HANDFUL OF STARS: 47. "The Face In The Mirror"
Friday, October 7, 2011

"Marcus finds out you cannot escape fate and just as Shepherd Book finds a reason to be happy the other shoe drops."


TITLE: "THE FACE IN THE MIRROR" CHAPTER: 47. Sequel to "NEVER LET GO" SERIES: HANDFUL OF STARS Series AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee Mal/Inara RATING: PG-13 SUMMARY: "Marcus finds out you cannot escape fate and just as Shepherd Book finds a reason to be happy the other shoe drops." 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 "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

He knew he was being followed but it did not matter. He could come and go as and when he wished. Right now what he needed was a little intel and the risk of being seen was worth it to use his own eyes to get the lay of the land. It was something of a dispiriting place with people locked in occupations they hated or despised. Lacklustre couples, grey lives, and yet they thought it living. He would have laughed except the humour of it all escaped him. Having seen all he needed, his exit was as rapid from view as his entry had been. Much as he would have liked to linger and watch the Sheriff's reaction such diversions were childish and he did not have the time nor the patience to pander to such whims.

* * * * *

Doc Greenway was smiling, his long lanky frame hanging out of the armchair as if someone had plonked him down and let the limbs spill over the sides. He could hear the banter of the card game from the little rest area, the borrowed book making him smile again. It was poetry of a sorts but the kind written by someone with lots of life experience and not much learning. It by turns amused and touched him. Rough, ready, honest and true. If a man's life amounted to such a cipher it would make a worthy epitaph.

"What'cha readin'?"

Elias was startled by a grease marked face peering at him with open curiosity. He did not think there was a soul in the wide 'verse who could take a dislike to Kaylee Frye. "It's a book of poetry."

"Is it pretty?"

The question surprised him. Of all the descriptions he could give to the rambling assortment of contents, pretty was not one of them. "Um, actually, no."

Kaylee laughed and brushed a lock of hair from her red flushed face with her sleeve, managing to smear grease and dirt over the small part of her face that was relatively clean. "Then why ya readin' it?"


"Can ya read me a bit?"

He blinked. Disliked making himself the centre of anyone's attention except in matters medical. There, his absorbtion blotted out any social awkwardness and left him in his element. "Um, it ain't very good."

Not put off, Kaylee stepped closer but made no move to sit on either of the couches. She knew she needed to clean up first but everybody was busy and she was bored. "Ain't askin' for nothin' fancy, *dong ma*?"

He smiled and felt his awkwardness vanish. "Okay Kaylee but don't say I didn't warn ya." Elias thumbed through the ratty pages looking for one that was not as offensive as the others. It took longer than he expected. Clearing his throat he plunged right in:

"Matters o' the heart don't know their way Like women they follow paths men aren't shown All the wonders a man could ever see Hidden in a confusion o' shy bones..."

Kaylee frowned. "What the *diyu* are 'shy bones'?"

"*Wo bu zhidao*. Maybe the author couldn't think of anything else to rhyme with 'shown'?"

"That ain't it."

They looked up, surprised to see the card game had ended and Jayne Cobb was standing peering over Kaylee's shoulder. "What do you think it means Jayne?"

"It's when a man an' a woman, you know..."

Kaylee got an inkling and her eyes twinkled with mischief. "Know what?"

"You know how a man likes to sex a woman?" Kaylee nodded and Elias closed his eyes with a silent groan. "Well, some folks call it bonin', y'know..."

"Jayne, I think we all get the picture." Elias cut in though it wasn't Kaylee's blushes he wanted to spare.

Ignoring the doctor Jayne went on to explain the rest of the stanzas, Kaylee listening wide eyed and trying not to laugh out loud. Gradually the others gravitated over to them to see what was so interesting.

"I could run her through with giddy pleasure Just to see her smile No fancy words or stupid pretties Just the pleasure 'tween her thighs..."


Everyone's heads turned at the sharp rap of Simon's voice.

"That isn't the kind of thing you should be reading to ladies!"

"Huh? Ain't my gorram book."

