off on a very choppy tide, it did not occur to him to wonder how come Jayne was in the cell next door and not back on Serenity. He didn't wonder what had happened to the rest of the ship's crew or Nelson and his men. Zoe had said they were in an Alliance *jianyu* and for now that was as much of a glimpse of *diyu* as he could deal with. If an Alliance *jianyu* was the shiny sphincter of *diyu* being in one on Hera meant they were more than halfway up it. Not nobody going to get them out of this *shen goushi* unless they found a way their ownselves. Right now their prospects looked anything but shiny.

* * * * *

Portree Nelson was furious. It should not have been possible for the Alliance to find their very deep and well hidden hidey hole. He knew from years underground that all that weight of rock and embedded mineral deposits played havoc with any kind of scanning equipment so how come the ruttin' Aliance found them? One obvious possibility was that he had a traitor in his camp but that was quickly discounted. He knew all his men inside out, every one of them dedicated to a life opposed to the high and mighty Alliance. The odd thing was, once Mal and Zoe had been caught there was no pursuit of the rest of them. Not even to locate the cargo. That told him it was definitely the Alliance behind this not another group thinking to steal the cargo out from under them. Yet he didn't recognise the men as purplebellies. There was something much more sinister about the dark clad figures who had sprung such an unexpected and efficient attack.

His front man, Donnie Banks, was chewing on a plug of tobacco. It spoke volumes for how hard the man was thinking that he never chewed and spat it out but just kept masticating over and over as if the very tobacco held the answers to the entire 'verse.

"What you thinking, Don?"

"How'd they find us, *laoban*? We been using this bolt holt for years an' the Alliance have never found us. Never got close."

Nelson nodded. "Been thinking on that. You remember how those soldiers were dressed? At first I thought they were Alliance but now I'm not so sure."

Roscoe Wilson had been listening in and making no bones about it. All the men were jumpy and Nelson couldn't blame them. If Malcolm Reynolds hadn't drawn his gun and almost fired on them, Zoe wouldn't have knocked him out. Seconds later all hell was let loose, his hideout rapidly filling with what looked like nothing so much as hired assassins. He had hated leaving Mal and Zoe but couldn't stay to help them or all of them would have been caught.

"Then who were they?"

He eyed Roscoe in silence for a moment or two before speaking his fear. "I think they were from Blue Sun."

Gasps and curses rotated quietly throughout his men. None raising their voices just in case unfriendly ears were somewhere close enough to hear them.

Donnie finally spat out his plug of tobacco. "Are you *yansu*? What would they be wantin' with us?"

"Not 'us'." He said carefully.

A deadly silence met his words. Each man absorbing his meaning. Donnie's voice became a quiet hush of syllables only discernible because they were virtually holding their breaths now. "What would Blue Sun want with Mal an' Zoe?"

"That," said Nelson bitterly "is the million square question."

* * * * *

River Tam was thoughtful. Something was niggling away at her brainpan. Something tentative and familiar. A memory that was as illusive as it was tantalising but what could it be? Her attempts to breach Brooks' defences had yielded a few surprises, small areas like cracks in the formerly impenetrable facade. She found if she allowed her mind to drift a mite that she could catch the vaguest sense of something yearning, something attempting to reach out and touch her in a way that moved her emotionally. Was Brooks toying with her or was it something else? As River sat deep in thought memories slowly surfaced, at first seemingly random and disjointed, but coalescing like a scattered jigsaw until her brilliant and unsurpassed genius reassembled the pieces into something she recognised. River gasped in shock, eyes flying open and startling her friend Kaylee. They were in the commons room where they had been chatting over strawberries in an attempt by the shiny mechanic to lift the mood. River had not told her it would be a waste of time. Her friend needed to feel useful, to help, even when there was nothing to be done but wait.

Kaylee Frye stared in concern at her friend. "*Shenme shi*?"


The little mechanic blinked. "*Shenme*?"

River blinked and let the present ground her in the Here and Now. The Past was important but so was Now, especially as Now was all they had. "Took a trip down Memory Lane."

Kaylee wasn't sure what that meant but hoped it was something happy. Shiny even. "You thinkin' about your family. River?"

River shook her head and put her hand on one of Kaylee's. "Family's here."

"Then what?"

"I know how the pieces fit together, Kaylee."

"Well, that's *hen hao, dui*?"

The look on River's face was hard to interpret. In fact, it gave Kaylee the creeps. "For us but not for everyone."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *mei mei* = little sister *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *shenjingbing* = crazy *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *wode ma* = mother of God! *fasheng le shenme shir la* = what has happened? *jianyu* = prison *bushi* = not so *shenme* = what *wo zhidao* = I know *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *cuode* = wrong *weishenme* = why? *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *tianna* = oh God! *mei shi* = it doesn't matter *dong ma* = understand? *laoban* = boss *yansu* = serious *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *hen hao* = very good *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shen goushi* = deep shit (lit. a lot of crap/dog shit) *dui* = correct


Thursday, June 23, 2011 10:24 AM


Ok good I wasn't the only one confused by Jayne being with Mal, he was too.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 5:06 PM


well that was all manner of your tales, AliD, I really, really do

Friday, June 24, 2011 11:22 AM


Everything happens for a reason Nutluck. Good to know you are enjoying the intrigue MalsDoxy, all manner of twists and turns to come. Thank you both for the feedback. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, June 26, 2011 12:15 PM


I also am a little confused, but also interested in just what happened between the last chapter and their capture.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:40 PM


It will all become clearer in the next chapter, Bytemite. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.