Flushed, Elias had no option to own up to the book being his. Or at least one he had borrowed. Simon was shocked which made Elias wish he could sink into the deck and disappear. Naturally the deck was not accommodating. The Captain and Zoe were amused to see what they had stumbled on. While Simon was trying to berate Jayne, Zoe shook her head. Her tone flat and dry with mock sadness.

"I think Jayne embarrasses him, sir."

"Jayne embarrasses us all. It's why we love him."

Zoe gave her Captain an uncertain look. "It is?"

"What other reason could there be?"

As Zoe and the Captain left them to their reading they heard Kaylee lamenting, "It could'a been somethin' beautiful."

Then River's voice drifted to their ears. "Everything's beautiful until it breaks."

* * * * *

"You failed."

Marcus Bole was beyond any coherent reply not that he cared what his tormentor thought. The voice continued silky smooth.

"Not that it matters."

Marcus wished he could ask what he meant by that but his throat was swollen, his tongue taking up too much room and the ligature stealing his breath. Little leaky inhalations faltered all the way to his starving lungs.

"I am, however, a merciful man."

In the silence that followed the fading sights and sounds in that small room were the only witnesses. The man stepped aside to clean himself off then left to keep his rendezvous. There was always more than one way to get what you wanted.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book was happy, his heart light for the first time in too long. He had not realised how much it had been weighing on him that the intruder might somehow have managed to survive River's exocism. Simon Tam was an excellent trauma surgeon but the brain was a complex organ, as much electrical as physical body. Perhaps more so. Knowing that his mind was finally, completely his own again was marvellous. It almost made him feel young again.

"Told you."

He did not jump though it was a close thing. "River, what did I say about creeping up on people?"

"Didn't, you just didn't hear me."

There was no point in arguing, she was probably right anyway.

"You need to prepare."

The Preacher blinked. "What for?"

"Knowledge is power."

"River, what are you talking about?"

"Even free you still have obligations."

He opened his mouth to question her further but River was gone. Book glanced around but he was alone. "One day," he murmured "that girl is going to give me a heart attack."

* * * * *

Caleb stared unblinking at the Captain. Knew for a fact that the man was one hundred per cent serious. "Paradisio is a peaceful planet, Cap'n."

"An' under Alliance rule."

There was a slight twitch from Caleb otherwise he kept an admirable poker face. Didn't show offence or take umbrage at the implication that the people on his world were Alliance-friendly. Both of them well aware the opposite was mostly true. Problem was, mostly didn't mean everyone. They were in the guest room assigned to Caleb when he had first come aboard Serenity which was another matter Mal was keen to cover. Beside him, Zoe stood rock firm and with just about as much give in her. Fortunately Caleb was not the sort to feel intimidated.

"Not accusin' you of nothin', *dong ma*, but with things happenin' I have a question or two."

"*Wo dong*, Cap'n."

It was Zoe who asked the first one. "Why were you so insistent about comin' aboard Serenity, Caleb?"

He hesitated. Not because he had anything to hide but because his reasons might ruffle a feather or two. Seeing the look on the two Browncoats' faces he realised he could not hope to avoid that. "Truth to tell I was worried. With everythin' you an' your crew had gone through, Cap'n, I didn't like you bein' a man down - albeit for just a little while. I know my way around weapons an' I can keep my head in a firefight. Was hopin' such knowledge wouldn't be needed but wanted to be sure."

"While I'm all manner of grateful for your concern I have to wonder why you'd care one way or another. Not like I know you or you owe me anythin'."

A smile flickered on Caleb Bourne's face. Zoe frowned a little but held her peace. "My father was mighty impressed with you. Handin' back that medicine knowin' you'd have Adelei Niska to contend with? Not many people I can think of would do that." Caleb's smile vanished. "An' I know what it cost you, sir."

"Do ya now?" The Captain drawled. "Then let's not go all around the houses, Caleb. I got people at my back, firepower a-plenty you could say, so what's the real reason you're here?"

Caleb took a moment to reply, his eyes fixed on the Captain. "I knew you were sharp."

"Not a *baichi* neither an' that ain't a reply."

"It was no accident that I went in to get you outta that place, Mal." Zoe stiffened at Caleb's switch from a respectful 'Captain' to using Mal's first name as if the two were equals. "I've been watchin' the activities of Blue Sun for a while now. My father doesn't know by the way, would bust a gut tryin' to drag me out of any involvement if he knew."

Zoe reassessed him. "Underground?"

"Near as makes no difference. Our work is very secretive, usually one man teams if you can call 'em that. Pairin' up raises the danger of stayin' beneath the radar."

Despite his reservations Mal was intrigued. "What did you do?"

"Closest way to describe it is a kind'a guerilla warfare. Very low key an' with the emphasis on completely coverin' our tracks. Accidents would happen, just infrequent an' varied enough to be written off as such but they were diversions. Allowed me time to go after the real payload, the information on secure an' triple encrypted datafiles an' such. It was how I found out about River Tam an' how her brother got her out of that Alliance Academy. That was ballsy stuff an' you takin' 'em on your ship made me look twice at you an' your crew."

Both Mal and Zoe had stiffened at the mention of River and Simon. Caleb did not seem worried.

"I read your record, Mal, both the official an' the far more interestin' 'unofficial' one."

"Don't know what you're talkin' about."

Caleb paused a moment then nodded. "*Dang ran*, I wouldn't expect you to admit it."

The Captain was getting testy by now, not liking the fact that this young man had been digging into his past and no doubt doing the same to the rest of his gorram crew. Then there was Caleb's interest in River and Simon. "How'd I know you ain't workin' for Blue Sun or the gorram Alliance?"

"You don't but I wouldn't have gone to all the effort of breakin' you outta the Blue Sun experimental research centre if I was."

Zoe didn't seem convinced. "Would explain how you managed it without gettin' caught an' could be you wanted to get into the Cap'n's confidence."

The young man almost laughed except he didn't want his life to come to a short, painful and very abrupt end. This current mission was but one of many and they were desperately few. Couldn't afford to lose even one of their number. "I didn't get caught because I planned everythin' not that explainin' the how an' wherefore would help right now. We got bigger problems loomin', Mal."

"Such as?"

Caleb sighed and for the first time they could see just how tired the man was. He hide it well but the life he led was obviously hard on him. "I believe they'll send someone to finish the job."

The Captain paled. Zoe shot him an anxious look, worried that his head was troubling him again but he gave a tiny shake of the head and a look that reassured her he was physically okay. "You sayin' they mean to kill River?"

"*Bu qu*, that's the last thing they want."

"Won't let 'em take her, nor you if that's what you're aimin' at."

Caleb looked genuinely confused. "Why would I want to take her?"

"You could be one of them Operatives."

For a moment he looked stunned then laughed, he tried not to but it just overcame him. The Captain frowned in disapproval and Zoe rested a hand on her mare's leg just in case. Caleb fought to control his mirth and held his hands.

"*Qing, fang xin*, Mal. I'm no Operative nor any other clandestine employee of that evil twisted empire."

"Then if you ain't after River, why you here?"

"Partly to warn you an' if that proves insufficient to help if I can."

"Don't take this the wrong way son but I been facin' those *tamade hundan* since before you was born."

"An' they still keep comin', *dui*?"

For a moment no one spoke, the silence a short uneasy truce between them. "An' you think you can stop 'em, that it?"

"*Bushi*. I think 'WE' can."

* * * * *

He couldn't understand it. Where had the *hundan* gone? Couldn't just vanish into thin ruttin' air but that was just what had happened. The Sheriff called up his deputies and outlined what had happened then divided up the search area between them. They would look under every rock, delve into the rattiest alleyways and if that didn't throw up a clue they would comb the town building by building. Something wasn't right and the more Sheriff Bourne thought about it the more that itch between his shoulder blades grew.

* * * * *

Monty wasn't happy but had to wait a while to get his friend alone. "Mal, this is *shenjingbing*. He could be settin' ya up."

"*Wo zhidao* but if he's tellin' the truth I can't afford to ignore him either."

"Yeah but goin' back to Paradisio? Before it sounded a good idea, now it's like knowingly stickin' your *wangu* head in a noose. Don't do it, Mal. We can find somewhere else to meet up, no need to take unnecessary risks."

"I wanna get to the bottom of this, Monty, don't you?"

The big man huffed and straightened, towering over Malcolm Reynolds. There was a faraway look in his eyes as he brought a huge hand up and stroked his beard thoughtfully. Mal let him think, knew Monty hated to be rushed. "You really determined to do this?"

"I am."

"Then me an' mine'll come with you. We can use my ship, keep Serenity in the Black, just to be on the safe side."

Mal felt a rush of emotion, gratitude for his friend's loyalty and understanding but he didn't want to put his friend in danger. "You don't have to do that Monty..."

The big man cut him off, leaning down with a scowl on his face that would have made many a lesser man quail. "You tellin' me what to do?"

Serenity's Captain shook his head and ignored the little spike of pain at moving too quickly. He was well on the mend now but healing wasn't healed. "*Bu qu*, but it's like to be dangerous, Monty."

"Since when has anythin' involvin' Malcolm Reynolds been *rongyi*?"

Mal laughed. "*"Wei*, when you put it like that..."

The big man grinned and clapped him on the shoulder with a huge hand. "We'll need to find an out of the way moon to set down Mal. Make our plans so everyone knows what they're doin' then board my ship an' head for Paradisio. If there's a waitin' committe for Serenity we should be able to slip through, see what the good gorram we're up against. Drop off that local doc an' Caleb while we're at it."

"Caleb says he wants to help. What d'you think?"

Monty gave him a long hard look. "I think you gather trouble an' strays like a dog carries fleas."

"That bein' the case you're the biggest gorram flea..."

Monty hauled him up off his feet and held Mal a foot off the ground so they were face to face. "Best you not finish that sentence, Malcolm Reynolds."

He got a cheeky grin back. Monty's frown vanished then he hugged his friend and put him back on the deck, his face alive with affection.

"What now?"

"Now we go an' break the good news to my lazy crew."

* * * * *

It took just over three hours. Would have been longer but Mrs Ross from the boarding house had gone up to clean out Room 7. As she waddled her bulk along the corridor she was about to pass Room 4 but stopped in her tracks, her eyes widening with horror. Never in all her life had she ever turned and run like that. Sheriff Bourne responded immediately, bringing a couple of his men with him. Approaching the door they stepped carefully over the thin crimson trails running out from under the door.

Marcus Bole was still strapped to the gorram chair, his eyes nearly popping out of his head all bug-eyed, mouth open with a swollen tongue stopping it from shutting. Even from several feet away the Sheriff knew beyond a doubt that the man was dead. Didn't need to get a doc to check him to identify the slash across his jugular giving the poor man a crude but effective coup de grace.

* * * * *

Inara really wished Mal would think first then act.

"What makes you think I ain't thinkin'?"

She raised a beautifully sculpted eyebrow, a knowing look in her beautiful dark eyes. "This isn't a game Mal. If Blue Sun have someone waiting for you on Paradisio then it really is the last place we should go."

"Which is why they won't be expectin' it."

The Companion had to bite back a string of expletives. If the Captain wasn't still recovering from recent surgery she would pick up something heavy and hit him over the head with it. Now she knew why they were having this conversation in her shuttle. Knew too his real reason for wanting to see her. He wanted to keep the vulnerable members of his crew safe, out of the way on Serenity, and that included her. What did he think she was? A china doll? Seeing the look on her face the Captain's expression softened a mite, something in his eyes making her go weak inside.

"Inara, I can't stand the thought of somethin' happenin' to you, *bao bei*."

"Do you think I don't feel the same about you?" Her words were spat out with worry but he accepted them for the simple truth they were. Raising a calloused hand he gently touched her face. Inara had to steel herself not to lean into his touch. Why did she have to fall in love with a *shenjingbing* space pirate? Okay, not exactly a pirate but sometimes the distinction did get kind of blurred with the life they led. She knew him for an annoying man, a good man, rough around the edges but with his own kind of dignity and reckless heroism. At times she wondered if he had a death wish.

"Mal, please, don't do this. We'll find another way."

He gave a mock laugh that came out sounding like something broken. "Now you're soundin' like Monty."

Before she could argue further he brought his lips to hers. Gentle at first then more insistent, opening hers to his urgent questing need to say with actions what he couldn't say with words. Inara was a Companion. She knew and since she had been watching him like a hawk since their first meeting had learnt to read him pretty accurately. She knew he loved her, that at times he thought it a weakness he could not afford to indulge. Fortunately she had the wiles to bring him around again. And again. And again. When they parted her lips were bowed in a smile. A little frown tweaked his brow.

"Mind sharin' the joke? I could do with some funny about now."

"I was just thinking how much has changed since first we met, Mal, and yet in many ways nothing has."

He blinked. Was that good or bad? "Huh?"

Inara laughed lightly though inside she wanted to cry. Afraid he was about to do something from which he might not return. Didn't matter that he would be with Monty and his crew or that Jayne, Zoe, Book and Caleb would be going with him. Doctor Greenway only going along for the ride back to Paradisio and not expected to take any part in whatever insanity transpired. Inara felt she was doomed to forever be on the knife edge of worry and the prospect of a sudden and messy death all the time her fate was linked with his yet she would not be free of him out of choice. Not now. Both had faced up to their feelings for each other though the road between them would always be rocky, their natures too much alike not to strike sparks off each other.

"*Wo ai ni*, Mal. Just come back safe, *dong ma*?" The Captain's smile was bittersweet. "I love you more." He whispered into a last brief kiss.

It was only after he closed the shuttle door behind him that Inara realised it was first time he had said he loved her in anything but Chinese. She raised a hand to her lips and bit back the threat of tears. 'Oh Mal, you had better come back or I will never ever forgive you'.

* * * * *

"Jayne, what did I say about grenades?"

"That you couldn't have enough?"

"We're tryin' not to draw attention, *dong ma*?"

Book decided to speak up. "I think on this occasion it might be a good thing, Captain."

"You too, Shepherd? Thought you had more sense."

"We don't know what we'll be facin'. Could be a grenade or two could provide a diversion if things get tricky."

Monty actually liked Book's thinking but this was Mal's crew not his. The Captain huffed but knew Book was right.

"Okay, but try not to look so..." His voice trailed off and he waved a hand vaguely at his mercenary as if that explained what he was trying to say.

The mercenary looked down at himself but saw nothing amiss. He frowned at Mal. "*Shenme*?"

Just then Monty's pilot brought the Kingfisher in to land at Paradisio's space port. There was no immediate move to disembark. Mal turned to Zoe and lowered his voice.

"I'm thinkin' maybe we should'a left Jayne on Serenity."

"Could be we'll be needin' him, sir." "Long as he don't blow our cover."

Zoe almost laughed in his face. "What cover's that, sir?" She dead panned.

The Captain shot her a look of irritation, just knew she was laughing at him but he couldn't call her on it. "Could you at least try to sound like you agree with me?"

"Sir, yes sir. Absolutely."

Caleb watched the by-play, his lips twitching with amusement. Next to him Dr Greenway was the only one looking worried. He didn't like violence but he was quickly realising that Captain Reynolds and his crew were all too familiar with it. Even seemed to court it on occasion which he found a mite baffling. The doctor's eye caught Monty's knowing one and an understanding passed between them. Then Mal was issuing instructions, splitting everybody up. Book interrupted.

"Captain, perhaps I should take a look around first?"

Before Mal could answer Caleb spoke up. "Doc an' me should leave too. We're from Paradisio so no one'll look twice at us. Doc can go home, I'll go see what my father can tell me about any strangers in town."

The Captain looked from one to the other and saw Zoe nod.

"It's a good plan, sir."

"*Hen hao* but don't take no chances, *dong ma*? Monty, you got any spare hand helds?"

His friend nodded and got Rolly Archer to go and get some extra radios. Rolly was a new addition, had only been with him inside a year but he was one of the useful loyal folk who followed orders and said little. Everybody liked him.

"Now, you see anythin' untoward or gets your antenna twitchin' you click twice." Jayne frowned. "Ain't it better if they like, speak into it Mal?"

The Captain glared at him. "On'y if'n it's safe to do so do you say anythin' an then I want numbers an' location. Don't want ya to speak if you might be overheard, *dong ma*?"

Book and Caleb nodded. The doctor didn't have a handset as he wasn't going to be part of the operation. Oddly enough he felt a mite naked without one. A nod from the Captain and they left. Monty locked up after them and looked at his friend. "What are you expectin' to find, Mal?"

"*Wo bu zhidao* but you can bet it ain't nothin' good."

* * * * *

Simon Tam was pretty near breathless. Kaylee plastered up against him in the engine room where she had dragged him but five minutes ago, the girl's gifted hands making short work of the buttons on his waistcoat and shirt. Stripping him as effectively as Jayne would one of his guns.

"Kaylee, this isn't exactly a good time."

"I been waitin' for a 'good time' Simon an' I'm all outta patience."

Her hands were on his pants now, Simon made a token resistance, her lips trailing hot kisses down his neck, her tongue flicking hot and needy into his ear canal. He squirmed but that just seemed to egg her on. "Kaylee, what if they need to get out of Paradisio fast?"

"Monty's with 'em, *fang xin*. The Kingfisher's got full fuel cells Simon."

That was the last coherent thing to pass his lips for a good while. Only when Kaylee was good and sated, a happy smile on her hot flushed face did Simon get to catch his breath. He looked down at the love bites adorning his naked body and the girl wound around him like a second skin. "Kaylee Frye, you are going to be the death of me!"

Her grin was unrepentent. "Least ya'll die happy."

Anything else he was going to say was lost as her lips locked on his. Oh yes, he was going to die but with Kaylee it would feel like being re-born.

* * * * *

Shepherd Book watched Caleb and Dr Greenway go their separate ways and waited for a few minutes, watching and taking stock. Nothing seemed untoward, folk going about their usual comings and goings. No sign of any Alliance or official looking ships but then if Blue Sun were about to spring a trap it would not be obvious. He moved off slowly, taking his time as if he was just having a stroll. Womenfolk nodded respectfully as he passed and noisy children hastened to quell their over abundance of enthusiasm until he was passed. He paused at an intersection of streets, the main one busier but not to any great degree. This was not a thriving hub of humanity, not even a medium sized world and yet it was an important ferry point for all manner of goods most notably those mined here on Paradisio. He was approaching the rail head and paused to take in the station platforms and see just who was about.

It was something of a shock when a quiet mild voice echoed in his ear.

"Hello, brother."

Book managed not to show how disconcerted he was that he had not heard the man come up behind him. He turned his head and noticed that the man was well dressed, the suit something of an oddity on Paradisio but not enough to draw impolite comment. He was probably just someone passing through, a business man most like. Book assumed the manner of address was because he was a Shepherd but the man's next words disabused himself of that assumption turning his blood cold.

"I was worried we might miss each other."

So. This man was looking for him? Something unpleasant itched and prickled deep inside Book's brainpan like a memory of evil trying to get out. *Wode ma* who was this man and what did he want? He decided it best to play things cool. "It's not that big a town, we would have found each other eventually."

The other man gave him a considering look. "*Ni hao ma*?"

"*Hen hao, ni?"

He got a nod back. "I've missed you, brother."

The words gave him a jolt. Did he mean, could he mean, brother as in sibling? *Tianna*, was this Brooks' kith and kin and if so how in the nine hells was he supposed to respond without giving himself away? His next thought was recalling River's cryptic words. Why couldn't the girl have had a moment of clarity and warned him in words that would make sense? Too late now to lament missing the point. "As have I you."

Book took a moment to consider how to continue then decided to take a risk. "How are you going to get me out of here?"

It was obviously the right question. Anticipated even. A small tug on the other man's lips then any trace of humour vanished. "I may not have to, brother."

Book allowed some irritation to show. "What are you sayin'? Where's my body?"

The Operative seemed unmoved and watched Book carefully. "We always knew there was an element of risk." He paused. "Then there is another question."

"Which is?"

"Forgive me, but you do not sound like my brother."

A prick of fear made Book worry that this man would find him out, realise the truth and that would be that. He could not let that happen. "What did you expect? My mind trapped in this *lese* body, havin' to listen to the babblings and panderings of a defunct faith? Learnin' to overcome that mind an' body, to utilise what I was left with to survive an' finally to overcome."

"Did you overcome?" The Operative said softly.

The tone sent prickles of apprehension up Book's spine but he hid his unease. "I am here an' the Shepherd is not except in body. I must admit he was more of a challenge than I expected, brother."

"How so?"

Book allowed himself to smile. "Did you know he was a master of many disciplines? This Preacher was not what he appeared to be."

The Operative glanced up and down the platform. "We should get off the street."

"Then you can explain why I cannot return to my own body. This one is like wearin' the skin of a chameleon an' it is disconcertin' to look into the mirror an' see a face that is not my own."

The Operative gave his first genuine smile and Book allowed himself to dare that he was believed. "*Fang xin*, come. I will show you your true face."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*dong ma* = understand? *diyu* = hell *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *baichi* = idiot *wo dong* = I understand *dang ran* = of course *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *qing* = please *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *dui* = correct *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *bushi* = not so *hundan* = bastard *shenjingbing* = crazy *wo zhidao* = I know *wangu* = stubborn *wei* = hey! *rongyi* = easy *bao bei* = treasure/precious *wo ai ni* = I love you *shenme* = what? *hen hao* = very good *wode ma* = mother of God! *ni hao ma* = how are you? *hen hao, ni* = very good, you? *tianna* = oh God! *lese* = crappy


Friday, October 7, 2011 3:12 PM


No, Book!!! NO!!! It's a trap....A TRAP!!!!!
intriguing and captivating as ever, AliD

Friday, October 7, 2011 5:03 PM


Excellent, excellent chapter here, Ali D. Where to start? You just covered so many different bases here. Dr Greenway's poetry book had me laughing out loud. River's cryptic warning to Book...and the final scene with the encounter...very tense. Following up on Sheriff Bourne trailing the mysterious man and his discovery of what happened to poor Marcus. Caleb's conference with Mal and Zoe and finding out about his underground connection. So many nice in-character touches like Monty hauling Mal a foot off the ground and Jayne wanting to bring the extra grenades. Loved the tender moment between Mal and Inara--and how you could write a tender moment and still include sentences like: "Inara had to bite back a string of expletives. If the Captain wasn't still recovering from recent surgery she would pick up something heavy and hit him" (!!) and have it still come out sounding beautifully tender. Absolutely brilliant, there. Loved Simon's line "he was going to die but with Kaylee it would feel like being re-born." Ali D, every scene in this was one where I didn't figure the next could possibly be more interesting and arresting, and yet you did it, topping each one, one after another, until the final scene with Book. I want to use just as many exclamation points as MalsDoxy did.

Friday, October 7, 2011 7:54 PM


Very cool though curious where River is right now. Wondering if she really stayed on Serenity.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 4:22 AM


Thanks for the shiny feedback everyone. Yes, Book has found himself in a very creepy place MalsDoxy! (That exclamation mark was just for you). The poetry book isn't exactly Doc Greenway's, he picked it up on Serenity. Give you a few guesses who it belongs to. And poor Marcus, there was no real way he could ever walk out of that situation alive but he had served his purpose. Glad you liked the scenes with Monty and Jayne, and Inara's pendulum of feelings for Mal I think they make the tender moments that bit more poignant. It would also be just like Kaylee to finish Simon off with some good hearty sex - LOL. So glad you enjoyed it all. As for where River is right now, Nutluck, you will be finding out soon. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Saturday, October 8, 2011 3:20 PM


Poem good.

Very vivid imagery discovering Marcus. I guess the people who grabbed him are good at reading the crews reactions and suspicion.

They asked the crew to come but don't expect them but the guy doesn't think Marcus' failure matters. Mal, I don't think this is going to go well.

especially them talking Book again, and thinking he's not acting like himself. Good way to put Brooks right back in there.

Sunday, October 9, 2011 5:54 AM


Hello Bytemite, glad you like the poem and the imagery regarding poor Marcus. You'll find out more about what happens to Book in the next chapter. Thanks for the shiny comments, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, October 10, 2011 10:06 AM


Poetry book ... Jayne. No, I don't think I've ever heard those two words together before in the same sentence.

And Mal collects troubles like a dog collects fleas, eh? Can't agree more!

Excellent work! Can't wait for more!

Monday, October 10, 2011 10:06 AM


THREE words, not two. Damn, can't count today!

Monday, October 10, 2011 1:59 PM


No, the poetry book is not Jayne's. So happy you are enjoying the story and thanks for the feedback Jane0904, 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.